Joss Whedon owns "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and related characters; Patricia Briggs owns "The Mercedes Thompson Series" and related characters; I own nothing.Author's Note:
The final story of the belated August Fic-a-Day posting. :D~*~*~
“Do you believe the Slayers will reveal themselves to the general public?” Charles asked his da as he gratefully took the mug of hot chocolate that Anna handed to him. They were in the living room of the small cabin that he and his mate shared, rather than Bran’s. Leah had left the reception early, and according to Anna, appeared to be barely holding on to her rage. Given this, as well as the ongoing dispute between Bran and his mate over this meeting with the Watcher’s Council, it was probably the wisest choice.
Bran paused before answering, taking a sip from his mug. Even among his son and daughter-in-law, the leader of the North American werewolves looked like nothing more than a college student thinking about how to answer a professor when called on. Only when he deemed it to be necessary did his da allow his full power to show through.
“They will consider it,” Bran finally answered. “Buffy Summers was very interested in what we had to say about the threats that we have been receiving from various organizations and what that could mean for her Slayers.”
Charles nodded. While the structure of the Council in and of themselves where very different from the structure of the weres, Buffy Summers was a close enough analogue to the Marrok, although she shared command with several others. The Queen Slayer, he had heard her called, and while he wouldn’t go that far in his assessment of her, Charles could understand how such a perception was maintained.
“Have they been receiving those kind of threats?” Anna asked, sitting down next to Charles. “Dawn didn’t mention anything like that when I was talking to her.”
“The impression Buffy Summers gave me was that there have been scattered incidents, but given the influence the Council has, there haven’t been any large scale threats,” Bran answered carefully. “Did you hear anything, Charles?”
“No,” Charles answered with a shake of his head. “I didn’t-”
He was cut off mid-sentence by a searing pain in the part of him he associated with the pack. All of a sudden, a part of him was cut off, a piece of the pack’s web suddenly lost. As his da’s second, he was more tied within the pack structure than other wolves, and he felt losses much more keenly. But this... This was worse than he had felt in a long time.
Looking up, Charles was shocked to see Bran’s reaction. His da was pale, deathly pale, with a thin sheen of sweat on his skin. It was a state Charles had never seen him in before.
“Leah,” he gasped out as Anna rushed over to Bran’s side, almost knocking over her hot chocolate before Charles caught it deftly, despite the recent upheaval.
“Go,” she told him, answering his unspoken question. “I’ll stay.” She was right. They each had their own abilities, and his would be better served finding out what had happened to his da’s mate.
Charles tore out of his cabin and raced towards Bran and Leah’s. Not even bothering to check if the door was locked, he forced it open, ignoring the sound of splintering wood. They would pay for damages later.
Leah wasn’t in the cabin, he quickly determined, and there was no sign of a struggle to indicate that somebody had forcibly removed her. Cautiously, he entered her room to see what it might tell him. Ignoring her scattered belongings, he found the door that led outside from her room slightly ajar. Stepping outside, he found tracks from a werewolf, indicating that she had shifted out here before leaving. Let’s hunt,
he told Brother Wolf as he quickly shifted to his wolf form to better track where she had gone.
Her trail was only a few hours old, from roughly around the time Anna had seen her leave the reception. Following Leah’s scent into the woods surrounding the compound that the Council and the Marrok were renting for this event, he weaved in and out of trees. There were small signs that she had hunted successfully, but Charles wasn’t interested in that. Along the way, he noted that there were no other distinct scents that gave any indication that Leah had been followed while she had been hunting. Nothing to indicate what had killed her.
He had been in the woods for roughly ten minutes when he heard the distant sound of an ambulance siren. Perking up his ears, he turned his head in the direction they were coming from before starting to run towards it. Every instinct he had told him that the ambulance was somehow tied to Leah’s death, that whoever had caused this hadn’t emerged from the conflict uninjured. But that then begged the question: who would risk so much exposure by calling for an ambulance?
Smelling fresh blood, Charles put on an extra burst of speed and reached a small space in between the trees as the ambulance pulled away. There was no question. There had been a fight here recently, and Leah’s scent was the freshest he had smelled in his search. Taking a deep breath, he took a moment to process everything.
He recognized the blood as that of Buffy Summers, but there were scents from other members of the Council as well: the one-eyed man, Xander Harris; the witch, Willow Rosenberg, who had wanted to discuss magic with him; and that of the other Slayer in the Council’s party, a dark-haired woman named Faith who hadn’t spoken much. Out of the contingent that the Council had sent, these four were who he considered to be the main threat, even if Harris was only a human. He didn’t want to jump to conclusions about what had happened here, but an uneasy feeling started to form in his stomach.
Walking in a circle around the clearing only made it grow stronger. He had found trails for both Buffy Summers and Faith leading in and out of the area, but none for Rosenberg or Harris. It was as if they simply arrived, then left. And there was the fact that there was no sign of Leah’s body.
His lip curled upwards in a silent snarl. Magic
. That was the only explanation that factored in everything and still made sense. Rosenberg had used magic to teleport both her and Harris and then remove Leah’s body. But why?
New urgency giving him energy, Charles raced back towards the small grouping of cabins that the Council was using for their delegation. He took a moment to shift back into human form and clothe himself, although Brother Wolf chaffed at the delay. He was on the hunt, and his prey was in sight.
Trying the first door, followed by the other two, Charles received no answers. Nor could he find evidence that they were inside, but simply ignoring him. Although there were lights on in two of the cabins, one of them had the front door slightly ajar, like its occupants had left in a hurry. He smelled fear and anxiety, but no blood. And, to his dismay, no scent of Leah’s body.
Walking back to his cabin, he steeled himself for the conversation to come. From the few encounters he had with the Council thus far, he had formed a positive opinion of them, especially compared to what he had heard about the previous management. But the mystery surrounding Leah’s death made him worry. While it was possible there was a less incriminating answer to all of this, the evidence was starting to take a sinister shape in his mind.
Stepping inside, he quickly noticed that the living room was empty. Starting to tense, he relaxed slightly when he felt Anna send out a calming wave through their mate bond. The door to their bedroom opened and Anna slipped out, closing the door as quietly as she could.
“He’s nearly catatonic,” she whispered as she wrapped her arms around him. “Like he’s in shock.” She shivered, although Charles suspected it had little to do with the cold. “Did you find anything?”
“Yes. And no,” Charles answered, returning her embrace. “I found the location where Leah died, but I couldn’t find the body. And,” he added after a slight pause, “the Council is involved somehow.”
“What?” Anna asked, taking a step back. “What did you find?”
“Blood belonging to Buffy Summers,” Charles replied as Anna sat down on the couch, her face losing what little color remained in it. “She and Faith were together when they encountered Leah and a fight likely occurred. The ground was too disturbed for me to determine a sequence of events. But, there were also two more Council members who where there, and I have reason to believe that they removed the body from the scene.”
“Why?” Anna asked. “What would they gain? It doesn’t make sense.”
“I don’t know, but when I went to their cabins to talk to them, they were gone. Like they had left in a rush,” Charles said, starting to pace slightly. He was on edge, as was Brother Wolf. As much as he didn’t like his father’s mate, she was pack and now she was dead. But he was torn. Part of him wanted to confront the Council members and demand to know what had happened. The other part wanted to stay and protect his da while Bran was still vulnerable. And, at some point, he was going to have to talk to Samuel about what had happened.
“Do you think this is going to mean war?” Anna’s quiet voice broke through his thoughts.
Charles stopped pacing and looked over at his mate.
“I don’t know,” he confessed, just as softly. “I want to give them the chance to explain, but they’re gone and all I can do is work with the facts that I have.”
Anna watched him for a moment before nodding. Getting to her feet, she slipped her hand through Charles’.
“Wait with me,” she told him quietly. “We can decide what to do when Bran comes around.”
Charles allowed himself to be led into the bedroom to keep silent watch over his father. He wasn’t sure that waiting was the best plan, though. He had heard stories from Samuel about the last time his da had lost a mate and what that had done to him. Losing Leah, despite what Bran might or might not have felt for her, could be enough for him to lose control.
Until Bran woke, however, there was little he could do but watch, wait, and plan for what might happen next.