Disclaimer: Don't own.

AN: Well, kind readers, this is the end. The last chapter with epilogue. I want to thank readers and those that reviewed. I've had a blast writing this story.

Chapter 23 – It Ends as It Began

"Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, and evil can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such."
Henry Miller

To say that Oliver was pissed that he had been left in the dark was to make a gross understatement. He was pissed that he didn't know that Chloe was in trouble. He was pissed that Clark was so dense that he got caught by Lex Luthor's number one goon and that, by extension, he got the rest of them caught. The thing that pissed him off the most, however, and made him see a red haze and black spots that danced in his vision was the fact Clark didn't see why Chloe being lost to them was not just a problem, but a catastrophe. It was unforgivable that Chloe, a major asset and the authority on the inner workings of two different billionaires, an alien, and their colleagues, had gone missing.

Bart, A.C. and Victor were also in Oliver's lavish office, but chose to remain silent. There was a coming war and it had nothing to do with the Mercy situation or the Chloe situation. Even Bart recognized the problem that Clark posed. Despite his general irreverent nature, he understood the need for discretion. He understood that he had to protect himself. Clark had been raised on a farm and refused to think and had created a problem that was too big for any of them to get out of. They would have to play ball.

Oliver's hands clenched into fists at his side and he glared at Clark. His voice, however, maintained a calm that he didn't feel, "Mercy Graves knows about us? She knows about us because of you and she has proof?"

He needed to hear Clark say it once more. It was too unbelievable. Clark's silence was enough. Now was the time for yelling, "I cannot believe that you could be so careless, Clark! What is wrong with you that you can be so lackadaisical about who and what you are? My money can't fix this problem! And the Watchtower isn't here to fix this!"

Clark attempted to defend himself, "This isn't my fault! Chloe wanted to do this on her own! Lex has been watching me for years and—"

Oliver interrupted him, "All the more reason for you to take precautions. Dammit, Clark! Even Bart understands this!"

The situation was rapidly escalating and there was only so much that mild-mannered Clark would tolerate before he lashed out at them. Victor had had enough. This wasn't going to solve the problem or make what they had to do any more palatable.

He interposed himself between Oliver and Clark, his voice calm, "Enough. Nothing has changed. We will work with whoever this Mercy Graves is and we will find Chloe. Lectures can wait another day. We have a deadline."

Victor glanced at them both and then walked away. His message was clear. They were both being idiots about a problem that none of them had a hope of solving with accusations and recriminations. They were wasting time they didn't have. He knew they would follow him. There really wasn't another viable choice.


Once again Mercy found herself sitting in Lex's office and in his chair. Despite the airs she put on, Mercy never sat in his chair. It was his. Some people played games and would've sat in his chair as a way to get a rise out of him, or as a way to show him that they were above him. Lionel had done it all the time. Lana had taken his chair on occasion as well. Even Chloe had taken his chair. But Mercy never had until he had the poor grace to die.

It was a show of her respect for him. She knew her place and that was in service to him. In another time and place, she would've been a man, Lionel would've commissioned her into his son's service and she would've knelt at his feet as Lex knighted her and declared her his champion. She knew Lex did shady things, but he was still hers and she would miss him. There was love and respect between them. More than that, there was genuine like between them.

Lex was an employer, a brother, and at one time he had been a lover; but he was more than that. She would miss him more than she had missed anyone in her life. His flaws were a part of his mosaic just like it was for everyone. She saw those flaws and still thought he was beautiful. So few people could ever do that for someone else. When this was done, Mercy would ache and hurt for him. She would deal with it, in time, and move on with her life, but it would hurt. Mercy held no illusions about what would happen next. There was no way she would get everyone involved in his death, but she would get the ones who mattered and she would get Chloe back. Anything less was something she was fully incapable of considering.

The only true regret she would ever have in regards to Lex was that she was never able to teach him that there always time to fix whatever was wrong. If you believed it, there was always a future. The only time that it was the end was in death. She had meant what she told Chloe all those days ago: death offered little to no improvement. Chloe, Mercy knew, would've been able to teach him where she failed because Chloe knew. Chloe had a rudimentary and tentative grasp on the concept, but in time, Mercy knew that Chloe was able to fully know the most basic truth of life. She only hoped that Lex's death wouldn't make her run from it.

Mercy was startled to find tears burning the back of her eyes. She quickly regained her composure when her walkie-talkie crackled to life with the information that her guests had arrived. It was time to deal with the costume freaks masquerading as people of worth.

They walked into Lex's office, it was always going to be his office no matter who took it next, and Oliver Queen was in the lead. Her eyes narrowed. Mercy could see the lines of defiance in his and Clark's form. The others were negligible. She knew that it would be Oliver or Clark that forced her to show them why they were no match for the forces arrayed against them. It was only a matter of time.

Mercy wasn't surprised when Oliver broke the silence, "We're here. I suppose you have some sort of plan."

She tilted her head. Mercy had studied Oliver Queen much more than he realized. There were plans drawn up to remove him if he ever became too much trouble to Lex and his business ventures. She did it because they were often in bitter competition in a way that Bruce Wayne wasn't and because she knew what Queen had done to Lex in his youth.

Lex never knew, but there were a number of men and women who had been visited by her. It served as a warning and a promise. She'd never had the opportunity to do so with Oliver Queen because he was more of a threat, but Mercy knew that it would be no big problem for her to remove him. No one was above reproach. If Queen had ever cared he'd see that a number of his contemporaries had suffered calamitous fates; either failed businesses or something more permanent.

It was not hard to affect the mannerisms that would annoy Queen and drive him to distraction. It was part of her study into his psyche. Mercy steepled her fingers like Lex used to, tilted her head slightly down, relaxed her shoulders, and spoke in a dry voice. Her sentences were short, "Yes. You know her. How she thinks. How she keeps her files organized. I want you to go through a few hard drives and discern the pattern. We'll discuss more after you find something."

Mercy looked at him. She knew what billionaire Oliver Queen was thinking. He was thinking that she made them little more than technicians…lackeys and he was right, but they would be performing an important function. Mercy didn't have the time or the inclination to crack Chloe's code even if she possessed the skills necessary to do so. The other techs were busy with the same problem, but they didn't know Chloe. Despite what the movies showed, each person's shorthand was different and computer file organization was no different. They could hack it in time, but it was time they didn't have.


Serena stood in her office. She was alone and expected it to stay that way. The order had already been given to evacuate everyone to their facility in Africa. It was more communal and less scientific. The test subjects and their families could carve out some kind of life there. It would be difficult for them, but she had no doubt that the scientists under her employ would use the technology that she and they had acquired to keep their haven safe.

She chose to be cautiously optimistic about their chances. With Ricky to eventually lead them; advanced technology, and assorted mutants running around that place, Serena was willing to bet that their own worst enemy would never be outsiders. Before she was conscious of her desires, Serena had already left her office and headed for Ricky. She needed to tell him goodbye and finish evacuating everyone that was going to go.

Various bodyguards and scientists who had outlived their usefulness would remain. Serena had no doubt that in the coming hours when Lex Luthor's bodyguard Mercy Graves and her merry band of righteous avengers arrived, Chloe's deliberate freeing, and other mutants who never had a chance were also freed there would be bloodshed. Most of her problems would solve themselves in the chaos.

"The next part is always the hardest."

Ricky was awake and alert when she got to his room. It was a pleasant surprise because he had been groggy and tired from the drug treatments. He was no longer the half-gorilla and half-man that he had been. Instead, Ricky was fully a little boy again. It was clear from his dark skin to his face that was losing some its childish form that one day, Ricky would be a heart breaker. The gorilla enhanced many of his strong features and the bulk and definition of the gorilla form would only make him more impressive.

Her heart seized. Serena had never felt this kind of love for someone. She could only imagine that it was the love a parent felt for its child. There were so many hopes and dreams she had for him. The knowledge that she was placing a heavy burden on his shoulders instilled within her no guilt. He would rise to meet the challenge and so would those closest to him. Ricky was hers and her pride in him was second only to her love.

Serena saw the exact moment that his customary exuberant greeting changed into something calmer. It was clear from his body language that he knew something was wrong. A smile lit her face. "That's my observant boy."

Moving to the couch in his room, Serena beckoned him into her arms. The speed that he exhibited as the gorilla remained and before she knew it, her arms were full of twelve year old boy. He squirmed until he got comfortable and then there was silence.

His voice was soft when he broke the silence, "I don't want to leave."

Serena squeezed him tighter. It might be the last time she held him and they both needed these memories. She had to stay calm for him, "I know you don't, but you still are."

Ricky knew the exact tone of voice to use to make her want to change her mind. His plaintive voice nearly broke her resolve to finish this, "Why can't I stay? I don't want to leave you."

She swallowed thickly, as near to tears as he so obviously was, "I know that too."

Before he had a chance to say anything else, she continued, "I want you and the others safe. So I get to stay here and finish what I started and you get to leave and be the man I know you'll become. I love you, sweetheart, and nothing changes that. Time and distance doesn't matter. We're always together if we believe it."

And right now she believed it. She would always believe it. His sweetness would stay with her for as long as she lived.

"Protect them for me, Ricky. One day they'll want someone to lead them who is just like them. I want that for them. I want you[i/] for them."

He was crying and she felt him shake in her arms because he knew that he would probably never see her again. Serena also realized that she was crying too. Her resolve may have been strong and her words brave, but she didn't want to die. She didn't want her end even as she knew it was the one she had earned.

"Can I change my name?"

Serena was startled from her thoughts with his question.

"Why?"

His reply was quick and vaguely indignant, "Because you let Tommy."

She was amused, "Yes and you and he both know that I hate addressing him by that ridiculous name," Serena paused and looked to the ceiling, "Lord, save me from hilariously named gorillas."

He was definitely indignant now, "What's wrong with the name Grodd? It's fun."

Serena rolled her eyes at him, "Ricky, you can't see me, but I am rolling my eyes at you. His name is ridiculous. So what do you want to be called?"

Ricky turned around in her arms and looked her in the eye. He was proud and really wanted this. "Call me Solovar."

She smiled at him and kissed his forehead, "Whatever you say, Solovar."

It didn't matter where he got his name or why he chose it, this was the future leader of a band of mutants. She couldn't help but wonder if he understood that within his name was the word "solo". There would be times when he would be very much alone.

Serena only hoped that he only ever fondly remembered this moment because she would until the day she died. She held him until they both drifted off to sleep.


Despite the situation, Oliver didn't think things were going too badly. He was still angry about the situation, but at least he could try to solve this problem to channel his fury. Victor was busy collating Chloe's raw data into something everyone else could follow. She was good at what she did; and what she did was collect knowledge to her advantage. Chloe guarded her secrets as well as a dragon guarded his trove.

Mercy Graves was something he didn't truly expect. He knew Lex would find someone to carry out his wishes efficiently, but Mercy was something else entirely. Brutally effective would be how he described her with an intelligence that was often lacking even within his own ranks.

Even as he, Victor and Mercy worked diligently to get something worthwhile done; Bart, A.C. and Clark were more or less dead weight. To their credit, A.C. and Bart knew their talents lay elsewhere so they stayed out of the way. Clark, however, insisted on being the wrench in the monkey-works. Oliver was on board with teaching him and ushering into being a Clark that utilized his skills efficiently and with compassion, but Clark proved to be a difficult and petulant student.

On the second day of their being in Smallville, Victor hit upon a facility that had always been on Chloe's radar. They hadn't known that previously because Chloe did a good job burying it. Victor finally cracked this particular cipher and the importance of the facility quickly became apparent. Their target was in Washington State, near the Canadian border. It made sense.

Mercy sighed and surveyed the team she would work with to rescue Chloe. They were a sorry lot. If she had to choose, she would forego Oliver, A.C., Bart, Victor and Clark altogether. They were all capable in their own way, but they had such glaring weaknesses. She met Oliver's eyes when Victor announced his findings, and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the situation would devolve quickly.

Her instincts were proven true as soon as Oliver decided to say something. His voice was haughty. Mercy had heard that particular tone of voice when Lex was at his most difficult, "As much as this has been something of a pleasure, we'll take it from here. My jet can get us where we need to go. Frankly, you'll be nothing but a hindrance."

Mercy chuckled to herself. She had planned for this eventuality. It was why she had her men with her whenever she met with this band of freaks. Before they could react and in the span of seconds, Mercy's right hand man detonated a bomb. During their disorientation, Mercy shot Bart. When the dust cleared, everyone was disabled except herself and her two men.

She walked the room and made sure the door was locked. Mercy endeavored to present a calm and even aura and it showed in her voice, "Let me explain to you what just happened and why you actually aren't the best people to do this at all, never mind attempting it alone and without my help."

Without preamble, Mercy continued, "First, they are expecting us. They know what you can do. It is inconceivable that people with plots within plots and motivations that hold long reaching consequences wouldn't know. I know and I've really just been a spectator in this particular sport," she walked passed Oliver, who looked at her with hatred, "Second, Oliver, what is it you think you can do with a bow and arrow? You aren't fast enough to beat a gun as you can most certainly see."

Her man with his gun in Oliver's face offered a bland smile, and she continued, "That bomb? It generated a concentrated electromagnetic pulse that decimates all electronic things in its radius. Victor can't talk or move or function right now because that pulse took out some of his systems. He had no protection," Mercy walked passed Oliver and kicked Victor lightly, "FYI, I'd invest in that. Luckily none of our equipment was damaged."

Bart lunged at her, but she easily deflected him and he crashed to the floor. Mercy placed her booted foot on his chest and applied a little pressure, "You'll notice, Bart, that you are no longer fast. I shot you with a dart full of a paralytic agent, courtesy of LuthorCorp pharmaceuticals. It's a proprietary cocktail, but suffice it to say that we're hoping it goes on the market soon. It's a more humane way to sedate animals. Don't worry, it will wear off."

Mercy looked down at A.C. where he was on the floor, weakened, and flipped him over onto his back, "After I shot Bart, I shot you with the same paralytic agent. You can't move because you don't have Bart's abilities. You actually require nothing special to debilitate you, although I'm told that extreme heat gives you problems and the lack of water. You can see how that can be used against you, right?"

Finally she stood before Clark, who was on his hands and knees. She went to her knees until she was eye to eye with him and pulled out the dart that was embedded in his bicep, "Herman not only detonated that EMP bomb, but he also shot you. This dart contains a dose of ground up meteor rock... and some other things. Also a proprietary cocktail, but it will only see the light of day the moment you become a threat. Here's hoping it doesn't hit the market soon," she offered him a slight smile that held no malice, "Lionel somehow got a blood sample from you and hid it. From that blood sample, the lethal amount of meteor rock was determined. This dart won't kill you, but maybe the next one will. If I know this, then maybe someone else does. Someone who won't be as kind to you as I'm being now. Never take that for granted, Clark. Your life will be agonizingly short if you do."

Mercy stood and walked out of the room, but not without parting words, "I trust you have learned the lesson."

Olive sighed and looked around the room. He would need to revise a number of behaviors because the lesson had most definitely been learned. Looking into the eyes of Victor, he knew it was learned by at least one other person.


Mercy waited until she saw Oliver and company execute their plan. Like the last time, she would wait outside and coordinate. If she was honest with herself, she would acknowledge the fact that she didn't think she'd succeed. Even if she did, it didn't matter. There was no bringing Lex back. There was no redeeming herself for that failure or giving Lana back her future. This was life now and it hurt.


The system alerted her to their presence. It was time to begin the end. Serena depressed the button that would tell the computer system to unlock its doors to Chloe and the other unfortunates. Serena turned on her monitors and saw the carnage as it began. Her heart raced and the bloodlust coursed through her veins, but those feelings were soon joined by regret and guilt. She forced herself to watch. The screams could also be heard. The smell of blood and fear and excitement were as ghost sensations. It was so close, but she would wait until Chloe found her. Serena shook her head. She didn't think she had long to wait.

Chloe burst through her doors. She was more human than beast. It was always amazing when her instincts were proven true. Serena saw the moment that Chloe lost control and finished her shift. Chloe was beautiful and it always awed her every time she saw Chloe in full form. Serena had completed her shift as soon Chloe began hers.

Serena charged Chloe and knocked her into the wall next to the door. She had the advantage of size and leverage. Chloe shuddered at the impact and scrabbled at the ground to find purchase. She twisted her body so that they both landed heavily on their side. There was a moment of disorientation from them both, but Chloe recovered faster.

The side of her that could assess the situation recognized something wrong in the situation. Her opponent wasn't fighting hard. She was simply fighting. The fleeting indecision made Chloe throw herself away from the other wolf. Serena knew the moment that reason tried to assert itself in Chloe. She knew the minute that Chloe wanted no part of the fight. Despite everything she was still the core of who she was.

Serena tackled Chloe again and this time she used her fangs to rip into her. It spurred Chloe into action. Serena felt Chloe twist her body again and latch onto her neck. Chloe instinctively bit down hard and felt blood gush into her mouth. She released the hard grip she had on her opponent and was bucked off. Serena felt her muscles slide and the burn of becoming human again.

Chloe scrambled back and away from what she had done. She didn't consciously choose to shift, but it happened. Chloe didn't want this. She didn't want this. She couldn't deal with this. It hurt.

Serena was on her back. She felt herself fading, but it didn't feel right. Serena didn't think death felt like this, it wasn't like she'd felt death before. Maybe this was it. Still, there was no shaking the feeling that death wasn't supposed to be like this. Her body was being cradled. Serena turned her head a little and buried her nose into Chloe. Under the blood, the terror, and the pain, she smelled like home. This is what she'd been missing.

She gripped Chloe's neck and forced her ear to her mouth. Blood gurgled from the back of her throat, "Don't…trust…" Serena stopped talking.

Chloe leaned forward to hear more, but it was too late. There was more to the story and she didn't know it. Chloe would never know why she was chosen or why Lex had to die or a million other things. It was lost to her.

The enormity of the situation overwhelmed her and Chloe eased Serena off her lap. There was nothing left for her to do. Chloe let the wolf push through and take over. She couldn't take the burden. The wolf would strip all of it until it was nothing. It was what she needed.


Clark led the others out of the compound. They hadn't found Chloe. Instead, they found death and destruction. All of his time was dedicated to helping survivors and getting them to safety. He knew it was true of the others as well.

In the distance, he saw Mercy's van. She, too, was busy with survivors, both the violent ones and the passive ones. With his enhanced sight, he saw that there were bodies around her. There was no escaping the fact that they were dead. Clark saw her gun hanging limply at her side. Her head was down in defeat. She looked up and met his stare.

His gaze returned to the ruins of the facility. Like the last time, bombs had detonated and the place was little more than charred remains. Most of the people assembled around, of which there were few, would have ear problems.

It was Oliver that spotted the streaking form first and Oliver who pointed it out to the others. Bart was prepared to run after her, but was stopped by the strong grip of Clark.

Bart looked indignant, "What are you doing, man? I can catch it!"

Clark became irrationally angry when he registered the fact that Bart had referred to Chloe as "it" and it showed in his voice; even Oliver took a step back, "Not in this weather and not through the forest. It's dark and there are fallen logs everywhere. You'll hurt yourself. And even if you do catch her, what exactly do you think you can do? She'd eat you alive."

Oliver realized that the situation was rapidly spinning out of control. Chloe wasn't out of reach yet, but there was no doubt that she would be soon. If they didn't catch her now, there was no catching her. A.C. was too impulsive, Victor didn't have a personal stake in the matter and would go with the flow, and Bart was just an immature wreck. It fell on his shoulders to be the voice of reason. To say what everyone was thinking.

"Clark," Oliver waited until he had Clark's attention before he continued, "She can't stay loose. You know what she's done. She's a danger. At this point she's little more than a wild animal."

Clark pushed Bart away with a little more force than was required and spoke to Oliver, "You're right. And as a wild animal, she won't hurt anyone who isn't threatening her. I'm not going after her. You do it on your own."

With that Clark super sped away from them. Washington was a long way from Kansas. He had no doubt that they would give up. Victor and A.C. were in no position to catch her. Oliver's arrows were ineffectual in the driving rain, and Bart was nowhere near skilled enough to use speed and agility to over take her. Chloe would be fine. She always was.

Clark met Mercy's eyes once again. Her body language told him that she had seen Chloe as well. He shook his head. She nodded to him in return and got into the van. It was over for her just like it was for him.


Chloe ran outside and looked around for the one thing…the one person that could make it better. But he wasn't there. He would never be there. Off in the distance and through the bruising rain, Chloe could make out figures. The rain made scenting them hard and visibility was poor, but she could tell that Clark was there. It looked like A.C. and Oliver were there as well and a few others, but it didn't matter. They were no more than mirages to her. Unreal.

As the rain pelted her, Chloe felt the blood run down her body in viscous rivulets. She felt the chunks of skin and organs and the hard pieces of bone. Her back was still slightly bowed, her knees turned inward, and her fangs large enough to deform her face. Chloe didn't know where the rain ended and her tears began; or when her tears mixed with the blood that wasn't her own.

She looked down at her still clawed hands and screamed. It was swallowed up and muted. Her humanity lost. She couldn't live this way. She didn't want to even try. It wasn't a matter of being too hard; or that she lost everything. Chloe still had her father. Her cousin. There was still a life waiting for her. There just wasn't any point. Not anymore.

Chloe stretched her arms out wide and embraced the rain. She felt the alien mind of the wolf overcome her and she welcomed it. Already the loss of Lex was fading. Wolves may mate for life; but death and weakness were not tolerated and mates moved on to promote survival. She heard the distant sound of Clark's voice calling her name, Chloe turned from him. He didn't matter. Not anymore and probably never again.

The change rippled through her and it felt different. She may have voluntarily changed before and she may have enjoyed it; but she had never let the wolf fully in the driver's seat. There had always been a barrier that prevented a full and complete takeover. There had even been a brief period where the wolf and the human were perfectly blended; but not this time. This time the animalistic drives were allowed free reign. As a consequence, the change felt as though she were high. The rush was total and complete and she wanted more.

She ran as the human. Faster and more agile than she recalled. Chloe didn't know the exact moment that she gave up her two legs for four, but it didn't matter. There was only the wolf and she enjoyed the punishing pace. The sheer exhilaration of running as she had never been allowed to do before was a revelation that was spiritual in nature. Nothing would ever be this good. This easy and uncomplicated. The wolf only felt the cleansing rain and the pure smell of the earth. It surrounded her and welcomed her like a long lost child.

Chloe took one final opportunity to glance back to Clark. This was where she had to make the choice. The choice was easy and she let go just as she saw Clark speed away from her.

There was only survival and nothing else mattered.


Epilogue

The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it; but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.
Wendell Berry

Samuel watched her as she puttered around their home. He'd bought a house for them. Marissa was busy nesting and otherwise making it theirs. He found it amazing that she had such a territorial streak every time she displayed it. She was cleaning and organizing and otherwise keeping herself busy. Marissa liked to stay busy and he respected that. He couldn't help the soft smile that stole across his features. There was nothing else in this world that could move him like she did.

When he had returned to her, he feared the worst. She wouldn't tell him what was wrong and she had been antsy on the phone. It had unnerved him like few things ever had. He couldn't think or eat or do anything other than worry for her on the entire airplane trip.

She hadn't met him at the airport and she didn't answer her phone. He could think about the scenarios that awaited him on the drive to the apartment. If she was sick or it was some kind of trick or so many other things. When he had finally gotten home and the reason for her anxiety, and thus his anxiety, was revealed to be something that he would not have been able to imagine.

He felt a deep sense of joy and satisfaction and contentment that had nothing to do with his job or anything else. This was all he ever wanted out of his life. Only she could make him feel this way. She had his heart and everything he ever was. Samuel had the sinking feeling that she was getting the raw end of the deal.

Walking to her, he stopped her mad fluttering around their home.

His voice was gentle and held amusement, "Your parents will love me," his hand traveled to her belly, "And they'll love our family. Besides, it's not like the kid won't have my name. So relax, my favorite wife. "

Marissa turned in his arms and looped her arms around his neck. Her smile never failed to make him smile in return, "I'm your only wife."

This moment was perfect and he could never regret retiring. Anything for her.


She pounded her anger and hatred and despair into the ground. It was all she could do. The wolf left the place of blood and death. There was nothing left for her. And as she ran the essence of Chloe pounded itself into the ground as well. It was a grand suicide and the wolf encouraged it. She let the human become ephemeral. An evanescence that left no mark of its presence.

The wolf didn't contemplate the significance of the nature of her other self's sacrifice. She didn't understand the inevitable consequences, but neither did Chloe. The wolf consumed all that was offered and then forgot there was ever anything else. It was the nature of wild things. And she was a wild thing.

There were no memories here. Nothing to hold her back and make her feel the things that scared her and threatened to undo her completely. She would lose herself and the wolf would find something new. Or nothing at all. It didn't matter because her civilized self didn't have to deal with it and wild things never dealt with anything.

Some part of the wolf remembered what it was to be strong and to face the bad things, those thoughts skittered away under the onslaught of sensation. This is what she was meant to do. To run. To play. To feel the pulse of life itself with no care. The wolf would find new things. She would never remember Lex, or that she had a father who loved her, or that there were people who would mourn her. It wasn't needful for her to remember those things. It had no bearing on her survival.

Some would say that such things were heresy, but the wolf didn't understand or have knowledge of such a concept. The wild had its own rules with its own exclusive membership. She was a member and knew its rules. The wolf leaped over a log and landed. She ran towards something unfathomable and timeless, but its song was woven indelibly in her heart.

That place meant that the part of her that was Chloe could forever sleep so she ran herself to exhaustion. There was nothing to call her back and everything calling her forward. This was a true thing and the only one that had ever existed for one such as her; but even through this, she felt a tug that said there was a part of this that was a lie. But the wolf shook it off. The sum of her knowledge was the wind running as a lover's caress through her fur, the sounds of the woods, the pounding of her heart, and the shifting of her muscles. It was wild and it was all that she was.

The End