Thirteen

When Grey got the phone call from Teddy, she had left immediately. But before the call had come, she had words with Kol and Alex.

“Wait, how do you know about witches? Why do you know Kol?” Alex asked, looking flustered and confused. It was actually an adorable look on him, but a lot of things started to click for her as he seemed to admit, if indirectly, that he was a witch.

It explained how he knew so much about her—witches could divine a lot about a person if they had a name and some kind of a connection with them—but still didn’t know the one thing about her that was meant to be a secret, that she was a Lycan. Of course, she was about to give him that news and she wasn’t afraid to admit that part of her wanted him to throw a fit about that; he had been too perfect, the date far too ideal. Grey wanted to mix things up a little.

“I caught him snooping in my territory the other night,” Grey said. “Looked awfully squirrelly.”

Kol arched an eyebrow as if to say Really? You’re gonna go with that pun?

But Grey refused to back down from the pun; it was out in the world now. “Were you the coven leader that sent him to spy on us?”

Alex’s chest puffed out. “I would never!”

Kol laughed. “Alexian? Coven leader? Not in this lifetime.”

“Shut up, Kol,” Alex said, his cheeks burning even redder if that were possible. “Grey, you have to believe me. If I’d known…”

“That I was a Lycan?” Grey supplied helpfully.

“If I’d known it was your territory, I would have volunteered for that mission myself. I would have told you everything I know. I’ve always supported a stronger alliance between witches and weres, like in the old times.”

“Oh, you mean the old times when witches like you would place silver collars and leashes on us so that you could control us?” The old tales had haunted Grey as a child. Her mother would tell her all about it when she would question why the different species hated each other so much.  Lycan hunting and trapping was legendary and the primary reason for why pure Lycans were so rare now, why they needed arranged marriages to continue their race.

“No,” Alex said, his voice surprisingly steely. “The real old days, when the Native American shamans joined forces with the werewolves in order to chase off the invading Europeans. When our mutual love of nature was stronger than our need for dominance. And for the record, werewolves weren’t innocent in those later times, either. They were attacking our people in their beds, stealing our children and eating them. Nobody has forgotten the winter of 1899. The silver collars were all we had to protect ourselves from you.”

Grey had never heard that part of the story before, so she was temporarily stunned into silence. She had heard that winters where it was especially cold caused their wolf natures to grow; in the old days, Lycans would spend most of the winter as wolves because the fur would keep them warmer than their human skins. With the advent of modern technology and heaters, that had become less necessary, but she could see how spending so much time as a wolf could result in larger attacks against humans, especially in winter when food was scarce.

“Fascinating history lesson,” Kol said, finishing watering one of his plants. It seemed to grow even as Grey watched, curling towards Kol as if wanting to embrace him. He petted it idly, like it was a cat. “But this whole ‘bad blood’ thing is precisely why I’m supposed to be the witchy liaison. What are you two doing together?”

“Date,” they both answered, glancing at each other almost bashfully, then quickly away.

“And did you kids enjoy yourselves?”

“Yes,” they mumbled again, though Grey didn’t want to admit it.

“Great, so it’s decided.”

“What’s decided?” Alex asked, looking just as miffed at the turn of events as Grey.

“Old prejudices are stupid and we need to all just get along. If you guys enjoy spending time together, you should spend more time together. Who cares if you have a super intense time of the month? Or that you can commune with the dead?”

“It doesn’t work like that for me…”

“It’s a different kind of commune, it’s not zombies or…”

Both Grey and Alex stopped mid-sentence, then laughed.

“You two disgust me with your adorable selves,” Kol declared. “Now is probably a bad time to tell you that I already got your girlfriend to straddle me half-naked, isn’t it?”

Alexian looked horrified, so Grey opened her mouth to explain, but that was when her phone chirped. She pulled it out. “Teddy,” she said, reading the caller ID.

“Big blonde guy?” Alex asked.

“Hottie with the body?” Kol added.

Grey gave them an exasperated look, then answered the phone. “What’s up?”

She listened to the rather abrupt sentence, then felt her heart turn into a block of ice in her chest. “I have to go,” she told the witches. “We’ll have to talk more about this whole situation later. Right now, Jules needs me.”

“Skinny guy with the black hair and the incredible eyebrows, always gets the leads in the school’s plays? The one you always kiss in those very school plays?” Alex asked. “Do you have any girl friends at all?”

“Ohh, I haven’t met him yet. Is he cute too?”

“I really don’t have time for this,” Grey said, though she did smile a little.

Grey was a bit of a speed demon, so it took her almost no time at all to get back to the little apartment. Teddy was waiting for her outside when she arrived, looking worried.

“What is it?” she asked him. “What’s going on?”

“He might be sick,” Teddy said. “Like, really sick.”

“What are you talking about? I thought it was just the flu.”

Teddy shook his head. “Doctor thought it might be more serious and sent in blood tests to be sure; the results weren’t reassuring.”

“Teddy, I need you to tell it to me straight. What’s wrong with Jules?”

“Grey, he might have cancer.”

Grey swallowed. “I can fix it,” she said, voice wavering a bit. “I’ve never tried it, and it’s against the rules but…”

“Grey, no,” Teddy said. “You can’t…we can’t just do that. After everything I’ve been through, how much of my life I had to give up because of this curse, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Besides, you know it doesn’t always take. It could kill him.”

“So could cancer,” Grey argued.

“But do you really want that on your conscience? Think about it—if you bit him, and he died because of it, you’d have to live with that the rest of your life. Can you honestly say to me that you would be fine with that?” Teddy searched her face.

Grey opened her mouth, but the words died on her tongue. “What do we do?”

“I don’t know,” Teddy admitted, his voice soft. “Be there for him, I guess? And you know, maybe it’s not cancer. Maybe it’s just the flu and it messed up his results. Maybe everything will be fine. And if it is cancer, if he really has it…maybe it won’t be bad. Maybe he’ll do the chemotherapy or whatever and it’ll cure him and he’ll come out of it with this incredible story of survival and recovery. Everyone says suffering is the food of art.”

“Or maybe he’ll die,” Grey said, “And we’ll have to live with the fact that we watched him die; that we had a potential cure, and we let him die anyway.”

She didn’t let Teddy speak again, pushing past him and into the apartment. Her steps carried her swiftly to his room and she opened the door. The light was on, though he was buried in his covers. She didn’t announce her presence; she didn’t have to. She simply climbed into the bed and buried herself in Julian’s covers as well, her hand resting comfortably on his sharp hip bone.

His eyes were open, bloodshot from crying, and he surveyed her silently beneath those covers. She moved her hand from his hip up to his cheek. “Julian Michael Thorne,” she said, putting every ounce of her alpha powers into her voice even though Jules was not a werewolf. “You are not allowed to die. Do you understand me?”

Julian didn’t say anything right away, but a beat later, a small smile tugged at his lips. “I won’t,” he swore, then sighed, burying his face into her collarbone.

Grey held him to her, hand buried in his hair, and she pressed a firm kiss to the top of his head. Neither of them mentioned it when she started to cry, the tears rolling silently down her cheek and into Julian’s hair.

A moment later, Teddy came in as well, taking his position on the other side of Julian. The three held each other like this until all of them were asleep, their faces untroubled by the grim possibility that lay before them.

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