Light and fast steps succeed each other and then become silent. They resume, sometimes covered by the sound of the wind rustling the still young trees leaves and bushes that surround her, but she still knows exactly where the little feet are looking for her.
She may feel them approaching or sometimes moving away, covered from the ground where the wind has less hold on her. Motionless, her long black hair covers her face and mingles her with the shadows of the forest; a perfect camouflage.
She willingly leaves to school to socialize them. For her part, she prefers to teach them how to hunt. These exercises are as important to her as they are fun for her boys and she keeps making them harder every time she trains them, ensuring she always gets ahead of the dazzling progress she's been seeing them making.
A new squall bends the branches above before reaching her and suddenly her heart misses a beat. A flurry of images and memories floods her brain - a piercing blue glance, the feeling of a hand on her neck, the warmth of a hug. Contradictory feelings quarrel in her mind, she does not understand the joy and fear that are clashing at this moment. Only when her body shivers she manages to regain control of her will and realize: he is there.
She can't smell anything but him anymore, at once stupefied and numb, she cannot manage to capture the smell of her children. Their children! She cuts her breath so as not to disturb her hearing but they do not emit any noise, necessarily, they are so talented. She gets up hastily and scans over the foliage shrubs that the sun can barely reach through the tops of the trees above, but they are so small, nothing exceeds.
She would know it if something happened to them, she would feel it; they are a part of her. Despite this certainty, panic begins to invade her when she sees them moving again. The sounds come from two different places but come together and, to her greatest fear, move away from her.
This smell; they too know and feel it. She curses herself inwardly for not having thought of it before, for not having anticipated their reaction to something so familiar to them and at the same time unknown. All these mornings they had joined her in bed to be cuddled and found her curled up against this black tee-shirt still carrying a vague strange and attractive smell.
She starts to run. All her senses alert, she goes in their direction and feels the presence of the intruder grow as she advances. So she accelerates, her feet so fast on the ground that they hardly seem to touch it.
She finally sees them, two little blond heads who shine like the sun in the distance, side by side. She wants to shout, they come to her, but her lungs are too busy with her race so she can only emit a low growl that does not reach them.
Finally, she has almost reached them but they remain motionless and look straight ahead a high silhouette that is barely outlined between the shadows and dancing lights behind it. She decides to get around, out of the question that the boys are trapped between them.
Ignoring any precaution, she rushes through the vegetation, right on him as he suddenly turns his head in her direction. With a bound, she hit him with her whole body, knocking him a few feet down on the floor.
In the shock of the fall, he gasps and tentatively tries to push her arms in disordered gestures. She does not need to search it, she remembers his intervention gear perfectly as if she had met him yesterday; his holster on his belt and his knife on his ankle.
She blocks his legs by pressing her knees on his thighs, and slams his gloved hand to the floor. She remembers that this is how he hides his mechanical limb and how much he could hurt her with it. Her free hand at his belt, she blows the pressure that holds his weapon with a finger, grabs it by the butt and throws it out of reach of her boys in the thickets before ending her movement by grabbing his throat .
"Wow, baby! Yeah, I missed you too!" he jokes between two coughs.
Donald Pierce. Hardly had she put her big yellow eyes on his face that her heart is racing, as in the good old days. It's as if she had never left him; that captivating blue gaze under golden locks and that smirk, the warmth of his chest and arms that always draws her like a magnet. And that scent that emanates from him is more vivid than ever and fills her nostrils again; enveloping her body and mind as the sweet and reassuring memory of a home she thought she had lost forever.
Oh yes, she missed him. She no longer counted the times when she saw him on the faces of her children; they look so much like him.
She clings to this thought, to these two little beings who cannot tolerate any weakness on her part. In her heart of hearts, her desire and her instincts quarrel and pull her because she knows the unspeakable danger that he represents for them. She cannot let him be this time; she's not on her own anymore. She growls and squeezes his throat harder between her clawed fingers.
"What are you doing here, Pierce?!" she says in a guttural voice, so deep that even the children are staggering on their feet.
For a few seconds his insolent smile flickers, revealing a vague anxiety that she first chose to deny, fearing a subterfuge on his part.
"I'm here for you ..." he breathes painfully, the trachea crushed by the still firm grip she exerts on him.
"Where are they, your men?" she interrupts brutally.
"... I'm alone but ..." he grimaces and opens his mouth wide in search of air, she squeezes more and more.
His only free arm along his body, his fingers clench on loose earth. She suddenly wonders why he's not trying to grab her, to make her let go of him as he suffocates. She relaxes her fingers and feels under her palm pass the big gulp of air he swallows with eagerness.
She maintains the pressure but he remains lying down without the slightest sign of retaliation, without the slightest movement except that of his eyes that oscillate between her and the boys who are still watching them a few meters away, motionless and fascinated by the scene that unfolds before them.
Pierce watches them silently, a serious look on his face as she does not know him.
"You will come with me." He declares suddenly in an authoritarian tone, planting his eyes intensely in hers.
This sudden reaction disarms her for a moment, just enough to allow him to move his arm without her anticipating it and his hand falling on her calf. There, something stings and then a feeling of heat spreads in her leg.
When she understands, it's too late. She gives one last frightened look to Pierce who does not even seem to gloat; it does not look like him.
"No no!" she murmurs plaintively, throwing herself on the ground, reaching for her children who are flocking to her, but already her vision is darkening and her muscles are no longer responding. She is not even sure she could move or even drag herself to them; she no longer hears their frightened voices calling her nor feels the little hands that grip her when she loses consciousness.
"Hey there, sleepy head!"
There is an annoying buzz in her head and it seems as if her children are jumping on her skull when she opens her eyes. The mine annoyed by this painful awakening, she distinguishes through the windshield his boys playing in a small decrepit park outside, just a few meters from the car.
"They're fine, baby."
She already knows it because no alarm sounds in her head. The voice that reaches her ears comes from outside, near her, through the lowered window. She looks haggardly at the man talking to her. Perhaps she's still dreaming, it happens to her often, although it seems much more real than usual.
Donald watches her for a moment. He hesitates, his hand on the handle, and then finally opens the door when she looks at the twins who chuckle and run around the metal structure that was once a swing.
He walks right next to her and cautiously raises a bare hand that he slips under her hair and places it on the back of her neck. Her eyes seem to emerge from nothingness at his touch and she turns her face towards him.
"You ... are you really here?" she asks in a voice still veiled by sleep.
"Mmh ... yeah, and they too are really here." He responds, giggling, pointing a gloved finger at the park. "Sorry for the sting, darling, but you would never have complied otherwise." He adds with a furtive embarrassed grin.
Her spirits are gathering painfully in her head. She finally realizes she is in the passenger seat of a 4x4, parked near a tiny deserted rest area that seems lost in the middle of nowhere. It is daylight, the sun is still high and pale and the only thing holding her back is the seatbelt still attached.
Thousands of questions jostle in her head. When, where, how ... Why ?!
She sees Donald over there, landed in the woods near her house, his strangely calm attitude and worried face.
"Did you come for us?"
"Mmh mmh." He nods, looking at her seriously. His gaze is suddenly lost in the wave, he shakes his head and takes a sound inspiration and sighs. In his breath she perceives a rupture, a hesitation, as if he dared not breathe fully.
His palm is warm on her neck and his eyes are looking for a place to land on her face, or they rediscover her after almost five years of absence. His fingers gently squeeze the sides of her neck and a shy smile rounds the corner of his lips.
Donald looks hesitant; she does not know what to think. She watches him cautiously and fails to identify the emotion that seems to be crossing him when he suddenly leans over and presses his lips to hers.
Now she understands. Now with both his hands he holds her head against his, his tongue is burning in her mouth and when finally she clings to him, runs her arms around his back and presses his chest against hers, she feels his heart beating wildly.
Is it real? It is him that my hands touch, that my nose smells, that my eyes see? How far? Until when? At what price?
Breathless and submerged by all kinds of feelings that flow into her all at the same time, she relaxes her embrace and retreats slightly, eyes down. Is it prudent to yield to her impulses?
He lets her do it, without holding it back, but clears his throat, scratching his head and looking as confused as she is.
"They ... they found us, right?" she stammers, struggling to regain composure.
"Yes ..., no, but they were close, I just got a little bit ahead." Pierce answers, looking up at her flushed face. She avoids his gaze, shrivels in her seat like a frightened animal.
A clear and joyful cry echoes outside, drawing their attention. The children climb together on the base of the metal turnstile and then jump with feet together into the sand below, uttering loud cries.
Donald and the beast look at them in silence for a few moments. The disorder immediately flew away and, as often since their birth, she is surprised to find herself smiling for no apparent reason.
"Do they know who I am?" Suddenly calls Donald.
She turns to him and observes with astonishment that he smiles too.
"Well, if you're in one piece it's probably because they understood it." She says with a smirk, revealing a sharp canine.
Donald raises an eyebrow, taken aback by what her answer implies.
"Is that so? They don't look mutant though ..."
"They're perfect, their fangs and their claws are retractable, so ..." She pauses then, taking a sudden, suspicious look at Pierce. "That's why you took us with you, because they look normal? What did you think, if they're like her I'll let them die there?" she calls out with a harsh voice, louder and louder.
Pierce recoils slightly and raises his hands in front of him.
"Wow, hold your horses, baby! I resigned, okay?"
"Oh yes, since when?" she continues, still aggressive.
"Yesterday!" he lets go in a burst of voice, his eyes hard in his turn.
The beast freezes, a suspicious pout on her face.
"Fuck ..." he sighs as he walks away. He shakes his head, closing his eyes and bringing his hands to his waist before returning to her. "I never thought I would find you, I thought it was still a bogus track that one of those research bastards had passed on to Rice, but when I saw this place ... Then they appeared in front of me and then you ... "
His eyes expressed all the disarray and disbelief that his mouth could not formulate. He had been taken by surprise, unprepared. He had not expected to see her again one day, had not thought about what he would say, what he would do then.
A life spent despising people like her, chasing them for the simple fact of existing, but the first thing he does instinctively when he finds them is to save them. She could not hope for better, and she expected no less from the only man who could tame her.
"You've gone soft, Pierce ..." she laughs sweetly.
He smiles, first discreetly and then finally laughs: "Yeah, that must be that ..."
They take the road again. They do not talk about the fact that they may spend a good part of their lives fleeing, without homes and ties, because it does not matter.
This feeling of completeness that has grown in them since their reunion far exceeds the simple material needs and is worth more than all the sacrifices of the world.
It's obvious; everywhere will be at home as long as the pack is reunited.