Nightmares have been plaguing Milo’s mind since his arrival to Blue Ridge a few weeks ago. He was still having trouble accepting that he was finally safe in this hospital. Every time the door to his room would open, he expected to meet the horrid eyes of that monster staring back at him, sporting its evil grin. When Milo first woke up, he was petrified. Through his befuddled haze, he found himself surrounded by a group of strangers in blue uniforms and white coats, with one of them drawing blood from his leg. He was over being poked and prodded for their sick experiments, and he fought hard through his stupor, knocking people over into walls with a growl he’s never heard himself make before. “She’s coming up,” someone called out in relief from behind him. He began to panic when he found all exits were blocked, but shortly after, the woman with hazel eyes stood in the doorway.
“Milo,” she called softly, causing something to stir within him that made him freeze and meet her eyes. “Remember what I told you? You’re safe now, and we’re here to help you recover,” she encouraged, slowly approaching him while the others stepped away. An ache in his mind pushed him to believe her as he quickly recalled what happened within the prison. Narrowing his eyes at the people in lab coats, Milo submitted and laid himself down against the cold floor. As his body adjusted to his new position, he noticed his joints and body felt completely rejuvenated, and the pain he felt in the past was gone.
The woman, who had introduced herself as Tessa in the cell, knelt beside him and looked over his form. “You’re healing nicely,” she stated with a sigh of relief, taking his face in her hands to meet his eyes. Her touch warmed him, giving him a foreign sense of security and something else he couldn’t quite pinpoint. “Now, you need to let the doctors and nurses continue your treatment without a fight. You don’t want to stay frail like this forever, do you,” she asked in a serious tone. Her honesty hurt, but it also fed the fire burning inside him to get better so he can be strong. Milo huffed in response and looked away from her to gaze over the crowd once more. No one was sneering at him or looking down at him with hatred. Their expressions held hope, and compassion burned in their eyes.
Nodding his head in agreement, Milo rose to his four legs and stood tall. His limbs no longer shook to support his weight as he moved back to lay on the mattress. “Thank you,” Tessa said with a kind smile. “I’ll be in to check on you, and they know how to reach me,” she explained to him before addressing the group. “Be patient with him, understand,” she asked them in a tone that sent a chill down his spine. “Yes, Alpha,” they immediately replied, then she turned to him with an encouraging smile before leaving the room, the sound of her heels fading into the distance as she left him alone.
Choosing to trust Tessa, Milo allowed the doctors and nurses to assist him. They were all very gentle and kind, and as the weeks went by, the sight of his thick burgundy fur growing back, and his newfound strength made him look forward to waking up every morning. He couldn’t believe he wanted to give up on his life in the old prison when there was such a helpful place waiting for him. At the end of each day, he sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Moon Goddess but also wished for the other half of his spirit to find him again. He deserved to experience this happiness along with him, especially since he had faced the brunt of the abuse alone for so many years.
Now it was a new day and the morning’s routine played out a little differently than Milo was used to. The nurses didn’t wake him up for his medicated bath, and besides a meaty breakfast, he had been left alone, peacefully sleeping the day away. When the doctor finally came in, it was well into the night, and he had an expression of hope on his face. “I have some good news,” the doctor said, making the wolf cock his head to the side. “Your skin samples came back clear of all bacteria, and your body is finally strong enough to heal you without treatment,” he announced, but Milo didn’t know how to react. “What does that mean for me,” he thought, knowing the doctor would be able to hear his thoughts. “It means you’ll finally be able to get out of this hospital and make a life for yourself here in Blue Ridge,” the doctor answered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “We can stay here,” he asked in shock. “Of course. Where else would you go,” the doctor responded, shaking his head with a smile. “Welcome to the pack,” he added, but Milo was still hesitant to celebrate.
A knock at the door grabbed their attention, and Milo already knew it was Tessa by the earthy aroma with a hint of lavender that filled the room. “Come in, Alpha,” the doctor called out, and Tessa walked in with her head high. Since he woke up, Tessa had been spending a lot of time with him. She and the doctors have been the only other people he’s seen since waking up. Tessa often brought family photos to him in hopes of jogging his memory, but her efforts were useless. Without having a connection to his human spirit, there would be no memories to remember, but he had high hopes after the news she shared a week ago. “We have a plan, but you really need to trust me,” Tessa told him. “The witch you saw in the cell said she might be able to reconnect your mind with your human spirit,” she said, her eyes wary of Milo’s reaction. The wolf wasn’t sure how to feel. Although that woman never harmed him, she still stood by and did nothing but sneak him scraps during his starvation periods. “How can you trust her,” Milo asked Tessa, who sighed in frustration.
He sat silently as he watched her pace the room, contemplating her answer. “Honestly, we don’t have a choice. The council and I know she could have killed us all by now if she wanted to. That’s all the proof we have to go on,” she admitted truthfully. Milo walked over to Tessa, placing his head beneath her arm to still her. “Well, without him, I’m nothing. I’ll do anything it takes to give my human a chance at a better life,” he said with confidence. Tessa shook her head with a sigh but smiled down at Milo. “With or without your human side, you’re still a part of my brother, and I know you think you’re weak, but it took a lot of strength for you both to survive the horrors you went through,” she assured him, running her hand over his cheek. It was a small gesture, but it felt so right and warmed his heart.
Once Milo agreed to let the witch help, Tessa went on to explain the ceremony. The ritual would take place under the next full moon, and today was the day. “I’ve signed all the discharge papers, and Milo is ready to go. Have all the preparations been made,” the doctor asked her, and Milo listened closely for Tessa’s answer. “Yes, everything has been set, and the moon will be at its highest in an hour,” she stated, and Milo began to feel nervous. The doctor had explained to him the risks of this ceremony, and it could only go one of two ways. Milo would either successfully shift back to his human self and finally be whole again, or it could send his system into shock and cause a seizure, then cardiac arrest. “I was hoping we could go for a run together,” Tessa suggested, pulling Milo from his thoughts.
His ears perked up at the thought of running with Tessa’s wolf. “I figured you’ve been couped up in here for too long, and it was time to experience the true freedom of being a werewolf,” she finished with a smile. Milo lapped the room in excitement and stopped at the window to look outside. The fields and forest were illuminated by the moon, showing several familiar wolves patiently waiting outside. He had never been let out to run with the other wolves unless it was to be used as their prey when they were restless, and he never had a fair chance thanks to the shot of wolfsbane and blindfold. He already knew this was going to be different, and he was anxious to get started. “Let’s go,” he said happily, bounding for the open door with Tessa at his heels.
Once outside, Milo trotted toward the other wolves who stood with their tails wagging behind them. A wave of joy filled his chest at the sight of a group that was actually happy to see him with no ulterior motive. Their reactions were honest and pure. He learned the black wolf with blue eyes was Zander, and the brown wolf with green eyes was Cadence. Both were still very intimidating, but nothing prepared him for the sight of Tessa in her wolf form. She stood taller than all of them, with her honey blonde fur shining brightly under the light of the moon. Her aura was much stronger in this form, and Milo couldn’t help but lower his head in her presence, but something else caught his attention. A large brown wolf joined her side, adding to the power-filled atmosphere as he lovingly ran his body along the length of Tessa’s, but it was the female behind him that caught Milo’s attention.
Her fur mimicked embers of a burning fire, and her eyes were so blue they glowed silver under the light of the moon. The familiar scent of lavender flooded his senses as she drew closer, and he couldn’t stop himself from breathing deeply. “What is this feeling,” he wondered, realizing her scent was the same calming fragrance that coaxed him out of his coma weeks ago. He assumed it belonged to Tessa since it always lingered around her, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. Milo felt like he could stare into her eyes for a lifetime without even knowing her name, but his bliss was cut short when she looked away with a soft growl as everyone started to run for the forest. Milo’s ears lowered in protest, but he didn’t dare growl back. Things were finally going smoothly, and if he survived the ritual, he hoped he would meet her again.