Up top of his cave the shaggy black form of the wolf sat with his head tipped to the side. When he realized someone was outside his area, the wolf’s hackles stood up and he quickly bounded down to vanish into his cave as he snarled at the unwanted visitor. His bright blue eyes narrowed as he watched the female approach the wards. There had been no visitors other than the Alphas and the male dragon in years, and so he was leery at unknowns being so close.
“I know you,” she whispered. Inea couldn’t believe her eyes. She placed her hands up in the air, palms facing the invisible barrier of energy that was closest to the big wolf’s cave-home. She had been walking to get away from the chore of clearing out the lair. She’d not lived on the Kennedy land in many decades… actually near a century – come to think of it, maybe more. So the dust was kind of thick. But she had decided that she should begin being around those she felt close to… the Weylyn Pack, Dante, Senias.
Her other kindred had once again pulled away from her to spend time with his human family. She couldn’t fault him there. He could easily use her true lair in the Highlands near his own ancestral home, should he need to contact her. Inea tried to stay away from Seamus’ clan as much as possible this generation, for she had been well known to the previous one. It would be difficult to explain her unchanging looks to them. Not to mention, she had taken another kindred on… a kindred that held a special place in her heart. Seamus had been a bit more accepting of the demon when he had thought they were on even ground. It was a funny thing about some people – they were fine leaving their partner for their own needs, but when said partner found someone willing to put them first… well… As far as Nea was concerned, it was what it was. Seamus was still adored by her, but he had his own life, too. Now, she was beginning to once again build her own.
But as the evening came on, the dragon found herself needing a break. She had been flying just above the hills in her dragon form, something that modern technology had trouble seeing thanks to magical trinkets. It was while she was in the air that she had seen him… A huge black wolf… which meant, he was lycan. And she had only ever met one solid black wolf before. Surely she wasn’t wrong? But he’d disappeared. And she couldn’t be certain. So she had planned to go further and seek out the elusive creature she had spotted from afar, only to hit a magical barrier.
“It’s… powerful. Why is this here? This is the edge of the pack lands.” She was talking to herself, which Inea often did. “Why?” She stood on her tip-toes and peered out as far as she could down the hill toward what looked to be the cave she had seen from above.
“Hello?! Rrrgallloooo!” She even used the lycan sound for the common greeting.
From within the cave the big black wolf appeared. He looked up the hill at the female and cautiously ventured out. He moved slow, just a few feet at a time until he was half way up the hill. When her scent hit him, the ferals ears laid back he bared his teeth as he snarled at her and snapped several times like a rabid wolf would. His black fur was dull, matted and unkempt and he was much leaner than other lycan his size. But his bright blue eyes were still sharp and just as angry as they’d been the day he’d shifted forms for the last time.
The first snap made her jump, but after that, Inea was just… sad.
“They told me you were dead,” she whispered as her eyes took in the feral lycan. After the last great lycan war, not this recent situation, the one that ended near a century back… she had returned to the palace and he’d been gone. Keiran had said he’d gone feral. That he’d wind up dead. Devon and his mate were going through something horrible that she could definitely relate to – having lost their first two pups at birth. Everyone was busy or pulled away, so Inea had tried searching, but the worst sandstorm in decades had hit right after. Even in her dragon form, she was no match for nature’s venom. And then it was announced that he was dead.
But he wasn’t dead. He was here.
“How? Gareth? Is that you?” He couldn’t reach her through the energy field. That was why it was here. Now it made sense. Seeing him like this? It was wrong on so many levels. Gareth was a prince.
At the name, the lycan shook his head roughly and scratched his claws deep into the earth in a wild manner. The grooves in the ground stirred up the fresh scent of dirt and grass and buried his nose in it as if to block her scent would make her disappear. She’d been his friend and when he had needed her, she hadn’t been there!
There was another deep rumbling growl and a sharp bark as if he were telling her to go away! He backed up, turned and moved back down to his cave.
“What are you doing out here Inea?” Devon’s deep voice called out as he approached her. He hadn’t expected the dragoness to find this place. Of all the acres of the estate why was she here? He’d literally just left this place after introducing Avery to Gar when he’d seen the dragoness land nearby.
Inea wheeled on Devon, and before he could bark another thing at her, the sharp sting of a full-force slap had his face turned aside.
“How dare you!” she yelled at him. Her eyes had shifted, she was so angry. “He’s alive?! And he’s feral?! How dare you!”
The blow definitely cleared his senses and before she could deliver another his large hand splayed to block her, “Keep your voice down woman!” He snarled right back at her, “Or is it your plan to alert the entire Pack so they’ll execute him?”
“Over my scales and claws they will,” she put her hands on her hips and glared. “Feral?”
“Yes he’s feral.. he has been since that last battle of the lycan war.” Devon glanced down towards the cave and took in a deep breath, “I do what I need to do to keep him safe. That is what I dare to do and if you’ll see him safe you’ll do the same and tell no one. Very few of us know he’s here. Crimson, the Council and the Pack elders would want me to execute him. Remember that when next you snarl at me.”
“We could have been helping him!” she said it with a quieter voice, but still full of venom. “You kept it from me? The one person who could be helping him?”
“Help him? How are you going to help him, Inea? I’ve been trying to help him for forty years. Tell me Ancient, what you’d do that’s so different?” Devon snapped back just as quietly. The last thing they needed was the entire Pack coming to find them.
“Well, I don’t know what you’ve tried yet, so I …don’t..know…” She huffed, her arms crossed over her chest, looking much like a lycan female at the time. Maybe that’s why she had fit in so well with them previously; why she fit in too well for some of their females’ comfort. She looked over her shoulder at the once-handsome lycan behind her. He was calmed more than he had been, but was still stalking them; pacing.
“So, why don’t we find a place to sit down and talk about his condition?” She’d do it right here, so Gareth could listen, if needed. She wasn’t sure how much he would understand, but she knew he’d catch on.
Devon was used to Gareth prowling the lines of the ward when he was there. To Inea this was all new and he had to keep that in mind as he motioned for her to sit on a nearby fallen log. The wolf paused and his gaze narrowed again as if gauging what they were up to.
“I’m not sure of exactly what you want to know about his condition. You’ll need to be more specific.” Devon rumbled as he took his own seat.
“What have you tried? When people lose themselves, like he has, usually being treated like a person and not an animal helps them overcome it. There are also magical, medicinal recipes that help with connecting the proper bridges in the mind that might’ve broken down. I need to know what’s been explored – and for Goddess sakes, why’d you not trust me?” Inea was aghast at this.
“We tried everything, shamans, spiritual connection, talking, we kept him at the house for several years trying things. We didn’t just toss him in here and go on with life, Inea. Sen has even tried with no luck. Gareth has locked himself away in there and refused to come out.”
Devon rubbed his face and took a deep breath of air that he slowly exhaled “And by the way, it’s not that I didn’t trust you, it’s that you up and vanished after the last battles. Kieran said after the sandstorm settled and we hadn’t found him yet, you left to return home. I couldn’t blame you, we all had lives to return to. But we really didn’t see much of you again until we moved over here and started helping the Kennedys. And even then, it was occasional visits at best until recent. So when exactly was I supposed to drop this on you?”
“I would have come back to help for him. I came back to help you this time. I would’ve helped…” Inea bowed her head and wiped her eyes before clearing her throat and continuing in her normal pattern of speech as if she weren’t experiencing the pain in her chest. “But…I’m sorry.” She looked up, a bit of red rimming her eyes. “I’m sorry, Devon. And,” she looked over to Gareth. “I’m sorry, Gareth. I should have found you.”
That deep voice softened and dropped lower if possible, he knew Gareth’s hearing was excellent and he really didn’t want him to hear the rest.
“While we were on the other side the elders gave Kieran an ultimatum. If he wasn’t returned human within a few weeks they wanted him executed.” Devon leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “We fought over many things the night I took over as Alpha and one of those things was Gareth. My father never treated him like his son and there was no way I was letting him murder Gareth. I defended my family as I always have and protected my family as I always will. Eva and Sen helped me ward a little over an acre just for him. Wild game like deer and turkeys can pass through and so can my family and people who have tokens for it. The boys have been warned not to go too close unless there’s an emergency. But Gareth can’t pass through the barrier unless he is in his human form. The stream runs through it off to the left of the cave so he gets to enjoy fish, too. I come out everyday to visit and sometimes stay the entire day with him. Eva and Sen visit, too.. some days are good and I think we make progress and other days I believe if not for the wards he’d kill us all in our sleep.”
“It pains me to keep him here away from his niece’s and nephew’s and those that would love him if given a chance. But right now this is the choice I have and I fear how much longer I’ll be able to keep him here without more finding out about him. I worry the elders will find out, too.” His heartache was there in his golden eyes as he looked at Eva again. “So slap me, beat me and call me every vile thing you want, but I will continue to keep him safe whether you like my methods or not.”
“It wasn’t the method.” Inea moved to look at Devon and held her hand out to him. He would know that she wanted to share things with him, while not speaking them aloud.
There was a momentary grumble, but he took the dragoness’ hand in his own.
Her eyes settled on Gareth and flashes of memory were there, moving through her mind and being shared with the Alpha. All of these memories were with the young lycan when he could shift to his human form, his dark hair always braided and his blue eyes usually smiling. Fighting side by side, and even in dragon form, him in her claws so she could drop him behind enemy lines – dancing in the light of the triple moons and the huge bonfire between wars, moving between the many available to keep her happy, she had always found Gareth’s blue eyes to be the ones to steal her from the others – waking up sore from the night’s escapades with someone who didn’t hold back – talking about politics and ideologies from both worlds – all of it was pouring back through her mind like water through a sieve.
Inea got up from the tree trunk and made her way over to the barrier. She put her hands against it and her forehead. She looked at Gareth and waited to see what he would do. She also tested the barrier, to see if she could feel anything through it. She needed to know the limitations.
“When I was ill from my new kindred being blocked from me, I came back to this old lair. It’s been so long. It needs a lot of work. I had abandoned it when I felt the leash come off my neck that the Kennedy Clan had held for centuries. Never thought I’d come back. But the pack is here, many of whom I know. My child wants to learn more from and of his drakkar and so he’s nearby. And of course, Dante is close by as well. This lair is perfect, save all the work it needs. I thought to get started. I’ve been up there for the last 48 hours, moving dirt and rotted things out of it and cleaning. Thought I’d take a break and go stroll in the woods near the creek. I’m not really in the mood for other people right now, so thought I’d steer clear this time. I never thought I’d find a friend along the way.”
He was still angry over what had happened, he was stuck grieving the loss of his family over and over again in his mind – even though most were still living. And he ached from being alone. But Gareth felt he deserved his punishment and as he felt those emotions, so too could Inea.. They didn’t trust him and he didn’t blame them. He wasn’t angry at them, he was angry at himself. He hated himself. He’d wanted to die and Devon refused to let him. The bit of humanity that was still in him was only there because his family refused to let go. If they turned from him he’d let the wolf have his soul and mind completely just as it had taken his body. They just wouldn’t let go. And Gareth didn’t understand why.
“Well, since you’ll be around would you like to do what you mentioned before and try an help with him?” Devon asked as he watched the dragoness test the wards. He hadn’t realized how close she had been to Gareth, perhaps having her visit would be the thing to bring him around finally. At least Devon could hope as much.
“Gar, may I stay? Will you let me make up for leaving? I’d like the chance.” Inea wasn’t going to let the lycan get away with not being included.
The black wolf paused in what he was doing to glancing from Devon to Inea. His head cocked to the side and he licked his lips while thinking over what she had said. No one had asked him anything that required answering in years. He didn’t remember how to actually answer and so chose to move to the barrier in front of her and laid down as close as he could to it. He was far from relaxed but it would at least let her know that he didn’t mind her staying. If not for the barrier Inea could have touched him. As it was, she’d be able to see just how bad he looked with brambles, burs and bits of twig and leaves matted in his shaggy knotted fur. No doubt he was crawling with critters and stank like unwashed dog.
“I think he agrees.” Devon was actually surprised to see how Gareth was responding to the dragoness. It was unusual and he couldn’t wait to tell Eva.
“Well, if you let me stay around, I can tell you one thing for sure. We’ll be shaving that mess off. You’ve not gotten rid of winter undercoat well enough in a while. So, hope you don’t mind a massage from these old claws of mine.” Inea giggled, trying to keep it light.
“I’m not sure how safe it is for you to go in with him..” Devon rubbed the back of his neck as concern soon took place of any excitement he may have had. “I know what you are but I also know that if he hurt you it’d push him the rest of the way and we’d lose him completely. I won’t risk that so the only way anyone goes in there is if he’s sedated.”
“What about ale?” Inea squatted down to look at Gareth’s face. He had a bit of a festered wound on his jaw. She didn’t like that. Normally, lycan healed. She didn’t say anything out loud about it. “Would you drink some ale? You know, these humans make a shitton of different flavored ales these days. Apple, Lemon, and just, you know the standards with just hints of different things. Would you drink up some ale so you feel good and then let me bathe and de-matte you, Gar?”
~ He has a nasty unhealed wound on his face, Devon. If I have to drug his ass, I will. ~
Gareth’s head lifted and his tongue hung from his mouth as he panted at the mention of ale. It had been a long time since he’d tasted ale. For a pint he’d let the woman scrub him down without a grumble. His tail wagged on the ground in response to let her know that he liked the idea.
“Good! I can’t wait to catch up over some ale and hard work. Besides, you’ll need it to deal with me talking so much.” Inea looked at the starry sky. “Tonight or tomorrow, during the day?” she looked at the shifted lycan.
With a shake of his head Gareth rubbed his paws over his face several times and rumbled low hoping she’d understand he wanted to enjoy a good drink tonight beneath the stars. He even rolled to his back and pawed at the sky a few times to further express this.
“Okay, then give me time to get things from town. I’ll be back. And I’ll be sure to grab some of your favorites along the way.” Inea was happier. She was so glad Gareth was reacting to her already.
~ If you insist on this tonight then drug him. Eva has a mild sedative we’ve used in past that just keeps him groggy without completely knocking him out. ~ Just seeing Gareth so responsive almost brought tears to his eyes.
Inea motioned for Devon to walk with her back through the woods. He knew this place better than she did, so she would let him lead. She looked back over her shoulder once to see what Gareth had gone to.
As Devon and Inea walked off, Gareth made his way to the stream to drink and fish. Inea had said she’d return and he was trusting her word.
Once they were a bit farther along, Inea felt they could talk.
“Sorry, I know you don’t like mental speak. But I didn’t think it was appropriate in front of him.”
Wiping at the corners of his eyes Devon cleared his throat and took a deep breath, “You’re right I don’t, but I get it.”
“What? Are you okay?” She’d not seen Devon that emotional. Well, except when the pups were born and she had been there once.
Devon nodded and kept walking at Inea’s side, leading her the back way towards the cabins.
“It’s just been awhile since he’s been so reactive in a positive way. Lately he hasn’t really left the cave. I’d began to worry I’d come out to find him dead one day.” The big lycan drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly as that fear eased a little now.
“Well, your instincts are correct. He’s sick. I’m not sure how sick he is, but the fact that he has a showing wound tells me that his system is definitely not well and even weakened. I’ll figure it out. Or I’ll introduce him to someone who can. I promise, Devon. Thank you for letting me try to make up for not being there on this one. I guess… I guess there was too much going on.” She sighed. “I’m not going to let that happen again.”
“I want know how sick he is and what can be done for him.” Sweeping back a branch so that the dragoness could step by, Devon added, “Please help him, I’m trusting you. Don’t get too busy again. Don’t get lost and forget him.” Stepping free of the woods, Devon led Inea to his and Eva’s cabin. “Just let me know when you’re ready to go back and I’ll go with you to help with him.”
“Get the sedative ready and I’ll meet you back here. It should only take me two hours, if that. I just hope your mate doesn’t mind me keeping you away most of the night,” Inea winked before turning to portal away.
“Considering you’ve missed a good portion of this one already, I highly doubt more would be an issue.” Eva was standing at the doorway, her tummy now swollen just enough to be an obvious baby bump under her tank top. “What’s that dragoness got you caught up in?”
With a deep sigh Devon moved to Eva and smoothed his big hand over her belly. He crouched down before her and rumbled low and deep for their unborn. His golden gaze lifted up to look at his mate’s blue-hazel eyes.
“It’s Gar. He’s sick, Eva. Nea wants to try and help him. She got him to react in ways we haven’t in years.” There was such hope for his brother lighting up his eyes right then. His cheek pressed against her belly and he just stayed like that a good long while.
“Well, now. Isn’t that a surprise?” Eva was happy to hear the reaction portion. Last time she’d been near Gareth, he’d acted like he was gonna kill her. But then, the other words really sunk in. “He’s sick? Is there anything we can do to help?”
“I need the sedative ya use on him. She wants to tend him tonight but I don’t need her bitten for the care.” Devon rubbed his nose on Eva’s navel and chuckled at the reaction.
She growled just a bit, for one of their little ones was pressing up on that spot when he touched it. The discomfort was already there and she wasn’t even half-way through this pregnancy. She swore her tummy had tripled in size in about a month and a half! They were twins at the very least, that was for sure.
“It’s in my bag. But you need to tell her to be careful giving it to him if she’s plotting to do it with food or drinks. It’s gonna take a bit longer, but he’ll be knocked out a bit longer, too. Hopefully, it won’t make him sick.” Eva turned to let Devon in.
“I’ll tell her and I’ll be there to watch over it all.” Standing back up, Devon stepped inside before he smoothed his hand over the tender spot to get it to ease. “Boys, be nice to yer mama and settle down.”
“They’ll be girls this time. You wait and see,” Eva smiled for her mate.
“So you say,” he chuckled.
Moving to Eva’s bag, Devon pulled out the bottle and closed the bag to put it back in its place.
“I’ll be back before sun up.”
“You best be. I’ll be tending any that need it and then I’ll want you up against me so I can enjoy that natural heater of mine.” Eva took a breath and added, a bit of concern in her face, “But let me know if y’all need help?”
“If something happens I’ll let you know when I get back, I promise.” He walked outside and waited for Inea to get back, while sitting on the porch steps. He didn’t have a very long wait.
Inea portaled back with a duffel bag over her shoulder and a cigarillo sticking out of her mouth.
“Hi!” She was happy and ready to get going. “Ever try these flavored ones? Yum! I got Kahlua flavored like coffee liquor. I got it along with like… three kinds of ale and all my supplies.”
The way he looked at her with a scowl and one brow raised said enough but then his deep voice put words to it, “No.. I’m more a cigar man.. look maybe we should do this another time. Perhaps when you’re more focused on this task.”
“No, Devon… I take it seriously. I just need to get into this, because lying sucks. I’ve not been good at it, ever. And we’re about to dose him and treat him and not tell him.” She offered him one of the smokes again. “I promise I won’t tell anybody you enjoyed anything less than a fine cigar.”
That he could understand and as he took it, Devon admitted, “I’m a damned poor liar myself in most cases, but when it’s needed I make it work and in this case it’s needed especially if ya mean to treat him. He doesn’t like being handled.” Devon lit the thin cigar and inhaled the pungent taste before taking Inea’s bag from her and leading the way back to Gareth. Along the way he stopped and grabbed a bowl from the common house.
Once at the barrier again Devon set the bag down and while chewing on the end of the cigarillo he crouched down at the edge of it. Pulling the small bottle from his pocket Devon poured just a tiny bit in the bowl and then emptied a bottle of ale into it. He then handed Inea a small carving of a wolf. “Put it in your pocket. It’ll let you enter Gareth’s area with me.” Devon handed the bottle to Inea to hold. He’d explained that if Gareth came at them Devon would shift and handle him.
When Gareth came into view he was at first skittish at having them in his territory. The scrawny feral stayed out of reach as he moved around them and took in their scent. He approached the bowl and sniffed it before jolting back as if shocked.
Inea cracked open one of her own brews and held it up in the air to Gareth, “Salut!” before drinking some of it down and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
The bubbles from the ale had startled him and he licked his nose to taste before approaching again. His gaze stayed on Devon as he lapped at the brew and rumbled contentedly into the bowl. Gareth didn’t stop until the bowl was empty and only then did he step back and lose his footing. With a sharp yelp he swayed on all four feet as he backed away from them.
“Has it really been that long, you goof?!” Inea chuckled, trying to play it off while they could. She hoped he wouldn’t realize the truth and she and Devon could both continue to deny and play it off as his body not being used to such strong beer. She reminded herself that this was for the best.
Gareth swayed and licked his chops. Had…had they drugged him? Why? Gareth was confused and on defense as he snapped sluggishly in several directions before his legs gave way and he laid down.
“Gar?” Inea came toward him, concerned for her friend. ~ Did you use too much? He didn’t even get to enjoy some of the ale and the night! ~ She had hoped to slowly soothe him, not lay the poor fellow out!
“Give it a minute Inea… damn it woman..” Devon grumbled as he followed her to where Gareth was laying on his side sedated with his eyes closed. If he was playing possum they’d know real soon.
The dragoness was at her friend’s side immediately, a hand at his muzzle, just in case and one over his heart to gauge his pulse. She was breathing hard, just as Gar was. However, Gareth’s heartbeat was slowing. She waited. Her hand moved lovingly over his muzzle and up over his forehead, a soft green glow beginning to emanate from her palm as she did so.
“I think it’s stabilizing. I need the sheep shears from the bag. We need to really get this matted pelt off of him so we can see what condition his skin’s in. It might be an infection caused by something there that won’t let him go.” Inea realized she was taking steady, purposeful breaths herself, as if to stave off panic. Closing her eyes, she swallowed. “This is for the best. You need to get well so you can get better. Everybody misses your smart assed remarks and your practical strategies, Gar. Your nephews have had nothing but stories of you and never got to meet you. It’s time to show them the man behind the legends, don’t you think?”
Inea took the sheers and moved like she’d never stopped doing this particular deed over the years. It was an art, getting close to the skin without causing damage and getting the most fur off as possible. What she found under Gareth’s matted mess was something to make her heart hurt. Large sores and lesions were here and there, old scrapes and wounds that hadn’t healed, not to mention some places where the skin had tried, but had formed some sort of scabbing that just continued over good healthy skin and never allowed full healing.
“Devon, that bag also has specialized soaps I brought from home. We need to get that all out and then, once this last bit is clipped, I need you to carry him to the stream.”
The more she revealed the more Devon ached for his brother. “What caused all this? If I’d known I’d a muzzled him and got him tended, but he hasn’t come so close the barrier in well over a year. He wouldn’t let any of us close. Last time Eva tried – he bit her.”
Devon watched as she finished and also noted how thin Gareth looked. Apparently he hadn’t been eating all that they’d been bringing to him. After handing Inea her soaps, Devon crouched down and lifted his brother into his arms. Gareth didn’t even make a sound. Even when they got to the water, the most they got was a rumble that was half hearted.
Once at the stream the big lycan walked right into the water with his bundle. He held Gareth while the dragoness washed him. Some of the spots smelled foul as if rot were starting to set in and that just made it worse. “What else ya need me to do to help?”
“I’m cleaning it all out. If he could shift, I’d be sure he got a nice hot bath, but this’ll have to do. Just keep him steady for me. I’m using a special wash to get all of the bacteria out. So he’ll need to be rinsed again. Then, we can take him back up and dry him before I apply the salve I brought. Like I said, it’s both medicinal and magical and I’m hoping with a bit of encouragement, his body will begin healing. Even if it’s sluggish, it’s better than before.”
“As to the other part – the fact that he’s obviously not eating, we need to push him into it. Otherwise, this isn’t going to help.” Inea began rinsing out the wounds again and this time nodded for Devon to pick up his brother and take him back up the bank.
“Do you have something that can make sure his den isn’t infested with anything?” Inea asked.
“Yeah I brought some smoke bombs that we used to kill out bugs and critters.” After laying Gareth out where Inea wanted him, Devon went for his own small bag that he’d brought along. Pulling the three canisters out he left Gareth with Inea and went to the cave to set them off. He tied a bandana around his lower face and walked inside to drag out the mess of bones, hides and rotting meat that his brother had been living in.
By the time he was finished cleaning the cave out Gareth was starting to slowly come around. Devon shifted forms and dug up fresh earth to make the air wetter as he turned it and scraped chunks up. He even burrowed in the cool back area to give Gareth a place to sleep that was neither too hot or too cold.
Gareth woke to the soft feel of blankets beneath his body. His head was in Inea’s lap and she was slowly stroking her fingers over the now mat-free mane left on his head. She was lost in thought, humming some songs older than written history while waiting for Devon to finish. Some of his wounds had actually begun closing. The sorceress was glad of it. She had been pushing some healing energy into him. Not too much, but enough to try and get his system up and running. She had washed out the bowl and poured more ale into it. The night was still here, barely. But the moon was low and the sun still had not come up.
“… and then you dipped that girl until her head hit the ground and I couldn’t help myself. I spat out my drink and laughed so hard I started choking. Eva had to help coach me to get it out of my lungs.” Inea sighed, “But I’ll always remember that song. It’s just there, in my head forever, now.” She had been telling him stories of their adventures together.
“I hope you can figure out how to come back to your balance. I miss you. I thought you were dead all this time. This place used to have bad connotations for me, but that’s been turning around as of late, so… I was cleaning out my old lair and just found you by accident. Talk about a shock, Gar. Talk about a shock.”
“So much has changed. I want to tell you all about it. I’d prefer to share it with you, but… I understand you have to come to that in your own time. So, like I said, if you want, I can tell you all about it. And I won’t leave out the good stuff, even if it’s embarrassing. Promise.”
Even though he was wide awake Gareth didn’t move. He laid there with his head in her lap and just listened while his body tingled from the healing that was going on. When Inea stopped talking his head lifted just a little as he gave a low whoof, licked her hand and then lapped ale from his bowl. Easing back down he looked himself over and huffed at so much fur being gone. He felt lighter and for that he licked her hand again before laying his head back in her lap. ~M..m..more..~ It took a lot of effort for him to form the single word to her in the mindspeak she’d taught him so long ago.
“More of which? Or more of all?” Inea curled a bit to look into his eyes. She was very happy to have heard his mental voice. However, she didn’t want to go overboard making a big deal over it. “More touches,” she stroked his skin again, then paused. “…more storytelling? You can’t mean more ale, you’ve not finished the second bowl,” she giggled before wrapping her other arm over his tummy and chest and hugging him. She was gentle in it, he still had some healing going on and she knew what that felt like.
Stripping off his shirt Devon walked back into the stream to scrub himself free on anything that may have decided to hitch a ride with him. Glancing towards the bank he chuckled as he scrubbed his shirt in the water. “Keep that up you’ll spoil him and he’ll want to go home with you as a pet.” It was good seeing his brother like this again it gave him hope.
“I mean, it wouldn’t be the worst thing. He could keep me company when everyone else is out and about doing their own thing. Of course, I’d need to make sure Dante was okay with it. Seamus is in and out and we already have an agreement set, but my demon and I have not set such things.” Inea sat back up and continued stroking Gareth’s head and side.
“I have a feeling Gar might not like being referred to as my pet, though. I don’t know. Are you into that kind of kink, Gareth? Should I buy you a leash and start wearing leather and using whips?” Inea hid a giggle. If he had been sitting next to her, she would have nudged Gareth in the rib at the funny.
Gareth shook his head and grumbled his dislike at the idea. At seeing this Devon just shook his head and sighed, “I just don’t think ya gonna talk ya demon into it.”
~Stor…~ Gareth whined and rubbed his paw over his head and ear as he pressed it against Inea’s leg. It made his head hurt to try so hard to talk to her. Instead of going on the big wolf pressed his nose into his bowl and drank more of his ale.
“Don’t give yourself a headache to tell me. Okay, I’ll keep going.”
“Wait, is he talkin’ to ya in his head?” Devon was shocked.
“Yes, why?” Inea looked over at Devon. “He’s working at it. It’s like having a stroke. it’s difficult to make your mind do what you want it to do at first. But he’s trying. He wants me to tell him more of my stories. I’m catching him up on what’s happening, specifically, I promised to tell him a lot of my stories, even the not so flattering ones.”
“Because Inea, he hasn’t spoken to anyone in forty years. Sen has tried to mind speak with him and he never answered. I tried lycan and got same.” Devon raked a hand through his hair and took in a deep breath. Eva would flip over all of this. Of that he had no doubt.
“Why haven’t you talked…” Inea stopped and shook her head. “You know what, I don’t care. I’m just happy you’re talking to me. And right now I know it’s a strain, so, let’s wait til your body really heals up before you try and explain things to me from your point of view, shall we?” Inea smiled at Gareth and looked over to Devon. “If you need to go, that’s fine. I can talk until I pass out. I doubt Gareth’ll be too mad at me for doing that. It’d be like old times.”
He had promised Eva before sun up and after all the cleaning he was cutting it close. Tugging his wet shirt back on, Devon looked the pair over once more. “I really don’t like leaving you in here with him. I know he’s calm right now and that’s great, but if he loses it and really hurts you, everyone will be after my ass and his.”
“Gareth won’t hurt me any more than I’ve hurt him by not being there when he needed me.” Inea turned to look at Devon. “I’m not without my own defenses. You can go now, Devon.”
Was she actually dismissing him? Lifting a brow at her Devon rumbled low. Catching his brothers gaze Devon spoke in the old tongue to him with a few rumbles, growls and huffs. He let Gareth know that he’d be back and not to do anything stupid while he was gone. Looking at the dragoness, Devon gave a very over exaggerated bow, “As you command, my lady.”
Gareth watched Devon leave them, but remained on the blanket. As soon as they were alone again, he put his head back down in Inea’s lap. He was in no rush to move, wasn’t like he had to many places to rush off to.
“Does he always act like that?” Inea leaned back with her weight on her hands so she could pop her back good. Her brow was raised as she watched Devon leave. “He acts like nobody else can do things as good as he can.”
There was a low huff and sigh from the wolf as he looked up at her with those bright blue eyes. He understood but Devon really was good at what he did.
“Well, I mean I know he’s a dad, but he doesn’t have to treat me like a kid. I get you’re a dangerous beast of a man in wolf’s clothing – always have been – but what would be the point of hurting me? You wouldn’t be getting all the good rubs and stories if you hurt me. Totally counter productive.” She sighed and looked up at the early morning sky.
Gareth yawned and shook his head and grumbled in agreement. He nudged her arm with his nose as if to say the rubs would be welcomed right then. His tongue lapped at the top of her other hand as he closed his eyes and relaxed. Gareth had always been an easy one for the dragoness to talk to and in this form that hadn’t changed.
“Where should I begin?” Inea was quietly thinking for at least two minutes before she began. “I guess I should just go over the important stuff….
There was a little woof and he turned over a bit so she could get the other side.
“I know! I’m not gonna leave out the juicy stuff. I promised…”
~ Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2019