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Summary: After their stint in 'hell' Hope and Buffy begin to understand and live in their new world. Sequel to 'Running Towards Nothing.'

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Buffy-Centered > Action(Moderator)AvaFR1516,30514777,2968 Apr 058 Apr 05Yes
Disclaimer:I do not own BTVS or ABVH those belong to the wonderful minds of Laurell K. Hamilton and Joss Whedon.

Spoilers :BTVS seasons 1,2 and 3: all of ABVH

This is a Sequel and if you have not read "Running Towards Nothing" you may be confused. This story is for everyone who reviewed and emailed me. Thank you and I hope you enjoy!!



Hope watched the hallway of Anita’s home her hand grasped tightly in Buffy’s. It had been three weeks from their vacation in Hell and neither had fully adjusted to this new 'world'. Buffy tended to ignore everyone but herself, Anita and Nathaniel. The Slayer had become so withdrawn that the necromancer was becoming worried. The blonde turned to gaze at her hero, a sad smile pulling at either corner of her mouth. “Buffy?”

Hazel eyes blinked. “What’s wrong?”

“The full moon is next Saturday and Anita wants us to relocate to a halfway house.”

Buffy nodded. “I know, she told me.”

“Are you okay with that?”

She shrugged. “I don’t think we have much of a choice in the matter.”

Hope nodded accepting this for fact. “Are you scared?” Her throaty voice was soft with fear.

Buffy turned on the coach making her body face Hope and placed one knee beneath her body. “Of our introduction to the pard tonight or of our first night being furry?”

“Both.”

“I’ll protect you.”

Hope smiled and leaned back against the couch. Her head turned to face the Slayer. “I know.”

Buffy reached out a hand and traced the other woman’s jaw. “We’re meeting the rest of the wereleopards tonight. I think Anita’s been careful with us.”

A frown drew the pale girl’s brow downward. “The ones we’ve met so far have been nothing but nice to us.”

“Exactly.”

Hope took a deep breath. “What do you mean?”

“They’ve all been super nice and that in itself is kinda scary. Nothings perfect and I think tonight we’re gonna meet the not so perfect people. The people that are harsh.”

Fear filled Hope’s pale blue eyes. She began to fidget with her clothes, pulling absently at the hem of her tank top. “Anita wouldn’t put us in danger.”

Buffy felt a shiver of discomfort for scaring the other girl and placed her hands over hers in an attempt to ease Hope's fear. “No Anita wouldn’t but I think some people are going to want to push us around. Prove they’re bigger. Badder.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I would.”

Hope nodded and slid her body closer to Buffy’s until her head rested on the other woman’s shoulder. Recently she had found herself constantly wanting to touch the Slayer. Not necessarily in a sexual way, more comfort. When she had inquired to the others,Micah had explained to her it was indeed a trait of her lycanthropy. Her senses were becoming sharper but not to the same extent as Buffy’s. Micah had said those would not fully develop till after her first change.

Her Nimir-Raj had been so patent in clarifying everything for them, so helpful with all of their questions. Though Buffy had remained uneasy around him. Hope wanted her savior to be happy but those feelings at times seemed to elude the other woman. She was only quick to smile for Hope and laughed sparingly.

Buffy felt Hope’s breath against the side of her neck and wondered when it had become so comforting. She held the other woman against her and their mingled warmth felt right. She turned her face to kiss the top of Hope’s head. Micah had told them this constant need for contact was natural. Though Buffy was always the dominant. Even when Nathaniel and Zane had come to help with their lessons.

Zane had ended up with his head in her lap and her playing with his then blue hair. She had been listening to his voice and he had been demonstrating the different ways of asking for protection. By the end both he and Nathaniel had shown some submissive traits towards her. Micah had watched this with slightly narrowed eyes.

Buffy could not forget his unease and that made her feel worse. The wereleopard was sensing her beast already and it was too soon for that. Though, she could feel the other being in her. A part of her but not, just like the Slayer essence.

Both girls turned in unison to watch the front door open and Merle walked in. A curvy brunette who made Cordelia look flat chested followed him through the entryway. She was dressed head to toe in Sluts-R-Us. A purple skirt so short you saw that her garters matched with a black fishnet top and a push-up bra that matched the garters. Very stiletto heels made Buffy wonder absently how she made it up the driveway. She was pretty in a 'I’m angry at the world and a badass' kinda way.

The man that followed her through was shorter than her by a few inches and very tan. He was shirtless and the top button of his jeans was undone. Leaving his chest bare and both his nipples and belly button’s piercings visible. Hopefully that was all of them, though by the look of him probably not. Buffy shook her head to clear that image. Dark brown hair fell in a sort of halo around the top of his head with the sides and back cut short. He looked young and a little ho-ey.

Maybe he and the hooker were an item.

Hope pressed more tightly against Buffy who reached her arm around the other woman a squeezed her shoulder lightly. “Hi Merle.”

The older wereleopard smiled but the annoyance with his companions was clear. “Hello Hope, Buffy. How’re you doing?” He was like a well-aged biker and he reminded Hope of the gang she had run with for a few months. The leader of “Midnight Riders,” she suppressed the urge to roll her eyes at the memory, had been exactly like Merle. Long gray hair and an attitude the size of Rhode Island.

His home state.

“We’re good.” Her gaze flicked to the other two and she sat up. Feeling Buffy’s arm drop away she turned to the other girl. Her gaze was locked on the female brunette whose was currently looking Hope up and down.

“Hello.” Her voice was made breathy by nerves.

The brunette flashed a smile that was more a bearing of teeth. “Aren’t you just the cutest?”

Hope blushed. “Th-Thank you.” She stumbled slightly over the words.

The female stalked forward and the male followed in her shadow. She paused just in front of the pair on the couch. “Don’t be shy we’re family now.” She held out a hand to Hope and Buffy stiffened beside her.

Ever trusting of strangers Hope took the offered hand and found herself pulled up between the brunette pair. “What are your names?”

The woman ran her tongue along Hope’s wrist. “I’m Elizabeth and that’s Caleb behind you.”

Hope felt him brush up against her back. She turned slightly to see the flash of his silver eyebrow ring. “Doesn’t silver hurt us?”

“It’s a good kind of pain.”

The blonde frowned and tried to remove her hand from Elizabeth’s. The other woman didn’t let go. “Please, I want…”

“Shhhh.” The brunette pressed herself to Hope’s front while Caleb pressed himself to her back. She was effectively trapped. “We’ll take good care of you.”

Buffy leapt from the couch and pulled Hope from between them. “Back off.”

Elizabeth and Caleb turned to her as one. “We could take her if we wanted.”

“Hope, go to Merle.” The blonde eyes down cast bypassed the pair and hurried to Merle. He placed a hand lightly on her shoulder but his gaze remand on the threesome in the center of the room.

Elizabeth growled low in her throat and Buffy felt a wave of prickling power push against her flesh. “Nice, but can you sit up and beg too?” Her gaze flicked to Merle. “I’m I gonna need a rolled up newspaper for this?”

The brunette’s eyes narrowed and she began circling Buffy with Caleb following her lead. “You smell weak. Human still.”

Buffy cocked her head to the side. “And you look like a hooker.”

Elizabeth reached out as if to strike or grab her but Buffy evade her reach. She flowed through the space between the two wereleopards. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you to play nice?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nathaniel sat patiently watching his Nimir-Raj and Nimir-Ra discuss the newest members of their pard once again. Micah was worried that Buffy was catching on to quickly. Her senses and strength already heightened far past where they should be at this stage. Anita once again informing him of how she had fought off those demons on her own. Without any real weapons. They had had this discussion several times. Surprisingly Anita was the rational one and for those who did know the necromancer this was a miracle. As in Anita should now walk on water kind of miracle.

“Buffy is too strong for one just infected.”

Anita sighed. The rest of the pard would be here any moment they did not have time for this fight. Again. “She is not from this dimension.” God, that sounded crazy, she shook her head and tried again. “I told you how she fought. Nathaniel and I also told you how she helped save all those teenagers.”

Micah sighed and ran his hands through his shoulder length curly black hair. “Every submissive she come in contact with immediately acknowledges her as dominant.”

“She’s not doing it intentionally.”

Micah’s gaze narrowed. “That makes it more of a problem. If they’re reacting to her like this when she’s subconsciously doing it. What happens when she learns control?”

Nathaniel frowned. “I don’t think she can.” Micah and Anita looked at him surprised. “What? I’m not just another pretty face. I listen when people talk and I pay attention.”

Anita smiled and moved stand beside the bed. “What have you learned by listening and paying attention?”

Nathaniel reached out to grasp her hand but his gaze was on Micah. “She doesn’t like to talk about where she came from or how she ended up in that Hell but what little I’ve learned.” He sighed and shook his head. “She was some kind of protector. A chosen one, I think that’s what she said. Her duty was to defend and guard the innocent. She wasn’t born that way either she was called.”

Nathaniel dropped his gaze. “I think she has no control over how we react to her and I think if you’re so worried you should ask her about it.”

The necromancer snorted and Micah raised an eyebrow at his leopard. Anita’s influence on him tended to rise at the oddest moments. There was a crash from downstairs and the group looked up at one another and then ran for the door.

Anita found herself coming last into the room and looked around to see Caleb pulling himself up from the floor and out of the broken pieces of the coffee table. Buffy stood over him and Elizabeth was slowly backing away from them.

Buffy turned to her new leaders and fidgeted slightly under their gaze. “They started it.” Her voice vaguely resembling a pouting child.

“Of that I have no doubt.” Anita found herself rewarded with one of the petite girls rare smiles. “Caleb you owe me a new table.”

The wereleopard opened his mouth as it to argue but one look from Micah was enough to cause it to snap shut. “Let’s clean up this mess before everyone gets here.”

Without warning Elizabeth struck out at Buffy. Striking the smaller blonde in the back of the head with a fist, the Slayer stumbled under the blow. Caleb scurried out from the middle.

“Elizabeth!” Micah moved forward.

The wereleopard sidestepped him. “I challenged her and she has not forfeited.” Micah’s gaze quickly moved to Merle who nodded a frown firmly in place.

“Buffy does not understand what a challenge means. Nor has she had her first shift. This fight is unfair.”

The brunette smirked. “All she has to do is acknowledge me as dominant.”

Buffy straightened and once again felt the brush of her beast push against the barriers of her human psyche. She heard rather than saw the front door open and by their scent alone she knew Zane and Cherry had arrived.

The tall male whose muscle and flesh were stretched thin across his frame stood looking around the room. His hand fell away from Cherry’s when he felt the tension of the room’s occupants.

“What’s wrong?”

“Elizabeth has challenged Buffy.” Nathaniel’s dry voice seemed to take a moment to register with the room new residents.

“Elizabeth, no.” Cherry moved forward as if to stop her friend but Buffy struck her first.

The blonde spun and raised her arm in the same motion. Her hand balled into a fist slammed into the taller woman’s jaw. Elizabeth stumbled back in her heels and nearly fell. “How?” Blood welled up in her mouth where her teeth had connected with the inside of her mouth.

“You wanted to fight.” Buffy rolled her shoulders back and felt her beast shudder in anticipation. “Haven’t had a good one since I got here.” Buffy looked the other woman up and down. “Think you can keep up?”

Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. Wiping the blood away from her mouth she lick the back of her hand clean. “We usually only fight till first blood.”

Buffy smiled in pure malicious glee. “Then I guess I’ve already won.”

The brunette’s legs coiled beneath her and she prang with all of her supernatural strength. Buffy was not used to their speed and impacted to the ground, the back of her head meeting harshly with the wood floor. She felt the sharp torque of her shoulder jerk as they landed, biting back a cry of pain she flattened her palm up against Elizabeth’s chin. The wereleopard’s head rocked back with the blow and Buffy used the distraction to roll them.

She now was poised above the other woman and her beast pressed forward begging for release. She grasped Elizabeth’s throat in one hand and raised the other to strike. Her beast was whispering for her push down on her throat. It would be so easy to stop her breath and then feed. Warm flesh. Sweet blood.

Buffy stumbled back for the other woman. Who sat up gasping. The horror at what she felt pressed down on the beast trying to lock it away, but she couldn't hide from herself. The creature inside of her pushed back and without warning the warrior inside her took notice. The essence of the Slayer reared up and attacked her beast.

Buffy screamed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anita watched Buffy kick Elizabeth’s ass and couldn’t help the small smile of satisfaction spread across her face but it quickly became a frown as the petite blonde fell away from her opponent. Anita watched as faint blue aura engulfed her and with out warning pale lavender speared through the blue and she screamed.

She fell to the floor and convulsed as the two auras warred within her tiny frame. The screams became whimpers of pain and she jerked against the wood floor. Cherry was suddenly there moving the couch out of her way with Zane’s help. They knelt by her gazes locked and worried. This was not normal.

Buffy couldn’t hear or care what those around her did. Her body felt engulfed in flames and it was trying to tear itself in two. The essence of the Slayer was merciless. The beast savage. Neither let the other have a moment of rest. The leopard lashed out harshly gaining ground and Buffy felt her skin pull and shuddered at the small victory.

The Slayer essence paused in battle feeling her slight shift in form. Both essences stopped and just pushed against one another. Neither striking. Buffy stilled against the floor breathing heavily. Her eyes lay closed against ashen cheeks and her heart beat wildly against her ribcage.

Micah moved forward his body ready for a blow. Cherry was checking her heart rate and she frowned at the temperate spike. Micah spoke softly. “Buffy?” She did not respond. “Buffy, are you all right?” He winced slightly. Of course she wasn’t all right. Though her eyelids flickered there was no other response to his question.

The Slayer essence slowly engulfed the intruder. The beast shuddered and again Buffy’s physical form echoed this. The Slayer embraced the beast and Buffy gasped. Her eyes flew open unfocused.

Micah watched the two auras merge as Anita’s and his sometimes did when they were intimate. When they were in need of the other. The blue and lavender pressed against each other. With a sudden influx of power they joined. The colors mixing, darkening. They became one and Buffy’s hands lashed out knocking Cherry aside. Her spin bowed and she screamed once more. The shudder under her skin was only a minute warning to the rooms Nimir-Raj.

“Zane, grab her she’s changing!”

Micah leaned over her sightless eyes. “Buffy, I need you to calm down.” She pushed against his chest but unlike Cherry he was ready. Grasping her arm he wrestled it down to the ground. “Buffy, focus on my voice. You need to calm down.” His power washed over her. Trying to quiet her. To reassure her.

Buffy could hear his voice but the words held no meaning to her now. The power flowing under her skin begged to be let out. Just to be free. Buffy paused unsure. The Slayer essence and her beast still separate but united used her hesitation. They pushed against her already warn shields and won.

Buffy tried to roll out from under the two men. She ended up on her stomach with them both pushing her into the ground. The Beast reared inside of her and her power flared outward. She felt the shudder against her flesh. The united powers inside of her enjoyed Micah and Zane’s reactions. Her spine bent upward and her flesh stretched. Her clothing tore as her body reshaped itself.

The Slayer essence tainted the change. She was not to walk unseen through the forest. Slayers were made to attract their foes, their physical appearance was just one more weapon in their vast arsenal. They were both the hunter and the prey. As her skin split and her bones shifted breaking and rearranging the Slayer’s essence made itself known. Her form made to be a temptation.

A challenge.

The fur that spilled over her trembling form was snow white with black rosettes that held a gray or silver center. Cobalt blue eyes blinked focusing and noticing the changes, however small, in detail around the room. Her sense of smell was picking up the fear of the other occupants. Her ears twitched slightly hearing the sound of oncoming cars signaling the arrival of others. Her tail lashed outward.

Her body shook from the too soon change. She shuddered and fell on her side. Rest. She just needed a moment to gather her bearings. Micah stared down at the white leopard and shook his head. She breathing was erratic. He knelt next her and slowly ran a hand down her sighed. His power flowed over Buffy, once again trying to calm and assure her. She gave an uneven purr of content.

Micah laughed. “Hello there.” Buffy raised her head and looked back at him blinking those startling eyes. “You turned out pretty. Buffy?” The leopard nodded somewhat awkwardly. “Well that’s impressive.” He watched the question enter her gaze and the slight incline of her head. “Most lycanthropes have no control during their first few changes.”

Buffy was confused. Why wouldn’t they? The beast like the Slayer essence was just another part of you. More primitive yes but she had learned to control her baser instincts when she had become the Slayer. She frowned. Well maybe. Could leopards frown? The leopard shook her head. She understood the urge to hunt and kill. She had fought those urges whenever she had been with Angel. A growl of pain escaped her throat at the thought of her lover.

Micah’s green-flecked eyes narrowed misunderstanding her agitation. “You need to feed.”

Buffy pushed herself up and was surprised at how light she felt. She pressed herself backwards into a stretch. Her tail swung back and curled up. She turned her head to look at her tail and hissed at it softly. Zane chuckled beside her. She turned and butted her head against his side. He laughed outright and swung his arm around her neck.

“You’re just full of surprises.”

Buffy unconsciously rubbed her body against his. She looked to Micah to see him still frowning at her, worried. The beast pushed forward guiding her instincts. Her was her leader. Her protector. Her Nimir-Raj. The Slayer essence shuddered but leopard held the rains in this form. Buffy lowered herself to the ground in a forward belly crawl. Her tail swung from side to side keeping her balanced. When she reached Micah’s bare feet she paused and rolled her eyes upward.

Micah was surprised by her display of submission but he lowered his hand and she pushed upward. Her breath was a warm pant against his flesh and her tongue wet sandpaper. Micah pressed upward between her eyes and scratched at the base of her skull. A deep rumbling purr escaped her chest. Her Nimir-Raj laughed in amusement. She walked around him brushing her body along side him as she passed. Micah’s gaze went up to where Anita stood. She was still on the stairs Browning 9mm out and pointed at the ground. He simply held out his hand to her.

Anita frowned and was about to shake her head no when she felt Nathaniel touch her right hand gently. “He is establishing dominance for her.” Anita looked at her pomme de sang and he sighed. “Go to him.”

If I get eaten by a newbie I’m so gonna haunt you both. The necromancer walked down the last few stairs and moved around her couch to reach them. The white leopard was standing at Micah’s side silently watching her. She suppressed the thrill of fear. Buffy was not growling. She got major brownie points for that and Anita got more for closing the few feet that remand between them. When she reached him he grasped her left hand and his power chased it’s way down her arm and into her body. Anita’s own beast answered his call and spilled outward meeting his. The leopard once more fell to her belly and crawled forward. Anita did not want to lose contact with Micah and still did not feel safe putting up her gun. She took her finger off the trigger and held her right hand out limply to Buffy.

The were pushed itself up once more and rubbed its face against Anita’s hand. Her tongue darted out and then she sneezed at the taste of metal. Her Nimir-Ra laughed. She worked her way around Anita. Brushing against her and Micah before lying down once more. Protection. Home.

“Welcome to the family.” Anita smiled and looked up as the others of her pard began pouring into her home. She vaguely wondered how they felt about seeing their Nimir-Raj and Nimir-Ra hands clasped. Their power like a warm blanket across the room and a snow-white leopard lying at their feet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hope sat on the floor her back to the couch and positioned between Zane’s knees. Buffy’s massive head was snuggled deeply in her lap as she ran a hand over and over the leopard’s soft fur. Every once and a while Zane would nudge Buffy with his foot and she would growl low in her throat. Her people…She paused enjoying the feeling of belonging. Hope’s smile spread as her people greeted Anita and Micah in both intimate and mundane ways.

The submissive blonde knew that the things she had seen tonight should have disturbed her and a part of her was but a larger part had wanted to join in. So she had and found herself welcomed more than turned away.

Though Micah still watched Buffy silently and now that Anita and he seemed finished their Nimir-Raj was making his way towards them. “You need to feed.”

Buffy’s snow-white head raised and she blinked at him. Her ear’s twitched forward. She could feel the call of the forest just outside the door but she had placed herself at Hope’s side instantly after the greeting. The blonde girl was her first priority. Micah saw this. “Anita will protect her.” The leopard’s eyes narrowed and her power flared in warning. Micah frowned. “Don’t make that face at me. You know Anita would not let anything happen to her.”

Buffy pushed herself to her feet and turned her gaze to Hope. The blonde came to a kneeling position so they could see eye to eye. “Go.” The fur between her eyes pulled down and Hope laughed. “I promise to stay by Anita and Cherry.” The leopard butted her head forward against the blonde’s. Hope smiled as the soft fur slide along her skin and her whiskers tickled her cheeks. Buffy brushed her head against her skin pushing her head until it was buried in Hope’s hair. She inhaled the sweet scent of skin and sweat. Hope did the same.

“If you’re done marking her, can we go?” Micah’s dry voice cut threw their moment and Buffy pulled away reluctantly. She turned to her Nimir-Raj and pressed her face against his leg. He smiled.

Zane stood as well. “Can I come?”

Micah shook his head. “I would prefer it to be just us tonight.” At the other mans pout he rolled his eyes. “You’ll get to hunt with her next Saturday. Give me tonight.” He looked down at Buffy. “Let us bond.”

Buffy stayed at the door till Anita sat beside Hope and Zane. The male’s arm was around her shoulders and she was already smiling at something he had whispered in her ear. She resisted the urge to hiss at Elizabeth and followed Micah into the night.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Micah took off his clothes and placed them gently on the porch. He took a few steps into the front yard and felt the night engulf him. His skin tingled and then stretched clean and smooth. The beast inside of Buffy watched him with envy as a black leopard stretched in the grass. He turned back to her and growled slightly. Buffy felt her beast push to front once more and she leapt the few stairs that led down into the grass. As her paw hit the moist earth and she caught the different scents of forest she felt content. The first moment of peace since Angel’s death.

She fell in step beside her alpha and they pushed forward into the trees surrounding Anita and Micah’s home. Their fur grazed bushes and low lying branches as they made their way deeper. With out warning Micah leapt ahead of her and took off at a run.

Buffy trailed him never quit gaining enough ground to match her Nimir-Raj. They dodged rocks and fallen trees. Buffy could feel the drive of the wind against her face. The feel of the night sky pressing around her and the light of stars guiding her way. Suddenly she paused as the wind shifted and she scented fur. Warm blood and meat was about a hundred yards west. Her head turned and ears flicked back and forth searching for a noise. Micah swept past her quick and low. She followed him silently.

There was a slight break in the brushes to their left and the dark leopard placed his head through it. His breath was deep and his tail brushed against Buffy’s side. She stayed silent and listening. A twig snapped and Micah watched the doe pause in movement.

One ear flicked forward and the other back. She was frozen and prepared to run. A moment passed. Then another. Her head lowered to the lush vegetation once again. Micah pressed his body low to ground and began to crawl forward. Suddenly the doe sensing her eminent demise. Fled.

Micah pursued her His body a rolling motion of muscle. His front legs grabbed the ground as his back lifted him once more. His lithe body pulled along side his prey and he lashed out with his right paw. Knocking one hind leg out form under her. She tumbled but caught her footing and tried to dodge to the left.

Buffy came up beside them with her beast guiding her every action. Her hind legs coiled and she leapt over Micah onto the doe’s back. Her front quarters wrapped around the deer’s center. Her claws extended and gripped the tender flesh. The white leopard’s weight brought the deer down and her jaws struck instinctively. She grasped the doe’s shoulder holding tight.

Micah was there grasping the doe’s throat and pulling back. The warm blood sprayed across him and their prey ceased struggling. Buffy licked absently at the small wounds she had inflicted on the animal. Feeling the warm blood trickle on her tongue.

Micah growled at her and she moved around the deer to his side. She watched him feed and had no time to be horrified or disgusted before the scent of warm meat welcomed her. The white leopard knelt and fed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Micah found himself playing with his companion on their way back. Buffy was both a natural hunter and extremely powerful. She seemed to lack the understanding to use her powers to their full potential. Though her bond with her beast was amazing.

The other wereleopard had never seen such a relationship form so quickly. He was also certain that back at the house he had seen another beast inside of the tiny blonde. A beast that had almost destroyed her in its anger with her leopard.

Suddenly Micah found himself tackled to the ground and purring mass of fur lying on his back. Buffy locked her jaws on the back of his neck and squeezed ever so slightly. The black leopard rolled to the side and over her. Breaking her grip and escaping her claws.

Buffy lay on her side for a moment watching her Nimir-Raj. He had seemed too serious for a moment and she had wanted to break the tension. Without the ability to give witty one-liners she was left with only actions. Actions her beast had no qualms with showing her.

Micah growled at her and nudged her slightly with his head. She knew he was heading back to the house. She could smell the others faintly. They had been hunting for most of the night now and she could feel the press of dawn against the darkness. They had only four hours of real night left. She pushed herself up and began following him once more. They finished the trek back without games. Buffy was once again staring at the vegetation around her in wonder. Who knew that every leaf had it’s own color and vein work beneath the soft tissue.

As they slipped out t the forest and into Anita’s front yard Buffy paused and looked back at her shelter. The trees held a peace for her and she did not want to leave them just yet. Turning her head when she heard Micah shift. Her gaze clouded with envy once more. He was magnificent and she knew he could teach her. He was her leader. Her protector. Shaking her beast’s thoughts from her mind she wondered vaguely how to change back.

Her leopard answered her question happily: sated by their hunt and run. Relaxing against the ground for a moment she shuddered. Tremors engulfed her body and she felt her muscle and sinew pull back. Her face flattened and her ears folded back. She felt the flesh of her back tear and smooth liquid ran for the wound as her coat receded back into her body once more. She was suddenly nude and shivering in the damp grass. She fell forward onto her forearms. Exhaustion creped along her mind. Trying to take over.

Micah knelt beside her helping her to stand. Buffy stumbled and he bent to pick her up and she shook her head. “I can walk.” Her voice was breathy and deep.

He frowned. “You need to rest after your change.”

“I will when we get in the house.”

She sounded so very weak that Micah contemplated just lifting her but resisted. The little blonde was strong willed. “Let’s go.”

She nodded and pushed her way towards the porch. Each step a war to stay on her feet. The Slayer essence pushed her forward. Do not collapse. Shelter before rest. No weakness. Buffy struggled up the steps only stumbling once. She made it threw the front door and saw no one in Anita’s living room. Though her vision was beginning to swim and she was unsure of the information her eyes processed. Micah wrapped his arms around her waist as she sagged slightly.

Her head fell back against his chest. “Not asleep, yet.”

She felt his chuckle vibrate through his chest and into her back. “I know.”

Her mouth stretched open wide with a loud yawn. “Gotta brush my teeth.” The words were muffled.

“You can do it in the morning.”

He watched a confused frown pull at her brow. “Nah, then I’ll have stink breath.” She blinked at him. “Nobody likes stink breath.”

He nodded his head sagely. “You’re absolutely right but I think tonight we’ll be okay.”

Buffy sighed as her legs gave out completely. Micah bent his body easily and caught her. Lifting her up and into his arms he felt her head come to rest in the crook of his shoulder. He made his way up the stairs and towards the room the tiny blonde and Hope had been sharing.

Opening the door he was unsurprised to see a pile of people already on the bed sound asleep. Zane’s snoring filled the room and Micah knew Cherry was somewhere under those covers. By their scent and not sight he knew Gregory, Vivian, and Hope also lay somewhere in the pile.

“I think your beds full.” He felt Buffy lift her head slowly. One eye opened. “I’m sure they’ll make room.”

She shook her head. “Zane’s a cover hog.”

Micah chuckled. “That he is.”

Her one eye turned to him and he watched her struggle to open the other. “Can I sleep with you, Nathaniel, and Nita?”

“Nita?”

Buffy yawned once more. “Been calling her that in my head for days now.”

Micah smiled and turned making his way towards the master bedroom. The little leopard in his arms was quickly losing her battle with exhaustion and he wondered if her shields would always drop when she was so very tired.

Holding her legs tightly with his left hand. He lead back balancing her upper half against his chest. The door to the master bedroom opened easily and he was unsurprised to see Anita still awake. An open police file lay across the bed and partially on a sleeping Nathaniel. She arched an eyebrow at the naked bundle in his arms. Though before he could speak Buffy’s sleepy voice asked, “Nita can I sleep with you? Cause Zane’s a cover nazi.”

Anita pushed tried to push back the frown she knew was already forming on her face. The little blonde looked exhausted and she was trying in vain to keep her head up. Though her eyes kept closing. “Sure.”

Micah sent her a grateful look. “I’ll put her down and then move Nathaniel.”

“No need.” The violet-eyed wereleopard’s voice was thick with sleep. Buffy’s unfamiliar voice had aroused him. He groggily sat upgainst the headboard. Surprise shown on his face. “She’s awake.”

“Barely.” Micah placed the newest member of their pard down next to Nathaniel. “Can you make a little room?”

He nodded and grasped the papers lying across him and handed them off to Anita. The necromancer was already placing them in the side table drawer. The bed dipped slightly as Buffy’s form curled into the soft mattress.

She sat up. “I’m naked.”

Micah raised a brow. “Usually what happens when you shift in clothes.”

“But naked is bad.” Another yawn. “I need p.j.’s.”

Nathaniel opened his mouth to argue but Anita got up and went to the dresser. As she rummaged threw the top drawer Buffy swayed slightly. Her head fell down to her chest. “This bed is almost as good as any bed that’s not my bed.”

Anita turned back to her amused. Holding out a large blue shirt with penguins wearing sunglasses and floating in ocean across the front. Buffy looked at it confused. “Penguins don’t wear sunglasses.” Tiredly she raised her hand and grasped the shirt. With a yawn she pulled it over her head and fell back against the mattress.

“I like pigs.”

Micah chuckled as he turned off the light and made his way back them. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Nathaniel turned on his side so that he faced Buffy whose eyes had already drifted closed once more. He felt Anita curl against the back of him. Micah laid on the other side of petite blonde his arm around her waist. Nathaniel felt the blonde grasp his hand and smile of content spilled across his face. He was warm. He was happy. He was surrounded by protection.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Authors Note: I plan to make each chapter its own story. I want them to feel finished. Please let me know what you think and if you want to see Hope and Buffy’s first full moon?

The End

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