It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. The victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angel or by demons, heaven or hell.--Buddha
After spending years of captivity in a Warlock Internment Camp, Charlie thought that he had some good things finally coming his way. Goddess knew he was due. After slowly healing back to health, Charlie is excited and shocked to find out that the leader of the rebellion, Upton, is his mate.
The last thing Charlie expects is for Upton to turn him away. Charlie is devastated and makes a huge mistake, one that may cause him his life. Will Upton be able to save Charlie in time? If so, will Charlie be able to forgive Upton for rejecting him? For if not, then their whole world could crumble underneath them.
Charlie looked up at the ceiling of the infirmary and let out a long sigh. He was so bored he thought that he was going to literally die from it. Not only had he counted the tiles on the ceiling numerous times, but he'd even counted the holes that dotted the tiles. He knew the numbers of both of them by heart.
He also knew the number of beds, how many bedpans, heart monitors; hell, he even knew how many vials of medicine they kept in the medicine cabinet. Not just by name, but in alphabetical order and by dosage number.
The worst part of it all was he had a shitty memory. That just showed how long he'd been trapped in the place that he'd dubbed Purgatory. He wouldn't go so far as to say that it was Hell. He'd been there, done that, and had the golden ticket to prove it.
In fact, it was thanks to that place that he was in the hospital. Okay, maybe it hadn't been Hell, but rather a Warlock Internment Camp, but they were one and the same. At least in Charlie's book. Actually, the camp was probably worse.
There he'd nearly died a slow death. Trapped for years with little food or water, no hygiene, the loss of his magic and not even basic medical care, it was a place of horror. That was even before one added in the daily beatings, torture, and random executions.
Why had he been there? Because he'd committed the great sin of being born a Warlock. The humans had already eradicated Witches. Sure, they still had females born amongst their community, but all of them lacked even the basic of magical skills. Warlocks, on the other hand, continued to flourish. If one could call hiding out or being imprisoned flourishing. They still had their magic, though. Why that happened was a big mystery.
Why had the Goddess taken away the Witches only way to fight back? Better yet, why had she turned her back on them in the first place? She had to know what was going on, yet she had made no move to step in and save them.
Charlie shook his head. It wouldn't do for him to continue on this way. He was depressed enough as it was. He'd been in this place for three months and he still was skinny as hell and sicker than sin. They still didn't have him on solid food. If he had to eat one more cup of Jell-o, he was going to throw the thing against the wall--again. The last time, they hadn't been too happy with him. So, maybe he'd hold himself back this time.
Juliet, one of the nurses, came over. She had a tray in her hands. Charlie already knew that it wasn't for him because it had roasted turkey and mashed potatoes on it. Just the smell of it made his stomach growl. He couldn't even begin to recall the last time he'd eaten that meal.
When she actually stopped at his bed and put the food on his serving table, Charlie gasped. Either she had made a mistake or she was playing a joke on him. If it was the latter, then she was no better than the Warlocks who worked at the internment camps and tortured their own kind.
"What are you doing?" Charlie asked, his voice shaky.
She smiled at him. Had he been straight, he would have been in love with her a long time ago. Not only did she give amazing sponge baths, but her bouncing blonde hair and blue eyes made her look like a cheerleader. As far as Charlie was concerned, all he did was admire her fashion sense. That was when she wasn't wearing her scrubs.
"Andor said that you could finally have some solid foods. Since you keep talking about this meal in your sleep, I thought that you would want it the most," she announced.
Charlie eyed up the food so hungrily that he felt like a shark spotting Blake Lively. It looked so damn good that he just wanted to dive in and devour the thing. He remembered his manners, though, and sat still while Juliet set everything up.
She finally pulled the table so it was in Charlie's lap. "Go ahead. Eat up."
Charlie began to scoop it up as fast as he could. Much to his dismay, he only managed to get in a few bites before he felt himself already getting full. It was unfair. The turkey was so soft that it nearly melted in his mouth, the juices running down his chin. The mashed potatoes were just lumpy enough, and the gravy was so savory that it actually hurt his taste buds a bit.
He wiped the mess off his face and took a big drink of soda. It was the one vice that Andor allowed. Even though he said the bubbles weren't good for Charlie's stomach. Charlie had pouted until he'd gotten his way on that one, though. He had to have something to look forward to in life.
Charlie glanced down at the dessert. It was red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. His best friend, Lucas, must have told them that it was his favorite. Now Charlie didn't have an inch of space left for it in his stomach. It made him want to weep.
Speaking of Lucas, his buddy took that moment to walk in. Just like Charlie, Lucas had blond hair. Only Lucas had the ability to shower and style his every day. It made Charlie jealous since he knew that his was a mess and he probably looked like a skinny version of a Troll doll.
Then the last person in the world that Charlie wanted to see walked into the infirmary--Upton. Not that Charlie hated the guy, far from it. He had a very unfortunate crush on the resistance leader.
"Shit," Charlie hissed.
Lucas gave him a strange look. "What? You didn't want to see me today or something?"
"No, Upton is here."
"Big deal. I doubt he's here to chew you out for not doing your duties or something. You're still on complete bed rest."
Charlie threw his hands in the air. "Look at me? I'm Carrot Top's twin, only my hair is straight and blond. We both still have a mess of a do."
"You do have a point there, but you don't have that guy's body. Have you seen the muscles he sports now? It's kind of weird."
"Great. Thanks for making me feel better."
Charlie gazed across the room at the leader. Upton was everything that Charlie liked in a man and then some. Not only was he muscular without being a beefcake, but he had the most piercing blue eyes in history. Charlie even loved the way Upton kept his dark hair in a razor cut. It fit the military uniform perfectly. That and the whole don't fuck with me vibe that Upton always put out.
When Charlie first arrived at the camp, Upton had come over and introduced himself. All Charlie had been able to do was babble back a one-word answer. That hadn't changed. Whenever Upton got near, Charlie became stupid. Which was even more humiliating since he was the type of Warlock who studied history and spells. Or at least, that was what he'd wanted to be until he'd been thrown into the camp.
That was what his father had been and his grandfather and so on and so on. Charlie hadn't felt an obligation to follow in their footsteps; he'd genuinely wanted to do that work.
If they could only see him now, they probably would have had a great laugh at the way Charlie acted around Upton. Charlie's entire family had known he was gay. They'd known before he'd even known himself. When he'd finally gotten the nerve to come out, he'd been met with hugs and kisses.
His life had been perfect until the day that the Warlock Enforcement Agents had stormed their home and taken them away. Then everything that Charlie had known and loved was taken away from him. He'd even heard a human family had taken over his home and were now living in it. Just the thought of them using his mother's expensive china set filled him with rage.
Charlie wondered if Upton had ever spent any time in the camps. What his past had been like. Why he'd felt so compelled to lead the rebellion and continually put his neck out for other magical people. Had he lost everything dear to him, too? If so, maybe this was his way of getting some back.
"I see that they let you eat real food finally," Lucas remarked.
Charlie jumped. He'd been so deep in his thoughts that he'd almost forgotten that his friend was still there.
"Ahâ€¦ yeah, I haven't had a chance to eat the cake, though. Were you the one who told them that it was my favorite?" Charlie asked.
"Yeah, but don't worry, I didn't tell anybody about your major crush on Upton," Lucas said.
Charlie jumped a foot off the bed. "I never said anything like that."
"You don't have to. I know you better than anybody. I can tell just by the way you look at him. Don't worry. I don't think he's noticed you, yet."
If that didn't feel like a kick to the gut. "Thanks. It's nice to know that the one guy who's ever caught my attention doesn't even know that I'm alive."
Lucas nipped at his bottom lip. "I didn't mean it that way. What I was trying to say is that he hasn't caught you staring at him or anything."
"He probably doesn't even know that I exist," Charlie said, in a woe is me tone.
Maybe he was being a bit of a downer, but he should be allowed a grouchy moment or two. After all he'd been through, he was sick of always having to play the upbeat role.
"Of course he does. He knows everybody who is in the camp," Lucas replied.
Yeah, but not in the way that Charlie wanted him to. No doubt, Upton thought that Charlie was nothing more than a burden on them. If they were attacked, then somebody would have to carry Charlie's ass out of there, slowing him down.
"Hey, you got the bands off your arms from the camp," Lucas pointed out, in an obvious attempt to cheer Charlie up.
Charlie looked down to his scarred arms. The bands had been put on every prisoner as a way to block their magic. Since Charlie had worn his for years, there would forever be a reminder of them. He could just barely make out the ancient rune that had been on his skin since birth. It was said that if he were to ever find the one who had a matching mark on their own wrist, they would be Charlie's mate.
He let out a soft snort. Knowing his luck, it would turn out to be the burly blacksmith, Angus. While the guy seemed nice enough, he was most certainly not Charlie's type. As for Upton, Charlie had never gotten close enough to the Warlock to see. Even if he had, Upton always wore a jacket with long sleeves, even in the hottest of weather. So, there was no way that Charlie could get a peek. Not that it would matter anyway. The Goddess had it in for him, so there is no way that she'd ever pair him with such a great mate like Upton.
"Do you want me to sneak and see what Upton's mating mark looks like?" Lucas asked as he waggled his eyebrows.
Charlie sighed, knowing Lucas would do just that. Then he would trip and fall into the leader and make a great big scene. Call Charlie crazy, but that was something he just didn't feel like at the moment.
"No, let's just leave things be. Besides, we both know that there is no way that he would ever be my mate. Knowing the Goddess, she killed my mate off years ago."
Lucas gave a nervous smile. "You know, you really should stop talking about her that way. One of these days, she's going to zap you in the ass."
"Please, she owes me some good. Although, I doubt that she'll ever do anything for me. She won't zap me. Believe me, she forgot about me a long time ago."
Charlie knew he sounded bitter, but he really was beyond caring. He knew that Lucas had it even worse than Charlie had, but at least his friend had found his mate and was now happy. Meanwhile, Charlie was still trapped in the damn infirmary and it didn't look as if he would be getting out any time soon.
Charlie realized that he shouldn't complain. After all, he had lived. There were so many who had died in the camps. Not only that, but he'd been rescued and was safe--at least for the moment. That could change at any time, though. They all had bounties on their heads, and one of their own could turn them in at any time. It had happened before, and it was only a matter of time before it happened again.
Charlie let out a sigh. He still couldn't believe they were living in a world where one Warlock couldn't even trust another. It was as if they had been reduced to animals and were in raw survival mode.
"If you don't eat that cake, then I may just have to steal it from you," a deep voice said.
Looking up, Charlie couldn't hold in his gasp of surprise. Upton was standing there, and he had the most gorgeous smile on his face or maybe it was sexy. Actually, it was a combo. Was gorgexy a word? Because if not, it should be.
Charlie put a protective hand over his cake. He wished it had been in jest, but it was still an old habit from his days in camp. Realizing what he'd done, Charlie let out a nervous laugh, then pulled back.
"No, I'm just saving it for later. I don't want you guys to realize what a great big pig I am right away," Charlie said.
He wanted to kick himself as soon as he said that. It sounded so stupid. Upton must think he was an idiot or something. Charlie just hoped that he could make it through the rest of the exchange without making a fool out of himself. Although, the chances of that happening were slim to none and slim just waltzed out the door.
"So, why are you here?" Charlie blurted.
Way to go again! He'd just insulted Upton. He'd be lucky if he wasn't banned from the camp by the time the conversation was over.
Upton just reached over and ruffled Charlie's hair. "I wanted to check up on one of my Warlocks. Is there anything wrong with that?"