With his pack assuming he's dead, Dylan's survival depends on himself as he's trapped within the dangerous Lunar Sanctum, but what is it that they want? With Jono slowly but surely moving on, and the pack distracted by a deadly new creature, Dylan teams up with Jeremy and a new friend to save himself. Will he escape? Will the pack reunite?
Living inside the Lunar Sanctum, Dylan's escape plans accelerate when a new arrival desperately needs his help. Brett takes a big step, and encourages Jono to do the same. Yasmin and Sammi struggle with their emotions, while Lily and Alex's bubble is burst at college.
Not losing sight of an opportunity, Dylan attempts to find his way out of the Lunar Sanctum. Jono's forced to confront his feelings with help from Brett and Lily. Freddie probes Josh over his whereabouts, while Yasmin struggles to cope.
Outside the Sanctum, Dylan takes a risk to protect Liam and Jeremy. Jono takes the next step with Oscar after much deliberation, while Josh tries to make amends with Yasmin. Lily tries to make a good impression on Jamal but is left worried by his response.
Confronted by an unexpected shock, Dylan's return to Crystalshaw hits a bumpy start, leaving Jono to figure out where his heart really lies. Lily panics as Jamal makes his position clear. Sammi and Nolan reunite with their loved ones. Yasmin finds herself working with Josh to investigate a new creature sighting.
1: New Normal Written by MarthaJonesFan
Tossing and turning like crazy, Yasmin was having a rough sleep. It was one of those nights where the constant chit-chat in her mind turned into yelling, and visions flooded her brain. Any hope of rest was long since gone.
That said, Yasmin hadn’t slept properly in months. Five months, specifically. Ever since the worst day of her life. The pain she felt at the hands of her father was nothing compared to the gigantic sense of loss she simply couldn’t shake.
Places and people flashed through Yasmin’s mind. It was like a series of flashbacks, except Yasmin recognised none of them. Until one particular face.
He looked different – his hair was even longer, longer than she’d ever known it to be. He looked drained, like he hadn’t slept either. It felt so real.
It couldn’t have been, though. Dylan was dead, and Yasmin knew it. Her mind was playing tricks on her. Even if she knew her mind was never in the wrong.
Yasmin opened her eyes. Any chance of sleep was gone, so she may as well have been a little productive. She glanced to her companion in bed. His name was still a mystery, but he’d given her thirty minutes of relief and distraction earlier that night, so he’d served a purpose.
Creeping downstairs, Yasmin went to find her biology textbook. Exams were not far away – she had to take advantage of every moment for revision.
In the kitchen, she saw a figure. Somebody was there. She couldn’t make out who it was, but there was only one possible candidate. It must have been her mum.
“Can’t sleep either?” Yasmin asked, flicking the light on.
Yasmin jumped back. It wasn’t her mum. Stood in front of her was Dylan, looking just as he did in her vision. He looked knackered and drained, but how was he there? Yasmin knew she had a connection with the dead, but this was sick.
“Help me,” Dylan said. Yasmin shut her eyes. This wasn’t real. It couldn’t have been. Sure enough, when she reopened her eyes, nobody was there. Yasmin’s mind was the most confusing place to live. If it wasn’t already, sleep was firmly off the agenda now.
Intrusively and incessantly, the alarm clock startled Jono awake. The first thing he did was check the time – seven o’clock. Four hours sleep; the best night’s sleep he’d had in ages. Cuddling up to Tatty was a comfort, especially when he woke up startled in the middle of the night.
Tatty was Dylan’s old teddy bear. He’d been given to Dylan as a kid, and he always considered him to be his prize possession. Naturally, he was now Jono’s responsibility. One worn-out teddy bear, that had certainly earned its name, symbolising an entire person’s life.
Jono pulled himself out of bed to open the curtains. He was still sleeping in Dylan’s room – he didn’t want to leave it and return home as if nothing had changed. Everything was different, and Dylan’s bedroom remaining exactly the same with all of his belongings untouched was a slight comfort. Besides, he didn’t want to go back home. His brief visits had resulted in cold stares from his dad, and complete avoidance from his mum. They still hadn’t accepted that he was a werewolf, and it broke Jono’s heart.
“Hey,” Freddie cautiously poked his head around the ajar door. Jono felt so much more at ease staying at the Drummond household. Caroline clearly appreciated the distraction of having someone else around the house, not that she’d ever show a weak moment in front of Jono. Ed was keeping strong for all of them, but Jono had heard him crying in private more than once. Then there was Freddie – what a time for him to have moved in. Not only did he lose Dylan, but Sammi lost Jeremy. He had to be strong for so many people.
“Hey,” Jono raised a slight smile – it was the most he could muster up.
“Don’t forget we’re picking Oscar up today,” Freddie mentioned. Together, they had subconsciously decided to swerve the question of “how are you?” – the answer was always pretty obvious.
“Oh shit,” Jono had forgotten entirely. His mind was like a sieve – nothing seemed to stick any longer.
“I’ll text him to say we’re a little late,” Freddie chuckled. Somehow, he still had a little laughter in him. Jono admired that.
Oscar had been the one good thing about those few months of darkness. He only recently moved to Crystalshaw, and naturally, Yasmin was put in charge of showing him around. He sort-of became attached to their group, but Jono didn’t mind – Oscar was so sweet and naïve. Thank goodness he wasn’t corrupted by the world of werewolves and supernaturals.
“Okay, I’ll be down in a sec. I’m not hungry so I’ll be ready in ten,” Jono informed. His appetite came and went – he tried to eat even a small something for every meal, but his stomach simply wasn’t in the mood that morning.
Placing Tatty gently back on the bed, Jono pulled a t-shirt out of his suitcase. He refused to unpack – it was Dylan’s room after all – so he had been living out of the same suitcase for months. Jono didn’t care, though.
Anything was better than going back home.
Facing another day of mediocrity ahead, Dylan wasn’t feeling enthusiastic. It had been five months of an identical daily routine – up at eight, breakfast served to his lab room, a morning of testing, lunch. More tests, dinner, and then bed. There was never any variety, and he wasn’t given much downtime.
Despite this, the Lunar Sanctum staff – including the mysterious Mr. Leadsom who he hadn’t seen since the very first day – insisted he wasn’t a prisoner. It was an odd definition of the word, because in Dylan’s eyes, being locked up all day with no voluntary exit was exactly how a prisoner lived.
What hurt Dylan the most though was that all of his friends and family thought he was dead. Jono, Josh, Yasmin, Ed, and his mum – they’d have been grieving for someone who wasn’t dead. The Lunar Sanctum insisted they weren’t the enemy, but they didn’t allow him even one phone call to let them know he was okay. Their mission was more important, and Dylan thought that was nothing short of hideous.
“Breakfast,” one of the staff – the same young lady wearing a lab coat – carried Dylan’s usual plate of toast in. One positive was that he was allowed to order his food, and it always tasted amazing.
“Thanks,” Dylan forced a smile. It was the only time he ever bothered to raise a smile – nothing else deserved one.
“Another day of fun,” he heard his new favourite voice call over. Dylan saw Jeremy, about to tuck in to a large fried breakfast.
“I can hardly contain my excitement,” Dylan replied. Their sarcasm levels had reached new peaks inside the Sanctum.
“One day closer to the day we get out, just you wait,” Jeremy was optimistic. That was usually Dylan’s job, but he’d lost his optimism within a week of arriving there. All he could think about was his friends. Whether Freddie moved in. How Brett and Johnny were doing. Where Josh was at. Jono. Anything at all about Jono. Any time Dylan thought about Jono, he wanted to cry. They should be together. The fact that they’d spent five months apart broke Dylan’s heart, and there was no end in sight.
Constantly, Dylan asked the staff at the Lunar Sanctum for updates. How long they’d be needed for. When they could return home. The answers were always extremely vague, and Dylan had resigned himself to remaining there for the foreseeable. That was, unless, he found a way.
Both he and Jeremy had been vigilant. They were sensible, and knew that if they tried to rush an escape plan, the Sanctum would catch them, and they wouldn’t be so hospitable – by their definition, anyway. Instead, they had kept an eye out for details. Five months of building up their knowledge of the Lunar Sanctum. Mentally noting the staff rota. Nothing was an unimportant detail.
Dylan looked at the pretty ring on his finger. He wore it like a wedding ring, though of course it wasn’t one. It was the only possession he had left. The eternity ring from Jono. A constant reminder of what he was fighting for. The ultimate symbol of everything he had with Jono. He knew he’d be back with him, but Dylan wasn’t sure how much longer he could cope on his own.
Waking up and seeing Alex instantly was Lily’s favourite thing. He was an immediate calming influence on her day, and with him right next to her, she knew she’d always be safe. Of course, their two beds had been pushed together – that was the downside of single beds in college dorms.
Thankfully, nobody appeared to have noticed that Alex had spent five months sleeping in a girls’ dormitory. His own allocated bedroom was empty otherwise, but Lily needed all of the friendly faces she could get around her. Even miles away from home, nothing felt the same, especially when a tearful Jono called her every night. Uni felt so unimportant in comparison.
On the bright side, nobody had heard from or seen Nicolas since the café. No body was found, so there was a strong chance he found the cure, but he hadn’t returned. Lily didn’t care where he was as long as he was nowhere near her or her friends. She had won, and Nicolas should have been running scared.
“Good morning,” a voice sounded from outside, accompanied by three urgent knocks. Lily didn’t know who it was, but she couldn’t take any risks.
“Under the bed,” she directed Alex, keeping her voice low. Unfortunately, their cute morning greetings had to be skipped that day.
“Seriously?” Sindy responded from across the room, moving cautiously to the door. Lily pulled the beds back apart as quickly as she could. It wasn’t worth the hassle of the college finding out they had broken the rules.
“Okay, go,” Lily said, satisfied there was no evidence of Alex being there. Sindy opened the bedroom door to see Maria, the housekeeper, on the other side.
“Morning ladies, sorry to drop by so early, but we’ve got a new arrival and she’ll be sharing with you both,” Maria announced.
Shit, Lily thought. That complicated things.
A timid girl stepped inside. She had such a gorgeous face, without any obvious make-up coating it. Her hair was tied into perfect braids that continued halfway down her back. Lily already had a new girl crush.
“Hi, I’m Misha,” she introduced nervously.
“I trust you girls will make her feel welcome,” Maria directed, backing out of the room and closing the door behind her.
“I’m Lily,” Lily took the lead. She was putting on a front, trying to keep her cool while being very aware of Alex’s continued presence under the bed. She had no idea how she was supposed to wriggle out of that one.
“And I’m Sindy,” Sindy smiled, playing the role of the perfect hostess.
“And I’m Alex,” he interjected, popping out from underneath the bed, still only half-dressed from bedtime. Darn. Lily was hoping she’d get Misha outside and away from the room so he could make a quick getaway. Now she actually had to explain.
“Oh, and I interrupting? I’m sorry,” Misha sheepishly averted her eyes from Alex’s bare chest.
“No, no, Alex is my boyfriend, he stayed the night. I’m sorry,” Lily went into damage control mode, “He’s just going.”
“Which room are you in?” Misha queried.
“Room 122, I think,” Alex answered. He didn’t even try to sell that – nobody was supposed to know he hadn’t been there in months.
“My brother Jamal has moved in there,” she replied, “You’ll get on, I’m sure.”
Alex nodded, having flung a t-shirt over his head and pulled some comfortable jeans over his boxer shorts. Lily couldn’t help feeling disappointed – it wasn’t going to be easy to spend the night together now.
“Come on, better get back,” Lily pushed Alex out of the room, ensuring the door clicked shut behind her.
“Oops,” Alex chuckled, safely out of Misha’s earshot.
“I’ll never live that down,” Lily couldn’t help giggling too. It felt like a long time since she last properly laughed.
“I’ll be fine,” Alex smiled, “I’ll see you at our lecture.” Lily reluctantly released her grip on his hand. She had no doubts about Misha being sweet, but it felt so good having Alex by her side each night. She wasn’t ready for change.
Taking a deep breath, Brett wasn’t sure whether this was such a good idea. He and Johnny had planned it so meticulously for a while now, dropping hints into conversations and mentally preparing themselves. After all, it was what they both wanted, but Brett knew this could be an uphill battle and things were unlikely to be the same again.
“Are you sure you want this?” Johnny double checked as they stood at the front gate of the school.
“Absolutely,” Brett replied. All he could think about was Dylan. If he was brave enough to do what he did at the warehouse, Brett could absolutely do this.
He linked hands with Johnny and shot him his cutest smile. Together, they walked forward into school, holding hands, for the first time. Brett was only out to the pack, so this was his statement to everyone else. He wanted to be out and proud, because now he had Johnny, he had no reason to feel ashamed of who he was.
Naturally, they got a load of stares. People he didn’t know were gawping at them. It shouldn’t have been that way. Why did nobody care when straight couples did the same thing?
“Dudes,” Freddie smiled as they reached the end of their march, “That was awesome.” Brett and Johnny perched next to each other at a bench that felt like a very different place to what it used to be. Jono, Yasmin and Sammi were there as always, but with some faces missing, it just wasn’t the same.
Brett glanced at the plaque that had been added to the bench. ‘In memory of Dylan Drummond and Jeremy Chadwick.’ It was a small gesture from the school, but Brett had seen Jono’s face when Mrs. Harding first presented it. He loved it.
“Too right,” Jono raised him a smile, “I’m proud of you, buddy. Dylan would be too.”
That warmed Brett’s heart. He had so much respect for Dylan, and it was still Dylan’s pack, after all. Nobody else was the alpha, and nobody seemed bothered about changing that, either. Dylan was irreplaceable.
“Boss move,” Oscar smiled. Of course, Oscar was the new face at the bench. Quite why he had slotted in amongst a group of grieving teenagers, Brett wasn’t sure, but his innocence was appreciated. He was chirpy, funny and sweet, and clearly had the hots for Jono too. It was a shame Jono barely noticed; five months on from Dylan, and moving on didn’t seem to have crossed his mind.
To his left, Brett noticed Sammi staring aimlessly ahead. She had barely said a word to anyone since Jeremy’s death. Her family had been ripped apart, and Brett couldn’t begin to understand that. He placed a hand on her arm – a simple signal that he was thinking of her. She met eyes with him for the first time in a while and nodded. The bubbly, cutesy girl had gone, but he wasn’t leaving her side.
“I’ve said if anyone tries anything in the changing rooms, I’ll show them who they’re messing with,” Johnny chuckled.
“Welcome to Crystalshaw, where the scariest beasts you’ll find are the gays,” Freddie joked. He had his hand on Sammi’s other arm, like he did every day. He was always there for her.
“Absolutely,” Johnny laughed.
“No,” Sammi called out, “Why are you laughing? Jeremy’s dead. Dylan’s dead. Josh is missing. Nothing’s funny.”
“Nobody’s forgotten that,” Freddie soothingly consoled her, “We all cope differently, right?”
“I’ll say,” Yasmin muttered, catching the eye of a fit sophomore guy passing by.
“He’s a douche,” Brett warned, knowing him well from the basketball team.
“Who cares? I never said he had to be husband material,” Yasmin smirked. Though she spoke light-heartedly, Brett was a little worried about Yasmin. She’d shut her problems off from everyone and seemed keen to distract herself in any way she could.
Brett noticed Oscar glancing at Jono. The crush couldn’t be more obvious. If only he’d seen Dylan and Jono together, because it almost felt like a non-starter to be going there. Perhaps Brett needed to play cupid.
Morning testing done. Dylan was coping surprisingly well, all things considered. He had a variety of needles prodding out of him, pumping stuff in and out of his system. Much like anything at the Lunar Sanctum, he’d asked what they were doing and he didn’t ever get an answer. If Dylan wasn’t meant to worry, surely they’d have nothing to lose by cluing him in?
That said, Dylan had endured a lot over the past five months. He was constantly monitored, including regular health checks and measurements. He was still alive, so he was clearly of value. He just wished he knew the full story.
“Okay Dylan, we’re done for now,” the nice nurse announced. Hooray – lunchtime. Dylan sat up on his bed, examining the state of his arms. Of course, they had already healed. No evidence of any injections or incisions.
“Any chance of a day off tomorrow? It’s my birthday,” Dylan tried his luck. His eighteenth birthday. He so desperately wanted to spend it by Jono’s side. It was going to be pretty tough away from him.
“Not my call, sorry,” the nurse smiled, “You can celebrate when you get out. One day, I promise.”
The nurse was the sweetest person at the Sanctum, and the only person who bothered to engage in conversation with him. She made the procedures that little bit more tolerable.
“I just wish I could see Jono, for thirty seconds, you know? So he could tell my mom I’m alive,” Dylan sighed.
“I know, sweetie, but you can’t. Nobody can know where we are until we’ve finished our research, remember?” the nurse explained. Dylan nodded. As long as he kept co-operating, she could continue doing her job, and before he knew it, he’d be free.
Catching Dylan’s eye, a couple of guards pushed another lad into the lab room next to Dylan’s. A long window stretched across the wall separating the rooms, so Dylan had a clear view. After all, it was how he and Jeremy kept each other sane from across the corridor for five months.
Whoever the boy was, he was fighting back, but it wasn’t enough. He was thrown into the room with force and locked in before he could fight back. Nevertheless, he continued fighting, trying desperately to smash the windows and door. It was no good – Dylan knew that from experience.
“Who’s he?” Jeremy called over.
“No idea,” Dylan replied. He needed to find out. He approached the window, taking a look at the young lad. He must have been in his early twenties, and had shaggy dark hair.
“Hey,” Dylan tried to get his attention. Slowly, the boy glanced around, his bright yellow eyes subsiding.
“Sorry,” the lad replied, looking deflated.
“What’s your name?” Dylan questioned. In the Sanctum, an extra ally meant everything.
“Liam. Liam Dunbar,” he answered, “You?”
“Dylan Drummond. Nice to meet you, Liam,” Dylan smiled casually.
“Dylan?” Liam looked stunned, “I’ve heard of you. Scott’s told me all about you. I’m his beta.”
“Liam,” Dylan pondered. He remembered now – Scott gave some pretty great advice on how to deal with your first true beta, just after he had bitten Jono. He said Liam was his own. Of course, any friend of Scott’s was a friend of Dylan’s, “What are you doing here?”
“They caught me. I was with Nolan. They separated us. I tried to fight, I…,” Liam drifted off. He was still visibly annoyed.
“I know, I get it,” Dylan comforted.
“We have to get out. I’ve not got any of my medication,” Liam explained.
“Medication? I thought you were a werewolf,” Jeremy was confused. Dylan was too – why would he need medication?
“I have IED. Being a werewolf doesn’t cure everything. In fact, when I’m angry, it makes my IED worse,” Liam confessed, “The medication takes the edge off. I can’t stay.”
Dylan understood. Suddenly, his need for escape had accelerated. Maybe the time had come?
It felt weird to admit, but biology had become one of Jono’s favourite times of the week. A rare moment of light among the darkness that now seemed to follow him everywhere. It was all down to one person, as well. Ever since Oscar joined the school, Jono had found himself smiling just a little more often. In fact, they spent much of biology laughing together. It helped make the rest of the day a little more tolerable.
Jono was drawn to Oscar’s innocence and naivety. He didn’t know the truth about werewolves, and Jono wanted it to stay that way. It was for his own good. After all, the rest of the pack had been burnt by the supernatural world more than once. It was a collective decision not to involve Oscar.
Jono would exclude himself, too, if he could. The pack had a ridiculous amount of pressure on their shoulders, especially as it was approaching the end of senior year. They had college to think about, but it wasn’t easy to just side-line werewolf drama when it had defined their high school experience. He was a werewolf himself, and that wasn’t changing, but a little normality surely wasn’t too much to ask for.
“This is so tedious,” Oscar commented, glancing at the textbook in front of them. Mrs. Johnson never did a very good job of trying to jazz up the syllabus. She preferred one textbook activity after another. Jono was only really taking biology as a place-filler subject anyway, he knew what he wanted to do long-term, even if he couldn’t fulfil the dream with Dylan by his side.
“What’s new?” Jono chuckled. At least Oscar was singing from the same hymn sheet as he was. Not to mention his adorable, contagious smile. He was just the uplift Jono needed.
“Pst,” a voice summoned from behind. Brett, of course. Jono spun around while Mrs. Johnson peered at her computer, hoping she wouldn’t notice his distraction.
“What?” Jono whispered.
“You two look cosy,” Brett commended.
“Shut up,” Jono blushed. He was not looking for anybody. It would have felt like an insult to Dylan to move on so soon. The eternity ring on his finger caught his eye. Dylan was still with him, even if he wasn’t there physically.
“He obviously likes you, but he’s too scared to make a move knowing what’s happened,” Brett persuaded, “Dylan would want you to be happy, remember?”
Before Jono could muster up a defiant reply, the classroom door swung open violently. A distressed lad in his early twenties was there, complete with a cute face and a light brown mop of hair. Jono had never seen him before; he was surely too old to be a student? That said, he didn’t look old enough to be a member of staff either.
“I’m looking for Dylan Drummond,” he announced, “I need him.” Jono’s heart sunk. Whoever this was, he clearly didn’t receive the memo.
“Jono,” Mrs. Johnson called over, directing him to deal with the lad. Clearly, this was werewolf related.
“Be right back,” Jono uttered to Oscar, ensuring he stayed behind. Brett followed him for back-up. This had to be important, whatever it was.
“Where’s Dylan?” he asked again outside the classroom. He looked extremely agitated and unsettled. His eyes were red, like he’d been crying.
“I’m Jono, and this is Brett. Dylan’s…” Jono pondered, “…not here right now, but whatever it is, we can help. What’s your name?”
“Nolan Holloway,” he answered, “They took him. Liam. They’ve got him, and I remember Scott mentioned Dylan’s name. Please, help me find him.”
Jono glanced to Brett. Whether they’d help was never in doubt, but the normality he craved would have to wait a little longer.
Making herself comfortable in what had become her regular seat in the lecture theatre, Lily felt unusual arriving by herself. The walk from the dorm room, while short, felt very lonely without Alex to talk to. They’d basically been inseparable for months, which put Lily at ease – Alex distracted her from spiralling, thinking about Dylan, worrying about Jono and Sammi. He was her rock.
Being separated from Jono was hard. It was cruel that life still had to go on while he was struggling so much. Yasmin had told her he was keeping it together at school, but their nightly phone calls often ended in tears. All Lily could do was listen, because he had done the same for her so many times over the years. When she said she had his back, she truly meant it.
“Hey,” Alex smiled, bounding up the final step in the theatre, “Sorry I’m late.”
“I’ve missed you,” Lily smiled back as Alex planted a gentle peck on her lips.
“We’ve only been apart for an hour,” Alex chuckled, pulling his laptop out of his bag. Thankfully, he still remembered his earphones – one ear each with YouTube on the laptop was how Lily coped with a nine o’clock lecture.
“And?” Lily laughed. Their banter kept her going. He was far too good for her.
“Hey, Alex,” another lad stopped at the edge of their row. Someone Lily hadn’t seen before. He had short, cropped hair with shaved sides, and his muscular abs were clearly displayed through his tight t-shirt.
“Hey, Lily, this is Jamal. Jamal, this is Lily, Misha’s roommate and my girlfriend,” Alex introduced. Those words were so cute to hear.
“Mind if I join you both? First lecture and all that,” Jamal requested. He seemed nice, though Lily was enjoying her quality time with Alex. It was a little more limited now, after all.
“Not at all,” Alex smiled, but Lily caught eyes with him. They spoke volumes – Alex wasn’t so happy either.
As Jamal slid past Lily, one of his sheets sliced the skin on her finger. Being part-werewolf didn’t make her immune to papercuts, after all.
“Ow,” Lily reacted, immediately sucking it to conceal both the blood and the super-fast healing.
“I’m sorry, are you okay?” Jamal looked mortified.
“Yeah, it’s just a papercut,” Lily replied, checking on the small wound. As expected, it had already vanished without a trace.
“I can’t see anything,” Jamal nosily observed. Lily’s alarm bells began to ring. Why did he care so much? Alex was remaining awkwardly quiet – there was no need to blow this out of proportion.
“I guess it didn’t break the skin,” Lily smiled. After all, she was the queen of white lies. She grabbed an earphone and selected the first song on Alex’s laptop – “Say So” by Doja Cat. Good vibes only, but she made a mental note about Jamal.
She already knew there was no such thing as a coincidence.
The first to arrive back at the bench for lunchtime, Sammi was finding school especially tough that day. Some days were better than others, and Sammi hated that she couldn’t predict which days would be good and which would be bad. Everyone else seemed to be getting back to normal, or adjusting to their new normal in one way or another. Even Jono had come on so much.
Sammi couldn’t help thinking about how much her life had changed in just a year, though. Exactly twelve months ago, she had no idea werewolves existed. She and her dad lived reasonably happily; ignorance was bliss. Now her dad was dead. Her secret twin was dead. Her extended family had been ripped apart. Nothing was the same.
“Hey you,” Freddie smiled kindly, sitting down next to her. Freddie was the one constant she had. He was always the same, chirpy dork she adored so much. Without him, she didn’t know what she’d do, “How’s your day been?”
“Shit,” Sammi responded bluntly. They were long past the point of pretending.
“Cuddles and Netflix all evening then,” Freddie decided. That was always their go-to on a bad day. The Good Place on Netflix for some laughs, lots of snacks, and plenty of cuddle time.
“Oh my god,” Yasmin joined the bench, “That Anthony guy in junior year is gorgeous.”
Sammi looked at Freddie to see his expression. As expected, it was disapproving. They were both worried that Yasmin would come to regret her chosen method of distracting herself from her problems.
“We’re meeting after school. No strings,” Yasmin continued. Sammi didn’t know what to say. Perhaps she wasn’t the only one still struggling.
In the background, just outside the school gates, Sammi spotted someone. A face, watching them. Spying on them. A face she hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Josh,” she called out.
“What?” Freddie looked baffled. He hadn’t noticed.
“Over there,” Sammi directed. Josh had gone. Sammi knew how much both Freddie and Yasmin needed him around, and this was their first sighting of him in months.
“Come on,” Freddie led the way. The chase was on.
2: Fire Alarm Written by MarthaJonesFan
Another coach journey over. Josh was exhausted – he hadn’t slept properly in days. All he wanted to do was get as far away from Crystalshaw as possible. A few coach journeys had landed him in Wayhurst, several hours away from Crystalshaw, where nobody would find him. All he had to do was keep his head down.
There was no way he could face seeing his friends. He wasn’t a hero. He thought he was being brave, saving those he held dearest, but he ended up on the wrong side of a war. He should have saved Dylan. It shouldn’t have gotten that far.
Josh didn’t deserve the love of Ed and Caroline. One day, they would move on and forget the disappointment he was. They were better without him, as was Yasmin. He treated her like dirt when she deserved a prince.
Walking through the streets of Wayhurst, it seemed like a nice place. Josh saw neatly mowed lawns, kids playing soccer outside, and smiles all around. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to settle here?
Suddenly, Josh tripped. He wasn’t looking where he was going and had collided with a skateboarder.
“Watch it, dumbass,” the girl yelled, “What the fuck?”
“I’m sorry,” Josh sheepishly replied. So much for a friendly neighbourhood.
“You will be,” she hissed.
“Move on,” a voice commanded from behind Josh. A voice he recognised. How, though? He was so far away from home.
Sure enough, Josh turned around to see Drew. He was glowing his eyes, threatening the girl. Without any argument, she scarpered.
“What are you doing here?” Drew immediately questioned, skipping the small talk. He hadn’t changed.
“Dylan’s dead,” Josh uttered those horrible words. Drew stared back in disbelief. Clearly, they had a lot of catching up to do.
out of the school gates, Freddie desperately scanned the road. Left and right
brought similarly bad luck. Josh had scarpered, but he couldn’t have gone far.
Instead, Freddie paid attention to his nose. He knew Josh’s scent better than
most, especially after the many search parties he’d participated in.
In a way, Freddie felt a slight relief. This was the first time he’d seen Josh since the explosion. It was good to know he was alive, but Freddie needed more. Josh was his friend, and they were all going through it. He had a support network ready and waiting.
“Where did he go?” Sammi questioned, her and Yasmin catching him up.
“This way,” Freddie identified. The scent trail was recent, so it was clear. Freddie led them left, keeping Josh’s scent at the forefront of his mind. Concentration was key.
Quickly, though, the scent petered out. Freddie immediately noted the house they were stood by. After all, that was the short walk he used to do at the end of every school day. It was his old house. The place he grew up in. His home for his whole life, until a few months ago.
“Oh boy,” Freddie took a deep breath. The scent definitely led there, but he wasn’t sure he was ready to face the house again. Caroline’s house was so homely, but he missed his own home so much.
“Are you okay? You don’t have to go in,” Sammi soothed. Freddie smiled. Though he had been strong for her so many times, she occasionally took the reins to help him out. She was the best.
“Yeah, I do. Josh needs me,” Freddie replied. This wasn’t about him. Besides, he wasn’t sure he was the one who needed the most support. Yasmin hadn’t said a word. In fact, she hadn’t discussed Josh at all, with anyone, at any point, “We got this.”
Tears formed in Yasmin’s eyes. Freddie knew she had put this off for a long time. This was hard for all of them. After all, they were still teenagers in high school, yet they’d seen things that were heavier than most adults would ever experience.
“I got you,” Freddie pulled her in for a tight hug, “Do you want to stay outside?”
“No,” Yasmin wiped her tears, “Like you said.”
United, they approached the front door. Freddie no longer owned a key, so he had to do it the old-fashioned way. Three knocks on the door. No answer.
“Josh, come on, it’s me,” Freddie pleaded. Still nothing. Josh really didn’t want to be found. Freddie needed a better tactic. One that gave Josh what he wanted.
“I forgive you,” Freddie called out. The lock on the door clicked open instantly, revealing a frail-looking Josh inside. They locked eyes for the first time in months. Instantly, Josh broke down in tears, collapsing into Freddie’s arms. It was good to have him back, but they had a lot to talk about.
Another set of tests done; Dylan was relieved. His day of being poked and prodded was over, not that he could let his hair down. He was only one sleep away from the process restarting. The nurse tidied herself up again and prepared to leave.
“What the heck was that?” Liam called over from the adjacent room. Dylan had persuaded him to co-operate – they were in no immediate danger, and it wasn’t worth resisting. Jeremy had told him about how they tamped him on day one – tasers weren’t used conservatively around there.
“You’ll find out soon enough, Mr. Dunbar,” the nurse replied. She turned to Dylan again, “I’ve been thinking about what you said, about your birthday.” Dylan’s ears picked up. He didn’t want to get his hopes up, but this sounded vaguely promising.
“I found this,” she slid a blank key card to him, “It works, I’ve tested it. You’re sweet, Dylan. Get your friends out tonight. Turn right here and head out the back, then keep running.”
Dylan was amazed. Was this a trap? It seemed too good to be true, but surely it wasn’t. The nurse had been so nice to him. She was the only person in that place that seemed to have a heart.
“What’s changed?” Dylan wondered.
“You’re better off not knowing,” the nurse diverted, “Hide the card and wait until lights are out tonight.”
Dylan nodded. He felt a fire lit inside him for the first time in months. There was hope all of a sudden. He slid the card into the white jogging trousers he had been given for night-time.
“What was that about?” Jeremy enquired.
“A way out,” Dylan informed, “Act normal. We can’t let them think anything’s up.” Dylan knew they could talk freely – the security cameras couldn’t have had microphones. He’d sussed that out when the nurse asked how Dylan and Jeremy knew each other, as if Jono and Sammi hadn’t been all they’d talked about most days.
“Scott said you were good,” Liam smiled, “He was right.”
“how long have you known Scott?” Dylan questioned. In calming Liam down, they had missed their chance to get to know each other. Now they had some time to kill.
“Since sophomore year,” Liam replied, “We were on the lacrosse team together. He bit me that same day.”
“This Scott sounds ruthless,” Jeremy commented. Dylan forgot that he had never met Scott – hopefully that would change one day.
“Yeah, at times, but he bit me to save me. That’s what he’s all about. I would have died without him,” Liam explained.
“Like me with Jono,” Dylan pondered. He thought back to the toughest decision he had to make. Jono on that hospital bed was a horrible sight.
“You miss him, huh?” Liam cottoned on, “I get it. I’ve only been here a few hours and I really miss Nolan.”
“Is he a werewolf?” Dylan wondered. He’d never heard of Nolan, but Liam’s face brightened up every time he mentioned his name.
“No, that’s a long story though,” Liam chuckled.
“We’ll help you find him,” Dylan assured. He truly meant that – he knew how it felt to be apart from the one he held dearest.
“I’ve never had a girlfriend,” Jeremy spoke up. Dylan felt so incredibly sad whenever Jeremy opened up about his past – David was beyond cruel to keep him locked away. He deserved a better start to life.
“Your dream girl is out there, Jeremy,” Dylan encouraged. Jeremy was so sweet, he only deserved the best, “Tonight, we’ll be out there too. Just wait.”
Dylan smiled at both boys. This escape plan had to work. He couldn’t spend any longer away from Jono.
The arrival of Nolan had sent Jono’s mind spinning. He had learnt how to put on a brave face at school – life really did have to go on, whether Dylan was there or not. However, whoever this Nolan guy was, he was expecting Dylan. The alpha. Jono couldn’t be that – he had no alpha now, but he seemed to be the next best thing.
Jono ushered Nolan to his car. They had to get away from Oscar’s ears – this was bound to be werewolf-related, and Jono wasn’t letting him hear their truths. Brett joined in the backseat – it was good to know he wasn’t tackling this alone.
“I’m sorry, I just need help so badly. It’s an emergency,” Nolan flustered in the passenger seat.
“It’s okay, we want to help you, but you need to tell us everything. Please,” Jono requested. Step one: be the journalist. Find out the facts from his primary witness.
“Liam and I were on our way home from college for a week off. We pass through Crystalshaw each time,” Nolan explained. His face displayed just how hard his brain was working to figure out the sequence of events.
“Who’s Liam?” Brett jumped in with just the right question.
“My boyfriend. Scott’s his alpha, I’m just human,” Nolan clarified, “We got jumped just out of town. They took him.”
“Who did? Who took him?” Jono continued probing. This was the most vital part.
“The Lunar Sanctum,” Nolan replied. Jono’s stomach dropped. He had heard that name before. They owned the warehouse. He had no idea they were still operational, considering the abandoned state of that place.
“Not really, we were following a couple of leads,” Nolan answered. He didn’t make eye contact with Jono at any point. He seemed so nervous and timid.
“Show us where it happened,” Jono started the car up, “Brett, call Ed. I think we may need some back-up.”
Jono knew he was channelling Dylan. He wouldn’t have given up on Liam and Nolan, so neither would Jono.
Josh’s contact with Drew since he left Crystalshaw had been minimal. Drew was never one for chit-chat, which made staying in touch pretty tough. Josh had no idea where Drew had even settled, if anywhere. Bumping into him in Wayhurst was a pretty big coincidence.
Waiting for the right moment to ask the many questions on his mind, Josh followed Drew back out of town. Drew undoubtedly had many questions too, but sensibly, he wasn’t going to ask them in public. Josh trusted his instinct – he didn’t know the area like Drew clearly did.
Drew led him to a small bungalow on the outskirts of town. On the outside, it looked unimpressive and unremarkable. Just another typical house. Just the intention, Josh assumed. The inside was cosy, furnished stylishly, though little on space. How this was the home of five people, Josh couldn’t imagine, though he supposed only three bedrooms were needed.
“Hey Josh,” a delightfully familiar voice sounded. It was the chirpy tone of Noah. If there was anyone else who had been through a lot, it was Noah, and he’d come out the other end in brilliant fashion.
“I didn’t know we were expecting visitors,” a less welcoming Monty mentioned.
“Hey, shut it,” Allyn immediately defended, “Hey Josh, welcome. What brings you here?”
“Oh my god, you’re bleeding,” Kamilah spotted, giving Josh the chance to swerve discussion for a little longer. Josh had hurt himself from the shock of the explosion. For some reason, the cuts on his face hadn’t yet healed. Kamilah dabbed a cloth against it, cleaning the wounds.
“I’m fine,” Josh insisted.
“What’s going on?” Drew impatiently demanded. Of course, he knew that extra crucial fact that the others were yet to find out.
“You were right. David arrived, and he wanted a pack,” Josh recalled, “I did bad stuff, Drew. I joined him, to save Yasmin and Freddie, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted everyone, so…”
Josh stopped. He hated thinking about what happened, even if his mind hadn’t allowed thoughts about anything else.
“…so, Dylan blew the warehouse up, with David inside. Dylan’s dead,” Josh uttered those dreadful words again.
“And you’re here?” Allyn was confused.
“I can’t face them. Caroline, Ed, Jono. I can’t do it,” Josh tried to justify, “I should have done more.”
“Look,” Drew sat down on the small couch. Josh was too anxious to sit, so he was pacing back and forth by the door, “Dylan and I disagreed on a lot, but that kid had balls. He did what he had to, and he’d do it again for you.” A surprisingly good take from Drew, who never exactly had a way with words.
“If I didn’t bite him, he’d still be alive. My bad decisions fucked him up. I don’t deserve to be a part of his family any longer,” Josh continued on his train journey of self-shame.
“Where would you be, then?” Allyn simply questioned, “Dylan forgave you when nobody else would.”
Allyn had a point. Without Dylan, Josh had no idea where he’d be. Dead, probably.
“How did you find me?” Josh changed the subject.
“Coincidence,” Drew replied, “This town has a high amount of unexplained deaths, so we set up camp. I was going to message Dylan to let him know.” Just visible, behind that tough exterior layer, was a devastated ally of Dylan’s. Drew clearly had so much respect for Dylan, “Dude, go home. Look after everyone. Please.”
Josh nodded. Perhaps they were right?
Taking deep breaths in and out, Yasmin wasn’t sure how to react to seeing Josh again. Of course, she had imagined this scenario, over and over again. Would she hug him? Would she unleash her anger at him? He almost killed her, and spoke to her just like she was a piece of gum on his shoe. Instead, though, Yasmin just stood still. She had no idea what she was supposed to feel.
Josh led them inside Freddie’s old house. It was strange to see somebody else’s family photos on display. Yasmin had spent many a night in this house, and it had an instant calming vibe, much like Freddie himself. Sammi kept close to Yasmin, sitting next to her on the couch. It was like she could mind-read. This wasn’t easy for anyone.
“Where have you been?” Freddie took the lead on the questioning, keeping his tone calm.
“Here,” Josh replied timidly, “Most of the time, anyway.”
“Why didn’t you come and see us? We needed you. I needed you,” Freddie continued. Sammi gently placed her hand on Yasmin’s. The support was very much appreciated.
“Because I couldn’t. I was going to come back, but I’m a chicken,” Josh confessed.
“So ignoring us is better?” Yasmin hit out. She had no intentions of holding back.
“No,” Josh replied, more confidently, “I’m embarrassed. You all deserve better than me. I’m sorry for everything I put you through. So much for trying to be the hero.”
Yasmin heard the apology, but she wasn’t ready to accept it. Josh had a long way to go before he was absolved of his sins.
“I miss him too,” Josh added.
“We all do,” Freddie concurred. Dylan was still at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and rightfully so.
“I’ve been watching you guys. From afar. I had to know you were okay,” Josh continued.
“Okay? None of us have been okay in months,” Yasmin unleashed.
“We’d have been a little closer to okay if we didn’t have to worry about you,” Sammi concurred.
“You’re still going, though. All of you. You’re so strong. I’m envious of that,” Josh explained.
“I think there’s someone else who might need you more than us, though,” Freddie mentioned.
“I can’t. I don’t deserve that,” Josh realised.
“Too right,” Yasmin agreed, “But she loves you, Josh, and she’s already lost one kid.”
Josh paused. Yasmin could see the old Josh shining through again, but it was going to take a lot more grovelling to bring him out.
It had felt like a long time coming, but the night had finally arrived. Beyond half-hourly patrols from the security guards, Dylan knew they would be left alone for the best night’s sleep possible.
So far, Jeremy and Liam had done a great job keeping the act up. Nobody else at the Lunar Sanctum could catch wind of what they were doing, because this was their only shot. If they didn’t get out, the Sanctum’s treatment of all three of them would surely get so much worse.
Dylan thought back to his first day after waking up. His chat with Mr. Leadsom on the first day. He so desperately wanted to probe him for answers. How was he so sure that Dylan wouldn’t voluntarily help out if he knew the truth? Clearly, there was something bad going on, and Dylan needed to get out. He only wished he could get out with some answers in his back pocket.
Half past eight. The security guard filtered through as always. Dylan met eyes with Liam – a knowing look that their moment was coming. Dylan had the key card ready in his pocket. He felt sick with nerves, because so much could go wrong.
The guard passed into the next corridor, to Dylan’s left. The coast was clear. Dylan nodded to Jeremy and Liam. This was it. Dylan swiped the key card and sure enough, the door clicked open. For the first time in months, Dylan stepped outside of the lab room he’d been forced to call home. It felt weird and unusual, but liberating at the same time.
Dylan swiped the key card on Jeremy and Liam’s doors too. It felt so good to hug Jeremy – going for months without physical contact was strange, but getting to know Jeremy was such a positive. After all, he was basically family – that was how he considered the Chadwicks anyway.
“Where now?” Liam questioned.
“This way,” Dylan turned to his right. A door blocked the end of the corridor, but that was easily opened once again with the key card. They really did have access all areas.
Dylan was keeping a close eye on his senses as they passed into the next corridor. The scent of coffee filled Dylan’s nostrils. It was an office area. Thankfully, he couldn’t hear any heartbeats. For now, they were safe.
Nobody dared speak a word, though. Too much noise would give the game away, and it wasn’t worth the risk. Dylan was curious, though. He so badly wanted to explore the Sanctum and gather evidence, but it wasn’t the time. They needed back-up first. Alpha or not, Dylan wasn’t sure he’d win in a fight with the Sanctum’s security – they had surely been trained in fighting werewolves.
That said, Dylan poked his head around the open door of the first office – signposted “Mr. Leadsom.” The lights were off, but the computer monitor glared brightly. Dylan couldn’t lose this opportunity to grab some dirt.
“Dude, no,” Liam whispered as Dylan proceeded into the office.
“Ten seconds,” Dylan assured. He didn’t want to take risks, but he couldn’t resist this opportunity to snoop around. On top of the desk was a USB with Leadsom’s name attached on a label. Perhaps it would be useful? Dylan grabbed it and headed back out of the office.
Now they had to find the exit.
With Nolan directing Ed to the scene of the crime in the front of the car, Brett had a rare moment alone with Jono in the back. This was a chance to ask questions while nobody else was listening. No Johnny, no Sammi, no-one.
“So, Oscar,” Brett smirked.
“No, I told you,” Jono immediately batted the topic away.
“You can’t shut romance away forever,” Brett encouraged.
“Like you did when Johnny moved away?” Jono hit out. Ouch. Things had turned surprisingly sour. Jono immediately seemed to regret it, though. The look of embarrassment on his face said it all, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“I know,” Brett smiled, “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have pushed you.”
“Oscar’s cute. Really cute, and he’s been the only good part of the past few months,” Jono opened up, “Maybe you’re right, but I don’t want to forget Dylan.”
“You’ll never forget him,” Brett reinforced, “But he wanted you to be happy, remember what Freddie said?”
Jono nodded. In a roundabout way, Brett’s role as cupid had seemingly worked.
“Besides,” Brett continued, “Losing Johnny ruined me. I hated myself and what I was, and it took me two years to open up. Don’t be like me.”
Jono smiled, rubbing Brett’s hand calmly. He knew the best ways of soothing people. It was clear what Dylan and Oscar both saw in him.
“Right here,” Nolan pointed, “They jumped Liam and bundled him into a van.” Nolan seemed sweet and unassuming, but his worry over Liam was clearly consuming him. Brett understood that feeling.
They pulled over at the side of the road. It was mainly empty – very little was in sight being barren land and speckles of grass. They were just twenty minutes out of the centre of Crystalshaw town – Brett remembered this route from the journey to the hut. He sort-of missed staying there. He and Johnny had already decided it was where they were spending their summer.
“And you were driving?” Ed clarified, trying to paint the picture.
“We stopped for a quick break. We took this,” Nolan showed them all his phone background. Sure enough, it was a selfie of him and Liam in that exact spot. Brett found it such a cute photo – it was obvious that Liam and Nolan truly cared for each other, their faces said it all.
“Hey, what’s that?” Jono pointed to the background of the photo. A building was there – the only building in the area. Brett spun around. Sure enough, there it was. It was white and looked pretty futuristic, but had no signage to identify what it was.
“Maybe there’s someone there who could help?” Brett pondered.
“Worth a shot,” Ed nodded, ducking back into the driver’s seat. Brett loved how determined they were to find Liam – nobody needed a reminder of the loss each one of them had felt.
Emotions had been running high through the entire pack for a while, and Sammi knew that better than most. She hated being miserable, but it was the only emotion she had left. Though her relationship with her dad had strained, she still had to mourn the father he used to be. Not to mention the discovery and subsequent loss of her twin brother happening in such a short space of time.
Things at home weren’t great, either. Jono had moved out, and Aunt Helen and Uncle Steve weren’t making any effort to reconcile with him or Lily. It was so sad – they clearly had no concept of how short life was. Jeremy taught them nothing.
Therefore, Sammi knew how Yasmin felt seeing Josh again for the first time. She had to face her trauma head on, and Yasmin was the best out of anyone at keeping herself bottled up. She was still doing just that, having escaped to Freddie’s old bedroom to get some space. Sammi needed to be there for Yasmin, just the way everyone had been for herself.
“Hey,” Sammi poked her head around the door. Quickly, a tearful Yasmin dried her eyes, “You don’t have to pretend around me, you know.”
“I was brought up to keep a strong face on in front of people,” Yasmin admitted, “My dad had no time for tears, and my mom, well, she wasn’t around for half of my childhood.”
“That’s wrong,” Sammi wasn’t holding back, “I think we could probably compare notes on bad fathers, but never bottle up how you feel. Let it out. Scream, shout, yell. God knows I have.”
“Josh isn’t dead, though. He’s downstairs, slotting back in as if he didn’t dump me. As if he didn’t almost kill me,” Yasmin sighed.
“I’m not saying you have to be okay with him, but he’s sorry. Don’t lose the chance to make amends, even if things won’t ever be the same as they used to be,” Sammi advised.
“You’re amazing,” Yasmin smiled at her, tears forming in her eyes, “How do you keep being you, despite everything?”
“This is the most I’ve said to anyone except Freddie in months,” Sammi shrugged, “Talking felt pointless. Small talk is a waste of time. Life’s too short.”
Yasmin pulled Sammi in for a hug. They were both sobbing like mad, but Sammi didn’t care. After all, it was so important to let loose and unleash the sadness.
Finally, they were at the fire exit. Dylan wasn’t getting excited yet, though – they still weren’t safe until they were miles away from the Lunar Sanctum. That said, he felt more and more hopeful with every step the three of them took towards the exit.
There was one slight problem, though. The fire door was locked. Dylan was sure that must have been a safety hazard, but more irritatingly, it was the only obstacle between them and the outside world. Dylan refused to be defeated at the final hurdle. He could practically feel the touch of Jono’s hand. It was spurring him on. One last glance at the eternity ring. That was the final burst of motivation that Dylan needed.
“How do we get out?” Liam panicked. He was due his tablet, and was obviously stressing like crazy.
“There must be an override,” Jeremy kept his usual calm exterior.
“God, I miss Freddie,” Dylan sighed, looking at the control panel next to the door. None of it meant anything to him.
“There’s one obvious option,” Jeremy realised.
“Hurry up, I think someone’s coming,” Liam warned, “Like, now.”
Dylan listened. He was right. The stomping of security guard boots was nearby and getting nearer still. This wasn’t on the rota. Had they been noticed?
“What is it?” Dylan frantically asked Jeremy. They needed to act immediately.
“Fire alarm. By the time they filter outside, we’ll be long gone,” Jeremy reasoned, “And they can’t outrun us.”
It was a risky plan, but Dylan knew it was the only one they had. He nodded at Jeremy, before smashing the fire alarm. Alarms instantly sounded, pulsating throughout the building. Thankfully, to Dylan’s relief, the fire door clicked open.
Dylan wasted no time in rushing outside. The waft of fresh air slapped against Dylan’s skin, in the best possible way. It was the first time he had inhaled fresh air in five months, and it was so good.
“Hey!” an angry voice yelled out from behind. The guard had caught up to them. They’d been found.
“Now,” Dylan commanded. He began to sprint, on all fours, with Jeremy and Liam following suit. The three boys powered out of the compound and onto the open road. Now Dylan could begin to calm down. Next stop: Crystalshaw.
Feelings of confusion flooded Jono’s mind as Ed’s car pulled up outside the building. Crowds of staff were gathering outside, and an alarm was sounding loudly and abrasively. It was a fire alarm. Perfect time to ask a few questions, without the risk of a door being slammed in their faces.
“I suppose there’s little point in asking you boys to stay here,” Ed sighed.
“You know us well,” Brett laughed. Jono admired Brett – he’d been the one piece of stability and normality since Dylan’s death.
All four of them approached the group of thirty-or-so workers. Some were dressed smartly in suits, others wore lab coats. Clearly, this was some sort of scientific establishment, but there was no identifying logo anywhere across the front of the building.
One nurse looked panicked. She was being held back by a guard, as if she wanted to go back in. Someone was trapped inside.
“Are you okay?” Jono approached.
“My patients are in there,” the nurse cried. Clearly, she was dedicated to her job.
“Can I help, young man?” a suited white man approached. He was tall and greying, surely in his fifties.
“Hi, I’m here with Sheriff Taylor,” Jono put on his best journalistic front, “I was wondering if you’d heard anything about a young man called Liam Dunbar.”
“And who might you be?” the man asked.
“Jono Chadwick. Please answer my question, Mr…” Jono left a gap for him to fill in his name.
“Jono,” the nurse looked horrified, as if she’d seen a ghost.
“Thank you, Nurse Carver, I’ve got this,” the man continued, leading Jono away, “I’m Mr. Leadsom, owner of this establishment. Unfortunately, I’ve not heard anything about a Liam Dunbar, but I’ll be sure to call Sheriff Taylor if I hear of anything.” Jono sighed. This was no good. Then he caught sight of Leadsom’s key card. The logo was clear – it read “Lunar Sanctum.”
In a hurry, Jono rounded the others up.
“What’s up? Did you find anything?” Nolan nervously queried.
“This is the Lunar Sanctum. This must be their base,” Jono revealed.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” Ed sensibly commanded.
“They might still have Liam in there,” Nolan protested.
“I know, but I have procedure to follow. We can get inside the correct way, to avoid ruffling feathers,” Ed reasoned. He was right – they had to do it properly.
Jono caught eyes again with Nurse Carver. She was looking at him still, as if she knew who he was. Jono was so confused, but they had no more time to ask questions. Whatever the Lunar Sanctum was, he knew it wasn’t good. They needed to get away.
Cosying up in bed, Lily was feeling unusual. Alex had just departed for his bedroom, and it felt lonely. Misha and Sindy were taking at the opposite end of the room, but Lily wasn’t in the mood. All she wanted was some alone time.
“Hey,” Sindy called over, “How was your lecture?”
“It was fine,” Lily smiled, not moving from the comfort of her own bed, “I met your brother, Misha.”
“I told him to look after Alex,” Misha smiled, “Don’t worry, he’s easy to get on with.”
“I know, he seemed nice,” Lily recalled. She wasn’t planning to mention the odd papercut moment. Hopefully Jamal wouldn’t have thought anything more of it, “Thanks.” She smiled at Misha. She seemed so nice. Lily just wasn’t ready for change. She wished Alex could still be there with her, but that wasn’t Misha’s fault.
Lily’s phone rang. Of course, it was eight o’clock. It rang at that same time every single night. Her daily phone call with Jono.
“Hey, what’s up?” Lily began, manoeuvring her body away from the other girls. This required her full attention and a little bit of privacy.
“Hey, how are you?” Jono’s voice sounded a little chirpier than usual. That was a small positive.
“I’ve been better. Alex has to sleep in his own room. I shouldn’t be so upset about that really, I know it was pushing it, but I got so used to it,” Lily opened up. She and Jono had promised to be transparent with each other at all times, so they needed to know every detail of each other’s lives.
“Aw, what? I’m sorry,” Jono understood. In fact, he knew exactly how she felt. He’d spent months now sleeping on his own. At least she had Alex only down the hallway.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get used to it. It just feels like everyone’s deserting me, one by one. George moved away, mom and dad still haven’t returned my calls, Dylan, well…” Lily tailed off, “Anyway, how was your day?”
“Um, weird,” Jono replied, “We found the Lunar Sanctum.”
“Wait, what? Where is it?” Lily was startled. That place had bad news written all over it from the little she knew about it.
“Just outside town,” Jono explained, “One of Scott’s friends showed up. His boyfriend got kidnapped, we went to help.”
“Did you find him?” Lily wondered. She missed being involved in the pack’s action, even if it was both physically and mentally exhausting.
“No, but we’re going to,” Jono sounded determined. He had a motivation that he hadn’t had for ages, and it pleased Lily, “Also, I wanted to confess something.”
“Alright, what is it?” Lily was concerned suddenly. Was this going to be bad?
“You know the boy I told you about. Oscar?” Jono began, “I think I, err…” Jono couldn’t quite get the words out.
“You’ve got a crush,” Lily identified. This was huge progress – the first time he’d shown interest in any guy since Dylan.
“Yeah, but I feel dirty. Like I’m cheating on Dylan. I can’t shake that,” Jono opened up.
“Remember what Freddie said. Dylan wanted you to move on. He’ll be watching you, cheering you on, because this Oscar guy sounds sweet, and you deserve someone who adores you,” Lily encouraged. She was so keen for Jono to be happy.
“Brett thinks he fancies me,” Jono added, “I like him, but I’m scared I’ll hold back.”
“He knows what you’ve been through. He’ll understand,” Lily advised, “If you want my advice, I think you should go for it. Totally.”
All Lily could think about was herself and Alex. She took a leap of faith with him, and it worked. It was about time Jono had a dose of that same luck.
3: Almost Home Written by MarthaJonesFan
Sick with nerves, Josh was both excited and anxious in the same capacity. He had been thinking about this moment for months, putting it off like a coward. He’d even requested one more night from Freddie before he faced the music, not that it really mattered. He still felt just as terrified after a night’s sleep.
Freddie had spent the night with him, at his old house. What he did to deserve Freddie’s trust was unknown, but he appreciated it. He anticipated reactions more akin to Yasmin’s. Josh knew earning her trust back was going to be tough, but he wanted to prove himself all over again. Would she ever take him back? Doubtful, but it was her friendship that he really missed. That was his goal.
Approaching the front door, Josh felt a wave of emotion consuming him. It was almost nostalgic, reminding him of when everything felt so much better. So much had changed since he last stepped foot inside that house. Returning meant he had to face up to reality.
“Hey, Freddie, is that you?” a comfortingly familiar voice called out as they entered inside. Josh’s vision was being blurred by the tears in his eyes. Freddie urged him forward into the kitchen. He had to take this step on his own.
There she was. Making breakfast, just as she did every morning, except things had changed. The cheerful smile that always adorned her face had faded. She’d lost something so precious.
“Hey,” Josh tearfully uttered. She put the plate she was holding gently down on the work surface, taking in a deep breath as she did so. Slowly, she spun around. Her expression was much like his – they were both already crying like crazy.
“Come here,” Caroline insisted calmly. She smiled – they were happy tears. Josh sprinted into her arms, unleashing the tidal wave of tears he had saved up. He had missed the warmth of her hugs so much.
“I’m sorry,” Josh confessed.
“I know,” Caroline caressed his hair, “Welcome home, my precious boy.”
Josh’s heart wanted to burst. There was no way he deserved this treatment, but he cherished it.
“I just woke Jono, he’s on his way down,” Ed strolled in obliviously. He stopped suddenly in his tracks, meeting eyes with Josh, “Oh my god.”
“Hi,” Josh sheepishly greeted. He caught a glimpse of Freddie’s proud smile behind Ed.
Jono followed Ed inside. He paused, gobsmacked and expressionless. Without saying a word, Jono wrapped his arms around Josh. This was his family, and it was the most important reminder of how desperately he needed them.
Stirring from a rough night’s sleep, Dylan’s eyes slowly adjusted to his surroundings. He couldn’t quite believe he finally had different sights to wake up to. The harsh lab lighting was gone, replaced by the sunlight making its way through the cracks in the wooden boards covering the window.
For the night, the boys had found an empty, abandoned shop to hide out in. None of them had their phones, so they were on their own. Liam said they weren’t too far from Crystalshaw, but how could they get back there without being caught? The Sanctum wasn’t far away. They weren’t out of the oven yet.
“Morning,” Jeremy smiled over. Still the same friendly face greeting him, and Dylan wasn’t mad at that. Jeremy had been his rock for months. They had dreamt of this day for so long, and it was surreal that they were soon going to be home, “Happy birthday.”
Dylan had almost forgotten it was his birthday. All he’d thought about was seeing Jono’s face again. What would be the first thing they’d say to each other? Dylan couldn’t even imagine, but he was so excited – it would’ve been the best birthday present ever.
“Thanks,” he smiled back to Jeremy. He looked how Dylan felt – buzzing with excitement. Dylan knew how badly he wanted to see Sammi again, and now he could.
“Nolan,” Liam called out suddenly, jolting awake. He looked around frantically, realising where he was.
“Bad dream?” Dylan presumed. He’d have enough of those in five months to last him a lifetime.
“Yeah, sorry,” Liam explained, “I know it’s only been a day, but damn, I miss him.”
“How did you meet?” Jeremy wondered.
“He hunted me,” Liam raised a smile, “He got manipulated by this woman, Monroe, but he fought back. I mean, I never called this happening, but it made sense.”
“Is he your first?” Dylan queried. He was curious about people’s stories – Jono was his first, and he could only envisage Jono being his last too.
“My first was a girl called Hayden. She moved away, but we still talk occasionally. I didn’t think I was into guys until Nolan. He’s the only guy I want,” Liam detailed. Dylan was engrossed in his story, because of how different it was to his own. Nevertheless, they both had boyfriends that they cherished to get home to, so they had a common goal.
“Can you hear that?” Jeremy pointed out. Dylan listened carefully. Sure enough, the sounds of car engines were present, and they were close.
“They’ve found us,” Dylan worried. Now he needed an escape plan.
The mood at the bench was surprisingly positive for the first time in ages, and Jono was thrilled. He had no idea Josh was back – too wrapped up in his own dilemmas, but seeing him in the kitchen that morning was the most euphoric feeling. Josh had given the pack the lift they needed, and it had persuaded Jono that now was indeed the right time to move on with his life.
Brett’s words had been playing on his mind all night alongside Lily’s reassurance. If Oscar really was into him, he should be jumping at the chance to see how things go, because no matter how hard he tried to deny it, he liked Oscar too. There was only one downside – it was Dylan’s birthday. Of all the days for Jono to be thinking of taking such a step.
“Miss Pannu is going to give you so much computing work to do,” Freddie joked. Of course, Josh had missed a massive amount of senior year. If he wanted to graduate, he’d have to work his socks off.
“And just wait until you see Mrs. Johnson’s list of textbook work,” Oscar added. He’d never met Josh before, but was already joking around with him. He had such a cute charm. Of course, he’d already warned Josh not to mention werewolves around Oscar, and he understood. All Oscar needed to know was that Josh was Dylan’s brother. No further details.
To Jono’s right, one person wasn’t sharing the elation. Yasmin was burying herself in her textbooks, and Jono couldn’t blame her. Josh treated her like dirt, she had every right to expect him to grovel. Jono picked up her pen and wrote a note on the next page of her notebook.
Yasmin looked up at him before writing a reply.
‘I’m OK, but thanks.’ She nodded to prove it. Jono wasn’t convinced, but as long as she knew he still had her back, that was what mattered.
“Hey,” Oscar tapped him on the shoulder, shaking his water bottle, “I need a refill, want to come?”
Jono couldn’t miss this chance. A moment alone with Oscar. These didn’t come very often. He accepted the invitation, leaving the good vibes of the bench behind.
“I wanted to ask something,” Oscar began. Jono listened keenly. He had butterflies in his stomach, anticipating where this could have been going.
“Go on,” Jono replied.
“I know my timing might be off, but I was wondering if you’d be up for grabbing a coffee after school. Just you and me,” Oscar suggested, “No pressure. I don’t want to rush you.”
“I know,” Jono smiled at just how worrisome he was being, “I’d love that.” This was it. His big step forward. Moving on, just like Dylan wanted him to.
A day off from lectures, Lily was enjoying a spot of relaxation. Of course, college took up a lot of her time, and studying had been a good way of keeping her mind off everything Jono was going through.
Good news had arrived that morning, though. Josh had been found, and Lily was delighted. The exclamation marks on Jono’s WhatsApp message said everything. Things were looking up for him, and that was what mattered.
To celebrate the good news in her own little way, Lily had taken Sindy and Misha for a picnic by the river. Of course, Alex was invited too, but he seemed to be running late – fashionably so.
“Who’s Josh again?” Misha was trying to grasp her head around everything. Lily had told her about her friends – Misha was a brilliant conversation starter and had so many questions to ask – but of course, some details were left out. Lily hoped she’d be able to do a better job of keeping her out of anything supernatural than with Alex and Sindy.
“My brother’s boyfriend’s brother,” Lily answered. That was more confusing than she realised.
“Where was he?” Misha queried. Darn. Lily had to think hard for a realistic white lie to answer that. Why would people vanish for months?
“We don’t know,” Sindy jumped in, saving the day. She and Lily made an excellent team, “But he’s safe, so we’re celebrating.”
“Don’t start without me,” Alex chuckled, jogging over with Jamal tagging along behind. Lily hadn’t specifically extended the invite to him, considering their slightly shaky start, but perhaps it was an opportunity to see if she really was just being paranoid about him.
“Of course not,” Lily smiled, getting a cute peck on the lips from Alex. Her favourite sensation, and she cherished it even more after a night without him by her side, “Sindy, this is Jamal, Misha’s brother.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Sindy flashed her most charming smile. Lily rolled her eyes – she knew exactly where Sindy was going with that.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Jamal flirted back, much to Sindy’s delight. Lily wasn’t sure how much more of their back-and-forth she could stomach.
“Oh god, you’re so embarrassing,” Misha cringed, hitting the nail on the head.
“Hey, Lily, can I have a word?” Jamal changed the subject. Lily’s good mood quickly dropped. What was this about?
“Hey, what’s up?” Lily calmly questioned as they moved out of hearing range.
“I know what you are,” Jamal simply stated.
“Huh?” Lily was gobsmacked, but she couldn’t allow herself to show it. Nevertheless, her gut instinct about him after the lecture wasn’t being proven wrong.
“You’re a werewolf,” Jamal added, “And I don’t like that.”
“Are you threatening me?” Lily wasn’t sympathetic to anyone who dared to talk to her like that. She’d seen enough bloodshed to last a lifetime.
“I’m saying I’ve got my eye on you,” Jamal replied, before returning to the group. Lily was feeling shaken. How dare he? Who even was he to be making threats like that?
Quickly catching Sammi between classes like he always tried to, Freddie was beginning to realise how much he relied on those brief moments with her. Even with all she had been through, Sammi was still his ray of sunshine. Somebody he didn’t have to pretend around. With Josh missing for months, Jono so wrapped up in losing Dylan, Yasmin avoiding her feelings, and George in London, Sammi really had become the one person Freddie could unwind around.
For so long, Freddie had tried to be the strong one. The person who brightened everyone else’s mood with a well-timed joke. Yet, he never spoke much about his own feelings to anyone. They had their own issues, after all. That was why he and Sammi worked so well. They could talk openly and freely with each other about anything, and Freddie really needed that.
“Hey,” Sammi smiled. She was chirpier than usual, much like most of the pack. Josh’s return had made such a difference to them all.
“Can we talk?” Freddie questioned.
“Sure,” Sammi looked concerned. She led him into the newsroom, which had barely been touched in ages. Jono hadn’t continued any work on the school newsletter since they lost Dylan, so the room was beginning to gather dust.
“Is everything okay?” Sammi wondered.
“Everyone’s celebrating Josh’s return, but things still feel so different. I wanted to tell George, but a video chat’s not really the same,” Freddie confessed, “And last night, being at the house, sleeping in my old bed, I’m really missing it. I know it’s stupid.”
“No,” Sammi took his hand, “You’re in the middle of everything. You’ve lost your friend, you’ve had to deal with me, that’s a lot for anyone,” Sammi instantly reassured. She’d become so good at giving out advice – the benefit of receiving so much unwelcome advice after losing her brother – “but you don’t have to be the strong one all day every day, Freddie. You’re allowed to cry. I can be strong for you.”
Freddie’s lips trembled. He wanted to cry so bad, and Sammi’s words were the final straw. Her support meant everything. She pulled him in for a tight, supportive hug.
“Hey, Caroline’s organising a little gathering tonight for Josh,” Freddie mentioned, “And because it’s Dylan’s birthday, so we want to celebrate. It’s been ages since we last had something to be happy about. Fancy coming?”
“I’m not missing it,” Sammi smiled her prettiest smile. She was the most phenomenal person he knew. He was so lucky.
Panic. That was all Dylan felt. The front exit had been blocked. The Lunar Sanctum had found them. Dylan knew he had to think fast, because there was no way he was going back to that place. The mere thought made him feel so upset, after the stress of making it out in the first place.
Dylan glanced at Jeremy and Liam. They were both as petrified as he was. For their sake if not his own, Dylan had to find a way out.
“The back door,” Dylan realised, “There’s no heartbeats out there.”
“But how far can we get? We can run fast, but they’ve got cars, and it took them no time to find us here,” Jeremy panicked. Dylan knew how much freedom meant to him, having spent so long hidden away.
“I’ve got an idea,” Liam thought, “But we need a distraction.”
“Leave it with me,” Dylan volunteered. It was the least he could do, as the alpha, “This plan better be good.”
Liam led Jeremy out the back while Dylan peered through the gaps in the wooden boards. Mr. Leadsom was stood examining the building as two guards approached the door.
“We know you’re in there, Mr. Drummond,” Leadsom threatened. Dylan was quickly trying to think of a distraction. Perhaps Leadsom simply needed a dose of what he was looking for?
Cautiously, Dylan approached the front door. This was such a gigantic risk; he’d have called it stupid in any other circumstance, but they were desperate.
“I’m here,” Dylan announced, stepping outside with his hands raised, “Just me.”
“Cuff him,” Leadsom demanded. Dylan allowed the guard to place the handcuffs on his wrists and escort him to the back seat of the car. Wherever Liam was, he was taking a worryingly long time.
Before anyone else could get into the vehicle, Dylan heard a thud. One guard sunk to the ground unconscious, and then another did the same. Liam was there – he’d gone over the roof. Jeremy jumped down to join him, and they rapidly jumped into the car, Liam in the driver’s seat and Jeremy in the back next to Dylan.
“Stop them,” Leadsom angrily demanded to the three remaining guards, but it was too late. Liam pulled out onto the road, making their getaway without a hitch.
“Alright, that was some plan,” Dylan breathed a sigh of relief as his view of Leadsom faded into the distance.
“Need a hand with those cuffs?” Jeremy queried.
“I got it,” Dylan replied, easily snapping them off, “I can’t believe they thought those would work.”
“Next stop: Crystalshaw,” Liam announced. This was it. They were almost home.
Butterflies in his tummy, Jono had forgotten how exciting a first date could be, whilst simultaneously being terrifying. He wasn’t sure why he was scared; he knew Oscar already and Oscar knew him, but this felt different. After all, it wasn’t a casual chat at the bench, it was a date in a coffee shop, and the stakes were higher. He really wanted it to go well.
They had each allowed themselves thirty minutes to freshen-up after school, and Jono was the first to arrive. He’d thrown on a cute shirt and jeans, before checking on his untamed curls in the mirror. He needed to look his best.
Of course, Jono couldn’t help thinking back to his first date with Dylan. They attended one of Lily’s parties together, and for most of the evening, it was great. That was until Josh crashed the party in his psycho-alpha phase and killed an innocent girl. Jono was relieved to have the Josh he knew and loved back.
“Hey, sorry I’m late,” Oscar dashed in, “Just gonna get a coffee.” Jono smiled back. He was the opposite of Dylan in that sense – Dylan was always ten minutes early, just to be sure he wouldn’t be late.
Jono waited patiently until Oscar smiled at the table with his latte. He’d also thrown on a cute shirt, though he’d left his traditionally crazy lion’s mane untouched. Jono loved his style, though. One thing they had in common was that they weren’t afraid to be themselves.
“You look amazing,” Jono complimented.
“So do you, I love that shirt,” Oscar smiled his adorably cute smile, “So sorry I’m late, time got away from me.”
“You’re here now, that’s what matters,” Jono replied. An awkward silence followed as they both stirred their hot drinks. Jono’s mind had gone blank. The romantic setting had gotten to both their heads, “Look at us. Put us on a date and we can’t muster up a word to say.”
“I know, right?” Oscar chuckled, “This is my first date. I’m kinda nervous.”
“Hey, don’t be, I don’t bite,” Jono instantly reassured. Thank god Oscar wasn’t in-the-know to understand the unintentional werewolf pun, “This is the first date I’ve been on since Dylan…you know…” He still couldn’t bring himself to use the dreaded ‘D’ word.
“A big moment for us both,” Oscar nodded, “You still miss him, don’t you?”
“Every day. I always will, because he was my first love. We had everything planned out for the rest of our lives,” Jono opened up. Oscar needed to know how he felt, because his feelings for Dylan were never going to go away.
“I get it, sort of,” Oscar admitted, “When I was ten, my best friend got run over. She died, and I never got to say goodbye.”
“’m sorry,” Jono felt sad for him. His cute face looked broken.
“It’s okay, I’ve never forgotten her, but I’ve learnt to live my life again. You’ll get there one day,” Oscar assured, “And I’ll be here, if you want that. We can do things at your pace.”
Jono felt emotional. Oscar understood so clearly. He was so considerate. He knew Dylan would approve of him.
Overwhelmed by the amount of work Mrs. Johnson expected him to catch up on, Josh was relieved his revision session after school had finished. It was a lot to take in, even if he knew it was essential if he wanted to graduate with the rest of the pack.
He never expected the warm welcome the pack had given him. Quite frankly, he didn’t deserve it, but Dylan’s death had put a lot of things into perspective for all of them. Now he had to prove himself.
As he walked towards the school gate, Josh spotted Yasmin on her way to the car. Yasmin was the person he had the most to prove to. Every day, he thought about how badly he treated her. He so desperately wanted to make things right, and he was prepared for that to take quite some time.
“Hey, Yasmin,” Josh jogged over. Yasmin didn’t reply – she continued towards her car as if she hadn’t heard him.
“Hey,” Josh repeated, catching up to her.
“What do you want, Josh?” she hit out. Not an unexpected reaction.
“I just wanted to say I’m sorry,” Josh began, “For everything. I know this can’t be easy on you, and I’m not expecting you to forgive me yet, but I really hope you’ll let me try to put things right.”
“Things won’t ever be right again. Dylan’s dead, and what did you do? You ran. You didn’t think about helping us. Helping me. I needed you, Josh,” Yasmin vented.
Josh paused. He hadn’t thought of it that way. He’d been so self-centred, and it broke him.
“I saw Drew,” Josh confessed, “I ran into him and he talked me down. He told me to come back, so I did. I just… I was a coward, and I was selfish.”
“Too right,” Yasmin bluntly responded, though her eyes were focused behind Josh.
“What are you looking at?” Josh queried.
“Can you see that?” Yasmin wondered. Instantly, Josh looked over, focusing with his wolf vision. A pair of eyes looked back at him, glowing pure white.
“Don’t look,” Yasmin pulled him back. What? Josh was confused. That was very contradictory.
“You told me to look,” Josh sought clarification.
“It’s dangerous, I feel it,” Yasmin explained. That was all Josh needed to know – Yasmin’s gut feelings were always correct.
“Come on, let’s investigate,” Josh smiled. Whether she had forgiven him or not, Yasmin must have known how good a team they made. They needed each other.
The picnic was a success, much to Lily’s relief. Laughter and joy had panted themselves across the day, and everyone seemed to have a good time.
That was, of course, excluding Lily herself. Though she had put on a brave face, Jamal’s words were playing on her mind. She so desperately wanted to confer with Sindy and Alex, but when Misha and Jamal were sat right there, the right moment hadn’t arrived. Besides, Misha was there too – Lily had no reason to suspect she was involved yet.
On the bright side, she’d had a whole day to spend with Alex. Their so-called “honeymoon phase” seemed to be never-ending, and Lily was okay with that. He made her smile constantly just by being his dorky self. He was the best.
“Hey, I’m gonna head to the bathroom,” Misha mentioned, “Where’s the nearest one?”
“I’ll show you,” Jamal offered. Lily felt a slight relief – she finally some time away from him.
“He is so hot,” Sindy remarked as soon as they were out of earshot, “And such a gentleman.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Lily quickly corrected. They needed top be aware of the situation, because it didn’t involve only Lily; Sindy was a banshee, and Alex was closely associated with them. They were both in danger too.
“What did he want to speak to you about earlier?” Alex wondered. She was pleased he hadn’t forgotten that.
“He knows I’m a werewolf,” Lily revealed, “Well, he didn’t mention the specifics, but I didn’t feel like correcting him.”
“How? What did you say? Maybe he knows about me?” Sindy fired questions at her, panicking already.
“I couldn’t deny it, he saw me heal yesterday. He didn’t mention you, but he’s pissed. He’ll find out sooner or later,” Lily warned.
“Pissed? Who even is he?” Alex considered.
“I don’t know, but we have to be careful. Not just with Jamal, but with Misha too, we don’t know how much she knows.”
“She seemed so sweet,” Sindy looked disappointed.
“Maybe I need to ask to be re-roomed,” Alex considered.
“No,” Lily quickly said, “Act normal. Pretend I’ve not told you anything, for your own safety. Act stupid if he brings it up.”
“Not difficult,” Sindy teased.
“Rude,” Alex laughed, “Okay, but I’m not happy about this. You’re not safe, Lily.”
“Guys,” Sindy interjected, “Look in the river.”
Lily glanced over as directed. Surfacing at the top was a body. A dead body. A familiar dead body, at that.
“Nicolas,” Lily recognised. A chill shot through her body. Things had suddenly taken a very dark turn.
Sweating all over, Brett was feeling pumped from basketball practice. They had a game coming up, and there was no way he was going to see their winning streak draw to a close. The team was one man down, though, but Brett wasn’t ever going to stop Jono from going on his date with Oscar. He’d waited five months to see a smile that big on Jono’s face. He deserved it.
On the topic of happiness, Brett was thrilled that Johnny had stayed behind to watch practice. Neither of them had anything left to hide, so Brett felt liberated. It was the best feeling to be out and proud.
“Alright, let’s call it a day,” Coach Singh called out. Brett was pleased; he desperately needed a glass of water, but he was also seriously craving a kiss from Johnny.
“Hope your lover-boy enjoyed the eye candy,” Anthony remarked, flexing his biceps.
“Excuse me?” Brett’s bubble was burst. Of course, he had anticipated remarks like that, but that didn’t make them any easier to hear.
“Hey babe, you smashed that,” Johnny jogged over, immediately planting that well-earnt kiss on Brett’s lips. Unfortunately, his timing couldn’t have been much worse.
“I’m happy for you both, but keep that for after school, boys,” Coach Singh disappointingly remarked.
“You can’t say that,” Johnny was outraged. Brett was, too – he expected it from his idiotic peers, but Coach Singh should have known better.
“Funny how you didn’t care when Anthony was playing tonsil tennis with his new chick yesterday,” Brett shoved the basketball he was holding to the ground, “I quit. Come and find me when you’re less homophobic.”
Taking Johnny’s hand, Brett stormed off the basketball court. He knew he was bound to regret that decision, but he had a point to prove. Being himself was more important than being team captain.
“That was awesome,” Johnny complimented, “Hey, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have breezed over like that.”
“Yes, you should have. In fact, do it more often, because I don’t give a shit what they think,” Brett vented, “I love you Johnny, and you’re worth more to me than anything.”
Johnny stopped walking, tugging on Brett’s hand, pulling him backwards for a kiss. A longer kiss. The kiss Brett really, truly wanted. It was so calming. Johnny was the most incredible kisser.
In the corner of his eye, near the bushes, Brett spotted something startling. It looked like a reptilian creature, but it was human-sized.
“Please tell me I’m hallucinating,” Brett pointed over, regretfully breaking the kiss.
“Nope,” Johnny annoyingly confirmed, “Come on, let’s follow.” Brett had low-key missed this sense of adventure, but he couldn’t deny the fear that pulsated through him in that moment either.
The familiar sights of Crystalshaw town brought such an incredible feeling to Dylan. It was like that sensation after a long journey back from holiday, tired and exhausted, but feeling comforted by the regular sights of your hometown after going away. It filled him with warmth and excitement to be home again.
They had ditched the car on their way, making it just that bit tougher to be tracked until they were among the safety net of the pack once again. Dylan knew the Lunar Sanctum wouldn’t give up the search, though. He had to warn his friends.
Already, Dylan was mentally planning what he’d say to everyone. He had five months to catch up on, after all. What was the gossip? He wanted to know where Brett was at with Johnny. Whether Jono’s parents had come round to who he was. Whether Yasmin had forgiven Josh. The answers were so close.
“Where are we going?” Liam questioned.
“My house,” Dylan explained, “You two don’t have to come. Go and find Sammi, Jeremy.”
“Good luck,” Jeremy nodded with the most enthusiastic smile he’d shown for a long time, before dashing off left towards the Chadwick house.
“I’ll go with him, maybe someone can point me to Nolan,” Liam caught Dylan’s vibes. He wanted to be alone for this. He needed to be alone for this.
For the rest of the walk home, Dylan’s nerves only intensified. He felt unavoidably sick, but he’d waited so long for this day. He was going to see his mum again, and he was in desperate need of one of her hugs. It would be the best birthday present ever.
As he neared the driveway, Dylan spotted two people stood facing each other on the doormat. To his delight, Jono was one of them. He looked amazing; Dylan could hardly believe he was so close again.
Next to him was somebody Dylan didn’t recognise. He had long, untamed hair and was dressed in a smart shirt. He was stood very closely to Jono. A new friend, perhaps?
Then it happened. The unthinkable. The lad pressed his lips against Jono’s. Dylan’s heart shattered. Jono had moved on.
Suddenly, Jono locked eyes with him. He backed off from the kiss, looking like he’d seen a ghost. Well, Dylan supposed he had.
“Dylan,” Jono uttered, completely gobsmacked.
Dylan didn’t know what to say. Nothing was the same any more.
4: Jono's Choice Written by MarthaJonesFan
Two weeks in. Dylan was slowly beginning to get used to life at the Lunar Sanctum. Though the testing wasn’t always pleasant, he wasn’t exactly treated badly. He had a comfy enough bed, food three times a day, and he was alive.
That didn’t mean Dylan wasn’t desperately trying to figure out an escape plan, though. In fact, that was what he spent most of his time thinking about. How to get home. How to reach his mum. How to reach Jono. It broke Dylan’s heart to consider what they must have been through in those two weeks. They’d have assumed he was dead. They’d have grieved for someone who was alive and breathing. All he needed was one quick phone call to put them at ease, but he wasn’t allowed.
“Injections don’t get any less painful, do they?” Jeremy remarked. Despite Jeremy being in a separate room with a corridor between them, Dylan still appreciated his company so much. He was what got him through each day.
“Never,” Dylan confirmed, “I was so scared of them as a kid.”
“They stopped scaring me so much when my dad was testing the virus on me,” Jeremy opened up. Wow. Dylan often forgot just how crazy an ordeal Jeremy had been through with David.
“I’m sorry,” Dylan felt very sympathetic to him.
“It’s fine. I got out. I escaped, and he’s gone now. I’m safe,” Jeremy was relieved, “I know this place isn’t ideal, but it’s better than the last few years of my life with him.”
“What changed?” Dylan noticed the specific mention of a time period.
“Margaret couldn’t look after me anymore. She got moved into a care home,” Jeremy explained, “My dad couldn’t cope with a double life so well without her.”
“You’re worth more than all of that,” Dylan assured, “I’ve got you, and when we get out, you’ve got a whole pack waiting for you.”
“Cool,” Jeremy smiled excitedly, “Jono’s lucky to have you, you know.” Dylan glanced down at the eternity ring sat snugly on his ring finger. Jono was always there by his side, in some way.
He’d have done anything to see him again.
Gobsmacked, Jono had no idea how he was supposed to feel. His night with Oscar had been amazing. In fact, it was pretty close to being perfect. Finally, he had taken a step towards moving on with his life, and he felt so proud of himself.
Yet, there he was. Dylan. Stood right in front of him. How could he have been there? Where had he been for five months? Jono was so confused. What was he supposed to do?
The look on Dylan’s face said it all. He looked genuinely gutted. He’d seen the kiss. Jono wanted to cry. He had Oscar to think about too, and there was no way out of this situation that didn’t upset either him or Dylan.
“I think I should let you two talk,” Oscar broke the silence, “Text me, yeah?” Jono appreciated his thoughtfulness, but he knew somebody’s heart was going to be broken at the end of the night. Whatever Dylan had been through, it wasn’t Oscar’s fault. Nevertheless, he paced away, giving them both space.
“Hi,” Dylan waved nervously, tears rolling down his cheeks. Jono couldn’t believe his eyes. He waked up to Dylan and gently placed his hand on his cheek. He was real. He was alive.
“Happy birthday,” Jono raised a smile, “Where have you been?” Dylan led him to the doorstep, sitting down side-by-side.
“The Lunar Sanctum,” Dylan explained, “They saved me, and Jeremy.”
“We were there yesterday,” Jono was amazed. He came so close to finding Dylan. If only he had known he was still alive, “One of Scott’s friends needed our help.”
“Nolan? He’s here? Good, because we got Liam out too,” Dylan replied, much to Jono’s relief. He’d seen how nervous Nolan was – he deserved to be reunited with the one he loved.
“How was it? Did they hurt you?” Jono needed to know. He wasn’t sure Dylan enduring five months of pain was a great deal more comforting.
“They were doing some sort of testing. They never told me the specifics, it’s classified, but it didn’t hurt too much. All things considered, it was surprisingly hospitable,” Dylan answered, “But I couldn’t contact anyone. I so desperately wanted to let you know I was okay.”
“Better late than never, I suppose,” Jono smiled. His heart was fluttering. He couldn’t believe he’d been reunited with Dylan.
“What have I missed?” Dylan queried. Such a big question. Jono had to think about where to start.
“Brett and Johnny came out at school yesterday,” Jono began with the good news, “It was awesome. Freddie moved in here, and so did I. My parents aren’t talking to me, or Lily.”
“I’m sorry,” Dylan replied sincerely, “How is Lily?”
“Coping, thanks to Alex,” Jono informed, “Better than some of us here. Yasmin’s been better. Sammi’s not been the same since she lost Jeremy. Josh, well, he’s been back a grand total of one day.”
“He was away for five months?” Dylan seemed surprised.
“There’s one more thing. The guy you saw. That’s Oscar, he’s our friend. He’s nice. He doesn’t know about werewolves,” Jono took a deep breath before continuing, “That was our first date.”
“I kinda guessed. I mean, I wanted you to move on,” Dylan acknowledged, “Do you like him?”
“Yes,” Jono confessed, “But I’m sat here with you, and it feels like you’ve never been away. It’s always you, Dyl. I’ve missed you so much,” Jono couldn’t help crying, but he wasn’t alone – Dylan was weeping too. They shared a tight hug. Their first in so long.
“I missed you too,” Dylan replied, “I thought of you every single day.”
“What do I do, Dyl? None of this is Oscar’s fault,” Jono worried. He knew he was making the right choice, but he had to let Oscar down as gently as possible.
“Talk to him. Please, if he’s as nice as you say, go and tell him. He deserves the truth,” Dylan advised, “And he deserves it now. Go on, I’ll be waiting for you here.”
Jono nodded. Dylan was right. Oscar needed some honestly, because Jono knew what he wanted, and he always had.
Complete with a pretty pink bow in her hair, Sammi felt proud of herself. She hadn’t dressed up nice in so long, because there hadn’t been anything to celebrate. Now there was, she was excited to be able to let her hair down and forget her worries for a change.
Two knocks on the door. Freddie entered, wearing a gorgeous blue shirt. He looked chirpier than he did that morning. It seemed like the idea of being able to relax was rubbing off well on them both.
“You look incredible,” Freddie smiled.
“And you look so dapper,” Sammi grinned back. For a moment, they felt just like any normal couple.
The doorbell rang. Sammi knew her aunt and uncle were still at work, so she had to do the honours. She bounded downstairs and flung open the front door, expecting to see a salesman or something. Immediately though, she slammed it shut again. It couldn’t have been. Her eyes were deceiving her. Wasn’t she allowed to forget for just one evening?
“Who was it?” Freddie questioned.
“Nobody,” Sammi brushed it off.
“There’s two heartbeats out there,” Freddie corrected. Sammi was confused. Who could it have been? Obviously, she was seeing things. Cautiously, she opened the door again. There he was. Still there. That impossible sight. Jeremy.
“No. I’m seeing things,” Sammi closed her eyes.
“If you are, then so am I,” Freddie confirmed. Sammi looked again. He was real. He was actually there.
“Hey sis,” Jeremy grinned, “I’m alive.”
Sammi jumped into his arms in glee. Her mind had so many questions, but they could wait. All that mattered was that Jeremy was miraculously alive.
“Welcome back,” Freddie smiled, “Who’s your friend?”
“This is my friend Liam,” Jeremy introduced.
“Liam? As in, Nolan’s Liam?” Freddie realised.
“Is he here?” Liam excitedly questioned.
“I’ll be right back,” Freddie grinned excitedly. Two reunions for the price of one – it made her heart flutter.
“How are you here?” Sammi wondered. She couldn’t get her head around it. Five whole months had passed. Where had he been?
“The Lunar Sanctum saved me. I’ve been there the whole time with Dylan,” Jeremy explained, “But we got out. I had to find you.”
“Dylan’s alive too? Where is he?” Sammi worried, noticing he wasn’t with them.
“He’s fine, he’s gone home,” Jeremy clarified, “Are you off out?”
“Dylan’s house,” Sammi replied coincidentally, “Go get cleaned up, we’ll wait for you.” Jeremy nodded before bouncing up the stairs, passing Freddie leading Nolan in the opposite direction.
“Oh my god,” Liam rushed inside, wrapping Nolan in the tightest, most comforting hug Sammi had seen. It was the cutest sight. Their adoration of each other was obvious.
“I’ve missed that smile,” Freddie commented, looking into Sammi’s eyes. He was right – she was beaming, for the first time in so long. Miracles could happen.
Still feeling a little shaken, Lily was pleased to finally be finished at the sheriff station. It wasn’t as cosy as the one at Crystalshaw, helped by how Ed was practically family of course. Though her interview was finished, she couldn’t stop thinking about the body she saw. Nicolas’ body. Somehow, she actually felt sorry for him, despite everything he had put her through.
There were so many questions going through her mind. How did he die? She couldn’t quite make it out. How long had he been in the river? Of course, she had theories, too. Nicolas was a werewolf, and a new hunter had shown up, but she needed proof. Accusing Jamal would serve nobody any benefit.
“How are you?” Alex questioned. He’d already been questioned and had waited behind for her.
“Eh,” Lily replied honestly, “Could be better.”
“He got what was coming to him,” Sindy remarked. She had stuck around too – a true team.
“You don’t mean that,” Lily was disappointed in her attitude. Nicolas made it quite clear where he stood, but Lily had learnt to see the good in people. That was definitely a quality Jono had taught her.
“I do,” Sindy maintained, “No. I don’t, but I haven’t forgiven him for what he did. That would be an insult to Violet.”
“Me neither,” Lily insisted, “But we need to think logically. We know nothing here is a coincidence, so why would someone kill Nicolas?”
“A hunter,” Alex immediately identified. She was pleased he had paid such good attention.
“There is no way Jamal did this,” Sindy defended.
“We can’t prove it either way,” Lily corrected, “But he’s made a threat already. It’s not that unlikely.”
The trio were nearing their dorm rooms – the sheriff station was only down the road. Lily felt so tired, but her mind was firing on all cylinders. She so badly wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Flicking the light on in her and Sindy’s room, Lily was horrified. The place had been trashed from top to bottom. Beds flipped over. Clothes scattered. Drawers hanging open.
“What the hell?” Sindy was just as shocked. Lily didn’t know what to say.
The worst part was the writing on the wall. “Werewolf Scum.” Written in blood.
“Do you still think he’s innocent?” Lily asked Sindy. There was only one suspect in her mind. It had to have been Jamal.
Yasmin wasn’t completely sure what she saw in the bushes, but whatever it was had to have been watching her. The second she and Josh went to pursue it, it vanished, clearly not wanting to be found. That meant it was smart and calculated, but it didn’t look human.
Having Josh by her side provided a surprising level of comfort. He was a strong fighter and would keep her safe, and he had proved that with David even if his later actions were severely questionable. Yasmin hoped it would be a chance for Josh to prove just how sorry he really is.
“Your face,” Yasmin spotted. He’d obtained a cut on his forehead that was now bleeding. Gently, she wiped the drip of blood away.
“It’s been there since the explosion,” Josh admitted, “I had more cuts, but they started healing only today.”
“You’re in a pack again,” Yasmin realised, “Packs make you strong, literally in the case of werewolves. Now you’re back, you’re healing faster.”
“I guess I’ve ticked alpha, beta and omega all off,” Josh chucked calmly. He was so chilled that Yasmin almost didn’t feel scared of whatever they were still approaching.
“Noticed any scents?” Yasmin wondered.
“There’s nothing. How can it not have a scent?” Josh replied.
“Something that shouldn’t exist,” Yasmin theorised.
“Wait, I can hear heartbeats,” Josh replied.
“Heartbeats?” Yasmin noticed Josh’s plural. More than one creature? That felt even more concerning.
Suddenly, two figures appeared out of the bushy area ahead. Two humanoid figures. Two people Yasmin instantly recognised.
“Hold on,” Yasmin stopped Josh, who was ready to pounce, “It’s Brett and Johnny, you dumbass.”
“Did you see it?” Brett questioned.
“You saw it too?” Josh was surprised.
“Big scaly thing,” Johnny explained, “We thought we were following it.”
“So did we,” Yasmin mentioned, “I think it’s trying to get our attention.”
“Ugh,” Brett complained, looking at his shoes. He’d stepped in some sort of odd goo-type substance. He went to wipe it off, but Yasmin blocked his hand.
“Stop,” Yasmin commanded, “You don’t know what that is.” She crumpled up a folded sheet of revision from her pocket and scooped a little of the thick, clear liquid up, “Let’s find out what this is.”
Despite a rocky start, Dylan couldn’t have been more thrilled about how his chat with Jono had gone. Finally, he had reunited with the love of his life, and it was the best feeling ever. Dylan never wanted to be apart from Jono for even a second again.
However, Jono had some business to attend to on his own. He needed to speak to Oscar, because he was innocent in this mess. Though Dylan’s heart momentarily broke when he saw Jono and Oscar kiss, he was so happy that Jono chose him all over again. He felt bad for Oscar, though. He was collateral damage caused by the Sanctum, and Dylan wasn’t okay with that. He deserved to be let down gently.
That meant Dylan had to face another big moment on his own, and he felt so excited. He was sure to put a gigantic smile on his mum’s face, yet he felt so sad knowing what she must have endured. At least she’d had Jono and Freddie to look out for her at home.
Even the comforting sight of his house meant so much to Dylan. He felt safe there, knowing nobody could get to him without dealing with his mum and the sheriff first.
“Who is it? Jono?” she called out from the lounge, “Everything’s ready for your friends, they’re welcome to come at any time.”
“What about me?” Dylan questioned from the doorway. He watched on as her relaxed posture tensed up. She glanced up, locking eyes with him in both awe and bafflement.
“Dylan? Is that really you?” Caroline questioned hopefully yet nervously.
“It’s me, mom. I’m alive,” Dylan smiled, feeling tears already running a race down his cheeks.
“Come here,” Caroline commanded. Dylan didn’t need to be told twice. He ran into Caroline’s open arms for the warm hug he had been so desperate for, “Both you and your brother back on the same day. I thought you were meant to be getting presents on your birthday, not giving them.”
“I’m sorry,” Dylan wept as they sat down next to each other on the sofa, “It’s a long story, and I’m still not sure I’m totally safe, but I’m home.”
“It’s okay, my baby. We’ll tackle it together, just like we always have,” Caroline didn’t let go of his hands, “I can’t believe you’re here. Have you seen Jono?”
“Yeah, just now, we had a talk. He’ll be back soon,” Dylan replied, “What’s happening tonight?”
“A little celebration. Josh gave us something to be happy about,” Caroline replied, “Now it’s a double celebration. Or triple, seeing as it’s somebody’s eighteenth.”
“Oh my god,” the familiar voice of Freddie called out as a group of guests filtered in through the door. Freddie bundled onto Dylan, with Sammi jus behind. Oh, it was so good to see them both again, “Jeremy said you were back.”
“I’ve missed you guys,” Dylan grinned. He caught eyes with Jeremy stood in the doorway. He had the biggest smile on his face, like a proud brother. He’d very much felt like one when all they really had was each other.
“Dylan, meet Nolan,” Liam introduced, stepping forward. Next to him was an adorably cute young man, with perfectly styled hair and pretty freckles scattered across his cheeks.
“I’ve heard a lot of stuff about you,” Dylan shook his hand. Nolan flashed an awkward yet kind smile back to him.
“Hold on, do the others know yet?” Freddie queried.
“Only Jono,” Dylan explained, “They still have my phone.” Without hesitation, Freddie chucked his phone over. Dylan had to get the message out somehow, after all.
Never had Jono felt such a crazy rollercoaster of emotions in one night. He was on such a high with Oscar, and though Dylan had filled him with even more joy and excitement, he also felt gutted about what that meant for Oscar. Jono knew with absolute certainty that he was making the right decision, but breaking it to Oscar wasn’t going to be easy.
He’d texted him asking if they could meet at Jono’s treehouse. He hadn’t seen much of the treehouse in a while – it was a little too close to his parents when they weren’t working – but it was definitely the best place for a private chat.
“Sorry I’m late,” Oscar heaved himself up the ladder. He was making a habit of tardiness, not that Jono minded, “How are you?”
“All over the place,” Jono replied honestly, “I mean, I’m not really sure on the protocol for how to feel when my dead boyfriend isn’t dead after all.”
“I get it,” Oscar commented, “I mean, I don’t understand anything that’s happened tonight, but I sympathise, and I know what you’re going to say next. I saw the way you looked at Dylan, and I know what everyone at school says about the both of you.”
“I didn’t want to hurt you,” a tearful Jono took Oscar’s hand, “Dylan gets me like nobody else. He makes me feel so happy without saying a word. I still really like you, Oscar. You’re funny, kind, and so supportive, and if it’s okay, I really want to keep being your friend.”
“You’re my best friend, dude,” Oscar took the news amazingly well. Though he looked disappointed, he was trying to put on a brave face, “Nothing’s going to change that. I just want you to be happy.”
Jono smiled. He still felt so guilty, but this situation had caught everyone off-guard. Oscar deserved the world, and Jono was always going to cheer in his corner.
“Hey, Dylan’s mom is hosting a little celebration tonight,” Jono mentioned, “You know, you’re still our friend, and I’d really like you to come. No pressure.”
“Will Dylan mind?” Oscar worried.
“I think you and Dylan will be amazing friends,” Jono persuaded. After all, nobody was kinder than Dylan or Oscar.
“Alright,” Oscar smiled, “I’ll meet you there. Go get your guy.”
Jono hugged Oscar. He really was a better friend than he deserved, but Dylan was waiting, and Jono could hardly wait to see him again.
Josh wasn’t ready to face Mrs. Johnson again just yet. He was still reeling from the amount of biology catch-up work he’d been given. Perhaps he needn’t have been surprised – it was his own fault for not attempting to keep up with school – but at the same time, most absentees didn’t have to go through what he’d endured.
He felt motivated, though. Josh wasn’t keen on seeing all of his friends progress past high school while he had to repeat the year. Whether college was his aim or not, he was ready to move on and achieve something.
For a moment, things felt strangely normal, though. Yasmin, Brett and Johnny by his side as they investigated the supernatural. Josh wasn’t stupid. He knew he had further to go before he got Yasmin’s forgiveness, but for a moment, he was able to pretend.
“I don’t recognise it,” Mrs. Johnson commented, examining the small blob of thick, clear liquid from outside, “I think we need to do some tests.”
“We think it came from a reptilian creature,” Brett mentioned.
“Kanima?” Josh thought aloud.
“Possibly, but I wouldn’t be so sure until I’ve tested this venom. There are multiple venomous creatures in the supernatural world, but I’ve not encountered many. All I know is that extreme caution is needed,” Mrs. Johnson sensibly informed, “You may be quicker using the Bestiary.”
“The bunker’s sealed off, it has been since the explosion,” Yasmin mentioned, “It’s not safe down there.”
“You’d better be careful, then,” Mrs. Johnson warned, turning her back as she began her tests. Yasmin’s eyes widened. She was no huge fan of Mrs. Johnson – none of them particularly enjoyed involving their biology teacher, but her bluntness made things even less ideal.
Josh’s phone buzzed. Weirdly, so did Yasmin, Brett and Johnny’s phones. This could only have been one of a select few people, considering David had taken Josh’s old phone and he’d been using a new number for all of one day.
They had received a WhatsApp message from Caroline. A picture was attached. An impossible picture. Dylan. A photo Josh hadn’t seen before. He looked different. His hair was longer than Josh had known.
“Is this an old picture?” Johnny looked confused.
“No, it’s brand new,” Josh identified, the excitement immediately rushing through his body. A smile adorned his face; the biggest smile he had enjoyed in ages.
“How can it not be old?” Brett was a little slower. Josh caught eyes with Yasmin, briefly taking her eyes off the picture, before staring at it again and smiling. They both knew what it meant, and it made him feel so good, like being wrapped in the cosiest blanket ever.
“Dylan’s alive,” Josh grinned, “Come on, we’ve got a party to go to.”
Flustered, Lily wasn’t sure what to do. Her space had been trashed, her life had been threatened, and her anxiety levels were the highest they had been in so long. Her breathing was heavy and restricted, and she couldn’t focus on what was in front of her.
“Lily?” Sindy called out.
“Sit her down,” Alex directed. The sound of his voice usually comforted her, but Lily’s mind was spiralling. Imagining the worst. What if Jamal hurt him at night? He was at risk. Any of them could die. Just like Jeremy. Just like Dylan.
“Lily, I need you to look at me,” Alex knelt down in front of her, “Look into my eyes. Focus on something you can see.”
Lily tried her best. Alex’s green eyes were enchanting. She focused on the vibrant colour and glassy reflection. It was a gorgeously calm sight.
“Deep breaths,” Alex directed, “In…and out.” Lily followed his instructions. Her heart was beating so fast, but her mind was slowing down. She was coming out the other the end.
“I’m okay,” Lily confirmed. She knew what a panic attack felt like. Sindy passed her a towel to wipe the sweat that now disgustingly covered her forehead. She looked at Alex again, “You are incredible.”
“I’m no stranger to panic attacks,” Alex replied, “I had to help out.”
“This isn’t going away, though. That’s going to be the first of many if we stay here,” Lily argued.
“What happened to acting normal?” Sindy was confused.
“I think playing fair went out the window when he trashed our room,” Lily reasoned, “And if he did kill Nicolas, I don’t…I don’t want to risk one of us being next.”
“Yeah, I get it, but Alex is human? He’ll be safe, right?” Sindy noted.
“Let’s just say collateral damage isn’t a new concept to me,” Lily justified, “We need to get somewhere safe. College isn’t worth our lives.”
“Alright, so where do we go?” Alex thought practically. She was pleased he was on board with her, though she didn’t doubt him for a second.
“Home,” Lily stated, “Crystalshaw’s the safest place, because of my pack. Strength in numbers.”
Her phone buzzed, interrupting the chat. It was a WhatsApp message from Caroline, which struck Lily as being unusual. They rarely messaged each other, and if they did, it was usually about how Jono was doing. She quickly realised the intention of the message, though. It was a picture. A single picture that sent shockwaves of excitement through Lily’s body.
“And if you need any more convincing,” Lily showed them both the picture.
“Dylan,” Alex recognised, looking confused.
“Wait, I thought he was dead?” Sindy blurted out. Lily understood her confusion – she was baffled enough herself – but perhaps she lacked the faith in Dylan that Lily had in bucketloads. After all, Sindy hadn’t met him before.
“He’s Dylan Drummond. He’s the alpha. His name matters, because he goes against the grain. He fights hate with love. He tries to see the good in everything. He’s my family, because he’s the only guy my brother deserves,” Lily explained, “Come on, get packed. We’re getting the first flight out.”
For one night, Dylan forgot all of his problems. In the back of his mind, he was well aware that the Lunar Sanctum would still be looking for him. They were stood at the beginning of a war, and Dylan was ready to fight to win. The lives of his pack depended on it, and the Sanctum had given him the opportunity to reflect on just how much he cherished each and every one of his friends.
However, for that night, Dylan just wanted to enjoy himself. The rest of the group had arrived at his house – Yasmin, Josh, Brett and Jeremy. It was amazing to see them again. Dylan had dreamed of the day they’d all be reunited, but part of him considered that the day may never come. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this overjoyed.
His mum played the role of the hostess perfectly. She had spent the day baking a birthday cake, while decorating the house with “welcome home” and “happy birthday” banners. Of course, it started as a party for Josh, but Dylan was more than happy to share the occasion with his brother. Meanwhile, Ed was helping to dish out drinks – a rare treat of wine, underage or not. After all, he was the sheriff.
Upon his return, Jono hadn’t left Dylan’s side, and Dylan couldn’t have been happier about that. They had five months of time to catch up on, and knowing how they usually were, that meant a lot of hugs.
“I made this playlist for you,” Jono mentioned. He had picked the music for the evening, of course. There was nobody better to take on DJ duties.
“Me?” Dylan was intrigued. He hadn’t recognised an of the songs played, but he was thoroughly enjoying the playlist nonetheless.
“It sounds stupid,” Jono blushed, “But any time I heard a new song that you’d like, I added it to this playlist.”
Dylan felt so touched. Jono had been thinking of Dylan just as much as he’d been thinking of Jono. He was ridiculously lucky, and after so long apart, he needed no reminder of that. Though it was a cliché, Dylan had learnt that absence really did make the heart grow fonder.
“I love it,” Dylan replied, cuddling up under Jono’s chin, “I could stay here all night.”
“Then let’s do that,” Jono agreed, playing with his hair, “But I need a favour from you first.”
Dylan sat up. Immediately, he could suss out what Jono meant. In the corner of the room was Yasmin, not making any eye contact with anyone. In one hand was her phone, taking all of her attention away from the room, and in the other was a glass of wine – not her first of the night.
“She’s struggled, more than most of us. Go and talk to her. She needs you,” Jono encouraged. Of course, Dylan didn’t need to be asked twice. Yasmin’s slumped posture was so far away from what he was used to from her. He’d missed his best friend so much.
“Hey,” Dylan smiled, positioning himself on the arm of the couch, next to her.
“Sorry, I’m not much fun,” Yasmin sighed.
“I don’t mind,” Dylan replied, “I’m just pleased you’re here.”
“It’s been hard,” Yasmin opened up, “So much changed, and I’ve never really known how to deal with it.”
“I know,” Dylan understood. He knew Yasmin better than most. Yasmin was Dylan’s first friend in Crystalshaw, after all. They had a bond like no other, “Talk or don’t talk, I don’t mind, but I’m here for you either way, and I’m not going away again.”
“I’m glad,” Yasmin rested her head against Dylan’s arm. They always had each other.
“Everyone,” Caroline called out, tapping her wine glass to quieten the chit-chat. Jono paused the music just as Dylan slipped back into his cosy spot by his side. Dylan spotted Oscar slipping into the room, sending a smile over. Dylan was pleased to see him. He wanted to get to know him, because Jono cared for him, and that mattered, “Thank you all for coming. Of course, I threw this party to officially welcome my beautiful Josh back home. We’re so thrilled to have him back safely. It’s turned into more than that, though,” Caroline was tearing up. It warmed Dylan’s heart to see Ed with his arm around her, consoling her every step of the way, “My Dylan is alive. And Jeremy. And Liam. We’ve all found our loved ones again, so I think we deserve to relax and celebrate life. We all know now just how short it is. Welcome home boys, and happy birthday to Dylan, my strong, intelligent and gorgeous son.” She raised her glass, everyone following suit.
Dylan looked up at Jono. This was what he had longed for. He was so happy to be back.