Here’s the second scene that was taken out of Lost Highway. Another flashback, if you will… this one depicting the reason why Tony’s not all that keen on packs nowadays. This had originally been inserted right before his confrontation with Vincent if you want context.
Still haven’t picked up the Nocturnal Embers anthology? Well, what are you waiting for? 😉
“Tony Marlin, what do you have to say for yourself, son?”
He hadn’t been expecting to see so many people when he entered the room. A corner of his mind conjured a British comedy which warned that nobody expected this sort of thing, something he dryly reflected on when his eyes met the leader of their pack. He managed a sardonic grin. “S’pose that depends upon the question, sir,” he said, glancing over to the couch where Evan sat.
Evan refused to make eye contact. His hands were folded on his lap, shoulders slumped in resignation. His parents sat on either side of him, one arm from each draped around their son. The posture read much more of protection than comfort, and Evan’s failure to budge indicated – in Tony’s mind – just how trapped he felt. The fact that he hadn’t been the one to answer the door said it all. The Kangaroo Court would now come to order.
Tony’s stomach flipped, but his expression remained neutral when he made eye contact with the pack leader again. Stephen Jones looked no older than forty human years while being double that age. Gray hinted at the hair around his ears and lines twisted his mouth into a perpetual frown. As he folded his arms across his chest, his demeanor sobered all the more. “You know damn well why we’re here,” he said, throwing the opening gauntlet down with just one sentence.
With a sigh, Tony nodded, the drive to Evan’s house still too fresh an experience for him to be able to lie. A mixture of agony and fury had brewed a deadly cocktail with every turn, a different explanation for Evan’s absence conjured with each mile he sped along the deserted highway. Tears had filled his eyes to brimming one moment and the next, rage pushed the accelerator that much closer to the floorboard. He remembered freezing when he saw the unfamiliar car parked on the street. Evan’s driveway remained clear, though. They had kept a spot open with Tony’s name all but written on it.
Strangely enough, the part of him that should have been flattered wasn’t.
Tony sat in an adjacent chair, not knowing what to say in response. The gesture was enough encouragement for Stephen to continue. “I know you young folk think some of our ways are archaic and don’t understand why the rules exist, but that don’t give you no right to go skidding all over them just ‘cause they don’t personally suit you.”
“With all due respect, sir, I ain’t skiddin’ all over anythin’.”
“It’s the fact that you think so that’s the problem with you, Tony.” Stephen raised an eyebrow and sat in the last free chair. Two of the pack’s betas flanked him with another elder leaning against the wall to their right. The modest living room was uncomfortably full, making Tony feel claustrophobic on top of under a microscope. Stephen didn’t help matters when he leaned forward in his chair and locked his eyes with Tony. “I know young folk these days are all about experimenting and Lord knows I did my share, but it’s getting out of hand between the two of you.”
Tony’s back straightened, shoulders squaring. “Experimentin’? Is that what y’all think this is?”
“If we’re wrong, then tell me.”
Stephen’s eyes possessed a dare, one that made Tony’s throat close up. A cloud settled on the pack leader, making his features darken, his gaze turn stormy with foreboding. His chest expanded with a breath he held for an extra beat before exhaling it. “I would hate to think you were deserting your pack like that,” he said.
“I don’t reckon I know what you mean.”
“You’re supposed to mate, Tony. Continue our line. It’s the obligation all of us have being what we are.”
“But why?” Tony furrowed his brow, hands raised pacific. “Why is it all ‘bout gettin’ married and havin’ kids? What ‘bout bein’ happy? Lovin’ the person you’re with?”
“Now, when did I say you weren’t supposed to be happy and in love?”
“Just now.” Tears filled his eyes for the second time that night. He slowly rose to his feet. “What you’re wantin’ me to do – wantin’ Evan to do – it’s not us. It’s not who we are.”
“Leave me out of this, Tone,” Evan said, interjecting.
Tony’s head turned, gaze flicking to Evan who glanced momentarily at him. The look exchanged for the briefest of seconds spoke a million words. Whatever had led to this occurred before the missed meeting, maybe even before Evan showed up at his apartment. The other werewolf was conflicted, but ready to lie down and take his punishment.
Stephen spoke up again, bringing the room’s attention back to him. “Evan’s agreed to take a mate, Tony. And nobody had to hold a gun to his head to get him to change his mind. He’s committed to the pack and to his responsibilities in it. I’d like to think you feel the same.”
Despite Evan’s failure to look back at Tony, Tony continued staring at him. A frown tugged at the corners of his mouth. “And what’re the alternatives?” Tony asked, his voice a solemn whisper.
“Well…” Stephen rose to his feet as well. “If you’re not dedicated to the pack, then you certainly aren’t a part of it.”
“Just like that?” He finally looked toward his elder, pausing before swallowing hard and trying to gather up what little courage hadn’t dried up inside of him. ‘You were going to leave town,’ he reminded himself, but the thought of leaving town without Evan suddenly made the entire prospect look empty. His hands balled to fists as he willed a brave expression into existence. “Evan and I are in love.”
“Didn’t seem like he shared your sentiment.”
“Because he’s afraid. You scared him, you son of a bitch.”
Stephen paced forward. His head tilted, eyes scanning Tony from head to foot and back again. “Young pup, do you think you have any right to question me? I’m your alpha.”
Tony lifted his chin. “Pretty shitty alpha if you ask me. Bullyin’ folk to be somethin’ they ain’t.”
“Tone, please don’t do this.” Evan’s voice fell flat, ignored by both men when Tony took another step closer to Stephen. The pack leader met Tony’s advance until the expanse of mere inches separated them. Evan sprang up and walked over to them, stopping by Tony’s side and grabbing his arm to twist him around to look at him face to face. It took several seconds for Tony to look away from Stephen. Evan waited until then to speak. “In case you’ve escaped your senses, let me point out that you’re challenging an alpha.”
“I know damn well what I’m doin’,” Tony said through gritted teeth.
“For what? So you can get disowned anyway, only with your ass kicked five ways from Sunday?”
The red shrouding Tony’s vision dissipated just enough for him to truly focus on Evan. He regarded the look of concern, frown deepening. “Things ain’t gonna change unless someone speaks up.”
Evan shook his head. “Things ain’t gonna change even if someone does.”
“So what in the hell am I supposed to do then?”
“Get out of here, like you said you were gonna.”
“Come with me.” Tony took Evan’s hand, clutching onto it as tightly as he dared.
A bittersweet smile hinted at Evan’s lips. “I’m tellin’ you to get out of here ‘cause you’re the one of us who ain’t gonna play nice. Even if you tried gettin’ hitched and stickin’ around for my benefit, it’d kill you in the end. Or someone else. Then you’d be in jail and no use to anyone.”
The words impacted solidly with Tony’s heart. Slowly, he shook his head. “So, you’re just gonna let them tell you what to be? Who to love?”
“Gonna be the same no matter where we go. At least here, I’ve got kin.”
Tony wanted to scream at Evan, telling him how wrong he was; adding that it didn’t matter when he knew it did. Gran had once said you can’t free a caged bird that didn’t want to fly, but he wasn’t ready to accept that yet. Didn’t want to admit what was taking place. Rage brimmed to a full head of steam again, causing Tony to shake and grit his teeth. He looked toward the pack leader again and the world froze for the briefest of moments.
In the deep breath which followed, Tony lived another life. He saw himself forgiving Evan despite himself, turning to face their alpha with renewed purpose. The words, ‘I’m sorry, Evan, but if you’re stayin’ then so am I. And I ain’t stayin’ with this bullshit flyin’ ‘round,’ spewed from his lips as he swung a punch for Stephen and knocked him clear onto the floor. He would shift into wolf form when the challenge was acknowledged and fight as doggedly as he needed to force the alpha into submission. It didn’t matter if he won. It didn’t matter, even, how scraped up he got in the process. The Tony Marlin who wanted to die with a clear conscience would do so, knowing he had stood up to adversity this once, succeed or fail.
The Tony Marlin that actually existed, however, stepped away from Evan and offered the man one last look. Without speaking a word, he plead to him again, his eyes entreating and nearly desperate. Evan shook his head. He walked up to Tony and placed a chaste kiss on his lips, looking away when Tony motioned to deepen the kiss and turning to face his parents again. Tears finally spilled down Tony’s cheeks, his chest tight and the air suddenly colder, suddenly lost in a vacuum bent on pulling everything away from Tony.
“Are we finished?” Stephen asked, his voice distant, echoing discordantly through a tunnel to Tony’s ears.
Tony shivered and managed a nod. His voice sounded small when he spoke.
“Yes, sir. I suppose we are.”