Chapter 1: Two. . .
Nikolla holds two screaming babes close to her chest. Her husband Eryk kissing her sweat stained forehead. The new parents sharing a look of adoration between one another.
Maybe it was because the abandoned tunnels beneath Budapest weren’t the best place for newborns. Maybe it was due to bad luck. Maybe it could have all been okay if it wasn’t for them . The vampires.
It was common practice for couples to move out of the tunnels and take up an alias in the city. Partly because there was no real privacy in the den and partly because it wasn’t a pleasant place to be pregnant in. But Eryk had leaped through the pack rank and the Vampires were getting bolder. It was hardly the time to transport his pregnant mate topside. The pack needed him in the raids and any lycan that didn’t have years of a fake life already built were being hunted down.
So the couple had decided to wait. The pack being as accommodating to the new mother as possible. Only beta’s were allowed in the vicinity of the alpha and his mate, to keep stressor’s to a minimum. Hygiene became a new top priority within the den. The meat from hunts always getting sent to the small family first to ensure both mom and twins were healthy.
But it hadn’t been enough.
Of course twins had been an unexpected joy. Yet even with next to no one visiting the newborns they both got sick. One of the girls was already smaller than her sister. So feeble and pale. It was pure fact that if they didn’t get to a hospital, and soon, neither would last long.
The lycan’s unnaturally quiet as an entire pack listened to the faltering heartbeats of two baby girls.
A plan was devised. Lucian would lead a distraction away from the couple. Nikolla and Eryk would leave out of different exits. Traveling alone through the city. They were more likely to slip under the radar than if they were in a group. Nikolla would take the exit nearest to the hospital with the larger twin. Surprisingly it had been her who had succumbed to the sickness first. Taking it far worse than the smaller one. Eryk would have a longer trek but he was stronger and more adept than Nikolla. His bundle being the smaller of the girls.
Neither had been named yet. It was lycan tradition to wait a year before naming the children. First it had stemmed from the high mortality rate among their kind. However it had slowly evolved into the parents eagerly searching for a name to fit the personality of their child.
Nikolla kissed the smaller twin and her mate at the split in the tunnels. “I’ll call you as soon as we get past the doors.” Eryk promises vehemently, clutching his family close.
“Don’t keep me waiting.” She halfheartedly teases.
“Never.” He kisses her cheek one last time before pulling away. Eryk nods to Raze who turns on his heel to pass on the signal. The raid would start within the next twenty minutes. “Be safe my loves.” he whispers to himself as she turns to dart down the tunnel.
He takes a deep breath, clutching the baby closer to him in the folds of his coat. She was always so quiet. It was something he agonized and worried over before. But now he is thankful. She would draw little, if any, attention. Eryk runs down the other tunnel with inhuman speed. The baby staying quiet the whole while besides a tiny cough every now and then.
It is raining when he climbs the ladder to the surface. Emerging in a small back alley he hauls himself up, silently covering the entrance. A nose to the air reveals little. The rain dampening the scents around him. As far as he could tell there were no death dealers nearby. All the same he remains vigilant as he flips up his hood and joins the evening pedestrians. It is hard to keep pace with the crowd and not shove through it.
Gritting his teeth he waits at a crosswalk. The fluorescent lights of the hospital barely visible around the next block. His eye twitches at the faint, very far off, sound of a howl. It must be the raid. Good. It was far away from both his and Nikolla’s path.
Eryk bursts through the entrance, immediately running to the nearest staff member. The woman confused and slightly frightened by the haggard man. That is until he shoves his jacket and the blanket aside to reveal the sickly newborn. “Please help her.” He begs. Shoving down his instinct to hold the babe tighter when the woman takes her from him. He’s on the heels of the nurse as the newborn is passed around until she is finally in a bassinet. All of his queries easily deflected by the staff as they take the newborn away for testing.
Left sitting in a chair in the midst of the hallway he takes out his phone. Dialing the one and only number saved. His leg bouncing as he waits for Nikolla to pick up.
“Sorry the number you have dialed is-”
He hangs up and tries again.
Five times until he takes a deep breath. His nose greeted with the unpleasant sterile clean that clung to the odor of sickness and death. Maybe she was just in a room where phones aren't allowed? They had machines that interfere with cell signal nowadays, didn’t they? Yeah. That was it. He slowly wanders over to the nurses station. “My wife was coming here with our other daughter. She should have gotten here not long before me.” He explains, fingers clenching and unclenching. Currently away from all of his family he was going insane with worry.
“Uh, first name Nikolla. Last name might be Dumitru or Lund.”
Unimpressed by the multiple surnames she looks at him over her glasses. But perhaps he looks desperate enough that she doesn't question it. Her fingernails on the keyboard sound like the bass of a drum right against his ear. She leans forward to presumably scan a list of names. A small hum and she’s typing something else into the computer.
“Sorry sir. No one under those names has a child in our care.”
Eryk’s stomach drops and his ears ring. He turns away from the nurse and paces the hall as he quickly opens up his phone once again. He calls her twice more before a rather small and intimidated doctor is tapping on his shoulder. Eryk’s gaze snaps down to the doctor, the man stepped back warily. No doubt his eyes flashing silver in his current mental state. The alpha forces himself to take a deep breath and put on a shaky smile. “Your daughter is this way. If you’d just follow me.” The doctor explains.
The man forces himself to nod and follow after the doctor. He listens intently as the doctor informs him of his daughters condition and how “You were lucky to get her here in time.” Then he is led into a room with dozens of children encased in small plastic containers. The doctor doesn't even need to lead him to his own child despite her similarities to the other children. Even through the hospital stench he finds the smell of family and follows it. The doctor prattles on about treatment and length of stay but Eryk is quick to cut him off “She’s going to be okay?”
The doctor is clearly annoyed at being interrupted but nods. “Yes. We’ll keep her here a week while we feed her the medicine through an I.V. Depending on her response to the treatment we’ll have to adjust it as we go. It's a slow process Mr. Dumitru” butchering the name “you need to be prepared for a long couple of weeks.”
Eryk isn’t really sure how long he stares down at his child wrapped in a multitude of wires and out of reach. The doctor eventually leaving to tend to other worried parents. The vibration of the phone in his hand snapping him out of his revere. He immediately answers it with a hopeful “Nikolla?”
The murmur of a male voice turns his blood cold. It is a few moments before Raze responds “No. It's me. Please tell me you got to the hospital.”
“I’m here now. Where is Nikolla?” He fights to keep his voice low.
“. . .”
“Raze!” He immediately drops his voice back to a near whisper “Where is my family?”
“Eryk. . .she must have gotten chased off her route. We’re following the scent now. . .” The unsaid ‘but’ evident to the father.
But it's unlikely the trail would lead to a happy ending.
“I’m joining you.” He whispers through clenched teeth.
There is a rustle on the other end as the phone exchanges hands “You are staying right where you are.” Lucian’s Alpha voice booming through the device. Eryk flexes his arms at the order as he fights it.
“My family --”
Lucian cuts him off “Is with you Eryk! Stay with your pup. Protect her. We have more than enough bodies to search for Nikolla and the other pup.” His sharp tone dropping low as he attempts to console the father “We’ll find them Eryk. I promise.”
The line cuts out with Lucian probably handing the phone back to Raze as he barks orders. Eryk sinks into a chair on the side of the room. Head in his hands as his body shakes. Part of him needing to go find the other two members of his family. The other part needing to stay and protect the pup right in front of him. The order courses through his veins though. Making his decision for him.
Chapter 2: And then there was one.
Eryk is a fearsome statue in the hospital hallways. Leaning against the opposite wall as he looks through the glass window across from him to his pup. He doesn't move from his post. Watching his pup take shallow breaths as he focused on her heartbeat over all the monitors. Seeing her fight to live was like an anchor for Eryk. Convincing him to stay by her side with no more orders from Lucian.
They must have arrived at the hospital just after seven in the evening. It was now four in the morning the following day. His phone buzzes and nearly punches a passing nurse with the speed he brings it up to his face. A single text message
“L and I need you to confirm us as guests before they let us up -R’
Eryk forces himself away from the window to the nurses station. The shift change leaving a new wary woman there. “I’ve got two friends of the family trying to get up here. Big black fella and” He makes a wild guess at who must be with Raze but still tries to keep it ambiguous “Pale guy with long dark hair.” She holds up a finger as she picks up the phone.
He hears the voice ask if it's some kind of biker gang, the nurse looking him up and down before she mutters a “Maybe. Just let ‘em up. He hasn’t caused any trouble.”
When the nurse gives him the thumbs up he shambles like a phantom back to his post. Staring down at his pup with blood shot eyes and a permanent frown affixed to his features. He can sense Lucian and Raze making their way down the hall to him. But he just can’t bring himself to look away from his child.
He waits in silence for their report. It wasn’t good based on their scent. They both looked as tired as he felt. “She’s gone Eryk.” Lucian’s voice says quietly, apologetically.
“My pup?” There isn’t any hope, but he can’t help but ask.
“Both of them are gone.”
Eryk’s eyes begin to water as he stares at the fragile little girl surrounded by wires and machines. “What. Happened.”
“Either some death dealers were intentionally patrolling other parts of the city or a few of them decided they just didn’t want to deal with us last night.” Lucian explains “We thought we had rounded all of them up but. . .” The leader forces himself to pause to regain control of his emotions and scent. He would be strong for his friend. Lucian had known Eryk since the lycan’s were enslaved. He wouldn’t let his rage bleed out at this somber moment “She must have crossed their line of sight. Nikolla put up a hell of a fight Eryk. She ran them halfway around the city and took two of them down by herself.”
Eryk nods to show he had heard the Alpha’s words. Lucian leaves the matter alone to let the man grieve. Raze keeping most unwanted ears far away from them just with his looming presence. “Which ones your’s?” The Alpha questions softly.
Without a word Eryk lifts a finger to point to the bassinet two from the left. Lucian steps away to give the man space. Instead going to look over a child he hadn’t yet gotten to see. He as an alpha, as The Alpha, had respected the couples wishes to stay away. Since Eryk was also an alpha he saw everyone as equal rank or strength to him as a threat to his mate and pups. It was common etiquette to keep distance from the mother and pup for a while after the birth.
The moment he focused on her small form he jolted completely awake despite the long night of fighting and tracking. It was as though his blood was boiling within his veins as his very soul lurched towards the fragile bundle. Something deep and primal whispered to him,
Lucian clenched his jaw, slowly pushing his tongue against his teeth to keep himself distracted. He couldn’t afford the other two picking up on what had just transpired. Thankfully he doesn’t have to keep it up long as the pup lets out a small wail. A pitiful cry to mirror the own within his head. A nurse is quick to shuffle past the lycan’s to get into the room. Eryk at her heels within an instant.
Raze and Lucian watch as the nurse check on the girl’s vitals. The lycan’s all tense to see a human, someone outside of the pack, touching one of the young. Once the nurse had assured the panicked father that it was nothing more than a cry for attention she helps to situatie the wire wrapped baby in Eryk’s arms.
She backs away from the father to go check on the other babes in the darkened room. Giving him the illusion of privacy. Lucian watches with a pained expression as Eryk leans down to rest his forehead over the girls own. Exhaling heavily to cover the pup in his scent, trying to drown out the stench of the hospital and the nurse. The pup quieting at the action. The Alpha feels Raze’s gaze but does not acknowledge it. Lucian himself too distracted with the want to do as Eryk did, to put up a message to any supernatural being as to who the babe belonged to. As to who you’d be dealing with if you harmed a single hair on her peach fuzz head.
Once the nurse finished her rounds she coaxes the pup away from Eryk to lie her back down. The woman ushering the defeated lycan back out to the hall to his companions. Perhaps another ten minutes or maybe a half hour go by as the three watching the broken breaths of the infant.
Lucian is the one who breaks the trance.
“Go back to the den Eryk. Eat. Sleep. Come back well rested.” His voice quiet but by no means a request. He didn’t exert the force of an Order however. Lucian wouldn’t be so cruel.
“I stay with her. I’m not letting my family out of my sight ever again.”
Lucian places a hand on Eryk’s shoulder “The pack will watch her. I will watch her Eryk. Besides. . .” and Lucian knew this was an underhanded trick but he went through with it anyways “We did catch one of them . It’s being held back at the den, for you.”
Eryk’s head whips towards the Alpha as his eyes flash silver. His implication clear to the other. Eryk could exact his revenge on the surviving bastard.
“Go with Raze. Nothing will happen to your pup on my watch.” Lucian solemnly promised.
There is a war within the father's eyes. His gaze darting between the infant and the elevator at the end of the hall. “I’ll be back in the evening.”
Raze, uncharacteristically growls out, “No. You’ll be back tomorrow. We’re gonna take our time with the leech.”
The sheer fact that Eryk doesn’t bristle at the other alpha’s words speaks to how much rage he harbored. How much he needed to make it suffer. With one last look at his pup he stiffly turns away. Walking with his shoulders hunched as he fought the urge to stay. Raze raises his brow at Lucian and the Alpha gives him a warning look. After a moment Raze nods in understanding.
You tell anyone about the bond and I’ll do worse to you than Eryk will the leech.
They start taking watch on shifts. A lycan or two on the street near the hospital. Not close enough to warrant suspicion for the building. Just around the area so they can catch any approaching death dealers before they could ever breech the hospital. One lycan in the lobby. A few others being hired on as custodians. And either Lucian or Eryk with the pup.
Each time Eryk leaves it isn’t any less difficult than the first. But the pack eventually builds up enough of a rhythm that the switch is seamless.
It is rare that either Lucian or Eryk linger long with one another. Usually just a few words exchanged to update the condition of the pup before leaving. The one relieved sorely needing a meal and some sleep. “Wait just a moment friend.” Eryk turning back around at Lucian’s words. “Its time to start thinking about the future.” He nods to the sleeping pup in the other room. She has more color in her cheeks and her heartbeat is notably stronger every day. It had been many long weeks to reach this point. Nearing three months. “I have made arrangements for several of the integrated members to start the foundation of a safe house.”
He is forced to leave the locations and names out of the current conversation. Its already risky enough divulging such information in an unsecured space. “Which I hope with your help will soon turn to a haven. It will be quiet and. . .away.” From the war.
Eryk’s brow furrows “Lu-” He cuts himself off, using his true name outside the den was dangerous. He starts again “I can’t just leave. My duties here-”
“Are over. I’m putting you in charge of this new group. That is where your responsibilities now lie.” There is an air of finality to his tone. This wasn’t some new idea that he was asking for opinions on. It had already been set in motion and was just waiting on Eryk to move there.
Eryk starts to protest again but Lucian holds up a hand to stop him. “Think about it Eryk. You can’t possibly raise her here. Its to dangerous. You’re not the only one. Everyone that’s got young one’s and aren’t secure in the city are migrating to the havens.”
“Our numbers will thin.” Eryk protests quietly.
“Its not like they were going to be on the front lines anyways.” Lucian had been meaning to put something akin to this in the works for awhile. The havens would spread out the population, genocide less likely with so many lycans hidden so far apart. Give them a safe place to repopulate. Pups could be trained before they ever set foot in a city. It would be a new age of living for Lycans. Far different from the dark tunnels and cramped conditions they were used to.
The fact that his mate would be a fair distance from the fighting was simply an incentive to put the plan into action.
Eryk is running out of reasons to resist. Lucian watches as the other lycan begins to think over the plan. He sees the moment of decision in Eryk’s eyes before the father gives a short nod. “Fine. But only when she is strong enough for travel.” He grunts.
“Only way I’d have it.”
Eryk turns down the hall and disappears down the elevator. Lucian watches the movement of staff for a moment before the door to the nursery opens. Not a second later a, now familiar, cry rings through the air. The nurse sighs and holds the door for him to enter the nursery. They had quickly discovered that the only way to calm the infant was with Lucian. Eryk only knew of the quiet child he saw during the day. At night she became the wailing red faced pup that Lucian now approaches. His presence, most likely his scent for an infant so young, triggering her to call out to him.
It was instinct that one was never fully rid of to search out the object of safety. Lucian obediently heeds the call of the pup he was bonded to. Her hand now unimpeded by wires as it had been earlier in the week to reach out to curl around his finger. The pup instantly silencing at his touch. Her fist pushing his finger against the side of her face as she was lulled back to sleep. He can’t hold back the small smile as he whispers “Hello again little one.”