I didn't move. My body felt heavy, and I had barely slept all night. I wasn't ready to face him. Not like this.
"Aden, I know you're in there," said Titus in a raspy voice. "Darius explained what happened, why you have that mark on your shoulder."
I curled into a ball, biting my fingernail.
"Look, Aden, you know I would never blame you. None of this is your fault. I'm the one who made you a werewolf. I'm the one who couldn't protect you."
Crawling over to the opening, I sat beside it just out of view. "I'm sorry."
"Don't," he said firmly. "You did it for me. Am I happy about it, no. Honestly, it pisses me off, but that's not directed at you. I'd never blame you for what happened. Jet gave you no other choice." He was silent for a moment. "Though, I wish there had been another."
Resting my chin on my knees, I sat very still.
"I know you, Aden," he stated. "It would've been so hard for you to go through that. Surrounded by strangers, and letting someone you barely even know mate with you." Titus sighed. "You saved my life and did what any mate would. I just wish I could have been stronger, so you didn't have to go through it." He groaned. "Aden, please come out. I want to make this better, and I can't while you're in there."
I dropped to my stomach and crawled through the opening. Titus gave me a smile from where he sat on a rock. His complexion looked better. Not perfect, but much better than usual. His skin has some color to it.
He held out his arms for me. I fell into them and straddled his legs.
Titus pressed my head to his shoulder. "It's okay."
"I'm so sorry."
"I'm not mad." He pulled me closer. "Everything about the situation sucks, but I'm not angry at you." He rubbed circles on my back. "You've had me wrapped around your finger since the beginning. You could do whatever the hell you wanted, and I'd still never let you go."
Sitting up, I kissed him. "Can you shift?"
He smiled. "I'm not supposed to. I guess there's something about fur getting in the way, and my dad gave me this whole lecture about it this morning before I came to find you."
"Did you tell them I ran away?"
"No." He ran his fingers through my hair. "I just told them you were hungry. I wanted to talk to you about it without anyone else around."
Nodding, I relaxed against him. I liked the way Titus looked as human, but there was something comforting about him in his true self. Fur brushed against my skin.
"Don't get mad if I blame it on you."
"I won't." I tightened my hold on him. "I'm so glad you're okay."
He lifted my chin and gave me a simple kiss. His brows pinched together as he touched my face. "You feel warm."
I shrugged. "I had to run all the way here yesterday, and I'm feeling it now."
Titus tucked my head under his chin. "Is it just that you're sore?"
I nodded. "Yeah, I'm not feeling good. I should probably eat something and that might help."
My mate stood and grabbed my hand. "You don't look good at all." He kept pressing his hand to my face. "I think the medical team should take a look at you before they leave."
"No." I forced a smile. "I'm fine. I'm just tired."
We stood. Titus put his arm around my shoulders, and I fell into his side. It was the comfort I needed.
"You're really not mad at me?" I touched Jet's mark.
"No." He pressed me against him. "But next time I see Jet, I'm probably going to kill him."
I tried not to smile. "Good to know."
"Did you completely forget what I told you this morning?" said Xavier.
"Aden was upset." Titus shrugged. "He like my werewolf form."
"Unnecessary shifting." The alpha raised a finger to his son who sat as human in front of him.
"Sorry," Titus muttered.
"Breath in," instructed the doctor. "And now out slowly."
My mate did so. His family sat around in the alpha's living quarters for the final word on his condition.
Trevor was leaning against the doorway with his arms folded. "I expect a very nice thank you letter, Titus."
"Hmmm, we'll see."
"Who do you think paid for all of this?" Trevor laughed, waving his hand.
"Not you," shot back Darius.
The future Midfield alpha laughed. "True."
The man smiled and patted my mate's shoulder. "With the infection gone, your lungs are mending fairly quickly. A couple more days, and you'll be good as new." He started to put his things away.
My head was pounding. As the day went on, I felt worse and worse. A dull ache had filled my entire body. Every time something touched either of my scars a spike of pain shot from them. I laid my head back against the wall. Something wasn't right.
"Thank god," said Rose as she hugged my mate. "I promised your mother I'd take care of you. I'm so happy everything is going to be alright."
"My beta back in business." Darius gave him a smirk. "Hunting party tomorrow morning, right?"
"I think not," said Xavier firmly, looking between his sons. "You'll be taken a week or two off. I'm going to be hundred percent sure your lungs are healed before I even consider it."
"Fine with me," said Titus.
Darius's head rolled to the side. "Great, guess who will have to cover for you."
Storm smacked his side. "Leave your brother alone."
"I was just kidding around." The red werewolf rubbed the spot.
I let out a shaky breath and sunk deeper to the furs I was sitting on.
It caught Titus's attention. "Aden?" He hurried over and cupped my cheek. "You're shaking."
I collapsed against him. I just wanted to sleep and hopefully, wake up feeling better.
"You're burning up."
"Let me have a look at him." The doctor moved in.
Titus hovered nearby as the man examined me.
"It's strange. He's too old to have a fever like this. It usually only happens in young pups." The doctor touched my shoulder.
I lurched forward and fell onto my side. The pain burned through me.
"Aden." Titus leaned over me and brushed my hair out of my face. "Aden, what's wrong?"
"It hurts. Everything hurts."
The doctor stood. "I need to call a colleague."
Trevor went with him to do so.
"Titus, take him to your room," said Xavier. "Let him rest until we can figure out what's wrong."
My mate nodded and changed to his werewolf form.
"Titus! I told you shifting used up too much energy. You're not well enough to be going back and forth."
"I'm fine." He gathered me in his arms. "Stop worrying." He hurried out of the room.
I curled into him, enjoying the familiar scent and his fur rubbing against my skin. This felt right. The smell, the color, everything was right.
Titus laid me down on our bed and put the covers over me. "You'll be okay. They'll figure out what's wrong and fix you up like they did me." He gave me a smile, before kissing my forehead.
Nodding, I let out a deep breath as my eyes closed.
"Do you need anything?" He clasped my cheek. "Water, food?"
I shook my head and pulled him down next to me. Titus leaned against the side of the bed and held me in his arms. I buried my face in his fur. Everything just felt right with him.
My in-laws were scattered around the room.
The doctor hung up the phone and turned to the group. "It's not good."
Titus hugged me to him.
"The two enzymes in Aden's body are fighting each other. They're too strong, and unlike with dominant pairing, one isn't able to overpower the others. They're killing him from the inside."
The room fell still. My eyes were close to shutting as I was just content to lay there with my mate.
"What should we do?" asked Darius.
The Midfield werewolf shrugged. "There's nothing we can do."
"So we're just going to let him die?" The red werewolf motioned to me. "Like hell. I'm not letting that happen."
Trevor cleared his throat. "There's a way." He glanced at Xavier. "You know what has to happen."
The alpha rubbed his muzzle. "Oscar might not agree to it."
"It's not him who has to."
"What?" Darius looked between them. "What are you talking about?"
"A death match," stated Trevor.
Rose gasped. "No."
Titus tensioned as he took a deep breath.
"Aden can't live with Jet and Titus's enzyme inside of him," Trevor's eyes fell on me, "and the only way to save Aden is if one of them dies."
"Then we attack Bloodhound." Darius bared his teeth. "I'll kill Jet myself."
"You'll start a mass war," stated the future Midfield alpha. "By the time you get to Jet, Aden might already be dead. The only way it can be resolved in time is if we issue a challenge to Jet."
"A death match, though." Storm shook her head. "Is there really not another option?"
The doctor shook his head. "I discussed it with my colleague. He's an old werewolf, and the last time he saw something like this was when a lower rank had two men marked him. They fought to the death and the winner took the boy as their mate. Technically, Titus and Jet are both Aden's mate."
"What if Jet's refuses to do it?" exclaimed Darius. "Then what?"
"Would you not fight for your mate?" retorted Trevor, looking to Storm. "Would you let her die, or enter a death match?"
The red werewolf grabbed her hand. "I'd fight. Even if it meant dying, I would fight."
"I'll do it," stated Titus.
The room was still for a moment.
Titus peered down at me. He ran the back of his hand against my cheek. "He did this to save my life, because I failed at protecting him in the first place. Aden doesn't deserve this." He scanned the room. "He wasn't born a werewolf. None of this is fair to him." He smiled at me. "I'll do it, and I'll win."
Darius grinned at him. "You damn sure will. Though I hoped it would be me who killed Jet, I like to see my brother kick his ass in the ring."
"He'll have to do more than kick his ass," said Xavier sternly. "Be aware what you're agreeing to. If you lose, you'll be dead, and Aden will go to Jet. I'm willing to take the other route."
Titus shook his head. "No. Aden won't want that. People dying because of him, it would tear him apart. But if I do lose, don't let Jet have him. Aden deserves to have a normal life with his own kind."
"The kid does suck at being a werewolf," said Darius, leaning forward and wringing his hands together. "But after you win," he nodded to his brother, "we can work on it."