(This story is a sequel to "Tangled Lives" and is related to "Suddendusk & Quick Fang's Recognition" - see listing for more related stories.)
Suddendusk reached out and caressed the smooth skin of the she-wolf in front of him. Her skin was hot to the touch, so hot it seemed to burn his fingertips. However, it did not stay his hand. Looking into the ice-blue eyes, he saw where the heat was coming from. The fire in the feral eyes gazing back at him burned hotter than the daystar, and Suddendusk found himself consumed. Grasping both of Quick Fang’s arms, he brought her to him, crushing her against him. Thrilling at the growl that escaped her throat, Suddendusk felt himself being consumed by passion and longing. Closing his eye for just a moment, he succumbed to the feeling.
Gasping, Suddendusk sat upright, his fingers digging into his own arms so hard he was surprised that he did not draw blood. Taking a deep breath, he tried to calm his racing heart. His black hair stuck to his forehead, wet with sweat. For a moment, he was not sure of where he was. Turning slightly toward the mound in the furs next to him, he was not sure if he was relived or disappointed that the hair falling around the soft shoulders of the form next to him was long and golden, instead of short and frost-touched. From somewhere within the den he heard the small sounds that Crackle made while sleeping, sounds akin to a wolf-pup in the midst of a particularly rambunctious dream. Suddendusk smiled, his teeth flashing in the light of the late afternoon sun, even in her sleep his little cub seemed full of energy. Thinking to curl back up against Windsong and return to sleep until nightfall, Suddendusk closed his eye again. In a flash the dream had him and he saw Quick Fang’s eyes, her face, her body. He felt her teeth scrape his neck and the pounding rhythm of her heart against his. Gasping again, Suddendusk opened his eye. There was no hope for it, going back to sleep would only bring the images back, and somehow he felt guilty for that. How could he be sleeping next to Windsong, yet dreaming of Quick Fang?
Moving as silently as possible, Suddendusk slid from the sleeping furs, careful not to disturb his sleeping lifemate. Her still form did not move and her breathing remained deep and even. This was good, he did not think he would do well if he had woken her and she asked what was wrong. What would he be able to tell her? He could only imagine that anything he said would hurt her, and that was the last thing that he wanted.
Pulling on his pants, he took his boots in hand and moved out of the den, still making as little noise as possible. So concentrated was he on his task that he did not hear the soft sigh escape Windsong’s lips, nor did he see his lifemate curl into a small ball with her arms wrapped around herself as if trying to give herself the comfort that she wished would come from him.
The sun was bright in the sky, something that Suddendusk was a little grateful for. This was the perfect time to be alone, while most of his tribesmates slept. He did not have to worry about any of his tribesmates wondering where he was going, or seeing the understanding in their eyes. Most of all, he hoped that it would mean that Quick Fang was curled up in her own den and he would not meet up with her just yet. The thought of the white-haired huntress curled up alone made his heart ache. He could not help but look in the direction of Quick Fang’s den. The temptation to go and check on her was strong, but in the back of his mind lurked the memories of the dream, the memories of their coupling, and he did not want to stir feelings that he was not yet sure what to make of. Shaking his head, he headed toward the path that would take him to some of his more successful traps.
The walk was a brisk one, and helped to clear Suddendusk’s head. Perhaps this was all he needed, to be able to be alone for a few hours to get his thoughts straight. That was the problem, wasn’t it? He felt as if he couldn’t think straight anymore. Since his Recognition with Quick Fang, and subsequent joining with her, his mind and heart had been in turmoil. From the time he first Recognized Windsong he knew that he wanted to lifemate with her, wanted to be with her for as many years as they were granted, he could never imagine life with anyone else. He knew that may of his tribesmates flittered from furs to furs, taking more then one partner, sometimes simultaneously, and he never begrudged them that pleasure, it was just never something that Suddendusk was interested in. When he and Windsong had joined body, heart and soul, he knew that he would never be able to look on another the way he looked on her. Then the unthinkable happened. Recognition with another. Neither sought for, nor wanted, Suddendusk felt himself pulled toward Quick Fang. Quick Fang … just the thought of the huntress made Suddendusk break out in chills. She was nothing like Windsong, impetuous, feral, hot-tempered, even the joining had been so different that there was no comparison. With Windsong, Suddendusk felt as if he were swept up in a tempest, enveloped in the gale force of their passion, the sweet rush embracing, covering, and completing him totally. With Quick Fang it had been searing, a need unlike the two Recognitions that Suddendusk had felt before, it was feral, dangerous, a hot passion that consumed him. Now his heart felt torn. Plagued by the memory of the moments with Quick Fang, Suddendusk worried that his heart was telling him that he wanted to be with her, perhaps instead of Windsong. These thoughts plagued him as he went to check his traps.
“Puckernuts” Suddendusk muttered in frustration. It was the third trap he had checked to no avail. All were empty. Frowning, he sat down with his back against the tree trunk near his trap and ran his hands through his thick hair. Closing his eye he leaned his head back and sighed deeply. He knew it wasn’t the game’s fault that he was frustrated, but full traps certainly would’ve kept his mind better occupied. As it was, flashes of memory continued to leak into his brain, like a dam that had started to spring a leak. He knew that it was futile to lock the memories out, just as it would be futile to try and patch the dam when it had too many holes. Instead, sighing, he rested against the tree trunk and let the floodwaters crash into him.
The smell of smoke tickled his nose. Opening his eye Suddendusk saw that flames surrounded him. Leaping to his feet he gasped and stared in wide eyed horror at the fire that hungrily licked at the trees. How had he been caught unawares! His senses should have warned him of the fire headed toward him long before he was surrounded! His heart leapt into his throat and seemed to stick there. It was then that he realized that the flames, though dancing through the limbs of the trees, were not burning the trees themselves. Blinking, Suddendusk swallowed over the lump in his throat. Reaching out, he put his hands near the flame. They felt hot, but not unpleasantly so. He held his hand there for a moment, expecting the searing pain to rush up his arm, but it didn’t. The smoke-smell tickled at his nose again causing him to take in a deep breath. It was then that he realized that it was not smoke that he was smelling, rather it was a deep musky smell that made his mouth water. Suddenly, he realized that that he wanted nothing more than to dance with the flames in the treetops. Without a second thought, he walked into the heart of the flames, feeling the tongues of fire run up and down his skin and into his hair. Closing his eye, he smiled and stretched his arms out as far as they would go, reveling in the sensations that ran through his body.
Allowing himself to get lost in the flames, he danced through the trees, leaving a flaming trail where his feet touched. He laughed and twirled around, delighting in the fire, feeling powerful in not being burned. After a time, he realized that he was having trouble breathing, that the fire was getting hotter. Frowning, Suddendusk turned to see where the break in the fire was, but there didn’t seem to be an end to the flames. Now, in serious pain, Suddendusk started running toward the Holt, his thoughts on Windsong, Crackle, Evervale and Quick Fang, He had to warn them! As he ran, however, he saw the flames preceding him to the Holt. He cried out when he saw, with terrifying clarity, the den that he shared with Windsong. No! His mind screamed. Windsong! He realized that he was causing the fire to head toward the den, that it would consume his family, tear them from him. No! He would not let that happen! Stopping in his tracks he willed himself to think, to figure out how to protect his family. He realized that when he stopped, the flames stopped as well. Though they flickered around him, they did not advance. The fire was very hot now, blistering Suddendusk’s skin. He had figured out how to keep the flames from his family, but how was he to keep the flames from destroying him? Crying out, Suddendusk reached his hand toward his den, though he did not move. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say, but he wanted, needed, to tell Windsong how he felt about her before the flames consumed him.
He heard the breeze before he felt it, a soft sighing sound that wound around him, washing over his skin, cooling him to a warm tingle, easing his pain. Smiling, Suddendusk tilted his head up to catch more of the gentle breeze that was acting as a balm. Gently, the wind wrapped itself around him, soothing him, feeling him with a gentle calmness. Through a half-closed eye, he watched as the breeze blew the fire to a softly glowing ember, one that would give warmth, even heat, but would not consume. Sighing softly, Suddendusk fell to his knees and allowed the soft breeze to bring the threatening fire to heel.
Suddendusk opened his eye with a start. He put his hands up to his face, startled to see only smooth, unbroken skin. Tears sprang to his eye as he stood and brushed the dirt from his pants. For the first time since Quick Fang’s soul name tore through his being like a fierce storm, Suddendusk felt peaceful. Turning toward the Holt, he headed back to his den to cuddle under the furs and enjoy the last few hours before sundown with his lifemate.