tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Bonding Chronicles Ch. 14

The Bonding Chronicles Ch. 14


***** Uneasy Alliance *****

Andrew knew his body had been destroyed, but as he felt Karen nestle against his side he struggled to care. Her naked flesh felt wonderful as she cooed and squirmed against his bony body, and he admired her face as it pinched up and wiggled while she dreamt. He caressed her back, feeling his weak muscles struggle to make even that simple movement, and was pleased as he felt her settle against him.

She had drifted off just after their final climax, the intensity of the experience and the knowledge that Andrew was safe allowing the protective woman to slip into a peaceful rest — something Andrew realized she had not had for some time. Karen was amazing, and more beautiful than he thought he deserved. While he studied his stunning mate, he felt Sara's exhilaration through their bond, and revelled in the knowledge that they had succeeded in saving her life.

When he closed his eyes and focused on the familiar space at the center of his mind, he shook his head and chuckled to himself, realizing that everything he did always seemed to have unintended consequences. Karen's sprite was there, dancing along the surface of the monolith, the radiant cloud of violet energy pulsing in the background behind it — weak, but rich with magical potential. And there, at the foot of the smokey-gray construct, sat Sara, though not any version of Sara that Andrew had ever seen.

She was amber and semi-transparent, just as she had appeared when he entered her mind, but she took the shape of a large ocelot, her mottled coat looking spectacular as it emanated muted tones of brownish-gold light. He knew it was her, the almond irises of the dangerous-looking cat speaking to him of a love and passion that he had only ever felt from Sara. The moment the cat stood, stretching out its long body and releasing a silent yawn, Andrew knew the truth of her.

Sara was, as Andrew and Karen had suspected, a fearsome predator. Her long claws and razor sharp teeth seemed dangerous beyond measure, and as she bounced her way over to him, he could see the unnatural grace he had come to expect from his feisty mate. She rubbed against his hip before pushing him to the side with her temple, her weight adding to the force of her affectionate display. Andrew ran his fingers through her spotted fur and knew she would never hurt him, despite the ferocity he could feel contained within her lean body. She was — as she had promised — his guardian, and for once he had been able to be hers.

Andrew could feel her emotions in thick waves of powerful intent; she was excited and revelled in what she was doing. Focusing on her, he could feel the cool late-summer wind, and sense trees moving around him in slow motion. He knew in that moment that he was sensing what she was experiencing somewhere far away. Andrew had always been able to sense her emotions, her sprite acting as a reflection of her mental state, but what he was experiencing right then was different; it was far more intense, and as he watched the forest move around him in slow motion, he knew that he was seeing the world outside of the glade passing by in a languid march through time.

Massaging the powerful feline's neck reminded him of how much Sara had changed, and how much more pronounced her presence would be within his mind from that day forward. As he studied the large cat, he wondered what those changes would mean for them. He wrapped his arms around her long neck and pulled her face against him, her fur tickling his flesh as he squeezed and caressed her purring head.

He chuckled and smiled to himself as he opened his eyes, the large cat walking and laying down beside the monolith, ever-present within his mind. "How the hell could my life get any stranger?" Andrew wondered to himself, as he looked up into the canopy of the forest while continuing to run his hand along Karen's back.

Tani'm was watching him from a dozen yards away, where she was wading into the pond. The small woman seemed conflicted about what to do, and Andrew was unsure what was going through her mind. The limited time he had shared with Karen since waking had been filled with few words, most of their utterances driven by a single-minded passion that they had used to save Sara. Nothing gave him any clue about why Tani'm was there, within their most secret and sacred place, but he knew that Karen would never have brought her if it weren't important. Tani'm stalked through the waters of the pond and seemed to be in deep contemplation as she studied Andrew, who was forced to guess at what was going on in the small woman's head.

She had come there of her own will, and must have helped to care for him, though he had no idea for how long, or what that had entailed. He watched her while he checked his mindscape, and was pleased when he found Karen and Sara around his monolith, but failed to find any new and unexpected points of light fluttering about. He was pretty certain that they were not Bonded, not yet anyway, though the part of him that dreaded the idea was silent as he considered the possibility of her joining their family.

Karen seemed to like Tani'm; he knew that from the few amorous feelings he had felt wash over his French mate as she gazed at the small woman while riding him, not long before. Andrew knew that no matter how much Karen wished it, her desires would not be able to pull Tani'm into their fold. The sad truth, Andrew was forced to admit, was that he had no idea what brought Sara and Karen into his life. All he knew was that he did not want to force that upon Tani'm, no matter how tempting she looked as she stared daggers at him from the center of the pond.

Andrew recognized that the small woman was a complete mystery to him, and nervously laughed at the return of a familiar feeling; he was comforted as he felt a bit of his old shy anxiety build up within him.

"So..." Andrew began, "how's the hand?"

Tani'm drifted through the pond, her brown eyes following Andrew as she enjoyed the soft, cool water coursing between her fingers. She squinted while she studied the small man, her gift reaching out and sensing everything within the glade — every branch of every tree, every leaf of every plant, and every root that ran through the rich and magical soil. Everything traced back to the ward, strength and vitality coursing out from that single point, a point that befuddled and defied Tani'm's gift.

She had tried to understand the ward, but as Karen had warned her, it shifted and changed within her mind, every segment growing hazy and distant until it faded from her consciousness and left nothing but frustration in its wake. That annoyance, combined with what she had learned from Karen — that Sara and Karen had Bonded with Andrew within the mystical place they found themselves in — had her bordering on terrified.

Tani'm had learned a painful lesson from nature, that often the thing that seemed the most innocent and beguiling, hid the darkest danger.

A large part of her wanted to flee, but there was something about the glade that kept her from leaving. It wasn't a compulsion of the magical place that was being forced upon her, but the way it seemed to resonate within her, that kept her from finding her way home. Through the glade, she had felt closer to her gift than ever before. She could no longer feel the forest that rested outside of the beguiling place. Instead, she was surrounded by that magical space, the plants and even the water within saturated with magic, standing in defiance to her understanding.

She could feel her powers coursing through her body, her energy feeling boundless, and she marvelled as she realized how much she still had to learn about herself. There had always been aspects to her gift that she felt just out of reach, powers which she could feel just on the other side of some unseen barrier. Gifts that felt so close now that she found herself within the glade, where suddenly, their presence was a nagging reminder of a time long gone, a time when she was discovering her powers and mastering them for the first time.

For three days, she had helped Karen tend to Andrew, enjoying every moment she had spent with the amazing woman, but also idling her time with exploring the glade and trying to access those unknown gifts. No matter what these gifts were, she knew she would never subjugate herself to someone to access them. Karen seemed to love Andrew with a fanatical intensity, and Tani'm feared that Andrew's magic had made her that way. She suspected that Sara was just as lost, and she wondered if Andrew had already set his hooks into her.

Andrew turned his gaze back towards the treetops, realizing that the mysterious woman was not going to answer him, and chose to settle into the warmth of his mate's embrace, instead of dwelling on a woman he could not figure out. He could never repay Karen for what she had given him, but he wondered how he could try. Her dreams had settled and she let out a gentle, contented sigh, as she wiggled up against him, her arm twitching as she came to rest.

Sara seemed to be nearing her prey, and he could sense her anticipation as she toyed with Brandon, a vision of the large man gasping for air as sweat poured down his naked body, coming into Andrew's mind. He could tell that they were in the Oregon forest, the trees and underbrush much more like the area around The Clowder, than the Olympic National Park.

He did the math, and knew that he could have been in the glade for several days, depending on when Karen had gotten him to their sanctuary. It was a two hour drive to the Oregon border, and chances were that Brandon had taken her one or two hours into Oregon, before they stopped. Assuming that it took Karen at least an hour to get to Andrew, he was able to deduce two things: First, they had spent a lot of time healing him before he woke up. Second, Sara was on her own, and even if they left that moment, it would be at least two hours until they could reach her.

As he followed Sara's emotions, he settled into Karen's warm embrace and knew that everything would be fine. His powerful guardian held no fear, and seemed to be measuring her actions with tempered confidence. Her new powers had not caused her to grow overconfident, and as she approached her prey, he could tell she was being careful.

Thirst was a powerful thing, and as Andrew listened to Tani'm move through the cool pond water, it came upon him fast.

He whispered, "Tani'm, I hate to impose, but would you mind giving me some water?"

Andrew lifted his head and could see her moving towards the shore from where she had entered. She grabbed a green cup from off the grass and swam it over, crawling up the steep rise at the edge of pond, before leaning out and setting the strange container beside him. He reached out to grab it from her, and saw surprise and worry flash across her face. He paused long enough for her to withdraw her hand and scurry further into the safety of the pond, before grabbing the glass. His surprise was evident as he turned his head and smiled at her nervous grin.

Whatever was bothering her, he was happy to see that she realized how strange it came across, and hoped that she would choose to talk with him sooner, rather than later. He had forgotten how great the pond's waters tasted, and made quick work of the refreshing beverage. It wasn't until he set the cup back down that he realized it was made of interwoven leaves and sprigs. The craftsmanship of the container was impossible, and if he had not just used it, he would have never believed that such a thing could be made; a cup crafted from leaves that was water-tight — amazing.

He pushed the cup towards her, and gave her a broad grin with a playful turn to his head that silently asked, "Could I have another, please?"

Tani'm tried to hide her smile, but his thin body added to his childlike appearance, and his whimsical expression was just too endearing for her to ignore. As she took the cup and brought it beneath the surface of the water, Tani'm was forced to wonder if perhaps it was too late; perhaps, she was already Bonded to him. She replaced the glass near Andrew, and appreciated that he made no effort to grab the container until she had returned to the water.

Andrew wanted to ask why she was so fearful of him, what he had done to scare her so, but something told him that he should leave her be. He said, "Thank you," with a weak voice, before polishing off the contents of the cup, Karen's head moving up and down as he gulped the refreshing liquid.

For many minutes, he watched the early stages of Sara's confrontation with Brandon, witnessing the initial moments of the short fight through Sara's eyes as she forced Brandon to defeat himself. Andrew ran his fingers through Karen's soft brown hair, while he appreciated the expert way that Sara planned out each stage of the battle. Most importantly, he was pleased to know that Sara's new powers had not changed her nature too far from center, having never sensed a bloodlust from his ferocious mate as she considered each move. She could have killed him several times, and knew she could, but was resolved to leave the decision to Mercedes.

Karen stirred against him, roused by the comforting feeling of her lover's hand along her back and his adoration for their mate. Sara had just struck Brandon's wrist for the first time when Karen looked up and smiled into Andrew's violet gaze.

"Was I asleep long?" Her voice was like honey; sweet, slow, and delightful to behold.

Andrew rested his other hand atop hers on his chest, and could see the concern in her eyes as she felt his bony fingers cradling her warm skin, his diminished musculature standing out to Karen through her gift.

His voice, while weak, was given as a gentle whisper, "Not long, love. You were amazing."

She blushed as she realized she could still feel his seed deep within her, warmth radiating out through her body as it was absorbed into her sensitive flesh. Karen could feel nervousness radiating out from Tani'm within the pond, the small woman's emotions standing out as she watched Andrew with fearful anticipation.

Karen nibbled Andrew's ear, enjoying the feeling of his arousal through their bond as she listened to him gasp at the touch of her lips. "How is our girl doing?"

Andrew rested his head against the ward and tried to dig his fingers into Karen's back, but was saddened to realize he was too weak to express his appreciation for the teasing kisses that his mate was peppering across his neck.

"She's spectacular. Brandon is still trying to fight, but I can only see this fight going one way at this point."

Karen raised herself up on one elbow, and looked down into Andrew's eyes, shock echoing out through her voice, as she asked, "You can see the fight?"

They could both hear Tani'm moving towards them, the small woman trying to get into a better position to eavesdrop while Andrew laughed at Karen's surprise.

"Well... in a way, yes. Though..." Andrew took a deep, dramatic breath before continuing, "I don't think it's in the way you're thinking."

Karen shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Okay, darling, I would appreciate less suspenseful pauses, and more explaining, please."

Andrew tried to feign ignorance, but broke out into weak laughter as he watched Karen's serious expression deepen. It took him a few moments to recompose himself, but once he got his laughter under control, he looked down at Tani'm who was watching them from the edge of the pond, before asking, "Would you like to come up here? It would be easier to be involved in the conversation."

Tani'm appreciated his attempt to include her in what she could tell was an intimate moment, but was further conflicted by his gesture. She watched as Karen raised an eyebrow at her, the expression asking, "What's going on?"

She turned her gaze on Andrew and nodded subtly, indicating that she was nervous of him, and was amazed when Karen understood what was going on with her immediately. Never before had she been so conflicted; they were amazing people, and Andrew — to that point — had never done anything to try and control her. Hell, he had weakened himself to save her life, a complete stranger, and in doing so, risked the safety of his family.

She grumbled and shook her head, making it clear that she was fine where she was.

Andrew broke the silent conversation by saying, "That's fine, Tani'm. I... well, you're welcome to listen from there, if it makes you more comfortable."

Whatever had been communicated between the two woman was lost on him, but he could tell that Karen seemed to mean as much to Tani'm as the young woman meant to her. He smiled at the two beautiful women, and shook his head and recognized how mysterious the new addition was.

"So, as boring as I can put it," Andrew began, winking at Karen, who stifled her laugh, "If I focus on Sara, I get glimpses of what she's experiencing, and can almost hear her thoughts. That's how I know that she's safe, and that the fight is almost over."

He had just finished speaking, when Karen gave him a slow and tender kiss, relief reflected in the soft affection of her lips. Tani'm cleared her throat, hoping that she would not be forced to watch the couple make love again. It was not that she found the idea repulsive. Quite the contrary, she feared that she may be drawn further into Andrew's sexual web, as even the glade seemed to be drawing her towards the small and frail man.

Andrew and Karen laughed as their lips parted, the scent of their intimacy permeating the air as they separated. Tani'm had grown used to their scent. After three days, the fragrance of caramel mixed with honey caused her to squirm against her own desire, as it crossed her less than a yard away from the couple. The smell, while familiar, held a strange intensity; it was warm and inviting, and seemed to promise her a world of pleasure and acceptance.

She shook her head and freed herself from those thoughts, and for the first time, she feared that those ideas were truly her own. Doubt about whether she was still in control of her own desires began to descend upon her, when she was freed from her introspection by Andrew, who asked, "How long was I out?"

Karen caressed his sunken cheek before responding, "We were taking care of you for three days before you woke up. Sara has been gone-" Karen was forced to stop for a moment, as she was revisited by the spectre of her fear of losing Andrew and Sara. His frail body was a reminder of how close they had come, and while she could sense Sara's presence through Andrew, the thought of her made Karen want to hold her in her arms, just to know that she was safe.

It took some effort, but Andrew managed to reach up and wipe a tear from Karen's cheek, the warm drop of heartache telling him how much of a burden his amazing brunette had shouldered while he rested, and the smile that spread across his face spoke of his pride for her.

"We're safe, honey, and that is all because of you, you spectacular woman." His smile deepened as she struggled to fight back her welling tears. So much worry was resting behind her eyes, and he knew it would no longer be held back. "You, my savior, have saved our family."

She broke down and fell into his weak arms, where he ran his hand along her back in slow, but soothing circles, as he cooed into her ear, sharing silent promises that everything would be okay. Tani'm watched the strange scene from the shore , realizing the depth of fear that Karen had hidden for the few days they had tended to Andrew. She had known that the older woman was preoccupied, but never expected that she had been hiding the amount of anxiety that was flooding out from her shaking body.

"This will never happen again, my love," Andrew said to Karen as his eyes turned towards Tani'm, and she froze within his violet gaze. The young woman was spellbound by the intensity of emotion she saw on his face, and was taken by surprise when he mouthed the words, "Thank you," to her.

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