Chapter 19 - Tiberius (Part 1)
Crystal withdrew from Tiberius after her confession. She avoided meeting his gaze and added a bit of distance between them, keeping her head bowed and her posture submissive.
She was drifting from him, pulling back into herself and letting the poison consume her.
Even though he knew she would be pissed, he had to put a stop to the cycle.
While Crystal was in the bathroom, he beckoned her mother out into the backyard and briefed Rhonda about her daughter’s past suicidal thoughts.
Rhonda buried her face in her hands when she read the words in the dirt. Her scent saturated the air around her in a mixture of fear, anxiety, and heartache. Her fingers slid up into her dark brown hair streaked with gray, digging into her scalp and tugging on the roots as a heartbreaking sound seeped out from her.
Tiberius rested his paw on her shoulder and whined.
Taking a deep breath, she straightened up and lowered her hands. They balled into fists before relaxing as she took a deep breath in and exhaled slowly out. Moisture gathered in her eyes and she blinked it away, her gaze fixating on something far away.
“Thank you for telling me, Tiberius. This shouldn’t be happening, but we are responsible for not doing something sooner. We will handle this.”
Suicide was shameful. It brought shame not only on the family but the pack as well.
Alphas and Lunas were responsible for the well-being of everyone in the pack. If something happened within families that they couldn’t work out themselves, the Alpha and Luna had to step in and settle matters. In the case of suicides and the prevention of, Alphas and Lunas had to be informed.
In the afternoon, Alpha Jackson and Luna Leanne came over along with Crystal’s brother and his mate, her aunts and uncles, and closest cousins in the pack.
At first, she was furious with Tiberius for telling someone. She glared at him, hurt, ashamed, and scared of what would happen next.
When Rhonda publicly confronted her, she broke down. The sight of her mother crying and father trying to stay strong for her sake shattered what little pride Crystal held.
“Suicide affects everyone. You might think no one cares about you, but you couldn’t be further from the truth,” Luna Leanne said. “Everyone here cares about you the most, but if you killed yourself, everyone in the pack would feel sorrow. It would shake the very foundation of it.”
Crystal listened to everything her Luna said with her head bowed.
Alpha Jackson had given her another one of Kylee’s calming tonics after a quick scramble to locate the witch so Crystal wouldn’t break down into multiple seizures during the intervention.
Tamarack and her three other packmates of her age stepped forward and apologized in front of Crystal’s family for teasing her in their youth and then turning their backs on her when they discovered the root cause of her absent wolf.
A few tears escaped Tamarack during her confession. Her guilt and shame was cracked open and pouring forth in front of those who treasured Crystal the most. Amidst growls and curled lips, she took ownership and condemned her actions and asked her pack and Crystal for forgiveness.
Crystal’s bullies left after their confessions, and Crystal had to stand in the middle of the room while everyone took turns giving her hugs and whispering words of support, encouragement, and love.
The outpouring was overwhelming and Crystal couldn’t stop the tears from falling down her face.
Tiberius hung back, giving her space to share these moments with her loved ones. When everything was said, they moved out to the backyard to mingle and fire up the barbecue for dinner.
One-by-one, Crystal’s extended family stepped forward intermittently to greet Tiberius with their palms up. On bent knees with lowered heads and exposed necks, they displayed gratitude and thanks for bringing them together for the sake of Crystal’s well-being. They openly bore their shame for not seeing the signs beforehand.
He touched their heads in acceptance but otherwise remained reclusive. Trapped in his beast form, he was a lycan among werewolves and the entire intervention was for Crystal’s benefit—even though his nature wanted to steal her away from prying eyes and every male that came within a few feet of her. He needed his own space to observe and control the instinct to rip his mate away from her loved ones and keep her for himself and attack anyone who tried to come between them.
Everyone understood the power the matebond had over unmated mates and kept their distance as he strained against the force of nature.
The afternoon turned to evening and soon the waning moon came out as darkness fell over the land, Her all-seeing eye watching over them.
Crystal’s head was bowed most of the time, even as everyone said their goodnights and slowly dispersed from her parents’ house, leaving her, Tiberius, her parents, sister, brother, his mate, and their Alpha and Luna.
Before her Alpha and Luna left, they stepped up to Crystal and she inclined her head in submission. Tiberius stood on two legs quietly next to her.
“You know you are welcome to see us anytime you need someone to talk to,” Luna Leanne said. “Sometimes, it’s easier to talk to someone not in your immediate circle of friends and family.”
Crystal nodded, her eye fixated on her feet. “Thank you, Luna.”
When the Alpha and Luna left, it was her brother and his mate next, reminding her that they were always there for her too if she needed them.
Brooke lightly punched her in the arm and told her that if she ever felt the need to punch something, she’d be happy to cheer her on at the gym.
Her parents had been quiet for most of the day. Self-accusations striking them over and over whenever they looked at Tiberius and their daughter. When it was the two of them with Crystal and Tiberius, they hugged her and cried together.
“I knew you were struggling, Cris, but I didn’t know it had gotten this bad,” her mother said between sniffles as they pulled away. “Why didn’t you say something?”
Crystal didn’t answer. Shame strangled her words.
Her mother cupped her face. Her olive-green eyes searching Crystal’s. “Cris, please tell me. Help me to understand.”
Crystal glanced at her father and Tiberius from the corners of her eyes before she squeezed them shut. “Ma, I’m overwhelmed and don’t want to talk about it right now, okay?”
Her mother backed off. “Okay, hun. I’m always here for you when you need me.”
Crystal nodded and, hanging her head, walked into the house.
Tiberius went to follow her, but her father gripped him by the shoulder and held him back.
A snarl instinctively ripped through him as he pulled away—nostrils flaring and claws extended.
Pale blue eyes of her father regarded him, waiting.
Huffing, Tiberius hung his head while eyeing the sliding door and straining his ears to listen to Crystal’s movements inside.
She flopped down on her bed and whimpered, drawing a whimper from himself.
“Give her a minute, Tiberius,” her father said.
Tiberius had already spent several hours holding himself back, he was aching to hold her, touch her, or simply be near her. Another minute felt like ten, but he would endure it.
“Can you give us a moment in private with her first?” Rhonda asked.
Tiberius’ claws pierced into the callous pads of his paws. Every instinct in his body pushed him to run to his mate’s side. He could hear her sobbing softly and he was ready to tear apart anyone who stood in his way.
He clenched his paws at his sides and gritted his teeth. The beast within him snarled no, but his head said to let them because they were his mate’s parents. They loved her. They would die for her.
He had to back off.