The phone call is short, just their usual check-in, but it feels like it’s building to something. His mum gives him the latest news about the girls, and Louis tells her the latest about the boys, and finally after a pause she says, “I’ve asked James Corden to get in touch with you.”
Louis rolls his eyes, grateful she can’t see his reaction from the other end of the line. “Mum.”
“You ought to know the other wolves in the territory.”
“I don’t care about any other wolves.”
“Louis, for my sake,” she says patiently, asking a favor now. “It would make me feel better to know you’ve got someone to turn to, if you need anything.”
It’s a better strategy, piercing Louis right in the soft underbelly of his guilt about being away, his willingness to do just about anything if it’ll help his mum out. Still, he resists on principle. “We’re doing fine.”
“Just meet him. You can do that much. For me.”
“And behave yourself. You’ll be lucky if you’re ever allowed back in Cheshire. Don’t push your luck in London.”
Louis doesn’t dignify that with a response. He’d done what he had to do in Cheshire, to make a point. To show them that Harry’s his now. They all are, all four of them. And he’s going to protect them and take care of them and knit them together and be the kind of alpha they deserve. If that means paying polite calls on the other werewolves of London, well, that’s what he’ll do.
As they climb the front stairs to James’s house, Louis is mentally calculating how long it’ll take for lunch and a polite interval of chit-chat. He’s got more pressing issues to deal with, like figuring out some place for them to go for a run after dark. There’s been no good time, no safe place, practically since the last full moon. They’re all on edge with the need to shift, Niall especially.
As Zayn presses the doorbell, Louis nudges Niall with his shoulder, just checking, and Niall leans into him with a smirk. The other three crowd in around them and Louis feels their energy, the power the five of them have when they’re all locked in just right. My pack, he thinks, looking James in the eye, proud and defiant, ready to snap his teeth at any sign of condescension. Look at my pack.
James smells like wolf, but like the city, too, like London rain and buckthorn and coffee and shepherd’s pie, and some emotion that’s too complicated for Louis to parse. Louis moves further into the house to let the others in behind him, sniffing deeply. The house smells like wolf, too, the only place they’ve been in London that really truly does. Their own flats at Princess Park are too new, still all jumbled up with the scents of previous tenants and the rest of the estate. Even their X Factor rooms, saturated with all their dizzying emotions of the last few months, held layers and layers of past contestants. But this place is wolf through and through. Safe. Like a home.
All Louis has to do is glance sideways at Liam, and then Liam’s shucking off his hoodie as Louis kicks out of his Toms. They let the shift hit them like springtime, all of their bones bursting into bloom at once, and Louis feels the others behind him, in perfect tune.