Timeline: January 30, 2009
This wasn’t supposed to happen. This was an anathema to what Chaska thought of as ‘family’. But it was over even though the ramifications of what happened were far from over. He knew this was going to tear at Lyla just as much as it was him if not more. How was she going to react to it all? How was she going to react to Iron Claw sending practically the entire pack against her? Would it even phase her? How was Rey going to react to Lyla now that she was the alpha female? Those answers would likely have to come in time.
Lyla stirred in his arms. Chaska was taking her to one of his quiet spots in the woods. He needed to feel serene himself if he was going to heal Lyla and his heart quieted by nature was the best way to concentrate.
He reached the clearing with his makeshift lean-to still intact. He laid her down on the soft snow and shifted into the shape of the native mountain lion. He didn’t feel like being a wolf at this moment. His rough cat tongue would also help in cleaning the wounds as his healing saliva worked its magic on Lyla.
After a few minutes Lyla stirred awake. “Ouch,” she exclaimed. “That damned tongue of yours hurts.” She was in pain and the abrasiveness of Chaska’s tongue only seem to bring her aches and pains into keen focus. She laid back down realizing that Chaska had stopped licking. “Sorry, it just hurts. I’ll be quiet now while you continue.”
Chaska began licking again but was being gentle. He was not being playful like he usually was when he was healing Lyla. Usually it was cause for celebration since it meant they had just escaped yet another challenge with their lives.
Chaska licked for a good hour before he stopped. Lyla felt better even though she could still feel several of her injuries. She could feel the air change slightly as Chaska changed back to human form. He reached into his bag and pulled out a rag and got it wet with the water from a bottle in his bag. He continued to clean off her wounds with the rag.
“I hope you feel better than you look.” Chaska smiled.
Lyla sighed. She couldn’t help a little teasing, even at a time like this. She faked a moan of pleasure, ignoring the pain of her gunshot wounds. “A few more minutes of that and you’d have found my soft, gooey center. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good licking by a pussycat.”
Chaska grinned. “I never was very good at finding how many licks it took to get to the center of a tootsie-pop.”
She propped herself up on her elbows. In a more serious voice, she sad, “Thank you Chaska. You’re a really good friend to me.” She placed her hands firmly on the ground to either side of her hips and carefully lifted herself to a sitting position where she could lean against a tree.
She watched him for a long moment as he continued to clean and bind her wounds. It was January and both cold and snowy, but Chaska knew what he was doing. He’d built a big, warm fire, and took advantage of the lean-to that was supported between two trees here. It had kept most of the snow out and seemed to cup the warmth of the fire. Even better, he’d found thick furs in which to wrap her body to keep her warm while she healed.
Lyla put either hand to her head and smoothed her hair in a gesture that Chaska knew revealed anxiety. “God. I hope that fight I put up was a good one. I knew I didn’t have much of a chance against all of them but I wanted so bad to make Ironclaw worry at least for a moment, that I’d beat them all. Shit. He fucking took everything, Chaska! Or at least he is trying to.”
Chaska was examining a claw mark on her arm and kept his eyes on it while he spoke. “Well I think you gave Iron Claw more to worry about than he expected.” He finished inspecting the wound and looked up at her and was very solemn. “I’m sorry for what happened back there, Lyla. Every fiber of my being wanted to jump in and help you. But I knew I couldn’t because I would have raged against them and it wasn’t that kind of battle. I wish I had the courage you did and could have been as defiant as you. As it is I think you gained more than you think but you did indeed pay a heavy price.”
Chaska paused as if trying to figure out how to say what he was going to say next. “So what now?” He looked at Lyla inquiringly. “I don’t think your friendship with Rey is going to keep her from taking advantage of the situation. And while I’m on the subject how in the name of Father Bear could Iron Claw have given Rey the chance to be an alpha?!” Chaska had changed his mood when mentioning Rey. His mood was dark and bordering on anger. “Iron Claw went too far. He showed his weakness as a leader today in letting his frustration cloud his judgment. He had no grounds to treat us the way he did today, especially you.” Chaska stopped talking realizing that he was working himself up into a angry mood.
“True,” Lyla agreed. “I believe Ironclaw is threatened by my power and the freedom I exercise.” She reached out and stroked his arm in a soothing way. “I have the power and strength to do whatever I like. And I do. After what he’s seen tonight, I think he knows now that I am stronger than he realized. I believe I am stronger even than he is now. I wield more influence with the spirits, and I am a better warrior. I have influence and power that reaches beyond this pack and this little territory. As lupa, I looked after my girls and I influenced him as I liked, when I liked.
“I think he is jealous of my power,” Lyla said simply. “So he had to try to break my power. It might work,” she admitted with a shrug. “But I won’t just roll over. Not even for a friend, Rey.”
“Well be careful, Lyla. You are probably right but don’t make the same mistake he has by underestimating him. And don’t underestimate Rey’s thirst for power. She knows that she doesn’t stand a chance against you one on one in a real dominance fight so she will likely look to weaken you. You weren’t conscious when he said it but Iron Claw put a stop to any dominance fights for 6 months as well giving her time to establish her self. He has stacked the deck against you. He is squeezing you and I think in some respect he expects you to react to it in your typical fashion. So it may be what he wants after all.”
Chaska looked away from Lyla. “Perhaps it might be time to break from the pack.” A sad look came over his face. “I don’t know if that is the answer or not but something in me broke a little tonight and I don’t know if it is fixable. Yes, we are beasts at our core but we are also humans and have human emotions but the human side of us was denied tonight and the pack reverted to pure bestial desires.” He turned back to Lyla with real concern in his eyes and face. “How can we live together if we resolve all of our problems like a pack of wild dogs? The strength of the Uratha is their control, not their willingness to lose it.”
Chaska paused a long while. “I love you, Lyla. I always have and that love has only grown stronger as pack mates. Sure, that love has changed over time and for the best but I love you as much as I could love anyone. What happened tonight to you is shameful and it hurts me as much as your wounds hurt you. I try to teach my daughter that kind of love and that kind of acceptance but what would she learn from such a lesson that was delivered by Iron Claw tonight? Well I’ll tell you. Iron Claw doesn’t love us. He doesn’t love the feeling of being a pack mate. He wants control pure and simple. He only wants us to bend to his will. What we did in Boston was not just for the good of Ramiel. It was for the good of our pack as well and Iron Claw spat in our faces for it. I’m not sure I can live like that.”
Chaska visibly relaxed as he paused to calm himself before speaking again. “It was bad enough that working with the others such as Michael, John and Ann-Marie was getting difficult but at least there was always the pack to fall back to. What do we have now? What comfort is there anymore?”
Lyla watched his eyes as he spoke. When he finished, she moved her body next to his and then shared the furs that were keeping her naked body warm with him, adding the comfort of her warmth to his. She let him put his arm around her if he wanted to and snuggled there, enjoying the heat of of their bodies working against the cold winter weather. “Thank you, Chaska. I love you, too. I know it might not be the kind of love you’ve always wanted, but it’s still love.
“I understand your frustration. Believe me, I understand it thoroughly. But we can’t break from the pack. Aside from the simple fact that only two of us could not hold territory against intrusion by other Uratha, much less the Pure, we both still love our pack. Ironclaw made a mistake today. Hopefully he will not make it again, but if not, isn’t it our duty to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake again? Isn’t it our duty to the pack which demands we try to make it stronger, not fracture it?”
Her fingers traced light patterns across his chest as she spoke. “You speak of comfort. Perhaps there is still comfort to be had with the pack?” She looked up at him with eyes that held invitation.
Chaska’s eyes softened and he smiled. “You are right of course. I just need to vent it sometimes so that I can hear it said aloud. It’s not always easy to play at being the wise sage.”
Chaska leaned in and kissed Lyla. She smiled and returned it, surrendering her body to him and the driving Urge that had awakened in response to the loss of her power to the needs of healing. He could feel the heat of her increase as she turned and spread her legs around him. The painful gut wound remained, but she moved slowly, delicately. For her, the pain did not deter her intention to comfort Chaska.
Chaska knew her intent and as much as he wanted it to continue he gently rebuffed her. “No, no, no,” he said with a slightly playful grin as he gently laid her back down. “You are in no condition for such activity young lady.” He knew it would upset Lyla but only a little. He had seen the pain in her face. Causing her more pain was guilt he didn’t want to try and rationalize away later. “Besides,” he continued, “i’m sure Ramiel is wondering where you are by now.
He got out of the furs to feel the frosty night air in his version of a cold shower. The sky was clear and he could see several of the recognizeable constellations through the leafless treetops. He stretched his body and could feel some of his tension leave him. Afterwards, he bent down over Lyla. “Let’s see what shape you are in, shall we?” He reached his hand out to offer her help in getting up. She got out of the furs reluctantly and was still trying to pout a little at Chaska but it didn’t last since the jolts of pain kept interrupting her expression with those of pain. Chaska watched her carefully.
“Well, it looks like you’ll live. I’m afraid I am out of essence to continue to heal you, otherwise, I would have liked to have made sure that bullet wound closed. I suspect it will close soon though.” Chaska began to wrap the furs over her shoulders to warm her naked body. “I wish I had some clothes for you to wear but this will have to do I suppose.” He inspected her after he had the furs on her. “Let’s get you home.” With that he picked her up in much the same way he did when she was unconcious just a few hours before. He began to walk back to her house that she shared with Ramiel.
She gratefully let him carry her much of the way home, but eventually she asked for him to put her down. She wanted to walk into the house on her own feet. She didn’t want Ramiel’s blood pressure rising any more than it was going to already. She thanked him again, kissed him on the cheek and smiled sadly at him. She watched him walk away for a few moments before she turned and continued toward the house.