Dining with Wolves and a Coyote
I need to preface this to apologize for my lack of replying to reviews. Typically I'm pretty good at it, but I thought "Hey, I'll reply right before my next post" but here is my next post months later and I am exhausted and need to sleep. But please know I reallyappreciate the reviews and will respond once life eases up a little (I'm moving out of state this week).
Also, thank you to those who have recently reviewed – you sparked some inspiration :)
And I know it's been a while, so here's a review:
When we last left off, Buffy and Samuel had fought at Mercy's garage before the wolf learned from Mercy that Buffy was not an enemy. And Oz had the pleasure of explaining to his pack that he just had lunch with the terrifying 'enemy' that they were so worried about.
They drove separately to Adam's house.
Mercy had already offered Buffy a spare car to drive over the next couple days while Zee worked on her Ford, and now the slayer drove that car behind Sam and Mercy. Mercy could have, of course, been a nice hostess and ridden with Buffy in order to give her directions or, hell, driven her own car, but there was no way she was letting Samuel Cornick get away with what he had just pulled.
"Fight first, ask questions later – it's always the same with you werewolves," Mercy grumbled as she crossed her arms in the passenger seat and stared at her roommate and former boyfriend.
Samuel, appearing deep in thought as his blue eyes kept glancing up from the road to the rearview mirror to check on Buffy's vehicle behind them, merely grunted in response.
"You know," Mercy bit off – not truly angry but still wanting him to know what he did was not okay, "you could have just called me if you were worried. Maybe ask if I the big bad Slayer was hanging around before nearly wrecking my garage in a supernatural showdown."
Samuel gave her his patented concerned-overprotective 'look'. "Mercy, you've dealt with deadly fae, demon-possessed vampires, and other nasties in the last couple years. Do you really expect me to think that a human known for killing supernatural beasts wouldn't stumble across you, little coyote?"
Mercy shifted in her seat, uncomfortable with the truth in Samuel's words – but also irritated at being patronized like a little girl. "Yes," she responded in an even tone – when arguing with a werewolf it was always best to remain calm. "But I always took care of myself. And sometimes, like with the demon, took care of you," Mercy reminded him pointedly.
Giving her a grim smile, Samuel nodded. "Okay. But that doesn't mean I don't worry." His eyes suddenly focused entirely on the road in front of him. "You're Pack, Mercy."
Warmth settled over her and Mercy laid a hand on his arm. "You're my Pack, too," she replied softly.
Sometimes she forgot that she was all Samuel had, support-system-wise, at the moment. Worry flashed through her again and she hoped her words confirmed for him that he was one of hers and he better not ever do something stupid. Old wolves sometimes got tired of living and committed suicide…like her foster father.
Shaking herself out of her reverie, Mercy turned a new set of eyes onto Samuel. "Considering how you flirted with her, I guess you're alright with the Slayer now?" Mercy asked lightly.
It would take more than mere teasing to force an old wolf to flinch but Mercy did see the skin at the corner of his eyes tighten slightly. "Flirting?" Samuel repeated with an easy smile. "What's the matter Mercy – are you jealous?"
Mercy rolled her eyes. The two of them had kissed not too long ago and, after the complete boring lack of sparks, realized there was nothing between them but platonic love. "Don't try to change the subject, Sam. Your shift in attitude was pretty drastic. Are you really okay with the Slayer?"
Samuel was silent. His eyes flickered at the rearview mirror, checking out Buffy driving behind them. Finally he answered her in a soft voice. "It's been a while since I've been challenged – since my wolf had been challenged. I think we were both…intrigued. After it was determined she was no longer a threat," Samuel added.
She filed away the word 'intrigued' as a synonym for 'turned on', considering she had watched Samuel's eyes check out Buffy's rendition of wet t-shirt night. Mercy gave him a careful look. "She's a friend of Oz's," Mercy informed him. For some reason she felt obligated. Oz was a friend of hers and even though Buffy swore that she was not planning on dating the musician, Mercy felt like she should warn Samuel.
"Hmm. A challenge." A ghost of a smile drifted onto Samuel's lips, increasing as he glanced into the rearview mirror again.
"Oh god," Mercy snorted. Then realization flashed across her mind. Samuel was competitive as hell, stubborn, and controlling. Poor Oz. "Don't even treat Oz like you treated Adam," she warned, thinking of how Samuel had originally come to the Tri-Cities to win her love over Adam.
Samuel laughed and Mercy silently marveled at her friend's lighthearted response. She had been worried about Samuel so much lately…maybe Buffy was just the spark he needed to get back on track.
Buffy marveled at the freaking mansion-like house that sat on a lot right next to Mercy's trailer. Honestly, this deserved to be the picture for the definition of 'irony' in the dictionary. Adam Hauptman's home was elegant and refined, with plenty of space and a backyard that traveled into the nearby woods. It definitely looked like it could fit a pack of werewolves.
Speaking of which…Buffy's nose crinkled in distaste as she could practically smell over a dozen werewolves inside the home. Her sense of smell was not very good but the overall supernatural 'aura' of a werewolf was enough to blink on her radar, so tons of werewolves? Yeah, definitely tingling up and down her spidey-senses.
"Afraid of the big bad wolves?" Samuel asked her in a teasing tone, his voice drifting from behind her.
Buffy fought a startled response – Sam was definitely good at sneaking up on people. Looking back, she saw him staring at her and Mercy walking up the driveway.
"Not if they're like you. Then it'll just be like dealing with a litter of puppies," Buffy snarked back in reply.
Mercy gave the slayer a wry smile. "More like large and cranky puppies," she corrected as she began to lead them up to Adam's front door.
Buffy shrugged. "I've seen worse."
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Samuel watching her with interest. "I would like to hear stories of 'worse' some time. I imagine you've seen a lot as the slayer."
"A slayer," Buffy corrected him automatically. "There hasn't been only one for a long time." It was a fact that had required some getting used-to in the beginning, but that had been a twenty years ago and Buffy had dealt.
"I heard about that. About twenty years ago, right?" Samuel commented casually.
Buffy's eyes narrowed. She really hated politics, especially supernatural politics. She could almost feel the werewolf trying to pry her age and her entire background out from her. Well, too damn bad for him. Considering he tried to kill her earlier, she wasn't in a very sharing mood.
Samuel noted her silence on his question and pursed his lips thoughtfully.
Mercy walked up the Alpha's front steps and knocked on the door. "Now play nice," she stated sternly. "Nothing worse than a bunch of dominants trying to piss all over themselves trying to prove they're the biggest and baddest."
Buffy laughed. She liked Mercy's attitude. "Bet you have to see that a lot, hanging around with wolves all the time."
"More than I'd like," Mercy snorted.
The tan cedar door opened, revealing a dark-haired man whose size was barely contained by the door frame; although he was slightly under six feet he was built like a wrestler. His eyes went to Mercy first, then Buffy. An unreadable expression shadowed his face and he nodded towards her.
"Between Oz and Mercy it seems we've heard a bit about you. Welcome to the Tri-Cities, Slayer. I am Adam Hauptman, Alpha of the Columbia Basin Pack. Welcome." His voice was rich and deep; it carried great authority.
"Thanks," Buffy said flippantly. Ugh, she hated politics and being all proper. It just wasn't her. "And you can call me Buffy, by the way. Slayer sounds so death metal band."
The corner of Adam's lip quirked up. "Buffy, then." He glanced at Samuel and Mercy. "Come on, let's go inside to talk. I sent the pack home, except for Oz."
Buffy's eyes brightened. "Oz is here? Awesome." That meant the evening wouldn't be quite so awkward.
She failed to notice the way Samuel's eyes paled slightly at her enthusiasm.
She followed Mercy and Adam into the house, and immediately was in awe. The living room had vaulted ceilings and a white Berber carpet; it looked so soft that Buffy almost wanted to take her shoes off. The furniture was finely crafted and the artwork on the walls looked to be originals, so Buffy presumed that Adam was doing pretty well for himself.
Now she was beginning to think that Oz was being serious about werewolves all creating investment portfolios. Crap. Maybe she needed to start one, too.
"Come on back to the dining room," Adam called over his shoulder. "I started grilling earlier in preparation for the pack meeting – and when that ran short we ended up with some leftovers."
So they just had a pack meeting? Buffy smirked and wondered if it was about the 'big bad slayer'. Jeez, slayers were like child actors – in that everyone thought of the early years. People remembered them for being the mass murdering machines of the Watchers Council and no one seemed to pay attention to the fact that, hey, they only killed evil monsters.
Buffy's eyes bugged out a little once they entered the dining room, complete with a fancy china cabinet and a table that seated fifteen. "Host a lot of dinner parties?" she commented with a smile as Adam gestured for them all to sit.
Adam gifted her with a sudden smile. "Being the Alpha means always keeping my home open to my pack – which tends to usually include food."
"Speaking of," Samuel said with a nod of his head as Oz came in from the back yard carrying a tray of hamburgers fresh from the grill.
"Hey," Oz greeted them. He set the burgers at the end of the table, near everyone's seat. "Dig in."
The coyote and wolves began loading their plates with burgers and all the works, appearing extremely comfortable here. Buffy hated to admit it, but she suddenly felt like an outsider. After all, she had been avoiding large groups of people for a while now, so this was definitely different.
"Buffy, help yourself. I thought it would be good to eat before we talk," Adam prompted her.
"Werewolves," Mercy sighed with a roll of her eyes grinning all the while. "It's always about food with them."
"I'd rather be obsessed with food than that decaying beast of yours out there," Adam growled good-naturedly.
"Beast?" Buffy repeated cautiously. In a town full of fae, wolves, vampires, and coyotes, she was ready to expect anything.
Oz and Samuel laughed while Mercy smiled sweetly in her mate's direction. "The 'beast' that Adam is referring to is my dear Rabbit that I am slowly – ever so slowly – fixing." She grinned at Buffy and explained. "This 'control freak' over here needs to learn his lesson so I began stashing my Rabbit right in the line of sight of his bedroom window a while back. At this point it's been spray-painted, has lost three wheels, and is the ugliest car out there."
Mercy and Adam began bickering but Oz, sitting next to Buffy, whispered to her. "Is something wrong with the food?"
Buffy winced. Her mother had trained her to have good table manners and accept the food of her hosts, but this was a little much for her. "Um, I think you guys forgot that super rare burgers aren't usually the best for people who don't shift into four legs under the full moon."
No use whispering around a bunch of supernatural people. "Sorry Buffy," Oz apologized. "Habit. Here, I'll put a couple back on the grill."
"No, that's okay—"
Amber eyes gave her a stern look. "It's no big deal. I'll be right back." Oz exited into the backyard with the tray of burgers once more.
Great, so now she was back with the strangers again. Well, Mercy felt less like a stranger after the conversation in the shop. But still.
"So what brings you to the city, Buffy?" Adam asked.
Buffy carefully noted how he seemed to be the one taking charge of the conversation. Maybe that was because he was the Alpha?
"She's here to visit Oz, Mr. Fifty Questions." Mercy rolled her eyes. "Let the girl eat, Adam."
Buffy inwardly laughed. It was cute that the late twenties coyote thought Buffy's forty-two year old self was 'a girl'.
Oz returned quickly and Buffy set to eating, listening to the small talk that flittered around the table. She observed how Oz would glance at her often to make sure she felt okay, which she appreciated. However, she was less sure how she felt about Samuel's eyes traveling to her so often during dinner. He was hot, yeah, but she trusted him about as far as she could throw him – and since a wolf's density was crazy intense, she knew it wouldn't be a far throw.
Once they were finished eating Adam began clearing the table and spoke to her in a casual tone.
"So, Buffy, do you plan on staying here long?"
"Haven't really thought that far in advance," Buffy shrugged. "Right now my car is at Mercy's garage waiting for Zee to bring her back to life." A calendar featuring artists' rendering of wolves running through an open field caught her eye. Remembering what next week was, she added, "But I'll be heading to California next week, so hopefully the car will be fixed by then."
"What's in California?" Samuel asked curiously.
My fiancé's grave site, Buffy thought scornfully. See, that was why she avoided people – they asked too many questions. Maybe she was wrong about coming here and being all social.
"Personal," Buffy replied. She gave the werewolf a hard look, silently warning him against pushing further on that topic.
She felt Oz's arm brush against her elbow and instantly Buffy felt herself relaxing. She was just being cranky on account of being attacked twice in two days and dealing with the powerful auras of a bunch of shape shifters – goddess knew that the stronger the creature, the more powerful their aura. She could tell that not only was the Alpha powerful, but so was Samuel; and the feel of it took some getting used to.
"We should make plans while you're here. The Columbia River and forests are beautiful," Oz offered.
"Yeah, the river is right behind Adam's house – the view more than makes up for my Rabbit," Mercy added with a wide smile in her mate's direction.
"That might be fun," Buffy stated casually. Her emotions were so out of whack this close to the anniversary of Xander's death that she couldn't trust herself to socialize too much. "I might just hang out in my room for a bit, too; it's been a hectic road trip."
"Where are you staying?" Adam queried. "One of the downtown hotels?"
"The Ritz," Buffy answered.
Mercy shared a glance with her mate. "You'd be more than welcome to stay at Adam's," Mercy offered graciously. "He's got three extra bedrooms."
"Oh, no, that's okay," Buffy said with a wave of her hand. "I wouldn't want to impose – especially," she added with a mild smirk, "when I've already had one werewolf attack today."
Adam's lips twitched; Buffy presumed that Mercy had probably called him. Oz, it seemed, did not know.
"When? Who?" Oz asked intensely, his green eyes alert.
Buffy jerked her thumb over to Samuel, who was looking very put-out.
"Why did you attack Buffy?" Oz asked, his calm voice hinting at something much darker.
"Easy, Omega. It was all a misunderstanding," Samuel said with a genial look. "We're both fine."
Oz nodded, but he didn't appear satisfied. However, Buffy was touched by his reaction – it was nice to have someone watching her back again. It had been a long time since someone really cared.
Then she repeated Samuel's words in her head and remembered overhearing Adam say to to Oz on the phone earlier. "Omega? Why do people keep calling you that? Isn't that a frat word?"
"It is a Greek word," Oz said nonchalantly.
Adam looked around the room at the other shifters with a questioning look. Feeling satisfied with what he saw, he turned to Buffy. "We don't usually speak of wolf things to an outsider, but maybe we can share a few secrets together."
Buffy understood that he wanted to learn more about the slayers. Considering that the wolves were more likely to kill any slayer they found since they thought slayers killed all wolves, maybe it would be helpful to spell a few things out. She glanced at Oz for confirmation that this was a good idea and saw him nod slightly.
"Alright, we can work that angle. So. Omega?"
Adam went on to explain that Omegas were very rare werewolves who existed outside of pack structure, not dominant or submissive, and brought happiness and satisfaction to any wolf that encountered him or her. Also, apparently Samuel's new sister-in-law, Anna, was an Omega.
Buffy grinned at the revelation. "Really not surprised that the master of zen over here is an Omega wolf. Heck, he was even cool and collected when our Mayor turned into a giant demon snake."
Three pairs of eyes darted over to Oz, widening in shock.
"Oz…your mayor turned into a giant…demon…snake?" Mercy asked with a jaw-dropping look.
"It's a long story," Buffy prefaced.
"He was evil. Buffy blew him up." Oz's eyes glinted with amusement but his facial expression was otherwise devoid of emotion.
"Apparently not that long," Buffy amended with a sly smile.
Those same three pairs of eyes swiveled back to her.
"You blew up a demonic snake?" Samuel repeated, sounding impressed by her deeds.
Buffy shrugged. That was ancient history. Well, awesome ancient history, but ancient nonetheless.
"Sounds like you've been holding back on us, Oz," Adam remarked with a grin.
"It's probably because telling stories involves talking, and that's not very Oz-like," Buffy teased.
Oz's lips twisted in a smile. "I talk."
The table erupted into light laughter. As the night passed, Buffy grew more comfortable with the shifters and ending up recounting some of their Sunnydale years with Oz. She even told them about the First Evil and why they awoke the slayers, but she left out the details. After all, she wasn't very good at trusting people…
Because once your best friend in the world backstabs you, you learn that trust is a pretty meaningless thing.
Captured in dreams of gleaming yellow eyes and Xander's transformed visage, Buffy was unable to gain much sleep that night. Eventually she tired of lying in her hotel bed and got out of bed once the sun rose. She spent time in the Ritz's gym and pool, working her body until even her supernatural muscles were crying in pain, and proceeded to watch some morning news shows.
Yes, she was that bored and tired that she was watching the news. Oh, how Giles would clean his glasses and shake his head at that.
Lounging in bed, Buffy went over her options for the day. She could go shopping…except shopping made her suddenly think of Xander would roll his eyes and groan whenever she would tell him she had to make "just one quick stop!" whenever they passed a mall. Feeling wounded, Buffy bit her lip and curled her legs against her chest. Okay, so no shopping then.
Her cell phone rang and Buffy stared at it for a moment, debating on answering (she honestly wasn't in the mood), but then she saw that it was her niece.
"Hey Sofia, how's my favorite girl doing?" Buffy asked with a smile. She hadn't spoken to her family or friends very much at all since the big 'immortal' revelation a couple months ago; it was too bittersweet to realize that she would have to watch the people she love die one by one.
Buffy blinked back sudden tears and forced herself to continue smiling so Dawn's daughter could not hear anything wrong in her voice.
"Aunt Buffy!" Sofia greeted cheerfully. "Are you up yet? I was hoping you were up. I mean, it's like five o'clock here so it's gotta be morning over there by now, right?"
Buffy winced at listening to the speed of Sofia's speech; it was like all teenagers were coded to speak as quickly as a hummingbird's wings. "Yup, I'm up. Just got done with a workout. What's the what?"
Silently, Buffy wondered if Dawn or Carlos had told their three daughters about Buffy's issue. Dawn, ironically, was incredibly protective of her daughters and made them on a need-to-know basis for almost everything supernatural-related. The irony lie in the fact that Dawn had been amazingly nosy as a teen and who would have thought her daughters would end up the same way?
"It's Mom," Sofia groaned. "I got my acceptance letter to Berkeley and she doesn't want me to go. She wants me to go to stupid Oxford like her and dad."
"You know she just worries about you leaving. We don't have any slayer bases in America anymore and you could be at risk," Buffy reasoned. While she normally encouraged rebellion, she had seen too many deaths over the long years and never wanted anything to happen to her family.
Sofia whined childishly and Buffy chuckled, feeling warmth free up her heart from its earlier coldness. "But Aunt Buffy , you have to talk to her! I mean, I'm already showing a lot of growth in my witchcraft and there is an awesome coven in San Francisco that could help me with protection spells."
Further in the background, Buffy could hear Dawn's voice. "Sofia, who are you talking to?"
"Aunt Buffy!" Sofia called back.
There was a rustling sound and suddenly Dawn's breathless voice sounded through the phone. "Buffy."
"Hey," Buffy responded quietly. She felt bad about taking off from the Council after Willow diagnosed her condition without talking to Dawn, but she knew Giles would fill Dawn in on the situation.
"How are you?" Dawn inquired quietly, like she was talking to a dying person.
Which couldn't be farther from the truth…
"Good." A small but sincere smile stretched along her lips. "Actually, I'm visiting Oz in Washington."
"OZ?" Dawn shouted.
Buffy snorted with laughter, drawing a comparison between teenager Dawn and late-thirties Dawn – there really weren't that many differences at times.
"Yeah. Decided to stop by and see him."
"Been a long time."
After a thoughtful pause, Dawn continued. "Ah…aren't werewolves immortal? I could have sworn I read that somewhere…" There was the sound of fingers clacking away on a keyboard and Buffy instantly knew her sister was in research mode on her laptop.
"Glad to see the Assistant Director of the Watchers Council still is down with her book knowledge," Buffy commented drolly.
"Shut up." Buffy could almost imagine the scowl lining Dawn's face. "So how is he?" Dawn asked.
"Real good, actually. He has a nice pack here and they all seem to like him – which is good, because once they found out our connection they were real friendly to me. By the way, have you ever heard of an Omega wolf?" Buffy added.
Dawn let out a bark of laughter. "Sure, there's a lot of lore on werewolves, and the Omegas are like one of their fairy tales – so super special wolf that gives off warm fuzzies."
Buffy smiled from ear to ear – wasn't too often that she one-upped Dawn on knowledge. "So you think they're not real?"
"No." This time Buffy could almost hear Dawn's eyes rolling around in her sockets.
"Ah, how strange," Buffy mused in a soft voice with a Cheshire Cat grin. "Because apparently Oz is one."
Buffy laughed and the coldness retreated further from her heart. She spoke to Dawn for a while longer, giving her the scoop, before finally hanging up so Dawn could make dinner.
With her melancholy on a reprieve, Buffy decided to walk around Kinnewick, the southern part of the Tri-Cities where she was staying, and go find her old friend the Omega.
Thank you for reading!
PS: I found the various reviews to be quite interesting...seems we have quite a few pulling for Buffy/Samuel (which I expected) but then some surprise Buffy/Oz... :)