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Hiraeth

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Ulysses never had the luxury of a pack. He grew up alone, unsure of what he was, surviving on instinct. He did well enough for himself now, plenty of money and no shortage of trouble to occupy his time. Over the years he met a few of his kind but made no lasting bonds. There was a void where a true family, a pack ought to be.

The moon was full now and to Ulysses' eyes the forest looked bright as day. Leaves and twigs crunched beneath his paws, the same wonderful feeling ad walking on fresh snow. The green smell of rotting plants mingled with the odor of animals. Rabbits, birds and other small things darted back to their keeps, thinking themselves safe. They weren't, of course. Ulysses' claws could dig up any burrow and climb any tree. 

He caught a whiff of something familiar but couldn't place it. Ulysses tastes the air again, more thoughtfully. It smelled a bit like him but he wouldn't get his hopes up. It had been a few years now since another wolf showed up in those parts. Whatever it was, he was intrigued. He followed the trail and soon enough came to its end. 

Ulysses stood stock still and through a break in the foliage spied another wolf. A female, he could tell now that he was close. Encounters with his kind had been brief but he knew enough to recognize a bitch's scent and slender frame. 

She was crouched over a goat, pulling chunks of flesh free and gulping them whole. Ulysses knew he should leave her to her business but his legs were already carrying him into the clearing. She looked up from her meal and snarled. Ulysses approached slowly, hoping to make it clear that he wasn't there to hurt her or steal her kill. For a moment, he thought the she-wolf was going to leap at him, but instead she drew up to her full fight and shifted into human form. He did the same, returning her gesture of good faith. 

She was beautiful, with tanned skin that glowed in the night and long hair the same blonde as her fur. Ulysses figured he looked shabby with his greying curls and mess of tattoos. 

"Hi, I'm Penny!" The woman chirped. She wiped her mouth on the back of her arm before stepping around the leftovers and offering her hand. 

Ulysses shook it and lingered just a moment over the softness of Penny's skin. 

"Klaue. Ulysses Klaue. Where'd you get the goat?"

Penny winced. "I stole it. But in my defense I left a 20 under a rock for the guy."

"You had a craving, eh?" Ulysses laughed, amused that she would bother to try and pay for an animal she swiped. 

"Yep. And I earned it. The farmer took a couple shots at me. He missed, but still!" Penny shrugged and licked at a bit of blood in the corner of her mouth and nodded at the carcass. "You want some?"

The opportunity to share a meal with a woman who was not only gorgeous but like him...well that was too good to pass up. 

"Sure." Ulysses answered, careful not to seem too eager, and slid back into his wolfskin. 

Before he could take his first bite a shot tore through the forest. It caught Ulysses in the right shoulder and by the pain he knew the leg would be useless. 

Penny wasted no time. Rather than try and fight, she crouched and allowed Ulysses to clamor onto her back. Once he was secure she bounded off, the trees blurring around them like smears of verdant paint. Penny only slowed when she could not longer smell the farmer. A bit longer and she stopped at a rock formation, huge slabs driven up from the ground to lean against eachother. She stepped into the cave and grasping Ulysses' paw in her teeth pulled him to the ground as gently as she could. 

They shifted to human form and Penny saw that he looked like absolute hell. His brow was coated with sweat and by the grimace that twisted his face, Ulysses was clearly in agony. She asked if he could sit up and let her take a look at the wound. He did. 

"Good news: looks like the bullet worked it's way out. It might hurt like a bitch but you'll heal quick." Penny explained and helped him recline against a rock. 

"I know. Not exactly the first time I've been shot."

"Really? Jesus." Penny's eyebrows arched in surprise but she decided not to question him on the matter. She shook it off and reached for a backpack she had left behind there earlier that evening. It held anything she figured would be handy on a run: clothes, snacks and the like. She pulled on a T-shirt and shorts then handed Ulysses a bottle of water and bundle of granola bars. 

He accepted them gratefully. He hadn't had a bite all night and that gunshot was really taking it out of him. Finally, Penny sat down against the opposite wall, stretching her legs and crossing her ankles. 

"Why'd you help me anyway?" Ulysses asked before tearing into his food. 

Penny scoffed as if the answer were obvious. "Because it was the right thing. And you getting hurt was my fault. I didn't think the farmer would be able to track me."

Ulysses looked away as he ate. It wasn't often he encountered anyone who was good for the sake of good. He inhaled the granola and sucked down the water, wishing there were more. 

"So what're you doing here? I mean you sound American."

Penny brightened up. "Filming a movie! My first big part. And its a Dirk Pitt Adventure so I get to hunt treasure and go Nebraska on some guys." She mimed a few punches.

Ulysses chuckled despite his aches. She was cute and strong and she had saved his ass. An actress too? Shit, she was out of his league but he was officially smitten. 

"What do you do for a living?' Penny asked in return. 

"Uhhh..." She would think he was garbage if she knew. "I sell guns."

The girl stared him down, sensing the half-truth. Penny's gaze bore through him and Ulysses couldn't deny that he owed Penny the truth. 

"Okay okay! I sell guns....and bigger things. To the highest bidder."

To his surprise his companion burst into laughter. "So that's how a wolf gets so familiar with getting shot? You must be pretty terrible at your job. And no I don't care. Humans are always gonna kill eachother. What does it matter who sells them the weapons?"

"I'll have you know I do very well!" Ulysses did his best to seem indignant but he'd gladly take a thousand such jabs to hear Penny laugh again. The feeling made him bold. 

"Is there a Mr. Penny?" Her face fell and he regretted asking. 

"Once. He tried to make the change and it didn't take."

"Christ, I'm sorry." 

Talk about putting your foot in it. Penny's eyes were brimming but she held those tears at bay. 

Goddammit, Ulysses swore to himself. He scooted over to sit next to the girl and pulled her into his arms. She leaned into the embrace, head cradled comfortably against his neck. 

"It's okay, bokkie. It's okay." He cooed into her hair. 

"The fuck did you just call me?" Penny demanded, looking up at him. 

"It's a term of endearment. Nothing to worry about."

She grinned knowingly. "You like me!"

Ulysses made no denial or admission. He simply kissed her, quickly but firmly, nibbling her lip as the drew apart.

Penny sighed and relaxed back into his arms. "I'm suddenly very concious of how naked you are. Thanks for that."

"Oh you're welcome." Ulysses said with a wicked grin. 

"You perv!" Penny shouted and giggled. "But seriously, how are you gonna get home? Probably too dangerous to go out in wolfskin and you can't exactly call for a cab butt ass nude."

"Hmm." It was something Ulysses hadn't yet considered. "You got a phone?"

Penny nodded and handed over her cell. Ulysses punched in a number and told whoever was on the other end to just track the phone and pick him up as he had "no bloody idea" where he was. When the call was through Ulysses spent a few more seconds with the device before giving it back. 

"You might wanna get out of here before my guys show up. But you have my number. Don't be a stranger, eh?"

"We'll see." Penny smirked and rose to leave. She'd love to stick around and see what excuse he was going to give for his predicament, but they'd have zeroed in on the signal by now. There was no real excuse for Penny to stay and complicating things would be unwise. 

There was always tomorrow.