Ritz pulled up to the side of her little house, setting the truck in park and grabbing her backpack before getting out. Before going to the door, she looked out to the field. For years she’s known this place, where she was born, raised, her first skinned knee, her first steps. And when her father died and her mother wanted to sell it, it became Ritz’ first house. People were always scared for her, bears, wildcats, wolves, and after Oscar, Familiars. She looked for a while, and then finally turned to the house.

    “This is ridiculous.” She took the key out of her pocket and into the lock, she opened the door.

    There was a loud crash as the figure jumped from the couch and disappeared behind the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room. Ritz froze, the figure was too big to be the wolf cub and too small to be her mother on her frequent visits. She took a breath and stepped inside slowly, “Who’s there? Midnight?” The crash had come from a picture that had fell to the hardwood floor, a photo of Oscar and Ritz that now was only half protected by cracked glass. She continued through the kitchen, the little dog bed empty. She believed how, Midnight was a familiar, he had to be. She clung to the separator, her legs shaking and her head down. She was fighting with herself to look. Then she heard the soft, puppy-like whine.

    Midnight lay curled up into a ball, whimpering, his large auburn eyes looking to her with fear. Ritz came around the corner cautiously, “Hey, little guy, you okay?” She spotted his makeshift splint lying near the couch, ripped and broken.

    His head lifted, his snout still down and eyes still to her. Ritz sighed and walked over after a long moment, “I’m going insane.” She kneeled to pet him, his ears flattened under her gentle hand, “I’m home, be more careful around the house, okay? When you heal, you can go back to where you came from.” She smiled warmly and stood and started back to the kitchen, her mind still spinning, though she wanted to convince herself she was over thinking things. She put her bag down and turned to the fridge.

    “I don’t want to go back.” Came the childish, soft voice.

    Ritz froze, a jolt of shock shooting up her spine. Familiars were dangerous, cursed, vile things that only wanted to hunt and kill. They were demons disguised as animals to play secret tricks. They were…

    I love you, Ritz

    …They were pets, friends, beings that didn’t deserve the fate humans wrote for them… Ritz took a deep breath and turned slowly. Midnight was a small, thin boy with black wolf ears and tail, long dark hair to match. His eyes still held that auburn glow and his skin pale. He sat weakly on the kitchen floor, his naked body bruised, underfed, the scabbed-over wound bulging on one leg. Ritz’ heart sunk and she stood there not knowing what to say. Midnight’s face tensed, knowing he’d just done something horribly wrong.

    “I don’t want to go back.” He repeated softly, “Please…”

    “W-what are you running from?” She asked, taking a step forward and kneeling down on one knee, one hand still on the counter.

    His ears fell and he looked down, “They kept us in little cages, and only took us out to hurt us. I don’t want to go back, please don’t make me.”

    She blinked to him as tears started to run down his cheeks. She watched him for a little bit, slightly awed on how human familiars were. Then she stood, “Wait right here, okay? I’ll be right back.” She walked around him and up the stairs to her room, going into her dresser and taking out a T-shirt and night pants with an adjustable waistband. She walked back out and put them in the bathroom, starting the bathwater then walking back out to the kitchen, “What’s your name?”

    He looked up at her with wide eyes, “I thought it was Midnight.”

    She smiles softly, “Yeah. Can you walk, Midnight?”

    He clung onto the counter and pulled himself up steadying himself while still favoring the injured leg, she watched him limp but when she asked if he needed help he shook his head. She led him to the bathroom to help him wash, then get him dressed.

    Later in the living room she wrapped the wound on his leg, “You’re going to have to stay this way for a while. If you go to the animal form it may fall off.”

    He nodded his head, his hair combed and cut shorter to hug his face. The cloths were very loose, just about falling off of him, “Thank you.”

    She finished the wrap and sat next to him, smiling warmly though the boys ears still stay down. She nodded, “You can stay here, okay? Not many people come here and I promise you’ll be safe. I’ll get you some cloths tomorrow; I’ll have a day off. I’m Ritz, by the way.”

    “…Aren’t you going to ask?” Midnight looked to her with those huge, curious auburn eyes. His ears and tail relaxing slowly.

    Ritz cocked her head, “Ask about what?”

    “The wound, who I’m running from, why…”

    She nodded softly, “No, not yet. I know you’re scared and that someone who hurts you wants you back. And I can tell from the wound that a bullet skimmed your leg. From all that, I figure that when you feel safe and comfortable, you’ll tell me.”

    Midnight’s ears fell again and he nodded, “…thank you, Ritz… For everything.”


    “Let go!!” Aya slipped out of the human’s arms and elbowed him in the groin. The man howled and keeled over. She spun around and stole his rifle, aiming for his head.

    “Fire and you die!” Came another voice.

    She looked around without moving anything but her eyes, human men and women in the same military attire as the man groveling before her now surrounded the feline with bigger guns then the little rifle now aimed to her. Her eyes narrowed, “I want to speak with Nathan!”

    “You can’t, he’s watching the car. If you’re calm you’ll be safely joining your birdie boyfriend.” Came the same man. Maybe their leader or something, the only one without a gun, “Put the gun down and we won’t hurt you.”

    She looked back to the man on his knees in front of her and cocked the gun, showing no fear, no weakness, “I’m not ******** around! Let me speak to- “

    There was a faint sound, and a dart shot into her back. She gasped and dropped the gun, her back arching forward. Before she fell, she saw the large grey wolf make his way to the front of the men, more then half their size on all fours with one ear missing and scars across his face. His yellow eyes meeting her’s. Aya gasped, “Bear… God damn you, Bear…” and fell to her side, her breath becoming even as she drifted into a sleep.

    Three men, one being the man she’d temporarily disabled, lifted her from the ashy ground. The man that had spoken to her made his way to the wolf Aya called Bear. Bear’s good ear perked and looked up with a prideful stance, “You promise they won’t be harmed.”

    “You have my word, and they’ll come back safe.” The man said with respect for the old creature.

    “And the cub, it comes back with them.”

    “I don’t know if I can do that.” The man sighed, “The lab it was held at does strange experiments with the familiars they hold, these things are capable of stuff you’d never imagine…”

    “Like flying? Like knowing a human’s motives before they even speak? Like learning the human language within a week by reading old books she was given then teaching it to her two night guard friends? Let me tell you something about those three kids you just took from me. Aya came here first, abandoned after her owner found her as a familiar. She came from the desk of a collage professor and has never held a gun or thrown a punch before today, and she learned to fight merely by observing it on the television holding the few channels you let us see.

    Volo came from a Zoo with little money and a lot of vicious animals. He escaped on his own and his nose brought him to the one place he knew he’d be safe, though he was only a young cub and had never been outside the ‘habitat’ they kept him in. He remembers nothing of his childhood but still carries that hate for humans and the ‘every animal for its self’ mentality. He also has a knack for picking up on people’s motives.

    Naoko was raised by an old couple that knew very well what he was. He was isolated and never knew what familiars were, only that he was different from his ‘parents’. He got out one day and the neighbors spotted him, the town out of fear stole him away from his parents and tried to kill him, but he was instead brought here.”

    Bear took a breath, “He learned quickly, listens well, and believes everyone has good in them. His specialty is aura reading, a bird that has sensitivity to every movement, emotion, or wind change in an area. Natural in any bird though amazing when seen in one that hold human characteristics.”

    The man looked to the wolf expectantly, “So all three have a tragic past. I really don’t…”

    “All three are strong, in different ways. They together create the strongest creature I can imagine. That cub, where ever it may come from or what ever it has in it, is no threat. And no animal that has been through something like that deserves to go back after successfully escaping. I’d like to meet it, and keep it here with us.”

    The man smirked, “Those three kids got captured by the military. Obviously they are the best you’ve got but not the best out there. You know nothing of power or strength.” He turned and walked, “We protect you, and we’ll protect them. I promise you their safety. But I can’t promise anything for the young familiar.”