**Episode 9! I’ve said before I don’t know how long this is going to be and that’s truer than ever. Even though one drama has passed…. well, let’s just say things are coming. Enjoy!**
Seeing Walker and Archer with their pack was…comforting in a way I didn’t expect. En route back to pack territory, Walker received a message from the alpha that everyone was gathering on the running grounds. I didn’t know where that was, but Walker directed me to a clearing surrounded by trees on the outskirts of town. The sheer number of cars was impressive, as was the amount of people and wolves milling about. I’d known the pack was large, but I hadn’t realized just how large. There were at least thirty beings standing around.
Walker all but jumped out of the car the instant we stopped. He quickly pulled open the back door and Archer bounded out, making a beeline for the alpha. She immediately knelt, receiving him into her arms and holding him close. Archer let out a plaintive whine, but she shushed him, rubbing his face and neck, leaving her scent on him. He laid his head over her shoulder and gave her his weight.
With tears in his eyes, Walker watched them, but he didn’t move. I slowly rounded the front of the car to stand by him, and though he didn’t acknowledge me, he took a step closer. I laid a hand on the back of his neck, though it was almost an unconscious movement from me. It wasn’t something I would normally do, but after everything that had happened, it felt right.
“Go on,” I whispered softly.
Walker shuddered and leaned against me. “Don’t leave.”
I blinked, surprised by that. But after a second, I quickly responded. “I’ll stay if you want me to.”
Walker sucked in a breath and nodded. Then he turned his head, rubbed his cheek against my shoulder in a quick motion, and ran to his son. He dropped to his knees and the alpha pulled him into their embrace. In that moment, I envied wolf shifters and the fact that connection to the pack, and an alpha who truly cared for their wolves, was able to heal a lot of hurts.
The alpha pulled back, removed her clothes, and shifted in seconds. Then she threw her head back and howled. It was a haunting sound that filled and hung in the air. All around, shifters pulled off their clothes and changed. I watched as all the wolves converged on the trio. A mass of gray, brown, and red fur as every wolf moved in to comfort and reassure Archer.
I was so enraptured by the sigh before me, I didn’t even notice when Gareth and Aeron wandered closer, and jumped when Gareth laid a hand on my arm. So much for the situational awareness I’d had drilled into me in training.
“He’s going to be fine,” Gareth said, his soft tone filled with confidence. “Owen explained it to me. It won’t be easy, and maybe not even quick, but Archer is going to be fine.”
“Good.” I knew it already, of course, but it was a relief to hear it confirmed. I was worried about the kid, maybe more than I should have been. But he was Walker’s son, and Walker…well, I didn’t have the words to explain how I was drawn to him. I just knew that I was. And it probably wasn’t the best to try and figure out why. To even talk to Walker about it. He had enough going on right now.
I wasn’t even really supposed to be here. All this was because after the shitstorm that went down at the MBI, and my demotion that leadership claimed wasn’t a demotion, I’d decided to visit Gareth and Owen instead of doing the reasonable thing and going home and getting drunk to wallow. Which didn’t make sense when I thought about it. They weren’t friends. Not really. I’d met them during a case and I shouldn’t be socializing. Only I’d felt drawn to them too, and gone against my better judgement to become their friend.
“Lane.” Aeron’s voice was loud in my ear, and I startled to realize he was standing right next to me. “Stop thinking so much.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said, fooling absolutely no one.
Aeron’s smirked. “I can practically hear you thinking. I get it. But remember, you have magic and sometimes it does what it wants.”
I squinted at him. “What does that mean?”
But he didn’t answer. Just more smirking and then he stepped back quickly. “Wolf incoming.”
A large gray wolf inserted itself between me and Aeron, and gave a growl in Aeron’s direction before dismissing Aeron entirely. The wolf started sniffing me, my wrists, knees, and the small of my back, rubbing against me with its entire body. It took me a couple of seconds to put it together, but since the wolf was a bigger, more muscled version of Archer, I realized pretty quickly it must be Walker.
Walker sat, practically on my foot, and then shot Gareth a glare as well. Walker licked his muzzle and Gareth chuckled as he moved away from me. Owen ran over and herded Gareth even farther.
“What is going on?” I murmured to no one in particular. No one with a human mouth saw fit to answer me though. I made a mental note to make someone explain when emotions weren’t so high.
But for now, I just put my hand on Walker’s head and rubbed his ears, the way I’d seen Gareth do to Owen. A few moments later, Oscar slinked out of the car and joined us. But instead of using his claws to climb up my clothes, or meowing at my feet to demand to be picked up, the cat pushed his way between Walker’s front legs and mirrored his protective stance.
Yeah. Someone was definitely going to have to give me all the answers. And soon.