Polaris Skies: Ch 30

Polaris Skies: Legend of the Bai Book 3 by Chapel Orahamm, Mobile home in snow with green glow against storm clouds

Dallas went on forever. The suburbs started almost at the edge of the state line and made for a never nearing horizon.

The group stayed to the highways and underpasses, persistently pressing south. Downtown was crowded with massive sweeping skyscrapers and squished together blocks of apartments and townhouses. For the most part, it was abandoned as the few people who had survived the drought and the war left in droves to find land they could plant on. The pack avoided those that foraged scrap and kept a wary eye on the sky as a large bird seemed to flick in and out of the city edge.

Days had dragged on as the snows of winter faded behind them, and the sun hung in the sky longer and longer by the time they entered the city. Eventually, the women called a stop to the day. They had made a respectable distance, but as the weeks passed since crossing the mountains, they could no longer deny their unique predicament. Every day that passed was more difficult than the last to keep food down, keep the energy to continue walking, tolerate the smells of rotting cities, and be comfortable in their shifting.

“Let’s call it, guys. We’re in an abandoned neighbourhood as it is. We’ll use one of these and get some good sleep tonight.” Dietrich stalled the group in front of a gated townhouse community. They utilised a drainage culvert in the back of the property to squeeze themselves into the compound. The low stagnant pool was overgrown with a deep blue-green alga. Leaf litter mounded against corners. Tires had begun to rot off of rusting cars.

Nat had woken some time that morning. He had watched the buildings pass by quietly. Sven kept to himself, aware of the ticking gears in his head as Nat continued to think. He trotted into one of the townhouses with the rest of the group, anticipating his host finally communicating with them.

It was almost five weeks from the last conversation he had with the man. Nat had slept in the darkness, curled up with Tereza as his mind slowly shut down. It had provided Sven with plenty of time to enjoy Sylvi’s company, but he knew something was immeasurably wrong.

Sven? Can I ask you something? Nat drove himself from his isolation. Tereza rubbed up against him. A shaft of pain twisted in Sven’s heart. He stilled at the question.

Cashia glanced at the white wolf, curious as to what had caught the second in command’s attention. He watched the wolf pace back to a room that Hana had claimed and nudged the door shut. Cashia shrugged and shook himself. He laid down in the living room, his muzzle on his paws, and regarded the flickering candles on the counter with dull interest.

His eyes were almost closed when Sven re-emerged from Hana’s room and passed him. He had Sylvi’s pack on his back. “Cashia, mind putting some pants on?” Sven motioned him to the door.

Cashia raised an eyebrow, pulled himself off the floor and shifted. He grabbed his clothing out of the pack and got dressed quietly. “Everything all right with Sylvi?” he asked, a touch worried with all the females expecting. They eased out the door, Cashia closing it behind them quietly.

“She’s fine, a bit tired. She’s determined to get some uninterrupted sleep; if that’s possible at this point. Would you join me for a while? I left instructions with her to seek out Dietrich and Heinrich in case we took a bit of time coming back,” alluded Sven as he made his way back to the culvert.

“What are we doing?” Cashia followed the second-in-command out.

“Going to pick up a few things if we can find them,” Sven dodged the question with a half-answer. He was not looking forward to this. His host was about to do something so incredibly stupid he could not even fathom. However, it was the first honest conversation he had with Nat in a month. He had listened silently as Nat unravelled inside of himself and spoke of every terror and fear wrapped around him, holding him down. If the man had sat in his mind for a month to come up with this conclusion, he must be serious about it.

“We’re coming back, though?” Cashia asked, turning to look back at the wall.

“Yep. Shouldn’t take too long. Nat said we passed a hardware store down at the corner in the shopping mall on the other side of the four-lane.” Sven trotted ahead.

“Nat?” Cashia asked, Yeller shouted his name in his head. Sven flicked his tail. Cashia picked up his pace to jog next to the white wolf.

“He decided to wake up and has a shopping list,” Sven bit out, his hackles bristling momentarily. Cashia took a side step at the threatening reaction. He sniffed at Sven’s agitation, curious.

They dodged in and out of the shadows of the setting sun and let themselves in the back door of a massive boarded-up hardware store. It smelled of mould and metal. Dust on the floor puffed up at their feet, leaving behind paw prints and worn-out treads. Sven paced along the shelves. The place had been deserted, the shelves partly ransacked.

Cashia stood back, watching. Yeller stilled in him when Sven rounded a corner of the shelves. The white wolf shifted, the pack falling to the ground with a woosh. For the first time in a month, they saw Nat. His wounds had healed cleanly. The scars in his shoulders were faded down to match his regular skin tone. His physic was leaner, muscles cut and defined. His hair had grown a little longer. The line from his cracked ribs and the bruises had disappeared, leaving him ghostly in the dim light filtering through the cracks in the plywood-boarded windows. He looked to Cashia, his eyes widened with panic.

Cashia stepped back into the shadows, pinning Yeller down with a warning growl. Whatever had brought Nat out, he was on a mission, and Cashia was not going to let anything interrupt him, even if it was the gaunt man’s lover. Guilt clouded his senses for sending Nat into this state. He would pull out his own fangs before jeopardising this moment.

Nat picked up the pack and rounded another shelf. His feet were silent. Cashia flicked his head back and forth. All he heard was the wind against the metal roof. A rising panic shot a hard beat through his heart momentarily until he saw a flick of white. Nat popped out the other side as Cashia came around to see what he was up to. The silvery man pulled the pack back on his shoulders and shifted, letting Sven take over again.

“Nat?” Cashia called after him.

“Come on. He’ll explain when we get back.” Sven nudged at the door irritably.

They emerged into the cooling alley and traipsed back to the townhouses. Once in the compound, Sven detoured to a different set of buildings a block over from the one the rest of the group was in.

“Sven, what are we doing?” Yeller hissed, taking over for Cashia. He knew the wolf was aware of where they were camped out at. The creature was incapable of being lost.

“Come on.” Sven went and sat in front of a door at the end of one of the blocks.

“What are we doing?” Yeller bit again as he pressed the handle until it gave, letting them in.

“Fixing my broken host,” Sven growled quietly as he pushed past Yeller, his fur brushing against his jeans.

“What does that mean?” Yeller yelped, louder than he meant. He closed the door behind him and shoved a side table in front of it to keep it from blowing open.

The place was fully furnished and dusty. The leather couch dominated the small living room. A dated, sturdy oak coffee table was scuffed and scratched. The TV hadn’t been turned on in years. The stand was packed with gaming consoles. Art on the walls was very much masculine-oriented and poorly hung. Bachelor pad.

Sven sat down, his back to Cashia. He faced in toward the microscopic kitchen that was to the right of a set of stairs and a back hallway that led into a master bedroom. A pair of smaller rooms and Jack-and-Jill bathroom would be up on the second floor, a mirror of the townhouse the rest of the group was occupying.

“How willing are you to…?” Sven tried to approach the subject. He turned to Cashia. “Are you all right with helping Nat with a proposition?”

Učinit ću sve,” Cashia promised before he could comprehend the question.

“Would Yeller be okay with it?” Sven paced down the hallway to sniff out the bedroom. Cashia walked down the hall to look in with him.

“Same,” Yeller conferred. The room wasn’t half bad. The four-poster was uncharacteristically large for the space, and the matched furniture made it feel crowded and ill-arranged.

Sven turned and slunk out of the room. He made his way up the stairs to look in on the other two rooms. One was packed with a bunch of junk moving boxes. The other had a single corner desk and a set of large monitors. The wall closest to the window had been painted with chalkboard paint. A set of strobe light stands and a ring light-collecting dust indicated the prior occupant had done video production of some kind.

Sven paced around the space under the window. Yeller got the impression he was talking to Nat again. His heart was in his throat. Sven released a clipped, agitated sigh and allowed the shift to take place. His pack fell to the floor in the shift, spilling some of its contents. Several varying sizes of rope, box cutter, bungee cords, zip ties, and duct tape spread out under the moonlight.

Cashia backed up a step, his eyes snapping up to the naked ghost glowing in the moonlight. This one’s yours, Cashia threw Yeller forward. Yeller stumbled to Nat, who stared up at him with the clearest green eyes he had seen since they left Jenton. He brushed a gentle finger along Nat’s cheek. The peach soft texture snapped across his synapses. He fought with threatening tears. His power mark warmed under the touch. Nat closed his eyes and leaned into his touch. It had been a while. “Chaill mé tú1,” Yeller’s tender voice wrapped around them like soft velvet.

Tá brón orm. Chaill mé tú freisin2.” Nat hugged Yeller back fiercely, afraid to let go. They swayed together, allowing themselves a moment to be at one with each other. Nat fought the shake of his shoulders as he wrestled to calm his rising emotions. He battled with the drowning darkness clasping at him, trying to pull him under when he had finally come out. His heart raced under his chest. His ribs hurt from the pressure. He drew in a ragged breath, knowing what he was about to ask was too much already. He let go and stepped back, trying to put some courage in his bones. “I need this, Yeller,” Nat pleaded.

Yeller looked down at the spilt contents. “What do you need rope for, mo grá3?” Yeller asked, worried. He pulled Nat back to him, burying his head in Nat’s shoulder. He held the waif carefully, afraid he would break. They stood under the slowly shifting moonlight as Nat pinged back and forth with the decision he had come up with. He listened to the calm rhythm of Yeller’s heart, allowing it to soothe him. Yeller eventually loosened his grip.

Nat brushed at the scar on his shoulder. “I -” his mouth closed again. Heat flushed his face as he tried to verbalise his plan. He picked up one of the bundles of jute rope and delicately placed it in his lover’s hands. Yeller looked down at it, confused. Nat set his hand over the bundle and looked up beseechingly. His tongue darted out to moisten his bottom lip. He tried his best to still his nervous energy. Sven had called him an idiot in every language he knew, and with a multi-centuries-year-old wolf who had lived all over the Eastern Block, he knew plenty of colourful names. He stilled another breath. “Is breá liom tú4.” He kissed Yeller on the cheek. “It’s taken me weeks to pull myself out of a pit I’ve been in. I’m sorry for leaving you like that.” He buried his head in Yeller’s shoulder.

“I’m so sorry.” Yeller pulled Nat back to him, the rope pressed between them.

Nat relaxed into the hug, taking his time to choose his words. He shook his head. “No, there’s nothing for you or Cashia to apologise for. We all know what happened to make me this way, and who it was. He’s been dogging us all this way. I know Sven’s been keeping quiet about it, and I haven’t been awake for most of the road trip. He’s going to follow us to Hana’s godfather, I would bet you.” Sharp, cold anger pinched Nat’s gut at the thought of the winged bastard.

“Still-” Yeller protested.

“No. It wasn’t you or Cashia. I was frustrated with myself and disappointed and angry and…I couldn’t handle all of the feelings. I was drowning in self-loathing and questioning. I couldn’t understand that I would never be normal or okay again.

“I couldn’t get a grip on me, and I fell into a dark hole. I don’t want it ruling me again.” He stood up straighter, gaining an edge of blustered confidence. “I need something from you and Cashia.” Nat glanced out the window and then back at Yeller. Cashia stilled under the demand in Nat’s voice, joining with his host, their minds syncing in trepidation. “If it’s something you can give.” Nat hung his head, afraid.

Cad5?” Yeller wiped mist from Nat’s cheek.

Nat looked up, capturing Yeller and Cashia’s attention. “I need for you and Cashia to rewrite my memory.” All of his emotions were raw and at the front of his voice.

[1] I lost you.

[2] I’m sorry. I missed you too.

[3] My love

[4] I love you.

[5] What?

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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