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Lirim

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‘’Sir!’’ a dismayed nurse rushed past Brín and the man turned curiously towards the doors of the small clinic in the centre of Portslade village. A man – just barely – stumbled in past the doorway, looking confused. He looked confused, like he’d been knocked over the head with a rock, his steps uncertain, ‘’you can’t be in here!’’ the nurse gushed and Brín realised why. It was easy to pick up why; the man’s dark skin had a lush, lustrous quality to it, his eyes seemingly glowing with some kind of inner light – plus, his exposed forearms were covered with short, dark feathers, like he couldn’t control his shift yet.

The man had been bonded with a beast.

Brín winced sympathetically at the confused boy, even though technically he was meant to look down in submission, as the nurse stopped a step away, making a placating movement with her hand; she didn’t touch him outright. That would be considered an insult. She was a human and he was now a beast. Brín felt a twinge of annoyance. Beasts felt they were so much better than humans – they were, of course; stronger, faster, smarter and more powerful, but that was beside the point. What annoyed Brín the most is how they abused their status – did whatever they pleased, unstopped by human authorities. Like gods walking amongst humans, except they weren’t extremely benevolent. Still, seeing a beast, especially in such a drab place as Portslade, was unusual. As pretentious, arrogant and backwards as the beasts were, they rarely ventured into human settlements. Except at night, but that was, again, beside the point. So Brín watched, perhaps rather impolitely, as the nurse ushered the freshly-made beast out of the doors, ‘’please, sir,’’ she cooed, ‘’the beast clinic is on the opposite end of town. Is your chauffer with you?’’

Ah – that was another thing that annoyed Brín. The beasts were disgustingly rich, especially the ones that ranked higher – the predatory ones. It wasn’t like they were born rich but amongst all the things they were blessed with, they had the smarts, strength and perseverance that most humans lacked to strive high and achieve. Most businesses were, thus, owned by beasts who made up barely one third of the population, and those who they bonded with were showered with riches and affection – an attempt to get them to accept their drastically changed lifestyles, ‘’Brín?’’

The redhead turned from where the beast was now disappearing and smiled at the other nurse in the clinic, manning the pharmacy. He’d only been in Portslade a couple of months but most already knew him as Brín Lynch, the travelling Irishman with a guitar. Getting work in shitty little towns as a street singer was tough, but after his last encounter with a beast, he’d been stuck for places to go to – and train tickets to Portslade, Brighton, had been the cheapest, ‘’sorry,’’ he said to the nurse, who also offered him a smile.

‘’Need more plasters?’’

Brín wiggled his fingers, sore and covered in tiny cuts for playing his guitar for hours on end without a pick, ‘’yeah, please.’’

The clinic barely had anyone coming in, ever – usually elderly ladies and teenage moms dragging their kids in for a check-up. Brín was entertaining and fresh, and he had a way of charming people into liking him – which was why the nurses didn’t complain when he came in to snatch a few free plasters. He took the box out of the nurse’s hand, adjusting his guitar case on his back, ‘’thanks,’’ he said, backing away, ‘’have a nice day!’’ he turned and walked out into the windy April weather. At least the worst of the cold had passed – it had been tough with the wind coming from the sea and icy rain coming from above.

As he walked out onto the streets of Portslade, he passed the other nurse, who had now gotten rid of the beast, ‘’make sure to be home before dark, Brín,’’ she said, looking a little shaken up. It was probably her first encounter with a beast, even if the boy had recently still been human.

‘’Yeah, sure. You, too,’’ Brín said, the lie sliding easily off his tongue as he waved and started down the street. He adjusted his faded, red chequered jacket and rubbed at his neck, exposed by his white v-neck. The wind was still a bastard; Brín should have invested in a scarf. The thin ring made of wire on his ring-finger scratched against his skin as he rubbed his neck and he dropped his hand. He could probably get a couple of hours of singing in before the sun set and he’d have to put up his barricades.

Because after dark, the beasts came.

*~*~*

Alfie opened his eyes and immediately his vision went fuzzy. He groaned; he knew the feeling all too well. He sat up on a familiar couch, running a hand through his crazy-curly brown hair in search of an injury that had been, undoubtedly, delivered to his head. His fingers grazed a patch of what felt like gauze. He turned his attention to his face – he was badly banged up, with plasters on his nose, temple and cheek. His wrist was bandaged, too, and when he tried to move it he found himself hissing with pain.

The doors to the small, cluttered living room Alfie occupied opened and a dark skinned woman popped her head through the doorway, ‘’oh, good. You’re awake.’’

‘’Hi, Mrs Dawn,’’ Alfie said miserably, ever ache in his body waking up to bother him.

Alice Dawn padded into the living room in her striped fluffy socks and offered Alfie the chipped mug of tea she held in her hands, ‘’called your parents,’’ Mrs Dawn said sternly, ‘’they’re freaking out.’’

Alfie groaned just as the doors opened and his best friend, Bobby Dawn, entered, ‘’Jesus, I thought you were dead!’’ he said, aghast, ‘’I told you not to provoke those bastards at the bar.’’

It all came back to Alfie as he sipped his tea. The bar, the hurry to get inside before midnight. The drunk crooks at the bar. Alfie’s big mouth, resulting in a fight. Then blank – he must have lost spectacularly, if he was this banged up. He sighed, glancing down at his thin, sharp body covered with a frayed blanket. He really didn’t have a lot going for him. He was scrawny, impulsive accountancy post-graduate working in Primark and living with his mom at twenty two years old. He used to have big plans to move to London and work in his field but over the last year since he’d left university, his aspirations dwindled down to getting smashed at the bar on Friday evening with his best friend – both alcohol wise, and in the face.

‘’Sorry,’’ Alfie offered Bobby an apologetic grin, ‘’did you get hurt?’’

‘’No,’’ Bobby huffed, ‘’I dragged your crusty ass away before they could break anything. Though you did twist your wrist when you fell off the barstool.’’

Alfie rolled that over in his head and his blue eyes widened, ‘’wait, you got me from there to here after midnight?’’

 Bobby shrugged, ‘’no biggie. It was only a little after, and mom picked us up.’’

Alfie winced, ‘’shit, sorry Mrs Dawn.’’

Alice waved a hand, ‘’it’s fine. I’m used to it by now,’’ she took the empty cup from his hands, ‘’anyway, you should get some sleep. I’ll drive you back in the morning and will profoundly enjoy seeing you get scolded by Eliza.’’

At the mention of his mom, Alfie sprung off the couch. His head spun for a moment but he fought through it, ‘’oh, no, I have to go.’’

Both Bobby and Alice froze, ‘’you’re kidding, right?’’ the former said.

‘’Nope. You know how paranoid my parents get, what with me presenting as an omega last year,’’ Alfie rolled his eyes. Beasts had their own hierarchies and complicated statuses that the human was less than interested in. But the males, usually compatible with other males, could only bond and breed with human omega. Technically you weren’t an omega until you were changed by your bond, but when someone turned twenty one, they presented as...well, something. Human alphas and sigmas, the second most powerful denomination and twice as common as alphas, were supposed to steer clear of beasts. Alpha and sigma beasts were revered amongst their kind and having a human-turned-beast rank as high as them would be an insult. Betas and Zetas were the middle ground in the beast kingdom but if a human presented as one, you wouldn’t notice – they were largely treated as just humans by beasts. Deltas, on the other hand, were considered the ‘weakest link’ in both human and beast categories. They gave out an unpleasant scent that made beasts steer clear. Alfie wished he was a delta.

But he was an omega.

Pretty rare, though more common than born-beast omegas, and highly desirable as the only type of human that, after being changed, could breed with beasts. As there were not enough omegas to go around, they were highly sought after, which was why the policing hour of midnight had been brought into most countries that recognised bonds. Until midnight, Alfie had a 1 in 100 chance of meeting a beast; after, however, they were legally allowed to prowl the streets and if you were an unbounded omega not within the safety of a building by then, you were fair game.

Alfie had only heard the stories of what happened to human omegas bonded with beasts and it made him shudder every time. Because once you were bonded, you belonged to your beast and no one could do anything about it.

‘’Because you’re an omega you can’t go out!’’ Mrs Dawn hissed, ‘’it’s nearly five am!’’

‘’And the beasts go home at dawn,’’ Alfie calmed her, ‘’look, I presented as an omega a year ago and so far, I have not bumped into a beast. Not one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in my life. I doubt there’s any in Lincoln. So just...’’ he made a motion with his hand, ‘’I need to go, alright? I’d rather risk the wrath of a beast than that of Elizabeth Crow.’’

Mrs Dawn sighed, ‘’I can’t stop you. So I’m going to drive you.’’

‘’No,’’ Alfie said quickly, ‘’you already went out at night for me once today.’’

‘’Alfie-‘’

‘’Mrs Dawn,’’ Alfie said levelly, ‘’you know as well as I do that you’d have to chain me up to stop me from sneaking out.’’

For a long while, Mrs Dawn stared at Alfie. Bobby chewed his lip nervously. Finally, she sighed and looked towards the window. It was still dark but the skyline would soon become grey and then the danger would be over. She finally pointed a dark finger at Alfie, ‘’you call me as soon as you get home, you hear me, Alfred Crow?’’

*~*~*

Finn clutched the metal ladle to his chest, breathing hard. The lights of the room he rented above a wood-carving shop on Steep Hill leading up to Lincoln Castle were off, curtains drawn. The beast had been standing outside the closed shop for hours now, and every time Finn peeked out from behind the curtains, he was there, staring up at the window as if he could tell Finn was crouched beneath it. From what he had glimpsed, the beast outside was a young man, powerfully build, dark haired. He wore an expensive suit and the very air around him screamed of power. Finn was shaking. Beasts were not permitted by the law to enter buildings to claim mates, but Finn doubted the walls of the shop would stop this one – or that anyone would dare go against him. Because he didn’t feel like a normal beast. Sweat beaded on Finn’s forehead below his pale blond hair. He was just a poor art student who babysat to pay for his university fee – why the hell was there a powerful beast stalking outside his window!?

Finn wasn’t an idiot. He knew the beast would grow impatient soon, especially if Finn was the one he wanted. The blond boy knew he was an omega but, shit, was he that desirable? He’d never seen the man before in his life and, frankly, he freaked him out. He needed to get out of the building and go somewhere where the beast wouldn’t dare to touch him, where the law would protect him – the police station or a bloody church or something. And his motorbike was his only shot. His hands shook as he set the ladle down on the floor, discarding the weapon and scrambling towards the doors. He picked his keys up gingerly, making sure they didn’t make a noise that he knew the beast would hear even through the brick walls, and slipped them into the pocket of his jeans. He slipped out of the doors and closed them very slowly and very quietly behind him. The staircase was dark and eerie, and Finn could almost imagine some kind of beast with glowing eyes skulking at the bottom.

He swallowed nervously and began his descent.

With each step, the stairs creaked and Finn’s heart hammered in his chest. But when he finally made it to the ground floor, the male wasn’t anywhere to be found. He had no idea if the beast had heard him, but if he had then he had seconds. He took a deep breath and unlocked the doors to the back, trying to jiggle the keys as little as possible. He took a deep breath before stepping over the doorway – his last defence against whatever lurked beneath the skin of the male outside. The night was cold, even though it was April, but Finn didn’t think about that. No, he instead stuffed his keys back into his jeans and sprinted across the small patch of grass that was the building’s ‘garden’ before it fanned out into the concrete of Steep Hill. He didn’t care about making noise anymore. He practically threw himself onto his trusty motorbike, revved the engine and flew out into the dark streets.

On his bike, Finn felt safer. He thundered down Steep Hill at a dangerous speed, aiming for the centre of Lincoln from where he could ride to the train station and, hopefully, has a restraining order put against the beast outside his window. Though most likely he held sway at courts. The small bit of safety Finn had regained by putting distance between him and the male was ripped away from him when he heard the enraged roar that split the sky. His breath caught at the realisation that the beast had caught onto his escape – and would now, undoubtedly, follow him. Finn sped up, bumping down the hill. He turned when he reached the square and rode down the dark streets towards the river framing the university buildings. He could have sworn the ground shook as something thundered down Steep Hill.

Finn clenched his eyes shut briefly, praying to whatever god was listening that he made it to the police station before the beast made it to him.

It all happened so fast.

One moment he was zapping through the streets of Lincoln; in the next, a massive black bear shot out from between the picturesque buildings and Finn slammed straight into it. Somehow, he didn’t feel nearly as terrified of this beast as he did of the one that had been standing outside his window. Because, clearly, there were two beasts chasing him now – something he realised as the bear gave a loud roar of pain just as he was thrown off his motorbike, which skidded and slammed into a lantern. And Finn was flying, and flying, the black sky flashing before he hit the river. He went under the freezing water immediately and, in his panic, he opened his mouth to scream.

Bubbles of air burst from his lungs and he lost consciousness.

*~*~*

‘’Yo, we should invite the tight-assed beasts from across the road!’’

The small group of friends gathered around the table, separate from the rest of the party the third floor of the apartment building was hosting, laughed – including Tommy, who stood up and stumbled, pushing his round glasses up his nose clumsily, ‘’they’d kill the fun,’’ he slurred, giving his friends a sloppy grin. He rarely got piss-faced drunk but, well...it happened. In a year he’d present and, like most students, he felt increased resentment towards beasts who paraded around London like Kings and Queens; especially the assholes in the prestige accommodation block across from the shitty rundown apartment for human students. Plus, they could actually afford London universities without getting into crippling debt.

‘’Need air,’’ Tommy grumbled, ‘’and a cig.’’

‘’Don’t go outside,’’ one of his friends said automatically, extending a cigarette up for him to snatch.

‘’Am I an omega though?’’ Tommy slurred.

‘’We won’t know till next year~’’

Tommy flipped him off and stumbled towards the balcony of the common area of the third floor, pushing past equally drunk students. He pressed down on the handle and it came off. He frowned, his drunken mind not processing what happened as he turned the handle in his hands. Then he shrugged, tossed it over his shoulder and simply shoved the doors open with his shoulder. He kicked them closed, standing on the precariously balanced metal balcony as he lit the cigarette and blew out a cloud of smoke. He leaned on the metal rail, looking at the beast student accommodation building across the road. It was strange; they went to the same university but never shared the same classes, and Tommy rarely saw the beasts up close. His glasses fogged up from the chilly April air and he tucked the cigarette between his lips impatiently, pulling off his glasses to rub at the lenses with his sleeves. Everything went blurry but Tommy was used to it; he popped his glasses back onto his nose and his vision cleared.

That’s when he noticed he was not alone.

A boy stood opposite him on the balcony, a student by the looks of it, shoulders heaving, breathing ragged. He hadn’t been there before and Tommy’s alcohol-induced brain failed to connect the dots.

The male in front of him was a beast.

‘’Yo, you gonna hurl?’’ Tommy asked around his cigarette still between his lips.

The boy marched up to him and Tommy peered at him. Everything was a bit hazy, but he recognised the peculiar blend of light brown skin and golden hair that the boy possessed. He recognised the boy – he’d seen him a couple times around the university. He seemed to be a first year. Tommy blinked hazel eyes as the boy suddenly snatched the cigarette from between his lips and scratched the spot behind his ears which, as people told him, stuck out a little, ‘’you could have just asked for one...’’ Tommy grumbled. But in the next instance, the boy was tossing the cigarette over the railing of the balcony, ‘’the hell!?’’

Tommy’s voice died in his throat when suddenly the boy’s muscular arms came down on either side of him, caging him against the metal side of the balcony, and he leaned in too close for comfort. Tommy stared at his eyes as the pupils went from black circles to tiny pinpricks and the gold of them was flooded with green and browns. The boy was panting now, revealing ever so slightly elongated canines. Tommy realised, despite being drunk, who he was facing and his breath caught as he pushed himself into the rails of the balcony, further away from the beast. The boy dipped his head, so suddenly and violently Tommy didn’t have a chance to stop him as he grazed his canines against Tommy’s neck and then bit down, drawing blood.

Tommy cried out, his hand fisting in the boy’s golden hair automatically as his eyes flew open. His panicked mind pushed out the alcohol as he realised what the boy was doing – he was getting bonded to him. The bite wouldn’t change him into a beast – no, he’d need to be bitten twice for that to happen. But that first bite...

A bond...

Tommy’s head spun as he futilely tried to push the boy off him.

A bond... he couldn’t...he wasn’t...

‘’I’m not an omega...’’ he growled out, even as he felt himself slipping into unconsciousness, his system reacting to the sudden change in its chemical make-up. As he began sliding to the floor, he felt the boy’s arms hold him up easily.

And then nothing.

*~*~*

Brín was in his squatting place in Vale Park, Portslade, before the sun set. He had set up his ‘home’ in the tiny, wooden gazebo the children played in during the day. It was easy to defend. It would be easier if Brín could afford a hotel – but having run away from home at sixteen, his skills were pretty limited. He stuck to his singing and got by. As the sky went from orange and red to black, Brín circled the gazebo, making sure everything was where it was supposed to be. The wooden spikes he sharpened and kept hidden within the trees in the distance of the park were sticking out like the deformed legs of a spider; amongst them were little flashing lanterns, making noises only dogs picked up on – sounds that kept them at bay. His metal bar he used for self defence rested against the wooden side of the gazebo. Brín had moved from place to place since he ran away. As an omega, he attracted beasts, especially since he was always outside. Over the years he had fought away countless ones, usually lower-rankers like dogs, vicious cats and birds. Each time, he packed up and left the location before he could get done for harming the beasts revered and feared by humans.

No beast had approached him in Portslade over the couple months he’d been there but Brín didn’t let his guard down. The darkness stretching out around the park was unnerving, so after doing one more round, checking his barricades, Brín slipped into the gazebo, into the worn sleeping bag he had hauled around with him, as trusty as his old guitar.

He didn’t even get the chance to doze off.

The rumble of a growl was subtle on the still air, but it made Brín’s eyes snap open. He slipped from his sleeping bag and grabbed the crowbar, holding it tightly in his hands. He scanned the darkness spanning over the park – there. A subtle glow of eyes, fast approaching. Brín’s hands tightened on the crowbar as the lanterns keeping away the dogs flashed, revealing...

A snow leopard.

Brín’s stomach dropped.

He’d fought off, at most, an instinct-crazed husky. Never a higher ranking beast. Never a wild cat.

‘’Shit,’’ Brín whispered to himself as the leopard growled at the sight of the crowbar. Brín held strong, though he was shaking to his very core as the leopard poised himself to jump – it would clear the spikes easily. They weren’t put up for animals as large as the leopard – what was such a beast doing so close to the sea, anyway? ‘’Stay back!’’ Brín called, even though it was pointless. He was completely unprepared; he would have never imagined a higher-ranker would go for him. A leopard...he was done for.

The leopard pounced and Brín caught it in the side with his crowbar, drawing blood. The beast landed unevenly a few steps away, clearly surprised by a human attack. Good, Brín thought. Maybe that would scare it off.

But no.

The leopard pounced again and this time it toppled Brín over. It landed on his chest, heavier and slightly larger than a normal leopard. Its knife-sharp teeth were inches away from Brín, kept at bay by the crowbar he had managed to lodge between its jaws. It was aiming for Brín’s neck and, even though Brín knew the leopard didn’t intend to kill him, he wasn’t about to let himself be bonded to some beast. He shoved with all his might against the leopard and it toppled off him, its thick, spotted tail swishing. Brín braced himself to wield the crowbar against the beast again.

And the leopard simply dipped its head, lightning fast, and its jaws clamped around Brín’s leg. Brín screamed, with pain as much as surprise. He had never heard of beasts bonding anywhere but the neck, but then again they usually won easily against human omegas. Brín kicked out, his head woozy already from whatever was being transferred into his blood stream, whatever would bond him to the leopard – and he didn’t want it. He didn’t. He fought, illogically, against the grip of those jaws, shredding his leg. The leopard released its hold before Brín could make permanent damage.

None of it mattered.

The beast had won.

*~*~*

Despite his assurances that he’d be fine, Alfie hated walking down the empty, dark alleyways. He practically never did it, not alone, not after midnight. It was dangerous, especially for an omega human, but his house wasn’t too far away. He pulled his thin jacket around himself, the gentle wind blowing curls out of his face. The first drops of rain fell on them, then on his shoulders. In seconds, it was pouring. Alfie sighed, relieved – most animals hated the rain and so, hopefully, the beasts would stay away. If there were any in Lincoln in the first place. Something Alfie doubted. The rain intensified, taking away some of the awful silence pressing in around him.

And that’s when he heard it.

A pained, pathetic growl.

Alfie stopped, though he knew he shouldn’t. The sound wasn’t human; it belonged to a beast. Keep walking, he told himself. But then the beast made that same sound again, and, god, it sounded so painful...

Shit, Alfie thought and speed-walked to where the sound was coming from. If the beast was hurt, it wouldn’t hurt him, Alfie told himself, while cursing his idiotic life choices.

The beast was a massive, hulking black shape, lying on its side in one of the alleys, its fur matted with rain. Alfie approached it carefully. Up close he realised it was a grizzly bear – and it was bleeding, though Alfie couldn’t tell from where. It wasn’t fatal – beasts healed much faster than humans. But if Alfie left the bear there, he’d probably suffer until sunrise, when his tissue finally knitted together. The beast noticed Alfie, dark blue, almost black, eyes flicking to his as the bear made that noise again, softer now, a whimper – as if asking for help.

‘’Oh, fuck,’’ Alfie ran a hand through his curly, wet hair. There was no way Alfie could lift the bear, much less lug it to the beast hospital across Lincoln. He whipped out his phone, raindrops bouncing off the screen, and dialled the emergency number for a beast ambulance. Humans weren’t really meant to use the number unless it was critical – and Alfie guessed this was. By the size of the beast and by the sheer fact that the beast’s form was the most dangerous bear in the world, he guessed it ranked pretty high – and thus was rather important in the beast world. The paramedics might even thank him for calling.

‘’Hello, what is your emergency?’’ the woman who picked up said.

‘’Um...I have a wounded beast here. A bear. I think it was in a car accident...’’ Alfie prattled off the address of the street so fast he was asked to repeat it. The woman assured someone was on the way and hung up, ‘’I...uh, called the ambulance,’’ Alfie said weakly, wanting to get away from the bear as fast as possible. No matter what, it was still a predator, ‘’so just...hang in there?’’ he backed out of the alley.

Again, that sound. Even softer now – a plea to stay, so clear. Alfie groaned but walked back into the alley. He was awful when it came to things and people he pitied – he would but himself at risk to make sure everything was alright with them. Even if it was a high and mighty beast, probably as cocky and arrogant as the rest of them. Even so, Alfie approached the grizzly and sat cross-legged on the wet concrete, ‘’you’re okay,’’ he assured in a soft voice and, despite every instinct screaming not to do it, he patted the bear’s clawed paw, limply lying in front of him, ‘’the ambulance is coming.’’

The bear settled a little; he didn’t make any more pained noises, just stared at Alfie with dark blue eyes. It felt like hours before the ear-piercing sound of the ambulance cut through the air. Alfie stood and the bear huffed gruffly, but the human ignored it. Four beast paramedics – foxes, judging by the quick, jittery way they moved – hurried into the alleyway, a massive stretcher between them. They wholly ignored Alfie as they spotted the bear. They bowed their heads in quick acknowledgement of the beast’s status before nudging him onto the stretcher. The beast didn’t shift into human form so the four paramedics heaved up the stretcher with the beast on it. One of them nodded at Alfie, ‘’get home quick,’’ they said kindly and hurried away.

After that, Alfie made it home safely.

*~*~*

‘’Vicky?’’

’Do you have him?’’

‘’Yes,’’ Alt’s voice was a relieved breath as he glanced at the boy – his bond – sprawled across his lap. He looked exactly how Alt imagined he would; pale blond hair, just like when he was younger, pale, freckled skin and a slight build... ‘’I’ve bonded with him, but Jordan got hit.’’

’What do you mean ‘Jordan got hit’?’’

‘’He was cornering the human when he slammed into him with his bike. I pulled my bond from the river but I can’t find Jordan.’’

A sigh at the other end of the phone, which Alt held to his ear, ignoring the rain, ‘’Jordan’s pretty tough. He’s going to be fine. Just get home as soon as you can, alright. The human...he’s pretty important. We can’t screw this up.’’

‘’Yes,’’ Alt said gruffly, just as his phone beeped. He checked it, ‘’I need to go. Chase is calling.’’

‘’Alright. I’ll see you in a couple of days. Take care of yourself, find Jordan when you get home and don’t freak out your bond.’’

Alt promised he wouldn’t and disconnected to pick up Chase’s call, ‘’Alt?’’ came his high pitched, freaked out voice.

‘’What did you do?’’ Alt asked immediately, adjusting his bond on his lap so he could shield him from the rain slightly with his hulking shape. He wanted to get him to the car and out of the rain as soon as possible, but Chase’s scared voice made him stop.

‘’I...I...I think I just bonded with someone,’’.

‘’You’re nineteen.’’

‘’Yeah, and he doesn’t look much older than me. He’s not twenty one yet but I could smell him and I just bit him and now he’s unconscious and-‘’

‘’Where was he when you did it?’’ Alt tried to keep calm.

‘’Balcony of an apartment building.’’

Alt exhaled softly and stood, throwing his bond gently over his shoulder with one arm, holding the phone to his ear with the other as he started towards his car, ‘’that’s good. You won’t get arrested for going against the laws.’’

‘’That’s not what I’m worried about!’’ Chase’s voice went unnaturally high pitched, ‘’what am I supposed to do with him?’’

‘’You’re meant to be at school.’’

‘’I don’t care about that right now, I...’’ Chase’s voice became choked, ‘’I’m bonded...’’

‘’Don’t panic,’’ Alt said in his deep, level voice, ‘’calm down. I’ll send someone to pick you two up.’’

An exhale at the other end of the phone, ‘’thanks...’’

Alt reached the car, ‘’I need to go now, but we’ll figure this out, Chase. I’ll see you back at Lirim.’’