Lievon & Amara

Chapter One

Lievon stood outside the all to familiar castle, his heart hammering in his chest, a knot forming in his throat. He couldn’t even remember how long it had been since he had been here last, but he remembered the day he had been cast out. His betrayal of his friend still twisted in his heart and he knew he had no right to be here, but he needed Chthon’s help. He forced himself to walk up to the front door and bang on it. He wasn’t expecting the beautiful young woman who answered, but he could see both Ruth and Chthon in her. read more

Actaeon & Semele

Chapter One

The journey to the crypt had been a long one. Desert sand clung to her eyelashes and dusted her clothing, making them look like ruddy copper rather than the bright red and gold they had been. She reached out a hand, her fingers splaying over the smooth stone of the entrance, her eyes closing as pale blue light traveled from her to the locked door. “Bats’yek.” Open. She said and heard the sound of creaking gears and straining ropes. There was a thunk and then the doors slid open, grinding against the floor before sticking. Darkness greeted her and she slipped through and whispered a command so an orb appeared before her then floated slowly down the shadowed hallway. Dust had long settled here on the coffins set in alcoves along the walls and the subtle scent of long dried up oils permeated the air. This crypt housed many a long dead warrior, buried with their most prized possessions, but the thing she sought was in the room at the end, the thing they supposedly guarded even in death, the one she needed.

The crypt went down, down, down into more darkness and the air grew cooler with each step, causing goosebumps to rise on her flesh. It was almost frighteningly silent, yet she persisted, undeterred. She only paused when she came across bones and upon examination realized that they belonged to others who had come here and died after springing traps. She said a small prayer over them then moved on. The orb paused at the ornately decorated door, the light causing the silver emblems to shimmer. This was the place, his prison. She took a deep breath and placed both hands against it, feeling a shiver run up her spine at how cold the metal was. She commanded it to open and then pushed with all her might, relieved when it gave way and freezing on the threshold at the sleeping warrior. He was bound and gagged on his knees, his head ducked down so dark hair obscured his features. It wasn’t the fact that he was so well preserved that astounded her, but the fact that he had two sharp spikes driven through his back, that crossed and exited at his ribs, holding him there. Here was the one who could save her people from the undead horde coming their way. Some called him the Betrayer, others the Wraith King, but she knew him as Actaeon the Immortal. He had been imprisoned here so long ago that he was nearly a myth, but she had dared to hope he was real.

He began to stir, bringing his head slowly up as though it took tremendous effort. His intense, grey eyes met hers but she couldn’t pin an emotion in them. He had been here so long by himself, an absolutely cruel amount of time to be alone and in the dark. She just hoped he hadn’t lost his mind and therefore, his ability to help her. She spoke before she moved, “I’m going to take that gag out alright?” His eyes stayed locked with hers, not giving any indication that he even heard, but when she took it out she finally saw some emotion. Unsurprisingly he seemed relieved, working his jaw so that it popped a few times.

“Am I finally to be free?”

“Yes…and I’d beg of you to help me.”

“Are you the only one asking?”

“Not truly, I’ll explain everything and while I know you can’t be controlled once you’re let go I’d feel too badly making you stay like that much longer while we spoke. Please, if I let you go listen to me.”

“It’s the least I could do…thank you…” she could tell he wanted her name.

“Semele.”

“Semele, I presume you know who I am?”

“Yes.”

“I am sure the stories about me are less than favorable.”

“Some, yes.”

He nodded. “Only some, that is surprising.”

She swallowed. “So, how do I get these out?” She pointed at the metal rods.

“They’re enchanted, the spell is old.”

“I can reverse it…at least I can try.”

She saw amusement fill his eyes and it amazed her how he could even think to laugh when he had been locked away for so long. She knew if it had been her, rage and madness would have taken her. “Then release me.”

She stood, letting her fingers slide over the rods, feeling the magic dance against her skin. She closed her eyes, finding the path to reversing the spell. She began to speak, her voice commanding and confident as she erased the magic that held him. Actaeon could feel the binding unravel and he couldn’t help but turn his head so he could watch her. Sweat dotted her brow, sand dusted her skin and clothes, and she was both powerful and beautiful. She stepped back, her hands moving away. “What now?”

“Untie my hands and I will do the rest.”

She made quick work of the knots then watched in amazement as he got himself free and began mending his wounds. “Let me help with that.”

“Thank you.” As she began healing him he urged, “Please tell me why you came here.”

“My people are in danger of being wiped out. My father and the emperor didn’t think it was wise to come here for you but…something has always told me the bad stories about you aren’t true, that you were noble until the end. It just doesn’t make sense after a lifetime of being nothing but noble and honest that you’d turn on the man you served.”

“I was put in here to make sure I never told my side of the tale. Thank you for believing in me. Even without further explanation I’ll help. I owe you my life now.”

“Just help us protect ourselves and I wont ask you anything again.”

“I have no reason to hide anything from you. Ask what you wish, I’ll answer honestly.”

“Alright, thank you. Is there anything else you need before we leave?”

“No, my sword is not here, the emperor in my time locked it up in his armory as a trophy. I want it back, it was a gift.”

“I’m sure it won’t be hard to get it back if I ask.”

He nodded. “Then we should go.” Actaeon had to shield his eyes upon exiting, the sun was so bright, brighter than he remembered, but beautiful all the same. He closed his eyes, inhaling the fresh air, feeling the warmth on his skin. “This, I remember. It’s still just as hot and dusty, still just as wild.” He let out a chuckle as he opened his eyes and Semele thought she saw a flicker of sadness there for just a moment.

“Some things have changed, the city for one. My emperor is an elf so some of the architecture is more…”

“Elegant?” She nodded. “I remember the desert clans, I never thought they would take over an empire though. They kept to themselves for the most part. I must have been here longer than I thought, but then again it all becomes one long day when you’re locked in darkness.”

“How did you manage to stay so sane? I mean, you hardly seem like someone who has been locked up with nobody to talk to and in utter darkness.”

“I lived a long time before I became the betrayer. I had many memories to fall back on to keep me going. I also held on to hope someone would finally free me. I’d imagine different ways it might happen. Someone needing my help actually was one. For all the bad stories I knew there still had to be stories of my abilities in battle.”

“What actually happened all that time ago?”

“I discovered how the prisoners of war were being treated. There are certain things you shouldn’t do, even to an enemy. He was cruel and callous under that mask of civility. Then there were his slaves…its still hard to think about the things I discovered he was doing.” She truly believed him, every word. Her father and the current emperor might find her naive but she hoped when he told his story to them they would be able to look into his eyes and see he was telling the truth.

Semele was amazed at how easily he moved over the sand. It was as if he hadn’t just been locked away, like even though his muscles and joints were stiff from lack of use, they still remembered. He didn’t even pause when sweat began to dot his brow, simply removed the coat he wore and slung it over his shoulder. She studied him as they walked, his face set in a mask of determination, his too old eyes that had seen much more than she could begin to imagine. Dark hair hung messily down his back, having grown long after years of not being trimmed. “I know I need a haircut.” He said as he looked at her and she felt a blush of embarrassment heat her cheeks.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.”

“You’re a mage, it’s what you do. You study and I must be quite the specimen.” His eyes seemed to see right through her, cutting straight to the heart of things like a sharpened blade. “I admit, you are intriguing as well.”

“I am?”

“You follow your convictions even if they lead you nowhere. What if I had been nothing but a myth? What if you had found only bones?”

“I would have found another way to save everyone.”

“You are as admirable as you are beautiful. Men must not know what to make of you. I bet you surprise them with the power you wield.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “Perhaps.”

He chuckled. “I think I may like you.”

“Good because I already like you. It’s admirable that you’re truly coming with me, that bitterness didn’t consume you and make you utterly selfish.”

“All that time didn’t break me of the fact that you hurt yourself more being angry than you do anybody else. I’m not saying there wasn’t times it was hard not to be bitter but I never let it take me.”

“Well, I can cut your hair for you when we get to where we are going.”

“Are you sure?”

“I know you feel indebted to me for releasing you from the bounds of your prison, but I feel a debt too that can’t be repaid simply by righting a wrong that was done to you. Besides, cutting hair is a simple task, I’m good at it.”

“Thank you then, I like it about here.” He held his hand about halfway down his face.

“Short for safety?”

He smiled. “Absolutely. Short hair is harder to grab, something some of my opponents learned the hard way.”

“A legend using underhanded methods? How surprising.”

“It’s not always bad to be a little underhanded.”

They ate as they walked, Semele asking more questions about him and trying to avoid the circumstances of his imprisonment. He seemed alright talking about them, but she felt rude bringing it up too much. Instead she asked about his childhood and why he had decided to become a soldier. He explained that warriors ran in his family and that he had been trained from a young age how to use a sword, how to move with speed and efficiency almost like an acrobat. He told her how immortality had granted him the time to further perfect his technique and learn some new ones. He had even learned a few languages along the way.

She enjoyed hearing about all of it so time flew as they traveled. She was surprised by how fast they made it back to her people when the trip to find him had felt so long. It made sense though, she had been stressed and worried the whole way there and Actaeon was a better travel companion than she could have ever imagined. “Before we find my father and the emperor lets get you cleaned up and your hair cut. We might all get right to work and you deserve to be comfortable first. I’m sure you’d even like a nice bath.”

“I’m that smelly?” He asked with a grin, causing her to lightly laugh as she blushed.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, I know you’re just trying to be kind. Please, all that sounds wonderful.”

 

Chapter Two

Semele took him to her living quarters and through to the adjoining bathroom. “This is new.” He said as he looked around.

“Yeah, the previous emperor preferred copper tubs, but the one now liked the bathhouse look so he had everything torn out and replaced the tubs with stone pools.”

“Hot spring water?”

“Yes and filters out to let clean water in.”

“Amazing, thank you.” He pulled his shirt off and her eyes were drawn to his torso. He was well lean of build and surprisingly well muscled for a man who had been locked away for so long. She noticed a few scars here and there, some across his back, one up high that looked like a sword had pierced him. He also had a few on his arms. “From training.” His voice startled her and a blush crawled up her neck as she met his gaze. “The ones on my arms are from training.”

“Oh, I see.” She swallowed.

“It happens when you’re first learning how to block.” He smiled. “So, ready to cut my hair?”

“Yeah.” He took a seat on the lid of her toilet as she looked in a drawer for Scissors, taking the time to calm herself down. As she grabbed a pair she promised to herself that she would quit being rude. Staring at him and bringing up what he just went through was out of the question, even if she was dying to know how he still looked so good. Was his magic truly that powerful? Her ever curious mind was begging to know, to learn from such an obviously skilled man. She began cutting, silence hanging between them until she finished. “Take your time getting cleaned up.”

He walked over to the mirror, a smile adorning his face yet again. “Thank you so much Semele.”

Semele left him alone and he quickly stripped off his remaining clothes and stepped into the hot water and sank down into its waiting heat. He let out a sigh of relief as aching muscles began to relax. He had not realized how sore he really was until now. He allowed his head to rest back on the edge of the pool and closed his eyes, enjoying this moment, knowing it may not last if they tried to lock him up again.

Semele was surprised by her father as she left her room, running right into him, her heart stuttering in her chest. “Daddy, you scared me.”

“I was informed you returned with a guest.”

“Yes, I did.” She finally said, feeling suddenly nervous.

“Is it him?” She nodded. “Is he in there?” He nodded at her door.

“Yes.” He started past her and she quickly stopped him. He arched an eyebrow at her, looking slightly amused. “Sorry, it’s just he’s bathing. I was going to get him clothes.” Her face felt suddenly very hot.

“I see.” He sighed. “Come then, he can borrow some of mine.”

“Really?”

“He must be here to help if he came all this way. I’m still unsure but he obviously hasn’t hurt you and as you said when you left, we need all the help we can get.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re a smart girl Semele. Just because we are unsure about how you want to help doesn’t make it fair to discount it. Don’t thank me, you’ve earned the right to have your ideas and opinions heard and given a fair chance. How does he seem so far by the way?”

“You’d never know now that I’ve cut his hair he had been locked away so long. He could walk here just fine and is still fit somehow. He told me his side of the story too and I believe it. He truly wasn’t in the wrong. The emperor in his time was doing bad things, torturing people. Actaeon stood up for what was right. I feel it in my heart now more than ever. You know the stories of him before he betrayed his emperor. It never made sense to me how he could change for no reason.” Her father nodded and soon they entered his room, collected some clothes then brought them back to her room. “I’m leaving the clothes on my bed. I wont be in here, I’m going with my dad to talk to the emperor.”

“Okay.”

Actaeon washed his skin and scrubbed his hair, letting out a sigh of relief as he rinsed. He got out and dried then wrapped the towel around his waist just in case. The clothes Semele had brought for him were comfortable, made for easy movement and the hot weather. He would have to consider having some tailored for his stay. He opted out wearing his boots. Even though he wanted to look proper, he knew they needed to be cleaned. He headed out, not wanting to leave Semele, her father, and the emperor waiting.

“You are sure he doesn’t hold any bitterness towards us?” Emperor Sgaire asked.

“I am, he traveled here willingly and didn’t so much as raise his voice at me. I know you’re worried, especially with everything that’s happening, but he wants to help us.”

“And you are sure you can trust him?”

“I do owe her my life.” Actaeon’s voice startled her and she turned as he stepped fully into the throne room and crossed over to them. “If it makes you feel any better, I shall swear fealty to her.”

Sgaire actually cracked a smile. “But not to me?”

“If you can prove you are better than the one before you then I may consider it, but Semele came for me on her own, she rescued me, and I owe her everything.”

His smile rose again. “I suppose swearing to her is just as good since I know I can trust Semele every bit as much as I trust her father. We have much to talk about. I’m sure she wasn’t able to go over everything with you on the way here. I have the plans and a few maps I want to show you in my study. I think a few things have changed since your time.”Actaeon followed Sgaire, Semele and her father, paying close attention as the emperor brought him up to speed on their situation.

“No wonder you were desperate you’d let her come to find me. When did the Ettins and Hybrid Sentinel’s get so close and when did they become so volatile?”

“They first became close when an Ettin female and male Sentinel mated about fifty years back. We aren’t sure precisely when they started becoming so hateful though. We’ve tried speaking with them but they aren’t interested in much discussion.”

“I know how they got the flying wolves on board though, do you?”

“No.”

“The emperor of my time was also involved in the trade of selling their paws and wings.” The three of them looked horrified.

“No.” Semele half gasped.

Actaeon nodded “I can’t imagine there will ever be any bringing them back to peace with us. Wolves don’t often forgive such heinous crimes against their packs.”

“What do we do? How do we stop them without completely wiping them out?”

Actaeon pulled one of the maps over. “You say they are here, but the Sentinels and the wolves have wings. If you can get enough mages, we can put a magical net in the air. It should be invisible of course. Once they fall to earth, they can all be restrained. As for the Ettins, we dig a pit fall deep enough to catch them, but shallow enough they won’t come to any real harm.”

“How are we going to draw them in?”

“We’ll start the battle here, get the Ettins invested in attacking then we retreat. If we dig a trench here and place planks across for bridges, then your men can escape without falling in.” He looked to Semele. “I want you to hold the net up against those in the air once it’s in place.”

“Me? Why?”

“Because you are the most powerful person magically in this room and I believe you can do it.”

She was surprised at his words, giving a smile and nod. Her father nor the emperor were shocked, it was something they had already felt too. “I’ll gather the ones bravely going into battle with us and inform them of the new plan. Thank you Actaeon. If you truly stay on our side through this I will make sure something is done to thank you and apologize for the wrongs of the previous emperor.” Sgaire said then walked out of the room.

“I should go with him, get some rest before this all starts Actaeon. You seem in good condition but I can’t imagine you’re truly completely alright.”

“Yeah, do you want something to eat?” Semele asked and that charming smile about stopped her heart.

“Please, something light though.”

“Of course. Oh, I almost forgot, your sword. Come with me.” Her fingers wrapped gently around his wrist and his heart skipped a beat at her touch. She took him to the old armory where the previous emperor had kept his most prized possessions. There were swords and bows, books, and even enchanted jewelry. Actaeon’s sword rested in the center of the room, proudly displayed as a trophy.

Semele released him and he stepped up to it, reaching shakily out, letting his fingers wrap around the sheathe. He swallowed as he pulled the blade free. “I never thought to see it again.”

“Actaeon.”

She touched his shoulder and he quickly sheathed his weapon and wiped at his face. “Forgive me. It was a gift from my father.” He chuckled. “Such a stupid thing to get so emotional over.”

“You getting emotional is anything but stupid…would you like a hug?” He gently took her in his arms, surprised at how good it felt to hold her and have her hold him back. She held him until he let go. She couldn’t imagine all the emotional pain he had gone through. Semele was happy he had finally let a little of it out instead of keeping it inside. Semele knew he might not even realize how much pain he was holding back, for anybody that would have been a tortured existence, essentially being buried alive when you had done no wrong. “Better?” she asked softly.

“Yes, I needed that.”

“Let’s get you some food now.” She had salad and soup prepared then walked him back to her bedroom. “Lay down for a bit aright?”

“Sleep laying down would be welcome. Please don’t hesitate to wake me when I’m needed Semele.”

“As long as you relax until then we have a deal.” He nodded then hugged her again, hoping it was alright to hug her without asking. She instantly hugged back so he relaxed, happy to know he could do this anytime he needed. Once in the room he settled underneath her blanket, laying his sword at his side. Half to protect himself in case the enemy forces surprised them and half because he worried about losing it again.

Semele found her father and Sgaire out in the courtyard talking to a group of five mages. They were telling them to gather those with combat experience and a high affinity for magic. They wanted them to not only be able to cast such a large spell as the net, but also to defend the city if anyone should break through. The mages headed out and both her father and the emperor turned to her. “How is our guest?” Sgaire asked.

“Sleeping, I think he was more exhausted than he was letting on.”

“Good, your father and I were about to head over to the barracks and speak to the soldiers. Would you like to join us? Actaeon has given you a huge responsibility and you should know the men and women you will be working with.”

“Alright.”

They started walking across the courtyard and Sgaire said. “I would like you to stick with him, Semele since he seems to trust you the most.”

She blushed. “I planned on it.”

“He does seem quite attached to you.” He chuckled. “To swear his loyalty to you alone, such a bold move.”

“I almost feel like he was testing you.” Semele’s father said.

“More than likely.”

 

Chapter Three

They arrived at the barracks where introduction after introduction took place. Semele made special effort to remember them all and hoped they didn’t lose a single one of them though she knew that was high hopes. Problems like this seldom ended without someone loseing their life. She listened as Her father and the emperor spoke of their plans and precisely what they would be expected to do. They all seemed enthused, completely confident in the strategy they were going with. She thought to herself, “good, confident soldiers always do better”. Once Semele found herself alone with her father she asked, “Do you think Sgaire plans to clear Actaeon’s name after this?”

“He’s already mentioned it.”

“When?”

“When you were tending to Actaeon.”

“He deserves it more than anyone. It’s unfair and cruel how quickly his reputation was tarnished.”

Her father chuckled. “You really like him don’t you?”

She blushed. “Well…I mean he’s so fascinating and kind and he’s helping us when he doesn’t have too. He’s so honorable.”

He nodded. “Alright, you have my blessing.”

“Daddy.”

He hugged her, laughing. “I’m so proud of you, Semele. Proud of you for sticking to your convictions and proving us wrong.” He pulled back to look at her. “You should go to him, see if he’s still sleeping and prepare yourself. We don’t know how long this fight is going to take and I need to get the mages to help dig the trench. Magic is faster.”

“Alright.” She honestly felt happy to have a reason to check on him. Actaeon walked back to her room then quietly entered, smiling when she saw him resting still, he deserved to. She couldn’t help but walk closer, standing there a few moments until she felt like a creeper and began to exit her room.

“Semele?” She suddenly heard him say softly.

“I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

“Is everything alright?”

“I was just checking on you.”

He sat up. “Let me get up.”

“No, it’s okay, really.” She felt bad he felt so compelled but he gave her such a reassuring smile.

“I feel much better, I’m glad you came in here so I didn’t sleep all our peaceful time away.”

“Did you have any dreams?” She inquired, still curious about him in general.

He blushed. “No.” It felt like the first time he lied to her but she didn’t push it. He could have countless reasons not to bring up whatever his dream was about.

“You really can go back to sleep.”

He shook his head as he stretched his arms above his head then got up. “Has anything happened?”

“No, daddy and the other mages are going out to dig the trench and the soldiers are ready to help.”

“Good, how are you feeling?”

“Ready to get this over with, maybe a little nervous.”

He nodded as he lifted his sword from the covers and her eyes followed it. He gave a sheepish smile, rubbing the back of his neck. “I wanted to keep it close.”

She had to admit his unexpected embarrassment was adorable. “That’s okay, I understand. Would you like to go on a walk with me or something since you’re up? We could get some tea if you don’t want to.”

“I’d love to, we can talk. I’m sure you have many questions and I want to get to know you better.”

Semele waited for Actaeon to put his boots back on then they headed for a path Semele knew was safe and had taken many times. She told Actaeon as much, not wanting him to worry about an ambush of any sort. “Regardless, I have my sword back on my hip, I wouldn’t let anything happen to either of us. We’re quite the pair, you with your magic and me with my sword. She blushed again though she could see he wasn’t trying to flirt. He truly had that much faith in their abilities.

“So, when this is all over, what’s the first thing you want to do?” She wanted to have a positive conversation with him.

“To continue spending time with you like this.” He answered honestly.

“Really?”

“As I’ve said, I find you very intriguing. I very much like being around you Semele.”

Her face heated. “I very much like being around you too.”

His smile, the smile that made him look years younger, that lit up his eyes and chased away the shadows lurking there, had her heart racing. “An old man like me?”

“You’re not that old.”

“I have centuries on you.”

“I…I don’t mind.” He looked at her questioningly. “I mean…” she cleared her throat. “So what do you think of the changes?”

He stared into her eyes for a moment, searching her gaze with his. She forced herself not to look away. “They’re welcome.” He finally answered. “I should thank your emperor. If he had not taken the throne, I would have never met you, I would have never been saved.” He let his hand slip gently over hers and pulled her to a stop. “I am truly lucky.” He brought her fingers to his lips. “You are an amazing woman, Semele.”

She was frozen, her whole body seeming to react to him. She had been so eager to find him, to learn about him but he was so much more captivating than she could have ever imagined he’d be. He had this pull and she wondered if he had it with everyone. He smiled again, letting her hand go just as slowly and carefully as he had taken it. They spent all the time they had until the battle at eachothers side, neither wanting to part. There was so much determination from everyone to finish this and while Semele thought she’d be more nervous about going into battle she was ready, calm, cool and collected. Every one had faith that she could do her part so she’d honor them by having faith in herself.

Semele asked him a few questions about his past, about the different people he knew and how many wars he had been in. She was amazed to find he had served more than one emperor in his time and he admired most of them. He talked about his childhood, about how hard his father had trained him, and about how wonderful both of his parents were. They walked in silence for a few moments until they came to a stop next to a tree. They stared out at the moonlit sand. “Would you like to know about my time in my prison, about why I still look like this?” He suddenly asked and her heart stuttered.

“I do, but…”

He looked into her eyes, smiling. “You’re afraid you’ll upset me?”

“Yeah.”

“I want to tell you.”

“If you’re sure you want to, you truly don’t owe me any kind of explanation.” His smile only grew more amused, still shocking her he could be so jovial. “Rest assured Semele I know you, you are an amazing, incredibly giving woman. I’m sure no matter what you do for others you expect nothing in return but I find myself wanting to know everything about you so it’s only fair you know everything about me. So I will tell you about my time down there.” He took her hand, finding it harder and harder not to touch her, especially since she never rested or seemed like it bothered her. “Pain has never been a big problem to me so I moved as much as I could. Even before being put down there I knew I couldn’t starve to death so while I didn’t know how long I’d be there I knew that one day, somehow I’d be free so I needed to keep my muscle mass.”

“Does not needing to eat run in your family?”

“Yeah, I mean, its uncomfortable to be hungry but for whatever reason we don’t actually have to eat anything. Thankfully I discovered down there that even the discomfort eventually goes away. I do enjoy food though so I’m happy to have it again.”

“Did the previous emperor know you wouldn’t die?”

“I don’t think so, that was so long ago I’m not sure what all he knew about me though. I retreated to my memories frequently but I chose ones that made me happy, he obviously wasn’t someone I wanted to think about.”

“Did you do anything else to keep sane?”

“Bugs would come in and sometimes underground animals would tunnel their way down there and mess around. I’d just listen to them, sometimes create my own little story of their lives to amuse myself.”

Semele felt her chest grow tight and a lump form in her throat. “Wow, I can’t imagine.” She swallowed. “How cruel, to leave you there.”

Actaeon could hear the sadness and anger in her voice and he once again pulled her gently to a stop, only this time he drew her into his arms. “Don’t be sad for me, Semele, I wallowed enough the first few days I was locked away and I made peace with it.”

“Still.”

He leaned back and lifted her head. “Besides, I may never have met you, so please don’t be sad.”

She let out a little laugh and he smiled. “If I had been there, there would have been no way they would have locked you up. I’d have made the emperor apologize and step down.”

“I bet you would have.” He chuckled. “No more tears. Smile for me, it’s makes every single moment locked in that place worth it.”

She couldn’t imagine how that could be true, how knowing her could possibly make all that misery worth it, but she could tell he meant those words. She gave him the best smile she could and it warmed his heart. “As I understand it war will be upon us in the morning. We should rest. I have absolute faith in you tomorrow, have faith in me too.” He didn’t want her laying her head down tonight with any anxieties. She already meant too much to him to let anything in the world happen to her or the people she cared most about. She wasn’t sure she wanted to rest but tomorrow was possibly one of the most important days of their life. How well they performed would mean everything.

Final Chapter

Actaeon walked her back to her room and lifted her knuckles to his lips again. “Sweet dreams, Semele. I know tomorrow is a big day, but I want you to sleep well.”

“You too and if you need me for anything, please come get me. I don’t know if you have nightmares, but…”

He chuckled. “Only a brief moment of confusion waking up here. I’m sure it will take a little while for me to get used to being free. Go rest now, I’ll see you in the morning.”

He left her there in front of her door, finding himself wanting to stay, but knowing it would be inappropriate. They hardly knew each other, but she had stolen his heart anyway. Semele went to bed that night thinking about Actaeon. She planned to make everyday new and exciting for him, hoping his time spent in that place would fade to a distant memory after awhile. She closed her eyes, making herself go to sleep so she wouldn’t be exhausted in the morning.

Everyone was up with the sun and on their way as quickly as possible. Actaeon walked at her side, looking a little different than the previous days. She knew most warriors, especially as skilled as he was often were like completely different people when they were in battle. His amused, soft features were now serious, determined. He was obviously ready to do whatever needed to be done. She almost wanted to admire him but this wasn’t the time. She needed to stay focused as well, she needed to do her job correctly to spare as many lives as possible. The day was particularly warm but it did nothing to slow or distract anybody, they were used to the heat and the people her father and Sgaire picked were better than letting elements get to them.

Actaeon stood at the head of the soldiers, the emperor by his side. He found his respect for Sgaire growing. Sgaire called the charge forward and their enemy rushed at them, growling and bellowing their hate. Soldiers and Ettins slammed into each other, but Actaeon kept it brief, calling a retreat so every soldier spun around and raced away, the creatures giving chase as planned. Actaeon glanced up at the sky, seeing the Sentinels and wolves drawing closer, readying to dive. He had complete faith in Semele, knew that she could hold the net and keep the creatures out of the sky once they hit it. He felt his feet hit one of the wood planks and turned his gaze forward. The moment he felt sand again, the planks were pulled away and the Ettins in their rage fell into the pit before they could stop.

Semele was amazed at how easily Actaeon carried out his plan and she barely felt the exhaustion of her magic being drained as she watched him. The Sentinels and wolves hit the net the mages had cast and many fell as if shocked. Those that managed to stay low enough were taken down by her father and the other mages. She held the net in place until the last of the winged creatures fell to earth and collapsed back onto the ground when she finally released her hold on it. She laid there for a moment staring up at the sky, panting and sweating.

She knew this wasn’t over quite yet. They had gotten this under control but their anger would forever hold if they didn’t talk sense into them. The wolves had indeed been wronged and maybe that was irreversible but they had to try and maybe if the other beings would just talk this out with them they could work out whatever had made them so angry as well. Emperor Sgaire ordered the Sentinel that was obviously their leader be released to stand on his own. “What do you expect?” He snapped bitterly.

“To talk, please, you and your people keep refusing but I want to end this peacefully.”

“Your kind can’t be peaceful.”

“We can, I swear it, I am not like the emperors of the past…I know why the wolves hate us but please, tell me why you and the Ettins do.”

“We were driven out of our homes, treated like unintelligent animals, many of us were killed. We did nothing wrong, we hurt no one, yet we were treated as lesser.”

“Do you believe you are the only one who has ever been wronged?” Actaeon asked before Sgaire could voice anything further. “Do you think you’re the only one who has felt the cruel sting of betrayal? I spent centuries locked in a tomb, my name and reputation slandered because I stood up and revolted against the emperor I served at the time, but these people,” Actaeon waved his hand to encompass the soldiers and mages and Sgaire, “these are good people, this emperor is a good and honorable man. Let him make amends.”

The Sentinel studied him. “You are familiar.”

“I am Actaeon the Immortal and this is my home. We can all work together if you will speak to Sgaire.”

“Actaeon,” the Sentinel nodded, “I see. I will speak to him then, without bloodshed.”

Sgaire wasn’t even shocked Actaeons name carried such weight, not every race had been foolish enough to believe that Actaeon had been turned. He was embarrassed himself he once believed the slanderous stories that were spread. Sgaire was soon sitting and talking with the leader Sentinel and a few others from the group. They found reconciliation out on that field and began the journey back to the palace to make some changes official, to begin righting past wrongs. The wolves even tagged along though they seemed the most untrusting of this truce. Sgaire, Semele and her father were simply grateful they too were willing to bring this war to an end. Sgaire didn’t rest until all the paperwork was done and stamped, ready to put into motion the next day.

“I thought I’d find you here.” Semele’s voice brought Actaeon out of his thoughts and he turned, smiling at her and holding out his hand. She took it and he pulled her to stand next to them under the tree.

“Just thinking and waiting. Sgaire makes everything official tomorrow and the wolves are still incredibly restless.”

“Do you think they’ll attack?”

“I don’t know, but there’s no harm in making sure. What about you, what are you doing wandering around?”

She blushed. “Looking for you.”

He smiled. “Well I’m glad you did.” He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers, making her heart stutter.

“Really? Why?”

“Who wouldn’t want to spend time with the goddess who rescued them?”

“Goddess?”

He sighed out a laugh and ran his fingers nervously through his hair. “I…Semele, I’ve grown quite attached to you, you are so amazing and beautiful. You probably think I’m crazy, but I really like you, adore you even.”

She wasn’t going to play coy and ask him if he was serious. She knew he wouldn’t say something like that unless he absolutely meant it. “It’s not so crazy…I adore you too. You’re so handsome and strong willed. I’ve never met such an unbreakable spirit.”

He tucked her hair behind her left ear. “Does that mean we could be more than just friends?” She could feel her face heating, her pulse picking up. She moved to kiss him and he smiled briefly before kissing her back. It was short and said everything she needed to say. Actaeon pulled her into him, feeling lucky and brimming with hope of a peaceful, happy future.

~ The End

Lachlan, Teague, & Kennedy 2

Chapter One

“Are you sure?” Teague asked as he read the letter Lachlan had received. The message was short, simple: I know who you are, please come see me. “I mean it could be a trick and what if they don’t mean what you think they mean?”

“I’ve thought about that, but what if we have a chance to learn how we happened, to get a better grasp of what we are.”

Teague sighed. “You’re sure you want to go?”

“We have too, even if it’s nothing.” Teague whined and it was Lachlan’s turn to sigh. “I don’t want to leave him either.”

“Who knows how long we’ll be, Lachlan. I want to bring him.”

“Me too.”

“You’re afraid it’ll be dangerous, so am I, but we…”

“Need him.” Lachlan finished. “I know.” Teague nodded. “We’ll discuss it with him in the morning, I don’t want to wake him.”

“Agreed.”

Lachlan put the letter away and he and Teague headed back up to the room they shared with Kennedy. He was still sound asleep when they entered and they both couldn’t help but pause and admire him. Even in sleep he was beautiful and they felt the stirrings of desire for him. He moved in his sleep, grabbing and burying his face in one of the pillows. “No…tired…bad…you’re bad.” He mumbled and they both chuckled as they both climbed in and wrapped an arm protectively around him.

Kennedy woke with a gentle smile when he noticed he was in Lachlan and Teague’s arms. It was his favorite way to wake up. He would have just enjoyed the closeness, but as always, him waking woke the two of them. They set to talking to him right away, Lachlan starting, “We got a letter.”

“A letter? From who?”

“We don’t know them, but they claim to know who we are, how we came to be and we want to check it out. Since we don’t know how long it will take we want you to come. ”

“Of course, you two know I’ll go anywhere you go.” They both smiled, one kissing the top of his head and the other kissing his forehead.

“Then let’s eat something, pack small bags and head out.”

Kennedy made sure they had his sketch book and pencils, getting chuckles from both of them. He insisted on making breakfast for them, blushing when they sat at the table and watched him. They flirted with him while they ate so he was bright red by the time they left. “So…so how far are we going?” He asked as he climbed into the passenger seat, Lachlan taking the driver seat and Teague shifted into a wolf and sat on the floorboard between Kennedy’s feet with his head resting on his lap.

“One state over.” Lachlan answered as he pulled away from their home.

“That’s not so bad.”

Lachlan smiled as he took Kennedy’s hand and brought it to his lips. “It’s the reason we’re taking the car, otherwise we would take turns carrying you.”

Teague huffed and nudged Kennedy’s free hand until he stroked the top of his head. “Don’t be upset, I love when you two carry me, but what if it rains or something.” Kennedy said. He was getting a lot better at reading them.

Teague relaxed, happy just to be close to Kennedy. It may not be holding him, but it felt amazing when Kennedy would stroke his fur like this. They were also on their way to finding out everything about themselves. Beyond Kennedy, there was nothing either of them wanted more than to know how they came to be what they were, two people sharing one soul. Traffic was especially annoying today. Not that it was worse than normal, they just wanted to arrive sooner rather than later. Kennedy was a bit more patient, taking in the scenery as his mind went through all the possibilities.

“We may have to stop at a hotel at this rate.” Lachlan glared at the cars in front of him, willing them to spontaneously combust or move faster. Teague huffed and they both knew he was laughing.

“You shouldn’t drive all through the day and night anyway, it’s bad to sit for so long.” Kennedy replied, his concern warming his mates’ hearts.

“You know we don’t mind as far as we go, it’s you we’re worried about. Neither of us would force you to sleep in the car.”

“Then if we have to, we should stop.”

Lachlan reached over and stroked Kennedy’s cheek and Teague pushed his head against Kennedy’s stomach. “We will, I promise.”

They wound up stopping at a rest stop after awhile so they could all use the restroom and Teague took the time to shift back and stretch. He climbed into the backseat, laying down and reaching between the front seats to make contact with Kennedy. Both he and Lachlan’s thoughts went between their mate and the person who had sent them the letter. They were both already planning an exit strategy in case it was a trap, ready to protect Kennedy and kill anyone who tried to stop them. “What do you think we are?” Teague asked.

Lachlan shrugged. “Perhaps we did something terrible in a past life and this was our punishment.”

Teague chuckled. “Oh yes, what a punishment. It backfired if that’s the case.”

Lachlan smiled. “Yes it did, after all we have everything we could ever dream of wanting.”

“I don’t think you two could have possible come from someone evil or bad.” Kennedy interjected. “You’re both too sweet and gentle.”

“With you.” They both said.

Kennedy smiled, his heart warming. “You two are incredibly good men. I’ve been with you long enough to know.” They drove on as far as they could, but the weather also started making the trip harder so they checked into a hotel with good reviews for the night, planning to leave as soon as they woke in the morning. “Thank goodness we didn’t walk.” Kennedy stated as he sat down on their bed.

“Why don’t we shower? It’ll make us feel better after all that time in the car. I hate we made such terrible time.” Lachlan said and Kennedy answered, “I’m eager to meet this person, but it’s alright. We’re together, that’s what matters.” He was irresistibly cute saying something like that and both men took a turn kissing him.

Kennedy stood between his mates under the warm spray of the water, thankful the heat of the water masked his blush. Lachlan and Teague let their hands move over him, unable to keep themselves from teasing and seducing him. “You…you two should get clean too.”

“But we want you.” Teague said and bit down on his shoulder, getting a soft moan in response. “You want us too.”

“Yeah, but…the shower…”

“Please?” Lachlan gently grabbed his chin and turned his head, his lips lightly brushing Kennedy’s.

“I do…want both of you very much.” How could he tell them no, especially knowing they would stop if he asked them to. They made him feel so safe and loved and he gave them his absolute trust. They moved from the shower to the bed, their bodies tangling together, hands and lips exploring.

It was mind blowing just how incredible they could make him feel. They were so lustful, seemingly endlessly hungry for him, but at the same time they made him feel like the most treasured thing in the universe. Once they were spent they cuddled up to one another, Kennedy in the middle as always and got some much needed rest to finish their trip come morning. The traffic wound up being much better and they made it to their destination in good time. Teague spoke as he parked, “Lachlan, just as a precaution why don’t you stay in the car with Kennedy while I check this out. Once I’m sure this isn’t some ambush you two can come.”

Lachlan nodded. “Know that I will come running if you should need me.”

“I know.”

“Why don’t we all go in together?” Kennedy asked worriedly.

Both Lachlan and Teague chuckled. “Because we refuse to risk your safety.” Teague answered.

“You are the most important thing to us so if anything happens, we want you to stay here and keep the doors locked.” Lachlan added.

“I’ll be back before you know it, I promise.” Teague unbuckled and leaned over, giving Kennedy a reassuring kiss. He was out of the car before Kennedy could further protest.

“Come sit back here with me.” Lachlan’s tone was gentle and Kennedy unbuckled and climbed back into the back seat, letting Lachlan hold him. He didn’t like when Teague and Lachlan separated. He had seen them fight side by side and it worried him that alone one of them may become overwhelmed.

Teague let his senses flare out as he cautiously approached the house. He took in every small sound, every subtle scent, searching for any signs of a trap. He felt a slight tingle move over his skin and his wolf alerted him to the magical circle surrounding the property. It didn’t feel dangerous, but he would make sure Lachlan and Kennedy were careful as they crossed that invisible line.

He wasn’t fully up to the door yet when it opened, but that wasn’t surprising, obviously the person was waiting on them. He came out, allowing Teague to take him in. “You came.” He stated then looked over at the car. “Good, you both came. I’m surprised you trust me enough to bring your mate.”

“We couldn’t leave him behind and know with certainty, nothing, no matter what it or you has up its sleeve is ever going to harm Kennedy.”

“Would you like to come in before they come out?”

Teague was silent a few moments, reading the being as best he could. He couldn’t find a trace of threat so he said, “I will bring them now, I want them to be careful of your magic line so I’ll walk back to the car.”

“If you’d feel more comfortable we can talk out here. I want you two open to what I have to say.”

 

Chapter Two

“We’ll decide together.” Teague backed towards the car, ready to spring out of the way should this man try anything. He didn’t turn until he was to the car and pulling the door open. “It’s safe as far as I can tell.”

“Alright, are you ready Kennedy?” Lachlan asked.

“Yeah.”

“Stay close to us.”

They got out and both Lachlan and Teague positioned themselves in front and to each side of Kennedy. “So, would you like to come inside?” Their host asked.

They both looked at each other and something seemed to pass between them as they nodded to each other. “Alright, but if you try anything, we will not hesitate to kill you.” Lachlan answered.

“Kennedy means the world to us and we won’t have you hurting him.” Teague added.

Kennedy took their hands. “It’s okay you two, let’s hear him out.”

They followed him in, both Lachlan and Teague scenting and listening, feeling the magic in this house. “Please make yourselves at home.”

Kennedy kept both their hands, stroking his mates with his thumbs to try to get them to relax a little. He knew it was just out of care for him, but he didn’t want them to come across as rude and have this man change his mind about helping them. He really wanted to know how their souls became split and he knew they would always regret missing this opportunity if they bungled this chance. “I guess we’ll get right down to it.” The man said as he sat down across from them. He settled in a bit then continued, “I hear things now and again, that’s how I came to find you two. It’s honestly exciting to see what happened with Merrik’s split soul, to think it could actually be reborn. It’s astounding really, Drake thought he was going to completely destroy Merrik, make him incapable of even being reborn into a new life but here you two sit, a testament to the souls resilience.”

“I don’t want to be rude but I’m still just as confused as when I opened the letter you sent.”

“Ah yes, I’m sorry, I’m letting how star struck I am get in the way. I’m sorry.”

“Who is Merrik?” Lachlan asked.

“He is who you are, well were, before his soul was torn apart. Merrik was intelligent, charismatic, he had a good sense of humor, yet a resolve of steel. He was a brilliant tactician and a lover of both books and nature. He was a curious young man and he and Drake got along very well. They were incredibly fond of each other, they studied magic together, Merrik helped him with the day to day of his hold, using spells to improve things. He was loyal to Drake until he came across a book of dark spells and incantations. He showed it to Drake, wanted his help in using them, telling him it would give them more power than they could possibly imagine, that their world would benefit from it in the end.”

“He was corrupted.” Lachlan said.

“Not at first. It happened over time. He studied the book on his own, started using the spells inside. He summoned demons and evil spirits and then he started sacrificing people and then he betrayed Drake. The only way Drake could stop him, was to kill him. Merrik died with Drake’s sword in his chest and Drake used magic to tear his soul apart. The fact the he was reborn in you two is amazing.”

Lachlan and Teague both swallowed. “Are you saying we’re evil?” Teague asked.

“Not at all. Being reborn doesn’t mean you will repeat the mistakes of your past life. Many people find redemption the second time around.”

Kennedy gave their hands a reassuring squeeze again “I’ve been with you two a really long time. I know you could never be evil.”

“I only reached out because you two seemed like good beings. I just wanted you to know who you were. Having half a soul had to raise a million questions and maybe I can take you to where you belong one day and maybe, after I talk to Drake, maybe you could meet. Merrik and Drake were so close for such a long time. It might mean a lot to him to build a relationship again.”

“We have no memories of a past life.” Lachlan said.

“That’s normal. Some people never do, they live life without even knowing who they were before. You may or may not start to remember. Even so, they have no bearing on the men you are today.”

“Do you have any stories about Merrik before he betrayed Drake?” Kennedy asked. He was curious.

“Of course. Why don’t you let me get us something to eat and drink and then we can talk.”

“I’ll help…”

“Warrick and you don’t have too.”

“Please? You’ve given Lachlan and Teague so much, I can at least give you a hand.”

Warrick smiled. “I’m guessing they’ll be joining us?” Kennedy felt a blush tint his cheeks and Warrick chuckled. “It’s alright, it’s to be expected.” He stood and they followed him into the kitchen, Lachlan and Teague sitting at the kitchen table while Kennedy helped make sandwiches and lemonade.

They all sat at the kitchen table once it was all prepared, each with a large, cold glass of lemonade and two sandwich’s a piece with a few stacked in the middle of the table. They were captivated by Warrick’s stories and while they couldn’t remember them themselves Teague and Lachlan felt they were true. Regardless, there wasn’t any reason for this man to lie that was apparent. It was adorable and sweet to them just how curious Kennedy seemed to be about their past life. He was always attentive though, caring constantly about their lives and feelings.

“So, do they look like him?” Kennedy asked.

“A bit yes. Merrik had really long hair, down to his waist and his eyes were blue rather than grey. He was also a bit shorter and he didn’t dress like them of course. The fashion in his home world isn’t exactly modern.”

“Now I’m going to have to draw him.” Teague let out a little growl and Lachlan sighed, the sounds drawing Kennedy’s attention. “What?”

“They’re jealous.” Warrick chuckled.

“Why?” Kennedy asked. “It’s you two.”

“Not really.” Teague answered.

“He’s who we were and…” Lachlan sighed. “How childish of us, Teague.”

“I know, but we can’t help it.”

Kennedy smiled and hugged both of them. “Don’t be silly, I love who you are now, it’s just the past you sounds so interesting and the more Warrick describes him, the more I can see him in you two. I can’t wait to meet Drake, I bet he has even more stories.”

“I suppose we could go if you’d guide us Warrick.”

“Of course,when?”

“Do you have any books on the world you’d be taking us to?”

“You’d like to read up on everything there first?”

“Yes.”

“Understandable, just a moment.” Warrick got up, coming back some time later with two books. “That’s all you really need to know. You’re welcome to read them here, but I can give you directions to a good hotel if you’d like. I can’t imagine you three are going to drive all the way home just to drive back when you finish two books.”

“Would we be an imposition here?” Kennedy asked.

“Not at all.”

Kennedy looked at his mates who seemed to speak wordlessly to each other before saying, “We will stay here, it seems Kennedy would be more comfortable. Besides, we can each read one so most likely we’ll rip through these two books before tomorrow even comes.”

Kennedy asked for some paper and a pencil and got to sketching a picture of Merrik. He did his best to capture both Lachlan and Teague’s temperaments in his face, giving him an air of authority, but making his eyes twinkle with mischievousness. “Warrick, can you describe the kind of clothes Merrik wore?” He asked as he drew in a long braid.

“Think fantasy mage.”

Kennedy nodded, drawing everything from his boots and pants to a loose shirt and even a cloak. He wanted to give the picture more life so drew magic swirling around him. Just looking at his picture, it was hard to believe the man he had created could have turned on his best friend. “So, what do you think?” He gave the picture to Warrick.

“Amazing, you’re incredibly talented and you’ve captured him perfectly.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you’re an amazing artist.”

“Well you described him well and I just put aspects of both of my mates in him.” At breakfast the next morning Lachlan and Teague announced they had read up on the place and felt prepared to take Kennedy there.

“Wonderful.” Warrick answered then Lachlan added, “Do we need to warn anybody we’re coming?”

“Let’s keep it a surprise. I assure you I can handle the situation when we get there. I think he’ll honestly be happy. The only reason he tried to destroy his soul is he didn’t know the extent his old friend had dabbled into dark magic and didn’t want him coming back to life still corrupted.” Teague nodded and soon they were locking up Warrick’s home and following him. “We don’t have to walk far. I’ve made a special portal.”

“A portal?” Kennedy looked between his two mates. “There are portals?”

“It would seem so.” Lachlan replied and both he and Teague tightened their grips on his hands.

“You two have nothing to fear.” Warrick said. “It’s perfectly stable and safe. I wouldn’t ask you to go through anything I wouldn’t go through first.”

“I hope we’re not coming off as rude.” Teague replied.

“Not at all, I understand your need to protect him.” They followed him down a path behind his home and into a little wooded area. It was beautiful, everything was strangely in bloom and it took Kennedy a moment to realize it must be Warrick’s magic at work. His eyes were then drawn to the circle of white stones. Warrick stepped in first to show them it was safe and they soon followed, Lachlan and Teague moving so he was pressed between them. “Remember to breathe you three and since this is your first time traveling between worlds, you might throw up on the other side.”

Lachlan and Teague nodded and soon they were all pulled through. They managed not to spill their stomachs but Kennedy had to admit to himself he was certainly nauseous. Lachlan lifted him, Teague whining that he missed the chance to carry him first. Kennedy smiled, the adorable look on his face causing the wolf’s heart to dance, mostly forgetting his brief moment of jealously. Sharing was sometimes hard but Kennedy was worth it, he was worth anything. Both Lachlan and Teague felt confident in this place, feeling like they could take on anything they had read about should trouble arise.

“Everything’s so beautiful.” Kennedy itched to draw the environment. It was so wild and untamed, alive in a different way than the city. “Did Merrik ever visit these woods?”

“All the time, he and Drake collected ingredients, hunted, and hiked together. You would swear they were brothers. In a way, I believe they were soulmates.” He chuckled when they all three gave him questioning looks. “Not like you three. There are different kinds of soulmates. You three are lovers, but he and Drake were like siblings born to different mothers.”

“How do you know so much about souls?” Lachlan asked.

“Believe it or not I’ve spent centuries researching souls. I became curious about what happens when people die. I met Drake and Merrik before their falling out and afterwards, when Drake was sure he had destroyed Merrik, I kept my eyes and ears open, wanting to see if the soul could truly be wiped off the face of the universe. I was amazed that he survived, not just in one person, but two. Not only were you reborn, but you’ve managed to retain that part of Merrik that was kind and generous, that was curious and intelligent and mischievous. It’s fascinating.”

They continued admiring their surroundings, stopping when Kennedy wanted a closer look at something and letting Teague take his turn carrying him. He rubbed his nose against Kennedy’s making him laugh. “I know it’s stupid to be jealous of myself, but I can’t help it sometimes.”

“It’s not stupid.” Lachlan said. “I’ve felt that way when I have to go out and do things and you two get to spend most of the day together. I know logically that Kennedy would never put one of us over the other, but for just a moment I feel left out. Then I come home and he’s so happy to see me it wipes away all of those doubts.”

“You three are irrevocably bound, bodies, souls, and hearts. I can tell that there is nothing that will be able to separate you three.”

When they arrived at Drake’s home Lachlan and Teague finally felt the first stirring from their soul that they knew this place. They still had no memories, but this all felt so much more real now. “What is it?” Warrick asked and Lachlan answered, ” I suppose a soul never forgets a best friend. While I still hold no memories my half of our soul is stirring.”

“Yeah.” Teague said, taking in the outside of Drake’s home.

“Well lets knock and see what meeting Drake does, perhaps you will remember a thing or two.” Warrick knocked and Teague set Kennedy down so he could take both their hands again.

Drake answered, seeming surprised. “It’s been awhile.”

“It has, I’m sorry, I brought some people I feel you’d like to get to know once I explain them.”

 

Final Chapter

“Oh?” He smiled until his eyes rested on Lachlan and Teague, shock and confusion playing across his face as he reached for a sword that wasn’t there. He realized he was unarmed and started to backpedal when Warrick grabbed his arm.

“Easy my friend.” Warrick said.

“They…he…”

Both Lachlan and Teague’s hands tightened around Kennedy’s and he looked at them both. They both looked just as surprised as Drake, their eyes wide as they studied his face. “Guys?” He said gently and they blinked, that moment of revelation gone. They both looked at him, eyes warming, both of them apologizing.

“Drake, let’s go in and sit before you fall down, you’re pale.” Warrick said as he gently pushed Drake back into his own home and gestured for the three of them to follow.

They did, all still feeling the confusion that had settled in when their souls recognized one another. Warrick explained everything, how he found them and what they were. A tense silence filled the room until Lachlan spoke. “We don’t remember anything…we’re sorry for what happened though.”

Drake sighed. “He wouldn’t have brought you here if you still had a darkness in your heart…I am glad you’re on a good path…I pray you stick to it this time.”

“I don’t think we could ever go down a dark path, not with a mate like Kennedy.”

Drake nodded. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to be rude to people who don’t deserve it, but I need a little space to think. I’m going to go on a walk…make yourselves at home…Warrick should remember where everything is.”

Drake walked out and Warrick apologized, explaining, “This has to be really hard.”

“We get it, it’s alright.” Teague answered.

“Killing Merrik was probably the hardest thing he’s ever done. Imagine looking into the face of the person you trusted the most and no longer seeing them there.”

“I don’t think either of us could handle it.” Lachlan said, sighing.

“I think it would kill us.” They both rested a hand on one of Kennedy’s knees.

“You know I’d never hurt you two, not on purpose.” Kennedy rested his hands on theirs, hoping they felt reassured. He could see something in their eyes, a bit of pain beneath the shock.

“We know.” They said as one and hugged him.

“Anyway, are you three hungry or thirsty?”

“No.” Lachlan and Teague said then looked at Kennedy.

“Maybe some tea or water if he doesn’t have it?”

“Of course.” He left them in the living room and went into the kitchen.

“How does this make you feel, Kennedy?” Teague asked.

“It doesn’t worry you does it?” Lachlan added.

“Of course not, you two are amazing mates, I couldn’t ask for better. It’s just sad, the look on his face, how he almost looked like he had seen a ghost.”

“Yeah, I hope it’s good we came.”

Warrick was now re-entering the room. “It is good, I think this will be good for all of you.” He handed Kennedy a glass of sweet tea and Kennedy finally moved his hands off theirs, happy Drake actually had some. They waited patiently for their host, honestly surprised when he came back that he hadn’t stayed gone more than about an hour and a half.

“Once again, I’m sorry, you’re new…people now.” He had taken a short pause, still seeming in shock that the soul he divided hadn’t just vanished, but had gone into two beings. “It was rude to walk out, but I truly did need it to be able to deal with this…I don’t think I’ve ever completely stopped mourning my friend. I never wanted to kill him but he gave me no other choice so I did the hard thing for the sake of the many who live here.”

“We get that, truly.” Lachlan said.

Drake swallowed. “So, um, you found love in this life…Merrick never had any luck…”

“Kennedy means the world to us.”

Drake offered his hand and Kennedy shook it. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s good to meet you too.”

“The two that Merrik’s soul chose as its vessels are Lachlan and Teague. Lachlan is a vampire and Teague a werewolf. Kennedy is also a vampire.” Warrick explained.

“I see.” Drake replied, shaking their hands. “Do you remember me?”

“It’s more an impression.” Lachlan answered then looked to Teague. “It’s almost like…”

“A familiar scent.” Teague finished. “Like even though we don’t know you, it’s still there.”

Drake nodded as he finally took a seat. “What do you three do then?”

“We hunt down and kill beings who harm others.” Teague answered. “That’s how we met Kennedy.”

“He had been forcefully changed into a vampire.” Lachlan said as he placed a hand on Kennedy’s shoulder. “He nearly starved himself into a blood lust, unaware of what was happening to him.”

“I didn’t even know creatures like them existed until then. They saved me and fed me, gave me a home.” Kennedy smiled at him and both Lachlan and Teague felt jealousy rear its head, but managed to push it down. “I know you’re worried, but they’re both incredibly kind and loving. I hope you can get to know each other again, I hope you can learn to trust them.”

“I can, your work sounds honorable and as I said, you share a soul with my old friend but you’ve lived a different life now, obviously have made different choices and I think it will help me finally find true peace if I can form some sort of relationship with you guys. Though, any crazy could have written you three, luring you into a trap, you’d really follow a letter?”

“We were cautious, but we’ve been so curious about how we came to be.”

Drake nodded. “Yeah, I doubt you’ve met anybody like you.” There was still a hint of awkward tension in the air, but they were in a situation that would take time to get truly comfortable.

“No, we were afraid to bring our mate, but we were also afraid to leave him behind. It’s also just hard to be away from him.”

“Is your world very dangerous?”

“In our line of work you get on the bad side of some nasty people. I doubt anybody is stupid enough to try anything, but Kennedy’s life isn’t something to gamble on.”

Drake nodded. “And you Kennedy, what do you do?”

“I’m an art student, I have a couple of years left at university actually. Some people have already asked me to do commissions for them. These two want me to get my work out there, so we’ll see how things go.”

“He’s incredibly talented.” Warrick said. “He drew a perfect likeness of Merrik.”

“If you would like I can take all three of you to places he and I used to frequent, perhaps you’ll find some inspiration while we’re out.” Drake offered.

“I might have to get me another sketch book. I left mine back in our world, but we’d love too.” He looked between his mates.

“Of course love.” Lachlan said.

“Whatever you want.” Teague added.

“Besides we want to know more, maybe even trigger some memories.” Lachlan said. “And if you don’t mind, we would appreciate it if you would let us see anything of Merrik’s.”

“Yeah…I’m sure I still have some things of his. Let’s work on getting Kennedy a sketch book first. An artist shouldn’t be without his tools.” He walked into another room, coming back with one. “I thought one was left here awhile back.” He said then also handed him a pen. “I once had a noble family stay with me, one of their children left it. It’s been here at least a year so I don’t think they’ll want it back.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you four feel ready to go? Hungry, thirsty?” They established all were ready to travel around so they went out back to the horses Drake owned. He got them all situated and they started on their way. So many memories were stirring up for Drake, it was painful but he really did want to remember the good times over the bad at the end.

He took them to a place where he and Merrik would gather plants for Merrik’s experiments. Kennedy took to drawing one of the plants, a beautiful purple flower with a yellow and red center. He had never seen anything like it. He reached out to touch it and was startled when Lachlan grabbed his hand and Teague pulled him back a little. “What?”

“Are you alright? You didn’t touch it before did you?” They both looked him over, concerned.

“No, I didn’t. Hey, what’s wrong?”

His mates looked at each other and then back at him, confused. “We don’t know.” Lachlan said.

“They’re toxic.” Drake said as he crouched down to look at the flower. “There is an oil on the petals that seeps into the skin. Merrik found that out the hard way. It nearly killed him.” He stood. “You remember.”

“Not a memory as such.” Teague replied.

“More an impression.” Lachlan added.

Teague nodded. “It was like something in us was giving off a warning.”

“Well thankfully for Kennedy you did. I’d hate for his first trip here to be so miserable.”

“It would have been my fault. I’m not from here so I shouldn’t have let my curiosity get the better of me without asking.”

“I’ll try to make sure to disclose more of that sort of information. I’m not accustomed to being with people not from here.” They moved on, taking in as much as they could until night had them returning to Drake’s home. Warrick made dinner leaving Lachlan, Teague and Kennedy sitting in the living room together while Drake tried to find the photos of them he still had. When he found the album he brought it out, his heart feeling a little heavy already. He would give anything to go back in time and keep his best friend from finding that book.

“This was you two.” He handed the album to Kennedy since he was in the middle.

Kennedy smiled. “Wow, Warrick wasn’t lying. He looks so mischievous.” He let his finger brush over the picture. He then let his eyes drift to Drake who was standing next to him. “Why do you look so irritated?”

Drake sighed. “Well, it was our first outing together and he may have gotten us into a bit of trouble. All he could do was laugh. At least he go the data he wanted.”

“He really is a perfect mix of you two.” Kennedy said to Lachlan and Teague as he turned the page. “What’s this?”

“We were tanning hides.” He reached over and flipped to another page, tapping it. “He made those boots.”

“Wow, they look nice. I bet because of it my mates would be naturals if they tried.”

“The soul does keep a lot with it.” Warrick noted.

“I’ve always known the soul was amazing but this…really makes you come to terms with how much we probably don’t even know about souls.” Drake said.

They spent their days continuing to go through things, discussing the past and how they spent their lives currently. Drake found it truly helping him as he grew closer to Kennedy, Lachlan and Teague. He had to destroy his friend, but at least he knew, in the end, he really did help him. His old friend was free of the evil that over took his heart, was living a happy life and had obviously found true, meaningful love this time around. It had all turned out as good as it possibly could have and Drake looked forward to the days to come for the first time since his old friend departed from his world.

~ The End

Derrick & Mae

Chapter One

Derrick groaned as he lay there in the alley, his entire being a universe of pain. He clenched his stomach, wondering if his ribs were broken. He didn’t fight the waves of agony, he let them come, he deserved it. Sorrow washed over him and he curled up there, shivering and crying like the pathetic weakling he was. He heard the sound of footsteps and wondered if the men who had attacked him had returned to further punish him. He wouldn’t resist them, between the alcohol and his shame, he wanted to hurt. “Oh my god, are you alright?” The voice was soft, the tone gentle and warm. He barely manged to turn his head, his eyes colliding with those of a woman, those hazel orbs sparkling with concern and shock. “Who did this?” She asked as she reached out to brush his hair from his face.

“Go away.” He said, his voice hoarse.

“You don’t mean that.” She gently pulled him into a sitting position. “Let me help you.”

“No, just leave me.” He couldn’t have another beautiful woman near him, not after what had happened. She would get hurt too. “Just go, I’m fine.” He pushed her hands away and then started slowly to his feet. He stumbled and she grabbed him, pulling his arm over her shoulders. “Are you stupid or something, you need to leave me here.”

“Hush, no more of that. You can’t just lay out here, it’s getting cold and it’s going to rain.”

“Who cares.”

“I do.” She pulled him out of the alley and in his half drunk, beaten state he couldn’t resist her. “I’m Mae, what’s your name?”

“It doesn’t matter.” His legs gave out and she pulled him back up.

“Hey, no passing out until I get you in my car, okay?”

Her words made him determined to get there so he managed to walk with her aid the rest of the way. He still felt no better than the garbage people tossed in the dump, but this was another kind, incredibly beautiful woman and he was going to follow a simple request, especially since she was so insistent on helping him. He was surprised when she even took the time to strap him in. “Is it comfortable?”

“It’s fine.” Sometimes her belt locked on people pretty tight so she hoped he would have told her if it was hurting him. She was beyond grateful she actually had her car today. She had only brought it because the weather threatened hail today. It hadn’t come, but it turned out she needed her car anyway. Next thing he knew she was unbuckling him. “Where are we?” He asked and she answered, “The hospital.”

“I’m half vampire, I’ll be okay.”

“I don’t care what you are. I’m going to get you sobered up and tend to you.”

“You really shouldn’t help me. I don’t deserve it.”

“Everybody deserves care when they are hurt. I firmly believe that.”

Derrick had never known someone so stubborn. Her eyes were filled with compassion and determination and he had a feeling that if he refused to cooperate, she would drag him. The security guard at the front looked a little concerned when she walked in with him and she gave him a smile that told him everything was fine. “Don’t we have to fill out paperwork first?” He asked.

“I will once I have you in a room.” She said.

“Mae?” One of the emergency doctors said when he came out and saw her with Derrick. “Whoa, what happened?”

“I have no idea, but can you get a room set up for me?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you, Reed.”

Derrick was a little surprised at how smoothly that had gone and couldn’t resist asking, “What are you some kind of super hero?”

She laughed. “I’m a nurse, I work here.”

He couldn’t understand why the world would send a nurse his way. He didn’t deserve such care at all and even as drunk as he was all he could think about was repaying her somehow for wasting her time on a man like him, a man who hadn’t been there for someone else. Reed had a room ready quickly so she took him in and helped him lay down. “Please don’t waste supplies on me.” He tried again, but she just left and came back with paperwork.

“So, what’s your full name?”

“Derrick Rankin.” He answered, deciding he may as well just give her the information she wanted. He could tell she was stubborn enough to keep him in here all evening if that’s what it took.

“Age?”

“Thirty-three.”

She smiled. “Thank you for not being mysterious. A lot of vampires like to get cute when you ask that.”

“I know my match when I’ve met it. I’ll answer you honestly.”

“Still, I appreciate it. So, since you’re a half vampire, I’m guessing no allergies?” He shook his head. “No medical conditions I should know about?”

“No.”

“Insurance?”

“Don’t have it.”

“How about your address and phone number?” He rattled them off for her and she quickly wrote it down. “Okay. Now, how about you tell me what happened.”

“I was attacked.”

“By who?”

He shrugged. “Just some guys, I didn’t catch their names or really see their faces.”

“Should I call the cops?”

“No, don’t bother, there’s no point. I’m already healing and they’re probably long gone.”

She frowned and he looked away from her. He didn’t want her pity. “How much have you had to drink?” He shrugged and she sat the clipboard down and reached over, gently grabbing his chin and turning his head so he was looking into her eyes. “It’s okay, I won’t judge. You have a reason, especially when you’re drunk, banged up and didn’t want me helping you.” She gave him a warm smile that lit up her face and made his heart stutter. “Just a few more questions okay and then I’ll let Reed look you over while I clean your wounds.”

“They’re pretty much healed.”

“Then I’ll clean up the blood and make sure you make it home.”

“I promise you, you shouldn’t care so much about me.”

“You can say that to me as much as you like, but I’m going to care anyway. Something terrible has obviously happened to you. I’m so sorry for whatever it is, but you’re obviously a good man to let it burden you this much. Whatever happened, you deserve forgiveness, I’m sure of it.” He somehow managed to move his face in such a way that made him look even sadder. She went back to asking him the questions on the sheet, wishing he’d talk to her about whatever was burdening his heart. When she called Reed in she left briefly to get what she needed to clean the blood off of him. His body had almost completely healed itself, but she was looking for anything to keep him there longer.

“Nothing seems broken and it looks like any bruises or abrasions you had healed up nicely, not that I’m surprised.” Reed said as he finished his examination.

“See? I told you I’d be fine.”

“Physically maybe.” Mae said as she finished cleaning his face.

Reed sighed. “Well, you can go home if you feel up to it or you can spend the night here.”

Derrick waved him off. “I’m sure there’s someone else who needs this room.” He hopped down off the table and nearly fell over, but Mae grabbed onto him, steadying him.

“Still drunk.” She said.

“You should take him home, Mae.”

“I can make it on my own.” Derrick protested. He didn’t want to further burden her.

“Hush now, let me help you, Derrick.” Her sincerity and compassion were almost too much for him to bear. Why did he have to meet her? He couldn’t help but think of what might have happened if those men had returned while she was aiding him. What if they had attacked her? What if they had done worse? “Thanks Reed, really. I’ll get him home and then I’m going to crash.”

“No problem, just be careful, give Arges my love.”

“Who is Arges?” Derrick asked as he buckled his seat belt once they were back in her car.

“My dog”

“Any kind or a mix?”

“He’s a newfoundland, poor thing only has one eye. He was like that when I adopted him.”

“You’re a nurse, you helped and you have a rescue for a dog, maybe you are a super hero.”

“I try, the world is so ugly and full of hurting people. I want to help as many as I can. Anyway, you need to tell me how to get to where you live.” He gave her directions then sat there silently. Only speaking when they pulled up and she said, “I’m going to help you in.”

“Mae.”

“I’m helping you in Derrick then I promise I’m out of your hair for the evening.”

“Just for the evening?”

Her look turned more meaningful as she said, “You’ve obviously been through something terrible or caused someone else harm that you cared about deeply. I work in a hospital, you kind of get a feel for these things. You obviously push away anybody that attempts to care for you and I’m that stubborn, annoying, pest that’s not going to stop until you open up and realize you’re worth something, regardless of whatever happened.”

He huffed. “Maybe I’ll just lock the doors.”

“You can try, but I just happen to know a few cops and I bet they’d let me in if I told them how scared I was for you.”

“You’d ask cops to break in?”

“Most definitely.”

She slipped out of her seat belt and pushed her door open, getting out and hurrying over to his side when he started to get out on his own. “I can walk.”

“Oh hush, you’re obviously still unsteady.” She helped him to his feet and pulled his arm over her shoulders. “Keys?” He reached into his left pocket and handed them to her.

He hadn’t noticed until now just how strong she was for a human and he wondered if it had to do with being a nurse. He was sure she had had to help lift at least a few heavy people. She got the front door unlocked and he pointed to the stairs. “My room’s up there.”

“Okay, take it slow.”

“Bossy.”

She laughed. “Thank you.”

She helped him to his room then fetched him a glass of water. She may not live there, but cups and the sink generally were easy to find so she went down with confidence and returned with a glass of water. “I’ll be heading home now unless you want me to get you anything else.”

“You’ve done more than you should already.”

“Get some good rest okay? I’ll be over tomorrow after work.”

“There’s really no stopping you?”

“Nope.”

“Then get home safe.” She smiled, thinking again about how sweet he obviously was. She left his home and drove to hers, worrying about him even as she fed her dog. She knew she was going to think about him all day tomorrow too but she wouldn’t let it distract her from her patients. As a nurse she couldn’t afford to have her mind elsewhere when she was in the hospital.

Derrick lay there staring at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity that night, his heart aching as he sunk into the mattress and his sorrow. As usual his mind drifted to his loss, to the pain and anguish that plagued his every waking moment. Why hadn’t it been him? Why was he still even alive? Could he even die? “Mae would probably just pull me back.” He mumbled to himself. He was surprised that his thoughts had gone straight to her. It was like her warmth and determination had seeped into his subconscious. “Why?” He whispered to himself. “Why didn’t you just leave me?”

“So, how was the patient last night?” Reed asked the next morning when Mae met him in the elevator.

“Fine, I guess. He’s suffering. Thanks for taking care of him for me.”

“It’s no problem.”

“Arges says hi, by the way.”

Reed chuckled. “What a good boy. Ezekiel wanted me to ask you if you’d like to come and have dinner with us some time this week. You can bring the big ball of fluff, I’ll even get him a bone.”

“Are you two going to make me that roast?”

“Sure.”

“Alright, assuming everything goes okay with Derrick, maybe I could bring him too?”

“Oh I see, you save a guy and now you’re in love.”

She punched Reed’s shoulder, causing him to laugh. “Oh hush, I’m just worried about him.”

“Well be careful, he was drunk when you brought him in.”

“I know, but I don’t think he’s the violent type.”

“Still, stay safe.”

 

Chapter Two

“I will.” While her thoughts did venture off to Derrick throughout her day at the hospital she stayed focused when she needed to and went about her day as normal as you could consider a day in the hospital. After work she jogged home like she always did then immediately got in her car to have dinner with Derrick. She wondered how well he looked after himself since most depressed people skipped meals far too frequently. When she arrived and knocked on his door it startled him out of a nap he had been taking. He knew who it was instantly since he hadn’t ordered anything and nobody came to visit him.

“Mae.” There was no indication from his tone if he was happy or not to see her.

“I thought I’d have dinner with you.”

“Why?”

“I said I was going to be a pest didn’t I?”

“That you did, well, I’m not sure what I have to eat.”

“Want to go out or order something then?”

“I guess we could eat somewhere.”

“Sweet Tomatoes?”

“What?”

“It’s the name of a place I was suggesting. They have incredibly good and healthy food.”

“Can’t we just get burgers or something?”

“We could, but you look like you need something healthier.” She looked him over. “That’s the shirt you wore yesterday.”

He sighed. “I know.”

“Alright, that’s it, inside.”

“What?”

“Come on, you’re taking a shower and changing clothes.” She took his hand and pulled him upstairs, leaving him too surprised to say anything until they were standing in his room and she was opening his chest of drawers.

“Hey, wait, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”

“If that were true you would be half dead in alleys.” She pulled out underwear and socks then a clean t-shirt and a pair of jeans. She turned to him and gave him the clothes, giving him a look that said she wouldn’t be argued with. “Now, go bathe or I’ll undress and wash you myself.” She said with a smile. “Besides, a shower will make you feel better.”

He made a face, one of confusion and a hint of frustration, but he did as he was told, wondering what she’d do in his home while he was busy showering. She seemed to not be shy about going where she pleased. She waited until the water was running to try and figure out where he kept his sheets. Healthy, happy people sometimes wouldn’t change their sheets, depressed people were much worse about it and she didn’t want him laying in dead skin cells and other grossness at night. Not more than the average person at least. She found some stuffed into a closet them seemed clean so she changed his sheets and took his blanket down to the washing machine. Both the washer and dryer were empty so she just stuffed it in, threw a laundry fling into the washer and let it run.

She then went and checked his kitchen. He had a stack of dirty plates in the sink so she popped open the dish washer and put them in, found the soap under the sink and poured some in. She checked his fridge and frowned at how empty it was. She wondered what he had been surviving off of. Maybe he had just made whatever until he had run out of ingredients. There was a jug of expired milk that she disposed of and she made a mental note to take him food shopping. She went into the living room and picked up a little bit and noticed that one of the photos had been turned face down. She lifted it up, surprised to see Derrick smiling back at her and standing next to him a beautiful young woman. He looked so happy, a stark contrast to the way he was now and she was sure the woman had something to do with his depression. She let out a little sigh as she propped it up then decided to go and check on him before she cleaned his entire house. She tapped on his bathroom door and called out, “Are you okay in there?”

“I’m fine.” Derrick called back as he stood there with his forehead pressed against the shower wall and stared down at the water swirling around the drain. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

“You’ll call me if you need me right?”

“Yeah, just give me a minute. You’re not getting into trouble out there are you?”

“Probably.” She called back and he could hear the laughter in her voice. It was light and warm, something it felt like he hadn’t had in an eternity. It caused his heart to skip a beat and he suddenly felt embarrassment creeping in. He knew his house was a mess and she seemed like the type of person to clean it up.

Thinking of this he decided to stop procrastinating in the shower. He washed himself thoroughly then grabbed a towel to dry off. Once dry he dried the floor then dressed himself so they could get going. He noticed right away his blanket was gone and a new sheet was snugly on his mattress. He found her in his living room. “You didn’t have to clean.”

“I know, but you needed it. Your blanket is in the washer if you were wondering.”

“Thanks I guess, but let’s go.”

“Okay.” They went out to her car where he tried again. “Are you sure we can’t get burgers?”

“You’re eating healthy tonight. Maybe tomorrow because yes I’m coming back.”

He nodded, not wanting to argue with her. He wanted to chase her away, but he couldn’t be cruel to her. He followed her outside and into her car, finding himself staring out the passenger window once he was buckled up and she was pulling out. “So, how was worked today?” He finally asked.

“It was good, thank you for asking. How about your day?”

He shrugged. “Same as always. I just…” he sighed, “I just did nothing.”

He sounded so tired and distant and she wound up reaching over and taking his hand. “It’s okay, Derrick, one step at a time.”

“More like ten with you.”

She laughed. “Okay, ten steps at a time then. Either way, I’m going to help you, starting by getting you healthier. You aren’t eating right or sleeping right and going out and getting drunk and beaten isn’t good for you no matter what species you are.”

She let her thumb brush lightly over his skin and he hated to admit the contact felt good, that it helped ease a little of his suffering. He swallowed, still refusing to look at her. He couldn’t cry in front of her, she would just want to get closer and he was terrified of the implications.

When they had their food it proved to not be as terrible as he was expecting. If she was going to make him eat better he was glad some places could actually make that good. “We’re going shopping after this. I saw the inside of your fridge and you need food at home since I can’t come over for every meal. Plus, always eating out with you would be unrealistic.”

“Such a little snoop.” He was surprised at himself for trying to tease her and almost blushed over it. “I wont have time to snoop if you shower daily before I get there.”

“True, I guess that’s one way to make a man keep hygienic.” True to her word the next stop was the grocery store where she specifically bought certain things for recipes she knew by heart so she could cook for him on other nights.

They took the groceries back to his place and put them away, not wanting any of the cold food to spoil. Once everything was put away, Mae asked, “Want to go to the park or something?”

“Not really.”

“Come on, we can go to my place and get Arges.”

He sighed. “I…I don’t know.”

“Come on, please? For me?”

His heart stuttered at the sweet smile she gave him and he felt his face begin to warm. What was wrong with him? She was so hard to say no to. “What would we be doing?”

“Just walking and talking. It’ll be good for you to get out and breathe some fresh air.”

“Alright, of you really want me to.”

“I do. Also, Reed invited Arges and I to dinner this week, want to come?”

He chuckled. “Ten steps at a time like always…sure.” They went out to the car then drove to her place.

Arges was excited to see her and she hugged him. “I missed you buddy!” She stood, finding his leash. “Come on handsome.” Derrick blushed again despite the fact she was obviously talking to her dog. The park wasn’t far so it didn’t take them long to drive over. Mae would have just jogged with Arges, but she wasn’t sure how Derrick would have felt about that and he was already letting her push him quite a bit.

“Are you sure they want me there?” Derrick asked as they walked along a path.

“Yep, I already told them I might invite you.”

“You really seem to have everything covered.”

“Of course, I want to give you a chance to heal.”

He huffed out an unemotional laugh. “How do you know I need healing? Maybe I’m just some loser.”

“I don’t believe that. I can see it in your eyes, how sad and scared you are.”

“Maybe I deserve it.”

Mae reached over and took his hand, surprising him. “Please don’t say things like that, no one deserves to feel pain.” He started to pull away, but she tightened her hold a little.

“Mae.”

“Just let me, you need it, okay?” She smiled warmly up at him and for the first time in what seemed like forever, he felt butterflies.

“Okay, maybe just for awhile.” In truth he didn’t want to let go, he knew he needed her, even if it terrified him. It was hard to pull away from her. He began to wonder what she would think of his failure, of what he had done in retaliation, of how far he had fallen.

He knew she was eventually going to pry into that and he would tell her when that time came. There was no sense hiding it, she needed to know who she was around and maybe when she knew, she’d have the sense to move on and leave him behind. It would hurt, he was already growing attached, but he still felt like he deserved to be punished for eternity for failing his wife. She kept his hand the entire walk, not having to worry much about Arges since he was such a good dog. When Mae dropped him off she didn’t drive away until he was inside which almost made him chuckle. He was half vampire and this woman was merely a human but she was making sure he got safely in the house before she left.

Derrick moved his blanket into the dryer then went ahead and took a shower once he was inside so he wouldn’t get in trouble tomorrow. She had done far too much for him today and he wouldn’t have that again. Mae on the other hand kept thinking about that picture and wished she would have asked at the park. She guessed she was trying to give him a little more time before she tried tugging that out of him. She didn’t want him to pull away from her any harder than he already was.

 

Chapter Three

Derrick ‘s night was restless, he tossed and turned as his thoughts jumbled together. He hadn’t had a drink since meeting Mae so it was hard for him to get to sleep. His negative, depressed thoughts were countered by those of Mae, of her smile, of the warmth she offered, of her stubborness that allowed her to work her way through the wall he had erected around his heart. He knew he should run away, should lock her out, but a part of him wanted more. He let out a sigh of frustration and grabbed his pillow and placed it over his head. He needed to sleep so she wouldn’t be worried. He didn’t realize he had fallen asleep until he woke the next morning to sunlight seeping through his window.

He got up, feeling a little groggy, but at least willing to face the day. He pulled on a pair of sweats and headed into the kitchen, knowing that even if he didn’t want to, he should eat. He put on a pot of coffee then pulled out the bacon and eggs she had bought for him. Mae was helping in pediatrics today, drawing blood and changing seats or taking some of the children for x-rays or CAT scans. There were a few infants being treated for addiction that she took the time to comfort. This was one of the more heartbreaking parts of her job, but she wouldn’t change it for the world.

She wondered how Derrick was this morning, if he had gone of drinking when he was away from her or if he was still asleep. She sent a text to Reed asking him if he could get Derrick’s number for her out of his file so she could check on him. He agreed, teasing her a little by asking when they were getting married and when they would like to come over for dinner. She smiled as she thought of the park and holding his hand, knowing that if Reed had seen that, she would have never heard the end of it. She also suggested they have dinner Saturday since it would give her more time to work with Derrick.

Reed let her know they were good for that day and they quit messaging so she could check on Derrick. She’d try to text him first since she was still working. “Hey, This is Mae Stuart, the annoying nurse. I just wanted to make sure you were alright. Call me if you need to. If I can’t answer I’ll call back when I can. I’m hoping you’re giving up drinking and I know sometimes when urges come it helps to have someone to talk to so you’re not only thinking about your addiction.” She slid her phone in her pocket then went back to her duties around the hospital. There seemed to always be something to do and she didn’t want to stand idly by too long, especially if she needed to accept a call from him today.

Derrick was just watching television, his mind blank and not really consuming what his eye saw. His phone going off pulled him back out of his head. He was surprised to get a text at all but then saw it was from Mae. He liked finally knowing her last name, “Stuart”. He couldn’t help but think of the adorable little mouse Stuart Little. As much as he knew she deserved better thinking she was cute wasn’t something he had any control over. He decided to go ahead and let her know he was fine. “I’m just watching TV.” He resisted the urge to tell her she didn’t have to check in, knowing it might only annoy her and he found himself deeply caring if she was upset.

When Derrick realized Mae’s work day was drawing to an end, he made himself get up and check that he looked presentable. He brushed out his hair, realizing he needed a haircut and even shaved. He felt nervousness creeping in, his heart thumping quickly in his chest as he waited. When he saw her pull up, his heart stuttered and he had to force himself not to meet her at the door. He could see she had Arges and the dog happily followed her to the front porch. When she knocked, he took a deep, steadying breath before going and answering. “Hey, you’re up.” She said with that beautiful, warm smile.

“Yeah, I have been since this morning.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Come in.” He moved out of the way and she let laughed softly as she moved past him and Arges immediately went to investigate. “How was your day?”

“Good, hard. I had to work pediatrics today.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, the kids are always so enthusiastic even when they’re sick. How was your day?” He shrugged and she moved closer and reached up, brushing his hair away from his face. “Did you eat today?”

“Yeah, I knew you’d fuss.” She laughed again and it had his heart tripping over itself. “So what are we doing tonight?”

“I was thinking maybe pizza and a movie?”

“Okay.”

She took his hand, causing goosebumps to cover his skin. “You can say no, it won’t hurt my feelings.”

“No, you’re already here and I…I want you to stay…for dinner and a movie I mean.”

Her smile was once again gentle, even the way she looked at him. She had such a kind, nurturing nature. “Great, where do you like to order pizza from?”

“Papa Johns.”

“What do you normally get?”

“Extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage.”

“That’s perfect for me too.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I normally like mushrooms too but I can live without mushrooms.”

“We can put mushrooms on it.” She giggled and his heart stuttered again

“Okay, I’ll order one.”

“You’ve spent too much money on me already, let me.” Derrick insisted so she let him order while she browsed different streaming services on her phone.

When he was done she asked, “So how do you watch movies?”

“Netflix, Hulu, the normal stuff.”

“Want to rewatch Police Academy?”

“Police Academy?”

“Are you trying to tell me you haven’t seen it?”

“Possibly.”

“Pretty sure that’s a movie sin.”

“Sorry, do you think the god of movies will smite me?”

She cracked a smile. “I think he’ll give you a pass, but just this once.”

“I’ll try to be better about watching movies then.

Derrick switched on the TV, choosing the Netflix icon and then finding Police Academy. They went ahead and got it started and he was surprised when she sat right next to him rather than at the other end of the couch. “Arges, come boy.” She called and the dog came running and settled at her feet. His heart was beating a million miles an hour with her this close and for the first time since their meeting, he noticed just how sweet her scent really was. It was shocking the way his senses seemed to focus on her and he felt heat moving up his neck with embarrassment and shame. Did he even have the right to desire her? To want to selfishly keep her close to him?

He didn’t know those answers so he was glad she wasn’t giving him much of a choice so the guilt wouldn’t overwhelm him. He ended up enjoying the movie, along with the entire evening, but the next night when she came over Mae decided it was time to bring up the picture, to get to the bottom of his pain. “So Derrick, when I was waiting for you to shower the other day I saw that picture on your mantel…who is that?” His heart sank a little in his chest when just moments ago she had him smiling. She hated to see the pain in his face but this was something they needed to discuss.

“She…was my wife.”

“Was?”

He looked away but kept talking. He had told himself he would tell her the truth if it came up and he’d stick to that. “She died a few years ago…some man broke into our home to rob us. He hadn’t known she was still inside, her plans had gotten canceled that day so she ended up home and he killed her…”

“Oh Derrick…I…I’m so sorry.”

He sighed. “And while the topics brought up you should know the other reason why I hate myself.” She hugged him and he let her, feeling he should enjoy it before she was afraid of him. “I tracked him down and I tortured him to punish him for taking her life. I…I had so much hate in my heart. All I could think about was hurting him for taking her away. When I was done dragging him through hell I drained him….I drank his blood until he died…..”

Mae held him a little tighter and he pushed his face in her hair, too scared to look at her. She must be horrified, she must hate him. “I’m so sorry, so…so sorry.” She said softly. “I can’t even begin to imagine what you must have gone through.” She pulled back, taking his face in her hands and gently wiping away the tears he hadn’t even known were there.

“I’m a monster, Mae and a failure.” He choked out.

“Shh, no you’re not. You couldn’t have known what would happen.”

“I killed a man, I…”

She pressed her lips gently into his, making his crying worse and his arms pull her as close as he could. He knew he should push her away, but he needed her. “Hush now okay? It’s alright, no one blames you, I don’t blame you. I have no idea what I would do if the one I loved was killed. I might lose it too.”

“I hate I couldn’t protect her.”

“You can’t be at someones side every second. If you were there, you would have protected her, but you weren’t at the house and it’s nobodies fault besides the man that killed her. He deserved what you did to him. I really do feel that way Derrick, a life for a life. You tortured him, but she must have been so scared. You put him through what he put her through and there’s no shame in that. You’ve never drained anybody else right?”

“No.”

“See, you’re not a monster person or a failure. I think you’re so amazing I feel like I’m falling in love with you Derrick.”

“But…” She gave him another kiss and he hated he was being so emotional. It was so overwhelming talking about what had happened and having her here comforting him, loving him despite the darkness he knew lurked in his soul. “I don’t even know how to be a person anymore.”

“Then we’ll spend every day helping you rediscover what it’s like to live. It’s going to take time and patience, but we’ll get there. Ten steps at a time.”

He let out a little laugh as he wiped the tears from his face. It felt good to get everything out, to have that cathartic release of emotion. “Can you stay here with me tonight?”

“I have Arges at home, but if you want you can come home with me. We have dinner with Reed and Ezekiel tomorrow so it would be easier if we were in the same place.”

 

Final Chapter

“Alright.” Derrick grabbed a bag from under the sink and threw a couple shirts, pajama pants and another pair of jeans inside then they both went over to Mae’s. Feeding him, making sure he had his fill of water then giving him a long walk and treats for being so patient with her visits to Derrick’s. Once her dog was fully taken care of they went to her bedroom.

“If you think you can behave, you can share my bed. I like to go slow, as in you’re really going to upset me if you try to get in my pants.”

“I wouldn’t try anything.” The thought of holding her excited him, he wouldn’t dare ruin the chance to cuddle with her all night.

“Good.” She smiled, happy he seemed okay with that and was glad herself to have someone to sleep with. They both changed, her in the bathroom and him in the living room then joined each other in her bed. He was nervous to pull her close so was relieved when it was Mae who closed the distance between them and laid her head on his chest. “Can you sleep like this or will my head feel too heavy?”

“I’ll sleep better than I have in years like this, please stay as you are Mae.” Shyly he added a question, “May I kiss your head?”

“Mhm, I said no sex, kisses are fine.” He reverently moved to kiss her, taking in her scent as he did it.

“I…I love you Mae.”

She smiled. “I love you too.” She knew it had to be hard for him to say, but she was proud of him for taking that step. She snuggled closer then closed her eyes, allowing herself to drift off.

It took Derrick a little longer to fall asleep. He feared waking up and this being all some cruel, alcohol induced dream. He held her a little tighter, needing the reassurance as he drifted off. The next morning, Mae woke to Derrick spooning her. They had both turned in their sleep, but he had kept her locked to him, his nose pressed into the back of her neck, his warm breath causing goosebumps to crawl over her skin. She tried to move and he let out a little groan as he buried his nose in her hair. She couldn’t help but let out a little giggle and he finally opened his eyes to the sound of her laughter.

He still didn’t let go. “Let me brush my teeth and start breakfast.”

“How can you be ready to move so early?”

“I’ve been getting up early my entire life.”

He couldn’t resist asking even though he felt undeserving. “Just a little while longer.”

“My breath might stink.”

“Your scent is far too wonderful for that to matter.” He sounded so sleepy, but so sincere at the same time. He had her blushing as he tightened his hold a little.

“Alright, a little while longer.” She answered softly. He was once again showing her he wasn’t a monster at all. Just a man in tremendous pain, a man who had done something terrible but just. They laid there for quite some time before she was much more insistent on getting their day started.

Once she came out of the bathroom he asked, “Can I shower?”

“Of course, do you need me to help you figure out things?”

“I’m sure I wont have any trouble, towels under the sink?”

“Yeah.” He got up and hugged her, needing her close again to prove once more he was here.

He did take too long in the shower, wanting to get back to Mae. He blushed when she giggled at how overenthusiastic he was upon coming into the kitchen. “That was fast.” She said. “I barely even had time to start breakfast.”

“I just wanted to be with you.” He ran his fingers through his still damp hair, causing it to spike up in places. “I hope I’m not becoming too clingy.”

“Not at all, it’s actually pretty cute.” She wanted to do everything she could to build up his confidence and lessen his anxiety. Starting a new relationship was probably the biggest step he had taken and she didn’t mind his need to be close to her. “Come here.” She said and he moved closer to her. She took his arms and pulled them around her, making his heart flutter. “There, now I can cook and you can smother me in affection.”

“I’m not in the way?”

“Not at all.”

He smiled, happiness flowing through him as he enjoyed the closeness. He couldn’t get enough of her scent or how good it felt to finally feel like less of a monster. She understood his choices, another being actually understood when he thought he would receive nothing but condemnation for his choices after his wife passed. He was also blessed with a new relationship with an astounding woman way out of his league. She was perfect, he could see that plainly and he was determined to try and become worthy of her and this chance she was giving him. He held her all through making breakfast then gratefully ate with her when it was done.

Mae spent the rest of the day taking him out to different places, wanting him to get out more and breathe in the fresh air. Whatever he needed to live again, she would find a way to provide it. Whether it be a hike through the woods or a therapist, she was willing to give it all. “How are you feeling today?” She asked as they strolled hand in hand through the park.

“Better, happier.” He answered, giving her a warm smile. “I never thought I’d feel that way again. I was drowning before I met you Mae, really and truly drowning. I can never thank you enough for saving me.”

“You saved you, you chose to take those steps.”

“But that’s not true. If not for your stubborness, I think I would have finally given up.”

She stopped and pulled him into a hug when he looked ashamed and he pushed his nose into her hair, just letting her scent take him away. “It’s okay, Derrick, I’m glad I met you when I did.”

“Never leave me, Mae.”

“I won’t, I promise.”

When it came time to head over to Reed’s home she knew they were in for a ton of teasing since Reed had called the relationship before it blossomed, but it would be good natured and she told Derrick just to laugh since he would just be playing. Arges was excited when she let him in the back seat of her car, but when it began to move he laid down like the well behaved dog he was.

“Wow.” Derrick was surprised.

“Yeah, he never gives me much trouble. I can take him anywhere.”

“That’s amazing.”

When they got to Reed’s Derrick was a little surprised when he introduced Ezekiel as his husband. It got a laugh out of Mae that had a blush creeping up his neck. “Did you think he had a thing for me?” She asked as they made themselves at home.

“Well yeah, I mean I was drunk and you two seemed so friendly. I thought Ezekiel was just a friend or something.” Derrick answered, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Don’t worry, it’s not the first time. Mae and I have been good friends for awhile, we even go shopping together sometimes.” Reed said with a smile.

“Still, I apologize for assuming and also for making you take care of me. I won’t be drinking anymore, even if it can’t damage my liver or anything else, I don’t want to worry Mae.”

“A little’s fine, Derrick, just no getting drunk. What if something even worse happened to you.” Mae said.

“Man, I still can’t believe you actually fell for him. I must be some sort of magical matchmaker. Maybe I should test that out next time I’m watching TV.”

“Reed, be good.” Ezekiel said with a chuckle. “You’re going to embarrass him to death.

Dinner with them was over all light spirited and happy. Even though this was the first time he was meeting them Derrick felt like they were already good friends and he was actually looking forward to more dinners over here. They stayed late, to the point Mae was almost nodding off so Reed said, “Make sure you drive Derrick, she’s too tired.”

“I will.” He took her keys and soon they were on the way back to her place to rest for the night.

Mae smiled when he even wanted to carry her inside. “So sweet.” She kissed his cheek and he kissed her lips.

“I want to take care of you too Mae.” As he held her that night he actually felt blissful. He’d never forget his wife, but he had a new start with an amazing woman, a new place, new friends and a better outlook in general. He hoped that if his wife knew what he was still up to in this world she would be happy for him and she herself was happy where ever she had ended up.

~ The End

Julian & Lucius 4

Chapter One

“Do we really have to do this, I mean I have other family we could see.” Julian said as he walked side by side with Lucius, their fingers laced together.

“You said anything.” Lucius replied with a warm smile.

“Yeah, but I didn’t think you would pick my parents.”

“I’m sure your mother misses you.”

“It’s not my mother I’m worried about.” He sighed, running his fingers through his hair. “You know I could…”

“Don’t you dare use one of your tears to get out of this, you know I’d be pissed when you get back. I’ll cut you off if you do.”

Julian chuckled. “You wish you could.” He leaned in and pressed a kiss to Lucius’s cheek, grinning at how his heart raced. “See, that’s all it takes and you’re jello.”

“Shut up jerk, you can’t seduce your way out of this. I want at least your mother to meet me.”

“Alright, alright, just don’t be surprised if my dad says something stupid.”

“You know I’ll be fine. I’m one of those beings that I have to truly care about your opinion for it to bother me. Unless of course they are rude to you, then I’ll set them straight.”

“My entire pack sucks except my mother. Sometimes I feel it’s a shame wolves mate for life. She deserves better than that pack.” Lucius took his hand in hopes it would make his wolf feel better. It did, Julian held on tightly to his mate, hoping this all went at least okay. He knew good was completely out of the question but he could dream of a not wholly terrible visit. He took comfort in the fact his mate truly had the thickest skin of anybody he had ever known. It had been hard to even get into his heart when they first found each other so he knew Lucius really could take whatever his father did.

Julian became more tense as they drew closer to his parents home, every muscles was wound tight and ready in case he had to jump to his mate’s defense. He wasn’t surprised to find a couple of his father’s pack members wrestling on the front lawn and they both stopped as soon as they noticed him. The older of the two shoved the other one off of him and they both stood, dusting themselves of and meeting them as they crossed the yard. “Well, well, if it isn’t little Julian.” His eyes moved to Lucius. “And who is this?”

Julian moved in between them so the other wolf had no choice but to look into his eyes. “He’s my mate, I would move back if I were you.” The wolf growled, but Julian held his gaze, not intimidated in the least. “How about you tell me if my mom’s inside.”

The wolf huffed. “Yeah, making lunch. I’m sure she’s excited to see her wayward, homo son and his freak vampire lover.” Julian grabbed him by the throat and slammed him onto the ground to Lucius’s surprise. “You forget who you talk to, I might not spend every moment humping every female that looks at me sideways as some proof of manhood, but you can bet your ass I’ll send you into a dimension so dark not even your night vision will save you.”

“Julian, that’s enough, you made your point baby.” Lucius said as he rested a hand on Julian’s back. “Let’s just go in an see your mother.”

“You’re lucky today, Terry, if it wasn’t for him I would have made you apologize.”

The wolf didn’t even dare to growl as Julian let him go roughly and began walking with his mate inside. Julian’s father was sitting on the couch when they walked in. “Julian.”

“Father.”

“This is your mate?”

“Yes, his name is Lucius.” The wolf on the couch looked him over then went back to the magazine he had been reading so Julian guided his mate into the kitchen to see the one wolf around worth seeing. She was wiping off her hands when they entered so she wouldn’t get anything on them.

“Julian.” She said happily, a far different demeanor than everyone else.

“Hey mom.” He held her tightly, wishing deeply he could see her more without seeing the other wolves. She hugged Lucius next which surprised him even though he had heard so many pleasant things about her. “Welcome, I’m so happy he’s finally letting me meet you. I can tell how happy he is when I talk to him.”

“It’s nice to meet you too. I hope you’re well.”

“Very well, especially now. Lunch won’t be long. My name is Xin, in case my son hadn’t told you yet.”

Lucius smiled “I like that name, it’s really pretty.” These wolves had such bad attitudes he wondered how often she heard something nice so he wanted to compliment her and he truly did like her name.

“So, how was the trip?” Xin asked as she went back to cooking.

“Uneventful, but it usually is.” Julian answered.

“Staying out of trouble?”

“Define trouble.” She gave him a look and he cracked a smile. “The only trouble I get into is work related, but other than that, yes, I’m not doing anything illegal. Lucius would try killing me.”

“Try?” Lucius said.

“Yes, try because you and I both know it would be nothing but a tongue lashing.”

“I heard your scuffle outside with Terry.” Xin said.

Julian shrugged. “He was being rude, I just put him in his place.”

“I know you don’t get along with them, but please try not to get into any fights. I talked to your father too, hopefully it won’t get too out of hand. You know how he is and I can see what you’re thinking, I stay because I love him and he loves me, he’s never raised a hand to me.” She smiled lovingly at her son. “I know it’s hard for you, but I’ll try to help keep the peace.”

“Well I love you, I know nobody around here ever hits you..I just…I want you to be happy.”

“I know, you’re the best son a mother could have asked for.” They continued talking to his mother until food was served. His father joined and Julian was grateful no other wolves were coming to eat. It was nice eating his mothers cooking again. He had amazing meals with his mate and Uri, but there just wasn’t anything like eating a meal your mother made. He knew most people felt that way, people that grew up close to their mother anyway. His father was mostly silent as they ate but that was another win. His mother truly must have spoken to him because normally there would already be tension between them. It seemed silence was his way of trying to make things peaceful so Xin would be happy.

“So what is it you do again, Lucius?” Xin asked.

“Solve crimes dealing with the occult and preternatural. There’s generally some sort of magic involved, sometimes ghosts and demons, or shifters running amok.” He glanced at Julian.

“It’s how he met me mom, remember my old job?”

She sighed. “Not until after you had stopped.”

“I know, I know, but that how we met.”

“I can only imagine how that went.”

“He got upset when I pushed him into a clown.” Lucius said.

“Oh, I see.” She gave a laugh.

“What’s that all about anyway?”

Julian grumbled and Xin looked to Julian’s father. “Would you like to tell him, Ivan?”

“It may make our son mad at me all over again.”

“Oh Julian, that was years back, don’t hold a grudge alright?”

Julian sighed, “Just tell it dad. I guess my mate has been asking for the story long enough.”

“I was just trying to have fun with the boy. It was a little after Halloween so everywhere was clearance out costumes and I bought a few scary clown costumes along with one regular one. My Betas and I dressed up as the scary ones and we got another male to be the normal one. For about a week , the wolf with the normal costume would just pop up, in costume where my son was and then eventually we set it up to where one second he saw the nice looking clown and the next he saw the scary one holding a severed head, then of course my Betas joined me. He was never okay with clowns after that.”

“It was terrible and it scarred me for life. I started having nightmares. Anytime I saw one after it was like walking past hell personified.”

Lucius had to clear his throat to keep from laughing at such a dramatic description. “Now I feel really bad.” He finally managed to say. “What would you do if you walked into our room and I was dressed like a clown?”

“Send you through the same tear as last time.”

“Come now son, it wasn’t that bad. They’re just clowns.” Ivan said. “It could have been worse.”

“Worse would have been better. Those wigs and the faces.” He shivered. “I just can’t.”

“And I of course gave Ivan hell for it. Poor Julian was shaking and crying and when Ivan tried to explain to him that it was fake by showing him the masks he nearly hurt himself trying to get away. He was maybe ten at the time.”

“It wasn’t the most fun I ever had.” Julian added. “I guess if anything it taught me to run fast.”

“See, there’s a silver lining.” Ivan said.

“Oh yes, very silver dear.” Xin replied. “Anyway, that’s the clown story. So are you two planning on staying here?”

“If it’s not too much trouble mom, can we use my old room?”

“You know you don’t have to ask baby, that room will always be yours.” She cleared her throat. “Just um you know, keep it down.”

“Come on mom.”

“Well, you are an adult and you’re are mates.”

Julian glanced at his father who was looking at his plate and not saying anything even though Julian could tell he wanted to. “Yeah, alright.”

“Maybe after we eat we can look at some old photos. I’m dying to show your mate how adorable you were when you were little.” He really didn’t want to let her do that, but Julian could tell how happy it would make her and it was a normal thing for a mother to want to do.

“Okay but promise me you wont let him take any home with us. I don’t want his brother teaming up with him to tease me.”

Xin smiled, “I think Julian said you two were twins right?”

“Yes mam, we look basically identical. It’s why I have to wear this collar. Your son can tell us apart but besides him, nobody outside our family can.”

“Have you tried to trick him?”

“My brother tried once, just to see if he could, curiosity gets away with him sometimes, but Julian didn’t fall for it for a second. He should have known, wolves are hard to fool.”

“It’s more than just because I’m a wolf. You two are different, I’ve spent enough time looking at you to know without doubt who is who.”

“Like what?”

“The way you walk when you approach me, your brother doesn’t have that shy hesitation, your speech patterns are different and Uri never loses his temper. You should see him try to cross his arms like he’s irritated, he looks so awkward. Then there’s your scent, even though you’re identical, your scents differ. He even tried wearing some of your clothes, but it didn’t mask his scent and the fact mine wasn’t on him at all.”

Lucius blushed and glanced at Julian’s parents. “So how about we finish eating and I tease you for a bit.”

Julian chuckled. “Awe, but I’m enjoying how embarrassed you are.” Lucius shot him a little glare and Julian leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Alright, I’m sorry, I’ll be good.”

They continued to chat with his parents, mostly with his mother who included Ivan in the conversation when she wanted him to add to any storied she told. Lucius could see that Ivan was holding a lot back and he had to give him some credit for it. Julian had been worried his father would explode the moment he saw them together, but he was actually keeping his thoughts to himself. It wasn’t like Lucius didn’t get it. He understood that it was sometimes hard for people to accept that their child was gay, but Ivan hadn’t thrown them out or badmouthed them like the wolf outside had.

He knew he might get his head bitten off for it later, but he felt like he should point out how much his father was trying to Julian. If not for that relationship, for the relationship he had with his mother. If Julian didn’t feel so bitter when it came to his father they would come more and Lucius could tell it would make both him and Xin much happier. Lucius could see how badly Xin wanted this visit to go well so her son would come around more. His father would still be head of a pack of man whores and assholes but he knew if the relationship with his father could be mended the other wolves wouldn’t hinder Julian’s relationship with Xin.

 

Chapter Two

Once they were finished eating, Julian helped his mother clean up then he and Lucius sat down in the living room with Ivan while Xin went upstairs to grab the photo albums. Julian and Ivan were silent, not looking at each other and Lucius cleared his throat. “So, Ivan, you’re an alpha, that must be hard work.”

“Not particularly.” Ivan replied.

“You never have anyone fight you for your position?”

“Every now and then, but it’s easy to put them in their place. Wolf packs understand dominance and once you show the more wily of them that you won’t be pushed around, the others tend to fall in line.”

Lucius cracked a smile. “So that’s where Julian gets it.”

“Gets what?” Julian asked.

“That dominating nature of yours.”

Julian huffed. “I do not.”

“Found them.” Xin said as she came down and let her eyes move over all three of them. “What did you say to embarrass them so bad?”

“I’m not embarrassed.” Julian and Ivan said at the same time, causing both Lucius and Xin to laugh as she came down and sat next to Lucius.

“So, baby pictures first then?” She asked.

“Yes, absolutely.” Lucius replied as she flipped the first album open.

Julian was soon glad he hadn’t fought his mother when it came to showing his mate these pictures. Lucius looked so happy and it was rare for him not to look serious so while Lucius studied the pictures Julian just admired him. Xin seemed happy too as she talked about what was going on when she took each photo. Another note Lucius took was Ivan looked at Xin much like Julian looked at him and knew his mate probably didn’t see his parents relationship for what it was because he had such bad feelings towards his father. He knew he hadn’t grown up with them but Ivan did seem to love Xin quite a bit, just the way he looked at her said that clearly.

“He really does look a lot like, Ivan.” Lucius said when they got into the pictures of Julian’s teens. “I mean look at that scowl.”

Xin laughed. “That’s what I told him.”

“Come on you two, you don’t have to rub it in.” Julian said.

“But you look so cute.” Lucius teased and Julian arched an eyebrow.

“You just wait, I’ll show you cute. My parents can’t keep you safe forever.” He gave Lucius a devious grin.

“Hey, be good.” He felt heat crawling up his neck and into his face, turning his pale skin red.

“I’m always good.”

Once they were finished looking at pictures, Xin said. “Why don’t you take Lucius on a tour of our property, I’m sure he’d like to see where you used to play.”

“What about you and dad?”

“We’ll stay here baby, besides, I’m sure you need a break from all of this embarrassment.”

“Alright.” Julian walked over and kissed his mother’s forehead before giving her a long hug.

“I’m so happy you’re here Julian.” She told him again because she truly was.

They walked out and Julian sighed, “Sometimes I wish cameras didn’t exist, but you and my mother seem to be getting along well.”

“She’s wonderful and maybe your dad isn’t so bad either.”

“Okay, I know that last part was a joke.”

Lucius sighed, “We’ve never been a couple who didn’t talk about things or point out when we thought the other was wrong Julian. I mean, I can see you’re right about your dad’s pack. From the two I’ve met it’s clear you don’t have to be any kind of a decent wolf to be accepted into this pack but maybe, your dad himself isn’t as bad as you feel he is.”

“He was horrible to me, I mean you heard the clown story.”

“Maybe these kinds of wolves are what he grew up around so he had a hard time learning how to play with you without doing something like that.” Julian was obviously frustrated and feeling defensive but Lucius was proud of how well he was managing to talk without yelling.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Well at the very least you should accept your mother is happy with him. He looks at Xin the way you look at me and even she says she’s happy. You can look at her and see she’s happy.”

Julian sighed. “You keep comparing us.”

“You have a lot of similarities, Julian and there’s nothing wrong with that.” He laced his fingers through Julian’s, letting his thumb brush over his skin to soothe him. “He hasn’t said anything negative to us, in fact he’s been incredibly civil. I know you’re mad about some things, the way he traumatized you as a child and how he and his pack treated you over being gay, but can’t you just forgive him.” He smiled. “Please try?”

Julian let out a grumble. “I should just shift and hide in the woods.”

“You wouldn’t do that.”

“I know.” He sighed again. “I’ll try, for you and my mother, okay?”

“I know it’s hard, but if I can come to terms with your constant need to show me affection and your sarcastic mouth, then you can do this.”

“You like my sarcastic mouth, it’s very good at what it does.”

“Julian.”

He chuckled as he brushed a kiss to Lucius’s cheek. “I love you and I’ll try, I really will. Now, come on, I have somewhere special I want to take you.”

“Oh? Where?”

“It’s a secret, I used to go there when I wanted to get away from my dad and the pack. I’d cover up my scent and tracks so they couldn’t follow me.”

Lucius happily let his mate guide him along. He couldn’t believe how well that went and was relived Julian was willing to try to forgive his father. His mother deserved more visits and living with hating a parent was a burden Lucius couldn’t wait to see lifted from the wolf’s shoulders. Julian eventually pulled them deep into the woods where he started feeling the ground. “There we go.” Julian pulled open a door that even up still looked like a piece of ground. “Who knows what’s in there now, but I know little critters and bugs wont bother you…as you know…sometimes I just needed to disappear.”

“I bet your dad would be proud of this.”

“I guess we could tell him about it now that I don’t need it. For now let’s go in, I’ll go first and take the cobwebs that might be around. I haven’t entered here since I was a teenager.” They went in, Julian touching what looked like little stones that glowed when he pressed. There surprisingly wasn’t many intruders but moles had obviously been through a few times.

“This is really cool.” Lucius had to note again.

“I worked hard on it.”

“How old were you when you started this?”

“Seven.”

“I’m sorry.”

Julian shrugged at Lucius’s apology. “I really am going to try to let it go.”

“Still, it sucks you were this unhappy so young, but it also shows how smart and resourceful you were even that young.”

They continued further in until they came to a room. There was a pile of old blankets and pillows in one corner and a small bookcase in another. There was a rug in the center and some old toys in a box that had Lucius smiling. It was a little dusty, but everything was surprisingly dry. “Wow, look at this place.” He said.

“I used to play here when I was a kid. I’d just get lost in my imagination and forget about everything. Sometimes I would open tears just to see where they went.”

“Such a daredevil.”

“I just wanted to escape. When I was a teen, I started to get a sense for where they all went and I could step into any world with ease.” He looked around at everything. “I need to shake all of this stuff out, maybe get some new blankets down here.”

“Do you plan on escaping again?”

“Only if I get to do it with you.” Lucius felt a blush crawling up his neck and Julian smiled. “I could patch up the walls with something more durable like stone or brick, I could get more lighting and some flooring. We could just hide here all alone for awhile.”

“I have a feeling we’d never leave.”

“That wouldn’t be so bad.” Julian said with a chuckle.

Julian pulled Lucius close to him, hungrily moving his lips against his mates then spoke amorously, “I don’t want to have sex in my old bedroom, but here would be perfect.”

“I swear there can’t be a moment that is ever far from your mind.” Julian began to kiss and gently nibble at Lucius’s neck. It caused goosebumps to already start forming on his skin. After this long together he knew the perfect way to do that. Julian had learned just the right way to do everything with Lucius to make him putty in his hands. Lucius gave in without any more prompting and began taking off Julian’s pants. Julian bit his shoulder, hard, marking what was his before sliding his hands into his pants. Julian felt his soft skin and reveled in the feel of squeezing his bottom.

He pulled him up, making Lucius wrap his legs around him as they kissed. Julian sat down on the old blankets then jerked Lucius’s pants down so he could work him loose, all the while still hungrily kissing his mate. He relished the slow change in how Lucius kissed him and when he was obviously ready Julian plunged himself inside, his heart going wild with Lucius’s first, deep moan. Julian bit his other shoulder now, feeling more territorial than normal now that he was around his pack. It wasn’t rational since none of them were gay like he was, but he still wanted to make sure any wolf around knew Lucius was his and his alone.

Julian kept him right on the edge of release, wanting to prolong their lovemaking as long as possible. He couldn’t help himself, losing himself completely to his need for his mate, even making Lucius unbutton his shirt so he could mark his chest. Lucius whimpered when Julian turned him around, the fingers of one hand coming up to hook in his collar, the other sliding between his legs to stroke him. Lucius’s body shook with his release, his loud cry filling the room as tears filled his eyes at the overwhelming pleasure. Julian’s teeth clamped down on his shoulder and he let out a growl as he came. Lucius collapsed back against him, panting loudly, unsure if he would ever be able to walk again.

“I think we should stay away from here.” Lucius finally managed to say.

Julian chuckled as he pressed a kiss to his shoulder. “Oh? Why?”

“I won’t be able to move if we keep coming here.”

Julian lifted him and turned him so he could kiss his lips. “Good, that means you can’t get away.”

“Be good.”

Julian grinned. “You know I can’t when I’m with you. I need you always, it’s a craving that can never be sated.” He ran his fingers gently through Lucius’s hair. “You’re just such a temptation, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

 

Chapter Three

Julian held Lucius until Lucius insisted they had been gone too long and needed to head back. “We can just go home you know, we saw them.”

“Julian, you said you’d forgive the past and try to just see him as he is now. We’re going to stay and give this a real chance. Just keep telling yourself how happy your mom will be if you were able to come more.” Julian kissed Lucius, mostly for strength then they walked out together, making sure the door looked as natural as it always had before Julian swept Lucius off his feet. He was going to carry his mate back to his parents house and he dared any of his fathers rotten pack to say a word to him. This would be part of him coming more. They would have to learn that he wasn’t going to hide how much he loved Lucius to make them comfortable.

“Did you two have fun?” Xin asked when they walked in, causing Lucius to blush.

“Yeah, I showed him my hideout.” Julian said.

“Hideout?” Ivan asked.

“Yeah, I built it a long time ago. It was a home away from home, clubhouse sort of thing.” He was doing his best not to let the real reason it had been built slip out, but he could see the knowing look on his father’s face regardless.

“Hmm, I had no idea.”

“I hid it. Maybe later I’ll show it to you or something.”

“You don’t have to, it’s your place, I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

Julian shrugged. “I mean maybe you could look it over for me and help me rebuild some stuff. A few moles dug into it so, you know, it might not be up to code.”

Ivan nodded. “If you want me to.”

“Just, could you maybe keep the other wolves away from it. You can use it for emergencies, but can you not let them trash it.”

“Sure.”

Xin wore a grateful expression as she looked over at Lucius. She knew that had to have something to do with him. When they did return to Julian’s old hideaway Ivan noted, “This is very well made son. These stones, I’m impressed you were able to collect them. I know where they come from and therefor know it was no easy task.”

“I needed a good source of light. They’ve been worth the effort.”

“I wish I could have helped you with this place back then, but I know this was a hideaway from me too.”

“Well, you can help me with it now.” The way his father almost steered the conversation made Julian too uncomfortable. He knew they’d have to talk about it at some point but not yet, he had only just gotten home.

His father took the hint and just continued inspecting. “Ah, I see what you mean about the moles”

“What can we do?”

“We can reinforce the walls with wood and then brick over it. We can also lay stones into the floor and make a venting system to fresh air can get in here.” He looked around and noticed the box of toys. “Look at this. I thought you lost all these.”

“No, I just brought them down here.”

“They’re still in good shape, a little dusty, but there’s no mold or anything.”

“Yeah.”

“Anyway, I could also look into some bedding, maybe some cushions or animal hides, a new bookshelf. I mean if you’re going to escape to somewhere then it might as well be comfortable. I’m sure your mate would appreciate it.”

Julian was surprised at how much his dad seemed to truly want to help and thought of this as a good way for them to attempt to get along. “Do you want to maybe start now working on it?”

“Sure, your mate can hangout with your mother right or would you prefer them stay with us?”

“That’s up to him.”

“I’d love to spend time with your mom. Hopefully there’s more pictures somewhere.”

“Oh there is.” she said cheerfully.

“Then it’s settled. We will work on making this place more comfortable and our mates can get to know each other better. Your mother has been eager to spend time with the man you’ve chosen to spend your life with.”

Soon after the four parted ways Xin hugged Luciu.s “I hope hugging you is okay..I’m just so grateful to you.”

“Why?”

“I’m not stupid, you’re pushing him to hangout with his father”

“He doesn’t seem so bad”

“He’s not, he did mess up quite a lot as a father but it was never because he didn’t love Julian. You have to be loved to know how to love and before me his father never had that. His parents were as cold and selfish as the rest of this pack and truly at this point, he’d make a great father. I think we just had kids too fast. We should have waited but then again who knows, maybe he had to push Julian so far away to really learn how to be better. He’s missed his son and even though I tell him not to he feels guilty over the pain it causes me that Julian won’t come very often due to his childhood. I want us to be a normal, close family so badly and because of you that might actually happen.” She had let him go now so he could see her tearing up.

Lucius wiped the tears away. “I’ll do my best if there are any bumps to keep Julian’s heart open to him.”

Julian started to feel a little more comfortable around his father while they worked on fixing his hideaway and they even chatted a little here and there, though it was awkward. “So, you and Lucius, planning on kids or anything?” His father asked without looking up from what he was doing.

Julian shrugged. “Don’t know, we haven’t really discussed it. Our jobs are pretty dangerous and I don’t even know how he feels about kids. Besides, I probably wouldn’t be a good dad.”

Ivan raised his head then and turned his gaze on his son. “That’s probably the stupidest thing you’ve ever said.”

“Really? I’m sure I’ve said worse.”

Ivan sighed as he rubbed the back of his neck. “We need to talk.”

“Why?”

“Because, your mother would want us to and I’m sure your mate would too.”

“There’s nothing to talk about. I’m the gay son of the alpha, the disappointment.”

“Julian.”

“Can’t we just save it for later? I don’t want to end up getting in a fight with you. Lucius would get upset if I lost my temper after I promised I’d try.”

Ivan nodded. “Alright, once we’re done fixing this place up then.” He turned back to what he had been working on, but added quietly, “You were never a disappointment.”

His father had backed down but Julian couldn’t let that comment sit “The way you treated me said I was. The way you’ve never stood up for me with the pack said I was! You let them talk to me however they want.”

“I always knew you could handle yourself.”

“I could, but if you didn’t agree with them you would have said something. They are your pack, you’re the alpha.”

“If I would have stepped in it would have only gotten worse. You needed to defend yourself.”

“They won’t change and they are who you are. Mom may buy your crap and maybe even my mate now, but you choose to stay in this pack and you repeatedly choose to let them, for lack of a better term be dogs. I’ve met many packs in my travels and wolves or not there’s no excuse to be as horrible as this pack is.”

“I grew up in this pack. They are family.”

“You’re just as cowardly as they are.”

He didn’t even hear his father move. One moment he was facing the wall, the next he was eye to eye with his father. “You have no idea what the burdens of my responsibilities are. You think I don’t control my pack? You’re wrong. Trust me when I say that they could be a hell of a lot worse. They may be dogs, but I have lines that will never be crossed. You don’t know how many I’ve had to put in their place.”

“Then you should have done it when I was a boy instead of letting them push me around, instead of telling me to mate with some woman and have puppies.”

“I’m sorry I made you feel isolated, but you didn’t have it nearly as bad as you could have. Do you want to know what kind of man your grandfather was? He was the kind that beat his son when he was disappointed, who let bigger wolves beat me up to teach me a lesson, who left me out in the wild to fend for myself because I was weak and incompetent. He was the kind of man that threatened to rip my throat out during a training exercise. He had his teeth right here, clamped down on my throat. I may have been a bastard, but at least you grew up tough enough to stand up for yourself instead of letting some…some animal threaten you. I didn’t do the things I did because I was disappointed, but because I wanted you to able to walk through this world without worry.” He stepped back, taking a deep breath. “I said some things to you I should have never said, done things no father should ever do and I am sorry. So stop avoiding this place because of me, hate me if you wish, but at least visit more often for your mother.”

“I don’t want to hate you anymore, I’m trying.”

“Good because I love you. As hard as it might be to believe I have always loved you son.”

“Well…I guess I’m starting to see that now…this place is going to look good…I can already see it.”

“I want to make things right between us Julian. I want to do much more than just fix up this place for you.” They didn’t talk much as they continued working. Neither knew what else to add since they both felt so awkward after their heated discussion but the tension had faded by the time they went to the house for something to eat.

“How’re things going?” Xin asked hopefully at the table.

“Good.” Julian answered and his father nodded, “Yeah.”

“How did everything really go today?” Lucius asked that night after they were showered and cuddling in Julian’s old bed.

“It went good. We had a discussion and my dad told me a few things that I wasn’t aware of.”

“Like what?”

“That he was severely abused by his father.”

“Oh, your mom mentioned his parents weren’t exactly the best.”

Julian sighed. “I want to forgive him, I want to be understanding, but it’s still hard. On one hand he had it a hundred times worse, but his methods with me were wrong.”

Lucius propped himself on one elbow and let his other hand run gently up and down Julian’s chest. “I know, but look at it this way, you’re strong and stubborn thanks to him and if you had never left, we would have never met.”

“That’s a little unfair, you don’t know that.”

“It’s just a thought.”

Julian huffed. “Yeah I know.” He reached up stroked Lucius’s cheek. “He asked me something today that I wanted to run by you and see what you think.”

“What?”

“Just know, you’re under no obligation to say yes, I don’t even know if I…”

“Julian, tell me.”

“He asked if we ever planned on kids. Do you maybe want to adopt a couple or maybe find someone to carry a couple or something? I mean I don’t even know if I’d be a good father, but if you want kids then I’d be more than willing to try.”

 

Chapter Four

“I think I’d rather adopt. In my line of work I’ve seen so many children who ended up in horrible situations due to being cast into the foster system. If you want kids I’d rather save some than pay a surrogate to help us make more. Beyond that I know you’d make a good dad because you don’t make any excuses for how your dad treated you. You know you didn’t grow up right so you won’t make those same choices with your children. People that continue the abuse normally made a bunch of excuses for their parents but I’m struggling to get you to forgive him at all.”

“How many would you want to adopt?”

“With our lifestyle? I’d say no more than two. We live such dangerous lives. I think it would be too stressful to have more than one or two to worry about.”

“Then maybe after this trip we can go to an orphanage and see what we have to do to adopt a child or two. I wonder how your brother will feel about kids in the house.”

“He’s a softie, he’ll like it.”

“He’ll probably spoil them rotten.”

“With knowledge more than likely.”

Julian huffed out a laugh as he pulled Lucius down to kiss him. “You’re lucky we’re in here or I’d make love to you again.”

“Maybe I’ll stay here forever then.” Lucius teased as he rested his head on Julian’s chest.

“I’d just toss you over my shoulder and carry you out to the woods. I might not even take you into the hideout.”

“You better be good.”

He kissed the top Lucius’s head. “As long as you don’t tempt me my sweet little vampire.”

Over the following days Julian and Ivan worked on their relationship along with the hideout as Lucius and Xin grew closer. Their final day there he let his parents know they were going to look into adopting which excited Xin even more than Julian expected it to. “Please bring them as soon as you have them, please. We’ll make sure the pack doesn’t come around.” She said, knowing that would be a big concern of Julian’s with a child.

“We’ll bring them, don’t worry mom. I’m going to be coming back a lot more in general.” She looked like she might cry and Ivan just looked relieved.

First thing they did upon arriving home was talk to Uri about the addition of children. “That sounds amazing, I’d love to see some kids around here. I can go ahead and start looking into nannies that can keep them when we’re working. I’m going to be picky as hell with who we trust and they’ll be my nieces or nephews or whatever so I do get to be picky.”

“Of course, choose whoever you want, we trust your judgement.” Lucius said.

“Come on baby, I want to go to the orphanage before it gets dark.” Julian said.

“Alright, would you like to come with us Uri?”

“Sure, it’d probably best they know all three of us. I wouldn’t want you bringing any children home and them get confused by there being two of you.”

“I doubt that would ever happen. Like I told Lucius, you two are very different, it’d be easy to tell you apart.”

“Still, better to be safe and sorry.” They headed out, Uri deciding to hold off on the nanny until they knew the exact ages of the children they would be adopting. “What age were you two thinking anyway?” Uri asked.

“Possibly older children. I know they don’t get adopted as much as babies do and I would like to give them a good home.” Julian answered. “Though if I’m not careful I might adopt enough to form my own pack.”

Uri chuckled. “That sounds more terrifying than an actual pack of wolves. Can you imagine a bunch of kids just running and jumping on you. Lucius would be taken down in an instant, you could just step through a tear, and I’d have to lock myself in the library.”

They discussed different scenarios happily until they arrived at the nearest orphanage. They were spoken to right away and were given all the paper work they’d need which the woman told them to start filling out after they finished speaking with her. They explained Lucius’s twin lived with them and then proceeded to tell her about their house and how they were financially. The entire conversation seemed to go well and they arranged a visit to their home by a social worker. It felt like the process took forever but all the while they were getting to know the kids and knew precisely who they wanted by the time it was all over. The one or two Lucius was originally talking about turned into five but they truly felt like they needed those children in their lives.

Weldon was eight and the youngest child they adopted. They were told he was incredibly smart and it showed because he had a robotic dog that even the adults there attested to he built himself. He was human and had shoulder length brown hair that they were told he was very attached to. Terina would be the second youngest of their children. She was a cat demon who frequently kept her cat ears out when she was in human form. She had tugged at their hearts with her constant need to show them her paintings and talk to them when they’d come. The third youngest they’d be adopting was Taryn. She had been dropped at a police station when she was only days old and they eventually figured out she was a Naiad. They warned them about the fact she liked to take multiple baths a day so she might run up their water bill a considerable amount but they didn’t care about that and assured the staff they wouldn’t bring her back because of it.

They were already planning where to put a swimming pool for her and guessed if she had one she might not be wanting to sit in a bathtub most of her day. Aban, the second oldest was an interesting mixture of things. He apparently had panther, wolf and fairy in him. Eline was just shy of being seventeen, only just old enough to be considered older than Aban and she was a pure blooded fairy which was mostly important information due to how she came to them. She had apparently been sold as a baby to an underground group that imprisoned fairies for vampires to feed on. Learning this surprised Lucius since he was a vampire, she’d be living with two vampires and she had never seemed afraid of them. She had even seemed happy when they asked her if she wanted to go home with them. The orphanage seemed to try to talk them out of her as they had Taryn but that only made Julian want her more “she wants to go home with us and we’ll take good care of her” They understood though, people returned children all the time like they were some toaster they didn’t like from Target and they knew the pain that must cause these children.

Uri got to work on hiring a nanny, making sure to find one that would work well with the children, especially the oldest who they all wanted to have her independence. “I can’t believe we adopted five.” Lucius said as they relaxed at home. “But just looking into their faces and reading their files, I just couldn’t leave them.”

Julian chuckled as he wrapped him in a tight hug. “You’re really more of a softy than I am.”

“Am not and now I have to work even harder because we both know you’d probably let them get away with anything short of murder.”

“What? Me? No.” He brushed his nose against Lucius’s cheek. “We’re finalizing everything tomorrow.”

“Mmhmm.”

“Are you nervous?”

“Yeah, a little. I want everything to be perfect for them.”

“It will be, you’re already an amazing father.”

Lucius huffed out a laugh. “You too, the kids already really like you. I knew they would, you have such an easy going nature, it’s hard not to like you.”

“I plan on working extra hard for them. I want them to always feel loved and like they can come to me if they need anything.”

“You’re going to be perfect, Julian, no matter what you might think and now you’re on better terms with your father so the kids can know both of your parents.”

“My mom is going to be ecstatic when she finds out she gets five grand kids.”

The next day they went into the orphanage and were happy to see all five of their children waiting eagerly for them in one of the offices. Terina instantly ran to Julian and asked if she could ride on his shoulders for the walk home. The social worker smiled as they signed off on everything and set up a date for their first visit to ensure the children were adjusting well. Walking home together felt like such a wonderful dream, with Terina riding on Julian’s shoulders and Weldon chatting nonstop with Uri. The others chatted about their new home and asked questions about their new parents and uncle. When they finally got home, they showed the kids all the things they had bought for them based on their interests. Taryn was the most excited about the swimming pool and wanted to get in immediately. The rest of the day was busy and by the time it was over, they were all exhausted.

“I hope every day is this crazy.” Julian said when they settled into bed that night.

“Me too, I’m so happy and Weldon seemed extremely excited with the library. I think he and Uri spent most of the time going through books.” He snuggled close to his mate. “Thank you for bringing up kids, I don’t think I would have given them a thought if you hadn’t.”

“Thank my dad.”

“I definitely will, count on it.”

Julian let out a blissful sigh as he pressed a kiss to Lucius’s forehead. Everyday with his love was a new adventure and he had never been happier for this new chapter in their life. He planned to make the most of it and he swore he would never fail his family.

THE END

Nebi & Nathan

Chapter One

“I brought more blankets.” Nebi said as he entered Nathan’s safe house without knocking. “I know you destroyed the last ones.”

“You know you shouldn’t be here, it’s still the full moon.” Nathan said as he took the blankets from Nebi and headed down to the basement where the cage that had been put together for him was.

“It’s not night yet, you still have time.” He followed Nathan. “Your eye patch was damaged too?”

“Hmm?” Nathan reached up and touched the black patch covering where his eye used to be.

“You tied it in the back goofy.”

“Oh, it’s not a big deal.”

“I’ll grab you a new one later. I’m thinking red this time.”

“I like the black.”

“Alright, alright. Oh, Fino and Allon wanted to know if you wanted to go out for dinner some night after the full moon is done with its cycle.”

Nathan looked at his feet. “I guess.”

“It’s cute when you get all self conscious.” Nathan raised his head and Nebi grinned. “Come on, I need your help. I brought you food too.”

“Nebi, shouldn’t you be working or something?”

“Fino and I do get days off you know. Come on, I bought a lot, I even got your favorite snacks.”

Nathan followed, wishing Nebi wouldn’t risk himself like this. He could keep himself locked up now but he still feared hurting Nebi during one of his shifts. He had no control and Nebi was the last person in existence he would ever want to hurt. He was developing feelings for him and he didn’t think he could take hurting the man he was falling in love with. They brought all the food inside then put it away “Thanks Nebi”

“You aren’t good enough to yourself so someone has to get you the stuff you deserve and take care of you”

“I’ve hurt a lot of people

“thats not your fault though”

“So, are you staying again?”

“Of course I am silly. You’re always so disoriented afterwards and I want to be here in case you get out.”

“You could get hurt.”

Nebi chuckled. “That might be true if you were running with a pack, but since you’re alone I think my cat can handle you.” Nathan started to protest, but Nebi shaking his head stopped him. “Besides, I think your wolf actually likes it when I stay.”

“What do you mean?” He swallowed. “H…have you been coming downstairs when I turn?”

“A couple of times to check on you. I got growled at, but there was no slamming against the bars or snapping at me.”

“Nebi.”

“I didn’t get to close, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t hurting yourself.” He reached up and brushed Nathan’s hair away from his face. “You shouldn’t worry so much, I’m a big boy.”

Nathan had the sudden impression of a whine and the need to get closer to Nebi slip through his thoughts, but he held his ground, ignoring his wolf’s urges. He told himself it was because it was still the full moon, that it was because smells and sounds seemed so much more acute because of it and Nebi being this close was just overwhelming his senses and triggering the animal. “Um, I should make dinner and then get ready.”

“Let me help, four hands are better than two.”

Nathan knew better than to argue with Nebi when he wanted to help so he allowed him to enter the kitchen, it was always nice being around him anyway so he was somewhat glad Nebi gave him an excuse to be selfish. Letting anybody close to him at all always plagued him with guilt but it didn’t make him feel as bad when Nebi was over since Nebi really didn’t take no for an answer. They quickly made dinner then sat down together with their food and a beer each. “How’re things?” Nathan inquired of Nebi “My life is as fun and exciting as always. My line of work is fun”

“where did Fino and Allon want to eat?”

“They wanted it to be your choice this time’

“Things would probably be easier if they just bossed me around.”

Nebi chuckled. “I could if you want me to.”

Nathan smiling caused Nebi’s heart to dance. “I was kidding, I’ll think about it.” He sighed. “So, anyone new in your life?”

“You mean like a boyfriend?”

“Yeah.”

“No, far to busy with more important things like you and work.”

“Me?”

“Who else is going to bring you new blankets when you’ve had a particularly rough night?”

“Am I getting in your way?”

Nebi laughed. “Oh yes, you’re a real roadblock.” He teased.

“I mean it, if I am then maybe you shouldn’t come by so much.” The thought made his stomach sink, but he wanted Nebi to have a real life.

“How cruel.” He nudged Nathan as he brought his bottle to his lips so beer dribbled down his chin. “There, now we’re even. I’m precisely where I want to be, don’t forget that.”

Nathan got up to grab a paper towel. He felt happy that Nebi really liked being here even though he truly didn’t understand why. Nathan knew he had a tendency to brood and just in general bring the feeling in the room down. Nebi was amazing, a smart ass sometimes but amazing. He probably had a ton of people he could hangout with but instead of going to them Nebi chose him. When Nathan sat back down Nebi gave him another reassuring smile before going back to enjoying the meal they made together. They were having Spicy Shrimp With Creamy Polenta and it was something Nathan greatly relished eating.

“Nebi, are you sure you won’t leave?” Nathan asked as they cleaned up the kitchen after dinner.

“I’m sure.”

Nathan glanced out the window at the setting sun. “I could break out.”

“Doubt it, I had that cage made of some incredibly strong, incredibly expensive metal. Not even Fino could bend the bars. Not that that would stop him, he’d just pick the lock.”

“I just want you safe.”

“Awe, how sweet, you sound like a husband.” He grinned. “Should we just get married?”

Nathan felt himself blush and focused on finishing up drying. His heart had nearly leaped out of his chest when Nebi had said that. He felt another compulsion, a need to press himself to Nebi, to run his scent all over the cat. “I…I should get downstairs.”

“Are you alright? Besides the obvious I mean.”

“Yeah, it’s just getting close and I would hate to get distracted and wind up hurting you.”

Nebi reached up and brushed Nathan’s hair back, causing the wolf’s heart to stutter. “I really love seeing your whole face, even this bit.” He let his fingers gently brush the eyepatch. “It’s easier to see your expression and I really wish you would stop frowning and looking all concerned. I’ll be fine. Now go on and I’ll come and collect your clothes once I’m done here.”

Nathan briefly opened his mouth to say he didn’t have to but he shut it again, knowing Nebi would do it anyway. Nebi watched Nathan go, planning on talking to him more in depth after the change. He knew there was more wrong than just when this was and this time he wasn’t leaving without talking to Nathan. There were too many moments it seemed like Nathan wanted to say more and on top of that he wanted to make sure Nathan knew he wasn’t a responsibility, he was his friend and someone he cared about deeply. He had more friends than just him as well, Fino and Allon really liked him. Nathan was valued even though he didn’t seem to think much of himself or believe they all cared about him as much as they did.

Nebi came down as Nathan was shutting and locking the cage and let his eyes move over him with a grin on his face. “Well, well, well.”

“Stop staring.” Nathan said, embarrassed.

“I mean it’s hard not to.” He teased as he picked up Nathan’s clothes. “Come, turn for me.”

“Nebi, come on.”

Nebi chuckled. “You have no choice, you’re locked in a cage and at my mercy.”

Nathan sighed as he did a slow turn. “Happy?”

“Very.”

Nathan tested the bars then sat down in the middle of the floor. “Remember, stay away.”

“You should probably give me your eye patch.” Nebi squatted down and reached through the bars. Nathan nervously removed it and handed it to him, a little shock of excitement moving through him when Nebi let his fingers slide over his palm. He mentally reprimanded himself. “Hey, Nathan?”

“Yeah?”

“I’ll come down later to check on you.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I want to and who knows, maybe I’ll bring you a doggy biscuit.”

Despite how worried he was, Nathan still cracked a smile. “I’ll be sure to practice my best puppy dog face then.”

“Please do.”

Nebi walked up, heading toward the laundry room to drop Nathans clothes in the laundry for him. He then took Nathans eye patch and laid it on his dresser. Though he was doing these things all his mind was thinking about was Nathans naked body. He was such a sexy man and it was always a treat when he could see him naked. He hated how tortured Nathan felt on these nights though and wished he could accept himself. Especially now that they could keep him from hurting others when he turned. If he could just stop seeing himself as such a burden Nebi knew Nathan could be happy.

It wasn’t long before the howls, growls, and sound of him thrashing around came up from the basement. Nebi paused the movie he was watching and listened just in case. The growls softened and he could hear Nathan pacing back and forth. The wolf either did this or sat in the corner. He hit the play button, deciding to wait a few minutes for Nathan to calm down a little. His phone vibrated on the coffee table, causing the wolf downstairs to make a sound of annoyance which had Nebi laughing. It was adorable even under the circumstances. He answered. “Hello Allon.”

“How is Nathan doing?”

“Right now he’s downstairs grumbling because he can hear me.”

“I just wanted to check in and make sure everything was okay.”

“It’s perfect, I’m going to go and check on him in a moment.”

“Other than that how is he doing?”

Nebi sighed. “Oh you know, self conscious, scared, sexy.”

“Nebi.”

“What? I can’t help it. I really do wish he saw how wonderful he is. He still blames himself.” He let out another sigh. “He tried to get me to leave, like I would. It helps I’m so irresistible.”

Allon chuckled. “Well if you need anything call us.”

“I will.”

They got off the phone and Nebi sighed, wanting to go down there even though he knew Nathan didn’t like him near the cage. Nebi decided he should at least finish the movie first so clicked play again. He only half watched, Nathans noises constantly distracting him. He’d sit with him the entire time if Nathan was okay with it. When the movie was over Nebi got a snack from the kitchen to bring down. It wasn’t a doggy biscuit but he definitely planned to bake one next time just to tease Nathan later. The wolf in the cage growled then snapped at him when Nebi came into view and he chuckled “Now now, you wont scare me away. I brought you food Nathan”

Chapter Two

The wolf bared its teeth, the hair on the back of his neck raising up as his focused on the person across from him. His nose processed the scent; male, feline, familiar and something else, something important. It tickled at that primal part of his brain as it always did and tried to urge him forward with a need for domination. He was so focused on the male it took him a moment to notice the stick of meat in his hands. No matter how angry the beast was, it still needed food and it had him salivating.

“Come on, Nathan, it’s jerky, you love jerky. I mean why wouldn’t you, I bet you’d be even happier with a nice juicy steak.” Nebi moved closer to the bars. Nathan would kill him if he knew he was nearly touching the cool metal. “Come on.” Nathan growled at him while also looking longingly at the jerky and he chuckled. “Well if you want it, come and get it.” He raised it to his lips and took a bite out of it, grinning when the wolf followed his movement. “Come here or I’ll eat all of it.” The wolf huffed in annoyance and finally stepped closer. He held the jerky through the bars and kept his eyes on Nathan. The wolf sniffed, coming closer until Nebi could feel his hot breath brush against his skin. The wolf growled and snatched it away then back up and gnawed on the tough piece of meat. “There we go, maybe I’ll swing by the butcher and see if they have any bones they can give me. I bet you’d like that, though you might kill me for it.”

Nathan seemed too wrapped in the jerky to care what he was saying so Nebi left to see if the butcher had anything for him to give Nathan. He felt bad Nathan had to spend this entire evening caged so he tried to make it better any way he could. To Nebi’s delight the butcher had just what he wanted and soon had him out the door and returning to Nathan. Nebi went straight downstairs, seeing Nathan pacing around his cage “I’m back” he announced though he knew there wasn’t any way the wolf didn’t notice him there. Nebi received another growl as he walked toward the cage but as always, it didn’t intimidate him in the least. He would be in the wrong business if a wolf in a cage could frighten him.

Once Nathan had one of the bones, Nebi sat and watched him for a bit, having a hard time not comparing him to a dog. No matter what anyone thought of him, Nebi thought he was adorable in a way. Sure he was large and the missing eye made him look sinister, but it was cute watching him gnaw on a soup bone. “Alright, I guess I should leave you alone so we can both get some sleep. How about we go out tomorrow? Maybe the carnival. They got a new Ferris wheel. Then we can decide where we want to eat with Fino and Allon.” The wold huffed and he smiled. “Good night then.”

Nebi stood and left the basement and the wolf lifted its head to watch him. Once he was gone the wolf stood, circled and then dropped back down and rested its large head on its paws. It had come to understand the cage. There was no way out, it had tried, had bit the bars, had slammed into them in an attempt to break free before and had only received pain for it. It watched and listened, hearing the male upstairs becoming still, hearing the sound of his breathing and heartbeat. The wolf huffed and closed its eye, slowly drifting off. Nathan jerked awake the next morning to the sound of the basement door being opened. He blinked his eye open and slowly sat up as Nebi came over to the cage, a smile on his face.

“Good morning handsome, breakfast is ready.”

“What time is it?” Nathan asked as he tiredly got to his feet and unlocked the door.

“About eight.”

“Why do I taste meat?” He looked down at his hands, expecting there to be blood.

“I fed you some jerky and a soup bone.”

Nathan sighed. “Nebi.”

“I didn’t get bit or anything, actually you were a very good boy last night.” He reached up and playfully tussled Nathan’s hair, messing it up even more.

“That’s not funny.”

“It’s a little funny.” He held up a towel and Nathan’s eye patch. “Go shower then come eat.”

Nathan sighed, hating Nebi put himself at risk again but he had gone through the trouble of making breakfast for him so he decided just to hurry and shower so he could enjoy the meal. When he got out Nebi was waiting at the table, wearing the same smile he always did. “You’re so happy, even after being with me on nights like last night..”

“I’m with you, of course I’m happy”

“I wasn’t here last night”

“don’t be dramatic Nathan, that wolf is a part of you. It’s why I’m not afraid.” Nathan blushed “well…thanks for breakfast”

“you’re welcome Nathan, I need to talk to you”

“about what?’

“about not being so angry at yourself all the time and acting like you’re a monster. You’re not, even the things you’ve done, you didn’t do it because you had a bad heart, you just had nothing to keep you under control when you lost control. You’re a good man and you owe it to yourself to forgive yourself”

“Nebi, I’ve hurt and killed people, I changed Allon without his consent. I…I’m…”

Nebi took his hand, causing heat to move up his arm. “Stop already, it wasn’t your fault and Allon has already forgiven you. You can’t control everything.”

“I’m dangerous.”

“No you’re not, not anymore.” He chuckled. “Damn I missed the chance to take a picture of you with that bone in your mouth, how cute would that have been. Then you would really see how very not dangerous you are.”

“Nebi, come on.”

“Nathan, I’m serious. You’re a wonderful man, you have such a big heart and are incredibly kind to everyone. So stop acting like you’re some crazed, bloodthirsty beast.” He reached across the table and brushed Nathan’s hair away from his face. “And you’re handsome so stop hiding your face.”

“Alright.”

Nebi smiled as he went back to eating. “Now, how about we go out today, it would do you some good to stop hiding so much.”

“I guess I should” Nathan didn’t want to but Nebi was so good to him. He felt he owed it to him to try and leave his home. Nebi felt relieved Nathan hadn’t tried to fight him more about leaving “I was thinking about going to the carnival, they have a new ferris wheel”

“Okay, I think I was a kid last time I went to one so I’d enjoy it even if something wasn’t new..”

“I’m glad you’re not fighting me but please try to be more excited about tonight, I might get offended you know”

“Offended?” Nebi couldn’t help but chuckle at the hint of panic he heard in Nathans voice. “well yeah, I mean you’re going out with me”

“sorry, I didn’t mean” Nebi laughing again made Nathan blush and stop talking. He realized Nebi was just teasing him and wasn’t hurt.

After breakfast they cleaned up together then Nebi insisted they go ahead and go out. “It’s a little early for rides.” Nathan said even as he pulled his socks and shoes on.

“I just want to walk, you need it.”

“Alright.”

“Don’t sound so down, it’s just a little walk.” He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a ponytail holder. “And keep your hair back.”

“But my eye.”

“Well one,” Nebi said as he moved behind Nathan and gathered up his hair, “you’re wearing an eye patch and two, it makes you look very sexy and mysterious.”

“I’m neither of those things.”

Nebi turned him around. “It’s not polite to lie. Besides, I’ve already seen everything, I know how amazing you look.”

Nathan had a feeling if he had a tail it would be wagging. He didn’t want to be so drawn to Nebi, he deserved someone whole, someone who could control himself, but he wanted him. Sometimes he felt like his wolf was showing and he feared he would do something Nebi would hate and drive him away. “Alright, I’ll stop talking bad about myself.”

“good, I really hate hearing you do it” Nebi finished putting Nathan’s hair up into a ponytail then they headed out the door. The two started down the sidewalk and Nathan was already glad Nebi had drug him out. The fresh air smelled so nice. It carried so many sweet smells with it. He especially loved the natural one, he could smell the trees and the grass that grew all around, he could smell the birds and the various plants on the ground. All these scents on their own were welcome but they also harmonized well with one another to bring him relief. “You look more relaxed already” Nebi pointed out “I always forget how much better I feel when I let myself go out”

“wolves weren’t built to stay indoors”

Chapter Three

“It feels like I should be running.”

“Too bad you can’t control your shifting or we could go out to the woods together. I guess we’ll just have to go jogging in the park one of these days.”

“I think I’d like that.” The wind changed a little and Nebi’s scent wrapped around him, making his body warm and his heart stutter. The wolf wanted and he rebelled against it. He didn’t understand why it was still such a battle in human form and it soon dawned on him that he really didn’t know a thing about being a wolf. He was too scared.

“Nathan?” Nebi touched his arm, startling him so he jumped away. “Whoa easy, are you alright?”

“Fine, sorry, I got lost in thought.”

Nebi smiled. “I hope it was all about me and how amazing I am.”

Nathan gave a nervous chuckle. “Yeah.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I mean you are pretty great. I’m surprised no one has tried sweeping you off your feet and taking you away.”

“Well, some men have tried getting my attention, but…” he moved closer. “Can I tell you a secret?”

“Of course.”

“There actually is someone, I just haven’t told him yet. I stopped dating when I found him. Do you know why?”

“No.”

“Because I think he’s my mate. That means, we’re meant to be.”

“Oh, really?” He didn’t understand why he suddenly felt so jealous. He didn’t have the right to be, not when he was too much of a coward to tell Nebi how he felt. “Why haven’t you told him then?”

“I’m planning on it, I just have to find the right time. Wouldn’t want him trying to run away.”

what idiot would run away from you Nathan thought to himself. All he wanted was Nebi and if he was normal and could give Nebi a good life he would be doing anything he could to be with him. Whomever this man was, Nathan considered him the luckiest man in the world to have captured Nebi’s heart. Nebi found it adorable how Nathan tried to smoothly bring up this mystery man as they walked. Nebi answered him, doing his best not to let Nathan know just yet that it was him he was in love with. It was fun to tease and he still didn’t feel like Nathan was ready to hear that.

They headed back to Nathan’s house after awhile and only stayed long enough for Nebi to grab his keys, wallet, and phone. They headed for the carnival and Nathan knew there would be way more people there. “How do you stop smells from driving you crazy?” Nathan asked.

“You have to learn to filter through them. If I wanted to, I could easily find you in a crowd. I know your scent and the sound of your heart, I even recognize the way you walk.”

“Really?”

Nebi nodded. “Shifters tend to be very detail oriented. They’re predators so remembering is important. I’ll never forget anything about you.”

“Me either.”

“You spend a lot of time trying to fight of the animal when you should be using it. Even if you can’t control the change, you can form a sort of bond with the wolf. My leopard controls my reflexes and gives me amazing night vision. I don’t fight it, there’s no reason. It’s the reason I know who my mate is, because the leopard knows. It recognizes that one person in a million, his soul, his heart, his scent. You would know too if you stopped fighting so much.”

“I just worry.”

“I know, but you don’t have to.” They sat in silence for the rest of the drive, Nebi letting Nathan contemplate things.

“So are we going straight for the Ferris wheel?” Nathan asked once they were there and out.

“Nope. We have to play games and ride other rides and eat as much junk as we can and after all that, we’ll get on the Ferris wheel.” Then he would tell him when they were at the top and Nathan had nowhere to go.

Nebi was so eager to start playing around with Nathan they began playing the first game they came to, one of those games where you try to knock the glass bottles over. Nebi was amazing at games like this, even when certain festivals tried to rig them to make it near impossible to win. They walked away with the biggest prize that game offered then went to find another one. They only played one more before beginning to ride so they wouldn’t have to take what they got on too many things. They could always go out to the car but that would take away from their evening. Plus Nathan had a tendency to want to hide away from people. He didn’t want to give Nathan the chance to suggest they go home.

Nathan inhaled, taking in every scent carried to him by the breeze. “It’s beautiful, don’t you think?” Nebi asked and Nathan turned to face him.

“Yeah, it’s amazing. There’s so much going on.”

“See? I told you you’d like it.”

“Thank you for insisting.”

Nebi chuckled. “You know me, I can’t help myself. I would have dragged you out by the scruff of your neck.”

“You know, you can only take those dog jokes so far.”

“I don’t know about that, I can think of at least a hundred more. Besides, I can see you trying not to laugh.”

“Shut up.”

“See?” The Ferris wheel stopped at the top and they both took in the view. “So, I have something important to tell you.”

“Is everything alright?”

“Well, it’s about my mate. You see, he’s completely and utterly oblivious. I just don’t understand how he doesn’t see it.”

Nathan suppressed a jealous growl. “I’m sorry, want me to smack him for you?”

Nebi started laughing and Nathan looked at him confused. “Now why would I ask you to hurt yourself?”

Nathan almost spoke but then just looked at Nebi confused which caused Nebi to chuckle “You’re my mate if what I said before wasn’t clear enough”

“me…but”

“dont even start with all that Nathan., You’re my mate and you’re an amazing man if you’d just forgive yourself and look at all your good qualities. If you’d stop fighting your wolf and listen to it you’d know we were meant to be together.” Nebi moved closer before continuing “Let me kiss you…if we kiss there is no way your wolf wont howl at you that I’m your mate.” Nathan was like a deer in the headlights and he didn’t want to get off this ride without a kiss. He needed his mate, he needed him to know they were meant for eachother so Nebi pressed his lips into Nathans.

Nathan’s heart did a flip as he grabbed Nebi’s shoulders. He told himself he should push him away, but he couldn’t. He could feel the wolf rejoicing and instead of running away he let out a little whine and pressed closer. His arms slipped down and around Nebi’s waist, crushing the leopard into him as he deepened the kiss. Nebi had to turn his head to break the kiss and laughed as he pushed at Nathan’s chest. “Easy, we’re still on a Ferris wheel.” He said and Nathan pulled away with a look of shock and embarrassment.

“I’m sorry, I…” he really didn’t know what had come over him. “I didn’t mean to…”

“Kiss me?” Nebi teased.

“Yes…I mean no…I…”

“It’s alright, take a breath.”

Nathan inhaled deeply then let the air out of his lungs, trying to calm his erratic heart beat. “It’s just are you sure?”

“Nathan, we shifters know, we can sense it. You felt it right?”

“Yeah, I’m just amazed and shocked. I don’t deserve a mate.”

Nebi took his hand, lacing their fingers. “Yes you do, you more than anyone. You need someone who isn’t afraid of that wolf of yours, who can show you he’s not all that bad. He likes me, I can tell and so do you. You’re both one and the same, you should be working together rather than fighting. Even if you can’t control the change, you can still learn to bond with that part of you.”

“I just don’t want to hurt you. What if I was too aggressive while…” he rubbed the back of his neck, his blush worsening. “I mean it would kill me if you hated me.”

“You do know that as a species wolves can be very dominating, that’s just the way they are. Even Allon has some habits he can’t just get rid of because of his instincts. Like biting. You probably haven’t noticed, but Fino has them on his shoulders sometimes.” He chuckled when Nathan groaned. “Sorry, too much information?”

“About them, yes.”

“He likes showing them off, it’s like a badge of honor.”

“If I did that…would you mind?”

“Not at all Nathan” they went back home after the ferris wheel, too much on Nathans mind to continue enjoying things at the fair. “Talk to me Nathan” Nebi prompted once they had set their prizes down in the living room. “I don’t know where to begin…”

“you think too much” Nebi took Nathans hands in his “Just let me love you, let me be with you. If you can do that, slowly I’m going to make you love yourself and life. I love you, wolf and all.” Nathan kissed Nebi again and this time Nebi let him take it as far as Nathan wanted it. Nathan was scared but after that first kiss he couldn’t deny himself Nebi any longer. This was his mate, he could feel it now and he didn’t think he could stay away if he tried.

He lifted Nebi and carried him to his room, falling with him onto the mattress and pushing at his clothes. He let out a whine and Nebi took his face in his hands and pulled back. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ve never had sex with a man, I don’t know what to do.”

Nebi pressed kisses to his lips, a smile pulling at his lips. “It’s okay, I’ll show you.” He pushed him back. “Get undressed.”

Nathan stood and shakily removed his clothes. He had never been so nervous in his life, but he wanted this with Nebi. He reached up and touched his eye patch and Nebi smiled as he tossed his own pants on the floor. “What?”

“Leave it on if it makes you feel more secure. I don’t mind, it makes you look like a sexy pirate.”

“Nebi.”

“Come here.” Nathan crawled on top of him and Nebi flipped him onto his back and straddled him. “Stay.” Nathan let out a growl and Nebi chuckled as he bent down and kissed him. “How cute, my wolf. I love you.”

“I love you too” Nathans voice was adorable to Nebi, how it was both annoyed and nervous at the same time. “Hey, this will be amazing and if you decide it isn’t all you have to do is tell me to stop Nathan. I will and I wont be upset by it or change my mind about being with you. Some people take longer than others to be ready for sex and sex isn’t everything. It’s amazing but it’s nothing in the grande scheme of things. I have found my mate, you, and that’s all that truly matters to me” Nathan swallowed, Nebis words tugging at his heart and helping ease him. He could tell Nebi meant those words, that he didn’t need to be so nervous because Nebi would still love him even if he couldn’t have sex with him just yet so there was no pressure. Nebi began kissing, nibbling and licking Nathan, enjoying his every reaction. Nathan felt the wolf within urging him to bite Nebi back but he was enjoying this too much to fight just letting Nebi do what he wanted.

Nathan let out a little whine when Nebi moved lower and moaned when he slid his tongue over his already hardened length. Nebi grinned as he teased him and chuckled when Nathan’s fingers tangled in his hair and urged him forward. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” He panted out. Nathan took him into his mouth, gently sucking and licking at him, getting lost in his moans and the way his body quivered. He only stopped when Nathan pulled him up. “I…I need you, please Nebi.”

Nebi gave him a light kiss and guided him on how to prepare him. They both moaned loudly when Nebi finally lowered himself onto Nathan and Nathan gripped Nebi’s hips. He rode him slowly, leaning forward to kiss him and catch every little pant, moan, and whine. It tapped into that animalistic part of Nathan and he found himself rolling Nebi beneath him. He withdrew and slammed into him, causing Nebi to cry out in surprise and hold tightly to him. “Nathan.”

Nathan lost himself to his need for Nebi, slamming into him repeatedly, soaking up how much Nebi was obviously enjoying it. When they were both spent Nathan curled up with Nebi, holding him tightly “I’ve been such an idiot” Nathan said and Nebi chuckled “took you long enough to figure it out. I love you Nathan and I want many more days just like this one. I’m moving in and you can’t stop me” Nathan smiled, rubbing his face into Nebis hair “I’m happy you’re such a stubborn, insistent person”

“it was the only way to win you over and I needed you. I couldn’t let my mate pass me by” They continued talking, it being the most normal conversation the two had ever had. Nebi enjoyed it, Nathan just talking without somehow bringing into the conversation he was a monster that should be avoided. Nathan would never be a monster to him and would never hurt anybody again. Nathan was amazing and he would do everything he could to get him to a point he never brought himself down again.

~ The End

Milos & Huxly

Chapter One

Milos drove his motorcycle into town with a heavy heart. It had been at least thirteen years since the human he dated destroyed his heart but he was still scared to see him again. Huxly had been the first man he ever loved and Milos guessed he should have known something was up since Huxly would never be in public with him and kept their relationship a secret from his parents but he had been foolish, young and very much in love so he didn’t let himself see Huxly was ashamed. He could still remember the day he ran back into the deep woods and never looked back on the human town. The pain was still so fresh it may as well have been yesterday. It almost pissed Milos off that he still loved Huxly but he had never been able to stop. The day they broke up it had been because Milos kissed him on the cheek in front of his friends.

He hadn’t meant too, he had known Huxly preferred not to show affection in public but they had been together so long at that point it was something he did without thinking. Huxly shoved him away screaming “what the hell” and his friends began laughing “what a fucking freak”

“did he really just try and pull that?”

“oh my god he’s one of those disgusting faggots” the comments went on and on and Huxly didn’t say a thing after shoving him and yelling at him. Milos had shakily gotten up but one of Huxly’s friends shoved him back down “stay down you disgusting faggot. I can’t believe you pulled that with Huxly. Hux, do you want us to hold him down so you can teach him a lesson, show him what happens to faggots around here” Milos had cried then and was starting to cry now at the memory. He couldn’t keep recalling it, not when he was returning to that town. He had to just push it out of his head and get what needed to be done here. He was here for his sister and if he had any luck Huxly had moved somewhere else.

Milos pulled over to check the address his sister had given him again. She had moved out of her apartment some time ago and he wanted to make sure he was on the right street. He would hate to knock on some stranger’s door. He lifted his helmet off and pulled the letter out of his pocket, checking the envelope and then the street he was on. “Milos?” He froze and slowly looked back around at the man stepping out of one of the buildings.

“Oh, hey.” He said. He couldn’t remember the guys name, only that he had been there when he’d made a fool of himself.

“Bradley.”

“Right, it’s been awhile.”

“Yeah, you back in town?”

He felt awkward talking nice to this guy. “Yeah, for my sister. Anyway, I’m busy, so…”

“Yeah, uh…” he rubbed the back of his neck, “so…can I apologize for…”

“I have to go, my sister’s probably worried.”

“Sure, alright then. Huxly’s…”

“Really need to go, glad to see you’re doing good.” He tucked the letter back in his pocket and pulled his helmet on.

“See you around then.”

“Yeah.”

He wasn’t normally short and rude with people but he didn’t want to hear his apologies and he especially didn’t want to hear anything about Huxly. It had been a long time and truly Huxly should have stood up for him that day, Huxly shouldn’t have shoved him away and acted like that so really it was more of his ex’s fault than Bradleys as a simple on looker but this was his first time back in this place and he just wasn’t ready to make nice. As he continued to ride he felt worse and worse about not being able to be more mature and forgiving since Bradly had been trying to apologize for the past. He decided that next time he saw him, if there was a next time he’d open his heart and listen.

Huxly lowered the barbell back into place and sat up, removing his earbuds then switching off his ipod and stretching his arms. He looked up as the door opened and waved at Bradley who wasn’t even looking at him. In fact he looked distracted. “Brad, hey!”

“Huh?” Bradley looked up at him. “Oh, hey.”

“You alright?”

“Hmm?”

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Bradley shook his head. “I may as well have.” He headed for the locker room and Huxly followed, a little concerned. “I saw someone today I didn’t think I’d ever see again.”

“Who?”

“It doesn’t matter, man.”

“Brad.”

Bradley sighed. “It’s not like you won’t find out anyway, it’s not like I’ll be the only one to see him. You should just leave it alone.” He glanced at Huxly who had his arms crossed over his chest and an impatient look on his face. “Fuck, fine, it’s Milos.”

“Milos?” Huxly almost stuttered out his name. “yeah and what’s even crazier is he doesn’t look older at all. Seriously it’s like we never saw him again because he stepped out of that day and walked into this one.”

“what did he say?” his heart was suddenly going a million miles an hour. Excitement, worry and most of all guilt filled his mind and soul. In all these years he had never secretly dated another man, he couldn’t. Not only because he felt so guilty but because he was still deeply in love with him. He knew Milos would never believe it now, why should he? It was true all the same though. He was simply a coward, still was to this day. He had never told a single soul the truth, the reason Milos had kissed him, the fact there wasn’t an ounce of him that was straight in the slightest. Women didn’t do a thing to arouse him, not even fully nude and trying their best. He was attracted to men and more over, he knew he’d probably never get over Milos.

“He really didn’t feel like talking to me but we were a bunch of horses asses back then so I’m not surprised”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“To see his sister. That’s really all I got. He really didn’t want to hear about you.”

“Oh.”

Bradley cleared his throat. “I’m going to get changed and then get in a quick workout.”

“Yeah, sure, sorry for bothering you.”

Milos wasn’t surprised to see his sister standing on her front porch when he pulled up and she headed down to him as he got parked and pulled his helmet off. “You are so late.” She said.

“Sorry, I had to stop and check to make sure I was going in the right direction.” He got off his bike and hugged. “It’s good to see you.”

“I was worried.” She pinched him.

“I said I was sorry. I also ran into Bradley.”

“He’s surprisingly grown up. Shocking, I know.”

“Yeah…he tried to apologize and this time it was me who was childish”

“hey, what they did to you was fucked up, it took you a long time to stop crying about it. I mean, this is the first time I’ve even gotten you to come back in town which is ridiculous. Let anybody call you a faggot or something else derogatory around me, they’ll be seeing their dentist soon after. You should never be afraid to come here and you shouldn’t blame yourself for having a hard time accepting his apology” Milos smiled, always thinking his sister was adorable when she got worked up. “You’re a good sister Enid. I’m hungry, are you? If I’m going to be in this town again I’d like to go back to my favorite place to eat”

“Back and already trying to fatten me up. We’re taking my car though, not that thing.”

“Wuss.”

“I’m in a dress.”

“Alright.” He wheeled his motorcycle up into the driveway then leaned against his sister’s car to wait for her. “That only took you an hour.” He teased when she finally came out.

“I couldn’t find my shades.”

“Oh sure, probably looking at yourself in the mirror. You got a boyfriend I don’t know about?”

“No, you’d be the first to know if I did. What about you?”

He shook his head. “Not interested.”

“You can’t let what happened with Huxly make you single forever Milos” Milos didn’t say anything as he got in the car, not really knowing what to say. His sister was right but how was he supposed to move on when his head couldn’t convince his heart to stop loving Huxly. When they arrived at the place they frequented over thirteen years ago they were delighted to see their favorite table open for the taking. They sat down quickly, even already knowing what they’d order. “Milos! Hey” the perky waitress said. He remembered her right away and was surprised she still worked here. “Hey”

“Dear god I want your families genes, look at you two” Milos chuckled “Yeah, we got lucky”

“do you know what you want?” she asked so they ordered. When she was gone his sister said “you’re not off the hook”

“hm?”

“you can’t stay single for eternity, you remember we’re immortal right?”

“don’t say that so loud Enid”

“why?”

“we’re in a human town” she shrugged “I don’t really care”

“You don’t understand.”

“You mean that you’re still in love with that self loathing shit head? I get it, but it’s not your fault he’s gay, it’s not even his fault he’s gay, that’s just the way it is.” She crossed her arms. “He should be here on hands and knees begging for your forgiveness, but he’s probably at the stupid gym working out his stupid muscles. Self centered little bas…” Milos covered her mouth.

“Calm down.” He said with a chuckle. “You might explode.”

She pushed his hand away. “He’s lucky I didn’t rip him apart for what he did. He should have just dumped his friends then and there, but no he went along with it. Creep.”

Milos sighed. “I know, but that doesn’t change how I feel. My heart it just…it belongs to him. I mean how pathetic do you have to be? I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I saw him again.”

“Make him work so hard he’s begging just to kiss you?”

“Enid, be good. Stop being so devious.”

“I can’t help it, you’re my baby brother and he hurt you” Milos chuckled “I really should have seen the signs he was ashamed”

“ashamed or not he should have stuck up for you. There’s no excuse I’ll hear for it.”

“On a happier note what are you doing with your life lately?”

“I have a new job, I got bored of my last one”

“not surprising, what’re you doing here now?”

“I work at a childrens museum”

“Thats sweet”

“Yeah I like it”

“mom and dad are going to ask me if you plan on returning home any year soon”

“Nah, humans are so interesting, I love being in their towns”

“You should at least visit.”

“I’ll think about it.” Their food and drinks came and they thanked the waitress before digging in. “So, what are you going to do if he does find out and comes to see you?”

Milos swallowed his food. “I don’t know, panic, take a swing at him, run away again. Probably forgive him because I’m an idiot.”

“Well, if he tries anything tell me and I’ll beat him up for you.”

“I’m an adult Enid, I think I can handle myself.”

All Huxly could think about as he walked home was Milos and the last time he had seen him. He had never seen him make a face like that before, like he had ripped his heart out. He remembered the tears, how Milos had run away and disappeared. He didn’t blame him for never coming back, Huxly had helped destroy the life he had built there. He let out a sigh. He wanted to see him, but he knew he didn’t have the right to.

Chapter Two

After they ate Enid asked “want to ride by where I work so you know where it is?”

“sure sis” they got back in her car and went to her work since it wasn’t far away then went back to her place. “My home is your home baby brother so help yourself while you’re here” she showed him where everything was then suggested ‘I know it was a long trip so I wont be hurt if you go to bed”

“I’m up for a show or movie if you’d like. We don’t see eachother much anymore”

“I just started watching Bobs Burgers if you’d like to watch that”

“what’s it about?”

“this family that owns a restaurant. It’s pretty funny and there’s this girl named Louise that I absolutely adore”

“alright, lets watch then”

Huxly stared at his phone, at the number he hadn’t deleted. He wanted to message him, but he didn’t know if Milos had changed his number. He sighed. He needed to do this, even if Milos told him off afterwards. He tapped the message button and sent a text. “Hey, it’s me, I heard you were in town and I wanted to know if you would meet me somewhere.” He couldn’t take it back now and he laid back on his bed as he waited.

Milos jumped when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He forgot he had brought it with him. Enid had kept paying the bill, wanting him to be able to call if he visited the human world. He pulled it out and his eyes widened at Huxly’s name. “You alright?” Enid asked.

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, I’m good.”

“Are you sure? You’re making a face, like a shocked I don’t know what to do face.”

“I’m fine, just watch your doppleganger.”

“Doppleganger?”

“Yeah, Louise, she’s you but smaller.”

Enid smiled brightly “I’ll take that as a compliment, she’s awesome” He couldn’t believe Huxly had already texted him, he hadn’t been in town a full twenty four hours yet. The hopeful side of him made him wonder if he was sorry about what happened, if Huxly wanted to make it up to him. He was glad his sister wasn’t judging him for still loving Huxly. She was in protective mode but she seemed to understand that you can’t really control your heart and Huxly really was an amazing boyfriend beyond what happened that day. Was he ready to jump into a relationship again with a man who let his friends push him around and was probably still ashamed? No, but he had missed him and meeting somewhere to talk about things was something he was scared of but he wanted.

“where would you like to meet and when?” Milos texted back. He kept the phone in his hand, hoping Huxly was as quick to respond as he used to be when they were together. Huxly had been pacing with his phone in his hand so he read it the moment it arrived. Emotion tugged at his heart that Milos actually seemed willing. It made him feel worse about what happened. Milos was such a genuinely good guy and he had allowed his friends to be so mean to him.

“My place? In the morning? It’s really up to you, Here’s my address” he typed out where he lived then sent his next message. He knew asking for the morning was probably a bit much but he was so eager to finally talk to him again. It had been so many years since the last time they saw each other. Milos wasn’t surprised he chose his house “still going to be hiding eh?” he thought to himself but decided not to get upset about it. He wanted to see Huxly and he just had to hope he had the strength once in front of him again to not let himself be some dirty little secret.

Milos sent back, “I’ll be there.” Then put his phone away. He knew if he kept talking he might get upset and he was supposed to be spending time with his sister. He also didn’t want her going and trying to kick Huxly’s ass.

Huxly’s heart skipped a beat when he saw Milos’s response and he resisted the urge to send anything back. He didn’t want to annoy or anger him. He put his phone on its charger then decided to give his place a good once over. He wasn’t an overly messy person, but he was sure he had left some dishes in the sink or clothes on the bathroom floor. It only took him about an hour and then he was left trying to fall asleep.

Milos tossed and turned that night, his thoughts constantly drifting to Huxly. He tried to think of what he was going to say and how he was going to act. He didn’t have the same temperament as Enid and had only snapped at Bradley because he was trying to avoid anything to with the past or Huxly, but he knew he had to show some force of will so he wouldn’t end up back where he had been. He was absolutely enamored with Huxly, but he had to set up conditions if they were going to get anywhere.

In the morning Milos nervously told his sister where he was going to be heading after breakfast. She sighed then got up from the table to hug him “I love you baby brother, so much. Please, know how amazing you are when you go over there. You deserve someone who is proud of you.” she let go and stood up straight “I can’t say I’m happy you’re going to see him but I understand. Please though, please demand to be treated better than last time if things become more than friends between you.”

“I will, I’ve resolved to make sure he knows I wont be anybodies dirty little secret again”

“good, I don’t know if I can keep from breaking his neck if he hurts you like that again.”

“You know you’d have to come home if you did that”

“exactly, don’t make me lose my place here baby brother because I love you and I will kill for you” Milos smiled at her and she sat back down to finish her food. He helped his sister clean up then texted Huxly to let him know he was on his way. Huxly was still struggling to figure out what to even wear today so he wasn’t going to have time to eat breakfast but he wasn’t sure he even could. His stomach was in knots with worry over how this would go. Huxly knew he was a selfish prick but he wanted Milos back in his life desperately, even as a friend.

Milos’s heart felt like it was going to explode when he finally pulled into Huxly’s driveway. He could feel himself shaking and had to take a couple of deep breaths before switching off the engine to his bike and pulling his helmet off. He could do this, it wasn’t hard. Just don’t back down, put his foot down, maybe channel a bit of his sister if he had to. He sat his helmet on his seat and tried to walk as confidently as possible up to the front door. He took another deep breath and raised his hand, knocking a little too loudly. When Huxly opened the door his stomach did a little somersault and he swallowed down the nervousness. “Um…” He said as they stared at each other. Why did he have to be so good looking.

“Come in, if you want to I mean.” Huxly replied, giving him a tentative smile.

“Sure.” Huxly stepped back and Milos stepped over the threshold. The door closed behind him and he told himself there was no going back now.

“Can I take your jacket?”

“Huh?”

“Your jacket?”

“Oh, yeah, thanks.” He slipped it off and handed it to Huxly who stuck it in the closet near the front door. “So, wow, you really haven’t aged.”

“Bradley told you.”

“Yeah, we got to the same gym.” He cleared his throat. “Would you like to sit? I can get you something to drink if you like. I have water, milk, and juice.”

Chapter Three

“Milk sounds good” Milos sat and Huxly walked out and into his kitchen. Milos glanced around the living room, at the pictures mostly. He seemed to be friends with only one or two boys he used to hangout with and he didn’t seem to be with anybody but nobody had known he was with him all those years ago and there certainly weren’t any pictures that would indicate that were together so that didn’t mean much. For all Milos knew he could have some other guy as a secret boyfriend. Huxly returned with two glasses of milk and handed one to Milos. “thank you for coming…I don’t know why you came but I’m really glad to finally have an opportunity to apologize…I tried calling after what happened”

“I turned the phone off”

“yeah…I kept getting voicemail..Milos…I’m honestly and truly sorry…I still get angry at myself for shoving you away…for not sticking up for you and for most of all,still to this day not telling anybody we were together and that I was the one in the wrong…you were my boyfriend…you had every right to kiss me”

“I wasn’t a boyfriend…I was a secret”

“you were my boyfriend. I loved you so much…I still love you Milos” Milos stood, finding courage in his hurt and anger “when you love someone you don’t let people treat them like that”

“I know, I was a stupid teenager.”

“do you still hide the fact that you aren’t straight?”

“yes” Milos scoffed as he stood “so what are you wanting from this because I need to know. I deserve better than to be some secret you’re ashamed of. I wont do it again. I love you too. I always will but you inviting me to your home tells me I’m still something you want to hide”

“I would have met you anywhere. I left it up to you at first”

“But when I put it back to you you suggested here”

“I don’t think well when I’m nervous, you know that. If you want to be seen with me hang on” he ran to his room and grabbed his phone. Milos was confused as he set it it on the mantel and returned to him. He began talking to the phone, they were live on Facebook but Milos wouldn’t have understood what he was talking about even if he explained “I’m not friends with most the assholes I was in high school but I just wanted to let everyone know of something really shitty I did in high school. This man right here, for those who don’t know is Milos Shana and I dated him” Huxlys heart hurt it was beating so hard in fear. He still didn’t want to come out but Milos did deserve better so he would do this for him. “I dated him over a year in high school but I was too ashamed to tell anybody, not because he isn’t wonderful and gorgeous but because I was ashamed of being gay. I let my friends bully him when he accidentally kissed me in front of them, I didn’t stick up for him and I’ve hated myself for so long because of it. I’m gay and I love this man. I’m sorry Milos”

Huxly was now facing him as he said again “I’m so sorry”

Milos looked at the phone and then back at Huxly. “Can…can people see us?”

“Yes.”

The shock set in as he realized Huxly had just outed himself. “Why would you do that?”

“Because you deserve it.” He reached over and took Milos’s hands in his. “Can you forgive me for what I did?”

Milos felt a lump forming in his throat and his eyes filled with tears. He wasn’t supposed to get emotional, but he couldn’t stop it. He hadn’t expected Huxly to care enough to do something like this. He couldn’t speak so he just nodded and Huxly pulled him into a tight hug. Milos started crying and hated himself for clinging so tightly to Huxly. He even tried pulling away, but Huxly held onto him. “Huxly, you should…everyone’s…”

“I love you.”

“Liar.”

“I’m not.” He released him long enough to grab his phone. “I hope you all heard that, I love him.” He shakily ended the feed, too afraid to read any comments it had received. He then went back to Milos, gently wiping away the tears on his cheeks. “I’m not lying. I love you so much.”

“I can’t believe you did that…I never expected”

“teenagers are dumb and I know even that’s no good excuse for what happend but I do love you, I’ll always love you and I’ll take you to every establishment in town and kiss you in front of everyone if that’s what you want. I’ll go to every guy that picked on you that day and beat the crap out of him then get someone to kick the crap out of me if that’s what you want. I don’t deserve you in my life Milos but I’ve missed you so much. I’d do anything for you to even be my friend again but if you’d ever take me back as your boyfriend I promise to never fail you again. I wont let embarasment be more important than you. Everyone I know knows I like men now. I don’t know if you use Facebook but if you’d like I can show you that people saw”

“I’m not sure what Facebook is” They sat down on the couch with his phone and Huxly showed him. Huxly was surprised that his fears had been unfounded, at least with everyone but the kids he hung out with back in school. It made him feel even more foolish for being afraid back then. Anybody who mattered didn’t give a crap if he liked men and were proud of him for righting what happened back then. “How do you feel now Milos” Huxly asked and Milos wiped at his face “I feel like I should have came back sooner…I’ve missed you”

“does that mean we’re friends” Milos nodded and now it was Huxlys turn to cry.

Milos did his best to comfort Huxly by hugging him and rubbing his back. He really didn’t know what else to do, he didn’t think things were going to play out like this and he was still a little surprised they had. “Sorry.” Huxly said when he managed to get himself under control. “I’m just so relieved.”

“It’s alright, you kind of got a lot off your chest today. Coming out can be a little overwhelming.”

“That’s only half of it, I’m just happy you didn’t tell me off.”

“I thought about it, but that’s more Enid’s thing.”

Huxly chuckled. “She’s a bit of a hot head.” He ran his fingers through his hair, sweeping it back away from his face. “So, want to go out or something?”

“Out? Like a date?”

“Just out. I’ll take you anywhere. How about ice cream or slushies or something?”

“Are you sure your muscles would agree?”

“You dork.”

“How about milkshakes, it’s like a slushy made out of ice cream.”

“Okay”

“want to ride on my motorcycle?’

“I heard you had one as you pulled up. I’d love to if you don’t mind” They walked out and Milos handed him a spare helmet “it’s requirement for getting on my bike” Huxly took it and put it on then they both got on Milos’s bike. Huxly loved motorcycles but most the reason he was happy to be riding with Milos was the fact he’d get to hold him. Milos drove to his favorite place to eat since they also had milkshakes “Is this fine?” he asked when he parked his bike “yeah, I’m just happy you’re willing to go anywhere with me” They put the helmets away then Huxly said “your motorcycle is really nice”

“Thanks”

“How long have you been riding it?”

“Not really sure, years now” the lady came up “what would you two like?” They ordered their milkshakes then went back to talking. It felt a bit awkward but time still flew by. Before either man knew it they had been there three hours so they left their waitress a really good tip for being so patient with them. They had discussed a park they went to a few times at night when they were dating so they decided to go there next. As they talked there Milos started thinking about the fact he was an elf. Huxly had manned up and apologized for past behavior but he felt to a certain degree he needed to apologize for hiding something like that from Huxly.

In his family he had always been taught you don’t keep secrets from people you love so he said “hey Huxly”

“yeah?”

“can we get somewhere alone so I can tell you something”

“we have to be alone?” Huxly asked nervously, still waiting to be chewed out by Milos “yeah, it’s not bad but you manned up so it’s time for me to do the same”

“O…okay” They walked over to a more secluded place in the park and Milos said “I’m going to tell you something that sounds made up but I just feel I should be honest with you”

“what is it?”

“I’m immortal, I have good genes which is why I look so young but it’s not in the way you humans are thinking. I’m an elf” Huxly was left speechless but Milos could tell his mind was just processing being told something like that. “why didn’t you say that when we were kids”

“I guess in my own way I had something I was embarrassed to share too”

“I actually heard a rumor you and your sister were elves”

“well Enid tells everyone she’s close to so I’m not surprised”

“wow…so….you’re never going to grow old”

“Nope but if you’re worried, if we did start dating again I could just make you immortal too”

“Thats a thing?”

“well…If I married you we’d be bonded…it’s a lot to explain but it would stop you from ageing because we’d basically be one”

“you…I cant believe you trust me enough to tell me all this”

“You just outed yourself for me”

“That doesn’t mean you had to tell me, but I’m glad you did. You shouldn’t be embarrassed though, I mean you still look just as hot back then.”

Milos playfully punched his shoulder. “Oh I see, it’s all about my looks.”

“It’s more than that.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Um, so can I maybe kiss you?”

“Uh…”

“Not because we’re alone, we can go back out there if you want. You don’t have to kiss me either, it’s fine if that’s too much. I mean I can’t expect you to just jump back in.” He gave a nervous laugh. “Sorry.”

This side of Huxly really surprised Milos. He had been pretty confident when they were dating, but now he acted like he was walking through a minefield. It touched Milos that he was even asking so he stepped closer and pressed his lips against Huxly’s surprising him. He was happy when his reaction wasn’t to push him away, but to stand there looking confused. It caused Milos to laugh and Huxly to blush. “Sorry, it’s just your face.”

“Y…you caught me off guard.”

“I’m sorry, are you happy though?”

“Beyond happy, thank you for kissing me…can I ask what this means…are we together or just friends or would you rather not put a name to what we are just yet”

“I’ve missed you a lot and after what you did…outing yourself to everyone for me and the time I’ve spent with you today we’re together. I love you and even if I said just friends I don’t think I could be just your friend Huxly. I love you and I want you to kiss me any time you want” Huxly’s heart stuttered but he wouldn’t let himself cry this time. He just pulled Milos in, wanting to give him a real kiss, one he was ready for. He hadn’t kissed anybody since all those years ago but he was hoping to take Milos’s breath away. Soon they were thinking of nothing else but each other as their lips moved against one anothers. Everything had felt terrible for so long but standing there in Huxlys arms with their lips together and tongues mingling everything felt right in the world. Milos truly felt happy he finally chose to come back and that he opened his heart enough to allow Huxly to talk to him. If he would have closed himself off with anger they wouldn’t be healing like this and they wouldn’t have such an amazing future ahead of them.

~ The End

Fino & Allon 4

Chapter One

“You’re late Nebi.” Fino said as his contact sat down next to him.

“Hey, I get busy.”

“You said it was important and then you show up late.”

“It is important, but so is my other work.”

Fino snorted. “Do I even want to know?”

“Probably not.” Nebi held out an envelope and when Fino reached for it he snatched it away, grinning. “You are going to tell your wolf right?”

“That’s not your business.”

Nebi shrugged and held it out and Fino snatched it away. “You still need to introduce us or are you worried I might take him away?”

“That would never happen, he’s mine.” Fino opened the envelope and pulled out the information he had asked Nebi to obtain. “You’re sure this is the same wolf?”

“Of course, he’s even missing an eye. Your wolf really did a number on him.”

Fino sighed and put the papers away. “Thanks, maybe I’ll call you and we can all go out or something. After I take care of this situation. Just keep your paws off my mate or I’ll kill you.”

“I don’t have a death wish and over a mate I think you would definitely kill me” They parted ways, Fino returning to his car to look over the information he had on the wolf that had attacked Fino and made him what he was. Fino knew he might have never met his mate nor would his mate be immortal if it weren’t for this creature but he still pissed him off. The good things he had set in motion in no way outweighed the fact this wolf had tried to kill Allon. He didn’t like the wolf was back in the area and Fino planned to take care of the situation before he even thought of coming after Fino again.

Fino looked at his name, Nathan Brooks. He memorized it and all the other information before driving home to his husband. He needed to calm down and more importantly he probably did need to talk to Allon about this. Fino hoped it wouldn’t upset him that Nathan was around. He hoped his wolf would know that he wasn’t going to let this bastard anywhere near him or to change anybody ever again against their will.

The two no longer lived in an apartment. Shortly after their wedding they bought a house together and Fino actually had fun decorating and filling it up with Allon which surprised him since domestic things like that normally would have bored him before the wolf entered his life. They had donated basically all the furniture from the last place so it could truly be both of theirs. Allon ended up most happy about the new bed they bought together. It was leaps and bounds better than the bed Allon had when they got together.

Allon was moving between writing an article for a marine magazine and cooking lunch. He was a little surprised when heard the front door open and nearly dropped the spatula. “Fino?” He called.

“Yes my wolf.” Fino came into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Allon, pressing their lips together. “Hello my love.”

“You’re home.” He felt his face burning. “I thought you’d be gone longer.”

“Oh? Were you planning something?”

He looked at the stove. “I wanted to surprise you with lunch and I’m working.”

Fino grinned as he rubbed their noses together. “I can go for a walk if you need more time.”

“Jerk.”

Fino gave him another kiss then let him go so the food wouldn’t burn. Fino leaned against the counter, watching Allon and he chuckled when he heard the wolf’s heart pounding. “So cute.”

“I’ll let you starve.”

“I’ll just have to eat you then.”

“That’s not fair.”

“I disagree.” He let out a little sigh. “We need to talk after lunch.”

“Why after?”

“Because you might not eat after.”

Allon would have pressed if he hadn’t worked so hard on this lunch. He really wanted to enjoy it with his mate so if Fino thought it would ruin things he’d finish cooking, enjoy their meal together then talk about whatever Fino needed to talk about. It obviously wasn’t about breaking up since he had come in the door and instantly wanted to hold him then sat there and flirted. Being it wasn’t that it most definitely could wait without him stressing. An unpropitious talk hanging over their heads was however enough to calm Allons speeding heart so he could cook without any more teasing from his mate.

Fino seemed to be enjoying the smell of their meal as Allon grew near to being done cooking it which made him feel happy. It made Allon even happier when he watched how much his mate enjoyed eating the lunch once it was on the table. His work had been neglecting ever since Fino said there was news but he could definitly do it later depending on what Fino had to talk to him about.

It wasn’t until the table was cleared and the dishes were clean that Fino pulled the folder out, hating he had to remind Allon of this beast “you want to talk about your new case?” Allon said. The suspense was now starting to get to him “yes?”

“is it really nasty or something?”

“It might be, just open it.”

Allon flipped the folder open and looked at the face of the man. He didn’t recognize him and found his eyes drawn to the missing eye. He then looked at the name. “Who is this?”

“That, my love, is the man who attacked you, the werewolf who attacked you.”

Allon’s eyes jumped back to the page then back to Fino’s face, his heart slamming against his chest. “What? You mean, you’re serious? Th…this is him? What happened to his eye? Did I do that?”

“Yes, when you stabbed him.”

“Holy shit.” He blushed. “I mean, why show me this now?”

“Because I asked Nebi to look for him and it turns out he’s back in town. I don’t know for what, I don’t know if he’s prowling or something else, but I thought you should know.”

“Wh…is he here for me?”

“I don’t know.” Allon paled and Fino took the file away and hugged him. “It’s going to be okay, I’ll protect you. You trust me, right?” Allon nodded, but pushed himself closer to Fino. “It’s okay, no one can hurt you. I’ll figure out what he’s doing here and if I have to I’ll get rid of him. So please don’t worry.”

“I..it just freaks me out. Why would he come back?”

“best case scenario it has nothing to do with you. Maybe he comes here frequently for other reasons and that was why he was here when he turned you. A creature like him, who turns people against their will, they don’t tend to remember victims because they just don’t care. You have to care a certain amount to remember.”

“and worst case he’s come for me..”

“and he’ll get his throat ripped out if the need arises Allon” Fino lifted his mate, taking him to their bedroom where he laid against their headboard and held him comfortingly. Fino didn’t bring up the contents of the folder again until Allon got the courage to reopen it and start reading. “He couldn’t find any connections here as to why he’d come”

“that still doesnt mean he came for you. He could be involved in illegal stuff Nebi just coudln’t dig up quite yet. Somtimes, if there is nobody with loose lips in a group of la breakers it can be harder to figure out what somebodies into”

“I dont know if I want to be alone while he’s here but…I don’t know if I want to investigate with you”

“If I need to, I’ll ask Nebi to find someone else.”

“No, you’re the best and at least I feel safe when I know it’s you looking for him.”

He gently tipped Allon’s head back. “Then how about this, you come with me and if at any time you start to feel scared or overwhelmed, I bring you home.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

“O…okay, I’ll go then.”

“I’ll be right there and at the first sign of danger, I’ll protect you.”

“I’m sorry I’m such a chicken, it’s just…” Fino kissed him and he felt heat crawl up his neck.

“None of that, what have I told you about talking down about yourself? I’ll punish you for it.” He raised Allon’s hand and pressed a kiss to the gold band around his finger, making his heart skip a beat. “My husband should know better.”

“I won’t do it again.”

Fino smiled. “Good, I love you and I won’t let him touch a single hair on your head.”

“Thank you by the way, thank you for letting me know this was going on. We don’t always talk about your cases and with your need to protect me I know it might have been tempting to handle this without saying something…thank you for being so open and honest”

“Not that it was my only reason but you needed to be alerted, just incase he is here about you. I would feel like a the biggest piece of shit husband if you weren’t on guard and he nabbed you because you didn’t know to be careful. Regardless of that though I will never keep secrets from you. Sure we dont talk about all my cases but not telling you about this would be lieing because it’s information you have a right to. It would have been something I didn’t talk about on purpose so it would have been no better than lieing”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.” Fino pressed their foreheads together, smiling warmly at Allon. “You were working when I came in, you should probably get back to that.”

Allon grinned. “That’s got to be the first time you wanted me out of bed.”

“Hey, I have self control.”

“Oh yeah, I believe you.”

“I do, you’re just really tempting, I always need you, but I won’t interfere with the things you love. Finish your work.”

“Come sit with me? I don’t want to sit in the living room alone. All I can think of is him coming through a window and dragging me away.”

“Whatever you want.”

Fino and Allon walked out of their room. Fino went straight to the living room while Allon fetched his computer, taking it to sit with his husband. The wolf who had changed him being around made it hard for Allon to work at first but with his mate holding him, giving him random kisses and little massages here and there he was able to get into his work and finish up. “see, look how well I behaved” Fino said proudly as Allon shut his computer. “Maybe I should reward you for that” Allons face was already heated as he said the words, almost making Fino chuckle. He loved Allons shyness and was almost glad it hadn’t gone away with time. It was one of the more endearing things about Allon.

Fino’s lips pressed hungrily into Allon’s as he pushed him back onto the couch. Their hands pulled at each others clothes and Fino let out an appreciative moan when his fingers met bare skin. He took his time teasing his wolf and grinned when Allon whined and pulled at him, his eyes pleading. “My sweet wolf.” He kissed him as he sank into his heat, Allon’s loud cry parting their lips. He withdrew and rocked slowly back into him, causing Allon to let out a little whimpering moan.

“Fino.”

“I love you.”

“Me too.”

Fino stayed slow and gentle wanting to savor his mate before they were out tracking another werewolf. Allon was limp by the time he finished and Fino lifted him and carried him to their room. He chuckled when Allon let out another one of his adorable little whines. “How does a bath sound?” He asked as he lowered him to the bed.

“Amazing.”

Chapter Two

Fino pressed a hard, loving kiss into Allons lips then spoke gently “Then I’ll be right back my sweet wolf” Allon watched Fino walk away, admiring his figure. He thought again how attractive his mate was and how for that and so many other reasons he was lucky to have the wereleopard not only in his life but as his husband. Fino soon returned and brought Allon to the already warm bathroom, relaxing with him in the tub. They let the rest of this evening be calm and romantic before starting to work in the morning on finding Nathan Brooks. “Remember, if you need to come home tell me right away. I don’t care how far we’re into something”

“Okay” Fino kissed his head then went back to putting his shoes on so they could leave. Fed, dressed and armed with the information Nebi had gathered they left their home and set out to mess with a dangerous individual who obviously didn’t care atall about others lives. Upon getting in the car Allon asked “so where were we going first?”

“The park where you were attacked.”

“Oh.”

He reached over and grabbed Allon’s hand. “It’s alright and besides, it’s daylight. His file says he only attacks at night.”

Allon nodded as he opened up the file again. “Full moons.”

“Hmm?”

“It says on full moon nights.”

“I actually found that pretty interesting. It was full moon when you were attacked right?”

“Yeah, I remember because I didn’t bring a flashlight or anything that night, even though it was cloudy. I mean there were plenty of shadows along the trail because of the trees and when the clouds would move, but it was bright enough that I could see the path.”

“It’s like something out of a movie. A damsel in distress, a monster in the dark.”

“I’m not a damsel.”

“Well, you’re quite beautiful and you do have a beast that likes to follow you around and attack you.” He winked and Allon blushed.

“Shut up.”

“That’s my wolf, I don’t like seeing you stressed.”

They arrived at the park with Allon curious as to why they would come knowing Nathan wouldn’t be here but he didn’t want to question Fino the entire time they looked into the werewolf. Allon knew his husband wouldn’t mind answering and probably scold him for even thinking he could be a bother but he didn’t want to hinder Finos progress. He just wanted to figure this man out so that he didn’t have to worry about Nathan coming after him again or worse, coming after and hurting Fino. Fino was an assassin but that didn’t mean nothing could hurt him. Allon actually enjoyed just watching Fino work. The look on his face was so serious but still incredibly handsome. He wasn’t sure Fino could make an unattractive face.

“You know if you don’t stop looking at me like that, we won’t be getting any work done.”

Allon blushed. “Wh…what do you mean?”

“Like I’m the most perfect male specimen in the world.” He chuckled. “I mean it’s true, but I start getting excited when my mate his staring at me like that.”

“Oh hush.”

Fino laced his fingers through Allon’s. “Well, he’s not here.” He sighed. “Of course that would be too easy.”

“You thought he might be?”

“Yeah, maybe revisiting the area, but he’s not.” He pulled Allon over to one of the benches and sat down. “Let’s stay here for a bit and see what happens. If he doesn’t show we’ll move on.”

“Okay.” He scooted closer and Fino let go of his hand to slide his arm over Allon’s shoulders. He leaned in and rubbed his nose over his cheek until he turned his head so Fino could kiss him. “Hey, you’re supposed to be paying attention.”

“I am, you seem to forget that I’m very, very good at what I do.”

“but was sitting here more about being close to me or seeing if he shows up?” Fino grinned “you know me too well at this point my love. Looking at me the way you did made me want to just be close to you for a bit and we are still in an area he likes so I’m working too. He wont be getting anywhere near you, that’s a fact for me so I’m not as worried as you but you should also know that as a fact. Absolutely nothing will ever harm you Allon, I love you too much…I need you too much’ The look in Finos eyes had him wondering if he was going to undress him right there in the park so he moved Fino back a little “baby, I think you’re getting too excited” He kissed Allons head “I am, I suppose we should get some ice cream or something to cool me down.”

“I could shove you in the pond.”

“I’d love for you to try.” Allon started laughing and Fino pressed a kiss to his forehead before standing and pulling him up. “Come on, ice cream.”

“Alright, sounds good you bad kitty.”

“But I’m a sexy bad kitty so it’s fine.”

They left the park and headed to the closest ice cream parlor. Allon went with the mystery flavor ice cream which tasted like fruit loops and Fino chose moose tracks. They decided to walk a little while they ate, Fino always on the look out, his ears and eyes open just in case. “Do you think he attacked me on purpose?” Allon asked.

“I don’t know.”

“It’s scary to think about. If he did it on purpose then he’s just a bad person, but if he didn’t then what?”

“I stop him either way. Your safety and the safety of this city are more important.”

“I know.”

“You’re pretty brave though, you know that? You attacked and wounded him, that gives us a good chance at finding him.”

“My adrenaline was pumping pretty hard. I was definitely in fight mode to stay alive”

“I think you could be a good fighter in general if you were ever interested in learning some things from me. You have good instincts and now you have all the power of a wolf. I’ll always be here to protect you and I love doing it but seriously, I do see a lot of potential in you to be skilled fighter”

“Maybe when I don’t have to devote so much time to studies”

“alright” Fino kissed his head again. Allon blushed though Fino so often did just that. Fino seemed to need to be touching him or to kiss him in some way.

“Where to next?” Allon asked once they were in the car.

“Nebi made a list of places he was seen before your attack.”

“How?”

“He hacked into some stuff.”

Allon nodded. “I should meet Nebi.”

Fino arched an eyebrow. “Oh really?”

Allon smiled. “Are you jealous?”

“Maybe…yes. He’s been talking about meeting you too.”

“You know you don’t have to worry. I love only you. I just want to get to know your friend. He sounds interesting, I mean he does all this stuff. Could I?”

Fino took his hand. “You don’t have to ask, I’m sorry for acting so immature. It’s just that you are my first and only love and I may be being overprotective. I promise to set up a day for us to all hang out.”

“I dont feel you’re being immature Fino. It’s a normal emotion when you’re in love to get jealous. How you handle that jealousy determines if you’re mature or not and the way you’re handling it is mature.” Allon brought Finos hand to his lips and kissed it. They spent the day checking out the places Nebi listed to little gain. They hardly knew more than they were already given in the folder but this was only the first day so Fino didn’t feel too down about it. “we might just have to wait for a full moon Allon..I’m not just going to do nothing until then but maybe I’ll call Nebi tonight and set up a lunch meeting tomorrow somewhere if you’d like to talk to him”

“I would” Fino gave him an intense kiss that left Allon speechless “I trust you, know that if my jealousy gets the better of me at any moment. It wont be because I think you’ll leave…I just love you so much. I promise to do my best”

They searched a little longer, giving a couple of the places they had already been another scan then headed home where Fino helped Allon cook. That night Allon went and checked his email, seeing that he his article had been reviewed and approved and Fino called Nebi. “I’m finally getting to meet him? What happened? Let me guess he made you feel bad.”

“Shut up and answer me, lunch tomorrow or not?”

“I’d love too, let’s go to that sushi place. Your wolf likes sushi right?”

“He likes food.”

“Good, meet you there then.”

Fino hung up and sat his phone on the coffee table as he flopped down on the couch. “So, are we on for lunch?” Allon asked as he came into the living room with his laptop.

“We’re having sushi tomorrow.”

“Was that a joke on his part? Marine biologist and sushi.”

Fino chuckled. “Nebi just likes fish. What’s that for?”

“Oh, I wanted to show you that my article’s going to be published.”

Fino smiled “because you’re amazing” He chuckled then sat down beside Fino so he could still see the email. When they were done looking at it the laptop joined Finos cellphone on the coffee table so Allon could get comfortable in Finos arms. When lunch came tomorrow they arrived a little early and Nebi was right on time. “Allon, aren’t you adorable” he knew that might ruffle Fino but he just wasn’t built to keep anything he wanted to say inside of him. “it’s nice to meet you”

“lets go in” they were able to quickly get a table since this particular place didn’t normally get incredibly busy until dinner time and began looking over their menus. Once their orders were placed Nebi asked “so what’s it like being with Fino? I can tell you mean a great deal to him but..he’s well, rough around the edges”

“He’s really sweet to me”

Interesting, he usually threatens to skin me.”

Fino crossed his arms and looked out the window and Allon laughed. “Well that’s not very nice.”

“I can’t help it.” Fino mumbled.

“It’s kind of adorable how worked up he gets, you should see him when I mention you. If he was in leopard form his hair would be standing on end.”

“When I first met him I was scared and I thought my heart was going to explode. I mean he was up close and personal from the start. I’d turn around and he would be nose to nose with me.”

“You being so cute and innocent only made me want to get closer to you.” Fino said as he turned his attention to Allon. “Those big blue eyes and how shy you are, then there’s your scent. I was hooked from the beginning.” Allon’s cheeks reddened. “See?”

“I have to admit, I’m kind of jealous.” Nebi teased. “I’ve never seen Fino look at someone the way he looks at you.”

“It gives me a lot of confidence.” Allon replied. “When we met, I didn’t really have any, but every time he looks at me like that I feel, for a lack of a better word, amazing.”

“See? Aren’t you glad I brought you that job?”

Fino rolled his eyes. “Yes, thank you oh great an powerful Nebi.”

“So um how did you and Fino meet?”

“We were introduced through one of our employers and I’ve been his go to guy for work ever since. Your case is pro bono though, I don’t charge Fino. He might act like I annoy him and maybe I do, but I consider him to be my best friend. He’s really the only one who can put up with my blunt honesty and need to tease.”

Chapter Three

“We should set up stuff like this more often. Maybe next time we can all do something. All three of us are busy, especially you two but I don’t see why we can’t do something once a month together”

“Yeah Fino, how does that sound?”

“Okay” He uncrossed his arms so he could taken Allons hand until their sushi arrived which they all enjoyed while they continued talking and getting to know eachother. When their meal was over Nebi said “I’m holding you guys to this once a month thing”

“Is a lake trip really good with you two next time?”

“Yep” Nebi answered and with that they parted ways. “Thank you Fino”

“He’s a good guy”

“He definitely keeps you on your toes.”

“And he’s one of very few that I trust with you.”

“Oh? It certainly didn’t seem that way at first.”

“Nebi is Nebi, he’s sarcastic and honest and he has a big heart, sometimes he gets on my nerves, but make no mistake if I asked him to watch over you he would not hesitate to pick up a gun and kill. He can go from sweet to deadly in an instant if need be.”

“You’re still jealous.” Allon teased.

“I can’t help myself.” Fino pressed their foreheads together. “You’re my everything, the only one who makes me feel this crazy, this madly in love. Just know I would never keep you from the people and the things you love, no matter how jealous I may be. Your happiness is the most important thing to me.”

“Fino.”

“I love you more and more everyday and with that love comes the need to let everyone know you’re mine. I’ll try not to go overboard though, I promise.”

“You dork.”

“Hot dork.” He rubbed their noses. “The next full moon is soon, we should get home, form a plan.”

They both climbed into the car and Fino drove them home. Allon always enjoyed looking out the window when they were in the car but Allon was doing it now to keep an eye out for Nathan. Chances weren’t high they’d so happen to pass him but he still wanted to keep an eye out on the way home. Once insideFino began discussing what they’d do the night of the full moon “you’ll want to be by my side that night?”

“Yes, I’m a wolf, I can be your back up if you need any help” Fino grinned “To be honest with you I’ve never wanted to kill something more so if the need arises he will be wiped out like that” Fino snapped and Allon sighed “if he can’t help it is there any way we can help him?”

“we can look into what ways, if any we can help him until dinner if you’d like”

They were still reading when it was time to start cooking so Fino took the laptop into the kitchen and continued while he chopped peppers and onions for fajitas and Allon cut up the meat. All of the articles they had found were pretty interesting. “So it’s genetics?” Allon said.

“Assuming that was his reason for attacking you, yes. Some shifters are just born not being able to control the change during the full moon. All of these articles just say all you can do is lock them up on those nights, but it’s not like people just have cells in their houses.”

“And I tried that.”

“You handcuffed yourself, that’s not exactly a full proof plan. I never asked where you got those by the way.”

Allon blushed. “Nowhere, focus on Nathan.”

Fino chuckled as he deposited the vegetables in the skillet. “We might just have to run him around until he changes back like I did with you.”

“You mean act as bait?” Allon swallowed.

“Hey, everything will be alright and besides he only has one eye, that means his perception if off. He might not be able to judge distance well and he has to focus harder to catch us. We play cat and mouse, forcing him to look only at us. If he’s doing it on purpose, I kill him, if he’s not we’ll run him until he collapses.”

“I really hope it wasn’t on purpose and that we can just figure out a way to keep him locked up on full moons. Maybe someone on the police force could help him out or he could buy some sort of cage to hold him and just have a friend locking him up when he needs it”

‘Yeah, there really are many solutions” When the night finally arrived they went right back to the park and neither were surprised when the growling came. Allons heart leapt in fear but he stood with Fino, ready to run with him when the werewolf before them started moving “Nathan, can you really not control yourself?” Fino asked, seeing if he was willing or could answer. The only answer that came was Nathan starting the chase. The two shifted, needing to so they could keep out of reach.

Allon had nearly forgotten how big Nathan was. Compared to the larger werewolf, he was so small and petite. The missing eye and dripping jaws made him look almost mad. Allon felt terror shoot through him as he kept pace with Fino What if he was caught again? Fino lightly bumped him, bringing him out of his fear and Allon continued running. Nathan chansed them all night, the adrenaline keeping Allon moving. When morning finally came and Allon was able to shift back, all he could do was gasp. Even though he often played with Fino in the woods, he still wasn’t used to running so much. Fino helped him to his feet as Nathan lay unconscious on the ground.

“Are you alright?” Fino asked as he gently ran his fingers through Allon’s hair.

“Yeah, he just scared me, sorry.”

“It’s okay, as long as you weren’t touched.”

“I’m fine, really.” Allon looked at the sleeping Nathan. “I never expected to see him looking so peaceful. He looks so normal.”

“I still wonder why he came back”

“Maybe if he cant help his shifts he just ends up traveling a lot or he came back to find me and apologize” They sat down, Allon cuddled up to Fino in his lap. They watched over Nathan much like Fino had watched Allon during their first encounter. When Nathan finally woke up it was with a gasp and then terror as he looked at Fino and Allon. “are you going to kill me?” he simply asked as he supported himself on his hands and knees. It didn’t seem like he would even defend if they were planning to. “You dont shift like that on purpose do you?”

“No, I can’t stop it…I have terrible dreams about the people I chase during this time….I’m why you’re a wolf too aren’t I?”

“yes”

“You did this to my eye?”

“Yeah, I was just trying to protect myself” he nodded “I’m sorry, I really am”

“If you can’t help these shifts it’s not your fault”

“I should have killed myself, especially after I started killing and maiming people”

“There’s ways you can keep yourself under control, let us help you”

“You’d want to help me?”

“Yes, for your sake and honestly for others too” Nathan nodded and Fino stood with Allon “come with us, we’ll take you home and help you figure out how you’re going to keep yourse;f from hurting people during full moons” Nathan stood, exhausted from the chase the two of them had set him on last night. Nathan was staying in one of the worst motels in the area. It was the sort of place that took money by the hour for men to bring prostitutes and for other illegal dealings to go on. Fino wasn’t really surprised he was staying in a place like this.

Allon moved closer to Fino when some guy eyed him and Fino glared at the man which made him take a step back. He really hated the smell of this place and was amazed Nathan could stand it. “Fino, maybe we should get him a better room.” Allon said.

“I couldn’t ask you to do that, not after everything that’s happened.” Nathan said as he reached up and touched where his eye used to be.

“Allon’s right, this place isn’t good for someone like you.”

“What about my problem?”

“I have a friend who can get the things we need and set you up a safe house while the full moon runs its course.”

“I don’t know how to thank you, I don’t deserve this.” Nathan swallowed down the knot in his throat.

“You do, it’s not your fault” They took him to a much nicer hotel then called Nebi to pick up everything he’d need and start working on finding a suitable safe house. Nathan really didn’t understand why they wanted to help him but he was grateful he’d never hurt anybody again, he carried so much guilt. Almost a week later when, with the help of Nebi, Nathan was taken care of Nathan apologized one more time to Allon who expressed not only forgiving him but a desire to be his friend which caused Nathan to hug Allon. “Hey, it’s all okay” Allon soothed. Once Nathan was out the door to start his new life with a permanent place to stay and a good job Fino took Allon in his arms, thankful to finally have him to himself again. “Lets take a shower”

“why, because someone else hugged me?”

“I’m sorry”

“No, it’s fine, I was just teasing you Fino”

“If I get too possessive, tell me. I don’t want to make you feel suffocated.”

“Hush, it’s actually pretty cute. I love when you rub your scent on me. I’ve even heard you purr.”

“That’s because being close to you makes me extremely happy.” He rubbed their noses, making Allon smile. “You have no idea what you do to me, how needy I am when I’m near you.”

“I think I have an idea.” He blushed.

Fino chuckled as he hoisted Allon over his shoulder and carried him into the bathroom where he sat him on the counter. He got the shower started then turned back to Allon, his hands pulling at his clothes. “I love the feel of you, how soft and warm your skin is.”

“The shower, Fino.”

Fino smiled and started undressing with his husband before getting under the hot spray of the shower. Fino squirted body wash into his hands and began to gently wash Allon. When both men were clean they dried and went straight to bed, enjoying just being skin to skin and absolutely alone. “I love you Allon”

“I love you too Fino” Things were perfect yet again. Nathan would never be a problem and his amazing little wolf only had their scents on him. More importantly they could just be like this, in eachothers arms with their skin pressed into one anothers. Fino sometimes just wished the world around them would stop so he’d never have to leave a moment as perfect as this.

~ The End

Liosa & Artair 3

Chapter One

The scream was enough to chill blood and it had Liosa and Artair jumping to their feet as a maid came running out of the castle and over to them. “Hurry, you have to hurry.” She said out of breath, a look of terror on her face.

“Calm down, what’s going on?” Artair asked.

“It’s your father my lord, he’s gone nuts. I…I had to lock him in his office, he shifted and he’s ripping the room apart. Your mother and little Nicholas are in there. I’m sorry.”

Artair was running and Liosa was close behind, both of their hearts slamming against their chest as they made it to his father’s study. The door was closed and they could hear growls and crashing coming from the other side. There were guards standing there, swords drawn. “What happened?”

“We were told he was drinking his tea when he suddenly lost it, sir.” One of them answered. “We want to go in, but we don’t know where the young prince and your mother are located.”

“You said he was drinking his tea?” Liosa asked.

“Yes ma’am.”

“We have to go in there, Nicholas is in there.” Artair said as he reached for the door and Liosa grabbed him.

“Wait, just wait. We can’t just go charging in. It could make things worse, he might hurt them.”

“Liosa, he…I…”

“Let me.”

“He might…”

“He won’t, trust me.”

“I do, just please let me stay close.”

Liosa gave him a quick kiss then grabbed the door handle and pushed it open. They could smell blood and see the room had been destroyed. Standing on top of the desk was Maol in wolf form and he jumped down the moment he saw them, growling, his fur standing on end. “Una, are you and Nicholas okay?” Liosa asked.

“U…under the desk. He…he bit me…he didn’t mean too.” They heard a whimpering response.

“Okay just stay there.” Liosa slowly moved towards the enraged wolf. “Hey father in law, it’s okay, everything’s okay, it’s not your fault. You need to calm down though because Nicholas and Una are scared and you don’t want them to be scared.”

He growled again and Liosa worried about Una’s wound. She just had to hope he had enough self control not to hurt her too badly. “come on, Una is hurt and though you’re famously the cold hearted king I know you love her very much. Your grandson needs to be checked out too so we can be sure he’s okay, calm down and let us help you. You’re old and wise, I know you can get yourself through whatever haze you’re in” he whimpered, seeming to struggle to make himself go into the corner and lay down. It took awhile but he laid down, giving Liosa the chance to get Una and her son out of there.

“That’s a good uh boy.” She said once they were safely out of the room. She moved slowly over to her father in law, her hand held out as she soothed him. “Can you change back for me Maol?” He whimpered, looking confused and for the first time scared. “Easy, it’s okay.” She got down low, letting her fingers move over the top of his head. “There see, it’s alright.”

“What in the hell is going on?” Artair asked.

“I don’t know, but the guard said he was drinking his tea.” She answered as she gently stroked Maol’s head.

Artair found the empty cup under the desk and sniffed it. There was something off about it. “I think something was put in here.”

“Do you think it was the maid?”

“No, I mean I hope not. Everyone here is so loyal to us.”

“Maybe once he’s able to shift back, he’ll tell us.”

“You should go check on Nicholas, I’ll stay here with him my love.”

“Just be gentle with him, I don’t think he’s all there yet.”

Artair nodded and Liosa hurried out, happy to see Una being tended to and no wounds on Nicholas. “Mom!” he exclaimed and ran into her arms “baby”

“Grandpa really hurt grandma” he said with watery eyes. “I’ll be okay, he didn’t mean to honey” Una said soothingly. Her main worry right now was that Nicholas didn’t become afraid of his grandfather because of this. She had been Maols wife many years and while he wasn’t always the sweetest husband she knew something had to be off with him, he would never hurt her on purpose or any of his other family members. Liosa walked over and asked the healer tending to her “is she going to be okay?”

“He could have done much worse to her. She’s going to be just fine”

“see Nicholas” Una said and he hugged his mother, burying his head in her shoulder. They all knew it would be hard for him to understand since he was still so little. Barabal spoke up “Maybe he needs to be taken away from all this for now. I have him Liosa” Liosa handed her son off who seemed fine leaving with his great grandma.

“What exactly happened, Una?”

“Maol was just sitting there finishing up some paperwork while I played with Nicholas. He promised to accompany us out to the garden when he was finished. The maid brought his tea like she always does and he started drinking it like he always does. He suddenly started shaking and grabbed his head. I could hear the sound of his bones popping as the change was forced over him. I knew something was wrong, but I touched him anyway and he grabbed onto my arm. Nicholas screamed and he let go and just started destroying the room. I couldn’t get to the door so I just grabbed Nicholas and got under the desk. I’ve never seen him like that, ever.” She started crying and Liosa sat down and hugged her. “He didn’t mean it, I swear.”

“I know, he looked confused and upset. He’s probably going to beat himself up over hurting you and scaring Nicholas.” She did her best to comfort her mother in law. “Does he have any enemies?”

Una pulled back. “I don’t know, I mean he’s a king, he could have plenty. His father and grandfather could have had some. I feel so useless.”

“Why?”

“Because I never showed an interest in the politics side of things, before the boys were born and before you and Artair married, he would say it wasn’t my place, but I should have started learning after you came here. I’ve been so content to let him do as he pleases, but I should…I should’ve…”

“Shh, it’s okay, everything’s okay. This isn’t anyone’s fault. We’re waiting for him to change back to see if he can tell us anything.” Una just nodded, looking more distraught that she couldn’t help her husband. “Tell me, do you know if there are archives of the kingdom’s history? Notes of notable moments, stuff like that?”

Artair finally got his father to shift back and his first concern was Una “where is she, is she okay?” he sounded almost panicky. While it didn’t surprise him as much anymore it was still weird when his father showed any emotion, even about his wife. “I think she’s fine dad. Are you sure you’re fine before I take you to her”

“I’m fine, I need to see her.” Artair took his father to his mother whom he wrapped in a hug. They all really knew he was upset then to be seen giving public affection. “I’m okay, I’m sorry I caused you to hurt me”

“Una” He said emotionally then finally asked “where is my grandson?”

“With grandma, she thought it would be better to get him away from the situation for a bit.”

“He must be terrified of me.” Artair had never seen his father look so beaten down and heartbroken and Una pulled him into her arms. “Careful my love, you’re wound.”

“Just stay here with me, I need you close.”

“Alright.”

“Dad, do you have any idea what was in that cup?”

“It’s a toxin assassins used back in your great grandfather’s day. You poisoned one shifter and he or she could take out an entire room of people, your target included.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I’ve seen it at work.”

“Were you…”

“An assassin? No, but I spent some time with the ones my father and grandfather kept around. They let me join them from time to time.”

“So they made a lot of enemies then.”

“There was a war on, everyone had enemies and sometimes innocent people died.”

“I was just about to check your archives.” Liosa said.

“My father and grandfather were very meticulous, every important instance would have been recorded. If you go to the back of the library, you’ll find one of the cases moves. Please be careful with anything you find in there.”

“We will, you two rest and please don’t worry about Nicholas, once he’s calmed down I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Maol lifted his wife somberly and carried her to their bedroom. Liosa and Artair quickly went to the library and found the bookcase that moved easily. “I’m king now and there’s still so much I don’t know it seems”

“You haven’t been king long my love and thankfully for your kind you’ll have your father and grandmother many more years to come until you’ve learned more about ruling and the kingdoms past.” They soon focused on the task at hand to get to the bottom of why Maols tea had been tampered with. Until they knew what was going on how could anyone eat or drink in the castle without fear of hurting the family. They especially didn’t want Nicholas going through the trauma of another family member being forced to shift.

They went through the books together until they got hungry and then Artair went to grab them something while Liosa continued her search. They were both fascinated with the kingdom’s history and if Artair had been alone he might have sat straight through lunch. He came back with cups of tea and plates of some meat pie the cook had been working on, making sure to test them both before allowing her to even take a nibble or a sip. “Silly don’t risk yourself.” She said, giving him a look.

“Better me than you.”

“I guess I am stronger than you, could you imagine me going berserk, I might eat you alive.” She winked, trying to lighten the mood and was happy when she was rewarded with a small smile. She ate as she continued to flip through books, marking anything of note until she came to a gap in history. She sat her fork down, flipped a few pages back then forward, then gentling bent the pages back, seeing a few had been removed. “Artair?”

“Yes love?”

“Does this look guilty to you?” She handed him the book and he looked it over. “They’re gone.”

“Not just gone, but removed, with a knife. Look how straight the edge is. It looks like it happened a long time ago, I wonder if my father would know anything about it.”

“It’s almost like someone was hiding something.”

“Like they were ashamed.”

Chapter Two

“we need to talk to my father about this right away”

“and we need to make sure Una is involved in the conversation. She’s right, she needs to be more involved and shes going to be involved regardless of if your father wants it. You’re king now Artair, if he fights us on it you have to remember you’re the king and women don’t just have to listen to their husbands anymore” Artair nodded and the two got up, leaving what was left of their meal and hurrying out. Eating was fairly low on the importance scale when a matter was so serious someone cut out some of their history to keep it a secret. They went straight to their room since the two had been instructed to rest, Maol answering quickly when they knocked.

“Is everything alright?” Mail asked as he let them in.

“We need to talk if you are both up to it.”

“If it is about what happened then yes.”

Artair opened the book and handed it to his father. “Where are these pages?”

Maol looked down at the book, let his finger run over the spot where three pages had been. “I didn’t take them if that’s what you’re wondering. Your grandfather did when I was just a boy, never said why, only that his father told him to.”

“Did he keep them?”

“That is something to ask your grandmother, she kept most of his possessions.”

Artair took the book back and let out a sigh of relief. “I’m glad it wasn’t you.”

“I have always owned all my actions, regardless of if I was proud of them. You know that. Maybe this is why my father was so adamant about owning your actions. Perhaps your great grandfather should have owned up to something he didn’t” Artair nodded and left his father to talk to his grandmother. They found Barabal in Nicholas’s room, sitting on his bed as she stroked her hair. He was sound asleep so they waited for her to stand and come out of the room with them before talking “what have you found out? That look on your face says there was something terrible”

“There are pages cut out of this history book and dad says grandpa did it because his father told him to. Did grandpa keep the pages?”

“we can check his things. Nicholas should be peacefully sleeping awhile” They followed her to her room and she pulled out a large box from her closet, setting it on the bed as she said “everything in here is precious to me. You two be careful touching his things”

“You know we will grandma, thank you.” Artair said as he opened the box.

“How is your father?”

“He’s taking it pretty hard, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so upset. Mom is trying her best.”

“He’ll come around and hopefully he’ll be better for the experience. Even though we live such long lives, they could be snuffed out in an instant, he needs to spend more time being gentle and open. You two have done wonders with him.”

“Not me, Liosa and Nicholas.”

“Oh hush, you’ve done just as much.” Liosa interjected.

“But I wouldn’t have if not for you. You took us all by surprise.” He smiled. “My father really didn’t know what to do with himself when you were in the room.”

“well I wasn’t going to be anything but myself and he had to get used to that. Everything’s changing in this kingdom and it’s being caused by both of us.” Barabal smiled at them then left to sit with her grandson again while they handled this. As she walked out the door she said “don’t hesitate to fetch me for more help if you require it” She trusted Artair and Liosa to handle this and she knew the best way to let them lead and figure out ruling was to let them do things on their own if they could. It would also be hard to look through her husbands things and they didn’t need her getting emotional over the past.

It didn’t take the two long to find what was obviously the missing papers. Artair had a feeling he would keep them. He had followed his fathers orders because he had to but he knew his grandfather would have wanted the truth to be known. They sat on Barabals bed and Artair began reading the old papers out loud so his wife could hear. They wanted to read them over themselves before they consulted Maol and Una again on what to do.

“No wonder your great grandfather wanted these pages gone, what he did was monstrous.” Lios said. “He drove out entire clans, just uprooted them and forced them out into the snow.”

“But why remove these? They were in that room, no one else knew they were there but my grandfather and my father.”

“He probably believed one of them would do something about it or he just wanted the proof gone so no one could dispute any claims he made about the clans. I’m surprised he let it be recorded.”

“From what I can gather, it’s so future kings and queens can have something to refer to when making the tough decisions. Go to war or don’t? Ally with that kingdom or close our borders? The person who wrote these said a lot of those clan members died.” He let out a long sigh. “I can’t believe I never knew, that my father never knew and he knows everything.”

“Well not everything.”

He huffed out a little laugh. “You know what I mean. My grandfather held onto these until he died. Why?”

“Maybe we’ll never know, but we should discuss this with Maol, he needs to know why he was poisoned.”

Artair agreed and while he wanted to hurry he wouldn’t disrespect his grandmother or his late grandfather by just leaving his things all over the bed. They carefully put it all away and shut the lid before leaving the room to talk to Maol and Una. Maol answered the door quickly “have you learned anything?”

“yes, apparently my great grandfather drove out entire clans for his own selfish desires. He just uprooted them and forced them out into the snow, not caring what happened to them. This is apparently much deserved anger. I suppose some from the clans newer generations don’t plan to stand for what their ancestors went through. I’m sure they think we’re aware of what he did and turn a blind eye, enjoying having everything to ourselves.

Maol took the missing pages and read them then re-read them. “I never thought he would do something so reprehensible. I will try to make amends if at all possible, but I will not forgive my wife and grandson nearly dying.”

“They may not have known they were in there.” Liosa tried. Even though she herself was angry for her son and mother in law being put in harms way, she didn’t want to start a war with a small clan of people. “They probably hoped we would put you down.”

Maol sighed. “Fine, if we can find them, I would speak to them, though I would like a shot at the person who actually poisoned me.”

“A shot to do what?” Artair asked.

“To knock him on his ass. I will forgive their anger and hope to help heal their pain, but I would have hunted them to the ends of the earth if Una or Nicholas had died.”

“Then I will go and see if they will return with me.”

“I should come too.” Liosa added.

“Please stay here with Nicholas.”

“Artair.”

“Please my love, I don’t even know where they are and if anything happened to you, it would kill me. Stay here.”

“Then at least take your brothers.”

“I will.”

“alright then” normally she wouldn’t be for him handling something involving the kingdom alone but their son had been through a lot. God forbid anything happened but after seeing his grandfather bite his grandmother and forcibly shift last thing he needed was for both parents to be taken prisoner or harmed. She walked with him to gather his brothers then saw him off before going inside to see if her son was still napping. So much time had passed chances were high he was up and playing with his great grandmother. “where is my grandson?” Barabal asked as Liosa entered her sons room. She got her up to speed and explained she had stayed behind for her sons sake. “that was a good choice. I’m glad you’re so involved and are changing so much in this kingdom when it comes to women being equal but this way is best and Artair can handle this.”

“I know he can, he’s a good king”

“especially for such a young one. My husband would have been beaming with pride to see Artair as he is now” She smiled and they both began playing with Nicholas. After about an hour Liosa said “hey baby, why don’t we go see grandpa?”

“Is he okay now?”

“yeah and that wont ever happen again. Your father is seeing to that. Somebody made your grandpa freak out” Nicholas nodded, seeming to just accept that so Liosa and Barabal each took one of his hands and took him to see his grandparents.

“So where are we going exactly?” Baltair asked as they ran.

“One of the last locations of one of the clans.” Artair answered.

“It’s been ages, do you really think there will be clues there to their current location?”

“”I’m hoping so, maybe they left something behind that still has their scent on it. My great grandfather drove them out so they didn’t exactly have time to pack.”

Baltair sighed. “I hope Anna will forgive me for not meeting her at the dock.”

“I didn’t realize she was coming to visit.” Calum said.

“I could have sworn I told you.” He sighed again.

“You should just tell her how you feel after this, it would make things a lot easier.”

“I’d rather not ruin the relationship we already have.”

“Never thought I’d see the day you couldn’t talk to a woman.”

“Come on guys focus.” Artair said then added. “Calum is right though, stop chickening out and tell her.”

Baltair didn’t answer but they could tell he was considering it. Baltair simply felt inadequate, its what held him back from asking. She was absolutely amazing and he had spent his life so far sleeping with any woman that let him. He had even hit on Liosa when he already knew she was engaged to Artair. He just didn’t see a woman like her choosing someone as disgusting as he was. He felt selfish for even wanting to ask when she could have someone better but he deeply wanted to. He wanted to be a better man and deserve Anna. It would be embarrassing to admit but ever since meeting her he hadn’t slept with anyone and he hoped that maybe that would mean something to her.

When they found the remains of one of the old clans villages, they just stopped and stared for a moment. The buildings were old and destitute, some of them suffering from heavy water and plant damage since there had been no one there to take care of them. Artair felt sorrow creeping into his heart for these people. “Look for anything that may help us and take in any scent you may find.” He said as he took the first step forward into this abandoned place. The house he went into still had bed rolls in it and one of them had obviously belonged to a child. There were things left over, hand made toys, drawings on the wall, even an old rotted book. He picked up the teddy bear that sat near the head of the bed, his thumb brushing over its damp, mildewed fur. He could not imagine having to force Nicholas to leave everything, to carry his son out into the snow where they may or may not die. It was terrifying to think about and he found himself hating his great grandfather for hurting these people.

Back at the castle Anna arrived and Liosa was relieved to see her “welcome sister”

“what’s going on? Your face, I can see the tension” Liosa brought her up to speed and Anna sighed “wow”

“yeah so Baltair, Calum and my husband are trying to track them down. I stayed so if something happened little Nicholas didn’t have to go through any more trauma than necessary. “can I help?”

“I doubt it but I’m really glad you’re here”

“Me too, I can’t have anything happening to you. I see this kingdom as luckier and luckier that Artair is leading now. This kingdom needed a king with a bigger heart”

“I just hope they come back okay”

“They will, until then lets catch up. I know we write but I’m sure there’s plenty of little things that didn’t make it into letters. Small talk might not be helpful but it seems there isn’t much of a way either of us can be helpful right now” Calum, Artair and Baltair were on the move again. They were following Calum since it was him who felt he had a strong hold on a scent he found in the village. They were getting farther and farther away from home and Artair was beginning to think none of them were going to see the girls they loved anytime soon.

The three set up camp around midnight. They wanted to go on but it would be rude to intrude in the middle of the night when they did find them and if these people deserved anything it was some respect. Artair had no idea how he was ever going to make this up to them. How do you make up the fact that this was done and then ignored for so long. His grandpa had actually known what happened and Artair knew there was no way his father had never noticed pages missing from their history. He saw someone had suspiciously cut something out then moved along, probably not worrying about it for a single second because it didn’t harm his life any.

All he knew was he was going to set this right. He had already planned to use his rule to right many wrong things in his kingdom but now his determination was stronger than ever. Finding this out lit a fire under him. He would fix this and then he knew his wife would happily help him seek out any more major problems he hadn’t been made aware of yet. That night Nicholas slept with his grandparents which made Liosa happy because she knew how relieved it made them. She and Anna also decided to have a sleep over. They hadn’t done this since they were little girls but they lived so far apart that they thought it would be fun since Baltair and Artair were gone. The boys were up before the sun had even rose in the sky. They skipped breakfast, not a one of them hungry and just went on. They were glad when they finally found their settlement but unsurprisingly the three men were met with hostility.

“Hey easy.” Artair said, raising his hands. “We just want to talk.”

“Go to hell clan killer!” One of the men said, his hands wrapped tightly around a spear.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to get in without incapacitating these guys.” Baltair said, ready to defend his brother if he needed to.

“Is that all your kind know? Violence?” The man said angrily.

Baltair glared at him. “You met us with weapons.”

“Everyone needs to calm down.” Artair said. “We are not here to hurt you, we just want to talk to your leader, if you have one. This is is important.”

“Hemshel.” A voice said from behind the three men. It was authoritative and it startled the villagers. They all looked over their shoulders at the woman standing there. Artair studied her. She looked to be about his grandmother’s age. “Do you think it speaks well to attack those who come in peace?”

“But they are…”

“If they had wanted to, they could have stopped you by now, but they have not.” She let her eyes fall on Artair as she moved closer. “You have his face.”

“My father’s?” She nodded. “So I’ve been told.”

“What is your business here?”

“One or more of your people poisoned my father and I know why, I’ve come to make amends.”

“That is not all. You want the one who hurt your father.”

“And nearly caused the death of my son and mother.”

“Look into my eyes and tell me what you would do with him.”

“My father wants to knock him on his ass, I share the same feeling.”

She smiled. “All three of you come with me.”

“You’re letting us in?” Calum asked.

“I am not the one who gave the order to poison your father. I have long let go of what was, not like these three who obviously don’t understand what wolves could do to them if they were so inclined to shift.”

“You don’t blame my father?”

“I know where the blame lies and it is not with a man who was a trusting child at the time and his own father who was a trusting son. Your great grandfather was the monster, the soldiers who followed him without question were the monsters. Now come.”

“Yes ma’am.”

They found a place to sit and talk “I can practically feel the waterfall of things you wish to say to me so please speak Artair, I’m listening”

“I truly want peace. I mean that with all that I am. I know the kings before me have been heartless. I don’t think for a second they didn’t deserve the nicknames they had, even my father as the cold hearted king. Since Liosa has gotten me interacting with the people more I even know people don’t ever call him by his name, it’s always the cold hearted king and I want to change the way my people feel. I’m ashamed and during my rule I plan to right every wrong the kinds before me have set in motion. I come here deeply apologetic and I want you to trust I’m going to make everything better. I plan to read every single page of our kingdoms history and with my wife I’ve already made strides to make things with our women better aswell. They aren’t being raised just to be possessions of a man any longer and I hope even way out here you’ve seen that. I can’t tell you I’m sorry enough and I hope you’ll guide me on how I can make things better with your people. I also hope you’ll let me know of any wrongs you might remember that could possibly not have been recorded in our history”

She smiled again “You are a good man Artair and yes, I know of the changes already being made to your kingdom. I will happily help and there are many who will instantly accept your apology but of course there are some who still hold anger and pain in their hearts from loved ones lost. I look forward to working with you and if that’s all you wanted to say I will confirm who I feel did the poisoning and if I’m correct I will have him answer for what he did. Fighting wrong with wrong is still wrong and he needs to face his crime”

“Thank you for your time.”

“Please, you and your brother’s stay here tonight in my home, you have come a long way.”

“Thank you.” She nodded and stood, gesturing for them to follow. Many of the villagers watched them, curious children came as close as they could, wanting to see these strangers. Some of the adults glared, but it was to be expected. “May I ask you something, ma’am?” Artair said once they made it to her home and were lead inside.

“Of course.”

“Why didn’t my grandfather do anything?”

“I believe people like you father and grandfather put far to much trust in the previous generation. They were kings, they make the decisions, they must know what they are doing.”

“That doesn’t make them right.”

“And that is why you are different, you question.”

“I may not have if not for my wife.”

“Then I must meet her when things have calmed down.” She lead them to the back of her house and opened a door. “Please make yourself at home, I’m going to find the man who took it upon himself to poison your father and bring him back here so you may punish him as you see fit.”

She came back awhile later, guiding the man on by the collar of his shirt. She let him go and he looked livid but he didn’t go anywhere. “do whatever you’re going to do.” he said and Artair replied “you’re really just going to take it” the man scoffed at Artairs question “I really don’t want to talk to you. I’m only here because I was given no other choice. I’m not sorry for poisoning such an awful man from such an awful kingdom. You, you are better, I’ll give her that but it doesn’t make me sorry. Do whatever you have to do, kill me for all I care. I will not apologize for trying to kill someone known as the cold hearted king descended from other cold hearted kings”

“he’s growing as a person” Artair tried but the man obviously didn’t want to talk any longer. Artair sighed, I will take the high road and not hand you your ass but you are going to jail” he shrugged again and the woman they had been talking to said “I’ll go with you to make sure you get him there.” Baltair and Calum seemed pissed at Artairs decision but they wouldn’t fight with him on the choice in front of people. They took him back home in the morning and Baltair threw the man in a cell. “May I meet your wife now?” the woman asked and Artair guided her away. Calum went to tell his father the man was now imprisoned there. He knew his father would want to know.

Liosa smiled when Artair introduced the clan leader, Kahla and Liosa immediately introduced Nicholas and then struck up a conversation with the woman. She was such an interesting person and her enthusiasm had Artair smiling. Liosa was such an amazing woman, able to make friends with anyone who came her way and had such a generous heart. He hoped Baltair could find this kind of happiness with Anna, knowing she would be good for him. “Artair?” His name being called had him snapping to attention and he looked up as Calum came running into the library with Beatris close behind . “Oh good I found you.”

“Is everything alright?”

“Dad, he’s gone down to the cells, he’s pissed.”

“Shit.” Artair was off at a sprint and Liosa asked Beatris to watch Nicholas and keep Kahla company as she followed. They could see Maol entering the man’s cell as they entered the prison and just as they got there his fist was making contact with the man’s cheek, knocking him back and against the wall. “Dad.” Artair grabbed him as he started after him, pulling him back. “Dad, calm down please.”

Maol growled at the man who had dared poison him and the cell door was quickly shut and locked. Artair let him go and Maol spit at the man. “Next time you want to fight, you come and face me like a man you bastard. If my wife or grandson had died I would have slaughtered you like the coward you are.” He turned away, walking past Artair who didn’t know what to say, but Liosa followed him and pat his back.

“Feeling better, father in law?”

“Much.”

“Good, go on up and introduce yourself and Una to Kahla, she’s really quite nice.”

“Alright, I will.”

Liosa let him go and went back to Artair who was watching her with admiration and amazement. “What?”

“You could tame lions my love.”

“I dont think he intended to do much more than that. Una and our son are just fine and thats what matters to your father.” Their prisoner just sat in silence and the two of them left. Kahla stayed awhile and they all became very close. Artair kept to his word to start on the very first book of his kingdoms history so that he could read over it and fix any other wrongs before they got as far as this wrong had. He didn’t want something worse to happen because a generation decided to retaliate. Hurting Una like he had seemed to draw even more feelings out of Maol. PDA with his wife was all the time and they truly seemed happier together.

Even Baltair finally spoke up before Anna went home this time and told her how much he loved her. To his surprise she accepted him and decided to stay in their kingdom. Everything was getting better and though Altair knew there was much work to be done on this kingdom he was incredibly proud of his progress as king.

~ The End

Dafina & Marlin

Chapter One

Today was a day like any other. Well, except for the fact I was meeting my soon to be ex husband to finalize everything with a lawyer today. We had managed to settle out of court which I was happy with but it still had been an expensive and gut wrenching process. We were highschool sweethearts, had been dating since ninth grade and we both thought it would be forever but somehow marriage had changed all that. It seemed each year after we got married things got worse and worse between us. By that final year we did our best to avoid eachother. I threw myself into trying to help people whose numbers were low and he stayed out with his friends most of the time. What numbers you may ask? I guess I should mention I can see countdowns above everyones head. It’s laid out in the format of years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes. Its right there in a long line above their head plain as day to me but nowhere in sight to everyone around me.

Before completely throwing myself into helping others gain time on their clock if I saw they were almost out I had only done it for people I was close to. One time, when my friend Courtney became a new mother, I made her livid with me because when I looked at her baby I looked at him in horror because above that new lifes head should have been years, an abundance of them but this baby only had a week to live. I did everything I could, I bought her books, suggested things, helped her out every chance I could trying to prevent his death. I’d add mere days here and there and it stressed me out beyond belief. I couldn’t let a baby die, I couldn’t do nothing knowing it didn’t have long but I couldn’t figure out how I was helping the baby, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing to give it more time. It just seemed so random when the countdown would add days.

To my heartbreak when I learned what I was protecting the baby from I lost a friendship too. Courtney drowned that baby boy because she couldn’t get him to stop crying and couldn’t handle it. That whole time it was one of my close friends that caused such a small amount of time to appear over little Noahs head. I’ll admit I drank way too much for a few weeks but I did bounce back. I knew I couldn’t help everyone, just because I gave it my all didn’t mean it would all be okay but that didn’t stop it from hurting when I’d fail, when I’d miss something I felt should have been obvious.

I didn’t know why I was so nervous when I finally arrived for my appointment. I took a deep breath, this was for the best I told myself, it had to be. My lawyer’s practice was on the fourth floor so I took the elevator up. As soon as the doors opened our eyes met and he quickly looked away. I didn’t know why it still hurt, but it did. I had loved him and maybe a part of me still did. We had so much history and now it was like we were signing it away. I kept my head down as we headed into the office that had been set aside for us and sat down across from each other. My lawyer pulled out a file and slipped the pages out of it. “You should go over this and make sure everything is good.”

I nodded as I let my eyes move over the words, taking them in and sometimes going over a sentence again if I needed too. My husband shifted and I glanced at him, doing a quick double take when I noticed his numbers suddenly dropping at an exceedingly fast rate. He just sat there staring at me as I stared at his numbers. What was happening? “Dafina.” He said and I looked into his eyes. “What’s wrong?”

I stood up, panicked, we were getting a divorce but no matter what happened between us I couldn’t let him die. I was afraid it was something in this room so I said urgently “we have to go!” I rounded the table, grabbed him by the arm and ran out with him. Thankfully he didn’t resist me but he looked completely bewildered when I stopped. His numbers were going back up, but why? Maybe it had been in that room. Was someone trying to kill him? Would he…no, I almost had a horrible thought, I almost asked myself would he kill himself if I left him but he didn’t care that much, I knew he didn’t, his attitude the last months of their marriage told me that.

“What in the hell is going on?”

I started patting him down without thinking. Did he have a weapon him? “Are you alright? Are you injured or anything?”

“Dafina stop alright, why does it matter? I’m not your responsibility.” He started away from me and as he moved away, his numbers started going down again. I ran after him and grabbed his arm. “What the hell?”

“Stop, just stop moving. Did something happen with you?”

“What?”

“Like anything bad?”

He chuckled. “Really? Did something bad happen?” He gestured between us. “I wonder what bad things could have happened? Oh that’s right my wife hates me and is divorcing me, that could be bad.” He shook me off. “Let’s just go back up there and get this over with.”

I glared at him. “No, I…I refuse.”

“What?”

“You heard me, I refuse.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? You’re the one who wanted this, tell me what’s going on right now.”

“don’t say it like I’m the only one who wanted this Marlin” He made that face he always made when he didn’t want to cry and my heart twisted a little. ‘It is only you damn it. I may have been too prideful to admit it and beg for you until now but this is the worst fucking day of my life so all pride has gone out the window. I love you Dafina, I may have been the only one that meant forever but I meant it. The day you gave me divorce papers I…I cried until I vomitted. I know we’re broken and damn it I know I started it. I got comfortable when we got married and I quit trying, I quit doing all those little things that made you love me and you know how I know.” his lip quivered and it took him a second to continue.

“I fucking dont want this so much I started seeing a counselor to help me, to help me keep you. I’ve been seeing him for months and he’s helped me admit to myself the things I did that sabotaged our relationship and I may have been a dick but I have always loved you but you know Dafina I may have started it but you have your own guilt in this. I love you, I always will Dafina and I don’t..Ever since I was a teenager I can’t imagine my life without you Dafina. I just want us to fix this. As I said I know I’m the one who started the downfall, I know I never asked you to stay until now because I’ve never been good at swallowing my pride but damn it Dafina stay. I’ll go through with the divorce because I’ll be the last person to force you to be miserable but stay and fix what we have with me. We can be us again, we really can”

I stood there absolutely floored. I could barely believe my ears. Marlin actually cared, he wanted me to stay. Maybe me going in there to sign the end to our divorce was what was dropping his numbers. Maybe me leaving would actually devastate him to that point.

“Marlin, I…it’s just…”

He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I get it okay, you don’t want to, it’s fine. I’ll sign them okay, no more stalling.”

“What happens afterwards?”

“What do you mean?”

“To you, what happens?”

“Nothing, I go to a hotel I guess.”

“Marlin.”

“What do you want me to say, Dafina? Do you want me to tell you how devastating this is? I feel like I’m dying. I just need time, just a little more to prove to you that I can be a better man, that I am still someone who loves you and who you can love.”

“Okay, we dont’ have to sign these papers today. Lets go in and tell them we’re trying to work things out…maybe…maybe we should try and date again.”

“well, an idea my therapist had was we could recreate our first date since we still live in the same town we grew up in” I was grateful for an idea of where to start because I was at a complete loss. This was so surreal to me, hearing he loved me, hearing he still cared and wanted us to stay together. Hearing that he, Marlin Laval was seeing a psychiatrist for me. “Okay, well…how about tomorrow?” I saw his countdown practically sky rocket up and it made my heart hurt. I would have carried such tremendous guilt for the rest of my life if he killed himself over me divorcing him. Logic would tell me it wasn’t my fault but still…today, me being able to see peoples countdowns was a bigger blessing than ever.

We went inside and we explained we didn’t want the paperwork filed just yet and we’d keep them posted. They were more than happy to keep everything on hold and let us work it out if we could. I knew I couldn’t be with him simply because he might kill himself if I didn’t but I could at least give him a chance to try and salvage what was left of what we had as teenagers.

To my surprise again he asked me a question as we were leaving “I know I’m going to sound like an idiot but would you hug me Dafina? I can’t even remember the last time you hugged me” I wrapped my arms around him and we just stood there a few moments in front of the lawyers office. I let him break the hug since he was an obvious emotional wreck then went home, still utterly confused but honestly. Happiness was starting to stir now that it all had sunk in. I loved him, at least the Marlin he used to be. I allowed just a small amount of hope to stir up I could have the old him back but he was right. He had started the downfall and he had done along with said things that hurt but I hadn’t been innocent in the destruction of our marriage.

I needed to soften my heart again, be kind to him again. Just like the old him needed to return so did the old me. If he was willing to try to get over everything so was I.

I couldn’t help but text him to make sure he was safe. I knew I wouldn’t get any sleep tonight if I didn’t. He sent a message back saying he was good and grabbing dinner and I let out a sigh of relief. I couldn’t tell how he was feeling via text, but I hoped he wasn’t too down. I couldn’t remember when I had stopped seeing him as the sweet, funny jock who had begged me for our first date. I couldn’t help but smile at that memory. I had rejected him the first time, thinking he was just out to get some and the had come back the next day with flowers and begged me. I hadn’t been able to keep myself from giving him a chance. Now hear we were again, back at the beginning and he had practically done the same thing, only the circumstances were different. I decided to go through my closet and see if I had anything similar to what I wore on our first date. I remember it had been chilly, but I didn’t know that until I was dressed and ready to go. I had never seen someone hand a jacket over so fast and he hadn’t even complained about the cold, he had just wanted a day with me.

Chapter Two

I was elated to find a skirt and top that from my memory, were almost identical. I guess my taste in clothes hadn’t changed much. His really hand’t either, aside from the negative attitude we had grown for eachother we were the precise same people. I at least hoped as much as I set the clothes out to pull on tomorrow. I didn’t really know what to do with myself now. All there was was waiting and I already knew it would take tomorrow forever to get here.

~ Marlin ~

I hadn’t know a higher point of stress was possible but all I could do was pace. She had actually given me a chance and all I seemed to be good at anymore when it came to the love of my life was fucking things up. This was the final chance I’d ever get, I knew that, I could see it in her eyes when she agreed and I needed to win her back, to make her love me again. I know I’m practically the poster child for pathetic as I now finally sit down and pull up a picture on my phone of us together. It’s us at our engagement party and we looked perfectly happy, we always were up until we got married and I bombed everything.

At this point I can’t even remember my thought process, how I went from wanting nothing more than to make her happy to well shes mine now so screw trying. What kind of an asshole had I let myself become. The therapist says it happens and I’m by far not the only one but damn it this was Dafina. Nobody had ever stirred in me the intense emotions she had and I let myself destroy everything. I take a deep breath in and out, deciding to shower to calm myself down. I needed rest so I could be a normal human being tomorrow.

I tell Dafina I love her as I push the button to make my screen grow dark. I know she can’t hear it but I can’t help but say it. I do love her, with all my heart and soul. The shower does just what I expect it to. It helped me unwind and run through the memories of everything we had done together the first time I took her out. I wanted to replay that date for her to the t, remind her of whatever it was about that date that had started her falling in love with me too.

After I’m dry I pull out my old jacket from high school. I’m hoping to pull a surprised smile from her since I’m not sure she knows I still have it. It has a ton of sentimental value and I could never throw it away. Now I was happy I hadn’t. I hung it on the doorknob so I wouldn’t forget it then settled into bed for the night.

~ Dafina ~

I was woken by my father calling “Hey dad”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, why?”

“well you finalized the divorce yesterday right?”

“Oh, about that”

“don’t tell me that baby”

“Listen, he wants to fix things dad” I could hear my father sigh so I continued “daddy, we were so incredibly happy together. I’m just giving him a chance, us a chance. We got married, promised until we died to be together. If he’s truly willing to work on our marriage I want to give him a chance. Just remember who he was before we got married. I know I’m your little girl, I get that. I know I called you crying countless times but I promise you, I’ll go through with the divorce if things really haven’t changed”

“I can’t say I’m not worried but I’m proud of you”

“I love you dad. I’ll call you tonight. We’re going on a date”

“where?”

“we’re recreating our first. HIs counselor gave him the idea”

“He’s seeing a counselor?”

“Yeah, surprised me too. I’m telling you, he really wants to make things better between us”

“Just be sure you don’t forget to call me.”

“I wont dad. I love you for caring so much”

“You’re my baby, always”

“I’ll come see you and mom soon, I promise”

“good, we miss you.”

“Me too dad.” We hang up and I get ready for bed, my mind on tomorrow and my husband. I grab the extra pillow and hug it to me, closing my eyes. I don’t want to be tired for him tomorrow, I want to be able to completely enjoy our date. My alarm wakes me the next day and I get up, taking a quick shower. My phone vibrates as I’m brushing my teeth and I look at the screen, seeing it’s Marlin. His message says: I didn’t call because I know you’re brushing your teeth, I love you and I’ll be there at three, have a good day. I actually smile that he knows me well enough to know exactly what I’m doing. Maybe he had been paying attention, at least a little.

Marlin:

She responds with a simple you too and I feel more than a little worried. I sigh as I put my phone in my pocket, hoping that she’s looking forward to our date. I feel my heart twist again. What if I try and she still doesn’t want me? It kills me just thinking about it and I hate myself even more for hurting her. I leave, wanting to get her a box of her favorite chocolates. Every detail of that day has to be as perfect as I can make it.

When I arrive at the store I check the time. This would be the absolute worst thing in my life to be late for and I refused to be. I was going to be on time or early. My depression since finding out she was giving up on us had caused me to be late to nearly everything which sadly in turn only turned her farther against me in all this time we had been going through the divorce. I try not to think about it as I walk the aisles. She’s giving me a chance, us a chance, we’re starting fresh and not bogging our minds with everything that’s happened up until yesterday when we agreed to try. I found what I was looking for an near it, a little stuffed elephant.

They had always been her favorite animal. I grab it, it’s different from our first date but I’m a lot less desirable than our first date. I buy everything I came for then check the time again. I decide maybe some coffee before would be good. That should finish eating up the time I need to pass before the date. I walk in and the line is just as big as expected, someone really needed to open one or two more of these places. I check the time every so often until I have my coffee. I sit down and enjoy it along with the smells and atmosphere of this place until I can finally go home and make sure I’m presentable for our date.

I find that I am and I double check that I have my jacket and her presents before getting in my car and driving to her place, our home, where we used to share everything. I hoped that soon I would be lucky enough to be welcomed back. She had never kicked me out in the first place but when I left I was so overwhelmed with my emotions of her wanting to leave me I mad the biggest, most dickish scene I think I had ever made in my life and she would definitely have to invite me back in for me to go. I carried too much shame over how horrible I was the day I left.

I feel so nervous as I get out of my car and walk up to the front door. I take a deep breath and then knock. I wait, trying not to look worried and when she opens the door I nearly drop the flowers and elephant. I just stare at her. “Whoa.” It’s all I can say.

“Good whoa or bad whoa?”

“Very good whoa.” I clear my throat, thinking I probably look like an idiot. “These are for you.” I hand her the flowers and the elephant and her smile makes my heart dance.

“Thank you so much. Come in, I’ll put these in a vase and then we can head out.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t make you wait on the porch.”

I’m glad she lets me come in and follow her to the kitchen. Everything is just as I remember it being when I left though of course, a few of the things I broke on my way out are missing and only one obviously replaced “you got a new cookie jar”

“Oh yeah, shortly after you moved out. I found it on Amazon, do you hate it? I know you aren’t as into elephants as me. I figured..since you weren’t..well weren’t going to be here any more I could have an elephant cookie jar”

“well, even if you let me come back I don’t mind it. Hell, even if I thought it was the ugliest thing I ever saw it serves me right for throwing your old one” She looks at me a bit softer “well then lets just say you can wear the ugliest suits on the planet if you get to come back and I can’t complain”

~ Dafina ~

I was embarrassed to show him my own childish moments but as he said, if we were going to heal we had to own up to our own short coming, our owns fault in the end of our marriage. I don’t know why I saved the remnants but I had, in a big tin container. I opened it up and showed him and he actually laughed, shocking me “when did you do this?” he asked. “My birthday, a few friends and I got drunk together here and it just kind of lead to this. We’ve both had our childish moments because we’ve both been through a lot of emotional pain. I mean if anything was some teenager shit cutting up your suits was”

He takes the tin from me and jokingly says “I’m so going to figure out how to piece these together into some god aweful suit and tell people you designed it” I cracked a smile, I could see that twinkle in his eyes, the one he always got when he was teasing me. It was back, like everything in our marriage hadn’t happened. “If you get to do that I’m taking that elephant cookie jar everywhere I go. When we go out to eat he’ll have his own chair” We both laughed picturing the scene, me with my cookie jar and him in his awful pieced together suit. We were laughing together and I had forgotten how much I loved his laugh.

Chapter Three

Once the flowers are in a vase and the little elephant is resting safely on our bed, we leave. I glance at him, watching his numbers. They’re steady, ticking at a normal pace instead of plummeting. He looks nervous, scared even as he he pulls away from our home. He even looks a bit pale and maybe like he’s lost weight. “Marlin?”

“Hmm?”

“You’re eating right?” A frown tugs at his lips and I instantly regret asking. “Sorry, I guess it’s not really my business.”

“It’s fine, thank you for even thinking of me. Honestly, I haven’t had much of an appetite. I eat here and there, maybe one of those microwave dinners, but I haven’t really wanted much lately.”

“Oh.”

“Hey don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault. I should be able to take care of myself at this age and it’s not like you did anything wrong. I’ll eat until I can’t eat anymore tonight okay?”

“Just, please take care of yourself.”

“I will, it’s just your food is so much better than anything else. Everything is just so bland when you’re not the one cooking it.”

“Maybe if tonight goes well our next date can be at our house. I’ll cook for you like old times and we can watch a movie after

“That sounds nice….it’s going well so far right?”

“yeah” HIs jacket now catches my attention and I smile widely “You don’t still have this”

“The jacket?” he asks even as I pick it up. “yes the jacket, how did I never see it in our home?”

“It was in a box in the attic” I slip it on and I get a sudden and deep urge to cry. I tried to contain it, not wanting to upset him but it still comes. He pulls the car over at a gas station “whats wrong?”

“This jacket…I don’t know…I’m so sorry every thing has turned out this way. I would have never thought it would way back then” He pulls me into his arms and I’m glad he did. I hold him back and sob into him. “I’ll always love you Marlin” I say and he holds me a bit tighter “I know, just as I will always love you”

Marlin:

I press a kiss to her forehead and gently stroke her hair before getting out to fill the tank. I don’t even know if I was allowed to kiss her anymore, but her crying was never okay and I just wanted to comfort her. I could see that she was really at home in my old jacket and I was even happier now about bringing it. If she wanted it, I would let her keep it. Anything to make her happy again. After filling my tank and paying, we were off again. “So, do you remember that little burger place I took you too that night?”

“Yes I do, they had the best milkshakes. Is it still open?”

“Still open and still run by the same people. Same milkshakes, same everything.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, would you like to go?”

“Of course, I’d love too.”

I drove us over there, happy she hadn’t shed any more tears during the drive. “wait please” I say as I jump out and run to open her door. I didn’t know if she’d expect me to do this anymore but I really wanted to. Even if I didn’t want to start doing those sweet little things for her again I did it on our first date and I knew I should do it now. She smiled at me, it tugging at my heart as it always had. I knew she didn’t know that had never stopped but I figured she might think I’m laying things on too thick if I mention that now. “That was sweet..I appreciate it”

“You deserve to be treated like a princess Dafina”

Dafina:

He was right when he said the diner was the same. From the flooring to the paint and even the art on the walls. I couldn’t believe it and I actually stood there for a moment just taking it all in. Marlin taking my hand brought me back to reality and made me realize I had been standing in front of the door. I felt a blush creep up my neck and he let out a little laugh. “I can’t help it, I’m just so surprised.”

“Would I get in trouble for saying the look on your face it cute? It’s the exact face you made when I begged you to let me take you out.” He took my hand and guided me over to a table. “You were so embarrassed that day, like you weren’t sure what to say.”

“I think I was more amazed you would go so far just for one date. You didn’t even care how it turned out.”

“I just wanted time with you, Dafina. Even if it was one day, it would be one day well spent.”

You were always so incredibly sweet Marlin”

“I’m sorry that stopped”

“I can see that, I really can. I’m glad you asked me to give you another chance”

“But I know you still aren’t ready to undo everything yet with the lawyers which is fine. I wouldn’t be any different at all if I expected you to already, on our first date be ready to completely say you don’t want a divorce”

“Maybe after we order our food we can talk through some stuff, like really talk.”

“Yeah, we did a lot of yelling that last year and when we’re yelling we’re not really listening”

“I like this counselor you’re seeing” He chuckled and asked “would you consider doing couple sessions with me?”

“sure, when would they be?”

“Wednesdays, the time fluctuates a bit”

“Okay, I’m in Marlin” he seems to cautiously take my hand and I give him a friendly smile to let him know the contact is okay.

“I really miss touching you. That sounds creepy doesn’t it?”

“Little bit.”

We both laugh and then pick up our menus and look over them. I glance at him and find him watching me. He quickly looks away and I smile as I decide on the cheeseburger and chocolate shake. It’s the same thing had had on our first date and he seems to catch on and go with what he had had that night as well. Once we’ve made our order, he takes possession of my hand again, gently brushing his thumb over my knuckles. I glance at his time and it’s perfect. “Hey Dafina, do you remember that time you broke your arm?” He asks.

“Yeah, I hated being stuck in the hospital and then I couldn’t lift anything. You carried everything for me the whole time even though I told you didn’t have to.”

“I was your boyfriend, that’s what boyfriends are supposed to do.”

“And you wrote up all of my reports for me. The look on our teachers faces was priceless.”

“Being able to spoil you like that, it made me really happy.

I smile at him again, actually admiring him for the first time in a long time, he really was the man he used to be and I found myself starting to fall right back in love. My dad would probably call me crazy but I could see the old him in his eyes again, my Marlin. Our dinner was just as good as I remembered and we went for a walk afterward as we had when we were kids. I take his hand and I love how tightly he takes mine. It wasn’t painfully tight but nothing was going to pull me away from him. At the end of our perfect date he takes me home and I invite him in. “are you sure?”

“well, just so you know, I actually mean for coffee. That wasn’t code” He chuckled and said “I know, thank you, I’d love to come in Dafina” we go to our kitchen and I start a pot then pull some frozen cookies out to bake. “still can’t have coffee without cookies?” He asks me and I laugh as I say “that will never change”

Marlin:

Just sitting there with her talking about our happiest memories brings light back into my life. I miss this, just talking to her. I hang on every word until the cookies beep and she takes them out and scoops them onto a plate before bringing them back to set between us. She gets a little bit of chocolate on her chin and I reach out without thinking and wipe it away, making her blush and my heart trip over itself. “Sorry, habit I guess.”

“It’s okay.”

I let out a sigh. “I miss touching you, not even as a sexual thing, just small touches, holding hands, running my fingers through your hair. It’s a hard habit to break.”

“Hey, it’s really okay.” She rests her hand on mine and I feel myself warm at the contact.

“You know maybe you could go ahead and move back in. I don’t like the thought of you at hotels..I mean…you do know I never kicked you out right?”

“I know, are you sure though?”

“Yeah, if we’re going to try and fix this lets do it right. You should be here and we should be working on us daily”

“Thank you Dafina”

“Thank you for asking me to stay. I wasn’t innocent in our divorce and I appreciate you admitting you were most of it but the fact still stands I had my own part in it” we continued to talk about our marriage for hours and I ended up sleeping over, actually getting to cuddle with her again. I nearly cried but managed to keep myself together. If things kept on like this I had real hope we could go back to how we were. I didn’t want to live life without my Dafina, I hadn’t even been sure I could but now, now I didn’t have to face that harsh reality.

~ The End