--So close, no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart.--
Metallica, "Nothing Else Matters"
Wedge stood outside Wes' door, listening for any sounds of distress. He didn't want to go into the monitor room, didn't want to see the smug tech.
Wedge jumped as the quiet voice spoke behind him. He turned to see Hobbie wearing the familiar mournful expression. The Gangrel bit back his questions and shrugged.
"Some luck. He knew who I was-- he knew who he was, then he... I don't know, Hobbie." Wedge led his comrade into the control room. "It was like there was someone else inside him, fighting to get out, pushing Wes aside. He, um..." Wedge rubbed his still-sore throat.
"He attacked you?" Hobbie moved Wedge's hand and examined the healing bruises. Wedge nodded.
"It wasn't like before. I could see him in there, fighting it, and he let me go. He seemed to understand that he wasn?t well, that he wasn't normal."
"Normal? That's not a word I'd ever apply to Wes." Hobbie gave a small smile and stared at the monitors. The Malkavian was seated on the bed, holding an animated conversation with a stuffed Ewok. "Where'd you get that?"
Wedge's eyes lit up. "Toystore. Did you know that these people know all about us? About Vader and Luke and the Empire? It's amazing."
"Er... yeah." Hobbie turned to the tech. "Can we get sound? I'd like to know what he's saying."
The man spread his hands. "Sorry. The Prince ordered it taken out two days ago."
"Well, that's odd. Why wouldn't he want to hear Wes? It might let us know what's wrong with him," Wedge wondered aloud. Hobbie kept his mouth shut. No need to call the wrath of the wolf down on himself.
"He hates Tycho, and freaks out around both of us. I wish," Hobbie mused, "that we could make ourselves completely harmless, something that 'Hades' wouldn't feel the need to fight."
Both men were silent for several minutes, then the Gangrel turned to the tech.
"Do you have any records up here? Anything about him?"
"A bit," the tech said. "What do you need to know?"
"Has he ever killed an animal? Ever fought one? or even a-" he glanced at Hobbie, "a Kindred in animal form?"
The silence was broken only by the sound of fingers clattering on a keyboard. Finally the tech answered.
"Yes, he's killed animals, if they threaten him. No, he's never attacked one of you as an animal. But," he continued, "I don't know that he's ever seen one of you in alternate form."
Wedge was silent. Hobbie stared at him.
"What what?" Wedge looked up.
"What are you going to do?"
But Wedge wasn't listening, he was pacing back and forth in the small room, muttering to himself. Hobbie tried not to smile as he watched the smaller man argue the relative merits of whatever plan he was concocting.
He always talked to himself when he planned. Said he could only rely on a Corellian?s intellect to help him plan, and since none of us were Corellian... I'd almost forgotten that.
At last Wedge stood still and addressed the tech. "I want you to let me in and watch carefully. If Wes starts getting agitated, open the door immediately. I won't be able to tell you to, so watch. Got it?" The man nodded.
"Wedge, what are you doing?" Hobbie asked, stepping back as the Gangrel removed his sweater and shoes.
"You stay here. Let me try this once." The pants came off next, revealing the fact that Wedge still went commando.
"But what-" Hobbie gulped back his words as Wedge's eyes changed, the soft brown dissolving into a rich golden amber. His hair lengthened, grew coarser, and fur began to sprout on his body.
Hobbie threw himself backward and stood plastered against the wall, dimly aware of the tech doing the same. He'd heard of this, sure, but he'd never seen it.
The Gangrel crouched on the floor, his bones moving under the skin as he forced himself into wolf form. His face lengthened, became a canine muzzle full of sharp teeth, and he stared at Hobbie with a less-than-human look in his yellow eyes.
The Toreador pressed himself back, willing the wolf-man to look away. Never before had he seen the Beast so blatantly displayed, never seen anything as grotesque as this re-forming of bone, the sick sounds of sliding skin.
The wolf sat next to the desk and pawed at the door console. The tech didn't move. The wolf barked and jolted Hobbie out of his stupor. He moved forward slowly, carefully, and nodded at the wolf.
"Go on. I'll open the door."
The animal dipped its head, then ran to the door to the hallway. He stared at it for a minute, then looked over his shoulder at Hobbie.
"Oh, right-- you can't get that door either." Feeling stupid and slow, he turned the handle and let the beast out.
Wes sighed and stretched out on the floor, resting his head on the Ewok's soft belly. He'd spent the better part of an hour trying to make it talk ridiculous, really. Toys don't talk and he was out of ideas.
He was completely alone, and, though unwilling to admit it, frightened out of his wits. Wedge had gone so suddenly why did he leave? I'm sure he had a reason, and left Wes in this room he'd never seen yes I have, I was here yesterday. Wasn't I? never seen once in his life.
And he had such curious memories, of blood and bodies and fighting, of an X-Wing crash in a forest, of things that he couldn't have done but had the awful feeling that he had indeed. He'd done something very, very wrong, of that he was sure. Something that would make his friends leave him to wander alone. Something that he now had to pay for. Why else would he be imprisoned here?
The door snicked as if something was pushing against it. Wes sat up and stared as a large dog came in. He wasn't sure of the breed, but he knew he'd seen something like it before. It was a wild breed, sort of like a Tanaabi Lupe, but not quite like... there was something else under the fur. Something neither human or animal. Something...
Fuck. It was just beyond his grasp. He could see it there in his mind, something he ought to know, he'd seen it before, he was sure of that, what was it?!
The animal sat on it haunches just inside the door, watching him with calm amber eyes. Wes dropped his gaze submissively, not wanting to accidentally challenge this noble creature.
It took a step forward and sat, still staring at him.
"C'mere boy. I wont hurt you." Wes patted the carpet beside himself. The lupe canted its head to one side, then whimpered a bit and pawed at the ground, as if to say "Come to me."
So Wes did, slowly, cautiously, not wanting to startle the animal. He crawled forward on his hands and knees, pausing every few steps to make sure that the animal was calm. It occured to him that he was reacting to this creature as if it were a person, as if it were a dominant person to whom he answered.
And there were very few people to whom he answered.
There was Tycho, but the thought of him brought a sharp pain to Wes' stomach, so he turned his mind elsewhere. Akbar, of course, but his orders usually came through Wedge.
He was nose-to-nose with the lupe, and he dared a glance into its glowing eyes. The color swirled, deepening almost to brown, and Wes could read the sapience there.
"What are you?" he whispered, reaching out to touch the soft fur.
The lupe nosed him, licking his face, then knocked him over with a playful bark. Wes lay on his side, absently stroking the creature's fur. He knew those eyes. They were soft, wise, loving... he'd gazed into those eyes many times.
He sat up, startling the lupe. It skittered back and barked warningly.
"Hey, no... it's OK" Wes reached out, but his friend snapped and growled at the wall over the bed.
Over the bed? Huh? Wes heard another clicking sound, and the lupe turned...
"No! Wedge, don't go!"
The animal froze, looked at him, at the door, then at him again.
"I know it's you, Wedge. It has to be you; no one else has your eyes, gods... Wedge, please!" He crawled across the floor, eye-level with the lupe. It glanced at the wall again, then sniffed at his face.
Wes braced himself as the beast-Wedge breathed along his neck, then its tongue swept across his cheek. The lupe pulled back, its eyes swirling again, and dropped to the ground.
The first ripple of fur startled him; the second frightened him. Wes watched in horrified fascination as the skin and bone of his friend began to shift. Was it hurting Wedge? How could it not?
Then he was there, laying gloriously naked on the floor, his eyes blurred and passive and Wes pulled him close, running his hands over the body he?d held so many times. Wedge's arms snaked up, around his neck.
And they kissed.
Continued in Part Seventeen