I'm warm, like the sun is shining on my face.
I snuggle down and sigh, feeling content and safe.
Phoenix? He sounds so far away.
I try to pull my eyes open. It's blindingly bright. Where am I?
Everything comes crashing down on me all at once. Phoenix, Celine, fighting...
I spin around, my ribs protesting the harsh movements but I don't care.
My body freezes, I can't think or move. He reaches forward and cups my cheek in his hand. Is this another dream?
I feel him, I feel the bond between us.
I didn't realize how much I liked being called that until he wasn't around to say it.
The dam breaks. My chest cracks and I sob painfully into my hands. I feel his arms wrap around my waist. My skin tingling under his touch. I can feel the deep, fractured tears in my heart repairing as his breath fans over my face.
I don't know how long we sit like this, but by the time I pull back to look at his face his shirt is soaked through.
We stare at each other in silence, memorizing every detail of the other's faces. It feels like an eternity has passed without him.
"How could you?" My voice is small and hurt.
"I had to know you were safe, Ellie. I needed to know that if things fell apart, they would get you to safety if I couldn't get you there myself."
My tears feel endless, all the pain from my days spent without him flowing out of me.
"I couldn't feel you? I thought you were dead, everyone did."
"Alex and Sloane told me... I'm so sorry, Ellie. I... I thought..." he rubs his hand over his face.
I have no words. I know why he did it but I won't ever accept it. I don't even have time to process or dwell on it, so many things have happened.
"Celine... she's gone," I whimper.
"How? They've been searching for her... what happened?"
I recount the story through choked tears.
"She sacrificed herself, to save us, to keep us safe."
He wipes his eyes and cups my face in his hands, "I'm sorry I wasn't able to help you, baby."
"Where is everyone? Are they still fighting?" I realize I have no idea what it going on outside of this room or if someone will burst through the door at any minute trying to harm us.
"No, you've been out for awhile," he smiles a sad smile, "we won Ellie, it's over. When everyone learned of my father and Arius dying, most gave up. There were a few left fighting but... as we speak, several scientists are working with Mercer and Titus removing the remaining collars. There were so many more vampires on this side."
"W-We did it..."
I sit in stunned disbelief.
"We did it."
All the hoping and planning actually made a change.
I feel a pang of guilt settling into my chest. I can't explain how I feel knowing that wolves are free, that we've changed our society for the better. That being said, having my mate here, alive and well, in my arms, trumps all.
I feel selfish for even considering it but I can't help it. The pain of losing him was beyond measurable volumes. This victory would not have been as sweet without him.
He rubs his hand over my back lighlty, feeling my emotions flooding my mind through the bond.
A knock on the door brings me out of my thoughts.
Alex peeks his head in, a small smile on his face, "you're finally awake."
Sloane, Dannon and my aunt and uncle file in behind him.
For a moment everyone is quiet, then we all start talking at once. It's obvious that no one can believe that any of this is reality. It's hard to wrap your head around it.
We talk for hours, everyone sharing details with the rest of the group, filling in blanks from what they saw and did.
At some point we were all separated from one another, so everyone had something to share that the rest didn't know about. Each harrowing tale makes me realize how insurmountable this was.
It also made me realize that Phoenix is right, there were a lot more vampires on our side than we ever knew. Each of us has stories of a vampire stepping up and helping us, sometimes saving us.
"Everyone is already worried about how we move forward from here. I suggested a council meeting," Alex turns to Phoenix, "we need to get leaders together quickly to start planning for the future. The uncertainty is scary."
Phoenix nods his head, "I agree, we'll give the humans a few days to decide who they want to represent them. We can use the castle hall of ceremonies if it's still standing."
"What about wolves?"
"Every Alpha attends? They can each be direct representatives for their packs."
Alex nods in agreement, clearly pleased with his answer.
Eventually everyone leaves us to rest. Once we're alone he presses his lips to mine in a kiss that makes me dizzy.
"I missed you," he whispers before moving against my mouth again.
"I missed you, don't ever leave me again, Phoenix, I can't bear it."
His lips feel desperate against mine, and I fully understand the feeling. It seems surreal to have him here, kissing me.
We cling to each other as if we're afraid the other will slip from our grasp and dissapear.
"I need to talk to you about something, Ellie, I've been thinking about some things, about the future, but I want us to be on the same page." His face is serious and it makes me nervous.
He softens slightly and rubs my arm, "it's not a bad thing. I just don't want you to be surprised, I want your input, I won't leave you out of decisions again."
I lean into his chest, listening intently to his plans for the future with a smile on my face.