[A/N : A million apologies for the hiatus, writer's block had me in a vice but after a day of binging the last season I'm prepared to continue this story. Hopefully someone is still willing to read it!]
Nick fought against the nausea as the world swung around him, his head resting against the wall behind him. He sat sprawled in a chair on the patio overlooking the coven's expansive backyard while voices floated out through a nearby open window. His consciousness threatened to teeter off the edge at any moment and the latest bout of dizziness certainly wasn't helping. But he wanted to hear what was being said in the meeting between Clay, Elena, Paige and the coven.
"We have magical defenses set up all around the property, and early warning systems in place for any visitors," Paige said. As soon as they began gathering Nick snuck outside to eavesdrop. He was tired of being kept in the dark while recovering.
"So we're safe?" Elena asked.
"As safe as possible," Paige replied.
"We've done everything we can to erase your presence here so no other covens may find a reason to come poking around," explained another woman.
"Not that they'd get very far if they tried," Savannah chuckled.
"Why would other covens be interested in us being here?" asked Clay.
"For generations the witches have stayed away from the wolves, even though it was our magic that cursed the originals," Paige replied. "But your request for sanctuary is magically binding and trumps any other "rules" that would normally stop us."
"So it's a good thing your friend got poisoned," one of the witches said.
"I would be careful if I were you," Elena warned.
Paige sighed. "Under the terms of sanctuary the three of you will be fully protected by the coven and our magic. There isn't anywhere in the world that could be safer."
"I'd feel better if Nick was healing," Clay huffed.
"I'd hoped he just needed some more time to rest but with Nick nothing can ever be simple. We just have to keep monitoring him," said Paige.
Nick opened his eyes, staring up at the cloudless blue sky. Silver poisoning. Those words shook him to the core and drowned out the rest of their conversation. It had always been a possibility, but he thought he'd been lucky. He thought the herbs Paige and Jeremy had given him would effectively rid him of any remaining toxin, but as he sat there trying to think of something else his mind began cataloguing still unhealed injuries.
He had become a liability to the pack and the coven.
Nick shoved himself to his feet and quickly stumbled from the patio. The yard sloped away into a long stretch of greenery and trees, and only when Nick squinted could he see an edge of woods in the distance. The coven's home was eerily similar to Stonehaven.
Nick felt a pang of loss that left him cringing as his head throbbed. He glanced back at the house and was surprised to see how far he'd gone. Slowly he lowered himself to the ground with his back against a tree, his legs stretched out in front of him. If his dad was there he'd know what to do.
"Nick?" Clay asked, suddenly standing beside him. Nick flinched, hands raised in fists.
"Whoa, easy it's just me," Clay said.
Nick sighed, trying to calm his racing heart. He's been so wrapped up in his own world he hadn't heard Clay approach. Or maybe his senses were becoming dulled.
"You okay? You don't look so good," said Clay, breaking Nick yet again out of his thoughts.
"I'm fine," Nick retorted, fighting back the nausea. The walk had been arduous but he wasn't about to tell Clay that. Not after swearing to do whatever he could to minimize his impact. He was as good as dead anyways.
"Yah?" Clay asked, watching him closely.
Nick nodded, trying to look convincing. "Just needed some fresh air."
Clay crouched beside him. "Are you sure? You really don't look good, maybe I should help you back to the house."
"I promise," Nick lied. The last thing he wanted to do was go back to the house where Elena and Paige would hover and his exhaustion would win out and he'd lose more hours sleeping. Not that it'd helped him heal at all.
"Okay," Clay looked unconvinced.
"You don't have to babysit me," Nick snapped.
Clay shrugged. "Paige said the coven had some business to do but would be back in a few hours, and Elena went for a run.
"Is that safe? Letting her run on her own?"
"I offered to join but she said she needed the silence to think. Besides, I thought you could use the company."
Nick looked away, unable to argue. Clay knew him too well.
"Talk to me."
Nick stared at Clay, his throat constricting when he saw the open concern in his best friend's eyes.
"Nicky, I know something's wrong," Clay pressed. "Just tell me what it is so I can help."
"Stop! Alright, just stop!" Clay demanded, fist striking the ground in anger. Nick jerked, startled by the outburst that left his ribs aching from the sudden movement.
Clay leaned forward, imploring him. "I'm your best friend, I know when something's going on that you don't want to tell me. Are you in pain? Do you need me to call Paige?"
Yet again Clay read him like a book. Nick had actually thought he'd been hiding his symptoms quite well but apparently he'd been wrong all along.
"Please, just tell me so I can help," Clay begged.
Nick looked down at his arm, still in the sling. His shoulder hurt every time he moved. Then there were his ribs, which ached with each breath. Or his knee wrapped in a brace. Even his throbbing head.
"Everything hurts," he murmured.
"Everything hurts," Nick repeated, meeting Clay's gaze. "None of my injuries are healing and I know Paige said it could be from the silver but she isn't sure and talking about it doesn't help and I know how much you want to even when you can't so I was trying to avoid that and..."
"Nick!" Clay was leaning towards him, hand on his shoulder. There was a strange wheezing sound coming from somewhere and as Nick stopped he realized it was himself.
"Just breathe, okay? Breathe," Clay ordered, giving his shoulder a squeeze as Nick struggled to inhale a shaky breath. The panic had hit him suddenly, rushing through his body without warning as he admitted just how scared he was. None of them had ever been poisoned before, or dealt with serious injuries that required more than a few days rest. Essentially they were flying blind and that terrified him.
"That's good," Clay encouraged, breathing slowly with him. "You're doing great."
Eventually the panic subsided only to be replaced by a wave of exhaustion and humiliation. Nick stubbornly shoved himself to his feet, stumbling past Clay as he limped back the way he'd come.
"Where are you going?" Clay asked as he followed close behind.
"You were right, I should probably get more rest," Nick replied. He wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear.
"Okay I'll stay with you," suggested Clay.
"I'm just going to sleep for a few hours," Nick said. His knee decided at that moment to betray him and he couldn't stifle the yelp of pain as he toppled, his descent stopped by Clay.
"I've got you," Clay said as he pulled Nick's arm over his shoulder and helped him walk back to the house. Admitting defeat, Nick allowed it. After what felt like a lifetime of clumsy steps Clay was guiding him to his room and gently easing him onto the bed. He clenched his jaw to stifle the groan while his other injuries protested the movements.
Clay gently lifted his legs onto the bed as Nick laid back in silence.
"Paige has a possible antidote she wants to try, but it's dangerous. We can't just give up," Clay said.
Nick rolled onto his side with his back to Clay, his injured arm tucked tight against his chest. He could feel Clay ramping up into some long winded explanation of Paige's latest theory and how it could save him. But he knew. They all did, even if the others didn't want to admit it yet. He was dying, and there was no way to stop it.
"Just let me sleep," he murmured.
"I'll stay with you," Clay said, pulling the chair over beside the bed and sitting down. Nick wanted to hope things would be better when he awoke but he wasn't going to hold his breath.
Nick awoke slowly. He was warm and comfortable and the pain was somehow dulled. He wanted to get up but the prospect of the returning agony deterred him.
Maybe he could sleep just a little longer.
"I know you're awake," Paige said from nearby. Nick sighed, blinking open one eye to stare up at her lazily.
"M'sleepin'" he mumbled into his pillow. Paige smiled, kneeling on the floor beside the bed so they were face to face. She reached out and gently drew her finger over his brows, down his nose, around his lips.
"I've never seen a wolf in captivity before. Such interesting creatures."
Nick huffed, snuggling deeper into the mound of blankets piled on top of him. "M'not captive."
"Oh yah?" Paige rocked back on her heels. "Seems to me you'd rather lie here moping all day rather than try to fight for your own survival."
Nick looked up at her, his sleepiness quickly evaporating. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means when Clay tried to tell you yesterday about a cure I'm looking into you brushed him off," Paige explained.
"I don't feel like wasting all day trying yet another one of your cures that will leave me feeling worse than I did before and probably won't even heal me," Nick snapped.
Paige stood up in a rush, her brown eyes sparking. "I never took you for a coward."
She turned and stormed from the room as Nick pushed back the blankets, wrestling his way to freedom. How dare she!
"You think I'm a coward?" He yelled, hurrying after her. "At least I can see when I've been beat! You and the others won't let me rest, you keep shoving herbs down my throat and filling my head with hope but in the end I'm the one that's dying!"
Nick stumbled to a stop, surprised to find himself standing in a large sitting room overlooking the backyard with Paige, Elena and Clay watching him.
"Feel better?" Paige asked, her arms crossed over her chest.
"You tricked me," he growled.
"Actually, I didn't. Raising your heart rate is the first step, and it was either sex or an argument. I felt like fighting."
Nick shook his head, turning to Elena and Clay. "What's she talking about?"
"The possible cure we found," Elena replied. "You have to change."
"What?" Nick demanded. Changing would rip apart his barely healing injuries, reopening each and every one of them. If he even managed to push through the pain. It would be pure torture.
"We'll be right here with you the whole time," Clay said.
"This could kill me," Nick argued, looking between Elena and Clay. "If you want me dead so badly just wait a few more days."
Nick hated watching the hurt register in Clay's eyes. He wasn't the type to let those he loved suffer alone, not without moving heaven and hell to find a way to help them first. But Nick knew those actions would prove fruitless in this situation, and he needed the remaining fragments of his pack to survive even if he didn't.
Elena stepped forward, holding his face between her hands and forcing him to look at her. "As your alpha, I won't command you. But as your sister...please."
Nick wanted to push her away and ignore the pain it caused to see her hurting. Especially knowing he was responsible. Maybe letting the change tear him apart and end it quickly would be better than the slow funeral procession he was currently leading.
"Fine," he sighed, the fight quickly leaving him. "Might as well go out with a bang."
Clay gripped Nick's shoulder. "It'll be alright. We'll be with you the whole time."
Nick nodded, too scared to speak. He'd dealt with rough changes in the past. But nothing could prepare him for the excruciating agony of what was to come. And no kind words from his friends would save him.
He was going to die.