Shan watched as Race walked away. For a brief moment he almost said something to stop him, but the feeling that he should was fleeting. He didn’t need some callow kid trying to lecture him when he had absolutely no idea what life was all about.
What he did need was to get as far from there as possible, and there was only one way short of teleporting to do that. He shifted. And then he ran.
And his thoughts followed unbidden, unwanted, as he remembered.
Remembered the joy of loving, the anger of perceived betrayal, the horror of what he’d done in return. Then the wonder when he’d been forgiven and their love had blossomed anew. And, when it finally had, two insane creatures had killed the one person he’d ever loved in their attempt to gain control of him and Addie.
He sank to the ground finally, exhausted in both body and mind. He wanted to scream, to cry, to release all of the anguish that had become as much a part of his life as eating and breathing. But he didn’t know how. He wondered if he ever would or if, unlike for Addie, it would always be with him.
He heard the soft sounds of footsteps and growled a warning.
“Oh hush,” Addie said as she approached and sat down beside him, stroking his head. “And shift if you would. Talking to you in this form is a bit off-putting. I never really could do it with Doval without feeling sort of silly.”
He did, remaining on his stomach out of deference to her sensibilities, too tired to call up some clothes at the moment.
“You had me worried you know.”
“I’m quite capable of taking care of myself.”
She continued to stroke his head, running her fingers through his hair. “Actually, my dear friend, in some ways that is so far from the truth it would almost be laughable, if it wasn’t so sad. You’ve got the perception that men, well you at least, have to bury all your pain inside. To some extent I understand. The last time you let it out, really let it out, you did something unforgivable.”
“Shush, I’m not through yet. We’ve had this talk before, although not in these words but I’m tired of pulling my punches. I’m tired of seeing someone I care about destroying himself inch by inch, pulling back from life so you won’t ever be hurt again.”
He turned his head to look at her. “Says the woman who won’t accept a man who loves her into her own life.”
“True,” she replied, smiling wryly. “But at least I’m willing to accept the idea that he does, and that sometime down the road I might finally be ready to love him in return, in the way that he deserves. You on the other hand have closed your mind to the possibility that there might be someone, someday, who you could care for as much as you cared for Lav.”
“I can’t, Addie.”
“Yes you can, damn it. Shan, to be very blunt, and you can take it for what you think it’s worth, if you don’t you’ll die. Not here,” she ran a hand over his back, “but in your heart and soul. And that, my dear sweet man, would dishonor Lav and all the love that the two of you shared.” She bent to kiss his temple. “Let it go, Shan, let the pain go. Please. Open yourself to the future and all that it can hold for you.”