Crowned with Teeth

The Extra Mile - Band Only 


The morning following the full moon.


 Was it earlier than normal, or was fall hitting harder than she had realized up until the moment she woke ass naked in the dirt? It was hard to tell but she swatted frantically at an ant on her calf and pulled herself together and started the walk back to the little building tucked behind the shop. It was easily her least favorite part of the whole ceremony and routine, the walk of shame back to the car, the slim but present chance of being spotted. Thankfully these days she usually had some sense to her, usually ambled back most of the way before she would sleep.

 Time alone had set the routine, clothes that were easy to pull on and off, flip-flops or shoes she could slip on and off. Cellphone, keys, wallet, all tucked neatly in different nooks of the car. She pocketed the bare necessities and frowned as she looked at the time across the screen of her phone. It was earlier, a short run for a full moon but - she felt just as sated.

 Sniffing, she rubbed under her eyes, dirt-streaked along her cheeks and caked under her fingernails, elbows, knees - she was filthy, basically. But she had more routine to honor, heading for the building and pulling out her key card. On her best day, she was a piss poor cook, but she could make toast - and as long as they wanted their eggs scrambled, she could do that. And really was there a way to fuck up bacon? A basic breakfast, but if anyone cared to stop in she'd offer it to them. Those that didn't, she text to make sure they were safe - once she finished washing her hands up to her forearms in the kitchen sink and got over the way this felt ... different. The same, but - not right.

 To Kai, nothing felt weird. She didn't consider the time, not really - she'd passed out a little early herself, and she was up early. Whatever. It was just another morning, post moon shit. She still dragged her clothes on the same way, still had the same craving for coffee and something to chew on. Didn't look at her phone before she pocketed it, just wandered her way into the special little band-only hut to find whoever it was in there making the smell of breakfast permeate the area.

 It was Alex, no surprise there, either. She grumbled some half-audible greeting as she made a bee-line for the coffee pot.

The first full moon with the band was bizarre in the sense that while she felt at home, it all felt a little off. These weren't her friends, these weren't the coyotes she'd spent a decade with. But, they were her new friends, her new life, a group she was going to try her damnedest to make her new family. So, she fell into the general workings of a pack of coyotes during a full moon, romping, playing, hunting, grooming. All in all, it went just swell.

That morning, she got up at her usual time, nearby her pack she had tucked into a log. In the forest, alone but aware that some of her companions were still in the vicinity, sleeping it off, she would wipe herself down with baby wipes to some degree and get herself dressed in a pair of black leggings and an old t-shirt that depicted Mickey Mouse. Sue her, shifting clothes weren't about fashion.

The nanny had agreed to take Jonas to school, the last day of his first week that she was sorry she was missing. But they had the weekend together, so she'd make it up to him. That left her free to spend some time collecting herself and filling her belly here. So, up she went to the little shack, following her nose for bacon and eggs and coffee. Inside, she found two familiar faces, but as she gave them both a closed lip smile and a nod as she walked in to set her bag on the couch, she slowed. Eye'd them both, lips pursed. Neither girls seemed the same as the last time they met up. Kai, she remember distinctly, hadn't matched her in strength. Now, the same couldn't be said. As for Alex, miss Princess... well, that was a Queen now, wasn't it? Heidi hummed out a small laugh, and went back to fishing for a toothbrush in her bag.

 Shame had a shorter half-life inside the mind of a beast. The band was home, a warmer and more complete version than any he’d ever experienced before.

 The sun had climbed a fair distance into the sky by the time he finally woke up, and while Hendrix had begun to grasp the finer points of being a Were, his choice in sleeping spots needed work. It wasn’t under a precarious tent of sheet metal like last time, but it was in a patch of thorny brambles next to a grumpy looking snake.

 Scrambling backwards, he jogged the rest of the way to the Extra Mile, fishing his clothes and keys out of an undisturbed bush hugging the back of the building.

 Dusted and decent, he made his way inside.

 His second shock of the morning was the metaphysical wallop of three hefty power signatures. One matched the newcomer, expected, the other two did not. This felt different, and his coyote immediately tucked his tail out of respect. Unsure of where to look, he decided the floor was best for now. "Morning…"

 It didn't take long for them to start flooding in and for that she was grateful. Drying off her hands with a paper towel, she crumpled it into a ball and tossed it into the trash. Shot Kai a look as she went to the coffee pot like she was drawn to it by some invisible thread - good to know some shit just stayed on brand. She hesitated, a little unsure as things felt different but the same - like she still stood a good chance of beating the little mechanic's ass, but -

 She looked over to Heidi as she felt her brows knit and tapped her spatula against the edge of the counter as she noted how the woman seemed amused, almost. Quiet as she glanced sideways to Hendrix, apparently still sullen from getting his ass beat. "Good morning. Do you mind getting started on toast, please?" She reached up, tucked hair behind her ears and looked back down at the frying pan in front of her as she moved a slab of butter about.

"Everyone okay?" A distinct distaste for silence, a hard to shake trait.

 Kai stood a chance of being the only oblivious dumb ass in the room and she didn't even realize it. Heidi wandered in, and shortly after, Hendrix, the former giggling and the latter staring at the floor as he greeted them. The mechanic only managed a slight gesture with her coffee mug, and when Alex spoke, she assumed it was to her. All that wonderful lack of attentiveness.

 And so she just did it, without much thought, talking a gulp of coffee that scalded all the way down. She cringed and coughed, scoffed a little at herself as she moved to rummage for the loaf of bread. Alex's question jarred her a little bit, as if maybe she'd misread the room and told a terribly off-color joke in front of a bunch of important people. She looked up from the toaster, at Alex, and then the rest of them. "Yeah?" A look to Alex again, like maybe their leader was still on the brink of losing her mind.

Fletch woke later than the others, sprawled and sawing logs where the dog had laid down in a ditch.

Perhaps the extra kip made the difference, but he woke at peace. As if he had struck a deal with the sun. No longer burnt by it, merely suffused with its warmth.

For a span he marked time by the stretch and taper of his lungs, and watched the breeze play bully with the bushes. Hunger was what twisted him from his resting place in search of that familiar, white box. Ah, there it was. Parked in the shade of a mangled cottonwood.

He sloped through the door to the Extra Mile's back building intending to wash up somewhere other than his sink, and by extension he looked every inch a vagrant lured in off the street. Desert dust stuck to him; beneath his fingernails and the hems of his jeans, in places it otherwise had no right to belong. A rust brown smear still marked his brow. Leftovers from his perfunctory moment with a wet wipe.

'Help yourself.' Announced to the room at large, spoken through a mouthful, he dumped a large tub of cocktail sausages on the counter for anyone whose hunger pangs couldn't wait for their complimentary breakfast. There was an odd mood in the room, as though someone had ripped a fart in polite company. But the likes of Hendrix, Kai, Heidi ... he imagined them all capable of the lean and let go. Instead, they shuffled around the matter that had smacked him in the face on entry; by turns oblivious, smirking, in denial. The culprit stood by the hob, as though butter wouldn't melt in that frying pan of hers.

He understood implicitly. She felt like that sourpuss by the train tracks, the day they'd rescued Hendrix. She felt like Asha, without the tyrannical streak. Alina, without the sense of walking that verbal tightrope. His good mood, that innate sense of belonging, well - that was all down to her, wasn't it?

'Dunno how your doing it, Gobs, but I feel bloody fantastic. Anyone else feel great? S'like I've just finished up with Claudia Schiffer.'

What a fool he'd been, to ignore what was so inherently right.

Well, wasn’t this neat. It was like Alex and Kai both had something on their faces, that both Heidi and that bearded kid that shuffled in could see, but no one was acknowledging it directly. She wondered if it was because it was the morning that the two girls didn’t grasp it. Alex asked for help with toast, which Heidi would leave to the other two as she made her way into the kitchen with her toothbrush. She slowed near the sink as the door opened on a dusty scoundrel of a man. She lifted her toothbrush to give a little wave at Fletch as he came in bearing gifts and an astute observation.

Heidi clicked her tongue and spoke up, “I was gonna say Kate Moss.” She smirked, eyeing Fletch briefly before looking to Alex, “Think you’re right, though, having a Queen around is pretty refreshing.” Then she’d turn on the sink and wet the toothbrush, popping the cap of the toothpaste open in her other hand.

 The shock stood like long grass before him, but when he pushed that away he was enveloped in the glowing warmth of kin. The woven threads that twined them together had strengthened somehow like rope turned to steel.

 Fletch had a name for it, as did Heidi, and as ignorant as Hendrix was to the process and the definition, a small smile broke out across his face as he looked up and stared at the Queen. It grew in amusement and adoration as he made his way into the kitchen and was nearly a grin by the time he sidled up beside Kai. "You feel different too." He said, mostly to Meemaw, but in a room full of Weres nothing was private.

 Turning back around, he shot Alex a look. "Congratulations, we should be making you breakfast, your Majesty."

 She had cracked two eggs and was on her way to striking the third against the side of the pan when Heidi came and spat out the gristle they'd been chewing on nice and properly. She looked sideways to Kai then, eyes narrowed a bit as if perhaps the other woman had somehow managed to hop skip and jump her way to a throne. Because otherwise, otherwise, that was - she nearly dropped the egg in hand, ignoring the sizzle as Hendrix mentioned what she had noticed about Kai. When he looked back to her and called her Majesty.

 And yeah it was the whole point, the end game - but now she felt like she was playing dress-up - running out with a stethoscope around her neck but absolutely no medical background. Was that nausea? Been a while since that one, but there they were as she started scraping the pan to keep the eggs from burning. Add the third, fourth, fifth - mindful not to make a mess of the shells as she stacked the halves and set them back in the container.

 Red Rock felt smaller, comical for a big old dirt clod, but here they were. Like she knew it just as well as the back of her own hand, the street she grew up on. But that didn't change the fact that she was ... a lot of things. Alex the former scum of the earth, Princess in the face of company or strangers and Dante when he was being a shit, Gobs the (maybe endearing) class president, Lex the deadbeat girlfriend of days gone by, but out loud - not just a fantasy, she worried if Queen didn't fit the theme.

 "That's good. I'll be able to help you guys more - there's like a built-in car alarm if anyone's up shit creek, long as you don't stray far from home." Not wanting to ruin the moment being skeptical or what could come off as modest for the proverbial cameras. "You do feel different, for the record." They all did to a degree, like a video that suddenly switched to high definition. Still, Kai especially - more like Heidi and Elijah than Hendrix or Fletch.

 In bustled Fletch, proclaiming how wonderful he felt. Kai didn't know who Claudia Schiffer was, or Kate Moss, and she was beginning to feel a sharp irk, like they were all enjoying a good joke that she wasn't a part of. Having a Queen around? Her eyes darted back to Alex. Queen? She shook her head a little, peanut brain rattling around in there as Hendrix came to stand beside her.

 She felt different too, what the fuck was that supposed to mean. The first round of toast popped up from the toaster, but she neglected it for now, squinting at Hendrix. Focusing. There was something... something. Something. Alex's words droned in one of her ears and out the other, even as she turned her gaze to stare at the woman. The weight was heavier, but no more difficult to bear - speaking in terms of power signatures, at least. Hendrix was lighter, and so was Fletch. She didn't know Heidi that well, but it wasn't the same feeling there either, no longer a deep shadow cast over her beast.

 "Holy shit," she muttered, dumbfounded, as if she'd come to accept that this sort of thing would never happen. For her, at least - Alex Queening this shit up was no surprise. "Good job, you're trash dog royalty." A jab and a compliment all at once as she looked to their glorious leader, an astounded sort of smirk on her face.

 She scoffed, grinning as she lowered the heat on her eggs, softening a little - the initial choking sputter of surprise easing as she looked about from one face to the next. "The good news is I won't start charging my tithe until September, so you all have a couple of weeks to get it together." Unsure what to do with the wealth of compliments as she looked back down to the pan.

"Not to get all - you know, but I'm glad you're all here."

It had been something of a late night for Eliyote. He'd pushed himself later into the night than a few of the others, gone astray when others had petered out. Chasing out a rabbit for one last snack as a sense of restlessness was working its way through him. Strange, considering he felt more and more settled in a lot of senses, really jiving with the band in his own way, finally feeling useful again. Without the threat of being kicked out of his own home, even, he could rest easy.

But the coyote wanted more of... something. He hadn't been able to figure out what, exactly, so a fat rabbit had at least sated something primal, and sleep had come not far from Extra Mile, affording him a simpler walk back to his car after he woke at an hour later than he was used to on their nightly ventures.

It wasn't a surprise, then, when he--roughly dressed from the clothing in the trunk of his car--walked into the full cast already present at the hub. What did get him, however, was the sensation that he wasn't the only big dog in the room--and definitely not the biggest. He stood up a little straighter and caught the tail end of something--Alex's words confirming to him that they all felt it.

"That includes me, right? Or am I too late to qualify for the feel good party?"

He let the door close behind him, his tone his usual light and sharp that meant he was playing at funny even while making some sort of point.

'Well, whoever floats your boat,' he murmured; inconsequential words that were drowned beneath a sea of congratulations. Glad of Heidi in that moment, she had confirmed what he could only suspect in ignorance.

His trajectory carried him onward to where their mugs were kept. Eli entered behind him to complete the set, and with the band collected in its entirety it became all the more apparent that he was somehow lesser. It might have amplified that notion of being their token tag-along; the old dog they offered hearth space to on account of kindness, but such doubts were suffocated beneath sense that in the presence of these people, he was home.

A sentiment exuded by the hand that found their Queen's shoulder, as he passed on his way to the sink. At this moment, the idea that any of them would be elsewhere was ludicrous.

'Can I just -' not wishing to intrude on Heidi's oral hygiene longer than was necessary, he whipped the floral mug beneath the stream of water to collect enough to drink: 'pinch a bit of that, ta.'

Congratulations were in order, and Heidi let the others give theirs as she went about brushing her teeth. Sue her, she cared about her hygiene after running around eating dead shit all night. With a mouthful of toothpaste, she'd chuckle at the tithe comment, rolling her eyes. Fletch closed in to grab water from the running faucet, and she faked like she was going to stick her toothbrush into the mug he had. She of course did not, but she offered him a frothy smile, before placing her toothbrush under the running water and bringing it back to her mouth to rinse. That done, she'd turn off the sink, and look to Alex. "Well, I know you the least, but I'm glad to have you." She said in return to the mushy comment. Really, she was glad to have a Queen at all. It smarted, knowing that the replacement of Harriett was fully realized now. Something to think on later. For now, she'd enjoy the feel of being a part of a full fledged Band again.

 It was a deep comfort to hear Heidi peep up, twisting to regard her and finding that it meant something in part because of the unfamiliarity, After all, if Heidi could find it in herself to say something like that ... it was a slow turn. A long transition into a happy, excited sort of acceptance - but she got there. Not the immediate confetti and balloons she had imagined when she thought of one day growing into her fur so to speak, but she made it there in the end.

"Of course you count Elijah, I just assumed your slow ass got stuck in a well or something." She started plating eggs, left them spread out beside her as offerings to anyone interested in grabbing a plate. "Eat up, you know the drill - make yourself comfortable and stay as long as you want." Her own time was somewhat limited, begrudgingly needing to open up the shop sooner as opposed to later.

But for now, the company suited the dog and the woman just fine - a line that was harder to distinguish every day, it seemed.

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