In the Night

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SEVENTEEN

The alpha of the Hunters stuck around for awhile. He mostly avoided all of us except for Cleo and her kids. He was a jerk to Kieran who complained endlessly about the unfair treatment but Coda merely blamed him for looking like Hakota too much even though he was the only one out of his siblings that wasn't blond.

Still, it was obvious Coda still liked the kid, he just showed his affection the same way he did to Cleo. He insulted him and teased him.

I was glad he treated Winter more like Elias. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact she was pregnant as well.

Still, the Hunter cared for me about as much as he tolerated Hakota so it was an unspoken rule that when he was with Winter I was to be far away.

So, since he only came around a few times a year, he hoarded all of Cleo and her kids' time.

Still, with Winter only a few weeks away from her due date, I was nervous so even though I kept a distance away from her, I was still close enough that I could keep an eye on her and be at her side at a moment's notice. Especially if Jeko was lurking around.

He made Winter uncomfortable, not even bothering to hide his disdain and hatred for her. He would just leer at her swollen belly with poisonous intentions, it was obvious he was wishing my child would just die before ever having the chance to breathe.

It made me prickle in anger but I forced myself to simply make him leave and keep it at that. Making things worse didn't seem possible but I knew there were a million ways things could take a turn for the worse.

Winter caught sight of me and gave me a little wave when Coda's back was turned, even though we both knew he was aware I was close by. Yet the Hunter understood there was a line and he didn't cross it. I was still a beta after all and I wasn't to be pushed too far when I came to my mate and child.

"You look nervous," a low voice rumbled from behind me.

I went rigid, these last few months having my blood freeze every time I was even in the same room as my alpha.

I didn't dare turn around, feeling my breathing quicken with the pace of my heartbeat. He was behind me and he had just taken the initiative to start a conversation. I certainly wasn't going to ruin that by turning around just so I could look at him.

Swallowing, I calmly tried to reply but it came out as a raspy and half choked noise. "Yeah."

Silence ensued.

To say I wanted to punch myself after that was an understatement.

Months.

I had been waiting months for this moment and all I had managed was a 'yeah'. Because that didn't sound dismissive or uninterested, I thought to myself sarcastically.

But much to my surprise, Hakota didn't seem to take it for that. "You're going to be a good father, so don't worry too much."

His voice was tensed and strained, like he was forcing himself to say the words. It made my heart sink because I wasn't sure if he really meant that. Still, I was grateful he was making the effort to smooth things out or at least make it so it wouldn't be so uncomfortable between us.

"So..." He hedged when I failed to answer, too caught up in the fact he was even talking to me that I forgot to reply. "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?"

I thought about it for a moment. Truthfully, females were more important because there were still so few of us. Males though, they still brought females into the pack as their mates but female born lycans usually birthed stronger lycans than turned females. "It doesn't matter," I decided, "I just want them to be healthy and happy."

I could feel him stiffen behind me which caused me to think back on my own words before freezing as I realized what I had just said.

My words were the exact same ones Hakota had said when I'd asked him that very same question when Cleo had been pregnant with Kieran. I hadn't even meant to do it but I could feel Hakota withdrawing.

I spun around before he could leave. "Hakota I'm not trying to demean you," the words tumbled out, "I didn't even realize until just now." I tried to think of anything else to convince him to stay and I wasn't trying to be a salty prick. "I really meant it and the words just came out. I..."

I scrambled for more words to prove I had no ill intentions.

Hakota stopped but he kept his back to me. "I know," he said.

More silence.

Before all of this I couldn't remember a time I hated the silence between us so much. In the past it had always been a comfortable silence between friends, people who understood each other beyond words. We didn't need to talk because our actions always showed our intentions and emotions more than words could.

Words only ever reinforced an action. They were empty and meaningless when they contradicted an action. They were untrustworthy on their own. They were hurtful and just stung deeper after a terrible action. They were soothing and consoling and reinforced an act of love.

Pride had no place in a true apology so I threw it all away as I came to stand in front of my alpha.

No, he wasn't my alpha, he was my friend. More than that, he was Hakota. He was a person who had been deeply hurt by my actions. He was someone who had been wronged by my lies. He was the forsaken male I had turned my back on and withdrawn my trust from because of my own fears and insecurities.

I pulled away and went at it alone even though I should have known my friend would always be there to have my back. He would hold my hand and brave whatever storms needed to be faced, but we would face them together.

And yet, I had let go of the hand that had held mine for our entire lives. Sometimes his grip had loosened or tightened to an unbearable degree but in the end we had never disconnected.

Not until I had pried my fingers away.

I let him wandered in the storm I had created alone. He had a right to be angry, he had the right to be sad. He had the right to no longer trust me. He had the right to slap my hand away when I tried to grab his again.

We were in the eye of the storm now. A moment of peace, a chance for me to try and find him again while the skies were clear. But after this, the second half of the storm would pass and it was up to me if we would be together for that or if we'd go our separate ways trying to survive.

I wanted him back. I selfishly and undeservingly wanted him to extended his hand out for me again.

With my eyes lowered I stood with my head bowed before him. I could feel him staring down at me, waiting. I bit back all of the words I had to say, all of the words I had prepared, all of the words I felt I needed to say, the words I wanted to say and just said the only ones that were important. "I'm sorry."

I didn't elaborate beyond that. I didn't explain what I was sorry for because I didn't know what he was feeling and I wasn't going to presume to know. I didn't know the extent of damage I had done to him but I was sorry for all of it. I was sorry for everything.

"I want my friend back," I whispered in a tiny voice because I felt so small in that moment. I was at his mercy. "Please," I begged, my voice breaking on the tears that were lodged in my throat.

I could hear his heart beating in the silence between us. It was evenly paced, a constant beat that was like a condemning countdown to whatever rejection he was about to give me.

Because I could feel it. I somehow knew he wasn't going to offer me his hand to grab again.

His mouth opened but no words came out. It was just a breath, a single exhale, but it was damning.

The tears came then. They blurred my vision and leaked down my cheeks. I pulled at my hair, having to turn away from my alpha to catch my breath. I stumbled, my shoulder knocking into the wall. My hand snapped out, pushing flat against the surface as I steadied myself.

I was going to vomit.

I could feel the nausea coming. It burned my chest and made it impossible for me to breathe in my panic.

I keeled over and threw up on the ground. The acid burned my throat like the tears burned my eyes. I vomited again, choking on my sobs and the bile, my knees buckling.

"Shit, Sitka," Hakota reached out for me to catch me before I landed in the puddle of my own stomach contents.

When his hands touched me, I fell into his hold, my weight dropping completely as my legs gave out. I clung to him and cried without shame. He tried to stand me up but it was impossible for me so instead he tried to lower me to the ground but I would not let him go.

When he pulled away that was it and he was going to have to pry my fingers off before I let him go. Unfortunately I didn't have such a choice as I lurched over to vomit again but nothing came out. Just raspy dry heaving, spitting out all of the air I was struggling to drawn in.

Everything burned. My mouth, my eyes, my throat and my chest. My heart was constricting painfully, squeezing so tightly I had to place a hand there as I sobbed in giant breaths of air, my raw throat on fire. Still I forced my body to say the words again although they were barley understandable. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." I wept, squeezing my eyes shut tightly, trying to ease the burn from somewhere in my body.

My fist kept hold of the front of Hakota's shirt, keeping him close to me as I was propped up on my forearm my head hanging just off of the ground. "You can't abandon me," I forbade him. "You can't," I insisted.

"Sitka."

That was all he said. A warning, a plea from him to not make this any harder for him but I wasn't going to do that for him. I would guilt him into staying. I would force him to grab my hand again, make him believe I wouldn't survive the storm without him because that was the truth.

I had spent so long thinking that without my mate I would be swallowed by the storm. I had walked through life with one hand in Hakota's and the other blindly reaching out for my mate. In finally finding her's I had impulsively let go of the one that had never faltered, that had weathered all of the death, sorrow, grief, wars, and shit we had been through. I dropped it thinking when I grabbed the soft, warm, un-calloused one I could leave all of those things behind.

This was more than breaking my promise and betraying his trust. This had started long before, twenty years ago when I had first let go. When I had first disappeared and left him alone. He had waited for me then, hoping I would return to him. His hand had always been outstretched then, ready to seize my hand again even though it was me who had let go.

Twenty years he had given me and I hadn't even realized it, thinking only of myself and the loneliness I felt. I had searched to fill the gaping hole inside me, leaving the very same void in Hakota when I had forsaken him.

He was less important.

That's why he didn't want to forgive me. I made him feel insignificant.

I had replaced him.

I'd listened to Winter, kept our mating a secret, made her thoughts my own. Someone I had just met, someone I was predestined by Lune to love.

And I'd replaced Hakota just like that. I stopped listening to the male that had lived through everything with me. We had our own bond between us, something beyond anything Lune could create. Forged by decades of dedication and brotherhood, friendship and blood, pain and grief, comfort and love.

I loved Hakota.

Not romantically. It was foolish to believe that was the only way to love. No, the way I loved Hakota was beyond that. It was something greater, something deeper.

Because he was the other half of my soul.

Not Winter.

I loved her too, I wanted a family with her. I wanted to hold her hand and be there for her. I wanted to be her mate and live a long life with her but I didn't want to let go of Hakota to do that.

Hakota knew me deeper than anyone else ever could. He understood me more than I understood myself.

The hurt he was feeling, the fact he was unwilling to forgive me was not unfair or ridiculous. It wasn't blown out of proportion or petty on his part because he felt the same way.

He loved me too.

I had broken his heart and now I had broken my own.

He'd realized before me, he must have. He had given me twenty years by myself to figure it out. And with horror I fully came to realize what I had done. "You wanted me to come back earlier." I choked out and Hakota froze.

I looked at him, panting heavily. "You thought I'd realize it when we were apart for so long. You thought I'd come back way before twenty years were over. You trusted me to stop searching so blindly and I failed you."

I wasn't entirely sure he was breathing now as he stared down at me with wide eyes.

I laughed at myself bitterly, filled with so much loathing. "Fuck," I hissed, letting him go. Tears dripped from eyes onto the floor. "Fuck," I said again. "You waited twenty years, hell probably even longer right?" I spat out the bile tasting saliva in my mouth but it was no use because a bitter tang still lingered.

Forcing myself on shaky arms to sit up, I collapsed against the wall.

How long had Hakota watched me mope around and deteriorate? How long had he watched me search to find something to fill the hole inside of me but never turn to him?

Why did I even think it was something a mate bond could fix?

A romance would never paint over decades of genocide and suffering. How could someone who hadn't been at my side ever understand the scars I was covered in?

I was an idiot.

But I was an idiot he couldn't leave. No matter how much I hurt him he wasn't allowed to give up on me.

"You..." suddenly I was filled with so much anger. I was so pissed and I wasn't sure if it was directed at myself, Hakota or both of us. "You..."

Again words failed me.

"Fuck," I closed my eyes and let my head fall back and knock against the wall. "Fuck, fuck, fuck." I peeled open my eyes and met the wide gaze of my alpha who was absolutely motionless as I came to terms with everything I was beginning to realize.

I lifted a hand to my head. It was throbbing as everything crashed down on me. Plus I was still crying which probably didn't help. A new bout of the waterworks started as the guilt weighed down on me with how deeply my actions must have cut Hakota.

How unwanted he must have felt. The fact I was even able to stay away for twenty years must have been a bad enough blow but even after that he still welcomed me back without so much as hesitating or giving me the cold shoulder. It wasn't until I completely trashed everything that he was done.

Hakota had been through everything I had, even more with his own mate grief. He needed me just as much because without me he felt the same hole I did. A gaping vat of darkness that we both stood on, threatening to swallow us up.

But how much more painful must it have been for me to continue on in ignorance, not appreciating him as much as he appreciate me, not valuing him as much as he valued me? I'd truly attempted to replace him, and he couldn't stand watching me do it right in front of him anymore so he was distancing himself.

All this time his hand had been reaching out for me but my back had always been turned to him, looking everywhere else, anywhere else.

No more.

"I love you Hakota," I said it. "So don't leave me, okay?"

The male's face was blank. I had no inkling if what he was thinking, what he was feeling. But my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach when he pulled away from me and rose to his feet.

We stared at each other and I was ready for him to turn away when his arms uncrossed and fell to his sides.

Then he extended a hand down for me.

————————

Yeah...that just happened.

Ok but seriously they are not romantically inclined towards each other. Like they aren't going to start making out or anything. They both still love their mates just in case that wasn't clear.

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