You Can't Remain the Prey

Red Rock 

Friday, April 19th - the full moon

 She held onto the wheel tightly and tried not to think of the clear diverging in her mind, how two parts of a whole circled completely different parts of the same event. As a coyote, she just wanted to get to the fucking coordinates she'd sent out in a group message and start to shift. She wanted to run until her legs burned, she wanted to chase the others and maybe throw a bit of her weight around but mostly get to know them and have the fucking experience of hunting and living with a proper group.

 As a woman, however, she watched the barren landscape unfolding in front of her and drummed her fingers nervously against the wheel. She thought of her own first shift and how she threw up before it, how she cried through it until it turned into some sort of pathetic half yelp of an animal. And then she woke up naked, dirty, confused, sore but less pent-up than she'd been in the days leading up to the full moon.

 They were close now, just a few minutes to go - and even though she hated quiet, she'd let it settle through the car for this ride. Now, however, she stole a glance to the passenger seat and reached out to very briefly set a hand on his leg before she let go. "Almost time. How are you feeling?"

@"Hendrix Houpt"


 He was silent, curled against the car door, forehead pressed to the window. It was likely a placebo, but the chill of the glass helped. It gave him something else to think about at least, a different sensation to the boiling pit of change within him. Hendrix wondered if he could get away with ignoring her question. He'd forgiven Alex and the rest of them for their joke, but he didn't feel like talking. He wanted to crawl into a hole and die because that's what his body felt like it was doing anyway.

 Finally, he sighed, the arms that were wrapped round himself holding tighter. He didn't bother to turn her way. "Like I'm going to shit myself and barf at the same time."

 She wasn't surprised when he refused to warm up, wasn't exactly stunned to see that his headspace was ... a conflicting one, so to speak. She glanced down briefly to her GPS, followed her own landmarks and tapped her turn signal out of habit as she slowly pulled off the paved road and into the dirt. "That sounds about right." A whole lot of pent up anxiety and energy and animal, a fucking time bomb in the passenger seat that would erupt into fur and claws soon enough.

 "I know I haven't been the most comforting, but for what it's worth Hen - at the end of the day I won't let anything happen to you. You're not going to shit yourself, you're probably not going to barf. And even if you did, we got water, protein bars, spare clothes, and blankets in the trunk." Enough full moons behind her that she made sure she had the bare necessities close by.

 She dimmed her headlights, breathed in slow and deep and slowed the car to a crawl as they jostled over gravel, kicked up dust along the way. "The way this tends to work is that everyone strips. If you want to stay clothed for this one you can, but anything you're wearing is going to be completely ruined when you shift. No matter what, you're going to wake up naked in the morning. I'll go first if you want, or you can if you'd like for me to hold back and watch you ..."

 He finally looked at her.

 "I know I've been a dick the last few days," days, weeks, he stuck to the shorter time frame because it made him feel less awful, "but I appreciate you."

 It felt dramatic to think that they were driving up to his own funeral, and he kept the comparison to himself for that reason, but it was a death, in a way. Hendrix's human life was over. Everything he'd known before was over. His body as a vessel for himself alone was over. Taking a deep breath, he got out of the car.

 "I think if I see it happen I'm going to be a chickenshit." Not that he could stop it, regardless of his terror or disgust. Trembling fingers began to undo the small plastic buttons of his shirt, revealing the white tank top beneath. "I'll go first."

 It hadn't been a trick, there was no right or wrong answer - but she felt better with the idea of him going first. Not that she didn't trust the others, just that ... he felt like her responsibility - he was her responsibility. And god, it was going to take him a while to get through this fucking thing. "It's not a snap of your fingers Hen, it's going to take a while to really get into it." Keeping her voice down as she looked about for any sign of the others.

"You can wait unless you're fond of the idea of standing around naked."

 Refraining from the sarcastic retort that edged onto the tip of his tongue, Hendrix kept close to her side, letting his hands fall limp when he was done with his buttons. He had no desire to humiliate himself any more than he already would tonight, preparing for what he was sure would be an excruciating transition.

 He wanted to hold her hand, and the fear had him reaching to brush his fingers over the side of her palm, but he stopped himself before committing. She could be his life boat without the tethered lines. The waiting was the worst part, and as they stood there, he could feel his body start to ache.

 The barely-there brush of his fingers made her look down, frowning as she glanced at his hand hanging awkwardly beside hers. There were limitations of course, but they were alone and he was clearly fucking scared out of her mind. She turned her wrist, held onto his fingers and gave them a gentle squeeze. Hardly anything even as she kicked off her boots and stood barefoot in the dirt.

 To put it simply, she’d rather fling herself off the nearest mountain than be the overly-eager bitch who showed up first. But, then again, she loathed to be the last arrival – and potentially miss the party. So, Grace had found a happy medium: be relatively punctual, but hike deeper into the forest to time her entrance.

 She found a spot downwind, a cozy little outcropping where she could spend fifteen minutes diligently chewing through all ten of her nails – nails that had, not too long ago, been shaped and lacquered into perfect rose-colored ovals.

 Ever a planner, she told herself she’d wait. Listen for arrivals beyond Alex (who she knew) and the other (who she didn’t). But the full moon was approaching, her joints were already cracking, and after a while, Grace could wait no longer. She pushed up from the boulder upon which she’d been lounging, and headed uphill.

 "Stripping down already, are we?" She grinned, stepping into the clearing. Her gaze narrowed in on intertwined hands – one of which lead to a man who, for lack of a better term, looked like shit. "Hope I’m not interrupting anything."

Full moon drove him mad, and work had been a real doozy of a day, but he'd survived it. And as they converged in Red Rock, Eli was feeling more at ease than most. If anything, he was looking forward to embracing tonight, and though shifting in Red Rock would be a first, it was hardly anything new or ground breaking for him.

Though... first time with a new group. Maybe that was significant enough to get him clicking his tongue as he made sure all his supplies were in order, everything locked up and prepared for an eventual return in the dark hours of the early morning. Having parked a bit further off, not wanting a whole herd of cars to draw any undue attention, he approached on foot.

He'd been counting on Alex and Hendrix being there before him. The third was actually absolutely unknown to him, outside of Alex's previous assurances that she was finding others. The coyote perked up at the promise of another, and he let his eyes flood black--no point in hiding it tonight, especially as it was rather dark anyway.

"Hendrix, you don't look like you're feeling too well," he commented to the one that was still identified to as an outsider to his suspicious senses. That wouldn't last long. After tonight, that whole sensation would be gone. "Evening, everybody," he greeted otherwise, a quick look over Alex in particular to make sure she wasn't stressing too hard over Hendrix's debut.

 Kai, for all her displeasure at finding herself a ten-year veteran of coyote life and nothing to show for it, would be shifted by the time she found the little gathering in the middle of bum fuck nowhere. She’d very nearly lost herself at the wheel, and had managed to tuck her beloved vehicle in a little thicket of shrubs before all but falling out of it. Suffice to say she couldn’t get her pants off before her fingers had receded into nubby toe beans.

 The beast was all too happy to take over, to shuck their shared mind of the work day’s stress and menial bores. There was enough human mentality there to know who she was looking for, but the rest was all dog - happy to be there and happy to show it far more than the human side ever would.

 She crested some far hill and spotted them, immediately unleashing an ungodly chorus of high-pitched yips and screeches as she bolted to them at top speed, nearly a blur against the red earth. Tongue lolling and tail wagging, the red-eyed mongrel hit the breaks in time to not bowl anyone over, eager to lick every hand or face she could get ahold of, even the unfamiliar young woman. Unknown, but known to be one of her kind, and not seeming to be met with hostility from the others, she was good in the coyote’s book.

 Jesus Christ, it was happening - not that she didn't know it was going to happen, just that ... she hadn't really prepared enough as they trickled in almost entirely at once. Surprised to see the girl from North Glenn, she grinned and lifted her free hand to wave just her fingers. "Nothing you weren't invited to attend." Elijah, prompt - pretty much exactly what she'd expect from him. "Grace, this is Hendrix and this is Elijah - now we're all up to date." Although the comment about Hendrix's appearance scraped her nerves the slightest bit - no one looked fucking good before the first one.

Still, she kept her mouth shut, not wanting to come off like some sort of overbearing moth- "Kai." A name for an explanation as she watched the oversized coyote bound towards them and braced herself but did not recoil.

 It wasn't exactly the most subtle entrance, probably did very little to soothe Hendrix - but damn if it wasn't comforting for her own beast. She reached out, ran her hand along Kai's spine and laughed - eyes bright and amber in a flash.


Barefoot, shirtless and with his jeans slung around his hips, Fletch looked more as though he had stumbled fresh out of bed and wandered here by happenstance than made a conscious decision to show face.

The gruff, taciturn greeting came as he flicked the butt end of his cigarette away; a single glowing point landing somewhere in the cold, red dirt to wink out of existence. His fourth, and in short succession too. For the past hour or so he had been parked up in a lay-by a few miles down the road, burning each of them as links in a chain as he weighed up his choice. Judging by the number already in attendance, this deliberation had cost him. Already, an oversized coyote pranced about the assembled; licking the hands and faces of anyone she could reach. The unearthly hue of her eyes flashed in the deepening gloom. It would have been her cries that Fletch heard as he wandered up the road, and he reflected how eerily suited they were to the sleek, muscular creature and her unbridled joy.

The sight fed into the insatiable urge to join her; the coyote practically tearing itself free in its eagerness for company. The sensation was not unlike handling a large and boisterous dog. One you didn't trust off the leash ordinarily, and expended great energy keeping tabs on. Tonight, he supposed, he no longer had to.

'Still got a lid on those bedroom blues of yours, Jimi?' He called to Hendrix, grinning. 'Glad I've not missed your debut.'


 His face was expressionless, but his grip was bruising.

 When someone materialized out of a thick set of brambles commenting on their slight show of intimacy, he dropped Alex's hand. He didn't want to tell the stranger that it was pity (he assumed) that had Alex reaching for his fingers, the contact as appreciated and humiliating as the jingle of change put into a homeless man's cup.

 The longer they stood there bathed in the silver-hued moonlight, the more it felt like his body was very eager to turn itself inside out. Making no comment to Elijah's astute observation about his state, Hendrix stared ahead, as if fixating on the gnarled lines of tree bark could in some way stave this upending transformation.

 It could not.

 The high, sharp sound of a coyote call made his body convulse. Stifling a cry, Hendrix started panting. Every pitch of her lilting song made him want to contort on the ground, but by some miracle he stayed upright. Seeing her, the beast Alex's confirmed to be Kai, was like looking at a quick stolen glance of his imminent future. It didn't seem so bad, but getting there was the problem.

 By the time the sharp-tongued grump from the shop walked up, he was doubled over, pulling at his shirt. He heard the words but they were warped, distorted like he was underwater and Fletch was standing on the shore watching him drown. Maybe he wasn't going to explode, but it certainly felt like that's what was happening.

 His spine cracked in wicked quick succession, the vertebrata bucking beneath his skin. Shrieking, Hendrix sunk to his knees, feebly trying to pull off his clothes. Hands and knees dug divots in the mud, trenches with no direction as he started thrashing and didn't stop. Pores widened to make way for the needle tipped points of what would soon be soft fur. His palette split, face bottoming out into an elongated snout and circular, dome-shaped forehead. His ears started a slow migration from the side of his head to the top of it, growing and curling, dusts of velvet fur cropping out in place of skin.

 The pain exceeded description, reaching a scale too high to be measured. Thick ropes of drool spilled from his mouth, pooling between hands that were not hands, but paws. It took five minutes, and when it was done Hendrix Houpt straightened and stood anew, amber eyes burning in the moonlight.

 It wasn't surprising when Kai did it, knocked the first in a set of dominoes over with the swipe of one large and oblivious paw. She let the remark from one Dylan Fletcher, reckless driver, go to the wayside without comment. Just like you didn't force a chick from it's egg when it started to crack, she let him struggle at her side and said nothing of it. There was no comfort, really, when you broke every bone in your body. There was no adequate way to soothe in a situation like that, so she didn't try and maintained a poker face as best she could. Like watching a routine, as if she was some sort of judge.

 Unfortunate, he didn't make his pants in time - but she had anticipated it, so ... there was that at least. Briefly, she glanced about when his face started to crack apart like a flower set to bloom. Grotesque for the time being, a painting that had been smeared before it could properly dry. All of it combined was a fucking nightmare, really - but she tried to hold on for the sake of campaigning. Look how in control I am, look at my discipline - fuck.

 She wanted to settle in the dirt beside him, knock against Kai and see who could make the other nearly lose their balance. Instead, she waited, clenched her teeth until they hurt and looked down at him as fur started to sprout along his spine and shoulders. Different than hers, a softer cream. But his eyes, there was some pride in that - comical as it was, just a luck of the draw.

 It was a grueling stretch of time, and as he finished and shook out his fur, she pulled her shirt over her head and calmly reached back to unhook her bra. She wouldn't try to touch him, little point in telling him he'd done well - it was done, that was the point. Gone from most of them as they stood, a party she was eager to join as she looked about the lopsided semi-circle to assess where everyone was.

 Arms folded across her chest, Grace watched from a cold distance as Hendrix doubled over, stripping his throat raw with unrelenting screams. Every bone broke, every muscle tore… And her nose merely wrinkled in distaste. Jesus, she’d been going through the change herself for years, but this was different. She’d forgotten what it looked like on other people. It was, more or less, exactly how it felt – so it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

 But there was something striking about the way a man’s face split in two. Almost like firing a .22 a pig’s eyes and watching the skin ribbon away to expose fat, muscle, bone…

 Based off Hendrix’s rather sweaty, pallid appearance and a few context clues, she’d gone ahead and made a daring assumption that he wasn’t quite as established as, for example, Kai. Kai, who’d bounced about like some overexcited housedog in the center their little gathering. Eyes bright and tongue lolling, she’d shoved her muzzle into every palm and cheek available wile Grace half-expected her to end up in someone’s crotch.

 But there seemed to be enough human restraint to stop that.

 Following Alex’s smoother lead, Grace kicked off her sandals. She was a bit slower in undressing though, shyer than usual in front of so many new faces. But her own human restraint was wavering; watching Hendrix, watching Kai – she was on her toes, nearly shaking with the need to do away with her own skin. Still, she couldn’t help but turn away slightly, modestly, as she peeled off her thin sundress and closed her eyes.

Bearing witness to Hendrix's rebirth was like watching a time lapse of a corpse being eaten by maggots. Horrific, the way human features split and contorted to those of the beast. The way his body caved in on itself to reform to something else. Fletch was acutely aware of his own heartbeat, the turn of his stomach -

Shouldn't have smoked half a packet then, should you? Twat.

He turned before the kid found his feet again, long strides carrying him some distance away from the gathering. The night air thrummed with the crack and snap of bone, a chorus of agony and exultation both. Within, the coyote was reeling; eager to belong. So after shucking his jeans, Fletch knelt in the dirt and let go.

If nothing else, Hendrix would feel better soon. And if the sudden appearance of Kai hadn't set off a reaction, maybe he would have said as much. As it was, Eli took a moment to catch the unknown girl's eye, nodding his head to her. Grace--a name he'd make a point to remember, though remembering names was thankfully something he didn't struggle with.

Dropping to a crouch he'd greet Kai with one of his rarer, sincerer smiles, reeling back with a huff of a laugh as she caught his cheek with her tongue. For all that woman was rather prickly as a person, her coyote seemed exuberant. But Eli had to admit... this gathering was infectious. The sensation of having so many of them around--he could scarce decide where to focus. Other than... not on Hendrix. Eli generally preferred not watch.

So when the new--older, easily noted--man showed up, Eli raised a hand at him in hello, but now was not exactly the time for names. With Alex playing sentinel for Hendrix, Kai sticking over there at this point, Grace looking a little self-conscious and the most-unknown element moving off and giving in, Elijah saw little point in waiting, his own coyote feeling so intense right now he was pretty sure it was only a mark of how good he was at this that he managed to keep a hold on him at all.

Props to Alex, who was much closer to the eye of the storm and was still keeping herself together.

Not shy about stripping--bodies were just bodies--what little clothing he'd come out here with would be piled near some scrub brush, hopefully to be reclaimed in some hours. No cross in sight tonight, he never wore one for anticipated shifts. Practical as it was symbolic.

Letting yourself break was a skill that took practice, but it didn't lessen the pain so much as make it normal. So while Hendrix was still yowling his way into his new life--poor kid--Eli was decidedly quick and quiet about it, though he bit his tongue somewhere during those 106 seconds of putting on his fur coat. As a result, when Alex turned around to see where everyone was, the black-eyed coyote was gingerly licking his own front leg to make sure he wasn't actually bleeding terribly.

Seemed alright.

 Names were hardly important to dog brain, even as she recognized her own with what humanity she held onto. Kai was happy to be somewhat asleep in the head of this animal - it spared her the embarrassment. She trotted in jagged circles as if to check on each of them after her initial greeting, hackles up as Hendrix screamed and began to succumb. The dog understood that well enough.

 Tail high but still moving to and fro, she would linger close to the thrashing newborn during his gruesome change, occasionally poking him with a wet nose or tugging on whatever extremity she could with careful teeth. Only when Fletch began to wander off and Hendrix was nearly done did she give him some space, pointing her nose toward the old man and barking at him demandingly. Get back here!

When you spent so much of your time in denial of your circumstances, it took an effort to accept and let it happen.

The shift never came easily. To willingly give up and allow your body to destroy itself went against nature. Every creature, great and small, fights to retain a clawhold on life, and such was the way with the man who fought to keep some semblence of self as the creature tore free.

Neither quick nor quiet about it, the minutes crawled by. Dimly, he recognised the barked demand; cognizant it urged him to return to them. He answered with a strung out fuck off.

But, eventually, a coyote stood where a man had knelt. It was a rangy creature, its pelt flea bitten and thin. Its large ears were slicked back against its skull as it panted; residual stress surrendered to the night in a plume of breath and a lolling tongue. Briefly, it considered each individual of this ragged band. Then it dipped -

- sloughing its jaw against the dry, red earth and letting its shoulder follow suit. An easy movement, the creature embraced the soft, thin soil and the cool rock beneath it. Fluidly, it regained its feet and shook itself from snout to tail, and by the light of the swollen moon, padded back to the others.

 It was sort of a hopping gesture to shake the second leg of her pants past her ankle, a bit of trashing as she took it as a personal goal not to lose her clothes in the process. In an ideal world, she'd have had the time to fold it all neatly. She would have presented as some sort of calm, cool, collected Were who one hundred percent had her shit together. Instead, she left it all in a clump, a little too excited at the prospect of so many likeminded faces.

 It seemed to be different for everyone, what gave first - she liked to think it was a matter of weak points - like filling a bowl full of water and watching to see where the hairline cracks were. Sometimes, when she was angry and losing control or just in a rush to be done with it, her knee would snap back with such a force that it tore through the skin at the back, bled until the bone receded enough to smooth out and patch the skin. Thankfully it wasn't that violent this time, but it was enough to send her on all fours in the dirt.

 Her nails peeled back, pushed up and cracked into nothing by the sharp curve of dark claws. It started as a point and spread like a goddamn wildfire, the warm discomfort of fur pushing up along her back and down her sides. Hips cracked, dipped upwards into a sharper angle - her jaw splintered sharp enough that she bit her tongue hard and spat blood into the dirt. Faces hurt - she was convinced that was a lifelong condition, that any king, queen, or thing in the middle wanted to fucking whimper when the cartilage in your nose popped in rapid succession like a series of distant fireworks.

 She was quicker all the same than most of them, under two minutes for the whole goddamn thing to be over and done. How much of that shift in the pain was just the speed it was over, she couldn't really attest. But what stood where the woman had stumbled only a few ticks before was a scrawny sort of Were, predominantly brassy shades of copper and cream, the slightest variants of gray and black. She opened her mouth wide, a shrill sort of yawn before she took off to nudge against once fully shifted beast to the next.

 The air was thick with feral magic.

 Distantly aware of their individual forms, the nuance of each being was drowned by their collective spirit. The night thrummed with an endless energy, the rich sensations of the Colorado wilderness cooing out a buzzing, hooting, trilling siren song.

 Hendrix spun in a tight circle, hungry for the world. He bounded to the closest coyote, Kai, ducking under her head to brush against her. Respectful but over-eager, he ran to everyone, coming to Alex last, the two meeting in the middle as she made rounds of her own.

 This was a new kind of kinship. A tether not formed by time or memory but a primal connection of fur and fang and blood. He touched his nose to hers before exploding forward, running through the brush, a screaming howl lifting from him, piercing the night.

His tongue seemed fine, the sort of self-inflicted wound that was sharp and terrible at first but would quickly be forgotten with the festivities of the night. The others were coming around one by one to a proper form, and his tail swayed stiffly behind him as he started to get a feel for this ungainly band.

Prominent among them stood Alex herself, the most sharp object of his coyote's interest. The most powerful among them, rivaled only by himself--and he was willing to dip his head to her as she came around for her inspection of each of them. His dark eyes peered out past her then around to the group, a low warble of enthusiasm.

He didn't have the same puppish enthusiasm some did, much more dignified than all that, but well--there was something infectious about Hendrix, and his tail wagged a little more, taking all the affection with a light heart. Took a moment to pick out the head of each coyote, as if taking a mental count, and then wasted no time in taking off after their youngest.

They'd watch out for each other tonight.

The soft nudge of a shoulder, the touch of a nose. The skitter and skid of overeager paws in the dry, red dirt. Each brush with kin evoked a swell of emotion in the old coyote. Later, Fletch would come to understand it as comfort.

To the emergent Hendrix, its teeth snapped playfully at the kid's twiggy forelimbs, meeting air. Alex received the bump of its nose against her pelt. As the group moved off after their newest, the threadbare creature doubled back on itself.

Its honey-hued sights trained on the car. The selfsame its human counterpart had damaged not so long ago, now abandoned a short distance from the piles of scattered clothing. In an act of rebellion, perhaps, or simple canine urge, it cocked its leg against the rear wheel arch.

Then, it picked up the rear on swift and silent feet. Eager to belong. In the wake of the band the dust billowed up into the crisp, night air, and it was through these sienna clouds the coyote plunged. The scrub shuddered in its passing. Soon, the old dog fell in line with the tawny, ink-eyed Eli; a high-spirited nip at his hocks falling short of its mark.

miss :w


They were instant friends, absolutely, but there was still a certain pecking order.  The dark-eyed coyote who had fallen towards the back of the band considered himself pretty important, and so he didn't expect much fuss from anyone. And really, this wasn't fuss--the snap at his leg didn't connect, and likely wouldn't have done much even if it had. But still, it felt a challenge.

Stopping his own lope abruptly, he spun into the face of similarly sized beast, mouth wide to snap down in warning, fur bristled in something that wasn't at all anger. The last few moons had been spent alone, so to finally have someone here, tangible, real-- Warning morphed into test, to see how ballsy this one was. To see if the tussle was worth the energy when they still had a hunt on their minds.

intentional miss, so I didn't roll~


This one knew his mind better than the ratty creature that came to bother him; stronger, and more experienced to boot. Presented with his bristling authority, the other danced away with a warble that sounded almost like laughter. Thought highly of himself, then. Keen to maintain the status quo.

Across the divide the pepper-grey coyote snick-snacked his teeth. A parody of the other. In the next moment it bounded forward, the intention being to mouth at the other's jaw. Again the play-attack failed to find its mark, but the behaviour could not be mistaken for anything but a goad. A tease. This old dog had plenty of energy to burn. Did Eli?


Eli reared his head back, away from the majority of that mouth as it tried to find his. The playfulness of the situation was not lost on him, but the challenge remained a perceived done that he couldn't quite shake. So yes, this was friendly, but "playing" came in many forms. Today, Eli intended to win at playing. Sufficiently goaded, the dark-eyed coyote puffed him with a heavy breath, then dove in towards the shoulder of the other beast, to part fur with his tapered teeth and take a firm hold that miiight have been a touch more aggressive than necessary. His teeth would not sink into flesh--not unless Fletch tried to wriggle away prematurely. His tail flagged stiffly behind him, dominance evident.



 She was content to fall in towards the front of the grouping, careful to keep their youngest in her line of sight, comfortable enough with the rest of them at her flank and behind her. At first, she was happy to ignore the nipping and playful sounds coming from the two behind her, happy to leave them to do as they saw fit.

 But the back and forward made her leery enough at some point that she turned, stiffened and showed the tiniest hint of teeth. Gnashing at the air and letting out what nearly sounded like a higher pitched yell of sorts, no move to intercept or involve herself, the canine equivalent of a tucked chin and a warning glance from a parent.

Also known as, not today, Satan.

Of course, when Eli went in for real, the other coyote's instincts were to dip away again. Too slow, and the teeth found their mark. Funny, had their human counterparts gone up against one another it might have told a different story; the mild-mannered doctor versus the rough and wayward drifter. As coyotes, the tables turned, the older of the two freezing in place as teeth took hold of its scruff.

Just in time to see the reprimand from their leader. Amber eyes flicked to her, then to Eli. A pink, placating tongue lapped upward towards the other dog's muzzle.

Was Eli going to do as she asked?

It was impossible to pretend you didn't hear something when you had radar ears, and Alex's reprimand stilled Eli's jaw from tightening. He froze as the mutt in his teeth licked at him, begging all the mercy that the other coyote could muster. Which, under the watchful eye of their future leader, he apparently had quite a bit of. He hung on only a moment long, sniffing, then let go, to sniff at Fletch's mouth and set his jaw in a stern sort of way.

Play nicely, his posture said, guarded but not so closed off as to chase him away.

The intervention by their would-be leader seemed to check whatever impulse threatened to take hold of Eli. Released from his jaws, the older coyote licked that enquiring nose. Then, it was on its way; falling back in line with a shake of its head and a sneeze, as though the incident had never occurred at all. Indeed, what it had been about to begin with was entirely open to debate.

It seemed established enough, that pecking order, and the lick placated any concern the ink-eyed coyote had left. He let himself fall into the back of the formation, to watch the rear while Alex took the head. No more nips at his hocks from behind, hopefully they'd settle well enough to hunt and to show what it was that might very well make them a band some day.

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