Five

When Teddy got home, it was nearly three in the morning. He and his pack had tried all the normal places but there’d been no sign of Shepherd yet. They would have to dig deeper in the coming days, but Teddy needed to hurry to bed. With the full moon coming, he’d need all the rest he could get and he still had classes to attend in a few hours. He hoped Julian had gotten home all right—Teddy had of course been intending to pick him up from work, but with Shepherd’s disappearance and the sudden title of acting alpha, Teddy had had to prioritize the pack. He’d texted Jules to let him know he couldn’t make it, but hadn’t heard anything back.

As he unlocked the door to their shared apartment, however, he heard the water running from the bathroom in Julian’s room. “Jules?” he called, tossing his keys into the bowl by their door. No answer, though it could just be that he hadn’t heard him over the water.

A stab of worry and guilt swept through him. It wasn’t normal for Julian to be up so late on a weekday, and he’d even admitted that he’d been feeling under the weather. Those things combined meant he should have been dead asleep by now, not showering. He hoped Jules hadn’t had to walk home. Their apartment was almost three miles away from downtown and while that wasn’t an impossible distance, he couldn’t imagine having to walk it while being sick on top of everything else. If Julian had walked home and got even more sick because of it, it would be all Teddy’s fault.

He opened the door to Julian’s room and found darkness on the other side, the only light coming from the cracked bathroom door where Teddy could hear the water running. “Julian?” he called inside. Still no answer.

Teddy’s worry deepened and he quickly crossed the distance between him and the bathroom door, pushing it open the rest of the way.

“Jules!” he shouted when he saw what awaited him there. Julian was in the tub fully clothed in his pajamas, the shower turned on. Icy water rained down from the showerhead, drenching him and causing the clothes to cling to his thin frame. His head was resting on his knees, which were pulled up to his chest with his arms circling around them.

As Teddy reached in to turn the water off and placed a hand on Julian’s shoulder to try and wake him up, bleary dark eyes turned to look at him. “Too hot,” Julian murmured. “Trying to cool off.”

“I need to get you out of here,” Teddy said, reaching into the tub and pulling Julian into his arms like a small child. It was slippery, but Teddy was strong and Julian didn’t weigh much. He set him down on the floor and then grabbed a towel, draping it across his shoulders. “Don’t move. I’m going to get you some dry clothes.”

Teddy hurried out of the bathroom and made his way over to Julian’s dresser, pulling a few items of clothing out before returning to his best friend’s side.

It took some maneuvering, getting Julian out of is wet clothes and into the dry ones, but the dark-haired boy seemed to wake up a little bit more and started helping. Finally, he was clothed again. Teddy lifted him off the floor despite Julian’s protests that he was feeling better now and carried him to his bed.

“What the hell happened?” Teddy asked, pressing his hand to Julian’s cheek and forehead to check for a fever. He felt hot to the touch, though Teddy wasn’t sure how hot was too hot.

Julian shrugged. “One minute I was sleeping and then the next it felt like I was on fire—all sweaty and gross. I got to the bathroom to cool off but I guess I dozed off while I was in there. I’m fine now though.”

Teddy frowned. “Jules, that doesn’t sound fine.”

“Well, what about you?” Julian asked, turning on his side and burying his face in the pillows. Teddy reached over and grabbed the fur throw, draping it over Julian’s shoulders.

“What about me?” Teddy asked.

“You texted that you had an emergency and couldn’t pick me up. What happened?”

Teddy wasn’t ready for that conversation. He had anticipated that he’d have time to come up with a suitable lie, but any thought of that had disappeared as soon as he’d found Julian the way he had.

“You need to get some sleep,” Teddy said. “I’ll tell you about it in the morning. Have you set up a doctor appointment?”

“Mm…” Julian mumbled noncommittally, burying his face deeper into his pillows. Teddy brushed a still-damp piece of hair off Julian’s forehead with a sigh.

“Guess I’ll set that up tomorrow too,” he teased. Julian hated making appointments over the phone, so Teddy had long ago started pretending to be him so he could set those up. Once they were set up, Jules was usually okay with going to them on his own. As much as Teddy wanted to be there for that, too, he knew he couldn’t be. Not tomorrow, not with the full moon and Shepherd being missing, and it seemed that whatever was wrong with Julian—whether it was the flu or something else—was bad enough that he needed an immediate appointment rather than one a few days later, after Teddy had recovered.

Because Julian hadn’t been entirely right about Teddy never getting sick.

Every month, it was a fresh new hell. It didn’t matter how many times he transformed, it still hurt just as bad every time. And he’d feel like utter shit afterwards too. For days, he would feel more like an old geezer than a man who would be turning twenty in less than a month. Plus, being a werewolf was a lot of fighting and he’d get covered in fresh scratches and bite marks every time.

But Julian never saw that part, because Teddy had an ongoing story arranged that he had to go and stay with his grandparents for a week once every month due to some inheritance deal. That it coincided with the full moon had yet to register in Julian’s mind—why would it? Worrying about moon cycles and their effects on your best friend’s regular absences required a certain belief and understanding in the superstitious, and Julian had none of that—so it continued to work even to this day. But after their earlier conversation, Teddy was beginning to think that he should let Jules see at least a little bit of how the full moon affected him. Enough for him to realize that Teddy got sick and stop his continued questioning, but not so much that he worried that Teddy had secretly joined a fight club. It would be a tricky balance.

Sighing, Teddy once again checked Julian’s head and then stood. Tomorrow was a new day and he could worry about the logistics of that then. For now, he needed to try and get some sleep. “Good night, Jules,” he murmured, then closed the door behind him and headed into his own room for the night.

Even as tired as he was, though, Teddy found it difficult to fall asleep. He couldn’t shake the unsettled feeling that seemed to be rolling around in his gut ever since he’d realized that Shepherd was missing and which had only intensified when he’d found Julian in that cold shower fully clothed.

He felt as if his tenuous grip on his world was slipping. He’d managed to strike up a balance, albeit a difficult one, but with things going wrong both in his supernatural life and his normal one, what hope did he have of keeping it? And if he couldn’t strike up a balance, what did that mean for the future?

 

 

 

 

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