He slowed his pace as soon as he heard the slightest murmurer of sound. He quickly hunched over the girl that hung lazily in his arms in an attempt to shield her away from the noise for a bit longer while he crept closer.
Adrenaline surged through him when he caught a glimpse of the men. Dean strategically sunk to the ground behind thick brush. He balanced the girl on his lap to take some of the weight off of his sore arms and quietly took in the scene before him.
The man he recognized as Tessandra’s father, Lucas, had collapsed to the muddy ground. His elbows rested on his knees as his head fell into his dirty hands, looking utterly defeated. His shoulders shook as a sob escaped his lips and the larger of the two men stood over him with sad eyes.
Dean remembered his name to be Ryan and saw that his face still bled a bit from the long gashes that were delivered by his wife, and he was using his left hand to cover the wound while using his right to grasp Lucas’s shoulder.
“We’ll find her, Luke. Come on. Get it together,” Ryan spoke passionately.
“She’s been out here all night,” Tessandra’s father replied brokenly. “She’s probably sick and cold. God knows she must be petrified.”
“Which is why we need to keep it together and find-,” Ryan began but was cut off.
“What if she’s dead?” Lucas inquired gravely, causing Dean’s heart to clench.
“How could you say that?!” Ryan boomed. “She’s fine, she just needs-”
“There’s wolves out here, Ryan. You saw the tracks,” Lucas replied flatly.
Shit! My tracks!
“I know you can smell them too." he finished. "They’re closing in, could be watching us right now."
“Don’t think like that!” Ryan commanded.
“Cut the shit, Ryan! You’ve been bleeding all over the god-damned place all night and if they haven’t killed her already, they’ll sniff us out soon enough!” Lucas snapped at his brother.
“Well I’d like to see them try! I have my-!” Ryan began but was cut off again.
“You think that tiny silver pig poker is gonna do something to one of them? Let alone a pack! They’re huge, and I only got enough bullets to take one down,” he sighed. “Even if we manage to fight our way out of here, what about Tess? If one of them finds her, she’s an easy meal. She wouldn’t stand a chance-”
“That’s enough! We’ll find her! We just need to keep moving-!” Ryan bellowed but was cut off by Lucas again.
“Sh,” he muttered.
Tessandra’s father lifted his head and put a finger to his pale lips in a shushing motion.
“Luke, what the-” Ryan began.
“Sh!” Lucas hushed his brother once more. He rose to his feet slowly and waved a hand to the taller man. “Smell that?”
Dean’s breathing stopped as he looked on in horror as the men sniffed the air. They both froze and their eyes fell upon his general direction. He lowered himself closer to the ground, covering the girl’s body like a second skin in case they decided to take a blind shot at him. Just as he thought about the possibility of eating a silver bullet, his fears came true.
“Grab my gun,” Lucas uttered and Dean’s heart seemed to fall out of his ass.
He’d been found and he knew it. Unsure of what to do next, he panicked and called out to the men.
“Don’t shoot!” he pleaded, hoarsely.
He peered down at the girl quickly, afraid of waking her. She frowned a bit but thankfully, she remained asleep. He glanced back at the men only to be met with a small pistol aimed directly at him. His breath caught in his throat and his heart thundered through his eardrums.
This is it, he thought to himself.
“Show yourself!” Tessandra’s father demanded.
His electric blue eyes seemed to cut directly into his soul as the man pointed the gun promisingly. His finger hugged the trigger as his brother stood anxiously at his side, wielding a knife that glittered with poison.
Fear coursed through Dean’s body as his short life flashed before his eyes. He wasn’t going to be losing much if he was being honest with himself. He gulped in an attempt to wet his dry throat before trying to speak again.
“Pl-please d-don’t shoot!” He stuttered.
His body shook uncontrollably and it felt as though every nerve in his being was urging him to hold the girl tightly and run. Instead, he stood slowly, begging his legs to stop trembling to no avail.
He clutched the girl close to his chest as he forced his bare feet to trudge forward. His heart beat rapidly in his chest as he stepped closer to the men. With only a tree between them, Dean tried desperately to steady his breathing and he could hardly hear the man when he yelled again.
“Come out, now!” He heard Ryan yell at him, faintly.
He swallowed his fear and prayed to the goddess that they didn’t do anything to him that would hurt the girl.
Please, Mother Wolf. Protect this child. I don’t care what happens to me, just don’t let them hurt her, he pleaded.
Against every fiber of his being, he poked his head out to look at the men directly. Lucas’s eyes seemed to soften slightly at the sight of him. He must have seen how terrified he was.
Ryan’s hazel eyes narrowed as he positioned himself in a fighting stance, ready to pounce at any moment. His grip tightened around the silver blade.
“All the way out, mutt!” Ryan hissed at him.
His eyes shone menacingly in the early morning light and his pupils turned into narrow slits.
Whilst silently begging the Goddess to protect the innocent little darling that slept soundly in his arms, he turned away from the men and stepped out quickly in a final attempt to protect the girl from any stray bullets that may have been sent.
“Turn around!” He heard one of the men roar, clearly growing impatient with his shenanigans.
He also heard the metallic sound of a gun cocking behind him and had the sudden urge to vomit. Swallowing back the excess saliva that had been pooling in his mouth, he turned to face the men slowly.
His eyes met Lucas’s as he turned, revealing himself and the girl to the men. He watched as her father’s eyes fell from his sweet grass irises to the child in his arms and he took in a sharp breath.
“Oh my god,” Lucas gasped as tears stung his retinas.
He managed to drop the gun in his heartfelt daze and took a cautious step towards Dean and his daughter.
“Don’t!” Ryan yelled as he lunged for his brother, yanking his shoulder back and pointing the knife at Dean once more. “It could be a trap!”
“No! Its- I’m- She’s-” Dean stammered, not sure what to say. It was as if his mind had completely stopped working.
“What the hell did you do to her?! You sick fuck!” Ryan growled at him, much to Lucas’s dismay.
“N-nothing!” Dean stuttered back. “I j-just wanted to help!”
Tessandra furrowed her brow a bit at the sudden commotion and she stretched an arm widely before hooking it around his neck and nuzzling her face into his brawny shoulder.
“Get the hell away from her, you flea bitten mongrel!” Ryan spit at him with hate in his eyes. “Before I-!”
“That’s enough!” Lucas snapped at his brother.
He was still emotional at the sight of his missing daughter and he brought his eyes up to meet Dean’s.
“Where was she?” He asked quietly.
“About a m-mile west of the gas station, y-you went the wrong way. She was hiding in a cave. S-she was c-crying for you.” Dean replied, shakily. “S-she’s sick and her a-ankle might be broken.”
Black dots began to litter his vision and he was starting to feel a bit light headed from the ripples of anxiety that had been coursing through his veins. Tessandra’s father must have noticed this as he stretched his open arms towards him.
“Give her to me,” he beckoned and took a careful step closer to him.
Dean obliged and met the man halfway. He gently removed the child’s arm from around his shoulder and transferred her small frame into the waiting grasp of her father. Once he had her in his clutches, Lucas took a large step away and buried his face into his daughter’s hair, sobbing softly.
Dean seemed to lose all of his reserved strength once the girl was no longer in his hands and his head began to spin. His knees buckled and he plummeted to the ground, collapsing into a quivering mass upon the swampy earth. Vomit burned the back of his throat at the sight of Ryan plucking the pistol from the forest floor and aiming it at him.
I’m gonna die, he assured himself as tears stung his corneas.
He closed his eyes and took in a sharp breath, readying himself for his gruesome fate.
“Ryan! No!” Lucas yelled and he heard a small scuffle before the woods fell silent again.
He squinted in an attempt to make out what had just happened and he was shocked to find Lucas standing right in front of him with Tessandra cradled to his chest. He was blocking Dean’s body like a human shield and was turned to face his brother.
“He’s just a kid! What the hell are you thinking?” He snapped.
“He’s a werewolf! He might be a kid now but he’ll be huge one day! What if he comes back and decides to finish the job?!” Ryan hissed at his brother, causing Lucas to shake his head.
“If he wanted to hurt any of us, he would’ve done it already. Can’t you see he’s fucking scared?” Lucas snapped back. “Now put that thing away before he goes and pisses himself!”
“But he-!” Ryan began again but was cut off quickly.
“He just saved my daughter! Now I don’t give a damn what he is! He’s just a kid and to me, he’s a god-damned hero! If you shoot him, I’m leaving your ass out here to rot!” Lucas spoke firmly before facing Dean with apologetic eyes. “What’s your name, son?”
“Dean. M-my names Dean, sir.” He muttered, hoarsely.
He was trembling and his heart felt as though it might explode out of his chest at any moment.
“Well, Dean. Thank you for looking out for my daughter. We might’ve never found her if it wasn’t for you,” Lucas gave him a genuine smile that crinkled his eyes. “Can you stand?”
“Y-yes sir,” Dean nodded before rising to his shaky feet. He wiped a stray bead of sweat away and sniffled.
“Well Dean,” Lucas began. “I hate to admit it, but we’re a bit lost out here. You wouldn’t happen to know the way back to the gas station from here, now would ya?”
“Yes sir,” Dean nodded again manically. “I c-can show you the way, if you want.”
Maybe then I can escape, he hoped.
“I would appreciate that,” Lucas uttered before turning back to his brother who wore a shocked expression across his face.
Dean nodded and turned toward the direction of the gas station. He followed his internal compass through the winding trees and made sure to warn Tessandra’s father about any large stones or tree trunks that could possibly trip him. Lucas made small conversation as the trio made their way through the murky forest.
“So Dean, how old are you?” He asked curiously.
“Sixteen,” he replied quickly, avoiding the branches that threatened to bombard his face.
“Where’s your pack?!” Ryan growled, loudly.
“Don’t have one,” Dean replied quietly.
Although it was kind of a lie, he knew that running away meant that he had turned his back on his people.
"I don't believe that," he snarled. "What kind of a wolf doesn't have a pack?!"
“I’m considered a rogue.” Dean finished honestly.
“Why might that be?” Lucas inquired, seeming to be genuinely interested.
Dean thought about his words carefully before replying.
“I ran away after my dad died,” his voice cracked. “If anyone leaves the pack without permission, they’re considered a rogue. If they find me, they’ll kill me for abandoning them and my responsibilities.”
He doubted that his pack would actually follow through with it, considering he was meant to be their Alpha but he wasn’t entirely sure.
“Well, that’s a damn shame about your father,” Lucas began sympathetically. “I’m truly sorry.”
“When’d he die?” Ryan blurted out, coldly.
The memory of his father’s death flooded his mind and tears stung his eyelids. Dean fought back the lump in his throat before responding.
“Last Wednesday,” he choked as tears slid down his cheeks.
He heard a short scoff behind him and fought the urge to turn around and punch the smug asshole into next month.
“How’d he die?” Ryan asked nonchalantly, as if wondering where the nearest bathroom might be located.
“Ryan!” Lucas reprimanded his brother. “The boy just lost his father, have some respect!”
“It’s fine,” Dean replied, not wanting to seem weak. “It was a vampire attack.”
The sound of choked laughter from behind him had his blood boiling.
“The best invention our kind has ever made if you ask me,” Ryan chuckled. “All we had to do was shoot a few humans up with the virus back in the day and it spread all on its own. Here it is today, keeping the wolf population down while Ailuran’s are going strong and-”
“What the hell is wrong with you?!” Lucas spun on his heel and snapped.
He shielded Tessandra away from the conversation with his hand before continuing.
“Would it kill you to shut your big mouth once in a while? Instead of blurting out everything that pops into that pea-brain of yours, why don’t you sit back and shut the hell up!” He finished furiously.
“Why should I filter what I have to say? Because of the fucking mutt?” He sneered at Dean. “I don’t give a damn about his poor little sob story. His kind have slaughtered too many of us for me to have an ounce of sympathy for any of them.”
“Gas stations ahead,” Dean muttered.
His hands were balled into fists at this point and he feared he may kill Ryan if he heard another word fall out of him.
“Finally,” Ryan uttered.
The group stepped out of the treeline and took in the morning air. It had taken them nearly an hour to trek through the thick foliage and daylight was now well upon them. Lucas turned to Dean and thanked him again before strutting to the black SUV that sat waiting on the cracked asphalt. He watched him cross the abandoned lot and unlock the vehicle.
He waited until Tessandra was set securely into the back seat before turning around to attempt his escape into the treeline. Instead, he was met with a hard fist that collided with his face, successfully shattering his nose. Dean fell backward from the sudden assault and coughed up blood into the overgrown grass that swayed daintily.
“Leaving so soon, mutt?” Ryan loomed over him with a wide grin upon his face.
He raised the gun and pointed it at Dean’s lower half. Before he even had time to suck in a breath, the ass pulled the trigger and searing pain radiated from his left knee. A sharp yelp followed by an agonizing scream erupted from his lips.
“Please, don’t!” Dean pleaded, tears falling freely from his eyes as the overwhelming scent of his own blood littered the air.
“Ryan! Stop!” Lucas screamed.
At the same instant, Dean’s heart broke at the sound of a tiny angelic voice pleading from the back of the van.
“Wolfie! Don’t hurt him!” Tessandra squealed, causing Lucas to run back to stop her from jumping out of the car.
"Bud, get back in the-!" Lucas began.
“He’s my friend! Please!” She screamed.
A sob caught in Dean’s throat at his inability to stop his only imprint from crying.
“Ryan! Put the fucking gun down!” Lucas screamed from behind the car door, but it was too late. Ryan raised the gun once again and pointed it directly at Dean’s chest.
“Say goodbye mutt,” he uttered before pulling the trigger.
Another loud pop! rang through Dean's ears and a white-hot throbbing pain scorched his chest.
“WOLFIE!” He heard Tessandra shriek over the ringing in his ears.
Black spots coated his vision and his body fell numb.
That’s not good, he thought to himself.
A fierce shiver escaped his lips and he couldn’t understand why he was so cold. It was as if ice water had replaced the blood in his veins. Tears blurred the last bits of his vision as an eerie calm fell over him.
I got her help, he assured himself as his body began to stiffen.
She’s safe, was the last thought to dance across his mind before his breathing stopped and his entire being was released into complete darkness.