Once in a Blue Moon

Emilio hadn’t told her anything.

It was what he hadn’t said that gave her heart wings.

When she first approached Martha’s caretaker, ranch hand, whatever, disguised as one of the women from the Reservation, she’d been terrified of what she might learn. She’d lingered outside Merlotte’s as long as she dared but no one, it seemed, was discussing Emma and Martha’s absence. She’d tried to steer clear of Sam and any Were or Panthers who had turned up but her need for information eventually brought her back around. Just like it brought her here tonight.

According to Emilio, Emma and Martha weren’t here. That much, Luna had already figured out for herself. He denied knowing where they were. Didn’t know when or even if they’d be back. That was all it took. They were alive! And they still had the protection of the Pack or there would have been more to hear than silence. The unspoken reassurance that Martha and Emma had left on their own terms and were staying away for their own reasons brought her back to life.

She stripped off her “borrowed” clothes, careful to soak them in the pond Sam loved to swim in to wash away her scent. As the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, she could feel the lure of the full moon tugging at her even though she’d been skin walking. Evidently, skin walking didn’t ease that itch. It didn’t matter. She made better time on four feet than two anyway. Shifting back into the now familiar collie form, Luna began to run. Without any idea where Martha and Emma might have gone, Luna followed her instincts heading south. After all, in Louisiana all roads lead to New Orleans….

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Looking back for the Future

She shifted before crossing the state line into Louisiana. Even though she was pretty sure everyone who might recognize her thought she was long dead, there was no point in taking any more unnecessary risks than she already was just be making this trip. It would take her longer to get to Bon Temps on four legs rather than two in a car but Luna felt safer and less conspicuous this way.

The Dog Sam Merlotte

She picked the form of a border collie, but not just any collie. She deliberately chose the one Sam preferred hoping that if anyone noticed there was a shifter around they would mistake her for him. It wouldn’t be the first time.

The edge of the Long Tooth Pack’s territory was better marked than the state line.

Luna paused and sniffed. Lots of familiar scents here. Alcide’s was the most prominent which probably meant he was still Alpha and Pack Leader. Luna thought that was a good thing. He seemed like a good man and that would be good for the Pack, including Emma and Martha. Lord knew she and Martha had had their differences but in the years she’d been away, Luna had acquired more empathy for her mother-in-law. She’d also come to realize the choices she’d made regarding the role of Marcus and his family in their daughter’s life had been partially to blame for the bad blood between herself and Martha. The two women had begun to mend fences when everything blew up and Luna had been forced to vanish. Somehow she doubted Martha would accept that as an explanation. She couldn’t say she blamed her.

Avoiding the trails the Pack used, Luna made her way towards Martha’s farm. Though she’d entrusted Emma to Sam, she knew first hand how hard being a single parent could be. Besides, Sam had a business to run. A bar was no place for a child. The logical babysitter was Martha, so it only made sense that Emma would be at Martha’s. She couldn’t see her mother-in-law and a spirited pre-teen enjoying spending many evenings in Sam’s office or trailer.

Luna knew something wasn’t right as soon as she arrived on the farm. Martha and Emma’s scents were all over the place but they were old. Other, newer scents had been laid over them. Not enough to wipe them out…yet; but enough to panic Luna.

She couldn’t imagine what could have driven Martha from her home unless…could Martha have died? She’d been in good health the last time Luna had seen her but as Luna’s own shooting showed: being two-natured was dangerous. Maybe something had happened. What and when was another question.

There was only one place Luna could think of where she might find some answers: Merlotte’s.

Luna raced towards town as fast as her four feet could carry her. If anyone knew what had happened and where Emma was, it would be Sam. If something fatal had befallen Martha, Sam was the next thing to family to Emma. Certainly he’d take her in. The Pack wouldn’t object. How could they?

She only slowed down when she approached the back parking lot. Things didn’t look as though they had changed much. Sam’s trailer was still parked perpendicular to the bar. All the lights were off inside meaning he was working. Luna edged closer, sniffing. Sam’s warm scent was everywhere. It wrapped around her like a much-needed hug. There was no trace of Martha or Emma, although she thought some of the Pack, maybe Alcide? had paid Sam a visit not too long ago.

She lifted her head and wailed.

Her daughter wasn’t here.

An Unexpected Reminder

It was the picture that gave her the idea. She found it tucked in a book someone left in a booth at the cafe. She couldn’t imagine why anyone would be using a picture as a bookmark but as soon as she saw the tail she knew it was a photo of Sam. She almost missed the Bon Temps Public Library stamp inside the cover. Not that she needed it.

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Luna made up her mind as she stared at the familiar face and fur. She could not stand the ache any longer. She had to know Emma was ok. Sam would have done his best, and Martha, too, in her way. But a girl needed her mother and this mother needed her daughter. If there was any chance that her presence might endanger Emma, of course she wouldn’t reveal herself but she had to go. She had to see for herself.

Summer Daze

School was out but it didn’t feel like summer. A clap of thunder drew her attention to the rain splashed window. This cold, wet weather reminded Luna more of winter in Louisiana than summer anywhere.

Louisiana.

The state loomed large in her dreams and her nightmares. It was both the site of some of the happiest days (and nights) of her life and some of the worst, most frightening and painful experiences she ever endured. Even after her long, slow recovery and learning to consciously control her skin walking, Louisiana remained the one place she both wanted desperately and was terrified to go.

Dropping the blinds to limit her view of another gray day, Luna tried to focus on the teacher evaluations she was writing up. She’d been hired as an outside conRainy Day Window sultant to analyze and suggest solutions to some challenges facing the tribal schools. The work had been welcome. It made her feel useful and as if she were giving something back to the people who had stepped up and literally saved her life. She’d even begun to think of some members of the Pawnee tribe as family.

As much as she loved them, however, they couldn’t replace Emma. Nothing would ever replace her daughter.

Luna swiped angrily at a tear racing down her cheek. Emma’s absence in her life was an ache nothing could fill. She didn’t just miss her little girl. Not having her here, with her, was like not having a hand, or a leg or maybe a lung. She just didn’t move or breathe the same.

Lately, she begun to wonder if she dared make a trip to Louisiana. She couldn’t go to Bon Temps, of course. But just being in the same state as her baby would be a relief.

Of course, there was no guarantee Emma was still in Louisiana. Sam might have moved them out of state. He didn’t have any local family, after all. Martha would have thrown a fit but maybe she would have gone with them. She would have been unwilling to leave a wolf alone in the world, even with another shifter. And Sam could probably use the help with a girl child fast becoming a teenager.

The thought made Luna smile, though tears still stung her eyes. Emma would be 12 now, on the brink of becoming a young lady. Luna would love to see that but not if it meant endangering her daughter in any way.