Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 16

Echo hated to see Aiden this way. Since getting back from Samantha’s, he had become more worried than ever about the Xul, barely leaving Echo’s flat except for going to uni. Sophia, of course, just thought that his and Echo’s relationship was going well, and so his housemates did not question the fact that he preferred to spend every night at Echo’s. They had not Become at all since getting back, and Echo was becoming on edge about it, needing to Become to clear her head, and wanting Aiden to because she knew it would do him good to get out of his skin for a while.

 

He had become introverted too, not talking much, spending most of his time with his head in a Lamadu, studying their ancient pages, seeking out wisdom to help him. Echo found herself lost as to how to help him, with his lost so deep inside his thoughts.

 

The answers Samantha had given him had opened uo a whole know load of questions. If his father was a Xul, did that make him one? Was he Evil? Were the Xul evil? Did he belong with them regardless? All Aiden had wanted for as long as he could remember was a family who were like him. Now he had Echo, and along with Samantha he had, what he saw as, a well balanced family, but maybe it was the Xul who were his true family, and if they were, was he obliged to join them?

 

It had taken some time, but, one week after arriving back from Samantha’s, Echo had finally convinced Aiden that it was time for them to Become again. Not in the Heath though, Aiden would not go back there, so they decided to Become like they had done all those months ago, that first time they had really met, and just go through the city, exploring together, just for a chance to clear their minds. It was what they needed if they were going to approach the Mick situation from any angle other than the one they were currently, which wasn’t so much an angle as an infinite curve of a dead end.

 

“It’s getting dark,” Echo said, looking out the window, “We could probably Become soon.”

 

“Nah,” Said Aiden, “Get’s dark so early these days, we should probably wait a little while.”

 

And so they waited, looking through the Lamadu, casting protection spells that Aiden was sure would not work, to try and give themselves some sort of peace of mind before they Became. Over and over, the same chants and charms and incantations running through their heads, being repeated over and over, again and again.

 

They drank tea, still trying to pass the time. They talked about where they would like to go that night, and about how they must go out with Sophia and Dan soon. And, at the same time, in the back of Aiden’s mind, the nagging feeling of inevitability, of hopelessness, of the fact that he was powerless to the Xul. And with this, one more thought arrived into his brain, another that he could not and did not want to shift. What would he do if he lost her?

 

He had come to the realisation, or perhaps realisation was to stronger word, as really he had known all along, that without Echo, he was nothing. Time spent apart from her, he felt like a section of his stomach was missing, and nothing could take its place. He needed her, not just with the Xul, not even just with Apsu. He loved her. But he wouldn’t tell her, not now, not yet. He would wait until all this was over with the Xul first. If he brought it up now, and she didn’t feel the same way, he wouldn’t know what to do, he would have lost his strength. No, after, when the time was right, then her would tell her.

 

“Shall we then?” Asked Echo, glancing at her watch. It was ten in the evening. Aiden wondered how the time had passed so quickly, but he agreed with her none the less, although they’d have to be careful, he’d said, more so than usually, because there would still be people around now. But she was right, they couldn’t wait too much longer.

 

Together, they stood up, and walked out of the flat, holding onto each others hands. It did feel like they were in a relationship, even though it was never officially said, nor did they know when it had started. Although it wasn’t like a relationship at the same time; it was like they were going out, but sex was an unheard of concept. In a way, Aiden was perfectly happy with the way things were now between them, never before had he met someone who understood him quite like Echo did. And yet, he still felt the need to move things along. Maybe. One day. Hopefully.

 

 Once outside, Echo unlocked the shed door. It night was surprisingly warm for early December, although Echo knew without her coat on it would be significantly colder, and her soft cats fur was not particularly thick. Not that it would matter once they had Become. Echo walked into the shed, and Aiden stepped in with her. Faced away from each other, as always, and undressed, folding their clothes into neat piles. Aiden was the first to Become. He exhaled as he let his other form take over his body, relaxing as it did so. He lay down on the floor to wait for Echo.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glance of him. It was different, seeing his other form through her human eyes, because that just wasn’t how she experienced the world in her cat body. She had never before noticed the small flecks of white in Aiden’s coat, on his neck, slightly to the left of his body. She smiled at how cute he looked, before breathing deeply and Becoming as well. She pawed at his face to get his attention, before they left the shed together, to explore the city again.

 

They went carefully this time, not wanting to loose each other, and not wanting to get lost. It was hard, to keep such control while in their other forms, but, for now at least, it was necessary. Echo was finding it easier than Aiden seemed to be, his mind beginning to wonder, as he got distracted by things, taking his attention away from being alert. He wanted to run, to be free; to Become, and then have to tread so carefully, it felt like being trapped. Eventually, he could stand it no longer.

 

“Echo, this is stupid. Come on! Let’s go!”  He said, impatiently, urging her to race with him.

 

Though she was trying so hard to hold onto her rationality, his idea was too tempting, “Okay.” She replied, before taking off over a fence.

 

 Aiden chased her, annoyed at the limitations of his canine body compared with her feline one. She was so agile, free to run just about anywhere, whereas while Aiden was just as fast, his limbs were less graceful, bounding around the city, trying to keep up with her the best he could when she slotted through some small space that he could not get through.

 

It was then, while lost temporarily from Echo, that he heard him. Of course he heard him, he did not seem to be able to Become without Mick being there. But al long as Echo was away, it did not bother him so much. As long as Echo was safe, he could talk to Mick, he could get the rest of the story that he needed so badly to know.

 

It wasn’t words at first though, just a humming, words too far away to hear. Aiden paced around, trying to make them out, and found himself, for the first time in his life, willing Mick to come closer, to speak to him. Soon his wish was granted. It was almost like Mick was looking for him.

 

“Ah, there you are.” Mick said, almost as if he were greeting an old friend.

 

Aiden still couldn’t see him yet, but he sent his message out, “I know my father was a Xul.”

 

“Ah, you’ve found your true nature then, I see.” Mick responded, no longer sounding threatening, but wise and omnipotent.

 

Aiden did not reply at first, not wanting to believe his true nature was Xul. “Did you know my father?” He asked, eventually.

 

“You what?” Mick replied, somehow becoming less well spoken with those two words, “You didn’t find out from that Sorrel bitch?”

 

Without realising, Aiden let out a whimper, “You.. you knew?”

 

“Don’t underestimate me.” Mick barked, angrily.

 

Aiden dropped his tail and crouched, expecting the more dominant Mick to arrive within sight at any moment.

 

“His name was Grey, and he was my Alpha.” Mick said, eventually, strangely to Aiden seeming saddened by the memory.

 

It took Aiden a minute for the words to sink in and for them to aquire meaning. His father had a name. His father was a Xul. His father was Mick’s Alpha. Was, because Mick’s alpha was dead now, now that Mick had become one. Killed by Echo’s father. Aiden knew that this should not change how he saw Echo. He had never met his father, and all he knew was that he was a Xul. And yet, all the same, he felt this rage growing within him. Rage at Echo, rage at her father, rage at his father, and all that he wanted to do with the rage was run.

 

“If I come with you,” Aiden began, “You will leave Echo.”

 

“For now,” Mick replied, “Until you come to your senses.”

 

Aiden left with the Xul. He did not know why, and he did not really want to know why. He just wanted to get away, and going with Mick seemed the easiest way for that to happen. He did not want Echo hurt, he just, for now, did not want to see her, or anyone, for that matter.

 

***

 

Across the city, Echo called for Aiden, where he did not reply. She made her way back to the shed, to find he was not there either, no on her way. She sent out messages, but got nothing back. Eventually, she changed back, got her clothes, and went inside, leaving Aiden’s clothes for him, thinking he probably just got lost.

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