THERON

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THREE.

Sara flashes a cheery smile and claps her hands, “Let’s begin!” It’s annoyingly corny and I had expected more from whatever terrifying beast resides within her—a demonic voice, a threatening snarl, the Wicked Witch of the West theme song playing in the background—normal fucking villain shit. Not... fiendish Mary effin’ Poppins. Of course, I am also not the one hell-bent on severing my immortality, fuck that spoonful of poisonous sugar.

Truth be told, I do not want mortality. Centuries of wishing for a simple end to my existence seemed a thousand miles away from what I now desire. And even though I hesitate to accept that breaking immortality is even fucking possible, I am still wary.

Sara had never been one for fantastical stories. While we had not seen nor spoken to each other in almost two thousand years, I do not believe that much would have changed. Beliefs and convictions are not easily swayed, so if Sara truly thinks she can become mortal once more then there is a great chance she’s entirely correct.

This does not bode well for me.

“Don’t do this,” I choked through my teeth. It isn’t meant to sound pleading and it definitely does not. I’m pretty sure that Sara has not been acquainted with demands in quite some time but here I am... in no position to be making such orders yet unable to halt those very actions.

She shoots me an icy glare, confirming my suspicions, “You do not tell me what to do anymore, Theron. This is what I want and in case you haven’t noticed, I always get what I want.” My eyes connect with the mousey witch by her side, my last hope in a suddenly hopeless scenario. It’s obvious by the sad look on the mouse’s face that she does not wish to do this either.

While that gives me some fucked up sort of comfort, it will be for naught... like all things in life, there would be consequences to her refusal.

She knows it.

I know it.

I also know that whoever Mouse is trying to protect takes priority over me and I cannot blame her for that. If it had been Lina or my brothers, no one could convince me to choose a different path. Their safety is of the utmost importance. Which brings me to another question, “What about my brothers?” What about Lina? If Sara’s immortality is tethered to mine, are the other Ancients also connected to the same line?

I am not naive. I know Lina better than anyone, regardless of the short amount of time we have been reunited. I’m positive she’s coming for me. It doesn’t matter that I came here willingly and it certainly doesn’t mean a damn thing that I did not ask to be rescued from my fate.

Lina will come.

Fighting will ensue.

Death is inevitable.

If my brothers keep their immortality and if Lina is, by some small chance, also immortal then they will fare far better against Sara and her cronies. I have to know that they have a chance. Of course, Sara does not need knowledge of that possibility.

“Sara is the only one tied to you,” the witch’s expression turns from sad to soft, “No other immortal has an attachment to either of you.”

No other.

Ah, a metaphorical piece of cheese from the magical mouse.

Satisfied, I adjust my attention to Sara, “And what does Arthur think of all this?” What I really want to know is if her hubby knows she’s a lying, conniving cunt that cannot give two shits less about him but I hold my tongue. Shocking, I know, but Sara kind of gives off that Unpredictable Psycho vibe now and days...

“What do I think of what?” Arthur’s voice suddenly echoes through the small room, surprise obvious on Sara’s features. Instantly, I am extremely and morosely amused as it is clear as day that she was not expecting him.

Personally, I want nothing more than to tear him into tiny pieces and spread them around the world so he can never be sewn back together again. However, the chains that bind me make it almost impossible that I could get that far. Twenty feet to the doorway he stands in is most certainly unattainable.

Arthur, the poor sucker, smiles lovingly at Sara and I almost feel bad for the guy.

Almost.

“I see you found the wolf you were looking for,” he crosses the room, placing a chaste kiss on her cheek. She returns his affections with a stiff smile, “Of course.”

I eye their interactions pretending to be unaffected and unimpressed when all I want is to set the ball rolling... witness the train wreck... gleefully watch the world burn... rip off the bandaid, yada, yada, yada, what the fuck ever. I don’t know what slang this century’s youth is using now and days but whichever meant to let the cat out of the bag, I want that because Goddess knows Sara is not going to approach the topic first. “Yeah well, a deal is a deal... right, my love,” I mock in feigned defeat, the disgusting pet name purposely forced and cringe-worthy on my tongue.

Her narrowed eyes fire daggers at my smug face and I know she’s no fool to what I am not so slyly implying and that’s okay.

I. Do. Not. Care.

I may, or may not, have also snuck her an extended middle finger.

Just joking.

I definitely fucking did that.

Arthur raises his brows, “A deal? You negotiated for him?” I’m not sure I would refer to it as ′negotiating′ there, Dr. Frankenstein. Negotiations are a discussion aimed at attempting to find a resolution both parties deem agreeable. I, for one, never found this situation agreeable in the first place so I think ′forced my fucking hand′ is a seemingly more fitting term.

“Yes,” she bobs her head, innocently. Oh look, the urge to vomit is suddenly back again...

“And that was?” Arthur looks at her expectantly and I eagerly await her response. I may, or may not, have leaned forward in a blatantly obvious way as to express my hunger for this moment.

Kidding.

I totally fucking did that too.

So it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I also casually and most certainly accidentally on purpose state, “Why, a deal to protect lupines, of course. Sara so graciously extended her mercy by promising not to experiment on them anymore. Surely she ran this by you first, Dr. Franken—” Oops. My honestly, unremorseful, bad. “Uh, Grimes. A deal could not be made without your approval, being your life’s work, after all...”

I’m not entirely sure who is more affected by my declaration; Arthur with the bulging eyes full of shock, betrayal, and anger or Sara, with her sigh of embarrassment and yet, exasperated, realization that the holy light has now been shed upon her demonic lying ass.

Either way, it’s quite satisfying for me.

As predicted, a heated argument ensues.

With my handiwork completed for the moment, I turn to the mouse. Sara and Arthur will be too consumed by their marital issues to notice us now. I whisper, curiously, “Who are you protecting? Who does she have?” I am not one to normally care about another beings’ plight but I also have no desire to eavesdrop on a selfish wife’s conversation with her unsuspecting husband... watching it go down in flames, sure, but knowing the details, not so much. Marital issues are sticky things and these hands aren’t meant for emotional gunk.

Blood, abso-fucking-lutely.

Feelings, not fucking likely.

Mouse approaches me, cautiously. Her eyes dart between me and Sara. She speaks as softly as expected from one with her demeanor, but urgently, the stutter in her words long forgotten. This tells me loud and clear I am not to be feared above Sara, an oddity that does not sit well with me. “My sisters,” her brown eyes meet mine, “they’re unknowingly being stalked by mercenaries. At the first sign of my resistance, they were instructed to shoot.”

I nod, solemnly, understanding her turmoil as I can only imagine what I would do if my brothers were in the same predicament.

Spoiler alert: there would be blood.

Lots of blood.

“Please, understand,” she pleads, “I don’t want to do this but you of all people should know the lengths we go to to protect those we love.”

Welp... she fucking had me there, didn’t she?

She inches ever closer, daring to bridge the gap between her and my trigger happy lycan twitches. “Listen closely,” she whispers in my ear, “things will progress quickly from here on out. No matter what happens, always follow your gut. Trust your instincts above all else. It won’t end pretty but I promise you that things will work out just the way they are supposed to.”

Her words startle me.

It won’t end pretty...

For who?

Me?

My brothers?

Lina?

“What do you mean? What do you know?” She has to give me something: Swear to me that they will be okay, tell me I’ll live through this, lie to me that everyone will survive—something. Anything! At this point, I’ll take whatever I can because it has to be better than the weight of anxiety that just came crashing down around me. I will never understand witches and their foreboding, psychic bullshit. Mouse purses her lips and shakes her head, “Nothing I can share.”

Of fucking course.

Goddess forbid any seer actually share what they see just on the off chance that it might alter the future in any way. And yet, even without that information, I still feel pity for the poor, tiny witch in front of me. It’s an uncomfortable realization that somewhere along the line I have inadvertently begun to care about something besides myself. So when the words, “I’m going to get you out of here, little mouse,” fly from my mouth without consideration, I am not surprised by it. I know she isn’t here by choice and I know she would have chosen differently if she could have but the stakes are too high for her... and we all have limits. It just so happens that her limits and my limits are the same, bringing about some weird form of kinship. Gone is the Theron that punishes the guilty by association. I am now my own worst nightmare: a compassionate Ancient.

She gives me a sorrowful smile, soft and sweet, “She has changed you, hasn’t she?”

We both know who she’s referring to.

I suppose I should embrace this new Theron but a part of me still wants to fight for my old self. A war rages within me—the side of me that vehemently denies there was ever anything wrong with me and the new me, brought to the surface by the sheer love of a certain she-wolf alone, that begs me to welcome it with open arms.

It’s all very disorienting.

The suddenly suspicious silence engulfing the room tears our attention from each other and back to the toxic couple that stands by the door.

Sara glares at Arthur.

Arthur glares at Sara.

In one flawless swipe, her monstrous hand knocks Arthur’s head clean off his body. Normally, one would see the spurting of torn arteries erupting in crimson squirts, powerful enough to paint the walls a deep red (one could question how I know this, but, let’s be honest, the answer to that should already be fucking known). Instead, the expeditiousness of her murderous action is so precise that Arthur’s body does not have time to understand the consequences or even recall what it’s naturally supposed to do under such duress.

So, he doesn’t even bleed.

His head falls to the ground with a disgusting SPLAT. His eyes still hold the furious glare from seconds prior, though his mouth is slightly agape, so there’s that, I guess.

Arthur’s body quickly follows suit, landing abruptly on the cold, linoleum floor.

Sara’s shoulders heave as if she just ran her first marathon. Her deep intake of forced, ragged breaths reverberates throughout the tiny room, as she continues to stare into the now empty space that once held the late, not so great, Arthur Grimes. She slowly unclenches her fists, cracking each knuckle individually with her thumbs before leveling her breathing to a steady, sane pace. Clearing her throat and straightening out her pants suit, she turns to us with an award-winning smile, “Now... where were we? Ah, yes!” She waves her finger in the air, drawing imaginary circles met for directing fighter jets, “Let’s begin!”

“Nathaniel! Chair!” She orders, her piercing voice equivalent to nails down a chalkboard. My inner beast whines, tail tucked between his legs. He is not looking forward to what is coming next.

“Will this work?” I question Mouse.

She grants me only a slow nod of her head.

As Sara sits in the chair now placed beside me, my thoughts drift to Lina... and with Lina, they will stay.

I do not notice Nate close the door behind him.

I envision Lina’s angelic face...

I do not listen when the mouse warns me this will be excruciatingly painful.

I hear Lina’s melodious laugh...

I pay little attention as Mouse places her hand upon my chest and I certainly do not care to interpret the lost language of the witches as she chants words that make no fucking sense to me.

I picture Lina. The strand of hair I always desire to gently push behind her ear, the way her eyes light up every time they catch my stare, the feel of her lips upon mine...

Light bursts through my chest, bright and blinding.

The scent of almonds and cashmere envelops me in its comforting embrace...

A burning, searing pain explodes within my chest.

The feeling of Lina’s naked body, pyretic against my own...

A tugging... pulling... yanking power is defying gravity in an attempt to tear out my insides. My chest rises in accord.

Lina’s euphoric canines bury into my flesh, marking me as her’s...

I grind my teeth to the ripping my soul feels deep within, like two pieces of separating velcro, it’s not done quickly. Simultaneously, an unseen energy sucks the air straight from my lungs.

I do want to scream.

I never want to appear weak.

I watch helplessly as Lina’s world crashes around her. Her house burnt to nothing more than ashes, her father murdered by the monsters now intending the same for me. The way her face contorted in agony and grief at the loss of a Goddess-given mate... and finally, a chosen one: me. She falls to her knees, clutching her chest, the pain too much, too heavy, to hold inside. A tortured wail erupts from her lips, long and mournful. The anguished sound brings forth my own scream to join in her symphony, a sorrowful melody that matches the pitch and timbre of the affliction we now both share.

I try desperately to hold tight to consciousness but the pain is suffocating... overwhelming. My eyes roll back and forth, attempting without much success to witness the scene before me.

Loud booms are coming from above. The ground shakes, an unforgiving rumbling quake that threatens to bring down the very ceiling I sit beneath.

The lights flicker.

Off and on.

Off and on.

Nate rushes forth pulling a less affected Sara from her chair. He cries urgently, “We have to go, boss!”

Before the darkness wins, before my consciousness lets go, and before my world goes totally and silently black, Sara breaks the witch’s neck.

In one quick but surprisingly painless and unexpected snap, her body crumbles to the floor. Mouse’s big brown eyes stare at me from the ground, lifeless and glazed over. My vow to help her escape this hell hole is now but a distant memory and one more failure to add to a growing list of unkempt promises.

The lights then finally, and most thankfully, go out.

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