Fit For Fire

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His Gift

Adeline

An hour later I found myself listening to the hypnotic hum of fluorescents in the medical centers small waiting room. My pencil tapped out the tune of my agitation, as Jeremy sat awkwardly across from me drumming his fingers against the hard plastic armrest of his chair. Bringing my attention back to my paperwork, I scoffed at one of the many forms that had taunted me most of my life.

Father’s name, Birthplace, Race/ ethnicity, Species, Occupation, Highest level of school completed, Still living or deceased, Mothers name, Birthplace, Race/ethnicity, Species, Occupation. . .

The questions repeated themselves in my head. A mocking mantra that reminded me that I not only knew nothing of my own existence, but had next to nothing in it. At least I could write out my mother’s name, and check the box stating that she had fled this world. Every time I wrote her name, I did it slowly. Writing her name in neat cursive, making sure it was beautiful, complete, and final. When I wrote it this way, I felt like I was engraving the letters on my heart. Claiming her as mine although I never knew her. It also felt like I was giving a small memorial or placing a single rose at her grave. This document acting as proof that she did exist, that part of her was still here and remembered. Still loved in the only way I could provide for her now.

Robyn Wood.

Having completed her name, I looked on to the other questions. My father’s name wasn’t placed on the certificate. My mother had written my name down for the nurses, and she had written Harris as my last name. She had placed it as my father’s last name on her hospital forms as well. No first name. Just Harris. A cold hand slipped over my heart and gave it a squeeze.

I had to force down the wave of anger that threatened to crawl its way into my skull from just thinking about it. Was she protecting someone, loving someone so much, that while she laid there, in pain, alone, and dying that she omitted his very name from their shared written history? I had thought of changing my name many times, omitting the name myself to honor the woman who gave me life, but in the end, I couldn’t go through with it. She made sure my name was Harris and as that was one of her last acts, I should honor it. My vision blurred as I stared at the paper, my beaten song of agitation turning to a song of war as I beat my pencil absently against the clipboard faster and harder, until a sudden snap startled me back to the present.

I blinked once, twice, as the sight of my now broken pencil swam into view. Feeling the weight of a familiar gaze on me, I looked up to find not only Jeremy, but Zach’s bright eyes on me as well. As embarrassed as I was that they had both just seen my little breakdown, I avoided their gaze, stood up and made my way towards reception to replace the pencil I had just murdered. Luckily, by the time I made it back to my seat, the door opened and the nurse called for me to go back. Walking past both men, I tried not to notice the pity, and curiosity in their eyes. Glancing up, I was surprised when I caught the worn look of worry etched in both their eyes. My heart almost stopped. The look was foreign to me, and I fought the urge to stop and inspect it, to make sure that was what I was seeing. Instead I pushed on, walking passed the nurse and straight into the exam room.

Refusing to sit on the papered exam table, I took a seat between the computer desk and supply cabinet at the back of the room. The nurse, a bit put off already, sat in the computer chair next to me and brought up a form on the computer. Inputting the information written on my form she grimaced before looking up at me. “Did you need more time to finish this?” “No.” I sighed, having heard these words before.

“Can I get the name and number for your next of kin please?” She asked, hands poised over the keyboard. “I don’t have any.” I answered curtly. “Okay, an emergency contact please.” “I haven’t got one.” I answered automatically. “Right. How about a reference that can serve as an identity witness?” What? “I don’t have one of those either.” I said crossing my arms over my chest. “Okay then.” The nurse said somewhat haughtily.

Getting up from the desk chair, she crossed the room, her stride one of slight annoyance. “I’m going to need you to come with me so we can get a blood sample for our system.” Blood sample? I shook my head. “No. I’m not doing that.” Stopping, the nurse turned on her heel and looked at me like I had just insulted her. Then she smiled, this odd, calm little grin that made me slightly nauseous. “Okay, sweetie. I’ll grab the doctor for you.” She mockingly sang as she left the room, closing the door rather loudly behind her.

Instantly pissed off, I rubbed my temples and placed my head back against the wall. Steadying my breathing I calmed myself, preparing myself for whatever fight was to come. When the door opened next, I straightened myself and glared at the door, ready to receive whatever shade the nurse was ready to throw at me. Instead, my eyes linked with the weathered gray orbs of an older woman. Sporting a long dark braid streaked with silver, a black turtleneck and a white exam coat, she offered me a warm smile as I took her in. “I’m Joanne, it’s a pleasure to formally meet you Adeline.” Her voice was strong despite her somewhat aged appearance and she looked genuinely happy to see me. Her voice reminded me of bright lights, bloody rags and rubbing alcohol. Had we met before? “Nice to meet you, doctor.” I replied back somewhat sheepishly. Taking a seat on a rolling stool, Joanne rolled in front of me and opened my file.

Biting the corner of her lip for a second she looked me over before saying ” As you probably know, you are here to be registered into our system and admitted to the rouge rehabilitation program. The program has many benefits that I think you will en---” “Excuse me, what?” I interrupted, sitting up straighter in my chair, eyes bulging. “Oh dear.” Joanne muttered before taking a deep breath and regrouping. “You have been brought in to be registered. From your expression I can see that hasn’t been fully explained to you. The registry helps us keep track of you, lets us know where you are and what you are up to, and can aide us if we need to medically assist you or check up on you.”

My mind reeled. “What does that entail? Why would you need to check up on me?” “Well, in case of a medical emergency you can be treated here so you don’t risk discovery at a normal hospital. Also, this will allow the pack to locate you, and keep tabs on your movements to make sure you are recognized in our society and by our laws.” Pausing she watched as I processed what she was saying. After a moment she continued. ” We will take your information, fingerprints, and a sample of your DNA for our system. This is for us to identify you and for us to be able to help you in an emergency.” I suddenly wished I hadn’t eaten such a big breakfast. I opened my mouth but words were lost to me. A small part of me saw the benefit of being able to go to them for medical treatment, but the larger part of me felt like I was about to be tagged, and penned. Owned by a system I wanted no part of. “Ummmmm.” The lump in my throat was unmoving as I struggled to find the right words. “I’m not- I’m not going to do that.”

Joanne nodded. “I understand how it can sound scary at first, but it really isn’t as bad as it sounds.” She smiled at me. I shifted in my seat, biting my lip and shaking my head. “I’m not sure scary is the right word. It feels wrong. I have done nothing wrong. I don’t need to be watched and registered like some sex offender.” By this point I’m sure I had repeated the phrase ‘I haven’t done anything wrong’ So many times it was tattooed on my tongue. “Yes, but you need to do this. It really does benefit everyone. Unfortunately, the title rogue comes with a stigma. People expect rogues to be dangerous criminals bent on destruction. When something happens, people are quick to blame rogues for their problems. Being in our system protects you as we can prove through fingerprinting or DNA analysis that you aren’t guilty, or we can contact you to verify your location and alibi. This sounds like an extreme example, but things like this happen on occasion and our system has helped out a lot.” Listening, I nodded.

“I don’t think you guys do this with our protection and innocence in mind. I am sure you do this for the same reason criminals’ information is taken upon intake, to catch rogues when they mess up, or to prove guilt. This system was created to peg people down and as a means to scare compliance into them.” I said, my eyes burning into hers. Grasping her hands together Joanne looked at me grimly. After a moment she smiled sadly and looked at me with a fondness I hadn’t earned. “You really are something. I agree that the system seems demeaning. I was a rogue when I came here. A lot of people were during the wolf wars. Many of us through no fault of our own. I’m not sure how much of our history you know, but you were born during these wars, and when I see all those blank questions on your forms, I don’t see defiance, I see loss. I see a product of a war that should have never been.” My hands began to shake, and my eyes burned. Wolf wars? I was reminded again how little I knew about myself and my kind. “It’s amazing how quickly people forget that there are still those affected out there.” This time Joanne spoke to herself, muttering under her breath.

“Wolf Wars?” I asked, needing to know if this was a vital piece to my missing past. Meeting my gaze, I thought I could see the shadow of a tear lingering in her aging eyes. “About 23 years ago, a large pack started taking over the smaller packs surrounding it, and adding those packs lands and members to its own. Surrounding packs, scared of the power and intentions of the pack’s alpha, demanded the council step in and stop him. They were concerned that he was disrupting the balance and would cause discord in our community.”

Joanne stopped and looked at the wall, her eyes glazing over as her thoughts drifted to a different time. “The council refused to step in, and taking that as a sign that the council would tolerate such tactics, other larger packs began destroying smaller packs for their assets. Soon, packs started forming coalitions in their area. Larger packs united with smaller packs, agreeing to come to their aide, if need be. The alphas of smaller packs reached out to alphas they trusted and made agreements for the safety of their people in case their pack was defeated. This pack championed the coalition in this area. Moon Ridge came to the aide of many and ended up taking in numerous refugees.”

She paused before looking over at me, her lips formed a thin line and I could see she was struggling with what to say next. “The conflict grew when a supposed group of rogues banned together to take advantage of what was a crumbling system. They made alliances with packs, doing their dirty work for them for a price, or for specific benefits, sometimes even for the promise of being given a mate. The council tried to stop it, but there was a rumor that the council was using the war as a cover to destroy packs and wolves who possessed abilities that would challenge their power. The conflict lasted for five years. After losing my pack I became a rogue, a traveling doctor who stopped by and helped packs in need of medical assistance. That is how I ended up here. I eventually chose this pack as my home.” She smiled genuinely now.

“After that there were a lot of wolves left without a pack. I think the council created this program to help keep them from being discovered by humans, and to help guide them back into pack society.” She explained. Were these wars the reason I was alone? My hands shook and I swallowed back the lump that had formed in my throat. “Your blank forms can be waived, but we will still need a blood sample.” She said folding her fingers in her lap.

Shaking my head, I steadied my hands before saying. “I don’t want to be a problem for you, but I can’t.” A soft click sounded behind Joanne, and looking behind the woman I saw the handle to the door turn before footsteps hurried off down the hall. Biting her lip again Joanne shook her head at me. “I understand why you don’t want to, but I promise you it isn’t as bad as it sounds. I’ve been with this pack for a long time now and Zach is a good alpha. He would not use this information against you.” I scoffed, wondering what the definition of a ‘good alpha’ was. “But he would be okay with locking up an innocent person and then forcing them to be here, to do this, against their will.” Not knowing what to say the doctor looked at her clipboard. “What was the other thing you mentioned? The program?” I asked.

“The rogue rehabilitation program gives you the opportunity to be assimilated into pack life. It is only offered to those of good temperament and noncriminal, or special standing. It’s also a program offered to those who are not rogues by choice but who will not be fully released upon capture.” Right then, the door opened and the very smug looking nurse led Zach into the room. “The rogue is non-cooperative alpha.” The nurse explained as Zach looked at Adeline and Joanne. The nurse looked over at Zach eagerly, basically drooling for his approval. “Thank you, Grace.” Zach said quietly as he motioned for her to leave. Looking slightly disappointed Grace left, but not before throwing a haughty look my way. Too caught up in Joanne’s last sentence to care what bitch sticks thought about me, I looked up at Zach, the shock on my face unmovable. “Not to be released upon capture.” I repeated the doctor’s words slowly, accusingly, as I watched his face. “You never planned to let me leave.”

Zach’s face was calm. “Ade, you don’t belong out there.” I had only known this man for a day but somehow this hurt. It hurt way more than I thought it could. “My name is Adeline...” I replied just as calmly ” and you have no right to decide that for me.” Anger painted my words harshly as they fell from tight lips. “You may not think so, but perhaps I do.” He replied just as calmly as before. His cool demeanor took an ember and turned it into a wildfire. Standing up I crossed the room, my chest bumping into him as I looked him in the face. “You want me to believe there is so much good here, yet you can stand their calmly and take a person’s life away. You think this is okay? I am not your lap dog. Or your mate.” I spit the word harshly, a sharp pain spreading in my chest. Zach winced at my words; I wasn’t sure but for a second I think I saw pain in his eyes. Pushing back the thought I continued. “I am not yours to manipulate. This is wrong, and I don’t care how loudly you bark at me, I will not roll over and play dead for you.”

Any other time I would have laughed or even grimaced at my overuse of dog puns, but in this moment, I was too angry and fired up to care how I sounded to anyone else. He needed to know that I meant what I said. He needed to feel the edge in every word. His eyes glazed over as he looked at me. I could hear footsteps coming from down the hall. ” Adeline.” My name fell from Zach’s lips like a stone in the river. “You need to finish your paperwork. We need answers to some of these questions.” I rolled my eyes. Don’t these people listen. I couldn’t finish that form if I wanted to. “You already have them, your majesty, look in my file.” I answered him hotly. ” Your file is somewhat dated, some of that information won’t be there.” " It won’t be anywhere because it doesn’t exist.” I countered quickly. Aggravated he ran a hand through his hair before pulling on the ends. “Then get on the table, we will do your blood draw and fingerprinting now.” “No.” I defied him again.

A roar rumbled from his chest and he looked hurt as he looked me in the eyes, and in a deep voice I had never heard before he commanded “Sit down on the table Adeline!” Joanne grimaced and a nurse walking through the door whimpered before bowing her head and walking out. I however, remained unfazed. “No.” It was Zach’s turn to be shocked. Joanne covered her mouth for a second before returning her eyes to Zach’s face. What was the big deal? I’ve been saying no the whole time. What was so different about now?

Looking towards the door again Zach growled. Reaching for my hands he grabbed my wrists before pulling me to him. The tingling of thousands of tiny fingers massaging their way up my arms flowed from where he touched me. For a moment I was tempted to melt into his arms and let myself be soothed by his presence. He placed his head on mine, and remembering what happened last time, I tried to pull my arms away. “Ade.” He almost whispered resting his lips on my forehead. The feeling of his hot breath on my head makes me want to close my eyes. My mind begged me to trust him, and it felt like my whole body wanted nothing more than to be reassured and comforted by him. He relaxed around me, and when the dull roar of rationality screamed from somewhere inside me, I feebly tried to break away.

Moving his hands to my waist, his left hand trailed up my side until his fingers found my chin. Tilting my head up, his eyes melted into mine. ” Please understand that I’m not trying to take anything from you. What I’m giving you is a gift, no, it’s your birthright. Your life is now an address and a job title and a bunch of empty lines. You’re alone. No one is missing you.” The sincerity and the honesty of his words stung. Tears filled my eyes, begging me to release them. Instead, I tried to look past Zach, past his words. The feeling of his thumb caressing my cheek persuaded me to give him back my attention, my body betraying me under the subtle manipulation of his gentle touch.

“I can give you a home, a sense of normalcy. You wouldn’t have to hide anymore. You could have a pack, a family, not just from being part of the pack, but one of your own someday. How could I meet you, know what you are, and let you return to being alone? How could I let you leave?” His words hurt, but they also excited me. Was this what I wanted? Could I make a life here? Although being in his arms felt right, I had to remember, had to admit that being forced into this was wrong. “Gifts are given, and willingly taken. Is It really a gift if you have to force me to take it, to want it?” Taking one last inhale of his scent, I tried to move away from him once more. “I can’t. It all sounds nice, but that doesn’t change the fact that all of this is wrong.”

Nodding his head his hands slowly dropped from my waist. His eyes still burned into mine as he pushed a stray hair out of my face, they were amber with rejection, but even as they called to me, his face hardened with unmistakable determination. Moving away from me he moved towards the door. Backing away from him I bumped into Joanne who placed her arms on my shoulders and gave me a light squeeze and a tight smile. Somehow, I got the impression that even though I was going against her she was proud. The sound of the door handle broke through my thoughts and looking back to the door, I saw that Zach had let Jeremy and another burly looking guard into the room.

Grace, the nurse who had brought Zach earlier, pushed a tray filled with syringes and blood collection tubes into the room. Another nurse brought one filled with an ink pad and a blank fingerprint card. Grace started putting on gloves, when Joanne walked over to her and pushed her towards the door. “I have this.” She told the disgruntled nurse as she escorted her from the room and closed the door behind her. The click of the door seemed to echo in my mind. I was alone here. Working together, all three men could easily take me down in a fight, and even if I managed to make it out of the room, I would never make it off pack lands.

Looking from the door back to the men, I saw that Jeremy had made his way towards me, evaluating my every move. He walked slowly; arm outstretched as he gently grabbed my arm. “You can’t win this one.” He whispered to me, his eyes begging me to stand down. Reaching behind him he grabbed a syringe from the first tray before he started moving forward, moving me towards the table. As his hand moved up my arm, a growl broke the silence in the room. Startled, I looked to Zach whose gaze was fixated on the spot where Jeremy was touching me. Releasing his hold on me and moving his hand to where Zach could see it, he moved backwards, bumping into the other guard in the small space so Zach could move towards me.

Taking Jeremy’s place in front of me, Zach looked towards the table and back to my face. Knowing there was no way out of this I walked to the table and sat down. The crinkling of the paper signaling my defeat. I may be stubborn, but I wasn’t stupid. Jeremy signaled to the third guard that he could leave, and by the time he had left the room, Jeremy was next to me, holding the syringe and an alcohol pad. “Lay back.” Zach requested as Joanne washed her hands and pulled out a clean pair of gloves. “I’m fine.” I answered, not bothering to cover up the hurt that broke through. “Please.” He asked again as Joanne approached the cart. Pushing off the hand he had placed on my shoulder, I laid back, determined to block out the whole experience until the burn of alcohol reached my nose.

Looking towards Jeremy I watched as he removed an alcohol wipe from its package before cleaning a small area on my arm. Noticing that Joanne would be working on the other arm, it dawned on me that Jeremy was about to sedate me. Moving my arm away, he grabbed it and held it steady. “You don’t have to do that. I’m cooperating.” Looking from me to Zach he continued when Zach said nothing. Moving my arm again, I sat up. “Listen, I’m doing what you want. You don’t have to do that.” This time I directed my words at Zach. Jeremy uncapped the syringe and fear flooded my lungs. I didn’t want to wake up in a cell again. I could take this, but I couldn’t take being locked up in one of those cells until they decided to let me out. If they did. ′Not to be released.′ Ran through my head again, and I struggled to slow my racing heart. Noticing I was distressed, Zach moved forward, his hands instantly cupping my face his eyes on mine. “Ade calm down. We are just trying to make this easier for you.”

“I’m fine, and I’m doing what you want so stop.” I pushed out, trying to look passed Zach to see what Jeremy was doing. “Ade, just breathe and lay back.” “I’m doing what you want, you win. Is that not enough for you?” Groaning he touched his forehead to mine. “Why can’t you just trust me?” “Because I don’t want to wake up locked in a cell.” I blurted out before I could stop myself. Zach froze. Turning to Jeremy he waved him off. Releasing his hold on me, I studied his defeated form before I laid back. Joanne sterilized the area and found the vein she wanted. Warning me that it would sting, she inserted the needle and began her blood draw. I counted the tiles on the ceiling as she worked, not fazed by the needle but the circumstance. I wondered how many rogues reacted like this. I also wondered if Zach was as passionate about giving other rogues this “gift” as he was about giving it to me.

He tried to stroke my hair, but turning my face away, I continued staring at the ceiling. When she was finished, she asked me to stay down while she labeled the tubes so I wouldn’t get dizzy. When she was done, I sat up and let her fingerprint me. Stapling the card to my other paperwork, I reached for a tissue, trying to rub the residual ink from my hands. “Is that everything?” I asked feeling tired and numb. “For today, but I will need you to sign some things and you will need a physical.” Joanne answered. “When do I get my number?” I half joked and Joanne patted my knee before responding “After we get your mugshot.” Clearing his throat, we both turned to look at Zach who was still standing behind the table. Giving Joanne a weary look he shook his head at her before she gave my leg another pat and walked out the door.

Ignoring Zach, I looked to Jeremy who was now sitting in the chair I had been in earlier. “Is there anything else for today?” Sending an uneasy look at Zach he answered “Not that I’m aware of.” “Take her back to the house.” Zach interrupted, searing me with a worried look before he turned and left. Jumping off the table I walked out the door, knowing Jeremy would be close behind me. We had joked on the way over, but now I couldn’t find a single thing to say to him. I was tired, embarrassed, and angry, and although I knew things could be way worse, I still wondered how any of this was real. It was crazy for me to think that this happened to someone everyday and that there was no one to call, or no force to protect them from it. Rogues had no lawyers and the laws I had grown accustomed to, the structure of government I believed in didn’t really exist here, not to these people.

Making it back to the alphas house, I walked straight up the stairs, trying not to look as defeated as I felt. Once I reached the room, I closed the door and locked it behind me. Stripping off my top and jeans I crawled into bed and let the heavy blankets engulf me. With moist eyes I drifted to sleep, thankful for the chance to get out for a bit, even if it was only in my dreams.

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