I stared at him in disbelief.
I never thought I was going to see him again, and yet here he was. “…Cai?” was all I managed to say. And then a flood of different emotions hit me all at once, overwhelming me.
… But there was one that ended up prevailing above any other.
I moved so quickly that I almost didn’t even realise I did it… and slapped him across the cheek. Immediately, I stared down at my own hand in astonishment, bewildered at myself as he covered his face. “…I probably deserved that,” he said, and half laughed the whole thing off. “Wow, you really pack a punch these days, Aria.” …Did I actually just hit him?
I thought I was happy to see him? That I wanted his forgiveness?
But I realised something else, something that had triggered me in the way he spoke.
“You don’t write to me, you don‘t visit, and you left making me think you hated me,” I snapped. “You can’t just show up here, talking like you’re greeting an old friend! You made that fact painfully obvious when you left, Cai.”
This whole time I thought he‘d hated me. I thought he didn‘t want anything to do with me. And yet he had walked right up, asking me to dance with him, and blurting out some ridiculous old nickname. As if nothing had happened. As if the last two years I’d spent feeling guilty had been for nothing. What had been the point in agonising over what had happened between us when it apparently had meant nothing to him? 1 I could see several people had stopped to stare but I ignored it. I felt too tense to care at that very second.
“I’m sorry, you‘re right… can we please go somewhere and talk?” he asked, his eyes pleading with me.
I wanted to tell him to get lost, that I didn‘t want to see him, but I knew that would be a lie. I couldn‘t deny that a part of me had missed him and that I had wanted to see him again so badly.
“…Fine,” I agreed after a pause.
But, before I could move an inch, a cold voice then spoke behind me.
“Caius,” I heard Aleric greet.
“Aleric,” came the reply.
The sentiment seemed mutual as the two regarded each other warily. You could feel the tension in the air between them. elementos
Considering that one of the main reasons I‘d pursued becoming a Beta, rather than just running away, was to ensure a war didn‘t break out between the two of them, it seemed as though my interference was already setting up their political relations on a *great* note….
I turned to Aleric and found he was staring at Cal, his eyes narrowed ever so slightly. He only looked away to give me his attention after I spoke.
“I‘m sure I‘ll catch you later,” I said with a smile, trying to relax any uneasiness. “But if I‘m not back before your shift, I really do hope it goes well. And make sure you try and relax. It’ll make it easier.”
I realised then that giving him advice on shifting would seem odd coming from me and had to quickly backpedal. “…Or, at least, that‘s what Father told me.” He looked like he wanted to say something else but he didn‘t, just giving me a nod instead. And so, I followed behind Cai as he led us out onto the balcony. There wasn’t anyone else around luckily, given the event had only just started. It was probably for the best that we had some privacy to talk “You’ve grown so much since I last saw you,” he said lightly. “Guess I‘ll have to find a new nickname for you now.”
But I found even this irritating. It was like he was trying to avoid explaining himself.
“Why are you here, Cai?” I asked, ignoring his comment. He leaned against the balcony rail, the night sky and forest behind him. He looked taller, more toned, if that was even possible. “My father thought that it would be best for me to come back and reconnect given it’s been a while,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest. “I had my coming of age about six months ago, so I’m technically here on official ambassador business for a little while… but I knew I had other things to take care of whilst here.” It explained why he looked a bit different. He had his wolf now. His body would have developed more during the process.
“…What other things?” “Like apologising to you,” he said, his eyes staring into mine. “In person, face to face. Not via a dumb letter or just asking about you from Myra.” “…I thought you hated me.” I couldn‘t hide the pain in my own voice as I spoke and I cursed myself for letting him hear it. “You made me think that you didn‘t even consider us friends when you left. I spent years blaming myself for you leaving the way you did.” He looked away from me, seeming guilty at what I was telling him. “So, was I wrong back then?” I asked when he didn‘t answer me. I could feel the tears start to bubble at my eyes. “…Weren‘t we friends, Cai?” My words must have gotten to him as he inhaled sharply and still couldn‘t look at me. It took several moments before he was finally able to reply.
“We were friends… I’m sorry, Aria.”
“So, why..? Why did you do that to me? I deserve an explanation for what happened because I don’t understand at all, Cai.”
“…Because I was stupid and not good at handling things,” he admitted, his speech quick as if h e was confessing something that had been weighing him down. “1 reacted in a way that hurt you, that I knew would hurt you, and I still did it anyway.” I wiped at the tear on my cheek angrily. So, it had been on purpose the entire time? He thought that little of me? “The truth is,” he started, trying to calm himself, “I found out only that day I was going to be sent back home… and I was devastated. I was devastated because I didn’t know how to break the news to you, Aria. And so instead of just coming clean… I went and found literally anything else to do other than tell you.”
I almost wanted to laugh at how messed up that was. His idea of finding anything to do had been finding anyone to do.
“I was destructive in my procrastination and it hurt you,” he continued. “A part of me wanted i t to hurt you because, if you hated me, then it would make saying goodbye easier… and I got m y wish, Aria. To the point I’ve been feeling guilty all these years, unsure how to fix it.” “A f*****g apology two years ago would have been a good start,” I said bitterly through gritted teeth. “…How could you do that to me after everything we went through?”
“I really am sorry, Aria,” he said, stepping towards me. “…You have no idea how badly I regret
He looked so miserable and sincere in what he was telling me. I wanted nothing more than to believe him, to forgive him, but I felt like I‘d be giving in too easy after the hell I went through.
…But then his words hit a part of me I’d been walling off behind my anger.
“…I missed you, Aria,” he said quietly, looking at me with his sad eyes. And even though I promised myself not to readily give in to him, I found I was helpless to stop myself from completely crumbling inside at those words, at those eyes, and that miserable
face of his. I ran to cover the distance between us and threw my arms around him. “Screw you, Cai,” I mumbled against him. “…I missed you, too.” I could feel him wrap his arms around me in turn and inside I knew I‘d made the right choice. Maybe Myra’s assessment had been correct and I had been acting too stubborn.
It was strange but, even though I knew I had grown since I‘d last seen him, I found I became very aware of the fact that Cai stood over a foot taller than me as we hugged. I felt so tiny against him. And his scent… it seemed stronger and had almost something a little sweeter to it underneath the more earthy tones. I wouldn‘t have been able to tell unshifted had I not been s o close to him right now. Had he always smelt so nice?
Behind me, the music for the next song began to start up; something slower.
Cai pulled away to look down at me. “Dance with me.”