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"Only after being found I knew I was lost / Only once I had you I saw what I'd been missing / and only after loving you did I realize what real love meant."

-@nonymous4, After You, Daylight and Daydreams Album

We settled into an easy rhythm. Rather than spending early mornings rubbing the sleep from our eyes, the Initiative team dove straight into training. Once the sweat stuck the shirts to our backs we stopped for breakfast. Later, we continued to pour over the details of the case, though it ended up mostly being a waiting game. Leonger's biochemist hadn't found anything with the rats yet. Not a single thing worth noting. Certain drug mixtures killed the rats while others had absolutely no effect. The data was so all over the place it didn't even seem like an experiment.

And so we waited.

Nothing of note happened in the outside world, so there wasn't much to distract us from the unending waiting.

After the withdrawal fiasco with Wes, I spent a lot of time in the library reading anything and everything to do with mates.

I couldn't stand the thought of Wes going through withdrawals for 16 years while I was in suspended animation. Not that I had control over the situation, but the thought alone made me wonder about our future. Or rather, my future, and what would happen to Wes when I left.

A part of me couldn't stand the thought of him potentially experiencing the withdrawals after I left. Even should we limit the contact between the two of us, we were a team. That required us to be in each other's presence. I needed to know that once I left, there wouldn't be a possibility of Wes having to deal with any after effects.

And so while we waited I dove into research with a vigor that surprised even myself.

Book after book, I poured over the information at my fingertips. It took days, yet even as I switched over to newspaper and journal articles I wasn't any less in the dark about it all.

I kept hitting the same blockade--the research was either unfinished or had no results I wanted to hear. As not too many Aces were willing to be guinea pigs on the subject of mate withdrawals and death, I didn't blame them.

Three days in, I sat on the cold floor in the back room of the library. "This is bogus," I ran a hand through my short locks. Should a mated pair form a permanent connection, this article read, they will follow each other into death. Withdrawals--marked by symptoms such as aching limbs, uncontrolled ability sparks, nausea, headaches, and swelling--are known to cause further medical issues, even death.

It is the physical and emotional connection between two mates that marks the severity of these withdrawals. While the control group in this study suffered minimal differences, the experimental group suffered from withdrawals and illness. As shown in table 3.2., this experimental group--

I whipped the article across the room.

It was clear to me that Wes and I were already connected to each other. We'd spent most of our young lives in each other's company. Enough to establish a permanent mate connection.

One that we would never be able to break without withdrawals.

Wes was tied to me in such a fundamental way that I'd never be able to cut him loose. Not even for his own safety.

I swore and stood up. I needed to get out of here. I needed to go do something, anything but sit here and read about the permanence between the two of us.

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