The first time he changes, she’s scared because she should be: after all, she’s a young girl and he’s still mostly a stranger, a wild rough guy who turns into a strange shuddering creature, all gangly limbs and eyes of horror. She clings to her Bible and mutters prayers, hits the creatures that come too close, and when all is said and done and he changes back, she runs to his side, catching his arm as he stumbles with healing spells already tripping off her tongue. Under her hands, he’s warm and heavy as any human man.
The fifth time he changes, she’s a bit surprised, but after the initial startled triphammer of her heart and the adrenaline of battle, she isn’t so afraid. He turns his face away from her when he changes back, but for just a moment when she puts her arms around him for support, he leans against her and breaths quick and hard against her hair. When he pulls away, muttering redfaced excuses, she touches her cheek and smiles.
The seventh time he changes, she watches as he switches back: a near-invisible ripple goes up his body as he clutches his head, and then there’s a flash so bright she has to shield her eyes. She looks again and finds him returning her look, his eyes red-rimmed and wary. When she reaches for him he flinches away, but there’s a peculiar hunger in his expression, and she thinks it must have been a long time since anyone touched him with kindness.
The thirteenth time he changes, it’s into something different: rather than a dark shuddering creature he turns into a fiery red thing, one that spits flames and ash rather than swipes that bleed darkness. She is surprised, but not frightened.
The fifteenth time he changes, she touches his wrist before he can change back; he jerks like she’s cut him and looks down at her with wide eyes, breathing through his clenched fangs. His skin is rough and dry and hot under her fingers, shiny and smooth and pitted like old worn leather. She takes his hand between both of hers which is still not enough to cover it: her small fingers are alternately so dark against the bone-white batches and pale against the larger darker portions. His claws are sharp as knives; she smoothes her hand over the curve of them, and when he jerks back he leaves a cut that he apologizes for weeks after the cure spells have done their work.
The twentieth time he changes she watches the process. At this point in time, she’s no longer afraid of that or him, and she’s not surprised to see him change into yet another creature: a strange bright being of light, whose gossamer wings catch the light as prisms. What frightens her is his own pain before the transition: how he clutches his head and moans, how that one act seems to pain him more than any injuries he sustains in battle.
The thirty-third time he changes, he takes a blow to the head that seems to leave him unable to change back at first. She mumbles prayers for him, trying to use her handkerchief to sop up the worst of — it’s not blood, not exactly, but whatever it is that’s oozing black and sluggish from his injuries. He watches her with the strange eyes of his borrowed form, narrow and oval and opaque white; they have no pupils, but she knows he’s still able to see her. Just before he changes back, she sees from the corner of her vision as he lifts a hand and very cautiously lets it hover near her hair. She smiles for him, and when he changes back, he’s blushing.
The last time he changes, she’s tired and aching and she can feel things inside of her starting to shut down — there isn’t much time now, and oh, she wishes there was more she could say, more she could offer his hungry hopeful eyes and her own desire to stay with him always — and below them seems to spread the entire starry vastness of space. Their enemy defeated and the world groaning as it shifts to accommodate, she stretches up onto her toes and puts her hands on his shoulders, hard and shiny black and ridged like a beetle’s shell. His arm comes around her waist, angular and wrong-but-not (it’s him, it’s still him, it’s forever and always only him) and she leans her face into his neck and breathes as they begin to fall back to earth.
And she’s changed as well, and she knows this is something she will never regret.