Liam called through the house as he made his way to the living room. Lorelai stuck by his side, her beautiful face twisted in sadness and guilt.
His heart ached at the thought of her in pain. But more so at the thought of her mate so close by. This was it, the moment they had been dreading. For years they’d convinced themselves that the mating mark not appearing was just a delay. They were so sure that it would come for them. Now, with Lorelai’s reaction to the unknown male, the dream shattered.
Lorelai was not his mate.
Somewhere out there in the world was a wolf that belonged to him, and it wasn’t the woman he had grown up with.
He couldn’t imagine loving someone as much as Lorelai. Nor of her loving someone other than him. He felt exhausted already, as though he could sleep for weeks. Grief hit him at the imagined future being lost to him.
When Lorelai had told him of her plan, he was ready to leave there and then. Not having pups was a sacrifice he could make if it meant he could keep her. But their group had always worked as a democracy. Liam allowed everyone their opinion, and he knew they wouldn’t be happy if he just upped and left.
One by one, the members of his pack filed into the room, taking their usual seats. They talked amongst themselves and waited until he called the meeting. Only Sophia looked his way, recognising the worry and hurt in his expression. He met her gaze and offered her a sad smile.
Leaving his sister was going to be the hardest thing of all.
“Okay everyone. Listen up.”
Silence fell over the pack as they turned to give their Alpha their full attention. He chewed his lip as he looked back at them, for once unsure how to start. How could he tell them this? Admitting it out loud that Lorelai was not his, made it too real for him. He didn’t want to say those words.
“What’s going on, Liam?” Sophia asked, her brow furrowed. “Why do you look so sad?” Liam cleared his throat, pushing aside his emotions. An Alpha couldn’t do this. Not even in a group as relaxed as theirs.
They relied on him to be their strength. To make the tough decisions and keep them safe. He had to handle this like anything else the Fates threw their way.
“We’re leaving,” he said, matter of fact. “Lorelai and I.”
As he expected, the pack members spoke out at once, voicing their protests. He held up a hand and waited for them to fall silent once more.
“Lorelai caught a scent of another wolf today,” he said. He kept his tone deadpan, not giving away the hurt that one sentence caused him. “Down by the village, so close by.”
“So what?” Brooke said. “We’re not harming anyone so one wolf isn’t an issue.”
“Where there’s one wolf, there’s a pack,” Killian said. Liam glanced over at him, saw the pain in his eyes. “I’m sorry. I should have scouted further before bringing you all up here.”
“It’s okay, you’re not to blame, Killian,” Liam said. “Look, there’s more to this than a simple wolf, okay? He’s… I mean, Lor, she…”
“He’s my mate,” Lorelai said, taking Liam’s hand. He took strength in the simple touch. Fuck. How could he lose this woman?
“Are you sure?” Sophia asked, her voice barely above a whisper. “I mean, he might not be.”
“I wish that were true,” Lorelai said. “But the scent is undeniable. And if I smelled him, then he definitely smelled me. He’ll be looking for me.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to leave, though,” Brooke said. “We’ll protect you.”
“James, if someone kept you from Sophia, what would you do?” Liam looked towards his sister’s mate, raising his eyebrow.
“Nothing could have stopped me,” he said, his reluctance to admit that clearly on his face. “I’d have killed anyone who stopped me.”
Lorelai held her hands out as though he had just made her point for her.
“And Sophia, I presume it’s the same for you?” She asked. Sophia nodded, her eyes still on her brother.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “To both of you. But I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t instinctively choose their mate.”
Lorelai nodded her agreement and curled her fingers around Liam’s. He squeezed her hand, ignoring the sting of emotion in the back of his throat.
“It’s why we’re choosing to leave,” he said. “It’s Lorelai’s decision.”
“It is,” she agreed. “I want to put as much distance between myself and this wolf as I can. I don’t know if I could reject him if I meet him and my heart belongs to Liam.”
“But Lor, you’ll never be a mother,” Brooke said, a tear spilling down her cheek. “And the two of you… well, you need a pack. You can’t leave.”
“I have no choice,” Lorelai said. “We know how happy everyone is here. We don’t want to uproot you again. You should stay and we… we’ll stay in touch. We’ll meet up when we can. But we can’t stay, Brooke. We just can’t.”
Silence fell amongst the wolves, a melancholy feeling to the atmosphere. Liam thought back to the night they formed their pack of misfits. The mood was the same that night, when they thought they’d never get to see one another again. They were doing so well now. How had they come full circle?
“We’ll come with you,” Sophia said. “Even if everyone else wants to stay, James and I will come.” Liam shook his head, even though he wanted to jump on the offer.
“You can’t, hon,” he replied. “We don’t know what dangers are out there, whether this guy will follow us.”
“All the more reason for someone to have your back,” Killian said, crossing his arms over his chest. “I agree with the others, you can’t go out there alone.”
“We have no choice,” Lorelai repeated. “Come on, we’re trying to keep you safe.”
“I know you are, Lor,” Killian said, his eyes soft, his expression free of confrontation. “But you haven’t thought it through. We don’t know this wolf or his pack. We don’t know what they’re capable of.
“Think about the packs we all left behind. Everything you’ve told me about your brothers. What if this guy is like them?”
Liam glanced at Lorelai. Perhaps it was his reluctance to leave their pack, but Killian was making sense. His father would torture the remaining pack members to find those he was seeking. Lorelai’s brothers would do worse than that.
If this unknown wolf was anything like the men they left, their family either had to come with them, or they couldn’t leave. Indecision was clear in Lorelai’s expression, and he could almost hear her mind racing to find a solution.
“Would anyone be willing to leave?” Lorelai asked. “I know it’s a big ask of you all, especially with all our hard work on the house. But-.”
“We shouldn’t leave,” Nathan said, speaking up for the first time. “I get it Lor, this must suck for you. But if this is where we’ve chosen to settle, then we need to learn to defend our territory.”
“He’s right,” James said, nodding towards his brother. “The mate thing aside, we’re going to have other packs to deal with, nomads roaming through. We can protect you here, Lorelai.”
“At least give it a week,” Nathan said. “Let us work on our defenses and we’ll be fine.”
Liam turned to Lorelai and tried to read her expression. The pack was giving them solutions, but ultimately this had to be her decision. It was she that would fight the hardest in this battle.
“I want to say yes, so much,” she said. “I love you all for wanting to stand by us.”
“So say yes,” Bethany said. “I know we haven’t been here long, Lor, but Rachel and I love you. You’re family.”
“We can be careful,” Logan said. “We’ll all mask our scent, we’ll…”
“We’ll grow the stinkiest mother fucking plants around the house,” Rachel said.
“And we’ll keep to ourselves,” Brooke said. “No one has to know who we are.”
“You can’t do that at your job, Brooke,” Lorelai said. “You have to interact with people.” Liam could sense her resolve weakening. In his mind, he knew they had resolved the situation. The pack was rallying so hard to stay together, he wouldn’t fight them on it.
“It may be my job,” Brooke said. “But I don’t have to give them any details. I’ll be friendly and polite. That’s all.”
“I hate to do this to you all,” Lorelai said. “I don’t want you to feel like prisoners in your own home.”
“And none of us want to lose you,” Killian replied. “These are all minor sacrifices that all of us should be able to keep to. Alpha? What say you?”
Liam took Lorelai’s hand, looking down into her eyes. A million words passed between them, spoken silently as they stared at each other. Liam believed in her, even if she didn’t believe in herself. She had strength she didn’t know she had and above all; he believed in the strength of their love.
“We stay,” he said, leaning down to kiss her forehead. “The new rules start now. Do not make me regret this."