Upside down

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XXXI

Damon walks out of the packhouse, he finished the tasks Fredric had given him and now has some time on his hands. The key to the little cabin higher up on the mountain feels like it’s burning in his pocket. He places a cigarette between his lips, and he holds his lighter in front of it, protecting it from the wind. He inhales deeply, closing his eyes, then sniffling in the wind.

It’s getting colder. The weather is changing, winter is coming. He can feel it, smell it. The winds are getting stronger and colder, rain is pouring more often, and temperatures are lowering. Damon looks at his feet. He needs to purchase some boots; sneakers will not do here in these muddy forests.

Two dark brown boots appear in his sight and he looks up. “Hey Leo,” he smiles. He offers him a cigarette, but Leo shakes his head.

“I’m not supposed to smoke. I need to set an example, you know.”

Damon smiles and shrugs as he tucks his cigarettes away again. “Too bad.”

“I miss it though.”

“Well, if you change your mind, just ask.” Damon starts to walk off.

“Hey Damon, where are you going?” Leo calls after him.

Damon turns back around, taking his cigarette out of his mouth to talk. “I’m going up the mountain. See what that little cabin of your father looks like. See what work needs to be done. I’d like to get Sasha settled there.”

Leo walks closer, “mind if I come with you?”

“Of course, let’s go.” Damon smiles.

“You know, Elianne is quite besotted with you.” Leo says when Damon slams the door if his truck shut.

Damon opens the window slightly to keep the smoke out of his truck and frowns. “What do you mean?”

“She told me that you’re like a brother to her. She worries for you. Apparently, she has noticed that you don’t look so good. As if you don’t sleep well, you have a lot on your mind?”

“Damon nods. “Something like that. Did she see that while being busy with head warrior-duties?”

Leo smiles. “She’s great, you know. She wore me off yesterday with her killer training. I’m way too far out of shape. Is there something you want to talk about? You can talk to me.”

Damon sighs and takes a quick glance sideways. “There’s a lot to talk about. From the strangled relationship I have with my dad because I don’t want to be an Alpha, to the fact that my mate is pregnant and isn’t sure that the child is mine.”

“Leo’s eyes widen and he rubs his neck awkwardly. “What? How-” he shakes his head.

“I left her after mating with her. I freaked out. Just before moving here, my doctor told me I am infertile. It almost drove me to jump out of a window.” Damon switches gears, when he places his hand back on the wheel, his hand shakes. “She fell in love with a man and mated with him too after, you know. She claims they used protection. So, whose child it is, we have no idea.”

“Well, that’s messed up.” Leo smiles apologetically. “And what’s with your father?

“My father’s trying to pressure me into it. Well, he used to. Lately he backed off a little, but our relationship went downhill ever since he did. So yeah. I guess he’s disappointed in me or something.”

Damon slows down for some major put holes in the road and he moves forward to not break the suspension of his truck.

Leo frowns. “With me it was the other way around. I was about ten or eleven when my father disappeared, they thought he was killed. I never had any pressure like that on my shoulders. My big brother became Alpha when he was eighteen. My other brother moved to Alpha Krane’s pack as soon as he met his mate. He challenged for the beta position and got it. They both set an example for me. I wanted to be someone important too, I wanted to help. I wanted to have a purpose in this pack.

When I was eighteen, our head warrior Gabriel got killed by Jones. I stepped in, first just temporarily until the threat was gone. Christopher gave the opportunity to prove myself. I had to work hard, I really had to prove myself, and in the end I got to keep the position. Now sitting here, not being able to do something, it’s eating me alive. I can’t handle it.”

Damon stops in front of a little cabin, the deck and the outside seem to be in worn, but still good shape.

“You know,” he pulls the car out of gear and turns the engine off. “It’s not that I don’t want to do something for the pack. It’s just scaring me to be responsible for so many people, to have them all depending on me.”

“You’re not alone on that, you know. You’ll have a Beta, Gamma, Delta. A head warrior, what’s that guy’s name, Brandon? You decide yourself how much you outsource and how much you want to do yourself.” They step out of the truck and head over to the deck. Damon inspects the steps before stepping on them.

Leo continues talking. “I don’t know how my dad is going to do it, but Christopher always let Jolena help with the administrative side. She documented everything, she also helped with his daily schedule. He himself was mostly keeping in touch with neighbours, guys like Uncle Billy and stuff.”

Damon pulls out his key and unlocks the door. Its dark inside, but apart from dust, it is clean. Leo keeps talking while they inspect the cabin. “Danny was the one responsible for the finances. And the Gamma mostly took care of the housing situation, as well as constructive chores, the maintenance of roads, houses and so on. The Delta was responsible for the kitchen and the household side of the pack. Then there was me, who took on the defence, the safety of the pack. It was like a well running engine.”

Damon looks around. The cabin is still in fairly good shape. Just some minor fixes here and there and the stove needs to be cleaned. Damon sighs and leans against the wall. “My dad never showed me around. My dad never told me how things worked in his pack. It always seemed to me that he did it all by himself. He wanted to keep control and do everything himself.”

Leo walks into the little kitchen. “You can change that. When you’re Alpha, you can decide for yourself how you want to do things.”

Damon follows behind him and looks around. He switches the lights on. “The pack members have to agree with it as well. I don’t know if they’re open for such a change.”

Leo walks over and pats his shoulders. “You’ll only find out if you try. If it doesn’t work out, at least you’ve tried. You can tell your dad that you want to take over, but only under some conditions, only if things change. Maybe my father can mediate if you ask him.”

Damon shrugs. “I have a little bit of time to think. I like it here; I really feel at home here.”

“Just think about it,” Leo smiles. “I don’t want to pressure you or anything. I just want to show you a different way to see things.”

Damon nods. “I know, thank you.” He looks around. “What do you think of the cabin?”

“There’s not much that needs to be done. Looks in fairly good shape. A bit of paint, the stove and chimney need to be cleaned and the valves need to be opened, but other than that, I think it’s okay.”

“Great. The two bedrooms are perfect for the pup and us.” Damon smiles. “Your father really knows what he is talking about.”

They hear a running engine coming closer and they frown. “Do you expect someone?” Leo asks him, Damon shakes his head.

They both duck down and crouch to the front door. When Damon looks around the door, he sees men in black get out of two trucks. Rouges.

“Go out via the backdoor,” he whispers to Leo. “We’re outnumbered, get back up.”

“No! I’m not leaving you on your own! What about you?”

“I’ll fight them off until help has arrived. You’re just healed, Leo. One of us needs to warn the rest, I’m the strongest, I’ll give you a head start.”

“But-“ Leo frowns and starts to protest, though Damon interrupts him.

“Go! I’m not telling you again!” He whispers with a certain sternness in his voice.

Leo walks away while ducking down to not be seen through the windows. Just before he opens the backdoor, Damon sees him look back at him. He looks him straight in the eye, commanding him to do what he told him to do with his eyes.

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