His fist came down on the door twice. The sound of shuffling was followed by the click of the door. When it slid open, Karen’s eyes were the first thing he located.
He didn’t know much about the female, other than the fact that she was Artemis’ best friend and the daughter of Alpha Adrian.
“Hey Raiden,” she smiled brightly at him.
Raiden gave her a sharp nod. “Hi. Is Artemis home?”
If the answer to that question was no, he would walk away. In his tribe, it was considered dishonorable to spend time indoors with a woman that wasn’t your significant other or in the very least a family member. This was one of the many norms of his tribe that he still respected even if it no longer existed.
He wasn’t blind. He could see that Karen was a beautiful woman adorned with generous curves. But her smile didn’t slow time like Artemis’ did.
He had as much interest in Karen as he did in Sol.
“Yep, Doctor Karl is here to see you too,” Karen answered with a smile. Raiden noticed her genuine kindness. She had no hidden animosity. She accepted him as he was.
He entered the house and walked straight to the living room. Karl was looking at his phone with his glasses propped on his nose, and Artemis was sorting through the kitchen.
“Hey Raiden,” Doctor Karl greeted.
Raiden sat across him, making sure to keep his dirty feet off the carpet since he was still shirtless and barefoot.
“Hey,” Raiden replied. He liked the doctor. The weekly meetings they had were always awkward, but Karl was professional and had every intention to help Raiden move past his psychological challenges.
“I was at the gathering. I saw what happened and I’m sure you feel... hurt.”
Hurt? That wouldn’t be Raiden’s choice of wording. He didn’t own an ounce of care for the pack’s opinion so their rejection didn’t bother him.
“I don’t care about that,” he replied truthfully and then glanced at the kitchen in search of the women.
Karl nodded. “Okay. That’s good. Have you gotten any... dangerous thoughts lately?”
Raiden’s eyes jumped to Karl’s. “Dangerous thoughts” translated to suicidal ones.
No. He didn’t feel suicidal. He was still burdened by the suffocating guilt that clung onto him much like Josh had been clinging to him a few minutes ago. The only difference being that while Josh sought protection, his guilt sought destruction.
Raiden was still troubled, but death no longer looked like an appetizing escape.
Karl smiled at the answer. “I’ll be going now. If you need anything, give me a call.” With a wave, he started making his exit.
“You’re leaving already?” Artemis asked as she stepped out of the kitchen with two mugs of coffee.
The doctor pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I wish I could stay but I’m pretty busy today.”
“Oh, okay then. I’ll see you around.”
“I’ll take his cup,” Sol announced as he made a sudden appearance.
Artemis offered the mug and Sol accepted it. Karen joined them in the living room and the four friends started chatting. For the most part, Raiden just listened.
“Raiden, can I talk to you privately?” Sol requested after a couple of minutes.
With a shrug, Raiden stood up. The two lycans ventured outside and stared out into the peaceful wilderness.
“I don’t blame you for losing it and shifting. Artemis didn’t deserve taking a rock to the face,” Sol started.
Raiden grunted, disliking the memory.
More silence stole the scene before Sol claimed it again. “I’m glad you found Artemis. You deserved a break after all the years of... you know...” he drew out.
Raiden didn’t reply to that either. What could he say? “Thanks. I hope you also get a break from the crippling loneliness that the curse brings to your life”?
Although Sol’s personality seemed shallow, Raiden knew that he was the most complex lycan in existence. It was the absurd happiness that he projected that earned him this title.
Sol’s happy-go-lucky personality suggested that he didn’t have a single worry in his life, but Raiden knew that this was a front. What he didn’t understand was why or even how Sol managed to bury his agony.
How can he smile so much when there is nothing for him in the world?
The lycan didn’t make a lick of sense and Raiden doubted that he would ever figure him out.
With his eyes on the trees, Sol continued talking. “I’m glad I met you, Wrath. Your company made it easier to exist.”
“What are you doing?” Raiden blurted.
Sol chuckled. “Don’t worry, I’m not confessing my love to you. I just wanted to let you know that I’m glad you’re reaching the light at the end of this long and shitty tunnel.”
And then, he blasted his famous smile; the one that Raiden usually wanted to knock off his face.
Raiden tried to form words. He wanted to say a combination of thank you, I hate you, and I hope you find happiness one day too.
But words didn’t come to him as usual. So instead, he extended his hand.
Sol reached out and gripped his forearm.
And that’s it.
Sol stepped back after a minute. “Alright, enough of this sappy shit.”
With that, the two of them started making their way back inside.
“So, when are you taking Artemis out on a date?”
Raiden frowned. Date? The word hadn’t crossed his mind in decades.
Sol noticed his frown. “You forgot, didn’t you? Damnit, Raiden. Why are you so socially useless?”
Raiden glared at him. “My romance life has nothing to do with you.”
Dates? Why didn’t he think of that? Of course Artemis deserved a special night after all the shit he has dragged her through.
He sighed. It was time to make a fool of himself.