There were a lot of cars parked in front of the house and a few people stood here, smoking or just taking a breather. I ran a hand through my hair, taking a deep breath of the chilly early winter air. Never have I thought I would be standing surrounded by my born pack and feeling this damn alone. Even the few people that were here casted cold, almost hostile glances my way.
I was about to go hide in the forest when suddenly a voice called out my name. I turned and saw Nadia waving me over with a smile on her face. At that moment I could’ve kissed her for the easy friendliness in her gaze, yet I hesitated in going after her. By her side stood a young man about my height with a lean build, brown hair, and brown eyes. Cigarette smoke curled from his nose as he stared at Nadia in shock and uncertainty. Oh, he was not comfortable with me at all.
“Come here for a sec, Reid!” she called out again. I decided to bear with the guy’s uncomfortableness for the sake of actually talking to a friendly face. I wondered where Yuri and Scott disappeared to…
“Hey, Nadia.” I smiled. I made sure to stand a good bit away from the man who was doing his best to size me up without drawing attention to himself.
“Hey, you remember Jack right?” She pointed to the man which made him go stiff as a statue with tension. Oh sweet Nadia you will give this man a heart attack.
“Right, hey.” I nodded a brief greeting to not stress him out more, I couldn’t help but look him over though. Jack. Damn. We used to be friends, eleven years ago, when he was still a tall skinny kid, all elbows and knees. He sure grew up.
“I saw you talking to Elliot,” she dropped her voice a bit and to my surprise, she squeezed my hand and went on tiptoes to whisper in my ear. I saw Jack tense again but this time his eyes flashed with anger. Another one of Nadia’s suitors I presumed. Nadia of course didn’t notice. “What is he even doing here? He has to know how what happened makes him look right?” she whispered, frowning.
“Maybe he’s here to prove his innocence,” I said, even though I didn’t much believe that. There was no point in speculating.
“Or to add insult to injury,” she murmured and finally let my hand go. Any longer and Jack might’ve overcome his fear and tried to tear me to pieces.
“We shouldn’t make hasty assumptions,” I said even though my wolf was quite happy with killing Elliot and calling it a day.
“I guess not.” She sighed, then quickly brightened up as she saw someone in the crowd. “Oh! There’s Jodi! Jodi!” she called out to someone, waving her hand. “I’ll be right back, stay here,” she told us then ran away, leaving us staring after her.
Well fuck. Immediate awkwardness settled between us. Jack concentrated way too hard on lighting another cigarette while I rocked on my feet looking over the people outside. I could hear Jack’s heart beating fast, I decided not to comment on the scent of fear that mingled with the stinging smoke. I wondered why he was so scared of me. He used to run around with me, Yuri, and Scott quite a lot.
“You smoke?” He offered me the cigarette pack, he didn't look at me as he said it though.
“Nah, never got the taste for it.” I shook my head. Another silence, Nadia nowhere in sight. Well, I guess it was my turn to make conversation. “So… uh, how’s pack life treating ya?” I said the first thing that came to mind. Actually the second, my first thought was ‘You look good!’ but I was pretty sure that wouldn’t be received well.
It seemed that having something to talk about calmed him down a bit. “It’s going well. I’m actually training to become a warrior.” He smiled.
“Really? Wow, I wouldn’t have thought you a warrior when we were younger,” I admitted. He didn’t even join our playful sparring; he only watched and cheered us on.
“Yeah, I know.” He sighed and watched the cigarette smoke rise to the sky. “I was never confidante enough to fight, I was weak and I knew it, but certain circumstances,” he smiled affectionately at Nadia mingling in a small group of people, “made me realize there was no point in feeling sorry for myself and instead decided to become as strong as the people I’ve spent my childhood watching in amazement,” he said then his smile suddenly disappeared and he looked at me eyes wide and his cheeks flushed, obviously embarrassed.
I laughed, I couldn’t help it. “Don’t worry anyone would be amazed when watching Yuri fight. He is the definition of a warrior. Rest easy, I won’t tell on you.”
He opened his mouth as if to say something but then decided against it and just smiled at me. His fear and nervousness seemed to pass. What did he expect? That I would come baring teeth and spitting venom?
“Well I think I should go back inside, ‘cause I highly doubt Nadia is coming back.” I chuckled and took a last deep breath of fresh outside air.
“Right, I’ll uh… see ya around.” He scratched the back of his neck looking at his shoes rather than at me. I had a feeling he wasn’t too keen on keeping me company. Instead, he casted a longing glance towards Nadia who was still talking to some other woman.
“I know it’s not my place to say, but…” but Nadia was my best friend’s sister and I really hated Marc, “Strength is not everything and you would make a much better mate than Marc,” I said and smiled at Nadia to make sure he would understand what I meant.
“I-I…” He looked at me with a bit of a stricken expression then went red again. “Thanks, Reid,” he whispered.
I left him there and went inside. Right in the doorway, I bumped into Yuri. “Oh, here you are! Come on, let’s eat up in the kitchen,” he said.
“I shouldn’t go, I think Alistair is doing his best to keep me away from Elliot,” I said and somehow managed to sound matter-of-factly.
“Well, I think Alpha is trying to keep Elliot from everyone. They went into his office just now,” he informed me as he turned around and made for the kitchen.
“Just them? Alone?” I asked. How curious. But I guess the pack was quite obviously suspicious of him. “Whatever happened to Elliot’s Beta and Shield?”
“Who knows? Maybe they went too. Does it really matter?” He brought me to the kitchen, where he sat me down beside Ivan with Nikolai, Holly, and Katashi sitting at the table as well. Soon Lowell and Scott joined us and we dug into the sweetmeats and little sandwiches while we reminisced about Bran.
“Do you remember the time he picked us up at the police station because we got into a street fight?” Scott laughed, his eyes shining with memories. “He made us do the dishes for a month, but never told anyone what happened.”
“Yeah, fun times.” I grinned remembering how Scott bitched about it but didn’t dare to disobey.
“You were arrested for street fighting?” Nikolai frowned at us, surprised.
“Yeah, more than once. But he always covered for us,” I admitted with a smile. He was our guardian, the one we always turned to for help. He was our teacher telling us stories of great wolves who came before us, teaching us what it meant to be a wolf. He didn’t scold us, he understood us and helped us find a better way to move forward. He was always calm, always kind, and loving. He didn’t have a mate, didn’t have children, once I asked him why, he said that he didn’t need them, that the pack was his family, that we were enough trouble as it was. I had so many memories of his loving chocolate eyes… It was always easy to tell him what bothered me, it was so easy to feel safe and loved when he was around.