~ 8 ~
“You are slowly killing your soul my friend.” I told Joshua as he continued reading his spell book. I had spent almost an hour watching him do his research.
“We are in the middle of a crisis Shadow; we have to find a way to get through it without getting killed.” He did not even bother to look up at me.
“Joshua there will always be some kind of crisis. And yes, we have to focus on everything that is going on, but we cannot stop living.” I stood behind the couch he was sitting on and I put my hand on his shoulder.
I heard him sigh before he put his book down. The witch seemed to be contemplating his options before he turned around to face me.
“Will you drink some tea with me?” He gave me a smile.
“I would love to.” We went to the kitchen and I sat on one of the stalls and watched him as he boiled up some water.
A few minutes later, Joshua sat next to me as we both drank our tea. I could sense his tension, but I wanted him to tell me about it without me having to point it out. I came to him believing I would get a break from all the craziness that had been happening, but I will always be happy to hear a friend express their worries and sorrows.
“Something does not feel right.” He abruptly declared after a few moments of silence. He focused his gaze on the mug between his palms; in fact I reckon he was glaring at it like a woman would glare at her reflection after eating a full pack of ice cream.
I remained silent knowing that if I utter a word, I would disturb his train of thoughts. And I wanted him to figure out the reason why he had been finding solitude in his books rather than his family and friends.
A few slow minutes later, the witch finally faced me. The vulnerability in his eyes took me by surprise; I had never seen him in such a frail state.
“If I told you something, would you keep it in confidence?” His left hand abandoned his hot mug and rested on the counter, and it did not go unnoticed how hard he was clenching his fist.
I could hear the silent plea; he wanted me to assure him that it is okay to confide in me. His posture and the anguish in his expression told me how much he needs someone to talk to. However, since we have not known each other for that long, he wanted to be certain that it is safe to allow himself to break apart in my presence.
“You can trust me with anything, I promise. I would never betray someone’s trust or degrade their secrets.” I put my mug on the counter and placed my hand over his before giving it a light squeeze.
“I cannot keep this up.” A tear slid down his cheek and his voice cracked at the end. Immediately, I was reminded of the breakdown Nick had when I was in a coma.
I felt honored that Joshua trusted me enough to show me a part of him that it was lucid that he did not show anyone else. Regardless, I was not sure I was mentally or emotionally ready to go through something similar mainly because I was scared that I would not be able to provide the support and the comfort he needed.
My hold on his hand got a little tighter as he continued crying. The sight of his tears caused my rip cage to tighten around my heart, and the sound of his sobs made my lungs almost relinquish air.
“I cannot keep pretending that I am okay. I feel like I am slowly losing my sanity.” His tea mug became completely forgotten as he turned around to fully face me.
“It is okay to not be okay Joshua; everyone struggles at one point in their lives. It is only normal and natural.”
“I know, but I do not want to hurt him. And I definitely cannot go to any of my brothers; I do not want them to know.” My eyebrows rose at his words; I did not know what he meant. However, I got the feeling that whatever he meant, it was no light thing.
“Joshua? Who are you talking about? What are you talking about?”
“I am talking about this.” He gestured at the three huge red scars on the right side of his face. Hence, I immediately understood that he was talking about Alec.
In truth, I had thought that he handled that situation a little too perfectly. After I learned about Nick’s ability to conceal his emotions, I suspected that there was a possibility that Joshua was doing the same thing. Although it never occurred to me that I would be the one to uncover his tucked away emotions.
“Xander is my brother, I love him with all my heart, and I would never blame or hate him for what happened. Nonetheless, I cannot lie and say that I am not going through a conflict that is slowly tearing me apart.”
“And you are scared if you talked to Alec or any of the guys about it… You do not want Alec to feel guilty for what you are going through.”
“I have not been able to look at myself in the mirror ever since that day; I have not even felt like myself. Also, I cannot stop replying how he attacked me. I do not know how to handle this situation, and I am afraid that it is permanent; I am afraid I will not be able to come out of it.” I got up and stood right before him.
“Hey, look at me.” I held his face in my hands and made him look me in the eye.
“Hey, you will get through this. I will help you through it, and your brothers would never let you fight this battle on your own. You have people in your life who care about you. If you doubt it, you will make the process of getting through this all the more harder.”
“I am scared.” He whimpered.
“Are you scared of Alec?”
“I… I do not know. I mean… I know that Xander is not a bad person; I have known him for all my life. I am not scared of him, but rather what he is capable of when Amoux takes control and relies on his animal instincts. I hate myself for feeling that way, but…” He pulled his face away from my hands and gave me his back.
“Joshua.” I called his name out, but I did not try to force him to face me.
“Spending my days with my books has been the only way to distract myself from these feelings and that memory. I know that hiding will not fix anything, but I am terrified that my façade would break when I am around people.” Once again his sobs filled the air, but I still refrained from making him face me. After all, I know how it feels to want to conceal your vulnerability from others.
“Joshua, how did you feel when Alec attacked you?” I did not ask him because I was curious. I mean, yes I wanted to know, but one of the things I learned from Diamanda’s death is that the only way you can cope with your emotions is if you identify them. It might not help you heal, it did not heal me, but it definitely helps you get through each day as it comes.
“Um, I felt… I felt like….” He turned towards the counter and leaned both of his elbows on it as tried to distinguish his feelings.
“It was quick; I did not register what happened until the shock subsided and the pain started to emerge. When Nick started healing the wound, I kept replying those few seconds in my mind. I honestly do not remember most of it; only that Xander attempted to hurt Nolan, so I stood between them. If I am being honest with myself, deep down I believed that Xander would not hurt me. I do not know why I believed that since I knew that Amoux had basically turned into a wild animal. I am extremely relieved that everything is almost a blur, but the emotions it caused… I do not seem to be able to shake them off.” Tears continued to pour down his cheeks. My hand never left his, if anything its hold on his got as tight as it could be.
“I honestly do not know what to tell you; and I do not want to pretend to know what you are going through or how you are feeling. Therefore, I am frankly scared that I will say the wrong thing.” I muttered as I placed my second hand on his shoulder.
“You do not have to say anything Shadow, you being here and listening to everything I have to say is enough.” He turned around and wrapped his arms around me while still sitting down.
I returned his embrace as he cried against my chest. His sobs got louder as time passed by; I leaned my head on his as I tried to comfort him.
Unlike the time I comforted Nick, I felt a little weird simply because I did not know Joshua as well as I know Nick. Regardless, I still wanted to be there for him.
Also opposite to his brother, Joshua’s cries were not loud even though I could sense how emotional and intense they were. As the sun started to set, Joshua’s tears completely ceased to come down his face. Still, we did not pull away from each other; that was until we heard the front door open and close.
Both of us waited as we heard footsteps slowly making their way towards the kitchen. Of course I knew it was Alec; his scent was easy to know.
“Why is it every time you are left alone with one of the witch brothers I always find you crying?” Alec asked me once his build figure emerged in the kitchen. Only when he mentioned it did I feel the wetness on my cheeks.
“Unlike you, my brother and I are deeper than you will ever be.” Joshua gave him a wide smile. I became certain that he truly did not hold a grudge against Alec because his smile was as genuine as a broken smile can be. The alpha only gave him a smirk.
“Is everything alright?” He walked towards us.
“Yeah, Joshua and I were only bonding over some of our old wounds.” I waved a dismissing hand in the air. It was lucid that Alec did not believe me, but he respected our privacy and did not try to impose himself.
“Did you need something?” Joshua asked his alpha.
“No, I knew Shadow was here, and I wanted to come and check on the both of you.” His eyes exposed him; he was lying. My guess is that when he saw our tears, he decided to not share whatever was on his mind.
I knew that I had to keep Joshua’s secret even though I knew that it would not work in the witch’s favor. The only way for Joshua to truly get over his trauma and negative emotions is if he talks it out with the one who caused it. Nevertheless, it is not my place to tell him how to handle his emotions. This leaves me with no choice but to make this huge mistake even though I am certain it will cost Joshua greatly.