Series 7 Episode 3
Starting high school was never one of Brett’s biggest worries. Many of his middle school friends were going to Crystalshaw High, and that made the transition feel pretty straight-forward in his mind. Being the class clown had paid off, and he got on with most people; those that mattered, anyway. He just had to hope it wouldn’t fade away at high school.
The one downside was that Johnny wasn’t joining him. Johnny had been his best friend from the very first day of elementary, but his dad had sent him across town to a different school. He wasn’t even allowed to see him at the weekend – his dad wasn’t keen on them spending time together. It felt strange, and it certainly hurt Brett’s feelings.
In spite of that, Brett was feeling eager. Crystalshaw High specialised in his favourite sport: basketball. Joining the team was the top of his priority list, and sign-ups were happening immediately.
“Okay, quiet everyone,” the basketball coach demanded, standing proudly at the head of the boys’ changing room. There were loads of other lads in the room, and the demand was clearly high. Brett immediately knew he had his work cut out, especially as a freshman competing against seniors for a spot on the tam. It was going to be hard, but Brett wanted to be the best, so he had to beat the best.
“For those of you who don’t know, I’m Coach Singh, welcome to basketball,” Coach continued, “Every night this week, we have basketball try-outs. If you want to make the team, you better bring your everything to one of these sessions. We don’t take any slackers.”
“He’s not lying,” the lad next to Brett whispered in his ear, “He punishes anyone who’s not putting the effort in.” Brett nodded. He had heard that Coach Singh took no prisoners, and he was ready to impress him.
“Play well, and you can get any girl you want,” Coach continued. Brett sighed. That wasn’t motivation to play, but the room erupted into a rapturous applause with ridiculously over-the-top cheers.
“Come on,” the lad nudged Brett, “Don’t want anyone thinking you’re a faggot.”
Brett begrudgingly applauded. The air in the room felt toxic. For now, he had to blend in, but Brett was absolutely not okay with this.
Arriving at school on his own, Jono felt lonely. Senior year was beginning, and it already wasn’t the way he envisioned it to be. Dylan should’ve been by his side – they were supposed to be in it together. It was already strange enough that they weren’t going to be in all of their lessons together – senior year was another ball game entirely – but at least they were still together on the same journey.
Parking up at the bench, Jono sat next to Sammi. She had spent the night with Freddie, but Jono was a little worried about her. The texts she had sent to him the night before were blunt and short – completely unlike Sammi. Everything she did was with a gigantic burst of enthusiasm, usually completed by about 500 kisses at the end of every message. ‘Extra’ wasn’t the word.
“This doesn’t feel right,” Freddie commented. He was perched between Yasmin and Brett on the other side of their usual bench. He was right – it felt empty. They were a few people down, and it wasn’t just Dylan and Josh.
“First day without Lily,” Yasmin reminded, “She starts lectures today.” Jono had been texting Lily all morning – she seemed okay, but he was missing having her around. It wasn’t the same at home.
“So much has changed,” Jono opened up, “I don’t like it. Drew’s gone, Lily’s at college, and Dylan and Josh should be here.”
“They’ll be here tomorrow, right?” Sammi tried to think optimistically – traditionally Dylan’s job.
“Unless they’re ill,” Brett unhelpfully reminded.
“But if they’re okay, it’s still not over,” Freddie seemed keen to point out. He was holding back.
“Do you know something?” Jono wondered. Any information could be useful, because he was more determined than ever not to be separated from Dylan. They needed to protect each other.
“We saw my dad. He was watching us, then ran away,” Sammi explained.
“Wait, Uncle David, the deadly, werewolf-slaughtering murderer, is here?” Jono was gobsmacked. He knew this day would come – Drew had warned them before he left, but Jono didn’t think there would be any link to the virus. After all, he was a werewolf himself – it was potential suicide.
“I expect we’ll see him again, too,” Sammi mentioned. She knew her dad better than any of them; the last time Jono saw him was surely at least five years ago.
“Well, you are his daughter,” Yasmin reminded, “You’re our guy on the inside. When he shows up, you need to keep your cool.”
“I hate to interrupt,” Brett mentioned, glancing to Jono, “But we’ve got a meeting with Coach, dude.”
“Shit,” Jono had completely forgotten. Basketball was one of the last things on his mind, but this meeting was important if he wanted to be on the team. He hadn’t put the effort in for the previous two years to miss out at the final hurdle.
“Go, we’ll talk later,” Sammi encouraged. Jono felt uneasy, especially knowing which cards were in play. All he had to do, for now, was to keep his composure. For Dylan’s sake.
Lounging in bed, not feeling any sense of urgency to get up, Dylan was counting down the last few hours of quarantine. By the time school had finished, he would be a free man, and he was planning to surprise Jono at his house after school. It was the least he could do after Jono spent an entire day outside Dylan’s house, just for him.
“I’m heading to work,” Ed poked his head around the door. He was fully geared up in his smart, polished sheriff attire, “How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” Dylan replied honestly. Much to his own relief, he hadn’t felt even slightly ropey. All was good, and this nightmare was close to being over.
“I’m off to the hospital now, the lad you met in LA collapsed. Yasmin asked me to keep a close eye on him, so it doesn’t spread,” Ed informed.
“Is he okay?” Dylan wondered. Forty-eight hours wasn’t up yet, and that niggling worry was still present in his mind – he could still fall ill. He needed to know what could lie ahead.
“He’s spark-out right now, but his breathing’s controlled and he’s stable,” Ed fed back, “I need you to keep yourself safe. Your mom can’t lose you, and neither can I.”
“You won’t, I promise,” Dylan was quick to say.
“I know I’m not your dad, I’ve never tried to be, but you and Josh, you’re basically my sons,” Ed opened up. He rarely did this – everyone had been in a permanent state of worry for two days, “I hope you’re okay with that?”
“Okay?” Dylan felt touched. He was right – Ed could never replace his dad, but he was the closest thing he had now, “I’m honoured to have you as my stepdad.”
Ed smiled proudly and modestly. He quietly shut the bedroom door behind him and perched at the end of Dylan’s bed.
“I was thinking,” Ed lowered his voice, “I was thinking of asking your mom to marry me.”
Dylan’s heart burst. His mum had struggled after losing his dad. She was a single mum in a new town working two jobs; it was tough. When Ed came into her life, things changed. The cloud seemed to lift. She never forgot his dad – nobody ever could – but just before he passed, he told her to find happiness again. Finally, she had.
“I think that would be incredible,” Dylan beamed.
“You know, I don’t really have any close family, so you are all I have. You, Josh, and your mom. I don’t want to lose it,” Ed continued. He had never spoken so candidly, but it meant a lot to Dylan.
“If you wanted my approval, you’ve got it. One hundred percent,” Dylan confirmed. Things were looking up, and Dylan felt extremely excited.
Not long to go until he could pass the good news on to Jono.
Bracing herself to enter the lecture theatre, Lily wasn’t sure she was ready for the day ahead. All she could think about was being in that bar, seeing that boy collapse, and trying to find a pulse – and failing. She couldn’t have saved him, and it made her feel uneasy.
What’s more was that he was a werewolf. The supernatural world was all around her, even when she was miles away from Crystalshaw. All Lily wanted to do was attend college in peace, but now she was fighting this alone, and she didn’t want to cause Jono any stress. He had his own worries, what with senior year starting that day. Worrying about Lily wouldn’t have been even slightly productive for him.
Now she had to switch her concerns off, somehow, for the sake of her education. If only it were as easy as flicking a switch to turn off those thoughts. Lily simply imagined a door closing in her mind, with those worries on the other side. How successful that idea would be, Lily wasn’t sure, but she had to try.
The lecture theatre was small and cosy, but the row of seats ascending in front of the screen looked domineering, and quite frankly, a little terrifying. Roughly a third of the seats were already occupied, and Lily wanted to space herself out, so she headed up the nearest staircase in search of an empty section.
An entire empty row caught Lily’s eye, roughly three-quarters of the way up. Lily plonked her bag on the second seat in, taking the aisle seat for herself – easy to make a quick getaway if needed. She set up her laptop and was all ready to go – worries pushed aside.
“Hey, Lily,” a voice came from her right. Glancing up, Lily locked eyes with Alex. Though he was definitely a friendly face, she was hoping for no faces at all. She needed to be alone, for her own peace of mind, “I didn’t realise we were on the same course.”
“Me neither,” Lily smiled pleasantly and politely, disguising her inner despair perfectly. Alex slid past Lily and took the third seat in the same row. Lily quietly sighed. The pressure was rising just as she’d calmed herself – she now had to keep herself together even more, because if she didn’t, she would look crazy in front of her housemate. It wasn’t the impression she wanted to make, but ironically, it only made her more stressed.
“It’s smaller than I thought it would be,” Alex commented, attempting to make conversation. Lily was panicking, though. What if there was something at her college, waiting for her? One werewolf had died, under circumstances that seemed more than a little strange. She was on her own.
Lily got up and sprinted down the stairs. She needed fresh air. She needed space. The walls were closing in on her. It was too much. The stress and anxiety levels were going through the roof.
The immediate burst of the open air upon Lily’s face when she stepped outside was a relief, like the removal of handcuffs from her wrists. It was cooler and less suffocating than the air inside the lecture theatre. Lily could think more clearly, but she was still uncomfortable for now.
“Are you okay?” Alex asked, joining her outside. So much for alone time.
“Yeah, I’m fine, I just need a moment,” Lily tried to shoo him away.
“You’re thinking about last night, aren’t you?” Alex identified perceptively – he clearly understood anxiety, “Talk to me, if you want. Or I can help you call somebody else.”
“No, I don’t want anyone else to worry,” Lily quickly defended, “I’ll tell you.” She braced herself – she wasn’t sure how Alex would react, but he was right – she needed someone to speak to.
“I’m part werewolf.”
The changing room had become something of a safe space for Brett over the years. It was familiar, and despite just about all of the team he played with at the start having left the school now, it still felt like a safe haven. New friends had been made, and he’d spend all day practising with them if he could.
This year, though, things really felt different. Brett was among the oldest on the tam. He was the role model for the freshmen hoping to sign up, and that was a big responsibility for him. He had to set the example.
He felt distant in another way, though. Werewolves weren’t a secret at Crystalshaw High – people had seen them first hand when hunters had been around – but Brett was on the inside now. He knew more than most, and he couldn’t discuss it with anyone. It was isolating, and quite how the rest of the pack coped, Brett didn’t understand.
“Okay, gather round,” Coach Singh called out effortlessly over the domineering chatter, “Welcome to basketball.”
Brett zoned out – he had heard this speech three times before. It was more of the same, but he could see the newbies watching on with excitement, as if they were signing up for the ride of their lives. Little did they know just how difficult Coach could be.
“Play well, and you can get any girl you want,” Coach repeated that fabled line. One that never got any easier on Brett’s ears.
“Or guy,” Jono chirped up, over the usual excited cheers from the disgustingly horny teenage boys.
“Sure, that too,” Coach nodded flippantly, not caring a great deal. Brett sighed for what was surely the fourth year running. Jono owned who he was – he joined the team when he was already out and proud. Brett felt the atmosphere to be suffocating, though. Not everyone had a story like Jono’s.
“He’s said that every year, I’ve never had any more luck,” Brett mentioned casually. He wanted to speak openly to Jono, but he was unusually shy and felt more comfortable dancing around the topic.
“Me neither,” Jono laughed, “Although, I’m okay with that.”
“Maybe,” Brett began to speak the line that could completely alter Jono’s view of him, “Maybe I’m okay with that too.”
“Living the single life? You do you, bro,” Jono completely misinterpreted. He wasn’t making it any easier, not that he knew about Brett’s predicament.
“No, not quite,” Brett lowered his voice.
“Oh,” Jono had a moment of realisation, “This sounds serious. Wanna talk in private?”
“Sure,” Brett felt sick. His stomach was a cocktail of nerves and anxiety, and it felt excruciating, as if he were about to throw up.
The walk outside to a bench overlooking the basketball pitch felt like a marathon. Never had a short walk taken so long. Brett couldn’t even make eye contact with Jono – it felt too difficult. This wasn’t something he had ever told anybody else.
“Is everything alright?” Jono wondered. In the corner of his eye, Brett could see the concerned expression on his face. There was no backing out now.
“I’m,” Brett paused, building up the willpower to continue, “I’m gay.”
“Dude,” Jono instantly said, “Good on you.” Brett felt weird, though. Jono knew his deepest secret, and there was no taking it back.
“Nobody else can know, please,” Brett begged.
“How long have you known?” Jono wondered.
“A few years, deep down,” Brett confessed, “Being around those idiots made me realise.”
“Enjoying the eye candy?” Jono smiled devilishly. He was being just as understanding as Brett had hoped.
“Duh,” Brett smiled back as a tear rolled down his cheek. It was the first time he had cried in years – not even his sporting injuries had provoked a reaction like that, “The boys in there, they don’t get it.”
“They’re okay with me,” Jono pondered.
“You’ve got a cute love story with Dylan. You’re everyone’s gay best friend. You’re out and proud already, it’s not the same, that’s all they know for you,” Brett explained.
“Oh,” Jono considered. Brett could see his mind thinking it over, “You’re right, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. I wish I was more like you,” Brett mentioned, “Thanks dude.” Jono smiled kindly. Brett knew this journey had only just begun, but it was good to know he was on the right track.
Keenly waiting for Miss Asahd to begin, Yasmin was raring to go for her first HP calculus class. She was pleasantly surprised to see Freddie next to her, though. Mathematics was never his strongest suit, and she had given her own seminars to Freddie, Dylan and Josh to boost their grades. Seeing him willingly choose to continue down the road of calculus was a shock.
Nevertheless, Yasmin was grateful for the company. She was ahead of her friends, having already taken some of her exams, so it was an isolating situation. Calculus kept her and Freddie connected.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Yasmin tried to bring it up in conversation.
“I’m just as surprised that I’m here as you are, trust me,” Freddie grinned, “I thought I’d back out, but I need a little math for the course I want at college.”
“Good on you,” Yasmin nodded, “I promise I wasn’t judging.”
“I’m low-key judging myself,” Freddie continued his unique brand of self-deprecating humour, “It’s not just to admire Miss Asahd either, I promise.”
“I will keep Sammi updated, you know,” Yasmin teased.
“She’s got nothing to worry about. I value my own safety too much,” Freddie chuckled. Yasmin cherished Freddie’s banter so much – she was convinced she would’ve gone insane long ago without him.
In the corner of her eye, Yasmin saw a girl coughing. She was being extremely conscious of anything related to illness. They didn’t yet know the full symptoms of the virus, so nobody could be too careful. She had to keep Freddie as far away from it all as possible, because out of the two cases Yasmin knew of, the virus had a fifty-fifty death rate – and it was dangerously close to one-hundred percent.
“Any news from the hospital?” Freddie wondered. They must have been riding the same train of thought.
“Ed says he’s stable. They’re just trying to track down who he is, but he’s out cold,” Yasmin fed back. She was relieved he was able to help her out, because for all she knew, anyone at that hospital could have been a werewolf too.
The coughing and spluttering across the room continued as Miss Asahd began to teach. Yasmin was trying her best to stay focused on her, but she was worried. Barely visible on her neck were a couple of spots. She had it. She had the virus.
“You need to get out of here,” Yasmin warned Freddie, “She’s got a rash. Just like we’ve seen.” Immediately, Freddie stood up to leave. He wasn’t talking any chances, and rightfully so.
“Mr. Ruben, are you going somewhere?” Miss Asahd interrupted.
“I’ve got to, I…” Freddie stalled.
THUMP! The limelight was snatched off Freddie as the girl collapsed. Yasmin glanced over to him – he had to go.
The sensation of fresh air brushing against his cheeks, slightly ruffling his messy locks, Dylan was delighted to be outside. He had taken the privilege of going out for granted, and an enforced quarantine had given Dylan so much perspective.
Waiting at the bottom of the treehouse, Jono was due to return from school any moment. Dylan simply couldn’t wait. He had missed the little things – holding his hands, stroking his cheek, playing with his curls, and kissing his lips. Jono was the most precious thing he had, and it was true – absence really did make the heart grow fonder.
“This is going to be a sickly-sweet rom-com reunion isn’t it?” Josh remarked as they waited at the bottom of the treehouse.
“Let’s hope,” Dylan smirked. Anything short of an over-the-top, lovey-dovey reunion would be a disappointment in his eyes, “Besides, you’re the one who chose to come.”
“Against my better judgement, yeah,” Josh rebutted, “Anything’s better than being stuck inside all day long.”
“True that,” Dylan concurred, just as Jono’s car pulled into the driveway. The immediate excitement in Jono’s eyes as he spotted Dylan made his heart melt. It was the cutest, most adorable moment ever.
The car had barely parked before Jono leapt out and sprinted over to Dylan. Instantly, they wrapped their hands tightly around each other, so tensely that not even a meteor could break them apart. The simple touch of Jono’s skin against his was insatiable. Their lips collided, like two magnets drawn so strongly together. Dylan had missed his touch so much. He never wanted to let go.
“Alright you two, break it up,” Josh irritatingly intervened.
“I’ve missed this,” Jono grinned like the cat that got the cream.
“We’re never spending time apart again,” Dylan concurred.
“Whose car is that?” Sammi wondered, pointing to a flashy, grey, expensive-looking vehicle, parked next to Steve and Helen’s own motors.
“I’ve never seen it before,” Jono looked confused, “Mom and dad are never usually home this early, either.”
“Shit’s going down,” Josh seemed way too excited at the prospect of a little drama. Jono led the group inside, following the chit-chat of several voices. Dylan was able to pinpoint three people – the familiar tones of Steve and Helen, and a third, unrecognisable male voice.
“Any ideas?” Dylan questioned as Jono placed his hand on the living room door handle.
“Yeah,” he replied gravely. Dylan began to worry. Jono was the best at keeping his composure, so if h was concerned, there must have been a damn good reason for it.
Pushing the door open, Dylan saw the back of a man’s head against the sofa. He was greying, surely within a few years of Steve’s age. He looked tall and a little domineering – if he were a teacher, Dylan would be terrified to see him on his timetable.
“Here they are,” Steve glanced over at the group, “Look who’s here.” The man turned around, a smug, confident grin adorning his chiselled face.
“Long time no see,” he gurned. Dylan was still confused – who was he?
“Dad,” Sammi uttered, as if she had seen a ghost. A shiver ran through Dylan’s spine. This was him. This was the alpha. The alpha that had slaughtered his own kind. The man he was hoping never to cross paths with.
“Hello darling, nice to see you, and you too Jono. Who are your friends?” he continued to beam as if he were father of the year. Dylan was already terrified.
Hovering her debit card above the reader, the payment for Lily’s coffee was approved. She needed a dose of caffeine before this chat with Alex. It was a discussion she was desperately trying to avoid for as long as possible, but things hadn’t gone to plan at all since she arrived at college. So much for that fresh start.
In the grand scheme of things, Lily was definitely expecting to have this chat one day. Perhaps with someone she trusted, after everyone had settled in. It was a heavy burden to carry alone, after all. She definitely did not expect this moment to arrive so soon, though. It felt like she had no control over it – something was happening, and Lily wasn’t equipped to handle it alone.
Carrying her coffee over to the table Alex had chosen, Lily was trying to rehearse what she was going to say. She had never had this chat with anyone before, she hadn’t been like this for very long, and the only people she really needed to tell were her parents – that was something she had been putting off for a long time.
“Alright, I’m all ears,” Alex said, gently blowing against his tea to cool it.
“I know it sounds unbelievable, but I promise everything I’m saying is true. I need you to hear me out before declaring me insane,” Lily set the ground rules.
“Deal,” Alex nodded. He wasn’t giving much away in his body language; Lily was yet to decide if that were a good thing or not.
“I’m part-werewolf. That boy who died, he was an actual werewolf,” Lily explained, “I’m a freak of nature, I’ve never met anyone else like me. Werewolves have glowing eyes, fangs, claws, the whole lot. I don’t have that.”
“What do you have?” Alex wondered.
“Improved sight, improved hearing, I can run faster, and I can heal way faster than any human,” Lily listed, “I’ll prove it.”
Lily scanned the room, looking for a conversation to listen in to. She focused on the lady at the till, placing her order, and fed back to Alex, “Okay, the lady over there ordered a cappuccino with skimmed milk, and a slice of lemon cake.” Sure enough, the red cap milk was tipped into the cappuccino cup, and a slice of the delicious-looking lemon cake was served up to her.
“Okay, that was pretty cool. Who else knows about this?” Alex queried.
“Not many, but my brother’s part of it. He’s a full werewolf, and his boyfriend is the alpha, which is the leader of the pack. There’s a group of us in Crystalshaw. They’re my friends.”
“Your whole family are werewolves?” Alex assumed.
“No, not at all. It’s a long story, I’ll tell you the whole thing one day,” Lily corrected.
“Alright. So, what’s bothering you? Last night, that was pretty serious, right?” Alex questioned.
“I think so. He looked seriously ill, and it made his eyes glow. It was like a warning symbol, and I’ve learnt not to believe in coincidences,” Lily justified.
“I think I know how we can find out more,” Alex pondered.
“We? You mean, you’re not scared off?” Lily checked. She was surprised at how well he had taken the news, and was cautious of putting pressure on him.
“You’re part-werewolf. I’m trans. We’ve all got secrets, right?” Alex mentioned casually. He was spot on – though they had very different secrets, they both wanted acceptance, and Lily admired how comfortable Alex seemed to be in himself.
“Right,” Lily nodded. They stood up, coffee in tow, ready for action. On the way out, Lily did a double-take. At the table next to her was a young lad – one she recognised. One who shouldn’t have heard everything she just said.
Surely it wasn’t? He didn’t say hello or interact with them in any way. Lily only saw the back of his head on a second glance, so she couldn’t be sure. Nevertheless, if it was indeed him, it was one coincidence too far.