Madelyn

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-20-

A/N ...this one is a very long one, but I didn’t want to break it up into two because it focuses on Brian and his daughter Vela. You’ll understand when you start reading it. As always, please do comment and let me know what you think of where the story is going.

***

Brian sat at his dining table, an uncomfortable silence hanging in the air. Connall, Raoul, and the twin brothers Aatu and Aatto sat with him. Brian Hemming wasn’t a born wolf. He’d been changed at the young age of 17. A rogue wolf bit him. This, of course, was many decades ago. Brian was 178 years old now. It had been a hard road for him to get where he was, but he was here, an Elder on the Council of his pack, because of his perseverance and loyalty. Today, however, he questioned his place on the Council, and knew those with him questioned it as well.

“How could you have kept this from us, Brian?” Raoul said simply.

Aatu and Aatto listened quietly, characteristic of the brothers. Both were unusually quiet for their kind, acutely attuned to one another in a way most did not understand. While all in the pack were more attuned to their pack-mates more than humans could ever be, Aatu and Aatto surpassed that by leaps and bounds. They sat with almost stoic expressions on their faces, as impossible to read as ever.

“It’s not like he planned it that way, Raoul,” Connall said, giving Raoul a sour look. Connall was always unpredictable in how he would react to things, and this reaction was no exception. Turning to Brian, one dark eyebrow raised, he continued after a moment’s pause, “am I correct, Brian?”

“You are correct, Connall, I did not plan to keep this from the rest of the Council,” Brian said softly. “It was a matter of every time I thought the time was right to bring what I knew to the Council, something else popped up that I needed to help them with. When I came to you all regarding their taking this portion of my personal lands, I knew something was different about them. I didn’t mention that to you then because I knew I needed more concrete proof of it before I did.

“The only thing I knew for certain was that Connor’s mate had been found. While she was just an infant at the time, I knew we must protect her for him. It was my hope that as she matured, her parents would grow close to me and to the pack, coming to trust us, and open up to us about their secrets. Unfortunately, I underestimated their desire for isolation and secrecy. There were many things they kept secret, even from me, no matter how hard I tried to show them they could trust me with anything.”

“They trusted you with their daughter, Brian,” Aatu said softly, speaking for the first time during this entire time. “In time, they’d have trusted you further. Their deaths were untimely.”

“Aye,” Aatto said simply, not adding anything more to his brother’s comment. It wasn’t necessary, he knew, as he saw the lights flicker to life in Brian’s eyes as his friend listened to Aatu’s words.

“Are you saying what I think you are, Aatu?” Brian sat back in his chair, realization spreading through him like a wildfire. The crash was no accident. Someone killed them, and he was certain he knew who. It was just the why of it that wasn’t fully understood yet.

Aatu simply nodded in reply.

“They were in the way,” Aatto said so softly his comment might have been missed had they not all been wolves. Brian’s attention focused on the second-born of the twins. Aatto said nothing more. He just sat there, staring into Brian’s eyes knowingly. After a moment, he nodded.

The sound of the clearing of a throat snapped their attention toward the doorway. Vela stood there, arms crossed in front of her chest as she stood, leaning against the doorframe. One brow was raised as she stared intently at her father, clearly irritated. Brian sighed softly as he watched his daughter, but it was Connall who spoke first.

“Hello, Vela dear,” he said with a smile as he turned in his chair to gaze upon the exotic female behind him. “It is, as ever, wonderful to see you.”

“Thank you, Elder Connall,” she said respectfully - mostly. “I...”

“I’m sorry to interrupt you, dear,” he replied, still smiling, though the smile now was slightly harder, his eyes daring her to challenge him as he continued speaking. “It is very rude of me to do so, but we do not have the luxury of much time for niceties at the moment. The Council is in a meeting and we would appreciate some time to finish our meeting.” Turning back to the table, he dismissed her without another word. “Now, where were we?”

“Oh, no you don’t!” Vela exclaimed. “You five are not going to get away with just turning your back on me in dismissal. I want some answers, more than the little bit Father gave me a few days ago.” She stood, glaring at them as they sat in silence.

When none made any move to say anything, she huffed angrily then moved to turn, running face first into a chest. Looking up, she met the eyes of the Alpha. Her mouth dropped open with a gasp escaping from between her lips as Ulric smirked at her.

“I always took you to be a rather patient one, Vela,” he said, slightly amused by the female’s behavior.

“Ulric,” Vela stammered out. “I apologize for my behavior, Alpha. It was unacceptable.” She stood there, seething as she spoke, clearly not feeling her apology very deeply. Ulric stared at her thoughtfully, she staring into his eyes as he gazed down at her.

Finally, unable to take his scrutiny any longer, she dropped her gaze, an exasperated puff of air escaping her lips, her face flushing as she realized how much her huffing and raging made her sound like an obtuse teenager rather than an almost 115 year old mature female. She pushed her way past him and stormed out of the house, stripping out of her long sleeveless dress before shifting and running into the woods.

Ulric looked to Brian as he entered the room and sat next to Brian.

“What’s gotten into Vela?” he asked his longtime friend.

“I told her some of the story of how I became so close to Madelyn,” Brian replied, eyes firmly planted on the mug of long-since cold coffee between his hands. “Vela understands, deep down, why I needed to get close to her. She just doesn’t understand why I spent almost the last two decades basically ignoring her in favor of Madelyn.”

“Ah, yes. About that,” Ulric said, pausing and staring at his friend for a moment before continuing. “She found her mate, you know that, don’t you, Brian?”

Brian looked up, surprise clearly evident across his face.

“Ah, you didn’t know. I should have guessed,” sighed the Alpha with a slow shake of his head. “Yes, she did. While you were off doing this research and bringing these people close to you, your daughter found her mate, Brian. She found him and let him slip through her grasp. He is a human and was happily married with three children, to a human woman when Vela last saw him. The last she knew, he’d moved to Idaho. She’s not tracked him, gave up long ago, knowing he would be unwilling at this point to leave his family for his true mate.” Ulric shook his head, saddened for his pack member, and for his friend, who sat there stunned.

“I...I...” Brian stammered, stunned. “Why did she never tell me? She could have called to let me know she’d found her mate, I’d have...”

“She tried, Brian,” Ulric said gently. “She couldn’t get through to you. She found him 17 years ago. You were in San Francisco, or somewhere else, I don’t know. You weren’t reachable at the time. We got through to your receptionist and no further, for weeks.”

The rest of the Council sat, listening, already knowing everything Ulric was telling Brian now.

“He was here to get married, my friend,” Ulric explained. “Vela saw him as she was in town, shopping for some supplies. The wedding was to happen not far from here. She knew immediately when she saw him, followed him to the diner by the grocery store, where she saw him meet with his fiancée. They’d lived in Redding at the time and were visiting to finalize some plans for the wedding. For the next two weeks, Vela was desperate to get through to you, for help with figuring out how to separate him from his fiancée. It was not to be.”

Everybody jumped as Brian slammed his fist on the table, making their mugs jump, coffee sloshing out of his mug as he listened to Ulric. His wolf was near the surface, furious with him for not being there for Vela.

“Why not?” Brian said angrily. “Why would she not go for her mate and stop at nothing to get him?”

“She was unwilling to approach him on her own, not knowing how to come between him and his fiancée, and she did not want to do it in a cruel way. You know how Vela is, she has great compassion in her, perhaps more than is good for her. She kept her distance. When they returned and married, she thought perhaps it wouldn’t last, so she watched them for a few months, tried inserting herself into locations where he’d be.

”It was turning into something akin to stalker behavior and I spoke with her, convinced her to watch him from a greater distance, tried to get her to travel to San Francisco to speak with you in person, but she wouldn’t. She was already bitter by then.” Ulric paused and looked down at his hands, swallowing back the memory of the pain he’d felt for Vela, a pain he always feels for his pack members when one is hurt. “It was a near miss with her, Brian. We almost lost her. She nearly went rogue.”

“What?!” Brian raged, standing up furiously.

“Calm down, Brian,” Ulric said calmly. “It is over and done now. Vela is fine. She has moved on, content to live alone. Or, she had until now. I came here just now because I could feel her pain building and wanted to make certain she’s ok.”

Brian sat, fuming silently as he realized how great a mistake he’d made. While he would never consider getting close to Madelyn and her family a mistake, not being there for his daughter certainly was. This was an error time would not heal. He had to make this right for his daughter, but needed to figure out how.

“Go to him, Brian,” Ulric said softly, pulling his friend out of his silent brooding.

“Hmm?” Brian said, looking to his Alpha.

“Go to Vela’s mate, Brian. Talk with him. I have it on good authority his wife passed,” Ulric said, hoping the distraction would be of use. So much of Brian’s time had been spent with matters revolving around Madelyn that he feared Brian might have lost sight of the other important things in his life: his daughter; his pack. “I know what you’re thinking, how can I know this?”

Brian just stared at his lifelong friend, mouth agape, for a moment before shaking his head suddenly, to clear it. Looking around the room, he blinked a few times and ran his fingers through his hair before sighing. “Ulric, I trust you...”

“I know you do, my friend,” Ulric responded with a slight smile turning up one corner of his mouth. “Otherwise I would not still be your Alpha. Now, do I need to make it an order or will you go?”

“I will go, but yes, I am curious,” Brian replied, still shaking his head slightly, ever amazed by the pack’s Alpha, who always seemed to have things figured out, even before anyone knew they needed to be. “How do you know?”

“I have contacts all over, Brian, as you well know. You’ve used some of those contacts in your own fevered search for information about the Randalls,” Ulric began, the other Council members leaning in to listen raptly, certain this would be an interesting tale in itself. “When Vela broke down, and her mate left the state, I sent word to other packs. I told them of the situation and most of the packs were very sympathetic and watched for him in their areas.”

He paused and got some water, drinking half of the glass before he continued.

“One day, about 5 years ago, I got word that one pack in Idaho had made contact with him, quite by accident. It seems his teenage daughter was in the same class as one of the pack cubs, and not just any cub. She was the daughter of the Alpha, and they were best friends, to the point that she shared the nature of what she is with her friend and turned her. It was done before any of the pack adults knew. They had to go to her parents.”

“But children can’t be turned...” Brian began, to be cut off by Ulric, who’d anticipated this.

“They can be turned, but there have to be certain circumstances in place first. It can’t be an unwilling turn, which helps, or we’d have rogues going out and attacking children all the time. We’ve kept it very quiet that children can be turned for several reasons, first being the rogues. It’s kept the human young from harm for centuries.” Ulric continued explaining, with the Council looking on in various stages of shock and anger.

He explained to them that children were kept safe from rogues through this misinformation because they’d found rogues often attack and bite to turn their victim out of a need for community. It was the rare rogue that would attack a human or other shifter out of sheer vengeance and a need for violence. Those were the ones who were put down as soon as they were caught, which was luckily pretty quickly. That kind of rogue was always the most dangerous.

“The second reason this has been kept very quiet is for the reason of preventing what happened to Vela’s mate’s daughter. She was turned willingly after her friend explained to her what she is and the daughter decided she wanted to be like her friend, because she didn’t want her friend to watch her die centuries before she would, she wanted to be friends for the duration of her friend’s life. It was a good reason to be turned, and that is another reason children generally cannot be turned,” Ulric looked between his council members, the corners of his mouth turned up in a wry smile as he shook his head slightly.

“Children don’t often have enough conviction to live with their decision,” Brian said, figuring that part of it out himself, the rest of the Council nodding in understanding, “which is one of the reasons they aren’t legally able to make decisions for themselves in this country until they’re 18 years old.”

“Exactly,” Ulric nodded as he responded to Brian’s comment. “They don’t have the conviction to live with the decisions that impact the rest of their life, they don’t have the life experience, either. Also, they are immature emotionally and mentally. Until they mature emotionally and mentally, even if they are physically mature enough to handle a change, they will not be capable of being turned. A wolf could bite them a hundred times and it would not work. Once they’ve matured enough mentally and emotionally, though, the bite will be effective. It’s as if the virus that causes this is aware of whether the bite victim is capable of handling it physically, emotionally and mentally.”

“That would suggest that the shifter virus is sentient itself,” Connall said.

“Aye,” Ulric responded, “it would. We’re not entirely certain of that but it’s neither here nor there at the moment. In the case of Vela’s mate’s daughter, she was mature enough, all around. She was also sincere in her desire to be turned, to be able to give the gift of not losing a friend to the cub she was friends with. I’ve kept informed of the outcome. She was turned, as was her entire family.”

At that, all eyes turned to Ulric then to Brian.

“What?!” Brian exclaimed.

“All were turned, beginning with Vela’s mate and the younger two children, who were turned as they became mature enough,” Ulric said softly, staring at his hands. He paused, lips pursed. His mouth opened then closed and opened again, only for him to sigh and shake his head. Finally, he continued, “Vela’s mate’s wife didn’t survive the change.”

Brian’s heart broke for Vela’s mate. He knew the agony of losing someone you love so dearly as to mate with them.

“The woman didn’t tell anyone, apparently she didn’t think it important to say something,” Ulric said, his voice breaking. “She was pregnant.”

“But, that shouldn’t have...” Connall started to say.

“I know, it shouldn’t have had a bearing on this, but what nobody knew was that she was having an affair, and little did she know, her lover was a vampire. Garou and vampire blood doesn’t mix, it is poisonous to the other being.”

“The child’s blood shouldn’t have mixed with the mother’s, though,” Aatu looked confused. “When in utero, the placenta is supposed to act as a barrier, isn’t it?”

“Aye,” Ulric responded. “But in this case, the difference was that the child was the offspring of a vampire. She sensed that her mother had been turned and her nature, as a vampire, is to attack.”

The men sat, horrified, as they thought of the implications. The silence in the room was deafening. Brian shook his head slowly as he sat and mulled over the entire situation before something came to him.

“Ulric?”

“Yes?”

“Have you told Vela any of this?”

“I told her some, but she refused to hear any more past the daughter being turned and that the family would need to be turned, also,” Ulric replied quietly.

“Well, then, I think my daughter and I are going for a drive.” Brian rose from the table and left the house to go find his daughter.
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