There was a heaviness on me, in my sleep-addled mind that is the only way I could describe what I was feeling. Something that was not there, I could tell that much, was pressing on my chest and neck. It was hard to breath but I still could. For some reason I also kept skipping breaths, as if I would just breath out and forget to inhale again. I kept catching myself even in my sleep to take another breath. I struggled to wake up, I had so many herbs to help my tattered body and to soothe me to sleep it was a struggle to bring myself to the surface of consciousness. Or perhaps there was something more to it…
The contradiction was how light I felt. How safe and warm it was. My heart felt better. I was struggling to wake up and to breathe while at the same time I was comfortable and happy to sleep. I was battling myself to just ease back into the deep slumber, everything was too comfortable for me to struggle against.
But there was a voice.
And it was calling my name.
There were other worried voices.
I felt warm and cold at once. Then I began to cough violently. I could not stay asleep any longer as I coughed. I curled up on myself, doubling over a warm set of hands that were on my ribs. The coughing was making my eyes water and I could not get enough air in before I was coughing more. My whole body was locked up as I wheezed out the harsh sounds.
There was a sad low whine from somewhere around me. Then there were more voices, deep timbers that rumbled in different variations, different males talking. There also were soft feminine voices of different types and lilts. Many people where around. All speaking
And none of them made any sense to me.
The whining continued even after I managed to stop coughing. I took in ragged and as deep of breaths a could manage to try and get oxygen back into my lungs. My throat burned and my body hurt as bad as it had a few days ago when I was tied up and carted off in a wagon. Was it a few days? It seemed like longer… I would have to ask someone.
When I could talk again.
A glass was pressed to my lips and someone, with a thick accent, gently urged me to drink. I sipped at the glass slowly. The blue liquid was thick, creamy, and soothing for my raw throat. I looked around slowly. There was a number of people in the room, some of whom I did not know. An man who looked a little older than the rest of them, even older then Keiry –although Markeiran did not look much older than thirty-, was gently looking me over and asking me to do things so he could examine me. The man smiled softly, “My name is Peter, but most everyone calls me Doc.” I gave a little nod to tell him I understood. Confused as to why someone else was looking me over. Shen had typically done it. “Everything looks fine,” he smiled gently and urged me to sip more of the blue liquid.
After a few more sips I looked around, confused as to why I was warm and snuggled. I realized then that I was in Riley’s arms and he was watching me intensely. Close to having a break down and crying by the look of his eyes. If I was alright, why was he so upset?
“It looks like she is doing better now,” Markeiran spoke softly, “But we have another problem to discuss. Soon, please.” He looked pointedly at Riley and myself before shooing everyone from the room, except for the doctor who was helping me.
Doc smiled softly, “He just wants to figure out a plan of action to make sure you both stay safe. It is nothing to get stressed over. Oh, don’t make that face and get more stressed miss Gwenhyfar. Things just are not as easy as we expected them to be and we will have to figure things out together. More heads mean more ideas.” The man chuckled softly and patted Riley’s hand gently, “Calm down and breath.”
Doc then left with everyone else. Could everyone read minds?
“Cho look hworri…” Riley mumbled. “An' I hwoold be if I hwere choo too… Zat… zat waz baad.”
“What happened?” I looked to the face of the male holding me. The man I was in love with already.
He eased me onto the bed, seated by the pillows and rubbed his face. He scooted himself away from me and would not look at me. I went to move closer and he got up, "Zorri..." he mumbled and paced some. So, I sat and waited.
He soon returned to the bed from his pacing and sat beside me, his large hand gingerly touching my thigh before removing it. I leaned in and rested myself against his side, my head on his shoulder. I placed my hand on his large one and remained quiet. He needed to think. I could tell he did not want to talk yet, his mind was a jumbled mess.
“Choo haf been quhiet…” Riley was looking to his lap, his expression was sad and slightly closed off. As if trying to be brave. “Choo arr confoose an' upzit… I… undoorstan. I… I nefferz hwant'd to hoort choo an' I undoorstan…” tears rolled down his cheeks and he sat there silent and still while he cried.
I looked to him, my confusion was getting worse, what was going on? I would get my questions answered later, for now I wrapped my arms around his neck tenderly and drew him into an embrace. One hand softly combed through his hair while the other kept his head to my chest. It is hard to physically hold someone so much larger than myself, but I was doing my best. I nuzzled the top of his hair as I purred to soothe him. I was standing on the bed to be tall enough to hold his seated figure in this way. My legs were weak and tired but I did not care, he needed comfort.
“Am zorri to hoort choo," Riley whined quietly.
“You did not hurt me.”
He nodded some, “try to make bont beddezr, becoose I luff choo, but made choo zick.”
“What happened Riley?” I whispered to him.
He gently wrapped his arms around my waist and lifted me right off my feet and against his broad chest. The size difference was still shocking to me at times, but it was still new. He was quiet again. Just nuzzling as he quietly whimpered. He mumbled something that sounded like sorry over and over, but it was hard to tell with his accent.
“Please,” I placed my hands on each of his cheeks and looked him in his eyes. The midnight blues were full of tears as rivers of them fell down his face. “What happened?”
“I try to strengthi our bont, becoose… becoose choo zed choo luff hmie an' I luff choo. I want'd to spid the proozhess an' saff…” his large hand softly graced over my sternum, “saff choor hartz. Saff choo. I wan' choo wit hmie.” He nuzzled my cheek softly, before kissing my temple. “But… the Daarrkniz…” He got choked up and began to cry.
He didn't need to finish, I understood. Whatever had been done to my heart by the Darkness meant that a mating bond was dangerous to form quickly. Well, dangerous for me to some extent. Yet, I did not know enough about mating bonds to say for certain.
“You did not hurt me then Riley,” I spoke gently but urgently. “The Darkness is to blame.”
He shook his head, “The Kin' zed he hwoold halp, I choold haf wait'd. Can' do anyzhing riigh'.”
“You love right,” I said softly, “You care for people right. You care for me right. You care for the babes right… you do a lot right.” Softly I ran my thumb back and forth over his cheek as I looked into his eyes. “You had no way to know about this and all you were doing was loving me. Wanting me. That is… that means so much to me. That you want to build the bond as soon as you can.. especially since we just met.”
He nodded some, "mhiine" he nuzzled my cheek softly.
“Riley, is it possible we can’t bond because we just met? Maybe we should wait, because maybe we’re not meant for each other and that’s what is wrong…” I whispered. Scared to lose him already.
“Choo dun hwan't hmie nowz?" I could see his heart breaking all over again.
“Shhh, no. It’s not that. Its… its only been a few days. It would be unfair if you get tied down to me now. No one wants to stay with me long and I wouldn't want you to feel you are forced to be with me after only a few days just to save my life.”
He looked to me, “Want to saff choo, bit also hwan't choo forezverz.”
“We just met… how do you know that is how you will feel in the future? We don’t know each other well. Maybe we are just rushing into it.”
I watched as Riley took a few deep breaths. Calming himself so that he could speak without an accent. “It is different for Dragon and Giants than it is for humans, and I think Witches,” He began to explain. “We do not need time, we just know.” I felt the heat of his blush as much as I saw it, “We mate for life and it’s just something we instinctively know when we meet our mate. It’s just…right. Everything makes sense. There is a need to always see the person, to touch them, even if we barely know them. To be near and care for them even if they do not need us. Our mates, when we find them, is like finding home. All people smell different and mates… when we find our mate… its like smelling comfort and home. Their scent alone makes a Giant or Dragon relax and want to curl up with them. Their voice becomes music to which they have to hear, their soul begins to crave any sound from them. Mates are not completely a decision, they just are...It can be intense for a non-Giant or non-Dragon mate too.” He looked away, “But I understand if that is too much to handle.”
I thought about what I had just learned for a moment. “Riley?”
“Hmm?” His body was tense all around me.
“I want to be your mate.”
His body practically melted and he nuzzled me again. His lips soon found mine in a snogging that curled my toes and made me purr. He was purring too.
I chuckled a little bit, “We keep having to confirm we want each other… is that normal?”
He nodded some, “Well… a lot has happened and that makes it hard for the bonding to make sense…” Riley then blushed some, “And I don’t want you to feel you must mate with me…there are other options.”
“I do not want anyone else,” I whispered, “I know I don’t.”
His smile was beautiful.
“You need rest,” he mumbled.
“I just woke up.”
“A lot has been happening to you,” Riley eased me into the bedding.
“Keiry said he wanted to see us soon.”
“Doc told him it would be best for you to get some rest and we speak with everyone later.”
I rolled to my side to still look at him, “Lay with me?”
He blushed, “If its okay…?”
I chuckled some, “I asked you to.”
He nodded and lay down so that he was on his side facing me, his hand eased over and gingerly rested on my hip. Slow and careful hoping I would not push him away. I smiled softly and placed my hand on his chest in return. He smiled more.
“So… what is your favorite color?”
He blinked at my question, confused, “umm….why?”
“I want to get to know you.”
“Oh! Red. What is your’s?”
“Blue,” I chuckled, “Unoriginal, I know.”
“I must be unoriginal too then,” He chuckled. “What is a Fey-touched Blue Witch?”
I wish he hadn't asked that, but I knew he was just curious about me as I was about him. “Fey-touched references to an old story about children or animals being born red and white. In the case of animals it would be their fur colors and in people it is those with pale skin and red hair. Supposedly, Fey-touched are more in-tuned with all the realms; nature, death, life, the above, the below, the emotional, the spiritual, and so on and so on. They are “greatly gifted”.”
“Wow,” I saw his eyes widen at my explanation.
“I wouldn't be too impressed. I am really not any of those things. I have been better than most but I am nowhere near the greatest. Blue Witches are born to be great healers, so great they have the power to soothe the soul of the people, all the members of the tribe. They also have the ability to see the future. Blue Witches are part omen, that a new beginning of peace and happiness or something like that is coming, and part truth, Blue Witches are damn good healers and foreseers. Again, there is less in the truth than in the stories. And the truth is, I am a disappointment to my people but they still expect me to sacrifice everything for their happiness. And the truth is, I am selfish. Without my brothers or parents to hold me in place, I left. I wanted to see if maybe I could be what the stories said I was, but in places they didn’t know about the stories. My people were not going to let me grow as a person… I was both precious and garbage to them. I do not know, maybe I thought I could find my place somewhere else. I never felt at home there.”
I could not keep eye contact through my story, I kept looking away and then back to the big male next to me. When I finished I dared to peek at him. He smiled softly and leaned in, placing a soft kiss on my lips.
“I think you belong here. With me,” He said softly.
I blushed then looked to his eyes. I found truth there. I gave him a little mischievous smile. “Your turn to tell me something about you.”