Thirty-Seven

The storm outside was still raging. It seemed that ever since her father had been killed and Teddy had almost followed, the sky couldn’t stop crying and neither could Grey. She’d had had to explain to Teddy’s family what was happening because he wasn’t in any shape to do so, and the guilt she’d felt during the entire conversation had nearly suffocated her. She knew she’d have to talk to Julian about it again, too. That was going to be a difficult conversation to have, no doubt. He’d been so understanding and quick to act when she’d first told him about it, sending them an angel in the form of his very own nurse, but now that things weren’t so dire, she knew she was in for an interrogation. He’d want to know everything; soon, he’d know it was Grey’s fault that Teddy was in the shape he was in because she’d been stupid, leaving him alone with Shepherd even knowing what he was capable of.

Teddy was sleeping again, his breaths evened out. Grey didn’t think she could ever leave his side again, not after what had happened. It had been terrifying, seeing the normally strong and vibrant man limp and lifeless for days on end. And then, when he wasn’t so lifeless, full of agony—calling out Julian’s name, her name, his body twisting and making the injuries even worse as they struggled to calm him down. She let out a shaky breath.

The door behind her crept open, and she glanced behind her to see that it was Alex. He looked as exhausted as she felt, dark circles beneath his eyes and a careful expression on his face. They hadn’t really had a chance to talk about their relationship but she knew that was going to have to come up sooner or later, too.

“Hey,” Alex said. “We need to talk.”

Grey nodded, although she didn’t know if she had the strength to deal with all of this. She’d lost her father, almost lost Teddy (and Julian, though under different circumstances) and she didn’t know where her mother was or if she was okay. She’d been in care-giver mode since Teddy had gone down, which helped to distract her from the other stuff. Now that he was fine, everything was coming down on her at once.

Still, she couldn’t allow herself to give in, to think of any of that just yet. She still had so much that needed doing; they had talked a lot about what Shepherd’s true plan must have been; she’d explained to them how he had tried to kill Teddy in an attempt to get stronger, which prompted Alex to explain an old myth about how a beta’s strength could be taken back into the Lycan who changed him if he killed him.

But they had also found out something important: that Teddy was quite a special case, considering he had rose to alpha status while his Lycan alpha was still alive, and if Shepherd truly wanted to be invincible, he would have to have Teddy willingly sacrifice his life to his alpha. It had been a relief; there was no way that Teddy would ever give himself up like that, not to Shepherd. Not with Grey still here; not with Julian waiting for him. It also meant that Shepherd likely wouldn’t come back for Teddy just yet. He’d have to find some leverage, which meant they had time to plan their own counter attack.

“Grey?”

It took her a moment to realize that she’d zoned out after Alex had asked her to talk. Her mind seemed to be working itself in circles lately. “Sorry,” she began, then rose shakily to her feet.

The world tilted wildly in her vision and she felt the moment her legs started to buckle, but she could do nothing to stop it. Alex was there in a flash, catching her in his arms. When Grey’s vision cleared finally, she found herself looking into his concerned face. “Are you okay?” he asked, voice laced with more care than she had any right to expect after their last encounter.

“I’m fine,” she said, shaking her head and trying to disentangle herself from Alex’s arms, but he held onto her.

“You’re not fine,” he said with conviction, gazing at her with an inscrutable look in his eyes. “You’ve been trying so hard to keep it together for all of us, and nobody has been looking after you. I’m sorry, Grey. You’ve had it worse than all of us.”

Grey would have argued. She was not fragile; she didn’t need anyone to look after her. But she had no strength to do any of that and she couldn’t help it, curling herself up into his arms like a small child and burying her face in his shirt. “I’m sorry,” she got out. “About before. I should have…I should have talked to you about what you wanted out of the relationship before making assumptions…I never…”

“Shh,” Alex said, running his hands through her hair. “None of that matters now. I shouldn’t have made assumptions, either, and anyway, the future is the future. Why don’t we just worry about the present?”

Grey nodded into his chest, squeezing her eyes shut. She didn’t cry. Honestly, she was all cried out. So much had happened; so much was still happening.

Alex reached down and tipped her face up so that he was gazing into her eyes. There was tenderness there, and acceptance, and…

“I love you,” he said finally, and Grey’s heart skipped a beat. “I don’t care that you’re technically married to Teddy; I don’t care that we might not ever have kids, or that you likely will have kids with Teddy in some way or other. I just…I want to be part of your life, no matter what. And I know that I’m going to have a hard time sometimes, because fuck, I am a jealous lover, but if that’s what I have to endure to remain by your side, I’ll do it.”

There weren’t words for the gift Alex had just given her. So instead of trying, she reached up and pulled his face down to hers so that they were kissing. She tried to convey every emotion, good and bad and in between, in the kiss; she filled herself with the sensation of him. She didn’t know how this was all going to work out either, but she didn’t want to let go of Alex; she couldn’t. In a lot of ways, her love for him was the only thing that made sense in her life right now.

“Gross, why don’t you two get a room?” came a voice from the door and the two broke apart to see Kol standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame with his arms folded.

“Technically, this is my room,” Alex said after their kiss had been broken, his lips red and swollen.

He stood, pulling Grey gently up with him and holding her against his chest so that she could lean her weight into him.

“Well…” Kol began, then decided it wasn’t worth it. “Anyway, we should probably talk about things. Any chance that Teddy will be up again soon?”

“Yeah,” Teddy said gruffly from his place in the bed. “I woke up from the sound of these two sucking face, but didn’t want to announce my presence. Figured they needed a minute.”

Grey felt her cheeks heat up at that, but she heard Alex chuckle and he pressed a light kiss to her hair. “So let’s talk,” he said, pulling a chair up to Teddy’s bedside. Grey took her seat on the bed next to Teddy, her hand finding his with ease. Rather than find a chair himself, Kol flopped down on the bed on Teddy’s other side, stretching out and making himself comfortable.

Teddy rolled his eyes, but made no move to push him off and allowed Kol instead to drape an arm around his side casually. It was a surprisingly intimate gesture, but Grey couldn’t help but smile; apparently, Teddy and Kol had become somewhat fond of each other despite their tendency to bicker.

“What are we going to do about this?” Alex asked once everyone was settled.

Nobody spoke at first, unsure where they should go. They knew they had to deal with Shepherd somehow, but they had no idea how. What could they do? They were a bunch of kids, in over their heads. Any adult help they could have gotten had died with Grey’s dad, Ulfric and Barrett. Their loss was a constant heavy weight in the pit of Grey’s stomach and now everything was down to them—how had things gotten this messed up?

“Not to sound too pessimistic,” Kol said finally, “But I think that it’s going to be out of our hands soon enough.”

“What do you mean? You don’t have any precognition abilities…” Alex said.

“I just mean that Shepherd isn’t going to just sit by. He’s going to come for us somehow, some way. He needs Teddy, but if he can’t get to Teddy, he’s going to find a way to make Teddy come to him.”

“You don’t think…” Grey began, catching Teddy’s eyes.

“We should call Julian,” Teddy agreed to the unspoken question. “He’s the only one of us not here.”

“What’s calling going to do?” Kol asked. “It’s not like I know the kid that well, but he’s not exactly capable of defending himself. Even if he knows to expect Shepherd.”

The words made Grey’s throat constrict and she felt Teddy tighten his grip on her hand. “We have to go.”

“You aren’t going anywhere!” Grey commanded. “We only just managed to stop you from dying, Teddy, we’re not risking you. Besides, that’s exactly what Shepherd wants.”

“You can’t go either, Grey,” Alex said.

Grey turned a thunderous gaze on him, feeling every hair on her body stand on end at the suggestion.

“You haven’t slept in days; you nearly collapsed not five minutes ago,” Alex continued, unbothered by the display of aggression.

Teddy glanced up at that, giving Grey a severe look that made her want to disappear into the mattress. Still, she shook her head. “I’m fine,” she said. “Besides, I won’t be going alone. You’ll be with me.”

Alex still didn’t seem comfortable, so Grey reached across to take his hand in the one of hers which wasn’t currently latched onto Teddy. “Julian will need a friendly face—one he knows well—when we tell him about this whole mess with Shepherd. He’s been through a lot, too much, and honestly…I need to see him too.”

Grey knew her eyes were pleading, and she also knew that Alex couldn’t win this argument. He sighed, then nodded. “Fine, but I’m not going anywhere with you being a second away from collapsing. I imagine Julian will be fine for just one more night—why don’t you get some rest?”

They had no way of knowing if he would be—not really—but they also knew that in her current state, she couldn’t do anything to help him anyways. So with a heavy, uncomfortable heart, she nodded her agreement.

It was the wrong choice.

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