Donovan flexed his hand making a fist. Then he did a range of motion. To the amazement of all he said, "What the fuck was that! I've had massages my whole life. Nothing ever felt like that!"
Although he hated doing it, Jed tried to lie, "Its Native pressure point medicine. My mother's father taught me." To try to sell the illusion Jed added quickly, "You may wish to rest your arm in that sling for the day." No one bought it, but the matter was dropped.
There was a booming voice over his shoulder, "Good trick son! Donovan make sure the team trainer takes a look at that arm." The voice belonged to the team coach and Donovan's father. "Thanks for looking after my guy. I can't afford two holes in my lineup before Friday's game.
Arian, looks like your old man was right about this kid. He is special." The big man's hand came crashing down on Jed's right shoulder. The teen grimaced. A healing like that always took a bit of time to recover.
Arian asked, "Are you okay?"
"I'm good. I was just out in the grove most of the night. I found an injured animal that needed care."
Coach McNabb asked, "What kind of animal son?"
"You guys are going to laugh. Fish and wildlife doesn't believe me, but it was a wolf. The most beautiful silver and gray wolf I've ever seen." There was a snicker from Terry Kendrick across the table.
The boy backed off immediately when he saw the glare from his team captain. "Not laughing at you Jed. I am just imagining some big tough alpha male wolf rolling over for you to care for it. You're not exactly physically imposing."
Jed started to challenge the boy's perception of the events, when the drain of the healing hit hard. He suddenly slumped in his chair out cold.
Jedidiah woke up in the health station. Arian and the school nurse were looking at him. The nurse stated, "Ah, you're back with us. I'll call the coach back. That man ran carrying you in here without breaking a sweat." With that she departed.
Arian remarked, "Jed no bullshiting. I felt something come out of you, it went into Donovan." Jed thought for a split-second about lying. He never could do that well. He drew in a ragged breath for strength.
"Arian you have to keep an open mind. What I'm about to tell you, you're not going to believe, but it is true. Each of us has a life force. Some of us have the ability to reach in and touch that life force. Some of my people can use it to manipulate the world around us.
My gift is with earth things, like some animals. I can use a portion of my life force to bring healing. Donovan didn't have a sprain, he broke his arm. What's more he knew it and lied to me.
I traded a few hours of my life to heal his break. I know how much you'll need him on Friday night. That wolf last night, I probably gave a year or two to. He was near death." Jed saw the look of concern in Arian's eyes. "It's okay, it's just the crappy years at the end that no one likes anyway."
The coach chuckled and Jed spun his head. Jed wasn't sure how long he had been standing there, but he knew Coach heard it all. "I, WE believe you pal, and yes Donny's arm was broken. You have to promise never to do that again. If the pack knew the cost to you, we never would have come to you or your mother for healing.
Arian you changed him, now you have to tell him. I'll keep the nurse busy when she comes back. You got to make it quick. She is catching on, and I am not so sure how long Principal Perry can stall her."
"Arian, what did he mean that you changed me?"
"Coach is right, we believe you. Now I have to tell you something that you have to believe. That wolf last night... was me. You called me 'Slick.' I'm a lycan Jed. Don't be afraid, I'm going to have to show you this for you to believe." There was a snapping and popping sound as Arian shifted, sprouting hair. It only took moments for him to shift into the form of the silver wolf from the night before.
Jed couldn't help the primal fear he was feeling. He curled up into a little ball, tight up against the wall. The wolf shifted form back into its human self. "Please don't be afraid. I didn't mean to, but when I nipped your wrist, I infected you. Your mother's gen has been hands off for so many generations. I didn't know why. I didn't know about Elementals until my father explained your kind this morning.
Dad was mad as hell that I may have injured you. He was more afraid that I destroyed the security of our pack. Dad said you Elementals are brutal when provoked to wrath.
Our kind, lycans, have walked the Earth for millennia. Gaius Petronius of Rome once documented our kind. It led to a hunt that almost destroyed us all.
There are two kinds of lycans, those who are born and those who are turned. I was born this way. I didn't know you gave so much of yourself for me last night. I just knew I wanted to be with you. I'm so sorry...
Last night we were out hunting for Karl and Kyle's killers. There is a rogue pack of mongrels bent on our destruction. The Miami pack has already fallen. Donovan, Kent and I made contact with six of them. We were supposed to just find them and get help. But, we chose to engage.
We killed all but three of them, they ran off and Donovan was too injured to pursue. Kent stayed with him and I continued alone. In the end I couldn't keep up. After an hour, I stumbled through the brush in front of you.
Jedidiah I know this is a lot for you to take in, and we don't have much time. So I ask you again, are you okay?"
Stunned the teen simply asked, "Is it just like all that Twilight stuff? Where do you stand?"
Arian couldn't resist the easy joke, "Clearly we are on Team Jacob! Sparkling vampires... AS IF! Seriously though forget all that shit. It is just a lot of misinformation. There is a shitload of it out there, and the less said about the Lon Chaney version the better.
The story about conversion that's closest to the truth is from 'Doctor Who' the 'Tooth and Claw' episode. That was no big surprise; Russell Davies is one of us... a convert of course.
There are two types of conversion rapid and slow. When I nipped you it started the slow process. My job is to teach and protect you. Three of those rogue hunters from last night are still out there... Dad thinks there are more. Our pack will protect you. Since I changed you, you will eventually become part of our pack."
"Is it like the Navajo legends of Yee Naaldlooshii... the skinwalkers?" Jed knew according to that legend, there was no such thing as a good skinwalker.
"I don't know the story personally, but I feel your fear. A lot of those dark wolf legends are about mongrel packs. You and I share a connection, I think we always have. There's only one connection that is stronger...
In time you may be able to hide your feelings from me but right now they are so open. I am so sorry, I made you frightened. If it helps I haven't changed since the day you met me. Only your knowledge has changed."
In hopes of passing on his sincerity Arian held Jed's hand, "I would never hurt you. The fact that you gave up part of your life to help me means more than anything. When we are in wolf-form we are more primal, we have less reason and more emotion. My wolf-form genuinely cares for you... so do I... I always have Jed."
Jed saw in the other boy's mind, his own body covered in blood performing last night's healing. It was an odd, almost erotic feeling how it felt to be healed. Jed knew the older boy was telling the truth. He also felt the huge wave of love the older boy had for him.
Jedidiah had only experience the love of his mother and father before, this was so different. Jed was overwhelmed; he knew he did not deserve such a prize. He thought, "When he finds out, he will not want me..."
The conversation and dark thought came to an end, as the nurse and the coach loudly bickering came back into the darkened room. Jedidiah had another moment of panic, "Please ma'am, don't send me home. I was just tired. Please don't call my mom with all that is going on, she will just freak."
"Well sweetie you won't be the first student to fall asleep in this building. Your color is good again, your blood pressure is good, and your temperature is good. I see no reason to send you home. With all the stress, it looks like you just needed a little nap. I'll write you boys a note and get you back to class.
She looked down at the bed, "Holy cow boy, did you bring the whole farm in with you? You farm kids bring your critter's fur in with you. A lot of our students are allergic you know." Jedidiah began apologizing as Arian stood behind the nurse grinning.
Coach added, "Jed, remember there is a team party at the Pizza King tonight. We really want to see you there."
Jed made an excuse but Coach saw through it sighing, "Just try Jed."
During the rest of the classes of the day, Jed saw in each of his classes at least one pair of yellow wolf's eyes staring back at him. His pack was made known. All of the faces were accompanied by a welcoming smile or wink.
He didn't know why no one else could see these things. Maybe it had something to do with the beings inner wolf sensing the weak pack member. He had a million questions for Arian.
Jed also had moments of intense grief. He had shared a few classes with Kyle and Karl. Their now empty desks hit him hard. At those times a lycan teacher or student actually felt his loss, and extended support and comfort.
After the last bell he walked out of class to find Donovan, Kent and Arian. Donovan push past the other two and gave an almost bone crushing hug to the boy, "Dad told me what this cost you. Thank you little buddy. I never had someone give part of their life for me."
"It wasn't much of a gift. From what I understand, I'm now going to live for a very long time."
Kent replied, "Only if he doesn't die before you change." He saw the surprised look on Jed's face. "The strain is linked to his life force. If he dies the strain in you dies too."
"We'll keep that to ourselves for now; otherwise my pop would probably kill him. That man has had one too many surprises involving me this week already." The boys asked Jedidiah to join them at the mall before the team dinner.
With it being homecoming week every evening had a different activity planned as a celebration for the team tonight was the booster's dinner. Jed was asked to attend but bowed out gracefully once now he was trying again. Truth be told he didn't feel like a party.
Jedidiah asked to be excused, "I have to work in the sound booth for the play. I have to learn all the cues because I'll be alone with Kyle... gone now." His pain was palpable.
Arian spoke up, "You guys go ahead. I'll bring him as soon as his practice is over." With that the group departed. Jed protested, knowing in the end the jock god would leave him when he learned the truth. "Jed, Kyle told Karl you need two sets of hands up there. I just so happen to have two... most of the time. You need help and I want to help, really let me." Jed relented.
The boys talked about silly School stuff as they walked to the new theater arts building. Tech crew was always first on set and last to leave. When the director arrived, he argued about Jed's "guest" in the booth.
Arian said he wanted to understudy Jed. Jed said he could use the assist. "No matter what sir, I'll have to train someone from scratch. It's too late for the other set people to learn for this performance."
The director responded, "This had better not be some dumb jock joke. I know your girlfriend is a member of the cast; still I won't have you making fun of what we do here. Our family has suffered a tremendous loss this week. I will not have that loss compounded."
On cue Stephanie Jacobson entered the theater. Steph and Jed had been close. The older girl watched over he and Kyle. Today Jed knew she was going to walk right past him to hug her QB stud boy friend. Jed was wrong.
The belle came directly to Jed and gave him a big hug, "How are you holding up sweetie?" There was always true sincerity anytime Steph addressed Jed. She kissed the boy's cheek. That was when he felt it; she was one of 'them.' "Quin, are you going to need help getting into your costume Friday night?"
Arian said, "I got that covered Steph. I'll help him out. Oh, and he prefers Jed not Quin." For the first time Jed felt it. There was no chemistry between Arian and Steph. What they had as a couple was all an act. The love he had for the girl was like that of a brother would have for a sister.
The director insisted on a power circle before the rehearsal. This time he called it a healing circle. He acknowledged the missing links in their chain of friends. Arian was introduced as Quin's new understudy. Then Karl's cast position was filled.
Over the next two hours Arian was impressed by the depth of knowledge Jed possessed about the massive set of mixing in lighting equipment. He fought back the urge to snicker as the boy became demanding with his directions. Then he realized this was as choreographed and timed as when the pack hunted together. Here in this hunting ground Jed was the alpha.
Arian smiled when he saw the wolf mascot suit piled in the corner of the sound booth. He wondered how the boy always made it to game time after practice. He also saw how no other team was able to "spirit capture" the mascot costume. They all were looking in the athletic department, not the arts.
Now thanks to Steph, Arian knew putting on the costume was a two-man job as well. That knowledge gave him another excuse to get closer to his prey.
The director asked Jed how Arian did in the booth. "He was a little rough, but he takes direction well." When the director left he turned to Arian and said, "You should go get something to eat. I'll just get a ride home. I think my folks will want me home tonight." Arian insisted that Jed call his parents and ask permission to eat dinner with the team.
Jedidiah made the call on speaker. His mother was happy that someone wanted her boy to engage in social activities. "Of course you can stay out; you are part of the team. Be home early enough to get a good night's sleep." Arian chimed in that he would make sure Jed was home before nine.
Dinner consisted of pizza and cokes, Coach McNabb and the booster club were treating. There were a couple cheerleaders there with their boyfriends. Of course most of the girls only nibbled on salads.
With the two healings in such a short time, Jedidiah was famished. Even Donovan McNabb was amazed at how much pizza the boy packed away into his tiny frame.
Jedidiah looked at the other boys and smiled sheepishly, "I didn't get to eat lunch..." Coach and Donovan McNabb both laughed heartily and the rest of the team joined in.
During his address to the team and boosters, it was coach who announced that Jed was their good luck charm. "Since the Wolves adopted Wiley as their mascot. We have not had a single defeat."
Sports and superstition go along together like hand in glove. The coach was not above playing on that superstition to inspire the team.
The coach continued, "Jedidiah could you come up here for a moment." Some of the boosters had knowing smiles as Jed mounted the riser. "You have done some amazing physical feats out on that field. The acrobatics you added to the mascot persona has earned our team and the school media attention. It's fired up the team, it's fired up the community, and it's fired up the fans in the stands.
The athletic director and I have been talking. We cannot withhold this any longer. With the folding of the gymnastics team you've lost your chance at a varsity letter. The mascot has always been part of the theater arts program and it will remain so.
But we cannot hide the physicality and important nature of your role to the athletics program. As of now, you also are part of the athletics department, just like the cheerleaders. I am very proud to give you the varsity letter you earned." Jed suddenly realized why the urgent appeal to attend. Only one thing was missing, if Kyle and Karl were there... Cheers from the student-athletes went up from around the room.
Then came an announcement from the athletic director, "Ladies and gentlemen, I really hate to have to do this. I am sorry I had to follow that great and long overdue bit of business. I have bad news for you. With the murder of your classmates Mr. Ferguson canceled the contract on the hall we were using for homecoming due to security concerns. As a result the committee has been forced to cancel the homecoming dance..."
One thought flashed in Jedidiah's mind, "Oh, hell-to-the-no!" With Kyle now gone it meant he would be going stag but he was not giving up on his final homecoming dance. Thanks to Papa Quade, he missed out on the first three. He was not going to miss out on this one.
Mr. Ferguson was once a business partner of Papa Quade. He also shared other of Quade's interests. Just the sight of him made Jed's stomach turn. There was no way this limp dicked pseudo-man baby fucker was going to win.
Jed, the mousiest boy in the senior class found his voice. "Mr. Carruthers, I am sorry for interrupting, I have a possible solution. Would The Orange Plant be a good enough venue?"
Mr. Carruthers quickly fired back, "Do you think your folks would allow it Quin?"
"Sir, The Orange Plant is my property, not my families. It was willed to me personally. I am an emancipated minor and CAN enter into contracts on my own. I will ask my parents if they endorse my decision, but in the end it is my decision to make." At the urging of the director Jedidiah called his father and explained the situation. The adults gathered around while his phone was on speaker.
Buck fully endorsed Jed's suggestion. "Especially during hard times there needs to be a continuity of normal tradition. No one should be allowed to steal homecoming from these kids. There is no safer venue."
Mr. Carruthers made phone calls to the school board and to the faculty guides. All of whom welcomed the news on the one penny lease of The Vault. Arian made a phone call as well to his father. The Sheriff promised to provide security for the dance.
Of all the family properties, Jedidiah's least favorite was Papa Quade's home, The Vault. That was Jed's least favorite name for the facility he preferred the original The Orange Plant. Before the national juice company started buying all of their citrus produce, the family had a processing and packing plant on the North-side of Glynis Landing near the college.
His great grandfather spent an enormous amount of money at the time building and hardening the facility as an emergency storm shelter. It was done mostly to shelter his employees in case of a hurricane. The Great Okeechobee hurricane and flood of 1928 weighed heavy on his mind. Buckhold Jameson Glynis the fourth was a man of action when things bothered him.
When someone parked a bunch of nukes off Florida's coast way back in the 60s he made sure it also doubled is a fallout shelter. When they went under contract with the national juicer, Jed's grandfather converted it again to a family storm shelter and put additional family quarters in. Jed moved in with Papa Quade back in the eighth grade, due to a series of family tragedies.