*Warning: Strong language*
He drove to Byron's house first. There was no answer at the door. The pack leader couldn't be far. He knew he worked from home. Back into the truck.
When he pulled into the gravel patch in front of the Den, he saw his old pick up. There were a couple other cars as well. Probably betas. Most likely they were all putting together a basic hunt plan.
Opening one of the double doors, the sights and smells sent him into flash backs.
It brought back his first day. The fear and exhaustion had been so strong. Unknown wolves. Unknown pack mentality. Need of relief. Need of sleep. Need of food.
It brought back his last day. Regret. More fear. Even more sadness. Those chocolate eyes under up turned brows. Cracking heart.
He tried to exhale the emotions. They didn't need to come through in his scent.
Walking down the hall, he passed up several pup care rooms, the conference room, and the pack assembly hall. He followed faint voices and scents until they got clearer. They materialized into their owners as he approached Byron's main office.
Byron was leaning against his desk, hands in his pockets. He recognized the other two. Had he been betting, his guess that betas were present would've had him winning cash. It seemed like they'd been finishing up whatever they were talking about, because one of the wolves reached out to pat Byron's shoulder.
Byron saw him first. The eyes of the others quickly followed suite. Smiles ran up on their faces. The closest turned and reached out his hand.
“Nice to have you back, Chris.”
He took it and gave him a strong shake, “Thanks.”
The other held out his hand and he shook it too.
“We're real glad you're here just in time for the hunt tomorrow.”
He nodded in acknowledgement. Shifting his stance, he locked eyes with Byron.
“We need to talk.” He said quietly.
The smiles melted away. Byron cleared his throat.
“Alright.” He replied stiffly.
Sudden tension was palpable. The betas said their goodbyes and stepped out. Shutting the door behind him, he rolled his shoulders. He could smell the subtle acid wafting through Byron's scent.
“What's on your mind?” Byron's tone was feigning dominance.
“I'd like to know why Danny doesn't have a lick of any sort of pack experience.”
Byron slightly adjusted himself. His body was tensing.
“Danny needs to focus on school. All this wolf business is going to distract him.”
“You're depriving him.”
“It's for the best.”
“Are you trying to set him up for failure?”
“No, I just want him to have another means of living…”
“If the pack falls apart?” He snapped.
He saw a muscle in his jaw twitch.
“Danny deserves better than this. He wants to be a wolf.” He continued.
“He will be, but after he's graduated.”
He narrowed his eyes at him.
“No, not after he's graduated. He's starting now.”
Byron stood, his gaze intensifying.
“No, he's not. I'm his father, and I have ultimate authority over him.”
That response flashed a light of dawning clarity on him. He suddenly knew what this was about.
“What are you so afraid of, Byron?”
Byron frowned, “What kind of question is that?”
“Don't skirt around it. Answer me.”
“There's nothing I'm scared off. I just want Danny to be prepared for the real world is all.”
“This is the real world for us. We're wolves. We may be acknowledged and protected by the government now, but we won't ever be able to fully integrate into human society. You know it.”
Byron's face flashed into drawn seriousness.
“You can't come in here and tell me how I should raise him.”
“I damn well can. He's my mate.” He snarled.
“I'm not going to have a mate that can't properly be part of a pack. Let alone not know how to lead one when your ass kicks the bucket.”
Byron's body language suddenly got aggressive. His scent got bitter with anger.
“You watch how you speak to me.” Byron growled.
“I will when you start listening to reason,” He growled back, “You're gonna lose Danny to more than just a freak accident like Janet if he doesn't learn now.”
Eyes going wide, Byron's posture deflated.
He'd hit the source. There was no arguing now.
“Danny's going on that hunt tomorrow. I'll make sure he's safe, but I'll also make damn sure he's learning everything you've failed to teach him.” He said, his tone final.
With a deep sigh, Byron nodded.
“Alright,” His eyes searched his, “Just, please, don't let him get hurt.”
“He won't. But you can't shelter him forever, Byron. Sooner or later he will get hurt. You can't stop it. It's just gonna teach him how to be smarter, faster, wiser, and stronger wolf.”
He nodded again, slower this time.
With a breath he squared his shoulders, looking over the pack leader with a bit of sympathy. He knew what loss felt like. It left scars and nightmares. But running from it never fixed anything. Avoiding made it worse. Everything had to be faced head on.
He flicked out the tiny voice out of his head that told him to take his own advice.
“So what's the plan for tomorrow?” He asked to break the silence.
“Head down to the south east part of the territory. A small heard of elk spotted down there.”
He resisted sighing. That was old information. How had they lost even more of their edge since he'd been gone? Were they all starving that bad that they couldn't afford to expend extra energy on rounds?
“There was fresh scat near the North East this morning.” He replied.
A slight frown across Byron's forehead.
“Think they've up and moved that fast?”
“Maybe, might be a buck looking to mate.”
“Wouldn't that be a lucky break," Byron sighed, “Well, if nothing shows up immediately, we'll head north.”
He nodded again.
“Who's herding and who's take down?”
“Well, obviously you'll be part of take down...”
They talked over some more minor details. There was still that predictable routine in Byron's plan. How he wished he could add suggestions, but he'd already pushed his luck today. He didn't know if Byron would snap, and he didn't have a wild card for this kind of discussion.
“See you tomorrow then.” He said, reaching for the door.
“Have a good day, Chris.” There was a bit of appeasement in Byron's voice.
He nodded over his shoulder as he walked out the door.
He pulled his phone out of his back pocket. Scrolling through e-mails, he made his way to the truck.
No responses from his old employeers yet.
Switching to his contacts, he found who he was looking for. Pressing the phone to his ear, he backed out of his parking spot.
A couple of rings.
“'Yello. 'Bout time I heard from you.”
“Have you been giving out my number to any alpha that asks?”
“You know me better than that, Chris.”
That brought a soft smile to his face. He switched gears and headed down the main road.
“Got any jobs for me, Bob?”
“Funny you should ask…”