Chapter Seventeen: Crane
Author’s Songs of the Chapter: Find Yourself by Brad Paisley and Dangerous by David Guetta
I wake to something lightly shaking my shoulder. Opening my blurry eyes I see Cassie standing over me with an apologetic smile on her lips.
“We’ve been summoned for training if it goes well then we move one step closer to freedom. In other words we’ve been summoned to start the program.” Cassie murmurs to me, her eyes are bright and excited.
I nod tired and go to role out of bed but something, or someone, is holding me back. I blink then blink again as my groggy mind snaps to attention at the sight of Hayley’s body curled tightly against my own. She’s completely healed. I gently pull away from her leaving her curled up on the bed alone. Instantly she begins to groan as the beginning of a nightmare takes hold of her. It doesn’t take long for the violent nightmare to wake her as she bolts up panting, her eyes wide with horror. I recognize this as a traumatic memory of a nightmare because over the past while I’ve seen Dusk go through the same thing before she found Noah again. When with Noah Dusk tends not to have nightmares of our parent's deaths but without him, it haunts her over and over again.
“Hey, your okay Hayley the memories over,” I whisper to her as I reach out pulling her tightly against me.
“How did you know it was a memory?” Hayley questions her eyes downcast in shame.
“When Noah doesn’t sleep with Dusk she has recurring nightmares about our parent's death. It’s a traumatic experience branded into her, she goes through similiar things to what I just witnessed from you.” I respond honestly as Cassie stiffens beside us, she is the only one who thinks she knows Hayley’s story.
Cassie was going to share Hayley’s story with us but at this exact moment, I’m glad she hasn’t had time to yet. I shoot Cassie a warning glare that turns into a confused expression as I take in what she’s dressed in.
“What’s taking so long?” Dusk asks as she slips into the room and I notice she’s wearing the same outfit as Cassie.
I step away from Hayley just in time to catch the items she is tossing at me. It’s a police tactical unit outfit but made of the same skin-tight material as the white outfits we’ve been wearing. The helmet makes me choke as I attempt to fight back laughter before slipping it onto my head. Wolves aren’t ashamed of nakedness so I quickly strip and slip into the outfit. The pants aren’t skin tight like spandex but they deffently aren’t baggy, the black colour of them is a nice contrast to the white I’m now used to. The shirt is tight as it spans my shoulders, my name is sown onto the front of it above my heart. Once dressed I give my body a shake.
“I feel ridiculous,” I state as I glance down at myself compared to Dusk and Cassie who both smile smugly at Hayley who I know is staring at me.
Dusk and Cassie are both dressed in skin tight black leggings with the matching tight black shirt with their names stiched on the front. Dusk’s turns and I see a patch sown onto the shirt in the form of a howling Wolf that spans the back along with the words wolf pack beneath it almost like a gang symbol.
“Yeah, whoever designed this outfit for us didn’t do a good job.” Cassie giggles before she leaves the room, her smugness about Hayley and I pours off her as she goes.
Dusk tosses an outfit at Hayley who catches it in surprise.
“What’s this for?” Hayley questions confused.
“Your one of us, that means you need to dress in this silly crap the same as the rest of us. Plus it’s a sign of unity, your one of our own to protect now and you’ve admitted it.” Dusk explains simply before leaving Hayley and me alone once more.
Hayley stares down at the outfit tears springing up in her eyes. She wipes at them before meeting my eyes, I can’t read her.
“I may be one of you, a Wolf, but I don’t even know if I can shift anymore. I’ve repressed that part of me for so long.” Hayley confesses still looking at me and I see the fear in her eyes.
Her words sink into me, her fear becoming my own. I mask my fear replacing it with a confident smile.
“You’ll get the hang of being a Wolf again Hayley. Just let it in, let us be a part of you again.” I tell her using my facade of confidence to do so.
Hayley nods at me before heading to the bathroom to change. I slip out into the living room, Dusk is waiting by the door for me with Noah.
“Hayley doesn’t know if she can shift, she hasn’t tried to in a very long time,” I tell them when I reach them trying to keep the concern from finding its way into my voice and failing.
I tell them both for Hayley’s sake and my sister's reaction, Dusk will either crush me or give me confidence with her response.
“Being around us will help, it’ll take time but she’ll be able to shift again. She just needs to let her Wolf back int fully.” Dusk replies, her eyes meeting mine and her words comfort me giving me confidence that it will happen.
“Until that happens we protect her,” Noah adds on pulling a smile onto my lips at how protective we are of our own, even one like Hayley.
Quickly word spreads amongst the pack, soon we are all agreed to protect Hayley. When she joins us we are ready for Penny when she comes for us. Penny takes one look at Hayley by my side and amongst us and a surprising smile breaks out across her face she knew about Hayley’s blood. We let Penny lead us down deep into the mountain until we come out into a natural built wonder. The sun shines down on the forest from a huge hole in the mountain rooftop, we are in the old makings of a volcano.
“This must be the remains of an old volcanic location,” Danny suggests behind us repeating my thoughts as I close my eyes letting the sun soak into my soul.
Around us feet shuffle, I know we can all feel it, the pull-in our very souls to shift and explore this land before us. Below us, all of the other Wolves are already gathered into one big group, one big pack. From beside us, Noah gives Dusk a playful shove that gives everything away. They give in to the pull and shift, around them the pack does the same until they are a stream of Wolves taking off down the cliffs into the valley below. I take a step to go with them but pause when I remember Hayley’s words. I turn back to her to see her watching me with a sadness in her eyes, she knows I want to go with them.
“Do you feel it, the pull in your soul?” I ask her as I look at her needing her not to look at me in the way she is.
That look makes me feel like there is no hope for us like she’s given up already. I won’t let her, she belongs with me, with us. I’ll just have to show her that.
“No.” She sighs after a few moments.
Not caring about Penny’s presence I go to Hayley and stand behind her as I face her towards the edge of the cliff.
“Close your eyes, Hayley,” I order, surprisingly she listens not fighting me.
I hold her and breathe until she is breathing with me.
“Open your nose and ears. Smell the cedar of the trees below, take in the dew in the grass, the cool stone of the walls. Take it all in Hayley, let it in and tell me again that you don’t feel that drive to bein it, exploring it, a part of it.” I explain, my lips brushing against Hayley’s ear.
I wait several moments as she tries, she tries to let it all in. Suddenly she shivers and sucks in a deep breath of wonder as she opens her eyes.
“ I can feel it, it’s not very strong but it’s there, I can feel it, Crane!” Hayley exclaims to me as she turns, I can see the excitement in her eyes.
“Let it flow through you, let it course through your every fibre. Don’t push it though, when your ready climb on.” I smile at her pleased that she’s made a little progress already
“Climb on?” She repeats confused just as I catch a whiff of Joey’s scent, he is here watching somewhere close by.
I don’t answer Hayley as I shift before them giving in to the desperate yearning in one way. Another part of me needs my pack, needs to be with them running down below but, I won’t leave Hayley. She deserves to be part of this in the same way that we all do.
‘Crane we are waiting on you, as my second I want you to join us. Bring Hayley, she’ll enjoy the ride.’ - Dusk’s voice finds my mind and my heart swells.
My pack won’t leave us behind, they’ll wait on us. I kneel my shoulder to the ground as an offering to Hayley. She takes it as she climbs up onto my back using my shoulder fur. If I knew she could hear me I’d tell her to hold on tight. Joey appears behind us, Hayley’s eyes finding him briefly but I’m not letting this confrontation happen. I launch us down the cliffside as her fingers burrow into my fur. My paws carry us right into the throng of the pack, many shoulders brush my own in greeting. I accept the greetings as I move up through the pack until I stand beside Danny as we face the other packs. Garth, Sicora, Tucker and Carl shadow our alphas as the betas while the rest of us stand back waiting on our alphas. As Dusk’s brother I hold my position, it’s a unique position as I’m a sort of informal beta, the alphas will often turn to me for advice but I do not hold the beta title. This is the first time we’ve stood together as a pack in our positions formally. I glance about, it’s easy to notice no one has taken up Lora’s position. Suddenly the other alphas step forward touching noses with Noah and Dusk in a way of greeting and show of respect.
‘We wanted to coven before Penny’s plans moved forward. The other alphas and we have spoken privately and we decided that you, Dusk and Noah, are our best chance at finding our place in this world. That is why we would formally like to step down and merge the packs into one large one under your leadership. As a sign of our bondage, we would like to share blood to cement the bond.’ - Grant, the red-haired alpha, speaks for all of the Wolves behind him.
‘We accept, though we insist you not step down from being alphas. Instead, Noah and I shall be the senior alphas and you our council. Thus if the time ever arises you may lead your packs again.’ - Dusk replies immediately, I get the feeling she anticipated this.
Heads are nodding and then we are following Dusk and Noah as we circle up falling easily into our new positions. It was as if all along we were truly meant to be one pack, it’s as if it were destiny. Stopping our circling we turn our heads to the sky above and howl, our voices all joining together as one to create a powerful moment. Upon my back, I can feel Hayley’s human howl joining our animal voices and I feel happy knowing she understands, knowing she has finally accepted who she is. Now she just needs to accept what she did in her past and move forward from it. Our howls are soon drowned out by the droning sound of helicopters, or more currently military planes. Penny and Joey appear alongside Dusk, they seem slightly out of breath as they peer up at the carefully landing aircraft.
“This might go smoother if you’d all shift back please?” Penny presses the question lightly upon Dusk.
‘Are we doing as she asks?’ - Another alpha, Billy, sends openly.
‘Penny’s right, this will be easier on the humans if they see that we are part human too.’ - Danny’s voice pipes in, leave it up to him to make a logical point.
‘We aren’t doing as Penny asks, we are doing what Dusk and Noah ask.’ - Grant points out, his thoughts seem to work for the many.
‘We will shift.’ Dusk and Noah’s decision comes in unison.
Instantly Wolves begin to shift around us. I shift along with them causing Hayley to grab onto my shoulder’s for balance.
“You can let me down now.” Hayley hollers over the now almost deafening planes landing in the grassy clearing before us, I can’t help it as my eyes wander to Joey as I let her down.
I’m not surprised when I find his eyes glued to Hayley and me, he’s glaring at me. I want to be an ass and rub it in his face that she’s with me but I don’t. I don’t because even though Hayley has chosen to be a Wolf she hasn’t yet chosen to be with me, not really. Gusts of wind kick up buffering us as we hold our ground. We steady ourselves as the military proceed to land shutting their engines down immediately after touchdown.
“No matter what they say stick with Crane.” Dusk commands Hayley who lifts her eyebrows surprised at the command.
Penny tries to step forward from amongst our ranks but Dusk and Noah stick to her side wanting to make it clear that she isn’t running the show here. The doors to the planes open allowing us access to the view of a group of humans lined up wearing typical camouflage military uniforms. I’m surprised by the lack of visible weapons, they seem to have left them behind. A group of about fifteen army dressed men and women step forward and begin to descend from the planes. These people carry weapons, this causes me to tense. I notice one of them stands taller than the others as he breaks stride from them, he is their alpha or in human words boss man. This man strides right up to Penny and shakes her hand. Dusk and Noah don’t offer their hands for shaking as they eye the guns, it is a clear show of distrust.
“The names Colonel Chaplin, nice to see you again Penny. I have to tell you I’m disappointed you got me called all the way out here over a fairytale creature. Really Penny Werewolves, you could give that hoax up now.” Colonel Chaplin laughs, his weapon carrying group laughing with him.
Tension suddenly grows thick in the air, even Penny lets out a little grimace as she knows Colonel Chaplin has just spoken the wrong words. I see Dusk coil ready to move into action, I prepare myself to fight though I’m hoping that isn’t how this goes.