I struggle with endings. The beginnings of things are easier to write than endings. One of the things I struggled with for this novella specifically was the note I wanted to end it on. Originally, this was to be published as a solo novella, not included in a bigger collection. So a lot changed during the editing process.
Once upon a time, Tony didn’t hate Regina. Up until literally the week before I scheduled the pre-order for Pulling Teeth, he was not bitter about Atlas bringing Regina home, he was not terrified of what would happen if Thane got his claws into her. And he decided—I thought—that he would want to be supportive and help her adjust to her new life.
I wasn’t mad at this ending, but when I put the final product together I found it was a little slow and had repetitive conversations between the characters. Two of the things I’m working on with my new editor are pacing and repetition.
Moonshine is the sequel to Dead Girl Moon. If you haven’t read either of these, here’s some context:
The setting is a werewolf pack’s compound that doubles as a bar and distillery…and other things too but for info on that, check out my post about HADES.
Tony hates his father. He has emotional trauma he hasn’t worked though. Regina has similar emotional trauma and Tony finds it hard to justify her coping mechanism because they involve the person (his father) who caused his trauma.
I hope that wasn’t too much of a spoiler.
Note: Since this is a deleted scene it has not gone through the entire editing process. There are typos, there are POV shifts, there are clunky sentences. Don’t judge me.
The distillery’s sub-level served as the pack’s medical bay and a series of small, empty concrete rooms Thane called Containment. They were for the newly contaminated, wolves who didn’t know how to be wolves. For wolves who were afraid of what would happen when they turned.
Thane tried to leave her there but when he turned away she latched onto his hand. He tried pulling back, he tried twisting away but she would not let go. He opened his mouth to reprimand her but when he saw her eyes blurry with tears, her lips stretched in that feral, panicked grimace, something inside him squeezed and then softened.
She made Thane promise not to lock her in.
Leaving the door open was easy enough. He knew she already imprinted on Atlas and possibly Vlad as well, Thane trusted her not to run off again. He even gave her one of the field issue sleeping bags so she wouldn’t get cold. And Tony said he didn’t know how to parent.
For a while, Regina sat quietly on the concrete floor, wrapped in slick polyester and survival fluff, unable to sleep. She hoped someone would come visit her. Atlas wanted to move her into his house right away but Thane insisted she stay isolated for at least 12 hours, just in case exposure to the Void made her sick again. Thane was confident, since she spent almost four days on the road, any adverse affects from Doctor Gregor’s treatments would have presented themselves by now.
But Regina was surprised to see Tony rapping his bruised knuckles against the open steel door.
“Well don’t throw a parade or anything.” The bruises on his face had mostly faded but there was still a deep, scabby gash across the bridge of his nose from where Atlas hit him. “Are you cold? Do you want a blanket? More food? It’s getting late, are you tired at all?” Tony asked.
“So you do bleed. Real blood,” she turned away from him and burrowed into the folds of the sleeping bag. If he tried to touch her or pick her up she would bite him.
But to her surprise he laughed, “Yeah, I bleed.” The smile he gave her was all teeth and disappointment as he regarded the tiny lump half hiding under the sleeping bag. Her hair straggled out from the opening like a distress flag. “You’ve got Atlas wrapped around your little finger. Thane too, God only knows how.”
“What’s that mean?” slowly, slowly, she turned and peeked out at him. Her golden eyes red-rimmed and suspicious.
“You’ll see, trust me. Since you’re living here now you’re going to have to listen to us and do exactly what we say, when we say it. It’s dangerous out there in the world. And there’s still standing orders to kill us and everyone else here who came from HADES. If they find us we’re all dead and I’ll bet my life if your mother’s people knew you were alive they wouldn’t stop looking until they found you. We need to make sure they don’t. Got it?”
“I don’t know why they’d want me,” Regina allowed herself the smallest nugget of sadness, any more and she’d start crying again and she wouldn’t be able to stop. “But I don’t want them.”
“Well, Atlas wants you. Fucker thinks he can teach you math! You’re going to be homeschooled and everything. That’ll be fun to watch.”
Regina’s nose wrinkled in disgust, “Mother didn’t make me do math.”
“Well you’re not with your mother anymore,” Tony said, then he caught himself, “Damn, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.” He raked a hand through his hair.
“Mother let Michael do everything he wanted,” Regina whispered, not entirely ready to trust him. But there was something in his voice that wasn’t there before, there underneath the pain and resignation. She didn’t know what it was but she wanted to find out, so she kept talking. “He got to learn how to fight because he was strong. Mother said I had to stay inside my tiny room and listen to God because I was weak. But I could never hear him. Or he never talked to me. I don’t know. I wanted to be like my brother but she wouldn’t let me.”
“Your brother was away when your parents died?” Tony’s mask was back in place with a fresh coat of lacquer smoothing over the cracks. “Do you think he’s looking for you?”
By the time Regina was born, Michael was already well into his training. He always picked on her whenever Mother wasn’t looking, teasing her for fumbling her sacraments and tangling her rosary. He always tattled on her. He was probably happy she was gone. The thought didn’t make her sad, really, but she felt a heaviness in her heart like the echo of seeing Dead Daddy dead on the bathroom floor.
After she left the house turned mausoleum, she stayed by the river for a little while. She was smaller then and could disguise herself as a dog. In those days she didn’t pay attention to the time or the weather and wasn’t in her girl-shape much. She was sure Mother would come back from the dead like Lazarus and try to kill her again. But she never did. And no one came looking for her. She drifted farther and farther away from her town. She stopped only when she found a place with unfamiliar smells and no idea where she was or how to get back.
“No,” Regina said. “He doesn’t like me. If he wanted to find me he would have. He was always mad because I got to spend more time with Dead Daddy. He said he couldn’t wait until Mother sent me away and he could have both of them all to himself.”
As soon as the words left her mouth bile churned in her stomach and she felt sick, “He’ll think it’s my fault they’re dead. Everything was always my fault, even when it was his. He always blamed me for everything.” The tears threatened to fall again, stinging her eyes. She fought them, sniffing hard and blinking up at the ceiling.
Tony gave her a sad look, “Kid, I don’t know why families are fucked up. But I do know Sanctum and trust me, it’s best for everyone if they never find out you’re still alive.”
“How do you know? Were you a Sworn Sword too?” she peered cautiously out at him from beneath the tangled fall of her hair.
“No,” he shifted, wincing as he moved, and pulled something out of his back pocket. Another scrap of cloth. It was part of a jacket sleeve and smelled faintly of gun oil. Sewn onto it was a white patch shaped like a cartoon bone and three black dog heads with pointy ears and noses. “As soon as I was old enough to,” he paused, considering his words carefully, “see the truth of the world, Thane put me to work.”
Regina scooted forward, across the empty space in the tiny room. She took the patch from him, ran her fingers over the thick, black embroidery.
“BiscuitsofCerberus,” he continued. “Internal affairs. I hunted down all the hunters who refused to turn themselves in after they’d been contaminated.”
“Did you like doing that?” she asked.
He laughed, “No. But I did it anyway.”
“I’m glad they think I’m dead,” she said bitterly.
“Honestly, we don’t know that for sure. But Atlas and Thane think you are,” Tony said.
Regina reached out and touched the top of his hand. He sat there, staring at her small fingers tracing the shapes of the bruises. He could barely feel her fingers, he was numb and the cold of the basement had nothing to do with it. He was quiet for a long time before he spoke again.
“I want you to put everything Thane told you out of your head for a minute. Pretend you never met him. You can remember it all later if you want. But for right now, just 60 seconds, put it away. Can you pretend for me?”
“I guess so,” she pulled her hand away and when her eyes met his again, his eyes were more emerald than blue and she recognized the edge in his voice. It was fear.
“Alright, thank you,” he sighed and steeled himself. “Just because we’re werewolves here and we’re hiding from the GluttonsofChronos and Sanctum doesn’t mean we’re not still working for HADES.”
“You told me to forget everything,” Regina frowned suspiciously.
“I did. I’m telling you. My words, not his. We’re monsters who hunt down and kill other monsters to protect the people in our territory. My father hunts down other monsters for HADES. Is that the kind of life you want? If you really want to, you can leave with Vlad tomorrow. You’ll have a shot at a normal—well, not exactly normal but more normal than here. If you stay you’ll be helping the people who locked you up. And I can’t promise my father won’t be nicer than Prometheus—your Doctor Gregor.”
“Can I remember what Thane said now?” Regina asked.
Tony let out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding, “Yeah, go ahead.”
“I want to stay here,” she said.
“Can you tell me why?” Tony tilted his head towards the bare ceiling and squeezed his eyes shut against the harsh lights.
“Why don’t you want me here? What did I do to you?” she asked. And there was pain in her voice.
“Look, I don’t want to hurt you,” he said sadly. “I want to throw rocks at you until you run away but I don’t want any of them to hit you.”
“Where else can I go?” she asked. “I don’t have a home.” The white room Mother built just for her floated up from the murky depths of memory. The walls of her tiny corner of the world were illuminated only by a tiny white candle that Mother let her put on the floor because it it was already on the floor it didn’t have anywhere to fall. When she opened the tiny white door it did not lead into the hallway or her old living room but a larger white room. A room with a metal table and the sink where Doctor Gregor washed his hands. The water running through his fingers was red.
“I know,” Tony said. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re weird,” Regina sniffed. “And I don’t like you.”
“Yeah, I know. Thane is too. You need to watch your back around him.”
“I’m going to be his assistant,” she said, the first traces of pride in her voice.
What’s the harm? She’s already fucked up, Tony thought. She wants it, never mind she doesn’t understand. Maybe one day—No. He wouldn’t let her suffer the way he did. If Atlas was going to let this happen and if he really didn’t have a choice, he’d do whatever he could to keep her safe. But not because he cared. He would never allow himself to care about anything, not again.
“Mother didn’t let me do a lot of things,” Regina said, choosing her words carefully. “Michael got to go to camp and learned how to use a sword.”
“If all you want is a sword,” Tony began.
“No,” she stopped him. “I want to be a wolf.”
“I can’t let you do that,” he said, “I can tell you what wolves do, I can even tell you what werewolves do. I can teach you how to control your beast but I can’t let you be one.”
“Thane said I could be a wolf,” she insisted.
He gave her a look that was close to pity then. One of the hunters at Farrowthorn looked at her like that once, when he couldn’t figure out where she fit in the menagerie of predator and prey, human and monster. He was dead because he thought she was weak and defenseless, because she was a little girl on the outside but something very different on the inside.
“My father says a lot of things.”
“I don’t want to be a little girl anymore. I want to run in the forest. I want to be with the moon.”
“But the moon doesn’t have Evil Dead or Atlas or all the other things you love. The moon is a cold, dead rock and you, regardless of what’s happened to you, are still a person. You need to be around people. We all help each other and one day someone is going to need you, not your wolf.”