Sixteen

“I don’t like this,” Teddy declared as they exited the warehouse. He’d promised Julian that he would be home before it got too late, but now it was looking like he wasn’t going to get to go home that night at all. What were they walking into? Why had the Oracle been so willing to part with this information? And why did Kol have to be with them?

He knew he shouldn’t let it get to him too badly. He really hadn’t told Kol that Julian knew nothing of all of this. Even so, the fear that his carefully guarded secret—what little remained of his normal life—was about to come to light was very real and present in that moment. If Julian did find out the rest of it, if he knew that Teddy and Grey weren’t entirely human, what would he think? Would he think they were monsters? Or would he, like Steph the Oracle, want the life Teddy so often hated? Would he demand to be turned on the off-chance that it could cure him of his potentially deadly disease?

Teddy had to admit that it would make it easier, being part of this world, if Julian was part of it. At the same time, though, Julian represented the last facet of normalcy and he selfishly wasn’t ready to give that up. Then again, if Julian realized that they had been lying to him all this time, even if he did get turned, would he even be willing to talk to them again? Or would he turn his back on them?

“Nobody likes this,” Grey agreed, “But we have to look into it. Did you call Barrett and Ulfric?”

“Yeah, they said they’d meet us there.”

“Is nobody else uncomfortable with the idea that we’re going to be outnumbered by the werewolves? No?” Alex asked, shifting uncomfortably. Grey wordlessly took his hand into hers, a gesture of comfort that Teddy didn’t miss. He of course supported Grey in everything, but he couldn’t help the stab of worry about the budding relationship between her and the witch.

“Hey, you should try being in their territory,” Kol complained.

“Where is this place again?” Teddy asked, .

“The old hospital,” Grey said. “On Drayton Street.”

Teddy shivered. “I hate that place.”

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be really cursed. I’m not exactly happy to be going there, either.”

“If Shepherd really is there, if he’s really alive, why would he be there? Why hasn’t he got in contact with us?” Teddy asked.

“Obviously he’s not there of his own free will,” Alex supplied. “And neither is Malik. We need to find out who would benefit from us being at each other’s throats. It’s becoming clearer that we’re just pawns in something bigger. And someone strong enough to take an alpha and a coven leader is obviously not someone to be trifled with. They have something in mind—an end game that we’re not seeing.”

“So why are they just letting us find them?” Grey asked.

Silence followed. None of them wanted to think about that too much. “We don’t know that they’re letting us find anything. This whole thing could just be a trap,” Kol said. “Just a few more casualties to help start the war.”

“Maybe,” Alex said, glancing over his shoulder as if he half expected to see their enemy following immediately behind them. “Still don’t know what could be gained by starting a war. Nobody wins in that scenario.”

“Maybe they’re not looking for a winning scenario,” Teddy proposed. “Maybe they just like the chaos. Maybe they just want us to destroy ourselves and anyone we take out in the process is collateral damage.”

“Are you thinking of someone in particular?” Grey asked.

Teddy shook his head. “Nothing so specific as that. Just thinking maybe we’re dealing with a hunter. Who else would have so much to gain by making us kill each other?”

“Or maybe it’s a vampire,” Kol suggested. “Doesn’t anyone think it’s weird that only three species went missing? A were, a witch, and a fairy walk into a bar; the fairy ends up dead in werewolf lands and the other two are still missing. Who gets the land left when the other monsters kill each other?”

“That sounds like a red herring, especially since we don’t know that a vampire didn’t also go missing,” Alex said. “Anyway, I don’t think we’re going to figure it out standing here. We should get going.”

“I guess,” Teddy said, running a hand through his hair. “Just let me call Jules.”

He stepped out of earshot for most of them—except Grey of course, but he didn’t mind her hearing anything he said to Jules—and pulled out his phone.

It only rang three times before Julian answered. “You’re late,” he mumbled into the receiver.

“I know, and I’m really sorry, but I’m going to be even later. Grey’s car broke down and we’re having to give it a push.”

“Why not just give her a ride home and deal with it in the morning?” Julian said, sounding petulant and disbelieving.

“She’s with a boy,” Teddy said in an exaggerated whisper. “Mr. Math Tutor.”

“You’re kidding,” Julian said, suddenly very interested. “Do her parents know?”

Although they hadn’t told Jules about the whole werewolf thing, he definitely knew that her parents were old-fashioned and very stuffy. The idea of her sneaking around with a boy that wasn’t Jules and Teddy would definitely be a problem for them.

“That’s why I can’t just take her home. She wants to spend a little more time with him. You know how it is.”

A pause, then Julian sighed. “I want to believe you,” he said. “But you have to know I haven’t forgotten about that whole meeting you had at 10:00 with that Kol guy. And you never did explain what your sudden interest in magic proof has to do with these Shepherd and Malik guys he mentioned.”

“I know,” Teddy said, pinching the bridge of his nose. This was getting harder and harder every time. “Can you at least believe that I wouldn’t keep anything from you if I could help it?”

Julian seemed to mull it over. “I believe you,” Jules said and Teddy heaved a sigh of relief. He knew there was an underlying but, and he knew that Julian wouldn’t say the underlying but, and yet the relief he felt that now was not the time to address it was overwhelming. “Teddy?”

“Yes?” Teddy asked, maybe a little too quickly because he was so eager to move on from this particular topic and onto the next.

“Whatever you’re into…stay safe, okay?”

He smiled and he was sure that Julian could tell he was smiling even over the phone. “I’ll do my best,” he promised.

“And I’ll be heading to bed. Tomorrow, though, you’re all mine. I have a whole list of activities I want to do before checking myself into the hospital and you and Grey are integral to all of them.”

“What happened to normal?” Teddy joked.

“It’s overrated,” Julian replied. “Love you.”

Teddy’s heart swelled. “Love you too. Bye.” He hung up the phone and made his way back to the rest of the group. Kol and Alex were talking by Kol’s vehicle and Teddy didn’t feel like listening in, focusing instead of Grey who was leaning up against her own car.

“Everything okay?” she asked.

“No,” Teddy said. “But hopefully it will be eventually.”

The witches joined them. “Here’s the plan: We’re going to travel in just two cars, so we’re not making a huge entrance. We’ll park a few blocks away, too, and approach on foot. Kol is going to change into a rat,” Alex began and Teddy had to cover his mouth to hide his laugh, though from the glare he received from Kol, it didn’t go entirely missed; Teddy couldn’t even find it in him to feel guilty. Alex carried on as if there had been no interruption, though he seemed unable to hide his own smirk, “And he’ll go ahead, scout the place out for us and tell us what we’re in for. We have to assume that they’re not going to think anything weird about an extra rat in there.”

“Problem,” Grey cut in. “When Teddy and I were running through the woods, we smelled Kol. He smelled like a squirrel but…not. If there’s even a slight chance that there’s a werewolf in there, we might find trouble.”

“It’s a chance we’ll have to take,” Alex said. “Kol understands the risk.”

“I do?” Kol asked and Alex glared at him until he threw his hands up. “Okay, okay, I understand the risk. But just so you know, I don’t plan on dying for you guys. I’ll run like hell in your general direction and then let you all deal with it. You wolf types are stronger than me.”

“Thanks for that,” Grey said. “Just remember, I know where and how to find you, so if we survive after you throw the bad guy at us, you have to know we’ll be coming for you next.”

“And I’ll help them,” Alex added.

“Traitor,” Kol said.

“What can I say, Grey is prettier than you.”

“Hm. True. So I risk my life for all of yours and what do you guys do?”

“We follow, of course. We’ve got to be prepared for whatever kind of craziness we’ll find in there. The morgue tunnels are like a maze, so I suspect that’s where we’re going to end up. In that case, we might have to split up,” Alex explained.

“With Barrett and Ulfric, we should be able to cover a lot of ground. I’ll text them and give them the rundown as well so they know not to drive right up to the hospital,” Grey said.

“So that’s it then? We charge into this place, hope that we find Shepherd and Malik, and charge right back out? All while hoping we aren’t triggering some deadly trap?”

“Pretty much,” Alex admitted. “We don’t really have any other choices at this point. We need to find our missing people; we need to know what’s going on. There’s nobody else on top of this right now.”

“I wouldn’t be on top of this right now if I had my way,” Teddy said.

Grey squeezed his arm. “I know. But it is what it is; we have to do what we can to stop this from getting worse.”

Teddy sighed. “Let’s get it over with, then.”

“Right. To the old creepy hospital, then,” Kol said. “Have I mentioned that I hate my life?”

“Not as much as I hate mine,” Teddy said, and with that, they divided into their two cars and started on their way.

 

 

 

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