Lachlan was starting to get an itch at the back of his neck that meant he was in danger, he didn’t care for it. He could see the cabin that Kenzi and Dyson were staying in but some instinct buried deep down told him to stay back, to avoid the place he had come to. He slowed his step and looked around for the danger, whatever it was, but he couldn’t find anything.
Trick had just reached the end of the treeline when a knife wielding hand came from the opposite side and embedded the blade deep into the tree a few inches above his companions head, about chest height for him if he hadn’t slowed his pace. Falling back a step he prepared to fight when a near feral Kenzi came into view, her lips were pulled back in a snarl and blood was coating her hands and clothes, blood that from the look of things wasn’t hers. They were too late to prevent disaster but hopefully not too late to help.
“Where’s Dyson?” The girl didn’t seem the least contrite about the fact that she could have killed them both, and he was glad of it. It meant her wolf had grown stronger since she’d come here. They had come on to her territory while she had an enemy at her back, their safety wasn’t her concern.
“He’s inside, I just took this knife out of him.”
“Is he badly injured?” Trick was a man of great compassion, but his single minded focus on others even those that weren’t currently in a state of play was infuriating. They should be finding a more defensible position not talking out in the open. If Dyson was injured and Kenzi was following her instincts to attack first and look last, then they were all in trouble.
“No, I gave some first aid that should have him up and on his feet soon then I came out here to set some obstacles for our new neighbors. Why are you here?”
“Let’s discuss that behind a closed door shall we. I don’t wish to remain out in the open any more than I must.” They both looked at him like he was talking nonsense for a moment, before Kenzi shook herself free of her stupor at seeing them and nodded along. Good girl.
“Sounds like a plan. But we’re gonna have to go in through the window.” Of course they were. When it came to wolves nothing was ever done in a civilized fashion. Not even newly turned ones it would seem.
Silently he wondered which of them was supposed to offer Trick a boost, before resolutely deciding on his own that he would leave that particular conversation to Kenzi. He was the one that was most likely going to have to drive back to the city with the man, there was no need to make things awkward.
Hale didn’t know what he was doing here, but his father had told him to take every road available before siding with the dark. Every road included this one, unfortunately. He had thought his father would have said something like how the Zamora Clan never sides with savages or something equally vile but he had only counselled caution and certainty. He said that at times it was necessary to side with the rabble against a common enemy or for a common goal, it was remarkably progressive for his traditionalist father and he was weirdly proud of him. Maybe he was making progress with bringing his family with him into the new century?
He found Lauren in her new labs, they were darker and more dreary than the ones he was used to on the Light side but they still served their purpose. She looked tired and drained in a way that had nothing to do with working hard and everything to do with being hard used. She was under stress, under fire from on high, pulled in every direction, and being fed on by a succubus on the regular. It was a wonder the woman was still standing at all. Sometimes he really marveled at the resilience of humanity.
“Hale? Is something wrong?” It must be weird seeing him here on the wrong side of things. If he had been her he would have been panicking hard, on the inside at least. It was just plain foolish to show weakness in front of any form of Fae, even an ally.
“Yeah. There is. You see I got a visit recently from someone who told me that you and Bo are conspiring to do something that would rock the boat in a serious kind of way. I’m here to talk you out of it before you get in too deep to save yourself. I’ve always liked you doc and I got to tell you I’ve seen this kind of a thing go in every direction from up to down to sideways to a hell of a ways and it never ends well for your kind.” By her kind he meant the love struck fools, but he knew she likely heard human, he could practically see her spine straightening as she took offense to the implied slight.
He knew he wasn’t getting through to her but he had to try. His words both scared and offended her in equal measure and that was the exact wrong combination for a healthy outcome. True he could have been a bit clearer with his words, but he didn’t think calling her an enthralled love slave would have been more helpful than the vagaries he chose. Sometimes there was no right way to say something, sometimes you just had to say it and hope for the best. Before she even started talking he knew he would have to find a different way through this, she was already in too deep to see straight.
“I’m sorry Hale, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She was trying for dignity and innocence but in her exhaustion she just sounded beaten down and tired. She was fooling no one, not even herself.
“Yeah. Sure you don’t.” They both knew the truth, but that wasn’t enough. Unless she turned back and started acting like that big brain of hers had some sense to it nothing was going to change.
She was going to die. She just couldn’t see it yet and if he tried to tell her she would just accuse him of trying to scare her or worse Bo would convince her that was what was happening. For a succubus who was supposedly good at reading people’s body language Bo had some serious blind spots and she just loved to spread them around to the people around her.
Turning away he walked out, there was only one other road to take and she was swaying her sexy hips in for a little one on one time with the doc as he was strolling out. If he couldn’t reason with Lauren he had to try to reason with Bo, a herculean feat if ever he heard one. Bo was the most stubborn and prideful person he had ever known and he was partners with Dyson and a son of the Zamora Clan.
“Hale? What are you doing here?”
“I’m getting that question a lot today, what is no one happy to see me?” He tried to smile and share the joke, when dealing with Bo you had to keep things upbeat for as long as possible or she would default back to anger and you would get nowhere fast.
“No, it’s not that I just-”
“I was joking, sexy mama calm down, I get it this isn’t exactly my spot so seeing me here could throw a person off a beat. I came to see Lauren.” He saw the suspicion and jealousy flash in her eyes and knew he was already off to a bad start. Why she would think he would be after the doc was beyond him but he supposed since Dyson took Kenzi she was on the lookout for any Fae getting too close to the one human she had left. Even if that human wasn’t technically hers at all.
“Are you helping her get out of here?” She tried for a hopeful note but they both knew that even if he could pull the kind of strings it would take to get her out of Vex’s hands it would just put her right back where she started and not in the crack shack like Bo wanted. Bo needed to come to terms with the fact that sometimes what you want and what you get just can’t be the same thing. Lauren would never be free.
“I don’t have that power, only the Ash can move her anywhere. No. I came here to try and talk her out of this little plan the two of you are cooking up, but that didn’t work so I guess I’ll have to try my luck with you. Bo, stop and think before you do something even you can’t come back from.” Bo had wiggled her way out of so many tight spots since she’d been dragged into their world that she had started to think that nothing could touch her. That was a bad mindset to have, because when something finally did get to her it would be at full force to get past her defenses.
Right now everyone was in the waiting pattern of trying to figure her out and her mistake wasn’t so much in what she was doing, though that was bad at times too, her mistake was in her perception of things. Bo thought that because she had been in their world for years now and nothing had happened that she was safe, but the Fae thought in decades and centuries not single digit years. The fights she was so proud of winning were only ever sparring sessions and little jabs to test her, and she was failing. She was prideful, untrained, undisciplined, and for the most part alone.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yeah, neither of you seem to know anything, but that doesn’t change the fact that you need to slow down and think before you sink the two of you into this thing. Once you start there won’t be any going back, for either of you.” Lauren was on her last leg and Bo was about to enter a new arena she wasn’t ready for. If she pushed too hard then Dyson would have to make a true choice and so would everyone else and Bo might just find herself with even less allies than she had to start with. Sharing blood with Trick would only get her so far, even with the little man himself. Just look at what happened with her mother, and she had grown up with the old man, with the Fae blood might be thicker than water but it held no hope against politics. If your family could get by better by leaving you out to hang, then that’s what they would do. Every time.
“Look Hale, I know you think you’re helping but you’re not. I need to see Dyson and Kenzi, I need to explain everything and get them to come out of this stupid isolation cycle. Kenzi needs to be around people, she needs to be here with me.”
He didn’t bother to answer her, he just made his way towards where he knew Vex was waiting. He’d given it his best shot and now it was time to do the right thing.
“You come to take me up on my most generous offer?” The man was slouching back against the bar with a wide grin on his face. He knew this was coming just like he did, he just had to wait things out like any good Fae would.
“Yeah.” It was time to deal.
Dyson was back in his human form when Kenzi came back through the window, he’d kept a close eye on it since she’d first climbed through it just waiting for her. He’d kept an ear on her as she built her traps and knew she was bringing friendly company back with her. That was good they would need the help soon, because they weren’t the only ones he was hearing. The wolves had not been idle since he was injured; they were splitting up and making a barrier so that no matter what direction they ran in they would be blocked. That was worrying for several reasons but the main reason was that they were certain they would run. You didn’t spread your men that thin unless you had to, unless you knew something the other side didn’t.
Once they were all back inside the meager shelter they had he got to work. If they were going to get out of this together they needed to work fast.
“The wolves have surrounded us, my leg is healing but it isn’t able to bear my weight yet. Our only advantage is that the two of you were a surprise, they didn’t account for you. You need to take Kenzi and run, I’ll distract them and cover you.”
His order was met with stunned silence and he could already see the argument building behind Kenzi’s eyes. She was very much a creature of the current generation, she would see leaving him behind as abandoning him instead of for what it was, strategy. They didn’t want him, once they realised that Kenzi was gone and he was alone they wouldn’t waste energy killing him they would follow her trail and try to get to her before he could. Wolves were pack animals and that fortunately for them made them prideful, they wouldn’t see Trick and Lachlan as predators, they would see them as obstacles to over run and not much else. This was their best chance.
“Kenzi please.” She was already shaking her head, her mind made up.
“No, I’m not just throwing you to the wolves, pun very much intended, so I can shag ass back to town and live it up. No. No way. Not happening.”
“They won’t kill me.” He tried to put as much conviction into his voice as he was able, he hoped if he sounded sure she might follow along, but he should have known better. This was Kenzi. She questioned everything.
“You don’t know that!”
“Yes, I do. I was just like them for many centuries, I know how they think and once you’re out of reach I won’t be worth the effort to kill. They’ll see me as already being down and out and take the opening they think they have since they won’t see Trick or Lachlan as fighters.” The two men looked offended but he couldn’t take the time to unruffle their feathers. If they truly took offense they could hash it out later. Right now getting Kenzi out of these woods was all that mattered.
“You keep saying that, how you know all this because you used to be so different from who you are now. Well, you haven’t been in a pack for how many years? What if things have changed? You did, maybe they did too.” He didn’t know how to help her understand, he had already told her some of what it was to be a shifter, but her mindset while expanding was still very much a human of her time. She saw the world as ever changing, it would take at least a century for her to see all the ways it was forever the same.
“Things don’t change in a pack, not the fundamental things at least. Yes new blood comes in and new ways are learned but the basics are what bind us together. That stability makes a pack what it is.” A pack wasn’t just a group, it wasn’t even just a family, a pack was life. Like the ones now hunting them he used to think that without that connection he would be lost, and for many years he was. That way was something you never forgot, no matter how long you were apart from it. It was in his blood and always would be.
“If it was so wonderful why did you leave then?” He took a deep breath and tried to think of an argument that would sway her. He had always intended to tell her more about his time in his pack and about why he chose to leave that life behind, but he hadn’t been prepared for there to be an audience. Trick already knew everything, but Lachlan was a wild card.
He wasn’t ashamed of what he’d done but it wasn’t something he wanted to reveal to many either. It was private, but it was a tale that needed to be told. If Kenzi understood that his leaving the pack had nothing to do with no longer believing in the ideal then she might just listen to him and go.
“I didn’t leave the pack because it had changed, I left because I had changed. For centuries I was part of a pack in Ireland, I had strong ties to the land and believed in the goodness and righteousness of the pack’s leader King Ailech. My best friend Stefan and I were some of the best warriors under our King and while I believed in everything we stood for Stefan was a die hard loyalist. He would do anything for our ruler without question, neither of us really ever thought to question it. The pack was all we knew.
“One day the King asked Stefan to do something, but he ordered him to go without me. That wasn’t really common, but it had happened a few times so we didn’t think anything of it. Only when it had happened before it was because Ailech wanted to split us up because he needed a good fighter on more than one front. I waited for my orders but they never came, which was strange but again I didn’t question it.
“I kept not questioning it even after Stefan died and his body was returned to us for burial rites. I kept not questioning it after the funeral when our King declared his intention to look after Stefans widow Ciara. I didn’t question it until several weeks later when Ailech announced that he and Ciara were to be wed. That was when my faith in the pack broke, more so because no one else questioned it, not even Ciara. It was natural for a stronger wolf to kill a weaker one to take his wife, it was just normally done in one on one combat, instead Stefan was killed in an ambush set up by the man who ordered him to arrive in that clearing that day.”
“Oh Dyson.” There were tears in her eyes, a sight he hated even though he knew why they were there. He wanted to pull her into his arms and soothe her but they didn’t have time for that, they had to get moving.
“I didn’t tell you this for pity, I told you so you could understand. The pack does not change.”
“No, but sometimes the wolves do, you did, so what if this guy in charge of these wolves has changed to?” He could see her resolve wavering, all she needed was a bit more reassurance and she would follow his plan. She trusted him to know what he was doing, it was their enemy she feared.
“The pack leader has to uphold the olde ways, it’s the only way he can stay a leader. If he strays too far off the path then he will be challenged and eventually someone will win and take control, they always do.”
“Okay, we’ll do it your way, but if you die so help me I will have you brought back to life just so I can kill you.”
“Understandable.” As she turned away he couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and pulling her back into his arms. Her head against his chest as he held her, she was so small but he knew she was mighty and nothing could stop her if she truly wanted something. She was a fierce warrior, now she just needed to believe it.
Tilting her chin up he dipped his head until their lips met, it was just a ghost of a kiss, a promise but it was enough.
“I love you, be safe.” The tears in her eyes now held a new emotion to them, she was no longer sad as he let go of her arms and gently pushed her towards Trick.
“I love you too.” Those words rang in his ears long after they others had gone, even over the pounding of paws against the gravel. They were all he needed to hear.