It was bright morning when Marik opened his eyes. He had no morning commitments today - what had woken him? The bed felt cool to his left and he realized that Róan was gone. Maybe his leaving had woken him. A retching sound echoed from the hallway. Ah. It was the sound that had woken him, then. His ears twitched as he sat up, and faint hope tickled his belly. Was Róan sick? The early signs of a litter, perhaps? Marik thought back - he and Róan had only been together a few times since he'd changed, but even once could be enough to sire a litter.

With these thoughts racing through his mind, Marik got out of bed and eagerly made his way down the hall to the private baths.

He was not prepared for what he saw.

Medin was crouched - no, crouched was too gentle a word; collapsed was more like it - over tiled floor of the shower room, clothes soaked, face ghastly pale and eyes glassy. He was making a low keening sound, which echoed against the walls and gave an eerie feeling to the scene. Róan, soaked wet himself and only half clothed, had one knee leveraged against Medin's body, which he was struggling to lift, and was prying what appeared to be a chew from his mouth. The far showers were still running.

Marik felt like fighting. He felt like howling and beating his fists and tearing his teeth into whatever invisible evil had dared to do this to his Medin, his little love and only son. Instead, he found himself at Róan's side in an instant, lifting Medin bodily from the ground and carrying him into the bedroom. Distantly he heard Róan's voice:

"I think he's having a reaction."

Then everything was gray until the doctors were pulling Medin from his arms; for a moment, he didn't want to let him go. This was Medin, his own; the child he'd found himself, alone in the woods. When Marik had sniffed at him, in full wolfish form, the child had only giggled and stretched his hand out to touch him. He was so small; only then getting good at walking and so Marik had carried him on his back until they reached the camp, not changing form for fear of startling the boy, who was still so young. Medin fell asleep with two fists balled into his fur, and Marik loved him immediately. He was the first thing Marik could call his own. Then they took him away.

He was only twenty-two then; still halfway a cub with no mate, no home of his own, no position and no means of survival other than what he was given. They told him he wasn't ready. It had taken nine years for him to prove otherwise.

So he couldn't let go now, not when Medin needed him so much, when his very hands were the only thing that held the boy together, kept him from breaking. How could he let him go? He was growling then, teeth bared back and then there was a prick at his side and everything went gray. The last thing he saw was the doctor's back as he rushed away with his Medin.

~:~

Walker was pacing his room in annoyance. His badi had disappeared somewhere in the afternoon, wherever it was he went - Walker wasn't sure and didn't care - and wouldn't be back until the night meal. Medin was missing. He'd paged his quarters twice from an anonymous room, leaving a message to meet him at noon by the baths. Medin was usually quick to obey, but tonight, he was nowhere to be found.

Walker rumbled to himself. The disobedience would have to stop. He was not in the mood for an uncooperative mate. Not now, and not ever. His stomach had complaints of its own, and so he was just on his way the meat locker to see what his badi had stocked up when the a sound near the front stopped him. It was the slow, scraping slide of a door being opened.