We did end up late for our classes. However, Evan had a pretty cool teacher, and after I explained that I'd been showing Evan around a bit and we'd gotten distracted by the art display near the gym, the teacher let Evan off the hook.
My own teacher was a little pissed I'd interrupted her beginning of the year speech, but merely gave me a stern look and a sharp, "Sit down, Mr. Ortiz." Giving her a happy grin, I looked around the room, spotting Adam spacing off in the corner. Resisting the insane urge to skip, I made my way over to an empty desk by Adam, plopping down with a quiet thump.
:What's up with you?: Adam sent, giving me a curious look. :You look like you just ate the Energizer Bunny.:
I was giddy, and I knew Adam could feel it through the connection. I struggled to reign in thoughts of Evan, but Adam must have sensed something, because he suddenly looked away, grimacing.
:Ew. Didn't need to see that,: he muttered. :Or feel that. Or sense that. Or―:
:Yeah, yeah, I got it,: I snickered. :Sorry, I slipped a bit.:
Adam shook his head, before propping his elbow on the desk and resting his chin on his knuckles, staring vacantly towards the teacher.
:I'm assuming you're going to tell dad soon about you and the kid?: he asked neutrally.
:Evan,: I automatically corrected. Gulping, I sighed as my good mood deflated like a popped balloon, slumping across the top of the desk. :Shoot me now, but, yes…I'm going to tell dad.:
I mentally growled at him. :Yes. Today.:
Adam mentally prodded at me, his wolf whining a bit. :I'll be there, you know, if you want me to be,: he said softly.
I buried my face in my arms to hide my grin, but I knew Adam could sense it anyways. :Thanks.:
:No prob, bro,: he said.
The rest of the school day passed uneventfully. It was mainly a bunch of introductory lectures from the teachers, telling us how the class would go, blah, blah, blah. Evan and I had a few classes near the end of the day together, along with Adam, Chloe and Daniel, so we all sat together. Evan's new friends were a little wide-eyed as they kept sneaking glances between me and Adam, but I decided to simply ignore the looks.
Once the final bell rang, signaling the end of school, we all joined the crush of bodies as the entire student body filled the hallways, trying to get to their lockers. Evan's locker was about ten down from me, but Adam's was right next to mine.
"Since I'm going to be heading to the house after I drop Evan off, want a ride?" I asked Adam as I closed my locker, slinging my backpack over my shoulder.
"Sure," he said, giving me an encouraging pat on the shoulder.
Out in the parking lot, all three of us piled into the Jeep. It was only a two-seater, so Adam simply perched in the back, hanging on to the giant bar up top. I had taken the flimsy fabric top of the Jeep off since it was so warm, and the breeze was nice as I drove through town and towards the forest.
After dropping off Evan at his house, Adam quickly hopped into the vacated seat, sighing as he slumped down. Turning the Jeep around, I took one of the unpaved roads through the forest's edge to get to the house. As I drove, I noticed my hands were beginning to shake, but I couldn't stop them no matter how I glared at them. Growling, I resolutely stared at the road, deciding to ignore them.
"It'll be okay, you know," Adam said conversationally to me.
I glanced over at him, giving him a doubtful look. "Yeah," I drawled sarcastically. "Dad's gonna be so proud of his little fag son."
I yelped as Adam suddenly punched my arm, making it go numb for a few seconds, before erupting in pain. Grimacing, I avoided his angry look, holding my injured arm to my chest.
"Knock it off!" he hissed. "Don't be such a little bitch! And don't call yourself that! You know dad's not going to be mad. It might take him a little bit to get used to the idea, but he won't be disappointed in you, Zeke."
I grumbled a bit, feeling somewhat shameful. Dad…dad isn't like that, I know. The scenarios in my head are crazy, and nothing like how he'd react, but…
But, it's still a possibility! I don't know how dad's mind works! What if he is disappointed in me? Or worst, disgusted? After all, Adam and I are next in line as the pack leaders, as long as no one tries to challenge us. But, if the other wolves catch wind of me being gay, what if they see it as a weakness and attack? Or worse; what if another pack attacks us? All because of me?
:You realize those thoughts are ridiculous, and completely absurd, right?: Adam asked wryly.
I sighed, feeling my heart clench. :Maybe…: I said doubtfully. :But, there's always the chance―:
Adam reached over and roughly swatted the back of my head, making my flinch. "Dude!" he growled out. "Don't think about it until we get to the house! You've already planned to tell dad. There's nothing you can do about his reaction, or the reaction of the pack. So just tell him, and deal with the consequences when they come along!"
Making a disgusted noise, Adam crossed his arms and slumped back into his seat. "Idiot," he muttered.
I resolutely kept my mind blank the rest of the drive to the mansion. Parking next to dad's truck, I took a steadying breath, before stepping heavily from the Jeep.
"You're not going to your death, you know," Adam said in passing as he headed up the stars and to the front door.
"Feels like it," I muttered to myself, before following him slowly.
The foyer was empty, and our footsteps echoed as we walked to the middle of it. Adam paused, sniffing the air, before heading for dad's study. Grimacing, I trailed after him, feeling my shaking become more erratic.
"I feel sick," I whispered to Adam, my stomach roiling nauseatingly.
He looked back at me as we stopped outside the closed study doors. Biting his lip, he gave my shoulder a quick squeeze, before knocking on the door.
"Yeah," I heard my dad's voice come from inside, muffled by the thick wood doors. "Come in."
:You smell of fear,: Adam sent, pushing the doors open and stepping into the study.
:I can't help it,: I mentally whimpered.
:You're brave, Zeke,: he encouraged as I stepped in after him, shutting the doors behind us. :I know you can do this.:
I replied with a nonsensical hum, feeling my mind go blank with fear.
Dammit, I've faced down Hunters! I've been in a tussle with an angry troll! I've faced Evan barely a few nights ago even though I felt like running away in fear. I can do this!
Dad was sitting at his big mahogany desk, papers spread out across its flat service and a pen perched behind his ear. He stared intensely down at a paper in his hand, scribbling something on it as Adam and I stood side-by-side respectfully before his desk. Frowning, he crossed something out, scribbled something in, then sighed, scratching the back of his head.
Setting the paper down, he glanced up at us, giving us questioning looks. His eyes were a piercing gray, matching the color that was beginning to take over the black hair around his temples. He had a few wrinkles near the edges of his eyes, showing his age, but his mouth was still hard and his face was still strong, giving him an intimidating air even when he was relaxed.
"What's up, boys?" he asked.
I felt my mouth go dry, and suddenly couldn't move or speak. Sensing my immobility, Adam gave me a sharp nudge with his elbow, clearing his throat.
"Uh, Zeke wants to tell you something," he said.
Dad raised one dark eyebrow, looking at me expectantly. "Finally moving back home?" he asked, his tone teasing.
Oh, sweet Betty Crocker, I couldn't do this.
:Yes, you can! Just blurt it out or something!: Adam yelled.
Come on, Zeke! You can do it!
"N-n-n-I'mgay!" I blurted out, a little incoherently. Wide-eyed, I stared at dad, who sat there for a moment, still as only a deadly predator could be.
Finally, after several agonizing moments, he calmly asked, "What?"
I couldn't repeat it. Not again. My wolf was strangely silent, and wasn't really giving me any confidence or support. I felt a flash of anger at it, but the emotion was short lived as dad simply sat there silently, staring at me with unreadable eyes.
Adam suddenly slung his arm over my shoulder, yanking me against his side. Being the same size, it was an awkward fit, but I was slumping a bit, so I managed to only give a small stagger.
"Didn't you hear him, dad?" Adam said cheerfully. "He's gay. Why do you think he took such a liking to the purple-eyed boy?"
Panicked, I looked away from dad, swallowing nervously as I resolutely tried to memorize every book on his humongous bookshelf across the room. Adam kicked my shin to get me to face dad, making my face twitch as I held back an automatic snarl.
I heard dad's desk chair squeak, and my eyes were quickly drawn back to him, taking in his expression and posture. He was leaning back in the chair, holding both ends of his pen in his hands as he stared blankly at his desk, his expression unreadable.
"You're…gay?" he asked for clarification,
Swallowing thickly, I gave a small nod.
"And…how long have you…?" he asked, his words trailing off.
I don't think I've ever seen my dad this speechless before. He's like the master of words, able to rally the pack with a few sentences, or stop a fight before it happens with a few curt orders.
Somehow, he seemed less…frightening. More like a father than a brutal leader.
Feeling a bit more courageous, I stepped out from beneath Adam's protective arm. "I-I've known for a while now," I said quietly, my eyes steady. "I know it's a disappointment for you, but I'm not going to change. If you want me to split from the pack, I will."
For a split second, I thought dad was going to launch across his desk and attack me. Tensing, I watched carefully as the muscles in his hands tightened around the pen, a small tick making his jaw twitch. Eyes narrowed, he gave me a hard, searching look, his mouth thin.
"You're gay," he said flatly.
"Yes," I replied resolutely, prepared for his attack. I wouldn't win in a fight against my father, but if I could just get away, I could outrun him and―
"Adam," dad said, interrupting my thoughts. "Out."
After a small hesitation, Adam glanced at me, giving me an encouraging nod, before quietly leaving the study. I turned back to dad, my fists clenched.
"Zeke," he said tiredly. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he squeezed his eyes shut, and I realized the threat of attack had passed. For now. "You're sure?"
Dad sighed, running his fingers through his hair. Opening his eyes, he stared at me, and I suddenly realized how…old he looked. He was in his late 30s, yet he looked a lot older.
"Zeke, I'm not―," he got out, before he growled and stood up. Tensing up again, I watched him carefully for any signs of hostility as he began pacing behind his desk like a caged animal.
"I'm not disappointed in you," he said, gesturing sharply with his hands, not looking at me. "And I don't want you leaving the pack," he added, his eyes flickering to me for a second, giving me a hard look.
"But…?" I asked, knowing he had more to say.
"But," he said, slowly walking towards me. I growled at him, warning him to stay back, but he kept walking until he was only a few inches away from me. He suddenly snarled, baring his fangs at me as his hand shot out, wrapping around my neck. My growl abruptly cut off as I felt claws press against the thin skin of my throat, and I quickly dropped to my knees, bowing my head.
"Once this gets out, there's no turning back," he continued, his claws whispering across my skin as he pulled them away from my neck, placing his hand on the top of my head, "You will never be pack leader. You will be constantly challenged by the other wolves. I cannot protect you from them."
"I didn't expect this to be easy," I said quietly, my eyes glued to his boots. "I-I know others will see it as a weakness. But…I wanted to be the one to tell you before it gets out."
Dad sighed, his fingers digging into my scalp for a second, before he pulled his hand away. "Stand up," he ordered quietly.
I did as I was told, keeping my head down submissively. On my feet, I stood level with my father, but I resisted the urge to lock eyes with him. He'd take it as a challenge, and I didn't want to fight him if I didn't have to.
Turning, dad made his way back to his desk, perching on the edge of. Leaning back on his arms, he watched me as I slowly raised my eyes, careful to keep them unchallenging.
"I'm guessing you're telling me because you and…Evan, right?" he asked. When I nodded, he continued tiredly, "I'm guessing he's more than a friend you're protecting from Hunters."
"Yes," I said carefully. He seemed more resigned than angry, so I took it as a good sign.
"Is he your mate?" he asked.
I looked away, my cheeks on fire. "I-I don't know," I said, my words stilted. "Maybe. Yes. Not yet."
Shaking his head, he crossed his arms, staring blankly ahead. "I wish your mother was still here," he murmured wistfully.
I bit my lip, my heart giving a painful lurch. Mom…
"Alright, look," dad finally said, his voice commanding as he straightened away from the desk. "Find a way to tell the pack about you and...Evan. Then stay away for a few days, because there's no doubt there will be an uproar about this. And watch your back."
I grimaced, but knew he was right. At least he was accepting me…I think. "W-will I ever be able to come back?"
Dad rolled his eyes, before giving me a small, if a bit strained, grin. "Of course. The pack will be upset, but they're your family, Zeke. No matter what, we always stick together. It's how we survive."
Exhaling softly, I nodded my head. "Yeah, okay," I said, realizing he was trying to reassure me. "Then, can you just send Adam to let me know when its safe to return?"
"Sure," dad said. "You're still staying at Evan's house?"
There was an awkward paused, as we both stood there silently, avoiding each other's eyes. Finally, I figured it was time to leave.
"So, uh, I guess I'm going to head back to Evan's, then," I said, trailing off.
"Okay," dad said, nodding.
We stared at each other for a second, before I shifted my stance. Shoving my hands in my pocket, I rocked on the balls of my feet, then abruptly turned towards the door.
"Zeke," he said quickly, stopping me.
Without turning around, hand already reaching for the doorknob, I tilted my head to let him know I was listening.
He cleared his throat loudly, before muttering, "You're a good kid, Ezekiel."
I suddenly smiled, feeling a huge weight lift from my shoulders.
It was the closest I'd get to an, I love you.