The usual shudder rolled through me as I crossed the border to step foot on Quileute soil. Closing my eyes as a second tremor shivered through me, I felt the familiar cold chill move down my spine as the protection that was sunk deep into the poisoned earth registered my unwelcome presence.
Not for the first time, I wished this wasn't forbidden.
Forbidden from returning, forbidden from ever setting foot on Quileute land again; that was the injunction that had been laid down. That was the command, the order, that had been forced upon me. Tied to my very being, tied to my blood, so that even when those who willed my exile were gone, I would still never be able to come back.
Not unless I wanted to court death. That was the punishment. Break the boundaries, break the rules, and face the consequences.
Consequences that were not enough to deter me; never had been, never would be.
Because no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't stay away. No matter how much I resisted, no matter how many years passed; I always found myself returning.
Home. There was no escaping it; no leaving it behind. Its pull, its allure, was too powerful.
So powerful that not even the threat of death could keep me away.
Trembling again, though this time not from the land, my breaths hitched in my throat.
I had put this off for too long.
A heaving sob worked its way out of my choked throat as I stared down at the too familiar gravestone in front of me.
No matter how many times I did this, it never got any easier.
Falling to my knees on the cool earth, my hands dug deep into the moist soil as the hot tears that had been threatening to overflow poured down my cheeks. The trembling that had been constant since I had crossed the border was growing uncontrollable, my whole body shaking as my heart clenched and constricted.
But that was nothing compared to the sharp rush and stab of pain that assailed as me as I choked out the two gut wrenching words that never failed to leave me crippled with grief.
'Hello father.' They were barely even a whisper, inaudible to all but to those with the keenest hearing. But the volume did nothing to lessen the impact as the wave of pain crashed into me.
Gone. He was gone. Gone was the man I had trusted above all others, the man who had raised me. Gone was the man who had fought for me when I was nothing but a stranger, the man who had gone against the tribe to save my life.
He was gone, and I couldn't follow; a painful truth that never failed to leave me keening in despair.
Sometimes all I wanted was to see him again. Too talk to him, to touch him; to just soak in the comfort of his presence.
If only that was possible.
Settling down more comfortably on the damp soil, folding my jean clad legs beneath me, I sucked in a deep breath so that I could speak again.
'I miss you.' I croaked, whimpering softly and bowing my head as the sudden wind that blew carried my words. The breeze tore at my clothes and blew my golden brown hair over my shoulders, and it was with a trembling hand I brushed it out of my face.
'I'm sorry I haven't visited lately.' I said shakily, fighting to keep my voice in check. 'I should have come last year and the year before that, but-' Emotion filled up my throat as my eyes brimmed with tears.
How I wished he was here. I would have given anything to have a conversation with him, to tell him in person just how much it pained me not to visit every time the day of his death came around. To tell him how much I wanted to come and talk to him every day, and not just every few years. To tell him much I needed him, needed a father, needed someone who knew everything about me.
But since he wasn't here, I'd just have to settle for what I always did; talking to his headstone, his buried body, and hoping he could hear me.
Hours passed as we talked; or rather, as I talked. Hours where I spent long periods in silence, soaking up the rare pleasure of breathing in the sweet air of home, of enjoying the familiarity of the trees, the earth, the clouds. Hours over which my trembling was reduced to an almost imperceptible quivering, while my tears dried up, and my voice lost its quiet hoarseness.
Hours of remembering so many other visits, so many other days, spent doing nothing but simply revelling in the memory of his presence.
And remembering another grave, another visit, and another life.
64 Years Earlier
'Thea?' I turned at the sound of my father's questioning voice. Seated cross legged under the large willow tree, my eyes found him as he fought through the hanging leaves.
'Out here again?' He said with a touch of exasperation, though he smiled at me.
'I like talking to her, father.' I said, glancing back at the worn and simple headstone in front of me. 'It makes me feel like I know her.'
'But you do know her, sweetpea.' He said, taking my small hand in his large one and pulling me to my feet. Only as tall as his hips, I had to crane my neck to look at him.
'Not really.' I said, staring down at my dead mother's grave. 'We never met.' I said forlornly. Father crouched down next to me, at my eye level as he spoke.
'But she still loved you, sweetpea.' I gave him a dubious look. Even at an age around eight, I was questioning the world around me.
'How do you know, father? I'm not like her. I'm different.' He gave me careful, measured look, responding to my quiet and worried tone. Giving me a loving smile, he took both of my hands in his.
'Different isn't bad.'
'Even if different means being half vampire?' I whispered, voicing my deepest and darkest fear. My eyes were wide as I gazed at him, dreading his answer.
'Even then. Because you're half human as well, remember? Half of her. And she was good and kind and fun, just like you.' I smiled at him, all of the tension and fear leaving my wary body.
Father always knew just what to say to cheer me up.
I couldn't help but smile wistfully at the memory. Sad, because we would never talk like that again, and happy, because it was wonderful to see him smile at me, even if it was only in my mind.
Bittersweet. That's what this was. Finally getting to come home, but only for the most melancholy reason. Loving being back on Quileute land, but finding none of the people I remembered to share it with.
Today was both a blessing and a curse.
Feeling new tears spilling down my cheeks, I reached out to touch the cold rock of his gravestone. Tracing over the engraved inscription, I mouthed the words.
December 4, 1891 – August 16, 1973
Chief, Alpha, Father and Protector
37 years. It was 37 years today that I'd lost him. Since we'd all lost him.
The last known Alpha of a Quileute wolf pack.
As usual, leaving my father's graveside was a deeply unappealing prospect. It wasn't until I'd been sitting there long enough that my joints had frozen in place that I finally managed to find the will to move.
I got to my feet slowly, stumbling slightly from my inaction. I couldn't tear my eyes away from the gravestone, feeling the usual sad pang at the thought of once again leaving; and not knowing when I'd be able to come back. Breathing deeply as I blinked back tears, I wasn't sure how long I hovered there, trying to convince myself to walk away.
But eventually, bending over to press my lips to the top of the marker, I murmured my farewell.
'Goodbye father.' I whispered, stepping back to give the gravestone one last melancholy glance, before turning away.
Only to find myself pausing before I'd even taken a step.
There was a man walking across the cemetery; not something that would usually be out of place. At first glance he seemed totally unremarkable; no one but a stranger visiting just as I was. I couldn't place the niggling swirl of doubt that was nestled in my stomach.
Not until I gave the man another look, and the startling realisation hit me.
He was a shapeshifter.
Stepping backwards in disbelief, I shook my head, unable to tear my eyes away from the man.
There was no way. It wasn't possible. I would know if the wolves were back. I should have smelled them when I crossed to border. They should have detected my foreign scent.
Yet the shapeshifter in front of me didn't seem to have a clue I was there. And now that I was blatantly staring, I realized he looked familiar.
He had the same walk. They had the same height, and the same muscular build; obvious from the stranger's shirtless state. None of which was enough to make the leap in logic that he could be someone I knew, but it was then that I caught a glimpse of his face.
I clapped my hands over my mouth to keep back my wordless exclamation, clutching onto a nearby tree for support.
They were the same. The faces were the same. The same eyes, the same jaw. This man just a few dozen feet away was a dead look alike to a man that had died 40 years ago. To a man that had been like family. My father's most trusted friend.
Not knowing what I was doing, I slowly approached him. If I hadn't been so upset and shocked, I would have thought better before surprising a werewolf. But it wasn't logic driving me, but emotion.
And when I was just 10 feet away, still staring, I spoke.
'Hello?' My voice was soft, searching, and unsure. The man spun, the action the too fast movement of a shape-shifter. He gaped at me with wide brown eyes, taking me in. Eyes that were turning wary, his expression hard as growl escaped his chest.
Oh no. He thought I was a vampire. He thought I was a threat. He didn't know that I had been friends with the last Quileute wolf pack. He didn't know that I had never tasted blood in my life.
He was going to kill me.