Wolf's Rain Fan Fiction ❯ Signs Of Paradise ❯ The Morning After ( Chapter 9 )
Disclaimer: I don't own Wolf's Rain.
ch-san: Okay, well that was a fun little chappy, ne? C'mon, you knew this was a romance piece. I told you it was. So stop acting like you didn't see it coming. ^.^ I'm silly. Ignore me. By the way, that's not going to be the only WAFF chapter, so if you didn't like it, stop reading now or just skip the chappies that I dub "WAFF Chaps", okay? I'll give ya warnings. Don't worry.
Morning crept in through the trees like a light fog on the ocean. It first showed signs of coming by the silencing of the crickets' chirps. Then the nocturnal animals scampered off to bed, while diurnal creatures stretched their limbs in preparation for the new day. Lastly, golden fingers of light wiggled their way through the dense leaves of the trees that shrouded the immense acreage.
A single shaft of buttery light fell across Ayume's face. She screwed up her eyes in a futile attempt to block out the impending dawn. When she realized that nothing she could do would stop the coming of the morning she sat up rather sluggishly, cracking her neck. It seemed that most of the pack had gone to finish off the rotting deer corpse. Only one male stayed behind.
"What are you doing here?" Ayume yawned, trying not to act surprised.
"Good morning to you, too," griped Hige in a put-out way.
"Ah, I didn't mean it like that," she grumbled, stretching out her back. "Did you already eat?"
"Quit trying to make small talk. We both know that you're avoiding talking about last night," he snapped. She paused in mid stretch.
"Even if I was, which I assure you I am not, is it really any of your business? I told you, I was getting a night-time snack."
"That's bullshit. I was at the carcass when Kiba howled, and even if I wasn't I still smelled his scent all over you when we met back in camp." She finished cracking her back and glared heatedly at him. A triumphant smile plastered itself onto his face. "So I AM right! Ah, I always knew I was a good liar, but this is just too much!" Her face went from pissed to mortified in a flash.
"You bastard!" she yelled. "You lied about all of that!?"
"Hey, I didn't completely lie. You did smell kind of like him, but mainly you smelled like mud and grass. What, did you try to rub off his scent before we made it back?" She gritted her teeth angrily. He took it for a yes.
"What about the others?" she demanded.
"Tsume's pretty suspicious, but Toboe doesn't have a clue."
"Good. I don't want him to know."
"Listen sister, if there are going to be puppies running around with us, I think Toboe will eventually get the hint that something happened," he commented tersely.
"It didn't get that far!" she growled.
"Yeah? Well, however far you did get, it better not go past that! Kiba is the leader of this pack, and if you screw him over and put us in danger I will have no problem dealing with you whatsoever!" They were both on their feet, hackles raised.
"I am not going to `screw him over', Hige!" she barked.
"Like hell you aren't! I bet you're planning on becoming his mate, then running off somewhere! Well let me tell you: that isn't going to happen. We're going to Paradise with or without you. If you want to tag along, good for you, but stay out of our business and our lives!" he snarled. Her eyes narrowed as they both barred their fangs. He had pushed her over the edge and he knew it. For a second, he almost regretted what he had said. Impulsively, she arched her back, ready rip him apart. She leapt at him, snarling. Out of nowhere, something large crashed into her side, sending her flying. She rammed into a tree with a high yip and collapsed at its base.
"What the hell is this?!" yelled Tsume. He was standing over her, rubbing his shoulder. In her aching head she concluded that he was what had hit her. She stood on wobbly legs and licked the corner of her mouth. The distinct coppery/salty taste of blood was on her tongue.
"Nothing," she and Hige grumbled in unison. Toboe and Kiba were standing by Hige. They both held confused expressions. Tsume, however, knew exactly what was going on.
"Listen," he whispered dangerously, pressing Ayume against the trunk of the tree with his powerful hands. "Don't think I don't know what going on here. I'm not naïve and I'm sure as hell not blind. You might have been able to get whatever you wanted in the past, but we're not in the city anymore, princess."
"Aren't you being a bit harsh?" Toboe wondered aloud. The older male continued.
"There are rules out here. When you threaten the pack, you're threatening me. Now if I catch you with Kiba again, or attacking another member of this pack, or anything like that, you had better be damn sure that I won't hesitate in ripping out your throat. Got that, bitch?"
"Tsume, leave her alone!" Kiba scowled. Neither Tsume nor Ayume took notice of his comment. She glowered at her captor from under her charcoal-colored hair. A drizzle of blood ran down her pale brow from the roots. Tsume's grip tightened.
"I said," he growled, voice rising, "do you understand me?" Defiantly, she spat in his face. He paused before calmly wiping the crimson saliva from his cheek. Then, with the same air of composure, he lifted her bodily by her shoulders, and slammed her into the trunk of the tree. With great effort she suppressed a yowl of pain. The cracking of a bone somewhere in her body broke the semi-silence. Tsume dropped her and backed off a few feet. She was on her knees, crumpled and barely able to lift herself. But, amazingly, she had strength enough to stand and glare at her attacker. The flow of blood from her hair had increased, giving her a haunting look.
"I guess I was wrong," she gasped through the aching pain. "Hige isn't the bastard here. You are."
"Tch," he noised, completely unfazed.
"Hige's just a jerk, I guess," she added. A coughing fit seized her and she bent double, one hand on her stomach and one clamped over her mouth. When it had passed, she straightened a little. Muck and blood dripped from the hand that held her mouth.
"So that would make Toboe the naïve sissy," she continued. Everyone took offense to that in some way. Tsume crossed his arms agitatedly, Hige made a face, and Toboe stood in shock. Kiba was the only one who said anything.
"Leave Toboe out of this, Ayume. What did he ever do to you?" he barked. She remained still, trying to direct her eyes to a spot off in the distance instead of at his face.
"He convinced me to join this pack in the first place. If you want to blame anyone here, blame him," she said coldly.
"Why don't you just get out of here?!" yelled Hige. She hesitated. Reluctantly, she dragged her gaze over to meet with Kiba's.
"I can't believe what an idiot I've been," she mumbled inaudibly. With as much strength as she could muster, Ayume turned and stumbled off into the trees. Shocked, Kiba tried to run after her.
"No, wait-" he called. Tsume reached out and grabbed his arm as he went by. He tried to tug free of the older male.
"Let her go, Kiba. We're better off without her," Tsume said.
"Why did you do that to her? Why couldn't you all just let it go and leave us alone?!" he yelled, still trying to work himself free.
"Somebody had to put an end to it," Hige reasoned.
"It didn't have to end! We weren't doing anything wrong. Tell me why you felt the need to do that to her. She had been nothing but kind and reserved since we found her. What did she ever do to you? Why did you do that to her?" he asked fiercely.
"She was messing with your head, Kiba! The worst bit is that you didn't even notice! Ever since we met her you've been weaker and your reasoning has been slipping. We can't have someone like that around. It affects the whole pack," Tsume countered.
"He said everything that I was going to say," added Hige.
"So that's it? It's about the strength of the pack? The unity of the pack? That's rich coming from a guy who was suckered into being with us because of a puppy!" he barked.
"Hey, why don't-" Hige began.
"And you!" Kiba snarled, rounding on him. "You only joined because you had nothing better to do! Am I the only one here who actually WANTS to get to Paradise!? You all act like you have other agendas, then you go and pull a stunt like that!"
"You're really one to talk about being `high-and-mighty' and pulling stunts," Tsume said curtly. They locked eyes. Both males were absolutely furious with one another. Kiba wrenched his arm out of Tsume's tight grip. The silence was deafening. Finally, they relaxed.
"Look, I'm not happy about any of this, but if you want to go play prince and rescue your little lost princess, go ahead. It doesn't matter. But if she starts messing with your judgment Hige and I are going to have a talk with her," Tsume compromised.
"Fine, as long as it's talking," Kiba said.
"Sure, whatever." They turned away from one another and sighed.
"So are you going to run after her or what?" Hige asked, but Kiba was already gone. Even though he didn't like the whole arrangement, Hige couldn't help but smile. Toboe looked at him and shrugged.
"Well, I like her," he said matter-of-factly. The two older males shot him a dirty look. "I don't know what you two have against her," Toboe concluded.
"She's too… well… Look what she was doing to Kiba. It was totally screwing him up," Hige pointed out.
"I don't think it was that bad. If we really needed him Kiba would have still come through for us."
"Uh… I guess he might have…"
"And Ayume's really sweet. I think it's nice that she's around."
"Listen, runt, it looks like we're stuck with her, so just drop it!"
It wasn't hard for Kiba to track Ayume down; there were blood droplets on the ground every few yards, and even if there weren't she hadn't been able to run very far in her condition. He had only covered an acre of forest when he came across her. She was on the ground, propped up against a root. Instinctively he crouched beside her and started to estimate how badly she had been hurt. She sensed him next to her and opened her eyes.
"…what do you want…?" she whispered bitterly.
"Is anything broken?" he asked instantly. Her brow knitted in confusion.
"…why do you care?"
"Cut the crap and tell me," he snapped. Silently, she rested a finger lightly on one of his ribs. "He broke your rib?" She nodded and coughed up blood into her hand.
"Feels that way. Maybe I'm wrong. It's not like I've never been mistaken before. I joined your pack, didn't I?"
"That wasn't a mistake," he snapped.
"Wasn't it?" she countered.
"Tsume and Hige only want the protection of the pack."
"We're doing it again," she muttered.
"Arguing…" she smiled. Kiba felt his eyes close as he took a deep breath. When he opened them, he was composed and relaxed.
"You're right. No more arguing. I just wanted to point out that Tsume and Hige were only doing what they thought was right for the preservation of the pack. I talked with them and they're willing to let you back in."
"I don't know if I'm willing to go back, Kiba," she mumbled. This took him by surprise.
"What? No, I talked to them. Everything's going to be alright."
"Do you promise?" He took one of her hands in both of his.
"I promise," he whispered. She smiled and fell out of consciousness. For a moment he just stared at her pale face, lost in thought. Thousands of questions flashed through his mind so fast that he was having a hard time concentrating on any one thing. They were all a blur of worry and skepticism. Did he love her? Did he even know what love was? Would the others hurt her again like they had today? Did she love him back? These four questions popped up again and again, especially the last one. The prospect of her loving him back was so unbelievable, so wonderful, and yet so frightening. All he knew was that no matter how terrifying and painful it would be to ask her, he had to do it. At least then he would know for sure, and even if she didn't love him back, at least she knew and he would finally be able relax around her. `When she wakes up…' he told himself, squeezing her hand, `…when she wakes up, I'll ask her.'
Although it was a wonderful thing to decide to do something about his feelings for her, it was murder for Kiba to carry it out. First of all, she was unconscious for an unbearably long period of time. Since he had resolved not to leave her side until she stirred, he had grown tired and somewhat bored. Once or twice he felt himself nod off, then jerk his head up to keep awake. When he could no longer stay awake, he rested against the tree beside her and closed his eyes. It had seemed that he was only asleep for a moment, but when he awoke it was well past sundown. He was about to sit up when he felt a weight on his side that wasn't there when he had lain down. Ayume was curled up against him with her head on his shoulder. Somehow, he was able to shrug off his coat and drape it around her with his free hand. His movement roused her from her slumber. She blinked sleepily at him.
"Good evening," he attempted cautiously.
"Evening…" she yawned. She ran her fingers across her forehead to scrape off the dried blood. "I bet I look awful," she added.
"No, never," he said before he could stop himself. She stopped raking the blood-crust out of her hair and smiled at him.
"Ah, now you're just being nice to me because you feel bad," she grinned.
"Not at all."
"You mean you don't feel bad?"
"No, that's not what I-" He tried to recover his fumbled compliment, but she just laughed. Then it hit him: she was just kidding to try and get the attention away from her. For a second he couldn't think of why she would do that. There seemed to be no reason for it.
"Why do you do that?" he asked.
"Find ways to get around compliments instead of just accepting them." She shook her hair to loosen it before staring at him oddly. For a second he thought she was going to get up and run. But she stayed where she was and smiled again.
"I guess it's because I feel like people are lying when they compliment me," she said.
"Lying?" he started. "Why would anyone lie? Why would I lie?" She lowered her gaze.
"I don't know… I guess I just…" But she had no idea what came next after the `just'. She didn't know why she avoided the truth; she just did. He placed his hand under her chin and lifted it so that her eyes met his.
"I've never lied to you, Ayume, and I never will," he said firmly.
"But -" she began. He brought his hand up from her chin to her mouth, where he pressed a finger against it to silence her. A reluctant quiet followed. When he was satisfied he replaced his finger with his lips, pressing just as gently. Her arms snaked around his neck as his jacket slipped from her shoulders. The events of the morning suddenly flashed through his mind and he pulled away. She eased back, slightly offended but understanding.
"I'm sorry, I just…" he started to say, but the look on her face told him that he didn't have to explain. He smiled at her before remembered what he had told himself he would ask her when she was awake. A lump built up in his throat. He tried to swallow around it, but his mouth had gone dry. "Ayume, I…" he tried to say, but couldn't finish.
"Yes?" she said.
"Ayume, I… I was…You, uh…"
"You look like I'm about to bite you, Kiba. Are you okay?"
"No, I just…I wanted to… ask you something."
"Ask me what?"
"Well, I was really going t-to tell you something, then ask you, so I'll just…" he stumbled. Taking pity on the confused wolf, she enveloped him in a hug and rested her head against his chest.
"Just relax," she said soothingly. He took a deep breath and let it out slow, feeling the nervousness be swapped with a natural drunken feeling. Unconsciously, he wrapped his arms around her slender figure. It was as if he no longer had control of himself, and he didn't seem to mind.
"Ayume," he whispered into her ear, "…I…I love you." For a moment, nothing happened. Then, when it had finally sunken in, she pushed him away.
"You what?" she asked, thoroughly frightened.
"I love you," he repeated. Her eyes widened.
"But…you can't, I mean, you don't really know me, and I'm not really… are you sure?" she wondered meekly. He drew closer to her and half-smiled.
"Yes," he murmured. "I'm sure. I don't know how you feel, but I just needed you to know how I felt about you. It only seemed fair."
"Kiba…"she whispered, burying her face in his warm embrace.
"You don't have to say anything. It's all right," he comforted.
"No, it isn't," she said, shaking her head. "I'm too much of a mess. My past is too terrible. I'm not the right mate for you, Kiba. I'm not right for anyone."
"Who are you to tell me if you're the right person for me? You don't have that right. Only I do. And I say that you are perfect for me. You're perfect," he smiled as he wove his fingers through her long, silky hair.
"Me? Perfect? You're insane," she laughed sadly. He cocked his head like a puppy, which made her laugh even more. A sheepish grin fell on his face, then faded to a somber frown.
"Why don't you tell me about this past of yours?" he asked. Ayume felt her breath catch in her chest.
"Why… why do you want to know that?" she asked nervously.
"I just do, that's all. I want to know where you came from, how Hideki found you, what your childhood was like. You don't have to tell all the nitty-gritty details or anything you REALLY don't want to say, but…please? I just want to know you better." She stared at him for a long while. Then, with a sigh, she sat down. Kiba followed. When he was seated against the tree, she leaned back on him. Finally, when they were comfortable, she began:
"I grew up with my mother and brother. She wasn't the alpha female of a pack, just a straggler that the pack picked up. One of the wolves of the lower caste caught her alone one night, and, well, here I am. That's how I got my brother, too. Something was wrong, though. My mother could only produce one pup per litter. I don't know why. Anyway, one day our pack was running across a lush valley. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. A clean, perfectly gorgeous river flowed through it, and I remember lunar flowers… hundreds of lunar flowers… but then they came," she said, bitterly. Kiba took the opportunity to wrap his arms around her middle.
"Who came?" he asked quietly.
"The humans. Before we knew it they were above us in their ship, shooting at us. I remember vaguely one of the males being hit and his blood splattering in my face. It scared me so badly that I picked my brother up by the back of his neck and threw myself into the river. I thought we'd be safe in the river. I came to the surface quickly, mainly because I had to. My brother was only two years old; he didn't know how to hold his breath for any long period of time yet. When my head broke through the top of the water, the sound of gunfire filled my ears. The ship had landed and men with rifles were running at us, firing continually. The whole pack was slaughtered. Immediately the humans fell on the bodies of my fallen pack and started stripping the flesh from their muscles with frighteningly sharp knives. My little brother saw this and wailed with terror. I tried to clamp my hand over his mouth, but it was too late. The men had seen us. Following my first instinct, I bolted for a distant patch of cover. As I was running, I felt a sharp, intense pain between my shoulder blades. Then I …I was a total idiot. I screamed, and my brother (who I was holding by the neck with my teeth) went flying headlong away from me. When I hit the grassy earth I felt a powerful wave of sleepiness wash over me. But I had to get to my brother. I lifted myself up with as much strength as my weak legs would let me and crawled over to my little brother's side. I remember standing over him as the humans drew closer, but then everything went black."
"When I awoke, I was in a tight metal box with almost no room to turn around. I saw a metal grill in front of me and smelled my brother behind me. With a ton of effort I contorted my body so that I could turn around. But it was a big mistake to turn around. I saw… I saw…" her voice trailed off as tears welled up in her eyes. Then, with her voice broken and quivering, she continued. "I saw the body of my little brother. The h-humans had gotten to him. His belly was open, there was nothing inside… nothing at all… and his eyes and paws were missing. I rem-remember his head was at an odd angle…and there was b-blood everywhere…his blood was everywhere… he was only two years old, Kiba. He was only a puppy…" Tears now ran freely down her cheeks.
"After that, the years all blended together. I don't remember how long I was in there. The humans there always wore long white robes; I remember that. They would take me out of my metal cave every once in a while, force food, or poison, or something down my throat, then stuck needles into me and wrote things down. They would put me back in that tight metal cage and I would stay there for a week without food, water, or any way to move around. Then, one day, I just gave up. I collapsed in my cage, too weak to even breathe. That was the night that H-Hideki and the others came. I remember hearing them set off the alarm, and when I opened my eyes these humans dressed all in black were setting all of the animals free. They were taking a lot of them with them, too. Then it seemed like they were leaving, and I remember my heart sinking when I realized that they had forgotten me. With the last of my strength, I lifted myself up and called `wait! I'm still here!' Then I fell against the metal of my cage, sure that they would forget me and leave me to die. But I was wrong. I heard footsteps coming at me fast, and before I knew it I was staring face to face with a youthful, handsome man. I knew then, as I passed out of consciousness, that he would be my savior. And he was. Hideki really was my angel. He saved me…now I guess he really is an angel," she commented sadly. "Maybe I should have just been killed in the mud. At least I would be able to be with Hideki and my little brother again…" Kiba's grip tightened uncomfortably around her waist.
"Don't ever say something like that again. I need you to be alive," he said, anger biting at his words. She twisted around so that she was facing him in his arms.
"Awful selfish, are we?" she laughed. A smile was placed delicately on her pained, tear-streaked face.
"Of course," he grinned, drying her eyes with the sleeve of his jacket before he draped it over her again.
"What about you? What happened to you when you were a child?" His smile faded a little before it was replaced with a sad grin. He slid her up so he could kiss her. She obliged, then slid down next to him in the grass, yawning sleepily.
"I'll tell you tomorrow," he said. She nodded, and they spent the rest of the night staring at the stars that winked through the cover of the trees, not saying a word.
ch-san: Ah, so now we all know her mysterious past. Was it as bad as you thought it would be? Worse? Less? Let me know. Ja ne!