"Want me to be straight up with you?" Tyler faced me-his dark eyes unreadable, pinning me where I sat.
"Straight up." I replied, in a braver tone than I felt. I met his gaze squarely, refusing to be intimidated by him. He sighed, looking away.
"I dunno. Simple. Call it a gut feeling." He turned away abruptly, starting to pace the room. I sighed, turning back to watch the flames. Lupe should have been back. I wanted him back here. Maybe that way Tyler would relax. I heard some shuffling by the door and turned, getting to my feet at the same time. I muffled a scream as I realised that the battered and bloodied wolf, semi-collapsed on the floor was Lupe. It was clear that Lupe was not going to survive. My mind was refusing to accept the fact that I had caused the death of yet another friend.
When Lupe phased back, I flinched. He somehow looked worse in human form. Yet, he still managed to have calmness in his eyes. He beckoned to Tyler.
"Tyler. You know as well as I do I'm not gonna make it through this."Lupe coughed painfully, splattering blood across Tyler's cheek. From where I was I could see tears glittering in Tyler's eyes, which looked darker with pain. Burning guilt kicked me in the stomach. "Look after the girl. like it or not your fate and hers are intertwined."
I felt winded. I wanted to say something, anything to make Lupe stay a little longer, but the words were frozen in my throat.
"Sure sure, what happened Lupe? there was just one, and you're so much stronger than me...."
"Oldest trick in the book kiddo, had about ten other hunters hanging round the corner. Right, greatest adventure and all that." Lupe's eyes became fixed. The light went out of them, though the fire still reflected from their suface. Then, barely a whisper, "Lianne. I'm coming."
Then Lupe was dead. It was over.
I looked at Tyler hopelessly, seeking some kind of strength there, something to counter the shame which burned, overwhealming the grief that had not yet hit. Though I barely knew Lupe, I already knew that he had been someone strong and wise, and a truely good person.
"Lianne?" I asked, more to fill the awful silence than to actually want to know. The room doubled, tripled, blurred and I realised I was crying. Hurriedly, I brushed the tears back.
Tyler looked away, apparently not able to speak.
I was shaking, my mind had gone into freefall.
"Lets bury him." I said softly, going to stand close to Tyler, though not touching him.
We carried Lupe outside, digging in silence. Dark wolves appeared from the treeline as Tyler lowered his fallen friend. He placed something on Lupe's chest and I was left to fill in the hole. Tyler watched me, his grief written in every line of his body. Tears fell onto the earth silently as it fell over the body. When I straightened up, I brushed my hand across my face, erasing them. We walked back in silence.
We paused a moment in the front door. Tyler finally spoke.
"Lianne was his wife. The Hunters killed her."
With that, he walked in. I mechanically followed, shutting the door and sitting where Tyler had left me before. He was sat in one of the chairs, slumped, eyes rimmed red and unfocused. There was a smear of Lupe's blood on his cheek and several on the wooden floor. I sat, my knees hugged to my chest, ignoring the tears that slid down my cheeks.
I cost Lupe his life. This whole thing is my fault. An ex-Hunter...theres no such thing. Once a Hunter, a Hunter for life. Semper pugnator. Always Hunter. Thats the Code. You cannot break it else you are the Hunted. And the Hunted never win. They destroy. I destroy. I'm poison. I can never be free of them, never be normal. Because they always find you. And they will kill everything in their path to get to you. Lianne.. that could have been me. I could have killed her and never known. Lupe... I may not have laid a claw on him, but I may as well have done because I just as surely killed him. The others.. there are so many others. My parents. My brother.. So many people I loved. Yet I betrayed all of their memories. I turned to the people who killed them.
My eyes went up to Tyler, who hadn't moved.
What am I going to do about him? Even though I'm pretty sure he doesn't want me around, after what Lupe said-and did-I doubt he's going to let me go now. I can't kill him. And if I leave, I don't want to take him with me. I won't endanger him like that. I turned back to the flames, closing my eyes, feeling the tears still falling. How can I face him, knowing what I have done?
Guilt held me by the throat in a grip tighter than any Hunter's jaws. The only sounds in the room were the crackle of the flames and the sounds of our breathing. I took to staring out of the window, watching the sky change slowly as the time passed. My eyes burned from crying and lack of sleep but I did not close them. As morning came, I blinked away from the sun, moving my gaze to the floor. The fire had burned down to embers now but neither of us moved to stoke it. Each of us too heartsick to move. My muscles were cramped, but I didn't want to move. I wanted to disappear. To stop exsisting.
Finally, around mid-morning, Tyler got up. He turned to me as though he was going to speak. I turned my face in his direction, though I still kept my eyes to the floor. We both waited for someone to speak.