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lilansui

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  1. lilansui

    Chapter 20

    Please, can’t you help me hold on to this? Dinner in the Takeda house was at seven o’clock. The time never changed, unless Marie was occupied, or the family was otherwise occupied. It was only around six thirty when Milan took the bag Rory brought in to his room with him. The bag held the cookies and herbs from Jet’s farm. He had forgotten about them. He paused at the second floor to make sure his parents were still locked in the master bedroom together. He couldn’t hear them talking, so that was a relief. It was not that hard to tell when Ilaria and Kiyo were fighting. Ilaria loved to throw things and yell in Italian. The silence meant the fighting had ended while he slept, or it hadn’t happened at all. Then again, after the thing at the gate, maybe he didn’t know his parents very well. Ayu seemed to have disappeared. Milan hoped his big brother had found some place to call his in this cold town. Entering the kitchen, Milan smiled at Marie who was placing potpie on the counter. “Cucciolo, you’re awake. Mamma will be happy. What do you have there?” “Cookies and,” Milan said, handing them to Marie. “Fresh herbs from this farm Rory took me to visit today. I made a friend there. His name is Jet and he gave me the fresh herbs for you.” “Aww,” Marie took the bag from him and kissed the top of his head. “Thank Jet for me when you talk next.” Marie brought the herbs to her nose and took a deep whiff. “So fresh. I’ll test the herbs see if we can get more from them. As for the cookies, I hope you didn’t eat any.” Milan grimaced. “They were fresh baked at the time. I almost went out of my mind smelling them.” Milan sighed, looking at the chocolate chip cookies with envy when Marie took a bite. “The taste is good, I can do better. I’ll mix a batch for you. You can have two tonight, the rest we’ll put in your lunch box tomorrow,” Marie said. Milan walked up to her and pulled her into a tight hug. He didn’t have words to express how much she meant to him. “It’s okay,” Marie said, rubbing his back. “I love you too, little puppy.” Milan nodded and let her go, wiping his eyes and turning away from her. “I don’t want to eat with everyone today,” Milan said. “Still mad at your Papa?” Marie asked. “He is being unreasonable. Don’t try to talk for him. I’m allowed to get mad,” Milan said, reaching for a tray. He needed to get enough food for him and Rory. “Fine, I’m not talking for him,” Marie said, watching him place a large plate on the tray, and two bowls. He cut three large slices from the potpie closest to him. He ladled pea soup into one bowl and scooped the mix of broccoli and cauliflower stir-fry into the second bowl. When he reached for the dinner rolls Marie leaned on the counter next to him. “Planning on stashing food for the siege?” “I want to eat enough today. I didn’t have anything all day,” Milan said, covering the plate. He placed the tray on a breakfast table with fold-able legs. “Well.” Marie brought four bananas, placing them on top of the plate cover. She took two spoons from the drawer and placed them on the tray too. “I hope you and the horse you are feeding this night can fit in fruits beside the potpie. Bananas are less messy. Bring the tray downstairs when you are done.” Rory was sort of like a horse. He seemed like a guy who could burn that much fuel. Maybe that’s why he was so strong. Milan touched a dinner scone and smiled at that thought. Fate was strange. It had brought the strongest possible to him, the weakest possible. Milan turned to Marie, guilt flooding him at the look in Marie’s eyes. She looked as though she knew that Rory was upstairs in his bedroom. For a moment, he wondered if she would tell his parents, but then— “Cucciolo, go have your dinner,” Marie waved him away. “Can you carry the tray or do you need help?” “I’m fine,” Milan said, taking the tray and heading out. Marie chuckled as he left and he bit his lip, hoping she didn’t mention the possibility of a hidden horse in his room to his volatile father. Upstairs, Rory opened the bedroom door for him and took the tray out of his hands before he could take a step in. Milan closed and locked his bedroom door, watching Rory place the tray on the floor. Rory got two pillows and placed them on the floor on opposite sides of the little table the bed tray made. Rory waved him over and Milan smiled, hurrying to join him. Rory waited for him to settle before he sat opposite him. “The food smells good,” Rory said, picking up his spoon. “I can see why you would want to marry Marie.” Milan chuckled. “How do you know about that?” “Ayu told me,” Rory said, taking a bite of his chicken potpie. His gaze studying his plate with intense interest. Milan watched him eat in silence for a minute before he chuckled. “Are you jealous of Marie?” “You like hugging her,” Rory said. “I’ve seen it, more than once.” “She’s older than my mother, and I just hugged you. I kiss you too.” Milan frowned. “Why would you think I like her that way?” “Don’t you?” Milan picked up his spoon and shook his head. “If we’re going to discuss irrational ideas, let’s talk you and Rowen.” “Me and Rowen.” Rory blinked, dropping his spoon in his pot pie. “What gave you that idea? I have never touched or looked at Rowen in that way.” Milan broke a piece of his scone and sunk it into his bowl of soup. He spooned the soggy mess into his mouth and stared at Rory. “Seriously, Milan. You have to believe me.” “She approached me in the cafeteria that first day.” Milan narrowed his gaze at Rory. “She told me I was going to bring you trouble. She’s super hot with an insane attitude and she wants you. Are you saying you’ve never looked at her and wanted her?” “Never.” “Hmm.” “What’s with the hmm?” Rory frowned. “What are you thinking right now?” “Nothing.” “Milan.” Milan put his spoon down and looked at Rory. “I know I’m kind of nuts, but I’m surprised that you don’t want her and see me instead. I keep thinking you’ll come to your senses and walk away from me.” Rory got up then, and moved to sit next to Milan. When Rory took his hands, Milan shifted so that he faced Rory. “You are the moonlight to me.” Milan chuckled, meeting Rory’s gaze. “You don’t have to say cheesy things to me, Rory.” “It’s the truth,” Rory insisted, his gaze enough to make Milan pause. “I feel like I’ve waited for you all my life. Now that you’re here, I’m afraid you won’t be able to handle all that I feel for you. That it might scare you off.” Milan took in a short breath, taken aback by Rory’s expression. Rory was not joking, he was dead serious. An excited thrill raced through him at the thought of keeping Rory Morgan for good. He reached up and touched Rory’s jaw. “I’m right here. You would catch me if I tried to run anyway.” Milan smiled. “I can’t get very far. We should eat. None of us had a proper meal today.” “Do you believe me about Rowen?” Rory asked, still holding his gaze. Milan pressed a soft kiss on Rory’s cheek. “I believe you.” Rory nodded and stayed on the same side as Milan, shifting his plate to Milan’s side. “I think Marie knows you’re here,” Milan said, watching Rory polish off his potpie. “She handed me two spoons when I went to get food.” Rory grinned. “Nothing escapes her attention.” “What if she tells Papa?” Milan asked, breaking off a piece from his bun and dropping it into his soup. “She won’t,” Rory said, sounding sure. Milan decided it didn’t matter even though Marie told. He would be glad to face a firing squad if Rory stayed in his room with him like this. They were doing nothing wrong. *** Rory was reclined against Milan’s pillows reading Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, one of the Mario Llosa books from Milan’s shelf. Milan sat on the bed drawing on his tablet, a commission from his DeviantArt account. It was almost nine o’clock at night, dinner long finished downstairs. He had listened as Ilaria and Kiyo ate dinner in near silence, none of them making an attempt to find Milan. Ayu had called Ilaria saying he was staying over at a friend’s house. It was strange for the family to be so fragmented at dinner. Rory wondered if it had to do with the fight at the gate. Rory looked at Milan wanting his mate’s attention even as he worked. “Why do you read Mario Llosa books?” “I had a tough tutore in Italy. She thought I read too many graphic novels. So, she brought all those books for me, saying I needed to expand my literature horizons.” “Did you like them?” “Some of them,” Milan flashed him a quick smile. “Why do you ask?” “I just want to know everything about you.” “I feel as though you know everything about me. When do I get to know everything about you? Don’t you think it’s unfair?” Milan asked. “Not unfair, we’re taking this bit by bit,” Rory said. “Building us.” “Oh yeah?” Milan moved his tablet to the side. “You still haven’t told me. Why are you that strong?” “I told you. I ate spinach from Jet’s farm. It’s quite healthy and magical. You should try it.” “Come on, Rory. You lifted Papa off the ground earlier. Like feet-dangling-in-the-air lift, he’s not exactly pint-sized. I’m curious.” Rory sat up straight, using a finger to mark his place in the book he was reading. “Does it bother you that I can do that?” Milan stared at him, and Rory wished he could read Milan’s thoughts in that moment. It would be nice to know what Milan was thinking. “No.” Milan shrugged. “I guess it’s kind of cool since I’m useless on the strength department.” “So, you’re not scared that I can lift your father.” “No.” “What if I can lift a car?” “Interesting, and very intriguing.” Milan narrowed his gaze at him. “Can you lift a house?” Rory chuckled then. “No.” “Well, that’s a letdown,” Milan said, returning to his drawing. “Which house would you want me to lift?” “Yours, bring it next to mine so that we can live close to each other,” Milan said. “When you left earlier, I realized I didn’t know your address. It made me sad.” “I don’t have an address. I live in the middle of the forest like Grandma Asta,” Rory said. “When you’re ready, I’ll take you there.” Milan stopped drawing to look at him, his brown gaze clear. “You have a secret, don’t you?” Milan stated. Rory studied him for a moment, not sure what to say. Then because he wanted to blurt out all his secrets to Milan, he nodded. “Yes.” “You’ll tell me when you think I’m ready?” “Yes.” “Is it something weird?” Milan asked. “Like a disease?” Rory shook his head. “No.” “Fine, I’ll wait.” “Just like that?” Rory asked. “Yep.” Milan continued working on his drawing. Rory shifted so that he was sitting closer to Milan, legs folded under him. He kissed Milan’s cheek, then his forehead. When Milan lifted his head, he took his lips in a sweet kiss that quickly drew them into a heated make-out session on Milan’s bed. *** Temperatures dropped on Monday. Topher and Matt stopped in the garage in town to pick up two four by four Quad bikes. Rory’s uncle did not bother asking what they would use them for, as long as they returned them. Topher made sure the bikes were secure in the back of the truck they were using. Adjusting his heavy winter jacket, he jumped into the passenger side, as Matt took off heading to the swamp lands. The drive took them about forty-five minutes. Matt took the turn off leading into the wild swamp lands, driving on winter roads created by lumber yard trucks that sourced wood in the wild forest surrounding the swamp. “How close do we have to get?” Matt asked. Topher turned down the music on the stereo, reading the note Rory handed him this morning. “Close,” Topher said. “Rory said the records read, ‘the stilt homestead stood hidden in white cedar-groves’.” “Guess we find somewhere to park the truck and head out into the swamp,” Matt said, driving slow on the snowy road forged between trees. “The landscape might have changed in the years. The grove expanded.” “We’ll have to see,” Topher said, when they reached the end of the rough road. Matt pulled the truck to the side, and turned it off. He zipped up his heavy jacket, adjusting the furred hood over his head. Topher followed suit, making sure his hood was secure over his head. Jumping out of the truck, he went to help Matt with the quad bikes. In less than ten minutes, they were moving around thick cedars on frozen snow. When they were in the thickest part of the swamp, surrounded by tall thick trees, Topher stopped his quad bike, turning the engine off. “Do you hear that?” he asked, when Matt stopped beside him. “What?” “Exactly,” Topher said, gripping the handles on the quad bike. His gaze searching the trees, the ground, everything blending into one. “No bird calls at all. No insect sounds, nothing.” “We are intruding,” Matt said, getting off his bike. “I see no sign of a homestead. No one in their right mind would live here, Topher. Too cold, too wild.” Topher frowned, deciding to use his other senses instead of sight. The swamp smelled like a pig farm, thick, rich and blinding. Topher comforted himself with the thought that Rory would not have sent them out here for nothing. “I—” Matt broke off, turning to the right, eyes closed. ‘Movement,” Matt linked to Topher. ‘Nervous steps heading deeper into the swamp. Leave the bike.’ Topher got off his quad bike and followed Matt as they started a fast run. ‘How many?’ ‘Two.’ Matt answered, pausing behind a thick cedar tree. ‘One has to be too young, slowing down the adult. Can’t pick up their scents thanks to the swamp stench, but we should be able to cut their route off in a few minutes.’ ‘Let’s not show ourselves yet,’ Topher warned, eager to follow the two unknown wolves to their home. He followed Matt’s direction, careful to keep hidden behind trees, and soon he too could hear the taxed breathing of an adult carrying a child. Crouching low on the ground, using a crevice between thick roots, Topher tracked the huffs of fast breathing moving closer, until he put eyes to a short woman carrying a boy of three or four on her back. She was in a heavy red wool coat that covered her whole body. A wool scarf around her neck that she then used to wrap around the little boy she carried. The little boy was in a long down parka with a fur hood pulled over his head. “Mom, why are we running? Why aren’t you calling Daddy?” the little boy asked. The woman looked into the trees, her gaze wary as she walked by Topher’s hiding spot, heading up a non-existent path that lead out of the more swampy area. “Daddy warned us not to wander too far into the swamp,” she said. “He’ll be cross with us if he finds out.” ‘Traps between the trees,’ Matt warned him when Topher started the climb after the woman. ‘There are fine lines tied between trees that set off traps dug into the ground. Follow her steps.’ Topher kept up behind Matt, careful to step in the same places the woman had used. When they reached the edge of the trees, Topher stopped when Matt did, hiding behind smaller trees to stare at the huge network of stilt wood houses and walkways in the clearing surrounded by white cedar. The woman they had seen earlier stood at the entrance of the closest house, the little boy disappeared. In front of her was a bear of a man in jeans and an open leather coat, his hair long and held on top of his head with a thick rope made of green string. “It’s very rude to spy,” he spoke, looking to the trees. “We are of peace here. What do you seek?” Topher took in a deep breath and emerged from behind the tree, followed by Matt. “I did not mean to startle the woman,” Topher said in greeting, lowering his head slightly in greeting. He stopped right at the edge of the walkway not daring move in further. “My name is Topher Vadisi, son of Kurtler Vadisi, the Beta of Portento Pack.” “Beta Topher,” the man answered, nodding in acknowledgement. “Johan McRieve. Your friend?” “Matt Lechter, son of Hillam Lechter, the Third of Portento Pack.” Johan whistled and glanced at the woman behind him. “Elle, we’re in the presence of royalty.” Johan joked. “What brings you to the swamp lands?” Topher did not miss the warrior class men slowly making their way around the open space, moving to close the gap behind them, cutting off their escape. “A simple inquiry,” Topher said, aware of Matt turning his back to him so that he could keep an eye on their enemy. “You came alone,” Johan noted. “If I recall correctly, Connor Morgan should be Alpha now having taken over from his father. Any trips into this swamp lands would include his son, Rory Morgan.” Topher smiled. “I’m glad you know him. He seeks information from you.” “Information?” Johan chuckled again, shifting from one foot to the other. “It’s been a long time since I heard a Morgan needing anything from a McRieve.” “He would not ask if it wasn’t important.” “Disrupting the peace of our homestead is important too,” Johan growled, moving closer. “These men wish you escorted off our lands. It’s bad enough we have to deal with loggers encroaching on our wild land. We will not have council business spilling in too.” ‘Tell him Rory is willing to listen to their concerns,’ Matt suggested. ‘The logging company belongs to your father, Topher. Rory can help negotiate a deal.’ “Are you willing to listen to an Alpha’s request in exchange for a boon?” Topher asked, looking at Johan. Johan paused his approach, turning to look at Elle who still stood by the door of her house. They seemed to have a short private chat, and then Johan turned to Topher. “You’re Rory Morgan’s champion, aren’t you?” Johan asked. “I protect his interests, yes,” Topher answered. “You have invaded our home with no invitation. It is my right to see if you’re worthy of my time,” Johan said, throwing off his coat and turning into a large gray wolf. ‘Shit, old world rules,’ Mat cursed as he took Topher’s coat. ‘A duel?’ ‘Sort of. He wants a show of strength,’ Matt replied. ‘You lose and Rory loses their respect for sending someone inferior. These ones are on the wild side.’ ‘I’ll take it. I’ll fight him, then get him to promise to meet Rory.’ Topher shifted into his brown wolf, snarling when the gray wolf came at him. He rose on his hind legs, pushing the gray wolf back, escaping snapping teeth. He met the gray wolf in full combat, intent on pinning his aggressive attacker to the ground and making him submit. Strong and sure, Topher blocked Johan’s attempts to lock his powerful jaws on him, snarling as he bit into Johan’s neck, only to lose grip when Johan kicked him away. They fought fast, dirty, breaking wood and falling into the snow below the walkway. Topher focused on the fight, confident that Matt would keep Johan’s people out of it if necessary. Johan was strong, and aggressive, fueled by the wild. No matter how many times Topher dropped him, he sprang up, ready to face him again. Topher got lucky when he pinned Johan on the ground pressing him into a stilt. His jaw locked on his neck, teeth sinking deep intent on ending Johan, he snarled when Johan tried to shake him off, tightening his hold, his canines sinking deeper until blood filled his mouth. Topher tried to talk to the wolf under him, to stop him from resisting, but there was no connection. “Stop!” Elle shouted from above. “Stop, he is my mate. Please don’t kill him.” Topher let go and stepped back, changing into his human form, breathing hard. The scratches on his arms and legs from Johan’s bites healing fast. The cold air cooling his hot blood fast. “Do you submit?” Topher demanded, his voice rough, his eyes yellow, still not turned back. “I will listen,” Johan answered, after shifting into his human form. “Why do you not have the pack link?” Topher asked, wondering why he could not talk to Johan in his wolf form. If his mate had not intervened, Johan would be dead. Johan sighed, pressing his hand into his bleeding neck where Topher had made a deep wound. “Never bothered to renew it since we started living here. We have lived without it for a few generations.” “But you’re Portento pack,” Topher noted, watching Elle come running down the steps to the ground under the stilts. She carried two pairs of jeans, and her cheeks were wet with tears. She threw one pair at Topher, and knelt on the wet ground next to Johan. “Why are you here?” she demanded, throwing Topher an unhappy gaze. “Look what you’ve done to him.” “I’m sorry, it wasn’t my intention to harm,” Topher said, wearing the jeans, and stepping back to look up on the walkway above them. Matt threw him his jacket and boots, which he wore fast hoping to retain some of the warm from the fight. “Your mate insisted and wouldn’t yield at the end.” “You’re an idiot, Johan,” Elle accused. “Fucking idiot. This is my fault. If I hadn’t taken Foster out today, this wouldn’t have happened.” “Don’t blame yourself, woman,” Johan said, his tone heavy with annoyance. Johan got up and wore the jeans she brought him. He didn’t bother with a jacket as he walked to the stairs on bare feet. Elle stared after him with a frown, wiping her tears, before she turned to Topher. “What do you want?” “Information,” Topher said. “And a promise to meet Alpha Rory.” “Where?” Elle asked. “Wherever is comfortable for you,” Topher said. “For the record, I’m obligated to tell Rory Morgan of how large your population is here. These many wolves with no connection to the town’s Alpha—” “We are loyal to the Morgans. We just don’t show up for the town hall meetings,” Elle countered. “Let’s go inside. I’ll feed you, warm your insides and give you the information you want, then you can be on your way. Rory Morgan will have to come here if he wishes to speak to McRieves. We don’t venture beyond the swamp land.” Elle started to the stairs and Topher followed her. “Why?” he asked. “It’s safer here,” Elle said, leading the way to her house when they got to the walk way. Matt kept up with Topher. ‘I smell young human blood,’ Matt told him. ‘Within the buildings, can’t pinpoint where.’ ‘Maybe this is why they are so protective,’ Topher answered as they entered a large warm living area. Johan sat in an armchair already, Elle busy checking his neck. Two other women came in from what Topher assumed was the kitchen. They carried trays, one with a pot of hot coffee, and the other with two plates of meat sandwiches. “Eat,” Elle waved at the table, when Topher and Matt made no attempt to move. “It’s not poisoned.” Topher reached for a slice of the beef sandwich on the closest plate and took a bite. Matt was more cautious. He picked up the mug of coffee though he didn’t sip from it. “What do you wish to know?” Elle asked, her attention on Johan’s neck. “The McRieve line once had a human mate,” Topher stated. “What happened to the pair? Why are is your line not recorded in the books?” Elle finished attending to Johan and turned to look at Topher and Matt, her brown eyes wide with excitement. “You would only ask this question if your Alpha was paired with a human,” Elle said with a wide smile. “I can’t believe this is happening in my time.” Topher looked at Matt confused. “What is?” Matt asked, placing his mug on the table. “The Morgan Lore coming to life,” Johan said with a wide happy smile. “You should have spoken up sooner, Topher and Matt. We have been waiting for this for a long time.” *** At the same exact time, Rory sat in the living room at the Takeda house staring at Ilaria Takeda. Milan sat beside Rory, his hands clenched tight in Rory’s, as he was a mass of nerves. They had both decided to face Milan’s parents together after school today. Rory was happy they were only facing Ilaria, as Kiyo had returned to his lab. His temper was still too raw to face Kiyo Takeda. He worried now on a constant basis about Milan, and the poison in his body. What it would be like when it ran out. What would he do to stop Kiyo from adding more? “So, you want to date my son,” Ilaria was saying, her gaze wide with disbelief. “You have been kissing each other in his room for how long? I never got the answer to that.” “Is it relevant?” Milan asked, blushing hard. “Quite,” Ilaria said, her elbows resting on her lap as she leaned forward to study them. “Rory Morgan, how did you slip in? I thought you were a friend. When did it become more?” “From the first time I saw him,” Rory said, holding Ilaria’s gaze. Ilaria rubbed her eyes, then looked at Milan. “Cucciolo, I know what this must feel like to you. Your first time falling in love. He is gorgeous, I’ll give you that. But—” “No buts, Mamma,” Milan cut her off, his fingers squeezing Rory’s tight. “I need you to support me on this. Please.” “It’s difficult to think of you two together that way. I can’t disinfect Rory’s mouth to keep you from getting ill,” Ilaria joked, her eyes wide. “Rory, do you see where I’m going with this?” “I’ll protect him,” Rory promised, wishing he could make her understand the lengths he could go to protect Milan. “Can’t you trust in that?” Ilaria studied him for a moment, before she turned to Milan. “You hurt us yesterday, Milan. You said you preferred to die if that was where kissing Rory led you. Why would you say that?” “Mamma.” “Don’t I matter?” Ilaria asked, her eyes glittering with tears. “What about Ayu? There is Marie. Most important, Milan, your father. We all love you so much.” Rory turned to look at Milan. He hadn’t known his mate had said that yesterday. No wonder Ilaria had not pressed Milan to come down for dinner. “I’m sorry,” Milan murmured, staring down at their clasped hands. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” “Yes, you did,” Ilaria said. “No, I didn’t.” Milan looked at his mother. “I just wanted you to understand that I’ve had to give up on a lot in this life I’m living. I’ve found something in Rory. Something I don’t want to give up. Please, can’t you help me hold on to it?” ***
  2. lilansui

    Chapter 19

    Yay, you recognized it! I love that particular line from that song, its been stuck in my head this past week. Thank you!! I feel vindicated, hahaha. I'll see what I can do about an early post this coming week.
  3. lilansui

    Chapter 19

    Hope dangles on a string, like slow spinning redemption Rory picked up Milan from the armchair, and took him to the couch. Asta brought him a cushion for Milan’s head, and Rory helped him get comfortable. “He’s not opening his eyes,” Rory said, sitting on the edge of the wide couch. He held Milan’s hands between his. “Stop worrying and answer my question.” Asta perched on the coffee table her gaze on Milan. “He’ll wake up, Little Morgan. Trust me.” Rory let out a sigh, and squeezed Milan’s hands. He reached for the glove Asta had removed and focused on putting it back for Milan. “I don’t understand how he could have poisonous wolf’s blood. He’s my mate, Grandma Asta. I would have smelled it. I would know.” Rory adjusted the glove’s fabric over Milan’s fingers. “Trust me, Rory. It’s there.” Asta leaned forward pressing two fingers to where Rory held Milan’s right wrist. They both watched dark lines spread up Milan’s arm. Milan surged up, a wince appearing on his face, the pain from Asta’s touch clear. “See that. It’s there.” “Stop hurting him.” Rory pushed Asta’s fingers away from Milan. Asta sighed and folded her hands against her chest. Rory rubbed Milan’s wrist, hoping to ease the pain. His touch did nothing to Milan, so he glanced at Asta, expectant. “How are you doing this anyway?” “I’m an old soul.” Asta smiled at him. “I’ve picked up a few things over the many years on this earth. Wolf’s blood sings to me in any form. This…I’ve never seen this one.” “What do you see?” Rory asked, returning to the task of fitting Milan’s glove. “It’s in his blood, surging through his veins like a person shooting up drugs,” Asta frowned. “It’s not much though, or if it was, it’s burning up faster than possible. Whatever it’s supposed to do for him will stop abruptly, and he’ll crash.” Rory thought about Kiyo talking to that strangely familiar voice in his lab. “Milan is sick. He has CVID,” Rory said. “He needs infusions every month to stay healthy. His father makes the infusions he’s getting. I was there for the last one. From what I've read, the infusions are made from plasma. It has to be what you see.” “The blood is stripped down and laced with chemicals, which is why you can’t smell it.” Asta’s gaze narrowed. “As for his illness, he is your mate. An alpha’s mate at that. The violence of your bite should correct any troubles he’s facing. Your blood is strong enough to correct his genetics, though it will be a trial of fire for him. The change will demand that much from him.” “Can I do it now?” Rory asked, happy to hear that Milan could be saved from a lifetime of managing his condition and the poison his father had introduced. Kiyo did not even know he was poisoning his own son. “No.” Asta shook her head. “Whatever the concoction in his veins was meant to do, it’s damaging to you and him. The wolf’s blood used to make it is tainted, he needs to be clear of it before you can introduce yours. Otherwise—” “Otherwise?” Rory demanded, meeting Asta’s gaze, afraid of her next words. “He’ll die,” Asta said. Rory let go of Milan’s hand and got up. He paced away from Milan, fear taking over. “I don’t understand.” “I know, Little Morgan. “Why would the goddess allow this to happen?” “She’s never wrong though,” Asta soothed. “We can work this out.” “How?” Rory asked, his gaze returning to Milan. “I’m keeping so much from him already. I can’t imagine what it will do to him to know his father is basically poisoning him.” “Humans are very resilient,” Asta said, leaning back her hands braced on the table. “You’d be surprised how much they will forgive because of love.” Rory scoffed and dug fingers into his hair. He could not sit back and watch Kiyo push more infusions on Milan. That was just not happening. “What now?” “Now,” Asta smiled, “I wake the Little Morgan’s mate and get to know him. You can only help him when his body burns off the poison inside him.” “Can’t you remove it?” Rory asked. “It’s keeping him healthy,” Asta said. “Won’t you miss his smile if we find a way to drain it out of him? I think it would be better for him to get it out of his system his way. That’s what his body is designed to do anyway. Use the concoction up. Should be about two weeks.” “For someone who acts like she doesn’t know anything, you know a lot,” Rory said, dropping his arms. “Why aren’t you in the Council?” “I was once when I was young and foolish.” Asta shrugged. “Mistakes were made, people died. When my head cleared of the haze from that disaster, I left the position to Iris and Hunter.” “Would you come back?” Rory asked, aware of the pleading tone in his voice. It would be so much easier to face a council with Asta around. She would not judge Milan's family too harshly. Asta looked at him then, her gaze haunted and shook her head. “It would serve no purpose, Little Morgan. The future belongs to you and the young ones. Decisions on how you want to live should come from you. You should know that by now.” Rory sighed and came to sit on the table next to Asta. “Will he be in pain when the poison blood is out of his system?” “It sure seems so,” Asta said. “He will be weak, again. It will frustrate him.” Rory closed his eyes, his hands clenching into fists. How much more pain did Milan have to live through before they found a true chance? Asta placed a gentle hand on his right fist. “Your mate is stronger than he looks, Rory. What you should worry about is the source of poisonous wolf’s blood. Tainted blood can only mean someone is tampering with one of us.” Rory nodded remembering the black wolf with a decaying scent. “Can a wolf’s fur color change?” Rory asked. “I suppose, with enough corruption,” Asta nodded. “Yes.” “Hm.” Rory frowned, a thought blooming. “Please wake Milan,” Rory said, after a few minutes of silence. “As you say, Little Morgan,” Asta said, leaning over, she brushed a gentle finger over Milan’s brow. No pain came with her touch this time. Rory realized that she must have sensed wolf’s blood in Milan at their approach. Suspecting Milan of foul play, she delved in with no mercy. “You frighten me,” Rory told her when she sat back. Asta chuckled, her gaze expectant as she watched Milan wake up. Milan sat up on the couch, eyes wide as he took in Asta. When he looked at Rory, he narrowed his gaze. “What happened?” Milan asked. “You fainted,” Asta answered. “You must be thirsty. I’ll get you some water.” Milan frowned, shifting so that he now sat on the couch facing them. Rory smiled as Asta stood and hurried to her kitchen. “Rory?” “Hey, you gave me a scare,” Rory said. Milan rolled down his right glove, checking his wrist. Rory hoped Milan did not remember the black poison rolling up his veins. Milan rubbed the delicate skin there, before he shrugged and pulled the glove back. “I thought I saw—” Milan shook his head. “I’m sorry. I guess I’ve pushed the limits today.” Asta came back holding a glass of warm water for Milan. “It’s safe to drink,” she said, knowing Milan was going to protest. “I boil all my drinking water.” Milan took the glass with a grateful nod and drunk half the water in one breathe. “So.” Asta sat on the coffee table next to Rory. “You’re Milan.” Milan nodded, holding the glass with both hands. Asta smiled and reached out to pinch his cheeks. “You’re so adorable. I just want to kiss your cheeks. How old are you?” “Turning seventeen in two weeks,” Milan said with a shy smile. “What a perfect time for a birthday,” Asta glanced at Rory and winked. Rory blushed, thinking he too would want to see Milan healthy on his birthday. “I’m looking forward to it,” Milan said, when Asta let go of his cheeks. They were stained with color, his eyes bright with amusement. Rory could have kissed him then. “Your first birthday with Rory?” Asta asked. Milan blushed harder and nodded, drinking his water. Rory smiled, elated. “How much do you like this Little Morgan?” Asta asked, holding Milan’s gaze. Milan did not hesitate with his answer. “Very much. I lo-like him very much.” Rory felt the bracelet on his left wrist warm up and he glanced at it to see a leaf fade away, leaving two. Excitement vibrated through him, it was hard to sit still. “Why do you call him Little Morgan?” Milan asked Asta. “Because I know the Big Morgan,” Asta said, her tone teasing. “Rory’s dad,” Milan said. “I haven’t met him yet.” “You will, soon,” Asta assured him. “When you first meet him, he will look gruff and forbidding. I want you to tell him that you know about the fishing scream.” “The fishing scream?” Milan asked, glancing at Rory, then returning back to Asta. His eyes bright with amusement, once again, Rory only wanted to kiss him. “What is that?” “Well, Big Morgan went fishing in the river once. He is squeamish about wet things, and there was this girl who loved to tease him. She found a snail on their trip to the river and made it her goal to make him touch that snail. Let’s just stay it was the first time anyone had ever heard a Morgan scream in fright.” Rory chuckled, when Milan laughed, remembering that the girl in question was his mother. Asta and Milan talked for an hour, until Milan’s stomach growled from hunger. Rory glanced at the time on his phone. It was almost two o’clock. They had been out too long. It was time to head back home. Asta hugged Milan goodbye making him smile. Rory thanked Asta for having them and they started back to the truck. *** “I love your Nonna Asta,” Milan said, when they were driving back to Milan’s house, his mask around his neck. “She makes me miss mine.” “Which one?” “My dad’s mom,” Milan said. “I don’t meet her often but when I do, it’s always like with your Nonna Asta.” “And how is that?” Rory asked, taking Milan’s hand as he drove. “Freeing,” Milan said, thinking that the best word to use. With his parents, there was the constant worry for his health, his future, his…well just everything. Talking to his grandmother made him feel like a little kid. He had gotten that same feeling from Asta. “It’s stupid—” “No.” Rory squeezed his hand. “I know what you mean. Grandma Asta makes me feel the same. As though you can just be. I’m glad she makes you feel that way. Visit her anytime you want.” Milan looked around the winding road that was leading them back home. “I’m not sure I could find her,” Milan mused. “I’ll take you, just ask,” Rory said, his tone matter of fact. As though all Milan had to do was tell him and he would drop what he was doing and drive Milan to Grandma Asta. Milan shifted in his seat until he was facing Rory. “You’re really strange,” Milan noted. “Would you really just take me if I asked?” “Yes.” “Just like that,” Milan snapped his fingers. “Yes.” “Hmm.” Milan bit his bottom lip. “Why?” “Because it would make you happy.” Milan stared. He really had never met anyone like Rory Morgan. “You’re one of a kind, Rory Morgan,” Milan said. “I can’t believe you’re my boyfriend.” Milan felt Rory squeeze his hand as he drove, turning on to the familiar road that mean the gate to his house was coming up. Milan covered Rory’s hand with his. “I want to tell Ayu and Mamma about us. Mamma is gonna freak,” Milan said. “But I still want her to know. Just in case.” “In case of what?” Rory asked, stopping the car outside Milan’s gate. Milan dropped his gaze to their clasped hands. “I’ve had a really good month, health wise,” Milan shrugged. “When I crash, it usually comes fast, and I can be out of school for days. Just in case, I want her to let you in to see me. If you want.” “Milan.” “Hospitals can be strict about stuff like that, my parents even worse—” “No one will ever keep me away from you,” Rory said, parking the truck and turning to face Milan. Rory brought Milan’s hand to his lips, dropping a soft kiss that Milan wished he could feel on his skin instead of through his gloves. Looking up, he met blazing blue eyes that sent thrills racing through him. How had he gotten so lucky to have those beautiful eyes look at him with affection? “Do you believe me?” Rory asked, holding his gaze. “That I would find a way to see you. No one can keep me away from you.” Milan’s chest tightened, and he took in a shaky breath. He wondered if Rory could see the love blooming in his heart. Incredible, huge and violent, he worried his heart might not manage to keep it hidden, keep this love locked up inside until it was okay to tell Rory. He had never known anyone that fell in love this fast. It had to be because he was inexperienced. Untouched by anyone in all his years. Not even a decent crush. Now here he was, head over heels for Rory Morgan. “Milan?” Milan let out that shaky breath and leaned close to Rory, kissing him because he didn’t know what else to do, afraid if he spoke he might blurt out his feelings. Which would be…so uncool. Rory kissed him back, leaning in so that their kiss deepened. Milan lost himself in the kiss, desire unfurling in him, making him want to press his body into Rory, wanting more, needing more. He moaned in protest when Rory broke their kiss for a millisecond to unsnap Milan’s seat belt. Then he was free to climb onto Rory’s lap, ignoring the steering wheel pressing on his back, fingers sliding into Rory’s soft hair with a happy hum. Rory’s arms going around Milan, holding him tight against him. They were lost in each other when the driver’s door swung opened with a swift jerk. Milan gasped when he was yanked out of Rory’s arms. The cool air shocking him back to his senses in time to see his father’s angry face. “What the fuck are you doing with my son?” Kiyo demanded of Rory, pushing Milan into a surprised Ilaria’s arms. “Get out right now.” “Papa.” Milan swatted away Ilaria’s hands when she reached for him and rushed to grip Kiyo’s left hand. “Don’t do this. I—” “I don’t want to hear from you,” Kiyo said, pointing a finger at Milan, his face twisted with anger. His gaze squarely on Rory, who jumped out of the truck with ease and now stood facing Kiyo hands in fists. Rory’s gaze stayed on Milan. “Milan,” Rory said, his tone soothing. “I’ll be fine.” “Like hell you will be. Were you just kissing my son?” Kiyo demanded, pushing Milan behind him when he tried to stand between them. “How dare you! Who knows what germs you’re carrying? My wife told me that you know his condition and—” “Milan is safe with me,” Rory cut in. “What you’re doing now will only hurt him more. Having Milan stand outside in this cold is not good for him, “Safe? With you?” Kiyo scoffed, turning to Ilaria, drawing Milan’s gaze to Kiyo’s car parked behind Rory’s truck. Why hadn’t they heard it? “Ilaria take Milan inside. I’m going to have a serious talk with Rory Morgan.” “Papa!” “Not now, Milan,” Kiyo yelled at him. “You’re in so much trouble right now.” “Don’t do that,” Rory warned, making Milan turn to him in shock. He could swear he had heard Rory growl, that deep frightening type of growl that could only come from a predator in the wild. “Don’t do what?” Kiyo demanded, he took Milan’s arm and pushed him to Ilaria. “Who the hell do you think you are? Milan, for godsake, pull your damn mask up and go with your mother. I will not ask again.” Milan, whose gaze was on Rory, gave a startled scream when Rory seemed to move too fast, and in the next minute had Kiyo suspended up in the air by his jacket collar. Rory held Kiyo up with both hands, Kiyo’s feet two inches off the ground. “Rory!” Milan held out his hands, afraid. How strong was Rory? “Rory Morgan, you put my husband down this instant,” Ilaria ordered. “Get out of here, Milan,” Rory warned, his voice rough. “Take your Mamma.” “I can’t,” Milan shook his head, tears filling his eyes. This was his fault. If he hadn’t kissed Rory, this wouldn’t have happened. Rory wouldn’t be fighting his dad. He took in a deep breath and tried for sense. “Rory, that’s my Papa you’re holding up like that. I—please don’t hurt him.” “Put me down,” Kiyo demanded, gripping Rory’s wrists. “What do you think you’re doing?” “Rory.” Milan took a step closer to Rory. “Stop. I need you to stop.” Milan took in a deep breath when Rory looked at him, his eyes different from what Milan remembered. The blue seemed silver, the corner of Rory’s mouth lifted in an angry sneer. “Please,” Milan begged. Rory closed his eyes and dropped Kiyo to his feet. Kiyo stumbled back, almost falling. “Get out of here,” Kiyo ordered, rubbing his chest. “I don’t want to see you anywhere near my son, or in my property again. You’re not welcome here.” Milan stood trembling, tears trailing down his cheeks as he wondered how this day had gone so wrong. If he had not kissed Rory just now— “Don’t blame yourself,” Rory said, coming up to him, despite Kiyo’s obvious distaste. Rory pulled Milan into a tight hug and brushed his lips on Milan’s forehead. “Don’t worry, baby. We’ll get this sorted out.” Milan clung to Rory for a minute, then let go because his parents were watching him in shock. Rory brushed a caress on his cheek and then went to his truck. A minute later, he drove away from their gate with a short honk for Milan. Milan hated the drive back to the house in his parents’ car. His dad cursed out Rory in all the languages he knew. Ilaria sent him sad looks, Milan wasn’t sure whether they were filled with pity, or disappointment. “You’re grounded,” Kiyo said, when they entered the house and Milan removed his jacket, gloves and mask. “That’s not fair,” Milan dumped his stuff on a couch and rounded on Kiyo. “Rory and I did nothing wrong. You, on the other hand, you have been nothing but mean to him. Why can’t you leave us be?” “Milan,” Kiyo stopped inches away from him. “He had his tongue down your throat.” “Actually, I was on top of him letting him do it. Didn’t you notice?” “That’s not helping, Cucciolo” Ilaria chimed in, perching on an armchair in the bright living room. “How long?” Kiyo demanded. “How long what?” “How long have you two been kissing?” Kiyo asked. “I need to know the damage to your health. We have to factor in these variables if you get sick—” “All you think about is your stupid research,” Milan said, shaking with anger. “Where have you been these past weeks, Papa? The first time you get home, and all you can do is shout at my boyfriend and embarrass me. You didn’t even give Rory a chance to explain. You don’t even know what kind of person he is. He worries about me just as much as you do.” “Rory Morgan will not be your boyfriend,” Kiyo said, his eyes wide with shock. “He’s a brute. Did you see how he acted at the gate? No way am letting you close to him again.” “Well, that’s not your choice, Papa. If kissing Rory will kill me, then I’d rather die,” Milan stated. “You’re not keeping him away from me.” Milan turned and ran up the stairs to his bedroom, slamming the door closed with all the force he could master. He fell on his bed and buried his face in his pillow hot tears spilling out. He had never fought with his parents this bad before. It hurt. *** “I can’t believe I left him,” Rory hissed, shaking his head, his head filled with Milan’s pleading gaze. “I should go back.” “Calm down, Rory,” Chris soothed. “You can’t help Milan if you’re freaking out in front of his parents too. You need a minute, or maybe hours.” Rory paced the front of the shack they used to hang out. Topher and Maryanne stood leaning on the railing on the small porch. Matt lounged in an old arm chair, sipping a beer, watching Rory implode. Rory let out a sigh and stopped. “You’re right. I should wait,” Rory said, shaking his head. He dug his fingers into his hair. “Grandma Asta says Kiyo is poisoning Milan. If I dare try for the change, it would kill Milan. He has to get rid of that poison in his body first. All I could think was, ‘what if Kiyo gives it to him again?’. I can’t wait another month, who knows what will happen. I wanted to kill Kiyo in that moment and stop all these. I think I’ve lost my mind.” “You have lost your mind. No complaint to that,” Chris agreed, folding his hands against his chest. He leaned on the doorjamb. “Did you really lift a father clear off the ground and expect him not to send you away from his fragile son?” “He pissed me off,” Rory sighed. “He kept yelling at Milan. I couldn’t control the anger. Only Milan’s begging stopped me.” “Milan begged you,” Maryanne scoffed. “You’re so done for. He’s going to want answers. There is no way he’ll let this go.” “I want to give them to him,” Rory said, then added. “As soon as Topher and Matt find a McRieve.” “What’s a McRieve?” Chris asked. “Proof,” Rory said, leaving it at that. He had searched long and hard. So, he would only explain the McRieve family when they found one. “I can’t find one myself. Everyone would get too curious.” “We’ll try for tomorrow after school,” Topher offered. “If not, Matt is free of classes on Wednesday this week. He’ll head over.” “Thanks.” Rory came up the short steps to the porch and sat on a chair. “What the hell am I going to do with Kiyo Takeda?” Topher chuckled. “You need to woo him, Rory. He’s going to be your father in-law, somehow. Plus, the only way to save Kiyo from the Council is to help him navigate out of his current troubles. For both you and Milan. Otherwise, it will turn into another tragedy. I doubt Milan would forgive you if Kiyo turned up dead.” “Topher is right. Milan loves both his parents,” Maryanne said. “Losing any of them is not an option, Rory. I can't believe you're mated to a human by the way. That's kind of cool." Rory remembered Milan’s pleading gaze when he was holding Kiyo. Those brown eyes filled with tears. It hurt to see Milan in tears. “I’ll find a way,” Rory said, rubbing his eyes. “Shit, before we ran into Kiyo, this was such a good day too.” “I heard,” Matt said with a chuckle. “How?” Maryanne asked, leaning on Topher. “Jet asked me what kind of phone to get. He seems to think him and Milan will be best friends,” Matt said with a wide smile. “You and Jet are talking?” Chris asked, with interest. “Yeah." “Hmm…” Topher said, making everyone laugh. “You assholes, it’s not like that.” Matt sat up. “What’s it like then?” Chris asked, with a wide grin. “Jet’s a great kid.” Matt sipped his beer and shrugged. “He makes me laugh.’ Rory smiled when Topher and Chris continued teasing Matt through the afternoon. Being around them allowed him to calm his nerves. Allowed him to think of what to do next. He couldn’t stop worrying about Milan. His mate had looked so upset. He couldn’t leave it this way. At around six in the evening, Rory got up and stretched his arms. “I have to go.” “Where you headed?” Chris asked, curious. “Need to check on Milan. Talk to you tomorrow.” “Be careful,” Chris called. "Kiyo might own a shotgun." Rory gave him the bird as he ran off *** “How much longer do I have to wait? I’m running out of time.” “I don’t know. You’re not the only one waiting on results,” Cade Ogawa said, reading emails at his desk in his Director's office at Biosense. “Waiting is hard work, buddy. You need to cultivate patience.” “How long have you given me that line? The council is getting close. They are now actively looking for Dolon.” “Dolon was your gift to me,” Cade said, with a small shrug. “I didn’t ask you for him, that’s why I refuse to keep him here. He’s too big a liability. Why don’t you release him?” “He has a big mouth. I didn’t want him blurting the truth to the Morgan brothers about his race. That plan was a waste by the way. Takeda’s family still hasn’t discovered they are living in a town full of wolves. How dense can they be?” “Don’t talk about them that way,” Cade warned. “The progress we’ve made so far is because of Kiyo. I enticed him into coming here because his work is very promising. I’m meeting his son soon. We’ll see how the infusions are working on him. If he is strong, then—" “Ah, yes, I forgot about your son. How is Nisin? I haven’t seen him around the building. Where has he gone?” Cade looked up from the tablet he was reading to study the man sitting in his guest chair. There was a certain look to greed in a man’s eye. He had learned to seek it out in this business. Making money in research was not easy, especially when one didn’t have the talent for research like Kiyo Takeda. So, Cade learned how to cultivate men with that hungry need to gain power. Only then could he attain resources, and secrets that left him both powerful and on the cusp of greatness. And he so wanted the power that would come from the creation of an infusion made from werewolf’s blood. It would be strong enough to heal an ailing human, make a perfectly healthy human stronger, and in the case of the man sitting opposite him, crazy enough to take over a town’s leadership, strong enough to upgrade his blood. Just thinking about it made Cade want to buy up all of Biosense’s stock. All he needed was to keep Kiyo Takeda happy and in the dark of his plan. “Nisin is with his mother,” Cade said, smiling. “I’m not a total monster. The child needs a soft touch.” “And Kiyo, he hasn’t come into the mothership for weeks.” Cade raised his brow in question. “I asked around when I came in. The girls at reception like me.” “He’s busy. He needs more blood though. His research is going well. Like I told you, I get to see his son soon, to confirm his results. You on the other hand, should already have some idea of what we can do with the infusions. You’ve seen it on Dolon already. How goes your campaign to leadership?” “Driving a sane man crazy is not easy. Lechter is pushing for your company to leave. He is rubbing everyone in the council wrong. I've worked hard playing on his weakness, pushing his buttons. He thinks his wife was murdered by humans on her way back from a conference, so he hates them. It won’t be long until he implodes the council.” “Wasn’t she?” Cade asked, wondering about Lechter’s wife. He placed his tablet on his desk, and sat back to look at the frightening man. “No.” A swift smile. “She discovered one of my secrets. I had to get her out of the way.” “What secret is that?” “Will you tell me where your son really is?” Cade smiled. “Come on, that’s hardly fair.” “Then you don’t need to know my secret. I’ll stop by your lab, and donate more blood to the plan. Don’t forget, Cade. This town is mine. When I’m Alpha, you’ll answer to me. If you’re good to me, I’ll get you all the blood you could need for your research.” “Who could forget?” Cade murmured, when the man left his office. Letting out a soft sigh, Cade sent a new message to Kiyo Takeda. He wanted the treatment on Nisin expedited. The faster he could get his son out of this town the better. It was bad enough he had thrown his best friend to the wolves, quite literally. *** Milan cried himself to sleep and didn’t wake up until six in the evening. He woke up to find his room dark. The silence in the room soothing. His room felt too hot, so he kicked off the blankets. Ilaria must have come in and covered him. Feeling lazy to wake up, he hugged his pillow tight and closed his eyes. He wanted to see Rory. Thinking about his Papa’s anger, he realized the possibility of not seeing Rory again scared him. He didn’t even know where Rory lived. They had known each other for less than a month, and he had yet to see Rory’s house. He had never asked to visit. Granted it was hard for him to even get out of this house but, an address would be nice to know. Just in case. He was lost in thought when a soft knock on his window had him opening his eyes. Lifting his head from his pillow, he gasped when he saw the tall figure standing on the small balcony. Getting out of bed, he turned on the bedside table lamp, and smiled when he recognized Rory. “Let me in,” Rory said in greeting. Milan had not tested the glass windows since moving here. It was always so cold. Smiling, he pulled the lever to unlock the sliding glass. Rory helped him push it open. Milan shivered hard when a cold wave filled his bedroom. Rory climbed in and closed the window fast, making sure it was sealed tight. Milan didn’t give him time to say much before he moved into his arms, holding him tight. “I’m sorry about earlier,” Milan murmured into Rory’s chest. “Papa was mean to you. And I was afraid you’d hurt each other. That’s why I stopped you. I—“ “Shhh,” Rory rubbed his back, soothing him. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have lost my head that way.” Milan buried his face into Rory’s chest and chuckled remembering his father’s expression at the gate. “You lifted my father into the air, Rory.” Milan titled his head back to look at his boyfriend. “What kind of spinach are you eating, Popeye? I wanna know.” *** A/N: This chapter's heading is a lyric from Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional, find the link to the song below.
  4. lilansui

    Chapter 11

    Yes, every intention! I will finish it. Thanks for finding it!
  5. lilansui

    Chapter 18

    My two cents: The villain is coming, he's coming over, next chapter.
  6. lilansui

    Chapter 11

    This series has always been like a practice story for me. There is a chunk of continuation in my drive, that I haven't yet gotten the courage to post. Dan and Harry do talk about this in that chunk, I'll post it when I feel it's ready to share. Thank you for reading Dan and Jae's story. I really love this pair.
  7. lilansui

    Chapter 17

    Kiyo is quite a character to write. I love how everyone has this ideas about him already, it makes it exciting when writing ahead. He's straddling being a villain in a way. So much fun. This...hahaha...gosh I loved this. I wasn't even thinking it when naming this character. Still, I love it!! Rory is going to head this town soon, so yes you're right, there are a lot of people who want to project on him what they hope a perfect Alpha should look like. He has a lot to stand up to. Yep, the council is always watching....dadada...lol.
  8. lilansui

    Chapter 18

    Chapter 18 Let the die be cast Rory’s gaze stayed rooted to the ground, lest he betray his emotions. Anger brewed beneath the surface. Lechter moved much faster than he could. He still had three leaves on his bond with Milan, and he had no full understanding of Kiyo’s work. Still, three truths remained. Milan was his mate, he was human and the Goddess was never wrong. He directed his question to June. ‘May I ask the nature of the summons?’ ‘You are to provide evidence on the human family, Takeda,’ June said, her brown wolf emerging from behind the closest tree. ‘Why me?’ ‘This is not the first time you have entered this cottage. Secrets lie beneath that we have not uncovered. You have managed to enter behind the steel door. Your Beta Topher, and Third Matt, shall see to it that you do not forget your summons.’ Rory saw Matt and Topher appear fully dressed from the trees. Topher walked up to him, and took his car keys. ‘Sorry,’ Topher said to him on their private link. ‘We found out too late. We couldn’t stop it, or warn you in time.’ Rory nodded, following Matt who opened the passenger side of Rory’s car, pushing the seat forward. Rory slid into the cramped seat in the back as both Matt and Topher entered the car. “We’ll drive you home,” Topher said, keenly aware the wolves in the forest still watched and weren’t likely to disperse until the car moved. Rory knew then that his and Milan’s fate was sealed. Whatever happened from now, it would be a fight to get the closed-minded to accept what seemed the impossible. “Do me a favor, Matt,” Rory said, when Topher started the car, put it into gear and headed to the main road. “Ilaria’s car needs a tire change, and my car needs service. Can you call Simon for me?” “Sure,” Matt said, shifting to look at him. “What are you going to do about the Council? My father is hell bent on getting Milan’s family kicked out of here. Not just them, but Biosense too.” Rory leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and took in deep breaths. When he was calm enough to talk, he met Matt’s gaze. “I intend to keep Milan and Portento, Matt. If your father keeps this up, we will end in a fight to the death,” Rory stated. “I need you to know that.” Matt held his gaze for a moment, before he nodded. “I understand.” Rory let out a sigh, and settled back in his seat. “If this was about Kiyo Takeda, they would have breached the laboratory. So, I’ll play my role at the Council tonight,” Rory said. “Give the Council something to chew on. No one has discovered the black wolf that disappeared at the school weeks ago. I’m sure it ties into this mess. Meanwhile, I need you guys to do something for me.” “Name it,” Topher said, turning on to the road leading to the Pack House. “I’ve been checking the bloodline records in the attic. Came across the family name McRieve. I need you to find them,” Rory said. “Never heard of a McRieve. Do they live here in Portento?” Matt asked. “Their ancestors lived in Portento, records stop after the late eighteen hundreds. Could mean the core family stopped submitting births and deaths to the welfare branch,” Rory said. “Their last known residence is in the swamp lands.” “Shit,” Topher sighed. “There is a reason no one goes to the swamp lands, Rory.” “Yeah, I know.” The swamp lands were exactly that. Anyone living there would have to be insane, have a full closet of gumboots and raincoats. It was always muddy and mosquitos were the norm in the warmer months. Winter months were worse. The place turned into a frozen wonderland, temperatures so low, even he needed warm clothing to get by. “Dress warm,” Rory said as Topher brought the car to a stop at the front of the house. **** An hour later, Rory stood in the middle of a circle formed by the town’s Council. They were on the first floor of the pack house in a large room used for council meetings. Rory’s gaze moved over the nine familiar faces, apprehension gnawing at him. There was Linda dressed down for the night in jeans and a heavy black jacket. Beside her sat Lisbeth, the Mayor, and then Principal Rick who was studying Rory with a sharp gaze. Principal Rick flashed Rory a small confusing smile when he caught his gaze. Rory did not return it. His gaze moving to the packs’ main leadership. His father and Alpha, Connor, the pack’s Beta and Topher’s dad, Kutler Vadisi, and the man responsible for the turmoil in Rory’s life: the pack’s Third and Matt’s father, Hillam Lechter. The last three were representatives of the other souls in Portento. Rowen’s mother, the warlock, Sage Santos. There was Hunter Lincoln, who represented the shapeshifters in an unofficial capacity and Iris. Rory liked to think of Iris as a wood spirit, though she could be a faerie. He wasn’t sure, and she refused to clarify. Behind the circle, leaning on the wall was June Vadisi, the head of security and Maryanne, Topher’s mate, who now worked in the Welfare office helping Linda. Lisbeth stood, and Rory understood she was the spokesperson for the night. “Rory Morgan, you are hereby called to face this closed council. Do you promise to answer all questions with truth?” Lisbeth asked. “Yes.” “Do you understand that lying to this council will mean a visit to the river dungeon for a week?” The river dungeon was a dark, damp place used as a prison for any law breakers in Portento. It was not a pleasant experience. Rory did not want a weeklong stay in the river dungeon. “Yes, I understand,” Rory agreed. “Then, this inquiry shall start,” Lisbeth said, sitting down. “As we last left it, there are humans who have moved into Portento without our knowledge. We all promised to seek answers through our various networks and report back to the Council. Is this true, Rory?” “Yes, it is,” Rory said, meeting his father’s gaze. Connor looked at him but gave no sign of distress, Rory relaxed a bit. “Since then, we have managed to discover that the Takeda family moved in under a Biosense Contract,” Linda said. “Dr. Kiyo Takeda has a three-year contract with Biosense, his research is meant to find a cure for immunodeficiency diseases. A tall order if you ask me.” “His wife, Dr. Ilaria Takeda is in general medicine and has come in handy at the town’s emergency room. Though, as you have all worked together to ensure, she is now working on training hospital staff on the equipment provided by Biosense.” “So, what you are saying is that none of them have connection to anyone in the town?” Lisbeth asked. “It doesn’t seem so,” Linda offered. “What about the incident with Rory’s brother, Chris?” Lisbeth asked. “Who was the catalyst?” “Dolon Hansen,” Rory said. “My brother doesn’t take kindly to homophobic comments. Dolon knows this. He made a few remarks about me and incited a fight with Chris. They both ended up in hospital after a terrible crash.” “With that in mind,” Lisbeth said, her gaze narrowing, she met Rory’s gaze. “Do you know that Dolon Hansen is now missing?” Rory’s gaze widened. He remembered seeing Dolon’s parents talking to June Vadisi in her office. Dolon’s mother crying, and June closing her office door on him. He frowned, that was the afternoon before New Year’s Day. June had kept that piece of news well hidden. “No. I did not know that Dolon is missing,” Rory said. “Fair enough,” Lisbeth said, shifting in her seat. “Alpha Connor says that he gave you the job of getting close to the human family. Have you managed this task?” Rory held Lisbeth’s gaze. “Yes.” “Will you tell this Council of your progress?” “I have managed to make friends with Milan Takeda, the youngest son. He invites me to his house after school.” “What have you seen in their private space?” Lisbeth asked. Rory shrugged keeping his tone easy. “They are a normal family, doing normal family things. Dr. Ilaria works her schedule in the hospital, comes home to her children. She has a housekeeper, Marie, who takes care of the house. Milan goes to school like usual, and Ayu Takeda is at Ashland University.” “What of Kiyo Takeda?” Lisbeth asked. “What does he do?” “I have met Kiyo Takeda twice,” Rory answered. “Once, I found him at his house giving Milan medicine. The encounter was brief. He seemed protective of his son.” “When was the second time?” Lisbeth asked. “Today,” Rory said, looking at June. “Dr. Ilaria needed help because her car got a puncture. I gave her a ride to Takeda’s lab, and helped her carry food supplies into the laboratory for Kiyo.” “This is not the first time you went to that cottage in the woods,” Lisbeth stated. Rory saw June lift a brow at him and he realized that she might have been the one to push for this Council and not Lechter. The number of times she had asked him to talk to her…could this be about Dolon? Rory shifted his gaze to his father. Connor sat in his seat, still unmoved. Rory felt his nerves settle. “No, it was not the first time,” Rory answered Lisbeth. “Alpha asked me to get close to the humans to discover their purpose in our town. I needed to know what Dr. Takeda was doing in his lab.” “Why didn’t you report the cottage when you first discovered it?” Lisbeth asked. “I had no way into the cottage,” Rory answered. “It seemed like a house built by Biosense on their side of the forest.” “Isn’t that suspicious to you?” Lechter asked. “Biosense is taking liberties with the forest allocated to them. Why are they building outside their walls?” “I cannot answer that because I don’t know,” Rory shrugged. “I have never met any Biosense officials to ask.” “Lechter,” Lisbeth said. “That is my mandate, I will make a note to ask next time I have a meeting with Biosense management.” “Why aren’t you asking him what he saw in the lab?” Lechter demanded, impatience coloring his tone. “I was getting to that,” Lisbeth answered, frowning at Lechter. She shook her head and turned her attention to Rory. “Today, when June found you, you were coming out of the cottage. Having gone into the underground facility built under that cottage. Will you describe what you saw?” Rory bit his bottom lip, his gaze on June. Her purpose had to be to find Dolon Hansen. She probably thought Dolon was held captive in Dr. Takeda’s laboratory. He had to play this right, otherwise the Council would order the immediate evacuation of the Takeda Family. Taking in a deep breath, Rory faced the council. “The lab under the cottage is divided into two spaces. Dr. Ilaria has access to the front part of this space. I saw tables holding supplies from Biosense at the entrance, then the room turned into a living space with a computer desk and couches.” “We’re not asking about the furniture,” Lechter snarled. “You’re a wolf, Rory. Is this how you patrol in the security team?” “Details matter,” Kutler said, giving Lechter a short gaze. “Rory continue.” “Dr. Ilaria had me place food supplies on the coffee table in this living space. It seems to me as though Dr. Takeda might use the couches to sleep most days. There is a stone wall with a locked door, only accessed by Dr. Takeda. I believe that is where his main work is done.” “Did you sense wolf’s blood?” Lisbeth asked. “No.” Rory shook his head. “There was, however, a young boy of no more than sixteen or seventeen in the inner lab. I heard Dr. Takeda call him Nisin.” “One of us?” Lisbeth asked in shock. “No, he is human.” “How strange,” Linda said in surprise. “Not what we expected, June. If Dr. Takeda does not have Dolon, then who does?” “That does not exonerate him,” Lechter insisted. “Takeda could have sent Dolon into the main facility.” “June and I entered the main Biosense facility yesterday,” Lisbeth said, surprising Rory. The council was clearly deep in Dolon’s investigation. How had he not seen it? “June is the best tracker in Portento. She can sense our blood in minutes and we found no evidence of Dolon in the Biosense facility.” “You must be wrong,” Lechter said. “What are you suggesting?” Lisbeth demanded, getting up from her seat. “Who knows what your intentions are?” Lechter accused. “You have defended Biosense since the day they moved here. You’re the one that brought them here. Had them help build the hospital—” “I will not have you questioning my motives, Lechter,” Lisbeth roared. “Biosense might have footed the bill to build the hospital, but our people got that money. This council employed our people to build the hospital. Our people are working there, earning for their families. I did nothing wrong but boost their means of living.” “Enough!” Kutler roared. “Lechter, this is not a meeting to discuss Biosense’s existence. “It should be,” Lechter said, his words bitter. “Rory, thank you for your account this evening,” Kutler said, glancing at Connor. “I commend your dedication to your task. For now, keep an eye on the Takedas, but remember to stay objective. We might need to push them out to the next town for the sake of peace.” Rory swallowed hard. “I understand, Beta Kutler,” Rory murmured. “Before we conclude,” Iris spoke for the first time since the council meeting began. “May I ask Rory Morgan one question?” “Go ahead,” Kutler said. Iris got up from her chair and walked to the middle of the circle, her steps light on the wood floor. She loved wearing long flowy skirts and fitting bodices. Her long flaxen hair always flowing around her shoulders down to her waist. She walked around Rory, before she took his left hand, her thumb sliding over the bracelet on his wrist. “Alpha Rory, where did you get this?” Iris asked, her tone low, though the wolves in the room caught the question as clear as day. Rory met Iris’s gaze. “Grandma Asta gives me gifts when I visit her,” he answered with a smile. “She is peculiar. Who am I to refuse them?” Iris smiled as she studied him. Her thumb slid over bracelet one more time, then she dropped his hand and reached up to touch his temple. “You are a special one, Alpha Rory. As you have Grandma Asta’s trust, I shall try to help you,” she said, this time whispering into Rory’s ear so that no one could hear. Turning to the council, Iris walked around the circle and stopped before Lechter. “What would you do if one of you mated a human?” Iris asked. “That has never happened here,” Lechter said, with a sneer. “The Goddess would not dare cause such a misfortune.” “Your bias is dangerous,” Iris said. “Who are you to talk for the Goddess? Alpha Connor, I remember there was such a paring a few decades ago.” “No one can stop a mating pair, so they left Portento as they should,” Lechter answered. Iris frowned, her gaze remaining on Lechter. “Your heart is very dark, Hillam Lechter. The bitterness inside you will poison Portento’s peaceful waters.” Lechter growled at Iris, but she did not flinch away, instead she smiled and walked back to her seat. She stopped and turned to face Connor as though just remembering a thought. “Actually, there was one such extraordinary mating,” Iris said. “In the eighteen hundreds it was. The connection of a werewolf and a pure human. The goddess’s promise they called it.” “That’s a myth,” Linda scoffed, shaking her head, her gaze on Iris skeptical. “I’ve heard that myth too,” Hunter said. “It’s whispered among the ancient ones by my people.” “That myth brought me here,” Sage chimed in, leaning forward in her seat. “In our records it is written as evidence of the goddess’s promise to protect Portento. I doubt I would have found Portento without it.” “We call it The Morgan Lore,” Connor said, with a smile. Lechter turned on Connor, eyes wide. “You don’t believe that old story, do you?” “I’m a Morgan,” Connor chuckled. “Which one of us hasn’t heard that story from our grandparents, Lechter? Lighten up.” “You can’t use that as an excuse to let humans into the town,” Lechter said. “They are dangerous creatures, Connor. You know that better than I do.” “No one is letting humans in, yet,” Connor said. “Why don’t we conclude this council meeting first?” Lechter gave Connor an unreadable gaze before he turned his attention on Rory. “June Vadisi, Maryanne, please join Rory in the circle,” Lechter said. June and Maryanne came to stand on each side of Rory. “June, your search for Dolon must continue. We’re counting on you to find the culprit before more of us start missing.” “There is one connection we haven’t explored,” June said then, her gaze going to Principal Rick. “The high school and the strange wolf that wanted to attack Jet, Rory and Chris.” Rick frowned. “Your teams have checked every inch of the building,” Rick said. “You have found no clues.” “It’s unsettling, isn’t it?” June pointed out. “How could we have a lone wolf within our borders disappear at the school? It doesn’t make sense.” “You’re welcome to bring down the walls and repaint them if you want,” Rick said, with a small smile. “As long as you don’t interfere with the school’s schedule.” “Thank you for your permission,” June answered, her voice laced with annoyance. “Rory,” Kutler said. “Can you discover who Nisin is? He might be human, but being kept prisoner in a lab is not a good thing.” “It won’t be easy.” “You’re soon to be Alpha of this pack,” Connor said. “Finding out who Nisin is should be an easy task.” Rory nodded, accepting the order without further comment. “Maryanne,” Kutler said, turning to Topher’s mate. “Your job is to make sure the Hansen Family keeps calm. It would be unfortunate if Dolon’s status became public without answers. The Takeda family might suffer the worst under the town’s speculation.” “I will take care of it,” Maryanne said. “Alright, this meeting now comes to an end,” Connor said. “Matters discussed here shall remain closed to the rest. Anyone breaking these rules shall visit the river dungeon.” Rory let out a relieved sigh as the council meeting ended, and the members hurried out of the hall. He had been afraid the Takeda Family would come into focus. He couldn’t handle an order to evacuate them right now. His bond with Milan was at a delicate point. With this investigation into Nisin, he still had a little time left, he thought. “Rory.” June touched his left arm pulling him out of his thoughts. “I’m sorry for picking you up the way we did. You have to understand how serious it is to have Dolon missing.” “I know,” Rory squeezed her fingers on his arm. “Don’t think on it.” “The security team will step up surveillance at the Takeda lab. If you need help, let me know,” June said. “I hope you can share information now.” Rory smiled at her, as he realized that she thought the reason he had not confided in her was because of Connor’s orders. It was better this way, he decided. “Well, it’s late, go get some rest,” June urged him, then hurried to Kutler’s side as they left the hall together. “You’re hiding something,” Maryanne said on his right. “Topher too.” Rory turned to her, touching her ponytail. “What could I hide from you, Maryanne? I’ve just revealed everything before the council.” “I know you, Morgan,” Maryanne said, her gaze taking him in, after a moment she shrugged. “Fine, just know, whatever it is that’s bothering you, I’m on your side.” Rory chuckled, and watched her head out of the hall, stretching her arms above her head. When the room was empty, Rory moved to take a seat, hoping to ease the tension that had built up through the evening. He jumped in surprise when he saw Iris sitting in her chair. “What are you still doing here?” Rory demanded, dropping into a chair with a sigh. “Getting to know Grandma Asta’s friend,” Iris said. “She has gifted you something precious. You must be very worthy, Rory Morgan. Have you visited her of late? You owe her a basket of fruits.” “I do,” Rory nodded, not asking how she would know that. “Why don’t you take her a basket tomorrow?” Iris suggested. Rory frowned. “I promised someone else tomorrow—” “Take that someone along,” Iris said, standing up. “Might even lose a leaf faster because of it.” Rory touched the bracelet on his wrist in surprise. “Are you sure?” Iris smiled and waved goodbye before she left the hall in fast silent steps, leaving Rory to study the leaves on his bracelet. *** You make me brave Milan adjusted the white mask over his mouth, making sure the ties behind his ear didn't chafe. His white wool hat folded over his ears to protect them from cold. He zipped up the heavy white jacket he wore, and stared at his reflection in the mirror. Only his eyes and forehead were visible. What a way to go on a date, he frowned. Oh well, this was better than nothing. If he didn’t wear warm clothing, Ayu and Marie would not be letting him step outside, and his date with Rory would be cancelled. He left the closet and went to his desk where a pair of white gloves rested on the edge. He took them and wore them fast. He checked the time on his phone, his nerves growing when he saw it was nine-thirty already. Taking his phone, he pushed it into his pocket and hurried out of his bedroom. He went downstairs, heading to the kitchen to find Marie and Ayu. “How do I look?” Milan asked, pulling his mask down around his neck. “Should I change? I can’t find anything else that looks this good.” “Milan, stop freaking out,” Ayu teased, from his position at the island table. He was typing fast on his laptop, a pen stuck behind his left ear. “Who is freaking out?” Milan asked, going around the table to stand before Marie. “Marie, you tell me. Polpetto is being unhelpful.” Marie chuckled, and stopped wiping dishes to look at him. “You look great, Milan. Very handsome,” Marie said. “Don’t mind your big brother. He is too busy with his work.” Milan unzipped his jacket to reveal the grey cashmere sweater he wore underneath. “I wish I could go without the jacket.” “Then you wouldn’t be going anywhere.” Ayu was quick to point out. “Promise you won’t take it off, and keep it zipped up.” Milan mumbled under his breath about the non-merits of having overprotective big brothers. “What did you say?” Ayu demanded, his typing pausing. “Nothing,” Milan said. “Why don’t you sit down, Milan,” Marie suggested. “You’re so nervous, I’m afraid we’re going to be picking you up from the floor. What time is Rory supposed to come here?” “At ten,” Milan said, sliding into the closest chair at the table. “You have twenty-five minutes left,” Marie noted, pointing at the time on the microwave clock. “Have tea while you wait.” “No way.” Milan braced his elbows on the table and took in a deep breath. “I don’t know what we’re doing and it would be weird to ask to go to the toilet two minutes in to the ride.” “That’s good thinking,” Marie agreed. “It’s weird thinking,” Ayu said. “You need your liquids, Milan.” Milan gave Ayu a sideways glance, ignoring that comment. “I’m not having tea before my date with Rory.” “Date,” Ayu pushed his laptop to the side, his gaze narrowed on Milan. “Why are you using that word? Mamma said it was a simple ride. Why are you calling it a date?” “Why can’t I?” Milan asked. “Because a date implies more than your current friendship status,” Ayu said. Milan glanced at his brother, then shrugged, choosing not to respond to that. He felt protective of his feelings for Rory. He could not stop thinking about kissing Rory Morgan. How-how warm it made him feel all over, closing his eyes, he filled his head with the memory of Rory holding him. “Milan?” He opened his eyes fast, clearing his throat as he looked to his brother. “Are you alright?” Ayu asked. “I’m great.” “You—” The doorbell rang, and Milan jumped off his stool. “Rory is here. I’ll go let him in.” “I need to check his car,” Ayu called out. "Mamma's orders." Milan walked fast to the front door, opening it, a stunning thrill went through him when he saw Rory. He took in a deep breath at the sight of him. “Hi,” Rory said. Milan gripped the door tight to stop himself from jumping at Rory. “Hi.” “You look amazing.” Rory took a step forward and kissed him on his forehead. “I missed you.” Milan let go of the door, ready to step into Rory’s arms, only to have Ayu come up behind him holding a book bag. “What’s up, Rory. Need to check your ride,” Ayu said, moving Milan to the side. Rory winked at Milan when Ayu led the way to the huge white pickup Rory was using. Milan followed behind, wondering where Rory’s usual car had gone. “This yours?” Ayu asked, opening the passenger door and climbing up inside. “Sort of,” Rory said, holding on to the passenger door, watching Ayu check the vents. “I'm using it for the day. I just came from the garage. The vents took longer to clean on this one.” Milan smiled when Rory took his right hand and pulled him closer to his side. “So?” Rory asked, as Ayu finished checking the vents. “Pretty clean, I think you got every speck,” Ayu teased as he jumped out of the car, leaving the book bag on the passenger side floor . “Where are you headed?” “Around town, just ridin’,” Rory said. “Cool, the parentals will be home soon. If you know you’ll be late, call or text Mamma. Otherwise, she’ll call the sheriff on you,” Ayu said, moving to help Milan climb up the cab to the passenger seat. “Don’t let him remove his mask outside,” Ayu added, helping Milan snap his seat belt on. “Got it,” Rory said, closing the door when Milan shook his head at Ayu’s multiple instructions. “I’ll take care of him, Ayu.” “You better,” Ayu said, waving at Milan before he headed back to the house. Rory hurried around the front of the pickup, and opened the driver’s door. He was more graceful with his climb into the truck. Milan rubbed his hands together, excited for their ride. He reached up to pull his mask down to his neck and shifted to face Rory. “I’m sorry—” Rory cupped his cheeks and kissed him. Milan forgot what he was apologizing for, eyes closing as he leaned into the kiss, savoring Rory’s taste. He moaned in protest when Rory ended it, brushing his lips on Milan’s cheek, his nose, and then his forehead. “I don’t how I’m making it without seeing you,” Rory said on a sigh. Milan smiled, and reached up to rub the dark stubble on Rory’s jaw. “I missed you too,” Milan said. “I’m sorry about my brother.” “I can take it.” “Really?” “He’s worried for you. I understand him,” Rory said, kissing him one last time, before he started the car. “You ready?” Milan placed his bag in the backseat, and nodded. “Ready, where are we going?” “There is this farm in the uplands of Portento,” Rory said, driving out of the Takeda compound. “It will take us about thirty minutes to get there. It’s called the Steel Farm, they do pretty amazing things there. They have animals we can check out.” Milan smiled. “I’ve never really been on a farm. Can they grow stuff in this cold weather?” “They use greenhouses in the cold months,” Rory said. “During the summer they grow seasonal vegetables, and have a farmer’s market in town. I think your mom would be interested in that.” “Can she haggle for price?” Milan asked. “I’m sure,” Rory chuckled. “Why?” “She loves haggling. It’s killing her having to shop in the grocery store with set prices,” Milan said. “There is this flea market in Turin behind a place called Porta Palazzo. Mamma liked to go there when she was free. Once Ayu and I took her and she wanted to buy blueberries. What we didn’t know was that the price the farmer quoted was for five basket. So, they started bargaining, the more he reduced, the more he expected her to buy. At the end, Mamma had bought thirty baskets of blueberries.” “Wow,” Rory shook his head. “How big were these baskets?” “A good size, mm, maybe medium-sized basket. You can imagine the amount of blueberries that was. We ate blueberry pies, tarts, made jam, almost making Marie put them in soup.” “Is there blueberry soup?” Rory asked with a chuckle. “We almost found out,” Milan said. “Luckily, Ayu was popular in school. He invited everyone to our house for a party and we gave the blueberries away as party favors. That year, we became the blueberry house. Everyone in the neighborhood expected to see blueberries when they came to visit Mamma.” Rory laughed. “I’m sure Ilaria didn’t want to see blueberries after that,” Rory said. “No.” Milan shook his head. They fell silent for a moment, then Milan asked, “What was your mom like?” Rory’s grip tightened on the steering wheel, but he didn’t shy away from the question. “She was…” Rory trailed off and Milan bit his lip, wondering if he should not have asked. “She loved to laugh and dance,” Rory said, before Milan could say anything. “She knew everything there was to know about this town. I loved listening to her tell stories of the past. She loved children. Our house had kids running around, cause she never turned down requests to babysit. When I was small I thought they were all my brothers and sisters.” “That’s cute. What kind of stories did she tell?” Milan asked, charmed by the smile on Rory’s lips. “Scary ones, mystical ones, sometimes there was an occasional romantic story,” Rory chuckled. “I could never tell which ones to believe.” “Do you remember any?” “Not really,” Rory said, shaking his head. “I bet you do.” Rory glanced at him for a second, before he returned his attention to the road. “Okay, but why don’t I tell you one much later, when we’re not in a car driving.” “Why?” “You might get scared and want to pee yourself,” Rory teased. “I don’t get scared easy,” Milan said, meaning that. “Really?” “Yep. Really.” “Okay,” Rory slowed down and looked at him. “I’ll test that out. What if I told you there are wolves living in Portento? What would you do?” “Wild wolves?” Milan asked, remembering the white wolf he had seen in his backyard weeks ago. “Do they eat people?” “No, they don’t eat people.” “Then, why should I freak out about that?” Milan asked. “There are places in Africa with wild monkeys and elephants living in the forest. Haven’t you watched NatGeo?” Rory chuckled, and increased his speed, his shoulders relaxing. “So, you don’t hate wolves?” “I think they’re kind of cute. I told you I saw a white one in my backyard once. As frightening as it was to look at face to face, it made me want to have a dog.” “A dog?” Rory frowned. “Seeing a wolf made you want a dog?” “Yeah,” Milan nodded. “You know to cuddle with when it’s cold. Dogs are loyal, and he’ll play with me when I’m bored. Unlike a wolf, which might chew on me in my sleep.” Rory laughed then. “What?” Milan asked, loving the sound of Rory’s laugh. “Wolves can be loyal too.” “Yeah, and how would you know?” Milan asked. Rory shrugged. “I have inside knowledge.” “Inside knowledge,” Milan scoffed. “You have clearly been watching more NatGeo than you’re letting on. You should get a dog.” “Do you like dogs that much?” “I like the idea of them,” Milan said. “I can’t keep one though. Too many variables to handle. I would be afraid my lungs would give out on me.” Rory’s grip on the steering wheel tightened again. They drove in silence for a while, before Rory spoke again. “Milan, you said your condition is manageable. How come your dad is doing research to find a cure?” Milan straightened in his chair, shifting his gaze to the road. He hated discussing his condition because it was a weakness he could not hide. Still, Rory sounded interested, in a supportive way, unlike any of his other past friends. He took in a deep breath and decided to trust. “It wasn’t easy for him to see me get sick,” Milan said, memories from his past flooding him. “He didn’t always work nonstop. When my brother and I were kids, we spent a lot of time together. Going out, exploring the cities we lived in: swimming, football, going to games. Papa, Ayu and me loved going to watch Chelsea and Real Madrid games.” “Chelsea?” “Ah, I forgot you call it soccer here,” Milan grinned. “Chelsea and Real Madrid are soccer teams. We followed them religiously.” “I’m an NFL guy,” Rory said. “I bet,” Milan said. “Well, when I started getting sick a lot, it turned out that these places we went to weren’t really that great for my health. I couldn’t eat hot dogs at games, or swim in public pools, or lakes and rivers. Couldn’t play football, cause if I fall in the field and get all dirty…who knew what type of germs will find me. When I was fully diagnosed, our dates ended.” Rory frowned. “He could have changed the venue of your outings.” “He’s a scientist,” Milan defended. “He doesn’t like puzzles he can’t solve. I’ve turned into a big, complex puzzle to him, and he is hoping to solve me.” “Milan.” “Can we change the subject?” Milan asked, suddenly tired of thinking about his dad. This was supposed to be a nice day out with Rory. He didn’t want to spoil it with his complicated issues. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” “Then, we won’t,” Rory said, slowing the truck down, and turning on the left indicator. He turned left on to a road with a sign reading Steel Farm. “Are we here already?” Milan asked, leaning forward to look at the open land down the road. It was white with melting snow, the trees in the farm standing naked. “Looks empty.” “It won’t in the summer,” Rory promised. “Oh, wow,” Milan pointed at white domes in the distance. “Are those the green houses?” “Yeah,” Rory said, coming up on a second gate. “Pull up your mask for me, Milan.” Milan did as he asked, pulling his mask up over his nose. Once Rory was sure it was in place, he lowered his window and leaned out. Milan saw him wave at a security camera mounted on a post outside the black metal gate. The gate opened on silent hinges and Rory closed his window, smiling at Milan. “I guess everyone knows you in this town,” Milan said. “It’s hard not to have them know me,” Rory said, driving up the neat driveway. After a right turn, Milan gripped the dashboard in excitement. “Gosh, look at that farmhouse,” Milan gaped. He could only describe the two-story house as authentic American-made: the wood stained to perfection, the gabled roof, the wraparound porch. He imagined the house would have an open-floor plan inside, and a back door that would be kept open in the summer months as work in the farm increased. It looked born into place, the trees surrounding the house blended with it. Architects dreamed of this for their creations The tree branches were naked now, but in the spring, gosh, in the spring the leaves would make music for anyone sitting on the porch. “Do you like it?” Rory asked. “I love it. Can we go in?” “In a minute,” Rory said Milan turned to look at him, pulling his mask down to ask. “What are we waiting for?” “This,” Rory leaned in and kissed him. Milan forgot the farmhouse and wrapped his arms around Rory’s shoulders with a happy moan. *** “Aren’t the horses cold out there?” Milan asked Jet, an hour later. The Steel Farm was owned by Jet’s parents. They provided food to the town, and what they couldn’t offer came from the other large farms in the same area. Jet was home alone today as his parents were at the pack house meeting Rory’s dad. Jet had offered to give them a tour of the farm while the basket of fruit Rory wanted for Grandma Asta was fixed up . Well, Jet was giving Milan a tour as Rory was familiar with the Steel Farm. “Horses can with stand very low temps,” Jet said, his expression animated. He was enjoying talking to Milan. “We do have a barn for them, but it’s nice for them to walk outside during the day. If the temperatures drop, we’ll take them back inside.” “Stuff I didn’t know,” Milan grinned at Jet. The greenhouse they were exploring was used to grow different types of herbs. Rory followed Jet and Milan through the long aisles of leafy herbs growing in plastic troughs. “You know, you can take some herbs home with you,” Jet offered when they got to the exit. “We have a few ready, enough to share. You said your family is always cooking.” “Yeah, Marie would love fresh herbs,” Milan agreed. “Cool, we’ll add what’s ready to the basket Rory is getting.” “What basket?” Milan asked, turning to look at Rory with a frown. “You’ll see,” Rory promised, nerves racing through him at the thought of Milan meeting Grandma Asta. Milan was having fun getting to know Jet. It was nice seeing him laugh, it was always great to hear Milan laugh. “Do you want to meet the horses?” Jet asked, when they got out of the greenhouse. “Not today,” Rory intervened, not missing Milan’s longing gaze. “Milan, we should get going.” “Already?” Milan complained, looking at the horses. “You didn’t let me see the chicken. You didn’t let me pet the rabbits, which is downright mean. Those things are too cute not to pet. Now with the horses…I might as well have stayed home.” “Milan.” “Rory,” Milan complained, “I won’t die from meeting one horse. Come on, Jet.” Milan grabbed Jet’s hand and started walking to the horses, not giving Rory time to protest. “Milan!” “You better come along. I might decide to ride it,” Milan threatened, laughing with Jet who was now leading Milan to the horses with a wide smile. Rory could not bring himself to stop them, so he followed Milan at a slower pace. When he reached them, Jet had called a beautiful brown to the fence, and was feeding it a carrot from his pocket. “I want to try,” Milan said, holding out his hand for a carrot. “Are you sure?” Jet asked, glancing at Rory with a raised brow. ‘Let him try,’ Rory sent to Jet on their link. Jet shrugged and handed Milan a half piece of carrot. Milan grinned, taking a short breath as he held out his hand to the brown. He waited with tense shoulders, gripping the wood on the fence with his left hand. When the brown took the carrot, Milan smiled. “It’s ticklish, I can feel it through the gloves. And warm, his breath is so warm.” Rory fell a little more in love, placing his arm around Milan, he pulled his mate away from Jet's horse. Afraid Milan would take off his gloves and start petting the horse. “We should go now,” Rory whispered into Milan’s ear. “We have a second stop.” “Aww…this was fun though,” Milan sighed, looking at Jet. “I love your place, Jet. Would it be okay if I came again?” Jet smiled. “You’re welcome to visit anytime.” “Maybe, next time I come, I’ll be able to ride your horses.” Milan was vibrating with excitement at the prospect. Rory turned Milan toward the farmhouse, making him chuckle. “You’re afraid I’ll climb that horse, aren’t you?” Milan asked, as they all started for the farmhouse. “How did you know?” Rory asked. Milan laughed. “You don’t have to be so serious about everything.” “I think I now understand your mom’s paranoia with your health,” Rory sighed. Milan sighed and tried to shrug off Rory’s arm from his shoulder. It didn’t work. Rory kept holding on, because he liked feeling Milan’s warmth close as they walked side by side. Jet opened the back door to the main house, pausing to stomp off dirt on the mat at the entrance. Milan did the same, and stopped to wait for Rory to go in. The scent of chocolate chip cookies with macadamia nuts filled their senses, making Rory’s mouth water and Milan groan. “Do you want some cookies?” Jet asked, as they entered the warm kitchen. Jet’s aunt was busy making lunch, and clearly doing her best to whet everyone’s appetite. “Can we take them to go?” Rory asked, glancing at a forlorn Milan. His poor mate couldn’t eat food outside of his home. “I want to get that basket to Grandma Asta.” “Oh sure,” Jet said, going to get a brown bag from a drawer. He packed ten cookies, thanking his aunt for baking. “The basket of fruit is already in your car. I’m so glad you visited us today, A—Rory. You made my day.” Rory took the bag of cookies, nodded to Jet’s aunt and pushed Milan out the kitchen, heading down the corridor to the front door. Once they were outside, Jet followed them to Rory’s truck. “Milan, it was nice to meet you,” Jet said, when Rory opened the passenger door for Milan. “It was nice to meet you too,” Milan said, turning to Jet. “We’re in the same grade, aren’t we? I’ve never seen you at our school.” “I’m enrolled at the Greenridge Academy,” Jet said. “Oh,” Milan’s voice filled with disappointment. “It would have been nice to see you at lunch. I guess we can exchange numbers.” “Yeah,” Jet looked to Rory. ‘I don’t have a phone.’ ‘Get one,’ Rory countered. Jet blinked and smiled at Milan. “I’ll get your number from Rory then.” “Cool,” Milan nodded at Jet and turned to enter the truck. ‘He is really nice for a human,’ Jet said to Rory, when Milan was settled in the passenger seat. ‘You don’t mind if he’s my friend, right?’ ‘I don’t mind at all.’ Rory assured Jet, patting his shoulder. ‘Awesome. I'll go get a cellphone today.’ Jet grinned and waved at Milan. “See you later, Rory.” “Thanks, Jet.” Rory went around the front of the car and got in the driver’s side. Turning on the car, he made sure Milan wore his seat belt before he honked at Jet and drove out of the driveway. “Who is Grandma Asta?” Milan asked. “The sweetest woman you’ll ever meet,” Rory said. “You had fun, right?” “Yeah, it was nice wandering through the farm,” Milan said. “I mean, first-date-was-at-a-farm is a great story to tell.” “You think it’s weird.” Rory sneaked a glance at Milan. “It’s unique,” Milan said. “I love unique, that last part was no fun though. I also love the scent of fresh cookies, but I couldn’t have one, sigh.” “Sorry about the cookies,” Rory said. “They smell so good, I thought you would like to bring them home for Ayu and Marie.” “Hm, I still wish I could eat them,” Milan confessed. “The hardest part of my life. Try walking past a pizzeria. I always feel like I’m going to go crazy.” “Why can’t you eat food from outside again?” Rory asked, driving faster than he had earlier. He was eager to get to Grandma Asta’s house, get the anxiety over with. “No offense to all the great chefs out there, but every time I eat out, I get a stomach flu, which lasts days. It’s not pleasant,” Milan sighed. “Okay, no cookies for you then.” Milan fell silent, watching the scenery, and Rory let him be for a while. Milan perked up when they turned into the forest on a non-existent road. Rory tried to be gentle with his driving, but in the end, Milan needed to hold on tight as they drove through the forest. “Why does your Grandma Asta live in the forest?” Milan asked, when Rory stopped the truck, knowing they couldn’t make it farther than this. “She likes the wild.” Milan looked at him, skeptical. Rory shrugged sure there was no logical way to explain Grandma Asta without shocking Milan. He opened his door and got out. Going round to the passenger side, he opened Milan’s door and helped him out of the truck. Rory took the basket full of assorted fruits from the Steel Farm, locking the truck, he pocketed the keys and turned to a curious Milan. “Ready?” “Ready,” Milan said, giving the forest a critical glance. “We’re not going to meet the wolves you said lived here, are we?” Rory took Milan’s left hand, and led him around a tree heading to Grandma Asta’s cottage. “You have me,” Rory said. “Even if we meet them, they won’t touch you.” “Why, because you’re like the beast master?” Milan teased. “Who is the beast master?” Rory asked. “It’s a TV show actually. Mamma used to watch it when we were kids. He was this guy who lived in the forest and would sort of talk to wild animals. He wore this loin cloth and boots. I think Mamma liked watching him more than the show. ” Rory laughed. “You are something else,” Rory mused. “What?” Milan bit his lip. “He was kinda…hot. All those muscles on display and you know the assets hidden behind a little loin cloth and all.” “Are you talking about another man in front of me?” Rory asked, stopping to look at Milan. Milan shrugged. “I thought we were discussing how you and the beast master are the same?” “Milan.” “Rory,” Milan grinned, taking a step ahead, in the wrong direction. Rory tightened his hold on Milan’s hand. “This way,” he said, correcting Milan’s direction with a tug on his hand. “Milan, I want to be your man. Will you be mine?” Milan squeezed his hand tight, coming to a stop, forcing Rory to do the same. “Are you sure?” Milan asked, when Rory turned to him. Milan stared at him with wide, vulnerable eyes, his insecurities on the surface. Rory closed the distance between them and kissed him, a careful gentle kiss that sent warmth through both of them. He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to Milan’s. “Yes, I’m sure.” Milan reached up and cupped his jaw with his free hand. His gloves soft and cool against Rory’s cheek. “Then, I’m yours,” Milan murmured, sending a wave of happiness sailing through Rory. In that moment, Rory wished they were somewhere warmer, some place he could pull Milan into his arms and show him just how happy he was. He pressed a kiss on Milan’s forehead, and squeezed Milan’s hand, promising himself, later. The rest of their walk was done fast with Milan teasing him about being the beast master. When they got to Grandma Asta’s house, Milan couldn’t believe anyone would choose to live so far from the road. “Are you sure she’s safe living alone like this?” Milan asked, when Rory knocked on the door. “What if she gets attacked by those wild wolves?” “Then, I’ll sing them to sleep,” Asta said, opening the door with drama, making Milan jump in surprise. Rory smiled when Milan held on to his arm, squeezing tight. He tried to imagine what it must be like to meet Asta for the first time. Her eccentric nature did make her look out of this world. Her silver grey hair in long curls around her shoulders. Her green eyes bright, despite her age. She was always in long dresses, today's was white with a rainbow border at the bottom, an old red sweater over her shoulders. “Are you coming in?” Asta asked, her gaze on Milan, the same way Milan was looking at her. “You’ve brought me a gift.” Rory nodded, and started into the house, forcing Asta out of the way. He held Milan’s hand tight, leading him into the small living room. There was no use taking the fruits to the kitchen. Asta would only scold him, so he placed them on a free stool. “Sit,” Rory urged Milan into an armchair that had a small part of the perpetual red scarf on its arm. Milan sat, though he didn’t let go of Rory’s hand, so Rory perched on the chair's arm. Meanwhile, Asta came into the living room, after closing the front door. She did not wait for Rory’s introduction, instead reaching for Milan’s right hand. Rory watched in shock as she pulled off Milan’s glove faster than possible. She fitted her hand to Milan’s before he could react. Asta closed her eyes, her fingers digging into Milan's pale skin. Rory saw black lines race up Milan’s hand. His mate screamed, making Rory reach for Asta’s hand intent on pushing her away. Asta opened her eyes and let go of Milan’s hand, watching Milan fall back in the chair, passed out cold. “What did you do?” Rory demanded, reaching for Milan. “Milan? Baby, answer me.” “He’s fine.” “He’s clearly not fine,” Rory snapped, shaking Milan, hoping to wake him up. Milan’s eyes remained closed, sending panic racing through Rory. “Grandma Asta— “He’ll wake up in a few minutes,” Asta said, sitting on the coffee table. “Before you carry him out of here in panic, tell me, why does he have poisonous wolf’s blood inside him?” ***
  9. lilansui

    Chapter 16

    Isn't that the best! Hmmmm.... .....Milan, better keep that under wraps for now..meanwhile the Council is on Rory's back..so, he might just...(coughs) 'til next time.
  10. lilansui

    Chapter 17

    Kiyo Takeda, are you the Villain? Rory held Milan’s hand on their way down the stairs. Milan vibrating with infectious excitement. Rory couldn’t help mirroring his smile. His heart reveled in this unexpected freedom to express a small percentage of what he felt for Milan. When they got to the ground floor, Milan wrapped his arm around Rory’s waist. “You’ll call me, right?” Milan asked. “You don’t use your phone very much, do you?” Living in a town of wolves almost made cellphones obsolete. He could connect to any wolf in the territory. With that kind of freedom sending texts and calling was too much work. He had gotten the phone to use with Milan. “I’ll call you,” he promised now. “What are you going to do again?” “Chores at home,” Rory said. “My dad is very strict about getting them done.” “Right,” Milan stopped in the living room. “He sounds tough.” Rory brushed dark hair out of Milan’s eyes with his fingers. “He’s a good guy. You’ll like him, Milan.” Milan hugged him, pressing his face into Rory’s chest. Rory held him, marveling at the simple pleasure of hugging Milan. His heart marked every touch, every caress, every hug and kiss. He wondered if it would always be like this. ‘I’ve added cut fruits in a bowl,’ Rory heard Marie say in the kitchen. She was talking to Ilaria. ‘You can keep them in the fridge for him to eat later. As for the bananas, you can have them with him now. Bring any empty bowls home. I’ll wash them.” ‘Yes, Mom,’ Ilaria answered with a laugh. ‘How do I look?’ ‘Like you’re ready to take my advice,’ Marie said, a smile in her voice. Rory’s arms tightened around Milan, he pressed a kiss on top of Milan’s head before stepping back. He brushed his lips against Milan’s and smiled when Milan tried to prolong the kiss. They both heard Ilaria coming, and Milan stepped back with a disappointed sigh. “Mamma,” Milan said, when she appeared from the hallway to the kitchen. “You’re home.” “Come give me a kiss,” Ilaria said, waving Milan over. Milan hurried to her side, hugging her tight, as she kissed his cheeks. She pressed her palm on Milan’s forehead, and Rory realized she was checking Milan’s temperature. “How was your day?” Ilaria asked Milan. “Very good,” Milan said, stepping away from his mother, and glancing at Rory. “I bet,” Ilaria followed her son’s gaze to Rory. “Rory, it is nice to see you again. Thank you for staying with Milan.” Rory nodded, not sure how to answer her. Ilaria was a very protective mamma bear. His plan right now included getting Milan out of this house and into his newly-minted suite at the pack house to live with him for life. She was likely to rip him apart with her hands for this plan. It was better to be nice to her until he could break that piece of news. “Are you going out?” Milan asked, his gaze taking in his mother. Ilaria looked beautiful in a red lace dress that hugged her figure to perfection, stopping an inch above her knees. She was gorgeous. Looking at her, it was hard to believe she was the mother of two. Her long hair fell down her back in heavy dark curls. She had put on makeup this evening. “Is it too much?” Ilaria asked, turning so that Milan could have a good look. “It’s enough,” Milan said, smiling. “Mamma, you look so beautiful. Is there an occasion I don’t know about?” Marie came up from the kitchen carrying a large box filled with supplies. Rory moved to take it from her before Ilaria could. “I’m going to remind your father what his wife looks like,” Ilaria said with a wink at her son. Milan laughed, the sound of it making Rory smile. “Let me check your hair to see if there are any grey hairs,” Milan teased, stepping up to his mother, and hugging her tight. He stroked his fingers through her long hair, once, then twice. “How is it?” Ilaria asked, wrapping her arms around his slender frame. “No grey hair for you,” Milan murmured, still holding his mother. “He’ll be a fool not to notice.” Ilaria chuckled and rubbed Milan’s back. “Alright, don’t stay up too late. If you feel unwell, buzz me. Don’t wait until you can’t stand the pain. Promise me, Cucciolo.” “I will call you, te lo prometto,” Milan replied, as he let go of his mother. “Marie,” Ilaria prompted. “I’ll check on him,” Marie promised as well. “Okay,” Ilaria took in a breath. “I’ll go now. Be good, Milan.” She turned to Rory, and an elegant brow rose up when she saw him holding on to the box of supplies Marie had prepared. “I’ll walk you out,” Rory said, heading to the front door. “See you, Milan.” Marie chuckled and reached for Milan, as Ilaria stood transfixed. “Hurry, Mamma,” Milan urged. “Let Rory help you.” Rory grinned as he opened the glass doors and went into the sanitary room to wear his boots. He was fast about it, careful to get out into the cool evening first. Ilaria’s black Audi was parked close to the front door. His car a few feet away. Rory glanced back at the front door, to make sure Ilaria had not come out yet. He walked to the back of the car, and crouched down where no one could see him. With his right hand, he gripped the right back tire, allowing his hands to change, the wolf right on the surface, nails curving into deadly weapons. He pierced two nails into the tire, wincing as air hissed out. His hand returned back to normal and he straightened up just as the front door opened. Ilaria came out wearing red heels to match her dress. A black coat covering her dress to fight the cold. She was adjusting a scarf around her neck as she made her way to her car. She unlocked the car, and Rory opened the trunk to place the carton of supplies in the neat space. “Rory,” Ilaria said, coming to stand next to him. “Do you like my Milan?” Rory adjusted the bin full of medical supplies already in the trunk to make sure it stayed steady. “Yes.” “He is not your average teenager,” Ilaria said, touching the bin of medical supplies. “One who dares like him must know that he carries a lot more on his shoulders. His life is fragile.” Rory turned to face Ilaria. “He told me about his condition,” Rory said, not missing Ilaria’s narrowed gaze. “I’m not afraid.” Ilaria studied him for a minute. “You’re an interesting one.” She urged him away from the car so that she could close the trunk. She started to head back to the driver’s side, and Rory moved to the right of the car, inspecting his handiwork. “Dr. Ilaria.” She paused in the act of entering the car to look at him. “I think you have a flat tire,” Rory said Ilaria sighed, and came around to where he stood. She surprised him when she stomped her foot on the ground, murmuring in Italian what sounded like a curse. “What bad luck is this?” she said. “I’ve been meaning to take this car in for service in town, but there is hardly time. The spare tire is not good either.” “I can give you a ride,” Rory said, nodding to his car. “My uncle runs a car shop in town. I’ll call him and make sure your car tires are fixed.” “Oh, Rory, I can’t leave this to you. It’s not fair on your time.” “I don’t mind it,” Rory promised. “Really, let me drop you off.” Ilaria studied the flat tire for a moment, then she looked down at her shoes and she seemed to be indecisive. Rory opened the trunk, got the box of food supplies and closed the door with a small slam that jolted Ilaria out of her thoughts. Ilaria followed him to his red mustang, giving a low whistle when he opened the passenger door for her with a flourish. “You’re dangerous, aren’t you?” Ilaria asked, as she slid into the passenger seat. Rory decided then that Ilaria had a keen sense of things. “Never to you,” Rory said, closing the door before she could say anything more. He stowed her carton of supplies in the trunk of his car, then hurried around to the driver’s side. When he slid into his car, she smiled at him, her seat belt already clipped on. Rory blew out a nervous breath and started the car quickly lowering the volume on his music. He pulled out of the Takeda driveway a minute later. “Where do I go?” he asked, remembering that she did not know he had an idea of where her husband’s lab was located. “Take a right turn when you are out of the compound. Kiyo’s lab is not in the Biosense compound, but outside it. His research is supposed to be independent of the company, but that is never really sure. If he makes a breakthrough, they are quick to claim it.” Rory filed that away and did as she asked. He did not have to fill the silence. Ilaria touched the door handle and grinned at him. “I can’t remember the last time I rode in one of these convertibles.” She chuckled. “Kiyo also loves fast cars. When I first met him, he owned a Ferrari, screaming yellow. The color was wild, but I loved how fast he would drive it.” Rory smiled. “Does he still have it?” “He’s cooled down on the color these past few years, his Ferrari is black. Now, it is in storage as we are not sure if we can stay here after three years,” Ilaria said. “Shipping it here will be a waste if we are going back to Europe.” Rory frowned. “You don’t think you’ll stay?” Ilaria shook her head. “We never stay. Kiyo’s very ambitious. The more funding avenues open up, the more we move. Biosense is not the only company that wants his work.” Rory felt as though he might want to scream at the thought of Milan away from him. He would have to find a way to convince Milan to stay here with him and not leave. “Don’t you want roots? A permanent home?” Rory asked, slowing down when she indicated the familiar dirt road he remembered from before. “Having roots depends on personal definition,” Ilaria said, when he turned and followed the road heading to the little cottage in the middle of the forest. “My husband and sons are my home, my roots. It doesn’t matter where we are.” “What about belonging in a place? Don’t you think they deserve to have more than just the family to hold on to?” Rory asked, wondering if he could ever manage a life away from the vast network of support that was Portento. “In life there comes a time when the only place you truly belong is with those who love you. Support is good to have in a community, but it is also can be constricting,” Ilaria said, her tone wistful. “It’s hard to escape collective thinking in a group of people. I learned that the hard way. Life is chaotic, experiences very personal, some life-changing. Most people never understand decisions that don’t fit the norm.” Rory stopped his car in front of the quiet cottage, thinking about Ilaria’s explanation. She was right to a point. Lechter came to mind, and he shuddered. Yes, Ilaria was right in a way. “I’m very sure Milan will ask me if he can take a ride with you from school soon,” Ilaria said into the following silence. “These past weeks he has brought up the topic and the merits on my time. I’ve felt bad saying no, and pushing his suggestions aside because I was wary of you. I'm always wishing he can ask me something I can say yes to.” Rory parked the car, leaving the engine on for the heat. He turned to look at Ilaria and she sighed. “To be honest, I’m still wary of you. Milan is fast to trust. I’m not.” Rory nodded, and held her gaze. She wrinkled her nose at him, and then pointed to the air vents on his car.. “A billion germs come in from these vents,” Ilaria said. “Get the air vents cleaned when you take my car into your uncle’s garage. Change filters and get the system flushed. You need to keep the air clean. Milan’s greatest weakness is his lungs. He gets comfortable in cars and won’t wear his mask. ” “If I get it done today, can I give him a ride around town tomorrow? It's Sunday, no school.” “You work fast.” “I try.” Ilaria opened her door and sighed. “I suppose an hour or two won’t hurt him. But only if you get your vents cleaned.” “Yes, Ma’am.” Ilaria chuckled and got out of the car. Rory shut off the engine, got out and rushed to the trunk to get her box. She was in heels so she waited for him to take the box, and led the way into the cottage. Rory followed her, his hear racing, hoping she would trust him enough to get him into Kiyo’s lab. Ilaria paused to turn the switch on the wall that would get the floor door sliding open. She started down the stairs, and Rory followed her senses alert. He brought the box up, hiding his face, when she placed her palm on the lock. The heavy door hissed open after a minute and she pushed it in. “Come on, Rory. Might as well have you carry the box in since you’ve made it this far. You can meet Milan’s Papa.” Rory breathed out in relief, and followed Ilaria in to Kiyo's laboratory. The light so bright it was hard to believe they were underground. The door closed automatically behind him. Ilaria removed her scarf, walking deeper into the open-floor room. The tables at the entrance were laden with cartons from Biosense. Equipment, Rory assumed. Ilaria paused at a long table with open files, and papers. She spent a few minutes righting the papers so that they would not fall. Rory stopped close to her, skimming notes that didn’t make much sense. The handwriting was terrible and he couldn't understand much, so he gave up. “Kiyo?” Ilaria called as they passed that table, going around a Japanese folding screen with bamboo tree decorations. Rory followed after Ilaria and paused when he found this part of the lab was set up like a small apartment. A large work desk with computer screens by the farthest wall on his right, and a complete sitting area in the middle of the space with a television mounted on the wall on Rory’s left. Ilaria urged him to place the carton on the wooden coffee table in the middle of the room. Rory did so, and stood taking in the wall ahead, the only one that was solid stone with a door. Rory averted his gaze from Ilaria and closed his eyes, focusing his hearing beyond the door. ‘…reasons I can't meet the blood donor. There are properties in the blood you provided that have me thinking I’ve stumbled on a new discovery. The formula I've developed is working very well on Milan but, it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason why without knowing any details about the donor.’ Kiyo was talking to someone on the phone. ‘How is your stock? Have you ran out?’ “Kiyo?” Ilaria called again, going to the desk with the computer screens. She pressed a few keys on surface of the table, and a light over the door turned orange. ‘No, of course not. You’ve been generous with the supply. I’m just wondering— ‘No need to wonder, Takeda. Create the product and that’s all you need to know. Your research progress is due next week. Milan’s condition will serve as a report. I look forward to seeing him.’ ‘But— Rory heard the dial tone, then a soft curse. Kiyo was not happy. Rory's thoughts went on a spiral. Blood donor? What did Kiyo mean? And who was on the phone? Why was there a sense of familiarity? Shit, he had hoped Kiyo had nothing to do with the pack. Mention of blood threw that wish out the window. ‘He wants to see Milan?’ a second voice said, young, male. Rory froze. Kiyo had someone with him beyond the wall, that voice sounded too young to be a lab assistant. ‘He won’t let me use the infusions on you until I can prove they are working,’ Kiyo said. ‘Milan is doing well, though. He’s even going to school in this horrible weather, which is more than I get.’ Rory bit back a growl at the accusation in that voice. The boy beyond the wall seemed a tad too jealous of Milan. ‘The light’s orange,’ the young man beyond the wall said suddenly, he sounded excited. ‘Ilaria must be here.’ Rory wondered if Ilaria knew the boy. ‘She’s probably worried. I haven’t been home in days. Go back to your bed. Get some sleep, Nisin. You should be fine on your own tonight. We’ll discuss this tomorrow.’ ‘When do I get to meet them?’ Nisin asked, his tone pleading. Rory sensed the same sadness and loneliness in Milan. ‘You promised I could your family soon.’ ‘When we manage to control your health,’ Kiyo promised, though Rory heard the ring of untruth in Kiyo’s tone. Kiyo did not trust Nisin with his family. No. Kiyo did not trust whoever was on the phone, Nisin’s dad maybe? ‘Go on, Nisin. I need to see Ilaria now.’ Rory shifted when Kiyo opened the door with the orange light. Kiyo paused when he saw him. His gaze wide before he turned to Ilaria. “You remember Rory,” Ilaria said in greeting, not moving from the desk with the computer screens. “He is now Milan’s friend. He gave me a ride over because my car tire got a puncture. Rory, greet Milan’s Papa.” “Hi.” Rory smiled at Kiyo. “I’ve met him before,” Kiyo said, closing the door behind him. The light above turned red and Rory wondered if Nisin ever got out. “Be kind to him,” Ilaria said, crossing her arms against her chest. “Rory, thank you for helping me bring supplies here. When will you pick up Milan tomorrow?” “At ten, if the weather is good,” Rory said, happy she was allowing them the outing. “Don’t forget to get your air vents cleaned,” Ilaria urged. “I’m heading there now,” Rory said, gripping his car keys tight. He turned to Kiyo, taking in a deep whiff of Kiyo’s scent. His wolf could sense deception in humans. There were those who wore the cloud of deception like a dark cloud. Judging from the work Kiyo did, Rory expected the heavy weight of that darkness to shroud Kiyo like a cloak. Yet, there was only a sense of growing worry in Kiyo. Worry and exhaustion. Rory’s frown deepened. It was good to find no sense of deception, but the boy stuck in a room inside Kiyo’s laboratory raised more questions than it solved. “Thank you, Rory Morgan,” Kiyo said, glancing at him, his tone dismissive. “Anytime, Dr. Takeda,” Rory said, waving at Ilaria as he turned to leave. Rory walked around the screen, and was by the table filled with notes when he heard Ilaria’s coat drop on the floor, and Ilaria chuckle with delight. Rory rushed to the heavy door, leading out of Kiyo’s laboratory not ready to listen to Milan’s parents make out. When he reached the door, he paused to study it for a minute. It hissed open before he could fully take it in the mechanics, and he turned to see Kiyo watching him from the screen wall. “Thanks,” Rory said, stepping out. “Drive safe,” Kiyo called back, as the heavy door closed after Rory. Rory stood staring at the closed door. Now that he knew what was in Kiyo’s lab, a heavy weight pressed down on his shoulders. Kiyo had talked about blood, and a blood donor. Blood provided by a third party. Whatever research Kiyo was carrying on had to do be connected with Portento. Had to be connected to the pack, or any other special being within the town’s borders. Kiyo might not be getting the blood himself, but having wolf’s blood in his possession did not help him. Wiping a hand over his face, Rory walked up the stairs to the main floor of the cottage. The floor door closed after him, and when he was standing outside, Rory let out air, standing in the open clearing his gaze on his car. What now? The hair on his arm stood in warning, his fingers curling into fists as he sensed almost fifteen wolves hiding in the forest. In a second, he knew it was the security team he ran with for patrol. ‘Alpha Rory,’ June Vadisi’s voice filled his head, authoritative and hard. ‘By the order of the Council, you are hereby summoned to appear in a closed circle this evening.’ Rory gritted his teeth.
  11. lilansui

    Chapter 20

    Thank you @Mac McNeill for reading! This was also one of my favorites to write!
  12. lilansui

    Chapter 16

    Chapter 16 Unforgivable Violence On a sunny Saturday mid-morning, the snow melting on the ground outside, the scent of Marie’s favorite tomato sauce and basil in the air from their lasagna. Sitting on a chair at the kitchen island table, Milan got his first kiss. Rory’s scent filled his nostrils: clean earth and wood, as though Rory had ran through the rain, in a fragrant field filled with lavender. Rory’s lips on his felt soft, gentle. They caressed his, drawing a soft moan from him, his breath caught, his fingers digging into his palms. Heat flooded his cheeks when Rory ended the kiss, moving back: a slight short distance. Milan closed his eyes feeling Rory’s breath on his lips. “I’ve wanted to kiss you from the first time I saw you,” Rory murmured, making Milan open his eyes to look into breathtaking blue eyes. “I will never run from you, Milan Takeda. I will never see you as less because you’re ill. You’re the most beautiful soul I’ve seen in my life.” Milan bit his bottom lip to stop a smile. What luck was this? Rory Morgan kissing him. Rory Morgan, the most handsome guy in school, even Rowen wanted a piece of him. Milan had thought kissing Rory a fantasy. Something that could not happen in this lifetime. Were Rory’s eyes okay? “They are just fine.” Rory answered. Milan gaped, realizing Rory’s eyes were filled with amusement. “You asked that aloud,” Rory said. Milan closed his mouth and started to lean back only to have Rory stop him with a hand on his shoulder. “Are you upset about the kiss?” Rory asked, his gaze narrowing. “Do you hate it?” Milan shook his head. “I’m in shock you want to kiss me.” Milan grinned, thinking he could now brag about getting his first kiss. “Um, you’re m-my f-first k-kiss. I’ve never been kissed before.” The last part came out too fast, and Milan buried his face into his hands in embarrassment. Rory chuckled and leaned in to press a kiss on the top of Milan’s head. “You’re too cute,” Rory said. Milan let out a short laugh at that compliment, dropping his hands away, he looked at Rory. “Can-can we do it again?” Milan asked. “I want to remember every second this time. The first time sort of— Rory cupped his face and kissed him again, cutting him off. This time Milan was ready for the shattering feel of Rory’s kiss. Hot and igniting, it sent heat racing through him as nothing else could. He felt breathless when they broke apart the second time. Rory pressed his forehead on Milan’s, taking in air. Milan kept his eyes closed, his hands coming up to stroke up Rory’s arms. His heartbeat racing in his chest, he opened his eyes and met Rory’s adoring gaze. In that moment, he wondered if fate would let him keep Rory. He had watched hundreds of movies, seen kisses on screen, and guessed at the merits of kissing. He had not thought he would get someone to kiss in his life. “I’m not dreaming, right?” Milan asked, holding on to Rory’s wrists. Rory smiled and leaned in to brush his lips against Milan’s. “You’re awake.” Milan nodded, appreciating the hot tingles that raced down his back, and the warmth that filled his heart. “My mother will kill both of us with her gaze when she sees us,” Milan felt compelled to point out. He knew the cost of a kiss. Sharing something so intimate…the consequences on his health would be intense. Meeting blue eyes, he decided it was a price he was willing to pay to feel Rory’s kiss. *** Rory sighed at the thought of Ilaria and her many rules. Her worry for Milan was real. He could not blame her, yet he could not give up this new found right to kiss Milan. Had he known it would feel like this: so addictive, he would have done it weeks ago. “We can keep it a secret for now,” Rory said, hating the thought of hiding any part of his relationship with Milan. It was getting harder to keep his love for Milan hidden. Every second of his day and night was filled with Milan. Now, he imagined it would turn impossible to deny his feelings. “I—” Rory broke off, knowing it was too soon to tell Milan what was in his heart. Milan wasn’t ready yet. His heart squeezed tight and he closed his eyes breathing through the warring need to declare himself. “I like you,” Milan murmured. “Nessuno e` come te.” “What does that mean?” Rory asked, holding Milan’s gaze. “No one is like you to me,” Milan answered with a blush. Rory felt his left wrist grow hot. He dragged his gaze away from Milan to look at the bracelet on his wrist. His heart soared in joy when the second leaf disappeared leaving three. *** Ilaria came home from work, tired and a tad frustrated with the cold weather. She wished she could take Milan driving, but the wind was chilly. She didn’t want to risk his health right now. Not when he was enjoying school so much. Weekends were hardest on Milan, not knowing what to do, he spent them making up projects in his art room in the basement, or watching movies. One can only watch so many movies before they lose their mind. She wanted more for Milan. Wished he could have some of the freedom he found in Turin. Entering the house, she carried two bags of groceries to the kitchen, where Marie was already busy making dinner. “Welcome back,” Marie greeted. “You look tired. Want a coffee?” “I would love a coffee,” Ilaria said, placing the bags she held on the counter. Letting a sigh escape, she watched Marie pour her a mug of coffee. “Has Kiyo come by?” Marie glanced at her, before she shook her head in the negative. Ilaria let out another sigh. “He will surely forget to eat proper meals in that lab. I’ll take him clothes and food after I rest a bit.” Marie shook her head as she brought the mug of coffee to Ilaria. “It pains me to say this. You live like a single mother. This move has not changed much from what it was in Turin.” “This is my lot in life,” Ilaria said, sipping the coffee with a grateful smile. Marie touched Ilaria’s hair, dark waves messy in a ponytail, and then her cheek. Ilaria’s skin was bare of any make up. “He makes you forget you’re a woman,” Marie said, her tone heavy with sadness. “You don’t even try anymore, Ilaria.” Ilaria shrugged off Marie’s comment. She had made peace with her life the moment she watched Milan struggle to breathe through a series of pneumonia infections. She lived as a mother and a doctor now. There did not seem to be room for more. “My mother used to tell me about violenza imperdonabile,” Marie said, leaning on the counter next to Ilaria. “How we commit it every day to ourselves when we fear doing what we feel.” “Unforgivable violence,” Ilaria murmured, staring into her mug. “Judging it from your explanation, I am free of it, Marie. I do want to live as a mother and a doctor.” “It is true that you are a mother and you’re a doctor,” Marie said. “But you’re also a beautiful woman whose husband lives in a bubble. As a result, you’ve closed yourself within to cope. One of these days you’re going to look in the mirror and feel very upset that he has forgotten your beauty.” Ilaria scoffed at that. Kiyo was too wrapped up in his research to think of beauty or romance. “So, once again I will remind you. Ilaria, wear your favorite red lipstick, sexy dress and heels. Go visit Kiyo and remind him to pay attention. If not romance,” Marie continued. “Find something to make you feel happy here, Ilaria. All work and no play will turn you into a very upset woman.” Ilaria chuckled at that and sipped her coffee. Marie’s advice was heartfelt, but kind of crazy to take up right now. She was too tired. “Ayu?” she asked. “Not back yet,” Marie said. “My Cucciolo?” “Upstairs,” Marie smiled wide when she answered. “Rory Morgan is with him. Unlike you who has forgotten the beauty of love, your bambino is reveling in it.” Ilaria’s gaze widened at the idea of Milan in love. He was so young. “Don’t get that look,” Marie pushed off the counter. “Now is the time for him to fall in love and make mistakes.” “He is not even seventeen yet,” Ilaria protested. “He will be soon. Milan is young, and his heart needs it,” Marie said with a grin. “How else can he find himself without love and possible heartbreak?” Ilaria placed her mug on the counter, and shook her head. “Not my Milan, he has too much to deal with already. I’ll go upstairs and check on them.” “Can’t stop the tide,” Marie called after her. Ilaria decided she would surely try. Removing her hairband, she ran fingers through her hair as she went upstairs to the third floor. Her hair stunk of sweat. Her scrubs felt itchy against her skin. She needed a hot shower, and a change of clothes. Dropping her hands down, she paused at the entrance into Milan’s room, her gaze riveted on Milan’s bed. Rory was reclined on Milan’s bed, pillows behind his back, his eyes closed in rest. In his arms was her Milan, head on Rory’s chest, arms flung over Rory, deep asleep. The afternoon sun filled the room. Ilaria stood rooted at the door, unable to take a step forward, or back. It was the first time she had seen Milan trust anyone outside the family. Trust a stranger enough to allow himself the freedom of sleep. She felt at a loss for action. *** It took Ilaria ten minutes to move from the door. She walked back into the corridor, her steps heavy as she went downstairs to the second floor where the master bedroom was. Rory heard her close her door and opened his eyes to look at Milan. His mate lived a protected life. Having Milan sleep in his arms felt like an accomplishment. It had taken so much work just to get to this point. Rory swept dark hair back from Milan’s forehead with his left hand, and his gaze fell on the bracelet he wore. Three leaves to go, he wondered how they were going drop off. This time, Milan had given him the secret of his illness. “I wonder what you’ll think of my secret,” he murmured, tracing Milan’s bottom lip with his thumb. Milan shifted closer, rubbing his cheek against Rory’s chest. He took in a deep breath and continued sleeping undisturbed, making Rory grin. Rory adjusted his shoulders on the pillows to get comfortable. Using his left hand to push up, he frowned when he touched something hard hiding under the covers. Pushing back the grey comforter, he found an A5 drawing book. Making sure Milan slept on, he lifted the book and turned it open. Rory finally found the art he had searched for in Milan’s drawing books for days. First, there was a drawing of a wolf standing at the edge of the forest. His wolf as Milan remembered from their first meeting. The next few pages were filled with more drawings of the white wolf: standing on a rock with the full moon as the background, howling at a starry night, then one of the white wolf sleeping curled into a ball. Rory traced the wolf, then turned the page and sucked in air when he saw himself. No longer just his eyes, but profiles of his face in the cafeteria, sitting on the couch in Milan’s living room. His favorite was a scene from a day he played basketball with Ayu last week. Milan had drawn him jumping up to throw the ball into the basket in the Takeda driveway. Closing the book, Rory pushed the drawing book back into its hiding spot elated by the thought of Milan more than thinking of him. *** “Do you have to go?” Milan asked, much later when they both woke up from a satisfying afternoon nap. Rory wished he didn’t have to leave, but it was evening, and he had a patrol shift in thirty minutes. Before that, he wanted to see if he could follow Ilaria to Kiyo’s lab, and find a way inside. He had heard Ilaria preparing to take food and a change of clothes for Kiyo. “I’ll come back tomorrow,” Rory said, watching Milan swivel his desk chair. “It’s Sunday. Do you think your mom will let me take you out for a drive? If the weather is nice.” Milan smiled. “I’ll convince her. Where would we go?” “I can show you around Portento,” Rory said. “We can have Marie make us a picnic basket, so that your mom doesn’t worry about you getting sick eating food from outside.” Milan nodded, looking excited about it already. He picked up a chain from his desk, and twirled it around on his finger. “A drive around town sounds good to me,” Milan said. “It will be nice to get out for a few hours. I’ll talk to her when she comes back.” Rory smiled and walked to Milan taking the chain and lifting it up to see it had a little silver wolf hanging on it. “Can I have this?” Rory asked, wanting something that belonged to Milan with him. “Why?” Milan asked, getting up and reaching for it. Rory lifted his hand higher, keeping it out of reach. “Because,” Rory said, grinning when Milan got on his tip toes, hoping to reach for the chain. Rory held it up even higher, enjoying the little frown of concentration on Milan’s forehead. Rory stepped back, and Milan dropped down with a scowl. “Shouldn’t you wait until I give it to you?” Milan demanded, taking a step closer. “But I want something of yours,” Rory said, shaking the chain. “This is good enough.” “Rory.” “Milan.” Milan laughed, and then stepped into Rory personal space surprising him. Rory stood still when Milan simply looked at him for a full minute. Then Milan placed his hands on Rory’s shoulders and seemed to climb him like a tree until his legs were wrapped around Rory’s waist. Milan clung to him like a monkey. Rory brought his free hand around Milan to hold him steady, dirty thoughts filling his head at how close they were. Milan’s scent filled him up and Rory wondered what Milan would say if he turned and pressed him to the bed. Milan giggled and Rory raised his right hand higher when Milan reached for the chain still. “You’re being stubborn,” Milan complained, wrapping his right arm around Rory’s shoulders to keep steady. “If this is what it gets me, I think I’ll keep to it,” Rory said, unable to keep out the seductive tone in his voice. Holding Milan was intoxicating. Milan looked down at him, and for a second they both seemed to hold their breaths. Then, Milan leaned down and kissed Rory. His lips covering Rory’s in a full kiss that had Rory tightening his hold around Milan. “Got it,” Milan said a minute later, triumphant as he had managed to distract Rory enough to get the chain back. Rory pressed his forehead into Milan’s shoulder, using both his hands to hold Milan in place. “You’re a minx,” Rory accused when Milan chuckled. Milan rested his arms on Rory’s shoulders. “You’re very strong, holding me up this way. Ayu can’t manage for too long.” “I work out a lot more,” Rory said, shifting to keep his balance as Milan settled into him. He wasn’t about to admit that his real form made him stronger than your average man. “Won’t you give me something of yours to keep until tomorrow? I miss you when we’re apart.” Brown eyes filled with awe at that confession. “What about me?” Milan asked, his right hand touching the dark stubble on Rory’s jaw, tracing it to his chin. The simple caress leaving delicious thrills in its wake. “What do I get of yours?” “Anything you want,” Rory said, meaning it. “Anything?” “Anything,” Rory said. “I want you to stay,” Milan murmured. “You know I want to stay,” Rory said, tightening his arms around Milan, shifting in a rocking motion. “I can try to come back later, but I don’t think your mom will let me in.” Milan sighed. “Fine, what about the bracelet you wear. It’s cool.” Rory brought his left hand up and Milan tried to remove the wood bracelet, but it wouldn’t come off. “Wow,” Milan studied it for a moment. “It doesn’t even have a clasp. How did you get it on?” “The usual way,” Rory said, also surprised. He had thought he could take it off. “Hm.” Milan frowned. “I guess I’m keeping the chain at this rate.” “Check my neck,” Rory said. Milan touched the collar of Rory’s t-shirt and saw a leather string tied around his neck. Pulling at it slowly, Rory watched Milan as he discovered the amulet Rory had worn on a whim this morning. A round bronze talisman with ancient etchings. A gift from his mother. She had given it to him for protection. Now, Rory knew why he wore it. He wanted it around Milan, to protect him. “It’s gorgeous and looks valuable.” Milan touched the amulet. “I can’t take this, Rory.” “I want you to have it.” “Really?” “Yes.” Milan started to jump off but Rory stopped him, unwilling to let go just yet. So, Milan concentrated on fitting his chain with the silver wolf around Rory’s neck, then carefully removed Rory's amulet, wearing it around his own neck. “Happy?” Rory asked, when Milan leaned back admiring the round talisman resting on his chest. “Very,” Milan said, bringing his attention back to Rory. “Thank you.” “Thank you, Milan, for existing,” Rory said, kissing Milan’s cheek, then his lips. They stood for a long moment in Milan’s bedroom, lips locked in a delicious kiss that Rory would remember later and want more. ***
  13. lilansui

    Chapter 15

    Yass!!!
  14. lilansui

    Chapter 14

    True, though sometimes the issues can really make things hard to remember the loyalty, at least in some cases. I love your answer though, it places family on such an important perspective. I totally respect this! I respect this too because sometimes family is not blood, but those who find you, bring you up and stick with you through the worst, and the best. You're truly lucky to have a family of your choosing, you feel that way about. There are so many aspects of family...it's kind of mind-blowing. Thank you for answering my questions. They've helped a lot, now, I'm going to get to work writing. Finally have some free time this weekend to get down to it. Cheers.
  15. lilansui

    Chapter 15

    A heartbreaking tirade. Rory filled his senses with the lone wolf’s sickening scent, keeping alert as they raced through trees. Paws on cold ground, leaving a perfect trail for June’s team. They were headed away from the pack house, heading toward town. Away from Milan’s house, thank goodness. ‘He’s determined to escape.’ Rory cursed when they crossed a road into the forest that connected to his high school. ‘We catch him and I’m killing him for making me miss dinner,’ Chris jumped over a boulder. Chris snapped at the black wolf’s tail hoping to throw him out of balance. The lone wolf swerved, Chris bumped into a tree, losing momentum. Rory jumped in, taking Chris’s place, pushing his powerful body harder, swiping his paws into the lone wolf’s left side. The black wolf screamed in pain, but kept running. Increasing his speed, pushing Rory into a faster race. They ran into the football field at Ashland High. The school building ahead, the parking lot empty. The doors would be locked. Nowhere to hide. Rory came up on the black wolf’s right side, closing in, until they were a foot apart. Then the sound of a gunshot rang through the evening and Rory stumbled, Chris on his back. ‘Get off,’ Rory growled. ‘We’re letting him get away.’ ‘Can’t fight bullets, Rory.’ Chris rolled off Rory, just as the rest of the pack security team reached them. They spend the next hour looking for the black wolf. Seeking a fresh trail, but he seemed to have disappeared. Rory and Chris returned to the pack house, leaving a team of four to keep up the search. “So, you think the gunshot came from the school?” June stood with her hands at her waist as she paced the length of her office. “Is that even possible? I can’t believe it.” “He was running to the school, the parking lot was empty,” Rory said, leaning forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees. He closed his eyes, searching the scene, remembering everything he could. The school building, the parking lot, the road, the black wolf running, losing steam. “The gunshot came from ahead.” Rory opened his eyes. “It was a warning shot. To distract, not to injure. If Chris hadn’t jumped on me at that moment, we would have caught the lone wolf.” “I wasn’t going to risk you,” Chris said. “Sorry June, you saw where the bullet landed. Inches away from him.” “I know,” June sighed and rubbed her forehead. “This is a shit storm. Gunshots at school. We have capped that piece of news. Parents find out about it, half the school won’t show up.” “Now what?” Chris asked. “Your shifts change,” June said, leaning on her desk. “Rory, you remember the lone wolf’s scent, so keep alert at school. In case he shows up as part of the student body. I’ll have my team keep looking for him.” “Alright,” Rory got up and headed for the door. “All that running wore me out. I’m starving.” “Rory,” June said. “Yeah.” Rory paused by the door to look back at her. “I heard about yesterday,” June said, making Chris stare at the floor. “My offer is still open. If you need to talk—” “We’re all good,” Chris said getting up and coming to wrap his arm around Rory’s shoulders. “It was a stupid fight. Nothing to worry about.” June studied them, Rory met her probing gaze and smiled. “If you say so,” June said after a moment. “Go on, get something to eat in the kitchen. You guys did real good today.” Chris pushed Rory to open the door and they stumbled out of June’s office heading to the kitchen. ‘She won’t stop digging about our fight,’ Chris said, using his private link with Rory. ‘We’re going to need to find a solid story.’ ‘I know. She’s been at me for the last three days.’ Rory rubbed the back of his head at a loss. His mouth watering when they entered the kitchen. ‘Let’s think about that later.’ “Sure. I’m starving right now,” Chris said out loud, letting out a low whistle at the spread on the kitchen table. Matt and Topher sat at the kitchen table, their plates filled. Rory chuckled as Chris hurried to the table. Matt got up from his seat, cuffing Rory’s neck and rubbing the top of his head, making Rory laugh. “Get off,” Rory pushed Matt away. “Heard you were a star earlier,” Matt teased. “We missed out.” “Let the guy eat,” Topher said, pulling out a chair for Rory, and passing him a plate so that he could serve. Despite his strange adventure with the black wolf earlier, Rory was glad to be part of dinnertime tonight. He didn’t want to ever fight with anyone in his family again. *** “Hold it steady, steady,” Milan said, his voice muffled over the mask he wore. “Don’t shake, otherwise the image will come out funny.” Rory held the frame Milan asked him to build with care. They were in the basement at the Takeda House. It was a Saturday, almost two weeks after the lone wolf saga. Rory watched Milan spray an interesting shade of green and white paint on the template he spent last evening drawing. It looked a lot like Rowen in cartoon form. Her eyes were huge, with a small smirk on her face. The drawing looked cute and funny. The buzzing from the spray machine filled the room, there was no use talking. Rory watched Milan instead. His mate focused on the template, his hands in plastic gloves. Sweat coated Milan’s forehead, a soft sheen that had soft tendrils of Milan’s hair clinging to his skin. Rory blew air on Milan’s forehead and smiling brown eyes glanced at him before returning to the template. Rory smiled, thinking Milan’s eyes the most beautiful he had ever seen. He discovered something new to love each day he spent with Milan. Milan’s smile when he was drawing. Milan’s laugh when Rory said something funny. Milan’s pout when he was nervous. Milan’s touch when he took Rory’s hand, seeking warmth at the cafeteria table. Rory remembered each one with his heart. Milan finished spraying paint and turned off the machine. He couldn’t remove his mask yet. His mother’s orders. Keep the mask on if he wanted to play with screen paint. “Okay, we’re going to remove the frame,” Milan said. “Lift it straight up so that we don’t mess the drawing.” Rory did as asked, careful not to shake the frame, at the same time Milan made sure the t-shirt didn’t follow the screen template. When the frame was free, Rory placed it inside the basin with solvent that Milan prepared earlier. Milan inspected the design on the t-shirt and gave an approving nod. His curly hair bouncing on his head. Rory removed his gloves and sunk his fingers into it, loving the softness. “When do I get a t-shirt?” Rory asked, when Milan ducked away from him. “You’ve made one for Jack, Adam, Josh, and now Rowen. What about mine?” “You haven’t asked for one.” “We hang out every day,” Rory pointed out watching Milan pick up the white t-shirt from the table. Small size to fit Rowen. He followed Milan out of the workroom designated for Milan’s artwork. They went up the stairs, and into a short corridor then entered the laundry room. Milan took the t-shirt to a line set up by the laundry room windows. Rory watched him secure the t-shirt on the line with two pegs. “What does hanging out every day have to do with a t-shirt?” Milan asked, turning to look at him. “I should have been the first one to get a t-shirt.” Milan chuckled, removing his gloves and throwing them in the laundry basket next to the washing machine. He removed his mask, and placed that in the sink. His face free from the mask, Milan faced Rory. “But you’ve never asked for one,” Milan said. “Do I have to ask?” “How will I know you want a t-shirt?” Milan asked, adjusting his sweater sleeves. “While we’re on the subject, why don’t you draw me either?” Rory demanded folding his arms against his chest. “You draw everyone else who sits with us at the lunch table. What’s wrong with drawing me?” Milan blinked. “You want me to draw you?” Rory shrugged, not about to declare how jealous he was of the fact that Milan had not once drawn him. It was a thing at lunch now. Milan drew everyone they sat with, making t-shirts for all their friends. Not one line with Rory’s face. It bugged the hell out of Rory. “Don’t you want to?” Rory asked, holding Milan’s gaze. Milan looked away, scratching his head before he shrugged. “It’s not that I don’t want to,” Milan mumbled, looking around the bright laundry room. He reached into his pocket and got a handkerchief, wiping away sweat from his forehead. “I thought it was cool of you not to ask like everyone else.” “Milan.” “Thanks for helping me downstairs,” Milan said, flashing him a smile. He stuck his handkerchief in his pocket and came to take Rory’s right hand. “Let’s do something fun now. Wanna watch a movie with me?” “Depends on your answer,” Rory said, looking at him with a frown. “To what question?” Milan asked. Rory dropped his arms, leaning on the doorjamb. He leaned down so that he could look into Milan’s eyes. “Are you making t-shirts for everyone to have them like you?” Milan started to step away from him, but Rory reached out and placed his hands on Milan’s shoulders, stopping him. “Sort of,” Milan answered, after a minute. “They like you without you having to make t-shirts for everyone, you know.” A frown crossed over Milan’s forehead, and he bit his bottom lip, worrying it. “Are you sure?” “Yes.” Rory nodded. “So sure, I’m kind of jealous these days. I thought I’d get to keep you to myself, but there is all of them to contend with.” Milan chuckled. “I don’t mind making the t-shirts. I’ve always loved little projects to keep me busy.” Rory sighed, and brushed a soft lock of hair away from Milan’s eyes. “Promise me one thing.” “What?” “If you ever feel like they’re asking too much of you, don’t do it. Alright?” Milan nodded and Rory sunk his fingers into Milan’s hair again with a small smile. “Now, what movie do you want to watch? And can we get food before we watch it.” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” Milan said, taking Rory’s arm and leading him to the kitchen. Marie was upstairs sanitizing Milan’s bedroom and bathroom. Ilaria was doing a shift at the hospital, while Ayu had gone to school for a Saturday morning class. Marie left them to entertain themselves as they wanted as she worked around the house. So, it was as though they were home alone. Rory opened the fridge and grinned when he saw a glass dish with lasagna on the middle shelf. Taking it out, he placed it on the counter and got a plate from the rack. Milan perched on a chair at the kitchen table, watching Rory serve two plates before returning the dish to the fridge. “I haven’t seen your dad around since that first day I came over,” Rory said, putting Milan’s plate in the microwave to warm it first. “Is he always so busy?” Milan shrugged. “He does research for the company he works for. They gave him a lab and some days he’ll sleep over if the work is important.” “Have you been to his lab?” Rory asked, when the microwave beeped. Rory took out Milan’s plate and gave it to Milan, careful to place it on a mat. He put his plate in the microwave and went to the fridge to pour Milan orange juice. “No.” Milan took a fork from a container on the island table and dug into his lasagna. “I don’t like visiting Papa’s lab. It reminds me too much of a hospital. I’ve spent enough time in those.” Rory brought a glass of orange juice to Milan, wondering how to get Milan to tell him what he was sick with. He could have easily discovered it by now. He could have asked Ilaria, Ayu, or even Marie and they would have told him. Hell even read records in this house, as he was now very welcome in most rooms. Rory got his plate of lasagna from the microwave and came to sit next to Milan. “You never asked again what I’m sick with,” Milan said, staring down at his lasagna when Rory settled to eat. “You asked me to think of you as healthy,” Rory said, swallowing Marie’s delicious lasagna. He looked at Milan to find his mate watching him. “I’ll wait for you to tell me.” Milan broke their gaze and took a small bite of his food, chewing slowly. They ate in silence for a minute, then two. Rory wanted Milan’s trust. He needed Milan to be the one to tell him. Waiting was hard, and frustrating, yet it was all he could do. “Remember Marie telling you that story about the raw figs?” Milan asked, keeping his gaze on his plate. “Mm-hm,” Rory said, and kept eating, hoping to seem casual. “Mamma and Papa lived a life of travel. Turin was sort of home base, but we always knew we couldn’t stay there longer than the months Papa’s job contracted him. As a result, in every city we lived, I only ever got treated for symptoms with no real diagnosis. As I understand it, my condition existed long before that, but it wasn’t until that fig incident that I really got diagnosed.” Rory swallowed his food hard, and placed his fork on the plate, unable to eat more. “I—” Milan started, then stopped staring at his plate. His hands moved to his lap, and he took in a deep breath. “I have CVID,” Milan said, his tone sounded so final, it hurt to listen. “Common variable immunodeficiency: basically means I don’t have a working immune system. My body can’t fight off infections without medical help.” Rory nodded, making note to learn more about CVID. The name alone was enough to send shivers down his spine. “Is it…curable?” Rory asked, thinking of Kiyo talking about finding a cure for Milan here. “No.” Milan shook his head, his hands clenching on his lap. “It’s manageable though, with treatments every month. They are called infusions. That day you came here the first time, you found me getting an infusion to help boost my immune system.” “So, the infusions keep you healthy,” Rory said. “Yes,” Milan nodded. “The infusions wear off though. I need to get them every month to keep healthy, otherwise, I would spend most of my life in and out of hospital. A normal person is able to fight off a cold, or a stomach flu in a few days. It takes me weeks. After the flight here from Turin, I stayed in bed with pneumonia for three weeks.” “That’s why the house is sanitized, and you wear gloves and the mask in school,” Rory said, finally understanding. “Your family is working to minimize germs.” “Yeah,” Milan said. “I’m due another infusion in a week or so. This month has been really good to me. I’m kind of happy about that.” “How long have you had to live this way?” Rory asked, pushing his plate away, and shifting in his chair to face Milan. Milan’s hands were in tight fists on his lap. Rory reached out and took Milan’s right hand, covering the tight fist with his hand. “The needles every month, for eight years, before that, I was a sickly child,” Milan said, his voice small. “I can barely believe I’m turning seventeen next month. Once, there was a doctor who didn’t think I would make it to my sixteenth year.” “When’s your birthday?” Rory asked, his heart slamming against his chest at the thought of never having met Milan. “February 11th,” Milan smiled. “Three days and I would have been a Valentine’s day baby.” Rory smiled along, squeezing Milan’s hand. “The bullies your brother talked about, was because of the mask, and your condition, right?” Milan nodded and looked away. “I was a freak to them. One who couldn’t play sports, fell ill at the drop of a hat, and spent all my time in the hospital. Couldn’t even eat the nice things in school for fear of infection.” “Milan.” Milan shook his head and kept his gaze away from Rory, his shoulders tense. Rory cupped Milan’s cheek and turned his face to him, his gaze taking in Milan’s shining eyes, tears brimming on the edge. “I am a freak, Rory,” Milan said, those tears spilling over to his cheeks. “I needed you to know about me, because you’re the first friend I’ve ever made who stuck it out. I’m no fun to be around. We can’t go out like normal people. I’ll never be able to run with you, or go drinking or whatever. I’m kind of terrified you’ll walk way now that you know the truth. Still, I want you to—” Rory leaned in then, pressing his lips to Milan’s to silence the heartbreaking tirade. He closed his eyes when Milan gasped in surprise, as Rory kissed him. ***
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