Disclaimer: No, I don't own it. Would it make sense for me to be sitting here writing fan fiction if I OWNED IT??? Haven't I made this point already? Okay, then. So, I do own Shonagar, Osu, Sou, Mashin, Ariel, Tora, and Johnny. I think that's all. Yeah.

Rating: What do you think? Does it say "R" on the summary? YES! (grumble).

Review Replies: I now have twenty reviews! YAY!

Kilala: Get a hold of your hormones! This story probably won't have much lemon, as all the heroines are too busy fighting bad guys to get laid. So, uh…Sorry. And as for the name thing, thanks. But I really am worried about it…and yeah, the servers were down. But they are up, now, I think. Yay!

Morhion: Your name astounds me, as it is so close to the word, 'moron'. Wow. Not that you're a moron, but, I just thought I'd point that out. :P . So, thanks a bundle for the compliments, I really hope you enjoy this chapter. And yeah, the whole "affection" thing is just the way I go with things. I think it would stink if you were mated to a guy/girl who didn't love you. And, as you wish…here is your new chapter.

Dew-Drop Viper: Nice name. And, also, thanks for the spelling/grammar/sentence structure compliment. I take great pride in the fact that I can tell the difference between "there", "their", and "they're". Err…yeah. Just a pet peeve. You like the plot? I think it's getting to intricate. So I'm thinking I'm going to end the story soon. And I have one thing to say…MAJOR CHARACTER DEATHS! (Mwahahha). But, one more thing – WHAT THE HELL DOES 'SAMA' MEAN????

IluvsBakura: Golly, thanks. And, sorry again about the difficult plot. I'm just…o, never mind. Why am I apologizing for making a complex plot?? Uh…yeah. I am sorry you can't follow it, though. So, here's a summary: Sou lives in a city, has gotten attacked by many people, raped by evil guy Mashin, received cheap-rate abortion from end of base-ball bat, and when we enter the story, she runs into trouble after having a howl/cry fest by a lake, when a gang attacks her. The pack comes to the rescue, and helps Sou, who has a mental breakdown and almost kills herself, only to regain consciousness and find that her old friend, Blue, is also with the pack, and is Hige's mate. Next chapter: Sou is comatose, and they are traveling into a city to get supplies, because she is near death, and get attacked by another gang while trying to exit, but they get away, and Toboe ends up killing his first human. Tears. Skip a few weeks, and Sou and Tsume are on their own getting more supplies, and run into a mysterious stranger who, a few chapters later, turns out to be Shonagar, Kiba's long lost sister who also had a run in with Mashin. Main event of this chapter is Tsume and Sou end up revealing secrets to each other and opening up, and, in the end, mating secretly. Next chapter, Sou has a bad nightmare, runs off, Tsume follows, and her story finally surfaces. Kiba and Hige find out that Tsume and Sou mated, and Blue and Toboe get kidnapped. Next, they fight in a warehouse for their comrades, in which Blue sacrifices herself (but doesn't die) and Toboe ends up killing another human. Shonagar comes to the rescue and gives them shelter, Kiba and his sister are reunited, tears, and the Royal Tigers and introduced. And…. that's about it. So, now that I think of it, yeah, it is pretty complicated, but, I can't help it. It'll all be over soon.

Nekosune: Thanks!!! I like my writing style, too. :)

Deaths Fallen Angel: I didn't know death had angels….uh…oh, yeah. Yes, I know Kiba and Toboe don't have mates, but wouldn't it be weird if all the wolves managed to find love? I mean, mates just don't pop out of thin air. But, I see your point, and will try to work in a mate for Kiba. But Toboe is too young. So…yeah.

Alright! Thank you, one and all, for reviewing, and thanks for reading my story. Here's the next installment in Howl. Very Action Packed, let me assure you.

Chapter Eleven: Fallen Comrades

Sou wandered through the streets in a daze, accompanied by Toboe, who had, in the five weeks they had been in the city, healed nicely. There was a scar, overlapping into an X on his bicep, that marked him from the fight, but Toboe didn't try to hide it. It made sense to Sou that the teen would possess such pride after fighting so well. She herself felt the same way about her own scars.

Except one.

They passed a fruit vendor, Toboe grabbing an apple from the man's cart as they walked by. The human protested, but silenced himself when Toboe glanced over his shoulder with a look of utter maturity and calm power. The youngest of the pack continued on, still strangely quiet. Sou waited for him to speak, instinctively knowing he had something he needed to say.

She was right. A few minutes later, they turned down an alleyway to circle back to the apartment, and the silence was interrupted by Toboe, who said suddenly, "This isn't right."

Sou glanced at him, then continued onwards. "What isn't?"

"This. We're stuck here, in this city, because the damn Nobles--"

"Mind what you say while there are listening ears, Toboe." Sou stopped and sat down atop a dumpster, determined nevertheless to hear the young one out. "Now, in words that won't get us arrested, what's wrong?"

"I mean, Sou, this…" Toboe leaned back against the brick wall, his forehead wrinkled in thought. "We're just kids, Sou. Tsume's the oldest of our pack, and he's only twenty-two. I'm fourteen! We're not even supposed to be out of school yet. We shouldn't have to do this. It isn't supposed to happen this way."

Sou was silent, watching as the youth expelled his fears. "I mean, Sou, Blue was ready. She was ready to die, and she's only seventeen! She shouldn't have had to think about sacrificing herself for me. She shouldn't have had to make that decision." His muddy eyes were wide and filled with reality and sadness, and he silently pleaded for answers from the elder.

Sou looked at him, then gazed up at the sky, cloudy and gray as usual. She thought about what he was saying, and saw the truth in the teen's words. She herself was twenty, the same age as Kiba and Hige. She barely had the strength to keep going and not collapse, even with her friends and mate supporting her. After everything she had been through, her spirit just couldn't take much more. But that was how life was; it threw everything it got at you, and if you couldn't keep up, tough luck.

"Toboe…" Sou paused and thought of how ironic it was that she was having this talk with Toboe, when she too was young. "Life is complicated. It's difficult, and challenging, and painful. It will take everything you've got and then demand more. As soon as you realize this, everything will become a lot clearer. You're gunna feel like this a lot, Toboe, when your little bubble world goes pop and you see reality for what it really is. But then there are those times, you know, when you feel like your soul is going to explode with joy. And you feel like you could run a million miles and still have enough energy to do anything. That's when life is doing what it's supposed to – keeping us alive, and Toboe, cherish those moments with all your heart because they are rare and powerful."

Sou stopped and took a deep breath. Her own words rang clearly in her mind, and she knew she had to keep going. "For us, our kind, and Johnny and Ariel, and Tora, for us all, life is especially trying. No one wants us here. No one welcomes us, or praises us, or prays for us. No one will help you while you are down and no one will offer you shelter. No one, except our own kind, and we have become few and far between. But we are also more powerful than humans, and so we must carry heavier and more tiring burdens. Yes, all of us, we are young. We are still kids, and we shouldn't have to do the things we've had to. We aren't old enough, not by a long shot, for any of it at first. But very soon you will come to see that all of the pain and suffering we go through makes us stronger."

She stopped again, and met the eyes of the wolf in front of her. He was still leaning against the hard wall, across from her, and he was doing a very good job of containing himself. But his eyes we rapt and concentrated on the female. Her words were sinking into Toboe, and the thought filled her with contentment.

"Here. I wore these a lot when I your age, because I was pretty damn violent. I stopped when Mashin got me, because it showed that I was above their animalistic ways, that I refused to fight the way they fought. But, I kept them, and now you can have them." Sou dug into the deep pockets of her jeans, retrieving from them a pair of worn but protective biker gloves, the leather black and dull from many years of use. "Besides, we can't have your hands breaking every time you need to fight, can we?"

Toboe took the offering quietly, slipping the gloves onto his hands and flexing his fingers experimentally. He looked at her, then grinned. "Thanks, Sou."

Sou laughed. "Don't mention it, Toboe. Now, let's get going. It's going to rain soon." He nodded, and they continued towards the little apartment they called a sanctuary.

Hige ran towards her as fast as he could, but his feet were moving in slow motion. Blue turned towards him, the glum of the warehouse making shadows drift over her face. Her blue eyes were clouded over in pain and as she watched him, he saw her legs collapse from underneath her, her trench coat fluttering around her as she fell. Blue hit the ground hard, lying on her stomach, her legs twisted beneath her at an angle away from her. Blood, tainted black, was pooling around her, and she was fading away before his very eyes. Hige tried to run faster, only to find he had stopped moving. Red vines had entwined around his legs, rooting him thoroughly to the spot, and he screamed out curses as he struggled to gain ground. Frustration and desperation filled him and he broke out in a cold sweat, his stomach twisting inside of him and burning with acid. Hige started to frantically gnaw at the plants restraining him, and immediately gagged as bitter poison filled his mouth and throat. He spit it out, and then continued, doing his best to ignore the toxic fluids draining into him. Thorns were pressing and tearing at him, the vines creeping higher and higher on the terrified wolf. He gnashed his teeth and chewed faster, tearing through them as quickly as possible.

It was an eternity before he finally got free, an eternity of seeing the one thing that mattered most to him fade away slowly as he struggled, and as soon as the clinging plants were off of him, he galloped full force towards her, yanking a trailing vine off of himself. Her eyes reflected the pain she felt, and shadows of enemies that they had killed that day circled her. Tears streaked a path through the dirt and blood on her face and she reached a hand out to him, shaking and vermilion with her own blood. Hige's mouth opened to scream, but no sound came out; everything was so slow, taking hours for every second.

Darkness was drawing Blue away from him, he could see the velvety blackness closing in on her, taking her away. Hige tore at the invisible bonds that slowed him, held him down, but they clung to him, wouldn't let go, wouldn't let him go save her. He struggled, and as he tried to get free to go to her, she faded away, left him, died, disappeared. Hige screamed in horror, and the sound was swept away and eaten by the darkness as soon as the wordless cry left his lips. Huge stopped, staring in a daze of disbelief. Finally, he fell to his knees and cried, one thought echoing endlessly though his mind.

He had failed her.

Hige was screaming. He could feel the effort and strain on his vocal chords hurting his throat, and the pain of torn skin shocking him. Blood dribbled through the raw skin on his throat and down into his stomach, making him gag, then dash into the bathroom and vomit. Blue knelt by him, rubbing his back and comforting him. Hige shuddered, then rose and gulped down some water, ignoring the sting of his esophagus.

"Ouch…" He muttered, gasping when that single syllable burned up his vocal chords. Blue shushed him, not wanting him to get hurt any more. Her mate had started muttering in his sleep, then screaming, waking the neighbors and all of the inhabitants of the apartment. Blue held Hige, and they collapsed onto the floor, Blue's back against the wall and Hige sobbing quietly into her neck. She understood. She understood the grasping horror that he had felt.

Osu appeared in the doorway, then walked out again, seeing that the mates needed time. Blue cradled her mate, comforting and protecting him, and as they sat in silence, she saw that this city that they had ventured into was cursed, and would always be cursed. Kiba was gone with Johnny, scouting the city some more, and Toboe and Sou were out walking, trying to gather some kind of exercise in this cramped dwelling. Tora and Ariel were sitting in the living room talking, and Osu and Shonagar were sleeping. Or at least, they had been, until Hige started screaming.

The point was, Blue realized, that they had to get out of here, and fast.

Hige sat up, drying his tears, then softly kissed her. "Never leave me, Blue. Never. I love you too much." Blue nodded and grinned.

"I love you too, Hige. And I can't wait to get out of this city."

Her mate shuddered again, then agreed wholeheartedly.

Johnny and Kiba entered the apartment slowly, aware of the intense silence. Even the human neighbors were silent. Tora and Ariel were sitting on the couch, curled up into little balls, and Osu and Shonagar sat at the kitchen table, nursing cups of coffee. Hige and Blue were apparently in the bathroom, judging by the muttering and whimpers that were being emitted from the washroom.

Kiba scanned the faces of his friends, before saying slowly, "What happened?"

Tora spoke first. "Hige had a nightmare."

Ariel nodded, then added, "Started screaming his poor head off. Blue's still in there helping him get a grip on himself." The two wolves in the kitchen said nothing, only watching Kiba.

Just then, Sou and Toboe bustled in, the pup sporting leather gloves, and Sou looking grim. "We have to get out of here," she said. "This city is sucking the life out of us. No wonder these humans are so dead. There is a force here, that drains happiness away, and we have to escape it before it engulfs us too." Toboe nodded.

Tsume climbed in through the window, off the fire escape where he had been sitting, watching the people below. The gray wolf's coat was glazed over in icy rain, and as he shifted back into human form, thousands of tiny little ice crystals shattered to the floor. "I agree. Let's ditch this hellhole right now. There's no sense in waiting. Every moment we linger, the Nobles come closer to us."

Blue and Hige walked in, Hige's face red and blotchy. Blue chuckled humorlessly. "Well, Tsume, you sitting in plain view of the humans doesn't help us."

"Well, that's true." Tsume agreed good-naturally. "It won't matter any if we leave here, though, right now." His intense yellow gaze locked onto Kiba, waiting for his decision.

Kiba was silent, then turned to Toboe and Blue. "It's up to you two." The youth looked stunned, and Blue shrugged. "You're the reason we didn't move out quickly anyways. Are you well enough to travel?" Toboe nodded. " Blue? Are you?" The black wolf nodded silently. "Well, then, I see no problem. Johnny?"

The white tiger's golden eyes flicked from his mate to her sister, both of whom shrugged and nodded, indicating they were ready to go. "I too see no problem. Osu, Shonny, you ready?"

Shonagar looked at all her human possessions, from the books to the furniture, the food and the beds. It meant nothing to her. "Yeah. Let me get some food and bandages first. We may need them." Only twenty minutes later, they had two backpacks of food and one of medical supplies. The pack made their way through the twisting and turning of the streets, towards the gate.

There was no warning feeling. No instinct to run, and no rising of nape hairs. But somehow, without them knowing, they were surrounded by soldiers, and Jagara was standing in front of them, Darcia at her side. The two Nobles were a formidable sight, decked out in armor and bearing weapons of the likes the wolves had never seen before. But apparently, the tigers had. Tora and Ariel flanked Johnny, all three in fighting stances. Kiba's pack faced the soldiers; hackles raised and fur stiff.

Kiba marveled at their ability to catch them by surprise. Never had he been unaware of an enemy. Never had they managed to sneak up behind him. In fact it was often the other way around. But it would appear that the Nobles had done just that.

Sou was stiff. She was tired, she was achy, and she was unsure of what to do, for the first time in her life. She had never met the Nobles. She had never had to fight off this many Noble troops at once. She had never been this scared. Her pack was in danger. The tigers were in danger. The humans were in danger, the way they were running and screaming, attracting too much attention for their own good. And as she gazed into the faces of the soldiers, covered by metal armor, she saw that they could all die. Every single one of them, all her friends, her mate, her everything. And there was nothing she could to do to stop it. And as this revelation struck her, she saw that they were so gruesomely outnumbered, so much were the odds stacked in the other's favor, that they would not win.

Never before had she lost a fight, except to Mashin. Never had she backed down. Never had she admitted defeat. And she wouldn't start now. Sou shifted from wolf to human, and the soldiers tensed further and shifted their eyes to her. Fighting them in wolf form was futile. She needed fingers, to take their weapons. Glancing to her sides, she saw that Kiba too had shifted, and Tsume was on her left, decked out in leather and holding a vicious-looking knife. Toboe was flexing his biker-gloved hands, and Shonagar and Osu were quietly making bets as to who would kill the most soldiers. Hige choked, trying to hold back laughter, and Blue smacked him, and the tension returned.

Jagara shook her head in disbelief, then stepped forward. Johnny held his ground, tensing and baring his yellowed fangs. Then she spoke. Her voice was musical, laced with danger and evil. It was sinister and beautiful all in one voice. "Surrender and we shall spare you."

Ariel, still in her human form, spit at the woman. "How many times have we heard that? How many times have you broken your promise to your captives? You simply want an easy victory."

Tora laughed, and added, "By the way, weren't there three of you last time we met? What happened to poor little Oakum, does he have a cold?"

Darcia growled, his wolf's eye flashing with anger. "Silence, you beast. You know full well what happened to our comrade. You slew him, and now we shall do the same to you!"

And so there was no alternative. The wolves tensed, waiting for the signal, an unspoken command to attack. Sou glanced to Tsume, then whispered a quick, "I love you," to him, somehow knowing that this was her last chance. Tsume nodded, but if he replied it would be forever lost, because just then Johnny let out a startling scream, his roar echoing through the city. The wolves attacked en masse, each leaping at a startled soldier and dispatching of him quickly. Their battle cries echoed through the city, and above them Sou sensed windows opening and human faces peeking out, observing the fight with astonishment, not believing when they saw a white tiger, and several wolves, fighting hundreds of soldiers at once. Screams rent the air in two as the men inside the metal armor were killed, and the two Nobles were engaged in a furious battle with Tora and her mate, Johnny, while Ariel had shifted to tiger form as well and leapt over the heads of several dozen soldiers, landing in an area totally isolated from any help, and she started to fight.

As Sou grabbed the helmet of a soldier and twisted sharply, killing him immediately, she saw the fight through glimpses of understanding, little scenes making themselves known in her mind, preoccupied as it was with killing soldiers. She sensed, rather than saw, Blue go down under a tidal wave of soldiers, and Hige leap in to help her. Tora and Johnny were still fighting the Nobles, claws and weapons flashing in the fading light as night approached. Tsume was working methodically, slashing the throats of soldiers, one by one, with his knife. Toboe was hopping around and whapping the soldiers engaged in fights on the head, causing them to turn around and look for the culprit, while the wolf fighting them slew the bewildered man immediately.

The minutes faded away, and all she knew was they were losing. Last time she had looked at Ariel, she had simply seen dead bodies, and soldiers dying on top of the dead bodies, and more men coming in, even though the tiger seemed unstoppable.

She hadn't looked over there again.

There was no end to the battalions of enemies. Wave after wave arrived, even after they fought them off. Toboe fell to the onslaught, and Sou glimpsed a soldier pick his unconscious body up, and take him away. Sou screamed, but she had no way of getting to him, so heavy was the combat. Osu took three bullets to the side, and a knife wound to his left arm, and staggered. He kept fighting, losing blood so heavily that the soldiers around him slipped and fell. His white fur was stained with blood, and finally he collapsed too, only to be carried away as Toboe had been.

They couldn't win. There was no way. One by one, they would fall, and be abducted just like Toboe and Osu. But they wouldn't give up. Shonagar, having seen Osu fall, screamed with rage and picked up the pace, sweat and blood and grime dripping off of her, colorful droplets falling to the ground with methodical clarity. Soldiers died around her as if she carried the plague, and a wake of open ground appeared around her as she fought with a ferocity that Sou could fully understand.

Sou drove a stolen pike into the neck of a soldier, and as he fell, she used his body for leverage and rose up above the sea of pikes, spears, knifes, guns, and helmets, looking for Kiba. She hadn't seen him fall, but it had been awhile since the leader had been spotted. And as she searched frantically for him, she saw that Tsume was bleeding to death, secluded in an alleyway, and had miraculously escaped being carried away. Sou immediately ran for him, slaying enemies without a second thought, and after struggling for an indefinite amount of time, reached him. His skin was pale, and his eyes were clouding over.

"I won't be an experiment." Tsume said, obviously having more strength than Sou thought. "That's why they're carrying off our friends. They're going to use them for goddamn experiments!"

"Shh! Come on, I'm getting you out of here. Someone has to be alive to rescue these guys." Without further speech, Sou hefted Tsume so that he rested across both her shoulders, and winced as she felt his blood pouring down onto her. Thankfully, it was a full moon, and that would help him recover quickly, but as she ran down the alley way and out the other side, she thought that it would be a miracle if they survived.

As Sou sprinted down the deserted street, gaining distance away from the fighting, a figure dropped in pace beside her, and Sou gasped and started, but upon further observation, she saw that it was only Ariel, her beautiful white and black coat marred red from her various cuts. Her lithe body moved gracefully, even though it had to be painful to run as a tiger with those wounds. Tsume had shifted to a wolf on her shoulders, and his gray fur ruffled in the cold wind. Ariel padded next to her, and Sou quickened her pace, wanting and needing in some carnal part of her mind and body to escape and get out of the city, to find a dark burrow and help Tsume heal, to heal herself.

And so Sou ran, dodging out of the east gates, and running for all she was worth. She would return someday, someday soon, because though she ran now it was only to regroup, to regain health and to attack again.

Okay. I hope none of y'all think Sou and Ariel and Tsume are cowards for running, but I had to make some of them escape, because otherwise Kiba and the others would be stuck in captivity with no way of getting out. So, that's my reasoning. Well, Happy Holidays – consider this your collective gifts. Ho, ho, ho. And don't forget to review! Just press the goddamn button in the lower left hand corner!! PLEASE! Er….yeah.

New York Vanilla