"It always seems impossible until it's done."
"He probably just wants to talk through your progress. Honestly I don't know what to expect but if it gets too much just remember what we talked about, okay?" Oliver says as we reenter the section of the base containing Arthurs office.
To stay calm, give him the signal and let him try to sort it out. We'd come to the conclusion that it was best if he dealt with his dad considering how much more he knows about him. We had decided together to make this meeting go as good as it possibly could so that perhaps my life here might become a fraction easier.
But what he didn't know, was that I planned on throwing that all to shit.
"Okay," I mummer, offering him a tight smile.
He takes his gloved hand in mine but he isn't so tentative about the action anymore. He holds me securely and I can tell even with the thin piece of fabric between us he feels connected somehow. That kiss didn't last long, just long enough for me to achieve my goal without causing suspicion but then the pain came flooding in afterward.
Though concern covered it, I also knew that beneath it all lay hope- a sort of happiness that became dangerous after a while. I thought maybe showing him affection would make him lean to my side-that the simple effort of trying would put things into perspective for him.
But it only made him more adamant that the testing was imperative. It made him somewhat excited for it, actually and that only filled me with complete dread.
"Oliver!" A feminine voice shouted from behind us, a young woman rapidly approaching us as we entered the office complex.
"What is it?" He asked, his tone clipped.
"Your presence is needed in sector five. The General wishes to speak with you urgently."
Oliver looks at me and clenches his jaw. "How urgently?"
She gives him a certain type of look. "It's a matter of security." Her gaze flicks to me then, hesitation lining her eyes. "They need your help immediately."
Oliver nodded sternly. "I have to deliver my wife to my fathers office first. I'll be there straight after."
"Thank you." She retreated promptly, taking her message back to wherever the hell sector five was.
"Are you okay with me not being there?" Oliver asked me, concern covering his features.
"I'll be fine. Just a quick chat anyway right?" I ask, swallowing the emotion in my voice as best I can. I realise in that moment that if all goes according to plan, this will be the last time I see him for a long time-forever potentially.
If this works and I truly do make it back too Roman, I know the chances of him being able to see me again are slim. And the hardest part about it is that there is a side to me that doesn't want to go. The part that still looks in his eyes and finds happiness there, finds a whole treasure trove of memories and good times.
Because I know that he made me happy once and if things were different, he would've made me happy forever. He cares about me too much, so much so that it suffocates me but Roman isn't exactly much better-not when I think about it.
I know, that when this is all over Oliver would let me be alone-he'd give me freedom and its why I can't stay-because freedom is a farce, the only freedom I am going to find will be in a lie. I'll never be able to erase Roman, as much as I might want to and he can't do the same either.
If I stay here, I'll suffer and the world may just suffer too. But if I go back in a way I'll still be suffering there too. That idea of freedom will permanently be a whisper in the wind and I'll have to accept my life for whatever it is.
Stop fighting for myself.
I grab Olivers gloved hand and pull him towards me, the man that I once lived for. And it hurts, it hurts my heart so bad to clutch onto his shirt for the last time, feel his comfort that I became dependent on, his love that became my oxygen. Because maybe if I let him go, stop fighting for someone else, stop making everything in my life a game of survival then I can start living-start living for me for once.
He chuckles, a sound that felt like a melody to my ears. "Well gee, Mae-I'll be back for dinner," he says, holding me tighter.
"I know," I mummer into his shirt. I pull back from him, staring straight into his emerald green eyes that glimmer with devotion. "Thank you, Ollie. For caring so much." Even if it wasn't right-wasn't enough.
"Always, Mae," he says, serious. "Always."
"Mae." Arthurs head rises with a smile as I enter the office, closing the glass door behind me and leaving the guards that stood there in plain sight. "Lovely of you to join me. I do apologise for not attending dinner these last few nights, we've been very busy."
I move towards the seat in front of his desk, hating how close it will make me to him. To think there was ever a time I actually had excitement meeting Olivers dad... now the nerves that grip me are for an entirely different reason.
"It's no problem," I reply, folding my arms across my chest.
He leans back in his seat, his entire demeanour dominating the room. "You look well, my son tells me that you have been making great progress in your recovery over the short period of time you've been here. I'm glad to hear it."
"Oliver does have a way of being overly optimistic when it comes to these things," I reply, my voice monotonous and Arthur smiles slightly.
"You're right, he does. Which is the very reason I have brought you here today, I'd like to decide for myself how you are going. Can I get you something to drink? Water, tea?" He asks, standing up and moving towards a small circular table beside his desk containing a slender jug of water.
"I'm fine, thank you." He nods, slowly pouring himself a glass of water-the action tantalising in a way.
"One thing I've been told you are struggling with is your mate-a natural occurrence of course for a marked human." He takes his seat, sipping from his water completely at ease and it makes my gut twist. "But you can see how that might be a problem for myself and the people in this establishment, can't you?"
"Yes." I don't bother to mess around, my ultimate aim is to be thrown in a cell anyway.
"You know, when Oliver first came to me with plans on rescuing his wife I was hesitant. Of course we'd already made attempts to get you out being a human Luna, and we'd planned to continue those efforts, but he did manage to give us a different perspective. Initially, we figured that you would be accepting of us regardless and your cooperation in the cause would come naturally."
He pauses and gives me a pointed look.
"And we received your message quite clearly after your ending with the first set of rebels that tried saving you." Wren, he means.
"Forgive me if I don't feel inclined to trust a group of people that would kill an innocent girl to meet their goal. If you meant to show me your aim was to help humans then killing one wasn't a good place to start."
"If I recall correctly you killed one too, didn't you?" The images that flash through my mind hurt, and I want so badly to scratch away the invisible tattoo on my wrist.
"That was different."
"Was it?" He asks and I don't have an answer. "She was a valued asset, had been organising things in the palace for years. Killing her took its toll for us, not to mention her poor family, friends."
"She was going to die either way, by my hand or Romans she was going to die." But does that make it any better?
"The truth is you didn't need to kill her but you did. You killed her because you wanted too which tells me that somewhere inside all of that fake compassion is someone willing to get their hands dirty. I've seen that side of you a few times but I'd much rather your efforts be for us rather than against."
"She would've killed me if it meant getting the likes of you into power. The wolves needed to send a message, make sure it wouldn't happen again and I don't agree with the extremity of it-not for all of them and I tried to influence Roman to show mercy."
"If that were the case then you wouldn't be sitting here right now. You can't tell me you or your mate seriously believed killing those rebels would stop the rest of us, the more people are oppressed the more they will fight to get out of it. But I don't judge you for it, really. It would be very hypocritical of me, from one killer to the other I understand that sometimes these situations are quite difficult-unavoidable really."
"I'm nothing like you."
He smiles as he raises his eyebrows. "Forgive me, I am merely trying to find a common ground with you. In order for two people to work together, some foundation of a relationship must be formed. I could try to work through Oliver and his connection with you but that would be too complicated and I'm not here to play useless games."
"Is that what this meeting is about? You want me to work with you?" I scoff, becoming more relaxed in the chair despite my anxiety shooting through the roof.
"If you haven't figured it out by now, that's why we want you here. I expected after spending time in the program and with Oliver that you would willingly come to me with prospects of help but time is running out. I need to know that I can count on you. I need to know that your allegiance isn't with your mate and that you are willing to provide us with any help we may need."
He chooses his words carefully but I see through them. If they need help from me of all people then they must be in some kind of hot water.
"So you wanted me as a pawn?" I ask, trying to not make my tone so brash. Of course I discovered their goal in saving me the first time around wasn't to help me but still, hearing it and believing it are two very different things.
"We still do. The only person who values your life-truly values your life here dear Mae is my son. I have no doubt any other member of our cause would agree with my stance on you, as much as it might hurt them to do so. In simpler words, you are just a means to a very important end."
"If you're trying to convince me to join your team you aren't making a very good pitch."
"If I wanted to convince you I would've asked if you wanted to come here in the first place. I'm a man of many talents but patience, however, is not one of them. Especially not when I have a war to win." Every aspect of his expression is dead serious. "I don't honestly expect you to have had intel on every military decision made in the pack-the wolves know better than to trust someone like you with such information. But that doesn't mean to say you know nothing."
"And why should I tell you even if I did? What makes you and the rest of the rebels so morally superior that I should drop everything I stand for and join you?" I ask, meeting his hard gaze with one of my own.
"Because those wolves, they want you alive-need you alive, and they probably care about your general wellbeing too. They more or less are the same as us in their need for you, they'd take extreme measures to have you in their hands as would we. The only difference is that they want you for themselves. If you believe for a second you will ever be free with them you are wrong, they will use what they can from you every moment of your life until you are dead. Your use to them is eternal. We, on the other hand, don't need you forever, I personally have zero intention of keeping you here against your will forever-once this war is won you have my word that you can go wherever you choose completely on your own."
I don't want to think about the volume of his words, the immense wight they carry. Nothing good ever comes of me reading too far into my freedom-it has become a dream so complex it isn't at all black or white. There are too many variables to consider.
"You are asking me to go against my people."
"Is it really your people already?" He asks, surprised. "Last I heard you were still being held captive, unable to leave castle grounds on your own merit, forced to take up a role you rejected multiple times. If you think you have control over those people you are truly misguided."
"It isn't control I crave," I say, sending him a pointed look that separates our similarities yet again. "I don't want to be their leader, I'm not pining after a seat at the damn table. I've already got a seat that allows me to make actual, palpable change and if I stay at that table, no matter how restrictive it might be, I know that I can open up more seats to humans that will stay for good."
"As long as they keep their human luna prisoner, even if you don't see it that way, the oppression of humans in this world will still exist. At what point do you draw a line? Is it only okay for a mated human Luna Superior to be reduced to a belonging? A Luna? A Beta female? A Gamma female?"
I don't respond.
"I've been asking myself the questions you wish to ignore for centuries and trust me, the answers are always the same. No wolf mated to a human will agree with what you propose and no wolf would either for fear that it would come to haunt them if they end up with a human mate."
"That is something that hasn't even been considered yet."
"And it probably never will."
"You realise everything you are telling me Oliver has ten times over. I've listened to your side of the story-I know all about it and I still don't care. Roman is open to-accepts, even, the proposition that humans and wolves should coexist equally. You only want that for one group, if I side with you I will be an accomplice to the murder of my friends and family."
Because that's the truth, no matter how many times I try to convince myself otherwise at the end of the day one of the two is the lesser of two evils. The wolves isn't the best choice for me, I don't need Arthur or Oliver to convince me of that, but I'm far past the point of just making choices for myself.
His jaw sets. "They are not your friends, Mae."
I scoff, loudly and it peeves him even more-the fact that he can't manipulate me back into a corner. Once upon a time I was naive enough for that-not anymore. "And you are?" I put him into silence then. "They aren't all my friends but some are, your son and his daughter for a start. Would you really kill him too? Kill his baby?"
"My son knew of the dangers of their kind and he betrayed us still!" He shouts, loosing his temper in a matter of seconds.
"So you would? You'd kill your granddaughter." I affirm, moving closer to the desk, narrowing my eyes. "And what would your wife have to say about that? She didn't seem to know much about your plans for her child you fathered the other night."
"My wife is none of your concern. She knows her duties and she understands them well enough to not fight me on what is best, as much as it might hurt the both of us."
I click my tongue in my mouth, nodding my head. "So that's the plan then? Get me to run along with whatever needs you have for me until all the wolves are gone?"
"And what then? Once you've hunted all the wolves to the ends of the Earth, put the entire species into extinction what happens? What happens to the hunters when there is nothing left to hunt?" I let out a loose laugh. "I don't think you know the answer to that yourself. What if that urge to kill doesn't just stop at wolves? You think that achieving your purpose will free you from your curse but you don't know, do you?"
His silence bubbles with rage.
"There will come a day when no wolves are left standing, I don't care if it takes this world being reduced to ashes it will come."
I lean back then just as the door opens and two men walk in, an urgent look on their face, providing me the perfect opportunity to do what I came in here too. "Which is why I will never, ever, be on your side. You and your rebel scum can get that into your thick skulls."
The men don't peep a word and Arthurs hands only clench on the desk, his icy glare slicing through me. He looks as though he could jump across the table and murder me, be done with all of it. But in the presence of his men-men who probably know my vitality to his cause as he so helpfully pointed out-he doesn't.
"If that's how you want to play this then fine. You've been given every chance to do this the easy way."
My gut twists and I can't tell if it's in excitement for what's to come or if I am truthfully just riddled with fear.
He looks to the men. "Have her taken back to the cells. I want doc alerted immediately-get him to prepare his measures for this evening."
"But sir there's-"
His voice thunders through the room and I feel chills run down my spine at the force of it. It reminds me of who he is, that raw ancient power that he embodies.
"That's how it's going to be? Send me to a cell to be tortured until you get what you want?"
"We all have a role to play, Luna," he replies with a sardonic smile, his words sickly sweet.
I suppress the smile that I want to display, the absolute glee I have knowing so much more than he does. I wish I could just rip the key card out of my pocket and shove in his face laughing but I don't. I maintain my attitude of anger which isn't terribly hard to do.
This is the last time he's ever going to see me like this, at the mercy of his strength, under his control. He thinks that I have no power under Roman but he's wrong. I do have power, I have control and power over so many things and one day, when he is brought to his knees in front of me with this entire fucked up place nothing more than dust-he'll know.
I'll make him know that the biggest mistake of his life was underestimating me. I'll make them all know.
One of the men grips my bicep and I pull against it-dramatic until the very end. "You won't get away with this. You can't just..."
"I can, and I will."
I am yanked from the chair, the movement far from pleasant and I let terror seep onto my face at the thought of going back to the cells. True terror that comes from the fact that if the plan fails, I'll be down there for good. There won't be any second chances and I'll actually have to live in the shadows of cold hard concrete.
The terror doesn't dissipate as I exit his office, dragged in front of every rebel member, hunter or otherwise, that all know exactly who I am. I ignore the guilt that spreads through me from the looks of their betrayal and I move my feet in union with the guards.
The last thing I hear before I exit the office complex is glass shattering followed by the beginnings of shouting that won't end for quite sometime. And only then do I allow the faintest of smiles to play on my lips before wiping it away.
I have stuff to say but I also rly want to go eat a cheese toastie so until next time!!