Soulbound ‡ clash

by Wes Leigh

Chapter 8

Maintaining anonymity is their biggest challenge. They pass themselves off as just like the rest of us. Owning businesses. Sending their kids to school. Attending football games. Just fitting in.

-- Excerpt from Rob Ransom podcast: 'Vampires and Werewolves: Are They Living Among Us?'

Fifth and sixth period …

The longest hour of the day for most students and teachers was immediately after lunch, when eyelids drooped and attention wandered. That's why the school tried to schedule more active classes for fifth period.

For Xavier and Diego, it wasn't hard to stay alert. They had Pep Band for fifth period, meeting with the other students to practice the songs they would be performing at upcoming basketball games. Xavier played the trumpet, Diego the saxophone.

The band director had a special presentation planned for the next game. The week before, she had asked Diego and Xavier to team up in a duet, playing Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. It would be a challenge, with the two instruments taking turns playing the different phrases. Xavier and Diego had been practicing all week, perfecting their timing so that it sounded like a single musician instantly switching from trumpet to sax and back again. The other students watched in rapt awe as the two talented young men put on an amazing performance, applauding and whistling when they finished. The director rapped her baton on the podium for attention and then asked the entire band to play together on the chorus.

Football season was over and the proud school displayed another state championship banner on the wall of the gymnasium; basketball season was beginning with the hopes of the same. That meant the band switched from a full marching band to two smaller bands: Pep and Concert. The Pep Band, mostly brass and drums, played at the basketball games. The Concert Band, a full orchestra, practiced for winter and spring concerts.

Across the campus, in the school gymnasium, Connor and Daniel suited up in shorts and tee-shirts for a light workout. As a small, rural school, many of the same athletes played in every sport. Daniel, Connor, Caleb, Ethan, Dillon and the rest joked as they stretched, walked laps to warm up, then completed a variety of conditioning and strengthening exercises along with speed drills that left the humans on the team panting. The werewolves, with their enhanced lycan bodies, had to do a bit of acting, pretending to be winded after the drills, walking around with their hands on their heads, breathing deeply. Connor caught Daniel's eye and winked. They didn't need to build up their stamina, but it was still fun getting a bit of exercise every day. Coach blew the whistle, signaling the end of the workout, and sent the team in for showers.

Pep Band practice was actually a full two hours long. After fifth period ended, the students took a short break, then picked up their instruments and headed for the gym. It always smelled a bit like sweaty boys, especially after the basketball team had been practicing. The band members found seats in the bleachers where they warmed up and waited for the cheerleaders and dance team to come out on the floor. Then they practiced the music for the next game, working on synchronizing the music to the dancers' routines. It usually took five or six tries to get it right, but when it clicked, they knew they would have a halftime show that would have the fans on their feet, cheering for more.

Just down the hall, after their showers, the basketball team sat in a classroom, reviewing the offensive plays and defensive schemes they would be using in the next game. As the point guard, Daniel was expected to lead the offense, calling the plays, and feeding the ball to the other players. He had an advantage over most other point guards around the state, since his vaewolf powers helped him to anticipate how the defense would respond. As for Connor, his job on the court wasn't that different from his job on the football field. Get in the way. Disrupt the other team. Make a general nuisance of himself. And make a basket every now and then.

There wasn't much chatter between the four boys during the afternoon classes. Each of them were focused and intent, two on their music, two on their athletics.

After school …

The band director was pleased with how well the next halftime show was shaping up. She dismissed the students for the day, reminding them they would be expected to stay after school for the next two days, rehearsing and perfecting the performance.

Xavier stored his trumpet in its case and snapped the latches on the side. "Are you coming to the cabin tonight?" he asked Diego, who was cleaning his saxophone before storing it away.

Diego nodded. "After we eat. Momma is making feijoada tonight."

"What is feijoada?"

"Black bean stew." Diego grinned. "I know. It doesn't sound that good, but it's incredible. Momma's feijoada is the best!"

Xavier raised one eyebrow. "Black beans? And then you're spending time with us?"

Diego bit his lip, trying not to giggle. "I'll try not to fart too much, but I can't guarantee I'll be gas-free."

Xavier shook his head and laughed. "Seven o'clock?"

Diego nodded. "Works for me. See you then, X-man."

Xavier smiled and looked around. The rest of the students were busy with their own musical instruments, so he leaned over and kissed Diego on the cheek. "I'll see you soon, cutie."

Diego blushed adorably as he picked up his instrument case. Walking out with Xavier, they found an empty hallway and turned to face each other. Love you, Xavier.

Adore you, Diego.

They focused on their separate homes and teleported directly to their destinations. It certainly beat riding a school bus home.

Back in the gymnasium, Coach Sean sent the team jogging around the court in several slow laps to get the blood pumping. Then he called them together for stretching and calisthenics, followed by a few speed drills. With those out of the way, he called the players to huddle up and said, "Football is history, boys." He pointed at the championship banner on the wall. "Something to be extremely proud of, but we can't dwell on our past success. Not if we expect to do just as well in basketball this year. I'm asking the same effort from all of you. During practice. During weight training. During games." He checked his clipboard and began calling out names. "Daniel, point guard. Caleb, shooting guard. Dillon and Andrew, forwards, and Mark, center. Connor, Ethan, Merrick, Jonas, and Carter … you're skins and playing defense."

Connor and the other defending players pulled off their tee-shirts and threw them to the side. Connor moved to the top of the key and flexed, motioning at Daniel to 'bring it on'. As the biggest guy on defense, he should have been guarding Mark, but Connor was also lightning fast and wanted to prove he could block Daniel's passes.

Daniel dribbled the ball as he walked forward, holding up one finger to signal the play. Dillon made a break for the basket as Daniel made a perfect pass. Dillon caught the ball in mid-stride and spun around, attempting a hook shot. Connor wasn't fooled. He shifted back, spun around, and batted the ball away.

"Not today," Connor said with a grin, swatting Dillon on the arm.

Dillon chuckled and turned to Daniel. "Let's try that again, Big D."

Daniel grabbed another ball and set up the offense, dribbling slowly forward. This time, he held up two fingers, sending his players into a shuffle offense. They dashed from side to side, their sneakers squeaking on the floor as they made quick turns and pivots. Connor didn't bother trying to keep up with Dillon, but instead charged Daniel with his arms held wide to cut off the passing lanes. Daniel feinted a pass, then pulled the ball back and made a bounce pass between Connor's legs. Dillon caught the pass and turned around for an easy layup.

Connor chuckled and shook his head. "Good job, Big D. Fooled me on that one. But I'm gonna get you sooner or later."

"I live for that day," Daniel said, chuckling. But if you do catch me, will you know what to do with me? he added, smiling at Connor.

Connor's eyes twinkled. I gotta pretty good notion.

Does it involve anything long and hard and throbbing? Daniel asked, as he walked back to the center line.

Connor just laughed. You'll find out when I pin you against the wall.

Diego intruded with a question of his own. What kind of basketball practice are you guys having? And can I play too?</p>

Then they heard Xavier's mental laugh as he said, That's what happens when boys play with balls after school day after day.

Daniel dribbled forward, his eyes on Connor the entire time.

Connor grinned and winked, accepting his challenge.

Daniel dodged to the left. Connor matched him.

Daniel juked to the right. Connor followed.

Daniel spun and slipped around Connor, throwing the ball back out to Caleb who posted up and sank a three-point basket.

Connor stood there, watching Daniel and Caleb give each other a high five, smiling at their antics.

Caleb trotted over and grinned up at Connor. "Good moves, Connor, even if you did miss Daniel … again!"

Connor grabbed Caleb in a tight hug and pinched his ass, making Caleb yelp.

"Cheeky pup," Connor growled, but he was smiling when he said it. Caleb he could catch, but Connor didn't expect to keep up with Daniel, not on the basketball court that is.

Daniel set the table for dinner. Two plates. Two glasses. Two sets of eating utensils. He filled the glasses with sweet tea before returning to the kitchen.

Judy, his mom, passed him carrying the platter with sliced ham.

Daniel returned carrying a bowl of mashed potatoes and a tureen of brown gravy, one in each hand, and arranged them on the table next to the ham. He had to grin, thinking about how his mom insisted on having a sit-down dinner every night, but he understood how much she missed his dad when he was away working, so he indulged her on this.

"What else is there?" Daniel asked.

"Oh! Crescent rolls in the oven!" Judy cried as she set a bowl of green beans on the table. "Hurry, Daniel. Get them out before they burn!"

He ran into the kitchen and pulled the oven door open. The rolls were a golden brown, perfectly cooked. Looking around on the counter, he found a hot pad and pulled the sheet out of the oven and set it on top. Then he quickly picked up the crescent rolls one by one, tossing them onto a serving plate and blowing his fingers when he burned them on the piping hot bread.

Judy took the plate from Daniel and placed it on the table, smiling wistfully. "Thank you, sweetie. Hope you're hungry."

"Starved, Mom. It all looks so good."

She motioned for Daniel to sit, and they began serving themselves. As they ate, they chatted about how the day had gone, how Daniel thought the basketball team would do the coming Friday, and how cold the weather was turning. When the conversation began to lag, Daniel asked, "Would it be okay if I hang out with the guys tonight?"

Judy sighed. It seemed she was alone so often, but Daniel needed to be with his friends. That much she understood. She asked, "Homework?"

"All done."

"Okay, then. Go. Have fun with your friends."

"Thanks, Mom."

"But don't forget … your father will be home tomorrow. He wants to take us out to eat, and then we're planning to watch a movie as a family."

Daniel nodded. "I remember, Mom. I'll let the guys know I can't hang out tomorrow."

Judy smiled sadly. At least Daniel didn't groan and moan about having to spend a night with his parents. He seemed to be handling his teenage emotions better than most people his age, and for that she was grateful. He'd been a real terror when they'd first arrived in Agony, but now that he had friends, he was much better. And she really couldn't complain about his friends. Connor was polite and respectful. Xavier was a good influence … and such a talented musician. Well, so was Diego, and such an adorable young boy. Daniel could do much worse than those three.


Judy looked up, surprised. "What is it, dear?"

"You were kinda spacing out for a little bit there. You okay?"

She nodded. "I'm fine, sweetie. Just a lot on my mind. Do you want some desert before you abandon me for your friends."

Daniel laughed. "I'm not abandoning you, Mom. I'd never do that. Especially with your homemade pecan pie!"

She laughed as well. "You saw it in the kitchen, didn't you?"

"Right next to the whipped cream in a can!"

"Well at least I know I'm good for something," she teased, standing up and moving her plate to one side. "I'll bring desert if you'll start clearing the table."

The McCoy's invited Connor to stay and eat with them. Patrick McCoy had been out in his backyard, barbequing spare ribs, and his wife Shauna made an incredible potato salad, so Connor was quick to agree. He tossed a football with Donny and Ethan while they waited for the food to cook. Becca and Suzanne, their little sisters, stood on the porch and giggled as they watched the boys chase each other around the yard.

Connor always enjoyed spending time with the McCoy's. With the death of his adopted parents, the Lodge seemed cold and empty, except for the times when the entire Pack assembled there for Silvermane gatherings. The McCoy's seemed to understand that Connor needed to be around other lycan families, and although he was their Alpha now, he was also a lonely teenager who had lost too many family members to tragic violence. They tried their best to make him feel welcome every chance they got.

Connor appreciated it. There were other Pack families who did the same. The Murphys. The Allens. Someone was always inviting him over, and in some ways, he felt he had one big family. It was what the Pack did. They mobbed you. They curled up around you. They wouldn't leave you alone. If you were upset, they licked your snout. If you were angry, they stood at your side, neck fur on end, growling to let you know they supported you. He was the head of the Pack, but the Pack was his extended family, and they all made it clear that he was welcome anytime he wanted to be around those who would follow him into Hell if he asked.

That was something he knew and understood, deep in his wild heart.

Patrick McCoy came to the front door and yelled out, "Food's on!"

The teens shouted their approval and rushed up the porch steps. Dinner was a rambunctious affair, sloppy with sauce dripping from their lips and finger licking good. They talked about basketball, predictably, and the team's chances at another state championship. With Daniel at point guard and Connor dominating on defense, everyone was convinced it was a guaranteed result.

After the meal, Connor thanked Patrick and Shauna for having him over. As he was leaving, he reminded Patrick of the wargame exercises they would be holding that Saturday with the Smyth Covenant.

"Is it really necessary, Connor, m'lad?" Patrick asked.

Connor nodded his head gravely. "I'm afraid it is."

"As you say, Alpha. We'll be there," Patrick replied, with a sharp nod of his head. To Hell and back, they would go, if Connor asked it.

Diego's grandfather, João Ruiz, held out a hand toward Diego. "Diego, meu menino corajoso, pass the stew please."

Diego blushed. Why did his grandfather insist on calling him that? His brave boy? Diego didn't feel brave at all, but he adored and respected his grandfather, so he had always made it his goal to live up to Papa João's expectations. Diego stood up and carried the bowl of stew around the table to where his grandfather sat.

"You didn't have to do that, Diego," his grandfather said, placing one hand on the small of Diego's back and rubbing him there.

"I know, Papa, but I don't mind." Diego smiled and leaned down to kiss his grandfather's wrinkled cheek.

"You are a good boy, brave and true," Papa João said. He tapped Diego's nose and added, "Never forget."

"I won't, Papa," Diego said, smiling bashfully.

As Diego returned to his seat, Miguel Ruiz, Diego's father, asked, "Have you kept up your studies on using electrical fields to create barriers?"

Diego nodded. "Yes, sir. I practice every night."

Miguel raised both eyebrows. "Show me."

Diego slid his chair back from the table and quickly wove his hands in a complicated pattern in front of his chest. The hair stood up on Diego's arms as electrical charge built up. He added a final gesture and held his hands out, as though holding someone away. A shimmering wall of energy now rippled in the air in front of him.

Miguel nodded approvingly. "Good structure. Solid matrix." Miguel wriggled his fingers and sent a small ball of golden fire across the table to strike Diego's barrier. It flickered and flashed but held strong. Miguel grunted, "Well done, Diego, but keep practicing. You never know when you'll need your magic."

Diego knew better than to argue. A few months ago, he'd asked his father why magic was necessary when Diego could transform into a vaewolf and use his teleportation powers to skip across time and space. His dad had been furious, reminding Diego of the dangers they'd fled from in Brazil, and insisting that Diego prepare in every way possible, using every tool at his disposal, planning for every contingency.

His father could be a bit paranoid at times, but Diego obediently practiced every night, and he would be in his room, working hard on his spells, as soon as they finished eating. That is … until the others called him to the cabin.

Xavier ate alone in his study, reading a dusty tome on ancient vampires and their reputed powers. He finished his meal and closed the book, thinking about the dire warnings he'd just read, hoping Ignatius Caedes hadn't accumulated all the powers the book mentioned. Xavier tried to seal his fears away in the back of his mind. He didn't want unrealized fears to interfere with the night he and his soulmates had planned.

He felt them there. Daniel. Diego. Connor. Like faint fingers stroking his scalp from the inside. No matter how far away they were physically, he sensed their presence and their thoughts and their affection for him and for each other. It was wonderful, this soul link they shared.

He shoved the dusty tome aside and stood up. Focusing on their cabin in the woods, he teleported there and found Connor kneeling at the fireplace, lighting the tinder.

Connor turned and smiled at Xavier, then looked off into the distance. Daniel … Diego … are you boys ready? Connor asked.

Been ready for an hour! Diego shouted. Let me put away my books and I'll be right there.

Xavier snorted. Someone sounds eager.

And you aren't? Daniel asked.

Xavier chuckled and replied, Always eager. I need to be with you guys tonight.

Daniel popped into the room and walked up to Xavier, pulling him into a gentle hug. What's wrong, my heart?

Xavier shook his head and forced himself to smile. Nothing, Daniel. Nothing at all.

Diego teleported in next, frowning when he looked at Xavier. You can't fool us, Xavier. Something's bothering you. What is it?

Xavier held out his hand to Diego, who took it and allowed himself to be pulled into a hug with Daniel and Diego. Connor stood up, having started the fire burning, and walked over to wrap them all three in his massive arms. He squeezed gently, making them all grunt.

Xavier pushed his worries aside and gently kissed Diego on the lips. Turning to Daniel, he did the same. Finally, he tilted his head up to kiss Connor.

Diego slid one hand inside Xavier's pants, finding his cock tucked under, soft and unaroused. Diego grinned mischievously and began squeezing Xavier, massaging him until his cock began to fill with blood and grow.

Xavier closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling of Diego's slender fingers manipulating him, teasing the tip, making him hard. Xavier leaned down and licked Diego's cheek.

Diego giggled and continued massaging Xavier. At the same time, he gripped the front of Daniel's pants, smiling even bigger when he felt Daniel's hard shaft poking him back. Daniel was certainly ready to go.

Connor's and Daniel's lips were pressed together, tongues darting here and there. That was one reason Daniel was so hard already. The other reason was Connor's hand sliding down Daniel's back to grip his butt cheeks, kneading the fleshy globes with his large hands.

Daniel moaned and began unbuttoning Connor's shirt, stripping it off and tossing it aside. He brushed a hand across Connor's broad chest, twining his fingers in the tuft of hair between his nipples.

Diego quickly stripped off his own shirt and began working on Xavier's. Time to get this party started, Diego said with a twinkle in his eye.

Naked, all four rested on the bed, cuddling and content. The room reeked of cum, but they were all too exhausted to get up and open a window.

Their bodies were spent. Their sexual needs were sated. Their hearts were content.

Will it always be like this for us? Daniel asked.

Don't know why it wouldn't, Connor replied. You guys are m'soulmates. Always will be.

Daniel rolled on his side and stroked Connor's cheek. "This is your senior year, Connor. You have all those scholarship offers. If you take one, you'll be in college next year, miles away."

"Maybe," Connor admitted. "Or maybe I don't go to college. Maybe I stay here in Agony with you three."

Xavier was silent, struggling to keep his thoughts hidden from the others. To cover his own fears, he said, "I'm just a junior, but I could leave Agony and start college too. I can pass for a college freshman."

Diego sighed. "Maybe we should all leave Agony. Go somewhere far, far away and start a new life, just the four of us."

Xavier spooned up behind Diego. "You would be fine leaving your family behind, Diego? I know how close you are."

Diego shrugged. "I can always call them when I miss them. Or jump back and have dinner with them."

Connor nodded. "I suppose I could have Donny take over leadership of the Pack, temporarily, to give me a chance to play college ball."

Daniel smiled and draped his arm across Connor's chest. I want you to do that, Connor. I want everyone to see what a great linebacker you are.

Connor sighed. I would like that too, Big D. But there's only one way I would ever agree to that.

What's that? Daniel asked.

Don't you know? Connor asked. The three of you would have to be there with me. I couldn't do it without you.

They all thought about Connor's words as they embraced, hoping with all their hearts for just such a future together, each of them secretly wondering if it would ever be possible to leave Agony behind.

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