TO BE READ BETWEEN BOOKS TWO & THREE (STAND & HIDE)
(Contains ***SPOILERS*** for A PLACE TO RUN and A PLACE TO STAND!)
I laid curled against Jonathan for a long long time, listening to his heartbeat, his breathing.
He’d said he loved me too.
I should have said it sooner, should have told him before the fight.
I nuzzled into his neck, inhaling his woodsy electric warmth. I couldn’t let myself get lost in that. He’d survived, likely because of the power Kristos had leant to the pack. And that was the important part.
Is this what it meant to have a mate?
It didn’t matter. I’d figure that out when the pack was better, when the jangling in my head of all their pain stopped.
It took days.
Killing Zacchaeus, Kristos’ day-walking vampire consanguinea, had taken so much out of the pack. I hadn’t kept track of everyone’s injuries during the fight, but I knew it had been bad.
Jamie and Ian were champs about taking care of everyone, but it was a whole lot of takeout and fast food for a couple days.
Then Kaylah was up and moving and she managed to get some easy meals together. With her EMT training, she was the pack medic, which meant she also had to make sure everyone was braced and bandaged and taking time to move around.
My heart ached to watch my strong, decidedly-capable packmates hobble around the house as they recovered. Jonathan was one of the last up and moving, though even he was mobile a full day before Sheppard.
The pack tried to play woofball as they recovered, but that only ended in painful dogpiles and agonizing sharp turns that were all punctuated by loud clangs in my head. The game was quickly abandoned. It left us all antsy and irritable, though we still stayed together. Ian didn’t go to his friends, Jamie and Jonathan and I didn’t go back to the apartment. We all just stuck together through everything.
And there was a new strand among the threads of the pack. It led to Kristos, who had been unconscious on the sectional upstairs in the loft for days.
Kaylah didn’t know what to make of Kristos. He hadn’t been hurt much, but he had been dead to the world ever since he’d poured energy into the pack—a feat which I still didn’t comprehend—and the resonance I’d grown accustomed to from him had gone quiet. Sheppard had even gone up to try to wake him a few times, but he had been unsuccessful.
In fact, it was a full week before he finally stirred, the resonance from him returning in a slow crescendo.
I darted up the stairs and leaned against the entrance to the loft. “Holy shit, you’re not dying.”
He sat up slowly on the sectional and simply raised an eyebrow at me. His hair was a mess, and he was still wearing the clothes he’d worn when we fought Zacchaeus.
“Your heart rate slowed,” I said. “Your breathing too, and we couldn’t wake you. Sheppard even tried with whatever his alpha mojo is.” I wriggled my fingers at him like a cartoon spellcaster.
He coughed out a laugh and reached for the glass of water on the end table. “Alpha mojo.”
I nodded as he gulped down half the glass of water. “Sheppard can apparently do a lot of things the rest of us can’t. I figure it’s because he’s the alpha.”
A laugh rumbled in his chest as he nodded and put the glass back down on the end table. “Why would he think any of his abilities would work on me?”
I furrowed my brow. “Well, you’re pack now.”
More rumbling laughter shook his shoulders, and a mirthful chord sang into the resonance. “Bears don’t run in packs.”
I rolled a shoulder. “Maybe not. But your connection to the pack is as strong as any of the others’. I feel it, Sheppard feels it, Jonathan feels it. I haven’t asked the others, but odds are good they’d say the same. I bet if you focus, you’ll see I’m right.”
It was quiet for a moment as he closed his eyes and took a few slow, deep breaths. Then he scrunched up his face and scratched at the back of his head.
“Pack,” he said finally.
“Yep.” I nodded and met his honey-gold eyes. “Probably for the best, anyway, if you actually plan on sticking around.”
“I wasn’t sure I was,” he said. “Not after Father Brooks—”
“Yeah.” I cut him off. “Well, he’s probably just as much an asshole as Langley was. Not the first head of some organization that wants me under their control, and I’m pretty sure he won’t be the last.”
He blinked at me. “Zacchaeus too.” He nearly choked on the name as the resonance turned mournful.
I rushed over to hug him, wrapping my arms around his shoulders as I sat on the sectional beside him. He pressed his face into my shoulder.
“If you hadn’t been there,” I whispered, “he would have killed the whole pack.” He would have killed Jonathan. “And he’d have me.”
He took a moment to collect himself before pulling away, his eyes red and my shirt damp where his face had been. Tears. He’d cried. Over the vampire?
“Zacchaeus meant a lot to you,” I said, unsure whether it was a statement or a question.
I chewed the inside of my cheek. “I’m glad you’re on our side.”
He stared at nothing, but wordlessly held his hand out for mine, the chord between us morphing into something more resolute.
“If you plan on keeping that promise to me,” I said, placing my hand in his, “you should probably stick around. Father Brooks or no.”
He nodded and patted the back of my hand.
Sheppard appeared in the doorway. “I should’ve known you were gonna end up pack three hundred years ago.”
Kristos’ mouth pulled into a smile as he chuckled and looked up at him. “You should’ve recognized the solemnity of old things three hundred years ago.”
“So, you’re sticking around then?” Jonathan asked, leaning against the wall just outside the entrance to the loft.
Kristos looked at my hand in his before meeting my eyes. I nodded once and he released my hand.
“I am,” he said.
“Well ‘en, gitcher butts down ‘ere fer some dinner y’all,” Kaylah called from downstairs.
I kissed Jonathan as I stepped into the hall. He wrapped a warm arm around me and swapped places with me, pressing my back firmly against the wall as his tongue danced with mine. Sheppard and Kristos headed downstairs as I lost myself in Jonathan’s kiss.
“I love you, Dreamer,” he whispered to me.
My heart could have exploded with joy to hear him say it without the pain of his previously broken jaw.
I kissed him again. “I love you too,” I whispered against his mouth.
His absolutely radiant smile appeared as he nuzzled my nose.
Kristos was staying. Jonathan loved me back. And my pack was stronger than ever.