The darkness was overwhelming. There were no stars to guide him, no moon to light his way. But he didn't need illumination. He was already hard and heavy on her scent trail, following her path with furious determination. Through the streets and to the bridge, he traced her until her scent died and there was nothing left to trace. But Micah was smart, smarter than Alison seemed to give him credit for. Either she had jumped into the river or she'd been taken by the Greeith Army scum. Whatever the event that lead to the disappearance of her scent; she was headed to the same place.
Army Headquarters was not a nice place. It was heavily barricaded and though many of the soldiers were stationed all over Greeith, and out searching the streets for the last known stragglers of the Knives, Headquarters still boasted quite a number of soldiers and hounds present this night. Lingering in the shadows outside of the wall, he caught Alison's scent and felt the Beast within turn savage with the desire to tear into the walled compound and drag her out kicking and screaming if necessary. But the practical side of him, the part of him that was not consumed by the Beast waited and watched. And it was while waiting and watching that he saw the three arrows fly. With precise aim and perfect accuracy, he watched as the arrows hit one, two, three guards. Dead before they could raise the alarm, they fell where they stood - one even fell over the side of the wall and into the depths of the compound within.
Keen emerald eyes watched, but he did not see her. He watched and waited for a span of no more than ten slow breaths - and then the Beast would allow him to wait no more. Alison was the light to his darkness, the soothing calm for his savage Beast. And without her, the monster inside of him raged free. The need to find her and rescue her was strong and would not be denied any longer. Scaling the wall was easy; it wasn't very tall and his years of forest-running and tree-jumping seemed to have been a precursor to this very moment. That first guard didn't even stand a chance. He was looking down into the center of the compound and didn't have a chance to scream until it was too late - and by then all that came out was the gurgle of blood as Micah's scarlet-hilted blade trapped itself between two vertebrae in his neck.
The second guard was a little trickier than the first. He was standing only a few feet away and he had just enough time to yell out a warning to the other guards before the wolf teeth inside a still-human mouth wrapped around his neck. Bones snapped, muscle tore and flesh ripped; and when Micah pulled his mouth from the soldier's neck he let loose a ferocious growl made all the more terrifying by the sanguinous stain on his own face and neck. Racing along the top of the wall, he took out three more guards with similarly savage methods before the compound started to sound with the clang of the alarm. It was he who they set the alarm off for, not her. All of the attention was on him now, they would think that he killed the other three guards with bow and arrow. At least, that's what he thought.
The fifth guard was bleeding all over the side of the wall, where he hung like a discarded and limp rag doll, when Micah heard the ordered command over the sound of the still-blaring alarm.
The telltale twang of bowstrings alerted him to the impending threat. Except - not a single arrow flew in his direction. There he was tearing through the guards like they were no threat at all - and not a single arrow flew at him. Whipping around to rake claws across another guard's chest and tear open the skin that protected the ribcage, his emerald eyes caught sight of Alison racing across the ground just outside the compound with hounds hot on her heels. Jamming wolf-claws sprouting from human-hands deep into a soldier's chest, he watched as an arrow caught her shoulder, just beneath the line of her blonde hair, and pushed itself full through the front of her shoulderblade.
The sound of her voice screaming for help cut him to the bone. She didn't know he was here, she didn't know he was so close that he could smell her blood and see the pain contorting her face. He was hidden against the blackness of the sky, his position given away only by the sudden howl he sent up into the moonless night. Skirting around the corner of the wall, his bones started to crack and his muscles started to rip. Flesh split and fluids gushed all over the stones beneath his feet as he went from two human legs to four black-furred wolf legs. The wolf landed smoothly on his padded paws and charged straight for the line of archers still shooting at the quickly disappearing Alison. Snarling and growling, he tore through their line like it was nothing.
One guard went over the wall one way, another fell the other way. The third and fourth were subject to the claws of a wolf, the teeth of a savage Beast, and the rage of a male protecting his Mate. When all the archers were down, he leapt over the wall - landing on the dirt-packed ground on all four paws. Wasting no time, he raced after the hounds that chased his blonde, human Mate. She was out of sight, but the sharp yelp from a hound drew him toward the river. One of the hunting dogs was trying to climb out of the river and away from the current that threatened to carry it downstream; Micah was on it with all the ferocity he could muster. They tussled into the water after Alison's body started getting drug downstream faster than Micah could rescue her. The hound and it's companion were large and skilled, but they couldn't fight off the wolf and the current of the river. One didn't make it - and the river was painted with the red of it's blood. The second dog managed to escape both Micah and the river, though not without injury to life and limb. It would never walk with four legs again.
Alison's blood tainted the river and Micah let the current carry him down and toward her. He was helpless to assist her as she nearly drown, he was helpless to catch up to her because just as the current carried him toward her - it carried her just that far ahead of him; and he could not fight against it, or speed himself up enough to reach her. And then the current started to die down as the water became less a river and more a stream, and he saw her fighting to get herself to the bank. She was fighting to survive. She was alive! He felt his heart jump with that revelation, his wolf body already replaced with his mere human form - anticipating the chance to pull her injured form into his arms.
When he reached the bank where she lay, she was unconscious - a small relief.
"Stu'id girl. I tol' you." He murmured it in his lilted accent as he shifted his arms beneath her head and the small of her back so that he could lift her up and carry her away from that place.
Despite his murmured 'I told you so' he was gentle, and sweet and caring. She wouldn't wake for four days, and he tended her patiently the entire time. Every day that he was tending her was another day that he could have been losing Eliziah and Xandra. It was another day that he couldn't contact Liliana to make sure she'd made it safely to the Valley of Karchan. It was another day that he had to fret over whether or not she would wake up, whether or not he'd ever get to see the pale-green seafoam of her eyes. He couldn't take her to a healer because they were outlaws - and the only healer he really trusted was far across the ocean by now, safely away from the Army of Greeith. He couldn't take her back to Knives Headquarters, because the Army would look for them there - so he took her to her old home. The house was in disrepair, there were rodents and bugs and dust and mold - but it was safe, it was near water, and it was secluded.
When she finally did wake up, looking at him with those eyes he loved so much, he didn't think happiness could consume so much of him. Yet, it wasn't very long before the argument that had gotten into this mess started again.
"You'e get'in' on t'e damne' boa', Ali." She was a fast healer, and it had been almost six days now.
"I' no' leavin' you, Mica'." He'd fashioned her a sling that she wore now, to let her arm properly finish its healing.
"I' no' 'avin' t'is argumen' wi' you again, Alison!" His words came out a growl and his eyes narrowed dangerously. He wasn't doing this all over again.
Her own eyes narrowed and she looked ready to spew a few venemous words - her attempt to try and win her way again. She opened her mouth, ready to argue.
"I can' lose you, Ali-luv. I...I jus' can'." There was pain, really pain in his voice and in his eyes. It terrified him that he might lose her. He'd already almost lost her, and it was nearly too much for him.
Her mouth snapped shut and she just looked at him. How do you argue with a man who has only the desire to protect that which he loves? How could she argue with him when he'd had to rescue her after her last attempt? Approaching him, she lifted her good hand and ran her fingers across the dark stubble on his pale jaw. The contrast between skin and hair was remniscent of the contrast between the sweet and sincere Micah she knew, and the savage and ferocious Beast she knew lingered beneath the surface. Her hand slipped from his jaw to his shoulder to the spot on his chest that allowed her to feel the strong, steady beat of his heart against her palm.
"You come back to me, Micah D'Frey. You come back to me, and you bring Eliziah and Xandra with you." She didn't need to tell him to promise. The desire for him to do so was there in her eyes, pleading him to promise that he wouldn't leave her all alone in the world.
Wrapping one arm around her waist and bringing the other up into the lushness of her hair, he held her to him and brushed his lips against the top of her head. He was trying to reassure her without promising, but he knew that she would never fully give in until he said the words she wanted to hear.
"I promise. I love you." His lips found her mouth and he poured his soul into the kiss, willing her to believe him, maybe willing himself to believe. And when the kiss broke and she looked up at him with all the desperation that he felt but concealed from her, she lit up his whole world.
"I love you too."
Those four words were enough. They were more than enough. He felt his fears dissipate, if only briefly, and he felt his nerves calm. She was the light to his darkness, she was the rays of sunshine in his world consumed by the beams of the moon.
He put her on that boat, and she went willingly though reluctantly. He kept his promise.
And she kept shining her light into his darkness, taming the Beast that lay within the shadows.