The word kept repeating itself over and over the last few days. Ever since his run in with Kane, to be exact. Just remembering the exchange sent a shot of anger through him, upper lip curling instinctively. Who did Kane think he was?! Spewing such nonsense like that...
Him? In love with Hani
? Absurd! She was his best friend and meant the world to him, sure, but to think that... To even consider... The idea seemed utterly ridiculous.
Despite all his reasoning, he couldn't quite shake off this strange feeling. An unknown weight on his chest as if something held his heart. The muscle thumped almost painfully when the golden female invaded his thoughts. Once again he snarled in frustration and paused in his trek.Damn it, Kane.
His eyelids flung open in a brief moment of brilliance. Maybe the best thing to do was consult a love with experience in this department? He nodded in determination. That had to be it! And, as it just so happened, the perfect wolf to bother was nearby...
Alcatraz was laying in the newly uncovered grass, gnawing on the bone of a recently killed deer, enjoying the thin warmth of the sun as it shone down on him and the melting snowbanks below. It was always wet this time of year, with all the snow melting everywhere, so Alcatraz was happy to find a relatively dry patch of pale green grass to sit and enjoy some chewing.
A dark shape approached and Alcatraz flicked up his pale yellow eyes, and then released the bone where it fell between his paws. “Lawson, good morning.”
the Alpha said.
His contorted features instantly brightened at the greeting. The time the two spent together was nearly nonexistent. When he wasn't busy making and raising pups, he tended to the pack while Lady Athena remained in the den. Being around Alcatraz made him feel at ease, like his old self. The larger male had been there for him at his worst."Morning!"
Gold eyes flickered back and forth dramatically, peering down at his friend with a raised eyebrow. "Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Could it be you're actually alone?"
Smirking boardly, he regarded the minimal dampness of the grass before descending into his haunches.
Alcatraz drew his head back and tilted it slightly, narrowing his eyes in playful suspicion when Lawson scanned the area around them. “I am. And why is that of interest?”
Alcatraz retorted with a growing smirk of his own as his friend sat down. “The One save me, what is it you want with me?”
"It's surprising to see you alone these days. Usually you're off somewhere or surrounded by one of your many children."
He chuckled loudly, the smirk growing even broader. Teasing Traz was too easy sometimes.
He raised a paw. "Don't worry, I'm not here for anything. Well, that's a lie."
The twinkle in his eye vanished one he looked towards the ground. His heart gave a painful lurch as if to remind him of the reason for seeking his friend out. But The One, this was incredibly embarrassing.
Sighing deeply, he raised his head yet looked to the left, unable to meet Traz's eye. "I, um, wanted to ask you something. I mean, get your opinion. Wait, no, I -"
He growled in frustration, completely and utterly tongue tied.
Alcatraz smiled, “Yes it’s been easier now with little ones growing up,”
he said. Now that the pups were getting older Athena could join the pack once again, taking her place at its head, and they were able to bear the weight of leadership together. That gave him more down time than he had since the pups had been found.
His smile disappeared as he saw his friend grow more sober. Even upset… He furrowed his brow, tilting his dark head with his eyes narrowing in concern. Lawson trailed off, unable to continued. After a moment Alcatraz cut in impatiently, “What.”
Lawson immediately went on the defensive. "I'm getting there!"
Blinking, the younger male frowned slightly before raising from his seated position to pace back and forth. "Sorry. Lately, I've been on edge."
That was a bit of an understatement. He walked with his gaze stuck to the ground for a minute before stopping, eyes narrowed.
A deep huff rumbled. "It's all Kane's fault!"
It sounded childish, but he couldn't help blurting out his frustration. "He's too blunt. It pisses me off."
He hadn't seen the large wolf since that day. It was in large part to Lawson purposely avoiding him, not that he'd ever admit to it.
The courser paused again. No use getting ahead of himself. It would be much easier to just ask Alcatraz his question first than go about explaining why he sought him out. With another defeated sigh, Lawson dropped his head. He hated the feeling of his pride begin reduced to rubble, but he couldn't live with the uncertainty anymore. It felt like he was drowning. The only way to be end this suffering was to get answers."How did you know you were in love with Lady Athena?"
Alcatraz blinked in confusion at Lawson’s behavior. It was downright odd, these outbursts. They were so scattered that he was genuinely concerned that something terrible had happened, his eyes narrowed further, and he was about to snap another impatient jab when Lawson finally dropped the hint that tied it all together. How did you know you were in love with Lady Athena?
Ah… so it was love. And Alcatraz didn’t have to think long to know who for. It all made sense now, and Alcatraz was a bit annoyed with himself that he hadn’t realized the source of Lawson’s troubles sooner.
But the question was a strange one, one that Alcatraz didn’t even know how to answer. How did he… know? “It was… a gradual thing…”
It had started as admiration, from the moment Athena had snatched his doe on their first meeting. And his respect had grown as he watched her face innumerable foes fearlessly, learned of her past, how she had been through so much yet still she stood, as proud and dignified and full of life and wonder far greater than any wolf he had ever known. He had suspected his love for her when he chose to help her establish Aryn. Alcatraz was happily a loner, so the fact he felt such an urge to follow Athena, leave the life he loved, was startling to him. But he had done it. And then he had become her Beta, staying by her side, watching her command their pack with a grace that only she could, fearing for her safety with each courageous step she took. It was the battle with Blutwald that had finally dragged Alcatraz to face his emotions head on. He wished he had done it sooner, it was still one of his biggest regrets, even though everything had ended well. By the goodness of The One they had both survived the battle. But in another universe…. in another world… Athena would have been lost to him, with so much left to say. “I knew I loved her the moment I realized that I couldn’t be without her.”
In truth that moment had been long before the war, and long before his confession. It was probably when she had snuck into Blutwald on that reckless mission on her own. Or perhaps before that, on the eve of some other daring risk. Alcatraz wasn’t huge into deep reflection, so it wasn’t something he knew exactly.
He looked back at Lawson, his expression and his eyes gruff as he said, “I waited too long to tell her, Lawson. I feared to risk the friendship that we had. But it is a feeling that will not go away, and we live in a dangerous world. In hindsight, there was no sense in prolonging my suffering. And, most important of all, if you wait but a moment too long… well, then that silence will last forever.”
The knowing look on the Alpha's face made his whole body warm with embarrassment. Alcatraz was smart; he'd know in an instant why Lawson sought him out, asked him these questions. His ears flickered, pressing against his cranium as he squirmed under the silence.
His head jerked up, eyes widening as his friend spoke. His gaze was filled with such hope and confusion, it was almost heart breaking. There were too many unanswered questions plaguing him day and night. New emotions would consume him whenever he saw her, talked to her, thought of her. The answer truly seemed obvious, but he was afraid if he admitted the truth of how he felt, nothing would ever be the same."Oh."
It sounded hollow, but by the male's furrowed brows, it was because he was pondering, not meaning to sound rude.
When he couldn't be without her? His mind drifted to after the Blutwald war, then to the meeting with Starke, and all the times before, after, and in-between. Being apart from her felt painful at times. Like a piece of him was missing. He'd experience a strange sense of loneliness and longing he never could figure out, except it would disappear once her golden pelt came into view.
Flustered, the courser stood, features wracked with desperation. His jaw clenched and he dropped his head, gathering his words. "I don't know how I feel. What if I say something that ruins everything?"
It was fear standing in his way. Anyone with sight could see the harbored affection he felt for her. Why couldn't he?
Alcatraz watched Lawson get up, his discomfort and frustration clear in his movements. No wolf got this worked up over someone else unless the feelings were real. “Alright, so don’t say anything,”
the Alpha countered, “and then what’s the plan? What you feel isn’t going anywhere, Lawson. You live with this frustration and anxiety indefinitely? What an existence that would be.”
Alcatraz got to his paws, frowning a bit, “whatever the outcome, it’s best that you get it over with. Honesty is the only way to a lasting relationship of any kind.”
Alcatraz had a feeling that Hani reciprocated the feelings, from the way she acted with Lawson. But of course there was no guarantee since no one but Hani knew how she felt, so he wouldn’t sugar coat as such. “Either get started with the recovery, or get started with the rest of your life.”
However such a confession would go, at least it would be a path forward for Lawson, instead of his current method of teetering precariously in a state of unknown.
The words washed over him like a cold rain. To be honest, he never even considered what would happen if he remained silent. Would he be doomed to feel like this forever, because he was scared? But at the same time, the fear felt valid. The conflicting emotions were driving him mad.
Blinking, he raised his head and took a step back when Alcatraz stood, the gleam in his eyes receding. His friend battled the odds and came out victorious; his mate and pups were proof of that. Could it be possible a similar future was in store for him?
He inhaled deeply."You... you're right."
Lawson looked shocked at his own voice. With a small nod, he stared into Alcatraz's eyes. "I have to tell her. Living like this, I can't do it."
Doubt still lingered in the back of his mind and it kept his paws frozen to the ground.
Alcatraz saw the resolve in his friend’s gaze, and he nodded in approval as their eyes locked. “You do.”
he agreed resolutely. ”You’ll be scared, but just remember that. The One will give you courage.”
Alcatraz promised, an encouraging smile cracking on his muzzle. He had faith in Lawson, just as he always did.
Lawson seemed relaxed for the first time in their conversation, yet his heart was thumping wildly in his chest. It felt like anything was possible with his friend's encouragement. He would find Hani and tell her how he felt. All of it.
It was scary as hell, yes, but it seemed saying something was better than suffering in silence. There would only be so long he could stay silent, push his desires down until the flame extinguished. But no, now, the fire inside burned brilliantly.
He took a few steps backwards, grinning from ear to ear. "Thank you, Traz. I really mean it."
The courser made a mental note to apologize to Kane later. With a twinkle in his eye, he spun around and took off to find a certain someone that held his heart.