“Dude, this sucks. I should be out banging my girlfriend instead of stuck at this boring-ass training.” The annoyed blond dropped into an overstuffed chair.
“Damn, Anders, stop the bitching. It’s once a month. And same weekend every month too, so it’s not like you didn’t know you’d be here.” Brandon shook his head. “We’ve all gotta do the time if we wanna keep our fire certification up, and get that hundred bucks the county gives us as reservists. You’ll be back to her and your regular job on Monday.”
“I know, but Jenny kept teasing me about what she wanted to do this weekend. That girl has some kinky fantasies.” A smirk crossed his face. “She waved some fur covered handcuffs around and talked about riding my big dick.”
“Sure, Anders. She probably shared them knowing you’d be here, while she’s at your apartment with her real boyfriend. Ya know, the guy who’s actually banging her right now and doing all that kinky shit.” A smirking Tom, one of the others in the rec room, ducked as Anders swung for his head.
“Dude, we’ve all seen you waving that tiny dick around in the showers. My little finger’s bigger. Every time she wants a real man, she gives me a call.” A muscular, dark-skinned guy added. “Though if Brandon didn’t pitch for the other team, she’d pass me by for that bat he’s swingin’. No wonder the dude always gets those stripper gigs. By the way, thanks for hooking me up. The tips at that gay club were unreal.” He gave a nod of respect to his fellow firefighter. “The cuffs were probably to hold you in place while she had some stud bang your blond ass. Or hers while you watch.” Johnson made a show of adjusting himself. “Now I’m horny thinking of your girl’s big tits and available holes.” He chuckled as he batted away a balled up cup. “You know, Anders, if you feel you’re missin’ out on that kinky shit this weekend, I guess I could piss on you in the shower tonight. I’m here for ya, bro.”
“Damn, Johnson. Kinda harsh to beat down your boy like that.” The Latina tried to keep a stern look. “Should we come to Anders’ defense, Sheila?”
“I’m not sure… why? You know Jenny said we’re hung better than him. And that thing she does with her tongue. Mmmmm.”
Peals of laughter filled the room as a red-faced Anders gave a one-finger salute to the people around him.
“Cut the chatter, everyone. Sorry to interrupt your break time, but I want you all to see this.” The fire captain and his lieutenant walked into the barracks’ common room and flipped on the television. “We’ve been following the news out of Australia for a while now, and their situation’s getting worse.”
“It can’t be any worse than the fires we’ve had up and down California, Cap. And at least they’re getting them during the winter.”
“Anders, are you really that dumb or is it a well-played act since you’re blond? It’s currently summer there. God, no wonder your girl keeps showing up to blow me and the other guys.”
“Sorry, Cap.” Anders sounded embarrassed by his stupidity.
“Holy shit! Look at that burn. What type of fuel is that?” Brandon leaned forward to watch the video feed. “Sir, just how bad is it over there? Are they asking for international help?”
“It’s real bad. And from the forecasts, it’s going to be getting much worse before it’s over. Most all those trees you see burning are eucalyptus, heavy on oils, and they burn extra hot. It’s hitting their two most populated states hardest, but satellite data shows major hot spots in every region of the country. Their population is concentrated in the big cities and in coastal towns, but inland it’s spread out. There’s a lot of people living close to forested zones.” The captain could not turn away from the screen. “Something like they’re facing now is our nightmare. Drought combined with windy, hot weather, and extremely low humidity, and you have that.” The image showed a wall of flames consuming everything in its path. “They’re getting help from other countries. So far I haven’t heard of requests to our government.”
“Thank god that’s on the other side of the Pacific and not our problem.” Anders kicked his feet up on the table in front of him.
The lieutenant turned the TV off and addressed the upcoming training. “We’re going to do nighttime exercises for grassland structure defense.” He handed out folders to all the reservists. “Assemble in full gear beside the crew truck at 20:30. We’ll pull five names at that time for who’s taking the pumper truck.”
“Sure thing, LT.”
Brandon Holstrom watched through the window of the airliner as the view changed from a scattering of puffy white clouds to a haze-covered ocean. He had slept as much as he could on the overnight flight but was eager to get on the ground. Wolves were not supposed to be flying through the air in aluminum cans. The flight attendant working his section had been friendly and the two talked for a while when his duties permitted. Technically, the man was flirting with Brandon. It was amusing to the wolf having an avian show interest. He learned the guy was a wedge-tailed eagle and wondered what his animal form looked like. The flirting made the awake time pass more quickly even if nothing would come of it.
As the jet descended towards its destination, brown smoke shrouded everything. Brandon’s face was plastered to the window, as he tried to catch sight of the iconic arched bridge and the opera house. What could be seen of the Sydney Harbour Bridge made it look like a ghost through the dense smog. Brandon was still filled with unexpected excitement, seeing something he never imagined he would. Sadness quickly set in, knowing why his vision was obscured.
An announcement over the address system caused him to look away from the window. “We’ll be landing shortly. Local time in Sydney is 9:35 a.m. and the temperature’s a sweltering forty-two degrees. That’s one-hundred eight for you Americans who won’t use the world standard.” There was general laughter through the cabin. “We should be at the gate on time. Thank you for flying Qantas. Cabin crew, make your final checks and prepare for landing.”
Brandon returned to the view out the window. “What the fuck am I doing here?” He glanced around to see if anyone heard him, knowing exactly why he was on the flight. He had volunteered to go to Australia. His alpha was friends with another pack leader 7500 miles away. The two men owned horse farms on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean. Their friendship and business relationship extended even to breeding material crossing the vast distance to mate equines that would never get to do it the natural way. The Australian alpha had asked for help, and his American friend passed on the request to the right individuals.
Following a pack meeting, several people had been asked to stay behind. The alpha spoke to the wolves once everyone else had left. “I have a special request based on your training as firefighters. Australia’s in the midst of unprecedented bushfires. Their government hasn’t asked the U.S. for assistance yet even though they are expected to, but several packs have made contact. If any of you would like to help, we’ll make the arrangements to get you there as soon as possible. Your jobs will be secure for as long as you need to remain, and you’ll receive your full pay while on leave. This is only a request for volunteers so feel free to decline.”
Brandon did not even hesitate. He stood and raised his hand. “I’ll go, Alpha.”
None of the others wanted to be separated from family for an extended period of time, especially at Christmas. Being deployed around the state for large fires was bad enough. They did not want to fight one in a foreign country.
As a former stray, Brandon was grateful for everything the alpha had done for him since he was brought to the pack. Any request the man made of him he would always try to honor.
Brandon was raised in the foster care system, and it was the only childhood he knew. He bounced around from home to home, never finding a place that wanted him very long. While many of the very young found families who wanted to adopt them, Brandon was routinely passed over. To most of his foster families, he was little more than a source of income. After a while, many of the parents would feel uneasy around the boy, but did not understand why, since he was well behaved. Inevitably, they would ask to have him moved to a more suitable home.
Nothing was known about his biological family beyond the fact they left their newborn son at a firehouse door. The station chief who found the crying bundle took turns with her crew to hold the dark haired infant. She could tell by his scent he was canine, and if the stuffed animal inside his blanket was an indication, the boy was a lupus. The woman called her flock, but none of the avians wanted to foster another species. Turning to the nearest wolf pack, they had no interest in a pup that was not their own, insisting their pack would never abandon one. As she waited to hear if the felines would help, the decision of what to do was taken out of her hands when Child Protective Services showed up to collect the baby. One of the firefighters at the station had made the call.
A search of fingerprint and footprint records for the surrounding counties turned up nothing. With no name or birth date to give the child, a computer program randomly assigned both, the young lycan became Brandon Holstrom, and awaited placement with his first human family.
When he was twelve, Brandon was taken to yet another in a long string of homes. A very institutional woman in a tweed dress and glasses with a chain around her neck dropped him off. As usual, his clothes were stuffed in a garbage bag. The boy had come to think it was because so many saw him as trash.
He had tried to be good for the last foster parents. They seemed nice and helped him with his homework. Brandon had his own room and had fun playing with the couple’s biological children. It was the first home to have a dog. It seemed leery of the boy at first, but soon would not leave his side, much to the annoyance of the other boys. Like always, after a couple of months, the woman from CPS showed up, She helped him pack his clothes before taking him to the car, and driving him to a new home.
Unlike most before it, this one had a single father fostering two other boys. One was a sixteen-year-old named Donny, and the other was Billy, who was fourteen. It did not take long before the older boy suggested he and Brandon play a little game. That led to questions about whether the young boy knew what jerking off was. Brandon had already figured out he was attracted to guys, and the friendly sixteen-year-old jock was just what he wanted. Mutual touching and play gave him attention he desperately craved. Since he offered no resistance, it progressed to giving blowjobs, and the inclusion of the fourteen-year-old as well. Brandon enjoyed the praise and affection from the two older boys as they took turns with him. His experiences with the two were pleasurable to them all. The older teens made Brandon’s thirteenth birthday a happy one, as they played with his body in ways he never imagined. He soaked up their attention like a sponge.
The pleasures and joys of the home turned into a nightmare when the foster dad joined the playtime.
“You get him broken in enough for me?” The man walked into the bedroom as the three boys were playing.
“Yeah, Dad. He took it like a champ and can suck dick as good as Billy.”
Brandon recoiled at the lecherous leer from the older man. “Donny, you said…”
“I know, but you seem to like it. I had you moaning real good when I fucked you. And since you’re the youngest and smallest one here, it means you’ve gotta be his bitch too. Just like you’re my bitch.”
“I’m not… I thought you were my friend.” Brandon tried to get out of the bedroom.
“You’re not going anywhere, kid. Grab him, boys.” The man’s laugh was evil. “Hold him down for me and shove something in his mouth to keep him quiet.”
His naked foster brothers held the small teen in a moonlit room, a terrified Brandon screamed into the gag from the pain being inflicted. His mind shut down as the man slowly entered him.
“Damn, this boy’s even tighter than Billy. And so small. No way he can fight any of us off.” The man moaned as he bottomed out. “Nothing better than hearing them cry the first time. You done good, Donny.”
Brandon tried to struggle though the pain. His skin burned where the bluish-grey moonlight touched him, and his gums ached. With a final agonizing scream, the boy showed his true nature when his wolf picked that moment to emerge and rescue him.
Dark fur erupted from the boy’s soft skin as the ears shifted to the top of his head.
“What the fuck?” The man stopped mid-pump and watched dense hair cover the small body. “I musta smoked some good shit tonight.”
“DAD!” The fear in Donny’s voice made the father focus through what he thought was a drug induced hallucination.
Brandon’s face elongated into a canine snout. A burst of strength helped him throw the man off. The dad crashed into the wall, leaving a large hole in the plaster. Brandon’s arms and legs snapped loudly. The hands morphed into paws with dagger-like claws. Pained screams turned into howls. Sharp teeth and a threatening growl greeted the three assailants as a wolf replaced the small boy. It fixed its gaze on the dad, snarling. No one moved for the briefest of moments. The wolf’s eyes flashed an ominous amber seconds before it attacked.
Billy was paralyzed in terror, as Donny and the father scrambled to get away from the monster.
Screams disturbed the night, awakening the neighbors. A guttural howl was the last sound before glass breaking filled the air.
The police arrived to a gruesome scene.
Brandon woke miles from the house, unable to remember what happened, or how he ended up under a tree. He also could not figure out why he was naked. His mind was clouded by fear, as he held his knees to his chest and cried. When night came, the rays of the moon once again bathed him in its soft light. Unconsciously, he shifted and the human mind receded, as the wolf took control. This time, he retained more of his human memory, and watched as if seeing a movie unfold before him. The glistening surface of a pond reminded him he was thirsty. Staring at his reflection, an unfamiliar furry face looking back terrified him. He knew the dark colored animal was him. With the realization he was a monster, he took off running, and didn’t look back.
In time, exhaustion overtook the wolf, and he stopped to sleep. Growling roused him from his slumber. Lifting his muzzle off his front paws, he was greeted by the snarling teeth of several large wolves. “You’re trespassing, pup. Why are you here? What pack are you with and why’d you run away?”
“I don’t understand. What do you mean?” He was not sure if he was more puzzled by the fact he knew how to speak to them or that he understood what they said. Part of him was certain this was still a nightmare.
“What pack are you?” This time the wolf got right in his face and snapped his teeth.
“I… I’m not… What’s a pack?”
One of the others huffed. “Someone doesn’t teach their pups well.” The big animal turned towards the intruder. “Come with us. Do exactly as we say, or you die.”
Brandon nodded and followed them to their alpha.
“Shift to human, you little mutt.” The man was harsh and short tempered.
The teen barked at the man. “I don’t know how. I don’t know anything about this. I turned into this thing two nights ago I think. I just want to wake up and be done with this nightmare.”
“Oh, fuck. You must be the one the human authorities are looking for. Three dead from a dog attack and a small boy missing.”
“They’re dead? I killed them?” Soft sobbing barks escaped the boy’s maw. Memories came flooding back to him. “They were…”
“I don’t fuckin’ care. Everyone knew about that perv, and no one’s surprised he was found naked with a couple teens. You’re not welcome here. Those two will take you to the other side of our territory. I suggest you don’t turn around and come back this way. If you do, you die like the guys you murdered.”
His wolf mostly suppressed Brandon’s mind as it knew the human side didn’t know how to deal with what happened. He moved around territories the same as he did foster homes, unknowingly entering one and being chased from another. When he was allowed to stay for a while, he was treated worse than an omega. More than once he felt teeth biting into the scruff of his neck as a larger wolf took what it wanted. Brandon knew nothing of life as a lycan and existed purely on animal instinct. No one wanted to be bothered with someone else’s problem or teach him what he needed to know.
After several suicide attempts, both from the lonely wolf and what remained of the human mind, a husband and wife from the west coast found him as they traveled through the Rocky Mountains. When the man contacted the local alpha about the teen, they were told: “If he was trying to kill himself and you saved him, he’s your problem now.”
The couple helped the boy return to his human form and provided him with clothes and food. They cut their vacation short and headed home where they eagerly introduced the teen to his new family. It took months of careful action and therapy to get the timid wolf to trust them. Each day, one of the pack members would sit with him and share something new about being a lycan.
Try as they might, they could not get the young stray to embrace his wolf. Brandon would only shift when the call became overwhelming. He did not want to allow the monster in him to get loose.
Brandon worked himself up from the lowliest job, to being an assistant manager for his alpha’s business. He was amazed when he eventually found love with a visitor to the territory. Even more astonishing, the much taller, visiting wolf regularly rolled onto his back, showing submission to the smaller young man.
Even though Brandon was mated, like the others the alpha asked to volunteer, he was somewhat lonely since his husband was deployed to the Middle East with the Marine Corps.
“Are you sure, Brandon?”
“Yes, Alpha. You said they need help, and I’ve got the training. Besides, it’ll give me something to focus on while Austin’s gone.”
“What will he think about you going?”
“Alpha, my mate’s currently in a war zone. It’s his job to be there even if I don’t like it. As a firefighter, it’s my job to go where I’m needed. He can bitch at me later, if he doesn’t like it. I’ve always got his muzzle ready if he tries.”
The older man tried not to laugh too much. “Alright. Pack what you need and get your equipment. We’ll drive you to Los Angeles International Airport tomorrow. A pack rep will meet you when you land. They’ll have housing for you when you’re not deployed on a fire.” The alpha placed his hand on the pint-sized wolf’s shoulder. “Thank you for doing this.”
“No big thing, Alpha. If there’s nothing else, I need to get my gear and passport.”
“Do you need to shift for a while before you leave? I know you never seem to lose control, but you’re going to be inside a plane for over half a day. I’d be happy to call for a run.”
“I’m good. I let him out for a while last month. If he doesn’t like the plane, he can find a dark corner of my mind and go to sleep. As long as he leaves me alone, we’re both happy.”
The alpha nodded. It was no use arguing with the young man. He only hoped one day Brandon would finally embrace his wolf.
Fifteen hours after takeoff, the pressurized aluminum can he was hurdling through the sky in touched down on the Sydney runway.
It would feel good to step out of the aircraft. He had been looking forward to fresh air for hours. His first deep breath had him covering his nose and coughing.
The handsome Aussie flight attendant who had flirted with him gave an apologetic nod as he leaned in to whisper. “As bad as it is for them, this smoke’s a lot harder on our kind. Here’s my number if you get lonely while you’re here.” The smile was just as intense as the man’s arousal.
A bored customs agent glanced at the large black backpack and two smaller bags placed on the table. “Looks like these weigh more than you.” This brought some laughter from nearby agents. “Reason for your visit?”
“I’m a firefighter. I was told you needed extra manpower. Here’s my paperwork for the gear.”
The blasé expression was replaced with one of respect, as the agent gave the small, muscular form another appraisal. “Right. All looks in order.” He stamped the passport and other documents. The man waved to another agent. “Grab one of the trollies for this gentleman. No need he should carry it all the way out.” A hand was extended. “Welcome to Oz, mate. And thank you for coming.”
Brandon pushed his gear out of security. He knew someone would be meeting him, but was still surprised to see a sign with his name held up. He approached the pair holding the placard. Both towered over his five-foot-two-inch height. “Hi. I’m Brandon Holstrom.”
“G’day, Brandon. Welcome to Oz. It’s nice to meet you.” The tall, dark-haired, muscular man extended his hand. The brilliant smile put the traveler at ease and his friendly nature sealed the deal. “I’m Brody Sampson, Alpha of Spirit Walkers Pack.”