PART I - Arizona
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now beginning our final approach into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport!”
The slightly metallic voice of the pilot coming out of the cabin speakers shook the boy in seat 7A out of his reverie. For the past two hours, ever since taking off in Missoula, Lucas O’Brien had been staring out of the window, lost in his thoughts. His parents had bought him the ticket for his trip to Arizona as a present for his 16th birthday, which had been just a few days ago. It was the first time he was traveling alone, without his family. Technically, they were his adoptive family, but Lucas didn’t think of them this way. They had adopted him just weeks after he had been born, and thus they were the only family he had ever known and loved.
Lucas had always known that he was different than the rest of his family. His parents owned a farm in Montana, and they both perfectly fit the stereotypical farmer look, big and strong and weather-beaten. On the other hand, Lucas was a slim boy, almost a bit scrawny, and at 5’5’’ he was short for his age. His dirty blond hair and piercing gray eyes further set him apart.
His parents had never kept his adoption a secret from him though. When he was old enough to understand it, they had explained to him that he had been found abandoned in Arizona. Fortunately, it had been early in the morning when a hiker came across him, only wrapped in a blanket, because even in early spring the sun would have been very dangerous for a newborn baby. The story had made it onto the national news, and when the O’Briens had seen it they had decided right away to give the little orphan a home.
Lucas never really had any desire to find and meet his birth mother. Sure, he had wondered why she had abandoned him, but he knew that there could have been many reasons, out of her control, that had forced her to do it. Still, he had always been drawn to Arizona, to see with his own eyes the place where he had been found and where he could very well have died, if it hadn’t been for the hiker. That urge had grown stronger and stronger in recent months. Now he finally had the opportunity to do it. He had been a bit hesitant at first, mostly because he didn’t want to leave his parents alone with all the work that had to be done on a farm in the spring, but also because he was a little apprehensive about facing his past. Even if that part of his life had only lasted for a few weeks.
In the end, he was looking forward to this trip. After all, he was a teenage boy who would be without parental supervision for two whole weeks, and he planned to make the most of it.
When the plane had finally landed and taxied to the terminal, Lucas followed the line of other passengers to the baggage claim area. He turned his phone back on to send a quick message to his parents, telling them that he had arrived safely. They had agreed to give him his space during his vacation and not bother him with daily phone calls. Lucas appreciated the trust they put in him, fully intending to prove that it was justified. Growing up on a farm taught a young man responsibility from an early age.
While waiting for his large backpack, Lucas ordered an Uber to take him to the small motel in Tempe where he had made a reservation. As a college town, Tempe supposedly offered many fun things to do, even though many of the college kids had left the town for their own spring break vacations. Being underage - and, more importantly, obviously looking underage - would certainly limit his opportunities for fun, but for a farm boy being in a big city was already an adventure in itself. Besides, he was here searching for his roots, not for partying. Although he wouldn’t mind do a little of the latter as well.
Half an hour later, Lucas stood outside of the airport terminal, waiting for his ride. He was sweating already. The temperatures here in Arizona were much higher than what he was used to in Montana, especially in March. He couldn’t wait to get to his motel and get changed out of his thick clothes. Within a few minutes, a car pulled up at the curb and a young guy jumped out.
“Did you order an Uber?” he asked. Lucas nodded. “Cool, my name’s Andrew. Let’s throw your stuff in the trunk and we’ll get going!”
Lucas climbed in the back of the car and was relieved to feel the air-conditioning blowing. That was more like it. Andrew got back in, pulled away from the curb and joined the moving traffic again. Sitting on the passenger side, Lucas had a good look at his driver. He looked a few years older than himself, probably in his early twenties, and he had the tanned and slightly rugged look of a surfer, someone who would fit right in at any beach in California. Lucas had known that he was attracted to guys since a young age. He hadn’t officially come out to his parents yet, mostly because there weren’t really any potential boyfriends in or around his small home town that he could bring home and introduce to them, but he had a feeling that they knew anyway. Parents usually knew most of their children’s secret, big or small.
Realizing that he was still staring at his driver, Lucas pulled a pair of sunglasses out of his jacket pocket and quickly put them on before Andrew could notice the sparkling in his eyes. He needn’t have worried though; Andrew was focused on the heavy traffic around the airport and didn’t pay any attention to his passenger. While they were crawling along Loop 202 in the rush hour traffic, Lucas noticed the strange rock formations ahead. They looked familiar, mainly because he had looked them up on the internet. But there was something more to it, some deeper connection. This was Papago Park, the very place where he had been found 16 years ago, almost to the day.
Traffic was speeding up a bit, and shortly afterwards Andrew pulled into the parking lot of the Motel 6 near downtown Tempe. They settled the fare and Andrew drove off again, waving. If Lucas had been a bit older - and a lot braver - he might have asked him if he wanted to hang out some time. But he was too shy and inexperienced when it came to flirting. And besides, the guy had been too old for him anyway. Still, it would have been nice to have someone who could show him around town.
Lucas went into the motel office to check in and get the key to his room. After filling out some paperwork, the lady at the reception desk handed him a key card for number 13.
“I hope you’re not superstitious,” she said. “But don’t worry, nothing weird or dangerous ever happens here. Except for the occasional scorpion in the shower, but that’s living in the desert for you.”
Laughing politely, Lucas shouldered his backpack and went to his room, his home away from home for the next two weeks. The room was nice enough, plain but clean, with a view at the small pool. Lucas realized that he hadn’t brought any swim trunks, so a trip to the nearest mall was a priority. But first he changed out of his jeans and thick flannel shirt and into some shorts and a t-shirt. He caught himself checking the shower for scorpions and had to chuckle about himself. Better safe than sorry.
It was still early in the afternoon, but Lucas hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast back home. The overpriced airplane food hadn’t appealed to him, even if he hadn’t been too nervous to eat anything. Now his stomach was growling, so he went out in search of an early dinner. Mill Avenue in the downtown area of Tempe was just a short walk away from his motel, and there were plenty of places to choose from. Being a teenager on a budget, he naturally opted for a fast food joint. The first one he saw was a Jack in the Box. Not his favorite, but it would do for now.
You wouldn’t guess it from looking at his small frame, but Lucas surely liked to eat. He ended up with a couple of Jumbo Jacks, some chicken nuggets, large fries and a coke, and he sat down in a small booth in the corner. All around him, people were sitting and eating, alone or in small groups. Outside, more people were hustling back and forth, up and down the street, going about their business. None of them paid him any attention. They had no idea that he once had been the tiny star of a news story, at least for a few weeks until some new human interest story came up to replace his own. Lucas was glad about that; he really didn’t want too many people to know about him, his past, or his own secrets.
Finishing his second burger, Lucas noticed a boy sitting on the other side of the restaurant. He looked to be about his own age, with long black hair that was tied back in a ponytail, and a complexion that made him look Native American. There were several tribes living in Montana, and they had had some Native American farmhands over the years. Lucas had always enjoyed working with them. This boy definitely had some Native American blood, and he most certainly was very cute.
Suddenly the boy looked up and winked at him. Realizing that he had been staring again - and maybe drooling a little - Lucas quickly looked away before his eyes could betray him. When he dared to look back over again, the boy was gone. Lucas was a bit disappointed but that wink probably hadn’t been meant for him anyway. After all, why would this cute guy wink at a plain looking stranger like himself?
Lucas finished his meal quickly and left the restaurant. The sun was still up, so he walked down the street to Tempe Town Lake, another landmark he had read about online. An inflatable dam had been put up to hold back the Salt River and turn it into an artificial lake. Pedal boats were lazily cruising across the lake, along with some stand up paddlers and people in kayaks. It looked like fun, and Lucas made a mental note to check out the prices.
The lake was an interesting sight, but once again his eyes were drawn to the North, were the rocks of Papago Park were clearly visible. Somehow that place was calling out to him. It was a weird sensation, and Lucas could feel goosebumps on his arms that definitely were not caused by the pleasant temperatures. Tomorrow morning he would finally go there!
But today he wouldn’t go anywhere but back to his room. He was used to working on the farm and usually had a lot of energy, but this day had already tired him out more than a day of mucking out the stalls at home. Though Lucas suspected that this tiredness was probably more emotional than physical. He just wanted to take a long shower and then head to bed.
On his way back to the motel, Lucas stopped at the convenience store across the street to grab some sodas and a few candy bars. Looking out the window while waiting at the register, he thought for a second that he saw the boy from the Jack in the Box walking by outside, but he figured that it was just his overactive imagination. What were the chances to see the same cute guy twice in a day, in a big city like this?
Back in his motel room, Lucas stripped naked and went into the bathroom. The small mirror didn’t really allow him to get a good look at himself, but he knew his own body pretty well, and he liked the way he looked. The best things come in small packages, he often thought to himself. That other boy hadn’t looked much bigger than himself either, and he certainly had looked like a good thing. Lucas couldn’t stop thinking about that boy as he stepped into the shower. Standing under the hot water he could feel his body react to his thoughts about the cute stranger. He tried to put him out of his mind, not because the thoughts and feelings were unpleasant but because he would probably never see him again anyway.
It didn’t quite work though. When Lucas finally stepped out of the shower and wiped the fogged mirror to look at himself again, a pair of bright yellow eyes looked back at him! He sighed and smiled, revealing his enlarged canines. Right there was the reason why chasing after cute guys wasn’t the best idea for him.
It had started when he had hit puberty a few years ago. Right around the time when he had his first wet dream, he had noticed the small changes for the first time. They happened when he got excited, as boys often do in puberty. The yellow eyes that glowed slightly in the dark. The growing teeth and nails. Unlike the dirty magazines or sticky socks, this wasn’t something he could hide from his parents under his mattress. Especially not when the next full moon came and the big change hit him.
There was no denying it, Lucas O’Brien was a werewolf. Naturally that came as quite a surprise to himself and his parents, but after the initial shock had worn off, they figured out how to deal with it. Since he hadn’t been bitten by anything or anyone, Lucas obviously had been born that way. Unlike in many movies, he wasn’t out of control and dangerous when the full moon was out though. He was still mostly himself, just much furrier and with a bushy tail. And he liked to run across the fields and through the woods. Thanks to some pictures that his parents had taken of his lupine form, he knew that he was on the small side in that form as well, with gray-brown fur and piercing yellow eyes.
They had gotten used to the situation and they were trying to make the best of it. Lucas had himself under control most of the time, but he made sure to always have some sunglasses at hand, just in case his teenage hormones got him excited and made his eyes change color. He did have a few friends, but none that he trusted enough to confide in. Which is why he thought of himself as a lone wolf, an Omega without a pack.
Still looking in the bathroom mirror, Lucas watched his eyes change back to their normal gray color. He finished toweling off and finally crawled naked into his bed. Moonlight was shining in through the gaps in the blinds, but the first full moon of spring had been a few days ago, so he didn’t have to worry about changing. As long as he didn’t get too excited about any cute guys, he would be just fine. His thoughts drifted back to the boy winking at him in the restaurant again, and he fell asleep with a low growl in the back of his throat.
The next morning, Lucas woke up refreshed and ready to do more exploring. When he untangled himself from the sheets, he noticed some dark gray hairs in his bed. Apparently he’d gotten a bit excited in his sleep again. He didn’t know if there would be a regular cleaning service in this place, so he cleaned out the stray hairs as best as he could. The last thing he needed was to get kicked out of the motel because they thought he had kept a dog in here.
The motel didn’t offer any breakfast, just some coffee in the lobby for those who couldn’t live without the bitter brew. Lucas didn’t even bother trying it. A quick search on his phone told him that there was an IHOP close by, which was much more to his liking. He didn’t mind spending a few extra bucks on a good breakfast. His parents gave him a generous allowance, and they had both slipped him a little extra spending money for his trip, so he could afford to treat himself a little.
By mid-morning, when Lucas arrived at the light rail station with a full belly, it was already getting hot. Fortunately he had remembered to put on some sunscreen - his mom had nagged him about it often enough to burn it into his memory. He got an all-day pass from the ticket machine and had a quick look at the map of the light rail system. It would actually be his first ever ride on a train. Public transportation was sparse back home in Montana, mostly just a few buses, and he’d never had a reason to ride a big train anywhere.
Riding a train isn’t terribly complicated, as long as you know where you have to get off. Lucas knew that the stop on Washington and Priest would be closest to his destination, so he carefully paid attention to the announcements on the speakers. He still almost missed his stop because there were just so many interesting things to see and people to watch. I’m acting like a typical farm boy in the big city, he thought, inwardly laughing at himself.
He could have taken a bus all the way to the zoo, which was right next to Papago Park, but Lucas didn’t mind walking. Especially in such nice warm weather. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but a light breeze made the walk really pleasant. The changing landscape was fascinating to Lucas. Minutes ago he had been in the middle of a city, and now he suddenly found himself walking a path with cactuses - or was it cacti? - on either side. So very different from the wide open fields he was used to. Different and unfamiliar, but at the same time he almost felt like he had been here before. Which of course he had, but there was no way he could remember that. Or was there?
The parking lot of the zoo was crowded, and lots of families with children were lining up at the ticket booths. Maybe he would go there too before he had to leave town again - going to the zoo was another thing he had never done before - but not today. He kept walking, passing a small pond with palm trees all around it and a small group of ducks swimming around lazily. Lucas was surprised when the hiking path led him to a small white pyramid on a hill. According to a sign, it was called Hunt’s Tomb, and the first governor of Arizona was buried in it, along with his family. What an interesting sight in a place that was supposed to be Native American territory.
But the most interesting sight of the park had to be the big rock with the hole near the top, like the eye of a cyclops. Another sign told him that it was actually called ‘The Hole in the Rock’, and that it was an archaeological site. Once again, Lucas felt the strange familiarity of the place, like some kind of magnetism that was drawing him to it. Well, it definitely was a great background motive for a selfie! Lucas pulled out his cell phone and snapped a picture of himself in front of the rock. It turned out pretty good. The sun wasn’t quite shining through the hole, it was already too high in the sky for that, but nevertheless the hole almost appeared to be sparkling with yellow light. Kind of like my eyes when I get horny, he thought to himself.
He quickly open his WhatsApp messenger and sent to picture to his mom. Even though she had said that they’d give him his space, he knew that she was worried about him and that she would be happy to hear from him and to see that he was doing fine.
There was another path, leading around the rock and up its back side. Lucas had noticed some people up there at the hole earlier, so obviously you could climb up there. He imagined that the view would be really cool. The path was rocky but easy to climb, even in sneakers. There was some rubble on the right side that looked like a small avalanche had gone down not long ago, but the path itself looked safe enough. Rough-hewn steps led up to the hole itself, and on the other side was a small shelf in the rock. The people he had seen were gone now, so Lucas had the whole place to himself.
He climbed through the hole and walked carefully to the edge of the shelf, looking down. It wasn’t too steep, but he had no desire to stumble and break a leg. If he had been walking on his four paws instead of the two legs, he could have run and jumped all over the place. But the next full moon was over three weeks off, and besides, running around as a wolf in a public place was definitely not a good idea. Nevertheless, Lucas wished that he could explore the place with the sharpened senses that he had when he fully shifted.
Sitting on the warm stone, looking out over downtown Phoenix with its baseball stadium and the busy airport where planes were taking off and landing every few minutes, Lucas didn’t realize that someone else had climbed through the hole until the person was standing right next to him.
“Great view, isn’t it?” a guy’s voice said, making Lucas jump a little.
He looked up, past the tanned legs in the cut-off jeans - his eyes lingering on the crotch probably a little bit too long - past the tight tank top and up into the smiling face of a boy. It was him! The guy from the restaurant. The one he had seen again - or maybe not - near his motel. Wow, he looked even cuter from up close! Lucas was glad that he was wearing his sunglasses, or his eyes would surely have betrayed him at that moment.
“Uh, yeah, it is!” he finally replied after what felt like ages.
“I love this place!” the boy said and sat down next to Lucas, their knees touching for a split second. “It’s so peaceful, especially when you’re alone.” He looked at Lucas and winked. “Or in good company. My name’s Colin, by the way.”
Colin held out his hand and Lucas shook it. Goosebumps crawled up his arm despite the heat. He was sure that he was blushing, but Colin either didn’t notice or didn’t comment on it. His eyes were dark, like pools of black, but Lucas didn’t dare take of his sunglasses to take a closer look. He didn’t even dare to open his mouth because he could feel his canines growing. Why did this boy have such a strong effect on him? But it would be rude not to say anything, and Colin just kept looking at him expectantly.
“Lucas,” he finally mumbled. “Nice to meet you.”
“We did meet before though, didn’t we? Sort of. Last night, in the burger place on Mill? I never forget a cute face!”
He winked again and Lucas was blushing even harder. Was this guy flirting with him? Or was he just being polite? Living on a farm definitely didn’t prepare you for situations like this!
They sat in silence for a while, looking out over the city and the desert around them. Lucas was relieved to feel his canines retract again. He was calming down and getting used to Colin’s presence so close to him. The other boy’s easy going attitude was obviously helping him to relax.
“So do you come here often?” Lucas finally asked. It sounded a bit like a cheap pickup line, so he quickly added, “I mean, are you from around here?”
“Oh, I’m from many places. Right now I am here, and so are you. And it’s not the first time that you’re here either, is it?”
“Well, it is, and it isn’t,” Lucas said, trying to sound as enigmatic as Colin. He normally didn’t just tell his life story to strangers, but for some reason he trusted him. They certainly seemed to have some connection. So he told Colin about the mystery of his birth, about his life in Montana, and about his desire to see the place where he came from. But as much as he trusted his new friend - at least he hoped that they could be friends - he didn’t reveal his two biggest secrets – that he was a werewolf, and that he was quickly developing a huge crush on him.
“You’re going to need a guide if you want to see the best places!” Colin said, standing up. “C’mon, I’ll show you around. My people have always been good at scouting.”
Colin grabbed Lucas’ hand and pulled him to his feet, sending another spark down his spine. They climbed back through the hole in the rock and down the rocky path. Colin glanced over at the rock slide a few times, but he didn’t go there. Instead he led the way to the exit of the park and to the bus stop in front of the zoo.
“Hey, I thought you were going to show me around!” Lucas exclaimed in surprise when Colin sat down on the bench.”
“Oh, don’t worry, I will. But you’ve seen enough of the desert for today. We’ll come back here when the time is right. For now, you look like you could use a little distraction. So I’m going to take your mind off things.”
The bus arrived and the boys got on it. Lucas had no idea where they were going, so he just followed Colin, wondering what the boy had in mind. After a while they hopped onto another bus, and eventually they arrived at a large mall.
“Tada!” Colin said and grinned. “This is Arizona Mills Mall, one of the better places to hang out around here. The food court is pretty decent too. C’mon, let’s grab something to eat. My treat! Ever had Cajun food?”
They went inside and Colin led the way to the food court. Lucas had to admit that it was a pretty nice place. And he really liked the blackened fish and meat that Colin ordered for them. He’d never had Cajun food before, but somehow Colin seemed to know his tastes better than he did himself.
“So, what do you think?” Colin asked.
“I’ve been to malls before, you know. It’s not like we don’t have them in Montana. But you’re right, it is cool here. Quite literally too! I’m glad to be out of the sun and heat for a while.”
“Meh, I’m used to it, it doesn’t bother me. But if you really want to cool off, you should jump into a pool.”
“Oh, thanks for reminding me!” Lucas said. “There’s a pool at my motel, but I need to get some swim trunks.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s go and find some.”
With Colin leading the way, they checked out some of the stores. In one store, Colin held up some bright yellow bikini style speedos, grinning broadly and making Lucas blush. There was no way he would ever wear such a skimpy thing. It probably would look great on Colin though, especially in contrast to his tanned skin. Before he could think too much about his new friend being almost naked, he grabbed a pair of board shorts and headed to the changing rooms.
He took off his short and looked at the gray and black trunks. They would match his fur, he thought. If wolves were wearing swimming trunks. They would need a hole for his tail though. The thought made him giggle. He had barely pulled up the trunks when Colin peeked into the changing room.
“What’s so funny? Can’t fit your junk in the trunk?”
Once again, Lucas wondered if Colin’s suggestive remarks were his way of flirting with him, or if he was always talking like that. Either way, he really liked the boy’s easy going way.
The board shorts fit well and they actually did look good on him. Lucas changed back into his clothes - Colin had left the changing room again, but not without making another appreciative remark and giving him a wink - and went to the checkout counter. The boys made another round through the mall because Lucas wanted to get some picture postcards for his parents before heading to the bus stop again.
When the 56N bus arrived, Colin said, “Here’s your ride, it will take you close to your motel. I’ll meet you there later, I have to grab my own stuff first. See you in a bit!”
And just like that, he was gone. It wasn’t until he was getting off the bus and walking the last mile to his motel that Lucas realized that he had never even told Colin where he was staying. So how had he known which bus would be right for him, and, more importantly, how did he know where to meet him? Maybe he didn’t know and had no intention of meeting up again. By the time he reached his room, Lucas was actually convinced that he must have said or done something to make Colin want to get away from him. He just didn’t know what he had done wrong.
Lucas sat on the bed and just stared at the wall for almost ten minutes, feeling sorry for himself. He was sure that he had messed up his first opportunity to maybe be with another boy. At the very least, he had lost a cool and funny companion. Oh well, there was nothing he could do about it now. And since he had some swim shorts now, he might as well put them to good use. He quickly changed and grabbed a towel from the bathroom. Ripping the door open, Lucas almost barreled into Colin who was standing there with his fist held up.
“Hey, you must be psychic!” Colin laughed. “I didn’t even get a chance to knock.”
Colin squeezed past Lucas into the room, slightly brushing his bare stomach with his hand in the process. He kicked off his shoes, threw his t-shirt onto the bed and got a towel for himself too. Lucas was still standing in the door, dumbfounded, when he came back out of the bathroom.
“I thought you had dumped me!” he blurted out. “How did you even know where to find me?”
“I know a lot of things! And why should I dump you? That’s just silly! We make such a good team, don’t we? Now c’mon, last one in the pool is a lame wolf.”
He slapped Lucas’ butt and ran out the door. Lucas stared at the half naked boy for another couple of seconds before shaking off his surprise and running after him. They reached the pool at the same time and jumped in together. Playing around in the pool, Lucas quickly forgot all of his doubts about Colin. He was just happy to be around him. And so what if Colin was a bit weird and mysterious at times? After all, Lucas had his share of secrets as well.
It was already getting dark when they finally went back to Lucas’ room. Lucas watched Colin as he toweled off and put his shirt and shoes back on, wondering if he should ask him if he wanted to stay over. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea though because he certainly wouldn’t be able to keep his secrets if anything sexual should happen between them.
“Well, I’m really glad that I found you again!” Colin said as he was getting ready to leave. “I’ll be back bright and early tomorrow morning and we can go back out to Papago Park. There are some things you really have to see!”
He hugged Lucas close, their damp crotches rubbing together. Lucas could feel more than just his canines starting to grow. Then he was gone again, almost like he had vanished into thin air. Just like earlier at the mall. But Lucas was too excited and turned on to care about that right then. He pulled off his trunks and lay down on the bed, naked. Instead of trying to fight down his horniness he let it wash over him. His eyes flashed in the growing darkness and a low growl filled the room as he pleasured himself, thinking about Colin, wishing that he was there with him.
Afterwards he just lay there, exhausted, basking in the afterglow, until he fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.