Previous: "Scrutiny"

TRIGGER WARNING: This episode contains themes of self-harm.

Series 12 Episode 4

From the moment Alex left the lakehouse for the final time, Lily had been a shadow of her former self. For years, every positive future she’d imagined featured her and Alex together, just the way it was supposed to be. That was how it seemed at the time, anyway.

There was no denying that things had soured a little in recent months. The lakehouse seemed to be a never-ending hub of activity, at the cost of any intimacy between the two of them. Lily suspected that living with her ex and his teenage brother wasn’t helping.

George and Jonah couldn’t be an excuse, though. George did everything he could to give them space and reign Jonah in, and Jonah was going to be moving in with Freddie when high school started so he’s only a short walk away. Alex and George got along like a house on fire, too, but something was missing, and the elephant in the room simply couldn’t be denied when Alex got a job on the east coast. They had to admit to each other that they were friends, and nothing more.

That didn’t stop Lily feeling empty ever since he left, though. Even at their lowest, Alex was her closest friend, and someone she’d learnt so much from. Their friendship meant more than anything romantic ever could have.

“Duvet day?” George suggested, handing Lily a can of Fanta as she paused Netflix between episodes.

“Hell yeah,” Lily chuckled. George had been her saving grace in her darkest moments, before and after Alex. Without him, and with Jono in England, Lily wasn’t sure what she’d have done, “I’m bored of this show. Go on, pick a movie.”

“Dangerous decision. You normally complain about my movie choices,” George laughed.

“It’s been a few years since I last sat through Star Wars,” Lily joked, “I’ve basically forgotten the plot.”

“Never have I needed more of an excuse to rewatch,” George smiled fondly, matching Lily’s uncontrollable grin. It was the same grin Lily fell in love with so many years earlier. George felt so safe and comforting, and in that moment that was all Lily could ever have wanted.

As George excitedly pressed play on the movie, Lily cuddled up close to him, resting her head in his lap. Perhaps all she ever really needed was right in front of her the entire time.

The corridors of Crystalshaw High had never looked so manic. Lily was confident that she had never heard so much shouting or seen so much shoving in her entire time at the school, let alone blatant vandalism of the school lockers. What had happened?

Somehow, it felt like the perfect analogy for Lily’s life. Her brain felt similarly chaotic, spinning in circles as she attempted to navigate one day to the next. Things were changing rapidly, and it was impossible to keep up.

Sleep hadn’t been on the table the night before. Too much was on Lily’s mind, and she just couldn’t switch off. Talking to George wasn’t an option yet, either. How could she even begin to tell him? They hadn’t planned for a bombshell like that. It was going to blindside him for sure.

Of course, they had discussed having kids before. George often spoke about how he wanted to be a better dad to his future children than his own ever was – to him and Freddie, at least – and Lily had always pictured herself as a doting mother. It seemed a few years away, though. The future had arrived sooner than either of them had planned for, and Lily didn’t know what George would want.

Before speaking to him, Lily needed some answers. The doctor had explained why she’d been feeling so rough, but she still had no idea why her healing abilities hadn’t protected her. She needed to speak to an expert. A werewolf expert.

Timidly, Lily knocked at the door. Among all the changes at the school, that one classroom still looked just the same. Lily had spent many an hour studying biology in there from a stalwart of Crystalshaw High. A person who invoked fear over forgotten homework and anxiety over bad test scores, but regardless, Lily passed biology with flying colours.

“This is a surprise. Your cousin’s classroom is around the corner,” Mrs. Johnson greeted, briefly averting her gaze from her efficiently small pile of marking.

“No, it was you I came to see, if you have a few moments to spare,” Lily calmly replied.

“Anything for you, Lily. What’s the matter?” Mrs. Johnson replied without hesitation.

“It’s a long story,” Lily sighed, closing the door behind her. She barely knew where to begin.

Panicked, Dylan had never rushed out of bed so quickly. A day working at home had quickly evaporated into a callout from Sammi; there as an emergency at the school, and the voicemail she’d left was far from reassuring. There weren’t many three-word combinations more terrifying than “mountain ash drugs.”

As Jono reversed the car into the parking lot, Dylan caught eyes with Ed, waiting patiently for them with a smile that contrasted greatly with the bags under his eyes. They were even more noticeable than they were when Libby had just been born, and that spoke volumes.

“I’m sorry,” Ed greeted as Dylan and Jono gathered in front of the car, “I’m not sure it’s a good idea for you guys to be here. Not while I’m under investigation.” Immediately, Dylan’s heart broke. Ed was paranoid, and not without good reason.

“We’ll keep out of the way, I promise. You do what you need to do, we’ll observe inside,” Dylan offered, “This involves us too.”

“We don’t know that yet,” Ed replied, “Mountain ash on its own doesn’t confirm that it’s supernatural. Stay inside with Sammi and Freddie, we’ll be watching the bleachers. We must catch this guy in action, supernatural intention or not, it’s still dealing potentially harmful substances to minors.”

“You won’t even know we’re here,” Jono affirmed.

“We’re not screwing anything up for you. Promise,” Dylan agreed. He already felt bad enough about what Ed was going through. The last thing he wanted to do was to make it worse.

“Alright. I haven’t seen either of you, okay?” Ed nodded, sloping off around the back of the school.

“This is so messed up,” Dylan sighed. Things used to be so easy. Dylan was almost on the payroll at the station with how often he helped Ed, but this time, he was on his own. There was nothing they could do.

“It will pass. They’ll see how good Ed is,” Jono optimistically replied. That was usually Dylan’s job, but any hint of optimism had long since vanished for him.

“But what if they don’t?” Dylan stressed.

“Then we find a way to prove it ourselves. If we were able to bring me home, we can do anything. We’ve already managed the impossible, right?” Jono encouraged. Dylan couldn’t deny it; Jono was right. There was nothing they couldn’t at least try to help Ed out, but that couldn’t happen yet. First, Sammi needed them.

Walking into the school with Jono’s arm linked around his felt surreal. Many of their fondest memories happened in that building, not to mention how they first met there. Dylan had only been back once since Jono left for London; Sammi and Jeremy’s graduation wasn’t to be missed, but Jonah’s end-of-year awards for his freshman year felt too big an ask. Now, he had Jono back, and they’d come full circle.

“Thank god,” Sammi sprinted out of her classroom, “Shit’s happening, guys. This way.” She looked drained, and it wasn’t even breaktime, not to mention the unavoidable yelling coming from every direction.

“What the hell is happening?” Dylan had to ask. Something was wrong, and it was just as concerning as he’d feared.

Lost for words, Yasmin felt broken. She knew it was almost definitely on its way, but that didn’t stop the news hurting. Nothing could dull the impact of something so huge. Something that could take away everything she’d worked so hard for.

The Callahans had caught up to her. The forensics had been called into question, and both Yasmin and Jeremy were in the same pool of boiling hot water. A suspension was mortifying, especially when she knew they had done everything by the book.

Nevertheless, an investigation had to be carried out. Yasmin understood how the procedure worked, but it didn’t make it any easier to stomach. She had strived to be the best at everything she did, and even when her innocence would eventually be proved, a mark would still be against her name in the eyes of her colleagues. Nothing would be the same again.

As Yasmin drove them home, she caught a glimpse of Jeremy in the mirror. He looked just as despondent as she did. Nothing either of them could say could cheer the other up, and the radio, their usual travel companion, was remaining silenced. Neither of them were in the mood.

“Left,” Yasmin directed.

“But that’s not the way,” a baffled Jeremy replied.

“It’s the way to where I want to be right now,” Yasmin corrected, “I don’t want to be at home.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Jeremy warned. Of course, he knew where they were going, and therefore, he knew exactly who Yasmin wanted to see.

“I don’t really want to talk, and if there’s anyone who won’t question my desire to sit in complete silence, it’s him,” Yasmin defended. She had no sordid intentions, and she didn’t want their friendship to be tainted because of their hi\ x story.

“Fair enough,” Jeremy nodded, “We will be okay, you know.”

“I wish I was as confident as you,” Yasmin shrugged, “I know we’re innocent, there was no failing on our part, but how will we ever be trusted again? We’ll forever be the black sheep of the team. Everything we do will be called into question, at least for the foreseeable. This is bigger than Harry, and the Callahans knew that. Dylan was right, they’re despicable.”

The car pulled up to the Drummond house in complete silence. At that time of day, only one person was going to be home. The person whose company Yasmin desperately craved. The only person who would understand without a single question asked.

Though Lily hadn’t been her student in years, she still felt the pressure of Mrs. Johnson’s classroom. Despite that, nobody was a better listener than Lily’s old biology teacher. Her attention hadn’t faltered for a single second. Even though she undoubtedly had far more important things to do, Mrs. Johnson made it abundantly clear that Lily was her only priority in that moment, and that went a long way to soothing Lily’s anxieties.

“I mean, I was happy to be discharged, and relieved I suppose. I thought it was something worse. But some things still don’t add up,” Lily finished telling her story. Mrs. Johnson needed to know everything.

“Well, I suppose congratulations are in order,” Mrs. Johnson began, “Relieving as it may have been, that doesn’t stop it being quite the shock, right?”

“Right,” Lily confirmed, “But that’s only part of it. I’m feeling every expected symptom of pregnancy, but how? Why isn’t my body healing?”

“Of course, I’d forgotten. Only one of your pack was a born werewolf, and even then, Jeremy’s mom was human. This is new territory for all of you,” Mrs. Johnson explained.

“What is? Please, I need to know what’s happening,” Lily was growing impatient.

“Your pregnancy is part of human biology, making the human part of you stronger and more dominant than the werewolf side of you. The wolf becomes supressed. Every power you gain as a werewolf becomes dormant. You can’t heal, you can’t run aster, you can’t hear, smell or see anything more than a typical human can, not until you’ve given birth.”

“I’ve got another seven months of this?” Lily was shocked. Losing her wolf powers was not something she’d signed up for. It made her a walking target, “Hold on, you said born werewolves. Oh my god, I hadn’t even thought of that. Will my baby be a werewolf? How does that even work?” Every thought spiralling into Lily’s mind was unnerving her more and more.

“There are no rules. It works the same way as any inherited characteristic. Look at Sammi and Jeremy, twins yet only one was born a werewolf. We can’t predict it,” Mrs. Johnson detailed.

Though she tried her hardest to focus on Mrs. Johnson, Lily couldn’t help noticing something concerning behind her. A cloud of black smoke was emerging from the walls. Quite what it was, Lily didn’t know. She couldn’t smell anything, but the cloud was unavoidable. It was growing, and starting to engulf Mrs. Johnson within it.

“Can’t you see that?” Lily panicked.

“See what?” Mrs. Johnson worriedly replied, “Lily, is everything okay?”

“Um,” Lily was scared. Among the black smoke, a dark, concealed figure was emerging. Two piercing red lights glared at Lily. Chasing its victim. Locked onto her. Inescapable.

“Lily?” Mrs. Johnson prompted.

“I’m sorry. I have to go,” Lily didn’t think twice. She had to get away. Where to, she wasn’t sure, but she had to be certain of one thing.

Lily had to make sure nobody could find her.

Gobsmacked, Dylan couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Stood at the back of Sammi’s classroom with Jono and Freddie either side, Dylan had hoped to make a few mental notes about the situation at Crystalshaw High. The basics over Sammi had told him over the phone weren’t good, but he’d underestimated just how bad it was.

The three of them were one step away from becoming crowd marshals in a zoo of thirty out-of-control lunatics. How any of the good students were able to focus on the essay question among the raucous laughter, unpleasant yelling and occasional fist flying, Dylan didn’t know. He was finding it hard enough to stay in the room.

Sammi, of course, was doing her absolute best. She was just as passionate a teacher as Dylan knew she’d be. She didn’t become a teacher because she thought it would be easy, she became a teacher to inspire people. He could see how much it was breaking her to lose the ability to teach the way she wanted to. Dylan had to help, for her sake as much as the kids’.

“What the…” Jono commented, just as gobsmacked as Dylan was.

“Please don’t tell me it’s been like this the whole time,” Dylan could hardly imagine. It was his worst nightmare.

“Two whole weeks,” Freddie confirmed, “I’ve barely started my actual job as they need me to help manage behaviour. I didn’t sign up for this.”

“Neither did poor Sammi,” Jono looked back to the front of the room where Sammi was desperately trying to take attendance, “She can’t teach like this.”

“If only I could growl,” Dylan thought. Obviously, it was a bad idea, but Dylan was confident that a werewolf growling would terrify the lot of them into silence. High or otherwise.

“None of them even know what mountain ash is,” Jono pondered.

“If this even is mountain ash as we know it,” Freddie considered, “We’ve never known it to affect humans before.”

“We’ve also never known anyone willingly ingesting it,” Dylan added, “There could be werewolves. Other supernaturals in the school. They could have taken this without knowing. Think, how did we find out about mountain ash?”

“Drew,” Jono recalled, “We found everything out from Drew.”

“Exactly, but what if we didn’t have him? Not every new werewolf has a mentor, and not every alpha is so welcoming. For all we know, there’s an omega unknowingly taking this shit right now,” Dylan thought.

“Sammi!” Jonah burst into the room in a frenzied state. Dylan instantly sprinted to the front of the room, his instinct drowning out the chaos, “It’s an emergency.”

“I can’t leave the room,” Sammi responsibly said.

“We’ve got this,” Dylan nodded, summoning Jono and Freddie to follow, “Will you be okay?”

“I think so,” Sammi despondently replied, “Go on, go.”

Regretfully, Dylan led the trio out of the classroom. Leaving Sammi on her own felt cruel, but there was no easy option. Outside, Leah was crouched next to a male student, curled up into a ball and gasping desperately for air like he was having some sort of asthma attack. Except it wasn’t, and it couldn’t have been.

His eyes were glaring bright yellow.

Deflated. Jeremy couldn’t find any other word to describe how he was feeling any better than that one did. Whatever was happening was out of his control, and there wasn’t a single thing he could do to make it better. Yasmin was right; they had both played it by the book, and their names would be cleared, but their names were tainted.

Years of hard work had collapsed around Jeremy. He had always been on the back foot compared to everyone else. Margaret had taught him a lot when his dad kept him locked away, but it wasn’t enough to stop him feeling as if he were behind at school and college. He had to work twice as hard as everyone else to be able to graduate and secure the job he was so keen to do.

At least, for that moment, he was safe. Jeremy closed and locked the front door behind him for the night. Nothing more could hurt him that day. All he wanted to do was cuddle up tightly to Felix. Their flat wasn’t huge, but it was big enough for what they needed, and the lack of space made the perfect excuse to snuggle up. He needed Felix more than ever.

“Oh, hey,” Felix looked up, moving his attention away from whatever Netflix series he’d been working through. Midweek days off were one of few benefits to shift work, Jeremy thought, “Did you forget something?”

“It’s all fucked up, Felix,” Jeremy’s brave face immediately faltered.

“No, they didn’t…did they?” Felix immediately knew what Jeremy was referring to, “Wow, that’s low. I’m so sorry, baby.”

“I don’t know what to do,” Jeremy perched on the edge of the sofa. Instinctively, Felix pulled Jeremy in for the tightest hug, just the one he needed. He wanted to stay there forever.

“There’s nothing you can do, right? Not yet. God, I hate the Callahans so much. How did Harry turn out so different” Felix ranted.

“I guess not all of us turn out like our parents,” Jeremy sighed. He knew better than anyone how destructive parents could be.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” Felix quickly backtracked.

“No, I know, it’s okay. It’s been almost a decade since I escaped my father, I don’t want my entire life to be about him,” Jeremy assured. Felix was more aware than most people about how traumatised Jeremy was. There was no way he intended to cause offence.

“Why don’t we get a takeaway? We need to distract you. Cheer you up. Takeout and soppy romcom, you can’t go wrong,” Felix suggested, gently caressing Jeremy’s curls as if they were the most precious material in the world.

“Sur,” Jeremy nodded. There was nowhere else in the world that he would rather have been.

Feeling a sharp pain in his hands suddenly, Jeremy looked down, doing as little to break the hug as possible. His claws were extended, and they had dug deeply into his palms between his clenched fists. Blood was dropping out of the open wounds, and it hurt like hell. Strangely, for a moment, Jeremy’s brain had a different type of pain on his mind.

It was just the distraction he needed.

Somehow, it felt good.

The view outside Josh’s window never failed to amaze him. The forest was on their doorstep, and that excited Josh. He had spent many an hour exploring the vast woodland Crystalshaw had to offer, and he still hadn’t seen everything. It intrigued him, and that went beyond the animalistic instinct of the wolf inside him.

Josh was growing increasingly fed up of his bedroom. It was his safe space, but it was boring. He didn’t even have a job to distract him, and he didn’t know where to begin finding one. He had the qualifications and the experience, but after everything that had happened, would anyone take the risk of hiring him? He was stuck in a rut, and there was no way out.

As a teenager, Josh would have scarpered. He’d have run. Sprinted to a far away place. Started again somewhere new. That was how he ended up in Crystalshaw in the first place, albeit running entirely into the wrong crowd at first. The journey was worthwhile, though, as the result was a family, and nothing was going to make him throw it away. At least he had somewhere to retreat to, even when everything else was lost.

Three gentle knocks at the door. Josh didn’t realise anyone else was at home. Ed and Caroline were at work, and Libby was at school. Perhaps it was Dylan popping in? He usually texted in advance, though. Josh felt cautious, though he figured intruders rarely knocked.

“Who is it?” Josh called out.

“Yasmin. Can I come in? Please tell me you’re decent.”

Josh leapt out of bed and keenly opened the door. He’d spent far less time with Yasmin than he wanted to upon his return to Crystalshaw. Somehow, despite his multiple shortcomings over the years, she still had time for him. In his years in New York, Yasmin messaged him almost every day, even visiting him more than most of their friends, so the muted reaction back home had upset him, and there was only one person to blame.

“This is a nice surprise,” Josh couldn’t hide his smile, “Wait, why aren’t you at the lab?”

“It’s so fucked up, Josh,” Yasmin started to weep. She almost never cried, in front of anyone at least.

“Come on, sit down,” Josh sprung into protective mode. Yasmin could have gone anywhere, but she chose to see Josh. That meant the world, but the moment wasn’t about him. Yasmin clearly needed him, and he wasn’t going to let her down.

“We always find a way, don’t we? There’s always been a way out,” Yasmin started to vent as she perched on the edge of Josh’s bed.

“Always,” Josh affirmed. Yasmin looked distressed. This wasn’t anything ordinary. Something was seriously wrong.

“I think, this time, it’s different. I’m done. They’re out for blood, and I think this is just the start,” Yasmin continued to spiral.

“Woah, slow down, tell me what happened. I’m listening,” Josh reassured as gently as he could.

“The Callahans. They’ve made allegations about how Harry’s autopsy and forensic report was carried out. Jeremy and I have been suspended,” Yasmin explained.

“That’s bullshit,” Josh felt angry immediately. He knew how vindictive Harry’s family were, but that was a low blow, “They don’t care about Harry. All they care about is their reputation, even if it ruins Harry’s friends.”

“This will go on my record, even if the investigation shows nothing was wrong,” Yasmin panicked, “I’m over, Josh.”

“No, you’re not, and you know why? You’re Yasmin Forsyth. I’ve never seen you back down. Not even once. You’re a fighter, and that’s why I…” Josh trailed off. He caught himself, barely in time. He couldn’t say that.

“Why you…?” Yasmin raised an eyebrow. It was obvious that he knew what he was going to say. Josh could hardly deny it, but he was going to swerve it regardless.

“Why I consider you my best friend,” Josh recovered. He wasn’t lying, but he wasn’t revealing the full picture either, “Trust me, it could be worse. If anyone knows that it’s me.” Yasmin nodded. Josh felt honoured that she had come to him, but her presence always came with a bitter pill to swallow.

Instinct taking over, Dylan wasted no time. He scooped the young lad off the floor and into his arms, carrying him into the nearest empty classroom: Mrs. Johnson’s. There was no time for nostalgia, though. All Dylan had on his mind was the convulsing body of the poor student in his arms.

“What’s his name?” Dylan quickly enquired as Jonah followed closely behind him.

“Ashton,” Jonah answered, “He’s in our class but I don’t really know him.”

“Clear the desk,” Dylan instructed, “Mrs. Johnson, please, can you help?”

“What’s the matter?” Mrs. Johnson sprung to action instantly.

“He’s a werewolf,” Jono informed.

“He must have taken the mountain ash,” Freddie added as Dylan laid Ashton gently across the front desk, ensuring his untamed mop of curls was away from his face.

“Then we need to act fast,” Mrs. Johnson picked up Ashton’s hand, feeling his pulse, “We need to flush it out of his system. If we don’t, it’s only a matter of time until his body can’t fight the damage anymore.”

Dylan looked around the room. Everyone was horrified. Jono and Freddie met eyes with him, sharing the exact same expression. It didn’t look good for Ashton, and Dylan’s heart was breaking. He was far too young to be in a position like that. Mrs. Johnson knew her stuff, but Ashton was barely conscious, and Jonah and Leah’s petrified expressions showed they were more aware than anyone.

“Hey, maybe you guys shouldn’t be in here,” Dylan put them first. He remembered exactly how terrified he was at their age. They didn’t need the same burden.

“No,” Jonah insisted, “He’s our classmate. We need to be here.” A sheepish nod from Leah followed. Dylan was impressed by his maturity. It was obvious Jonah had taken after his brothers.

“How much mountain ash is in the pills?” Mrs. Johnson queried, rapid-fire, “Come on, I need to know.”

“Not much, they’re tiny,” Jonah quickly replied, “It’s modified, apparently.”

“Which is good news for Ashton. It might buy us enough time to get him to hospital. He’ll need his stomach pumped,” Mrs. Johnson detailed.

“I’ll call the ambulance,” Freddie took the initiative.

“Jono, in the meantime,” Mrs. Johnson approached, lowering her volume, “Lily was here, and she wasn’t herself. I don’t know where she went, but I think she might be in danger. She saw something that wasn’t here.”

Jono immediately clenched Dylan’s hand. He could feel the tension in the grip. If Dylan himself was feeling sick at the mere thought of Lily being in trouble, he couldn’t imagine how Jono felt.

“Go, I can handle things here,” Mrs. Johnson commanded. Dylan didn’t need to check with Jono first. Their hands remaining gripped as tightly as possible, they ran out into the corridor and towards the exit. Wherever Lily was, they were going to make damn sure she came home safely.

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