Not So Bad

Four months. It’s been four months since Max, realizing he probably had nothing left to lose and no other home to go back to, let the pack take him. 

They haven’t turned him. No one has even tried. Honestly, the whole thing has been astonishingly well, normal, at least a solid 97% of the time. 

Not normal the way his life had been before. But in the kind of way he’d dreamed about. The way he’d heard about people being allowed to live in other places. 

Max isn’t sure he fits here, exactly, but he can breathe in a way he’d never been able to with his family. 

He doesn’t have to hide who he is, for one. 

When he’d asked Astrid about that, she’d laughed. 

“Wait. Are you actually asking why?”

“I dunno,” he’d mumbled. “I guess I’m just used to more… pushback? Interrogation?”

“Dude, take a step back and look at the comparative severity of things here. One problem involves my friends and family – my pack – potentially dying at the hands of your family and the other ‘problem’,” she says, fingers making quotation marks in the air, “is that your hormones are store bought? Join the club, Max. And I’m sorry if that makes me sound like a bitch. I’m genuinely not trying to be one in this very specific instance.”

He couldn’t help but smile and the corners of Astrid’s mouth had quirked up almost immediately in response.

The conversation had ended there, but Max couldn’t stop thinking about it. She was right. And every day in the intervening time, he’d seen that more and more. 

Max might not be sure he fits here, but there’s no denying the pack accepts the fundamental truth of who he is in a way he’s never experienced before. 

And really, maybe it shouldn’t be so shocking in light of everything he’s learned since they found him. He’s not sure if it’s because Astrid said something to them or if it’s just a natural thing, but they start telling him stories after that.  

In a broad sense, there’s the fact that more than half the pack was queer. The whole rainbow represented, often along multiple axes at the same time. He hears Spanish almost as often as English, which simultaneously warms something in him and tugs bitterly. 

All of that helps to counteract the new feeling of foreignness he felt upon arriving, but it’s nothing compared to what he learns about those who he’s begun to call friends. 

Like how Ari – the wolf he’d dug the bullet out of – ended up here much the same way he did. They didn’t come from hunters, but the situation was bad; the pack found them one full moon a couple of years ago and turned them to save their life. 

And now, they’re hopelessly, hilariously in love with both Tate and Kyah. The three of them ended up together mostly by accident, but as Max has heard it told, they’ve been inseparable since. 

Or how Shawn, Astrid’s younger brother, has somehow decided that he’s the one to ask for advice on girls. 

“Dude why do you think I know?”

“Well because-” he cut off abruptly and glanced away when Max looked at him. 

“Because…?” Max asked, raising an eyebrow. 

“Uhhhh it’s nothing you wanna go for a run?”

He’d rolled his eyes but dropped it and trailed behind Shawn until his lungs gave out. 

The question had stuck, however. 

So now, sitting on a stump in the campground four months after what he mentally has just been referring to as Everything, that’s what he thinks about. 

The part of him that’s read too much fanfiction wonders if there’s any connection between the way all of the stories his new friends tell him making him think of Astrid and the way Shawn clammed up. 

He dismisses it. Or at least, he tries to. 

It’s what he’s actively trying to do when a cold nose presses against the exposed skin at the back of his neck. 

Max is glad no one is around to hear the undignified squeal he lets out. No one except Astrid, at least, although he’s not sure if that’s better or worse. 

She laughs at him, of course. The noise comes out more like a rumbling growl that would be intimidating if he didn’t know better. 

At least, he tells himself that he knows better. That she won’t hurt him and that he has no reason to be nervous. That they let him come this time because he knows they’re not a threat to him and vice versa. 

A strange approximation of a smile spread across her features, Astrid does it again. She lets out a playful yipping sound when Max squawks in protest, then tackles him to the ground. 

It shouldn’t make his pulse race the way it does. He won’t say it shouldn’t make his pulse race at all because there’s a very heavy werewolf on top of him, jaws inches from his face, and he was raised by hunters. 

But Max is beyond positive that his training plays absolutely zero part in this. 

His thoughts are confirmed when he blinks and opens his eyes to Astrid-the-person instead of Astrid-the-werewolf, and doubly so when she kisses him a moment later. 

He’s pretty sure he makes some other undignified sound in response, but he wants to think he recovers quickly enough. 

Astrid hasn’t quite managed to shift back fully, as Max discovers when his hands settle on her hips to find more fur than skin. 

Still, it’s nowhere near enough to spoil the moment. He relaxes into the dirt and lets her lead, well aware of the fact that this is exactly the third time someone who wasn’t related to him has kissed him and determined to make the most of it. 

When she pulls back to breathe Astrid is smiling, eyes and teeth bright in the light of the fire. 

“And here I was starting to worry you were more into Shawn than me,” she says with a little laugh. 

“What gave me away?” His voice cracks with the question and she gives another amused huff. 

“You really wanna know?”


“It’s gonna sound like cheating, but I can hear your heartbeat. Also I can smell- uh-” she coughs and glances away.

The sound Max makes is somewhere between a whine and a groan. It’s not that she’s wrong but it’s still vaguely embarrassing. “How long has that been a thing exactly?”

“Since the- wait, what part?”

“Both? The heartbeat, the smelling, I don’t know, all of it?”

“Mm, still since we found you then. The heartbeat, at least. The smell thing I didn’t notice until Tate pointed it out, but like, I know hormones do all kinds of weird shit. Even the heartbeat thing I kind of wrote off as nerves or something, but I needed to know, so, yeah.”

“Sold out by my own body,” he says with a sigh.

“Wow, wonder what that must be like,” she replies, shifting on top of him pointedly. 

He smiles at her and reaches up to cup her jaw with one hand. It seems like the right thing to do, at least, and judging by the brief look of shock before a pleased grin replaces it, he’s not wrong. 

“Well, what now? You’ve got your answer, right?”

“Now,” she starts, voice dropping to a whisper as she ducks so her lips brush his ear. “-but first I think I have to go run around in the woods some more so I don’t like, accidentally shred you or something. Because that would be bad.”

“I can wait,” he manages, slightly breathless.

“Good.” She smiles and kisses him again; then, in one fluid motion, she’s shifting back and bounding off into the woods.

It takes several more minutes before Max can push himself off of the ground to start reassessing his situation all over again in his mind.

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