Lynette Parker needs to go to the bathroom. Badly.
It might be the amount of water she drank yesterday, but really, who can tell? She rolls off the hotel bed and pads over to the bathroom, closing the door as softly as she can. It takes a few seconds for her eyes to fully adjust. As she sits on the toilet, her fingers lightly tapping against her thigh, she thinks about what will await in the morning.
She may be one of the quietest people on the planet, but even she cannot control the force of which her pee hits the toilet water; it's loud, even to her sleepy ears. And despite the fact that her mountain lion ears are probably more sensitive than Theo's coyote ones or Martin's falcon ones, Lyn is sure that they can hear her doing her business with crystal clear clarity.
It's kind of embarrassing. She winces.
The puma hears a soft noise in the other room that's probably Martin. Lyn's not sure, but as she finishes up and the roll on her right spins, making a clacking sound, she thinks that Theo's cursing underneath his breath. Her suspicions are confirmed when Martin's raspy voice tells him that it's too early in the morning for anything, and to stop saying bad words. Theo says a particularly advanced four-letter one, just to spite him.
When Lyn emerges from the bathroom, Martin's watch is glowing, and she faintly sees the numbers on it. It's much later than she assumed at first, about five. Theo turns over on the ground, his hand reaching blindly for his shirt. "You know, we still have about two hours of sleep," he complains.
She smirks, reaching for her backpack and pulling her own change of clothes out. She slept in a pair of shorts and a large, baggy tee, which isn't exactly conventional. Phasing is easiest in tight clothing, mainly so the molding of their skin from animal to human is smoother.
In ten minutes, they're ready to go. She gives the boys a hard time about showering together, and they feed her crap about her hairy toes. It's normal, as normal as they're ever going to get.
"I told you, it saves time when we shower together," Theo says, looking glum and still trying to argue against the verdict.
Lyn shrugs, trying not to smile. "I ship you two anyway. Which one do you like better, Thartin or Meo?"
"Thartin sounds like a plant," the dark-eyed falcon says distantly. "I have to admit that Meo does gives off nice vibes." Theo turns pink and shoves their friend, hard. He does it again when Lyn bursts out laughing, and the combination of the two events seems to make Martin realize what's going on. "Oh. Never mind."
They leave the hotel room, but not before Theo locks the safe with the combination "666", ensuring literal hell for the next guests. Martin doesn't even seem to notice, too busy on his phone, typing the morning's fact tweet. As difficult as it is to believe, Martin's a secret online celebrity. His Twitter has six million followers, and somehow the number's growing. It's not like he posts pictures of his face. His rules are that he posts at least two tweets a day, some kind of joke or fun fact.
The three of them leave, Lyn in the middle (to keep peace) as always, she distantly hears her two companions arguing. She tells them they're annoying and they shut up for about twenty seconds before Theo tells Martin to stop walking so fast because he's tired, and Martin starts complaining about "sluggish movements" and what not. They walk for a good mile or so, opting out of hotel breakfast and going with energy bars instead. Again.
Which leaves Lyn in her own head, thinking about what they're here for as she chews crusty granola and sour raisins. Brandon, Martin's Alpha, had reported that when his pack had detected vampire hunting near their grounds - Camton, California - they'd chased the group all the way to northeastern Oregon, where they'd found shapeshifter activity in La Push for the first time in over sixty years close by.
The La Push wolf pack is something of an enigma; whereas the other four packs that Lyn's always known are small and consist of no more than four shifters, maybe five at the most, the wolf pack is reported to have ten shifters. Impossible, but as her uncle explains it, their four packs originated differently than the wolves'. Their pack is not belonging to one bloodline, but several.
Lyn is pulled back from her musings thanks to Theo, who's asking where they are. Martin rolls his eyes and points to a large sign that says, in clear white letters, "Rexburg, Idaho", and Theo shrinks down a little before realizing that he's letting a falcon dominate him.
She sighs and calculates the distance in her head as the two begin their daily squabble. It's about nine hundred and seventy miles from Rexburg to La Push, and the top speed that the three of them can go at is about three hundred twenty. Which means a good three or four hours, especially if she counts in the breaks.
Martin announces the same thing a minute later and jogs over to a ditch on the side of the highway they've just arrived at. After a quick check to make sure that no one's watching, he grips his string bag tightly to his chest and shifts, the transformation rolling over him like water. His clothes and his bag and everything that's Martin the Human melts into Martin the Falcon, and a second later, an abnormally large one is left standing there. He croaks and then flutters his wings.
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Theo pushing the cap on his head down hard. Gathering up her nerves, Lyn pulls the backpack into her back and grimaces as the familiar stretching comes on to her. It hurts at first, but she's gotten used to it like she's gotten used to so many other things.
The pack mind greets her. Ash is phased in and running patrol. She runs through the events that have happened so far quickly before shutting him out, imagining a little door that clicks closed, and sure enough, he's out of her mind. Her muzzle opens in a small yawn. Rolling her head back and enjoying the crack of the bones in her neck, she nods with satisfaction and then turns to her companions that are watching with amusement.
They go through Seattle, and from there, even though she's tired and can feel the startings of a cramp in her stomach, they keep running. Finally, they get to Forks and she whimpers on accident, a teeny tiny noise that normal humans can't pick up on, but the boys hear it and they make her stop.
Theo phases back first, his hat settling rather crookedly on top of his head. A stringed sports bag appears on top of Martin's stomach, and Theo opens his mouth to tease him about it before he decides to change his mind, glancing at her.
The shift is long and excruciating, and she's covered in sweat by the time she's back. The tight clothing she's wearing grips her, causing discomfort, and her cheeks feel overheated and flushed.
A few gasps later, she regains composture and the boys help her stand up, even though she's sure that the pain in her stomach is going to kill her. Martin feeds her another energy bar and Theo pours the mineral water down her throat, much to her chagrin. It's been too long since she's run this long this fast, and her body pays for it now.
They walk along a few roads for about two miles before the cramps go away and stay away. When Theo smells the scent of discomfort fading and Martin's eyes no longer see the muscle in her jaw ticking, they start a light jog among the trees alongside the road. It's pretty outside, especially at nine in the morning when the sun is still low in the sky. It gleams along the Quillayite River, as Martin oh-so-helpfully mentions.
They stop a few times even though she protests, and, an hour later, they arrive at a bridge. A car passes on the road, and despite her sore muscles, when Lyn sees the sign that declares that they've arrived at La Push, she's relieved.
It's a beach. First Beach, to be specific. It's about a mile long, she estimates. The water's dark, the tides pushing against the rocky gray shore. There's not as much sand as she thought she'd see, but more rocks instead. It's nice, and she lets her eyes roam across the pale driftwood trees barely away from the water.
It's time to find out what's really going on with the La Push wolf pack.
They trudge through the rocks, Theo leading the way, Martin and Lyn following faithfully. Martin points out a small ring of logs that are lying in a circle. She doesn't see what's so wonderful about it at first, because they can just sit anywhere they want, but then she sees the trees that are close by. Close enough to make a getaway, if they need to.
It's a relief to finally sit down, shift all her weight off her legs. "So what now?" Theo asks as he looks around, taking in the surroundings. On the other hand, Martin seems oblivious from the beauty around him, simply drawing a paper map out of his athletic bag. The sun is to his back, and it strikes his blond hair and makes it look like he's on fire. Lyn frowns at the thought.
"We started here," the falcon says, pointing at the area in Utah where the Council met once a week. He draws a finger northwest, to about where Rexburg is. "Then we ran here, stopped and took a breather."
Theo raises an eyebrow. "I assume you mean break."
"No, I mean breather."
Lyn smacks Theo's arm when the coyote leans forward. Without her, they'd be floating face down in water right now (crisis averted!). Uninterrupted, Martin continues, not unhappily. "Now, we're on the coast, right here."
Martin's short, like the other two falcons, but his hands aren't. Lyn doesn't want to tell him that his finger is so large and thick that she can't see a thing underneath it, but Theo doesn't seem to have that sort of filter.
"We can't see anything."
This time, it's Martin's arm that she hits. He glares at her, but doesn't address Theo.
"Anyway, I'm just saying that we need to be part of the community. There's a La Push Council meeting in a few hours. I'm betting that all the guys attending know about the shifting stuff. All we need to do is show up, tell them what they don't know, since we destroyed their records a few decades ago, and ask if they want to sign a treaty or something." He pauses. "There's a reason why the Alphas didn't come."
The coyote frowns. "Well, yeah. Because the Thirds and Fourths wouldn't have a strong enough leader."
"That's only one reason." Lyn tells him. She's been thinking about this for a while now, and it's obvious that even through fighting, Martin's been doing some research of his own. "Another one is because all the Alphas were there during the War. That's bound to give some tension, right?"
"Oh," Theo says, then deepens his voice to mimic his Alpha, Taylor. "About sixty years ago, I brutally killed off half of your wolf pack after you refused to help my pack out in a hunt and hurt my Beta. Then we ripped up your historical records when we won, all four thousand years of it." He goes back to his own voice. "Yeah, that's not good."
Lyn's not amused, even though Martin's snickering. "Think about it," she sighs. "Not only that, but assuming that Arth doesn't go, three Alphas in one place? Crazy. The wolves may be different kinds of shifters, but they'll be able to feel that sort of power."
"So they sent us. The three youngest shifters so far." It's odd, how Theo's voice sounds. Like he's really proud but really bitter.
Martin rubs his eyes. "Yeah. You can't get mad at the bears for not coming, though."
"Why don't they just stop shifting and get married or something?" Theo asks.
"They did. They both did, but their wives died from a vampire attack, I think, and they can't just stop shifting and let the bear pack die out." Then he seems to realize what he's saying, along with Theo. "Sorry, Lyn." They fall into an awkward silence.
She's not sure what exactly happened with Natasha and herself all those years ago. There are dreams that are more like nightmares, really. The scar on her neck suggests one thing, the venom in her blood another, and her memories something else. Being shipped off to the Coyote pack to recover with Theo and Martin didn't give her a lot of time to think about it. And returning to Collem four years later to her sullen father she'd never known and the uncle more clueless than eager wasn't inviting either.
Lyn doesn't say a word, though.
Then she catches sight of the map, crumpled up and forgotten in Martin's lap. It turns out there's a village, and she offers to go over there, just to see if there's anything of interest. Somewhere to spend time. Her best friends agree wholeheartedly, and they head up, pretending that their previous conversation had never taken place.