Waiting in Darkness

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Twenty two | Terrin

He didn't let me die, I thought as I was sucked back into consciousness. He was forcing me to swallow his blood, the coppery taste filling my mouth. I tried to open my eyes but I was too weak. My back burned, the giant gashes irritated by the dirt, grime, and bacteria that was affecting it.

My tongue lifted to taste his skin, wanting to replace the metallic flavor in my mouth. Unfortunately, that caused him to pull away. I whimpered at the loss of him but he came back soon and poured water on me, cleansing my skin so he could get a better idea of the extent of my injuries. When he finished he left again.

My open wounds stung with the kiss of the chill air. I tried to focus on something else, like the way he had gently held my face, turning it to the side so he could clean the deep cuts there.

The smell of smoke brought me out of my delirious daze. The crackling and popping of sparks confirmed he had built a fire, but it was too far from me to have been meant for warmth.

I heard him shift, coming over to me. I tried opening my eyes but to no prevail. I passed out at the first touch of the burning knife against my skin.

Next time I woke was for less than three seconds. The pain in my back was unbearable. The hot knife dug into my shoulders, carving out the rotted flesh. The agony forced me back into unconsciousness.

Awaking again, I shifted slightly, the skin on my back pinched where the wounds had been burned shut. I groaned as I was lifted up, a cup held to my lips. I drank greedily, wishing I had the strength to reach up and hold the giant hands tilting my head back and lifting the cup. However, just swallowing was nearly too much effort and I blacked out once more.

Every time I regained consciousness my mate was there with water.

Soon my lapses of consciousness lasted minutes over seconds.

I felt the cold draft through the cave now. Though that wasn't what made me shiver. No, the inferno within me sucking up all of my heat was the cause. My fever worsened and no matter how many blankets he piled on me, it only got worse. Worse and worse and worse until I believed it possible that I would melt from the inside out. Perhaps I would die, just from the cold instead of my injuries.

But then my mate surprised me. He cast aside the blankets and scooped me up, spooning me tightly. His arms banded securely around me, his legs overlapping mine. The contact was something I never thought I would feel again. I never believed it possible for him to hold me so tenderly. Tears escaped from my eyes as I nestled into him and his warmth that chased the cold away. Even though it was more than I deserved, I was greedy and I wanted more.

I turned my head to meet familiar eyes. They were clear, guarded, and yet brimming with anguish. My breath caught. It was him, my mate whole again, no longer a broken shell of himself. I forced my head up to steal a kiss. I didn't care if he didn't want me, didn't care if he'd push me away. I would take this from him because he had taken everything from me.

Surprisingly, he did nothing. He did not shove me away nor did he pull me closer. He didn't respond to my actions but that was okay. I moved my lips, tasting him. It was difficult to kiss him while trying to hold in sobs.

When Syn had enough, he pulled back out of reach. He glared down at me, his jaw clenched tightly. Then his lips parted to utter out tightly, "This changes nothing."

I looked back with glassy eyes, showing him how broken I was. "I know," I whispered hoarsely.

My mate's nostrils flared before he seized my chin and took control of my mouth. He was aware of every movement, taking care to not press my back. While his hands remained gentle, his mouth was savage. He did as he pleased, one hand firm on my head as to not allow me to pull back. He forced me to take everything, overwhelmed me with fervent attacks. I did my best to keep up, but he was much stronger than I. He stole my breath, giving me air only when he deemed necessary. He was paying me back from before, taking all the control and rendering me helpless.

I itched to touch him, to just feel him again, so I did. The first touch made him freeze. He moved to pull away but I caught him, whispering into the small space between us reassurance, "You have all the control. I follow your lead." Experimentallay I drew my hand down his shoulder, my fingers gliding across the corded muscles of his arm. He caught my wandering hand. "We do nothing you don't want to," I breathed pecking his lips, "you have control," I reminded him again.

He released my hand and went for my lips again. My hands settled on his chest, feeling the pulsing of his heart beneath warm skin. How he could stand to be shirtless in this dank cave was beyond me. I knew I was only without one so that Syn could clean my wounds. I guess he'd never bothered to find a replacement. Not that I was complaining, the development had worked out well for me here in this moment. As our hands explored each other, Syn got more intense, forgetting my need to breathe. I gasped and pushed at him as I ran out of air, but to no avail. Black crept at the edges of my vision and soon black was all I could see.

That was the only time we shared a touch. During the time following he didn't speak, only gave me food and water. He would just stare at me with a pensive look and I would just watch as his expressions changed with his thoughts, trying to gauge him. I couldn't even complain that he still acted as he had when he was in The Wild. I was too relieved to see those familiar eyes to care that those lips didn't move to speak.

As my strength returned I woke one time to find myself moved to a different part of the cave and shackled. I pulled at them testing their strength, they looked a little rusted so perhaps I could break free of them if need be. Unfortunately my attempts yielded no results. The chains held firm and kept me prisoner.

"You won't be going anywhere," a deep voice rumbled and my eyes snapped to a dark corner that was really a corridor leading deeper into the cave. Syn stepped out of the darkness with crossed arms and a stony expression. "I'll decide if and when you get to leave."

"You'd think I'd run?" I asked him, raising a brow. "I came looking for you, if you remember. I came to you fully expecting to die and you're worried about me running now?" I was a little hurt he thought so little of me, to sneak away and run when his back was turned. "I'm pretty sure we've gotten past the point of no return."

The lycan made himself comfortable on the ground, his legs bent, wrists on knees and hands hanging lazily between his knees. "That's the thing though isn't it Terrin? With you there really is no such thing as a point of no return. And to answer your question, yes I do believe you would run. You run away from me all the time, no matter how well I think we are doing. You're a runner, Terrin. When things get tough you shut down, shut people out, you disappear like a thief in the night, with no warning before you up and leave." He brought a canteen of water to his lips, drinking down a few swallows.

And we resumed as usual. Staring at each other as if we could solve the mystery of the other with eyes alone.

Secrets and mystery. We both had them, pasts that had shaped us and gave us this fear. We could never fully understand the other because we kept these things to ourselves, we had refused to let ourselves be vulnerable and explain our hesitations which is what led us to this huge misunderstanding that may very well have ruined us.

Syn had always taken the initiative when it came to us. So maybe now it was my turn to take the first step, to open myself to him and share with him my thoughts and feelings and a past that had scarred me. I was chained to a wall and Syn was here, it's not like I was short on time and maybe it would fill this dreadful silence.

Taking in a shaky breath, I began, "The day my parents took me up that mountain it was me who was supposed to die." I offered this to Syn, peeked at him to see if he showed interest. This was a story I had never shared with anyone, a story that I had changed when telling it to keep suspicion off of me because I had feared for my life if they found out the truth. Syn's eyes were focused on me, really looking at me, seeing me and not through me. "My parents hated me," I blew out a shuddering breath, swallowing as I continued, "I was born of my mother's first mate. My real father was killed in a challenge over my mother. Her new mate hated me, blamed me for getting between them. My mother despise me because I was a constant reminder of what she lost. My pack in the Forest Kingdom that you found me at was not my original one. In my birth pack, the alpha made a law that any female that was fought for had to mate with the winner. It was a way to increase strength and weed out the weak. But my mother couldn't grow to love her new mate with me around to remind her what he stole. My mother was miserable and her new mate was always angry. The only thing they agreed on was their dislike for me. They brought me up that mountain to leave me to die. Instead they got caught in the avalanche on their way down."

"And you?" I jumped, my eyes snapping up to my mate's. I hadn't expected him to respond. "How did you survive?" He demanded.

I sucked on my lower lip, "The White Lady, Lune. She came to me and guided me down to the other pack on the opposite side of the mountain. She saved me because of you."

"You saw Lune?" The doubt was evident in his voice.

"I know it's hard to believe, but she told me," I looked down at my hands, "she told me that sin would be my salvation, only now I know she meant you."

"Then why did you push me away?" He snarled rising to his feet. He glared at me, or more accurately, the mark on my neck. "Why mark another after I marked you?" He began to pace, growling and muttering to himself before stopping to yell at me, "You were told by Lune, a goddess, and you still thought to defy the bond?"

I flinched, "I'm sorry," I mumbled, not trusting my voice to not crack if I spoke any louder. "I was scared—I am scared." I implored him to understand, "I didn't know what she meant! I didn't even know it was Lune for sure until I met you! The whole thing seemed like a dream, for years that's all I thought it was. Besides, I was raised to hate Lune, to hate lycans. The lycan wars brought you no favors in the Forest Kingdom. I never told anyone about Lune because I was terrified they would kill me if they knew the Lycan Mother favored me. Everyone knows she only favors the werewolves she intends for one of her children. And knowing all of that only made me more terrified when you came along. When all of those stories turned out to be true it made me feel worthless. Lune only saved me for you. I was nothing in the eyes of the other gods, even to her. She didn't care about my sexual preferences or how I would feel or if I even wanted a lycan mate. I felt like a prize."

For so long I had known that's all I would be if it really had been Lune who had saved me, but then for it to be confirmed just made it all ten times worse. "You all treated me like chattel, demanding I just accept you and be with you because you were lycan and you deserved a mate after everything you went through. I have no idea what you deserve, what hardships you went through because you refused to tell me. All I knew was I went through hardships too and I didn't have a god looking out for me and ready to reward me for the shit I went through," I said miserably. "My whole life I've felt unwanted, by my parents, my pack, my peers, all those females who just wanted a little fun—who used me. Even Cleo, I know I annoy her most of the time and now she hates me because of what I did to you. You and Heidi were the only ones that made me feel wanted. Maybe that was why I made you chase me for so long. I liked feeling wanted, needed." I didn't dare look up at my mate, not when I was so close to tears. "I know that may make me a horrible person, but I have insecurities too. I didn't know if you wanted me because I was just a prize you earned or if you actually wanted me. I wanted to know that if you were given a hundred choices for a mate you still would have picked me. I wanted to know but I was too scared to find out. Only when I actually risked losing the chance to ever find out did I give in."

A tear leaked free, rolling down my cheek. I was wringing my hands, twisting my fingers as I tried to keep myself grounded. "And you proved to me that you did want me. You made the effort to know me, and win me. You showed me I could learn to love you even if you were male, even if you were a lycan. And I..." I closed my eyes, "I started to believe that you actually wanted me because you fought harder than Heidi. You cared enough to let me make the final choice without trying to choose for me. I trusted you Syn. I gave up an easy life with Heidi because I believed in you to keep wanting me, to always want me. But then you," I opened my eyes and looked up at my mate, feeling so small, "you rejected me. You casted me away so easily." He wasn't even looking at me, but I could tell by how tense his jaw was that everything I was saying was hitting him. He was listening and even if he may not have wanted to, he was beginning to understand. "You made me feel unwanted Syn, something you have never done before and I-I-I," I stuttered, trying to force the words out, swallowing down the tears so I could make him understand, "I just spiraled back into my fears. I couldn't trust you anymore. I just," I bowed my head, "I didn't know what to do. You ripped that part of me open again and I just wanted to close it." Because my loneliness was like a disease. Syn had cured me of it only for me to become infected again.

I wasn't trying to make excuses, but I just needed him to know what I was thinking when I made the mistake of marking Heidi. "Heidi was there and she kept telling me when I had always been thinking. And I believed her because it made sense. How could you go from wanting me to instantly not? Everything before had to be a lie. It all had to be a game to you, just like Heidi said. Mark me to prove that some mere werewolf was no match to Lune, to a lycan, and to the bond. Show everyone that you were the stronger male and then leave me." Because I feared being weak more than anything. The Forest Kingdom didn't accept the weak. Being weak meant being alone.

"Marking Heidi was wrong," I admitted, "I never should have done it. She never really wanted me either. She just wanted to steal a lycan mate for the same damn reason. To prove werewolves could be stronger than lycans and could win against them. And I'm just so tired of being treated like an object, like a belonging over a person. I know I'm just annoying, disgusting, garbage that needed to be discarded thousand times to finally get it, but you know that saying, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure'?" I laughed bitterly, closing my eyes and tipping my head back, my skull thunking against the cold cave wall as I stared up at the roof of the cave. "I kept telling myself that maybe one day I'd stop being thrown away and would instead be hoarded."

"Then why did you come after me Terrin?" Syn's low voice rumbled, echoing through the cave and through my bones. "I am sure you have not soon forgotten our parting words in the Old Kingdom."

And just like that, the dam holding everything back, keeping me from being swept away in my anger, grief and heartbreak broke, "Because I needed to know!" I burst. "I need to know why no one wants me. How can I ever believe that someone someday will when you can't even do that? I'm a lycan's mate and they only get one. I'm supposed to be the other half to your soul but even you deny me. Even you called me disgusting and tossed me away." I ran a hand through my hair, "I-I-I just don't understand why Lune even bothered to save me on that mountain. Why help me when everyone else, myself included, wishes she had just left me to die?"

My mate stared down at me. There was so much frustration and angst in his eyes that I believed he would turn his back and walk away.

When he did indeed turn, giving his back to me I feared the worst. I had failed. It didn't matter to him, nothing I said changed anything.

But instead of walking away Syn lowered himself to the ground, sitting cross legged as he faced the opposite cave wall. Then he started to speak and what he told me made my heart sink.

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