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Waking Again From Sleep

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The morning sun darted across the covers of the bed, casting spotted light on your skin through the thick vines that kept most of it out. A chain was pressed under your pillow, and another rested on the mattress in front of you as the arm curled around you, pulling you deep into the warm, broad chest of the bear you had spent all morning with in the fields surrounding his home. You kept your eyes closed, snuggling into the warmth, and thought back on just a few hours ago.

You and he had returned to the house once thoroughly satisfied, and he let you wash up before he set to getting everything for the dwarves. They had stayed the night, but they were due to leave in a few hours, once the sun hit the highest point. From where you laid, you could tell it was still mid-morning.

But the dwarves were exhausted and after a quick meal, they rested once more. Leaving you alone with your bear to discuss what exactly had happened. Sex, coupling, mating… whatever the name people wanted to call it… You were the last ones for each other. The last ones to be there for one another. And no matter what happened, you existed for one another now.

So you agreed to keep house with one another. While in any other world, it was marriage, in skin walker culture… marriage didn’t exist. Life partners, certainly, but there was no obligation to be bound to one another. It was a choice, and only a choice, to stay. And so it was then that you insisted that if they were going to be partners, he had to at least take his bed back, to which he compromised a share. There was certainly plenty of room.

But his arm was comforting, and as you were pulled into his naked chest when he started waking, his grip tighter as he released a quiet breath in your hair of content, you gripped the arm, hearing the chains clink as you laced your fingers with his own and pulled the hand up to your chest, over your heart.

“Good morning,” you murmured quietly.

“Good morning.” His voice was gruff and you turned your head so that you could see the sunlight playing with his own hair and beard, and across his broad chest. “You’re moving too much.”

“I want to look at you,” you insisted as you turned your whole body so that you faced him. He grunted, but his arm under your pillow moved down until it accompanied his other around your waist. He was giving you the best hug in the world. His warm skin was warm against your own. Bare. Soft. And he buried his face in your hair, taking in a deep breath of it, before he placed a soft kiss to your shoulder.

“Do you see me now?”

“Not enough of you,” you admitted. He chuckled and rose onto his elbow, hovering over you. All it took was a quick once over, looking down, to see all of him under the covers. “Much better,” you approved.

“The dwarves will be up. You will need to guard near the house while I take them to the greenwood forest.” You knew. You had discussed it in between lulls of intimacy. “I want you to stay in this form unless you sense danger. Or if you see Orcs plainly. Then you are to howl.”

“I know, Beorn,” you said with a soft shove at his chest, and he got off of you, sliding out of the bed, the blankets staying wrapped around you. You were given a nice view of his backside as he reached for his trousers, pulling them on. “I will keep myself hidden. They will not hesitate to get me. I’m smaller and injured. Easy to overpower. My leg will hold. If it withstood the other day, and yesterday’s activities, then it is fine. It should be healed by now.” He didn’t seem convinced, but you’d indulge him until he said it with certainty.

That was how you ended up laying in wait in the bushes surrounding the gate of Beorn’s home. The Company of dwarves, wizard, and hobbit disappeared with the ponies, some food, and a bear. And you stared at the woods, watching the surroundings for any sign of Orcs.

You heard the wargs long before you saw them. They howled so similarly to your own people, that you jumped every time. It reminded you of times before the war.

Only they couldn’t have been your people. They were gone, killed, imprisoned.

Each howl was a reminder. You shifted when you spotted them. A group of at least twenty. Far more than Beorn had made mention of when he ran into Azog and his small group earlier. He had said about five… these were a lot more than that. And he could not face them alone. You let out a piercing howl, distinct enough from the wargs that you knew Beorn had heard it, because faintly in the distance you could hear a bear growl.

The large hunting pack stopped when they heard you, and you held your breath, watching as they seemed to be questioning to head in your direction or in the direction of the scent they were trailing. You would not be able to fight them. You would not even be able to take down three with their wargs trailing. You gave a sigh of relief as they seemed to decide to follow the dwarves instead, but then instantly worried. Beorn was in that path.

It seemed agonizing, waiting and listening to the sounds of howls and whimpers. And you wondered if Beorn would ever appear. But when he did, lumbering out of the woods, you shifted immediately back to human form, and his bear began to pick up speed as he broke out into a run – seeing you. When he reached the gates, he shifted, and you were given a first hand look at the injuries he had endured. A few claws had scratched along his chest, and there was a cut at his cheek, but he looked alright.

“The orcs have taken a different path, to avoid me. I managed to fight a few before they realized it was the better plan.” You gently touched the tender skin on his chest, near a cut, and he let out a harsh growl. “Ouch!”

“You’re a baby. It’s barely a scratch!” you insisted.

He just growled in warning. But he let you lead him into the house, sitting him down and you began to tend to him as he had tended to you in the last few months. For the deeper sections, your fingers worked deftly to stitch them together. And those that did not need stitching, you tentatively placed a clean cloth over, to keep them from getting dirty.

“Thank you,” he said quietly.

“Returning the favor,” you said lightly, and placed a kiss to his cheek, before you moved to the pantry, grabbing some fruits and passing them to him. “There, those will make you feel better.”

He raised an eyebrow, but took a bite out of one, and gave a nod. “Better already.” His smirk gave away that he was making fun of you, and you simply stuck your tongue out before sitting beside him.

“What’s going to happen now?”

“Trouble.”

He was not wrong. Not even two weeks later, Radagast was pounding on the front door with a wide-eyed expression on his face. He didn’t even give you a startled look, as if he was expecting you. “Orcs. Thousands of them, Beorn! Thousands! Ascending on the mountain! We must help them fight. Or they will destroy these lands and there will be no place for you or I to call home-”

“The mountain? Erebor?” Beorn asked.

Radagast gave a nod. “I’ve called all the others I could think of. From the north, from the west. We must hurry or I fear it will be too late.”

You frowned slightly. “Others?”

“Other beings of nature, of course,” Radagast said as if it was the most obvious in the world. You didn’t see how that was. But a swell of hope formed within you. “Come, come, we’ve no time to lose!”

You were barely given a moment to breathe as Beorn was suddenly blowing out the candles in the kitchen, kicking out the fire in the fireplace, and putting a few of his things away. “You are to stay here-”

“If there is a war that will determine the outcome of our future, I will fight in it,” you cut in before he could even try to make you stay in the home. “I will not hide again.”

Beorn looked as though he wanted nothing more to protest. “Then you fight, but do not get yourself killed.” You stepped closer to him, and embraced him tightly.

“I promise. If you promise me as well.”

“I have no idea what we’re walking into. But I’ll try my best.”

Radagast was waiting impatiently in the garden and he seized both your and Beorn’s hands, tugging you out to the plains. And your steps faltered as you let out a disbelieving gasp. Eagles. Giant eagles, just like… “They still live,” you breathed. The giant eagles of the north, that had reigned there for hundreds of years, thousands even. There were dozens of them flying into the clearing, landing. You pulled yourself from Radagast’s grasp, moving towards the eagles as they landed. They stood at least twelve feet high, and your eyes widened further as you saw people sliding from their backs.

“Skin-walkers.” The words had left Beorn, who followed. And you could not believe your eyes. There were dozens of them. As many to match the number of eagles. And the eagles shifted into their human form. You could not help yourself. You stumbled forward and hugged the nearest skin-walker tightly. You recognized none of them, none from your own Clan, but that didn’t matter.

“I thought I was the last for so long,” you explained as you pulled away.

The skin-walker was a woman, of the tiger clan. The faint stripes on her skin told you that much. “Wolf,” she grinned. “We have yet to see one that survived. Oh, it is so good to see you.” She glanced over your shoulder. “And a Bear! Those we thought lost.”

“I’m Y/N, daughter of Fingold Bloodclaw. And this is Beorn.”

“Beorn,” the woman repeated. “Cousin of Longtail.” Beorn gave a small nod. Well that certainly explained the fact that he was Purebred. He was a cousin to the king of the Bears in the day. “I never knew…” She seemed as shocked as you. “Oh, this is the greatest news. All of us united. We shall not lose on this day.”

“We must make haste,” Radagast spoke. “The battle is beginning.” The Eagles transformed, and as people began to climb on, you and Beorn were directed to a lonely group of Eagles, and climbed onto your own separate. You didn’t do well with heights, but once the Eagles began to fly, the fear was forgotten. It was a short trip to the Lonely Mountain, a section of Middle Earth you had never ventured to. The battle showed you that this would not be a fight of those from nature against Orcs alone. No, there were elves, men, and dwarves battling.

People fighting for a cause you knew all too well. Freedom.

You watched as the shifters in front of you began to drop from their eagles, falling to the ground and transforming into their alternate forms. Tigers, horses, lions. The sight was so welcoming, so comforting. Solidarity.

Your kind weren’t extinct. They still lived. They still thrived in hiding. And though there were no other bears or wolves among them, seeing so many others still made you feel far better than seeing none.

You fell. Your skin stretched and pulled and fur burst from within you. And then you were among the orcs, clawing and tearing at whatever foul smelling creature you had a chance to. You were so caught up in following Orcs and knocking them down that you didn’t realize that you were beginning to distance yourself from the others.

Not until a few Orcs were surrounding you. And you could not see a single skin-walker in your vacinity.

Just Orcs and wargs. And they were closing in. Shit. You backed up a few steps, growling menacingly, daring them to try and get closer. Which they dared do. You held your breath as you took another step back, knowing that you were close to the Orcs behind you, but the ones in front of you were more menacing. You hadn’t the strength nor the size to defeat all of them before one got you with their blade.

You were afraid. You felt as though you had never made it to Beorn’s home. That you had never made it to Gondor. That you were in the middle of the wilderness, in the midst of the first war, and orcs were onto you. Admittedly, they seemed to have not ridden wargs into battle then, but it was similar.

You didn’t have time to protect yourself as suddenly a warg jumped at you, knocking you to the ground,and sending your head cracking into the ice. But once you were able to clear your head, shaking it and snorting in frustration as the world seemed to spin, you could see a white warg standing over you, growling as if protecting you.

What?

It was a large warg, larger than you and had sharper claws. And there were lines along its fur from scars that had long healed. But it was definitely standing over you, and definitely growling at the wargs around it. A few other wargs looked confused with the change of events, and you, yourself, felt just as lost. What on earth was going on?

The warg growled sharply as a warg stepped forward, and it flinched back. An orc shouted something and suddenly an orc came charging for the warg, only for it to claw him with its claws and send him to the ground in a puddle of its own blood. Swift. Efficient. Intelligently. It had barely moved other than that.

Intelligence no mere warg you saw possessed. Intelligence humans had. Intelligence you yourself used in battle to claw or bite at someone. And as you took in the wargs around you, suddenly they didn’t seem too different from your own wolf form. Larger, sure, but that was usually what defined age amongst the Wolves. And they had much more muscle mass than a wolf, making them stand out from you, but… you hadn’t lived a Wolf Clan life in a long while. You hadn’t built up muscle to keep you on the road or to help you climb the mountains.

You glanced to the wolf over you, seeing that the lines along its back from scars were not just from battle. They formed a pattern. A pattern Beorn had reminded you of the last you had talked of your past. Of the mountain ranges and the plains, made of the names of your ancestors.

All those wargs you had killed with Beorn… all those wargs you had killed in battle just today. They hadn’t been wargs. No one had even heard of wargs until after the war. You had thought they were simply a species in a land you had never heard of. You had never thought that… that the wargs could have been… your own Clan. You had killed members of your own clan, people you had likely known. People the Orcs had imprisoned over a century ago. That had no doubt been brainwashed into hunting down others, forced to hunt others or be hurt or worse.

But you knew without a doubt that your father stood over you. He snarled at another warg that attempted to get closer and the Orcs seemed to back up, giving you enough space to get to your feet. As a few Orcs became disinterested, turning to someone else in battle, only few kept their eyes on you, as if waiting. You stepped closer to the warg- to the wolf that was your father in his alternate form, and whimpered slightly to convey your surprise.

He glanced at you, as if to make sure you were alright, before he stepped a bit in front of you, between the orcs that had not given up, and you. You still could not think. You could not process anything that was going on. He was alive. Beorn had not know if he was dead, had not seen, but here he stood… The orcs attacked, and he was swift, and you kicked yourself into gear, quickly running up and doing your best to help take an orc off of a warg. It was not the wargs that were attacking, but the Orcs. And as the wargs were freed, they seemed to skipper back, as if afraid of your father – as if afraid of their long forgotten king.

And when the fight was over, and the fellow wolves showed their signs of submission, your father turned to you. You did not care for anything other than to speak to him, and you glanced around quickly to see if it was clear, before you shifted. “Papa?” you whispered. His ears twitched in your direction, and he lowered his head, before suddenly he wasn’t a wolf any longer, but a man that had graying hairs and scars of hard work and torture. You couldn’t keep the sob from escaping you, and you covered your mouth with your blood covered hand. “I thought you were dead. Beorn said you were taken with him and-” You cried, and he reached for you, pulling you into a hug. He smelt of dirt and blood, and orc, but there was a slight twinge of the honey that you remembered so fondly. “I missed you so much, Papa.”

“Oh, my sweet, sweet moon,” he breathed, and his voice was the same timber that told you the stories of heroic wolves when you were nothing more than a toddler. “Your mother and I thought you were long since gone. We never thought we’d see you again.”

“Mother’s with you, too?” He gestured over your shoulder, and you glanced back to see another pale warg approaching, before she too shifted. “How? Why did this happen? How are you here? And… why are you fighting with the Orcs? They’ve done nothing but destroy us-”

“We had no choice,” Fingold spoke as he released you. “They have those we love in their grasp. And though you escaped, your mother did not. And I knew if there was a chance you were out there, I needed to do everything I could to keep you safe. So I gave them my loyalty, and they promised to keep us from harm.”

“But all the others taken,” you said, confused. “The bears and the tigers – horses!”

“The horses were not useful in mines. Distance strong, but not strength-wise. Some are still in their grasp, but most were released and sent to Rohan.” The Riders. “Bears and Tigers… are still in their grasp.”

“But we can’t let them win,” you insisted. “You can’t keep fighting with the Orcs. We have to fight back. We have to fight them to be free again. That’s what everyone that has died died for. They did not die for some twisted allegiance to keep us alive.”

“And how could we fight them when their numbers were much greater than ours?” Fingold asked. “Everyone they have is on this field today. And all of them are falling. We could not fight any sooner than today. I knew when I saw you… When I saw you, I knew that the world was not lost. Today is the day we fight back.”

Your mother approached just then, and you felt her arms wrap around you. She was every bit as firm in her hugs as you remembered. And she kissed your temple as she pulled away. “A woman now…” She sighed. “I am so proud of who you have become, Y/N.” But your head was still in a whirlwind. You had no idea what to make of any of this. “Fingold, we must act quickly, before more of the Wolf blood is shed.”

And your father suddenly shifted to his wolf form, before letting out a long, piercing howl that made you cover your ears in alarm as you winced. And all of the battle seemed to shift like the tides on the coast of Gondor, and suddenly Orcs were shouting in alarm as the supposed wargs turned them off of their backs and attacked. Your mother’s arm never left your shoulder as you watched the Orcs be taken down by people they trusted.

“We always had a plan should we decide we had a good chance,” your mother spoke quietly as your father’s howl halted.

But as the orcs seized and the wargs bowed in submission to the other skin-walkers in the clearing, you did not spot a bear amongst them. “Beorn!” you gasped, and you shifted suddenly, sprinting through the clearing and searching anywhere you could for the one that you now called a life partner. Your paws felt as though they were shredding on the sharp rocks and orc blades, but you cared not. You kept searching, sniffing for any of his scent.

You spotted the great bear laying on the ice as the snow came down from the heavens. And each of your steps were agony, but you pulled yourself close to his bear form, sniffing him, to see if you could smell any death on his form. Your heart seemed to float as you got nothing but blood, but none that was too severe either. Torn stitches from the other week, most likely. And you nudged him with your muzzle, earning a soft growl and one of his eyes to open. Conscious as well.

A worried whimper left you, making him open both eyes and snort to assure you he was fine. Tired. Exhausted. You had been fighting for hours now yourself, and your mind with this new revelation made you feel like you needed a rest, and you felt like your limbs were on fire. So you pressed your body close to his in the winter snow, closing your eyes and blocking out everything around you, pretending that you were home. Pretending that you could forget what you had learned. Forget that you had not murdered your own people that attacked Beorn’s home.

Pretending that this meant a new beginning, a safe world where skin-walkers could roam free. Pretending that nothing had ever changed. One of Beorn’s paws lifted, and his body turned so that he could nudge you closer to him. And that was how you drifted off to sleep in the middle of the carnage, exhausted, but relieved for the final moments of peace.

When you woke, it was because Beorn was giving a warning growl to someone in the distance. You lifted your head, and spotted the two white wargs, and you nudged Beorn, causing him to stop, before you got to your feet. He lumbered up as well, and never took his eyes off of the wolf pack approaching slowly. You shook the cold snow out of your fur, seeing that it had created a small blanket around the area you had drifted to sleep in.

You shifted, causing Beorn to snarl at you, but you rested a hand behind his ear, and spoke quietly. “They are no wargs. He saved me when orcs surrounded me. Look closer, Beorn. Who do you see? I blind to it, too, until a few hours ago. But who do you see in the pack?”

Beorn growled softly, before glancing back to the wolves. And his entire countenance changed, and when he shifted, so did the two in front. Your mother and father. “How can that be?”

“He said that he has been biding his time, waiting for the Orcs to weaken before he attacked from the inside,” you spoke quietly, stepping closer to him and putting an arm around his waist to keep yourself warm. Now that the snow was steady as it fell, you felt like you were going to freeze to death. “Bears still live too, and tigers and horses… We aren’t the last, like we believed.”

Beorn’s arm came around your shoulder, to show that he was not going to attack, and your father spoke then. “You are the one that has kept my daughter safe.”

“She came to me three months ago,” Beorn stated simply. “With nine arrows stuck in various places of her body, and an orc pack on her trail, all the way from the shores of Gondor to outside of Carrock. A month later, the orc pack attacked my home, and she broke her leg. Yes, I have kept her safe – as safe as I could. But the time before that, she kept herself safe.” Fingold bowed his head.

“I have owed you no greater debt than this one, Beorn. You have always had a good heart, and a kind soul. I apologize for anything that my people have done under orc control to you-”

“You need not apologize,” Beorn said quietly. “I had not known that wargs were… really wolves.”

“It began twenty years ago, long after you had disappeared. I had thought you dead, old friend.”

“I saw an opportunity and seized it.” Fingold gave a small smile, nodding his head as if he would have done the same should it had been him.

“I am returning to the mountains, to free the rest of our people. And yours.”

“I will not fight in anymore wars,” Beorn spoke stiffly. “I do not want that life anymore. My duty lies with my home and to myself.”

Fingold’s gaze darted to you, but you spoke with a heavy heart. “I have missed you so much, you will not believe. But I cannot fight for something that is no longer my home. I belong with Beorn, if he will have me.” Fingold glanced to Beorn in surprise.

“Aye, I’ll have you.” Beorn said it so quietly, it was not meant for anyone but you to hear.

“I do not wish to lose touch. I do not wish to never see you again. So I ask that… once you win back our lands, once it is ours and our people can live in peace, that I see you again. And I promise to visit and help with what needs be. But I have spent so long fighting and running and hiding, that I do not want to hide any longer. I want to live my life in peace.”

Fingold lowered his head into a defeated nod. “Then I ask for you to keep her safe for me. To protect her, Beorn, when I cannot.”

Beorn straightened slightly, and his grip on your shoulder tightened. “That is my greatest duty of all.” Your father and mother shifted, and soon the wolf pack faded into the distance, the others that had flown in on the eagles today trailing after them. To liberate their people. You watched them fade over the hills before you glanced up to Beorn, seeing him stare after them, expressionless.

“Did you mean it? You will have me?”

“Every day until I die, if you want to have me in return,” Beorn spoke, and once he had finished, he glanced back down to you. You gave him a bright smile. “But you are covered in blood. You need a good wash.”

“I could say the same for you,” you laughed quietly, glancing at the torn stitches on his chest. “You need to get that taken are of, as well.”

“Then we had best return home to remedy this.”

“Wait,” you said quietly, and you laced your hands around his neck, pulling him in for a kiss that conveyed everything you felt. All the fear, the exhaustion, the love, the confusion. “That was for our new beginnings,” you spoke as you pulled away.

Beorn grunted. “New beginnings, you say?” He wrapped his arms around your waist, looking off into the sky as if thinking about it. “Aye, I guess that’s what we could call this.” His eyes caught something over your shoulder. “Now, let’s get home.”

Home sounded nice. You let him grab your hand and followed him to the Eagles that had landed, where a few of the injured Skin-Walkers were being helped onto their backs. After a few promised to take you to your home in the middle of a field, surrounded by trees and the sea, you gave Beorn one last kiss to his jaw before you climbed onto the eagle, and Beorn onto his own. And though your bare skin was near frozen in the high altitude, your heart felt warmer than it had in a long while.

You were going home.