A Puzzling Reaction
There’s been something off about Alek’s behavior for the past few days. At first, I thought it was because I disappeared in the morning after he marked me, but we talked about that and that didn’t seem to be the case at all. Though my anxieties about Alek feeling strange about me getting up and just going for a walk with my brother without even greeting him good morning were then addressed, I still couldn’t shrug off the worry about the way he avoided my gaze or stared at me intently when he felt I wasn’t looking.
It was like an itch, but I wasn’t sure if it was best to scratch it or leave it alone.
A small smile touched my lips as the sound of Elan laughing filled the air. I was sitting at the stairs of the porch with my knees drawn up to my chest, and my head resting on them. Alek was a distance away with some other mid-ranking wolves, and children, like they often did, paced around them asking the be carried and swung around. Alek had picked Elan up a while ago and would occasionally give in to the young boy’s demand that he hold his hands and swing him around.
Seeing Alek relax a bit made me happy. He’s been so tense, so watching him loosen up and smile without worry was a nice change of pace. However, seeing him look unbothered and free without me in the picture told me that I was the one causing his anxiety.
A sigh left my lips as I rested one of my legs before scooting closer to the wooden railing that framed the stairs. I’ve been thinking long and hard about it, and I couldn’t think of anything that would make Alek wary.
Maybe it’s Aponi? The thought had popped into my mind a few times, and each time it left a bad taste in my mouth. She and Alek weren’t the best of friends, and the exaggerated smiles she gave me even though we weren’t in the best of terms told me that she had something up her sleeve. Aponi had the tendency to act in her own accordance if she felt like she was doing the best for you.
I licked my lips, using the end of my big toe to push down the stray blade of grass that had made its way on the stairs riding the wind as I tried to pinpoint what Aponi had planned. Did she tell Ale something odd? Something about bonding? Maybe something concerning Honon? The thoughts made my chest tighten a bit, but at the same time, they didn’t seem strong enough to put that kind of impact on Alek. I told him everything, I doubt Aponi could shock him—
My train of thought was disturbed by the sound of adults murmuring in the absence of the childish laughter that had filled the compound only moments ago. I looked up, following everyone’s gaze to the figure that was now approaching the packhouse. At first, I wasn’t sure why everyone was so tense, but as the person moved closer, and as their scent filled my nostrils a feeling of dread overwhelmed me.
Honon? The question rang in my mind as I tried to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. I tried to will what I was seeing in front of me to be fake. Maybe all the thinking and worrying was making me see things, but with every step he took forward, I couldn’t help but accept the truth. It was Honon and he was at the pack grounds — approaching me.
Everyone stayed quiet, but that didn’t stop him from proceeding forward. He eventually stopped at the feet of the porch stairs, looking straight at me as the faintest of smiles formed on his lips. He still looked like he did all those years ago. Lean, long hair and deep dark eyes. The only difference was that he was in more typical city clothes and that the look he gave me wasn’t one of disgust and hatred.
“Hi,” he said, and I just looked down at my hands, pulling at my fingers as I tried to collect my thoughts. My heart was racing, and I didn’t trust myself to say anything without breaking down into a sob, so I kept silent, making Honon let out a small sigh.
“Aponi told me to come,” I heard him say and everything suddenly clicked.
How could she? What was she trying to achieve by doing this?
“She told me that you got pregnant...” he continued to say. His voice was low now. It was as if he was trying to make sure no one heard him. “I came to see my kid, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stay back. You know that, right?”
Bile formed at the back of my throat, and my brows came together in a deep scowl. “I didn’t ask you to come here,” I found myself saying. “I don’t want you, stop talking down to me like I’m trying to trap you here. Why do you think I haven’t told you all these years? I didn’t ask you to come here!” My voice got louder with every word, and it seemed to frighten the children who had moved to hurdle around the midranking wolves in the distance.
When I calmed down, I looked over at them, spotting Alek giving me a sorry look as Elan held on to his hand. I felt my anger sizzle off, and my tone softened with my next words. “Do what you want, don’t just talk to me. I don’t want to have anything to do with you,” I said, looking back at Honon who seemed shocked about my reaction.
“Why do you seem so calm about this?” I asked after a while of silence and immediately felt stupid since I just asked him not to talk to me.
“About not being told about Elan?” he asked, and I just turned my gaze down to the wooden stairs.
“I don’t think I have a right to be angry, I left you, knowing that the withdrawal might kill you,” he mumbled. “I don’t think I have a case to make about my right to knowing when I didn’t care if my leaving meant the child’s birth parent would die,” he said in a lower voice. It seemed like he was embarrassed.
“I was really glad that you were alright. I kept writing to Aponi to ask if you were okay---” he paused like he realized he was trying to make excuses for his behavior.
I looked up at him again, watching as he shrugged his shoulders and folded his hands across his chest. “Enough about that, sorry for saying all those things....” he trailed, looking down at me. His tan skin was glowing under the dimming sun rays. It was mid-evening now, and the setting sun was casting a glow on the pack grounds. “The stuff about not staying and everything, I just thought I should make my intentions for being here clear...” he trailed, leaning on the wooden rails as he stared out into the compound.
We stayed like that for a while. Some of the wolves got over their shock and disappeared into their buildings. A few walked past me in the stairs, giving Honon puzzling looks as they disappeared into the packhouse. I could sense the presence of low-ranking wolves around, but I couldn’t see them. It made mt to conclude that we were being watched from the windows.
“For the past few months, our connection’s been very dim. I wasn’t sure what caused it, but I was grateful none the less, but I think I know why now...” Honon trailed, breaking the silence. He looked over to where I had been staring at. There were still a few wolves and their kids hanging around the compound, trying to pretend that Honon’s presence brought no tension. Alek was one of them, and Elan stuck close to him.
“Is that him?” he asked, obviously referring to Alek, the blond blue-eyed man stood out in the crowd even though he was now wearing similar attire to the rest of the pack. I stayed silent, refusing to answer him.
“Is that my son?” he asked after a while when I didn’t answer him about Alek and I stayed quiet then too, refusing to say anything.
“I can smell him out, I’ll take my instinct as a yes,” he muttered under his breath before turning his back to me and approaching Alek and Elan. I stared on, wondering how the interaction will play out. Elan has never seen Honon before, but he could obviously guess who he was from his stench, but that wasn’t a guarantee that Elan would automatically trust him. I watched as Honon knelt in front of Alek who still had a grip on Elan’s hand. I perked my eyes, wanting to hear what Honon was now saying.
“Hello.” Honon’s voice was gentle — holding the childlike ring adults put on in front of children. He extended his hands forward, wordlessly asking the child to walk into them, but Elan just stared on with a frown. Honon’s eyes shifted a bit, his pupils widened, and his pheromones were stronger as he attempted the low grunt wolves used on pups. It didn’t affect Elan as expected, instead, the child’s free hand formed a fist as his facial features twisted and a low sob rung from the depth of his chest.
I was surprised, and the onlooking wolves, in the packhouse and close by, were surprised. Alek looked just as shocked and could only hold on to the four-year-old’s head as the child clung to him and wept.
Elan had just rejected his father.