Chapter 23Mature

Taking his first few steps towards Nathan, Alex tried not to look him in the eyes, trying also to not act submissive despite his ears folding back. When he came close, Nathan’s fear scent grew stronger and his heartbeat became audible. It was faster than normal, but only just.

Taking the still warm slab in his paw, Alex spoke. “That’s the same reaction my folks had.”

“I can imagine why.” Nathan said, trying not to sound unnerved. “I mean…holy shit.”

“Yeah. If you all want to head out, that’s fine. I’ll figure something out in the meantime.”

“Um…you guys want to do that?” Nathan asked.

Marcus was the first to reply. “I don’t see why we need to.”

Just then, Alex’s stomach loudly growled and his paw went over it. The noise went through two pitches for nearly two seconds. “Geez, man.” Nathan said, nearly backing up.

Alex shook his head before ripping off a chunk of the steak, swallowing it quickly afterwards. “Transforming famishes me.”

“Why didn’t you say so back then? I could’ve handed you your meal.”

“I didn’t want to scare you all any further. And I was still angry from that guy showing up.”

“Fair enough.” Nathan stayed silent for a minute. “Still, I mean, I’m OK with hanging around. Long as you’re fine with it.”

Taking another bite of his steak, Alex considered his response. The offer was uplifting, but beyond that, what else could they do besides talk or eat? Then again, talking and eating was what they were doing before this mess. A thought flashed through his head of acting like a dog for everyone’s amusement, making him smirk before rolling his eyes to shake the idea off.

“Yeah. I’m fine with it.” Alex looked towards Catherine. He didn’t talk, letting her say something first.

“Um,” Catherine began. “that sounds OK. I guess.”

“Works for me.” Marcus said.

With a nod, Alex returned to the truck bed to grab his clothes and keys. His jeans in hand, he found the key ring and made for the door. He wanted to sniff at the crack to find out if his folks were home but pushed the idea aside.

Once the deadbolt was unlocked, inside, the house was nearly pitch black if not for one lamp left on in the living room. In the background, Alex heard Bailey coming his direction, his paws thumping against the carpet. He stood his ground near the door as his pet rounded the corner. He stopped abruptly at the sight of him, but refrained from growling.

“Good boy.” Bailey’s ears perked at that phrase before Alex gestured for his friends to follow. Heading for the kitchen through the office nearby, his pet didn’t follow him; he heard Catherine speaking sweetly to him not long after.

“Feel free to sit in the kitchen, or the living room.” Alex said before starting the microwave. For a second, this whole thing felt no different than a usual hangout. That feeling lengthened into several more seconds, and then a whole minute, helping him relax. “If you want a soda or something, let me know.”

“Anything you have is fine.” Catherine said, her tone reinforcing that perception.

With the microwave still a few minutes from being done, Alex took a few cans of soda in his paws and stepped out of the storage room he was in. Around the first corner, Nathan and Catherine were sitting at the kitchen table while Marcus was leaning against one of the chairs.

Locking his gaze with Catherine, Alex got her to drop the expression she had, drawing everyone’s attention. He set down the cans without a word but tried to smile a bit, despite seeing, plain as day, his friends showing signs of being afraid of him.

“Like I said, I’ll try and figure something out.” Alex said just before the microwave sounded. The thought of sinking his fangs into more meat made him lick his teeth again. It was too hot to his touch however, making him wait for the slabs to cool some.

The End

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