**Things are insane at the day job, and I just didn’t have the brain power last week. It’s not much better this week, but I didn’t want y’all to have to wait any longer for the next update in Lane and Walker’s story. So here we are with episode 8! Enjoy!**
It wasn’t hard to find Walker and Archer. Not only were there only so many places they could be, but my bond with Oscar led me in the right direction. The familiar was anxious, wanting me with them, but he was also doing his best to provide comfort to Walker and Archer. I headed straight for the conference room at the end of the hall, internally glad they hadn’t stuffed the Hemming men in one of the interrogation rooms. Neither one of them deserved the sterileness of one of those rooms after everything they’d been through.
This room had a couch as well as a mini fridge, and though there was a two-way glass, no one was hiding in the small room to observe. I saw that clearly as the door was open, and so was the door to the room where Walker and Archer were.
Oscar looked up when I entered, and though my familiar didn’t experience emotions the same way a human did, he was definitely glad I was back with them. But he still didn’t try to escape Walker’s arms, and I was pleased he felt so comfortable with Walker.
I didn’t say anything when I entered, just quietly took them in. Archer was the spitting image of his father, with the same dark hair and facial features. He still had that young and gangly appearance about him, and even though they were sitting, I could see he was already as tall as his dad. Maybe he’d be taller when he finished growing. Archer had his eyes closed, and the scrubs he wore were too large for him, but he didn’t seem to care. Maybe he was even glad for it as he huddled into them, as though he was trying to protect himself, and was leaning heavily into his father’s side.
Both wolves inhaled deeply, and Walker’s head shot up to look at me. A tiny smile graced his lips, but it immediately fell when Archer pushed closer to him and buried his face against Walker’s neck. Walker finally let go of my cat to hug his son with both arms. Oscar hopped off Walker’s lap and took up residence on the arm of the sofa, keeping his bright yellow eyes fixed on the pair of wolves.
“Hey Arch,” Walker said, voice soft. “This is Lane. Agent Delaney Willis. He’s been helping.”
Archer peeked out with one eye, gave me a small nod, and went back to scenting his father’s neck. I’m sure, after everything, it was a huge comfort.
“Hello, Archer. I’m glad we found you and you’re back with your dad.”
This time Archer nodded more vigorously but didn’t move from where he had his nose pressed against his father’s skin.
I had the strangest urge to go over there and wrap them both up in my arms, but of course I didn’t. Archer didn’t know me, and most likely didn’t want to be touched by strangers right now. Probably not for a while. I couldn’t blame him. Wouldn’t blame him in fact. The trauma he’d been through was enough to break older people, let alone a fifteen-year-old boy. So I stayed where I was, only moving enough to lean on the wall just inside the door.
I wanted to get them out of there. I wanted to let Archer shift, and Walker as well if he wanted, and take them both home so they could just be with their pack. But the agency needed details if they were going to prosecute the perpetrators and get justice for the victims. Sharon had told me that there was a lot of evidence on scene, and other victims willing to talk. But some of them were in far worse shape than Archer, and we needed as much information as possible.
Agent O’Neil joined us a moment later, and I respected that he moved slowly and spoke softly.
“Willis, if you’ll wait in the hall, we can get started.”
I made to move but Walker’s quick “No!” froze me in my tracks. Archer jumped at the sound, and Walker soothed his son with a back rub, even as he kept his gaze on me. “Lane stays.”
O’Neil seemed to contemplate that for a long moment, before letting out a sigh. He set the folder he was carrying on the table, sat in one of the chairs, and then set up a recording device.
“Is it okay if I record this?”
Walker stared before seemingly deciding that meant I could stay. “I’m okay with it. Arch?”
The kid mad a noise that must have meant assent because Walker motioned for O’Neil to go on. O’Niel turned on the device, went through the official spiel, then turned his attention to Archer.
“I promise you were going to do this as fast as possible, and get you home to your pack. But Archer, I need to know everything you can think of. Tell me everything.”
Archer took a several long, slow, deep breaths, and then lifted his head. He stared O’Neil down, not breaking, though his voice was shaky.
“I told the woman who got me out.”
O’Neil nodded. “I know. And to be honest, you’ll probably have to go through it a few times. But tell me again.”
“It’s okay, Archer. I’ve got you. And alpha and the pack are waiting for us.”
Archer trembled, but he controlled it quickly. “I don’t know much. I swear. I was walking home from the park, when I got this weird feeling I was being followed. I looked around but didn’t see anything, so I just sped up. But a few moments later, I was grabbed from behind. I must have blacked out, I don’t think they hit me but I woke up in the warehouse when they were ca—” His voice broke and he took a moment, pressing harder against Walker’s side. “When they were carving into my chest. I tried not to scream.”
Walker let out a whine that Archer immediately echoed. Oscar was quick to join them again, purr starting up. I couldn’t take it either and crossed the floor to stand close to them, but stayed on Walker’s side. He shot me a quick grateful look.
“Don’t worry about that. You’re doing great.” The words were out before I could even think to check them, my training and instincts kicking in when I should be keeping my mouth shut. O’Neil shot me a glare, but didn’t otherwise acknowledge it.
He turned back to Archer. “How many were there?”
“Three.” Archer wrinkled his nose. “I think. I think there were three. It was hard to tell. They always wore robes with these really big hoods. I couldn’t see their faces. But it smelled like three different people.”
“Okay. Good. Then what happened?”
“It’s all kind of fuzzy. I felt magic all around me, all the time. It was making it hard to think. They took me in a room and chained me up. I could hear other people. Other, uh, v-v-victims. But I couldn’t really see anything. They kept us apart, and they had my neck chained, and I tried to fight but I couldn’t think and—”
“Shhh. You’re okay. I’m right here.” Walker continued to murmur and settle his son, constant touches and pulling Archer in tight so he could scent Walker’s neck and know he was safe now.
I gave O’Neil a very pointed look. After a battle of wills where we simple stared at each other, O’Neil finally gave up. He turned off the recorder and picked up his things.
“Take him home,” O’Neil said, not addressing anyone in particular. “If he remembers anything else, anything at all, let me know immediately. I’ll be in touch after he has a chance to process all of this.”
With that, O’Neil swept from the room. Walker stared after him, mouth hanging open, before he shook that thought off and looked up at me.
I wouldn’t lie to him. “For now. There will be many more questions in the days and weeks to come. But for now, you can go and get Archer the support of the pack he needs.”
I blinked, sort of surprised. “Yeah. Me too. I’ll take you home, if you want. Or I can arrange a ride. And if Archer wants to shift, we can accommodate his wolf.”
“Yeah, honey. Go ahead.” Walker kissed Archer’s forehead then pulled away, picking up my familiar as he stood.
“I’ll just step out,” I started to say, but Archer didn’t wait. He was apparently unconcerned about being naked, because he practically tore off the scrubs he wore, dropped to his knees, and changed. Within thirty seconds, a gangly, somewhat scrawny gray wolf with white markings sat panting on the carpet. He was still bigger than a wild wolf, and I could see he still had growing to do. He’d be a big wolf once he reached adulthood.
Walker took a long moment to rub Archer’s ears and scruff, and Archer let out a low, content sounding grumbly sort of growl. He leaned against his father and absorbed the attention. I didn’t know what it was like to be a shifter, but I knew that their animal form went a long way to healing hurts, both physical and emotional. I knew he’d do even better when he was with his pack, surrounded by them all and having his alpha right there.
Walker took a breath, and then handed me Oscar, and offered me a tremulous smile.
“Please take us home.”