Chapter Forty-One

The sounds were horrible. Everything seemed too much, too loud. Julian didn’t know what was making the sounds—only that it was relentless. Snarling and snapping and…gun shots? He clenched his eyes shut tightly, as if it could ward off the noises. The smells were bad too. Metallic…copper maybe? And something that smelled like rotten eggs too. Sulphur maybe? Like what you’d get in gun powder, so yes, gun shots were seeming more likely by the minute but the guns weren’t new. He didn’t know how he knew that, but he did.  There were other smells too, ones he couldn’t even begin to identify as they crowded his senses.

A shudder overwhelmed him and he curled further into himself, as tightly as he could manage in his current state. Everything hurt, but nothing so badly as his hip. He felt hot and cold and shaky, nauseous. The world blurred dangerously every time he even tried to open his eyes, bright lights flashing in what he knew was supposed to be a dark room, and a splitting headache was forming as the onslaught of sensations seemed to grow stronger by the minute. He thought he was dying.

When Julian had found out that yes, werewolves were real and his best friends were two of them, his life had understandably taken a whole new turn. He wanted it, though he’d not really thought of it in any concrete sense. He should have thought more. All he’d thought of was the fact that full moons were probably bad and he wouldn’t have to worry about being sick anymore—just have to avoid silver and maybe get tied up once a month so he didn’t end up eating small children.

He never thought that he would see a transformation as smooth and effortless as Shepherd’s. Not even a full moon and yet he just became a wolf—not a werewolf like he’d expected, on two legs or whatever, but an actual wolf if slightly bigger than average and with eyes that held just a little too much intelligence.

He certainly hadn’t thought that he would feel those teeth sink into the flesh of his hip, right near where the long needle had gone in just days ago to take bone marrow for his aspiration test. And he knew the timing was terrible, that he was in very real danger and that he didn’t know if he could withstand whatever process was going on inside of his body; not when he was in this weakened state. He had never thought that the immediate afterwards would be actual agony, either. After the bite, things had been fine for a bit and then everything felt like it was fire. The whole night, he’d screamed as loudly as he could, feeling his body twist and shudder, agony pulsing through his veins with every pump of his labored heart until the pain pushed him down into unconsciousness.

And now that he was awake, his senses were exploding in a way that was very real, very terrifying, and certainly overwhelming. The agony had faded somewhat, down to a pulsing, dull ache that pervaded his every nerve, but it was bearable. It was the fever he was worried about now. He remembered Teddy getting sick when they had been at the beach, how high his temperature had gone and how his family had had to rush him to the hospital. That must have been when it happened, because in Julian’s memory that was when all the strange behavior started. Teddy had come through, at least, but he also knew that his own body was already weakened from his chemotherapy, that his immune system was shot to hell. He didn’t know what that meant for him but it seemed unlikely to be good, considering it had taken Teddy a week for him to even remotely come back around from his ordeal and he’d been fully healthy.

So no, Julian didn’t like his chances one bit. All he wanted now was to feel comfort in his final moments; to see Teddy and Grey, tell them how much he loved them—maybe even kiss Teddy finally, as he’d been wanting to for as long as he could remember. He also wanted to see his parents and let them know how grateful he was for all their care, for their hard work and dedication to raising him even though his potential would never be realized, not now. Instead, he was lying on the cold, damp ground of some shitty warehouse listening to the chaos outside as Teddy fell right into a trap for his sake and it would probably be for nothing because Julian was dying, he was sure of it. It was only a matter of time before the fever and his overwhelmed senses fried his brain, short circuiting its processes and finally ending his misery.

Shepherd himself was sitting at a makeshift desk, seemingly ignoring whatever chaos was going on outside of their small section of the building. How could he just sit there, smug and uncaring? Wasn’t this his whole plan? Shouldn’t he be gloating?

Julian didn’t know. Honestly, this was so far outside his realm of experience that he wasn’t sure how to process everything. All he did know at the moment was that he was suddenly very, very thirsty, and since he was dying anyway, he saw no reason not to ask for some kind of relief.

“P-please,” Julian croaked, his voice much too loud in his own ears. “W-water.”

Shepherd tilted his head. “You’re alive?” he said. “Must say, I didn’t think you’d last this long.”

“T-tougher than you think,” Julian said. It wasn’t true, but for some reason, he wanted to believe it. At least for now. He deserved to feel tough after what he’d been through.

“Mm…apparently,” Shepherd said, standing casually. He cracked his neck, then dipped a ladle into a bucket of water next to his desk. Julian didn’t know where the water had come from, didn’t really care all told. He was surprised that Shepherd was going to give him some, however. He’d honestly expected a slap for even daring to speak. Instead, Shepherd shifted him into a sitting position with one arm and almost gently pressed the ladle to Julian’s dry lips.

Julian sipped, tentatively at first, but as the cold drips soothed the pain in his throat, he nearly moaned and began drinking more desperately.

“Ah, ah, gently now,” Shepherd crooned, “Wouldn’t want you getting sick, would we?”

“M’already sick,” Julian gasped as Shepherd released him and his back fell against a beam he’d been bound to briefly the night before. He wasn’t bound now, Julian noticed. He supposed it wasn’t worth the rope, considering how weak he was.

Any response Shepherd might have given was cut short as a door in front of him slammed open. Julian gasped in surprise as a wolf and a guy he didn’t think he recognized came into the room. Even as he watched, the wolf stepped forward and became Grey, wearing only underwear and somehow still managing to look amazing and imposing. He could see various cuts and even burns all over her body, but her gaze was steady and defiant, the glint in her hazel eyes making them appear a steely silver color—like the blade of a very sharp, very deadly knife.

“G-grey,” Julian gasped, earning a brief glance from his best friend. Her gaze softened when she saw him, her bottom lip trembling slightly before she hardened her gaze once more; now was not the time for touching reunions.

Shepherd didn’t shoot his head around in surprise. Instead, he stood slowly to face the new threat. “Ah, Grey,” Shepherd said. “It’s lovely to see you of course, but we both know you’re not who I wanted. Where’s your better half?”

Julian had noticed Teddy’s absence too, and his heart withered in his chest. What had happened? He could think of only one reason why Teddy wouldn’t be here, maybe two, and neither possibility was comforting to Julian. One, Teddy was still mad at him and hadn’t wanted to rescue him. Two, and more likely if he were being honest, Teddy was dead.

In his state, he couldn’t fight back a sob at the mere thought of it.

“Why would we let you have Teddy?” the man who had come in with Grey stated, and Julian placed the voice as belonging to the guy that Grey was seeing. The one who had answered the phone that night.

“We’ve already taken out a bunch of your men,” Grey boasted loudly—too loudly, Julian thought, wincing as the sharp sound caused his headache to spike. “Who said we even need the help?”

That was when Julian felt a strange feeling, like a light caress across his head but it was different; almost like it was in his mind. For a short moment, the pain ebbed, some small sense of peace giving relief to his weakened body. What was that? How…?

He smelled something then, and for some reason, he felt compelled to open his eyes and look up. That was when he saw him. Teddy. He was hiding in the rafters, looking down upon them. How Shepherd couldn’t see or smell him, Julian didn’t know. But he wasn’t about to blow his cover so, after giving Teddy a small smile, he forced himself to look away.

That was when things took quite a turn. “Maybe Teddy will come out of hiding if I take two prizes. What do you think, hm? His bitch,” Shepherd said, then glanced at Julian with a small cruel smile before turning to Grey. “And his wife.”

Alex stiffened beside Grey. “Not gonna happen,” he said, and then the fight was on.

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