The one that got away.
If a year or two ago someone would tell Rey, she would be doing what she was about to do, she would laugh straight into their faces.
And yet here she was.
Sneaking behind his back, gathering the courage to address him.
She wasn’t being super secretive about her plan. If the loud thumps her footsteps made on the ground, wouldn’t reveal her intentions to him, the nervous beating of her heart certainly would.
He had to know she was following him, but he was kind enough to let her make the first move when she felt comfortable.
He was getting ready to leave for the shift switch, so Rey knew she didn’t have much time to talk to him. The thought finally pushing her to action: “Can we talk?”
He turned around slowly, gave her a crooked smile, and said: “Sure, but I am going to have to leave soon.”
“I am not going to take up much of your time, I promise,” Rey assured him, her hands desperately clutching the small container with Brynn’s pain relief ointment. Whenever Rey found herself in a not very comfortable situation, her hands needed something to play with and the container was the closest thing she could grab.
“I just wanted to apologize," she added. She couldn’t help but feel a little bit of a déjà vu creeping up on her.
“Apologize?” He repeated, frowning.
“Yes. I wanted to say sorry about Lia. As Brynn said, she went over the line yesterday.”
“Yes, she did!” The small container moved from her left hand to her right. “I don’t know, whether you need to hear this, probably not, but I am gonna say it.” She took a deep breath. “I don’t hold any grudges against you. Not because you are now the alpha. And certainly not because you found yourself a new mate. After all, you were supposed to be the alpha anyway.”
The pack, Rey was born in, wasn’t the only pack in the area. In fact, another pack’s territory lay right where her fathers ended. Rey’s father refused to talk about it, but the relationship between the two packs was so bad that while other kids learned alphabet in their first year of school, Rey had to learn exactly where the borders of their pack were, so she wouldn’t cross them accidentally.
Now imagine the two alpha’s surprise when they learned their two kids were fated to spend their lives together. Yeah, let’s just say, it didn’t go very well.
“Of course, it was a bit of a surprise ...," Rey continued.
She smiled an awkward smile, and he returned it: “It was a surprise for me too.”
“Yeah, well, after my father,” he spat the word father out with unconcealed venom, “there was the first attack on my old pack right around the time, I took over his position. While I was still getting used to what exactly me being an alpha meant, the humans did a lot of damage to us. On the other hand, your father, well the relationship between him and his pack suffered a lot after your mother left him.”
“Hold on a second,” Rey stopped him, “my mother did what?”
“She left your father. Didn’t you know that?”
Rey shook her head.
With everything that was going on around, she barely had time to breathe, so she didn’t even realise, she hadn’t seen her mother anywhere till now. And even if she were to notice her lack of presence, Rey would assume she was too ashamed to face her or couldn’t bother enough to do so. But this?
“Oh,” he ruffled his hair, “from what I heard, she left soon after you did. The pack was a mess because of it. You know, since there has to be an alpha AND a luna for the balance to preserve.”
Rey was aware of that.
She also knew the separation of two already mated couples would bring excruciating pain to both of them. Why would her mother willingly go through something like that?
“So, yeah ...,” his voice brought Rey’s attention back to him, “both packs were a mess. The humans were gaining an upper hand and at this point, the causalities were so big, I needed a bigger pack, while your father’s pack needed a new leader. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, trust me. But it was needed if we wanted to live.”
“Not to question your choices, but did it really help? I mean, there was another attack anyway.”
“There wasn’t one in a really long time after the merger. The humans got scared or just weren’t ready enough to fight both packs. But apparently the circumstances changed.”
“Do you ....” Rey wanted to ask, whether he knew what changed them enough for the humans to attack, but there was visible tension in his shoulders ever since their conversation shifted this way and she didn’t want to make it any worse.
She left her question unspoken and said instead: “Never mind. I am not going to take up more of your time. I just wanted to say sorry and thank you, I guess. For explaining things to me.”
He shook his head: “You don’t have to say sorry to me, Rey. Not you.”
And he just had to make it awkward.
Like seriously, what was she supposed to say to that?
Before her brain could figure something out, Rey went for another smile and turned around to leave.
Their conversation didn’t take place too far from Rey’s new working station, and her patients already waited for her. Judging from the looks on their faces, they witnessed their whole interaction. But Rey refused to listen to the small pang of guilt in her chest. She didn’t do anything wrong.
As it turned out by faith or simply by choice, the first in line was the old guy with his injured back. He didn’t say anything for a very long time and Rey thought she would finish treating him without a single word from him, but when he did open his mouth, her heart squeezed.
“He went looking for you,” the old guy said.
“What?” Rey asked stupidly.
“After you left,” he clarified, “Talon spent almost an entire year looking for you. We thought we lost him for good. If the circumstances hadn’t forced him to become the alpha, he would still be searching. I am sure of that.”
It was Rey’s turn to stay quiet.
“I don’t think it matters anymore," she said after a while, her voice shaking a bit, "he caught himself another fish.”
“Yes, he did," the old man agreed, “but only because he knew the pack would not accept him otherwise.”