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    WolfM
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Embers - 6. Embers 6

Noah strained to read the caption on the screen. “The US Embassy in Baghdad is under attack.” He turned towards Brandon. “Isn’t your mate over there?”

******

“I know he’s okay. I know he’s okay.” Brandon frantically paced a short distance from the crew. His exhaustion was overtaken by a rush of adrenalin after seeing the news. He once again picked up his phone and once again found no reception. “Damn it.”

Lucas cautiously approached him, reaching out to grasp his shoulder.

With a growl, Brandon turned, his eyes flashing amber. His shoulders dropped at the concern on the Aussie’s face. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re not alone. We got your back. Do me a favor? Sit with Noah and Jax. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Noah returned to watching the news coverage, keeping an eye out for any details to pop up.

“They haven’t said a word about casualties. There’s a good chance everyone’s safe.” The big cat wrapped an arm around his new friend. “Like Luc said, you’re not alone. You came to Oz to give us a hand, and no matter what happens, we’re here to help you now.”

The crew looked on as Brandon buried his face in his palms. A few of the nearby humans wondered what was going on. “Everything okay with your mate?”

“Saw some bad news on the telly is all.”

Replacing his gruff personality with a more fatherly tone, Joe knelt in front of his newest crew member. “News like that would be devo to any of us. I’m sure this is gonna have your wolf clawing to get out. If you need to run, we’ll all go with you. We’re a pack and we take care of our own.”

“Thanks, Alpha. I’ll be okay. My wolf’s used to staying caged, so he won’t be a problem.” Brandon winced in pain. His facial expression told the others he was anything but all right.

“Bullshit. You defo need to shift. Even if only for a few minutes.”

Lucas came trotting back, shaking his head when he noticed Joe glance in his direction.

“She’ll be apples, mate. You just wait and see” Joe patted Brandon’s leg. “Now, I’m not askin’. We’re gonna head out away from everyone, then you’re gonna shift. We’ll go walkabout and then have a good sleep. By morning, you’ll see there’s no worries.”

“Yes, Alpha.” Brandon moved on autopilot.

Out past the lights of the staging area and the last row of grape vines, the men stripped and one-by-one started their shift. Brandon looked off into the distance towards the eerily illuminated clouds dotting the horizon. With a heavy sigh, he pulled off the respirator and clothes, dropped to all fours, and let the transformation take him. The small chocolate wolf was quickly surrounded by eighteen wolves and one cougar.

As with most packs, they moved in to support their troubled member. The first wolf to brush past Brandon’s tail found himself face to face with the snarling American. His ears panned forward and fur bristled as a deadly threat was issued to anyone who got close.

“Back off.” Lucas warned the others. “Give him some room. He doesn’t like to be crowded and doesn’t know our scents yet.”

Once the animal was free of his mental cage, he forced his way into control, overpowering the human side. He followed his instinct and threw his head back preparing to howl for his separated mate. The human interfered.

“Keep quiet for fuck sake. You want the humans to hear you?”

With a growl, the wolf trotted away from the others and sat atop a short mound. “You’re more concerned with them hearing us than singing for Austin. We should be going to find him.”

“Are you insane? You know we’re on a different continent. We can’t just run until we reach him.”

“If you ever bothered to get to know me, you’d realize I know everything you do. Just because I’m the animal side doesn’t mean I’m dumb.” The growl was audible. “I miss him.”

“You don’t think I miss him too? More than anything I want to go to him and make sure he’s okay. He’s my mate.”

“He is our mate!” The chocolate wolf paced back and forth. “You still won’t forgive me for protecting you. So you refuse to share him except, when he asks to go fur, and otherwise insist on keeping me in a cage. Get it through your head, we are a wild animal, and need to be free.”

“You killed three people. And turned me into a monster. Locked up is where you belong.”

“They were attacking us! All I could feel was terror and pain from you when I emerged. So I lashed out at what caused it. It’s not like I planned it, but I had to protect you.”

“You’ve always thought I was weak and needed looking after.”

“Is that what you think? Try opening up to me for once instead of keeping me in that fucking prison. I’m strong only because you are. I protected us, looked after us, made sure we had food, while I gave you time to try and heal.” With a huff, the wolf sat once again. “I only want to help now and add to your strength to fight the fires. Our new pack all look to you with respect. They know you’re strong, just like I do.”

“You are too damned impulsive. Never thinking about the consequences of your actions. Like you wanting to howl with so many others nearby.”

“If you talked to me once in a while, or let me out, maybe I wouldn’t have to fight you so much.”

Brandon turned his head skyward, staring at the smoke shrouded moon. “I’m tired of arguing with you. Yes, I’m scared not knowing if Austin’s safe, and I’m exhausted from the fires.” He watched the other wolves as they moved around. “And stop growling at them. They weren’t gonna try and mount us.”

“Sorry, he surprised me when he touched our tail. And fighting with you doesn’t help to calm me.”

He felt a presence beside him, eliciting another warning growl.

“What the fuck did I just say? Pay attention to your nose. That’s Lucas.”

“My bad. I feel jittery. Can we run for a bit?”

“I’m too fuckin’ tired.”

Brandon’s gaze moved around until it fixed on the orange glow coming from one particular direction. He took a tentative step and then stopped. His paw twitched as if ready to bolt.

Lucas sat at his side. Scents of loneliness and fear wafted off Brandon. “Don’t even think about it. I’ll tackle your arse and drag you back before you get a hundred meters.”

Dark eyes turned away from the fire as a whimper escaped Brandon’s throat.

“I know you’re scared for your mate. Doing something stupid won’t help.”

With a huff and nod, Brandon laid down, resting his head on his paws.

Jax and Noah moved to where the American could see them. The rest of the crew found spots around them to lie down. None of them spoke, but their silence filled the American with the strength he needed to make it through the night.

******

“G’day, Brandon.” Lucas sipped his coffee.

“Morning.”

“This is for you.” He handed a slip of paper to his friend.

We were able to track down the information you requested. My contact in the American Council was able to reach someone in the Marine Corps and confirm neither Staff Sergeant Austin Brookover, nor anyone in his platoon, are listed on casualty report. My contact indicated the sergeant is presently at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. If any further information becomes known, I will make sure it reaches you. Let Brandon know Thorin and I are thinking about him and his mate. Brody.” Brandon cocked his head, puzzled as he set the paper down.

“I got a hold of Alpha Sampson last night and called in a favor to have him check on your mate. I wanted you to be able to know he wasn’t in danger.” Lucas stared at his coffee. “Can’t even imagine not knowing if Matty was safe or not.”

“Thank you. It does make me feel better.” The worry finally left Brandon. “Actually, he’s always in some level of danger when he’s deployed. And those assholes did set fire to the embassy. But I know his guys look after him like you guys did for me. Or my pack in California would have done.” He held into the note like it was a piece of gold. “Last time I talked to him, he was at a camp in the desert, hunting ISIS. They must have been rushed to Baghdad when things started getting bad.”

“Can I be big brotherly and ask something personal?”

Brandon nodded.

“You don’t exactly get along with your wolf, do you? Watching the two of you last night, I could see a struggle.”

“He and I have never been friends. I mean, yeah. I have fun with him when I’m around Austin, but beyond that, I don’t want him around. I wish I wasn’t a wolf.”

“So that’s why you said he’s used to being caged? It’s not some kinky, bondage thing?”

Brandon nodded. “Yeah, I save the bondage stuff for tying up my mate.” He chuckled as images of his husband trussed up ran through his mind.

“But since you can’t change that about yourself, shouldn’t you find a way to accept that part of you? I hope you don’t take this wrong, but you’re a beautiful wolf.”

His cheeks reddened a bit at the compliment. “Beautiful? I’m scrawny compared to everyone else. There’s usually a joke from someone about me being the runt of the litter, still a puppy, or worse.”

“Yes, your wolf’s small compared to most I’ve seen, but there’s no confusing you with a puppy.” It was Luc’s turn to blush. “I know it’s different for everyone, but growing up, I couldn’t wait for my first shift. It was like all the Christmas’ and birthdays I’d had wrapped into one.”

“You at least knew what you were. I had no idea I was a wolf until my first shift.”

“How could you not know? Your parents never told you or shifted around you? What about your pack?”

“No parents or pack to show me anything.”

“None at all?” Shock and sorrow were etched on the Aussie’s face.

“I was dumped at a fire station probably a few days after I was born. No note or anything from my parents. Someone left me at the door wrapped in a blanket, ran the bell, and ran. It’s ironic I’m now a firefighter.” He trembled as a series of images flashed through his memory. “I grew up in the human foster system. Not exactly a fun place, since I got bounced around from house to house, never staying at one very long. My current pack explained the humans could sense something different about me the way prey does when we’re hunting. Still doesn’t make my childhood any more meaningful.”

“It was the same response the human assigned to us had.” Lucas studied the younger lycan. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“I figured out what I was when I was thirteen. I was living with a guy and his two other foster sons. I’d gotten close to them and fooled around with both boys. They were the first ones that didn’t seem to be uneasy around me. The night I shifted for the first time, I killed all three of them. Two of them were predators and attacked me. They deserved what they got. The third I’m still not sure about, but he died just as violently as the others.

“I don’t remember much else from that night. There was a lot of running after I jumped through a window. I can still see the terror on their faces, and hear their screams, as I tore them apart. Not exactly an endearing introduction to the monster inside me.”

“Crikey. I can’t imagine not having people who care about you there when you shift. Our pack’s an extended family. Even if parents give up their pup, the child’s usually taken in by another member. But you were taken in by a good pack at least.”

“Yeah, I was, but only after something like four years mostly trapped as a wolf. I’d occasionally shift back to human when he got tired. Not having any clothes of my own, or a place to live, it was simpler to stay in my fur.”

“Wait. It took four years to find someone to take you in?”

Brandon nodded. “If you don’t count guys who let me spend one or two nights with them. I was chased by packs that didn’t want a nomad around or accused me of trespassing. Others forced me to live as an omega if they let me stay a while. I wasn’t their pack, so I wasn’t their problem.” Sadness filled his eyes. “For all its pretense that wolves look after their own, our world’s as fucked up as the human one.”

“And some of those wolves you encountered, they’re the ones that forced themselves on you? Wanting to show their dominance over an omega?”

He nodded, but could not face Lucas. As far as he had come in his pack, Brandon worried he would now be seen as weak, as an omega again. Even though he knew he could defend himself, he wished he had been placed with a human crew. “I learned how to fight and found if I won I got to mount the other wolf. When it’s two or more to one, there’s no chance of winning.”

“I’m sorry you had to go through all that. Nothing I can say or do will change it. From the moment we met I liked you. I could tell from your scent you were a good person. Fires or not, I’m glad you’re here and that we’re mates. There’s no doubt in my mind you can take care of yourself now, but my wolf sees you as our younger brother, so I’ll always have your back.”

“Thanks. It’s been cool meeting you too. At least you’re nothing like the foster brothers I’ve had. Well, my wolf isn’t warning me to rip out your throat anyways.” That brought a laugh from both men.

“So how did a horse trainer end up as a fireman?”

“I was trained in search and rescue and the stable I work for handled animal evacuations when needed. There was a fire a couple years ago that started next to a neighboring horse farm. All they could do was open the stalls. I helped their people try to rescue as many as we could, but because of the flames, we only got a few. Seeing so many race horses burn to death I decided to move from SAR to actual firefighting.” Brandon sipped his tea. “It started with grass fire training, and I eventually made it through the entire program, so I could try for a job with a department if I wanted. I like being in the reserves though. I work as a stripper in gay clubs too, so at least the fire gear comes in handy for costumes. Keep that last bit to yourself, please.”

“I sure as hell hope there’s pictures somewhere of you dancing. And I promise. For me, I wanted to help out the pack whenever bushfires hit. I’ve seen several bad ones.” Lucas topped off his coffee cup. “Most of our force is volunteers, so they always need able bodies. I think it was the same for most of the guys on the crew.”

“Yo, Tripod.” Lachlan burst into laughter

Brandon dropped his head theatrically onto his folded arms.

“Well, he does have a point. Leave it to the alleged straight guy to bring up you’re hung.” Lucas leaned in to whisper in Brandon’s ear. “You’d be a hit at the Sydney clubs. You have all the right attributes.”

“Okay, I officially hate you guys.” A smirk crossed Brandon’s face. “Lachie, stop checking out my cock. My mate’s the only one I’m gonna make moan with it. If you want a root you’re gonna have to get Noah to bend you over.”

******

The next seven days were filled with brutal work. The Mutts, alongside several human crews, hiked where they were needed to battle the fire by hand. The terrain was often too steep or the paths too narrow for a truck to make it in. Hoses were stretched as far as the pumps could handle. Additional air crews had finally become available and their presence overhead was a welcome relief. Helicopters filled their water baskets from any source they could find. Fixed wing planes had to fly fifty miles back to the Royal Australian Air Force base in Newcastle to tank up. A pair of super scooper tankers were able to refill much faster on Lake Macquarie. The New Year brought additional resources and added manpower as the American U.S. Forest Service sent a planeload of personnel to join the fight.

Fourteen days after arriving in Australia, Brandon was glad to be able to relax on a two day break. He was fascinated watching people tend the grape vines. To him it was an indication life was returning to normal for the residents of the valley. He found a shady spot to sit and let the world pass by. Pulling out his notepad and pen, he passed his time writing poems or jotting down notes about his experience. He had switched to a smaller respirator along with goggles to protect his eyes from the smoke. It was nice to feel fresh air against parts of his face for a change.

The quiet of the vineyard was broken by the sounds of passing helicopters and planes in the distance. The occasional siren could be heard.

A twig snapping let him know he wasn’t alone. “Hi Noah.”

“Hey, Tri… Sorry, Brandon.” A jovial note filled the man’s voice. “So much for cat-like stealth. I must really smell bed if you can tell it’s me without looking.”

A chuckle escaped from the respirator. “Lucas is in a meeting with Joe. Jaxon’s idea of rest is working on the trucks. The other guys are friendly, but are still standoffish since I’m the outsider. Besides, they’re sleeping or eating. Lachlan still thinks I’m going to try and mount him, so he’s hiding. Even though I really think he might want it from you, me, or maybe the entire gang. You’re the only one left, and you’ve checked up on me a lot in the past week. Just for the record, you straight guys seem to be awfully fixated on my dick’s size.” He gripped his crotch for emphasis.

“Yeah, well… It does look extra massive because of your small body.” He sat a couple yards from Brandon. “You haven’t been shy about showing it since the night we all shifted.”

“So are all you guys suffering from envy? I didn’t mean to make you feel inferior and threaten your manhood by getting naked and showing I’m part stallion. Guess in some packs that would probably make me the alpha.”

“Wanker.” Noah flopped back with his hands clasped behind his head, staring into the smoky sky. “I think you’re the most compact wolf I’ve seen.”

“That’s the nicest way someone’s called me a runt.”

“Didn’t mean it like that. Just seems like most of our kind are big guys. Working with you for the last two weeks, you’re a big wolf in a small body. I’m glad you’re on the crew. You fit well with Jax, Luc, and me.”

“I know Lucas and Jaxon are from the same pack. How’d a cougar get placed on the truck with them? Adding micro-me, it’s kind of like a fire truck version of the Isle of Misfit Toys.”

An eyebrow rose as Noah turned to face Brandon. “Not familiar with the reference, so I’ll look it up when we get the wireless back.” He studied the cloud patterns for a few moments. “I joined their pack a couple years ago. Grew up about two hundred kilometers from Perth and didn’t want to live my life on the western side. When I moved here the only prides in the area were solies. Since I’m a luni, I sought membership with the wolves.”

“Guess that’s why Luc said only the human and me were outsiders. They didn’t give you any problems?”

“Always got at least one arsehole who doesn’t like someone that’s different, but they’ve been good to me. I was used to running with dogs anyways.” He glanced at Brandon’s pen and paper. “I didn’t mean to stop you from writing. Maybe I can read your poems when you finish them? Luc said the one he saw was good.”

Brandon nodded and returned to jotting his thoughts down. He would glance towards the cougar from time to time. Noah and Lucas reminded him of the people from his own pack. Making sure he was not alone while not being pushy about it. In a way, it felt like he was home.

******

After two weeks battling the fires around the Hunter Valley, conditions had finally started to improve. Smoke still hung heavy in the air making breathing difficult. The men and women working the blazes had grown tired of the constant need to wear respirators. For Brandon and the lycan crew, a round of loud, barking coughs was enough to keep their faces covered.

The Mutts assembled with the other crews for the morning briefing.

“We’ve caught a break finally.” The regional brigade commander addressed the men. “While we still don’t have full containment of anything in the area, the winds have died down, and the fires are blowing away from us. There’s now a sizable burn scar between the valley and that monster if the winds were to shift back. The long term forecast’s looking favorable at last, though we know how accurate meteorologists can be. I’ve talked to a few of the other areas and central command in Sydney and we feel we can finally spare some units. Mutts, you’re to head to Katoomba to meet up with your new command. You’ll be convoying with two additional crews. Good luck, men. It’s been a pleasure working with you.”

Copyright © 2021 WolfM; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

I agree that Brandon needs to reconcile with his wolf, the results of having to defend himself was not his or his wolf's fault...My Grandfather used to say, 'People suck...some more than others"!!

Let's hope Brandon finds the time and the friends to help him thru this!

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His wolf seems wise, if a little raw between the edges, but Brandon is thinking too much like a human. I'm guessing that you'll be traipsing through your own path a might to get them where they need to be.

 

 

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@Kitt

I was going to say talking to somebody might help with the split personality. I do get the feeling Brandon likes to solve issues on his own. Drugs would be wasted on him.

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7 hours ago, CincyKris said:

I hope Brandon's internal war ends in peace, even a cease-fire would be an improvement at this point.  He couldn't have had a worse introduction to becoming lycan.  After all he's been through, he's lucky to be alive.

I think he was going for total victory before this. His wolf was simply a POW. Fortunately he fell in with the right pack or he wouldn't be there to fight the fires.

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It's unfortunate that his first shift happened the way it did but Brandon needs to make peace with his wolf. Until he does he'll only be half what he should be.

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7 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

Glad to see his mate is safe. I hope brandon learns to get along with his wolf

I'm sure a little mental arguing is good for the soul. :)

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7 hours ago, mikedup said:

Awesome chapter, I am glad that his mate is fine , he needs to reconcile with his wolf , it is sad that there is such conflict between them when they share a body., The fires seem to be gaining headway

Thank you, Mike. :) Fires are as destructive as hostilities about not being able to accept who you are.

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7 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

Glad that his new friends were able to find out that Austin is okay, at least for the moment.  Nothing in the Middle East is every truly okay...  Glad that Brandon was able to change and have that conversation with his wolf; the battle between the two of them is healthy for neither of them.  Glad that he is at least letting a couple of the guys get a little bit closer to him; and so happy that he shared his story with Lucas.

I don't know, I almost feel that a good part of this story is only about to begin. Can't wait to see what the new assignment brings.

I hope the good part is only beginning, otherwise I have a bunch of chapters waiting to post I need to revise. lol. Lucas really is the big brother he never had.

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6 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Glad to see that Brandon's mate is safe. I hope Brandon can learn to live with his wolf, he certainly had a hard time growing up. Brandon and The Mutts are off on new assignment, can't wait to see what happens.

Lucas might be able to help Brandon understand a few things about himself. Bringing up the reaction the human on the crew had compared to Brandon's foster families. Brandon might realize it isn't the people didn't like him, but simply a predator/pray instinct.

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6 hours ago, drsawzall said:

I agree that Brandon needs to reconcile with his wolf, the results of having to defend himself was not his or his wolf's fault...My Grandfather used to say, 'People suck...some more than others"!!

Let's hope Brandon finds the time and the friends to help him thru this!

You're grandfather was a smart man :)

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6 hours ago, Kitt said:

Brandon and his wolf seem almost a split personality issue. Do wolves have lycan shrinks?

If you think he has a split personality, think of how I feel with all these characters running around my head. :)  From Running with the Pack, there are lycan shrinks. They worked with some of the ferals.

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20 minutes ago, dughlas said:

It's unfortunate that his first shift happened the way it did but Brandon needs to make peace with his wolf. Until he does he'll only be half what he should be.

He is short, so that might make him a quarter of what he should be. Yes, I'm going to hell for that one. It sucked his first shift was like that, but the foster dad did end up getting what he had coming.

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11 hours ago, WolfM said:

Yeah, I see Brandon as stubborn enough to want do work things out on his own. Not sure where he gets that. :whistle:

I based the comment on my interactions with him. Or his alter ego. LOL

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Brandon may discover some inner peace from sharing his story. I love how you are weaving the act of writing poetry into your story. 

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22 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

Brandon may discover some inner peace from sharing his story. I love how you are weaving the act of writing poetry into your story. 

Sometimes it's easier to talk to strangers than friends. Hopefully writing poetry is therapeutic for Brandon like it was for me.

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