“I’m an idiot, aren’t I?” I asked looking at Kaya from the side of my eyes as she washed dishes. She paused what she was doing so that she could turn to look at me. She shrugged, chuckling a bit before looking away. I rolled my eyes. Sure, laugh. I thought, looking back at Elan who was sitting on my lap. My situation’s funny, isn’t it?
“I’m not laughing at you Ahote. I’m just happy for you,” Kaya said, speaking as if she had read my mind. She rinsed off the last plate before drying her hands with a towel. It was mid-day, and most of the kids were out playing and many adults were somewhere in the pack’s compound. Kaya walked over to the kitchen island before taking a seat beside me. She ruffled Elan’s hair, muttering compliments at him in a childish voice before turning her full attention to me.
“But don’t you think it’s a good thing?” she asked me, folding her hands over her chest as one of her brow’s shot up in question. My cheeks grew warm and my eyelids fluttered until my gaze was on the stone surface of the island.
“How is it a good thing?” I asked. I’d confided in Kaya about how I was feeling recently — about how Alek was confusing me. I thought the slight sting of want would go away once my heat was over, but it still lingered weeks after, and it was starting to make me worry. I had a mate out there somewhere. This wasn’t normal, was it?
“Well, maybe it’ll help you accept that Honon isn’t coming back,” Kaya said. I knew that. I had accepted that a long time ago, but Kaya saying it out loud still had an effect on me. My chest hurt, and my eyes watered. I didn’t cry, I dried my eyes with the back of my palm before the waterworks could start. Every time I had thought that I had forgotten about him, forgive him and maybe even wished him all the best in his relationship someone would bring him up again and a part of my heart I had mended would crack.
“I’m sorry,” Kaya muttered. It seemed she noticed the effect that mentioning Honon at all had on me. I smiled at her, trying to assure her that I was alright. “You know, if you’re worried about breaking the mate bond, don’t worry too much about it.” My eyes locked with hers, and I opened my mouth to say something, but I forgot what. I looked away, twisting a braid I had hidden in my hair in between my fingers.
“So, what if you fall in love with Alek? You don’t owe Honon that bond. In fact, I’m sure he would rather not have it,” Kaya said, and I kept looking at her, forcing myself not to look away. Elan reached out to grab her necklace, distracting Kaya and giving me time to think a bit.
Yes, even though Honon was out there starting a life with someone else we still had the bond. I could feel his breathing sometimes, I could feel when he was happy, mad, aroused — anything. It had weakened over time, mostly because every time Honon sleep with the one he was in love with it was like an ax on the thick bark of a tree. I haven’t slept with anyone since Honon left the pack that night without me knowing. Sometimes loneliness and want made me consider it but I was too afraid to fall in love with someone else.
There was a reason I was paired with Honon, and I’m not the one to doubt the gods and their decisions.
I loved Honon, but he has never loved me. Sure, we had the mate-pull, but that wasn’t the same as love. It was more like a divine suggestion for who you should love. When we found out we were mates he was already dating someone from college. When he rejected me, he knew that the feeling could kill me, but he did it anyway.
Why was I so concerned about him when he’s probably forgotten me?
In a way, it was both selfish and harmful to me to hold onto it. If I hold on to the bond Honon would remember me — infrequent and subconsciously, but he would still remember me, and maybe... he’ll come back. I closed my eyes. I couldn’t convince myself to let go yet. My decision making was mostly halted by a variety of ‘what if’ questions.
I blinked, realizing that Kaya was talking to me again. I apologized, noticing that she had taken Elan away from me and my son was now sitting on her lap as he played with the beaded necklace.
She sighed, shaking her head. “Do you know what I think about this situation?” Kaya asked, making me shake my head. She smiled at me, running her free hand through her short hair before she continued talking, “I think that if you really loved Honon you’d work to break the bond. Nothing would make Honon happier than knowing you found someone else.”
I swallowed down a ball of my saliva. My mouth and lips were feeling dry. Kaya was trying to leverage my affections against me. She had a point, but wasn’t love also selfish to an extent? I was being selfish, it didn’t mean I loved him less. Honon still talked to a few people in the pack through the mail, but he never sent me anything — never spoke to me, and I was too scared of radio silence to send him anything. I pretend like I didn’t want information, but people knew I did and talked to me about him if they heard anything.
Everyone pitied me, and I didn’t know if I should be grateful or resentful.
Honon didn’t know about Elan. Nobody mentioned his son to him. It was for the best. I didn’t want to look like I was trying to reel him in with a child. I wasn’t like that. If Honon chooses to come back, I wanted it to be because he loved me and not because he was worried or felt obligated to.
“Think about it. He’s good-looking, he’s mateless, it’s like he was planted here just for you,” Kaya said, leaning closer a bit as Elan looked from her excited face to my skeptical one.
“I’m sorry, am I interrupting something?” Kaya and I looked over to the door. Alek was standing by it, looking from me to Kaya before he turned back to me. Kaya shook her head, speaking up and saying we were just about done talking. Alek smiled at that before speaking to me, “Lapu said I should come to talk to you about something.”
“Oh.” It probably had something to do with showing Alek where to get the supplies he wanted from town. I’d spoken to my brother a while ago and he had agreed to let Alek go on a hunting trip with them after some initial hesitance.
Kaya got up from her seat. She excused herself, leaving with Elan in her arms. Alek took her seat, and soon we were staring at each other. I looked away when the silence, and intensity of his gaze became too much for me.
“Lupa said you’re going out tomorrow to get some groceries,” he said, and I blinked before nodding. Oh, I almost forgot that. It was the end of the month already.
“He said I should follow you then if you’re okay with it. I should just ask Aponi to tag along.” Aponi was the head housekeeper, and unofficially the head Omega.
“Wait, what about following them on hunting trips?” I asked, and Alek groaned, rolling his eyes as he shook his head.
“He said no.”
I nodded, adjusting my sitting position on the seat. My brother was stubborn. I dropped the conversation and returned to talking about Aponi. “She’ll say yes, so don’t bother to ask her I’ll tell her,” I said, holding my palms together as I looked at him. He had his hair in a ponytail today, so the chiseled face was on full display. Kaya was right. Alek was good looking, and it wasn’t strange to be attracted to good-looking people. Maybe that’s all this was.
“Okay,” Alek said, sitting up on his chair. We kept looking at each other, not knowing what to say. The snow from the past few weeks has melted away. You could see the green of trees now, and the kids could go into the fields to play. People took walks, and maybe that’s why the pack-house felt so empty and seemed so quiet. Barely anyone was inside.
I shifted in my seat, looking away from Alek as I tried to calm my thoughts. I wondered what he was still doing sitting across from me. Didn’t he want to leave?
“I saw a cub running around hallways and muddying the floors,” Alek said something so random that I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. He looked over at me with a smile, and I smiled back, covering my mouth before removing my hand and just grinning. Ah, spring. Everywhere was a muddy mess and the kids didn’t just care when they were in their wolf states. Muddy paw prints were common inside the house around this time. I’m so glad I trained Elan how to shift early in his childhood. I wouldn’t trade places with any of the parents still dealing with their children’s random shifts.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” Alek’s question was random, and it made my eyes go wide for a bit. I looked straight at him, watching as his blue eyes looked away like he was flustered — nervous. I looked down at my fingers, fiddling with them as I thought about his offer.
I haven’t taken a walk in a while.
“Anywhere within pack territory? I don’t mind. I haven’t been here long. I wouldn’t know the best places to take a stroll.”
“How about along Peace river?” I asked, and Alek raised a brow.
“All the way to the water banks?”
“Sure, we’ll walk along the shoreline. I’m even certain people are there right now,” I said, watching as something played in Alek’s eyes — excitement? I think so. This is one of the few times I wasn’t wiggling out of one of his offers.
“Okay...” he trailed, as his smile widened.
“We can go now,” I said, looking over at the door that led to the mudroom. It was a little room just before the main exit out into the compound where people cleaned off their shoes and kept their clothes before shifting.
He let out a small excited laugh, getting up when I got up. We walked to the mudroom together, and I guess I didn’t put two and two together when suggesting this because I realized we would be naked in the same space. My face warmed u, and I suddenly felt shy as Alek started to take off his clothes. It was only when he was down to his underwear that I realized that I hadn’t removed my clothes. I went on ahead with it. Pretending like it was any normal day when I was in the room with Kaya or some other Omega I had to work with.
I saw people naked every day.
But I didn’t know, this felt different.
Alek shifted before more, turning into a wolf with a grey top coat and a white undercoat. He walked forward, nuzzling at my feet, and making me realize I was still standing naked with the clothes I had removed in my hands. I came out of my thoughts, folding the clothes in my hands before shifting myself.
Shifting wasn’t painful.
Well, I guess it depends on how you were though.
For me, it felt more like a slight sting in the joints as bones morphed, dislocated and got rearranged. My hair follicles also opened for thicker hair to grow in as my cuticle on my nails and teeth in my mouth thickened and sharpened. I was on four feet before I could count to five. I sniffed the air, looking to the side before narrowing my gaze on Alek. He was sitting down as his tail moved from side to side. I’d snicker if I could. He looked like a husky — but bigger. Which made sense, since Huskies were bred from Siberian wolves. He walked forward, circling me a few times before bumping my face with his. He gnawed on my fur. I wasn’t startled at the grooming, that was common, but when he licked my nose and teeth I crouched back, growling a bit before running past him.
He followed me through the large dog door that was attached to the main entrance. I ran into the compound, picking up my sped and I ran through the cleared area and into the bushes. My heart was racing, and I couldn’t stop myself from running even if I wanted to. The feeling of the grass and shrubs clawing/flogging my skin as I ran past them didn’t bother me. I just wanted to be a safe distance away from Alek so that I could recover from the shock.
“I’m sorry.” His words were small but hearing them in my head made me pause. I stood still, and soon Alek was right beside me again. “Sorry,” he repeated. His ears were folded down almost flat against his face, and his head was lowered so our eyes didn’t meet.
I was starting to feel a little odd. So, I walked forward, gnawing at his ear area and grooming him. “It’s okay.” Was all I could say before walking past him. Alek got up, meeting my pace, and we took a walk to the river banks as we had planned to. Other wolves were there like I had predicted. The walk around the shore was quiet, and my shock from before fully subdued. We played around, we played with the kids. We chased small rodents and caught fish. We sat with the adults as evening closed in. Alek kept his distance. My reaction from before probably giving him a scare.
I felt bad and made a note to apologize and explain later.
I enjoyed the evening, and I realized I didn’t mind Alek or Alek’s company at all.
He was gentle and kind. Good looking — and he was fond of me. I was starting to consider him as a partner — as a person I could bare myself to. It was scary, but also exciting. I wanted that. Yes, maybe the gods made mistakes and I should start questioning them more often.
I wanted to be with someone that wanted me back. I should let Honon go.