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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Higher Education - 12. Higher 12

Seth’s working eye opened a little wider. Disbelief mixed with pain on his face as he watched one of his sister’s friends. From the scent he gave off it was apparent Randy was a guy he lusted after. “Oh my fuckin’ god. You kissed him. You’re gay?” His breathing was labored and came in short, shallow gasps.

“I prefer bi if we’re gonna put labels on it. He probably is too.” Randy tipped his head towards Trevor.

“I can’t fuckin’ belie…” Seth’s voice cut off as he was wracked with another coughing fit that had him writhing in agony. More blood appeared on his hand.

“Enough of this.” Trevor moved to the injured teen’s side. “I don’t care if you don’t want to see the doctor. It’s happening. Try and calm him down, Randy.” He rushed to the living room. “Doctor, he’s coughing up blood and seems to be in a lot of pain. I told him he didn’t have a choice anymore about seeing you.”

The man returned to the bedroom with Trevor. “I’m Dr. Hobart. You willing to let me check you over now?”

“It’s okay, Seth.” Randy sat gently on the far side of the bed. “I’ll stay with you. It may be hard to believe, but no one here’s gonna hurt you.”

When the teen gave a tentative nod, the doctor set his bag down and got to work. He poked and prodded while being as careful as he could. Pulling out antiseptic and a sterile cloth, he cleaned blood from some of the more serious wounds while running what Trevor thought were evidence swabs over other spots.

“Where’s my son? Who are you people?” A commotion in the living room caught Trevor’s attention.

“Mrs. Murphy. I know you’re upset, but try to calm down. One, you’re gonna scare your son. And two, everyone in this house’s trying to help your boy.”

Trevor walked out just as the deputy finished speaking. “Ma’am, I’m Trevor. We met at the high school on the fourth. I’m the one who was seeing Cassidy until what she did to your son after the fireworks. I found Seth badly hurt and wanted to get him someplace I knew was safe so he could get help.”

She gripped her husband’s hand. “Someone please explain what’s going on.”

“I went shopping at Safeway. When I came out, I found Seth on the ground and bloody. With what happened Saturday night, I brought him here.”

“I’m Thad Roslin and this is my husband, Wade Richards. Trevor’s living with us for the summer while he works at the company we manage. As soon as he got here, we called the Sheriff’s Department and a doctor we trust. Seth’s being seen to right now.”

“I’m Dr. Hobart. You must be the parents.” The man stood at the end of the hallway before approaching.

“Ken Murphy and my wife, Carol.”

“Why don’t you go see your son, Mrs. Murphy. Try not to hug him and be especially careful if you touch him. He has a lot of injuries that still need tending. His face looks bad right now, but it should heal.” Dr. Hobart put his hand on her arm. “I know you’re scared, but try to keep your voice calm for his sake.”

She quickly disappeared down the hall.

“Is he going to be okay?”

“I was only able to do a visual exam and basic first aid on him, Mr. Murphy. There’s a lot of bruising already. He took several blows to the head and face. I suspect he likely has a concussion. A CT scan’s recommended, but we can’t do that locally. We’ll still treat him as if it’s confirmed.” The doctor paused until Ken nodded. “One eye looks especially bad at the moment, though I’ve seen worse, and it should heal. Still, his vision will need to be checked at some point in the near future to make sure there isn’t permanent damage.

“The bloody nose looks scary but doesn’t appear broken; I’ll consider it a plus at the moment.” Dr. Hobart let Ken absorb what he was hearing. “Your boy’s in a lot of pain, which is understandable from the beating he received. I’ll need to do x-rays to make sure things like his ribs, left arm, and right leg aren’t broken, but I suspect all three are. He took several kicks or punches around his kidneys, we’ll run tests to make sure they weren’t damaged.” The doctor paused for a moment, allowing Seth’s father to digest the news.

“I’m a little concerned with what appears to be a boot shaped bruise on his lower spine. He didn’t feel my pen on his foot. Before you ask, I don’t believe Trevor moving him added to any potential damage. Like everything else, we’ll know more later, but I’d like him to be seen by a specialist in Redding as soon as possible.”

Ken Murphy remained silent, but looked pale.

“I cleaned up the more severe wounds. He’s going to need stitches above the bad eye and on the side of his abdomen. I’ve taped them for now, but don’t have what I need with me. The sooner I do it the better. I don’t…” Dr. Hobart hesitated for a moment. “Given the way his clothes are torn… Well, I don’t think he was penetrated, but I’ll need to check. Seth wouldn’t answer that question, or he doesn’t know. There are indications on his clothes of more than just his blood. I’m sure the deputy will want them for processing as evidence to prosecute anyone involved.” The doctor shifted his focus to the deputy. “By the way, I collected swabs before I cleaned anything. You’ll need to sign the log to accept custody, Roger.”

The officer nodded.

“Finally, I’ll need to keep him overnight for observation, and transfer him to Mercy Medical Center in Redding in the morning. Only people I absolutely trust and who have his best interest at heart will be allowed near him. I called my nurse back in, and she’s waiting at the hospital if he agrees to go.”

“We don’t have medical insurance.” There was a look of shame on Ken’s face. “I’m not sure how we’ll cover any of that.”

“I’ll make it simple then. I’m not charging for anything, and I’ll make sure you don’t receive a single bill from the hospital. A parent shouldn’t need to worry about something like that in an emergency. We’ll also arrange for a counselor he can talk to.” Dr. Hobart rested his hand on Ken’s shoulder. “Things like this, and what I was told happened over the weekend, can push a young, gay man like him to consider suicide.”

Ken nodded, but his watering eyes did not rise to meet the doctor’s.

“The boy, well, young man since he’s eighteen, has to give his okay for us to proceed.”

“I’ll talk to him.”

“Follow me, sir. He’s in my bedroom.” Ken and Dr. Hobart trailed behind Trevor.

“Carol told me what you said to Cassy. Thank you. And again for helping him today.” Ken stopped briefly, seeing how battered his son was. “Seth, the doctor wants to take you to the hospital to get you patched up and take some x-rays. Do you feel up to going?”

“Yeah. Randy and Mom said it needed to be done.” Seth’s breathing was still labored. “I just don’t want to move. It hurts too much.”

“The ambulance should be here anytime. I figured that was the safest way to move him.” Dr. Hobart checked his phone and a few moments later two EMTs wheeled a gurney into the bedroom. “If you’d all give us some room, perhaps wait out front, it would be easier.”

Back in the living room. Ken pulled Trevor aside. “I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but why didn’t you just call 9-1-1 from the start?”

“I’m still new in town and know there isn’t a hospital here. Isn’t the nearest one in Redding?” Trevor looked around at the people surrounding him. “It was after six o’clock, and I figured all doctor offices would be closed for the day. I don’t even know if there’s a local Urgent Care. Thad and Wade have a ton of connections, and they’d know who to call to get the best possible help immediately. Also, since your daughter works in a medical office, I didn’t want to risk Seth ending up anywhere near her after what happened the other night.”

“The closest hospital’s about twenty miles away in Fall River Mills. It isn’t much and doesn’t have everything he’ll need, but in an emergency it takes care of this area. That’s where the EMTs said they’re going to take him tonight.” Ken rubbed his hand through his hair. “I love my son and both my daughters. It’s going to take me a while to forgive Cassidy for what she did, especially with this happening. I still have a hard time with the gay aspect once in a while, but he’s my son first and always. I’ve been scared for years something like this would happen to him. This part of the state isn’t exactly progressive. All that matters is his safety and him getting to be himself.”

Trevor glanced over to his housemates and nodded in their direction. “They don’t hide themselves in town and could be a good role model for Seth. Most of my close friends are gay or bi. Both of my best friends from childhood are married to men, so it’s something I don’t think about, other than when I hear something negative. When Seth’s up and about again, I’d like to talk to him. Maybe I can be a friend to him.”

The EMTs wheeled Seth out with his mother following close behind. “I’m going to ride with Seth.”

“I’ll drive you over, Mr. Murphy. I’ll need to wait to take a statement from your son anyways. And collect his clothes as evidence.”

“Thank you, Deputy…?”

“Baker, sir.”

“Mr. Roslin, Mr. Richards. I can’t thank you and this young man enough for helping people you’ve never met before. It would have killed me if I’d lost my son.”

“It’s all Trevor. But you’re welcome, and we hope Seth fully recovers.”

******

The house soon grew quiet as everyone except Randy left. Thad and Wade sat in their favorite chairs, while Randy crashed on the couch. Reaching for Trevor’s hand, he pulled him close and wrapped an arm around him.

“I’m guessing there’s no issues following last weekend.” Wade looked pleased.

“Told you both there weren’t problems. I just wanted to give him time to process what happened with his friends.” Trevor leaned into the muscular chest behind him. “He has to live here and find his own comfort level.”

“You feel good.” Randy tightened his arms around the younger man and pressed his lips to the side of Trevor’s head.

Snickering caused them to both look up. “Umm. Sorry guys. You may be an old married couple, but this is all new to us.”

“Old married couple? Thad, get me my walker so I can hobble over there and beat that brat with my cane.”

“Can I ask you guys something?”

“Sure, Trev.”

“When you dated women,” the scent of Randy’s shock made him chuckle before continuing, “did the dates feel successful and satisfying? Or more like it was fun and you were ready for the next?”

“For me, I guess I thought it was satisfying. I mean I was slipping the Big D to any woman I could. But I never met one that made me want to settle down. Thad, how was it for you?”

“Well, I liked the sex when I got it. Usually it wasn’t often enough. There were a few I wanted to settle down and start a life with. Even proposed to one but got shot down because she was hoping for someone with more potential.” Thad shrugged. “Why do you ask?”

“Just trying to figure out some stuff running through my mind.” Trevor craned his neck around to see Randy. “Full disclosure to you. A couple days before you spent the night, my friend Skyler stayed over. We only went as far as cuddling.” He moved his lips as close to the ear as possible to whisper. “And we blew each other.”

“Skyler? Wow. You’ve got good taste in men. And double wow you gave your virginity up to me and not him.”

“Thank you for sharing that with the room.” He playfully slapped Randy on the forehead.

Wade and Thad both had a hand over their mouth to try and muffle their chuckles.

“Sorry.”

“I’ve really liked being with all the girls and women I’ve gone out with.” The corner of Trevor’s lips curled up. “I like the softness of their skin, the curves and mounds.”

“Ah, but nothing beats an Almond Joy. They’ve got nuts.” Pillows were tossed from two directions at Wade.

“I can’t count the number of times I roughhoused with Casey or Aiden. Those are my best friends from back home. But around them, there was no interest. Even when my buddy at school came out to me and propositioned me, I really had no interest. Maybe a little curiosity.

“But here I am, in the arms of Randy, and it feels so much… I don’t know.” Trevor laced his finger with Randy’s and pulled the arms tighter around him. “Nicer? Than any of the dates I can think of in the last two years.”

“Trevor, you’ve mentioned all the times when someone said or did something, you responded with, ’I’m flattered but I’m straight.’ We’ve sort of had this conversation a couple times already.” Thad leaned forward. “You were always the sole straight guy in an ever-growing group of gay or bi men. You could have tried something with a guy and decided it wasn’t for you, but that’s not the case. Maybe because even your friends kept reinforcing the mantra of Trevor’s terminally straight.”

“What do you mean?”

Thad relaxed back into the chair and kicked his feet up onto the coffee table, ignoring Wade’s slap at them. “Australia, campus glory holes, Skyler, Randy, and those are the times you told me about. The gender identity while in Sydney was female but pre-op so, while you were with a woman, the body had all the components of a male. You didn’t care who was on the other side of the partition at a glory hole since you just wanted to get your rocks off. I can’t blame you though since that’s what they’re for.” Thad grinned mischievously at his mate and Randy. “Isn’t that right guys? Oh, sorry. I forgot you two never did that.”

“Asshole.” The insult flowed from two directions.

“After defending your masculinity, or having others define it for so long with how everyone including you saw yourself, you got caught checking out Sky while he was changing which led to you asking him to stay the night.” Thad held up his hands when he noticed Trevor about to respond. “Yeah, I know it was a little more in depth than just that, and Skyler was cruising you too. And it doesn’t hurt to point out the last two women you dated kind of ended disastrously, yet you don’t look overly unhappy, but who would be in the arms of such a sweet man.”

Randy winked at Thad.

“I think what Thad’s trying to get at is you’re attempting to put a label on yourself when you don’t need to.” Wade glanced between his mate and the two younger men. “You’re in the arms of a man who’s attractive, strong, kind, and funny. At least that’s how we see him from the limited amount of time we’ve spent around him. You’re totally relaxed in his arms now even while trying to figure out what’s going on in your mind. You have the same content expression you did while holding him in the spa.” He considered his next words carefully. “I’ve only seen you with Cassidy once, before that grand finale at the fireworks. You two sat next to each other like casual friends.”

Thad picked up where his mate left off without missing a beat. “You’re not turning gay or bi. You’re still exactly the same you who arrived here last month. The only difference’s you know yourself a little better now. That’s not to say you won’t find a woman who doesn’t turn out to be psycho, and you’ll live happily ever after. The guys that propositioned you before, you weren’t ready for, or they just didn’t catch your interest the way a man from Burney can.”

“And this Burney man’s happy he captured your attention.” Randy tightened his arms slightly to pull them just a fraction of an inch closer together. “If I haven’t said it before, I like you guys.”

“Now, if you brought the garlic bread home with you, and if dinner isn’t ruined with being held warming for the past several hours,” Thad and Wade stood and turned towards the kitchen, “we should probably eat because I’ve heard everyone’s stomachs growling.”

******

“You doing okay with this?” Randy rested against the furry chest behind him, with his hands over Trevor’s arms as they held him.

“What? Okay cuddling in bed with another guy when a month ago I was apparently telling any guy who showed even the slightest interest in me I was totally straight? Honestly, I am.” Trevor moved one of his hands so the fingers combed through Randy’s chest hair. “This simple sensation on my hand feels so incredible, I’m just trying to take it all in.”

“This is a lot better than instant gratification sex, though I did enjoy that when it came up.” Randy’s scent telegraphed the smile even without seeing it. “Some of those truckers looked so hot dropping to their knees in front of me.”

“Well, I enjoyed sliding through a glory hole on campus into a wet mouth. But yeah, this is so much better.”

“What did you think about while you did that?”

“Sometimes I pictured a hot woman. Other times, even though it was a men’s room, I let my mind wander, not knowing who was doing it. If I was horny and wanted to nut quickly, I knew where to go. The rumors are true about guys doing it better.”

“Yeah, gotta agree with you there.” Randy stroked the powerful muscles under his hand.

“Cuddling with Skyler pops into my mind every now and then. I’m a little curious what would have happened if I’d let things go further.” Trevor shifted and pressed his lips to Randy’s temple. “For the record, it only came to mind now because we’re talking about this stuff.”

“I’m good with that. It’s been years since I saw him, but I had to jerk off one night when I wondered if you and him had been together. Then was curious about him and me. And all three of us.”

“If I wanted to explore, would you be upset?”

“Trevor, you’re coming to a realization I came to a few years ago. No, I wouldn’t be upset. I might want to hear about it though. It’d be hot if I was the only guy to ever get your ass though. But I’d be happy to share it with Skyler.”

“How did it happen for you? Figuring out you were open to guys, I mean.”

“Right after I started at the lumber mill, I remember log truck drivers looking hard at me sometimes. After a couple weeks, one of them followed me into the bathroom while his truck was getting unloaded. As soon as I finished pissing, he got on his knees. It kinda freaked me, and I froze instead of running. I got hard and guess that was all the invitation he needed. He blew me, I shot, he left, and I couldn’t believe how good it felt. I kept an eye out for how they looked at me from then on. A lot of them aren’t local so there was little risk of seeing them around. I mean, who turns down a blowjob?”

“I also keep thinking about my stop in San Diego before coming here and my buddy there talking me into working with him as a GoGo dancer in a gay club.”

“Holy shit. I would’ve loved to have seen that.”

Trevor reached for his phone on the nightstand and pulled up the video, handing the device to Randy. The pair watched and Randy restarted it, zooming in several times.

“Your buddy looks tiny next to you, except for the way you both fill out those jocks. Damn he’s got some muscles.” Randy licked his lips. “I don’t care what anyone says, that pink looks hyper masculine on you. Do you still have the jock? You gonna model it for me? And you looked rock hard the entire time.”

“Yes and yes. It’s in my underwear drawer.” Trevor pointed to his left with a smile. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was hard. It was a turn-on showing off like that for the first time.” Trevor clasped his hands behind his head. “Brandon warned me guys would grab my ass or dick, and he was right. While they were sliding tips into the jock, it just made my dick chub up all the more.”

“And you’re hard now, just like I am. I know it’s getting late and we need to get some sleep, but…”

“Pretty sure it’ll help us sleep better. If you want more than a blowjob, grab the lube.”

******

Trevor stood just inside the room at the pack offices used for the weekly meeting. He was having an enjoyable conversation with Deputy Baker and the pack enforcer, Grant Perry, as locals walked in. Thad had sent out a notice that all Burney area members were required to attend in person, so more were expected than normal.

A couple with their son passed by the three men, nodding their greeting. Trevor scented the air before grabbing the young man and slamming him against the wall, his head hitting it with a loud thud.

“What the fuck? Get off me!” The boy clutched at the fists gripping his shirt.

“Beta Carlson?” The father took a step closer, but refrained from intervening when the enforcer and Sheriff’s Deputy shook their heads. “What’s going on?”

Leaning in close to the teen, Trevor inhaled deep. “I’d recognize that scent anywhere. So, you like to beat the shit out of gays, do you? Targeting someone smaller and unable to defend against a lycan? Gets you all turned on as they beg you not to hurt them?” The low, threatening growl in his voice had everyone within earshot on guard. “Let me guess, he didn’t mind since fags are into that stuff.” Trevor’s eyes flashed as he pulled the teen away from the wall and shoved him at Deputy Baker. “His scent was strong on Seth. I’m sure his DNA will match some of the bodily fluids found on the kid’s clothes. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s the wolf we’re looking for.”

The deputy scented the boy and nodded. “I concur with Beta Carlson. The human’s clothes reeked of his smell. This is one of the people who assaulted the boy I was called about last night.”

“Rick Wilson, as enforcer of Pit River Pack, I’m placing you under arrest for the brutal attack and possible sexual assault of Seth Murphy. Get him out of here, Roger. I’ll be in to help with the interrogation as soon as we’re done with the parents.”

Deputy Baker nodded as he clipped the handcuffs on the terrified young man. “That slight burning you feel is just enough silver so you can’t break these.” He pulled off his gloves and marched Rick away.

Trevor gave Thad and Wade a thumbs up.

“Beta, Enforcer, would someone please tell us what’s going on?” Shock was plastered on the parents’ faces. “What do you think our son did? What attack?”

“Your son decided to take part in some good ol’ gay bashing yesterday, putting a local human boy in the hospital. Someone he graduated high school with. We’ll make no promises on his punishment, as the final decision will fall to the beta pair or the alphas. Evidence indicates a couple of Rick’s human friends were also involved in what happened. The more he voluntarily helps, the better things will go for him. He’s still looking at time in a Lycan Council prison. The alternative, as I pointed out to Beta Carlson, is we let human law enforcement and the DA’s office prosecute your son and his friends. Let’s finish this discussion in private.”

“If you’d come with us, there’s a private office we can talk in.” Trevor pointed in the direction he wanted them to go.

******

“Any plans for the weekend.”

“Going hiking in Lassen National Park with a couple friends. How about you, Tanner?” The two were having lunch again. It had turned into something regular at least three days a week. Occasionally, some of the other team members joined them. They had a table inside the Alpine Drive Inn. Trevor liked the look of the pink A-frame façade and the food was quite good also. He took a bite of his one and a half pound Billy Burger and moaned. “Oh, this is good.”

Tanner chuckled. “Our kind of hiking or?”

“One’s from the group and the other isn’t a club member. What about you? Doing anything this weekend?”

“Headed into Redding with a female friend tonight for a movie, then we’re going out on Lake Shasta tomorrow. Think we’re also going to someplace called Shasta Caverns. I was told I’m not allowed to Google it and that I’d love it.”

“Sounds fun but isn’t it supposed to be hot as hell there this weekend?” Trevor emptied his iced tea and went for a refill. “Cave exploring is fun. Only time I’ve spent in Redding is when I’ve flown in or out. If there’s caverns, I’ll have to check it out. I liked the lava tube by Old Station.”

“Did a run there with some of the locals. Just like a cozy den.” Tanner grinned. “I don’t plan to have clothes on any more than required this weekend. That should help me stay cooler. Or heat things up more.”

******

“You sure you’re not gonna catch heat for not being around today? I still don’t want to cause trouble for you.” Trevor opened the liftgate for Randy to put his gear in the back.

“Naw, we’re good. Hannah still isn’t talking to me so what more trouble can I get in. A week of no sex because I didn’t support Cassidy, and I didn’t come out against you.” Randy stopped and laughed. “Well, no sex with her. Got a couple of my semi-regulars offering to fill in, plus a new one I haven’t screwed in years. Wonder what she’d say if I just came out.” He hopped into the backseat.

“Hey, Randy.”

“Skyler. Good to see ya.”

“I probably don’t need to say it, but being up front,” Trevor’s sly grin was accompanied by a wink, “I’ve had sex with both of you. As long as it’s not a problem, let’s hit the road.”

The other two had a good laugh as Trevor shifted into drive and took off down the road.

Skyler wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Now that I know Randy’s an option, I’m sure any problems can be worked out through long, hard, deep… umm, discussion.”

“Sounds like a talk we’d both enjoy. Kinda wanting to see if the carpet matches the drapes.” Randy leaned forward between the front seats. “Hey, I heard Seth got home from Redding, so I talked to his dad last night.”

“I wanted to, but don’t have a number for him or his address. How is he?”

“Broken leg and arm, plus his shoulder’s messed up. He’s doing better. Swelling’s down on the eye, and he can see out of it. Scared to leave the house though. He’s stuck in a wheelchair until they know more about his back, plus he can’t work crutches with one arm in a cast.” Randy’s brow furrowed. “Dude, those fuckers spooged on him too and then pushed him out of a moving truck where you found him.”

“Who’s Seth and what happened?” Skyler looked between his two travel companions.

“Brother of the girl I was screwing. The one I got in a fight with at the fireworks. He got a major beating from several guys in town. I figured you’d have heard about it through your contacts.” Trevor and Randy filled him in on what happened the previous Wednesday evening. A few more details were wolf-whispered since Skyler had been on patrol during the pack meeting. “The last couple days have been crazy. I’m sorry I didn’t say something sooner.”

“If he’s scared to leave his house, get word to him; me and some of my buddies will gladly act as bodyguards. Any place he wants to go, he’ll have an escort. I’ll be happy to put a gay basher in the ground.” Skyler balled his fist and slapped it into his palm to emphasize the point.

The hour and a half drive gave Randy and Skyler time to catch up on each other’s lives and further discuss the Seth issue. The few years age difference between them, plus vastly different employment, meant they rarely crossed paths even in the small town.

“This is gonna be an easy hike compared to the last one.” Randy checked his CamelBak to make sure it was full.

“You did the summit climb last time you were here?” Skyler shielded his eyes to look towards the volcano’s peak.

“Yeah, was a blast and where Randy first flirted with me.”

“Technically, I flirted at the lake, but don’t think you noticed.”

“Guess even the breeze and open space couldn’t protect him from the pheromones you give off.” Skyler looked hungrily between his two companions. “If we had to be cooped up in the Tahoe much longer one of you was gonna end up getting road head. Guess me getting some would have fallen to Randy.”

“He does always smell good. Even when he’s sweating.” Randy playfully shoved Trevor. “Before I met him, it never occurred to me to run my tongue through a guy’s pits or breath in that musky ball sweat.” He licked his lips. “You should’ve climbed in back with me, Sky. Wouldn’t be right to distract the driver and we could’ve gotten better acquainted.”

“FYI, guys. I don’t like trying to hike with a hard-on, and you’re both giving me one.” Trevor let out a sigh as he reached into his shorts and tried to shift his angle. “Fuck it. So I’m pitching a tent. I need to remember to put on underwear around you two.” He let out a huff.

“What, no sexy Andrew Christian underwear today?” Skyler smirked

“Oh fuck. I like the thought of him going commando, but yeah, he does look hot in those.”

Trevor rolled his eyes. “It’s supposed to take about an hour to get there. Got everything you need?”

“I’m good. How about you, Sky?”

“Yep, got everything. Let’s go see some smelly mud pots.”

******

The trail was easy, with sweet smelling conifers that had Trevor’s wolf once again wanting to come out and enjoy the park. The scent of sulfur was in the air, but fairly mild. Rounding a bend, through the green of trees and grass with the purple wildflowers, an off-white landscape stuck out in the background.

The closer they got to their destination, the more things changed. Barren ground replaced the greenery with boulders appearing to have been casually tossed around. Sulfuric gasses rose from cracks in the ground and superheated water bubbled to the surface. An expansive boardwalk made crossing the volatile basin safe and easy.

“When I checked out trails to do, it said this is the biggest hydrothermal spot in the National Park.” Trevor pulled out his camera, set it to panoramic and slowly scanned across the scenery.

“All the times I’ve been in the park, I’ve never come here.”

“I haven’t either, Skyler. This is cool.”

“It’s pathetic they have to put these warning signs everywhere and still end up with some idiot who gets burned by the water.” Skyler shook his head and pointed to the message reminding people to remain on the path.

The trio made their way across the walkway, marveling at nature’s fury. Gray bubbling mud mixed with water to create a murky stream.

“Remind me to clean the old stuff out of my fridge when I get home.” Randy covered his nose. “This stuff stinks.”

The rotten egg smell of sulfur was almost too much for the pair of lycan. They had to fight the urge to gag or flee. Trevor envied his human friend for a moment. The offending elements left bright orange and yellow streaks where it was expelled under pressure from the earth’s depths.

Coming to the end of the boardwalk, a tranquil, turquoise pool sat like a gem surrounded by small trees and grass. It was mere feet in distance from the wasteland of the volcanic vent. Two completely different, yet beautiful ecosystems in such close proximity, one welcoming life and the other hostile to it.

“I don’t know about either of you, but I’m ready to head someplace that smells better.”

“I am too, Sky. How about you, Randy?”

“Yeah, this is cool and all, but I can only take so much.”

In a little over an hour, they were back at the SUV. “Thanks for coming out here with me. I know I could do touristy stuff on my own, but it’s a lot more fun with friends.”

“You know I like spending time with you and hiking’s always fun. It’s been great getting to know Skyler better, so I have to thank you for that too, Trev.”

“We can find another place to hike or… If you guys want, we can head back to my place for some group cuddling. Not promising sex, but we’ll let things go where they go.” Skyler pulled his phone out to glance at the time. “Only a little after two o’clock, so plenty of time. Damn I’ve got too many texts for my day off.” He thumbed through a slew of messages.

Trevor glanced over with concern at the change in his friend’s scent.

“Actually I’ve got to cancel that.” Skyler tipped the screen so Trevor could see it.

Trevor spoke in a wolf-whisper so only the redhead could hear him. “I’ll get us home as quickly as I can.” He took one more look at the message before shifting into drive.

<Beta Thad shot in chest at close range>

Copyright © 2023 WolfM; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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