A HOWL IN THE NIGHT: Chapter 36 – The End

??A Howl In The Night??
?She’s mine?
?From Novel R0mance ?

?Chapter 36?
The Pursuit

“Xavier, wait!” I call after him, racing into the vast underbrush. I know that I have no chance of catching up with him unless he wants me to, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t even try. No one knows more than I about how large the world can be when you feel so alone and vulnerable.

“Please!” Tears form in the corners of my eyes, dripping down my cheek and lips. Within this desperate pursuit, I can’t help but feel a variety of intense emotions. The most predominant of these is a strange form of affection that cannot be easily described as desire or simple amity. I want to absorb his sadness, take in every negative emotion so that his pain will fade away. And the strangest thing is, there is no personal gain involved. I will get nothing of value out of consoling him.

But I still want to. And that fact scares and enthralls me beyond measure.

“Mona.” Strong hands encircle me from behind, trapping me in the place I desired most. His body heat surrounds me, his shoulders lightly shaking. His voice is pained and his grip emulates that same feeling. In confusion, I look down at the ground to see a red splotch of blood.

“It stops here.” Xavier says, his tone heavy. His face lowers and rests on my shoulder, his eyelashes fluttering against my ear. “The blood stains disappear. I… don’t sense him at all.”

I let him embrace me, closing my eyes and immersing myself in him. As I do so, that same affection grows to consume my entire body until I can’t help but accept some form of it. Turning so that I face him, I place both hands on his cheeks and lean forwards.

There is no logical reasoning. I guess you could say that it was because he saved me. Or maybe because of his ways of persuasion. But to me, there is no process. It just happens—or maybe it happened already, and I just didn’t know it—without warning, without hope for recovery, and without obligation.

I love him. Maybe since day one, maybe not until this very moment. But all I know now is my own realization, and I’m never going to let it go.

My heartbeat escalates as his head leans closer to my neck. His breathing is heavy with fear and exhaustion. I can’t stop myself from stroking his hair with my fingertips, and wondering if things will ever get any better.

“Xavier, I know how you feel, perhaps more so than anyone else,” I sigh, rubbing his back slowly. “But you haven’t been getting any sleep, and it shows. Come with me and rest.”

He doesn’t move, but his grip loosens. I gently twist out of his embrace and instead reach for his hand. His palm feels warm and clammy as he gingerly closes his fingers around mine. A strange expression appears on his face as he squeezes my hand.

I take a step towards our camp. Noticing that he is barely moving, if at all, I cast a glance at him inquisitively. He seems rooted in place, thinking about something intently.

“Xavier?” I ask inquisitively, casting a glance at our still interlocked hands. And then we make eye contact, his gaze scaring me with its intensity.

“I don’t need rest,” he insists, pulling on my arm so that I am forced to turn around. “I just need you.”

My cheeks are burning red as he walks closer with purposeful strides. He picks me up, and immediately starts to run, each step taking us farther away from reality. Even though the surrounding scenery melts into a blur of colors with blinding speed, I can still consistently feel his warmth against my side. As I look up at him, I see the determination in his features, as well as defeat, and even loneliness. My heart contracts within my chest at the pitiful nature of his expression.

He stops in some desolate region, his grip loosening on me to the point that I almost fall out of his hands. Carefully I try to lower myself onto the ground, worried about Xavier’s countenance.

“Xavier,” I whisper, keeping my hands on his arms while I steady myself, “it’s okay. You can let it out.”

His face crinkles up as he leans back against the tree, his eyes starting to tear up in a betrayal of the emotions he must be facing inwardly.

“Xavier!” I cup his cheeks with my hands, afraid of losing him. “It’s not your fault, do you hear me? It’s… not your fault.” We are only a hairsbreadth apart, but from where I am, the distance seems much greater than that.

“I appreciate you trying to make me feel better,” Xavier smiles weakly, his face tilted towards the heavens. Or whatever else is up there.

I take my thumb and wipe a single tear off his cheeks. He laughs through his anguish, a pitiful laugh that is in distortion of everything a laugh should be like, and leans forward.

There is no time for me to react before his lips meet mine, his teeth tugging at my bottom lip. The kss is gentle, but soon evolves into an animalistic passion that is impossible to control. His tongue invades my mouth, and I accept it willingly, hoping that he will share some of his burden with me. That he will let me into his heart when it matters the most.

His fingers race through my hair, pulling me even closer, almost painfully gripping at my scalp. Another hand trails down my neck and then my back, pushing my entire body so I am leaning into him. My bottom lip burns as he nips at it again, and then he tilts his head to brush his lips against my nose.

I can feel them now—the wetness dripping onto my cheeks, my chin, my neck. I wrap my arms around his back, somehow knowing without even having to ask.

There are no words that can be spoken, but maybe, in this one moment, there are no words that can’t be conveyed through actions like this.

Breathing heavily, Xavier slides to the ground with me still in his arms. I can tell that his exhaustion is getting to him, because the intensity of his ksses has gradually decreased. I gently pull away, and he lies against the grass with his eyes fluttering.

I move to where he was leaning and sit on my knees, staring at his face. He looks so… troubled. Even though I bet he doesn’t realize it himself.

“If you want to, you can lean on me,” I say softly. He looks at me, and then weakly smiles. My breath catches in my throat.

“I might have to take you up on that offer.” Sliding himself over, he positions his head to lie in my lap. I blush at the movement, not expecting him to lean on me exactly like he did.

He sighs, looking up at me and then the sky with the same defeated expression. Silence stretches between us, and it lasts for ages, neither one of us willing to break it.

As we rest, my mind wanders to the implications of the recent battle at the beach. The Shifters that fought against us then were so unlike the ones I have seen in this world up until then. They looked like an army, fighting in inexplicable unison that did not match the normal isolated behavior of a lone Shifter. To my knowledge, they don’t usually travel in packs or strategize in their attacks. Although, now that I think about it… they did congregate together inside Headquarters after the barrier was broken. The question is, is there a leader of the Shifters who is controlling or coordinating them for these attacks? Does someone know we are here?

Well, I guess the better question to sum all of my worries up at once is: Are we not alone?

A hand brushes against my cheek, startling me out of my daze. “I’m… sorry, Mona.” Xavier stares into my eyes imploringly, not the slightest hint of a smile on his face.

“Sorry?” I shake a little, as if I had a chill, from the suddenness of his voice. “W-what for?”

“Everything.” He smiles now, but this one is so weak that it would have been better if he had kept a straight face. “For bringing you along this journey with me. For a$$aulting you with my feelings without caring for yours. For… trying to make something happen when it was… clearly… never going to work… out.” His last words are so feeble that I strain to hear them, but they are the most poignant out of all of them. My heart turns as cold as ice.

“Xavier, I-”

“I’m sorry for betraying you and the entire pack.” After he says his last words, he shuts his eyes tightly, as if willing himself to go to sleep faster. I can tell that he doesn’t plan on continuing the conversation, if you can even call it that.

My head starts to droop as the exhaustion gets to me as well. Something about seeing his face slowly morph from a stony expression to something more peaceful as his breathing steadies makes me feel like I should call it a day.

The rest of the pack will probably wonder where I went, but that’s okay. We need this rest, I argue to myself, especially when so many of us are injured.

The only thing that worries me is that maybe the Shifters will come back for the rest of us. I really need to keep guard, in case something like that happens.

I start fighting vehemently as my eyes keep slipping downwards. The absolute stillness in the forest is not helping matters either.

Giving up, I lean my head against the back of the tree and let sleep take me.

* * *

What a cruel way to continue the story.

Sometimes I feel like I can understand it. These events and circumstances are necessary, although sometimes inexplicable. Sometimes harsh. Sometimes painful.


No, no… I take it back. Must. It isn’t my place to know. I’d like to… but I can’t. Can’t ask, can’t question, can’t know.

I won’t get an answer anyways.

Purpose is cruel. A beast that robs you of your natural identity and aspirations and places you on a different path that continues in a straight line, always moving never stopping running running stop take a breath no don’t do it stand up keep running running running or else you’ll know.

Sometimes I feel like I’m about to shatter. Hit the ground so hard that my face splinters and my fingers crumble and my chest explodes and then I realize, it’s already happened. And so it can happen, again and again and again, without any relief, because why? Because I’m dead! Dead then, dead now, dead forever and always.

And there’s no difference anyways because

Life is a lie. A beautiful lie. A lie that curves, diverts from the main road and detours by the rocky cliffs, crystal oceans, and pink-stained sunsets. It can move backwards and forwards, sideways and diagonally, every which way, but the truth is the lie is an illusion. Don’t be fooled! There is only one direction. There is only one choice. So make a decision. There is the choice to be, and the choice to be. Take your pick.

The end.

“Mona! Mona! What’s wrong?”

I feel someone violently shaking my shoulders, and my eyes immediately fly open just as my head hits the front of the tree. “Ouch!” I squeal, my hand reaching up to rub where it had been hit.

Xavier is in front of me, his face only inches away. My eyes widen at his proximity, and my first instinct is to look away, only to feel guilty for doing so a few seconds later. He’s… just looking out for me.

“What… Xavier…” I murmur, still confused by what was happening.

“You were shaking just a few seconds ago, almost like you were having a seizure,” Xavier says worriedly, his hand rubbing down the side of my arm. My skin burns with his touch, the heat spreading throughout my body.

“I don’t know…” I reply, moving my hand to rub at my temples. My forehead throbs, each moment bringing a new wave of pain that is quickly increasing in intensity.

“Were you having a bad dream?” He asks, his eyes immediately gravitating to where my hands are located.

I wince as pain like a sharp blade pierces my head. “Maybe so… I’m not really sure,” I groan, my mind growing hazy. “It was so strange… I thought I heard someone… crying, or talking, or maybe both. I’m not sure.”

His grip tightens on my arm. “Well, forget about that.” He shakes his head anxiously, “how are you feeling? You look absolutely terrible.”

“Thanks,” I grin, looking up at him briefly with a mischievous expression. “I appreciate that.”

“You know that’s not what I meant.” Xavier sighs, making me laugh.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I just have a headache, that’s all.”

“It must be pretty bad for you to be groaning like that.” He leans in, and gently presses his forehead to mine.

“W-what are you doing?!” I ask him nervously, leaning back subconsciously. I can see him grin out of the corner of my eye. He’s enjoying putting me on edge, which is a clear indicator that he is back to normal.

“Yes, what have you guys been doing?” A new, deep voice echoes throughout the area, and we both jump. Turning towards the source, we both see Jake, who is staring at us suggestively. His smirk makes me blush.

“How the cr@p…” I mutter, looking around quickly to see if any of the others came with him. If it was Yi, I’d understand, but I should have been able to notice Jake as he snuck up on us. “Sneaky dev!l.”

Jake raises an eyebrow at me, unable to hide a broad grin as he catches my words. I realize, all too late, that my statement probably just made things worse.

“Checking her temperature,” Xavier replies nonchalantly, adapting quickly to the shock of his sudden presence. I marvel at the way he can change his attitude so quickly.

“No, I don’t mean now… I mean the last several hours you guys have been out here together.” He winks and leans on a nearby tree, in a perfect display of reticence that only makes me more nervous.

“Nothing, Jake… drop it.” Xavier says, standing up slowly and then extending his hand towards mine. I look at Jake and then take Xavier’s hand, letting him pull me up. I don’t even care about the impression we are probably giving off right now.

“Well, I’m glad that you guys had an entertaining evening,” Jake says so flippantly that I wonder at its authenticity. “But we need to talk. As a group. It’s been almost two days and we haven’t decided on anything yet, which wouldn’t be a problem except we left almost all of our food on the coast.”

As I stand up, I mull over his words. He’s right in that we need to make a decision quickly. When Xavier first disappeared from the group about two hours after the attack ended, I went after him with the intention bringing him back to camp. We had set up about a mile from the ocean, afraid to go any closer and risk another ambush. I was healed by then, but Griffin and Wes were more severely injured and still needed some extra care. After they finally recovered, we were planning on voting on what our new strategy or game plan should be. If you can even call it that.

Another bout of pain causes me to unintentionally lose all strength in my legs, Xavier rushing towards me to support my body in an immediate response. Jake stares at me, wide-eyed, as I grimace at the pins and needles stabbing at my consciousness.

“What’s wrong with her?” He asks worriedly, taking a step forward to place his hand on my head. Xavier brushes his hand away so quickly that it almost looks like a blur, his eyes narrowing slightly.

“I already did that,” he grunted, to which Jake smiles and laughs mischievously.

“Okay, Tarzan. Don’t be so on guard.” I laugh in spite of myself at the comparison, and Xavier’s face turns a light shade of red, which is a pretty rare expression for him. I find myself enjoying it.

“Let’s not start the Disney references,” he mutters, and his face eventually regains his normal coloring as we start walking. The forest is as silent as we are, which only makes it more difficult for me to start a conversation.

“Sorry about making you come look for us,” I finally apologize, and Jake nods in acknowledgment.

“It’s okay. To be honest, no one was really bothered about your no-show. I was just curious about what could possibly be more interesting to occupy your attention than us on a beautiful night like this.”

I roll my eyes at him, and then tilt my head upwards to see the same, plain gray horizon that greeted me last time I bothered to look. “You wish,” I say absent-mindedly, watching the clouds swirl together and move endlessly.

“Who knows what that means?” Jake replies, shooting me another Cheshire Cat grin. I almost mention that to him, but then remember that it’s a Disney reference. Sort of.

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