impertinences: (so I ran faster)
2016-10-11 07:27 pm

(no subject)

A bunch of random snippets. I meant to write more, write better, or at least write more significant things. Then I realized that they're just snippets, and I'm just wrapping my head around Austin and Sabra and pack dynamics. I didn't even proof read this. Oh weeeellll.


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“She has every right,” Austin says, pulling her shirt up and over her angular body. She is lean muscle, her skin rippling over her ribs, her cells already sensing the change that is about to happen.

Chason scowls. It’s an angry expression on his otherwise beautiful face. “I don’t like it. We don’t have to fight each other.”

“We aren’t,” she laughs. “Not really. This is the most natural thing of all.” Her hands drop to her canvas pants and she undoes the old buttons, pushing the fabric down and away.

There are old scars on her legs, peppered with freckles and sun marks. They remain after she shifts, slashes crisscrossing through her abyss spots. She has sharp teeth, long and white, but Chason has never felt them himself. He has heard the clamp of her jaw on another’s tender neck, felt the hot spray of arterial blood against his muzzle, and cannot imagine the weight of her teeth on his own skin.

Tilly has. She’s thought of all the different ways this could play out, and no matter the outcome she finds the struggle essential. She’s already shifted. She’s down the dune, waiting with the rest of the pack, their role simply to observe and judge.

Chason is the last to change, the animal inside of him uncharacteristically cautious. He follows Austin’s loping shadow, eyes bright, teeth bared.



There are rules. Austin has not raised her pack to be uncivilized.

This is not about death, but in many ways it is about life.



She catches Tilly by the hind leg, her teeth slicing, gouging flesh and fur. The blood tastes bitter to her. Too familiar. Too like her own. She craves cold water, but now she’s caught the scent of vitality and copper. As tart as a lime. She shakes her bearish head and hears Tilly’s whimper.

(Austin lets go. Ever the matriarch.)

Tilly turns with such sudden viciousness that Austin slips in her surprise, claws and padded feet grasping futilely at the sand, body rolling in a final effort to avoid her snapping jaws.

Austin kicks. Tilly lunges. They reel.



“I just got lucky,” Austin says later, her fingers twisting, working to finish the last of her braid.

“You don’t have to say that,” Tilly murmurs, but she thinks otherwise. She thinks Austin wasn’t lucky at all, just more used to an audience.

“How’s your leg?”

“Hurts.”

“Tell that to my arm.”



Garret has a grin as wide and sloppy as his manners. He licks his fingers around the fire, too close to Chason’s left side. He watches Austin with a hunger that is palpable, burning ten degrees hotter than the flames centered between them.

He leans towards Chason, rubbing his hands over his jeans. “Don’t you wish her tits were bigger?”

Chason sneers. “She probably says the same about your dick.”

Garret laughs, a sound that is all bite.



Garret was their third. He was obnoxious when they found him, mostly drunk, ripping apart a drifter bar with half an arm dangling from his teeth. He’s still obnoxious; Chason can’t figure out what Austin sees in him. He thinks it’s because she wants the numbers – it’s safer to be in a group – because two people alone cannot be a pack. Or maybe she just likes their kind. He doesn’t know. She doesn’t tell him everything.

She can sense his distrust though. His disapproval like a bitter scent in the wind.

She winds her fingers into his air and nips at his ear. Chason smiles begrudgingly, feeling the weight of her hand against his arm when she stands to leave, trailing her palm across his shoulder.




Sabra hitches when she breathes. Her chest like a rattle, all the air strangling in her throat. She should be used to it by now, but the pressure threatens to knock her over every time. She has to rest, bent over, hands on her shaking knees.

She is sixteen years old and alone in the desert.

The sun scorches. The sand stings. She thinks it is a friendless land.

She is wrong.



Austin bites her wrist. Austin pulls her hair. Austin digs her fingers into her ribs till it is more painful than ticklish. She laughs and laughs and laughs, the sound like sharp glass.

Sabra doesn’t laugh. She whines and struggles to breath and pushes up. Her nails are blunt and do not scratch.

Austin rolls her eyes, relenting. “C’mon. Where’s your spirit? I’m only playing.”

Sabra can’t answer. Her words choke in her throat like her breath, and Austin is too impatient to wait.



She has steady, sure fingers. She breaks apart metal, electronics, rusted bits, frayed wires, and puts them back – makes them better. She shows Austin the repaired radio and feels pride warm her chest like a sunburst when her older sister nudges her arm and thanks her.

Sometimes, if she feels like she’s been helpful enough and deserves it, she curls into Austin’s bed and listens to the easy rise and fall of her chest as she sleeps. She breathes in her scent of pepper and lemon, the softer undercurrent of fresh cream. She smells like their mother, although she’s sharper, harder to curl against.

Austin never says anything in the mornings. If she’s lucky, Austin will pull their blankets up and over their heads and speak in her sulfur early morning whisper. Sabra will laugh then, the noise easier and more natural in the wake of Austin’s kindness.
impertinences: (Default)
2016-10-09 09:15 pm

(no subject)

I exist in two places,
here and where you are.
- Margaret Atwood




His hair is long when he finally accepts Austin, when he is ready to defer.

(It will be cut when he is forced into the compound. This will be their first act, the men with their needles and white jackets. They will shear him, clumsy cuts with dull scissors that leave the sides short and the top long, uneven, falling forward into his eyes. He will already be transformed by the time Ita sees him. He will be more beast than man, more feral dog than human heart.)

Austin drags her fingers through it, dark oil slipping against her callouses, softer than her own coarse curls and tangles. He is barely more than a boy; she is still half a girl. She nips at his strong jaw, pushing her nose into the curve of his ear. He holds her hip, laughing into her neck.

They have spent years together, picking their way through the wasteland of barren, drifter cities, creating a home in the heat of the desert. They are well suited for it – creatures of craft and shadow. They find a balance. She is stronger than he is, quicker, more persistent and capable. He is too prone to anger, too haunted by their shared pasts and its aching horrors. He does not speak of his parents or his brother, and she knows he has replaced all of them in his eyes, that she has been transformed into a new being entirely. She is herself, and then she is Austin.

(She does not mind, does not see the burden. He would die for her, she knows and it is enough. Sometimes, she wonders how much of it is genuine and how much is biology.)

She makes a choice. She will lead. He will follow, an eternal phantom limb, her second right hand. Austin seals the pact in the only way she knows how, in the only way that is provided to them: in flesh and blood. A promise born in salt and sweat and her body braced above his.

They will find the others together. One by one, they will join, until a family of six is forged.

A pack.





“What was she like?” Ita asks, highlighted in the warmth of the fire’s glow. There is sand in her eyelashes, under her nails, scratching her smooth skin red.

“Is. What is she like.”

“How can you know? That she is still alive?”

“Because I do.”

“Because you are bonded.”

Chason laughs, harsh like the wind through the sand. “No. We do not bond like that.”

“But–”

“You think we’re all sentimental birds?”

She flinches around the eyes at the insult, catching her lip between her teeth. Her mouth is dry with tension. “I think she was your-”

“She’s Austin. Don’t overcomplicate everything with your expectations.”

They are not bonded, he says. He insists. Like a liturgy.

He presses Ita to him on their third night, and she feels her heartstrings tighten and knot around their bodies. Something in Chason responds, the deep well inside of him lessening, ebbing, until he has made room for her inside of his chest, protected by the sharp cradle of his ribs.

It is familiar to him, and yet completely foreign.





They change together. His muscles harden, his skin darkens, his laughter deepens. She becomes taller, sinewy, more dangerous. There’s a sharpness to her jaw and a cunning to her green eyes that beguiles. They spend those first years growing strong until they have wrapped around one another, two solid oaks whose branches have intertwined.

Austin learns that his laughter stems more from nerves than confidence. That a heat storm causes the hair on the back of his neck to stand up straight. That he sleeps with an arm thrown over his face, careless as a housecat, although every muscle in his body is poised for a fight. Chason learns that she loves to run, in any form, her long legs pumping her narrow body forward and faster, her hair catching in the wind, her laughter like lightning. That she is not ashamed to cry, tears thick on her eyelashes, mouth twisted into a scar of grief. That she sings to herself, soft wordless melodies, fragments of a childhood far warmer than the world they found themselves facing now.

Their roots go deep.

Like all close pairs, they keep to themselves. They move every few nights, never staying more than two weeks in the same spot, circling back around to familiar, isolated haunts like ghosts. They become acquainted with the desert, learning its foul plays and temperamental nature. Austin knows the skies, the hazardous sun, the trickster moon. Chason knows the shifting dunes and the paths their feet have crossed, his mind an ever-growing map, forever adding details and never missing the mark.

If they sleep in each other’s arms, it is because of the cold.

If he cradles her sharp face in his strong hands and tries to claim her mouth until she accepts, it is because of loneliness.

Like so few remaining things, she has become a comfort to him.

She thinks it her responsibility.





“She had a sister. Has. We found her, somehow. It seemed like a freak accident. There she was, skin and bones. A cough that sounded like a death rattle. Just working in one of those end-of-the-world bazaars out by the Eastern slope, where the desert is the worst. You know they say there’s an oasis out there? But we never found it. Never went further than that bazaar. It was like Austin saw her sister there, and that was enough for her. She was ready to rest for a while. And why not? We knew the desert, or thought we did, we’d been living like that for years.”

Ita is sunburnt, her lips cracked, her fingers bleeding. But she doesn’t mind; Chason has been talking for twenty minutes, his voice low and full of growls, and he has been patiently untangling the knots in her silver hair. He pulls and slips the strands over his fingers. He has been in a better mood ever since he caught the pack’s scent four nights ago, and it shows.

“What is her name?”

“Sabra.” He twists the last section of her hair before letting it coil down her shoulder in a thick plait. “There. That should last for a day at least.”

Ita does not ask how he learned to braid or whose hair he learned with. She doesn’t need to. Instead, she feels a storm of emotion twist, low in her belly, so she turns her head suddenly and peppers small, sweet kisses across his jaw and neck. He laughs, smoothing his hands across her shoulders. Dips his fingers with more insistence and unwinds the many layers of scarves she wears for protection.

“Were you always this eager?” Ita asks.

Chason rasps a snickering sound against her wrist. “You mean, with others?”

She smiles, not half as bashful as he expects her to be.

“My circumstances have always required urgency, Swan Lake. I didn’t have the luxury of protective walls.”

“… Neither did I.”

She says it so softly that he barely hears her, his mouth already wet on her collarbone. He ignores it for now, preferring to keep her a treasure, untarnished and golden in a rotten world.





Austin stands with her hands on her hips. The darkness creeps across her face with the last remnants of the setting sun. She tucks the long, rope-like twists of her hair behind hears and sighs. Chason touches her elbow. He feels the sweat on her skin, can sense her nerves.

“They’re close,” she says. “The men with their big guns and bigger traps.”

The pack cackles behind them, warning howls on the horizon.

“We should leave then.”

“Nowhere else to go. We don’t have the supplies to head back. Wherever we go now, we’re all caught up in their nets.”

“We’ve been in tough spots before.”

There’s a sad little smile on her mouth when she turns to face him. A kind of knowing. She pushes her hand back through his hair, leaning her weight into him, feeling him brace against the sand to steady them both. “I think I made the wrong decision. We shouldn’t have come back. We should have taken Sabra and continued East. Should have found the oasis, the others, those rebel camps.”

Chason shrugs. It says a thousand things and nothing all at once. He dips his head and presses his hard mouth to her temple. It’s meant to comfort, but he can tell it doesn’t.

“Where you go, I go,” he says. He wants to make her smile.

He doesn’t realize how true his statement is until it’s too late.