Chapter Two: The Boy Who Plays with Wolves

Mike nodded as James left the basement, and then began his morning workout. After stretching he put back on his weighted vest then it was an hour of weight training, bag work and then the tread mill.

“One ninety-eight…one ninety-nine…two hundred. Ugh.” Mike exited the bench press then made a note on in his exercise chart, and oorahed that he could finally lift 250 pounds.

 For the next hour he worked on his striking techniques. Taking a deep breath he dropped his weight, bent his knees and then rotated his shoulders as he delivered a final palm strike to the 150 pound bag. He sent it two feet back, dodged it, then landed a front kick and smiled.

Twenty minute into his run on the tread mill Mike felt his lungs burn and chest tighten, but he fought back the asthma attack. He looked down at display and saw he was a mile short of his goal. He closed his eyes repeated to himself, “Honor, courage, commitment.”

. When the buzzer sounded two minutes later he was drenched, but satisfied he broke 7 miles. Mike reached for his inhaler but stopped and gritted his teeth and took shallow breaths until the attack passed.  

“You get your studies done boy?”James said when he saw Mike in the kitchen.

Mike finished toweling off then said, “Finished everything except the Mandarin and Arabic. Just taking a break for breakfast, sir.”

“OK long as you get it done and do your chores you can go out, but don’t stay out late. We have church tomorrow. And don’t forget to fill up the tank,” James said then tossed Mike the keys to his camaro. Mike then asked where his mother was and found out she was working a shooting case and would be gone for most of the day interviewing her client and taking depositions.

 Mike cursed when he saw he only got an 85 in his art history course. He clicked on the next module and saw it was for a comparative religion course .After he read the syllabus he noted it required him to interview a religious leader of his choice for his final project, then put it aside and got on Skype.

“Long time no see faggot!” Kyle’s thick Maryland accent always cracked up Mike.

Mike kicked off his shoes and got comfortable before he replied.

 “Ha cocksucker you got jokes eh? Bet you’re still a virgin hmm?”  He laughed when Kyle nodded yeah and blushed.

Kyle took off his polo then removed his dress shoes and vanished from the screen. He returned with two cases and a towel then pulled out a gun and cleaning kit.

”Whatever man. Yo dude,  since when did ya rock the ghetto fab look?”

“Oh this?” Mike said running his hand over his Jordan Jersey and basketball shorts.

 “Ever since the Sergeant eased up and let me hang with civilians. And son why you fronting? Your ass could’ve hit me up any time. So you hear from Eric or the others?”

“No just you man. We really need to get together before college. Ugh! I don’t think I can take much more of this alpha crap though dude,” Kyle said as he disassembled the 9mm and arranged the pieces on the towel.

“Oh come on it’s not that bad besides I kind of like it and been stepping up my training. Plus Dad said I can go to the HOP by myself.” Mike stretched out on his bed and let out a yawn.

“That is bull man. Dad doesn’t even take me to the HOP any more, says I’m too soft.” Kyle finished cleaning the barrel then wiped his sooty hands on the towel.

“Well dude maybe you need to step up your game. I’m on two-a-days plus weight training and running. All with my vest on mind you.”

“Jesus man when do you have time for all that plus the academic stuff? How much you up to? And what about going out?” Kyle paused to lubricate the barrel.

Meh, it’s no biggie just have to get up at 5am and in bed by like 11pm. FYI I’m up to 100 pounds and  only take it off at night, school and for showers. Nice piece by the way—a glock?”

“Nope, a berretta. Got it for my birthday last year, but like dude you aren’t human. No way could I get up at the ass crack of dawn like that. And I’m at 80. ”

“You lucky bastard, Mom doesn’t allow guns in the house.  Later son, I’m going to see if the others are online. Seriously, we should do this again soon.”

“Yeah man that’d be sweet. Fucking miss you guys like crazy. We should totally talk like do this every week!” Kyle’s voice jumped two octaves and his pale skin flushed rosy, making him look even younger than his baby face already did.

“Cool, I’ll see if the others are down for it too. And remember semper fi. Do or die Soldier Boys never try. We always fly high and get a piece of the pie. Who are we?”  

Kyle pumped his fist in the air and said, “Soldier Boys!”

“Who?”

“Soldier Boys!”

“Who?”

“Soldier Boys!”

“Damn right and never forget it.”

Kyle told him thanks and signed off to get squared away ASAP.

Mike called Tony “Big O” Anders: comms expert and hacker extraordinaire.     

“Damn Mike, it’s good to hear from ya man. What’s the sitch?” The brown haired teen said in a sweet Texan drawl.

Mike told him to coordinate with the others and set up a conference call for next week.

“Will do sir!” Tony saluted him and knocked off his Stetson. His pudgy face set in a bashful grin as he put it back on.

“That’s good man well later—and remember we’re hard on you because a chain is only as a strong as its weakest link,” Mike said and shook his head. 

“Yeah I know, still a big klutz as you just saw.” He pulled the rim of hat over his eyes and lowered his head.

“No excuses man. Semper fi.”

Tony gave him another salute and after a “Yeah, semper fi,” they signed off.

After he finished cleaning up the yard it was going on three and when he checked face book saw Jack’s address on his wall, but paused because Jack had moved into the Armstrong’s house around the corner from him.

Upon entering the yard he saw Jack carrying a stack of boxes and offered to help him out and they spent the next hour arranging Jack’s room. They sprawled out on the bed with Mike’s feet danged over the edge of the King size mattress. He asked where everyone was at and Jack said they were off getting groceries and new clothes for the twins.

They exchanged small talk for awhile then Mike asked why they had moved back. Jack explained that due to the economic down turn his parents lost a lot of many and had to sell most of their assets to cover their debts and now worked as branch managers for Comerica.

  Mike asked if they planned to stick around for a while and Jack explained that his parents were working on a merge that would provide the bulk of the funds for a venture capitalist firm they and their investment banker associates were forming.

“Oh so you’re just here temporarily then?” Mike turned his head and gave Jack a dejected look.

“No, but if things go well we’ll probably move to like Bloomfield Hills, Rochester, or there abouts.” He gave Mike a reassuring smile and socked him in the arm.

“Not that far then? So, what was New York like?” Mike kicked off his sneakers and rolled on his side facing Jack.

“Don’t get me wrong I loved it and all, but I’m glad to be back man—too many phony ass people. Sure ski trips to Switzerland and vacationing in the south of France was nice, and I’m stoked I got to keep my jag, but I missed this,” Jack said and pulled Mike into a hug. For his part Mike slipped out of Jack’s grip and put him in a side head lock. After Jack tapped out he eased the pressure and gave him a noogie.

“Missed you too fucker. Now that’ll teach ya.” He ruffled Jack’s hair then gave him a wet willy.

Once Mike released him, Jack rolled on top of him getting full mount and went for a front choke hold.

Mike grabbed his right arm and executed an arm and mounted Jack’s back locked his legs and went for a rear naked choke hold

Jack shot out from under Mike and got side mount and went for an arm lock.

 Mike scrambled around and got rear guard, locking his legs around Jack’s waist and got him with guillotine choke. When Jack tapped out, Mike rolled on top him and smirked.    

 “Ok I give. Jesus you’re heavy,’ Jack said between huffs.

“I’ve been meaning to ask what happened to your crutches?—hey I’m only 230 and besides have on my vest.”

 Mike released him and took a hit from his inhaler. They rolled to opposite sides of the bed and watched sports center, to Jack’s annoyance, but neither dare acknowledge they were hard.

“Oh yeah my gymnastics teacher told me about his friend in Denmark who pioneered an experimental surgery where rods are put in bones to strengthen them. So after taking it over with the rents I had the operation. Was wheelchair bounded for six months but it was worth it. Only use these ankle braces except when my knees start to hurt then it back to the crutches,” he said and lifted up his pant leg.

“Oh cool man—where you’d get those shoes? I know motherfuckers who’d kill for those bitches,” Mike said eyeing Jack’s Technicolor sneakers.

“What these? I airbrushed them myself along with most of my clothes dude. Love designing my own outfits and stuff.” Jack’s face lit up as he talked about how he came up with ideas for new projects and how he wanted to visit France again and finally see the Louvre.

Mike missed how animated Jack got when he was excited and couldn’t help but smile.

“Pinky I know people who’d pay $1-200 easily for these. If  ya go into business you’d make mad stacks son.”

“What?” Jack rolled on his side towards Mike and rested his chin on his hands.

“Seriously, I’m tempted to have you hook up my air force ones.  Have all the hoes on my jock then.”

“Well I’d have to charge extra for those boats of yours.” He reached over and flicked the other boy’s ear

Mike turned his head and said, “Hey! I get it from my daddy.  Besides you know what they say…”   

Jack rolled his eyes.

“Bullshit you were only like an inch bigger than me.”

“Were, being the key word there. I’ve grown over two feet in the past three years and the doctors say I‘ll probably break 7 feet before my final growth spurt. And what are you, five-eight?”

“Five-ten fuck you very much and 6.5 inches where it counts,” Jack said with a satisfied smirk on his face.

“Ha got you beat.”

“ If you’re so cocky then whip it out.”

“Not happening. You always did have a thing for my thing though.” Mike chuckled at his joke and play punched Jack’s arm.

“Right and you must’ve forget why you started calling me Pinky,” Jack said and launched his pillow at Mike.

“ I have a rep to maintain, seriously. Oh and heads up: you might want to keep the whole gay thing under wraps—just saying. You’re not in NYC anymore, son.”

“Fuck you. I can take care of myself and won’t hide who I am!”

“Pinky I didn’t mean it like that. Just be careful. I…”Mike trailed off and then suggested they play Call of Duty for awhile.  

In between getting his head blown off by grenades Jack told Mike about his time at the Manhattan Academy for Boys in Connecticut. They were expected to take at least three extracurricular activities which is how Jack discovered his talent for art and got into BJJ and gymnastics.

His roommate was an exchange student from South Africa named Henrick and Jack spent the first few weeks ignoring him until they caught each other jerking off one night. With the ice broken they began freely masturbating and by the end of the semester were a couple.

It was one thing for Jack to say he was gay, but another to hear him talk about his first relationship. Mike nodded his head where appropriate and tried not to think about Jack getting it on with another guy, but when Jack mentioned how they broke up because his family wasn’t wealthy anymore Mike gripped his controller until his knuckles turned white.

“If you talk to this Henrick mug again tell him to watch his back. You feel me?”

“Why do you care so much?” he took this opportunity to get in a head shoot on Mike’s character.

“Easy, because no one hurts my Pinky.” He respawned and got Jack back with a grenade to the chest.

“Careful there or I might get the wrong idea.” He lucked out and tossed the other teen’s grenade back and it exploded right before Mike was out of range. 

“We wouldn’t want that now would we?” Mike said batting his eyes and then broke into a laugh. Jack groaned and tossed his other pillow at him. The conversation lulled and they got back to their game. The boys trash talked and shoved each other until Jack got shoot in the head for the fifth time in a row and threw down his controller.

“This bullshit man you totally have an unfair advantage.”

“Not my fault you suck out loud.”

“Well unlike you I haven’t done this stuff for real.”

“What?” Mike dropped his controller and narrowed his eyes at Jack and then spoke in a solemn voice.

“If you or the twins told anyone about us you know I’ll have to take you out.”

“Mike you know me. I never told anyone about the alphas and made sure the twins didn’t either. A soldier knows when to speak up and when to remain silent,” Jack said and stood up straight eyeballing Mike, who got right in his face.

A staring contest ensued until Jack shifted his eyes to the ground and turned his head away. Mike grabbed Jack’s face and turned him so he was looking directly at him. Jack flinched back but relaxed when he saw Mike’s smile.

“Good you still remember your training, but how much do you remember about the Soldier Boys?”

“Not much just that you guys are the sons of Marines and were put through USMC recruit training then Special Forces training as you got older.”

“Correct, mostly MARSOC and FORECON with a bit of SEAL training compliments of Kyle’s dad, but you guys didn’t complete training. So are you willing to finish what we started?  I’m not going to lie. What I put you and the twins through is noting compared to what’s ahead.”

Jack mulled it over then asked what exactly they’d be doing, but Mike cut him off and said that he’d only reveal that if they agreed to continue training. After Jack pestered him for the better part of an hour he relented.

“I’m going to show you something, but don’t freak.” Mike took off his vest and tossed it to the ground where it thudded. After explaining why he wore the vest he lay on his stomach and showed Jack his scarred back.

 James would keep Mike up for days at a time and make him recite passes from The Art of War and the Rifleman’s Creed and beat him with a bamboo cane when he messed up. And when it came time to learn survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) techniques he had to endure being burn with cigarettes, electrocuted via car battery and being drowned. And then there were the scares from edged and improvise weapon fighting and wrestling with dogs and wolves.

“Your dad should be under the jail for he did to you. There’s no way in hell we’re going through that!” Jack he ran his fingers over Mike’s back and shook his head.

“Pinky I’m not going to go as hard core as my dad, but you will have to learn to endure pain. And the wolf thing is something only Kyle and I do, but wrestling with dogs was how we learned to fight. You weren’t brought up like us and I don’t expect you to understand it.”  

Mike rolled on to his back and rested his arms behind his back and then fell silent.  He stared up at Jack’s giant rainbow poster and the reproductions of famous paintings hanging on the walls.

 Jack turned to him and just missed an elbow to the nose.  He took in Mike’s sculpted body and its dark chocolate flesh and was mystified how the boy could be so blasé.

Mike turned his head, caught Jack staring then wiggled his eyebrows.

“Take a picture already,” he said and then smirked as he flexed his chest and abs.

“Oh god you’re incorrigible you know that? I hate you,” Jack slapped Mike’s chest.

Mike pulled his best innocent face and said, “Who me? Come on you can’t stay mad at this face.”

“You’re something else dude.   I tell ya I love ya and you’re all blah, and then talk about your fucked up childhood like it was a day in the park. Does anything faze you?”

He scratched his hairy chest and said, “Nein. Ich bin Der Ubermensch!” 

“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” Jack tried not to laugh, but failed when Mike replied back in German.

“If you think that’s bad you do, wait for it, not want to hear my mandarin.” He flicked Jack’s nose and dodged another pillow.

“How many languages do know?”

“French, Russian, Arabic, Latin, Japanese, and Portuguese starting next month, but I’m only fluent in Latin, German and Japanese. The rest 50 percent or less literacy, but it’s par for the course and you’ll be do language training too. To answer your other question: don’t be so naïve. All warfare is based on deception.”

“OK Mr. Superman, how are you able to do all this?”

Jack kicked off his shoed and then flexed his dainty toes.

“The same way I got through training, semper fidelis.”

“Always faithful?”

“Yeah.”

Mike paused to wipe his eyes then continued, “Yeah maybe Dad crossed the line sometimes, but it made me stronger and I will carry the lessons he taught me ‘till I die.When things are darkest I use the inner strength he forged in me to go beyond my limits. I carry this attitude in everything I do. Sure multitasking, route memorizing and mnemonic devices help, but semper fidelis is how I’m able to do it.” He broke towards the end and Jack rubbed his shoulders until he calmed down.

“You ok?”

“Yeah man, just need a trip to the House of Pain to get squared away,” Mike put on his vest and jersey and lay back down.

“The what?” Jack watched Mike messed around with his phone.

The House of Pain was a cabin up north James had built for intense training and housed a firing range, rock climbing wall, pool and gym. Then there’s the Pit. Kept at 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the Soldier Boys had to spar and exercise in there, but James would lock Mike in the Pit with just a few gallons of water and minimal food when he didn’t get with the program. The other alphas had HOPs as well, built to suit their needs.

  SERE training took place in the woods that surrounding the HOP and Mike had to survive for months at a time. He was 5 when this began with weekend then week long stints and as the length increased wilderness camp became the cover story.

When Mike was 8, with only his combat knife and a canteen he encountered a pack of grey wolves on his third day of a three month stay.

 The alpha male charged Mike and pinned him down. As it was about to rip out his throat Mike’s adrenaline kicked in and he rolled out from under it and then jumped on its back. He clamped his arms around its neck and held on tight until the wolf stopped mauling him and stilled. He drove his knife into its neck then got up and eyed the five wolves left.

One stepped forward crouched down and bared his fangs. Mike stepped forward and stared him down and he backed way. He took another step and the wolf whined. The others eyed him until a female approached him. He ready to strike but then she sniffed him and licked the wounds on his neck and shoulders.

Following her lead the others sniffed him then lay down around him and waited. He put down the knife and made to rub the chin of the female wolf. She reared back then licked his hand and rolled on her back showing her stomach. And like that he was accepted as one of them.  For the remainder of his time Mike hunted, fought, ate and slept with the pack.

When James came to collect to him he found Mike covered in animal blood and on all fours flanked by the wolves. His nails had grown into claws and his teeth sharpened to fangs. James drew his glock and shot the wolves. Mike charged him but was smacked down. James cleaned him up and they went home, but the boy wasn’t the same. He craved raw meat, ate dirt and had heightened smell and night vision. Mike didn’t remember much after he came home until his ninth birthday, bur from then on only this feral side could only be sated when he was deep in the wild among wolves.

Jack’s head spun as he digested this information. There was no way he could he survive the training let alone the wolf stuff.

Mike saw his trepidation and reminded Jack that he was hard but fair, and wouldn’t push them beyond their breaking point.

“I still don’t know if I’m cut out for this stuff Mike.”

“I know you are because I still see the alpha spark in you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Honor, courage and commitment. You stood up to me back then with the twins and today in the mall. That took guts and is what being a soldier boy is about.”

“OK, but I still don’t know about this. If you think I can handle it then yeah man, but if you cross the line with the twins I will kick your ass,” Jack said without a hint of humor in his voice.

“If you think I’m being too hard then pull me aside and we’ll discuss it, but if you ever undermine my authority I will break you. Is that understood!?”

“Yeah man can we talk about something else. I hate it when you get like this.”

“That’s sir yes—yeah man, sorry. Sometimes I can’t turn the alpha side of me off. It’s so ingrained that I forget I’m evening doing it.” His eyes took on a faint glow as he flipped the TV to a UFC match and they fell into silence.

Jack stole furtive glances at him when he thought Mike wasn’t looking, but the other boy was acutely aware and spoke.

“Anyways about the gay thing, I don’t care. You’re just doing you, but nothing is going to happen between us.”

“OK but then why’d you suck me off?”

“One that was kid’s stuff and besides I was just paying you back for all the freebies you gave me. Did that answer your question?” Mike said then turned away from Jack and crossed his arms over his chest.

“But then why’d you kiss me back?”

“I did not!”

“Bullshit! We locked pinkies and you promised to stand up to your dad if I didn’t change.  Then I kissed you and you kissed me back when I tried to pull away.”

“Seriously dude, drop it. I’m trying to watch this.” He drew his knees into his chest and hunched his shoulders.

Jack turned so Mike couldn’t avoid his faced anymore.

“Look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t have feelings for me,”

“Get away from me.”

Mike shoved him and Jack hopped on top of him. He pinned Mike’s chest in place with his knees and held Mike’s arms in place with his hand.

“You know I it’s only a matter time before I get out this, and when I do prepare to get your ass kick,” Mike said and tried to use his feet to give him enough leverage to roll to the side.

“Not happening.” Jack pressed Mike back down to bed and locked eyes with him, then continued, “Tell me you didn’t feel anything when we kissed and I’ll let you go.”

Mike gritted his teeth then dug down deep and pressed himself into the mattress causing Jack’s hold to decrease enough for him to roll to the side and send Jack over the edge of the bed.  Mike fell on top of him and when got up he realized Jack nonresponsive.

“Pinky! Pinky! Answer me damn it!” he shook the boy but got no response.

Mike checked his pulse and found it steady and sighed when saw Jack was still breathing. He shook Jack a few more times and smiled when his eyes opened. Mike asked if he was OK and Jack responded he was fine no thanks to him. Mike tried to apologize, but Jack cut him off, told him to never put his hands on him again, and leave.

“I said is that understood!” Jack’s voice roared as he made it to shaky feet.

“Loud and clear, and if I did kiss you back… it was because I didn’t want to lose you yet. Guess I did now huh?  Bye.”

That’s it for this chapter. Well the cracks in Mike’s armor are beginning to show and keep an eye out for Kyle and the Soldier Boys.

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