Although the rooms and corridors were empty now in the huge grey house that was built in the 1940s, it was buzzing with the remaining energies of the wolf pack. It left a trail through the back garden and through the forest on the hill behind the house. In human form all forty-eight wolves of the LA pack’s inner circle and the Burbank pack’s fifteen remaining members were gathered on a huge clearing. There were wooden tables and benches put around in a circle. As everyone found their place and the conversations died down the pack waited, excitement buzzing in the air. It’s been two days since the takeover of the Burbank pack and those wolves were still a little restless and distrusting as they didn’t know well how Adam was running his pack. The remaining wolves of the smaller pack along with their young ones were all sitting close to their blond beta.
Tommy had to admit that he came only because of them. He stayed only because of them as they were like family to him, although now he was related only to her sister and her little girl by blood. Lisa was cradling his curious niece in her arms as they were sitting on a blanket next to Tommy who found a place for himself on a bench. His face had a carefully constructed expressionless mask on, only his chocolate brown eyes and his stiff body showed what an effort it took him to just sit there silently in his Converse shoes, dark skinny jeans, old Metallica T-shirt and black leather jacket.
He was still angry and heartbroken. He knew his father didn’t always make the best decisions or fought clean, but he was a decent alpha who cared for his pack. He didn’t deserve to die like this. Now the lives of the surviving members were in the hand of this Lambert guy. Tommy was a good observer and he could tell that Adam was an ambitious and young alpha, building up his pack and territory. He heard that he got along with the Santa Monica pack too. They helped out each other when there was a threat from other packs, vampires or hunters. But otherwise no one knew much about this guy and his quickly growing pack as they tried to keep the curious eyes and ears away.
To be honest Tommy was never really interested in werewolf politics and he was tired of the territorial fights when there were also hunters and vampires breathing down on their necks time after time. He believed wolves shouldn’t fight each other for territory, although he knew well it was in their blood. He thought joining their forces could eliminate the threats of the vampires and the hunters if not for good then for at least a few decades. But he was just the beta of a small pack. He had no real voice so far and he suspected that from now on he’d have even less. It’ll depend on where he’ll end up in this pack’s hierarchy.
He wasn’t a fan of the idea of fighting for his place, but he was too proud and frankly, much stronger than he looked, to be on the bottom. He wasn’t planning on baring his belly for this unknown pack. He wasn’t chew toy material. But he had to think of his family, he couldn’t do anything reckless. That and his disinterest in becoming a leader were the reasons why he didn’t challenge Adam two nights ago. Not to mention that besides his grief, his side was hurting like a bitch at that time. Now the pain was nearly completely gone, only quickly healing scars were visible on his left side. He always liked his ability to heal this quickly.
That was really the first thing he’d noticed about his changing body after he was bitten on his left forearm. The scar of such a bite remains on the skin, no matter how many times the werewolf shifts. His was there under all the black and red ink too. He didn’t remember much of that night. The pain was vivid enough in his memories not to want to remember more. He was a fool. A troublemaker kid and he’d paid the price. He slightly shook his head as he opened his brown eyes that were smudged with black eyeliner and looked at the dark-haired alpha who just walked into the middle of the circle and welcomed them all before he started talking.
Only half of Tommy’s mind was listening to what he was saying, the other half was remembering as he tried to calm his wolf the best he could. It wasn’t trying to attack but it was restless, pacing back and forth behind his eyes. The blond man didn’t know what was up with it. Clearly the alpha caused this reaction because his wolf got like this whenever Adam appeared. He didn’t think much into it since it was understandable – they’d just lost their father and alpha, their pack shattered and melted into an unfamiliar pack. Their future was uncertain and all the blame fell on the tall man explaining the importance of becoming one big and strong family.
Hearing that Tommy couldn’t stop a snort, earning a disapproving look from Adam, but he didn’t care. He held the blue gaze, not backing down until he felt his sister’s hand on his shin. He turned his face to her and saw her lightly shaking her head. Tommy sighed and while sitting he leaned back against the table behind his back, resting his elbows on its edge. His whole stance screamed negligence, but his eyes stayed aware.
When Adam requested the new pack members to introduce themselves to him and the others Tommy was the first to talk because of his position. He didn’t stand though.
“I’m Tommy Joe Ratliff, the beta of the Burbank pack. The alpha was my and my sister’s father, and her cub’s grandfather. Our mother had passed away a long time ago. I understand our new situation and feel responsible for the rest of my pack. I won’t lie,” he looked around, testing the other wolves of Adam’s pack. Most looked aside in submission, but a few returned his brown gaze as he continued “I’ve already told your alpha that I’ve accepted his authority for the sake of my people. It was a necessity and I’m not particularly happy about this turn of events. But I’m not a fool. I know that we wouldn’t stand a chance against the LA pack. We’ve lost many of our family. I don’t know how you lead your pack, Adam,” he looked at the dark-haired man, not dropping his gaze “and I have no desire in becoming an alpha, so until I don’t see or feel any threat to my people, I won’t challenge you. But let this be a warning to you: if I do experience something like that, I will. I won’t tolerate any bullshit,” he stated and he could hear a few gasps from both packs hearing such boldness and yes, disrespect. It was nearly questioning the alpha’s ways, but Tommy had learned enough from his father to be able to walk that thin line.
Once he finished talking, the wolves looked at Adam, waiting. After a few moments the tall man folded his toned and tattooed arms in front of his chest and nodded. The tension dropped in the air. “I understand. I’ve already promised that I’d take good care of them. You’ll see soon enough how our pack works,” he said and turned his gaze to Tommy’s sister, Lisa next to him. A small smile crossed his lips as his eyes met with the little werewolf’s in her mother’s hold. He was about to address Lisa when he heard Tommy’s voice again.
“I intend to remain a beta in the new pack too,” he said boldly and felt Lisa’s warning squeeze on his shin again, but he pulled his leg free, keeping the eye-contact with Adam. And a pain in your ass. “Therefore during the hierarchy fights I’ll give everything I have. I want a say in what happens to my people, too.”
Once again the tension became palpable on the clearing. Adam tilted his head to the side just watching Tommy for a few long moments. He could see that he was serious. “Very well. If you earn your place during the fights, I won’t deny that right from you. But always remember, it is me, the alpha, who makes the final decisions,” he warned flashing his glowing blue eyes at him and Tommy had to look away after a few seconds. He masked it with nodding and reaching down to caress his niece’s soft brown curls.
As his sister started talking he was thinking about how he hated when alpha power was used on him. Sure, he could be hot-headed at times as he wasn’t really good at following rules. He was too rock ‘n’ roll for that, so to say, but still it made him feel like a child without a choice. When it came from his father, he accepted it easier as his old man had sacrificed a lot for him in the past, but Adam’s power annoyed him more than anything. He could still feel it sticking to his skin and he fought the urge to rub his arms to get rid off the remaining alpha energy. Instead he pressed his lips together and listened silently as Adam moved on from Lisa and her daughter, Bridget to Viola. Tommy watched the short woman with red hair talk and he wondered if she’d find someone more to her liking in this pack.
Turning his head away he sighed silently, focusing on his wolf which was a little bit less restless, listening to the conversations around. Tommy wished he could’ve walked off to be alone. Or at least put his earphones in and get lost in aggressive or melancholic guitar riffs. He didn’t want to feel at all. Grieving and anger exhausted him. He was glad that his light makeup at least covered the dark circles under his eyes. He felt helpless in a situation that he wasn’t controlling. No, it was controlled by the dark-haired alpha. The smug bastard. It was killing him to see that all that he and his father have been working for was taken away. Tommy knew he would’ve been a good alpha if the circumstances were different and his father died of old age or something. Now even the possibility of trying himself out like that was taken away. He wasn’t stupid. He could feel that even if he wanted to overthrow Adam, he wouldn’t be able to win that fight. First because clearly he was fucking strong compared to the blond. Second, because he could feel the loyalty of the bigger pack towards their alpha. Their gazes were often than not adoring. What was with this guy anyway? Why would his pack members look at him as if they were brainwashed? He’ll have to find that out too. It was too good to be true and Tommy didn’t trust easily.
“Don’t make this harder for us than it has to be, Tommy. I miss dad just as much as you do. I’ve lost him too, you know,” Lisa warned him two weeks later when they were ready to leave for the hierarchy fights. Tommy hasn’t seen Adam or his pack since the introductory ceremony. He retreated to his own world filled with music, booze, friends, clubbing and sex. Lots of sex. He wasn’t particularly proud of that, but it was difficult for him to cope with all that was going on.
“I know. I’m not stupid,” he growled low, putting on a simple black T-shirt.
“Sometimes you are hot-headed. I know you. I’m not saying you should hold back, just accept the result and please… for the sake of us and yourself, stop trying to insult Adam. He is already our alpha. We accepted him in order to have protection. You know well the kind of dangers our kind has to face and it’s easier to do that under the protection of such a strong pack like this. I don’t want you to get punished by him… although maybe that’d make you come back to your senses,” she added quietly.
“On who’s side are you on, sis?!” he turned to her with anger and disbelief on his face.
“On the pack’s and my daughter’s. I can’t always have your back now. She’s the first I have to think about, you know that well. But Tommy… please, be careful tonight. Enough blood was spilled already,” she sighed and left him alone to join her daughter and the rest of the cubs.
Tommy sighed too and ran his hand through his blond hair, feeling his wolf on edge, wanting to come out and fight for their position. “Just a little longer and we’ll show them,” he murmured still thinking about what her sister just said. He couldn’t help it but he was still angry and couldn’t think of Adam as his alpha or the extended pack as his new family. It was too soon. He wondered if it was going to change after tonight.
He knew that some of his old pack members visited Adam’s house to be around the other wolves more, getting to know them better. Tommy made sure they knew that he was okay with that. After all they just wanted to belong, feel secure after the loss of their former alpha and he wasn’t really the best beta lately. He felt sorry for that but things just got too much for him. He knew though that after the fights tonight all of them will have to stay with the pack for a couple of days. He wasn’t looking forward to that too much, but he knew they had to get used to the new hierarchy and their positions in that.
Soon he was standing on the now familiar clearing but this time the benches and tables were put further away between the trees. If needed, the healers of the LA pack were ready to tend the wounded there. Tommy thought about their own healer, one of his father’s older female friends who died during the takeover too. It only made the beta think about that night so he forced his mind to stop. He sighed and hoped that the new pack’s healers were good at what they did. The pups were already together and looked over by some females from the same pack as the rest of the Burbank pack would have to fight for their position. It was going to be a long night, everyone knew.
This time they didn’t start from the top like during the introduction. Not counting the cubs, now the lowest wolf in the Burbank pack’s hierarchy started the fights. There were ten of the challengers in total. They all knew that depending on the position they wanted to get, some of them had to fight more rounds as the LA pack was big with many wolves in some positions. Tommy wasn’t sure the night would be long enough to finish things up, but he knew that everyone would fight until they were satisfied with the line up. For now. As in the future further fights for a better position or keeping the current one may occur.
The blond man knew that he’d have more rounds than most of his pack members as his position as beta was high in the hierarchy and he felt at least eight betas in Adam’s pack. That didn’t mean though that he’d have to fight all of them. Some might just accept Tommy’s dominance and authority with baring his or her neck or belly. He’d see that once he got his turn to shift. For the time being he watched as the young Taylor from his pack tried his luck with a female called Naomi.
Tommy soon closed out the fights from which some were quick but some lasted longer. He put his earplugs in and was listening to some Manson while keeping an eye on the happenings, but otherwise he got lost in his own thoughts and memories. He remembered the time when stray wolves asked his father to join their small pack. He remembered the challenges he got for his position. At the beginning when he and his wolf were still young and inexperienced in fighting they slid back one or two positions in the pack hierarchy but some extra lessons from his father gave him more confidence in his abilities and instincts and soon he was back on his side as his beta. A position he held ever since. He watched their pack rise to one of the strongest of the area then survived the attack of the hunters in the 70s too. It was funny how people still thought he was thirty-something or even younger. Wolves were aging but much slower than humans. It was probably because of their quick regeneration ability or something. Tommy never fully understood or cared about the reasons. For a moment he wondered how old Adam could be, but he snorted at himself for the thought itself. It didn’t matter.
What mattered was that towards dawn it seemed his pack’s remaining members didn’t disappoint him as slowly they’ve got to their desired positions. Aside from two wolves that got a little lower in the hierarchy than before, the remaining seven ended up in the same position or a little higher. Tommy nodded approvingly to Lisa when a little disheveled the dark grey wolf turned back and grinned at him. However, his attention was pulled back towards the middle of the clearing when he heard Adam say his name.
Tommy switched off his iPod and put it down. Standing he took off his leather jacket, kicked off his sneakers and took off the rest of his clothes. He calmly walked into the middle of the clearing and stopped a few feet from Adam. He didn’t understand the dark and slightly annoyed look on the alpha’s face. But it was gone in the next moment their eyes met and Adam waved forward the betas of his pack. Tommy was right, there were eight of them. They walked closer already naked too and lined up in a half-circle.
All eyes were on Tommy and he could feel his skin start to crawl from their burning energies. They were already sizing him up. He knew he had to muster up all of his strength to reach his goal. Bring it on, he thought and his wolf growled in agreement. They were so ready.