Theodore “Teddy” Scott waved as Julian got out of the car to begin his day at work, then closed his eyes and rested his head against the headrest, hands set loosely on the steering wheel.
It was getting harder and harder to lie to Julian about his life. He had never had to lie to him before he’d gotten bitten, and he still made sure not to lie about anything that wasn’t directly related to being a werewolf. Still, he hated that even that was necessary. Julian was his best friend; best friends were supposed to be able to share everything with each other. And yet there was a pretty significant part of his life that he had to exclude Julian from completely.
A part of him was happy to have one part of his normal life untouched by the supernatural. Julian was his one constant, the person that helped keep him anchored in reality. He didn’t have to worry about the look of pity that he got from his parents and three sisters, and that made it infinitely easier to pretend, at least for a little while, that everything was still normal. But even that was disappearing as Julian started to notice more and more inconsistencies. He should have known that moving in together was a bad idea for keeping his secret, but he’d loved the idea of being roommates too much to say no when Jules had brought it up. Under different circumstances, now would be the time to come clean, but he couldn’t do that even if he wanted to.
If he so much as thought about telling him anything, the Lycan Council could have Julian killed. That just wasn’t a risk Teddy was willing to take, no matter how difficult it became to lie to him.
He was grateful for one thing: he always had Grey. Even though she was a Lycan and as such well above him in the pack hierarchy, she never treated him as inferior. And since Jules had been the one to introduce them just prior to high school, she also knew the pain of having to lie to him.
Still, it was good to have at least one best friend that he could actually share everything with, someone who understood at least a little bit about his supernatural problems and he knew she felt the same way.
He pulled up outside the student center just as she was exiting, popping open the passenger door so she could hurry into the car. They were running late for the Moon Summit held every month on the day before the full moon. It was outside of town, in a wooded clearing, so they had a bit of a drive ahead of them.
As Grey entered the vehicle, Teddy wrinkled his nose. “You smell like Coca-Cola.”
“Dr. Pepper,” Grey corrected. “This guy spilled it on me while I was trying to study.”
“And you didn’t rip him in half?” Teddy asked in mock surprise as he pulled his car away from the student center, heading out of downtown.
“Well…” Grey said, giving him the sideways grin she was known for. “He was really cute.”
“That all it takes to get away with such an offense? A cute face?”
“To be fair, he’s also apparently a math tutor. So he’s going to make it up to by helping me ace the next test…”
“And?” Teddy asked, quirking an eyebrow as he glanced briefly away from the road to look at Grey. He knew her well enough to know that she was going to add more.
“And we’re going on a date. Friday.”
Teddy whistled. “This guy spills soda on your lap and gets a date for it? Damn, I should take a leaf out of his book.”
Grey scoffed. “You really think you need all of that to ask Jules out?”
Teddy nearly crashed the car. “Why the hell would you think that? He’s my best friend!”
“Exactly!” Grey said. “I’m not blind you know. You make heart eyes at him every time you think he’s not looking.”
“You just ship us because you have no love life of your own,” Teddy returned, his pale cheeks burning. “Maybe this date will finally change that so you can stop imagining heart eyes where there are none.”
“Keep telling yourself that, Teddy. But I can literally smell your attraction to him. It’s kinda gross actually. I’m glad he’s not one of us because it’d be pretty embarrassing for him.”
“You’re the worst,” he said. He suddenly regretted ever thinking that it was a good thing to have a Lycan best friend. Their senses of smell were even keener than a regular werewolf’s and they could not only smell regular scents, but could also smell emotions, especially around the full moon. It made it difficult any time he wanted to hide something.
Truth was, he’d been practically in love with Julian since they were kids. There was just something about a tiny kid taking on a pair of bullies for someone they didn’t even know that stuck with someone and Teddy had never forgotten it. And the longer he knew him, the more he couldn’t help but fall for him. But there were two obstacles as far as he could see them: one, they were best friends. Dating hadn’t ruined Julian and Grey’s friendship, but that was largely because things hadn’t been that serious. Teddy knew that if they did pursue something, it would likely get intense fast. They had too much history, too many things shared between them already.
But more than that, Teddy didn’t believe in any romance where both parties couldn’t be completely honest with one another, and given that he had to lie to Jules every day to keep him safe, he didn’t think it would be fair.
“You know, it’s not impossible to be happy,” Grey said when the quiet had stretched between them for too long. “I know life isn’t exactly what you wanted, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all doom and gloom all the time. You’re not considered a risk—the council isn’t watching you. You could be happy with Jules.”
“Can you guarantee that?” Teddy asked. “That Julian would be completely safe if we pulled him into this world?”
“Well, no,” Grey began, frowning.
“Then you have my answer.”
“Fine,” Grey said, “But just so you know, he isn’t completely safe outside of it, either.”
Teddy glanced at his friend, feeling somewhat unsettled by the serious way she’d said that; as if she knew something he didn’t. Maybe he was getting paranoid, but he didn’t like it one bit. When he glanced at her, though, she was looking out the window and he knew he wouldn’t be getting anything else out of her on the subject during the car ride.
He pulled onto the shoulder closest to the clearing and the two climbed out of the car, heading to the meeting spot. The meetings never did last too long, so he felt comfortable leaving the car on the desolate stretch of road for the duration of it.
When they arrived, Grey left to go and join her pack, giving him a quick peck on the cheek as she left. As always, Teddy felt bereft the moment she left his side. His own pack welcomed him comfortably enough, clapping him on the back. He offered them a slight grin in return, though he still resented that he had even been made a werewolf in the first place.
His was a small pack—four, if you counted their alpha who was apparently too busy to attend today. The eldest was named Ulfric; he looked more like a lumberjack than anything else, but he had a love for opera and ran a tattoo parlor in town. Teddy didn’t know much about his life, only that he’d spent a lot of his formative years in foster care and that he had a lot of younger “siblings” he took care of. Of all the werewolves that Teddy had met since being turned (besides Grey), Ulfric was easily one of his favorites. He trusted him to have his back no matter what and that meant a lot in the dangerous world they lived in. The other in their pack was a bit more of a mystery. His name was Barrett; he had dark skin and an exceedingly polite way of speaking that seemed like it would fit a businessman or a doctor rather than a werewolf. Teddy knew nothing about his personal life—in fact, he only ever saw him on the times when the pack gathered for the Summit or whatever missions Shepherd, their alpha, sent them on. Otherwise, their paths never crossed at all and Teddy found himself curious about what he was really about. Who was he? How had he been bitten and brought into the fold? Barrett was also the most recent acquisition to their pack, having been a werewolf for only two years.
“Where’s Shepherd?” Teddy asked both of his packmates in a whisper.
Ulfric shrugged. “No idea. The other alphas are looking bothered that he’s not here, though, so it’s not something that was planned.”
“This is going to be trouble,” Barrett said, sounding mournful.
He was never more right.