Walking into the hospital, Macey and Zoe paced out the front of Emily’s and Ben’s room. Tears streaked both their faces, and Macey’s eyes were puffy, so I knew whatever was going was terrible because Macey never cries, she never gets emotional, she kept her walls high and took on the world with a no fucks given attitude. My stomach plummets as I approach them. My entire body was shaking, the moment I got to them, the door opened, and the Doctor stepped out. A grim expression on his face.
Macey instantly turned to face him, but Doc’s shoulders dropped. “Well?” she asks.
Doc looked tired, and I couldn’t imagine having his job, having to deliver bad news to families or parents. Bad news was exactly what we got when he spoke.
“As you know, Ben deteriorated overnight. His blood test when he first came in showed some hope, he wasn’t a full-blown forsaken, but now he is, his body is shutting down, his organs are failing, he doesn’t have much time left,” I swallow his words down and bite the inside of my lip to stop the quiver.
“Emily?” I ask, clearing my throat.
“The only thing keeping her alive is the machines. Without them, she will die,” Doc answers. We already knew that, but I had some hope. Doc just killed that hope.
“Is he still conscious?” Zoe asks.
“He keeps coming in and out. One minute he almost seems lucid the next, he is hurting himself or trying to attack the nurses,” Doc says.
“So what now?” I ask.
“There is nothing else we can do, we did dialysis, but the infection is not just in his blood. It’s in his muscles, bones, everything, I’m sorry, Luna, but now we just wait,”
“Wait for him to die?” I ask. Doc smiles sadly and nods. I press my lips in a line and gulp before clearing my throat. Zoe sits heavily in the chair by the door.
“He’s just a child,” she says, putting her head in her hands. Macey grips her shoulder, hugging her against her hip.
“Thank you for everything, Doc,” I tell him.
“You’re more than welcome to stay with him. I will send some chairs in for you all,” he says, wandering down the hall. I stare at the ceiling, willing the tears to go before pushing the door open and stepping inside. Macey follows me in, sitting beside him and grabbing his hand.
Zoe enters but remains close to the wall as she stares, not knowing what to do. Doc comes back in with two extra chairs, and I sit between Emily’s and Ben’s bed, holding his hand and rubbing circles in the back of his hand. Hours pass, and Ben comes too, thrashing and snarling periodically.
“He didn’t deserve this,” Macey says, gently brushing his fringe from his deformed face. She sniffles when Valen walks in. He nods to us before hugging Zoe, who was a mess at the back of the room.
“Marcus is on his way,” he tells her, and she nods. He kisses her forehead as she shakes, staring off vacantly, her eyes glued to Ben and Emily.
Macey falls asleep for a while, and Zoe leaves to get coffee and update the hotel on their wellbeing. Zoe had been gone for about five minutes when the alarms started sounding as the monitors went off. Macey sits upright in panic just as Ben starts thrashing, his heart rate increasing and blood streaming out of his ears and eyes.
Nurses rush in, shutting everything off as Ben tries to breathe around the tube in his mouth; I squeeze his hand while Macey whispers to him. Ben’s eyes open with a crazed gleam, yet I see him. See the boy he once was, the scared look beyond them. He tries to speak around the tube, and one of the nurses runs out of the room, unable to watch when he gasps.
“Mum,” he rasps, the sound barely audible, and Macey breaks, sobbing while clutching his hand. Just as Zoe walks in with the coffees, she shoves the tray at Valen before rushing over, gripping his legs, and rubbing them.
“Can’t you give him something to help calm him?” Macey asked the Doctor, who lingered helplessly. “We already have given him everything. Nothing works,” he murmurs, holding back his own tears.
Macey and the Doctor talked, but I couldn’t stop staring at his wide eyes, unblinkingly looking back at me before I even thought of what I was doing or processed it; I undid his handcuff with the key that sat beside the bed. I let the guard rail down on the bed. His hand flailed, grasping air before I climbed on the bed beside him. Ben snaps and snarls at me. Thrashing when I slid my arm under his body and lay beside him, pulling his legs over my lap, so he was sitting awkwardly on me.
His head resting on my shoulder and my hand on his forehead so he couldn’t turn his head to bite, not that he could do much with the tube in his mouth as he squirmed. Macey reaches over, holding out her hand for the key to do the other one. Doc protests, but I hand it to her, ignoring him.
“Luna, he is dangerous,” Doc says, and Valen goes to reach for me, but I pull away.
“No!” I tell Valen when he tries to pull me off the bed. “Everly,” he whispers, watching Ben grip and claw at my arm with his free hand.
“No, he is scared. Emily can’t hold him, so I will do it for her, as she would for me,” I tell him, my voice breaking knowing she would. No matter the risk to herself, she was part of our village, and when one falls, the rest pick up the slack.
Macey undoes his other hand and moves, gripping my shoulder, and I readjust him on my lap, turning my face into his hair and humming to him. Macey moves beside Valen, and he steps out of her way, she drags the little side table out of the way and drops the side rails on Emily’s bed before walking around the other side. Doctors and nurses tried to stop her, but they were already dying. What did it matter if cords got tangled?
Macey pushed Emily’s bed flush against Ben’s, who gasped for air. I stroke his hair before gripping his wrist and moving it to Emily’s arm. He whimpers, clutching her forearm tightly, and calms. He stops thrashing completely, he may be forsaken but he knows his mother’s touch.
“She is right there, Ben, right here with you,” I whisper to him. “She loves you so much,” I tell him as his breathing slowly evened out. His blood-soaked the shirt I was wearing, which I realized was inside out. I stare up at the ceiling and just hold him. Macey rubbing his back, and Zoe crying while rubbing his legs in my lap. The room falls silent, the only sound is his heart rate monitor, and I turn my head to look at Emily.
All the things she wanted for her son come to mind, how she worked her ass off to provide for him, never turning down a shift, how she would even bring Ben to play with Valarian and Casey if she couldn’t get a sitter. She wanted so much for him, and this wasn’t it. I looked at Valen, who stood with a hand under his chin, worry etched into his face at how close I was to Ben.
This boy was not a monster. He was a sweet boy. Emily’s boy. I kiss Ben’s forehead. I couldn’t fix this. Our emergency fund couldn’t bail them out, no cure would save him. Nothing we could do, but I could give her one thing.
I let my claws slide from my fingertips before digging them into my palm. I let my blood pool in my hand. Macey lifts her head, and her lips quiver when I move him, making sure his hand remains on Emily. I pulled his other hand from under him and sliced his palm. The moment I did, Valen reached over the bed and gripped my wrist to stop me. I stare at him. He looks at Ben and drops his head. He knew what I wanted.
“You’re not doing it. His blood could make you sick,” Valen whispers.
“It’s all she wanted, and he can’t pledge, a blood link is the only way,” I tell him, and he looks down at Emily, who he was leaning over. He sighs.
“I’ll do it,” he murmurs, gripping my wrist. He looks up at me, his eyes watching me.
“I’ll do it,” he says, letting me go. Valen slashes his palm with his claws, and I do the same to Ben’s free hand that lays limp on my belly. He doesn’t move or even flinch.
Valen reaches over and grips his hand, and I stroke Ben’s hair. “I Alpha Valen, of the Nightshade pack-” his words cut off, and I notice Marcus, whose eyes were glazed over as he stood behind Zoe, his arms wrapped around her waist.
“You sure?” Valen asks, and I see Marcus nod before Valen turns his gaze back to Ben. “I Alpha Valen of the Nightshade pack, welcome Ben Steele and declare him the new Beta of Nightshade Pack,” he murmurs. Marcus gasps as his title is stripped, and Zoe reaches up, cupping his cheek with her hand. It would only be temporary, but It would have stung Marcus.
Suddenly the mind-link opens up, and our pack welcomes Beta Ben, bringing tears to my eyes. I didn’t know whether or not he could hear them, but he would not die a rogue. Valen then does the same to Emily, and I feel her tether form. Fear coursed through me, knowing soon both their tethers would sever and it would be crippling, but we could grant this wish. Doc stabs a needle in Valen’s arm as he stands back up. “Precaution,” Doc murmurs to Valen, who nods. I swallow, knowing precisely what he risked for them, yet he did, so I didn’t have to.
Macey grabs Emily’s hand and kisses it as we wait. About an hour later, Emily’s machine starts beeping, and Doc checks it looking at me, and so does Macey as the nurses bring paddles near the bed like they were waiting for the time they would need them.
Ben’s breathing had slowed, and his heart rate became slower when I heard him gasp and stop. I clutch him tighter, whispering how much his mother loves him, how much we all loved him when his heart rate monitor flatlined. The newly formed pack tether snapped and pain richotted through me, ripping at my heart and my stomach twisted. Valen clutched the bed gasping and sweating until it passed and I knew he was gone.
Zoe sobs and Macey bawls, my entire body shaking as I held him. “Luna, we can,” Doc starts to stay, and I stare up at the ceiling.
“Leave her, let her go. Let her be with her son,” I croak out.
The nurses move around fussing with lines and tubes when Macey grips one of their arms.
“If I was in her place, I wouldn’t want to wake to my son gone,” Macey stammers, choked with emotion. Emily wouldn’t want to be here. Ben was her whole world, just like I couldn’t live without my son.
“Turn her machines off,” I ordered Doc. I don’t care if they could restabilize her; I know Emily and life wouldn’t be worth living stuck on life support without her son. She held on long enough.
Nurses nodded, turning machines off while Doc pressed a stethoscope to Ben’s chest, calling his time of death. Though we knew he was gone, his heart no longer beating, his blood pressure had bottomed out as blood leaked from his eyes, nose, and mouth. The nurses clean him up, and Macey pulls the beds apart. I sit up with him, letting the nurses remove his tubes and lines before Macey moves Emily over. Her body convulsed, and reflex had her gasping as I lay Ben beside her.
Standing beside her, I brush her hair back while Macey kisses her hand before cupping it to her cheek. She then lays her hand on Ben’s shoulder.
“It’s okay, Emily. Ben is home,” I tell her while patting her hand. “He is safe beside you,” I tell her as my tears drip on his little shoulder.
I stroke her hair, leaning over to kiss her head. “You got your wish. Ben was Beta to Nightshade. He is pack just like you. You can let go now. You don’t need to hold on. We brought Ben home. He is safe with you now,” I choke, my voice trembling as her mouth opened, gasping but not actually breathing.