Physical contact was a necessity for most living creatures. There was just something about it that it was sought out by creatures, that it was a normal need and desire.
For me I had always gotten it through Hakota. A comforting hug, the simple hand on my shoulder, I'd even cuddled with Hakota many times. Such as when we were younger and needed the body heat to keep warm because we were forced to sleep in the woods or some ancient abandoned building while on the run from hunters and werewolves alike during the lycan wars. We had held each other in times of need, crying on each other's shoulders because we had witnessed something horrible and gruesome, like the death of our families or a fellow lycan and last remaining werewolves loyal to us being slaughtered in their efforts to protect us or help us escape.
Only having each other for years as we roamed the earth in search of the last of our kind Hakota and I had witnessed many breakdowns between the two of us. Words simply did nothing in those instances but a tight embrace made all the difference.
It made me feel warm and safe to be in his arms, it felt like a home and a family. For so long that's exactly what he had been, my only home and family, the only constant in my life.
As juveniles we had been drenched in blood, born in a time of death and genocide. Our fathers and brothers were our comrades, our generals, our mothers and sisters were soldiers alongside us. Everyone desperate to find their mate so that they could produce the next generation of lycans in hope that we were strong enough to persevere.
Hakota and I had buried countless of our own and even more we had been forced to leave where they were slaughtered or risk being killed ourselves.
During those times touch was used in a desperate attempt to heal someone, to save their lives, to try and keep the blood in their bodies, to somehow put their insides back into their bodies that had been pulled to the outside, to force a heart to keep beating with desperate palpitations.
And touch was used to say goodbye. The last graze of fingers on my skin before they were ripped away, to close the eyes of our fallen, to hold their hand so they wouldn't be alone when they left our cruel world, to take a dead child from their mother's arms because she could not accept the loss of their life.
But Winter's touch cleaned the blood and death from my skin, it washed away the stain of grief and sorrow. She breathed a different sort of life into me as her lips molded against mine. I had been bleeding out slowly for decades, my heart slowing its rhythm in my chest, my breaths becoming shallower, my vision turning everything to grey because the colors of happiness had long since fled from my life.
Now, here in this moment I felt those healing hands reaching out for me, staunching my wounds where Winter's arms banded around me in a tight grip. My dying heartbeat exploded into a frantic rhythm and I could finally see colors in the darkness.
She was pulling off the bandages Hakota had desperately tried to dress me in, used water to flush my wounds my pack had tried to close with salves and herbal pastes, and she sucked the air out of my lungs that Cleo had pushed into them to force me to keep breathing for our pack and for her and for Hakota.
Now Winter was mending me, stitching me up, cauterizing my wounds to keep the infection out so they couldn't bring me down again later. The scars would always remain, I knew that and I didn't wish them gone because it was proof of how much I was wanted. It showed how much effort people had taken to keep me alive, how much I had survived, how despite it all I hadn't given up.
I felt something wet roll down my cheeks but I was not ashamed of my tears. Winter did not question them, she only pulled away, using her thumbs to wipe the underside of my eyes, looking so perfectly at me with a gentle smile.
Then her hands were under my shirt, running up my chest, the pads of her fingers brushing over my nipples which were the most sensitive part of my body she had touched. I sucked in a breath at the shivers that went through my body. Then my shirt was off entirely, the cool kiss of air pricking at my skin.
Winter swallowed looking at my bare skin exposed before her. She exhaled a soft breath as her fingers danced across my shoulders and down my arms, her hands encircling my forearms and then dragging them down to my hands that she held for a moment. Then she took my hands and pushed them up under her own shirt by her waist. Her skin was scalding, burning through my hands that suddenly felt like icicles.
I stared into her eyes, unsure if I should take my hands off of her, if they were as cold to her as they were to me but holding my gaze with her dark blue eyes she only grabbed the hem of her blouse before yanking it up and throwing it away.
Blinking in shock at her actions I could only look at where my hands were gripping her waist. I admired her smooth healthy skin, my thumbs rubbing in circles over the soft flesh.
With a soft laugh she leaned forward and pressed a kiss at the center of my chest, her hands resting on my pectorals. With a little push she ushered me back onto the bed. When the back of my knees hit the frame I sat down, the bed bouncing beneath me at the sudden drop of weight.
My eyes followed my mate as she crouched down between my legs and pulled off my boots and socks. Once finished she rose again, leaning over me, caging me between her arms she placed on the bed. The further down she leaned, the further back I did until my back was flat against the sheets.
She smirked down at me, a strand of her blonde hair falling past her ear and tickling my chest. I instantly reached up and tucked it back away from her face, my fingers stroking down her cheek.
She leaned into my touch, catching my fingers in her mouth as they reached the edge of her lips. The action sent a fire blazing through me.
"All of your reactions are so innocent," she breathed, "you looked shocked like you've never..." I was unable to hear the last part, my heart skipping in my chest as her eyes went wide and she gasped. She scrambled away from me, turning her back to me.
Startled by her sudden reaction I sat up, reaching for her but flinched when a strangled sob left her lips. She pulled her legs up into her arms, her spine protruding as she curled forward.
"You're a virgin," she choked out, a lock of her dirty blonde hair falling off her shoulder and brushing against her bare back. Her hair was quite long, hovering just above the dimples of her back.
My outstretched fingers curled into a fist and I sat back. I had never expected it to be a problem, and I was frankly lost by her reaction. As a lycans we didn't feel a lustful pull toward beautiful females or males, only our mates. It was relatively easy for a lycan to wait for their mate, not having any need or temptation to be with another in that way.
I only heard of lycans doing it for other reasons, curiosity mainly, especially for those who waited an abnormally long time for their mates. Hakota had only done it in an attempt to unlock our females' heats so they could have pups.
"How?" Her lost voice asked brokenly. She lifted a hand to press the heel of her hand to her forehead.
"I..." I didn't know what to say, hesitant to reply without knowing what the problem was in the first place. "Are you angry with me?" I asked lowly. When she didn't reply I scooter up to her, gathering her hair up in my hand and bringing it all over one shoulder.
"How can you touch me?" She demanded miserably, her hands covering her face, "How are you not furious with me?" Her shoulders shook with her cries. "I'm so disgusting!" She wailed, "You've waited all this time and I couldn't even wait a fraction of that for you!"
I exhaled a soft breath, relieved to finally understand the situation, "Winter," I said as I kissed the nape of her neck, "I do not blame you for that," I told her, my fingers brushing over the ring of scars on her neck, "nor this," I added. I pulled her into me then, creating a cradle with my legs for her to sit in. With my chin propped on top of her head I rocked us slowly.
"I hate it," Winter sobbed, "I hate all of this. I just want to be with you, I want you to have a normal mate without all of these problems tied on."
I pecked the side of her head, "Well I don't hate it," I whispered, "I wish it could be easier but I wouldn't trade you for that Winter. Besides," I made an attempt at humor, "you are your parent's daughter after all, we should be grateful you're not trying to kill me."
She laughed, tipping her head back, our noses brushing as she looked up at me and I looked down at her. "Are you saying everyone in my family is doomed to have mate problems?"
I chuckled and kissed her lips, "Maybe."
My mate reached up and placed her hands on the sides of my face, "How can you be so perfect?" She inquired wistfully. "I don't deserve you."
"I'm not perfect Winter," I admitted softly, "I've done a lot of horrible things."
"To protect the ones you love," she protested and I smiled tightly down at her.
"Not always," I croaked.
Hakota and I had let our pain and suffering make choices for us and we sometimes took things too far and hurt the wrong people while lashing out in revenge.
"You'll always be perfect to me," she told me, "you're the one who's worth waiting two hundred years for, not me."
I spun her around in my lap and grabbed her chin with my thumb and forefinger, "Don't you ever say that again," I scolded her angrily.
Winter looked away from me with guilty eyes.
"Hey," I said, shaking her chin to bring her eyes back to mine, "listen to me. You were worth every second, do you understand? Never is a long time but forever is longer."
"Those words," she murmured, "I hear my Mom say that sometimes. When she thinks no one is listening she says it to the sky like the wind is supposed to bring them to someone."
Winter's revelation had a sudden knot lodged in my throat.
"They were for you," she said in realization.
I hugged my mate tightly to me, "No, they were for us."
"Sitka," Winter said from against my chest after a long stretch of silence had passed between us. "Can we finish what we started?"
My pulse jumped at her words and suddenly I was very aware of our naked flesh pressed hotly against each other. Unable to help myself I answered her in a low rumble, "As long as you don't mind deflowering a virgin."
Her head snapped up and she glared playfully at me with her dark blue eyes, "Shut up you," she pouted smacking my chest lightly. "Now let's see what two hundred years of abstinence does to a male."