My heart broke for Everly, Zoe, and Macey as they told Emily it was okay to go, that she didn’t have to hold on any longer. Moments passed, and hushed whispers were all that could be heard as they tried to soothe their friend when she gasped one last time. I held my breath, waiting to see if it was a false alarm yet, and praying it wasn’t. She shouldn’t suffer anymore, no one deserves to suffer this fate. When Everly dropped her head on Ben’s shoulder and sobbed, I felt Emily’s pack link sever.
My heart panged with pain, if only briefly, yet the pain, anguish, and despair that flooded Everly through the bond as she mourned her family broke my heart further. Marcus hugged Zoe close as she fell apart. Macey just stared vacantly ahead, sitting back down in her chair.
The doctor checked her and nodded, calling time of death before saying he would leave to let them say their goodbyes. The girls tuck them in like they were saying goodnight and not goodbye, and the doctor comes back and tells Everly what would happen next.
“Come on,” Marcus whispers to Zoe, pulling her from the room, and Macey quickly follows, closing the door behind them.
Everly kisses them both once again and stands upright. I watch as she swallows down the emotion that threatened to consume her, she tugs her shirt off, pulls it back on the right way, and cleans her face with some water from the sink basin. She washes away the tears that stained her face. I move toward her, wanting to comfort her, but she pulls away, looking at me.
I drop my hand. “I’m sorry, but please don’t touch me right now,” she whispers, her eyes softening as she stares at me. Yet I knew if I did, she would break. I got it, but the urge was still there, the bond calling me to my mate. I nod, letting her get herself together. She loved, lost, and mourned, and I was in awe of how she slipped back into business mode, shut down everything and forced her anguish back. Her determination returned, and she felt she had work to do. She broke if only briefly before picking herself up and dusting herself off, ready for battle again.
I hated that she instinctively switched and shut down, a coping mechanism from years of taking on everything and everyone else’s problems and emotions while ignoring her own. She had me, but Everly forced to be independent, endure, and never rely on anyone instinctively recoiled inside herself. She would deal, conquer then when alone break. But for now, she had to put on a front to do what needed to be done. It made me realize what sort of leader she is and what sort of Luna she would be.
Unbreakable to the rest of the world, the rogues’ communities anchor despite the pressure of drowning herself. She took on the persona and got things done. The amount of impact she had with rogues and how much they looked up to her did not hit me until I stepped out the doors after her. Rogues lined the walls, heads bowed as she stepped out. I hear Everly gasp before she walks down the corridor, each one bowing as she passes.
Her village, that word suddenly took on a new meaning. What it represented. Everly, Zoe, and Macey were never rogue. The three of them brought hope to the rogues, and they rallied for their leaders, and Emily and Ben. A family built on love and respect. Everly grips my hand as I step beside her. And I give it a squeeze.
“You don’t have to be strong, you know,” I whisper.
“Yeah, I do, for them,” she whispers back.
Macey and Zoe waited by the exit doors, and Everly let me go. She walked toward them, they wrapped their arms around her waist. The rogues looked up to the girls, and Macey, despite being older and Zoe younger, both looked to Everly. She was the chief of the village they built. She was their armor, and she wore it proudly. Ava stood outside the doors, looking lost as her sister stepped out with Zoe and Macey.
The three girls had a bond, a sisterhood built on their blood, sweat and tears, and with undying, unconditional love. Ava, for so long, had a strained relationship with her sister and knew she wasn’t Everly’s only sister now. I could see the pain in her eyes as she watched them. But like true Queens, they stopped, and Macey offered out her hand to Ava, who took it, letting out a shaky breath. Macey tosses an arm over her shoulder, tugging her into their circle. Accepting her as one of them.
I look at the overcast sky. Storm clouds roll across the horizon. The day was as gloomy as it was depressing. Yet as the rogues filed out after their chiefs, their honorary Lunas. I chuckled and smiled as Marcus stopped beside me. He leans his shoulder against mine, nodding his head toward them. My mother’s words about Everly are so true and I now understood what she meant.
“Watch her,” and I do as she leads her people down to the parking lot. They stood in a circle, hands clasped, the girls in the middle. Every rogue had come to say goodbye, no matter their state, some in their work uniforms, having stopped whatever they were doing and running when their family needed them, run to see them off. She called it her village, but it wasn’t a village. They were a pack, and as Everly turned her face up to the sky and howled. Everyone followed in unison, saying their final goodbyes.
They were never rogue. This is what a pack is. This is family and at the center stood their Alpha. Not by birth, but because she earned the right, she earned their respect and fought for them when no one else would, a true leader. Everly’s determination was admirable, and the woman truly is remarkable. A chorus of howls filled the silence, followed by my own howls as they said goodbye. Mum would be so proud. I was proud. Everyone thinks she is just a lucky rogue, who an Alpha claimed.
Yet looking at her, I was the lucky one. I never claimed her, I thought I did, yet a woman as strong as she couldn’t be claimed. She was the one that did the claiming. She didn’t need me; she had herself and the village she built. She knows who she is, and she isn’t afraid to be it. She will fight, and I know she will win, and I will love watching every second of it as she reclaims the city, changes it. As she makes mum proud.