Post-Shift Stress and You’re Not At Your Best

Mercy is one awkward, itchy mess of a queer werewolf. But… it’s working for her. Somehow.

Notes: This is set four months after Girl, Get Wrecked and is goopy fluff written for @zrhueiao on twitter! Thank you for your patience – as I was sick as heck and pretty much incapable of focusing for the past uh… like 10 days at least. (It was also called “Howl If You’re Happy” but uh… I’m repurposing that tile for something extra queer.)

This floof inspired about three different potential (and similarly queer) spin-offs that don’t all involve queer werewolves but do introduce you all to a new member of the Selkie Squad. (And one is a short and supremely NSFW story directly inspired by this that will be up this weekend on Dreamwidth.)


Most of the time, Mercy likes being the only werewolf on St. Thomas. There aren’t any petty pack politics or the kind of hierarchy that she’d left the States to escape – considering that she was firmly on the bottom back home. Outside of the selkie squad and the were-tiger that she’d scented on a day trip to Puerto Rico, there aren’t that many shifters on the island that Mercy has come to call home.

In essence, she’s the alpha of the island.

Wild.

But being the alpha, a lone wolf on an island where everyone is a part of one close-knit community or another –

Isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Especially after the full moon.


Mercy is itchy.

She always is after a shift once her fur is gone and she’s back to brown skin and the appropriate amount of hair for being two-legged. It doesn’t matter how long she’s been shifted – twelve minutes or twelve hours – she always winds up itching badly enough that she feels like she’s ready to rip her own skin off.

Instead, she settles for sitting underneath the lukewarm spray of the shower in her rental apartment, eyes squeezed shut as she tries to breathe past the prickles of sensation spiking up and down her skin.

When Mercy was younger, it wasn’t that bad. Or at least, she was younger now and comforted by the pack bond from her family and the local pack there in Dallas, that she hadn’t had time to think about the itching.

Now that she’s on her own on an island that hadn’t heard a werewolf howl in years – decades, according to Tabitha’s great-aunt Joyce – she has too much time to think about the itching. Too much time to think about how much easier it’d been when she’d been with her pack. Too much time to think about how she can’t start scratching because then when Tabitha gets to her apartment, she’ll have to wait for her to stop, and –

The faint sound of a key turning in the front door makes Mercy jolt a little under the shower spray, mind turning away from thoughts of how badly she wants to scratch until she feels satisfied.

Shit.

“Shit,” Mercy hisses, scrambling to her feet in the shower and then sticking her head out from behind the curtain so that she can catch a glimpse of the clock hanging above the mirror in the tiny room.

She’d lost track of time.

Which is –

Normal for the day after a shift.

Normal, but not so great considering that they’re supposed to be spending the day together. Not only is Mercy still fucking around in the shower with her locs soaked through to her scalp, but she hasn’t even started cleaning herself of the actual grit and grime that comes from racing through the dense St. Thomas brush in the middle of a thunderstorm in an attempt to keep from ending up on Tabitha’s front porch. Again.

Mercy can hear Tabitha moving around the living room, dropping her keys on the counter and then heading right to the fridge. One of the perks of being a shifter, Mercy thinks to herself as she reaches for her soap and her favorite post-shift washcloth – the cloth so soft that it doesn’t feel like it’s scraping over Mercy’s nerves. She can hear almost anything within a certain distance including when Tabitha bangs her shin into the coffee table and curses underneath her breath.

If Mercy laughs at the hushed mutterings and complaining coming from the front of the small apartment when she hears Tabitha hit her leg a second time, Tabitha will never know.  Probably.

By the time that Mercy makes it out of the bathroom with her hair hanging damp against the back of her neck and soaking the back of her white undershirt, it’s almost a half-hour later. The rest of the apartment doesn’t smell like the subtle oatmeal-infused soap that Mercy uses after her shifts or like the pounds of island greenery that Mercy thinks she’d brought home with her the night before, it smells like breakfast –

“You cooked for me,” Mercy says, feeling warm all the way through as she watches Tabitha make herself at home in the mainly microscopic kitchen that takes up the right side of her apartment’s front room. “You didn’t have to –”

Tabitha snorts out a laugh that sends a shiver along Mercy’s spine and then slides a golden omelet onto a serving platter that Mercy has been using as a plate since the last full moon when she’d wrecked every single piece of cheap flatware that she’d picked up at K-mart. Pancakes – thin with a ring of batter like crispy lace around the edges – and several slices of sausage follow.

Mercy’s mouth waters, and she’s only like twenty-five percent sure that she’s drooling over the breakfast and not the sight of Tabitha moving around her kitchen like it’s her own.

Then Tabitha smiles widely enough that her big eyes crinkle up and nearly vanish and uh… Mercy’s percentage leaps up to a solid and squishy sixty. Goddess –

She just wants to kiss that woman.

“I want to,” Tabitha insists, that same sweet smile solid on her face. “You told me how hungry you always get after Scheduled Shift Day” – and somehow, Tabitha manages to get the capital letters across nice and clear – “And it’s the least I can do since I’m free today and we were already planning to hang out.”

Tabitha rests the platter down on the island that does double duty as a kitchen table in Mercy’s small apartment and then nudges it forward slowly, as if trying not to startle Mercy with the offering of food. Her smile wobbles, a little soft around the edges.

“And I like taking care of you, Mercy,” Tabitha says, speaking mostly at the omelet in between them as she fiddles with the thickly curled hair that dares to break free from her messy bun. “You only shift every few weeks and I know it’s hard on you being alone here without your pack. I like being able to help you.”

Mercy’s cheeks burn with a blush that leaves her feeling wiggly inside.

It’s been four months since that night at Chunky’s – four months since she fingerbanged Tabitha in the back of that strange little club and had the witch reciprocate fully before they’d even managed to get into the bedroom of Mercy’s apartment. It’s been four months of falling for Tabitha with every late night they spend wandering around Magen’s Bay, with every early-morning donut delivery, with every single kiss they steal when Mercy is supposed to be working on getting the island’s infrastructure back on track.

Four months, and Mercy still isn’t used to the thrill that makes her stomach flip flop when she and Tabitha lock eyes and Tabitha says something so sweet that it feels like an instant cavity generator.

Speaking down at her plate, Mercy finds herself saying, “Sometimes I feel like I’m going to wake up and the past few months have all been a dream.”

Because Tabitha is so good. Everyone on the island – even the mundanes that don’t know her as anything other than another obeah woman – seems to know and like her. She always has a smile and a helpful spell for the people around her and when she turns her sweet presence on Mercy, it feels like Mercy is being blessed by the moon herself.

Sometimes, Mercy wakes up in the middle of the night, surrounded by the scent of Tabitha’s skin and just has to hug her girlfriend closer despite the muggy heat from outside because she can’t believe that she gets to have this. That she gets to have Tabitha in her bed, in her arms, and in her heart

Tabitha snorts, the inelegant sound jolting Mercy from her thoughts.

When Mercy looks up, there’s a fond smile on Tabitha’s face and her nose is scrunched up.

“Do you know how many times I’ve asked Samira to pinch me because I still can’t believe that I have a hot werewolf girlfriend with dimples who escorts spiders out of my house and who lets me play with her hands when we’re watching scary movies.” The smile on her face shifts, sharpening.

“I keep thinking that I’ll wake up and the girlfriend that likes to eat me out until I cry will have just been the product of a really long, really deep smoking session with the selkie squad.”

Heat starts to simmer in the pit of Mercy’s belly at the way Tabitha’s voice drops down into a lower, richer almost-purr. She knows that voice, knows what it means when Tabitha’s accent gets thicker and she can’t bring herself to look away from Mercy’s lips.

“Well, I’m here,” Mercy manages after a moment that stretches long and taut between them, heavy with the mutual desire that almost arcs like lightning in the small room. “And I’m not going anywhere. Not when I have a sweet girlfriend like you and free run of the island on top of that.”

Even though Tabitha beams in response, Mercy winces, internally, at how she’s placed Tabitha and running around on St. Thomas like an alpha that owns the island in the same level of importance. Sure, she likes having the freedom to make a mess of things without it immediately being passed along to two dozen other wolves via their pack bond, but –

She’d give it all up for Tabitha.

She’d put up with being the runt of her pack again for Tabitha.

The thought… scares her.

Or rather, it should scare her.

Instead, the knowledge makes Mercy feel all warm down to her toes and she finds herself staring down at her food with a blush burning in her cheeks. She likes Tabitha. A lot. She wants to wake up to the scent of argan oil in Tabitha’s hair through her satin cap, the warmth of her sturdy, smaller body tucked up close against her chest. She wants to sit across from Tabitha every morning at the counter and eat breakfast together and then come back home to the witch’s warmth in their shared bed.

When she’s not struck with nightmares of a world where she never met Tabitha thanks to the Selkie Squad’s nosiness, that’s what she dreams of: the bond that they’re building on this island and how much stronger it can grow if they just let it.

And Mercy wants to let it.

Mercy hears herself sigh, an annoyingly heartsick sound that pushes free from her parted lips without warning or her consent. It’s just her luck, that it comes out when Tabitha is right up close, setting down her own plate so that they can sit side-by-side at the counter.

“A-are you okay?” Tabitha asks, her voice small and unsure in the silence that follows. “It’s not – Is breakfast okay?”

Breakfast –

The breakfast that Mercy actually hasn’t started eating yet. That’s how deeply she finds herself, lost in her thoughts. Normally, she’s starving after her scheduled shift. Normally, no matter how many skinny street chickens she snatches from the alleyways of the island or out of her neighbors’ yards on her way back home, Mercy greets the morning with a growling stomach and a pang of hunger that takes a while to stop.

And Tabitha knows that – thanks to the first time they’d had a breakfast date at the I-Hop at the mall and Mercy’d eaten her weight in breakfast food as the diner’s staff watched on with increasing dismay.

There’s a shift in Tabitha’s scent and in her posture. It’s faint enough that anyone else would miss it – someone that wasn’t intensely intimate with the other woman and a werewolf on top of that – and Mercy feels her own shoulders slump.

“I’m sorry,” Mercy says, managing a smile that feels fragile on her face. “It’s just –” Mercy pauses, frowning a bit to herself as she tries to put the words together without sounding like a mooning werewolf (which she is), “I just like you so much.”

Tabitha blinks rapidly. “Wh-what?”

Mercy licks her lips. It feels childish, like she’s a pup again and confessing a crush to a girl that’s higher up in the pack hierarchy and likely to let her down as gently as possible –

You know… instead of talking to the witch she’s been half in love with from the moment that she’d watched her come apart in her arms.

If she’d been shifted, her tail would be a mess and so would her posture. Because it’s scary to open up to someone she likes as much as she likes Tabitha and to just… admit that she’s sitting here with a grumbling stomach and sweat beading at the nape of her neck because she’s just… overwhelmed with how much she likes – loves – Tabitha.

“Did you know werewolves tend to mate for life, Tabitha,” Mercy hears herself saying because apparently, her brain and mouth aren’t talking to each other right now and her mouth just wants to make a mess of things. “Like Twilight, honestly, but hopefully less creepy.”

Except, Mercy knows that it’s a lot. That it’s (at least) a little bit creepy to even imply that she’s even possibly “imprinted” on Tabitha.

She stares down at the platter in front of her, methodically cutting the food up into bite-sized pieces before eating the breakfast that she should’ve devoured minutes before. She forces herself to eat a bite of perfectly cooked omelet or crisp pancake for every moment that Tabitha doesn’t say something – anything – in response to her words.

Mercy makes it halfway through her plate before she realizes that the silence hasn’t broken, that Tabitha still hasn’t said anything.

“Tabitha –”

When Mercy looks up from her plate, she’s expecting to see a frown on Tabitha’s face or some other negative expression. Instead, the other woman is just… staring at Mercy as if she’s never even seen the other woman before.

“Tabitha?” The worry in Mercy’s voice lifts up the final syllable in Tabitha’s name, turning it into a hesitant question. “Are – are you okay?”

Tabitha draws in a big breath through her nose, a snotty sniffle that would be disgusting coming from literally anyone else, and then wipes her hands on the front of her Coral World t-shirt as if she needs to find something to do with her hands.

“I can’t believe that it’s taken you this long to tell me that you like me ‘so much’,” Tabitha says on an exhale that’s almost huffy despite the decidedly damp gloss to her big eyes. “Months. The Selkie Squad is going to be so obnoxious about this. I figured out that I wanted you to move in with me and that we should raise cute little werewolf babies together about three seconds after you brought me breakfast at work the first time.”

Mercy blinks, nonplussed. “But, I –”

Tabitha laughs, covering her mouth as if to hide the joy that vibrates through her very being. “I work at a grocery store, Mercy. Honestly, no one I’ve ever dated thought they should bring me breakfast since I was ‘surrounded by food’. You’re the first and, therefore, the best.” Tabitha snorts through her laughter and then draws her hand away from her mouth. “If you’ve imprinted, so have I.”


Being a lone-wolf on St. Thomas can be tough, but –

Tabitha makes it worth it for Mercy.

About Zeenah

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
This entry was posted in Short Fiction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Post-Shift Stress and You’re Not At Your Best

  1. nutheadgee says:

    Mercu is me when I see attractive women.

    Like

  2. authorstephahn says:

    I LOVE THESE TWO DINGLEBERRIES IN LOVE

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s