THERON

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FOUR.

Catalina laid with Theron on the floor, propped up against his side. “This one,” she plucked a brown-headed doll from her pile, smoothing down its thick, fake hair, “is Lily and she is super smart! Like, she knows everything! Everything, Wolfie! Can you imagine being that smart? I can’t...”

With his head held high, Theron watched her intently. His brows creased at her apparent distress. He doubted she was any less intelligent than a stupid, plastic doll will fake tits. For such a young age, she was rather clever in her own right. He imagined as she grew, she would become more so.

Yes, the big, bad wolf had sat on the floor, playing dolls with Lina for the last 40 minutes. She had introduced him to Samantha (or rather, ′Saman-fa,′ in six-year-old dialect), Bella, Lucy, Jacky, Tommy, Ben, and now, Lily. Each with their own personality created from her little child brain. Ben was mean, Tommy was sweet, Jacky was funny, Lucy was shy, Bella was pretty and Saman-fa was a “bitch.”

Lina’s words, not his.

Lina had frowned when she grabbed the blonde doll from the heap of tangled dolls before her. “This is Saman-fa and she’s a—” she glanced at her father slyly, noting he was busy at his writing desk and most likely not paying attention to anything happening on the other side of the room. She made sure to cup her little hand to Theron’s ear and whispered, ”bitch.” Her breath was moist upon his fur, as children this age haven’t grasped the concept of holding back their overactive saliva glands yet. The feeling made his ear twitch and he couldn’t help but paw at it, rubbing away the wetness she had unnoticeably left upon his coat.

Kids were so gross.

“Don’t tell daddy I said that,” she still whispered, though not by his ear, thankfully. She paused for a moment, staring at the ground before her, lost in thought. “Soap that smells like honey doesn’t taste like honey,” she scrunched her little nose in disgust and feigned a small gag.

The sight, sound, and implied response to her father punishing her for cursing was just too priceless of a picture for Theron and had he not been in wolf form, he would have let out the deepest, most amused laugh his Ancient, rage-filled soul could muster. This little spitfire before him brought much entertainment to his cold and deadened heart. He had spent only one day with her and she had the beast wrapped around her finger. One day. That’s all it had taken. She was the moon in the night sky, making him temporarily forget his dark and demonic past... a beacon in the dark night that surrounded his soul wherever he wandered. With her, his anger was nothing but embers, his reputation now soiled, drenched in cool water going by the name of Catalina.

But then again, that was a problem, wasn’t it? He was so enamored with her that he had pushed his mission of bloody revenge to the back of his mind. The memories and horrors of his captivity were suppressed and forgotten... It was murky and now hard to find and bring to the forefront to fuel his motivation for leaving once healed.

And he was almost healed.

Being so old, he should have healed within seconds but unfortunately, human technology had wounded him deeper than anything before. Their weapons were powerful and advanced, leaving the Ancient alive, yes, but slower to recover. Silver was nothing to him and wolfsbane was even less of a deterrent but whatever hid underneath both of those, inside that bullet, was something different... more dangerous and able to subdue even an Original Werewolf.

Which reminded him...

"Rogue,” he linked, ”I need to contact my brothers.”

Lucan didn’t flinch, hell, he didn’t even turn to acknowledge Theron. He sat, engrossed in whatever he was messing with on his desk, only throwing the Ancient a small wave of his hand, ”There’s a landline in the kitchen.”

Dismissively.

Theron’s lip raised, his canine showing prominently from inside his mouth. Yes, he had been gentle and less animalistic with Catalina but the rogue in the room would not receive such treatment. Theron still deserved respect, even if he had to resort to violence. Lucan’s daughter would not determine his fate if he should upset the Ancient.

Catalina was safe.

Lucan was not.

The little girl rambled on and on, not noticing the tension in the room, and for that, Theron was thankful. He attempted to reign in his annoyance as he felt she needed to be shielded from such a powerful wave of authority.

"Remember your place, Were,” Theron snapped, not hiding the threat that lay beneath his tone. ”Your daughter will not be used as your safety net."

Lucan tensed. His body was instantly rigid and he cursed his laxness once more. He had been so deep within his reading, polishing up his history of the four Originals that he had forgotten the imminent danger that sat behind him, curled up and snuggled into his child. While it became less and less likely that Theron would ever hurt Lina, Lucan had let his guard down, again, not once considering the reality that he still had a life that needed living and a young girl that needed her father. He knew the only reason he was still breathing was certainly due to the distress it would cause Lina to witness the death of her dad.

Lucan should be more careful. Why couldn’t he remember this? The life of a rogue had indeed taken its toll on his respectfulness of the ranks within which all wolves fell. Even an Alpha should not speak to Theron in such a way... well, if they valued their life they wouldn’t. And in the eyes of any pack, Lucan was considered lower than an Omega only because of the life he had been forced to choose because of the love he had for his family.

He spun around in his desk chair, submitting to Theron by way of an exposed neck, ”My apologies, Ancient. You can use the phone in the kitchen but please, not while Catalina is awake. She hasn’t been properly exposed to our kind yet and I would like to keep it that way.” Lucan knew, of course, that Theron would need to shift to his human skin in order to make a phone call. Not that he was bothered by the human part of the Ancient but rather feared for his daughter to view the lycan side. After all, the Originals were cursed with consecutive shifts—human to lycan to wolf, back to human. They could not change the order in which form they took, they just had to shift until they got to the desired one. Unlike their descendants which were either lycan or wolf and nothing more, the Ancients were both. Bittersweet really, a blessing and a curse wrapped in one huge and terrifying package.

Theron became rigid, the information Lucan had just provided was displeasing, to say the least. Had he heard him correctly even? Lina didn’t know what she was? What would she become years down the road? Her sixteenth birthday would just roll around, her body withering in agony; hair sprouting, bones breaking, form transforming, and completely unaware as to why? What would her father do? Yell “surprise?”

Moron.

Theron huffed, his anger increased tenfold, ”Are you telling me, she does not know she is Were?!”

Lucan could tell by the tone of Theron’s link that he was angry. And maybe, he had every right to be. It would appear to the Ancient as disrespectful that Catalina was not raised from birth to know her origins but Lucan had his own ways when it came to his daughter and her life. He would explain to her when she was old enough to understand only because such knowledge would also bring forth questions about his mate, her mother, that he was not ready to answer yet.

The pain was still too real.

"First off, she is my kin, not yours. In fact, out of the four Originals, you have bred no descendants so do not lecture me on the rearing of my child! You know nothing of such tasks! And secondly, yes, she will know her species but only when I see fit to tell her. Your nose is not approved to be so deep in my business, Theron!"

He knew once he said those words, there was no taking them back. He also knew it was not smart to scold such a powerful being but at that moment, Lucan’s heart overshadowed his brain... Another mistake he should be more careful to avoid in the future.

If he lived that long, at least.

Needless to say, Theron’s next course of action did not surprise him one bit. In all honesty, Lucan probably deserved it.

Taking great care not to startle Lina, Theron licked her cheek and rose from the floor slowly, forcing himself to ignore her melodious giggle in response to his kiss. His body trembled in rage, suppressed and caged tightly within his form. Had she not been in the same space as him, he wouldn’t have hesitated even a second to erupt. His desire to keep her safe and unafraid of him was the only thing reining him in at the moment.

Theron understood the words coming from Lucan’s brain. He heard what had been spoken and he couldn’t rightfully be angry with the rogue for how he chose to raise his own child. What set Theron off was more the thought of how Lina might come to learn of her heritage. She would experience pain, heartbreak, and betrayal from the one figure in her life she trusted most—her father. His line of thinking, his execution of the truth, would wound the girl and Theron was deeply affected at the thought of an emotionally and mentally hurt Lina. That’s what made him angry.

That’s what enraged him.

Stalking as slowly and calmly as he could toward a wide-eyed and contrite Lucan, he kept in mind the confused child in the background. Then again, he needed to put this rogue in his place, consequences be damned.

Quickly and unexpectedly, Theron pounced, trapping Lucan between his massive paws that landed on either side of the rogue’s armrests. Theron bared his teeth, snarling as quietly as he could, and stared Lucan straight in the eyes, ”I will not demand respect from you and I will not beat it out of you, as it would be quicker and easier to just crush the face that ill-mannered mouth sits upon instead. What I will do, however, is advise you to not teeter upon the line you have dipped your toe over. The passion you exhibit when it comes to your daughter is admirable, though stupid, as bravery will not grant you any brownie points with me. I may be in need of your assistance, and you might have unintentionally discovered a weakness of mine that even I did not know existed, but do keep in mind who I am, rogue. I have never forgiven so many indiscretions before. My quota has hit its max. Do I make myself clear?”

Lucan bowed his head, ashamed but willingly submitting to the Ancient. One swipe of Theron’s enormous paw had enough force to knock Lucan’s head clean off his shoulders and into the next town. Unabashedly, he was rather attached to his head and would prefer to keep it connected to his body as the Goddess had intended. He would no longer argue with Theron but his stance on Catalina remained the same. He would tell her when he felt it was right and not a moment sooner. Theron would not stay much longer, Lucan just had to fake it until he left. It was doable.

"Yes, Theron,” he sighed.

***

Theron watched Lina crawl into bed. Dressed in bright blue cotton pajamas, Lucan pulled the purple covers over her shoulders and kissed her forehead. “Love you, Catalina. Sleep tight, sweetheart,” he murmured.

But the tiny thing was in no way ready and willing to fall asleep yet. A tiny hand shot out from underneath the covers, grabbing her father’s wrist in earnest. “Wait,” she whispered, “story me to sleep?” Her big brown eyes peered up at Lucan, pleading with him. Lucan sighed defeatedly but smiled nonetheless. Story her to sleep? Such a funny girl. The adoration in his eyes was clear, she could have the world if she asked him for such.

Sitting down beside her and leaning against the headboard, Lucan wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “And what kind of story does my little Goddess want to hear tonight?” He asked.

Lina looked up at him, studying his face. What she was thinking, neither wolf knew but there seemed to be a struggle there of sorts. Her eyes then flashed to Theron, who sat motionless on the floor. And when she grinned at him, all he wanted to do was jump into her arms. There was an urge, an unyielding desire to be next to her, to protect her. Theron snorted at the thought. What the fuck was wrong with him? And what the actual fuck was this micro-being doing to him? He had never needed much of anything in his life. He was a simple guy, really. Food, clothing, shelter—the blood of his enemies. Theron was good, content even. Maybe not happy... but content.

What powers Lina possessed he didn’t know, but it was strong enough to bring an Ancient to his knees and that was scary. This was uncharted territory for a wolf so old and used to being a loner. Even his brothers, the other Originals, were not needed in his life to fulfill it. Of course, now, he was questioning whether his existence was ever truly fulfilling in the first place.

Sure, he had been enraged with his curse. Infuriated and demented once Cera had rejected him. He had first thought that the Moon Goddess’s magic was a gift... making him stronger... powerful even. He felt like a man, a true God in every sense of the word but once shared with Cera, it all came crashing down on him. It wasn’t a gift, it was a curse and it would hover over him, like a storm cloud, for centuries. And for centuries he only sought the feel of blood and flesh ripping through his teeth. Screams, cries, and pleads of agony were delicious and delivered feverishly. A carnal desire he couldn’t stop, rage fueling the inferno inside his soul.

But alas... here he was now, hoping, praying that a young blonde-headed girl would accept him into her life. He wasn’t ashamed of what he had done during his endless time on Earth, but he was dismayed at the thought of Lina knowing.

Would she look at him the same?

On the other hand, why did he care what she thought? If she found him a downright scoundrel—a demonic beast, more fittingly—she wouldn’t want him anywhere near her, which boded well for him. An easy decision. A break from her chains...

Ha.

“Wolfie,” Lina cooed, patting the empty space beside her on the bed. “Up!” She demanded.

Theron ignored the glare Lucan sent his way as he hopped into her bed, laying down slowly, opposite Lucan. Catalina patted the top of his head, staring at him lovingly but Theron was newly determined to break this spell she had cast on him. No more playing a domesticated pup, it was time to rip the band-aid off, come what may. ”Tell her my story, rogue. It used to be a common bedtime tale, I am told,” Theron snickered, sarcasm dripping in disdain. He had once relished in the idea of knowing his plight was being retold, warped and twisted into nothing more than lies and scary stories, imagining him more evil than he had been at the time. He did pity himself somewhat for not living up to such distortions. Why he never thought to wear the heads of his enemies like crowns or make armor from their bones dismayed him. He wished he had been that creative! But no, he was not and had never been anything more than a ruthless killer, minus the psychopathic tendencies. He wondered which version of his tale Lucan might share with his precious daughter.

Theron laid his head on Lina’s lap and rolled his narrowed eyes to Lucan, growling ”Well? We’re waiting."

The rogue father clenched his jaw and rolled his neck, the Ancient really got under his skin. He yet again wondered if the other three were just as irritating as this one. Surely not...

“Fine,” Lucan sighed, a renewed sense of purpose settled on his features as he turned to address his daughter, “It would seem that your Wolfie would prefer me to tell his story to you tonight. Would you like that, sweetie?”

Lina’s eyes lit with excitement as she glanced between Theron and Lucan. She would like that! She would like that very much! Why hadn’t she considered that Wolfie had a story? Everyone had one so of course, he would as well! She was more than willing to hear his tale. She nodded her head in unrestrained anticipation. She was ready.

Lucan cleared his throat, taking time to gather his thoughts. There were many different versions of the history of the creation of the Ancients and he wasn’t sure which direction Theron would prefer. One slight slip up may cost Lucan his head so, instead of the stories, legends, and myths he had heard through the years, he decided to reference the first written word instead, hoping it was closest to the truth. He would much like to keep his head.

And so, taking into consideration Lina’s young age and intellect, he began, “Thousands of years ago, before there was a great battle. Wealthy kings and rulers of vast lands and fortunes sent armies and small groups to ravage and plunder tiny, unclaimed territories. One of these small groups, a Roman group, consisted of four men: Marius, DeLoren, Kai, and, of course, Theron,” he motioned to the wolf that lay upon her, “Your Wolfie.”

“Fair-ron?” Lina whispered, gazing at her Wolfie. He raised his head and snorted at her. What was with this kid and her pronunciation of “TH?”

“No, honey, watch me,” Lucan pointed to his mouth, bringing his tongue behind the top of his front teeth, “Th... Th... Th-Theron.” Lina concentrated on her father’s sound, lips pursed, determined to mimicked his speech the best she could, “TH-air-on?” Lucan smiled in admiration at his stubborn little pup. She may be young and wild, but she was smart and caught on very quickly when she wanted to, “Yes. Good job, Catalina.” She frowned, suddenly sullen, “So, I can’t call him Wolfie anymore?”

"Something wrong with my real name, pup?" Theron growled, momentarily forgetting Lina couldn’t mind link yet as she hadn’t gone through her first shift. She was more human than a wolf at this age.

Her nickname for him didn’t bother him when she didn’t know his given one, but now he was taking her question as equivalent to a slap in the face. He rather liked his name. It struck fear in the hearts of Supernaturals across the world... He greatly doubted Wolfie had the same effect.

Lucan chose to ignore the Ancient, “You can call him whatever you wish but his name is Theron and he would prefer you use it.” Lina sighed, “Okay.” Leaning down to kiss her Wolfie’s head, she whispered, sadly, “Sorry, The-ron.”

“Theron and his band of brothers were known far and wide for their ruthlessness and—”

“They were mean?”

“Uh... yes, sweetie, very mean.”

Lina frowned at Theron, her eyes held an annoyance that caused an unintentional whine to release itself from his body. For the first time ever, Theron was suddenly very ashamed of his life—past, present, and future. Though he tried to fight it, he couldn’t help but feel as if he had disappointed her in some way... made her cross with him. All thoughts of him making a clean break from her little, irritating soul quickly flew out the window waving as it passed by, leaving him completely torn and Lucan hadn’t even gotten to the worst part yet.

He had done what he had done, landing him exactly where he was now... under the angry gaze of a six-year-old girl that had stolen his heart and castrated any form of murderous rage that was in his wolfen body. “Bad Theron,” she chastised him, “I don’t like meanies! You don’t do that anymore, okay?” He stared at the seriousness in her eyes and wanted very badly to promise her that he wouldn’t but Theron knew better. It was his nature and it wouldn’t change. It would never change.

He could feel Lucan’s eyes burning a hole in the side of his head, yet he couldn’t even look to the rogue to correct that disrespect. Maybe he deserved it. No, he definitely deserved it. No longer able to bear the intensity of Lina’s glare, he lowered his eyes. Defeated, he could only hope she wasn’t so repulsed by him that she would push him away. To test this, he chose to keep his head upon her lap.

She didn’t push him off.

Lucan continued anyway, knowing full well Theron was uncomfortable but he didn’t care. The Ancient had demanded this, so Lucan would follow through. His daughter should know the truth anyway, “One day, they came across a small Druid settlement.”

“Druid? What’s that?” Lina asked softly.

“Well, they were... magical... I guess that is the best way to describe them. And they were powerful, a gift granted to them by their gods for how they chose to live—as one with nature. An equal. They were peaceful and loving people who lived only to worship the natural beauty of the earth that was their home.”

“They sound nice.”

Lucan nodded his head, “They were. But, unfortunately, Theron and his warriors did not respect their way of life. Doing what he and his men did best, they ravaged, stole, and murdered the Druid clan. However, when they were about to execute the last Druid in the village, he pleaded desperately. Not for his life, but for revenge for his people. Theron, Marius, DeLoren, and Kai laughed at his feeble attempt for mercy, mistaking his prayer for one that would spare his life, not avenge his death. What they didn’t know was that his pleas had been heard! No one but the Ancients themselves knows exactly which one of them performed the final death blow, but as the Druid’s lifeless body hit the ground, his blood seeping into the earth and sealing the Fate of Theron and his warriors, a goddess appeared before them.”

Lina gasped, wide-eyed and intrigued by Theron’s history, she unconsciously leaned forward, her eyes focused solely on her father but her mind... Well, her mind was visualizing this goddess. She imagined her to have long, blonde hair and big brown eyes, a white stola that sparkled and twinkled like the stars. She glowed, like the moon on a dark night.

“The Goddess was angry. Sad for her people which had been slaughtered for nothing more than worshipping the beings that gave them life. In her anger and grief, she cursed the four men, turning them into beasts, more villainous and ferocious than any animal that walked the earth before them. Forever they would live, without love, without mercy or forgiveness, destined to hand down the curse through their bloodline until the end of time.”

“What does that mean, daddy?”

“It means that they are the fathers of werewolves and lycans across the world. And they are referred to as the Ancients—the Originals. Immortal and forced to live forever with their sins, and never allowed to experience the feelings of love, happiness or contentment, always to be feared and resented for what they did.”

“Even by their children? Their wives?” Lina asked incredulously.

Lucan shook his head sadly, “Even them. For no one wanted to love such vile creatures.”

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