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Next: "Lockdown"

Series 11 Episode 4
"Last-Ditch Attempt"

It had been a long time since Dylan last went to a concert. Truthfully, the idea hadn’t excited him in a few years because part of the spark had gone. Half of the fun was the company; he’d only ever been to gigs with Jono before.

Jono’s keen interest in music had rubbed off considerably on Dylan. Together, they had seen so many cool artists: Harry Styles, Cardi B, and even a meet and greet with Dua Lipa, the photo from which Dylan treasured more than anything. Him and the love of his life, having the best night together.

Going to a concert without Jono just felt wrong. Dylan was sure he could find someone to take to a show if he wanted to go to one – Yasmin, Oscar, Brett, pretty much anyone would have been down for a night out – but the experience of a night with the one he loved most was unbeatable and incomparable. Anything else would feel like a poor replica.

It was therefore no wonder that Dylan felt tentative about the evening ahead. It was only a small gig at a bar in town, a far cry from the arenas he’d visited with Jono, but this was still the first live music event he’d been to since Jono had to leave. It felt like a major moment, and Dylan wasn’t sure he was ready to let go of another part of the life he still desperately desired.

Nevertheless, Brett had invited him along for some company; Oscar had a work commitment, and they didn’t want to go on their own. After much consideration, Dylan had agreed, but mainly because he rarely got the chance to catch up with Brett, or any of his friends for that matter. The world of work meant he rarely had a free moment.

“Front row seats,” Brett smiled, “Thanks for coming, it feels like ages since we last got the chance to chat.”

“Of course, I’ve missed you. I’ve missed everyone, honestly, I feel like I’ve barely seen anyone since college finished,” Dylan replied, trying to relax himself. College was far from an easy experience, especially after Jono left, but at least he had all his friends around him.

“Trust me, I never took it for granted,” Brett was such a natural conversationalist, far more than Dylan ever was, “Spending my first year of college away from you guys taught me never to take one second with you for granted.”

“At least you had Johnny,” Dylan reminded. Loneliness had been the presiding emotion in his mind for a while, and he was definitely wallowing in his self-pity.

“True. I mean, in that sense, it was the best year of my life,” Brett fondly reminisced. Dylan admired how positively they still thought about Johnny. It was as if the memories never faded.

“Do you still miss him?” Dylan enquired.

“Because you’re missing Jono, right?” Brett realised. Nothing got past them.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be insensitive. I know it’s not the same thing,” Dylan quickly retraced his steps. The last thing he wanted to do was upset Brett.

“No, not at all. It must help to know that he’s still alive, but we both lost our first loves, and there’s no worse feeling,” Brett explained, “And yes, I miss him every single day. I think I’ll miss him every day for my whole life, but I’ve learnt to move on. I’ve got Oscar, he’s not a replacement, but I fell in love all over again with someone different, and you will too.”

“I’m not sure I could ever find anyone to replace him,” Dylan sighed. Jono was too big a gap in his life to plug just like that.

“Maybe you need to forget about replacing him and look for someone different?” Brett suggested. Dylan couldn’t lie – they had a point.

“Hey everyone,” a voice timidly tapped the microphone. Dylan spun around to face Brett’s old friend, and immediately, his breath had been snatched from his lungs. Standing before him on a makeshift stage at the back of the bar was one of the most beautiful guys he had ever seen. Immediately, Dylan met with his glistening hazel eyes, both holding their gaze for what felt like ages. Dylan was in awe. He ticked every criteria box for his type. His scruffy brown hair brushed against his shoulders, complementing his smooth skin flawlessly. He was breath-taking, and Dylan couldn't take his eyes off him, "I'm Harry, and I'm going to play a couple of songs. First up is a big favourite of mine."

Harry gently strummed his guitar, the crowd chatter dulling instantly. Dylan could feel Harry's nerves immediately fall away as soon as he started playing, and surprisingly, his own anxieties had quietened themselves too. He felt comfortable, and for a moment, for a single second, he felt something he hadn't felt in a long time: optimism.

Quite what Sammi was expecting to see in the basement, she wasn’t sure. Usually, basements were littered with old junk people had accumulated over the years, left to gather dust alongside the Christmas decorations that were dug out every December. They were effectively storage containers tagged onto buildings.

This, in that sense, fitted the criteria perfectly. The out-of-bounds basement below a tech repair shop in town was, ultimately, a bit of a junkyard, but it wasn’t the usual piles of boxes and random bric-a-brac. It looked like the remnants of a collection. A collection of the most unusual items. The most alarming items.

Some of them, Sammi could identify. Numerous jars full to the brim with mountain ash and wolfsbane on the shelves were equally blatant and concerning, but the rest of the items felt just as worrying. There were weapons: swords, guns and more, but also an array of scientific equipment next to an ominously placed fridge, plugged in to a socket adjacent.

The most horrifying observation was the biggest item in the room. Standing almost as tall as the ceiling was a cage, or the remains of one, anyway. The metal poles, which were wide enough to hold just one person, had snapped and were bent outwards. Whatever had once been in there must have been seriously strong to have broken itself out. All Sammi could hope was that whatever it was, it was ancient history.

“Woah,” Charlie raced in from behind her. Evidently, now the rule had been broken, he didn’t care about how far he delved into the mysterious basement. Presumably, he wouldn’t have understood anything down there anyway.

“Don’t touch anything,” Sammi warned, sharing a nervous look with Freddie. They both knew that it wasn’t good news. After all, Crystalshaw had a history of werewolf hunters, and somebody else having the capability to kill the supernatural was a massive concern.

“What even is this?” Charlie examined the cage first, awestruck by its presence.

“I’d rather not know,” Freddie replied, “I think we need to tell Dylan about this.”

“But what even is this stuff?” Charlie was fascinated, “I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to recognise guns and swords, but I’ve never seen anything else in here before. Why are you both so nervous?”

“Long story,” Freddie quickly justified, swerving the question effortlessly before Sammi could think of an excuse, “Come on, we need to get out of here.”

Sammi didn’t need to be asked twice. Whatever was going on down there was bigger than just them, and she couldn’t lie – she was terrified.

Returning to the bar was always going to feel terrifying to Dylan. After all, he almost died there, and there was no way of sugar-coating something so bleak. A targeted attack on him and his friendship group didn’t feel real.

The extra burden came from Harry, though. Dylan knew he was blaming himself, and that broke his heart. Harry didn’t deserve to carry the weight by himself. None of them were to blame, and desperately, Dylan wanted to alleviate his worries, but he knew it wasn’t that easy.

All Dylan could do was focus on finding the real culprit. Perhaps some justice would prove to Harry that it wasn’t his fault? It was the best idea Dylan had, and he was prepared to do anything in his power to restore the infectious smile that had been depressingly absent from Harry’s face for a couple of days

To do this, Dylan needed back-up. Typically, his most reliable werewolf company was Freddie, Oscar, and Jeremy, but all of them seemed to be preoccupied, so only one option remained: Cody. For a long time, Dylan had resented Cody for everything he’d put Oscar through. He was arrogant and seemed untouchable in his own little kingdom. Whether that part of him was gone for good, Dylan wasn’t sure, but everyone deserved a chance – Josh taught him that.

“What are we looking for?” Cody stood inspecting the wreckage. The structure of the bar remained, but only just. It was a shell of what it was before, always bustling with activity and high in energy. It broke Dylan’s heart – he knew it was Harry’s favourite place to play. Seeing the place where they first met in such a dire stage was depressing.

“Any scent that might help,” Dylan explained.

“Might be hard without a reference point,” Cody considered.

“I know,” Dylan sighed, “But we need to find something. Literally anything. There must be a clue.”

“Maybe there was, but it was probably blown to oblivion,” Cody reasoned, “I guess we can at least rule this place out if we search properly. I…it doesn’t look very safe.”

“So tread carefully,” Dylan replied. Nothing was going to deter him.

Leading by example, Dylan took the first step inside. Police tape surrounded the entrance, but it didn’t take a limbo champion to slide underneath. Cody followed; it was a relief to see he was so trusting in Dylan, because he wasn’t sure how mutual it was yet. Perhaps time really was a healer?

“Okay, what’s up?” Cody questioned before they could get past the door. Dylan was taken aback – he wasn’t sure how to answer, mainly through fear of misinterpreting. After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

“Huh?” Dylan chose not to answer at all.

“I can smell the anxiety, Dylan,” Cody replied. Drat. Dylan had no way out of that one, “You don’t have to tell me, I understand, but I wanted to check you were okay. If you’re not up to this, it’s fine.”

“No, I’m good, I just…” Dylan tried to convince Cody he was fine, but deep down, he knew he wasn’t, “Jono’s back. He’s in Crystalshaw.”

“Wait, isn’t that really bad?” Cody listened closely.

“Not immediately. His dad’s dying, he came to say goodbye, then he’ll be gone again I assume,” Dylan pondered, “But he shouldn’t have to. He gave up everything to let me live here, and he can’t even grieve with his family when the time comes. It feels cruel.”

“Is there another way?” Cody queried, asking the million-dollar question. Dylan didn’t answer. He knew there wasn’t a solution out there – they’d searched high and low for years, after all – but he couldn’t hide the truth. No matter how much he’d moved on, he still hoped that Jono could one day come home. He didn’t deserve to be apart from his family, and Dylan wanted his best friend back.

“Have you spoken to Harry?” Cody continued.

“To say that my ex, who I’m still legally married to and never actually fell out of love with, is back in town?” Dylan couldn’t help chuckling at how ridiculous the entire situation was. He’d be fascinated by it if it weren’t his reality.

“Fair,” Cody chuckled along, “But you deserve to be able to see him. That doesn’t take away from Harry and how much you love him.”

“We said no contact, except postcards,” Dylan remembered the strict but necessary boundaries they placed on themselves.

“You also didn’t expect him to come back to Crystalshaw,” Cody reassured, “Go on, you deserve to talk to him. I’ll look around here for any clues, and hopefully Oscar will show his face to help.”

Dylan’s mind was working overtime. He didn’t know what to do. His head and his heart were conflicted. He wanted to see Jono like mad, but it almost felt unfair on Harry. What was the right thing to do?

Strangely, Harry had been looking forward to therapy that day. It was exactly what he needed; the chance to talk about his worries to a third party. Saying them aloud helped him gain a sense of perspective, even if there was no obvious solution. It was a weight off his shoulders.

It had worked slightly, too, just enough for Harry to refocus his priorities on the mission, but he also had something else to worry about. He hadn’t had the chance to tell Dylan about seeing Jono at the hospital. In fact, he wasn’t sure whether it was a good idea to mention it at all. Was it a wound he wanted to reopen for Dylan? Selfishly, Harry couldn’t help worrying about the impact it would have on their relationship too. Would Jono’s return mess up everything they had together? It would be a lie to say he wasn’t jealous.

Either way, the pack had a mission to complete, and Harry was keen to play his part. The pack had become such a valuable support network for him, and Harry knew he’d do everything he could to help. Whoever inflicted such a sickening sense of guilt in him needed to be brought to justice. Maybe that was the solution he was after?

“Dude, how do you only have 152 followers?” Brett was taken aback.

“I mean, I’m not an up-and-coming basketball player,” Harry replied, humoured.

“But you’re a musician, social media’s the best place to gain a following,” Brett advised, “I’ll give you a lesson on TikTok one day.”

“Maybe once this cult is locked up for good,” Harry shrugged, “My career doesn’t feel so important right now.”

“Then let’s get to work. We’ll be done in no time if we share it out,” Yasmin kept them on task, “We can immediately rule a few people out. All of us, for starters.”

“Ed, Caroline,” Harry added, “George, Cody, Keisha.”

“Jono,” Brett chimed in, “I mean, he’s in London, but still.” Harry averted his eyes, not wanting to display the slight sense of guilt he felt about keeping the secret of Jono’s return.

“Um,” Harry found himself saying before he could stop himself. It was too much – he needed to talk to someone.

“Harry?” Yasmin picked up on his uncertainty.

“Jono’s not in London. He’s here, in Crystalshaw,” Harry revealed.

“What?” Brett’s jaw dropped. They looked at Yasmin, who seemed surprisingly nonchalant about the news, “Wait, did you know?”

“Jeremy only told me because we work together,” Yasmin justified, “He’s only back because of his dad, he’s in hospital and he’s not got long left. He won’t be back long, and he didn’t want Dylan to know.”

“I saw him at the hospital after therapy,” Harry explained. It made sense to him now, and he felt a little guilty for being so selfish when Jono clearly had a lot going on, “Neither of us spoke but I’m sure he recognised me. I wasn’t sure whether to tell Dylan or not.”

“The plan failed. I had to tell him earlier,” Yasmin replied, “He asked why Jeremy wasn’t at his lab, I couldn’t lie.”

“He’ll be okay. Dylan’s a fighter. He knows the situation better than anyone, and he knows Jono won’t compromise their deal,” Brett reasoned.

“He’s not heard from Jono in a while, his postcard’s overdue,” Harry started to panic, “I need to find Dylan.”

“Dude,” Brett attempted to reason with Harry, but Yasmin held her index finger up. She knew Harry wouldn’t rest until he’d spoken to Dylan.

“We’ve got this covered,” Yasmin replied, “Be gentle.” Harry nodded. He needed to find Dylan to calm his nerves.

Already, the waiting room was driving Jono insane. He knew the inevitable was only potentially a few hours away from arriving, but the purgatory they all seemed to be in felt never-ending. With the certainty of his dad’s fate, he somewhat wished he could be put out of his misery. No more suffering, for both dad and his family. Was that selfish? He wasn’t sure, but they needed to grieve.

Jono could only take the social media scrolling for so long. The same, tired routine of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook had worn thin, both in terms of content and Jono’s interest. There was nothing left to keep his mind off reality.

“Still awake?” Lily prodded him gently in the arm.

“Barely,” Jono sighed, “Trying to distract myself.”

“Why don’t you go and see the pack? You might as well, I’ll call you if anything changes,” Lily encouraged.

“I think it would hurt too much,” Jono admitted, “It’s like window shopping. ‘Here’s everything you could have won,’ except I didn’t.”

“In general? Or is this about Dylan?” Lily recognised. Nothing got past her.

“I don’t know if I could handle seeing him,” Jono confessed. It was the ultimate display of what his life in Crystalshaw could, and would, have been.

“Then maybe you might want to close your eyes,” Lily warned, her eyes swerving to look behind Jono. Jono’s heart began to race. His body tensed up, nervous about what was about to happen.

Tentatively, Jono looked around. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting to feel, but his body was freaking out. His heart was pounding like a drum kit, and his breath was short and sharp. In front of Jono was the person he had been so desperate to see for seven years. The person he trusted and adored the most. His favourite person in the whole world, a statement that carried more weight after living in a different continent.

“Hey,” Dylan smiled his usual kind smile. He looked so grown up; Jono had seen Dylan in his Instagram photos, but in person, it became obvious just how much he’d matured in seven years. His hair was so long now, just as he’d always wanted, and his face looked slimmer, though equally beautiful if not more so.

“Hey,” Jono replied, unsure of what else to say. He’d always considered the words he’d use on the occasion he’d see Dylan again, but he never expected the day to actually arrive. He was speechless.

Yet, at the same time, Jono could hardly believe his luck.

Freddie couldn’t put his finger on it. He felt weird and disorientated, and he didn’t know why. How could a tatty old basement full of junk make him feel so strange? It didn’t make sense.

Except, that was exactly the reason. The basement made no sense, and that stuff wasn’t junk, not to anyone who knew the truth. That much wolfsbane was bad news, and only someone who knew what it was would have that much of it stored. Freddie couldn’t deny it – he was terrified.

The immediate risk seemed low, though. That basement looked like it hadn’t been touched in years, and it was well hidden below the repair shop, so it was unlikely to cause them an issue that night. That was a relief for Freddie – a lot had changed since they were naïve kids chasing supernatural horrors out of Crystalshaw. He had a life to live, and telling Dylan could wait until the morning.

“Thanks so much for keeping an eye on him,” Sammi immediately greeted Jeremy as she flung herself down on the sofa. It was obvious they were both relieved to be home.

“No worries, I was hoping to spend some time with a certain teenager, but I’ve not seen him all night,” Jeremy laughed.

“That’s normal,” Freddie chuckled. He knew his younger brother like the back of his hand, being sociable wasn’t his strong suit, “Has he eaten?”

“I ordered pizza about ten minutes ago, for you two as well,” Jeremy replied.

“Legend,” Sammi grinned. Freddie agreed – his stomach was rumbling.

“Did someone say pizza?” Jonah bounced down the stairs, perfectly on cue. He looked chirpier than he had the night before, to Freddie’s delighted; he hated falling out with his brother.

“Yeah, it’s coming soon. Come join us,” Freddie invited, relaxing onto the sofa and leaving Jonah a space.

“How was your first day?” Jonah enquired, slotting perfectly between him and Sammi.

“Dull,” Freddie laughed, “My co-worker Charlie is nice, but the job is way too easy. I can’t complain when it’s bringing money in, I suppose, but I want something better as soon as possible.”

“Not to mention the weird ass basement underneath,” Sammi mentioned. Freddie was pleased to realise it wasn’t just him who couldn’t get the basement off his mind.

“Basement? Why does a repair shop need a basement?” Jeremy’s interest was piqued, and Jonah was sat quietly listening too, ready for the gossip. Freddie had to watch his words – Jonah couldn’t hear the truth.

The doorbell rang, its jolly tone sounding more grating than anything to Freddie’s ears. However, it couldn’t have been more opportune, “Hey, Jonah, could you fetch the door?”

“Sure, but I can’t promise there’ll be any pizza left by the time I get back,” Jonah bounced back out of the room. Immediately, Sami swiped away at her phone before showing something to Jeremy.

“Wait, you took pictures?” Freddie was concerned. They didn’t need nor want any evidence of them ever being in that basement.

“Just a couple, don’t worry, I’m not planning on distributing them,” Sammi reassured.

“What the hell?” Jeremy was horrified, staring wide-eyed at the phone.

“I know, right?” Freddie sighed. His mind was on overtime.

“Wait,” Jeremy zoomed the photo in, “Did you see this?” He took the phone from Sammi’s hand and showed them both. Though it was blurry, Freddie could still make out the indisputable logo of a horror story, “It’s the Lunar Sanctum. It’s back.”

Dylan had never felt so confused in his whole life. He was feeling an insurmountable mixture of emotions and every thought in his out-of-control mind was conflicting with another. There was no guidebook for how he was feeling, and it was almost too much.

It was strange enough to be sat next to Jono again. Dylan never anticipated that such a day would come, although for years, he’d dreamed of it. It seemed unreal, and if he found out he was dreaming, he wouldn’t have been shocked. After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

The oddest part was that Dylan still felt the same about Jono. After so long, the butterflies never faded. Jono still ignited the same fire, and it gave Dylan the most powerful warming sensation he could dream of. A feeling he knew he hadn’t felt in seven years.

“I’m sorry about your dad,” Dylan broke the silence. Jono had led them into a side room to talk in private, “My heart sank when I heard.”

“Thanks,” Jono replied. Dylan looked over to make eye contact, but Jono was staring straight ahead. The atmosphere was blatant – neither of them knew how to act or what to expect, “I’m sorry, I know my postcard is overdue.”

“It’s okay,” Dylan automatically reassured, “Is everything alright?”

“Yeah,” Jono replied, his voice quivering, “Same old, same old. Nothing much changes in London.”

“That doesn’t sound alright,” Dylan knew when Jono was lying. Nothing had changed in that regard, “Tell me the truth.”

“Damn, nothing gets past you. It never did,” Jono chuckled, “I mean, it could be worse. It’s true that nothing changes, but it’s so fucking boring, Dyl. I don’t feel like I belong there. I never found my people, or my places, or my dream job. It all feels wrong.”

“Because it is,” Dylan sighed. He felt so guilty. He wished so badly that they could just swap places, or even better, end the stupid curse for good, “You belong here.” An awkward silence followed. Neither of them knew what to say, because there was an unavoidable elephant in the room. Things weren’t the same, and Dylan had moved on.

“I miss you so much,” Jono confessed, finally breaking through the thick atmosphere, “I know you’re happy with Harry now, but I miss having you around. Nobody gets me like you do, Dyl. I need you.”

Before Dylan could begin to think about his response, the waiting room door swung open. To Dylan’s surprise, there stood Harry. How did he know where he was?

“Hey, everything okay?” Dylan greeted.

“I came to as you the same thing, considering, you know,” Harry gestured towards Jono with his eyes. He seemed agitated and frustrated, and that was the last thing Dylan wanted him to feel.

“I thought I recognised you earlier,” Jono smiled politely, his vibe being the complete opposite.

“Wait, you two met?” Dylan was taken aback. What were the chances of that?

“Sorta, I was just leaving therapy and we walked past each other,” Harry replied. Dylan could feel Harry’s anxiety against his skin, and it worried him.

“It’s nice to meet you properly,” Jono continued, “Dylan’s said so many good things.”

“Likewise,” Harry put on a smile back, but there was a definite tension in the air again. Neither of them were being honest, and Dylan wasn’t sure what to think.

“Jono can’t stay long,” Dylan justified, but he felt guilty. Jono was struggling, and he couldn’t let that continue, “Unless we find a solution. We have at least today, right? The Nemeton won’t go crazy just yet. It’s time for a last-ditch attempt. We need to get you home, Jon.” Jono beamed, and Harry nodded along too, but how honest he was being, Dylan was unsure. Tough conversations were on the horizon, and the first was one that Dylan needed to have with himself.

Brett’s yawn said it all. It had been a long day, and quite frankly, they never wanted to go Instagram stalking ever again. It was always fun to scroll through photos of hot guys, and being careful not to like a photo from three years back was an extreme sport, but this wasn’t the same.

On the bright side, Brett and Yasmin had narrowed the list down, and there were just a couple of accounts that didn’t make any sense. Most of the rest were Harry’s family, friends, or people from college who were miles away, so it was easy to keep track of who had a motive or an alibi. Both lacked profile pictures and only had a handful of followers each. Perhaps they were spam, but there was no way of telling.

“Okay, what now?” Brett wondered, “We don’t really have much to go off.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Yasmin replied. She always did, Brett was counting on it, “But it’s dangerous. We need Ed involved.”

“A honey trap,” Brett realised. It was their best shot, but they couldn’t help worrying, “What if they’re dangerous?”

“That’s why we’ll have Ed,” Yasmin replied.

“But Ed can’t stop a bomb going off,” Brett clarified. If the attack was going to be anywhere near as bad as the time before, a few deputies weren’t going to be enough.

“It shouldn’t get to that point,” Yasmin re-explained, “Someone needed to have planted to bomb at the bar in advance, right? If we give them enough notice, we can keep an eye on everyone who goes in and out of our chosen venue.”

“Genius,” Brett was impressed. Yasmin, as always, had thought of everything.

“Hey, look who’s here,” Yasmin glanced out of the office window. Just through the blinds, Brett could see Oscar approaching. Finally, he’d caught up with them. Where he’d bee in the hour since his work ended, Brett had no idea, but they were relieved he was safe.

“Hey,” Brett smiled as Oscar calmly entered the room. Unusually, he didn’t reply. In fact, his face looked entirely vacant. There was no semblance of Oscar’s usual self in sight. Brett was worried – what had happened?

Oscar’s eyes lit up, but they weren’t their usual illuminating yellow. They glared a piercing orange unlike anything Brett had seen before. The worry escalated to fear. This wasn’t Oscar. They were in danger.

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Next: "Lockdown"

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