Nine

Teddy sighed, clutching the pillows more closely to his chest as the sun filtered through the lace curtains over Grey’s window. As usual, he felt like he’d been run over by a bus and then scraped off the road by an industrial sized pooper-scooper that left a couple bits behind.

He remembered the night before in brief flashes, like watching a movie where you kept falling asleep between scenes; unbearable pain would do that to you. The words were even harder to grasp at, seeming foreign and familiar all at once. He placed his feet on the hardwood floor and stood with a groan. “Grey?” he called. His voice sounded like he’d been chewing on glass.

The petite girl appeared in the doorway a moment later. “Hey, Teddy,” she said, looking vaguely suspicious as she kept the door mostly closed.

Teddy’s eyebrows scrunched together. “Any particular reason you’re not opening the doorway all the way or…?”

Grey bit her lip, then seemed to come to a decision, flinging the door open the rest of the way. Behind her was a man, someone Teddy only vaguely recognized. Whether it was from the night before when he was a wolf or sometime before that in passing, he couldn’t tell.

He yelped, grabbing the pillows and covering up his underwear.

“No, no, don’t cover up for my sake,” he said. “I like the view.”

“Grey! What the hell? Who is he?” Teddy said, cheeks flushed a bright red as he grabbed more pillows and blankets and attempted to bury himself as deep in a blanket fort as he could.

“I’ll explain just…don’t tell my mom I brought Kol here.”

“Kol? Who is Kol? Why is he here? Where are my clothes!?”

Grey hurried over to the dresser and pulled out an extra pair of Teddy’s clothes she kept at her house for occasions like this one.

Teddy yanked them out of her hands and ran as fast as he could for the bathroom. As he dressed, he called back out, “You know she’s going to smell him the second she gets home.”

“Kol says he has a spell for that,” Grey said.

“And you don’t find that the least bit worrying?” Teddy replied. He yanked on his pants, then his shirt, before making his way out. He gave Kol a long, hard look before continuing his conversation with Grey. “He could come and go whenever he wants and you won’t be any the wiser. He could be dangerous.”

“And so are we,” Grey returned, and a bit of the alpha crept into her voice. Teddy had to fight the urge to bow his head in submission.

“Besides,” Kol said, reminding them both that he was, in fact, still here. “It doesn’t work like that. It’s more like…an illusion. If you know it exists, you can see through it. But if nobody tells our lady’s mother, she shouldn’t be any the wiser. At least, not until she meets me. Once she knows and recognizes my scent, the spell is moot.”

Teddy decided not to focus on the way he called Grey ‘our’ lady, as if he were part of them. “Why did you bring him here?”

“Last night we found something. Do you remember?”

Teddy tried to think back through his blurry, disjointed memories. A smell came to mind. “Death. Somebody died.”

“Ten points to Gryffindor for the tall blonde,” Kol said. “It was a fairy, to be exact. Nasty business.”

“Turns out, there’s someone missing from at least three of the four species. Shepherd for the weres…”

“A coven leader named Malik for the witches,” Kol supplied.

“And we don’t know who the fairy was, but the fact that he or she died on werewolf lands will not bode well for us,” Grey said.

“We think someone’s trying to start a war between all the species, starting with the werewolves and fairies. They’re counting on the witches to be too wrapped up in their own missing person to get involved. But they made a mistake,” Kol said.

“What’s that?” Teddy asked, rubbing his head. This was a lot to process on the morning after a full moon. He just wanted to head home early and cuddle with Julian on the couch for the next few days while a Game of Thrones marathon played on the television.

“They sent me,” Kol said brightly. “Most witches here wouldn’t dream of working with the werewolves—too much bad blood—but I’m new. I don’t mind working with anyone to get to the bottom of this whole thing.”

“And how, exactly, do we know you’re not a part of this? How do we know you’re not here to distract us from our own missing person by focusing our investigation on the death of this fairy?” Teddy asked, knowing he sounded paranoid but unable to stop himself. It was difficult for him to trust people—let alone people that conveniently showed up and tried to insert themselves into an investigation that was supposed to be just that: an investigation into a missing werewolf. He didn’t want to entertain the idea that there could be more going on, that a war might be on the horizon.

“Teddy…” Grey began.

“Look, I get it—you trust this Kol. But I think we need more evidence before we assume his side of the story is right and start putting the idea of a war into the universe.”

“Are you done?” Kol asked, folding his arms and arching an eyebrow.

Teddy puffed out his chest, opening his mouth to show him just now not done he was, but then he swallowed the words. “Yes.”

“Good, because I don’t actually care if you believe me or not. I didn’t ask for any of this, okay? I came here because I wanted to study film and television. But when shit like this happens and I get tossed into it, it is in my immediate best interests to avoid war at all costs. Wars are distracting; wars can get you killed. If there’s even the slightest chance that someone is trying to ignite old hatreds and start a war, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop it. At least until I finish my master’s and can move to Hollywood—then you guys can kill each other all you want.”

Teddy exchanged a look with Grey; he still wasn’t sure that he trusted Kol, but he did have a point. “Fine. We’ll look into it—but only because it’s the only clue I have about Shepherd’s disappearance. It’s my job to find him, first and foremost.”

Grey nodded. “That’s all we ask.”

“Great, now that that’s decided,” Kol said. “I’m going to head home and see if I can get any spiritual guidance from my ancestors.”

“Really?” Grey asked, sounding curious.

“No, I’m going to take a nap. I’m exhausted.”

That was the first thing that Teddy agreed with on every point. He groaned and flopped down into Grey’s pillows while she showed Kol to the door.

When she came back in, she flopped down onto the bed next to him, resting her head on his shoulder. “You really hate Kol, huh?”

“No,” Teddy said. “Not really.”

“You just don’t trust him?”

“I don’t trust much of anyone, Grey,” he said. “It’s just hard for me to accept somebody else knowing about me, about everything. Not even Jules knows and he…”

“I know,” Grey said, snuggling into Teddy’s shoulder some more with a sigh. “How is he? I texted him earlier and he asked me to kill him. I obviously didn’t put much stock in that, but he usually has some kind of a reason to request immediate death.”

“He’s sick,” Teddy said, smiling fondly; his best friend was a piece of work. “He was running a pretty high fever the other night. I set up a doctor’s appointment for him and he was supposed to go yesterday, but he didn’t tell me what the doctor said yet. I haven’t exactly had a chance to touch base with him. How about you?”

“Hm? What about me?” Grey asked, glancing up at him with her big hazel eyes.

“We never got a chance to talk about what happened at the summit the other night,” Teddy said. “About your…betrothal.”

Grey groaned. “I was trying to forget that part,” she said.

Teddy chuckled. “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to trigger you. But seriously—marriage?”

“I’m still hoping there’s a way to avoid it,” Grey admitted. “I…almost hope Shepherd turns out dead like that fairy. Is that terrible of me?”

Teddy considered this, wanting to answer as honestly as he could. “Honestly, I kind of hope the same thing,” he said after a moment. “I’d be free then. At least, mostly free. I’d still obviously transform, but my obligation to the pack ends with him. I could join another but…”

“But of course you wouldn’t,” Grey said, smiling.

“Still, if it turns out that he was murdered by one of the other supernaturals…” Teddy said. “The Council could press me into the service of another pack for the remainder of the war. Not to mention, there wouldn’t be a safe place in all of Savannah for anybody—not even normal people like Julian. And I don’t want that.”

“Me neither,” Grey said. “And if it does come to war, they could force me to marry someone else anyway. I’d still lose my right to choose. At least with Shepherd, I’d get to join your pack. I just…wish there was something else.”

“It’s a shitty situation no matter the outcome,” Teddy admitted with a sigh.

Grey pressed a light kiss to his shoulder. “At least we have each other?”

“Always,” Teddy said, squeezing her in a hug. “But let’s take advantage of the temporary downtime and grab a nap ourselves, huh? You know how transformations take it out of me.”

Grey nodded. “Good plan, naps are the best. I’m a little run-down myself after stressing out all night about this situation. Maybe after, I can cook Jules some homemade soup to make him feel better.”

Teddy smiled, allowing his eyes to drift closed. “I like your thinking,” he murmured, then drifted off to sleep.

 

 

 

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