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“Maybe there’s more out there,” Peter says. He was dreaming of that the entire drive home. Packs of wolves somewhere out there, running beyond reach, in untouchable forests that humans can’t mow down. Yesterday it’d be a pipe dream, but now he has hope that it’s a reality. 

Like, holy shit, come on, he found a wolf. An actual wolf. Maybe the world isn’t so hopeless after all. 

Chapter Text 

Peter has been hearing howling in the night. Whenever he shakes MJ awake to hear it, it stops, so she never believes him. But he's not hearing things. Every night for the past week without fail, something out there starts howling, and the wind carries the sound all the way back to Peter's humble little house on the outskirts of town. 

It eats at him incessantly until he can't take it anymore. He thanks past-Peter for quitting his job and becoming a stay-at-home dad, then goes up into his attic and unearths his dusty old camera from a box. 

It's been a long time since Peter picked up a camera, so he figures, why not get back into it with a bit of landscape photography? He doesn’t expect to catch whatever’s making the noise on the first day, but he wants to be prepared when he does. He gets into his truck and drives five miles out into a snowstorm and sits there with the heat on and a coffee in hand, waiting for it to subside. His wipers are moving like crazy but he still he still can't see a foot in front of him because his headlights are stunted by the wall of snow. 

That’s climate change for ya. Blizzards in summer. You never know what you’re in for when you step out the door in the morning. Lately it’s been blizzards non-stop. A decade ago they had a sweltering hot summer that lasted from February to October. Now they’re paying for it with a winter that’s been going on for eleven months and counting. 

Eventually, the storm passes. He steps out and unloads his camera from the back. He hasn't put this thing together in years, but it's all muscle memory and it comes back to him seamlessly, like he never stopped. 

It's heavier than he remembers though. God, he’s getting old. 

Struggling a bit with the weight, he treks out into the snow. It's fresh and fluffy so it's not too hard to traverse, but apparently he's got a hole in his boots somewhere because his feet are getting soaked. Better make quick work of this. 

He plants the tripod on the ridge of an incline where a fine silt of snow is smoking off the edge and scattering across a pristine white valley. There's a picturesque row of trees at the bottom just waiting for Peter to snap a shot, so he squats down and spends some time adjusting the lens. 

Something unusual comes into focus when he does this. He leans around the camera and squints through the mist, but he can't see it with his naked eye. Old age for ya. Did he bring his glasses? He pats himself down. Nope, must've left 'em in the car, oh well. He gets behind the camera again. 

There's a mound of russet fur prickled with snow, rising and falling with a faint, weak breath. Maybe... a deer? A coyote? 

Could be a rock, honestly. Or a bag. He's swerved around like, five bags on the street, thinking they were little cats. Almost caused several pileups. There's more damn cats in this country than people nowadays, which is honestly a good thing now that he thinks about it. 

But he hopes it's something else.  

Imagine the photo that would make. 

Peter gets his camera under his arm and goes closer. He skids down the slick incline and falls over several times before his feet hit the bottom. It's a struggle to peel himself out of the heavy snow, but he manages it.  

The mound is only a couple meters ahead now. That's when he feels more than hears a deep dark growl. It's such a powerful sound that it vibrates through Peter's whole body, all the way to his teeth. He freezes instinctively.  

A strong neck uncurls from the snow, revealing glaring red eyes and lips peeled back into a snarl with sharp white teeth. It's a wolf, and its jaws look big enough to wrap around Peter's head and swallow him whole.

And he's just walked right up to it like an asshole.


He backs up carefully. "Oh, boy, you're a big guy, aren't ya? Oh, man.”

The wolf rises from the snow, clumps of frost cracking off its body as it breaks free. It stands coiled, muscles tensed and ready to explode out with incredible force, growling all the while.

God damn, this motherfucker is the biggest wolf Peter has ever seen and it looks pissed. To be fair, he's only seen one once in a zoo when he was a kid, but that turned out to be a dog and every time after that has been an old video or an illustration in a book, or some prick passing off a re-wilded husky as a wolf, but this thing is real, no doubt. If the size of it wasn't enough, those eyes seal the deal.

Even though his heart is hammering rabbit-fast in his chest, Peter forces his trembling hands to brace the camera against the ground and prepare a shot of the once-extinct predator.

He's always wished he could raise Mayday in a world with wolves, polar bears, orangutans, turtles, monarch butterflies— the list is endless. It sucks that the closest she’ll ever get to them are Wikipedia articles, like they're mythical creatures. This shot Peter is taking right now might be his one and only chance to capture something like this in the flesh, living and breathing. He's got to risk it even if it kills him. 

He snaps it. The shutter clicks and the camera flashes. The wolf's pupils contract, but it doesn't otherwise react, continuing to growl menacingly, licking its fangs, its tail standing up straight.

Peter swallows, squeezes his eyes shut, and creeps even closer. 

He's so going to get himself killed. 

The growling gets louder with every step until Peter is barely a foot away. From this distance he finally sees the blood sprayed across the snow, half-melted into a slurry, and a wire trap bound tight around the wolf's ankle. Deep gouges criss-cross up the length of its leg, which looks like it's been chewed to the bone. Evidence of how long it's been trying to escape.

It's stuck.

He looks at the wolf's face again, seeing it in a new light. It's just scared, Peter realises. More scared of you than you are of it.

The wolf lunges, massive teeth snapping shut a hair's breadth away from Peter with a loud thunk. 

Okay, fuck that, Peter is the most scared. Let's take this picture and get the fuck out of here.

He snaps another shot and the flash makes the wolf narrow its eyes and recoil into the ground, as if it's expecting pain. The sight makes Peter's heart melt. He goes to walk away, but hesitates, conflict tearing him up inside.

Well, what's the point bitching about extinct animals if a golden opportunity appears before you and you ignore it? What's the point in taking a stance at all if you're not going to put some effort in?

But what's he going to do? Call a vet? Animal control? They'll just kill the poor guy and skin him for fur. Wolf fur shot up once they started going extinct, it’s like, the luxury item. He could try a zoo, but even they’ll just lock him up in a sparse little cage until he puts his head down on his paws and never wakes up. 

If Peter wants this wolf to live, he’s going to have to take matters into his own hands. Or… his wife’s hands. MJ used to be a vet tech. She could totally get this big guy back onto his feet. A plan starts coming together in his mind.

"I am so fucking dead," he mutters to himself.

He goes all the way back to his truck to deposit his camera, then drives it down and parks it beside the wolf. By the time he gets back, the wolf has collapsed with exhaustion, panting and drooling uncontrollably. Its eyes are wide with panic and its jaw is hanging open. 

Peter gets a knife and some rope out from the back, and the wolf notices the knife immediately. It groans and its eyes roll back like it knows what's coming.

"Hey, hey, I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm trying to help you here. Even though you clearly wanna rip my throat out."

Yeah, help. Uh, how does he help? Since he doesn't have any better ideas, Peter just winds some rope around its head to keep its jaw shut and the wolf doesn't bother fighting back. It jerks away once, then, having expended all the energy left in its body, slumps in Peter’s arms, dead weight.

Its wounded leg is pulled taut by the wire, splayed out to the side. Peter takes the knife and saws away at the wire until it snaps and the wolf's leg springs free. The moment it does, Peter dodges back, ready to defend himself, but the wolf stays prone on the ground.


Peter tries to lift it into his arms. It feels like it weighs three hundred fucking pounds. He collapses over it, sucks in a few breaths and tries again. The best he can manage is a few inches. It’s impossible, especially while treading snow. 

“What the hell do you eat?” Peter asks. “Come on.”

As if it heard him, the wolf digs its back legs into the ground and propels itself forward with one last burst of energy. Peter goes with the motion. His legs tremble as he hauls it onto the truck and he almost collapses after he's got it secured in the bed. He catches his breath for a few minutes, his legs like jelly.

Now all that’s left to do is drive back and face the music.

...And what genre of music is that going to be? 

MJ kind of plays an integral part in his plan, but he hasn't even asked her for permission to bring a wild animal into their home, which also contains an infant child.

Peter stands up and cracks his back painfully.

Well, the wolf is in his truck now and he's not taking that fatass back out without help, so he may as well just drive it home and figure out the rest later. He could really go for a nice long nap on the couch.




“Are you sure he’s not gonna wake up?” Peter asks nervously. He doesn’t like seeing that thing’s teeth so close to his wife’s hands.

MJ waves him off. “He’ll be fine. He’s full of painkillers. Even if he does wake up, he’ll be high as a kite.”

She had been surprisingly on-board with the whole idea when Peter pulled the truck up front and peeled back the tarp. Thankfully, the wolf was still unconscious. Wore itself right out, the poor guy. Good thing, though. Peter does not want to get his face chewed off.

Must’ve been ten, fifteen years since MJ worked on any animals, but she slipped right back into it just as easy as Peter slipped back into photography. The wolf’s wound is now cleaned and dressed with a tidy little splint to boot. It’s currently sleeping on the bed of the truck with its tongue hanging out. There’s several lengths of old mooring rope trussed around its throat to keep it there. And a dish of dog kibble, if it wakes up hungry.

Hey, it’s all they had on hand.

“Still can’t believe it, even when I’m looking right at it,” MJ says, standing back to behold it. “An actual, real live wolf. I thought Lonely Clive was the last one.”

Ah, Lonely Clive. The "wolf" in the zoo. Walked the length of his enclosure in circles every day until he eventually died of old age, completely alone. Supposedly the last wolf on earth. The end of an era, the news said, although that era was actually over long before Clive came around. His fur made an extremely expensive coat, though. Some new-rich twenty year old bought it for more than Peter’s mortgage. Kinda funny to think that somebody's got the world's most expensive dog pelt in their house. 

“Maybe there’s more out there,” Peter says. He was dreaming of that the entire drive home. Packs of wolves somewhere out there, running beyond reach, in untouchable forests that humans can’t mow down. Yesterday it’d be a pipe dream, but now he has hope that it’s a reality.

Like, holy shit, come on, he found a wolf. An actual wolf. Maybe the world isn’t so hopeless after all. And they’re doing a good thing, right? Healing it and setting it free? This’ll be a great lesson to Mayday about respecting nature. If she remembers it, that is.

“Maybe,” MJ says with a bit of a mischievous quirk to her lips. “You’re not going to bring them all home, are you?”

“If I find them, why not? We can start a wolf clan, start raising the puppies. Then when they grow up, they’ll be on our side and we can sic ‘em on people. Like that guy whose dog always shits on our lawn, ugh! I hate him.”

She shrugs. “Well, I’m down. I’m glad I got the chance to help this guy.”

“Good, because I was worried you were gonna rip me a new one for doing this without asking first.”

“Well, he would’ve ended up on a hanger in someone’s cupboard, if you didn’t.” She takes off her gloves, balls them up and throws them in the trash. She pauses for a moment to look at the wire she peeled off the wolf’s leg. Dried blood clings to it, staining it a dark brown. She throws this away, too. “Might still end up that way, actually, so don’t get your hopes up. It wasn’t just his leg. He was hurt all over. Poor guy’s in bad shape.”

“Oh, really? You did such a good job, though,” Peter says, disappointed. It’d suck to lose the first fucking wolf anyone has seen in, like, eighty years this way. It might literally be the last wolf on earth.

She shrugs. “If he’s infected and it’s spread too far, there’s not much I can do with the tools we have on hand.”

Meaning, if they want to give him more invasive treatment, they’ll have to go somewhere with high-tech machines like a vet’s office or a hospital, in which case the whole world will know that the wolf exists and it’ll be skin-free within half an hour.

Peter sighs deeply. “Well, I guess, if it dies, we could just sell the fur?”

“Peter,” MJ scolds him.

“It’ll be dead anyway,” Peter defends himself. “We could really use the money to pay off the mortgage. I mean, do you know how much this stuff goes for? It’s stupid money.”

Now, he’s doesn’t like fur, let’s make that known. Skinning an endangered animal and wearing it just such a douchebag thing to do… but nobody can say it isn’t lucrative. Could pay off the mortgage, and the wolf would be dead anyway…

Seeing Peter’s reasoning, MJ reluctantly comes around to the idea. “There’s a fur place downtown. Maybe we could go talk to him about it?”

“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that place. He’d know where to get a good price. He was talking to me a few weeks ago, such an asshole. He was like, oh, I’ve got my finger on the pulse, I know where all the fur’s going in this town.”

The wolf sits up, its ears standing straight. 

“Okay, back up,” Peter says nervously, taking a large step back and pulling MJ with him. “Think our guest heard something interesting.”

“Probably the neighbour’s cat.”

“Oh. Well, that’s a good sign, right? That he wants to hunt?”

“I don’t know, uh.” She tugs on his sleeve. “You know, I’m suddenly a lot less comfortable being in here than I was before. Let’s leave.”

“Yup, good idea.”

The wolf affixes them with its cold red eyes, before settling back down again. Its hackles are up now though, so Peter is under no illusion that he’s safe. He tightens the rope before he leaves, just in case.




Peter jolts awake to a hand around his mouth. He looks up. Two red eyes are staring down at him.

“Don’t scream,” says a rough voice. 

Peter tries to do just that, tries to roll over and get MJ, but the hand tightens and sharp nails pierce his skin. The pain shuts him up.

“I said don’t scream.” The guy — whoever he is — leans close to his ear. Good god, his breath stinks of dog. “Are you going to be calm?”

Peter nods vigorously.

“Good,” the guy says, sharp white teeth flashing in the moonlight. “You said there was a man who owned a fur store, and that he knew where all the fur was going in town. Describe him to me.”

“Why do you wanna know? What are you gonna do to him?” Peter whimpers, his words muffled against a cracked, calloused palm.

The guy growls. Honest to god growls. “Keep avoiding my questions and you’ll find out.”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Peter says quickly. “He’s a little shorter than me, but kind of buff? Has this coat he always wears. He lives in the apartment above the store. Oh my god, what do you want from me?”

“Get up. Slowly.” 

Obediently, Peter slides out of bed. MJ is still fast asleep on her side, and Peter wonders if the same is true for Mayday in her room. The guy leads him to the front door, his footsteps silent on the ground. None of the lights are on, so when the guy turns and stands before him, all Peter can see are those two red eyes almost glowing in the darkness.

“Here’s what I want you to do,” he says. “We’re going to get into your truck and you’re going to drive me to this store. I’m going to get out and do what I need to do, and you’re going to come with me.”

“It’s not open right now,” Peter pleads, trying to parse out the clock on the wall. “It’s, it’s, uh— god damn, can’t see what time it is. It doesn’t open until eight—”

“I don’t care when it opens. Get your keys.”

Oh, hell no. Peter knows the statistics. How low your chances of survival get if you let someone take you to a second location. God, what’s going to happen to him? Is he going to get skinned and turned into a fashionable pair of boots? Is he going to get chopped up for stew? Are there gonna be chunks of him in this guy’s freezer like that woman— the Ice Box Jane Doe who got found in some freak’s ice box and she’d been frozen for months—?!

The guy growls again. It’s a fucking horrible sound, like rocks being ground up. It freaks Peter out so much that he recoils, protecting his face from an attack that doesn’t come.

“I said,” the guy grits out, “get your keys.”

“I’m going, I’m going.” Peter scuttles over to the overfilled rack on the wall and blindly fiddles with the keys. The guy is right behind him, breathing down his neck. Wrong one, wrong one, wrong one — don’t know where this key fits in the first place — wrong one—

“Hurry up!” The guy barks.

“I’m sorry! I’m doing it! Give me a second!”

In the next room, Mayday begins to bawl. Peter’s heart pretty much stops. He looks at the guy in horror, fearing his reaction. Worse, the bedroom light turns on— MJ wakes up.

“Peter?” she calls out, her voice still heavy with sleep. There’s a scuffing sound, MJ putting on her bathrobe and slippers.

The guy’s body is stiff and Peter can feel the tension emanating from it, even without touching him. “Tell her to go back to bed,” he growls in Peter’s ear.

Peter doesn’t even want to remotely risk escalating the situation. “Honey! I’ve got this one! Go back to bed!”

“Peter, are you okay?” she sounds concerned.

“I— I’m fine! Why wouldn’t I be fine?!” Peter stutters. The guy is scowling at him furiously. “I’m fine, I’m fine, I promise!”

“Go over to her,” the guy says, “and tell her to go back to fucking bed.”

Peter rushes over and meets MJ in the doorway, blocking her exit. Peter has no idea how he looks, but he probably doesn’t look good, because MJ’s face crumples with concern when she sees him. She puts a hand on his cheek.

“You look awful,” she says. “God, you’re so pale. What’s going on?”

“Everything’s fine, just a bad dream, I promise.”

“Peter, this doesn’t look like a bad dream to me. You look all, I dunno, freaked out.”

“I’m not! I’m totally A-okay! Just ageing in an unflattering manner! You know how it is when I eat cheese before bed, I—”

He stops. The guy is a pitch black silhouette at the end of the hallway, his sharp teeth and red eyes reflecting the moonlight. He’s holding Mayday— Peter’s fucking daughter— who is writhing and crying in his hands and swinging her little fists around.

A sudden calm comes over Peter, and he gains the sense to lie properly. “It’s just a panic attack, MJ.”

“Oh, it’s been a while,” she whispers, grabbing his arms.

“Yeah. Pretty bad one this time, but I’m fine now. Calmed myself down an hour ago, so I’m feeling good. Leave Mayday to me, okay? I’m not going back to sleep anytime soon.”

“Well, let me come sit with you—”

“You’ve got work tomorrow.” Peter puts a hand on her shoulder and holds her in place. “Somebody’s got to pay the rent, right? Go back to sleep.”

“Ohhh, okay, I see what this is. I can take a hint.” She smiles reassuringly. “I’ll leave you alone with your own personal little serotonin machine, okay?”

“Haha, yeah,” Peter grins forcefully.

“Alright. Tell me about it in the morning?”

“Of course, of course.”

“Okay.” She taps the door frame, then heads back to bed. Peter turns off the light for her and pulls the door shut. The moment it clicks, he storms down the hallway towards the intruder.

“I did what you told me to, okay?” he snaps, scooping Mayday into his arms and holding her tightly. 

For all the panic, he hadn’t realised that somewhere during his conversation with MJ, Mayday stopped crying. Peter frowns uncomprehendingly when he looks down at her peacefully sleeping face.

“Did you think I was going to kill her?” the guy asks. He leans in, towering over Peter. “I should’ve, for everything your kind has done to me, but I’m not like you. Now get in your fucking car.”

After checking Mayday for injuries, because he just can’t believe that she’s really okay, Peter sets her down in her bed and allows himself to be marched outside. Inside his truck, he finally gets a good look at his kidnapper in the seat beside him.

There are deep lines on his face and dark circles around his eyes. He’s breathing heavily through his mouth, his expression taut with panic, like the wolf from yesterday.

Fuck. The wolf. The wolf is still in the back, right? Does this guy know?

“Who are you?” Peter asks quietly.

He grins in a mean way, like he’s making a joke that Peter doesn’t understand. “Miguel.”

Well, at least Peter can put a name to him now. 

Peter grabs the wheel with shaking hands and peels out of his driveway. The roads are empty at this hour and they drive in silence, with nothing to look at but the short space of blacktop ahead of them that’s illuminated by the headlights. The whole journey, Peter is brainstorming ways to knock Miguel out and escape.

All of the scenarios in his head end with him using the wolf to bite Miguel’s head off. If he could just get Miguel to walk around the back, he’d be fucking dog food. 

The store is shut when they get there, of course. The parking lot is empty. Peter feels completely isolated. There’s nobody around to help him, he’s got to do this alone.

He stops the truck and turns off the engine. “I told you it wouldn’t be open.”

“Follow me,” Miguel says, getting out of the car. 

Peter does, casting a longing glance back at the truck bed. The thing under that tarp could rescue him easily, if only it were, you know. Trained. Like a dog.

“Move,” Miguel snaps, a few paces ahead of him. Peter scrambles to catch up, glancing all around for an escape route, but there’s nothing. Just rows and rows of dark buildings frowning down at the frosty streets below. Snowflakes sparkle in the beams of the street lights. 

Miguel peers in through the darkened window of the fur store. The display has an antique sort of look to it, with sheepskins stretched over an oakwood backboard, a shag rug on the ground and a tasteful little end table with a vase and a single wilting rose on top. 

A puff of silver vapor jets out of Miguel’s mouth. He goes to the door, grabs the handle and slams his shoulder against it. The wood splinters and the door gives way immediately. An alarm starts shrieking.

“Holy fucking shit,” Peter hisses. “I’m— I’m not going to be an accessory to this!”

“Move,” Miguel snaps, louder this time. Peter reluctantly follows him inside, plugging his ears against the noise. 

There are more expensive furs inside and the air is thick with the distinctive smell of freshly cured animal skin. Miguel is breathing heavily, his eyes flitting around. He yanks a black fur coat off a mannequin, sniffs it, then throws it aside. He goes to a rug next, also black fur from whatever animal. This one doesn’t pass the sniff-test either, and joins the coat on the ground.

“What the hell are you doing man? The police are gonna be here, we’re breaking in, we’re gonna get arrested!” Peter begs. He’s standing here in his pajamas, he doesn’t even have his robe. He’s barefoot for god’s sake!

Miguel grabs another piece of fur. “Then you had better watch the door.”

“You brought me here to be your lookout?! So you could come in here and sniff the products, you freak?!” Peter shrieks. “Is this a sex thing or what?!”

“Who the fuck are you people?” 

The shop owner — the guy who’s a little shorter and buffer than Peter — walks in, gun trained on them. He shivers as he squints at them over its sights, his knees knocking together. He’s also wearing his pajamas, so Peter feels a little less weird. Blue pinstripe ones with a luxurious black fur coat draped over his shoulders.

Miguel’s lips peel back, showing sharp teeth. A cord in his neck is drawn taut, he’s gritting his teeth so tight. “Where’d you get that coat?”

“Don’t even think about stealing a single thing!” the shopkeep squeals. “These are all extremely valuable, one-of-a-kind, pre-extinction antiques!”

“Pre-extinction? This is all worthless,” Miguel spits, tossing a rug aside. “Lab-grown. It costs pennies to make these and they churn out more every day.”

“It’s pre-extinction! I paid top dollar for them! More money than you’ll ever see in your life.”

“At least I didn’t waste my life selling garbage.”

The shopkeep doesn’t bother responding. He squares his feet and pulls the trigger, but his shot goes wide and shatters a wooden display cabinet. Peter collapses to the ground, throwing his hands over his head to protect himself from the shrapnel.  

A wolf jumps over him. The wolf, with russet fur and a fucked up leg. It pounds across the showroom towards the shopkeep as he’s frantically reloading his gun and tackles him to the ground. It bites the poor guy’s neck, puncturing it and unleashing a geyser of blood that splatters across an elk bust mounted on the wall.

Peter covers his mouth with his hands as the shopkeep lets out a cry of pain that’s quickly drowned by blood and becomes a warble. He goes silent shortly after, dead, and the wolf detaches from his throat.

The wolf sniffs the coat and finds it lacking. It turns to look at Peter from his perch on top of the shopkeep’s chest, glowing red under the emergency lights. Blood seeps from its mouth. It’s a horrific sight. Slowly, it stands, its body morphing and reshaping until it once again becomes Miguel, only this time his face is covered in blood.

“This isn’t his either,” he says, his voice barely audible over the alarm. 




Peter sits with his hands clasped on top of the table, a coffee sluggishly steaming in front of him. This diner is the only place in town open at this hour. It’s a shithole, but if you’re into greasy food like Peter is, it’s heaven. 

Miguel sits across from him, picking his teeth with his nails. There’s a wadded up ball of tissues to his right that he used to clean up the blood. Peter tries to pull his eyes away, but he’s transfixed by the colour. Bright red fresh blood, still wet.

What a night. First he found an extinct animal. Then he got kidnapped. Then he found out that the extinct animal could shapeshift, and it made him break into a fur store and become an accessory to cold blooded murder.

And Miguel just keeps… picking his teeth, like there’s nothing to worry about. He has a paper menu in front of him. One of the kid’s ones that has a map of the city on the back that you can doodle on in crayon. He had Peter mark out the nearest fur shops on it and he’s currently studying it intently. 

The one thing Peter can be happy about is that his wife and child are safely at home, sleeping the night away.

“Can I go home?” Peter asks bravely. “I won’t tell anyone about what happened.”

“No. Could you shut up and let me think?”

Peter nods stiffly. He takes a swig of his coffee. It’s his second mug and it’s keeping him alert in that tight, narrow way that coffee does. The surly waitress with a severe ponytail comes by and drops Peter’s fries in front of him. Miguel growls with surprise, his angry eyes trailing after her until she reaches an acceptable distance. Then, he goes back to his map.

“Is this really all there is?” he asks.

“Huh?” Peter grunts.

“He said he had pre-extinction fur,” he scoffs. “Hardly any of it was real, except for the sheepskins, but those are worth nothing. If that’s the best he could afford, there’s no way he’d be able to source a freshly made wolf coat.”

“No shit? Thought that was a reputable store. The shopkeep was a real hardass, definitely knew how to judge a rug.”

Miguel sneers. “I’m not surprised that a human would look at lab-grown fur and see no difference,” he says dismissively. “Funny. People like authenticity. Antiquity, whatever you’d call it. They don’t want synthetic pelts even when they’re chemically identical. They want the real thing, they want to know a lot of work went into it. But when it comes down to it, I bet someone could sell you plastic and you’d be too dumb to figure it out.” 

Peter looks away. The wolf just insulted him. The unrealistically well-spoken, shapeshifting wolf insulted him. Okay, he just needs to suck it up, like how he sucks it up when gangs of teenagers harrass him at the bus stop.

“Lab-grown, huh,” Peter muses.

You can get lab-grown everything nowadays. First they invented synthetic diamonds that were chemically indistinguishable from the real thing. Then it was synthetic beef and chicken, all of it just as delicious as usual but without any of the guilt. Then it was human organs for transplants for any patient of any economic background (although the cheap ones tend to expire way faster and you need to keep replacing them, go figure). Now they’re just growing whatever makes them a quick buck. Extinct animal skins for coats, for example. Funny how they don’t use that tech to just remake the whole species. Guess there’s no place in the ecosystem for wolves anymore.

Imagining a bunch of skins stretched across a rack getting fed by tubes makes Peter’s skin crawl.

“I guess it’s a stupid question, but, uh…” Peter drums the table with his fingers. “Why are you looking for wolf fur? You’ve, uh, already got some, right?”

He glances at the waitress to make sure she hasn’t overheard. Luckily, she’s too busy on her phone to notice them.

“I’m looking for a specific pelt,” Miguel explains. He’s much calmer now that he’s sunk his fangs into somebody, creepy as that may be. Although that isn’t saying much. He’s still terrifying.

“Oh, really. Well, I guess we could check online? You wanna give me a description?”

Miguel perks up. “Online?”

“Yeah, you know, internet shopping. The information highway. If it’s on the market, I might be able to find it.”

“I’m looking for the pelt of a black wolf with a slight white freckling around the muzzle, still in his first coat and about a femur and a half tall at the shoulders. The pelt will be—” Miguel looks away. “Recently made.”

Peter looks up from his phone. “What?”


“I’m sorry, a femur?”

Miguel frowns impatiently. “Reindeer femur. Have you never seen a reindeer? Forget it, just look it up.”

Psh, yeah, sure, sure. Asshole. 

Peter taps away at his phone, flying through links and scouring every website that fits the bill, but apparently wolf fur just isn’t something you come by on eBay. The closest thing he finds is an advertisement for an auction house that boasts a long history of hosting events that feature extremely rare items, priceless antiques and yes, extinct animal fur. It’s in another state.

He turns his phone around. “I think this is your best shot. They’ve got a showing coming up next Tuesday, and unless that pelt you’re looking for is going to a private bidder, it’ll be there.”

Miguel snatches the phone and glowers down at it. “How long will it take to drive there?”

“Um, a couple days? Maybe twenty-five hours if you’re a superhuman and you don’t stop? Somewhere in that ballpark.”

He hands the phone back, folds up his map-menu and jolts out of his seat. “Then I have time to check all of these fur stores before we leave. Move.” He grabs Peter’s arm and yanks him down the aisle, rudely forcing him to abandon the dregs of his coffee, taking him out into the cold air. The doorbell twinkles cutely as they leave.

“Fuck, where are we going now?” Peter asks, frightened.

“You’re going back home,” Miguel says, plowing on ahead. Peter follows in his footsteps. 

“What— what am I gonna tell my wife? Don’t tell me you’re—”

“Stop whimpering,” Miguel snaps. “My pup didn’t even whimper as much as you when he got stood on by a deer. How old are you?”

“Forty—” Peter stops himself. “Hey, you can’t just ask someone’s age like that.”

“Forty-something.” Miguel scoffs and rolls his eyes. “You should be the driving force of your pack. One moment of weakness from the leader can undermine the stability of the whole. You understand?”

“Um. Yes? My wife is more of a leader type, though.”

Miguel’s eyes narrow suspiciously, but he doesn’t press the issue. “I’ll see you in a few days, when we’ll drive to this auction. I’ll have my eye on you. Don’t try to run away from me before then.”

He morphs into a wolf and sprints down the street with the map between his teeth, his paws hardly making a dent in the plush snow. He’s gone in an instant.

Peter sighs. “Wouldn’t dream of it.” He’s up to his ankles in ice cold snow and his feet have gone numb. He wraps his arms around his thin pajama shirt, trying to brace himself against the frosty breeze.