The metal of the shackles is cold where it presses against Delphine's ankles and wrists, and she can feel the coming full moon like an ache in her bones.
The chains binding her to the nearby wall rattle as Cosima closes the last manacle around her right wrist and it locks with a quiet click that carries with it a foreboding echo of the night to come.
Cosima places a comforting hand to Delphine's shoulder and waits for the taller girl to meet her eyes. There's a sadness there her calm smile can't mask.
“It'll be alright, Delphine. Don't worry so much. I've seen Sarah through this a dozen times over. Just one night, then everything'll be back to normal.”
Sarah shifts a bit where she's leaning against the opposite wall and can't make herself match her girlfriend's smile. Nothing is ever going to be normal for Delphine again, and that's on Sarah. She also knows 'just one night' won't make it any easier to endure.
Cosima hadn't been there for her first.
A shudder passes through Delphine, matched by a smaller one in Sarah as the two werewolves sense the moonrise outside. Sarah lets the lunar pull pass through her, calms her instincts and stands silent against the stones of basement wall – a true Alpha in her element – but Delphine's shakes continue, and the chains begin to rattle against the wall.
A growl builds low in her throat and her eyes blaze gold as claws pierce her fingertips. Cosima's hand tightens around her shoulder and Delphine's shakes subside momentarily while their eyes meet, until the cloud cover outside recedes and the moon's pull grows too strong. Delphine's eyes snap shut and something almost like a roar escapes her throat.
Sarah takes a protective step towards her girlfriend, but Delphine seems to come back to herself for a moment, just as Cosima starts to pull her hand away.
Delphine meets Sarah's eyes across the small basement and an understanding passes between them.
Delphine turns to meet the worried look in Cosima's eyes.
“You should go,” she says, though the words sound rough in her throat, “I'll be fine, and it is not safe.”
Cosima looks ready to argue, but she meets Sarah's eyes over her shoulder and deflates, accepting that this isn't her place.
“She'll be alright, Cos. I'm not going anywhere, and it's her Alpha she needs right now, not her best friend.”
With one last reassuring squeeze to Delphine's forearm, Cosima backs away slowly and heads for the basement stairs.
“I won't go far,” she says and they all know she'd rather stay down here with the wolves.
Sarah meets her at foot of the stairs and wraps her up briefly in a tight hug. She pulls back to place a reassuring kiss against the human girl's lips, until the renewed sounds of chain against stone interrupt them as Delphine's moon fever returns.
“Go get some sleep,” Sarah sighs against Cosima's face, leaning her forehead against the hunter's, “it's gonna be a long night, but there's nothing you can do for her by pacing a hole in the carpet upstairs.”
Cosima nods reluctantly and makes her way out of the basement.
As soon as Cosima leaves the basement, Delphine's shakes worsen and a broken, whining growl breaks out of her mouth around her lengthened canines.
Sarah paces back across the room slowly, her attention fixed on Delphine and her red eyes never leaving Delphine's.
“I'm sorry,” she says, after Delphine finally breaks her gaze and let's her head slump forward as the moon's intensity wanes for a short moment.
Sarah's words are slow and deliberate when she continues, “I know Cosima will say I saved your life. I know you believe her. But you didn't ask for this. You're something new, now. Call it a curse, call it a gift, call it a transformation – they're all just words.”
Delphine can see the guilt in the way that Sarah is holding herself, and she can feel the weight of responsibility Sarah feels for her.
“My bite gave you a new life, whether it was the car crash or me that took the old one away doesn't really matter now. It's not going to be easy. This first full moon will feel like one of the hardest things you've ever been through, but I can promise this won't get easier when the moon goes down.”
She can't tell if Sarah wants Delphine to hate her right now or not, but Sarah hadn't been the one bleeding out on the asphalt. Delphine knows this pain is worth it. She raises her head to meet Sarah's gaze once more.
“It is alright, Sarah. I owe you my life. I am ready for whatever is to come,” Delphine says, and she tries to look as confident as her words, but it's hard when another violent moon tremor sends her to her knees.
Sarah crouches down in front of her and places a hand on her shoulder, “You're not, but it's alright, that's what I'm here for.”
. . .
The minutes tick by slowly, and with every new tremor Delphine feels the urge to tear the chains from the wall grow stronger. The only sounds that break the silence are the clink of metal on stone and the growls and whines that escape her control.
The chains allow her very little freedom and she shifts around impatiently, a need for motion stirring in her blood as the moon calls her towards the woods outside.
The old Childs' house is buried deep in the local forest. Delphine just knows she'd never find any people to accidentally hurt if Sarah would just let her run the way her instincts are demanding.
Sarah hasn't moved in what feels like days. She stands quietly in the center of the old basement, an unfathomable look in her crimson eyes.
Delphine hates her for this. Life had been complicated a few weeks ago. Life in a city that wasn't yet home, far from the country she'd been born in, few friends save her excitable lab partner in AP Physics, along with the girl's gruff but charming girlfriend and their strange gang of acquaintances – but it had been a life Delphine was comfortable with, a life that didn't scare her, not the way she scares herself right now.
...but, no, Delphine can't hate Sarah. She can feel an animal in her mind, the wolf pacing back and forth behind her eyelids, and she can feel it's need for the hunt. She would have gnawed through her chains long ago and run wild into the night if not for Sarah. Her Alpha's gaze burns into her across the room, as it keeps the beast in check.
The ache of the moon's pull begins to burn as the night crawls on. Delphine begins to lose herself in the sensation, can't remember if she's the girl keeping the hungry wolf at bay, or the trapped animal pacing behind the eyes of it's human cage.
Finally a painful roar breaks through the quiet as both girl and animal give in to the moon's call toward freedom. The chains pull taught as Delphine lunges forward and the shackles bite into her flesh.
Sarah takes a step forward, but doesn't reach for Delphine. She waits patiently for the snarling Beta to meet her eyes again.
“Delphine,” she calls the name calmly, like she'd been waiting for this, “you need to focus. Remember your anchor.”
There's a fog in Delphine's head now that almost robs the words of their meaning, but something in Sarah's voice recalls the image of someone else, someone whose name Delphine can't quite recall, and it gives her pause in her struggle against the restraints.
“Listen to me, and think about your anchor. Remember that piece of your humanity and let it bring you back. You're Delphine, and you're more than that beast I put in your head.”
And the image becomes clearer – a toothy smile, broken by giddy laughter – hands that tell a story for a mouth whose words aren't enough – hair a cascade of ordered chaos falling against a small set of shoulders – Cosima.
The images resolve themselves into the person Delphine's holds dearest; Cosima, her best friend, her link to her humanity. The wolf calms, and Delphine's control begins to return. She remembers Cosima, and with her Delphine remembers herself.
Delphine's eyes focus again slowly on Sarah, where she stands a few feet away.
Sarah face is now cracked into a small smile, there's pride behind her eyes.
“See? That's all it takes. Remember the people who matter, the things that make your life worth living, anything that can bring you back to your center. Never let go of your anchor. It'll keep the wolf calm and remind you who you are when the moon starts filling your head with so much else.”
Delphine can almost bring herself to smile in return. Perhaps the worst is over. This first night is meant to be the hardest, but she's made it. Her Alpha is proud of her, and she knows that, come morning, Cosima will be as well.
Across the room Sarah is still talking quietly, “Keep your anchor ready all the time. The full moon is the worst, but the wolf can sneak up on you. My first month without an anchor was one of the roughest times of my life. I nearly hurt people, and I thought I was losing my mind. I didn't even know what an anchor was, but then this weird new girl with no personal boundaries steamrolls into my life, and suddenly I realize that I can hear myself think again when she's around. Cosima saved me from myself.”
With that, the rest of the real world comes rushing back, and Delphine remembers. Cosima isn't her anchor. Cosima's just a friend. Cosima is Sarah's.
The wolf howls, and Delphine lets out a broken sound before lunging forward against her chains with a snarl.
The metal creaks under the force of Delphine's feral outburst, and Sarah reaches out to put a hand against her shoulder but Delphine knocks it away.
“Shite,” Sarah curses softly to herself as she realizes what's gone wrong.
“Delphine? It's okay. I know Cosima is your anchor, and it's alright. I understand the way you care about her, better than anyone else could. She cares about you too, you're her best friend. Focus on that, Delphine, please. It's going to be okay.”
Delphine's knees give out once more as the fight goes out of her. The wolf recedes for a moment.
“I... I'm sorry, Sarah,” Delphine stammers helplessly, “I didn't mean to... I did not plan to feel this way.”
Sarah sinks to the floor in front of her, “Delphine, it's alright. I meant that. You don't need to apologize.”
Delphine is breathing a bit erratically, on the verge of tears, “But – but I do. I should not love her the way I do. Cosima is yours.”
Love. Sarah hadn't realized it went that deep, but it doesn't matter. She swallows back a correction that Cosima isn't Sarah's, that she belongs to herself before anyone else, because that's not the point. Cosima loves Sarah, just as Sarah – and Delphine – love her, but Delphine is on the outside. Alone.
Cosima is Sarah's, but, “So are you,” Sarah tells Delphine, shuffling forward across the stones and pulling Delphine's head to her chest.
“You're pack now. We're family – all of us – and I'm your Alpha. I'm right here, and I'm not going anywhere.”
Delphine lets out a quiet sob, but her breathing calms and she rests quietly against Sarah's chest as the moon's call fades into the night.
Some hours later, neither has moved from where they've curled up on the floor, and that's where Cosima finds them as the first rays of dawn filter through the trees outside. Delphine is sleeping and a new calm has settled over her features. Sarah watches her fondly, a small smile on her face. She doesn't notice Cosima's presence until her girlfriend wraps an arm around her shoulders and settles down beside them.