Before anything else, I had a few calls to make. First one seemed more important at the moment, although I don't know if Dad would agree. I dialed home.
“Homestead, this is Heather.”
“Hello, beautiful,” I said with a bit of a purr in my voice. I had missed her. Love the guys, but they were no substitute for her.
“Hello yourself, handsome. Is it safe for you to call?” She knew I needed to stay as quiet as I could. My sarcastic self was thinking that she should have guessed it was safe or else I wouldn't have called.
“Yeah. We found them.” I could hear her cheering and calling for Grandpa. I could even hear him storming into the room. She put us on speaker phone. “Well, that saves me having to ask you to get Grandpa.”
“Where are you?” asked Grandpa Alan. His Aussie accent was so clear. I wondered if Aunt Minerva lost hers or if Grandpa had moved to Rooville very young.
“In the middle of nowhere. Everyone is fine, except Wallace. We lost him.” I hated delivering the news, but it had to be passed on. “Zeke's calling Salt Lake.”
“We'll pass on the news. When will you be back?” Heather wasn't cheering now. Her tone was flat. Any loss was a bad one.
“After the solstice. With or without everyone.” I laid it all out, but I saved the good news for last. “Good thing is, we have two of the four votes needed from the Tribunal to clear them. Oh, by the way, Grandpa, Aunt Minnie says hi.”
The small gasp was clear. Yay, I shocked him. “Minerva?”
“Yup. She's awesome. So are my cousins.” Which meant I had to tell them about that. It was probably the best news as far as Grandpa went. Losing family meant the same to him as growing up without one meant to me.
I could almost hear Heather shaking her head. “You're an ass, love. Alan, I'm marrying and mating an ass.” Such fondness in her voice though.
“You wanted him. He's your problem now. You had a year to back out.” I love my sarcastic family.
“After all that, I guess I can keep him. I mean, he bathes regularly, doesn't make too many messes, he's potty trained,” Heather recited the general grievance list of every woman in TV and movie tropes.
“Tell Min...tell my big sis I miss her,” said Grandpa. His voice sounded a bit choked up, but I would expect no less. I knew it was mostly the lost time he was sad about.
“Grandpa, Homestead would survive one day without an Alpha figure. I know Dad's annoying the Council the death, and you agreed to watch over the pack, but you should come up here and spend the solstice with us.” It was a long shot because I knew he would most likely decline. He took his place within the pack very seriously, and with Papa Travis now on the Council, there would no one to make the executive decisions. I knew that Homestead could govern itself for one day.
“I wish I could, Dyl. Perhaps when all this has passed, I will make my way up there. Now that I know where she is, I can visit.” He sounded a little hesitant, but I knew he would see her.
“I know she would like that. I need to call Dad. Let him know what's what.” I didn't want to, because he was dealing with the Council and I wasn't there in my capacity as Prime Enforcer. It could seem to the Council that Homestead could not afford to send out hunters and bring their hierarchy to the meeting. It could be seen as weakness. At least Dean and Kao should be there by now.
“You do that. I'm proud of you, Dylan. It sounds like you have done what is necessary to ensure the safe return of all our people.” I could hear the pride, pardon the pun, in his voice.
After saying my goodbyes, which were very different to Grandpa and Heather, I called Dad. It would not be pretty.
It rang three times and Pat answered. The only reason Pat answered was Dad was arguing with someone on the Council, loudly, and with some very inventive phrases including things that were anatomically impossible. “Tell me you have good news.” He sounded tense, but with the shouting in the background, I didn't have to guess why. Normally Pat was the soul of courtesy. He usually sounded chipper or at least professionally courteous.
“We found them. All but Wallace survived.” I went on to tell him what had happened and what would happen in the coming days.
“Good. Jon, it's Dyl,” said my other dad. He said it quietly but all arguing stopped.
“Talk to me, son,” said Dad, and I knew that everyone was straining to hear me. Again, I told him what was going on. I could almost hear his grin spread over his face, although he had grunted when I told him Wallace had died. “Dyl, you're awesome. I knew it was right to send my best to do what the Council could or would not. Keep us posted if anything comes up.”
“Sure, Dad.” I wasn't upset when he hung up. He had more important things to deal with than tearful goodbyes. Like bragging about how awesome I am. I turned to everyone. “Dad is yelling at the Council for being morons and unable to do in months what we did in a week.”
Rhisi looked shocked. “Alpha Davenport is...yelling at the Council?” I nodded with a smile on my face. “I've heard he is rather laid back...but it's the Council.” He sounded like a cheesy robot saying It does not compute.
Colton grinned. “Jon's great. Pretty chill. Until you piss him off. Then he is one hundred percent asshole, the most stubborn shit you've ever met thanks to being raised by an Aussie, and an alpha to boot. Watching him bump heads with the Council would be funny. The bureaucrats wouldn't stand a chance. Except for Councilman Andrews, but he wouldn't fight with Jon.” This last he said as a bit of an afterthought.
“Why is that?” Rhava asked, a lopsided grin on his face. I could tell he was already pretty comfortable around us freaks.
“He's my other grandpa,” I said. “Dad is his son-in-law.”
“So...had you been hurt or worse, Equis Camp would have pissed off Homestead, the Davenport Solaris, Salt Lake City Pack, Rogue Valley Flock, and the former alpha of the East Coast Pack.” I think the idea of just how connected I was finally hit home. Poor Rhisi looked like he just had a death sentence revoked.
“Close. You would have pissed off my dads, my grandpas, probably would have annoyed SLCP, pissed off my Uncle Dean and his mate Kao, who is the brother of Phuong, and probably the Whitebears simply because the slightly smaller mountain over there adopted me as his brother.” I was grinning. “Oh, let's not forget Ginger.”
“Do I even want to know?” asked Rhava.
“No...she's the scariest.” I know my face turned a bit whiter at the mention of my honorary aunt. Trust me when I say I have seen enraged lions, a pack of wolves take down a rival pack, a cold-blooded execution via cranial bullet, and none of them scared me as much as Ginger. I missed one deadline because of a power outage, and I was in fear for my balls if not my life. Ever hear your life ending when you read a politely phrased email? It doesn't flash. It screams like it's being fucked by a cactus while being dragged away to be eaten by rabid wolverines while nibbled on by fire ants.
“So what's next?” asked Zeke.
Most of us shared glances, and then all eyes looked at Rhisi. Since he was the head of security here, he would have a say in it. “You can stay and set up here or move into the camp proper. As both guests of our spiritual leader and related by blood, to deny you the camp would be a very large breach in custom.”
I got the feeling that customs were important to the people of Equis Camp. “Kinda sticks in your craw, doesn't it?” I asked. Probably not the kindest move on my part, but he deserved a good bit of ribbing for trying to have us arrested.
“A bit, but I can still throw you into the cave if you lip off too much.” His face said he was serious, but he couldn't keep the humor out of his eyes. Nice to know Rhisi wasn't a dick, just worried and willing to shoot first and question the bodies. That runs in the family.
“Here will be fine,” said Phuong, and none of us even thought of speaking against her.
Rhava nodded. “Relax, if you can, until the Tribunal meets. It would be an honor to have you join us for a meal tonight. Quite a few of us are vegetarian, but I know we have some wild turkey.”
“Any fish?” asked Zeke, and Quintin and Colton smacked the back of his head. “Whaaaat? Honest question. You guys know what happens if I eat turkey.”
Colton couldn't help himself, and he said it before I did. “He snores...from both ends...very loudly.” Only Phuong looked scandalized, but I think it was mostly feigned.
“Anything else embarrassing you want to tell about me?” Zeke grumbled. Does he not think before he speaks? How could he not see he was giving us an opening?
“When you orgasm your eyes roll back and your face turns super red,” I said with the straightest face I could. I was waiting to see if anyone was going to ask how I knew, but in this crowd, it was probably damned obvious I would know.
“Bears do shit in the woods,” said Quint.
“You're a total bottom whore,” said Colton, who was even more of a bottom.
“You look at Quintin and Colton like a hungry man does a buffet. No idea where to start, but you know you wanna eat it all. 'I'll start with the Colton, then have the Quintin, over easy, and maybe some Dylan for dessert.'” Rhava's comment brought a blush creeping up Zeke's face. He wasn't angry at all. He was trying not to laugh. It's pretty bad when people you barely knew had embarrassing things to say about you. Especially when they are so spot on.
“Fighting gives you a boner,” said Phuong from completely out of left field. Yup, there was the full blush which had us all laughing at him.
We all looked at Rhisi as if it was his turn to embarrass Zeke. He just stood there with his arms folded, a vacant look in his eyes. “Nothing?” asked Zeke after too long a silence.
Rhisi shook his head to clear the cobwebs. “Sorry, I was wondering if you would look better as a rug or a comforter. You have such a nice pelt. What did you ask?” No sound. Nothing.
Then Zeke shook his head. “I know I'm hairy, but I don't have a pelt.” Rhisi's answering grin was perfect. “Yup, being an ass runs in the family,” he grumbled with his own smile lurking.
The meal was sublime...yeah, I said sublime. At least I stopped myself from saying totally tubular, which was actually very hard. Dad and Uncle Dean and their damned surfer lingo. There was more than enough to go around even when you added four hungry boys and a bottomless pit of hottie named Phuong. There had been fish, courtesy of Aunt Minnie dropping a discrete word to two hunters. I was proud of my packmates. They didn't eat the Camp out of house and home. I knew they could eat thrice what they did and still eye a four-tier cake for first dessert. Hobbits, the lot of them. They also pitched in on clean up, citing familial ties. No one, even those who felt it rude to have guests work, said anything after that. I think it was mostly because the guys were stripped to the waist and most of the workers were women. Zeke and his massive muscles, Colton and his slightly husky build, Quintin with his broad shoulders and lean physique. Eye candy all around.
Of course, the women understood why their shirts came off. When buckets of water get tossed around, it's easier to retaliate when you're not encumbered by a clinging wet shirt. Zeke tried to soak Phuong, but the water just stopped in mid-splash, reversed course, and drenched the man. “I should have seen that coming,” he said evenly, tapping his chin. Shrugging his shoulders, he went back to scrubbing the pans.
One Skifter, a younger girl, tugged on my shirt as she looked up at me with solemn eyes. “Yes, little lady?”
“Why are the boys doing women's work?” Her tone was just as solemn as he face.
“Well, Zeke's mama runs a boarding house. Do you know what that is?” She shook her head. “She opens her house to anyone in need of shelter, and all she asks is a bit of help around the property. Zeke does dishes as well as chops wood. He was taught to help out where there is a need. Colton has a lot of younger siblings, so he had to help his mama take care of them. That meant doing dishes when there were any to be done. Quintin was in the military.” That was all the reason needed for him.
“Oh. Why aren't you helping?” Ah, the Eternal Question...I fucking hate the sound of “WHYYYYY?”
“I'm clumsy and break too many dishes when I try to wash them. Aunt Minnie would skin me alive if I broke something.” I could see Minerva's mouth quirk up in a small grin.
“Oh. Then you are free to help me.” Which is how I found myself building a temporary tree house with four benches that can seat twelve. Apparently, none of the elders of the Camp would help her. I guess she was supposed to learn, but one thing I learned was never to give a kid tools and leave them alone. Rather, Dad found that out when I left a few parts out of his car engine when I was learning auto-shop. That fix came out of my allowance for six months.
The next day passed quickly, and I spent all of it at Sun Camp as I tried to form a familiar bond with the other Solaris. I could feel it easily with Aunt Minerva, and I had come to know Marcus enough to trust him. The other two were aloof. The other lion was polite but retained his distance. Not a good way to build the bond I would need to keep calm during the solstice. The eagle...gave me a nod. That was it. I had gotten friendlier welcomes from rival packs.
We ate every meal together. I guess in hopes of building that bond. Nope, not feelin' it. It was making me itchy with all the silence from half of the Camp's members. Conversation flowed freely between myself and Marcus. Having a shared annoyance, we hit it off fairly well. Aunt Minnie seemed to ignore the other two but aware that I was agitated.
I finally just blurted out, “Don't you two ever talk?”
Their expressions were a bit annoyed but hurt at the same time. “Dylan...both of them have been trying to speak with you.” I looked at Marcus like he was crazy. I can be pretty oblivious at times, but this wasn't one of them. “You were told that spells just bounce off you. All four of us have been trying to let you know mentally to relax. Our spells just keep vanishing.”
“You do know how silly it sounds to try and tell me to relax with magic that bounces off? Staying quiet which I know you can tell is making me edgy and making me tense? You do realize this, right?” I know I sounded sarcastic, but come on. They had to realize it.
Henri, the other lion, shook his head. “How can you be so nervous around your own kind?” That French accent was thick, so I could see why he might not speak much. English was obviously not his first language.
“Oh it's not you personally, or even Solaris. I just really hate magic.” That shocked them.
“Why?” asked the eagle quietly, finally speaking.
“It is a personal...” began Aunt Minnie, but I took off my shirt and showed them my scar.
“This is why. I don't know you two at all. I know Minerva wouldn't hurt me, and Marcus wouldn't hurt a fly.” Again, I don't really know how I knew this. “You wield magic, and I don't trust magic. Forgive me for being blunt, but I have damn good reasons to hate spells.”
Marcus placed a hand on my bare shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “Take a moment, Dylan. Find your peace,” he advised. His voice was soothing, and it work on me almost as well as if Quint had just put his hand on my shoulder.
I did. I closed my eyes. I knew I was nervous and my flight or fight response was ready to jump either way. In my head I could see Heather in one of my shirts and nothing else, cooking breakfast. She looked over her shoulder and smiled so sweetly. This was my peace.
Then, of course, Quintin and the boys just barged in and hopped into bed with me for cuddles. Heather shook her head and added more batter and bacon, a fond look in her eyes. As annoying as my friends are, it didn't disturb my peace. It was part of it. This, Heather and the guys, this was my peace. I couldn't deny it, and I could feel Quintin's happiness from our camp.
I love you, too, Creep.
I didn't push away the unease. It just floated away like a balloon into a puffball cloudy sky. When I opened my eyes, all four were looking at me with the gentlest smiles. “You're in my head now, aren't you?” I didn't need to ask, I could feel it. Rather, I could feel Minerva. She was the only one truly in my head, the other three were in hers. “I won't apologize for what you see in there. I live in it and get scared.” And, just to prove the point, Quintin and the boys were having mental sex right now and all of Sun Camp could see it. I couldn't block them out either, but I had warned them they wouldn't like what was in my head.
Minerva was just laughing. Henri was shaking his head and trying to look disgusted and amused at the same time. The eagle, whose name was never said, had a look that spoke of so little amusement. Marcus was blushing so hard. “No wonder you are crazy. Having that in my head would send me off my rocker.”
“Feel lucky your soulmate is straight. I get gay porn in my head.” And a boner in my pants which I had to hide behind my lunch platter. They all knew it, but that didn't mean I liked it. Much.
Thankfully, Minerva left my head. “Remind me to speak to those boys about appropriate behavior.”
“Oh, I will. If you want, I can give you their mothers' phone numbers.” That evil thought had me smiling the rest of the day.
* * *
I was itchy. I hated this part of solar events. I didn't have much of a choice whether I shifted during them, and that made it a bit worse. The Sun Camp residents were all outside, and had I not been raised by Lycans, I might have been shocked by everyone being nude. Myself included. The only comment I received was from Marcus. “I feel so sorry for your future wife,” he said with a wince.
I looked down and shrugged. “And you wonder why I question when the guys want to have me top.” That made Marcus snort.
All of us were aware of when the event was close because our bodies told us. Judging by their faces, the others were just as uncomfortable as me. A tingling that radiated from the spine, gripped the scar on my chest, and the rest is flashes. Fragments of memory I couldn't say were mine. A large lioness grooming me, a dog wiggling his hind end as he wanted to play, and bringing down a deer.
My human side was so buried I couldn't even remember my name. I didn't have a name. I was Lion. He was Dog. She was Lioness.
I do remember one thing, or rather three. Lynx, Bear, and Coyote had come to lay with me and share my kill. My Pride had come to share in my hunt, and I gave to them freely as I would have my mate. Bear and Coyote had remained on two legs and made the fire to burn their portions, but Lynx had joined me in the fur and licked my muzzle free of blood. As I did for him. Brother, beloved, friend...lover. No human words could describe who Lynx was to me, and Bear and Coyote were part of us. My mate would have her paws full when we returned.
* * *
The first thing I remembered was feeling Quintin nuzzle deeper into my side. We were both nude, both bipedal, and it felt nice to have him there. I looked over to see Zeke cuddling Colton, lightly tracing his fingers across his chest, naked. I felt something stirring within me. Some strange new feeling. It wasn't a sexual feeling. It was something I had missed before I met Dad. This was family. Once I married and mated Heather, my family would be complete.
I smiled softly when Colton and Zeke joined us in our snuggle. Colton curled up with Quintin between us and gave him a relaxed and sleepy kiss. Zeke spooned up behind me, draping his big arm over all three of us. I turned slightly to look into his warm eyes. I wasn't surprised when he kissed me, not even when there was a little tongue action. Hell, I wasn't even surprised when I kissed him back. There was no use in denying I loved these men as much as I loved Heather. My only thought was to wonder if she would be okay having a reverse harem.
I heard a quiet click and looked to see Zeke had snapped a picture of us...and saw him send it to Heather with the caption “wish you were here.”
Almost instantly came her reply. Keep your dick out of my fiance until I get a chance to break him in. I wish I was there, too.
“I love her,” said Zeke with a grin. “Where would you be?” he texted.
Without missing a beat, her reply had us laughing hard enough to wake Quint. I have three holes, two hands, and a nice set of tits, use your imagination. Perhaps she would be okay with the harem.
The wind shifted, and all of us looked over to see Aunt Minnie there, dressed in what looked like official robes of office. “Sorry to break up this wonderful scene,” and there was no sarcasm or joking in her voice or scent, “but the Tribunal meets in one hour.”
“Thanks, Aunt Minnie. Held in Equis Camp, right?” She nodded in response. “Okay. Let's get up, guys.”
Colton chuckled. “Too late.”
Thanks to Timothy for his patience during the emergencies in my life and for speedy edits once I was able to get the chapter to him.