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Series 8 Episode 4
"Jono's Choice"

Two weeks in. Dylan was slowly beginning to get used to life at the Lunar Sanctum. Though the testing wasn’t always pleasant, he wasn’t exactly treated badly. He had a comfy enough bed, food three times a day, and he was alive.

That didn’t mean Dylan wasn’t desperately trying to figure out an escape plan, though. In fact, that was what he spent most of his time thinking about. How to get home. How to reach his mum. How to reach Jono. It broke Dylan’s heart to consider what they must have been through in those two weeks. They’d have assumed he was dead. They’d have grieved for someone who was alive and breathing. All he needed was one quick phone call to put them at ease, but he wasn’t allowed.

“Injections don’t get any less painful, do they?” Jeremy remarked. Despite Jeremy being in a separate room with a corridor between them, Dylan still appreciated his company so much. He was what got him through each day.

“Never,” Dylan confirmed, “I was so scared of them as a kid.”

“They stopped scaring me so much when my dad was testing the virus on me,” Jeremy opened up. Wow. Dylan often forgot just how crazy an ordeal Jeremy had been through with David.

“I’m sorry,” Dylan felt very sympathetic to him.

“It’s fine. I got out. I escaped, and he’s gone now. I’m safe,” Jeremy was relieved, “I know this place isn’t ideal, but it’s better than the last few years of my life with him.”

“What changed?” Dylan noticed the specific mention of a time period.

“Margaret couldn’t look after me anymore. She got moved into a care home,” Jeremy explained, “My dad couldn’t cope with a double life so well without her.”

“You’re worth more than all of that,” Dylan assured, “I’ve got you, and when we get out, you’ve got a whole pack waiting for you.”

“Cool,” Jeremy smiled excitedly, “Jono’s lucky to have you, you know.” Dylan glanced down at the eternity ring sat snugly on his ring finger. Jono was always there by his side, in some way.

He’d have done anything to see him again.

Gobsmacked, Jono had no idea how he was supposed to feel. His night with Oscar had been amazing. In fact, it was pretty close to being perfect. Finally, he had taken a step towards moving on with his life, and he felt so proud of himself.

Yet, there he was. Dylan. Stood right in front of him. How could he have been there? Where had he been for five months? Jono was so confused. What was he supposed to do?

The look on Dylan’s face said it all. He looked genuinely gutted. He’d seen the kiss. Jono wanted to cry. He had Oscar to think about too, and there was no way out of this situation that didn’t upset either him or Dylan.

“I think I should let you two talk,” Oscar broke the silence, “Text me, yeah?” Jono appreciated his thoughtfulness, but he knew somebody’s heart was going to be broken at the end of the night. Whatever Dylan had been through, it wasn’t Oscar’s fault. Nevertheless, he paced away, giving them both space.

“Hi,” Dylan waved nervously, tears rolling down his cheeks. Jono couldn’t believe his eyes. He waked up to Dylan and gently placed his hand on his cheek. He was real. He was alive.

“Happy birthday,” Jono raised a smile, “Where have you been?” Dylan led him to the doorstep, sitting down side-by-side.

“The Lunar Sanctum,” Dylan explained, “They saved me, and Jeremy.”

“We were there yesterday,” Jono was amazed. He came so close to finding Dylan. If only he had known he was still alive, “One of Scott’s friends needed our help.”

“Nolan? He’s here? Good, because we got Liam out too,” Dylan replied, much to Jono’s relief. He’d seen how nervous Nolan was – he deserved to be reunited with the one he loved.

“How was it? Did they hurt you?” Jono needed to know. He wasn’t sure Dylan enduring five months of pain was a great deal more comforting.

“They were doing some sort of testing. They never told me the specifics, it’s classified, but it didn’t hurt too much. All things considered, it was surprisingly hospitable,” Dylan answered, “But I couldn’t contact anyone. I so desperately wanted to let you know I was okay.”

“Better late than never, I suppose,” Jono smiled. His heart was fluttering. He couldn’t believe he’d been reunited with Dylan.

“What have I missed?” Dylan queried. Such a big question. Jono had to think about where to start.

“Brett and Johnny came out at school yesterday,” Jono began with the good news, “It was awesome. Freddie moved in here, and so did I. My parents aren’t talking to me, or Lily.”

“I’m sorry,” Dylan replied sincerely, “How is Lily?”

“Coping, thanks to Alex,” Jono informed, “Better than some of us here. Yasmin’s been better. Sammi’s not been the same since she lost Jeremy. Josh, well, he’s been back a grand total of one day.”

“He was away for five months?” Dylan seemed surprised.

“There’s one more thing. The guy you saw. That’s Oscar, he’s our friend. He’s nice. He doesn’t know about werewolves,” Jono took a deep breath before continuing, “That was our first date.”

“I kinda guessed. I mean, I wanted you to move on,” Dylan acknowledged, “Do you like him?”

“Yes,” Jono confessed, “But I’m sat here with you, and it feels like you’ve never been away. It’s always you, Dyl. I’ve missed you so much,” Jono couldn’t help crying, but he wasn’t alone – Dylan was weeping too. They shared a tight hug. Their first in so long.

“I missed you too,” Dylan replied, “I thought of you every single day.”

“What do I do, Dyl? None of this is Oscar’s fault,” Jono worried. He knew he was making the right choice, but he had to let Oscar down as gently as possible.

“Talk to him. Please, if he’s as nice as you say, go and tell him. He deserves the truth,” Dylan advised, “And he deserves it now. Go on, I’ll be waiting for you here.”

Jono nodded. Dylan was right. Oscar needed some honestly, because Jono knew what he wanted, and he always had.

Complete with a pretty pink bow in her hair, Sammi felt proud of herself. She hadn’t dressed up nice in so long, because there hadn’t been anything to celebrate. Now there was, she was excited to be able to let her hair down and forget her worries for a change.

Two knocks on the door. Freddie entered, wearing a gorgeous blue shirt. He looked chirpier than he did that morning. It seemed like the idea of being able to relax was rubbing off well on them both.

“You look incredible,” Freddie smiled.

“And you look so dapper,” Sammi grinned back. For a moment, they felt just like any normal couple.

The doorbell rang. Sammi knew her aunt and uncle were still at work, so she had to do the honours. She bounded downstairs and flung open the front door, expecting to see a salesman or something. Immediately though, she slammed it shut again. It couldn’t have been. Her eyes were deceiving her. Wasn’t she allowed to forget for just one evening?

“Who was it?” Freddie questioned.

“Nobody,” Sammi brushed it off.

“There’s two heartbeats out there,” Freddie corrected. Sammi was confused. Who could it have been? Obviously, she was seeing things. Cautiously, she opened the door again. There he was. Still there. That impossible sight. Jeremy.

“No. I’m seeing things,” Sammi closed her eyes.

“If you are, then so am I,” Freddie confirmed. Sammi looked again. He was real. He was actually there.

“Hey sis,” Jeremy grinned, “I’m alive.”

Sammi jumped into his arms in glee. Her mind had so many questions, but they could wait. All that mattered was that Jeremy was miraculously alive.

“Welcome back,” Freddie smiled, “Who’s your friend?”

“This is my friend Liam,” Jeremy introduced.

“Liam? As in, Nolan’s Liam?” Freddie realised.

“Is he here?” Liam excitedly questioned.

“I’ll be right back,” Freddie grinned excitedly. Two reunions for the price of one – it made her heart flutter.

“How are you here?” Sammi wondered. She couldn’t get her head around it. Five whole months had passed. Where had he been?

“The Lunar Sanctum saved me. I’ve been there the whole time with Dylan,” Jeremy explained, “But we got out. I had to find you.”

“Dylan’s alive too? Where is he?” Sammi worried, noticing he wasn’t with them.

“He’s fine, he’s gone home,” Jeremy clarified, “Are you off out?”

“Dylan’s house,” Sammi replied coincidentally, “Go get cleaned up, we’ll wait for you.” Jeremy nodded before bouncing up the stairs, passing Freddie leading Nolan in the opposite direction.

“Oh my god,” Liam rushed inside, wrapping Nolan in the tightest, most comforting hug Sammi had seen. It was the cutest sight. Their adoration of each other was obvious.

“I’ve missed that smile,” Freddie commented, looking into Sammi’s eyes. He was right – she was beaming, for the first time in so long. Miracles could happen.

Still feeling a little shaken, Lily was pleased to finally be finished at the sheriff station. It wasn’t as cosy as the one at Crystalshaw, helped by how Ed was practically family of course. Though her interview was finished, she couldn’t stop thinking about the body she saw. Nicolas’ body. Somehow, she actually felt sorry for him, despite everything he had put her through.

There were so many questions going through her mind. How did he die? She couldn’t quite make it out. How long had he been in the river? Of course, she had theories, too. Nicolas was a werewolf, and a new hunter had shown up, but she needed proof. Accusing Jamal would serve nobody any benefit.

“How are you?” Alex questioned. He’d already been questioned and had waited behind for her.

“Eh,” Lily replied honestly, “Could be better.”

“He got what was coming to him,” Sindy remarked. She had stuck around too – a true team.

“You don’t mean that,” Lily was disappointed in her attitude. Nicolas made it quite clear where he stood, but Lily had learnt to see the good in people. That was definitely a quality Jono had taught her.

“I do,” Sindy maintained, “No. I don’t, but I haven’t forgiven him for what he did. That would be an insult to Violet.”

“Me neither,” Lily insisted, “But we need to think logically. We know nothing here is a coincidence, so why would someone kill Nicolas?”

“A hunter,” Alex immediately identified. She was pleased he had paid such good attention.

“There is no way Jamal did this,” Sindy defended.

“We can’t prove it either way,” Lily corrected, “But he’s made a threat already. It’s not that unlikely.”

The trio were nearing their dorm rooms – the sheriff station was only down the road. Lily felt so tired, but her mind was firing on all cylinders. She so badly wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Flicking the light on in her and Sindy’s room, Lily was horrified. The place had been trashed from top to bottom. Beds flipped over. Clothes scattered. Drawers hanging open.

“What the hell?” Sindy was just as shocked. Lily didn’t know what to say.

The worst part was the writing on the wall. “Werewolf Scum.” Written in blood.

“Do you still think he’s innocent?” Lily asked Sindy. There was only one suspect in her mind. It had to have been Jamal.

Yasmin wasn’t completely sure what she saw in the bushes, but whatever it was had to have been watching her. The second she and Josh went to pursue it, it vanished, clearly not wanting to be found. That meant it was smart and calculated, but it didn’t look human.

Having Josh by her side provided a surprising level of comfort. He was a strong fighter and would keep her safe, and he had proved that with David even if his later actions were severely questionable. Yasmin hoped it would be a chance for Josh to prove just how sorry he really is.

“Your face,” Yasmin spotted. He’d obtained a cut on his forehead that was now bleeding. Gently, she wiped the drip of blood away.

“It’s been there since the explosion,” Josh admitted, “I had more cuts, but they started healing only today.”

“You’re in a pack again,” Yasmin realised, “Packs make you strong, literally in the case of werewolves. Now you’re back, you’re healing faster.”

“I guess I’ve ticked alpha, beta and omega all off,” Josh chucked calmly. He was so chilled that Yasmin almost didn’t feel scared of whatever they were still approaching.

“Noticed any scents?” Yasmin wondered.

“There’s nothing. How can it not have a scent?” Josh replied.

“Something that shouldn’t exist,” Yasmin theorised.

“Wait, I can hear heartbeats,” Josh replied.

“Heartbeats?” Yasmin noticed Josh’s plural. More than one creature? That felt even more concerning.

Suddenly, two figures appeared out of the bushy area ahead. Two humanoid figures. Two people Yasmin instantly recognised.

“Hold on,” Yasmin stopped Josh, who was ready to pounce, “It’s Brett and Johnny, you dumbass.”

“Did you see it?” Brett questioned.

“You saw it too?” Josh was surprised.

“Big scaly thing,” Johnny explained, “We thought we were following it.”

“So did we,” Yasmin mentioned, “I think it’s trying to get our attention.”

“Ugh,” Brett complained, looking at his shoes. He’d stepped in some sort of odd goo-type substance. He went to wipe it off, but Yasmin blocked his hand.

“Stop,” Yasmin commanded, “You don’t know what that is.” She crumpled up a folded sheet of revision from her pocket and scooped a little of the thick, clear liquid up, “Let’s find out what this is.”

Despite a rocky start, Dylan couldn’t have been more thrilled about how his chat with Jono had gone. Finally, he had reunited with the love of his life, and it was the best feeling ever. Dylan never wanted to be apart from Jono for even a second again.

However, Jono had some business to attend to on his own. He needed to speak to Oscar, because he was innocent in this mess. Though Dylan’s heart momentarily broke when he saw Jono and Oscar kiss, he was so happy that Jono chose him all over again. He felt bad for Oscar, though. He was collateral damage caused by the Sanctum, and Dylan wasn’t okay with that. He deserved to be let down gently.

That meant Dylan had to face another big moment on his own, and he felt so excited. He was sure to put a gigantic smile on his mum’s face, yet he felt so sad knowing what she must have endured. At least she’d had Jono and Freddie to look out for her at home.

Even the comforting sight of his house meant so much to Dylan. He felt safe there, knowing nobody could get to him without dealing with his mum and the sheriff first.

“Who is it? Jono?” she called out from the lounge, “Everything’s ready for your friends, they’re welcome to come at any time.”

“What about me?” Dylan questioned from the doorway. He watched on as her relaxed posture tensed up. She glanced up, locking eyes with him in both awe and bafflement.

“Dylan? Is that really you?” Caroline questioned hopefully yet nervously.

“It’s me, mom. I’m alive,” Dylan smiled, feeling tears already running a race down his cheeks.

“Come here,” Caroline commanded. Dylan didn’t need to be told twice. He ran into Caroline’s open arms for the warm hug he had been so desperate for, “Both you and your brother back on the same day. I thought you were meant to be getting presents on your birthday, not giving them.”

“I’m sorry,” Dylan wept as they sat down next to each other on the sofa, “It’s a long story, and I’m still not sure I’m totally safe, but I’m home.”

“It’s okay, my baby. We’ll tackle it together, just like we always have,” Caroline didn’t let go of his hands, “I can’t believe you’re here. Have you seen Jono?”

“Yeah, just now, we had a talk. He’ll be back soon,” Dylan replied, “What’s happening tonight?”

“A little celebration. Josh gave us something to be happy about,” Caroline replied, “Now it’s a double celebration. Or triple, seeing as it’s somebody’s eighteenth.”

“Oh my god,” the familiar voice of Freddie called out as a group of guests filtered in through the door. Freddie bundled onto Dylan, with Sammi just behind. Oh, it was so good to see them both again, “Jeremy said you were back.”

“I’ve missed you guys,” Dylan grinned. He caught eyes with Jeremy stood in the doorway. He had the biggest smile on his face, like a proud brother. He’d very much felt like one when all they really had was each other.

“Dylan, meet Nolan,” Liam introduced, stepping forward. Next to him was an adorably cute young man, with perfectly styled hair and pretty freckles scattered across his cheeks.

“I’ve heard a lot of stuff about you,” Dylan shook his hand. Nolan flashed an awkward yet kind smile back to him.

“Hold on, do the others know yet?” Freddie queried.

“Only Jono,” Dylan explained, “They still have my phone.” Without hesitation, Freddie chucked his phone over. Dylan had to get the message out somehow, after all.

Never had Jono felt such a crazy rollercoaster of emotions in one night. He was on such a high with Oscar, and though Dylan had filled him with even more joy and excitement, he also felt gutted about what that meant for Oscar. Jono knew with absolute certainty that he was making the right decision, but breaking it to Oscar wasn’t going to be easy.

He’d texted him asking if they could meet at Jono’s treehouse. He hadn’t seen much of the treehouse in a while – it was a little too close to his parents when they weren’t working – but it was definitely the best place for a private chat.

“Sorry I’m late,” Oscar heaved himself up the ladder. He was making a habit of tardiness, not that Jono minded, “How are you?”

“All over the place,” Jono replied honestly, “I mean, I’m not really sure on the protocol for how to feel when my dead boyfriend isn’t dead after all.”

“I get it,” Oscar commented, “I mean, I don’t understand anything that’s happened tonight, but I sympathise, and I know what you’re going to say next. I saw the way you looked at Dylan, and I know what everyone at school says about the both of you.”

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” a tearful Jono took Oscar’s hand, “Dylan gets me like nobody else. He makes me feel so happy without saying a word. I still really like you, Oscar. You’re funny, kind, and so supportive, and if it’s okay, I really want to keep being your friend.”

“You’re my best friend, dude,” Oscar took the news amazingly well. Though he looked disappointed, he was trying to put on a brave face, “Nothing’s going to change that. I just want you to be happy.”

Jono smiled. He still felt so guilty, but this situation had caught everyone off-guard. Oscar deserved the world, and Jono was always going to cheer in his corner.

“Hey, Dylan’s mom is hosting a little celebration tonight,” Jono mentioned, “You know, you’re still our friend, and I’d really like you to come. No pressure.”

“Will Dylan mind?” Oscar worried.

“I think you and Dylan will be amazing friends,” Jono persuaded. After all, nobody was kinder than Dylan or Oscar.

“Alright,” Oscar smiled, “I’ll meet you there. Go get your guy.”

Jono hugged Oscar. He really was a better friend than he deserved, but Dylan was waiting, and Jono could hardly wait to see him again.

Josh wasn’t ready to face Mrs. Johnson again just yet. He was still reeling from the amount of biology catch-up work he’d been given. Perhaps he needn’t have been surprised – it was his own fault for not attempting to keep up with school – but at the same time, most absentees didn’t have to go through what he’d endured.

He felt motivated, though. Josh wasn’t keen on seeing all of his friends progress past high school while he had to repeat the year. Whether college was his aim or not, he was ready to move on and achieve something.

For a moment, things felt strangely normal, though. Yasmin, Brett and Johnny by his side as they investigated the supernatural. Josh wasn’t stupid. He knew he had further to go before he got Yasmin’s forgiveness, but for a moment, he was able to pretend.

“I don’t recognise it,” Mrs. Johnson commented, examining the small blob of thick, clear liquid from outside, “I think we need to do some tests.”

“We think it came from a reptilian creature,” Brett mentioned.

“Kanima?” Josh thought aloud.

“Possibly, but I wouldn’t be so sure until I’ve tested this venom. There are multiple venomous creatures in the supernatural world, but I’ve not encountered many. All I know is that extreme caution is needed,” Mrs. Johnson sensibly informed, “You may be quicker using the Bestiary.”

“The bunker’s sealed off, it has been since the explosion,” Yasmin mentioned, “It’s not safe down there.”

“You’d better be careful, then,” Mrs. Johnson warned, turning her back as she began her tests. Yasmin’s eyes widened. She was no huge fan of Mrs. Johnson – none of them particularly enjoyed involving their biology teacher, but her bluntness made things even less ideal.

Josh’s phone buzzed. Weirdly, so did Yasmin, Brett and Johnny’s phones. This could only have been one of a select few people, considering David had taken Josh’s old phone and he’d been using a new number for all of one day.

They had received a WhatsApp message from Freddie. A picture was attached. An impossible picture. Dylan. A photo Josh hadn’t seen before. He looked different. His hair was longer than Josh had known.

“Is this an old picture?” Johnny looked confused.

“No, it’s brand new,” Josh identified, the excitement immediately rushing through his body. A smile adorned his face; the biggest smile he had enjoyed in ages.

“How can it not be old?” Brett was a little slower. Josh caught eyes with Yasmin, briefly taking her eyes off the picture, before staring at it again and smiling. They both knew what it meant, and it made him feel so good, like being wrapped in the cosiest blanket ever.

“Dylan’s alive,” Josh grinned, “Come on, we’ve got a party to go to.”

Flustered, Lily wasn’t sure what to do. Her space had been trashed, her life had been threatened, and her anxiety levels were the highest they had been in so long. Her breathing was heavy and restricted, and she couldn’t focus on what was in front of her.

“Lily?” Sindy called out.

“Sit her down,” Alex directed. The sound of his voice usually comforted her, but Lily’s mind was spiralling. Imagining the worst. What if Jamal hurt him at night? He was at risk. Any of them could die. Just like Jeremy. Just like Dylan.

“Lily, I need you to look at me,” Alex knelt down in front of her, “Look into my eyes. Focus on something you can see.”

Lily tried her best. Alex’s green eyes were enchanting. She focused on the vibrant colour and glassy reflection. It was a gorgeously calm sight.

“Deep breaths,” Alex directed, “In…and out.” Lily followed his instructions. Her heart was beating so fast, but her mind was slowing down. She was coming out the other the end.

“I’m okay,” Lily confirmed. She knew what a panic attack felt like. Sindy passed her a towel to wipe the sweat that now disgustingly covered her forehead. She looked at Alex again, “You are incredible.”

“I’m no stranger to panic attacks,” Alex replied, “I had to help out.”

“This isn’t going away, though. That’s going to be the first of many if we stay here,” Lily argued.

“What happened to acting normal?” Sindy was confused.

“I think playing fair went out the window when he trashed our room,” Lily reasoned, “And if he did kill Nicolas, I don’t…I don’t want to risk one of us being next.”

“Yeah, I get it, but Alex is human? He’ll be safe, right?” Sindy noted.

“Let’s just say collateral damage isn’t a new concept to me,” Lily justified, “We need to get somewhere safe. College isn’t worth our lives.”

“Alright, so where do we go?” Alex thought practically. She was pleased he was on board with her, though she didn’t doubt him for a second.

“Home,” Lily stated, “Crystalshaw’s the safest place, because of my pack. Strength in numbers.”

Her phone buzzed, interrupting the chat. It was a WhatsApp message from Freddie. A picture. A single picture that sent shockwaves of excitement through Lily’s body.

“And if you need any more convincing,” Lily showed them both the picture.

“Dylan,” Alex recognised, looking confused.

“Wait, I thought he was dead?” Sindy blurted out. Lily understood her confusion – she was baffled enough herself – but perhaps she lacked the faith in Dylan that Lily had in bucketloads. After all, Sindy hadn’t met him before.

“He’s Dylan Drummond. He’s the alpha. His name matters, because he goes against the grain. He fights hate with love. He tries to see the good in everything. He’s my family, because he’s the only guy my brother deserves,” Lily explained, “Come on, get packed. We’re getting the first flight out.”

For one night, Dylan forgot all of his problems. In the back of his mind, he was well aware that the Lunar Sanctum would still be looking for him. They were stood at the beginning of a war, and Dylan was ready to fight to win. The lives of his pack depended on it, and the Sanctum had given him the opportunity to reflect on just how much he cherished each and every one of his friends.

However, for that night, Dylan just wanted to enjoy himself. The rest of the group had arrived at his house – Yasmin, Josh, Brett and Jeremy. It was amazing to see them again. Dylan had dreamed of the day they’d all be reunited, but part of him considered that the day may never come. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this overjoyed.

His mum played the role of the hostess perfectly. She had spent the day baking a birthday cake, while decorating the house with “welcome home” and “happy birthday” banners. Of course, it started as a party for Josh, but Dylan was more than happy to share the occasion with his brother. Meanwhile, Ed was helping to dish out drinks – a rare treat of wine, underage or not. After all, he was the sheriff.

Upon his return, Jono hadn’t left Dylan’s side, and Dylan couldn’t have been happier about that. They had five months of time to catch up on, and knowing how they usually were, that meant a lot of hugs.

“I made this playlist for you,” Jono mentioned. He had picked the music for the evening, of course. There was nobody better to take on DJ duties.

“Me?” Dylan was intrigued. He hadn’t recognised an of the songs played, but he was thoroughly enjoying the playlist nonetheless.

“It sounds stupid,” Jono blushed, “But any time I heard a new song that you’d like, I added it to this playlist.”

Dylan felt so touched. Jono had been thinking of Dylan just as much as he’d been thinking of Jono. He was ridiculously lucky, and after so long apart, he needed no reminder of that. Though it was a cliché, Dylan had learnt that absence really did make the heart grow fonder.

“I love it,” Dylan replied, cuddling up under Jono’s chin, “I could stay here all night.”

“Then let’s do that,” Jono agreed, playing with his hair, “But I need a favour from you first.”

Dylan sat up. Immediately, he could suss out what Jono meant. In the corner of the room was Yasmin, not making any eye contact with anyone. In one hand was her phone, taking all of her attention away from the room, and in the other was a glass of wine – not her first of the night.

“She’s struggled, more than most of us. Go and talk to her. She needs you,” Jono encouraged. Of course, Dylan didn’t need to be asked twice. Yasmin’s slumped posture was so far away from what he was used to from her. He’d missed his best friend so much.

“Hey,” Dylan smiled, positioning himself on the arm of the couch, next to her.

“Sorry, I’m not much fun,” Yasmin sighed.

“I don’t mind,” Dylan replied, “I’m just pleased you’re here.”

“It’s been hard,” Yasmin opened up, “So much changed, and I’ve never really known how to deal with it.”

“I know,” Dylan understood. He knew Yasmin better than most. Yasmin was Dylan’s first friend in Crystalshaw, after all. They had a bond like no other, “Talk or don’t talk, I don’t mind, but I’m here for you either way, and I’m not going away again.”

“I’m glad,” Yasmin rested her head against Dylan’s arm. They always had each other.

“Everyone,” Caroline called out, tapping her wine glass to quieten the chit-chat. Jono paused the music just as Dylan slipped back into his cosy spot by his side. Dylan spotted Oscar slipping into the room, sending a smile over. Dylan was pleased to see him. He wanted to get to know him, because Jono cared for him, and that mattered, “Thank you all for coming. Of course, I threw this party to officially welcome my beautiful Josh back home. We’re so thrilled to have him back safely. It’s turned into more than that, though,” Caroline was tearing up. It warmed Dylan’s heart to see Ed with his arm around her, consoling her every step of the way, “My Dylan is alive. And Jeremy. And Liam. We’ve all found our loved ones again, so I think we deserve to relax and celebrate life. We all know now just how short it is. Welcome home boys, and happy birthday to Dylan, my strong, intelligent and gorgeous son.” She raised her glass, everyone following suit.

Dylan looked up at Jono. This was what he had longed for. He was so happy to be back.

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