Status: Finished.

More Than Just Baser Instincts.

The Man and the Beast

Leonard's P.O.V.
When I was just a cub, I grew up in a loveless household. My "family" consisted of my mother, my father, and me—the only child, a child born out of obligation to the rules and conventions of a backwards place. Sure, the ruler then had nothing on Gerald, but he was still far from the most compassionate man alive.

I was raised to be unfeeling, and it was easy—it almost felt as if I had no soul, just as my parents before me. My mother would stare at my father with such disdain, and he would, in turn, scowl at my mother and me before storming out of the house at night. He always left, to be with his mistress. Both my mother and I knew about it, but my mother just didn't care. And I didn't exactly know what was happening.

Whenever he left, I would beg my mother to tuck me in at night and tell me a story. I never asked when my father was around, because he would just spit at me and tell me to just go to bed. But my mother would, sometimes, relent with a quiet sigh before agreeing to just one story. Those nights were the only times when I was almost happy.

Until I saw a young woman sitting in the courtyard. She was beautiful, but she was also so very sad. It was a sadness that many of our people knew, a sadness that was unique to our sector.

I approached her with timid footsteps, and her voice was so quiet when she spoke to me. She said her father was the ruler, one of the men responsible for our suffering. And she said that she had overheard him talking about calling for another pairing—one involving her.

It was a crazy, stupid thing to do—but the heart wants what it wants. For the next week, we wandered about in secrecy, and then we marked each other. The next day, her father called her pairing. Even though I was a coward, I couldn't just let her go so quickly. So I stood before him with the blankest of eyes that I could muster, and I informed him that we had marked each other. I dared not speak of the word "mates," and instead said that she and I seemed compatible and it was only sensible that we would have desirable offspring.

He was happy with the reasoning, and my life had finally started to turn around for the better. And I have only Arianna to thank for that.

So when Elaine's mate stood before me, roaring and screaming at me and threatening my very life, I knew exactly where he was coming from. I knew that pain, and I knew how empty he must feel. Without Arianna, I would be nothing—just like Quince.

"I'm sorry" was my cold response, and I cringed at the levelness of my voice. This man was all but on his knees begging for a way to turn back time, and yet I was perfectly stable and unmoved by his plight.

"You're sorry?" he spat, shoving me. Understandably. "Just move! I need to see her!"

I put my hand on his chest to hold him back, and he growled at me.

"You don't want to see her. She wouldn't want you to remember her like this."

"You talk like she' she's—"

"Don't say it; it will only hurt more."

A born lead male is a frightening sight indeed, so I cringed when he slammed his fist into the wall—right beside my head. The plaster crumbled around his hand, and yet he only clenched his teeth. Surely the pain in his fingers was nothing compared to the pain that ached inside his chest.

I wished I could convey to him how sorry I was, but sympathy had never been taught to me.

"Get out of my way!"

His voice was hardly human, and his eyes flashed with that dangerous pre-changeling glint that warned me to move unless I wished to be torn to shreds. I had no choice but to move aside, allowing him passage into the infirmary.

My sweet mate was still crying at her sister's bedside, and it broke my heart when she whirled around, her eyes stricken with such pain and grief. The sight of Quince made her choke on a sob, but she gathered Rory in her arms and moved out of the way.

"Quince—" she whimpered, her voice breaking before she could say more. She caught my gaze, but I shook my head. There was nothing we could say to him.

Seeing his mate must have had some effect on him, because that terrifying alpha-male aura vanished in but one blink as he dropped to his knees. The once frightening Transvaal beast became a weak and frightened boy. I saw his shoulders shake as a tortured breath rattled his chest.

I know that my mate had the exact same reaction when she saw her sister crumble to the earth. But even with our best medicine and doctors, there was nothing that could be done. Elaine was still alive...but no one knew how long that statement would remain true.

Rory started crying then, and my chest ached when he started shouting his new favourite word: Mama. Quince froze, and then he turned to look at the wailing child. Rory was crying and holding his arms out at Elaine, as he had done for the past day. But then he caught Quince's glance, and he began crying, "Dada!"

Quince cringed, his head dropping. He didn't know... I started to step forward, but Arianna put her hand on his shoulder and held Rory out to him.

"Look," she whispered, taking Quince's hand and placing it on Rory's nearly bald head. She made him brush his fingers over the sprouts of red hair, surely unable to find the words to explain what Elaine had only just discovered.

But he must have understood, for his eyes widened and his arms wrapped securely around Rory—his son.

" it even possible?" he whimpered, slamming his eyes shut as the young boy reached out and grabbed his father's finger.

"Elaine saw his hair... And it gave her the strength to beat Gerald," I told Quince, keeping my voice very careful so as not to upset him further. "She saved an entire people, Quince. You should be proud of her."

I thought my words would comfort him, but suddenly Rory was back in Arianna's arms and I was pinned against a wall, cringing at the pain shooting up my spine.

"I should be proud that Elaine—the mother of my child, my mate, the love of my life—gave everything up to help a bunch of people who couldn't be bothered to help themselves?" he spat in my face, slamming me against the wall again. "Should I also be proud that my son may never know his mother's sweet voice? You tell me that! You seem to think you know everything, so tell me that! Your race has brought her nothing but pain and heartache! And now you've done this to her! Oh, but at least I have pride! That makes everything fucking perfect, doesn't it? Doesn't it!"

"I understand that you are in pain, Quince, but taking it out on me won't bring your mate back," I told him, calmly and deliberately.

But his eyes only flashed with more anger, the opposite effect of what I had hoped for... The Central Sector was surely a strange place if their leader was any indication.

"You speak as if you know everything, but you know nothing that actually matters," he snarled, grabbing the collar of my shirt and jerking me toward him. "You speak as if you've already given up, but I haven't. Your medicine and doctors mean bugger all to me, and they mean even less to her!" He threw a finger at the still figure in the bed. "You don't know Elaine—you don't know my mate. Not at all! You Whites may have a superiority complex about everything, but it doesn't mean you can take care of her better than I can--because you can't."

"I don't understand what you mean."

He released me quickly, and I stumbled to catch my footing. Being so passive with such a dominant male in the room was not easy, but thinking about his pain and rationalizing his actions made it a touch less difficult.

But then the beast in the room stepped up to Arianna. I prepared a snarl, but my mate just handed Rory to him. Quince gingerly reached out and drew the babe to his chest. And then he sat at Elaine's bedside, a calm look about him. He just sat there, not saying a word as he gently captured Elaine's limp hand, occasionally rubbing his son's nearly bald head.

When Arianna came to bed that night, her face still stained with tears, she told me that Quince was still sitting there, just as he had been. He had not moved in seven hours...

I did not know what to make of this creature.
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Just a bit more last minute character development! :D I didn't really plan on doing this, but I do very much so like the contrast between Quince/Elaine and Leonard/Arianna. Quince and Elaine are so animated, while Arianna and Leonard are more passive and less expressive... But I'm waffling again.

Stay tuned for the next instalment :)