Status: Finished.

More Than Just Baser Instincts.

Afraid to Even Blink

Dinner was...something else. I stared at my plate, poking absently at the practically raw meat that sat in all of its bleeding glory before me. Tiberius' eyes were surely burning holes into me, but I just ignored the anxiety radiating beside me. My sister and Leonard were quiet as well. My mother was all but mute as she chewed delicately and carefully—like a proper lady—but my father seemed oblivious to the tension in the air as he tore into his meal like a right beast. He made the most noise out of all of us, chewing loudly and scraping his plate occasionally with his knife.

"Elaine, please." Tiberius' quiet voice made me tense, but then I sighed softly. "Elaine, at least speak to me. Something is bothering you."

"Not now," I breathed, cutting a meaningful look to the anxious man. He gave me a disappointed look, like he wanted to say so much more, but he just swallowed his words and started cutting into the slab on his plate.

"Christine, you have not said two words to your daughter since she arrived," my father noted, causing the entire room to cringe at the sudden intrusion to the silence.

My mother slowly looked to me, smiling nervously.

"It's wonderful to have you back, dear," she forced out between clenched teeth and from behind a horribly fake façade.

My father grunted at her horrible acting, but then he smiled to Arianna. She looked to Leonard quite obviously for support, so he gave her a gentle nod with a very tight-lipped smile.

"Yes, father?" Her voice broke, but she maintained eye contact.

"How are you and Leonard coping? I'm sure the cubs will turn up. I have my best men on it."

"Yes, sir. Thank you," Leonard cut in, placing his hand on top of Arianna's. "We know we will be reunited with them."

"Such faith is commendable." Then my father turned to Tiberius and me. Looking this man in the eyes...was difficult. He was acting so much like the father I always imagined growing up, the one for whom I wished to cry after nightmares.

And every time I closed my eyes, I had to face the image of him holding me, drenched in his own blood and begging to know why...

I opened my eyes quickly before the tear could trickle down my cheek.

"Elaine, are you feeling alright?"

I opened my mouth, but Tiberius' hand suddenly squeezed my shoulder.

"She's still upset about..." Tiberius' voice trailed as his sympathetic gaze brushed over me. "Sir, might we actually be excused? Rory is probably going to awaken soon." He smiled sheepishly to himself, then. "I'd like to be there when he does."

I turned to look at him with such awe on my face. This man... But he just stood quickly and held out his hand for me. I took it quickly, and he helped me onto my feet.

"Of course," Gerald finally responded.

Tiberius' hand lingered on my back as he guided me throughout the winding halls and up the spiraling staircases. I wanted to tell him that I saw great things for him, but he wouldn't believe me. I had tried so many times before.... So I would just live with the knowledge that he would be a great father and an amazing husband for some lucky mother.

He closed the door quietly behind me, and then he strode up to sit at the edge of the bed. I collapsed gratefully to the plush sheets, but I knew he wouldn't let me off the hook so easily.

"You have clearly been upset by something, Elaine. What is it?"

I stared at the ceiling for a moment, taking in a deep breath before I rolled my head on the pillow to look at him.

"I read about the politics of my father's reign," I told him quietly, glancing away.

"Not too much has changed except the wording. What upset you?"

"What if... What if I can't do it? I thought there would be a way to impeach him, but I really have to..." I closed my eyes. "I have to..."

"Kill him?" My eyes bolted to him, but he had already moved to lie beside me. "I thought you already knew that would be what it came down to."

"I mean, I thought it would...but actually doing it is completely different!" I sprung upright, clutching his shirt. "How am I supposed to look at that man—my own father—and just slip a knife in his ribs when he's consoling me over my mate? You tell me how!"

"I can't answer that, Elaine. Only you can."

I slammed my balled-up fist onto his chest.

"That's not good enough!"

"It's your choice, and that's how it will always be." I glared at him when he caught my hands easily, holding me despite my squirming. "You're going to have to publically challenge Gerald, and then the battle will be arranged. Otherwise, you'll just be killed for murdering the lead male."

Tears welled up in my eyes.

"But it's my father," I choked, slamming my eyes shut as my body went limp.

A gentle hand on my chin forced me to open my eyes again, and my weary gaze was met by the softest pair of silver eyes I had ever seen. They used to be so empty, but now...they were truly a window to his very soul—a soul I had once thought he didn't have.

"No one said that life is easy... But life never gives you something that you can't find a way to handle. You're an amazing woman, Elaine, and I wish I could deserve you—but that Quince guy did or will do something far greater than anything I ever could. Do you want to know what I think?"

"Tiberius, I—"

"Do you want to know what I think?" he repeated, brushing his thumb over my cheek and brushing away a tear. I nodded, mute. "I think that the universe gave you this task because you're the only one who can do it. You are the only one who has the power to save this entire pride. The entire world believes in you. You're the only one doubting yourself."

I leaned away from him, gently brushing his touch away.

"Tiberius... Where is my father now?"

"He is probably in the grand hall. I believe he had another set of pairings to make tonight." I looked back to him, giving him the most meaningful look I could muster. "Elaine, you don't have to go now!"

"If not now, when? I can stop him from making those poor lions miserable." I rose carefully, my eyes drifting to my baby. "If I don't make it, if my father kills—

"Elaine," Tiberius warned with a stern voice.

"I'd be honoured if you would take care of him, if I don't come back." I stepped carefully up to him. "And for what it's worth, you're going to do some amazing things, too, and you're going to be the whole world to some lucky woman."


I brushed a kiss across his cheek.

"Bye," I whispered, hurrying out before he—or I—stopped myself.

When I barged into the audience hall, my father was, as expected, sitting on his throne. Pairs of men and women stood before him, visibly trembling. All eyes darted to me, but the only stare that held any emotion was Gerald's—and it held confusion.

"Elaine, what are you doing? This is private, and I'm going to have to ask you to leave so I can pair—"

"Gerald VII, lead male of the Northern Sector..." I took in a deep breath before taking a warrior's stance. "I, Elaine Porter, of the Central Sector challenge you for your title."

The confusion left, and his eyes narrowed.

"You don't know what you're saying, Elaine. Just go back to Tiberius and—"

"I know exactly what I said. Father... You are a poison to this pride, and I... I have to kill you."
♠ ♠ ♠
I decided to take a break from my week-long study of Ochem to post this... And I'm sure it was a bad choice, but I just needed to write--so here's the latest instalment! Thanks for reading :) Now, back to science!