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.
Sammi is spooked when Uncle David arrives in Crystalshaw. Jono worries about his cousin, while Brett is reunited with an old friend. Lily makes a surprising revelation about Sindy when she asks for help. Realising the virus could affect anyone, Dylan comes up with a plan to raise awareness.
As Dylan, Jono and Josh find themselves in a life-threatening situation at the hands of David, Yasmin and Sammi uncover the mystery behind the boy from LA. Brett is confused by Johnny's actions and intentions. Nicolas declares war on Lily.
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.
4: Family Reunion Written by MarthaJonesFan
Packing up the last of her things into a cardboard box, Sammi felt frustrated at having to move again. It had been five years since she and her dad left Crystalshaw, and they hadn’t stayed anywhere for any significant duration. Now they were abandoning another house, and he refused to tell her where they were headed next. It was time for Sammi to get some answers.
It was easier said than done, though. Sammi used to be very close with her dad, but their relationship had become strained. He was always out, and he never gave an explanation as to where he had been. It was cause for concern, and not something Sammi wanted to deal with. She was in sophomore year now, she needed to concentrate on her studies.
Heaving the cardboard box on top of another gathered by the front door, Sammi took one last glance at the house. She felt nothing – no sense of home or comfort. Four months wasn’t long enough to develop a feeling like that. Her dad confidently carried the final box from the kitchen out. It was time to talk.
“Where are we headed?” Sammi questioned, innocently and inquisitively.
“Never you mind. We’ve got a new place ready and waiting for us. You’ll love it,” he replied, shedding no light.
“That didn’t answer my question,” Sammi wasn’t giving up, “I mean, I deserve to know my own address, dad.”
“I’ll tell you later, there’s no time now. I need you to help me load everything into the car,” he swerved again, “Please, sweetie.”
“You never tell me anything,” Sammi was like a dog with a bone – she wasn’t letting go of this. Enough was enough.
“Don’t you think there’s a good reason?” he yelled, startling Sammi. His eyes began to glow, in a way Sammi had never seen. Not on him, or anyone. They glared a bright red. The colour of danger. Sammi was terrified.
“What the hell?” Sammi quivered in fright. That wasn’t her dad. She needed to get away, and fast.
Stunned into silence, Sammi didn’t know how to react. She hadn’t seen her father since she moved in with Jono; no phone call, no text, not even a birthday card. Since she had seen those fearsome, nightmare-inducing eyes, her father ceased to be.
Therefore, the doting father act wasn’t working with her. She wasn’t going to join in with his ridiculous circus act; it was insulting to them both. However, Uncle Steve and Auntie Helen were in the room. They knew about werewolves, but not the full story. Clearly not anything involving their own flesh and blood.
“So, aren’t you going to introduce me?” he probed further. Sammi hated that she had to be civil around him Her blood was boiling, simmering overboard.
“This is Dylan, he’s my boyfriend,” Jono took the reins, as if he could sense her anger, “And this is his brother, Josh.”
“Your mom was just telling me you have a boyfriend, Jono. Good on you, nice to meet you both,” he continued. Sammi felt sick. How was anyone able to stomach this? “I hear you have a fella too, Sammi.”
That was the final straw. He didn’t get to ask about Freddie. He had lost the privilege of asking personal questions. She hurried out of the room, enable to cope in the toxic, suffocating atmosphere any longer. All she wanted to do was cocoon in her duvet and shut her problems away. Sammi pushed her bedroom door firmly shut and buried herself under the covers.
“Hey, Sammi, it’s Josh,” she heard from the other side of the door. She really wanted to be on her own, but Josh was a friendly face. Behind his jovial, sarcastic exterior was a sincere heart.
“Come in, but don’t expect elegance,” Sammi tried to perk up.
“Trust me, I’ve seen Jono first thing in the morning. Elegant is not the word,” Josh teased, closing the door softly behind him and placing himself at the end of the bed, “Wanna talk about it?”
“I can’t believe how brazen he’s being,” Sammi began to vent, though she wasn’t sure she’d be able to stop, “Walking in as if nothing’s happened. How dare he?”
“Parents, eh?” Josh commented. Sammi paused – Josh was adopted, but she didn’t know the situation with his birth parents. She may have just put her foot in it.
“I’m sorry, that was insensitive,” Sammi apologised.
“No, it’s fine. I never knew my birthday parents. Even my surname is from my first foster family,” Josh replied openly, “And I’ve not seen the Rayners since I was five. I know more than most that parents aren’t always what they crack up to be.”
“My dad wasn’t awful, though. He was the best. I guess he was living a double life,” Sammi thought aloud. Her phone buzzed. A new message from Yasmin – they had another patient, “I gotta go. New case of the virus. Could you tell the others for me?”
“Sure,” Josh accepted, “I’ll make an excuse for your dad, too.”
“Thanks,” Sammi smiled. He had been so kind to her – kinder than he needed to be.
Now for the distraction she so desperately needed.
His mind racing like a Formula 1 driver around the famous course, Dylan was desperate to think of an excuse to leave. This wasn’t how he expected his reunion with Jono to be. He wanted warm hugs, terrible jokes, and lots of kissing. Lots and lots of kissing. Instead, they were faced with a homicidal werewolf – one who was known for targeting his own kind as well as humans. It was beyond dangerous for them both to be there – family or not.
Dylan totally sympathised with Sammi. The sheer arrogance exuding off him was unbearable, and he wafted back in without even the hint of an apology. As far as first impressions went, he wasn’t making a very good one.
“I’m sure she’ll be back in a few minutes,” Helen commented on Sammi’s exit.
“It’s okay, it gives me a chance to catch up with my favourite nephew,” he continued the charm offensive. Dylan linked hands with Jono – a signal that they were a team, and they were in this together, “How long have you lovebirds been together?”
“Two years,” Jono kept a strong composure. Dylan was immensely proud of him – he wasn’t sure he had the bottle himself. It was better to stay quiet.
“That’s some going, Just, don’t be naïve by the time college comes around. High school romances never last,” he mouthed off. Dylan was getting agitated, and so was the wolf inside. How dare he make such offensive assumptions about their relationship?
“David, come on, there’s no need,” Helen defended. She always took Jono’s side in an argument – thankfully, this was no different.
“He’s got a point, honey,” Steve irritatingly interjected, “Young love isn’t forever.”
“Maybe it is,” Jono put his foot down, “Come on Dyl, I think I left my math book at yours.” Jono pulled Dylan out of the house. Of course, there was no math book – they just needed to get out. Dylan was pleased he hadn’t misinterpreted that.
“You were incredible,” Dylan told Jono. He needed to know just how awesome he was – it was important.
“I got defensive,” Jono was being hard on himself.
“Yeah, because they assassinated your character,” Dylan wasn’t letting this stand, “You stood up for yourself, and you stood up for me. I’m so proud of you, Jon.”
“I worry, though,” Jono opened up, “How will we cope during college? We couldn’t last forty-eight hours in quarantine.”
“It will work, because we love each other too much for it not to work, right?” Dylan encouraged. He was determined, and he knew Jono was too. They always had each other, and always would.
“Right,” Jono nodded, perking up.
“Besides, maybe we won’t need to worry,” Dylan thought aloud, “We both want the same course, all we’d need is the same college.”
“You’d be too big a distraction in my lectures,” Jono played about, gripping Dylan firmly around the waist.
“Yup, just the way it should be,” Dylan grinned, before embracing Jono in one of their heart-warming, stomach-tingling kisses.
“Hey, Romeo and Julien,” Josh yelled out, meeting them by Jono’s car, “Did you see Sammi?”
“I thought she was with you,” Jono mentioned.
“Yasmin messaged, they’ve got another case,” Josh relayed, “You must have just missed her.” Dylan panic levels began to rise again. This virus wasn’t one, and he couldn’t risk getting involved.
“We need to find out more,” Dylan decided, “Come on.”
Watching her classmate be examined, Yasmin was feeling a profound sense of worry. This virus was affecting people she never knew it could, and that scared her. Because the supernatural world was a place she was fully immersed in, she had forgotten that not everybody was the same. There were werewolves out there keeping their heads down, not making themselves known. After everything that went down with the hunters, in front of the school, Yasmin could hardly blame them. The lashing impact of Dami and Jake still lingered like a bad smell.
“How’s she doing?” Freddie passed Yasmin a cup of tea from the hospital machine.
“You shouldn’t be here, it’s not safe,” Yasmin warned. It was lovely that Freddie was so intent on helping out, but she didn’t want to put him in danger. Freddie was the closest thing she had to a brother, and losing him would break her.
“We’re behind the glass, it’s okay,” Freddie reassured, “Besides, I’m not sure anywhere is safe right now.”
“I know,” Yasmin replied, “It’s why I’m so worried. Sure, Dylan and Josh were fine after all, but next time…”
“Next time we might lose someone,” Freddie recognised, “I know. I guess this is why you’re avoiding Josh, right?”
“Huh? I’m not avoiding him,” Yasmin played up. She absolutely was avoiding Josh, and she felt guilty about it, but worry was beginning to consume her.
“You’re avoiding each other,” Freddie corrected, “I can read both of you like a book. You’re making excuses as to why you’re not talking, but you’re scared, right? Scared to lose him?”
“Aren’t you? We’re all scared, Freddie. He’s at risk, you’re at risk, Dylan, Jono, and god knows who else, and for once, I don’t know how I can help,” Yasmin let rip. Her eyes were starting to water, but she was holding the tears in. They weren’t going to solve anything.
“It’s not your responsibility,” Freddie reminded, “We’re all in this, and even if I can’t get too involved, you have Sammi and Brett. And Josh on the end of the phone. Don’t forget that.”
Yasmin nodded. Freddie was annoyingly on point. She had been carrying the burden on her own, when there was no need to.
“Hey,” Brett called over, jogging down the corridor, expertly swerving the nurses and visitors on the way, “What’s going on?”
“Look to your left,” Yasmin instructed. All the answers Brett needed were in that hospital bed, clinging on to life.
“Damn, that makes two, how’s the other kid?” Brett questioned.
“I spoke to Ed earlier, there’s no change,” Yasmin fed back.
“That’s gotta be good, right?” Brett was surprisingly optimistic. In the corner of her eye, as Brett spoke, Yasmin found herself distracted. Someone was watching them. Someone she had never seen before.
“Don’t turn around too quickly, but I think we’re being watched,” Yasmin lowered her voice just as Sammi joined the group.
“What are you doing here?” Sammi hissed to Freddie, “What’s going on?”
“Hey, you,” Brett yelled, spotting the spy. So much for being subtle. The chase was on.
Staring aimlessly at her cup of tea, Lily’s appetite had vanished. It was like an anxiety hangover from the day before; knowing Alex knew the whole story was playing on her mind. What made it even stranger was how everybody else was continuing as normal – Sindy, Nicolas and Violet didn’t know any different. They had no clue about the world they stood on the edge of.
“Come on, it’ll go cold,” Sindy urged, sitting at the opposite end of the round dining table.
“Sorry,” Lily apologised. She couldn’t explain to Sindy while she felt uneasy, and lying was out of the question.
“Morning,” Alex strolled in, his dressing gown doing a poor job of covering his bare chest. The surgery scars below his nipples were visible in plain view, and Lily loved just how little he cared about that. He examined the room, before pushing the door shut behind him. He wanted privacy. Lily felt a wave of anxiety, rushing over her all of a sudden.
“Just the people I needed to speak to,” Alex lowered his voice, “You know I said I had an idea?”
Lily nodded. Their conversation the day before concluded with Alex saying he wanted to help, but he was coy on how.
“Sindy, we need your help. It’s a long story, but you said your mum works at the hospital, right?”
“Yeah, in Torrance, why?” Sindy seemed confused yet intrigued.
“We need to see the records of the guy who died at the bar the other night,” Alex explained without any supernatural details. Lily was amazed at how well he was handling the secrecy.
“What? How am I supposed to get those?” Sindy was baffled.
“Use your initiative,” Lily advised, “Please. There’s something going on. Above the police.”
“Tell me. Don’t keep secrets. If you need me this much, you’ll tell me everything,” Sindy urged.
Lily glanced towards Alex. He was remaining sensibly quiet. She was on her own with this one. It was her story to tell.
“Okay. What I’m about to say will sound stupid. I promise you it’s the truth,” Lily began.
“I’m listening,” Sindy sat intently. Lily took a deep breath. This felt so casual for such a huge moment.
“I’m…,” Lily took a deep breath, “I’m part-werewolf.”
“Oh,” Sindy didn’t really react. Her face gave nothing away. How she felt was cloaked, making these brief moments drag out for what felt like ages.
“Huh?” Lily was baffled. What did that mean? Her mind was working overtime attempting to figure it out.
“I’m a banshee, Lily,” Sindy revealed. Lily’s mind was blown. She had so many questions, and didn’t know where to begin.
Checking his phone for new notifications for what must have been the twentieth time since they arrived, Jono was nervous. The Chadwick family had a huge bombshell dropped on them, and he needed to know Sammi was okay. She was naturally the one who was going to be the most affected. He needed a reply from her, to make sure she was okay. On the bright side, no response meant she was likely distracted, meaning her mind was focused elsewhere.
“She’s strong, she’ll be okay,” Dylan briefly paused from scrolling through Ed’s database. It was like he could read Jono’s mind – he knew exactly what he was thinking.
“I’m not okay, though,” Jono admitted, “How can I expect her to be?”
“I got you,” Dylan rubbed his knee soothingly, “And Sammi has Freddie. She’s got all the people she needs.”
“Parents suck, what’s new,” Josh chimed in.
“Not all of them,” Dylan reminded. He was lucky – his mum was the warmest, most loving person Jono knew. It was easy to see why Dylan was so gentle.
“Fair point,” Josh acknowledged, “But still, not everyone has Caroline and Ed. I didn’t for years.”
“Yeah, and look what happened there,” Jono teased. Josh was candid and open about his past – Jono knew jokes were fair game.
“Ouch, dude,” Josh laughed, “You’re not wrong, I’ll give you that.”
“Ah, the tried and tested way to raise a smile on our faces,” Dylan added, “Taking the piss out of Josh.”
Jono felt good to be laughing. Both Dylan and Josh always knew how to cheer him up when he needed it, even in his darkest moments. Silence resumed afterwards as all three of them returned to their search. Ed was used to Dylan ransacking his office by now, and even though it broke protocol, Ed knew it was for the benefit of the town.
Jono had the coolest job of them all. He was examining the CCTV cameras of the lad at the hospital, finding the clearest picture he could to plug into the facial recognition software. If they could find out exactly who he was, they could begin to trace the virus and link the potential other cases that Dylan and Josh were looking for.
This made Jono feel excited. It was his favourite part of the job – investigative journalism. Though he and Dylan had similar aspirations, Dylan preferred to write the articles and publish them. They made an excellent team, and Jono knew this would go beyond the school newspaper.
“I got a case,” Josh announced, throwing a paper file into the middle of Ed’s desk “Female, twenty-three years old, found dead in a bar after coughing her guts up. Literally.”
“Yikes,” Jono was grossed out at the mere description.
“Eye-witness reports of glowing eyes,” Josh continued, “This was in public, guys.”
“There are loads of other werewolves in Crystalshaw that we won’t know,” Dylan added, “If we shield to keep ourselves safe, that could still happen to someone else. Maybe it’ll be worse. Everyone has cameras these days.”
“Maybe we need to get a message out there in some way?” Jono considered while watching the facial recognition software beaver away.
“We can’t exactly broadcast it on the news, dude,” Josh had to rain on his parade.
“There’s one signal that every werewolf can recognise, though,” Dylan thought. Jono was intrigued – finally, it seemed like they had a breakthrough, “Come on, let’s go.”
Left baffled and speechless, Lily was waiting for Sindy to make the next move. She had a vague understanding about what a banshee was – she’d met Lydia Martin after all – but had never considered that any of her flatmates could be immersed in the supernatural world too. She couldn’t help thinking it was a huge oversight on her part. There was never a time to take down her guard.
“Please, someone fill me in. What the hell is a banshee?” Alex was even more befuddled than Lily was. She had to remember he was entirely new to this world, and she was his tour guide.
“Oh come on dude, you must have heard of a banshee,” Sindy was less gentle in her reply, “Best known for screaming.”
“Scream like a banshee? Yeah, I’ve heard that,” Alex considered, “That’s your special skill? Screaming? Even I can do that.”
“Trust me, you’ve heard nothing,” Lily could never forget the ear-piercing wail of Lydia. It wasn’t a cry for help like screaming usually was, it was a weapon. One of the most powerful weapons Lily had seen, “Banshees are harbingers of death, like my friend Yasmin, remember?”
“Oh, the nix? Sure,” Alex recalled. Lily had filled Alex in on the details of her friends. If he was going to be involved, he needed the full story, “So, you have a connection with the dead?”
“Sort of,” Sindy corrected, “It’s kinda freaky. I end up finding dead bodies without trying to.”
“That night, at the bar,” Lily realised, “We could have gone to any bar, there’s loads around, but you chose that one.” The fact they ended up in that specific bar where a werewolf died simply couldn’t have been a coincidence.
“You think there’s something more to that?” Sindy seemed a little more interested to help out.
“From my experience, there’s no smoke without fire,” Lily explained.
“Alright, I’ll ring my mom, see if she can help at all,” Sindy gave in. Lily was relieved. She could do this., She could figure this out.
“I owe you,” Lily smiled. Alex shared the same grin. They had each other’s backs, and if they wanted to stay safe, they needed each other.
In the corner of her eye, Lily spotted someone listening just behind the open door. She couldn’t see who it was, but it could only be one of two people. Besides, the cologne gave it away. Nicolas was listening, and he had heard their entire conversation.
Brett had learnt many things while being among the supernatural, but the most important was that nothing was insignificant. Any details could be a relevant piece of the puzzle, so if they were being watched, it wasn’t by a random nobody.
He was being led deeper into the hospital, towards the stairway and elevator. All Brett could tell so far was that it was a boy – surely within a year or two of his age. He was dressed casually, hardly the best attire for spying. He was clearly an amateur.
The gap was increasing between them. The boy had speed that Brett didn’t. He must have been supernatural, but Brett wasn’t going to let that deter him. He hadn’t trained all year to come second, and speed was a key skill in basketball.
Impressively, Freddie shot past. He was almost a blur, rapidly closing the gap. Brett’s training suddenly felt pointless when being a werewolf gave you all that speed and more for free. Nevertheless, Freddie latched onto the boy’s hook, yanking him down to the floor in a flash just in front of the elevator.
“Hold him, I can’t risk touching,” Freddie commanded as Brett caught up.
“Who are you?” Yasmin interrogated, her and Sammi bringing up the rear.
Brett saw his face for the first time as he pinned the lad’s arms against the ground. He had to blink to check he wasn’t seeing things. It couldn’t have been. It shouldn’t have been. The face he had longed to see again for so long.
“Johnny?” Brett was gobsmacked.
“Hey Brett,” he smiled back. He’d barely changed. His skin was flawless, his smile was perfect, and his hair was tamed expertly, “Miss me?”
If there were one unsolved mystery that Dylan could discover the truth about, he would undoubtedly choose the Nemeton. A mystical tree that had power over every supernatural being in the world? It shouldn’t have been real – the concept alone sounded ridiculous. However, there it was. Towering over him as if it knew its own importance. The golden, autumnal leaves were graciously descending to the ground, decorating the grass and mud in a way only nature could.
“Did we have to come all this way?” Josh complained, just as he usually did.
“Where better to summon every werewolf in Crystalshaw?” Dylan reasoned, “Nobody else can find us. The Nemeton has to want to be found, remember?”
“Let’s just hope it works,” Jono looked on the bright side. That was what he was best at – he was basically Dylan’s personal hype-man.
“On the count of three,” Dylan gave the order, glancing to Jono on his left and Josh on his right, “1…2…3!”
In unison, all three of them let rip. Unleashing a collective howl that would undoubtedly be heard all over Crystalshaw. Dylan kept going until he ran out of breath, giving every ounce of power he could. Now all they had to do was wait.
“How long do you think it will take?” Jono queried.
“Not long at all,” Josh replied promptly, spotting a couple of arrivals already. A couple soon turned into ten, all crowding around Dylan underneath the shade of the Nemeton branches.
Observing the crowd, Dylan saw a few familiar faces. A shop assistant, even one of the bus drivers – people Dylan never would have considered to be a part of this bubble. However, one familiar face freaked him out. It was a face he should have anticipated, stood firmly at the back, keeping his distance.
5: Johnny Written by MarthaJonesFan
Scanning the area, Dylan was amazed at just how many people there were. He knew Crystalshaw had more werewolves than he’d ever come into contact with, but there must have been at least a hundred stood in front of him. He wasn’t prepared to speak in front of so many people. In fact, it made him feel super nervous. Public speaking was always his greatest fear.
Thankfully, he had his guardian angel on his shoulder. Jono linked hands with him, urging him on, reminding him that they were in it together. Anything could be accomplished when Jono was by his side.
“Everyone, can I have your attention please?” Dylan raised his voice over the ambient, patient chatter, “Sorry to drag you out here, but our community is under attack. A virus is infecting werewolves, and we’re all at risk. I wanted to warn you all. My pack is looking into where it came from, and how to cure it.”
“How can we trust you?” one called out.
“Who even are you? You’re just a kid,” another yelled. Dylan wasn’t sure what to say. They had no reason to trust him, after all.
“His name is Dylan Drummond,” Josh intervened, “You’ve heard of that name, haven’t you? He’s the one who’s saved your asses time and time again. I know he’s saved mine. We didn’t have to give you a heads-up. It’s time for a little gratitude.”
Approaching the front, clapping slowly and loudly, David joined them at the foot of the Nemeton. He was smirking, his demeanour reeking of arrogance. He knew more than he was letting on.
“Inspiring speech, boys. I’m almost proud to call you family, honestly. However, I’m afraid your little plan isn’t quite as easy as you thought,” David spoke, turning towards the crowd, “In fact, you’ve been rather helpful, but not to them. You’ve been helpful to me.”
“What is going on? Uncle David?” Jono’s voice quivered. Dylan was scared, too. They had suddenly entered unknown territory where they were no longer in control.
“All your new friends here are currently being infected by your virus, thanks to a couple of super-spreaders among the crowd,” David casually explained, “I say your virus, it’s actually mine.”
Panic hit everyone in the face – Dylan included. His stomach dropped. He knew the virus was highly contagious. Any of them could have it by now. It was too late to avoid it.
Brett’s emotions were running wild across his mind, scattering themselves everywhere in a frantic frenzy as he attempted to process what was going on. It had been over three years since he last saw Johnny, and those three years had been pretty monumental for him. He had achieved so much, and most importantly, discovered an awful lot about himself. He wasn’t the same kid who was banned from seeing his closest friend because occasionally they got a little too close.
It was obvious that so much had changed with Johnny, too. There was no way he could’ve been a werewolf when they last saw each other – they told each other everything, something that big would never have been kept from him.
“Who is he?” Yasmin impatiently queried.
“An old friend,” Brett replied, keeping mum on any further details.
“Friend? Come on, dude,” Johnny protested.
“Shut up,” Brett demanded. Johnny wasn’t allowed to waft back into his life and start spilling his secrets.
“Can you get off me? I’m not trying to hurt you, I promise,” Johnny begged. Brett caved in and released his grip.
“That’s some level of trust,” Freddie observed, “For someone who was spying on us.”
“Calm it pretty boy,” Johnny’s mannerisms hadn’t changed at all. He remained borderline cocky, and easily the most upfront of the two of them. Undoubtedly, it was part of his appeal, “I wasn’t spying on you, I was spying on him. The kid from LA.”
“For who?” Yasmin demanded, “I mean, you’re clearly not the brains of this operation.”
“Wow Brett, your new friends are so sweet,” Johnny commented, “Annoyingly though, she’s right. My alpha sent me to check he’s okay.”
“Why? What’s so special about him?” Freddie questioned.
“I don’t know, I just do what I’m told, I swear,” Johnny protested.
“Who’s your alpha?” a worried Sammi questioned. She sounded extremely concerned – as if she knew something nobody else did.
“David,” Johnny replied, “He said people would be familiar with him, so I needed to keep my distance from, well, anyone really.”
“He’s infiltrating,” Sammi realised, “My dad. He’s plotting, and he’s using you.”
Brett’s heart sunk. He knew this reunion was far too good to be true. Johnny was their opposition.
Breaking up the interrogation, a rip-roaring howl soared through Brett’s ears. He didn’t have to be a werewolf to know that this was urgent.
“That’s Dylan,” Freddie immediately identified.
“Go, we got this,” Sammi urged, placing a cute peck on his lips.
“What about me?” Johnny couldn’t stop himself butting in. Brett had gone from overjoyed to frustrated in a heartbeat.
“You’re with me,” Brett held his hand out to haul Johnny off the ground, “I think we need to talk.”
Feeling productive, Lily had kept herself busy over the afternoon. Her bedroom wall had become a crime board, much like the one in Ed’s office back home. She had organised all of the information they had found out so far, and Lily was taking great pride in how efficient it was. It helped to take her mind off the Nicolas drama, at the very least.
“Wait, your boyfriend is human?” Alex questioned, lying on top of her bed while Lily pinned another post-it-note up. He had been asking her questions the entire time, keen to know more, which was no bad thing in Lily’s eyes. The more knowledge he had, the better chance he had of surviving in the supernatural world, “What if you bite him by accident?”
“Biting? What do you think we do?” Lily winked, “Don’t worry, only alphas can turn people, and I’m not even a full beta.”
“Does he care that you’re part-werewolf?” Alex continued.
“George is the most easy-going guy I’ve ever met. He’s really understanding. Besides, his brother’s a werewolf too, he’s not really got a choice,” Lily detailed.
“Lucky him,” Alex chuckled. There was something so effortlessly sweet about Alex – they seemed to have a mutual understanding of each other.
“Tell me more about yourself, then,” Lily requested, “After all, you know all of my deepest and darkest secrets.”
“There’s not much to tell. I come from a typical conservative family, cute childhood, but it went downhill the second I came out as trans,” Alex revealed, “It’s still an obstacle. They refuse to call me Alex, I still get called my birth name.”
“I’m so sorry,” Lily’s heart broke. For all the criticisms she had of her own parents, at least they were loving and accepting – of both her and Jono.
“It’s okay,” Alex replied. He looked like he was trying desperately to keep himself together, “It’s hard, but I’ve got hope. Hope that one day, they’ll accept me for who I really am.”
Lily wiped a tear from her cheek. She felt so moved by Alex’s story. He was so strong and courageous. Her admiration for him grew by the day.
“Hey, why don’t I make us both a cup of tea? I think we need a break,” she offered. Somehow, persevering with the detective work felt inappropriate for a short while.
With a nod of approval from Alex in tow, Lily popped next door to the kitchen. Nicolas was already there – she had been swerving him since he listened in on their chat earlier. It wasn’t the first time she had caught him listening. It must have been him in the café. He was spying on her, and she had to say something.
“Saw you at the door earlier,” Lily initiated the interrogation, skipping the pleasantries, “How long were you there for?”
“Lily, I live here too, don’t act surprised,” Nicolas rudely replied.
“Don’t play dumb,” Lily wasn’t standing for it. He knew stuff, and she needed to find out why he was so interested, “Tell me what you know and this will all blow over.”
“But what if I don’t want it to blow over?” Nicolas hit back, “Face it, Lily, you lost because you made a dumb mistake and now, I know who you really are. Now you have to trust an unknown quantity. Crystalshaw will seem easy in comparison.
Nicolas left the room, blocking Lily’s chance to probe further. She felt shaken and worried – who was he? She knew something about him didn’t add up, but what did he want?
There was one sound Freddie could always identify, no matter how far away it was. Dylan’s howl was embedded in him, lodged at the forefront of his brain, like it was part of his biology. It was like his brain was programmed to recognise the howl of every pack member, even if he’d never heard it before.
The howl gave directions, too. Hearing it once was enough for Freddie to be able to track the howl, and find exactly where Dylan was. Either Dylan was in trouble, or he was summoning Freddie. The howl was a hugely important tool.
Freddie traced it through the forest he had come to be so familiar with in recent years. He knew most of the forest by heart now, it was bread and butter to him. He reached a clearing, one that was instantly familiar. The realisation of where he was sent a shiver straight through Freddie’s body. He was uncomfortable.
Visible through the clearing was the Nemeton – the supernatural beacon that drew so many dangerous creatures to their town. As long as the Nemeton was active, Crystalshaw was unsafe.
Before stepping through the clearing, Freddie spotted Dylan, flanked by Jono and Josh at the foot of the tree. A large crowd surrounded them both, and it seemed like chaos. Shouting. Screaming. Dylan looked helpless.
“Don’t come any nearer,” one woman warned Freddie just as he was about to step through. He paused. What was happening?
“What’s going on?” Freddie queried, but it was too late – she had moved away to yell at another woman. This was bedlam, and Freddie had no idea what he’d missed. He needed to speak to Dylan. WHAM! Freddie smacked against… thin air. He couldn’t get inside the clearing. Instinctively, Freddie pulled out his phone.
“Hey,” Freddie blocked one ear as he held his phone to the other. Dylan was on the other end of the line, and he needed to focus.
“Freddie, I can see you,” Dylan waved in Freddie’s direction, “You need to get out of here, it’s not safe. David spread the virus, we’re all risk of infection. I think the Nemeton’s quarantined everybody inside.”
Instantly, Freddie’s heart dropped. He backed away from the clearing without a second thought.
“What do you need?” Freddie queried. If there was any way he could help out, he had to take it.
“We can’t go anywhere, so at least it’s contained. Find out everything you can from the kid we found in LA, the fact he’s still alive must mean something and I think he’s the key to this,” Dylan directed.
“Sure. Be careful,” Freddie warned.
“We’ll try,” Dylan replied before ending the call. Freddie couldn’t help feeling guilty. He was the lucky one, and now the lives of his friends were on his shoulders.
Passing Johnny his coffee over the hospital canteen table, Brett was ready for some answers. The kid he knew and adored was still there, but things had changed. He was on the wrong side, but still divulged information. Brett had to figure out exactly where he stood.
“I’ve missed that face,” Johnny smiled, “Haring your voice, playing with your hair, all of it.”
Brett didn’t know what to say. He was so unprepared for this moment, even if he had dreamt of being able to see Johnny again for so long.
“I looked for you. First day of high school finished and I went to your house to try and sneak in, but you’d left. The house was empty,” Brett recalled.
“You know what my dad was like. Ever since he caught us, you know, he barely spoke to me. He moved us away and signed me up for conversion therapy,” Johnny recalled.
“I’m sorry,” Brett’s heart broke. If only they had been a little more careful. He couldn’t bear to think how that experience felt for Johnny.
“It’s alright. I mean, I’m okay now that I’m out the other end, and David helped me,” Johnny explained.
“David’s dangerous, Johnny,” Brett protested. He had never forgotten the stories Drew told him. David sounded nothing short of vicious.
“Is he? A werewolf killed my dad last year. David saved me from almost dying too by biting me,” Johnny reasoned, “I owe him my life. For real.”
“Yet you spilled everything to us at the first chance you got,” Brett reminded.
“I spilled to you,” Johnny corrected, “I told David that I needed to get back to you, he said he’d help. That’s why I’m here. It was the plan all along. You’re still my number one, B.”
Brett’s heart melted. Johnny always called him B – nobody else got that honour. He had missed it so much.
“I’m just so glad to have you back,” Brett justified, “I don’t want to risk losing you.”
“You won’t, I promise,” Johnny held out his pinky finger. Brett linked his own pinky with Johnny’s, just as they always did to secure a promise. They had each other forever, “So, I’m guessing with all the secrecy that you’re not dating anyone else?”
“It’s not exactly easy when you’re the captain of the basketball team,” Brett opened up.
“Maybe they need to see you with a super cute boyfriend on your arm?” Johnny smirked cheekily, “No pressure. In your own time, I’m here for you either way.”
Brett nodded. The thought of Johnny on his arm made things feel a little easier.
“About the boyfriend thing,” Brett picked up on Johnny’s word choice. After all, they had never made it official.
“Oh, did you like the sound of that?” Johnny smirked playfully.
“I mean, if you’re sticking around,” Brett toyed.
“I suppose you’re probably the best I’ll get,” Johnny teased, “Come over here, pretty boy.” Brett didn’t need to be asked twice. He went and sat on Johnny’s lap, immediately embracing him in a gentle kiss. This was it. This was what he had longed for. It was the best.
Feeling repurposed as a babysitter, Yasmin was keeping a close eye on the lad they found in LA. Ed had called her to give an update – the facial recognition software failed to bring up any matches. He was still an unknown entity, but David appeared to be more than a little protective over him. He had to be involved somehow, and Yasmin was feeling impatient waiting for answers.
Inadvertently, she had also ended up babysitting Sammi. Of course, she knew Sammi well by now – though she was naïve, she was one of the most determined people Yasmin had ever met. In spite of everything she had been through, Sammi was kind, strong-willed, and a keen fighter for what she believed in. A woman after Yasmin’s heart.
“How long do you think it will be before he wakes up?” Sammi questioned, also watching the lad as he peacefully laid flat on the hospital bed.
“The doctors don’t know. I guess they’ve never had to deal with a virus like this before,” Yasmin explained, “We just need to hope that he does actually wake up.”
“This is him, it has to be, right?” Sammi thought. Yasmin immediately knew who she was talking about – he was bound to be the only thing that’s really on her mind.
“That depends on whether or not you believe in coincidences,” Yasmin swerved giving her a direct answer. Family matters were complex, after all.
“Do you?” Sammi enquired.
“I prefer to look at the facts and apply logic,” Yasmin justified, “As for your dad, his timing is undoubtedly suspicious, and the virus? Well, he has form.”
“I should have known,” Sammi sighed, burying her face in her hands. Yasmin stood up and perched on the side of her armchair to comfort her.
“You could never have known. Never expect the impossible of yourself,” Yasmin advised. Sammi felt like the little sister she never had. She needed protection and guidance.
“Um, where am I?” a deeper, distinctively male voice interrupted. In amazement, Yasmin spun around to see the lad awake and making eye contact with her.
“Hey, you’re in hospital, take it easy,” Yasmin got back up to reassure him.
“You’re one of Dylan’s friends, right?” he mentioned. That was one positive – he recognised her, despite them only briefly meeting before.
“Yes, that’s right. I’m Yasmin and this is Sammi,” Yasmin spoke gently, “Do you remember what happened?”
“I remember feeling like shit,” he replied, “Wait, what was your name again?” He was looking at Sammi like he’d seen a ghost.
“Sammi,” she confirmed.
“Short for what?” he queried. Yasmin was confused, and unsure of where this was going.
“Samantha. Samantha Chadwick,” Sammi replied, sounding just as baffled as Yasmin was.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t recognise you before, but it’s just clicked,” he oddly continued, “My name is Jeremy. Jeremy Chadwick. I’m your brother.”
Both Sammi and Yasmin were stunned into silence. This posed more questions than it answered. Yasmin could tell Sammi was going to need her a whole lot more.
No matter how hard he tried to deny it, Josh simply couldn’t ignore how he felt. David hadn’t even been gone an hour, but he was already beginning to feel unwell. His throat was sore, his head was foggy, and the wolf inside was becoming more and more difficult to keep down.
Scattered around the clearing, it looked like all of the other werewolves felt the same. The arguing and blaming had stopped – nobody had the energy for it any longer. The Nemeton had sealed the clearing, protecting every other werewolf in the world. All they had to do now was die, and Josh was starting to accept that. If he was going to die, he’d have preferred a heroic, honourable death, but Josh couldn’t stop the inevitable.
“Hey, sit down,” Josh called over to Dylan, who was nervously pacing around the trunk of the Nemeton. He wasn’t taking this so well, and even with Freddie on the case, Dylan felt helpless.
“I can’t, not when we’re all dying. I feel like shit,” Dylan’s voice quivered. He was on the verge of tears.
“And we can’t do anything about it. Sit down dude, please,” Josh requested. If there was one thing he could do, it was to make this time a little easier for Dylan to process.
“How are you so calm?” Dylan sat cross-legged next to him. Jono sat on the other side of Dylan, which pleased Josh. If this was the end, they needed to spend it together.
“I’ve swerved death more than once. After a while, you start to accept that what will be, will be,” Josh reasoned, “Freddie’s doing all he can, but if he can’t, we’ve got each other.”
“I feel okay,” Jono mentioned, “By the looks of things, I’m the only one who feels okay.”
“Lucky you,” Josh smiled. Dylan’s phone rang before Josh got to ask any more questions. This could be their beacon of hope. Dylan answered it, putting it on speakerphone for everyone to hear.
“Freddie, please tell me you’ve got good news,” Dylan began. Josh was hopeful, but ready for disappointment. Their odds felt low.
“Maybe,” Freddie replied, “He’s awake, and all symptoms have subsided.”
“Okay, what does that mean for us?” Jono queried.
“Here’s the tricky part,” Freddie explained, “He told us his name.”
“Yeah, and?” Josh was impatient. This seemed to be leading somewhere. Somewhere vaguely optimistic, too.
“His name is Jeremy Chadwick. He says he’s David’s son,” Freddie revealed.
“My cousin,” Jono looked stunned. His face gave no expression away. He was baffled, “Wait, I don’t feel ill at all. It’s not affecting me.”
“That was my question,” Yasmin’s voice replied over the phone, “I think your blood is the key. If David engineered this virus, he would’ve protected himself first and foremost. Your blood is the cure, Jono.”
“But how? There’s at least a hundred wolves here, and it won’t take just one drop of blood each, right?” Jono sounded worried. Josh felt hopeful, though. This was their way out. There was a saving grace after all.
“The Nemeton,” Dylan realised, “The Nemeton is connected, somehow. It knew to quarantine us in here. Perhaps it can transmit the cure?”
“Best idea we’ve got,” Josh quickly concurred.
“Try it, call us back,” Yasmin suggested, “Good luck. See you on the other side. Josh, behave yourself.” Josh chuckled. He loved hearing her voice. It was the first time he’d heard from her since before quarantine. It was true – absence really did make the heart grow fonder. She had the voice of hope. The voice that persuaded him to keep going. To keep fighting. To keep living.
Using every ounce of strength to stand up, Josh led the way to the trunk. Jono looked terrified, but he was keeping it together. Dylan held Jono’s hand, proving they were in it together every step of the way. Josh could feel how determined Jono was. That was the kid he knew. The kid that fought for him in his darkest hours.
“Here goes nothing,” Jono bared his fangs and bit into his wrist, wincing as the pain shot back through him. Droplets of blood trickled down the trunk, settling on the roots.
Immediately, the leaves began to rustle. The branches shook violently, like a child trying to guess its Christmas present by the noise it made. Something was happening. Josh could feel it inside him, too. It was like he’d been topped up with petrol. He had energy again. He felt well.
“Did it work?” Jono nervously questioned as the branches becalmed once again. Josh looked around. The other werewolves were standing up, talking again. They were healed.
“You’re the best,” Dylan smiled at Jono, placing a proud kiss on his lips.
“He’s right,” Josh agreed, “But don’t worry, no kiss from me.” Jono laughed. Josh could feel the relief in the air. They had survived, but it wasn’t over yet.
“Okay, my mom just got back to me,” Sindy excitedly burst into Lily’s room. Lily was all ears. She had been nervously waiting all day for news from the hospital. This could piece everything together.
“Oh boy, I cannot wait for this,” Alex sat up on the bed like a child about to receive a chocolate bar.
Lily glanced at the crime board. She had a picture of the victim, and some notes she had made. It all felt circumstantial and flimsy so far. She needed some concrete evidence to tie it together, and if her suspicions were right, Nicolas was caught right in the middle.
“She had signs of a virus in her system, but not one that’s ever been recognised,” Sindy fed back.
“What does that mean?” Lily pondered. A virus that nobody knew about? That could only be bad news.
“It could be man-made,” Alex suggested.
“You read too many conspiracy theories,” Sindy rubbished the idea, “But here’s the weird part. That’s the only case outside of one hospital, a few hours away from here.”
“Don’t say it,” Lily could already tell what was coming.
“Crystalshaw,” Sindy revealed. Lily’s stomach dropped. No matter where she went, Crystalshaw was following, and that could only be bad news, “Lily, you need to speak to your brother. By the sounds of it, he’s dealing with this virus too.”
As much as Lily hated to admit it, Sindy was right. This was too much for her to handle alone.
“I’ll be right back,” Sindy abruptly added, leaving the room in a surprising hurry.
Lily turned her attention back to her crime board. Things were beginning to fit together, but she suspected Jono could provide the information she really needed.
“Hey, are you okay?” Alex checked. It was sweet of him to look out for her.
“Yeah,” Lily replied. She was coping surprisingly well, all things considered. She was proud of herself, “Thanks.”
Lily sat down next to Alex on the bed. She had been batting away everything she felt towards him for a few days now, but it was becoming more and more difficult. She couldn’t do that to George, though. It was tough, and the awkward silence ensuing was only making matters worse.
“Look, Lily,” Alex broke the silence. He sounded serious, “I know you have a boyfriend, but I have to say this. I’m crazy about you, and…”
Lily didn’t allow him to go any further. She made her decision, planting her lips on Alex’s. It felt so right, like everything had built up to this.
“Oh my god,” Sindy yelled, her voice piercing through the bedroom wall. Breaking up the kiss in an instant, Lily sprinted into the living room. There was a shocked and horrified Sindy, staring down at Violet’s dead body, “She just collapsed, I couldn’t do anything.”
Lily wasn’t stupid. She could smell the cologne in the air.
Nicolas had declared war.