It was the day before Halloween, and I was doing some last-minute cleaning before the big visit. I wanted the house looking as good as I could manage, but keeping it clean was an uphill battle with Simon and Adam simply existing in the same space. As I swept the living room floor, chip crumbs lay scattered in the front of an empty couch.
“Damn it, Adam,” I muttered to myself, lifting the cushions to find more crumbs while dishes clanked in the kitchen. “No cooking!”
“I’m hungry,” Simon said, peeking out into the dining area.
“You literally just ate breakfast.” I lowered the dustpan and swept the rest of the mess away. “It hasn’t even been an hour.”
“It’s second breakfast,” he said with a grin.
“This isn’t the fucking Shire. Derrek is going to be here this afternoon and I don’t want this place looking like slobs live here.”
“You know what you need?” He held up his new frying pan. “Some French toast.”
“The grocery bill is getting out of control,” I said, brushing by him to dump the contents of the dustpan into the garbage. “We’re up to five hundred dollars a week now, and that’s on the cheap.”
“Werewolves gotta eat.” He pulled out the eggs and milk. “We’d make more money if you’d just let me pee on you in front of the camera.”
“I hate you,” I whispered with a slight growl, placing the broom in the closet. “I saw some farms outside of town. You should look into employment that doesn’t involve torturing me.”
“You—you want me to be a farmer?” he asked, his ears lowering. “That’s hard work.”
“See what the other werewolves are doing for work. You can’t just stay in the house eating all the time.”
Simon patted his stomach. “Sure as hell can,” he said, while skillfully cracking six eggs into a bowl one-handed while whisking with the other.
“What about a restaurant?”
“I’m a walking health code violation, Arthur. I can’t be in a commercial kitchen.”
“Then shower more.”
“That’s not what I mean. I got too much fur. It gets in everything.”
“Wear a full-body hairnet.”
Not fully appreciating the joke, his eyes narrowed.
“We live in a town with about fifty hungry werewolves. You think they care? I bet you can start your own business if you talk to the mayor.”
“That guy hates my guts,” Simon said, dropping a pad of butter into the pan. “My ass still has phantom pains.”
“You’re such a baby. You’re like double my size, and he fucked me, too.” I hopped up on the countertop, letting my legs dangle over the side. “If there’s one thing I know about Mosavi, it’s that he respects hard-working and motivated werewolves who actually contribute. If you want to get on his good side, show some initiative and ask him what it would take to start a business here.”
“I dunno,” he said, flipping the bread. “Do we really want to get on the guy’s good side after everything he did?”
“Do you want to stay on his bad side? We’ve already got targets on our backs after the shit you and Austin pulled that night, and we can’t exactly leave this town to live somewhere else, or I lose my stipend.”
Simon looked back at me and slipped a piece of toast on a little plate, squirting some syrup on it before scooting it toward me.
“Plus,” I sighed and picked up the plate and fork, setting it in my lap, “I don’t think he’s really a terrible person.”
“I don’t trust him.” The werewolf placed more battered bread into the pan. “We don’t know what his motives really are, and anyone who hates ferals ain’t someone I want to get to know better.”
“He told me that the woods and the ferals are cursed. That’s why they look so different. I think he’s just protecting us from that.”
Simon didn’t seem all that concerned as he fried the other side of the bread.
“Considering how freaked out you are about curses, I’d have expected a different reaction.”
“They didn’t seem cursed to me.” Simon flipped the French toast into the air with his spatula, catching it in his mouth. “They seemed happy.”
“They couldn’t even talk. That’s not normal.”
“How do you know?” he asked with his mouth full. “How do you know that any of this is normal, and that’s not the way we’re supposed to live?”
“Uh, because we were human,” I answered, taking a last bite before setting the empty plate next to me. “We were born human, Simon.”
He flipped another piece of toast into his mouth.
“Can you use a plate, please?”
“Better like this,” he said, barely chewing before swallowing. “Plus, that’s more dishes for you to do.”
“Me?” I jumped off the counter. “I’m not cleaning this up!”
“I cooked the food, and you ate it. Now you gotta work it off.”
The room turned red as my blood pressure increased, but I remained as cool as I could be.
“I found something in the shed the other day.”
Simon’s eyes shifted to the hallway, and he braced himself to run.
“Don’t bother,” I said, pushing him back. “I already moved it to a place you’ll never find. I’d imagine Derrek would have a field day using all that stuff on you when he gets here.”
“Alright, I’ll clean,” he responded with a slight whine. “I knew I shoulda hid it better.”
“That was the laziest hiding place. It was literally sitting on the top shelf. What, did you think I wouldn’t be able to see it?”
“I didn’t think you’d go in there,” he answered.
“Use the Fabuloso.” I pulled the spray bottle and a washcloth from under the kitchen sink, setting them next to the stove. “I want this place to smell like Sunday at Abuela’s,” I added, before walking out.
Adam had been on a warpath for nearly twenty minutes, screaming at Simon and Austin for eating his chips before he finally figured it out.
“Alright, asshole. Where are my white cheddar popcorn chips?”
“You’ve lost your chip privileges,” I said, glancing out the window for the third time in the last twenty minutes.
“You knew all this time, and you didn’t say anything! You have ten seconds to tell me where they are, or so help me, Art.”
I ignored him as a white van pulled over to the side of the road. The sliding door opened and a huge, brown werewolf hopped out while holding a large duffel bag and a guitar case.
“He’s here,” I said excitedly as I dashed to the front door. Just seeing Derrek again was a relief. Even though I’d only stayed with him for a couple of weeks, he was the most level-headed and responsible person I’d encountered lately, especially among the werewolves.
Adam leaned forward against the window sill, his little tail wagging in anticipation. It didn’t take a genius to know what he was thinking. Austin had been doing his best lately, but the half-turn was a lot more demanding.
I opened the door as Derrek waved to the driver and the van pulled off.
“Hey,” I shouted, running up to the huge werewolf before grabbing his bag. “Finally decided to visit, huh?”
“Nice place,” he said, giving me a one-armed hug. “Could use an ocean view, though.”
“This has got to drive you nuts.” I led him up onto the porch, and we both stepped into the house. “All forests and hills as far as the eye can see.”
“It’s a good change of scenery.” The werewolf eyed an anxious Adam near the hallway. “You gonna give me some time to unpack?”
“No,” Adam replied impatiently, before darting into the bedroom.
“How’s he been?”
“He’s been Adam. We’re all anticipating the change.”
“It’ll happen soon, and his attitude will get better. All half-turns get grouchy during this time.” He flashed me a smile as he sat his guitar on the floor next to the bag. “It’s something you get to look forward to, eventually.”
“Can’t wait,” I muttered.
Drilling noises rumbled the walls from Austin’s garage, and we both turned toward the door.
“I take it Austin’s been Austin as well?” He wrinkled his nose and turned away.
“He’s been getting better. He and Adam have been working through some things.”
“Derrek,” Adam shouted from the bedroom.
“It’s been a long drive,” the werewolf said, slipping off his shorts. Seeing him wear anything more than a life buoy strapped to his back was unusual, but it was common courtesy for werewolves to wear something while taking a taxi. “Where’s Simon?”
“At the grocery store, hopefully figuring out how employment works.”
“Does he need straightening out?” Derrek’s eyes flashed from orange to silver. The intensity of his stare reminded me of what Adam mentioned the other day.
“I’ve been keeping him on a short leash. When you’re done with Adam, can we talk?”
“I know that look,” he said. “If this is important—”
“Derrek, my ass is literally in the air right now,” Adam shouted from the bedroom.
“That can’t wait much longer.” I chuckled and pushed the werewolf toward the hall. “We’ve got a fire pit outside, and it’d be good to have some music later,” I said, looking down at his guitar.
“Maybe you and Simon can sing along.”
“I’ll leave that to Simon.”
It was already late afternoon when Derrek arrived, and the sun was setting as I stacked firewood neatly into the pit. I’d been collecting and chopping it all week, so we’d be able to have a fire every night while he was visiting. Simon was in the kitchen, and Adam and Derrek were still going at it so loudly that even being outside did little to dampen the noise.
Austin hadn’t come out of his garage, and I’d need to check on him a little later. Knowing how much bad blood was between him and Derrek, I wasn’t going to force him to come out of there. However, I was growing concerned.
After pouring half a tin of lighter fluid on the logs and tinder, I lit a match and threw it in, keeping the flames stoked with dried Spanish moss I’d gathered from the oaks on the outskirts of the forest.
The back door opened, and Simon trotted outside while holding a bottle of beer in his hand.
“Let’s have a barbeque!”
“Where the hell did you get beer, Simon?” I darted toward him to snatch it away, but he kept it just out of my reach. “God damn it!”
“Relax. It’s only one beer. I’m gonna cook with it.” He put it to his lips and gulped half of it down. “Don’t need the whole bottle, and I wouldn’t want it to go to waste.”
“You’re so full of shit,” I said, sitting back down on the lawn chair while using a poker on the burning logs. “I’m the one that’s going to get in trouble.”
“The mayor ain’t gonna do nothin’ to you while Derrek’s here. Two alphas cancel each other out.”
“Mosavi’s an elder, Simon.”
“So? I’d like to see that fancy ol’ sourpuss scrap with Derrek.”
“I don’t think that’ll go as well as you think, especially since his wife is a witch.”
“I forgot about her,” he muttered, setting the beer on one of the plastic tables before plopping down next to me. “If I just use it fer flavoring, I don’t think he’ll have a problem with it.”
The door opened again, and this time, Austin stepped outside, looking at both of us before turning away.
“Get yer ass out here,” Simon called out jokingly.
Austin let out a huff of air before slowly backing outside again. He turned and sniffed.
“How did you get that beer?”
“That beer?” I asked, eying him suspiciously.
His ears flattened and he looked away.
“I mean, beer, you know? It’s illegal and stuff.”
“Mmhmm.” I grabbed the bottle before dumping it on the ground.
“Cooking with it, my ass.” I tossed the bottle into the metal trash can next to the shed.
Austin sat across from Simon on the other side of the pit.
“This is gonna be a long week,” he growled out. “Why did you invite Derrek of all people?”
“Ask yer kuu mate,” Simon replied. “Derrek’s a good friend, and I didn’t mind.”
“Why don’t you two get along?” I asked.
“Don’t wanna talk about it.”
“Maybe you should, especially if it has to do with Adam.” I sat next to Simon again, turning toward their bedroom window as the moans grew louder. “Have they always done this?”
“The sex shit doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s the guy’s better-than-you attitude. Every time they’re together, Adam won’t shut up comparing me to him. Plus, I know there’s more going on. I’m not stupid, I just ignore it.”
“Have you guys ever talked about this?” Simon asked. “The kid’s not too bright when it comes to, you know, anyone else but himself.”
“That’s the problem,” Austin continued. “He still acts like a kid, and he doesn’t listen. It’s not gonna work out when this is over, and I don’t think he’s worth hanging on to.”
“You don’t know how he’s going to end up after—”
“We’re not right for each other,” Austin said louder, holding his hand up to stop me from continuing. “I’m too fucked up, and he’s too selfish.”
“He told me he wants to stay with you after this is over.”
“He’s only saying that because he’s afraid he’ll be alone.” The moans and screams from the bedroom died down, and Austin wrinkled his nose. “Okay, the sex bothers me a little, but I can’t exactly tell him to stop, especially since I can’t even get it up without being told to.” He pulled at the mane on his head. “Why am I so pathetic? Even Simon’s geriatric dick still works.”
“I’ll…take that as a compliment,” Simon grunted, patting the other werewolf on the back. “Don’t be too upset, at least it does work.”
“I was talking with—” I paused, carefully choosing my words, “—someone who understands more than I do about your condition, and the good news is, it’s temporary. The bad news is, I have to keep doing it until you get better.”
“I visited the mayor,” Austin said, sort of picking up on who I was talking about. “I couldn’t help myself.”
“When the heck did you do that?” Simon asked.
“A couple days ago, and again yesterday,” he admitted, his ears drooping. “He’s a monster, and he uses all kinds of weird shit on me, but he knows what I like. I hate myself after it’s over, but it feels good when he’s doing it. The physical pain makes me forget all the other pain, and I’ll beg him to beat the shit outta me, choke me, or dry fuck me.”
Simon and I looked at one another, neither of us knowing how to respond.
“You both think I’m nuts, don’t you?”
“Does it help?” I asked.
“I want to say yes, but I feel gross when I come back home. It’s like my brain knows this isn’t right, but at the same time, I won’t think twice about going back. I think I’m addicted to him.”
“I, uh, kinda get what yer sayin’,” Simon said. “He’s got a weird way about him. It’s an elder thing.”
“It’s just another reason to keep Adam away,” Austin said. “He’s never going to understand. I’m huge, and that’s the whole reason he chose me. He wants me to be—”
The back door opened again, and Derrek stepped outside naked, his cock still wet and half-hard from earlier. The timing of this couldn’t have been worse as Austin gritted his teeth and stood, walking toward the door.
“Austin,” I called out, but the werewolf didn’t turn around.
He brushed past the brown werewolf, shoving him lightly with his shoulder before disappearing into the house. Even though they were roughly the same in size and similar in physical appearance, they couldn’t have held themselves more differently. Derrek had a natural and comfortable confidence while Austin was so rigid, he’d shatter like a ceramic vase if someone accidentally knocked him over.
“Looks like I’m not helping,” Derrek said, walking toward the fire. “I was under the impression Austin couldn’t handle this alone.”
“He can’t,” I said. “But maybe next time you and Adam should go somewhere more private.”
“I’d rather not do this at all.” He sat on the chair next to me, crossing one leg over his knee. “I’m starving,” he added.
“Ooo!” Simon shot up out of the chair. “I got yer favorite brats, and I was gonna baste ‘em with beer but…” He glared at me.
Derrek looked around. “Where’s the cooler?”
“Werewolves aren’t allowed to drink in Norwich,” I said. “It’s the law.”
“What kind of authoritarian bullshit is this?” Derrek uncrossed his legs and stood up. “You can’t have a cookout without beer.”
“You’d have to take it up with Saddam Hussein in city hall,” Simon muttered as made his way to the back door. “He’s a werewolf, by the way.”
“Are you serious? How the hell did he manage that?”
I threw another log on the fire. “He can turn human, so I think only the werewolves here know.”
“Interesting. So, he’s an elder. I’ve never met one before.”
“Consider yerself lucky,” Simon said before walking into the house.
“Now I really wanna meet this guy if he’s got Simon riled up.” He looked around, eying the edge of the woods. “It’s pretty out here—a little too quiet and creepy for my taste, though.” Derrek’s hand settled on my leg. “What did you want to talk to me about earlier? Need a swimming lesson?”
I laughed. “Tempting, but the water level might be a little low after Adam.” He smiled at me, his sharp teeth glistening in the flickering flames of the pit. He hadn’t trimmed the thicker fur on his face into the usual soul patch; instead, he let it grow out a bit more into a full goatee. He still had that old-wolf surfer look to him. “Adam told me you could do the whole mind-control thing—”
“I’m not teaching it to you,” Derrek snapped. “Just like I didn’t teach him.”
“That’s not what I was getting at. Are you an elder, too?”
“Christ, I’m not that old.” His brows furrowed in frustration. “I’m way younger than Simon, you know.”
“You smell like the mayor. Plus…” I turned toward him, trying to channel the emotions whenever I’d give Austin a command. My vision brightened as the firelight turned a bluish silver. “I already know how to do it.”
“I knew there was something about you I couldn’t place,” he said. “You better keep that a secret, or they’ll be after you.”
“The mayor is the only elder who knows, and I think he may be hiding from them as well.”
“What makes you say that?”
“His wife is a witch, and she showed me some visions from their past. From what I could see, I think they tried to kill him because of it.”
“A witch, huh?” Derrek stroked the scruffy beard on his chin. “That’s some risky shit. What kind of werewolf falls in with that?”
“She and Mosavi keep the town safe from the witches in the woods. At least, that’s what they claim.”
“Did you meet her?”
“A couple times,” I said. “She’s actually kinda cool.”
He looked around and took a deep breath through his nose. “When I arrived here, I got a bad feeling. Maybe as soon as Adam turns, you guys should come back to White Dunes. I’ll build an addition to my house.”
“Austin’s not going to agree to that.”
“Then leave him here.” Derrek let out a low growl. “He can be just as miserable by himself as he is with everyone else.”
“It’s not that simple,” I said, catching myself. “Never mind.”
“There’s nothing you can say that would excuse the way he treated Adam.”
“There are a lot of traumas he’s working through.”
“Self-inflicted,” Derrek added. “He made the choice to join the military after I warned him not to.”
“Remember when we were eating that marlin you and Simon caught?”
“What about it?”
“You said you knew Austin when he was a half-turn. How much did you know about him back then?”
“Not as much as I probably should have. Just knew he was the kinkiest half-turn I’d ever met. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him now what he was into. There were times I thought things were going too far when they weren’t going far enough. I drew the line in the sand when he started asking me to tie him up and make him bleed. I’ll do that shit to Simon, but not half-turns.”
“Can you keep a secret?” I asked, watching as Derrek’s ears perked up.
“When Austin was a child, his father killed his grandmother, mother, and brother in front of him, shot him in the back of the head, and then killed himself.”
“What the fuck?” Derrek shouted.
“Shh,” I whispered. “He told me that in confidence, and I wouldn’t have said anything if I didn’t think you might be able to help him, too. The shit he said he went through—then the whole military thing.”
“Does Adam know?”
“No, and I don’t think he’ll ever say anything to him. After Adam turns, Austin’s going to let him go.”
“That’s probably for the best,” Derrek said, with more sympathy in his tone. “Adam doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s good with this kind of stuff.”
“I think everyone’s writing Adam off a little too early. Who knows how he’ll end up after this is over, or what type of person he’ll be in a couple of years. We’d know if Austin would just open up more to him, but the issues go deeper than that. Adam might not be able to take up the role Austin wants filled.”
“So he’s still like that, huh?” Derrek asked. “Even now? The guy’s as big as I am.”
“And that’s the problem. He’s trying to be someone he’s not, which is one of the reasons why he treated Adam the way he did. I’m not excusing this, but this kuu bullshit is making everyone desperate. Poor Adam’s caught in the middle, not really knowing what the hell is going on.”
Simon walked back outside, holding a huge tray of raw sausages in one hand and a long sausage fork in the other. Adam followed, rubbing his hands together.
“Sausage overload tonight,” the half-turn said, eying Derrek and me.
Austin was likely back in his garage alone, so I made my way to the back door.
“I’ll be right back,” I said.
“Could you grab my guitar while you’re in there?” Derrek asked.
Austin sat on one of his workbench chairs while staring blankly at his collection of tools lining the wall.
“I’m not letting you sit in here all alone,” I said. “Come outside with me.”
“I don’t want to look at either of them.” He turned to face me, his eyes glassy. “I bet Adam hasn’t even noticed I’m not out there.”
I grabbed his huge hand with both of mine, giving him a tug until he stood up. Instead of following, he pulled me back and wrapped his arms around me.
“Austin?” I asked, looking up at his face. His eyes watered even more, and he squeezed me tighter.
“In a perfect world, you’d be my kuu mate.” He pulled away and wiped his eyes. “Simon’s more Adam’s type, and you’re mine.”
“You’re only saying that because I’m the only one you’ve actually talked to.”
“You’re the only one I trust who’s still alive. I wouldn’t have to go to Mosavi if you’d do that thing to me again. It wouldn’t feel wrong with you.”
“Why are you telling me this right now? Is it because of Derrek?”
“Adam’s in love with him, and I’m in love with you.”
My heart sank, and my stomach knotted at those words. It wasn’t like I hadn’t suspected this, but I also didn’t think he would actually say it.
“Simon and I—”
“Are just kuu mates,” he interrupted. “You’re the only one that makes me feel better.”
“Because you’ve isolated yourself, Austin. You knew Derrek for years before you met Adam, and you never once told him anything. You don’t open up to Adam, either. You need to socialize, and you can start by having fun tonight.”
“So you don’t feel the same way about me?”
“You’re one of my closest friends, and I love you, but not like that.”
Austin pressed his ears against his head and looked away.
“C’mon, don’t be upset.” I reached for his snout and turned him back toward me. “We don’t have to be lovers to be family. There’s no telling what’s going to happen in a few months, let alone a couple of years from now. Mosavi’s wife told me that what I’m doing to you is like…werewolf therapy or something. Let’s take this one day at a time.” I took him by the hand and led him toward the door.
“I’m not gonna like this,” he muttered. “It’s too awkward out there with him.”
I stopped and looked back into the garage at the extra refrigerator.
“Go grab a case of beer.”
“Uh, what beer?” Austin asked, his tail tucked between his legs.
“I’m not an idiot. I know you made more because Simon’s the idiot,” I said, punching him in the arm. “Where else would he have gotten that bottle from earlier?”
“What about Mosavi?”
“His wife is the ace up my sleeve—at least I hope so.”
He backed away and turned toward the fridge. “Alright. I’ll be out with my newest batch.”
I nodded and grabbed Derrek’s guitar.
Despite what happened earlier, there wasn’t any obvious weirdness between Austin and me. The alcohol helped, and Derrek took advantage of the relaxed atmosphere, pulling out his guitar.
“This is one of Simon’s favorites,” Derrek said, strumming a horrifyingly familiar tune.
Simon snapped over to me with a huge smile while raising his brows. I immediately had a Pavlov’s dog reaction.
“Well I don’t know why I came here tonight,” Simon sang, that disgusting grin growing wider as he danced closer to me, thrusting his pelvis in time with the music.
“Nope,” I shouted, throwing up a time-out signal with my arms. Derrek stopped playing, and Simon pouted, now a half a foot away from me. “Any other song, but that one, if you don’t mind.”
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5 thoughts on “Chapter 25: Beer and Brats”
Art has ptsd from that song lol. In all seriousness I liked this chapter a lot. I didn’t know Austin felt that way about Art and I’m glad he confessed those feelings tho I’m glad Art declined them respectfully. It’s a nice ship thought but I’m too for SimonxArthur. They are more than just kuu mates. Can’t wait to see more Aeron. Also ya know what would be funny for Forge to draw? Derrick meeting/confronting Mosavi like the Jojo meme xD.
Man, this episode is just full of emotions. Knew Austin felt something for Art, but not this. Glad he’s at least trying and not keeping himself isolated from the world.
And man, I could practically hear Adam and Derrick going at it in my head, knowing how werewolves and half-turns do it. XD Also, definitely would be interesting how to see Derrick and Mosavi meeting.
Awesome chapter as always, can’t wait to read more and see how everything unfolds~
Man, thinking that Austin fell for the first dude who treats him like a person and not a science project or a fucktoy made me emotional. Give the poor wolf more hugs.
Polycule! Polycule! Polycule!
Derrek & Mosavi head-to-head when!?!? Good to see Derrek again, most level headed and earnest walfmin around. Man just has an aura about him that makes one’s anxiety & tension melt away; like listening to the ebb and flow of the tide. Just when I think Austin couldn’t possibly pull my heartstring more, he comes out of left field swinging with all these confessions! From the fact he’s been seeing Mosavi regularly (That was a hard doubled-edged sword to swallow) ,to his heartfelt admission of love for Art…Austin is draining me emotionally! As shattering as it was for Art to have to reject him, it was from a place of genuine love. Art earns more respect from me with each passing chapter honestly. Disagree with him on some things ,but he is legitimately trying to do right by everyone that he has come to see as his true family and it is inspiring. Looking forward to more of this pack bonding in the chapters to come! ❤