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Chapter 21

The sun was starting to set behind the trees as they slowed their horses to a slow trot. They’d been pushing them all day and it was time for a rest for all of them. Terra brought her horse to stop before dismounting. She preferred to be on foot for a while as they looked for a place to camp for the night. She heard dexter doing the same thing behind her.

“ What are you thinking?” She heard dexter ask from behind her.

“ I’m trying to find a place we can stay the night. I was thinking somewhere near here so we can just continue in the morning.” She stopped and turned to him. As she turned back to look at him her gaze caught on the jungle behind him. She realized that she’d gotten so used to it that she never really stopped to appreciate it. Standing there in the jungle’s dying light she let the beauty of the jungle overtake her senses. The rosy color of the sky setting behind the trees, the sweet smell of flowers lingering in the air,the warmth of the sun’s rays beating down on her skin. She let her gaze settle on the man standing in front of her smiling at her.

“ This biome is so beautiful. This is my home. I will do whatever I need to in order to protect it.” Her voice initially came out quietly but she finished strong and loud. She could feel her words disappearing into the trees.

“I know. It’s not just you anymore. It’s only us now.” He smiled softly as he moved towards her. Terra felt herself unconsciously step backwards when she read the carnal intent in his eyes.

“We are literary in the middle of the jungle and could be attacked by anything or anyone at anytime.” She tried to reason with him.

Dexter chuckled,a dark sexy sound that made terras stomach twist in anticipation. He took another step towards her and she watched as his face changed from a smile into a grimace. “What’s wrong?” She asked anxiously as she scanned the surrounding jungle to try to find the source of his pain. “ Fucking snake bit me.” Dexter huffed out as he grabbed his leg and leaned against one of their horses. Terra glanced down in time to see a sleek black body disappear into the underbrush. “Uh,okay let me see the wound.” She scanned the grass around them for any more snakes in hiding but saw none. Dexter sat on the ground and pulled up his pants leg. Terra stared at the swollen spot on his leg and felt her mind go blank with panic. They had several poisonous snakes in their biome and she didn’t know what bit him. They were at least half a day away from the nearest hunter village and she wasn’t equipped to handle this situation. Her heart beat faster at the thought of losing him. She remembered something about snake bites in class back at the academy. She was pretty sure she was supposed to cut it open and suck the venom out. Or not. It was one or the other. She was pretty sure she was supposed to coat her mouth in something so that it didn’t affect her but she didn’t have the time. She grabbed her knife from her thigh slang and held it tightly in her hand. “This might hurt a bit.” She said before she cut into his leg at the point of injection. Blood swelled up and she shut her eyes before leaning forward and attempting to suck the venom out of his leg. As the coppery taste filled her mouth she turned her head and spit it out hoping she was sucking enough blood and venom out to save his life. She was aware that by exposing herself to the venom she was risking her own life but in the face of possibly losing him it was a small price to pay,unimportant in the grand scheme of things. “I think i got it all. Time to get you to the nearest village to make sure. I’ll strap you to me so you won’t fall off the horse if you become unconscious.” She saw him open his mouth to reply and expected an argument but all he said was one word: “okay.”

Terra finally saw the edges of the village. She’d been riding for hours now and it was fully dark. Dexter was strapped to her back and he was unconscious now. She felt dizzy and nauseated herself and was on the edge of passing out herself. She knew it meant she must have ingested some of the poison when she was trying to suck it out of his wound. It was a stupid life threatening move and if she didn’t find someone quick they would both die.

She tried to nudge her horse to move faster towards the huts in from of them but it was tired as well from Sprinting all day and only managed a slow trod. The other horse that was tied to hers by a rope did the same thing. She tried to open her mouth to call out for help in hopes that someone would hear her and come investigate the noise but her throat was completely dry and nothing came out. They had begun to pass the first few houses when she felt it. A dark consciousness that was over taking her. She knew she only had moments before she was pulled under and she tried to stop the horse and get off so she wouldn’t fall from it and further injure herself. However she found her body was too heavy to move and she felt herself tipping over and falling towards the ground. The last thing she remembered was the high pitched scream of her horse as it nudged at her and Dexter as they lay on the ground in a pile before darkness overcame her.

Terra came to abruptly. Her eyes snapped open and she was aware of an intense feeling of nausea swirling in her stomach. It was pitch darkness surrounding her and she couldn’t get a sense of where she was. All she knew was nausea and the painful clenching of her stomach. She struggled against sheets that seemed to weigh a thousand pounds in an attempt to get to the edge of the bed before the inevitable happened. Just as she reached it and leaned over the edge nausea clawed at her throat . Her stomach contracted violently and forcing everything up and out. The initial explosion of undigested food was followed closely by another and another until there was nothing left to to come out. She felt tears streaming down her face. Her body was plastered in sweat and she felt herself shivering uncontrollably as she continued to dry heave. After what seemed to be an eternity the dry heaves finally slowed and came to a stop. She lay back on the bed and tried to lay still in an attempt to help her spinning head. She felt a sharp pain radiating throughout her entire head increasing steadily until she felt unconsciousness rushing in once again.

Terra felt herself slowly coming to. She couldn’t remember where she was and her surroundings were unfamiliar. She had a vague recollection of intense nausea. Her gaze went to the floor but she didn’t see any evidence of her vomit. Her gaze traveled across the rest of her surroundings. She was in a wooden room,it was sparsely furnished with a bed and dresser as if no one lived here regularly. There was a door that she assumed led to the bathroom. She looked down at herself and noticed her regular clothes were gone. Instead she wore a gown woven out of white silk. It was loose and free flowing. She moved to the edge of the bed and noticed a pair of sandals sitting on the floor. She didn’t see her clothes so she guessed she was supposed to wear those instead. She also didn’t see her weapons anywhere usually this would bother her but she figured she would have already been harmed if she was in danger. She sighed and walked towards the door of the room. Putting her ear to the door to listen for people before opening it and stepping out into a long hallway. She didn’t feel like she was in any danger but she didn’t like that she didn’t have her clothes or weapons. And a small panicky part of her was stressed about being separated from Dexter. She glanced both ways and didn’t see anyone but closed doors so she decided to explore and try to find her clothes and weapons. As she walked down the hallways she heard voices coming from a room on her left. She put her ear to the door to listen.

“She’s been out for three days now and still hasn’t woken up. I can tell she tried to suck the poison out. While it’s a commendable act all she succeeded at doing was poisoning herself as well. The male still hasn’t woken up and none of our antivenoms are working. We need to know the exact snake he was bitten by in order to properly treat him or we could just be making it worse. His breathing is already shallow and I don’t know how much longer he has left if she doesn’t wake up soon and tell us what we need to know.”

At those words Terra pushed the door open forcely. It slammed against the wall and she saw two men in trench coats standing beside a bed with Dexter in it. The room looked identical to her own beside her men staring at her with open months. “It was a black snake. Black from head to tail.” She said in a rush as she moved to Dexter’s bedside. His skin was sweaty and was noticeably paler than he was normally. She moved past the doctor’s and grabbed his hand. “You have to help him. You said you needed the information and I just have it to you.” She said forcely as she tried not to cry. One of the doctor’s turned and hurried away while the other stayed beside her.

“How are you feeling my dear? We’ve been worried sick about you for days.” he was an older man who had the air of a grandfather about him.

“I’m fine. I’m not the one you should be worried about!” She heard how sharp her tone was and took a deep breathe and tried again. “I’m sorry for being rude. I am Terra and this is Dexter. We are hunters from the walled city. I can’t lose him. I just can’t.” Her voice broke on the last word. The doctor stepped towards her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “We are doing everything we can. I promise you. You won’t lose your husband.” He said softly before he turned and left the room. Terra just stared at him in shock at the word husband before she turned back to Dexter. She got into bed with him and put her head on his chest as she tried to calm herself. “He’s gonna be okay.” She repeated like mantra that had the power to work miracles as she held onto him and prayed silently.

Terra could smell her mother’s scent surrounding her as she lay next to her on the bed.It was a mixed scent of ,lilac and something else..citrus maybe. It gave Terra peace and made her relax instinctively.

“I wish I was as beautiful as you mom.” She said quietly into the silence between them.

“Oh honey,” Her mother sighed. “One thing I wish my mother had told me was how beautiful I was. She never did ...not even once. I thought I was this average thing,wait no actually, I didn’t give my looks a second thought. I just figured we all looked the way we looked until I met your father. He saw me, he saw my flaws and he became my best friend. He made me feel truly beautiful and I loved that. I loved him.” Her voice softened on the last three words as she relived memories Terra couldn’t see. She looked back at Terra and smiled. “You are beautiful and you have so much to offer the world.Whether you leave and travel the world or go to the city...or stay with us. Never let anyone deny your worth. Don’t you ever deny it. You are amazing, you are smart you are funny and you are wise. And all the other millions of positive adjectives that exist in this world!” She exclaimed as she leaned down and kissed Terra on the forehead. “My baby is beautiful. Be sure to pass that along to your future children. And make sure that the man you marry makes you feel the same.” She said as she rose and left Terra alone to sleep.

Terra could smell her mother’s scent surrounding her as she lay next to her on the bed.It was a mixed scent of lilac and something else..citrus maybe. It gave Terra peace and made her relax instinctively. They were having their nightly conversation before Terra went to sleep.

“How did you know that you were in love with dad?” She asked quietly as she lay by her mother’s side.

“It’s hard to find real love and know it’s real until you think you have lost it. I didn’t realize that I loved your father until I asked myself four questions. The first was am I a better person with him and does he bring out the best in me? The second was do I want to be there for the good,the bad and the ugly? The third was am I physically and emotionally attracted to him? And last and most importantly does he make me happy? Whenever you meet the man who makes it possible for you to easily answer all of those questions with a yes then he is the one for you. However, don’t let that make you think that your only focus in life should be finding someone to love. You are beautiful and you have so much to offer the world.Whether you leave and travel the world or go to the city...or stay with us. Never let anyone deny your worth. Don’t you ever deny it. You are amazing, you are smart you are funny and you are wise. And all the other millions of positive adjectives that exist in this world!” She exclaimed as she leaned down and kissed Terra on the forehead. “You are beautiful. Be sure to pass that along to your future children. And make sure that the man you marry makes you feel the same.” She said as she rose and left Terra alone to sleep.

“The venom is hemotoxic. It was has it has coagulopathic priorities which can cause hemorrhaging to the gums,nose and other orifices of his body. Right now we aren’t sure if he received enough venom to cause such a severe reaction in it.”

“You just said the venom is hemotoxic. That doesn’t sound like it matters how much got into his body. He needs the antivenom anyway.”

“I agree. Which is why we gave him his first dose of it before we woke you up. We will need someone with eyes on him for at least an hour to make sure he doesn’t have an adverse reaction to it. As his wife we assumed you would want to be the person to do that.” He paused and waited for a response from her. Terra nodded silently.

“ If he wakes up you can give him small sips of water but that’s all for now.” The doctor pushed up a chair next to the bed for her to sit in.

“A doctor will be checking in with you every twenty minutes. If he has any reaction then just call out and someone will be with you momentarily. And Terra?” The doctor paused met her gaze. “Are you feeling okay? You also had a reaction to the venom. Because you only swallowed a small amount your reaction was life threatening but you were unconscious for three days and then as soon as you wake up you find your way here and have not left his side yet. As a doctor and hopefully soon a friend I must inquire about your health.”

Terra felt tears building behind her eyes at his words and kind smile. “I can’t lose him.” She said softly.

The doctor nodded seeming to understand the rest of what she couldn’t say. “ Well let me know if you need anything as well.”

“I will.” Terra said quietly as she looked back towards Dexters prone body. She reached for his hand and grasped it tightly in her own.

“I’ll leave you be. I shall be back soon.” He said before he turned and walked out of the room silently.

Terra looked away from the door and back to her and dexters hands intertwined. . They’d come in about thirty minutes ago and woken her up saying they need to explain about the antivenom they’d given dexter. There was a moment where she didn’t remember where she was then it all came rushing back to her. She hadn’t really emotionally reacted to the situation yet. She knew she was numbing herself to the situation so she could function. She knew that dexter would tell her to stop blocking what she was feeling. That it was okay to cry if she needed to but she just couldn’t. She currently felt frozen. Since she’d met him she never had to contemplate life without him. He’d always been there and even when he left on trips she could always feel him. But now she couldn’t feel anything. She raised his hand to her mouth and kissed the back of it. A dash of color out of the corner of her eyes caught her attention and she looked up to see a trickle of blood running out of dexter’s ear. She stared shocked for a moment as her brain tried to understand what it was saying. She felt the panic begin to build inside of her as her breathing became more rapid and shallow. It occurred to her that she was supposed to do something if he had a reaction. She jumped up and ran towards the door.It opened before she could get there and the doctor entered with a syringe. “Help him! He’s bleeding!” Terra exclaimed as she tried to slow down her breathing. At these words the doctor immediately went to dexter side and injected him with the antivenom. “Hopefully this will help. The bleeding is a reaction to the venom not the antivenom. This will work to slow the bleeding and eventually stop it all together.” The doctor turned back towards terra as he said this. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the blood still coming out of dexter’s ears.

“Is he going to die?” She whimpered as she felt panic building in her chest. Her breathing was coming in gasps and she could feel her heart hammering in her chest erratically. “I think i’m having a panic attack.” She said as she slowly lowered herself to the floor and curled into the fetal position.

The doctor took one look at her and went to the door shouting for someone to bring a sedative. He returned and squatted next ot her on the floor.

“There is a small chance that he may die. However it is highly unlikely since you got him here so fast and we are giving him antivenom to combat the the venom. It may take a day or two for you to see the effects but I have a feeling he is going to make a full recovery. You need to take a deep breathe and try to calm down. He needs support right now and that support comes from you.” Another doctor entered the room with a needle. “I’m going to inject you with this. It will help. Okay?”

Terra nodded as she tried to focus on her breathing. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t physically deal with this. She’d known plenty of people who had died while out on a mission. She’d rationalized that their deaths as something that just happened. As a part of the job,but dexter...dexter was impossible to rationalize. As the sedative took effect she found a resemblance of control again. She could still see her panic but it wouldn’t touch her. She was calm. As she got up off of the floor she sat in the chair by his bed again. “Do you have a cloth so i can wipe the blood away?” Her voice came out in a normal tone as if nothing was wrong. The doctor handed her a cloth which she used to dab at the blood coming out of his ears. “We will be back in thirty minutes exactly to give him more anti venom.It’ll be okay.” Then he was gone again.

“You won’t wake up for some reason. The doctors say that you are okay and the antivenom has worked. They say that I shouldn’t be so anxious... But how can I not be?It’s been two days since I woke up and found you like this. Two whole days...you’ve stopped bleeding and your regular color has returned. The spot where you got bit has returned to normal size as well. They say that you’ll be fine to walk on it once we get going again. I’ve been talking to you for the past few days because I realized it’s so many things I never got to say to you. That i never got to ask. In a way what we have between us is new but really it isn’t. I keep replaying our conversations over in my mind. I keep seeing the nights we spent together in a different light and wondering how i never saw you. You were always there for me. Everytime you’d come back from a trip you would come find me first before you even reported to the president. I remember when I first met you. It was the first day that I had to go to class. All of the other students would whisper about me when I passed but none would talk directly to me. I was the curious case,the orphan. I was someone to be talked about not talked to. By the end of the day I was so disheartened that I didn’t really pay attention when walking back to my room and I ran into you. With tears running down my face I whispered sorry and tried to run away but you grabbed my arm and pulled me back. You looked at me as I tried my best not to look at you and you gave me a hug. I was a complete stranger and you hugged me out of the blue just because I was crying. Before I ran into you I was making plans to leave the city. I’d decided that the crappy day I had was proof that I didn’t belong in the city. That my parents were right and I shouldn’t have come. I was going to leave that night and never come back. But...that hug made me realize that maybe I didn’t have to be as alone as I felt in that moment before I saw you. That maybe just maybe I would be okay. As you hugged me the sorrow I had pent up inside me from my parents death and my brothers disappearance came pouring out until I was gasping because I was crying so hard. Instead of thinking that I was some crazy lady you just held me until my sobs subsided. You walked me back to my room afterwards and offered to spend the night with me. I remember you being flustered because you didn’t want me to that you were trying to make a move on me. I remember laughing for the first time since I discovered my parents. And I remember saying yes. That was the first night we spent together. It was as you said,no funny business. It was nice for me to be around another person again. We met when I was still my most vulnerable and instead of taking advantage of me you became my best friend . It wasn’t until later on that I discovered you were known as a playboy and everyone assumed I was your newest girl. I didn’t care though. Neither did you. I don’t know what it was between us but you haven’t left my side since. It wasn’t even sexual at first. I didn’t really start to see you that way until the week before my graduation. Ironic I know because as soon as I become interested in someone else my ex pops up from my past. I still can’t believe he punched you! It all sounds so ridiculous as I’m going over everything in my mind. And then that crazy love triangle that came out of nowhere. Although I feel that in order for it to be considered a love triangle I had to be a willing participant in it and I was not. Daniel reminded that not all parts of my past are bad. That beyond the grief it’s some great ones as well. I still don’t understand why he attacked me. No matter which way I look at it I truly don’t understand it... Thank you again for saving me. I didn’t expect his attack and let my guard down. He would have killed me. I have no doubt in my mind that he would have. And I don’t think I ever properly thanked you for that. Please wake up soon. I need to know that you are okay. I can’t do this without you. You have become a part of me.”

“Dexter,I don’t know if you can hear me. They just gave you another shot of anti venom. They said it might help your body get rid of the remaining toxins. He keeps calling me your wife. If you were awake we would probably laugh over it. But with you laying there so still and silent it doesn’t seem like a laughing matter anymore. I never really gave much thought to being married before. But when I think of you it doesn’t seem like such an impossible concept. You are truly my other half. My best friend. My lover...my life. I can’t imagine living without you. And I refuse to imagine it so I need you to get out of this bed so I don’t have to anymore. Please wake up. Please.”

“So I realized that over these last few weeks I haven’t really done a good job at explaining how I feel to you. Or to myself. As I sit here and talk about a thousand different things I realize I’ve never told you... I never told you that I love you. And I don’t mean that I love you as in a familiar way. I am in love with you and only you. This situation has made me realize that I’ve never told you and i think it’s stupid of me. I know all about unexpected loss and yet I’m still here too proud to admit how I feel because I wasn’t sure if you felt the same or not... I love you Dexter. I love your smile. I love your laugh. I love the way you’ve looked at me since we made love. I love how you always look for me to make sure that I’m there. I love how smart you are. How you treat me like I’m just as strong as you are. I love who I become when I’m with you. I want to stay with you forever but in order for me to do that I need you wake up. Wake up so I can embarrass myself by repeating everything I just said to you. Please.”

“You won’t need to repeat it because I heard you the first time.” A gruff voice broke the silence of the room. Terra eyes went to dexter’s face and met his brown eyes. Immediately tears begin streaming down her face. “Dexter?” She whispered quietly as a strong wave of love rolled through her.

“I love you too.” He said smiling softly at her.

“Are you okay? How do you feel? Do I need to get the doctor?” Terra voice came out frantic as he gaze darted towards the door of the room back to dexter’s warm gaze.

“Hey. Gimme a kiss.” Dexter’s gruff voice was laced with amusement.

“What?” Terra asked confused.

“A kiss. Please.”

Terra put her hand on his face and bend down to give him a light kiss on the lips but he wasn’t having that. He entangled his fingers her hair and kissed her for all he was worth. When he finally let her go she had tears running down her face again. “ I love you. I love you so much.” She whispered as she pulled away. “I love you too Terra. Forever.” He held her gaze for a moment as if to drive home how serious he was. If it was before she would have pulled away and tried to derail the conversation but now she met his gaze head on and nodded her assent.

His lips curved up in a smile. “Terra. I know this is possibly the least romantic proposal of all time and I promise that I will get you the biggest ring and most romantic proposal later but right now I just need your word. Terra Lee. Will you marry me?”

His gaze pierced hers as he asked and his face fell when she started crying again.

“I hate when you cry baby.” He muttered as he wiped her tears away with his hand.

Terra couldn’t speak so she just nodded her head rapidly in response to his question. His face broke out in an impossibly wide smile as he leaned up to passionately kiss her again. “Good.”

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