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[personal profile] koijuly posting in [community profile] mindcracklove
This is later than inteneded... Sorry. Life, dodgey internet and a dead laptop...

Anyway, Etho is still off the deep end...

And as always many thanks to ladiesofthethrones for checking it. XD

Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 3b | 4 | 5 | 6

Violet eyes, that was all Etho saw of the person wandering around town with Zisteau. They were beautiful, enticing and Etho nearly went over to introduce himself, but Pause was at the person first.

"You owe me." Pause nearly shouted at them.

The person laughed. His eyes closed and Etho looked over the rest of his toned body. It was the first time Etho had looked at a man and wanted nothing more than to kiss him. Which was wrong on two accounts, one Etho was sure he was straight, and two the other was an Alpha. It was clear a day, and Alphas did not go around kissing Alphas.

In his distraction by horrifying and unwanted thoughts they had started fighting, Zisteau had stepped aside to give them space, and strangers that passed gave the brawling pair a glare and a wide berth. Etho stepped forwards to defend Pause when Pause was disarmed, because that was what team Canada did.

He fought as thoughtfully as always, it ended as he plunged Nebris's own sword deep in his gut. Some dark desire had him twisting his sword before taking it out and laughing at the retreating Alpha. Then there was whiteness. And he was back in the forest, following Pause, turning to the scent of Nebris.

His eyes wouldn't open, someone was pouring something down his throat. The bottle was cold against his lips but the liquid was warm and his body eagerly swallowed it. His awareness took longer than usual. He felt terrible, every limb weak and slow to respond. He was on someone's lap, they were talking, but his mind couldn't follow it.

'Nebris.' was his first truly coherent thought. He was supposed to be dead, for his sake. Etho moved his head away from the bottle as suddenly as he could manage, but whoever it was had been expecting that and the bottle followed his restricted movements against their strong hold. His body continued to swallow even as he told it to stop.

"I think he's conscious, don't you?" Doc stated from slightly above.

"Yeah, man was that scary. Seeing him like that." Millbee responded from a step away.

"Zisteau did say it was bad." Doc whispered, and since Millbee was now shouting a few meters away,

"Guys this way! He's waking!"

Etho had to assume it was for him. He flipped himself off of Doc's lap, his strength returning slowly but he still felt weak. He tried, unsuccessfully, to retch up whatever Doc had given him. He shuddered and his arms gave way.

"Why did you do this?" Doc whispered. Etho couldn't decide what to say, they weren't supposed to find him, they weren't supposed to know he was missing yet. It wasn't even evening, the sun was still relatively high in the sky.

He blinked into the unexpected light. He was on hard bed with light covers. It took a moment to realise he was in hospital. Lavender in the air, but not Nebris, he searched around the room before reacting. Vechs, with a lavender plant. Etho cursed how much he missed Nebris, it hadn't even been a day since he had seen him, if his memory of time was right. Vechs smiled at him before talking.

"Thought you might like to look after one of your gifts to Nebris. I don't think he noticed me taking it as you've given him so many." Vechs then put it on the bedside table. "Never knew you cared. Pause told me you mentioned me by name. You do know that whatever the secret you share with Nebris, I'll keep it."

"I'm not telling you."

"Probably wise. Nebris denies there even is one, at least I absolutely know he's lying now."

Etho cursed internally, and came up with the first excuse he could think of. "I've broken in during a few of his training sessions. I don't think he wants people to know what he struggles with most, or that I help him sometimes. You know how his pride is; easier for him to deal with me besting him."

"Sure that's all it is. Anyway you want something to prune this, or anything else?"

"No. Whoever's looking after me might think I'll use it to try again."

"I don't think they would. Rather difficult to kill yourself with clippers. If you change your mind I can get you some. I would offer to help you had I not seen the horror on Nebris' face during the search, not that MC would let me near him to ask what it was about. I know something changed between you two, I know he cares about you."

Etho snorted.

"No, he really does care, little things show it. Before he hated you, completely. He would rarely shut up about it, but now he hardly even mentions you. However when he hears someone say something about you his attention snaps to them, even if he tries to hide it. If they say something happy he can't seem to help but smile. When it's bad he scowls, or tried to keep his face blank." Vechs smiled sadly at the floor before sighing and returning his gaze to Etho and continuing.

"While I don't know you that well, we've a lot of friends in common. Since Nebris is one of my dearest friends, and Zisteau is another, I really don't want you to do this to them, or Pause, Guude, you get the idea.

"I always thought you were supposed to be selfless, good, kind, all that sickeningly nice stuff. Did you even stop to think about how you would make others feel? Pause is so mad at you using him to pass on your note that he has forbidden Beef to visit you, not that Beef wants to because he's also infuriated."

"Fair enough." Etho cursed that he hadn't simply left the Box labeled for Pause, Potion labeled for Beef in EthoCorp. Then he remembered why he had gotten Zisteau involved. To stop Nebris doing something stupid.

But it looked like Etho had overreacted -again- and this time could not blame his instincts. Nebris must have been visiting MC, sneaking away to see his friends before Etho woke was commonplace and Etho hadn't even considered that possibility.

"I'll be seeing you. I agreed to help stock EthoCorp. Doc and Seth should have figured out what was missing, and what potions have been ordered. I'm sure Doc'll be here later, Seth had to drag him away as they're the only two that are known by your employees."

Vechs danced out of the room, not giving Etho time to respond. Etho relaxed, no longer worried about what he might let slip, more than he already had. Vechs was already suspicious and clearly actively wanted to know what was between him and his once enemy.

The plant was a nice thought though, and Etho shifted it onto his lap to check it over. Partly for something to do, partly to have the smell closer to him. He pinched off the bad leaves easily, letting them fall on his lap before he shook off a few flowers from a stem that had dried up onto his pillow. He knew he couldn't sleep without smelling lavender anymore.

He turned the pot fractionally every time he finished a section. It was calming even if his hands were still shaking. He wondered what Doc had forced down his throat, it had to be potent but short lived for the poison to still be affecting him, but his lungs no longer burned, his stomach didn't churn. And what had he been given in hospital?

Later a nurse arrived and gave Etho water, food and when asked told him what he had been given since arriving, basically what they would have given a non-alpha as his healing was inhibited by part of his poison. He was then informed what Doc had given him, along with the story that Doc had found him on a walk in the forest. So the staff didn't know what his friends did. Which explained why he wasn't under constant supervision.

Vechs was right, Doc did stop past later. When he walked in, his usual greeting smile was nearly not there. His voice nearly a whisper when he asked, "How are you feeling?"

Doc looked slightly disbelieving at the "I'm fine" Etho gave him. "How're you?"

"Stressed. How long have you been neglecting your shop?"

"Dunno." Etho saw no point in denying it, if Doc had done an inventory of potions ordered he would know that it had been going on for months now.

"You should have spoken to someone, ages ago. All of us would have helped you keep up if you were struggling. Helped get you on your feet again. It's what you did when I almost shut down Doc shop when I was unable."

"That was different, you'd got yourself into a cast after falling out a window on what floor again?"

"There are different things that stop us, and I was simply meaning we help each other. You know Nebris is helping with EthoCorp?"

"He is?"

"We're a pack Etho, we're only as strong as the weakest member, and we help each other, that's what we do. Nebris knows what it means to be in our pack. He enjoys making potions and had a few he'd brewed lying around that you had orders for, I had some, Seth had others and we almost covered them all with that alone."

His friends still cared after how shitty he had been. Etho found himself crying. He didn't deserve them, he didn't deserve to be pulled out of the hole he'd built. "Thank you, you don't know how much this means to me."

Doc finally smiled genuinely. "Dry your eyes. You would do it for us if it I was the other way round." When Etho went to argue Doc cut him off. "People do weird things when they're depressed and once you work through it everything will be as it was before. Not seeing a way out of this is normal, and everyone will be here for you while you work out how to get better."

Etho let Doc leave believing it was depression, it was easier than anything else but showed that Pause had shared little of the letter Etho had written. It must be clear to Pause that it wasn't depression, rather a bad bond that was Etho's fault.

He should have admitted his feelings right from the start rather than hunt for any attention he could. Now all he had to do was continue the façade until released then find a way to slip off and disappear before ensuring Nebris' secret would remain one, it was now doubly worse as Nebris was acting out too, even if Doc overlooked it.



The next morning arrived with a grinning Vechs and another lavender plant he had most likely half-inched from Nebris.

"Good morning sleepy head." Vechs greeted, his grin never leaving or dissipating, if anything it twisted impossibly wider.

"Morning." Etho responded, nervous over if he had been talking in his sleep, not that he could remember his dream.

"You'll never guess what Nebris did yesterday. When I went to see what I could help provide for EthoCorp, Nebris had actually brought exactly what was missing and even a few of the special orders that needed made. Apparently he'd found one of your stock-up lists that you'd made and decided to fill it. I told you he cares. What's more he actually added new stock, having asked some of the staff what others came in looking for that you'd didn't have."

Etho sat in stunned silence. Nebris had publicly done something to show care for him, and done more than his friends had thought to do. Now he knew why Doc had mentioned it. Vechs watched him for a while before putting the new plant beside the one from yesterday.

"It's odd that they trusted him to tell him what people looked for in EthoCorp, but not anyone else. How often does he visit you?"

"Only you and Doc have visited me."

"I meant at EthoCorp before this."

"I don't know if he has ever come passed my shop to get things, he never came in while I was in the shop."

"All the staff knew him on sight, but not many knew his name. Curious thing isn't it?"

"Yes." Etho agreed, trying to not frown. Really not sure what to make of his staff knowing Nebris on sight, or Vechs in general for that matter. Vechs left without much of a goodbye; a simple wave from the doorway. He was gone in moments, leaving no chance to return it.



The day's stayed much the same after that. Vechs would visit in the morning, with another lavender plant that needed a bit of care that he'd picked up from Nebris the night before. It would be left next to the others. Then he would the tell Etho something Nebris had done the day previously the he found odd, and would watch intently for something in Etho's reaction to the news. However Etho was determined not to slip up and give anything away, so ignored the implications of what was said until he was alone.

In the afternoon a nurse would give him water, food and take him for a walk. Each day they got longer as Etho began to recover. And on the sixth day he made it all the way to the physio area, but was too tired to do much. After he returned to the ward he was usually alone to wonder when his poison would run out or his healing would return to him.

He needed Nebris and it was in the afternoons he felt it most, but Nebris never came. He would swaddle himself in his naturally lavender scented blankets and pretend that Nebris was hugging him. It never worked, merely brought him to the edge of tears but he couldn't stop himself. Sometimes others would visit, mostly Doc; but never Nebris. Likely for the same reason he'd never visited Nebris, to not give away how close they now were.

Then before he went to sleep he gathered the lavender bits that he'd left lying on his bedding and those that had fallen on the floor into the bin before he fell onto a pillow of lavender, and brought lavender sheets up to his nose. Not as sweet as the smell of his omega, but close enough to settle him into fitful sleep.



His healing returned in the second week, everything else was fixed by the next morning. He was let out to return home long after he'd run out of space for the lavender on the bedside table, it only sat four, five at a push. Vechs had began returning the healthy ones in exchange for the poorly ones he took in.

Doc arrived to pick Etho up, sent by Guude. At least returning his gifts gave Etho an excuse to go straight to Nebris, leaving Doc with the promise of meeting him at EthoCorp. And agreeing that if he's delayed before leaving Nebris', he would get Nebris to phone Doc.

Etho found himself stuck thinking about how he had betrayed Nebris, by acting to fix it on his own even after Nebris had said they'd figure something out together. Would Nebris hate him for it? Knowing all Nebris was now doing to show he cared, probably. Though Etho doubted Nebris knew of Vechs' visits to tell him about what was going on in Mindcrack. Nebris probably didn't think Etho had heard how much more work Nebris was putting into EthoCorp than everyone else.

His thoughts were disrupted: Pause found him halfway to Nebris', purely by chance.

"You absolute dirtbag." His tone was neutral and Etho thought, with all things considered, it wasn't a bad hello to get from Pause.

"I'm sorry."

"You're fucking sorry? Fucking hell, of all the fucking idiotic things to do! You were planning to fucking use me to tell everyone that you fucking killed yourself for such a fucking stupid reason!

"You never kill yourself for your bondmate, whatever the issues are will be made worse by you not being there to protect them, and they'd never get another. You're an Alpha, fucking act like it and guard them until you fucking die! Give everything you have to keep them safe, especially emotionally which is the opposite of what you did.

"You were right, you don't deserve them, if you did you would know to never abandon them! And to make sure you know, I don't want you talking to Beef about anything, you fucking hear me?"

"I-"

"Yes or no dirtbag." Pause hissed, his hands balled into fists.

"Yes." Etho whispered, there was nothing else to do.

"Good." Pause then pushed passed Etho, knocking the box that contained the lavender plants. Etho almost dropped it, his reflexes would need worked on again. They always did when he hadn't been dealing with volatile potions in a while, and he hadn't touched any since before the UHC.

Etho froze on Nebris' doorstep. He could smell Nebris clearly through the lavender he was carrying. A sweet tang to the usually bitter smell that made it warm and comforting. He put the box down and fortified himself to knock. Then what Pause said played through his head.

Pause was right, more so then he could have realised. Right from the start, the day they had met, when Etho had told Nebris to back off from Pause and Nebris had compiled, their relationship had been bad. Others had told him often enough how different he was with Nebris. 'Explosive' as Beef used to say, and not in a good way.

Their entire relationship was about Etho proving dominance and he couldn't seem to help himself. How many times had he torn down Nebris' pride to show that he could? How often had he been less than cautious with leaving Nebris' once they started fucking in his house? As though he wanted to be caught with that smell on him.

How reckless had he been around EthoCorp? Enough that his staff knew Nebris, probably as the person he was fucking in the back so clearly a dalliance he didn't want others to know about, but yet they gave Nebris information about what people wanted from EthoCorp? Etho would have to ask them about it, he didn't know what to make of them trusting Nebris.

And how often had he tried to get Nebris to seriously consider outing himself? Oh yes he didn't want his omega to life in secrecy, but was that for Nebris or himself? Nebris was happy in his life pretending to be an Alpha. Thinking about him, he often seemed happiest when saying the most outlandish lies. Etho wanted him to unveil his biggest secret just to be able to show him off, there was nothing else to it.

Even Etho's gifts, they were an excuse to fuck Nebris anytime without warning; another way to push dominance. He was marking his territory, making sure Nebris couldn't forget who his alpha was or what he was. And Etho had used that excuse to ignoring his schedule more than he should have to keep the secret.

Oh, God. Their first night. He knew the moment he smelled lavender that that was his bondmate, it had to be, and he had followed Nebris to beat it out of him if he had to. Nebris was clearly distraught about Etho noticing the smell, closing and locking his door as Etho watched from the shadows becoming aware that it was Nebris, not someone else's, scent he had caught. Etho suspected Nebris hadn't noticed being followed but he still forced his way in, then he had demanded Nebris to submit. Nebris was gagging, completely at mercy of his biology and Etho had made him beg to be knotted.

Etho felt the tears falling. He couldn't face Nebris like that, he couldn't be crying, it wasn't fair. He had done nothing but put them in a bad situation, it was up to Nebris if he wanted this to continue, and how it would. Etho couldn't let that decision be under duress of him breaking. He turned to leave, freezing as he heard the door pulled open.

"Etho?" Nebris asked, Etho ran. He didn't know what else to do. "Etho!" Nebris called before chasing him down.

They went through town, passed Etho's house on the other side, out into the plains before Etho faltered, unable to see clearly through his tears he tripped on something solid. But he didn't hit the floor as Nebris caught him, and twisted him round in the same motion. "Don't cry. Please, Etho. I'm here for you."

"No, we can't do this now. I can't force you to accept me with tears."

"Etho I-"

"Nebris, not like this. I know you, you'll say, do, anything to make me feel okay. But you can't. Not this time. Let me have time to get back on my feet then I'll try to make up for the mess I've made. I'll do anything to show you that I can be worthy of you."

When Etho broke free to run Nebris didn't follow. Etho thought he heard Nebris whisper something. But it didn't matter. Not until he could face up to how he had acted, as he had always promised himself not to, as a alpha first and a person second.

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