Xander slams into the child and they topple over backwards. He hears her stunned yelp, the sharp inhale as pain sheets through her body upon impact.
They roll a few feet before he rises and barely catches sight of her contorted yet surprised expression as he yanked her off the ground and carrying her, he ran. Each step faster than the last, barely grazing the dirt earth.
Behind him, the wolves howl. Low pitched summons the wind carries to the rest, a cry for blood, a cry for death. Her death.
The night was moonless, tree silhouettes barely visible on the path before him. The usual smattering of stars obscured by dense clouds that hung low. Deprived of sight, Xander relies on the rest; each step has his senses increasing and suddenly he is hyper-aware of the environment.
The cold air that licks his burning skin, shards of inhales ripping at his throat and lungs, Elliot’s thundering heartbeat pressed over his. Movements behind him, pace increasing as silhouettes shadowed on his heels, by his sides- eyes floating in the darkness and low guttural growls that bayed for blood.
His blood fires with adrenaline, fear was twisting inside of him; a wobbling cup of panic that threatened to tip and spill.
He ran faster, ducking beneath branches- one snatched his baseball cap and the cool air vaporized perspiration that beaded his forehead.
One large brown wolf lunged at the path before him, barricading it. Xander skidded on mud, heels digging deep and his ankle twisted- the pain numbed by adrenaline as he ducked to the left, racing past endless trees. Wind whistled high and pitched in his ear,
They moved quick and skillfully, slinking through darkness all around. Xander knew he could not outrun them. Yet he hoped he would. His twisted ankle shot ragged pain with each step, ankle to knee, ankle to knee- the bandages on his torso and thighs came undone, friction grazing unhealed skin and drawing blood.
Far too focused on the path before him, Xander did not see the darkness shift by his side. When he did notice, it was too late.
The wolf collided with them, impact stealing breaths from both as his grip on her loosened and they plummeted to the ground. Xander heard her pained cry, yet he could not see her, the wolf was on him as they rolled down a subtle decline- its teeth snapped by his face, ripping at his sleeve and clawing at his chest, tearing bandages, skin and finally flesh.
The cry that left him was sharp and wretched, he swung a fist catching the wolf’s snout and it ducked back. Reeling his foot back, Xander aimed for its jaw and kicked sharply, the heel of his converse slamming onto it. A whine rose from the creature and he scrambled to his feet, racing up the short hill.
“Elliot!” He spun in one quick circle, desperate eyes darting back and forth, searching.
“Elliot!” The knowledge of her absence comes rushing up to him, choking off breath. Xander shuts his eyes and tilts his head sideways, a miniscul movement, searching for her heartbeat in the woods.
Wolves. Paws. Earth. River.
Hands clenching, he waits and prays.
Howls. Voices. Growls. Pulse.
Xander takes off in the direction of her heartbeat, it thrashes wildly, her voice is next- short screams of terrorized struggles overtaken by growls. Breaking through the woodland, he leaps over felled trees and ducks beneath low hanging branches. Something catches his shirt, rips it in half. A twig slices his cheek- fine line of blood.
“Elliot!” Something seizes him by the throat at the sight of Elliot.
Her ankle is locked between a wolf’s jaws, dragging her across the river. Small hands flail wildly just as her head submerges beneath the rush of frigid water. The black wolf jerks sharply as her hands attempt at grabbing a boulder, she resurfaces and screams, blood pools around her ankle. The canines sink deeper.
Something primal snapped in Xander as he rushed forward and dived for the wolf. Its jaws opened releasing Elliot, a wave forced her beneath the water. The wolf bucked wildly beneath his grip as they tumbled into the water, rocks grazing exposed fur and skin, hands lashing at paws. Jaws opened in the dark waters and sunk into his arm.
Xander screamed, water flooded his mouth and he choked. Hand closing around a rock, he reeled it back and slammed the wolf’s eye. The jaw loosened and he swam away, feet grazing the river’s floor, struggling for footing before rising.
He resurfaced with a sharp round of coughs that shook his body. The air was cold, ice thrummed his veins, puffs of clouds escaping parted lips. He panted and coughed for oxygen, exhausted and pained- Xander raised his head, spotting Elliot crawling out of the river.
“Elliot-” she could not hear him. Her hearing aids had been damaged by the water. Pushing through the currents, Xander maneuvered towards the river’s banks just as she rose to her knees, drenched. Their gazes locked and he saw reflected fear.
Her eyes flickered behind his shoulder.
Xander dove for her, arms encasing just as a wolf lunged for either of them. The impact was heavy and they rolled shortly before he rose, grabbing Elliot by the wrist and pressing her behind him.
One wolf prowled before him, another joined from the shadows, three more streamed from his right and four at his left. They growled, upper lips pushed back, flashing canines sharper than he had ever witnessed.
The wolves were large. Far larger than Elliot’s pack. Their sizes stole him of breath, rising to his height or surpassing. He had never witnessed such vicious beasts and their presence diminished his courage. His own growls seemed like a whine beside theirs. They stepped forward and he stepped back up until something cold touched his and Elliot’s backs.
They had been cornered.
“Elliot!” A man’s voice yelled above them and shadows leaped from the boulder, landing directly before them.
Another figure lunged from above and then another, more men and wolves seemed to mold from the shadows, predator growls renting the air, pressing on Xander from either side. They formed a semi-circle before him, facing the opposing group.
Xander recognized the main man. He saw the familiar shade of his hair, sharpened eyes, features that resembled his young mate.
The Alpha growled at the wolves, muscles bulging and straining beneath the barrier of clothes. His whole body expanded, skin stirring as fur began surfacing. He had brought at least twenty men to ward of the ten opposing wolves, yet even before their enemies, they seemed rather small.
Elliot’s pack was not as big as the others. But their number was larger and perhaps that was what had them backing down. The wolves snarled whilst backtracking, quietly slipping into darkness which embraced them swiftly.
The Alpha did not turn his back to the wolves, nor the woods once the animals vanished from where they came. In his arms, Elliot was trembling and cold. Xander was somehow unable to properly inhale a measured amount of oxygen.
His whole body felt numb, adrenaline barely settling its score. Tension rose to his shoulders when the Alpha slowly pivoted to face him, eyes darkened to an endless abyss, scouring the young boy who held his daughter.
All men had turned as well, seemingly noticing the pair for the first time. The heat in their gazes scalded Xander and he pressed back only slightly, heart slamming rapidly as the subsiding fear now heightened.
“You,” the Alpha approached him, six foot five figure casting a demonic shadow over them. “You stupid bastard--” His large hands shot out, forcefully grabbing Elliot’s upper forearms and yanking her from Xander’s grip.
Without her, he felt cold, exposed.
They had been caught. He had been caught.
Xander could not side step him for more men began to hover about, pressing on either side blocking his getaway options. The Alpha’s eyes dripped venom, and he moved with the agility of a viper.
“You fucking piece of shit--” Suddenly, he slugged the boy’s face with his right fist.
A sick popping sound rang out inside his head. His neck snapped back, pounding against the boulder pressed behind him. Xander’s mind blanked for seconds against the pounding pain; he blinked hard when he felt it again -- the crashing of a fist on his left cheek, the impact violent enough to throw him against the dirt.
He plummeted, fell hard. The taste of iron flooded his mouth, pooling along the swell of his tongue from biting down during the punch. Xander groaned in pain, hands bracing on the earth, attempting to push himself up.
Elliot was screaming somewhere in the back of his mind, he sees the flash of her small wet body as she fought to rush towards him when a man picked her with ease, carrying her away from the sight.
“Touching my daughter-” The Alpha’s boot swung intently, toe steeled top connecting with Xander’s diaphragm. The pain is jarring, it steals him of breath and he chokes as it hits him again, this time along his kidney regions which guarantees weeks of urinating hot, painful blood.
“You fucking pedophile-” The steel boot swings against his face, nose crunching against impact.
Xander cries out and rolls onto his back as blood leaks from darkened nostrils, rivulets trailing down the corners of his face, soaking the nape of his neck. His vision darkens briefly when hands grab a fistful of his shirt, a face hovers before him.
“Everything ends tonight.”
Unconsciousness drags him beneath its waves.
“... he’s just a child, Alpha.”
“... not part of the pack...”
“... broke numerous laws...”
“... send him off with a warning... ”
“No,” The Alpha’s voice is harsh, a distant echo that slowly drags Xander from the depths of sleep. “That bastard broke all the laws, I will not tolerate his presence in my pack any longer.”
“He touched my daughter!” The female’s voice is like an ax, sharp and severing, “He put his hands on her, that pedophile deserves the punishment.”
“Elliot is just a child, she does not know the difference between right and wrong. Nor does she know if she had been obliviously groomed by the boy.”
The silence stretches among the council of men and their leader.
Xander strains to open his eyes amidst the pounding headache between his brows. The pain throbs in his guts, it’s deep and warm, as though someone had their hand in there, squeezing each organ gently.
His face burns and each breath is labored, conscious of the jarring rise and fall of his broken ribs, Xander resorts for shallow breaths -- when the pain wanes, he stills and breathes slow and deep until it passes.
The metallic table beneath his naked back feel cold and a brush of wind makes him conscious of the lack of clothes. He lies completely strapped in a pair of boxers. Xander raises his head, peering at his swollen body.
There is no blood but his abdomen is purple and lumpy where it should be smooth. His head carefully drops back, eyes slipping shut as he tries to swallow a lump of bloody saliva. He wants to curl up now more than anything, but the straps forbid him from doing so. They spread him open and vulnerable.
“They are mates.” A partially open door reveals figures standing around a table.
Xander notices the men -- Alpha, Luna, his bet and three council members. Salem is included, his face ashen beneath the pale light.
“You cannot punish them for being mates.”
“It is forbidden,” the Alpha states calmly, “I will not have my daughter mated to that--” He catches himself, the bitterness in his tone almost acidic. “Thing.”
The council seem to agree, short nods and grunts of appraisal.
“I have tolerated him enough in this pack, originally he was meant to be sent away at the age of eighteen but my patience has thinned. Tonight will be the night.”
“The attraction between your daughter and him will remain.” Salem argued as respectfully as possible and the Alpha glowered.
“You seem to forget who holds the authority in this room, Salem.” He stepped towards Salem and the old man seemed to back down, shoulders hunching forward in submission, “I allowed you to care for him but only temporarily. He may be a child, but do not forget his nature.”
Salem seemed to struggle with the right words whilst avoiding the Alpha’s gaze. Eventually, his mouth moved as words left him, “I apologize,” he explains stiffly, “I admit to having grown some sort of attachment to the boy-”
“Yes well keep your emotions in check for their will not be a next time and I may not forgive you again.”
The door suddenly opens and three men stream in, “Drag him out to the operation room, the doctor is waiting.”
Xander’s heart spikes at the words and he fails to remain corpse still as hands brace on the steel gurney behind his head, wheeling it out of the room.
“Salem-” He calls weakly as they pass the room where the council stand, staring at him as though he were something less that gum beneath their shoes. Salem sees him, the fear in his young eyes, the pallid hue of his complexion at the inevitable. He turns away.
“Salem!” Xander begins to shout, voice cut off as a gag is shoved into his gaping mouth, muffling the shouts of pleas and begs.
The ceiling above him moves rapidly and they turn numerous corners before the gurney is pushed past the door. Xander smells it -- concentrated disinfectants and medicine. He sees the white washed walls, two IV bags dangling precariously over another empty metallic table.
Wildly, he tries to thrash about, straining against the straps then slumps back. Perspiration surfaces, trailing hot and thickly along his temples.
He sees a doctor in scrubs and a mask, three nurses setting up surgical tools on an aluminium tray.
“Bring in the patient.” His voice is drone-like, triggering the opening of a door. Xander tilts his head back, breaths harsh against the muffling gag.
She lies unconscious in her father’s arms, dressed in a patient gown. Her hearing aids have been removed and she cannot hear Xander’s desperate screams for her. His thrashing is seized as more straps are looped around his forearm and biceps then thighs and finally neck. A collar pressing him flat against the gurney.
Carefully, Elliot is set on the table and a nurse straightens her right arm, swabbing disinfectant on her inner elbow then pricking her with clear fluid. “Anaesthesia has been induced,” she glances down at her watch, “two minutes to complete submersion.”
The doctor nods as a strap is placed over Elliot’s forehead, two clamp like materials gently prying her eyes open.
And that’s when it hits him.
They were severing their bond.
The numbness sweeps through him violently, then shuddered as panic -- sheer raw desperate panic overtakes all his senses. Xander writhes on the table, hands balling into fists as his strength struggles beneath the straps.
“No!” His voice is something deafening, a growl far from animal.
Hands reach for his wrists and legs, all the people are talking around him, shouting for silver chains. He does not hear them, the knowledge rushes up in him, choking him of breath.
Please, do not take her from me.
A scream comes, tearing its way out. And then another and another.
Something hard is looped over his forehead, forcing his head back down on the metallic table. His vision clouds over, hot tears brimming and spilling down the sides of his temples. The sound of his wail is far from human as they begin to take what is his -- carefully cutting his better half from him.
Elliot, he cries amidst the terror, Elliot Elliot Elliot.
“Please,” he weeps, begs, sounds falling on deaf ears. She was all he had left, without her -- His face contorts as the first surge of pain sweeps over him.
The nurses and doctor seem to hesitate, staring down at the wild boy, red rimmed eyes, begging for mercy. Begging for the mate bond not to be severed. Spare either of them.
There was no mercy.
“Put him under.” The Alpha commands and Xander breaks, his rage diminishing to hopelessness. His face is wet and the sobs that wrack him do not stop, he tries calling to the Alpha then the doctor’s and finally Elliot.
No one hears him.
No one sees him.
They never did.
The needle pierces his skin.