Where I Live (Part 22)

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When I woke up, there were noises coming from what seemed like a long ways away. I opened my eyes slowly and looked around, my vision fuzzy. Am I dead? I wondered. Wait . . . no . . . that’s too easy. I was lying on my side on the hard ground. Looking forward, I saw eight people – six of which were fully grown male Cats – all of them making some kind of commotion.
One Cat was restraining Kole who was desperately trying to get to the others. Two other Cats were keeping Dad from ripping someone apart. The remaining two Cats were keeping someone else from leaving. As my vision straightened out, I focused on him. It was Ethan. And then, everything started melting away because of what I felt, or rather what I didn’t feel.
“You took my daughter from me and now my son!” Dad shouted, fighting the other Cats. “What else can you take from me, huh!? What else!?”
With a burst of speed, Ethan broke away from the group and ran to the other side of the room. I heard him drop to his knees and then there was a bright light, but I couldn’t see what he was doing.
“What . . .” A new voice spoke up, sounding disoriented. “What’s going on?”
One of the Cats ran in the direction Ethan had taken, but the light I knew was coming from him didn’t go away. He must have gone to the other voice.
“Ty Lan,” The Cat said, “It’s okay. You’ll be all right now. We’re gonna get you home.”
“What are you doing!?” Dad roared. “You’ve already killed my son! Get away from his body!”
“He’s not dead!” Ethan snapped. “And if you keep threatening me I won’t heal him!”
Dad fell silent, but I knew there was no way Ethan would stop. He couldn’t just leave someone when they were hurt. He would heal Kadin. Kadin would live. He had to.
A laugh started building in my throat as I lay there on the ground, a laugh mixed with fading sorrow and happiness and the fact that I had probably started to lose my mind. Dad stopped struggling. Everyone slowly turned towards me as I started to sit up, my laughter sounding slightly demented even to my own ears.
“Kryn . . .” Dad rushed to my side and fell on his knees next to me, holding me up. “What is it, sweetie? What’s wrong?”
By the time I’d forced the laughter to stop, the bright light had died down.
“He’ll live.” Ethan said, sounding bitter. “But you need to get him medical care as soon as possible.”
One of the Cats walked that way and Ethan headed towards the door with Kole who had been released. Squirming in Dad’s arms, I held out my hand to him like a toddler. I didn’t want him to leave.
“Wait . . .” Dad’s voice was quiet, reluctant. “She wants you.”
Ethan stopped and slowly turned to look at me. At first, I thought he would just walk away, but after what seemed like forever, he took slow steps towards us and squatted down in front of me. His expression was one of sorrow and regret, but it shifted to confusion when I smiled at him.
With one strong push, I launched myself away from Dad and tackled Ethan. He fell back onto the ground and I wrapped my arms around his neck as I tears rolled down my cheeks.
“Kryn . . .” He was nervous and afraid, I knew it.
“It’s okay. . .” I whispered quietly. “It’s okay. . . It’s gone.”
“It . . . It’s gone? What’s gone?”
“Bloodlust . . .” I whispered even quieter. “I can’t feel it any more.”
He made a surprised noise and then, regardless of the people in the room, he hugged me back. We stayed that way for a while and then, pulling away enough to look him in the eye, I tangled my hand in his hair and pulled him forward.
I kissed him.
Stunned silence filled the room.
Ethan stiffened.
His hand moved up slowly to my cheek as he kissed me back and when I pulled away he just stared at me dumbly, stunned. His cheeks reddened a little as he glanced around. I stood slowly and was going to help him up, but I could barely keep myself up. My knees almost gave out and before I knew what was happening, Dad had picked me up, cradling me gently in his arms. I strained to look over his shoulder as he walked out of the room.
One of the Cats – Tikato, if I remembered correctly – was carrying Kadin who was unconscious and a little bloody, but still breathing. Another had Ty Lan’s arm over his shoulder, supporting the younger Cat who still seemed dazed. Ethan and Kole walked behind them, the remaining Cats taking up the rear.
As we walked down the hall, the unburdened Cats split off down the halls, probably to search for more people. When we got into the room that had held all of the captive Wolves and Birds, it was empty. Our pathetic little procession climbed the spiraling stairs up to the catwalk, walked down the hall and then emerged into the sunlight.
The warmth felt good against my skin. It seemed like I’d been in that dark, depressing place for days, but in reality, it had been less than an hour. I very nearly fell asleep in Dad’s arms, but I forced myself to look around. There were Cats and Birds and Wolves all around. I could tell which ones had been inside because they weren’t wearing much and had wings, tails and ears exposed. There were at least two dozen of them.
I pushed lightly against Dad’s chest and he carefully set me down on my feet, making sure I wouldn’t fall over again before he took his hand away from my arm. I walked around, checking on everyone, making sure they were okay. For some reason, I felt responsible. Some had cuts and bruises, but otherwise, they were fine. A Wolf was last. He was sitting on the ground against a tree, looking half asleep.
I sat on my knees next to him. “Ran?”
He kept looking down at his hands which were resting between his legs, but he smiled a little. It was barely an upward curl of his lips, but it was still there.
I waved a hand slowly in front of his face. “That dart starting to wear off yet?”
He looked up at me a little. “H-How . . .”
“I was there. . . .Well, behind that boulder there, but I was still here. . . I’m sorry I couldn’t come sooner.”
His cheeks turned red. “Y-You saw me?”
I put a hand on his head and ruffled the hair between his ears. He flattened them out to the sides. “I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”
He nodded once, but made no moves to shove my hand away. I slid it off his head, softly stroking one of his ears and leaned forward to give him a little kiss on the cheek. I had always fought with him before, but now, having seen him at his worst, I felt like I was older than him by more than just a couple years. I felt . . . protective. It was a weird feeling, being protective of a Wolf.
I caught a look of surprise and confusion on his face as I stood up and turned around to walk back to where Dad was.
He looked a little confused and obviously surprised, but his voice was even. “Come on, we’re going with Kadin to the hospital.”
“Ethan said he’ll live.” I said quietly. “Tell him I love him when he wakes up and that I’m sorry. But I feel kinda responsible, Dad. I’d like to stay here.”
He looked at me for a while, searching my eyes. He nodded. “All right. I’ll tell him. . . Be careful.”
“I will.”
He kissed my forehead and pulled me close. “I can’t lose you again.”
“You won’t have to.” I held him tight. “I’ll be okay.” He didn’t let go. “Honestly, Dad, I feel better now. . .” I pulled away from him. “I might have lost my sanity for a little while but I’m better . . . for now.” I smiled at him.
He gave me a dry look. “Don’t mess with me right now. I might just ship you off to the hospital too.”
I patted his arm. “Go on, Dad. They’re waiting for you.”
With one last, long look, he reluctantly turned and followed Tikato, who was still carrying Kadin. Once they were a while away, I set to work. I assigned the people that were there to certain rescued captives, trying to pair only Birds with Birds and Wolves with Wolves. After that, we asked names saw who needed to go to the hospital and who could be treated at home.
Once the ones who needed medical attention were gone, the others slowly made their way out of the forest, following Ethan. It took a long while with the weak procession, especially when a few of the people nearly fell and had to practically be carried to keep walking. I ended up having to carry a five year old Bird, but I didn’t mind. She was the youngest of all of us and I couldn’t believe the Hunter had taken such small kids.
When we emerged from the forest, there were ambulances and doctors waiting for us. I didn’t know who had called them, but I was relieved beyond belief. And then, a drop of water landed on my face. I looked up as the rain started pouring down. The doctors hurried to get the weak and injured inside the vans and as I handed off the young little Bird, I looked around. The cops were escorting someone into a police car.
It was the Hunter.





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