AN: Its a miracle, an update from a very stressed out PhD student! One day I will have to write a note about how odd it feels in a really good way that some of you have followed my sporadic updates through three college degrees. One day when I am procrastinating on writing. :) I've been reading some lovely fiction lately- hopefully it and winter break continues to inspire me.
Reviews are wonderful. I sincerely treasure every one, even the cranky ones.
This story will likely have only another chapter or so. It was designed as a one-shot but you all asked so nicely for more. Also, the long promised one-shot sequel to Trick or Treat is battling with my brain for dominance. I've started and deleted it about 3 times, which is a good number.
I disclaim all ownership in favor of Whedon and Briggs.
******************** Chapter Four **********************
The din of grinding battle was horrific to his lupine ears, the screams echoing at levels of sound indiscernible even to his heightened human senses. Samuel bared his teeth and lunged, fangs sinking with sickening satisfaction into yielding undead flesh as he rent and dodged. Girls streamed around him, ashen stakes and bloodied crossbows raised as their heartbeats thundered like sparrow wings. The air tasted like damp dirt, sunlight, and sharp sand.
Samuel released the undead flesh and howled with exhilaration as he swerved, narrowly avoiding being run through with a sword as he swiped at he arm of another Vampire, knocking away the blow that would have ended Dawn's life. Dawn... Dawn smelled like his mate did except for the sunlight and sweat.
Buffy's skin always smelled of both. And life and death inextricably intertwined.
The hairs on his nape rose as a bright howl rose across the chaos in answer to his own. The voice was human, or human enough, but Samuel's wolf recognized the toothy grin of a kindred soul, his heart, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer bared her teeth in joy across the bloody stretch of Nevada desert. His wolf grinned in response even as his lupine heart skidded and jumped with fierce ownership.
He had loved her, knowing but never seeing this side. This side that hunted at night, staking demons, and Elvis impersonating Vampires, and even on occasion- werewolves. He had sat next to her on the hood of a car, feeling the gentle curl of her almost human fingers in the warmth of his almost human palm, as they stared at the stars. He had met her sister, and talked about the future, and laughed over slices of pie. The part of him that still understood what mortality was, despite his centuries, the part of him that had experienced mortality every time a child he had helped to bring into the world died... That part should be terrified, to love this hunter of monsters who was so lucky to have lived to even see adulthood.
But all sides, all parts of a broken man who ran as a wolf, saw the woman across the field as someone who matched his broken parts to make a whole. Just as he matched her broken parts to make them both stronger. He watched as she spun, arms and legs extended, gold hair billowing behind her, teeth white in the moonlight as she grinned, and felt only contentment and a steely sense of pride. My mate.
Charles watched his Father with an unreadable expression. Bran could fool you if you weren't careful. Charles was very, very careful and the Marrok still fooled him more often than should have been possible given that he was his Father's Enforcer.
The fact that they met at the waterfall set the tone of the meeting, no matter how casual Bran claimed it to be. The waterfall was the reason they had settled here, instead of one of the other hundreds of places they had wandered to in the centuries. It had reminded Bran of the Old Country in a rare moment of sentiment, with its mossy stones and frigid air. And so, generations ago they had chosen to stay here, in Montana.
They didn't say much. They didn't need to. Waterfall of no, both of their thoughts were directed southward, to the future. To the one they had been trying to save for so long. Charles didn't make direct eye contact with his Father. “If this saves him, we will loose him anyway.”
Bran had a way of making silence full. Charles could intimidate people into silence. The Marrok owned it. “We all know what it is to loose. We've lost Samuel already. The question is whether or not he looses himself.”
Charles shifted, agitated. “And is finding himself in another so much better?” After all, there were reasons the Marrok had Leah for his mate.
“I'm not sure...” The younger wolf saw the grave sadness that flitted across his Father’s boyish features but did not comment on it. Couldn’t. They were beyond so much more than words in so many ways. “Can we accept the alternative?”
Charles did not own this silence, or fill it. When he looked up again, Bran was gone.
He should have been expecting it, if he'd thought it through, but little in Samuel's life had been outside of the expected in a very long time. At first he thought he woke to sunlight filtering in through the cheap curtains of the motel they were staying in at the outskirt of Vegas. He stretched and frowned slightly at the lingering pain in his joints and the pull of the still healing slash down his left shoulder. If it was morning those hurts should have been long gone.
He stilled, suddenly alert, as his hearing found the second heartbeat in the room. His breath left him and his heart raced as the sheets rustled and the sagging bed groaned even as a slight weight added to his own. Samuel's nostrils flooded with the scent of newly scrubbed skin that still smelled of light and sand and ash and... Buffy.
It was pitch black in the room but even so he could see her, see her watch him with those sunrise eyes and curve to her lips. He wondered, wildly, if that small smirk echoed other curves on her too slender body. Her life in many ways had been as difficult as his, in far fewer years, and it had left her lean in places she should have been soft. Lean in the place of healed scars. He knew the curve matched the fall of her neck, the arch of her hands, but wondered if the architect had been as thorough on the valley of her breasts or the line of her hip. Was instantly hard with the certainty that he was soon about to find out all the curves and lean places.
He hissed both with surprise and pleasure as her cool hands found his chest, her palms warming his nipples as fingertips clenched slightly, crescents digging into his chest. The curve of her lips deepened but he sensed the tension in her thighs as they straddled his waist. Slender and smooth, her pale skin the color of skimmed cream, the bruises from the fight fading faster even than his. He resisted the urge to bury his hands in the fall of her hair, and took a deep steadying breath instead so he could gasp out, “Do you know what this means?”
Because being a mate meant more than being a lover, and Samuel had been disappointed by both in many of his lifetimes.
And though the smile never left her he could hear the desperation in the question she answered him with, “Do you?”
Samuel paused as he held her, saw their future stretched out before him. Fighting, laughter with friends, and long trips with diner food. He saw them loving on sagging beds in a thousand similar motels, pressed up against leaking showers, in the backseat of a thousand beat up cars, on the hoods of those same cars. And though he didn't know if their time together would be measured in heartbeats or lifetimes he knew that his future, until his last breath, was with the woman who had crept into his life and stolen his wandering to replace it with purpose.
An answering smile curved his own lips as he rose up, crushed her to his chest, and wrapped his arms around the delicate promise she had made him. If they were other people Buffy would have mentioned that his fingernails were leaving trails down her back. He would have mentioned that her tears of relief left the imprint of warm salt where she had pressed her face into the crook of his neck.
But they were done with words for the evening as they arched into each other with the desperation of longtime survivors. They moved and lay until their curves fit together and the ache that lay in both was appeased by a touching that rarely went so deep. Deep enough for pain, and the hope of joy.
They both slept through sunrise, finally healed in more ways than one.