Moonstruck: Awakening

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Chapter 13

Looking up at those twenty or so stairs, they may as well have been two thousand.Tears started to leak from my eyes at the thought of making it up to them. I wanted nothing more than to have Gabe gather me up in his arms and carry me up to the sanctuary of the house and from the quivering of his muscles, I was pretty sure that’s what he wanted as well. But there were still eyes on us, I could feel some of the wolves lingering in the woods through those strange, string-like connections in my mind. They waited, watching to see what happened. There was no question I’d won the fight with Douglas, but something told me being able to walk away from a dominance fight was also a requirement if you wanted others to take you seriously.

Drawing from an inner well of strength I didn’t know I had, I pushed away from Gabe, grabbed on to the railing and dragged myself up, one stair at a time. About halfway up the staircase, I couldn’t see anymore, blackness having taken over my vision, my gasping breath thunderous in my ears, my pulse feeling like it was trying to jump out of my throat. I wanted nothing more than to lean over the banister and empty the contents of my stomach onto the grass below, but I refused to. No way was I letting the horror of what had just happened be in vain. I would not be seen as weak by the pack, refused to let others believe they had a chance of taking me out.

I stumbled at the top of the stairs and Gabe was quick to grab my arm, keeping me upright once again and guiding me across the wooden deck, over to the glass sliding door. Once inside I made it as far as the breakfast counter before I finally lost control and leaned over, great heaves wracking my body as I vomited up everything in my stomach. With every wrenching spasm of my body, fresh burning pain shot through my jaw and brain and I moaned, wishing oblivion would just come in and claim me.

My knees gave out and only Gabe’s grip on me kept me from collapsing into the pool of my own vomit.

“Laura,” Gabe bellowed, the sound piercing my brain. I whimpered at the sound and felt him flinch as he realized he’d caused me pain. “Sorry, sorry,” he whispered, gathering me up and finally carrying me in his arms. Yes, it was possible that some of the wolves may still be around to see us through the kitchen window, but as far as I was concerned, once you were in your own home, you could collapse if you wanted to.

“What happened?” Laura’s concerned voice sounded as we went through the swinging door into the hallway, heading for our bedroom.

“Dominance fight. Call Sam, Em’s hurt, not sure how bad. Tell him to get his ass here, now!” Gabe kept his voice low but lacked no authority with the loss of volume. I shivered, a hot flush breaking out over my skin, followed instantly by an all over clamminess.

“Done,” said Laura and good on her for not making some derisive joke about seeing her brother naked. Oh god, my head was spinning.

Gabe carried me through the bedroom and into the bathroom, sitting down on the closed toilet lid with me on his lap.

“Em, I need to see if you’re hurt. Is any of this blood yours?” I tried to answer but my stomach heaved again and I was overcome with gagging. Gabe held my head over the tub until I was finished, so at least it was one less mess to clean up. Wait, blood? What blood?

I managed to open my eyes a crack and looked down at myself. I was drenched in blood, completely covered as if I’d bathed in it. It was over my clothes, hands and caked under my fingernails along with other stuff I really didn’t want to identify. And there went the gag reflex again.

Once it passed, Gabe went about efficiently stripping me of my clothes, an impressive feat considering I was practically a limp rag doll in his arms. My skin crawled with how dirty I was feeling and I’d started shivering, shock most likely, as it was a balmy evening.

Gabe’s hands were everywhere as he checked me for injury, but other than my face and throat, I was fine.

“Not my blood,” I managed to whisper and Gabe obviously came to that conclusion as well, because he sighed, stilling for a moment and let his forehead rest against mine. “Thank god,” he whispered.

“Please, I have to get clean,” I managed and that was only because I felt like my skin was about to crawl off.

Laura appeared then, taking in the situation. “What can I do?”

“Run a bath, she needs to get clean.”

Nodding, Laura leaned forward and ran the water, rinsing the tub out to get rid of the stomach bile I’d deposited there earlier. Once it was clean, she dropped in the plug and the water started filling up.

As soon as Laura moved out of the way, Gabe picked me up and lowered me into the bath. I gasped the second my back touched the cold porcelain, but they adjusted the temperature and soon soothing warmth was swirling around me as the water rose. I shut my eyes, not wanting to see the pink tinge to the water, instead, I concentrated on Gabe’s hands gently washing my skin. Laura disappeared and came back a minute later, lifted my hand in hers and I felt her gently buffing at my fingertips with a stiff bristled brush. Nearly sobbing in appreciation, I tried to move as little as possible, opening my eyes again when the dizziness increased.

Staring determinedly at the ceiling above me, I concentrated on my breathing, trying to combat the nausea that was rising once again. My last reserves were running on empty and I was about to crash. There was a muffled pounding at the door.

“That’s probably Sam. Go let him in, I’ll get Em into bed.” Gabe’s tone was soft but the underlying command was unmistakable. He was such a good leader, I thought with fuzzy warmth. Damn, it was getting so hard to think.

Laura left the room and Gabe pulled the plug from the bath, draining the water from around me. My shivers came back with a vengeance as the cool air hit my wet skin and I was grateful when a towel was thrown over me. Strong arms lifted me up once again and I went back to concentrating on my breathing.

My back had just hit the mattress and the sheet flipped over my nakedness when Sam and Laura walked into the room. Talk about déjà vu. I really didn’t like or particularly trust Bland Sam, but I was willing to be his best friend if he gave me something to stop the pain and queasiness. Maybe some more of that drug he gave me when I first got here.

“What happened?” asked Sam, sounding very professional.

“We don’t have all the details, I wasn’t there.” My heart contracted at the anguish I heard in Gabe’s voice and I reached for him. He grabbed my hand and held on tightly, but continued to talk to Sam. “From what we’ve been told, it was a dominance challenge. Douglas is dead, Em’s still standing. Much more than that, I don’t know. From the looks of her face though, she was hit. She’s dizzy and been vomiting.”

“Sounds like a concussion. Do you know if she passed out after getting hit?”

“I don’t know.” Gabe sounded like he was talking through clenched teeth.

“Gabe, Meryl’s outside, said she can’t leave, but won’t say why. She wants to see Emma. Maybe she saw what happened and can tell us more.” Laura’s tone was calm, but I detected a note of underlying worry. I hated putting these two through more of my freaky shit.

“Bring her in.”

Fuck, my stomach roiled again. “Gabe,” I gasped weakly, turning to my side, my stomach heaving as I tried to expel… nothing. Clearly, it wasn’t getting the message that everything that had been inside was now outside and there was nothing left to upchuck.

Thankfully, someone had foreseen this happening, probably the ever efficient Laura and there was a large bowl by the bed, which Gabe quickly grabbed and held with one hand for me, while the other supported my neck and held my hair out of my face.

The pounding in my head almost drowned out everything else in the room as I lay back against the pillow and I think I lost a bit of time. I was really getting sick of being injured. Even with my eyes closed, my vision swam, a swirling vortex of darkness, until a faint glitter of gold shone through. The wolf from earlier. Concentrating on that line soothed me and I gathered it to me, nurturing it, studying it, willing the swirling chaos to go away. I tugged the golden line again, gently and heard a commotion at the door.

“Get out of the way! I have to go to her! Damn it, just let me through.” The voice belonged to a young girl from the sound of it and I knew she was my golden wolf, the small grey wolf I’d first called from the forest earlier, the one that belonged to the other end of that beautiful gold filament in my mind. I was calling her to me, but Gabe wouldn’t let her in and it was causing her anxiety. I didn’t want her hurting.

Cracking my eyes open, I saw Laura restraining a girl who looked to be about sixteen. With long ebony hair and a smooth creamy complexion, big eyes and plump lips, she looked like something straight out of a cartoon fairytale. Except for the oversize mens t-shirt she was wearing to cover her nakedness.

“Laura,” I croaked softly, but it was enough for her to hear. Seeing where I was looking, Laura let go and the girl tumbled into the room, almost crawling and debasing herself. She fell to her knees and grabbed at my feet turning her head down and to the side. If she’d been in wolf form she would’ve been rolling on her back to display her belly to me.

“I’m sorry, so sorry, I tried to get to you, but they wouldn’t let me in. I’m sorry, I’m here now, don’t be angry.” Her quiet words broke my heart. None of this was her fault, it was mine, I’d called her not knowing what I was doing. I wasn’t angry, she was the one who should be angry. I wanted to say all of this, but my brain refused to make my mouth form the words, so I sent all that emotion down that sparkly golden thread.

She quieted almost immediately, kneeling there at the foot of the bed, watching me with big, dark eyes. I felt a little better now that she was there. Don’t get me wrong, I still felt like complete crap, but it was as if some previously indefinable worry had been eased.

“Meryl, did you see the fight tonight.” Gabe kept his voice soft as if he were talking to a frightened bird, but still determined to get some answers.

Her eyes darted around the room, watching the others with guarded wariness. My golden wolf seemed nervous. I sent another soothing thought down the thread between us, trying to let her know it was okay. Whether it was the calm I sent her or the realization she wasn’t leaving the room without sharing what she knew, Meryl finally looked in Gabe’s direction but was careful not to meet his eyes.

“Yeah,” she said in a soft voice.

“Okay, before you tell me what happened, I need you to tell me if Em blacked out at all during the fight?”

Meryl’s eyes darted to me and she shook her head. “No, she fought the whole time. I thought Douglas had killed her, but she just got back up.” There was a reverence in her tone I wasn’t really comfortable with, but there’d be time enough to deal with that later. I hoped.

Gabe looked at Sam, who nodded his head. While he then proceeded to poke, prod and examine me, shining painfully bright lights into my already sensitive eyes, I tried to keep my focus on my gold wolf, because for some reason she steadied me.

“What happened, Meryl? Why were you at the house?” Gabe’s tone held a note of censure in it that I wasn’t loving, and I squeezed his hand to let him know. Other than squeezing back, he gave no other indication he was aware of my displeasure.

“I just wanted to see, is all. I wasn’t going to come out, I just wanted to see her. When I got here there were already others and she was standing on the balcony, staring out at us. It was as if she could see us. She was pacing, like she was angry and then Douglas got there and went out to confront her.”

“Then what,” Gabe prompted when the girl trailed off and stared up at my face. I tried to offer her a small smile but was pretty sure it came out more as a grimace when the pain caused by the movement hit me.

“She jumped from the balcony, right over the edge, then she just got up and walked towards him as if she’d just gone down a step instead of that big drop. I didn’t know we could do that? Anyway, she stopped a little bit away from Douglas and spoke to him, but I was too far away to hear what she said. Then she looked into the woods, ignoring Douglas.”

Meryl’s voice trailed off as she relived the moment.

“And then?” Gabe prodded again, not unkindly.

“And then, it was like she could see me. I was hidden, I knew I was, but she looked right at me and it was like she was calling me, only she didn’t say anything,” Meryl’s words were tumbling out now and her hands clenched on my feet, almost like she’d never let go. “It was like she was pulling me towards her and I didn’t want to go, but at the same time, I did. I knew she wouldn’t hurt me, but Douglas was pissed and I was scared. Next thing I know, I’m walking out of the woods and she’s smiling at me, this beautiful smile.”

Meryl echoed the memory of my smile with one of her own and the devotion in that look raised goosebumps on my skin. Her voice distracted that line of thought as she continued her story.

“Then she looks to the other side of the clearing and gets this look of concentration on her face. She wasn’t smiling anymore. Next thing I know, Jonathon starts howling and he’s coming out of the trees like he’s being dragged, but there was nothing attached to him and he hated it. Then she looked at Douglas and walked towards him and he started acting funny like he was going to bow down but was fighting it.”

“Shit,” Gabe cursed softly under his breath. O-oh, something in his tone told me I fucked up. Though the dead body probably should’ve been an indication also. My brain just refused to work as my thoughts darted from irreverent to disgust at myself.

“Then Douglas just loses his shit, turns back to human and starts calling her all sorts of names, like abomination. Then he says she challenged him and he accepts, that she can’t hide behind the alpha this time.”

Bland Sam stepped back, and I watched through slitted lids as Gabe scrubbed his free hand over his face. Laura stood by the door, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth.

“Keep going,” Gabe nudged again when Meryl took a timeout to rest her cheek against my feet. Good thing I’d just washed.

“She looked like she was getting ready to fight, but then got distracted, looking off into the woods like she was seeing something and she had another smile on her face. Then Douglas hit her and I swear to god I thought she was dead,” Meryl’s voice began to shake as she retold the tale my stupidity.

“She fell over and he backed off a ways, giving her a chance to get up. But she stayed down and when he stepped closer to see her, that’s when she kicked him. Right in the shin. It made an awful noise. He stumbled back, and she managed to get up. They started fighting then, but Douglas got his hands around her throat and was choking her.”

Meryl raised tear-filled eyes up to Gabe, imploring. “I wanted to help her, but I couldn’t, it was a challenge and he would’ve killed me. But I wanted to help.”

“It’s okay,” said Gabe, laying a hand on her head for just a moment, in absolution.

Meryl drew in a ragged breath, more upset than I was about what had happened. Which was worrying. “Next thing I know, Douglas is on his knees, blood everywhere, holding his stomach and she’s standing over him like an avenging angel. Then she went for his throat and he went down and you got there,” she finished in a rush. What had up until then been a fairly detailed description of the fight had suddenly become vague at the end, and I knew she was trying to protect me.

Gabe must’ve noticed it too because though his voice was still gentle, it held an underlying note of steel. “Did you see how she wounded him?”

Meryl nuzzled closer to my foot and tried to avoid Gabe’s gaze.

“S’okay,” I slurred and she looked up at me. I tried to smile reassuringly but was probably pretty far off the mark with all the facial swelling, but the message must’ve gotten through because she relaxed a fraction.

“She had claws,” she whispered, probably waiting for Gabe to laugh or demand she tell the truth. Instead, he just nodded and looked at me consideringly.

“Sorry,” I managed, and he leaned forward, placing a tender kiss on my forehead.

“What am I going to do with you,” he whispered against my skin, then pulled away, standing up as he did and letting go of my hand.

“Sam?” he asked.

“Since she didn’t black out, the best thing for her now is sleep. You won’t need to wake her, but keep a close eye on her in the morning. If she complains of headaches, nausea or her speech is still slurred, you’ll need to bring her into the clinic so I can run some scans. But I’m confident she’ll be able to heal on her own, given what she’s already come back from.”

“Okay.” Gabe let out a gusting sigh. “I need to go talk to James, Laura I need you to start the paper trail, you know the drill.” He looked down at the teenager at my feet who held completely still, as if she figured if she stayed still enough, they’d forget she was there. It was a nice effort, even if it didn’t work.

“Meryl, would you stay here with Emma till I get back? Just keep an eye on her and if there’s anything she needs or there’s any trouble, you call for one of us, okay.”

“Yeah, sure,” she gushed with what sounded like relief. I was glad as well that she was staying. Gabe leaned over me and give me another gentle kiss on the forehead.

“Get some sleep, Em. The rest can wait until morning.”

Meryl moved up beside me and her cool hands enveloped the one Gabe had been holding earlier. I gave a gentle squeeze to let her know I was happy she was there and finally let my eyes flutter closed one last time.

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