With a push of a button, the radio was quieted.
He liked it better that way. The drive home every afternoon was too beautiful to ruin with music. The wipers lazily cleared the windshield. It was sprinkling. Something that always made the blooming spring colors seem more vibrant.
He wished life was as happy as nature was currently.
A glance at his phone in the center console.
Dad said he'd text him when he got Chris's answer. Apparently he didn't get one. Or the number Bob gave him was bogus.
Or maybe his Dad didn't have the humility to actually make the call.
Shrugging his shoulders, he sighed in thought.
Dad was losing his composure behind closed doors. Stress was making him snappy and agitated. The monthly hunt had barely been getting their pack by for the last year. No matter what Dad did, there wasn't enough. Omegas were grumbling. His dominance was waning. Hunger was stronger than hierarchy.
It had all started going down hill three years ago.
When Chris left.
He shifted in his seat.
Chris had been an outsider. He clearly remembered him showing up on their territory when he was fourteen. It was his scent that had caught his attention first.
Dark. Thick. Powerful. Dominant.
But It hadn't matched his body language.
When Dad and the other betas escorted him to the main Den, he'd kept his eyes down. Head tilted away from Dad. Shoulders hunched. Body in a near curl. His responses extremely submissive. But he would prove his worth was more than just a begging omega.
His dad had been smart to offer him a spot in the pack. Chris was a hunter that outstripped their best. Even his dad. With him, no one went hungry. Pups had round bellies. Mates could keep having more litters. The pack was growing with the prosperity.
Then he left. Four years later. Without a word. Just like he'd appeared.
It left them suddenly over taxed.
Dad knew something about his disappearance. His demeanor had been far too calm when he addressed the pack.
Maybe at one point there had been an understanding that he'd come back. It didn't materialize.
He pulled into the long driveway. Gravel crunching beneath tires. Their cabin was a humble one. Even though it was buried into a thick patch of trees, it wasn't as alone at it seemed. There were other cabins belonging to pack members. Only separated by a couple miles. All conferencing a large building.
The Den. It was the epicenter of their government protected reservation.
He grabbed his backpack. Just before he hit the front steps, he spun on his heel. Gripping the car key remote between his hands in the shape of gun, he closed one eye. Took aim. A finger clicked the button. The high pitched honk of the car locking was his reward.
"Head shot." He murmured with a grin.
Through the front door, and into the house. He tossed his backpack onto the dining room table.
"Hey Dad, I'm home!" He called.
With a waltz into the kitchen, he opened the freezer chest. Just a look told him they were more than halfway through stores. A heaviness sunk into his chest. He grabbed a small vacuum packed bag of venison and set it out on the counter to thaw. Then it was to the fridge.
He didn't like vegetables, but if it would help the meat last longer, he could deal.
Wolves needed fiber in their diet anyways, right?
The thought made him groan.
Trying not to grumble, he munched on a carrot. Stepping into the hall, he wandered to Dad's office. His unusually slow response to his arrival was concerning.
A tap at the door yielded no answer. Shifting his weight, he tapped again.
Was he not home?
With a grunt he went to the garage. His pick up was missing.
That explained it.
He grinned to himself. Shoving the last of the carrot into his mouth, he bounded up the stairs. He could get some gaming in while he was gone. Dad always made sure he did his school work before he let him zone out in front of the television. He'd pay the price with his irritation later. Nothing he couldn't handle.
With headphones on and controller in hand, he plopped down into his beanbag. Thrown half way into a match, he instantly dug into his zone.
A tap on his shoulder.
"One sec Dad, almost done." He mumbled.
He'd only gotten five good matches in. This was going be his sixth.
An ear pad was pulled away from his head.
"When you're done, we need to talk."
Something in his voice instantly told him this game didn't matter. There was a deep disturbance rolling off of him in waves. His scent was acidic, like vinegar almost. It'd had that undertone for a while, but not this strong.
He bailed out and pulled his headphones down to his neck. Looking up, his dad's brown eyes were giving him an expression that was confusing. Despair and defeat.
The call went sour. That's what this was about.
He shifted to face him. Dad was crouching. Fingers running through his peppered hair as he kept breaking then catching his stare. He waited patiently for him to speak, but it seemed like he was too flustered to start.
"It didn't go well, huh?" He quietly asked.
Dad took a long sigh.
"I...I don't know..."
"What'd he say?"
His hands paused as his eyes traveled his face. A long silence.
"Common, Dad. What'd he say?"
"He'll come back...under...certain conditions..." He mumbled.
His heart lifted.
Dad's eyes glanced away.
"Right?" He asked in earnest.
Again silence. He was starting to get frustrated.
"Seriously Dad, just spit it out. It can't be that bad." He huffed.
Dad let out a long groaning sigh.
"Danny...I don't want you to feel pressured or...feel like you have to take responsibility for all of this..."
He tilted his head, anxiety suddenly rushing up from his toes.
What did the talk with Chris have anything to do with him?
"O...kay?" He slowly responded.
"Just so you know, I'm fine with you saying 'no', and we'll find another solution..."
Confusion. The acid getting stronger. Panic rising.
"'No' to what!?" He blurted.
"He...wants...He..." Dad kept stuttering.
"Damnit Dad! Fucking tell me what the hell he said!" He yelled in angst.
He glared at him. For the first time in his life, Dad cowered submissively. Fear gripped his spine. This was not good.
"Chris will come back if you agree to be his mate." He barely said above a whisper.
Choking on words. Hurricane of questions.
"He's...gay?" Was the first that escaped his mouth.
Dad sighed, "Yes. That's why he had to run from his first pack."
"He had to run?"
"His pack...functions off of very ancient behavior protocol."
"They're gonna kill him."
Dad nodded, "Yeah."
"Then why'd he leave us?"
"His mother was dying. He wanted to take care of her."
Dad moved from crouching to sit on the floor next to him. He stared at the far wall.
"Bob told me she finally passed away. She was the only reason they didn't hunt him down immediately."
"She was the Den mother then."
"Yeah. Now that her authority is gone, he's on the run again."
"Then why would he ask me to be his mate when he should be begging us to let him back in for protection!?" He threw his hands up in the air.
"I don't know Danny. That's the part I don't get." Dad let out a long exhale while shaking his head.
They sat in silence, but his thoughts were chattering.
He was mad and scared.
If Chris hadn't shown up in the first place they wouldn't be in this mess. His presence and absence had been their rise and fall. Was he really that selfish that he'd involve a whole pack in his dangerous business? Why would Dad even allow it in the first place if he knew the consequences?
If he rejected his request, there would be even more immediate and dire consequences. There was going to be a civil war. A purge. Death. Destruction. Maybe the abolition of themselves.
It wasn't going to end in anything good.
"He said you have seven days to decide."
"A week..." He mumbled.
A week to decide if he could even wrap his head around the idea of being mated to a guy. He didn't like men. He hadn't even had time enough to think about girls.
"Like I said, if you decide to say 'no', that's fine. No questions asked. I'm already looking into other solutions."
A strong hand gripped his shoulder.
"I'm sorry I had to bring you into this." Dad said softly.
He shook his head and let out and empty laugh.
"It's fine. I'll be pack leader eventually anyways. Might as well get used to the heavy stuff now."
"You shouldn't have to deal with any of this. I guess your old man isn't as great of an alpha as he used to be..."
That statement hurt. Because it was the truth. Dad hadn't been the same since the accident.
He didn't know what to say.
A pat on the back.
In a silent exchange of nods, Dad stood. He watched him walk out. His foot steps were heavy.
The closing door shut him into a night of doubts and uncertainty.