As the pack experience a heap of fresh starts, including the start of senior year and Lily moving away for college, pressure rises high when an epidemic among supernaturals threatens their existence. In addition, Dylan comes face-to-face with another alpha - one that is not keen to share territory with an existing pack. When two packs collide, who will emerge victorious?
As Lily embarks on a new journey to college, the rest of the pack stumble upon a curious set of clues in Los Angeles. Dylan, Jono and George trace an out-of-control werewolf, while Freddie thinks on his feet to securely remove a dead werewolf from a shopping mall.
For their own safety, Dylan and Josh spend their first of two days in quarantine. Not satisfied with spending a day apart, Jono creatively finds a way to still spend time with Dylan. Yasmin, Sammi and Brett find out more answers about the virus, while Lily comes face-to-face with her own demons at college.
As Dylan's quarantine comes to an end, he and Jono reunite, but their world is rocked by an unexpected arrival. Lily struggles with the pressures of being apart from the pack, while Brett makes a confession and Freddie fears for his own safety.
1: The Getaway Written by MarthaJonesFan
Staring up blankly at the ceiling, Sammi was having a rough night. She was only a couple of days away from starting junior year, and she couldn’t have been less enthused if she tried. Slipping back into a mundane routine of schoolwork, homework and early mornings sounded bad enough, without factoring in how she still felt like the new girl in her classes. Nobody seemed interested in her.
Besides, she didn’t want summer to end. For the first time in a long time she felt settled. Sammi felt like a part of a solid friendship group for the first time ever, even though none of them were in her school year. Her relationship with Jono and Lily had never been stronger, and after a difficult start, she got on very well with Dylan too. He was family, after all.
Then there was Freddie. The dorkiest, goofiest, and cutest of them all. He had Sammi’s back like nobody else, and she wasn’t sure what she did to deserve it. Nevertheless, she cherished him for every second they spent together.
Sammi spun her body around to face Freddie. He was sleeping deeply and peacefully. She was envious, but watching him sleep was strangely calming. His soft blonde locks rested calmly against his cheeks, ruffled slightly from the pillow.
BANG! Sammi jumped out of her skin. The noise came from outside. Somehow, Freddie was still fast asleep – nothing could wake him up. Sammi was curious, though. She crept out of the room, taking more precautions than necessary considering how impenetrable Freddie’s slumber was.
Outside the room was Lily, shoving a gigantic suitcase out of her bedroom. Her flight to college was the following morning, and the entire gang was going to see her off from LAX.
“Sorry,” Lily looked exhausted, “I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d get ahead for tomorrow.”
“It’s okay, I wasn’t sleeping anyway,” Sammi confessed, “Need a hand?”
“Please,” Lily smiled, relieved. Sammi lifted one handle of the incredibly heavy suitcase while Lily took the other, carefully negotiating the stairs.
“Are you excited?” Sammi questioned, making conversation.
“Yeah,” Lily responded, as if she were trying to convince herself, “A bit nervous, though. It’s all so new. Buying groceries on my own. Living on my own.”
“You’ll make friends easily. Even if you hate everyone you’re living with, you’ll meet people partying. Don’t say you’re not finding the nearest party on your first night,” Sammi sussed. She was getting to know Lily pretty well, and nobody threw a party like she did. Her leaving party was like nothing Sammi had ever been to before.
“You bet,” Lily grinned, knowing Sammi was bang on the money, “I just keep thinking. I’m going to miss so much. You, Jono, Dylan, and everyone. You’ll be up to so much without me.”
“Think of me in a year, everyone else will be going to college and it will just be me,” Sammi realised, a little terrified, “Don’t worry. We won’t leave you out. Besides, none of us ever seem to really avoid the supernatural.”
Lily nodded as they heaved the rucksack into the boot of Jono’s car. In the corner of her eye. Sammi noticed something in the bushes. The bushes that decorated the inside of the tall surrounding gates. Two tiny red lights. A familiar red. The red of an alpha’s eyes.
No, it couldn’t be. Dylan was upstairs, sleeping in Jono’s bed. Sammi blinked and rubbed her eyes in confusion. Sure enough, the lights had gone.
“Time for sleep,” Sammi told herself, heading back inside to the warmth with Lily.
It had been many years since Dylan last stepped foot inside an airport. For years, he and his mum couldn’t afford to take vacations, and the memories of his last trip away were brightened by the close relationship he had with his dad. Vacations wouldn’t be the same without him. It was a gaping hole that nobody could ever fill.
Nevertheless, Dylan loved the buzz of an airport, especially one as big as LAX. The hustle and bustle of everyone, unifying businesspeople and holidaymakers, was a feeling like no other. He didn’t have to be boarding a flight to share the excitement.
Lily had insisted on saying goodbye to her parents before leaving, but Jono wasn’t letting her jet off to college without a proper send-off. The whole pack had travelled out with them. One final adventure, before real life really took over.
“I guess this is it,” Lily took a deep breath just in front of the check-in desk. She looked terrified, and Dylan understood. The idea of travelling across the country to go to college petrified him. Thank god it was still a little while before he had to begin thinking about it.
“Text me when you get there,” Jono reminded, for at least the third time that day.
“Have a safe flight,” George kissed her softly on the lips. It looked so full of love, but packed with pain too. The knowledge that it was their last kiss for a while. It only made Dylan consider how he and Jono could ever part ways, even for a few months. He wasn’t sure he could do it.
“Bye everyone,” Lily waved, ready to leave. Dylan felt emotional. Not having Lily around was going to feel strange. She was the big sister he never had.
“Good luck,” Dylan smiled, keeping it together while he held the hand of a saddened Jono. His top lip was quivering. His eyes were watering. Watching Lily work her way through the queue was tough. Every step she took was one step away from Crystalshaw, “You’ll see her soon, we can visit,” Dylan reminded him.
“I know, it’s just weird,” Jono acknowledged. George looked similarly sad. At least they still all had each other.
“Hey, seeing as we’re here,” Josh piped up, “How about a little exploring?”
“Um,” Dylan pondered. He sure would have liked a little break before the drive back, but the decision relied on somebody else – Jono. Would he be okay with that? As if Jono could read his mind, he issued an approving nod. Dylan was ready to give the go-ahead, “Sure. Meet back here in two hours.”
The sad part was done. Now it was time to have some fun. Just like Lily would do.
In the driving seat. Yasmin knew exactly where to go. Her small car was full to the brim, with Josh in the passenger seat and Freddie, Sammi and Brett in the back. It was more than her car was used to carrying, and over a pretty significant distance too, but it was holding out well. With Lily dispatched, Yasmin was definitely hoping Jono’s car could share the load on the way back.
“Where are we?” Josh queried as Yasmin pulled in to the multi-storey car park.
“I’ve always wanted to come here,” Yasmin smiled, driving past a welcome sign.
“Santa Monica Place?” Sammi excitedly read, “Oh my god, I’m way too broke to be here.”
“Dope,” Freddie nodded. He was always happy to leave his notion of stereotypical masculinity at the door for a shopping trip.
“Okay, we’re all broke, why are we here?” Brett sighed.
“Have you never window-shopped?” Yasmin reasoned, “This is the coolest place.”
“Stay in the car if it hurts your masculinity too much,” Sammi taunted.
“Feminism for the win,” Freddie added, hammering the point home.
“No way,” Josh responded, “We like shopping too.”
“Do we?” Brett replied. The confusion in his voice made Yasmin chuckle uncontrollably, “Oh, yeah, of course we do.”
“Come on then, show some enthusiasm,” Yasmin nudged. She was going to milk this moment for all it was worth. Josh had never unbuckled his seatbelt so quickly. Yasmin glanced back to Sammi – this was comedy gold, and they were both loving every second of it.
“Where are the elevators?” Brett queried before Josh yanked him out of the car too.
“Lily will be gutted she’s missed this,” Yasmin commented to Sammi and Freddie. Winding Josh up had become one of her favourite pastimes, and she wasn’t ready to give in yet.
The sights at Manhattan Beach were among the prettiest Jono had ever seen. He had seen it on TV and on Instagram so many times, but never in person. It was well worth the wait, though. The weather was beautifully sunny and radiant, the later summer vibes truly glistening upon the golden sand and deep blue sea.
Watching the waves was so calming, too. The natural swishing backwards and forwards was gentle and uninterrupted, and the ambience of the waves crashing against the stilts of the pier was more relaxing than it should have been. It was the calming atmosphere that Jono so desperately needed.
He, Dylan and George were leaning against the railings on the pier. Below them was simply water – they had walked quite far down. Since leaving the airport, they hadn’t stopped sharing their memories of Lily. Jono felt like he was being overdramatic – Lily wasn’t dead, she was always on the end of her phone whenever Jono needed her. However, she was his best friend, alongside Dylan of course. She had been there his whole life, looking out for him. She was always there when he needed somebody to talk to, and not having her around would be a pretty weird thing to adjust to.
“She literally ignored my texts all day while she planned her leaving party,” George recalled, laughing, “She said I was a distraction.”
“That sounds just like her. No interrupting her creative flow,” Jono chuckled along, before pausing, watching the waves gently bobbing up and down, “She was the first person I came out to. The only person before you, Dyl.”
“You were my first,” Dylan recalled, “I remember how big that felt.” Jono wasn’t sure he knew this already – he found it very touching.
“She shipped us more than anyone,” Jono smiled, “She still does.”
“I hope it goes both ways,” George joked.
“Duh, of course,” Jono replied, “You’re the boyfriend she didn’t know she needed.”
“I think I knew that long before she did,” George reminisced fondly, “She basically friend-zoned me.”
“Good things happen when you least expect it,” Dylan offered a dose of his wisdom. Jono loved sayings like that, especially when Dylan said them. It summed up so much about their own relationship.
“Or when you’re about to be killed by a psycho werewolf,” George laughed, gazing across the pier, “Speaking of, please tell me those yellow eyes are just the sun reflecting?”
Jono focused intently further across the pier. George was right – he wasn’t seeing things. A werewolf was exposed in broad daylight – eyes, fangs, claws; the whole lot. It was out of control, running around in circles like it couldn’t stop. Something was up.
Without a second thought, Jono sprinted over, Dylan following by his side. The werewolf was a boy, and making no effort to conceal himself. Passers-by were staring, some even laughing, but perhaps they thought it was a costume?
“Stay back,” he growled at Dylan. He was a risk to anybody in the area, but if they couldn’t come nearer, they wouldn’t be able to offer assistance.
“We want to help,” Jono encouraged. However, it wasn’t enough. The boy sprinted away, threatened and scared. Jono was confused, but they had to catch him. It was imperative.
Trying to get comfortable in the little space she had, Lily was feeling antsy about the flight. She loved plane journeys – nothing had changed from the excitement she felt when going on holiday as a kid. Family holidays abroad every year brought some of her favourite memories, and they definitely included the lengthy flights spent causing mischief with Jono.
Now she was on her own, and this was no holiday. It was an adventure – one she had been anticipating for a long time. It felt so far away for months, ever since she received the news about her acceptance. The reality had only begun to hit her the day before. Suddenly, this new chapter in her life was beginning, and everything seemed to be hurtling along at five-hundred miles an hour.
“Sorry, don’t mind me,” a guy, roughly Lily’s own age, fumbled around while shoving his hand luggage on the shelf just above. He then took the window seat to her left, almost toppling onto her lap as he edged his way in.
“Don’t worry,” Lily smiled politely, hiding her bemusement of his clumsiness.
Many questions were rushing around Lily’s mind. What would her flat be like? She was sharing with three others, organised over the internet, so whilst she’d seen pictures of the flat, she hadn’t met her flatmates yet. New people didn’t concern her, though. Jono always called Lily a “social butterfly,” though Lily simply thought she had a knack for small talk. Perhaps college would be more of a breeze if that was the topic of her degree.
Popping her AirPods in, Lily selected her first song for the journey – “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran. Her and George’s song. She was already missing his warm hugs and his adorably terrible jokes. It was going to be tough relying on social media and infrequent visits when she relied on George’s gentle, calm nature so much. Lily knew it would be tough, but she was determined to succeed.
The plan began to move. The journey was beginning. Not long to go before the adventure really kickstarted. At this point, the nerves were subsiding. She was on her way now – no time to back out.
It was difficult to disguise it – Brett hated shopping. He was far from sexist or misogynistic, he knew it wasn’t for girls only, but all he related shopping to was being dragged around the clothes shops by his mum. It was tedious, and quite frankly, he had better things to do. He only bought clothes he absolutely needed anyway.
Therefore, being dragged around shops on his only day out of town all summer was not ideal. He could have been hitting the beach, or grabbing dinner. Literally anything that wasn’t shopping. However, it was out of his hands. Yasmin was the designated driver, and she was a keen shopper.
On the bright side, he had Josh with him. Somebody like-minded who could share the tedium of examining a heap of identical jeans with him. Josh had become a good friend since Drew left. He’d found himself drawn into Dylan’s pack, intrigued more than anything about how they could possibly cope with everything they see, because Brett was finding it difficult. Once you learn that werewolves and supernatural creatures are real, you don’t forget.
That’s why he liked Josh. He had been through some tough shit, but it hadn’t bogged him down. He was stronger because of what he had been through, and Brett wanted to be like that. He wanted to be brave, because there was no way out of this now that he knew the truth.
“We need an escape plan,” Brett quietly muttered to Josh as the group swanned into yet another clothing store. Nobody had bought anything yet., making the entire concept redundant in Brett’s eyes. He couldn’t take any more.
“Dude, look at these trainers though,” Josh pointed towards a little section of the store to the right. He had a point – the trainers looked awesome.
“You know, we’ve got basketball tryouts first week back,” Brett mentioned. He wasn’t sure how interested Josh was in sport, but he seemed perfect material for the team.
“Yeah?” Josh seemed intrigued, “I’ve never stayed in one place long enough to be on a team.”
“You’re settled now though, right?” Brett queried, “I thought Dylan’s mom adopted you.”
“She did, it’s just weird. I got so used to moving around that I feel like this could all come crashing down one day,” Josh opened up.
“Join the team,” Brett encouraged, “It might help.” Josh nodded – he seemed to understand.
In the corner of his eye, Brett spotted something very alarming. Visible through the shelving unit was a body, lying down, collapsed onto the shop floor.
“Quick,” Brett commanded, taking charge. He checked the girl’s pulse – nothing. Alarmingly, she still had visible claws and fangs. She was a werewolf.
“We can’t just call an ambulance,” Josh worried. He was right – the authorities couldn’t see a body that looked like this. It would risk exposing werewolves to the world.
“She’s still warm. She’s not been dead long,” Brett identified. He knew his first aid rather well – the amount of basketball injuries he had witnessed (and experienced) were a learning curve.
“I know who we can call, but it might take a while. We need a diversion,” Josh suggested. Brett thought fast. The solution was staring him in the face. Brett leapt up and whacked the fire alarm. Immediately, the piercing alarm sounded, not just inside the shop but throughout the entire mall.
“What is going on?” Yasmin rushed over before noticing the dead body, “Who is she?”
Brett wasn’t sure, but he was alarmed. This was a major problem, and he was tangled up in the middle of it.
Keeping up the pace as best he could, Dylan was worried. The further they had to chase this werewolf, the greater chance there was of somebody realising it wasn’t some quirky costume. They had to catch him, and fast.
It wasn’t like anything Dylan had seen before. As it dashed along the beach, violently swishing sand upwards in his wake, he convulsed and shook. How he had the energy to keep running in spite of that was almost impressive.
Dylan was leading the charge, Jono just behind. He wasn’t sure where George had gotten to, but he wasn’t as fast – the downside of being human. They were doing a good job of keeping pace, though, and that was what mattered.
Reaching the end of the long stretch of gorgeously warm sand, the boy leapt up some concrete steps back to road level. A car swerved along – one that Dylan immediately recognised. He could never mistake the tiny, cosy red car he had travelled in so many times.
“Get in,” George yelled from the open driver side window. Dylan didn’t need to be told twice – he hopped in the back seat while Jono clambered into the passenger seat. Now they could outrun him.
George sped the car up, soaring along the beachside road, the distance between them rapidly decreasing. Swerving, the werewolf darted across the road and down an alleyway between buildings.
“Damn,” Dylan was frustrated. The car couldn’t follow him down there.
“Get out,” George instructed, not giving up. Dylan vacated the car and immediately pursued him down the alley while George drove off. The werewolf was rapidly approaching another road – if he escaped out there, he could get anywhere. Dylan wasn’t ready to let that happen, so he accelerated his speed up to eleven. He was ready to pounce.
The car screeched up, blocking the exit, just as Dylan leapt upwards. He landed perfectly, slamming the werewolf’s body against the ground. Immediately, Dylan secured his hands – there was no way he’d be letting him escape now. He was furiously trying to fight back, but Dylan wasn’t giving in. There was only one way he could truly assert his authority.
Inhaling deeply, Dylan growled the loudest howl he could. He was the alpha, and he was in charge. Sure enough, it worked. The werewolf below him began to shift back, calming itself down.
“Who are you?” Dylan demanded.
“I need your help, please,” he begged. He looked helpless. He needed Dylan.
It had been quite a while since Freddie last saw a dead body. Quite frankly, he was enjoying being a normal kid once again, especially now he had Sammi in his life. They had been dating for several months now, and Freddie felt overwhelmingly optimistic for the first time in a long time. Sammi understood him in a way few others did. He needed her.
Freddie also knew that he would never truly escape the werewolf world. Of course, he was a werewolf himself. However, the supernatural world was dangerous, and when it crossed paths with his own life, it always led to disaster.
“What’s taking so long?” Yasmin hissed to Josh, “You said she was nearby.” They were hiding in the now-empty car park of Santa Monica Place, the building fully evacuated. It was now a race against time to get the body out before the fire department arrived and it was discovered by the authorities. Help was on its way, but time was running out.
“If you want something done,” Freddie suggested, “Do it yourself.”
“How are we supposed to get a dead werewolf out of a mall with CCTV filming our every move?” Josh doubted.
“We have two options. We can get the body ourselves, or we can let somebody else find it, and we all know how risky that is,” Freddie reasoned. In his eyes, it was simply common sense.
“He’s right, we need to do this,” Sammi backed him. Freddie knew he could rely on her.
“I might be able to tap into the CCTV and turn it off, temporarily,” Freddie suggested, pulling his laptop out of the boot of Yasmin’s car. It was a walk in the park compared to what he had done before.
Freddie typed ferociously at the keyboard. It wasn’t difficult to remotely access the security panel; the firewalls were bog standard and he had spent more time than he cared to admit learning how to work around them.
“Okay, we’ve not got long, let’s go,” Freddie commanded, placing the laptop back in the car and sliding the door shut.
“That was pretty awesome,” Yasmin complimented, smiling kindly at him.
“I’ll feel a lot better once we’re out of here,” Freddie replied as they reached the body.
“Brett, take the legs,” Josh commanded, lifting the body at its armpits.
“Um, me?” Brett cowardly backed out.
“Oh, move out of the way,” Sammi intervened, not dithering for a second in grabbing the legs and heaving the bottom half of the body upwards, “Not bad for a human girl.” Freddie laughed. She was so awesome.
“There’s a rash on her neck,” Josh observed as they carried her back to the car. He was right – the rash covered the underside of her arms, too. It looked painful – red, and full of scratch marks.
That aside, things had been running amazingly smoothly. They reached the car without a hitch, and now all that was left was to make it back to Dylan. They needed to figure out what had happened to her.
“It’s a disease,” a commanding voice called out across the spacious car park, echoing brazenly against the concrete walls. Stood opposite the group was Mrs. Johnson. She was their back-up.
“You took your time,” Josh remarked.
“I’m not on holiday, I’m out here on business. The same business as you, by the look of the rash on her skin,” Mrs. Johnson explained, “You might not want to touch her, Josh.”
Freddie began to worry. There was something more going on, and it didn’t sound good.
Pushing the front door open softly, Lily had arrived at her accommodation. This was her home now, and immediately, it felt so different from her own home. The corridor was small, and lit using one solitary, dimly lit lightbulb. Two doors adorned each wall, as well as a staircase leading upwards to what must have been three further bedrooms. After all, there were going to be five of them living there, with a communal kitchen and living area. Lily was already dreading the mess.
The cackling of other voices could be heard clearly from one of the rooms, even without using her enhanced hearing. Clearly, she wasn’t the first to arrive – a slight relief, at least she could make some conversation.
Opening the far door on the right, Lily saw a group of three stood around the dining table, each holding a plain white mug. They were in the full flow of conversation – so far, so good.
“Hey,” Lily smiled, switching on her top socialising mode. This was easy for Lily – all she had to do was pretend she was at one of her parties.
“Hey, welcome. You must be Lily,” one of the girls held out her hand to shake, “I’m Sindy.”
“Violet,” another girl informed. Both were really pretty – the first wearing her straight, dark hair up in a stylish messy bun, the other allowing her tight curls to flow wildly.
“I’m Alejandro,” a cute lad greeted. He had a pretty cute smile, tousled blonde hair styled expertly, and an awkward demeanour, “But you can call me Alex.”
“Want a drink?” Sindy offered.
“Sure, tea, please,” Lily nodded.
“Oh, these aren’t hot drinks,” Sindy chuckled politely, “There aren’t any wine glasses. Or other glasses, so we’re just using mugs.”
“In that case, you’re talking my language,” Lily immediately knew she would have no trouble fitting in here.
The door clicked open again. Somebody else had arrived – perhaps their fifth and final housemate? Lily was keen to meet them. She spun around, meeting face-to-face with somebody she had seen before. Not too long ago, either.
“Hey, I’m Nicolas,” he greeted with a dashing smile. He was chiselled and undeniably good-looking; Lily hadn’t taken much notice when he stumbled over her on the plane.
Two years ago, Lily may have believed it was a coincidence. Now, she didn’t believe that coincidences were possible.
2: Quarantine Written by MarthaJonesFan
Hauling the final batch of mops and sprays down the step-ladder, Dylan was ready to begin the much-overdue spring clean. It must have been years since the bunker last received a good going-over, if Drew ever even bothered to spruce it up. Dylan wasn’t going to continue neglecting it like that when there were so many potentially important resources there.
He best thing was that he had three budding helpers – Yasmin had been a keen volunteer, and he hadn’t given Jono and Josh any chance to escape. After all, it was the perfect opportunity for some quality time together.
“This is the worst double date ever,” Josh groaned, begrudgingly picking up a cloth to wipe down the walls.
“Hey, I’m not the only one who uses this place, why is it all my responsibility?” Dylan justified.
“It’s your bunker,” Josh hit back with a cheeky smirk on his face.
“You’ll be doing it on your own if you’re not careful,” Dylan playfully threatened.
Clearing the shelving unit on the left, Dylan was met by a huge clump of dust around, on top of and underneath every single item. The only thing without a thick dust coating was the Bestiary – one of the pack’s most valuable tools – and even that had picked up a light scattering. It had been a few months since they had last used it, and Dylan wasn’t complaining. Life had been so much simpler.
The best part of readjusting to normality meant Dylan could actually spent time working on his grades. Yasmin had helped him revise for the PSATs, and for the first time in high school, he felt optimistic in advance of the results. However, Dylan wasn’t naïve; he knew things wouldn’t run this smoothly for long.
“Hey, what’s this?” Jono passed Dylan a glass jar.
“Um,” Dylan was a little alarmed at what he saw inside, “It looks like a tooth.” The more he examined it, the more evident it became. It was a severed, decaying werewolf fang.
“Do we have to keep that?” Jono wondered, scrunching his face in disgust.
“Hell no,” Dylan placed it on the floor, ready for the bin. He didn’t know the relevance of half the stuff Drew had kept in there, but some of it had to go. It was time for a fresh start, and Dylan couldn’t wait to see the end result.
Shoving everything off the brand-new central desk, Dylan wasn’t concerned about the tidiness of his bunker in that moment. Yasmin had carted a dead body back from LA in the boot of her car, and Dylan himself had dragged a terrified, helpless werewolf back with him. There had to be some correlation, because both of these happened within miles of each other. Mrs. Johnson was keen to help, but she needed somewhere to examine the body.
Dylan wasn’t sure how ready he felt to be launched back into the world of werewolves so soon. Senior year was around the corner, and he was in a good place at school finally. Supernatural drama did his education absolutely no good.
“Stay back,” Mrs. Johnson commanded as she and Sammi carried the dead girl’s body into the bunker.
“What happened to her?” Jono questioned. Dylan spotted the red rash covering her skin like an uncomfortable, painful rug.
“You need to keep your distance, it’s not safe for a werewolf to make contact, that’s how it’s passed on,” Mrs. Johnson warned.
“Tell us why,” Dylan demanded. This wasn’t the time for keeping secrets.
“I don’t know much, but this is spreading, and if you don’t keep your distance, it will be you next,” Mrs. Johnson warned, taking no prisoners, “Has anybody touched her?”
“Just me,” Josh worriedly confirmed.
“You’ll need to stay in quarantine for forty-eight hours,” Mrs. Johnson explained, “From what I’ve seen, that’s the incubation period, when symptoms begin to display themselves.”
“Dylan,” the lad quivered from behind. Dylan spun around to face him, immediately concerned. His face was blotted in red spots. He had an identical rash to the dead girl.
“I touched you,” Dylan panicked, “When we were chasing you.” He was scared – he was at risk. Whatever this disease was, it couldn’t have been good news.
“Go home, both of you. Stay there, don’t let any other werewolves in. Including Jono,” Mrs. Johnson detailed. Dylan started to worry intensely. This was really bad news.
“What about the rest of us?” Freddie wondered.
“If you follow the rules of the quarantine, you’ll be safe. For now. Please, I need space to operate. I don’t know enough about this yet. I can’t be more help until I do,” Mrs. Johnson explained.
Dylan caught eyes with Jono. The thought of having to spend two days apart from him was tough – they had barely spent any time apart at all in almost two years. However, it was going to be worth it – if Dylan could stop Jono from falling ill, it would be well worth two days on his own.
Sleeping anywhere other than her own bed made Lily feel uncomfortable. Her bed was her safe space, and knowing she was halfway across the country from it was an unnerving thought. She kept trying to remind herself that this was her new safe space, but it wasn’t quite that easy. The tools she learnt from her therapist were coming in extremely handy – grounding herself, using the stop-sign when she felt anxious, and texting George. He calmed her down like nobody else.
Despite her worries, though, Lily slept well. The day before had been hectic, draining and exhausting, both physically and emotionally, so her body needed the rest. Thankfully, her flatmates were easy to get along with. She had one single concern – she knew so much more than they did, how could she relate?
Notably, her concerns when seeing Nicolas again. Her mind was conditioned to doubt everything, because in the supernatural world – in Crystalshaw – she had to be sceptical to survive. College needed to be a fresh start. She couldn’t let her usual Crystalshaw concerns spill over into her new life. Nicolas seemed completely normal, and she had no solid proof otherwise.
Springing out of bed, the first thing Lily needed was a cup of tea. It was her morning routine, and she needed as much familiarity as possible. Sindy was already there, boiling the kettle and popping a teabag into a newly-rinsed, Prosecco-free mug.
“Perfect timing,” Lily commented as the kettle clicked off; a weirdly comforting sound when tea was such a sweet remedy. Sindy placed another mug on the counter ready for Lily.
“Nothing beats a cup of tea in the morning,” Sindy smiled kindly, “Where are you from?”
“Crystalshaw, it’s a small county in Cali,” Lily replied, downplaying it. Crystalshaw had way more significance than Sindy would ever know, but she couldn’t simply tell her that.
“Oh, I’ve heard of it. Lots of weird shit seems to happen there,” Sindy mentioned. Lily shouldn’t have been surprised, especially as she probably had the answers to most of those weird happenings, “I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist, you’ve probably heard all of those before though.”
“Probably,” Lily went along with it – it wasn’t a lie, after all, “Where are you from?”
“Torrance, not too far from you,” Sindy answered, “But way less exciting, I know.”
“Not at all,” Lily replied, “Nice to know I’m not the only one who’s pretty far from home.”
“Feeling homesick?” Sindy identified, “You’re not the only one, I promise. I’ve never been away from my parents for long before.”
“That’s the thing, I’m so used to my parents being away. They’re always away for work, and when they’re home, they’re still working,” Lily remembered, “It’s my brother I miss. He’s my best friend, and he always has been.”
“I’m the youngest of five, my parents kinda spoiled me,” Sindy revealed, “We’re sort of the opposite. My siblings annoy me.”
They laughed together. Sindy seemed pretty awesome; Lily was delighted to have found someone on the same wavelength as her. She still had hurdles to overcome, but having a friend nearby filled her with confidence. She could climb the mountain that was college.
Slouched down along the sofa, Dylan was already fed up. It was the last day of summer, and he had to spend it inside, away from his friends, because of some stupid virus that he might not even have. It felt lonely, even if he had his mum, Ed and Josh at home all day with him.
He and Josh had to adhere to the quarantine for two whole days, just to be safe. Though it was frustrating, he did understand it – keeping his friends safe was imperative, and the short-term boredom was worth it, even if every minute was starting to feel like an hour.
“Another?” Josh queried as their episode of One Day at a Time finished on Netflix.
“Dude, we’re watching the entire season today, we’ve got nothing better to do,” Dylan replied. It was basically a sick-day from school, and though it was far from his favourite place in the world, it was still better than being cooped up inside with no plans. Solitary confinement at home was no fun at all.
“Do you feel okay?” Josh wondered, concern present in his voice. Neither of them had to hide their worries from each other; they were going through the same stress.
“I feel fine, so far,” Dylan reported back. He had checked several times for any sign of a rash, but nothing was there. He was desperately hoping it was going to stay that way, too, “You?”
“Same,” Josh replied, much to Dylan’s relief, “Not getting my hopes up just yet though.”
“I’m sure we’ll be okay,” Dylan kept his usual level of optimism, but it was hard. The truth was that he didn’t know if they would be okay or not, and that scared him the most. It was his job to lead by example, but this time, he couldn’t do it. It was frustrating.
Dylan’s phone rang. The jovial ringtone contrasted massively with his mood. However, the sight of Jono’s name on the call screen was enough to perk him up.
“Hey,” Dylan answered the phone with a chirpy smile on his face.
“Look outside,” Jono instructed. Dylan went to the front window, taking a seat on the comfy cushions adorning the window bay. Outside, Jono had set up a small camp, with a foldable garden chair and a cool box for snacks.
“What’s this?” Dylan chuckled in amazement. The effort Jono had gone to was bordering on being extra, but Dylan completely loved it.
“Who said we couldn’t find a way to make this work?” Jono waved from the chair. He had positioned it directly next to the window so he could see inside, “As long as I stay out here, we can be together without breaking quarantine.”
Dylan’s heart melted. He was the absolute cutest – the fact he was committed to spending an entire day outside was unnecessary, but so very appreciated.
“Let me call you on Skype, then you can watch with us,” Dylan decided.
“You two make me sick,” Josh teased, “Yasmin would never do this for me.” Dylan laughed, but Josh was right. Jono was the best.
Though she was keen to start getting to the bottom of whatever this virus was, Sammi couldn’t help feeling guilty about leaving Freddie out. He couldn’t enter the bunker, which had temporarily become Mrs. Johnson’s operating theatre, for his own safety. There was no way Sammi was going to let Freddie compromise his own safety, so waiting outside was the only option.
“Why don’t you go and find Jono?” Sammi tried to suggest, hoping he could actually find something to do other than lurk outside bunkers.
“He’s literally finding any loophole he can to spend the day with Dylan,” Freddie fired back, “I’m many things, but I’m no gooseberry.”
“I could name a few of those things if you want,” Sammi teased. She loved to wind him up – it was why they worked so well together.
“Keep it,” Freddie smiled, “Leave the door open so I can listen.”
“Dude, you’re a werewolf,” Sammi reminded, “You can listen anyway.”
“Alright, so you can listen, then,” Freddie tried to dig for another reason, “I don’t want you to miss my contributions.”
“With a mouth as big as yours? We’ll be just fine,” Sammi teased, “But okay, I’ll leave it open, just a little.” Freddie was more of a hopeless romantic than Sammi first thought, and she loved it. All of the guys she had dated in the past were arrogant, self-obsessed douchebags. Freddie was a breath of fresh air.
“Are you done flirting?” Mrs. Johnson rudely barked as soon as Sammi pushed the door to, leaving a gap of about an inch for Freddie’s peace of mind. It was weird enough that her biology teacher was involved in this at all, let alone commenting on her love life.
“Why are we here?” Sammi ignored her, taking a spot in between Yasmin and Brett opposite her. Sat in the far corner was the lad they picked up in Los Angeles – she still didn’t know his name, but he looked extremely pale.
“I’ve been examining her all night,” Mrs. Johnson began, referring to the dead girl laid out on the desk between them, “Though the virus has killed her, it’s still present and alive in her body. It’s like an incubator for the pathogens.”
“Could we be carriers?” Yasmin questioned. Sammi immediately worried. She carried the body the night before, and proceeded to spend the night with Freddie. They even kissed. Could she have transmitted the disease?
“The pathogens don’t survive long in human bodies. They’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, almost like they’ve been engineered,” Mrs. Johnson continued.
“Somebody who wants every werewolf dead,” Sammi pondered.
“Hunters, we saw them before,” Brett contributed.
“This isn’t their style,” Yasmin rebutted, “They revel in the thrill of the chase, this cuts out the middle man in a way that removes their fun. Trust me, I’d know.”
“Who else could it be?” Sammi was confused. She was newer to this world than the rest of them. Werewolves weren’t a new concept to her, but everything this pack had experienced was. Everything she heard was yet another revelation.
“I don’t know, and that’s my concern,” Mrs. Johnson warned. Sammi felt nervous. Though she was safe, her family wasn’t. Freddie wasn’t.
“Hey, you!” she heard Freddie yell from outside. Immediately, Sammi sprinted out to check on him.
“What’s going on?” Sammi worriedly questioned.
“He was watching me,” Freddie explained, staring further down the tunnel.
“Let’s go,” Sammi decided. Whoever it was, perhaps they knew something?
Orientation complete, Lily was ready to destress. She hadn’t even fully started college yet, and she was already shattered. It had barely been twenty-four hours since her arrival, and it already felt like she had used up all of her energy.
However, Lily knew how to party. She could get up out of her death bed and start a party if she wanted to. Her flatmates were headed to the nearest bar for welcome drinks, and there was no way she was going to miss this. Age was no barrier.
“I’ll get first round,” Sindy immediately acted like the host – a girl after Lily’s heart. Sindy was undoubtedly the strongest bond she had made so far, but she was very keen to get to know her other roomies too.
“Watch me spend way too much money tonight,” Alex smiled. He seemed like a party animal too, as did Violet. Nicolas was acting a little more reserved so far, though. Bars weren’t everyone’s cup of tea, Lily knew that. No matter how hard she tried, she could never get Jono as interested in a rave as she was. At least he had Dylan, who also enjoyed the quiet life.
“My dad’s gonna hate me if we make this a regular thing,” Violet laughed with Alex, “Especially if he finds my fake ID.”
“You actually got one of those?” Lily was impressed. She had seen a few before, but this would be handy. What sort of students would they be without a little alcohol?
“I can hit you up if you want,” Violet suggested, “You’ll need one if you’re into the party scene.”
“Hey, I basically invented the house party,” Lily sold herself the best way she could. If there was one element of her reputation that followed her from Crystalshaw, it was absolutely going to be that.
“Now this is something I’ve got to see,” Alex sounded intrigued.
Suddenly, Lily’s attention diverted. A young man collapsed. He was shaking, convulsing violently on the floor. It looked like he was having a fit. Instinctively, Lily ran to his side. She focused on what she could see – notably a ferocious, painful rash. It was like nothing she’d seen before.
“Move back,” Lily yelled, everyone in the bar crowding around her like it was some sick form of entertainment, “Outside, now. Someone, call an ambulance.”
To make matters worse, Lily noticed something she shouldn’t have. The lad’s eyes glared a deep blue. He was a werewolf. Nobody else could see this. Lily couldn’t focus. She shouldn’t have to deal with this. This was her new life; it was meant to be a fresh start. The supernatural shouldn’t be there too.
Abruptly, he stopped. His body laid still on the cold, tiled floor of the bar. Lily checked his pulse – he was dead.
Amazingly, Dylan’s day hadn’t been a total disaster. He had kept the Skype link with Jono open the entire time, and it made everything feel so much better to still have him nearby. They had finished the full season of One Day at a Time, and the sun was starting to go down. Jono couldn’t stay much longer, and another lonely night was about to begin.
It took some convincing of both his mum and Jono’s parents to allow them to share a bed. His own mum was fairly easy to persuade – she settled on a promise of trust and the door always remaining open. Jono’s parents were more difficult, though. They were old-fashioned in their viewpoints, especially Steve. Jono seemed to chip away at them over time, and until the night before, they hadn’t spent a night apart in over a year. Ultimately, Steve’s biggest concern seemed to be Dylan being a werewolf.
Little did he know, though, that his own son was now a werewolf too. Jono still hadn’t told his parents about being a werewolf. It was a stress that Dylan remembered, and it was a big obstacle to overcome, even when they already knew about the existence of werewolves. They didn’t even know Lily was part-werewolf yet. It was going to severely rock the Chadwick boat when the truth eventually rears its ugly head.
For now, though, Dylan was enjoying their final calm evening. Senior year was one step away from starting, and Dylan couldn’t even attend the first day. It wasn’t going to look good, but at least he and Josh were in it together.
“Want me to write your initials for you?” Jono questioned.
“Huh?” Dylan was confused. Perhaps he was beginning to go stir crazy.
“Senior Scribe,” Jono explained.
“Oh, that’s tonight,” Dylan had completely forgotten. He felt a little downhearted to be missing Senior Scribe – he had heard of a few other schools doing it, but this was a first for Crystalshaw High. All of the seniors would write their initials somewhere around school, so they could leave their mark before they leave, “Yeah, please do mine.”
“Don’t forget me, dude,” Josh butted in. Neither of them had moved much all day, other than snack and loo breaks. The sofa was comfortable enough.
“You’d never let me forget, let’s be real for a second,” Jono chuckled cutely, “I’d better go. I’m gonna miss you tonight.”
“Not as much as I’ll miss you,” Dylan placed his hand on the glass window. Jono did the same on the other side. There was nothing Dylan wanted more than for the glass to shatter so he could feel Jono’s ouch. Just another twenty-four hours until he got his wish.
With Jono gone, Dylan felt deflated again. He was grateful for the unexpected extra time with him, but he was selfish – he wanted to spend all day, every day with him.
“Hey, it’ll fly by, sweetie,” Caroline tried to encourage.
“No, it won’t,” Dylan replied honestly. It was going to be a long night, and no sugar-coating would change that.
“Listen, when I was a few years older than you, your dad had to go away on business for a couple of days,” Caroline told. Dylan loved to hear stories about his dad – it kept him alive and fresh in his memory, “It was the longest we had spent apart since we started dating, and I hated it. I missed him so much. However, he returned home with a bunch of flowers, a cute teddy bear, and a sparkling engagement ring.”
“You think Jono’s going to propose?” Josh blurted out, as if he couldn’t control himself.
“No,” Caroline laughed softly, “I think, when you both reunite, you’ll love each other even more. It’s a cliché, but absence really does make the heart grow fonder.”
“Yeah, I learnt that from dad himself,” Dylan confessed, a tear sliding down his cheek. Caroline perched next to him, pulling him in close for one of her cosiest, warmest hugs.
“Me too, baby,” Caroline concurred. Dylan felt like he should have been an expert at missing people, but it still hurt every time. At least this put things into perspective. He would see Jono again in less than a day.
He would kill for even five minutes with his dad.
Confused and a little concerned, Yasmin had no idea where Sammi had rushed off to. Wherever it was, it didn’t seem to spell good news – she had shot off in a hurry alongside Freddie. It was worrying when there was clearly something more going on. Someone had manufactured a virus to infect only werewolves – someone had a grudge, and Yasmin wanted to get to the bottom of it sooner rather than later.
“We gotta follow,” Brett sprung quickly into action – a little unnecessarily.
“No,” Yasmin sensibly thought, “They’ve got this. We can’t heal like Freddie can, so if they’re in danger, he won’t take any risks. Sammi’s too valuable to him.”
“I’m low key jealous,” Brett admitted, “Freddie’s a dork, but he cares. More than I have about anything.”
“He’s awesome,” Yasmin opened up, “You’ll find someone, Brett. It just takes time.”
“I guess. The guys on the team all take the piss cause I’m crap with girls,” Brett confessed. Yasmin had never hard him open up like this before. Buried inside this tall, stereotypical jock was a kind, vulnerable heart. Yasmin couldn’t deny that she vastly preferred this side of him.
“You should see my attempts at flirting,” Yasmin confessed, “Woeful isn’t the word.”
“At least you’ve got Josh,” Brett mentioned, “Must be weird, him being quarantined.”
“Yeah,” Yasmin sighed, checking her phone for any mew messages. Depressingly, all she had was a new Instagram follower – a spam account, at that. Josh must have been preoccupied.
“No news is good news,” Brett reminded her. He was right – Dylan would have let her know if something was up.
“A little help here,” Mrs. Johnson called over from across the bunker. In the corner, the lad had collapsed. He was completely still, and very pale behind the horrifying look of the rash.
“We need to get him to the hospital,” Brett suggested.
“Sure, if you want this to spread even further,” Mrs. Johnson was resistant to the idea.
“I think I know how we can deal with that,” Yasmin pondered, “You call 911, I’ll call in a favour.”
Channelling all of his energy into the chase, Freddie wasn’t giving up. In his view, anyone running away had something to hide, or they wouldn’t be running in the first place. They were being watched, almost definitely by someone who knew what they were doing. Someone who knew what the virus was.
Whether it was somebody who could offer help or not was still unknown, and Freddie was keen to catch up to them. He did not want to get ill, and was going to do all he could to protect himself, and others.
They approached the end of the run of tunnels, and there was only one way out. The ladder led into the forest, and from there, anywhere. He had to catch up, and quickly.
“Stop,” Freddie called out as the man leapt up the ladder. He was being too slow. Freddie followed, not even using the ladder as he sprung up. The derelict shed above ground was empty, no sign of the man he’d been following. Then he noticed him – through the window, several metres away. He wasn’t moving. In fact, he was staring straight back at Freddie. He was mid-forties, and didn’t look even slightly tired from all of the running. What concerned him most was his eyes – they were glowing a powerful, assertive red. He was an alpha.
Sammi caught up, panting behind him. She couldn’t run as fast, and Freddie often forgot that. He was so used to the company of supernaturals that human pacing was almost a distant memory.
“Look,” Freddie pointed at the man. He was still stood there, like he was waiting for a reaction.
“Oh my god,” Sammi sounded stunned. The man spun around and ran away as Sammi made eye contact, a smug grin present on his arrogant face.
“What? Do you know him?” Freddie was completely befuddled. He had never seen this man before – how was he linked?
“That’s my dad,” Sammi revealed. Freddie was stunned. They were drowning in the deep end all of a sudden.
3: Fresh Air Written by MarthaJonesFan
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 ten 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 ever 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.