"I think she'd like that, Lys. You weren't exactly in a good mood before."
Lyssa lets out a breath, and murmurs, "No. I really wasn't."
Randall strides up to them. "How are you?"
"Better all the time, Randall. What's going on with Ross?"
"Sit, please. This will not be easy."
Lyssa looks at him. "Why? Is he...? Did I kill him?"
Ariel arrives with a platter of food for the Betas, along with a pitcher of milk. "I see you're feeling better," she says as she sets the food down. "Hungry?"
Emmett reaches for a sandwich and Lyssa pours milk for both of them. "Well," Randall begins, "I believe we will all feel better when you return to a normal schedule and can resume your duties."
Emmett replies, "Of course, Randall, we could begin again today, if you wish."
"If you're thinking clearly, you could begin some of it. I'm sure Erich would appreciate some relief and Gabriela could use some help at the warehouse."
Lyssa looks at the Alpha pair, "Um, Randall, what's happened to Michael Ross?"
Emmett puts down his glass and pulls Lyssa close to him. "Jo said I'd 'scrambled his brains.' What does that mean, exactly?"
Randall looks closely at the Beta female. "How many times would you say you knocked him out?"
Lyssa's forehead creases in concentration. "About, maybe, one, two, three, four, um, I guess ten or so."
"What happens to humans who are knocked out multiple times?"
Lyssa's voice goes quieter. "Brain damage."
"Michael Ross is apparently no longer up to the task of Alpha. Calvin has taken over again. If Michael recovers, things may change but, for now, Calvin Ross is Alpha of the Ross pack."
Lyssa closes her eyes, considering.
Emmett speaks up. "And he got mated recently? How is his mate taking it?"
"She's afraid of her status. Apparently it happened the day you left."
Lyssa's voice remains quiet. "Um, Randall, Alpha, uh, what will happen if he recovers?"
"I'm not certain. Calvin is very caught up right now in trying to re-stabilize the pack. It seems some things did not go very well while under Michael's leadership."
Lyssa replies, "Yeah, he mentioned something to me about it."
Randall continues. "At this point, I'm not sure if Calvin will relinquish control again."
A big sigh from Lyssa. "And, if he doesn't recover?"
Randall looks at her closely. "That will be up to Calvin. It depends upon what his state is."
Lyssa buries her face against her mate's shoulder. Emmett takes her shoulders and brings her away so that he can face her. "Don't get lost on me again, Lys. He had a gun and you said he fired it at least once." She nods, biting her lip and looking a little teary. "He intended to kill both of us, you know that. You could have killed him outright, but you didn't. You simply kept him from killing us, as best you could. It was self-defense."
Lyssa takes a deep breath as the Wyeth Alphas and their daughter watch the exchange. She closes her eyes and takes another couple of breaths. She raises her head and looks up at Emmett. "You're right. And I've wished him dead so many times for what he did to Jo and me. If he had left us alone it wouldn't have happened." Emmett squeezes her to him. "Ow, Em."
She turns, clear-eyed, and looks at the Alpha pair. "I have a question. I know there's no good way to punish someone from another pack, [Lys, I'm not sure now is the time.] but what would have happened if I had killed him? An Alpha? Would Calvin, the Alpha Ross, feel obliged to come after me and kill me? Would someone else in the Ross pack do it?"
Randall looks thoughtful. "You pose an interesting question." He looks at his own mate, who is chuckling a bit beside him.
It is Joanna that answers. "I guess you don't remember that part of your training, huh?" Lyssa looks at her, cocks her head and furrows her brow. "The fight for Alpha is a fight to the death. If you had killed him you would 'unofficially officially' be Alpha of the Ross pack."
Emmett breaks into laughter. "That's the way it's always been done, mate. If control isn't transferred between family it's transferred by force."
"But, um.. me?"
Ariel reaches across the table and pats her hand. "Probably not, Lyssa. I don't know if it would work that way for you. Females have not been allowed control of the packs. Although a wolf pack will follow its Alpha, I'm not sure they'd follow a female, particularly a changed human."
Lyssa grumbles, half under her breath. "You guys really need to crawl out from under the 17th century rock you've been hiding under."
Randall smiles at her. "I'm not certain what would have happened if you had killed him. Some might call for revenge and we might have to provide security for you whenever you were outside, particularly off the range." Lyssa quirks her mouth, looking unhappy. "Calvin, I'm not certain. Michael is his son, his blood, but he also knows what his son is, and what he had done. As for Alpha, would you want it?"
Her eyes go wide and she shakes her head. "Nope. Don't think so. I wouldn't even know where to begin."
Emmett kisses the side of her head. "No time to think of such things when someone's shooting at you. I suppose it's good that you didn't actually kill him. The turmoil would be," a big inhale, "overwhelming."
Ariel looks at her mate. "Told you she would make for interesting times in the pack."
Jo and Lyssa respond, in stereo, "You did?"
Ariel laughs. Randall responds. "Yes, my mate, indeed you did." He nuzzles her neck and runs a hand down to cup her breast. "You were right." [Including our soon-to-be son-in-law.]
[It won't be very soon, but that will come.]
Seeing their Alphas having a private talk and a touch, Emmett runs his hand up Lyssa's thigh, fingers touching skin where her robe parts in the front.
Jo clears her throat. "Ahem. I think that's my cue to find something else to do. See ya."
She rises and walks off, pulling out her cellphone as she does.
Lyssa leans over and kisses her mate. "Em, since we're up I should probably get ahold of Gabriela or Mathias and see what's going on."
Emmett sighs and gives her one last caress of her thigh. "And I should go see how Erich is and what needs doing."
They rise from their seats and, hand in hand, head back to their room to dress.
Randall and Ariel, however, are in a heated embrace on the loveseat, clothing already hitting the floor.
The Beta pair return to their duties for the rest of the day.
Some glitches have shown up in the software at the warehouse and certain files needed to be replaced from the backups. In addition, employee training needed to be repeated with certain individuals, as they were either not filling out fields appropriately or were hitting keys they shouldn't. Most of the employees had grumbled at the new system but were now finding it easier to use. Lyssa followed up with the manufacturer on a couple of outstanding bugs.
Emmett meets up with Erich and they go over what had been going on in his absence. Emmett digs in to some of the tasks that either needed his attention or were lower on the priority list and had waited for his return.
"How're the twins doing?"
Erich looks over at his friend. "How are you doing?"
"Gonna take a couple more days before I'm a hundred percent. Justin and Jamie?"
"Jamie's getting the hang of some of the more complicated sparring moves. I think Justin's got the nose for tracking."
"Good. We could use another tracker, or two, especially with you in here and mated."
"Charlotte has said something about Mercy's tracking. She's got keen eyes and a good nose."
Emmett turns to look at Erich. He was hesitant to put a female up as tracker for the pack but, why not? As Lyssa had said, females were not incapable, it was just that they had never been allowed into those roles before. Females were protected since they would bear the next generations but, there would be long periods of time when they weren't pregnant, so... "Alright, why don't you set up some training sessions for them? I'll get someone to start Mercy on sparring sessions."
"Mercy, too. You brought it up. I'll double check with Randall but, if she's got the nose for it, we shouldn't waste her potential."
Erich looks at Emmett long enough that Emmett asks, "What?"
Erich smiles. "You've changed some since you mated a human."
A light growl and Emmett sends, [I'll have to tell Lyssa that.]
"Don't get her mad at me!"
Dinner is its usual self that night, all members returned to the den and doing well.
The youngest pups ran around the tables grabbing bites from parents along the way. Others were being taught table manners and the adults were visiting with one another. Stephanie was seated at the table she usually occupied and was looking a bit sad.
Natalie comes up to the first Beta pair after the meal. "Madam Beta,"
Lyssa looks at their female healer. "Oh, yes, Natalie. I'm feeling pretty good."
"I'm pleased to hear it. So, you've had no bleeding or cramping?"
"You should have told me earlier. I was just told you just came off your heat."
Lyssa's eyes go wide. "Oh. No. I didn't even think to tell you."
Emmett looks at the healer. "This early, healer, would we even know?"
Natalie frowns. "Probably not." She looks pointedly at Lyssa. "Please let me know if you feel at all..odd."
Lyssa sniffs. "Yeah."
Emmett pulls her against himself in a bruising embrace. She can feel the anger, the hatred, just simmering off his body. The fact that she could be pregnant, could have been pregnant, makes her suddenly sad. And he, he was upset enough that fur began to break out on his body. [That's it. I'm going over and kill the son of a bitch if it's the last thing I do.]
Roland notices the change and alerts his father and Erich. The three of them stand and surround the first Beta pair, Emmett covered in short grey fur and claws, with the beginnings of a muzzle, and Lyssa, caught up in his arms.
[Em, no. You said it probably wouldn't happen this time anyway.]
[He's tried to take my family from me too many times.] A snarl rips from his muzzle and several pack members edge away.
The voice of the Alpha booms loud in his ears. "Emmett, what's happened?"
"Nothing. I'm fine."
Randall looks pointedly at his friend and Beta. He then turns to Lyssa. "What did Natalie say that upset him?"
Lyssa sniffs again. "She asked if I was OK, Alpha." Randall now looks confused, as do the others. "I had my heat while we were gone."
Randall nods, looking grim. "I know what's in your mind, my friend. You will not go to the Ross compound and kill Michael Ross. He's in no condition to be challenged and may not even understand why you're there."
Emmett snarls back. "He's a waste of breath and I want him dead."
"Understand me, Emmett Forester. At this point you have no recourse. Take care of your mate."
Emmett continues to growl his rage and frustration. Randall gives the order. "Circle. Now."
Randall strips off his clothing and changes to wolf. Emmett's clothes are already in tatters. He puts his mate to one side of him and fairly roars at Randall.
Randall stares into Emmett's eyes and Emmett drops his gaze and follows his Alpha out to the Wyeth circle.
At least he was recognizing his Alpha's authority to that extent.
The two wolves face off on opposite sides of the Wyeth circle, Emmett, snarling and raging, Randall, watching. He paces back and forth, watching Emmett's moves. He does not attack, but tries to reason with his Beta.
[Emmett, I sympathize...]
Another snarl from Emmett, [Sympathize? She hasn't gotten pregnant yet, Randall. It usually doesn't take this long. If he took a pup from me...]
[Have there been any signs?]
Emmett shakes out his fur. [No. But, would they be the same for her? If it just happened, would there be any sign at all?]
[Then, how would you know?] Emmett stops, staring at his Alpha, chest heaving, growling low in his chest. [My friend, she's had a hard enough time of it lately. Don't make it worse. I don't want to keep bringing you down here to knock some sense into your head.]
Emmett snarls one more time and takes a step forward. Several wolves are on the edge, watching with interest. Lyssa is there, as well, leaning on Ariel.
Emmett, with his injuries, is really in no condition to face his Alpha. In addition, his rage has made him careless, and he glances at his mate. Randall runs forward, trips him, and puts jaws around his Beta's throat. [Submit.]
Emmett howls his despair and Lyssa pulls away from Ariel, running down to crouch at Emmett's head. Everyone gasps. Such a thing was not done.
Randall growls at her while she scratches Emmett behind the ears. [Alpha,] she sends, [we need a pack council. We need a better way of resolving things like this.]
Randall adjusts his grip and looks at her with one green eye. [Would you challenge me, too, Madam Beta?]
[Lyssa, stay out of this.]
Lyssa lays down, beside her mate, her neck mere inches from Randall's jaws. [You are a fair and wise Alpha, Randall. You look to improve the lives of your pack. At the next full moon, I have a suggestion or two you may never have considered. You see, I want to make things better, too.]
Randall huffs. [Submit. Or do you want my position?]
Emmett feels the warm body of his mate beside him. Dammit. They'd never know if she had been pregnant, unless, by some miracle, she still was. And what if she was?
He could miss the chance to see their first pup.
Emmett groans his frustration. His Alpha had forbade him from going to the Ross compound and killing Michael Ross. He was injured and could not win this fight, particularly since Randall's teeth were already at his throat. Besides, he really had no wish to be Alpha. And, Lyssa, his mate, was here beside him, in the circle, against all reason.
He's taken too long in answering. Randall's jaws begin to close. Lyssa gasps at the smell of his blood and gathers herself. He feels a slight pressure gathering in his skull.
[Lys, don't do anything stupid.] [I submit to your wishes, Alpha.]
Randall opens his jaws and steps back, then sits, and howls his victory to the pack.
Emmett lays there, ribs burning, breathing in pain, his eyes closed. Lyssa strokes down his side and his breath catches. "Em? Are you hurt worse?"
[Yes and no. Mostly reminded that I'm not healed yet.] A chocolate brown eye opens and looks up at his mate, who's up on an elbow looking down on him. [You were foolish to come into the circle, mate.]
"I wasn't gonna let him kill you."
Randall has been listening and sizes up the conversation. He sends to both of them, [Attacking me without challenge would have left you with punishment, Madam Beta. This is pack law. Some things will never change.]
Lyssa looks over at her Alpha. "I know, Alpha."
Randall looks at the first Beta pair, then to his own mate. [Up for romp, El?]
[Where shall we go, mate?]
[I think I know just the place..]
The Alpha pair, a smaller russet wolf and a large brown, rub against one another then tear off into the woods.
The wolves surrounding the circle either head off for a run, themselves, or return to duties or pastimes.
Lyssa lies beside her mate on the cold ground of the Wyeth circle. "You want some things changed, too, or there wouldn't be disagreements like this."
Again, that brown eye focusses on her. [Slowly, Lys. You can't push too hard.]
She gently strokes his side and checks that the others are gone. [Do you need help?] Weakness in the Beta male would not be well tolerated.
[No,] He sighs, [the cold actually feels pretty good.]
"Oh." Lyssa strips, shifts, and lays beside her mate, a dark chestnut wolf beside a large grey.
Snow starts to fall after a while, and the ground begins to disappear under a light carpet of soft white.
Two wolves, in a circle of stones, are dotted with snowflakes.
[Erich told me today that I've changed since I mated you.]
[Mm. Do you think you have?]
[I was alone. All I had to think of was the pack and myself. Keep to the laws, keep everyone in line, keep everything running smoothly. It used to be that simple.]
[So, I've mucked up your nice, simple life?]
[No, no, dear heart. But I think differently now. I have a family now. That changes things, my focus, my goals.]
[Your ability to adhere to pack law...]
He growls lightly at her. [Hey, I'd only known you for a few days and you were ready to leave. You chose to leave your pack rather than submit to a pack law you didn't like.]
Emmett gets his feet under him and pushes upright. Shaking himself, he throws the snow off his body and faces his mate.
Lyssa has gotten up also, to face him. Even as wolf, she could see some emotion in his chocolate brown eyes. [I didn't choose to leave my pack, Lys. I chose you.]
He steps forward, and rubs against her. She rubs down both his sides, then licks the corner of his mouth. [Submissive, mate? You?]
[You know what I mean.]
A large exhale from the large grey wolf leaves a gust of steamy fog around his muzzle as he looks out to the darkened, leafless trees. [I haven't been out for a run since we got back. Care to join me?]
[Lead or chase?]
[I think just a nice run to the meadow and back, sweetheart.]
The two take off through the falling snow.
Nathan has come, again, to visit Joanna. The motorcycle he's currently driving is a sapphire blue and quiet, a shaft drive. The lights shine on a pair of wolves fucking just inside the treeline as he turns to park.
He's greeted by several Wyeth wolves as he enters the front hall, and looks around. The Wyeth den was becoming more and more familiar to him and he was able to greet many of the Wyeth wolves by name now. It seemed a bit easier to him than the Severn compound. Here many of the pack lived in a large house. It was easier to find others and see how the pack was faring than at home where they lived more separate lives. This was where his Joanna had grown up.
Yes, his. She was, unless something really horrible happened. When, not if, was the question. He smiles to himself as he looks around. He would be mated, sooner rather than later.
He notices an older female standing at one of the windows. Her stance was rigid, staring out into the darkness, but he saw something else in her. Something in her face, sadness, and wondered at the cause.
[Jo? Where are you?]
[Maddy and I are out by the lake.]
Grinning, Nathan goes to the side door and strips. Changing to the large brownish wolf, he shakes out his fur and heads out after his 'girlfriend.'
Lyssa and Emmett return to the den after a run through the snow. Both have been relatively quiet.
[Em, what have you heard about Michael Ross' mating?]
[Why do you care?]
[Um, tell me first. Please.]
[I haven't heard much. First thing in the morning, the day we left. I've heard some say she's not suited to Alpha. I've heard others say he didn't seem too happy about it. Why?]
[I think it's my fault.]
He stops dead and she barrels into him. A slight hop trying to avoid it has her chest on top of his back. He growls at her. [Get down, now.]
[That's a dominance display. I don't like it.]
[OK. Geez, don't get all cranky.]
He stands and faces her debating if he needed to demonstrate his dominance to her or not.
Lyssa looks back at him. That had really bothered him. [I didn't mean to, it was an accident.] She licks the corner of his mouth again.
She watches the tension go out of his body.
Another cloud around his muzzle as he exhales. [I can't have you appear dominant to me, Lys. I just can't. Especially not as wolf.]
She swallows, and says nothing.
He stares at her and she drops her eyes pretty quickly, although a bit pissed at herself for doing it.