The clearing was occupied when Teddy arrived and it took him a moment to remember that the congregation was actually for him. His heart still ached with Julian’s rejection, so he wasn’t able to muster the kind of enthusiasm he’d thought the day would bring. Grey looked equally dismal.
“Hey,” he said, coming to stand beside her.
Grey sighed and leaned into him. “I hate my life,” she said.
“You too, huh?” Teddy asked sympathetically.
Grey nodded, closing her eyes. “Alex isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of me being married to someone else, even if that someone’s you. I thought he’d be happy, but for some reason he thought I would marry him,” she explained.
“But how would you continue your family line that way?” Teddy asked.
“Right?” Grey added. “But apparently, he was thinking that I’d turn my back on my whole pack, not just my mother, so that I could be with him. Is that selfish of him, or am I just being paranoid?”
“I guess it’s all a matter of perspective,” Teddy said. “Anyway, it’s better than what happened with Julian today.”
Grey immediately turned to him, eyes wide. “What happened to him? Is he all right?”
Teddy shook his head. “He’s the same old Jules. Except…” Teddy sighed. “He knows everything. Well, not everything, but enough. Worse, he said he wanted to be one of us.”
“Oh, Teddy…” Grey said, and he could hear the pity in her voice. “You told him no, didn’t you?”
“Of course I did! Grey, you know how I feel about this fucking curse.”
“Ugh, you idiot,” Grey groaned, running a hand over her face. “I know how you feel about it, but that doesn’t mean you just force others to feel how you feel. You have a mature discussion about it and let people make their own choices. Jesus–what am I going to do with you two?”
“That sounds an awful lot like judgement,” Teddy complained.
“That’s because it is. Teddy, I’ve known you two forever. I’ve never met people who care so much about each other but are so stupid when it comes to dealing with each other. In his mind, you told him that how you feel about being a werewolf is more important than his actual life.”
“That’s not what I meant at all!” Teddy protested. A few of the gathered werewolves turned to look at them, which made Teddy’s cheeks burn. He couldn’t believe it; first Julian was against him and now Grey. Would he ever be able to stop offending everyone around him?
“It doesn’t matter what you meant. That’s what it came off as. Next chance he gets to receive visitors, we’re going there together and we’re going to fix this. I’ve already had my relationship screwed up for now; I’m not letting you screw up things with Jules, too. You’re my last hope for a true love story.”
Teddy rolled his eyes, but he felt a little better. Having Grey there as back up would hopefully help him to avoid making stupid mistakes. One would think that after all these years, he’d understand Julian’s mind a little more, but the truth was when it came to things like this, he was absolutely clueless. Even now, with the truth finally out in the open, he felt more fear than relief. He kept thinking that because Julian now knew about the supernatural world, it would hurt him in some way. It was ridiculous—the supernatural world could have hurt him at any point, whether he knew about it or not. And the normal world, it had already hurt Julian enough. None of it seemed fair, but at least now Julian would know why things were happening to him a little more. So why couldn’t Teddy feel happy about the fact that he finally could be honest about everything with Julian?
“Dad’s motioning for us,” Grey said suddenly. “Ceremony will start soon.”
Teddy felt a thrill at that. It was the first time he felt something approaching happiness about anything to do with being a werewolf. For so long, it had been a source of misery. But with his union with Grey, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe they could finally have the pack they always wanted with minimal interference from others. They would both be full adults in the eyes of the others and that meant a great deal to both of them; for Grey, it was independence. For Teddy, it was release in a sense. His only true obligation would be to Grey, rather than the villain who’d done this to him in the first place and that meant a lot to him; he’d lived forever controlled by what Shepherd had done and now that Shepherd was dead, he was ready to move on from him in every sense.
The ceremony itself was a simple one, but tricky in that the ceremony had to be completed just before the moon rose and Teddy transformed. If they didn’t finish what they had to by then, it would be pretty awkward for everyone involved. Already, he felt a flutter of nervousness. He hadn’t transformed in front of anyone except for Grey in years, and now he’d have to do it in front of the entire council.
Grey took his hand, sensing his nervousness. She offered him a smile of comfort and he forced himself to relax further. He could do this; he knew he could.
“Shall we begin?” Roman said, regarding both with a fond expression. One would be hard-pressed to find any indication that this was difficult for him, but Teddy knew it had to be. It was difficult, giving up on something that you knew everyone around you believed in so much, to the point of fanaticism. In fact, as charged as the topic was in their own little Savannah chapter, he knew that other chapters, other packs, were even more fanatic. There was a reason wolves seldom congregated together and the group that Teddy belonged to, which answered to Roman’s Lycan Council, was rare enough on its own; werewolf packs very seldom combined forces. But Roman’s desire to change things seemed sincere, and that drew people together, made them believe anything was possible. Grey’s mother, however, was not so happy. Her face was a tight-lipped expression, eyes darting around as if waiting for someone to leap from the bushes.
When both had indicated that they were ready, Roman carefully tied a black ribbon around both of their hands in a complicated pattern that indicated the interweaving of lives, of tradition and new beginnings. It was a beautiful pattern and Teddy wondered how many weddings one had to perform in order to perfect it; then he wondered how often those marriages really worked. He kept his eyes trained on Grey’s, startled once more by the stunning beauty of them and the complicated color that he had never really seen on anyone else before, finding comfort in those hazel depths.
Once the ribbon had been tied, Roman pulled out a silver knife. This was the hardest part of the wedding ceremony. It was a double-edged dagger, the blade made of pure silver, and any werewolf who was cut with it would have a scar. It was this scar that marked a married couple—it was more permanent than any ring, and since it was inserted between the bound hands, slicing both simultaneously, the blood mingled. Between two Lycans, this simply solidified the pack-mind between them; but for a Lycan and a beta, as Grey and Teddy were, it would give Teddy some small measure of an alpha’s abilities. He would control his transformations a little more, maintain more of his mind during Full Moons, and could control betas as long as the beta didn’t resist too much.
Roman began speaking, the words a foreign language that most had long forgotten the meaning of but which lived on in this tradition as well as the traditions of births and deaths. It was a beautiful language—and Teddy found himself closing his eyes and nodding his head to it; this would make a good song, he decided, if he could learn the cadence of this language.
When the dagger came, it was not a surprise and yet it hurt nevertheless. The silver burned, both going in between their hands and being pulled swiftly out. He heard Grey’s soft gasp of pain, his own sharp intake of breath. The pain didn’t recede; if anything, it increased until Teddy was biting his lip, and then he realized that it wasn’t just the slice along his palm. It was the transformation, taking hold even as their hands were still bound.
His eyes flashed open, panic written in his face, but Grey held his gaze. “This is part of it, Teddy,” she whispered, or maybe she didn’t speak at all. “Control it. You have the ability.”
Teddy clenched his jaw, his grip on Grey’s hand tightening as he felt the tingling agony become almost unbearable. “I can’t,” he gasped. His teeth were already elongating.
“Fight!” Grey growled and he saw her teeth were also elongating.
The command seeped into his bones, igniting the fire that was already burning in his veins. His need to obey his Lycan mate warred valiantly against the natural inclination of the change and the agony was on another level. But he knew which impulse he wanted to win, and with everything in him, he did what Grey told him to: he fought.
Finally, the pain began to recede like a wave ebbing with the tide. He felt Grey’s pride, her love for him, her hopes for their future; they were a balm against the agony of moments before and he began to feel the pain on his hand more distinctly. This was it; he’d done it. Somehow, even as the full moon appeared in the sky, he was still human. He let out a breathless laugh, and Grey was laughing too. “You did it,” she gasped and that was when she grabbed his face and kissed his lips.
He was surprised by the gesture, but so full was his heart that he returned it without question.
Roman’s voice sounded pleased. “I now pronounce you…”
But that was as far as he got before a silver arrow embedded itself in his heart.