Across the Campfire

By Leanne Golightly

I do not own Twilight, no copyright infringement intended.

This one shot was a milestone review thank you present for one of the authors I beta for—beckysparkles. Her latest story, a Priestward and Whorella, is called "From Rampant Rabbit to Holy Habit."

When I walk over to join the group around the campfire, everyone sits up and takes notice. This isn't good as I was hoping just to find myself a quiet spot, but that's impossible now. I don't like the attention—it was never something that I'd asked for.

Last night, we lost one of the pack and that is something that always hits me hard. It doesn't happen often, but I feel responsible. As the alpha, it's as if I've failed my ancestors by not taking good care of those I am charged with.

That is how I feel about this "gift" I have been given. I am the protector of the Quileute tribe, and I must use my wolf abilities to prevent those who would harm us from doing so. Throughout the years, I have used my powers to attempt to bring peace and happiness to my people—I take this task very seriously. Yesterday, I failed.

Conscious of everyone's eyes, I make my way over to my wife and sit on the log next to her.

When she smiles and rubs my bare arm, I catch her hand in mine and kiss it. Searching her face for the comfort I need, I look beyond the creases. My wife may not be have been the hardest working woman during her life, but she has an uncanny ability to really see people for what they are and know how they are feeling. I'm sure she senses my pain right now.

Holding her close in the flickering orange light, I rest my cheek on the top of her grey streaked hair. I'm not the only one around the campfire who seems much older than their wife. My sons and those amongst my descendants who have the wolf spirit strong inside them take wives early and soon outlive them.

Whenever I catch sight of myself in reflective surfaces or through the pack mind, I see a young man in his prime years, but inside, I feel ancient. I have seen many generations grow and die, and sometimes, I envy the simplicity of their lives. It would be nice just to grow old by someone's side.

I have already felt the pain of losing my life partner once—not through battle but through the wasting effect of time. Other wolves have chosen to give up the spirit from their blood and begin to age, and now I consider whether the time has come for me to pass the mantel of alpha onto one of my sons. They are both strong—I am sure they will do both me and our people proud.

The problem is that it takes many years for the power to fade. By the time I gain my first grey hair or my first wrinkle, my wife will most likely be ready for death. I already know that I am going to outlive my second wife, and it pains me to think of how that loss will feel.

When my first wife died, I spent almost an entire season mourning her loss when she passed over into the spirit world. I promised myself that I would never take another, yet here I was, watching her grow old before me.

She had been married before, to a close friend. When he found that he was to become a father, I remember seeing his elation, and even more so when they were blessed with not one, but two babies at once.

When the boy child died before he could even walk, my friend had gone fishing on his own one day and never returned. His sorrow had killed him.

Seeing his widow left alone, and after giving her an appropriate amount of time to grieve, I took her for my own in order to protect that which my friend had left behind. It was many years before I felt comfortable enough to lie with her. By then, her fertile years had passed, and I had no sons or daughters of my own by her.

Her daughter, the surviving twin, had been sent to live with her aunt—a crazy old woman who could see the future, or so it was said.

The aunt lived away from the rest of the tribe, and her behavior was unusual. She had cut off most of her once long, black hair, which now looked more like the feathers of a crow, and performed rituals. Many of the tribe feared her, but I trusted her. Her predictions had come true for me more than once.

As strange a guardian as she might seem, she cared deeply for her niece. She saw an important future ahead and that the child must be protected until the time came. My wife relented and gave her daughter up to her sister's care, as the child looked so much alike to her father that it pained her to look upon her face.

I refuse the food that is passed to me, still feeling sick to my stomach after the loss of the youngest wolf in the pack. The boy could barely have been classed as a man, and left behind a mother and sister with no man in the house. Still, his mother was as fierce as any wolf, and it seemed that his sister was equally as strong. I did not doubt that they would be able to look after themselves better than my second wife would have on her own.

As I sit and stare into the darkness beyond the flames, I see movement across the campfire, and I am surprised to see my sister-in-law come into view. She is small, and there is no mistaking her tiny form, though she has dressed outlandishly and looks more than a little crazy.

A taller shape steps out from the night, and as the light of the fire reveals her, I look on in awe.

A rope of fire springs from my chest and immediately ties me to her. The earth moves and the stars spin in the night sky. I want to get to my feet and go to her, to hold her in my arms, and pull her as close to my heart as my body will allow.

I have seen this bond before via the pack mind many times, though I've never experienced it myself. This girl is my imprint, and now my very reason for living and breathing.

While I look on her face, my wife shifts and stands, walking around the fire to the stranger. Her greeting and the sudden recognition of familiar eyes and face shape brings a shattering realization.

This newcomer, this girl who now possesses my very soul, is my step-daughter, and the very picture of her mother and father combined in one.

The horror helps me find my feet and I stumble away from the circle into the dark night. I hear people shouting my name, but as soon as I'm out of view, I am a wolf and I cannot answer with words. I run away as fast as I can in the opposite direction of the flaming rope that now binds me.

That I can become bonded to a young girl while my wife still lives begins to tear my heart apart. I cannot be so cruel to the woman that I love so dearly, especially by abandoning her for the fruit of her own loins.

I try not to think about it or the mysterious pull that tries to get me return to the object of my torture—I attempt to be only wolf—but then one of my sons phases and the circle around the fire is now also in my mind.

The crazy old seer knows that she can speak to me this way, and stares my eldest son in the eyes despite his wolf form, getting dangerously close.

"Taha Aki, do not fear this. This was always meant to be. This child will be the savior of our tribe, and when she is a little older, your third wife."