Morning everyone :) Here it is, in true jm fashion, a short last chapter . But, hopefully it serves to wrap up the tale quite nicely.
"Lawrence!" Holo shouted, as she leaned down to take him into her arms. She squeezed him so tightly he couldn't breathe for a moment.
"Holo! Can't breathe!" he choked.
She pulled away from him, smiling wide as ever, "Sorry! Are you alright?"
"I think so. What happened? The last thing I remember-"
"You died," Atticus coldly interrupted.
"But," Atticus amended. "You died valiantly."
That it was a compliment, and that it came from Atticus shocked Lawrence. "Thank you?"
"You're welcome," Atticus replied. "I expect you to behave no differently in the future if you wish for my daughter's hand in marriage. Especially considering that you will no longer fall ill, or be restrained by time."
"What?" Lawrence gasped, his mind struggling to keep up.
Holo too was in shock as Madeleine explained, "Call it an early wedding gift from your father and I. Lawrence may not be a wolf, but with the blood we gave to him, he will live eternally by your side, Holo."
"Are you…" Lawrence began only to be lost in such simple words. It couldn't be possible, could it? In a world of deities and wolves, it suddenly seemed all the more real. "Are you serious?" Lawrence finally asked in amazement.
"Why should we lie?" Madeleine asked. "In all of her years, we have never seen Holo as happy as she is with you. We failed her as parents all those centuries ago. We tried to force our way of life on her, against her wishes." All eyes were on Holo as Madeleine attempted to clear her conscience. The wise wolf was taken back, nearly in tears by her mother's confession. "We never once put ourselves in her place. Never thought what she wanted for herself. Now though, seeing how dearly you cherish one another, allowing you to enjoy that love for eternity is the least we could do."
Lawrence turned to Holo, whom while crying, was still smiling immensely. He smirked and asked, "It appears as though you're stuck with me now. Do you have any regrets, Holo?"
She choked out a wet sob of a laugh, and wrapped her arms around him. "I do not."
"Well then," Atticus said, "It seems to me this is cause for celebration."
"Indeed," Madeleine replied.
Lawrence looked to Holo's parents and asked, "But you were just attacked, are you sure-"
"We are always under threat, Lawrence," Madeleine interrupted. "We're quite thick skinned, and besides, we never miss the opportunity to indulge in a stiff drink."
"That sounds fantastic!" Holo shouted.
"Ah! Not for you, my dear!" Madeleine scolded. "Not while you are with child!"
Holo's ears fell forward in disappointment, and she let out a groan, "Ohhhhhhhh…"
Several hours later, Lawrence and Holo stood at the mouth of the cave. The storm had passed, giving way to a cloudless sky, still air, and a bright shining sun. It was still very cold, but the intensity of the sun made it much more tolerable. Holo was without clothes and holding a bushel of wheat, while Lawrence had their satchel full of things on his back. Madeleine and Atticus stood opposite them, and Madeleine asked, "Are you sure about this? It seems you only just arrived."
"We would be honored if you joined us in Ezzio," Lawrence offered. "The wedding should only take a day, and it's only right that you're there for it."
"No, I'm afraid we couldn't," Atticus replied. "As much as we would like to, we must remain here to keep this place safe."
"We understand," Holo answered. There was a silent but warm grin shared by all of them. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you both for everything you have done for us, and…" She collected herself and thought about her words, "…please do not say that you failed as parents to me. You did not, or I never would have sought you out. I love you both very much, and we will not forget about you, or what you have done for us. We will return, much sooner than later."
"We would be delighted to have you back," Atticus said. "Perhaps next time we can know more about Lawrence."
"Of course," Lawrence replied. "At that time though, there will likely be someone else who would like to meet you," he amended as he placed his palm on Holo's belly.
Holo let out a small chuckle, and the fur on her tail stood on end; she was so very ticklish. He let his hand from her belly and she stepped from his side to meet her mother in a tight embrace. Lawrence stepped forward and extended his hand to Atticus. As the old wolf took his hand, Lawrence let out a comfortable sigh. Just a few hours earlier, he absolutely believed that Holo's father would never accept him. Now though, it was clear that it had all been a test from minute one.
"Take good care of her, son," Atticus said.
"You have my word, sir."
Holo and her mother separated, both in tears as her mother ran her hand through Holo's hair and ears. The wise wolf smiled and laughed as her mother whispered, "I love you, Holo. Please be careful, and don't be too hard on him."
"I will try," Holo replied. She took her place beside Lawrence once again, and collected herself. "We must not make this any longer than need be, or it is likely we will simply never go."
"I think she's figured us out, Madeleine," Atticus said with the sort of mischievous grin only a wolf could make.
Both Lawrence and Holo smiled at that, but it was Holo who would speak the last to them, "Farewell for now."
They turned, and Holo clasped her arms around Lawrence's arm, squeezing it tightly, her tail happily waving about. "Farewell," her parents said in unison, bringing Holo to turn back to them once more, still letting joyous tears from her eyes.
She let go of Lawrence, stripped an ear of wheat, and handed the bushel to him before ingesting the grains. Her wolf form enveloped her, and she knelt down to let Lawrence up on her back. "Hold on tightly," she said.
Lawrence took as careful a firm grip as he could, and turned back to Holo's parents. He waved back to them as Holo straightened her legs and stood up, "Goodbye!"
They waved back, but the moment was cut short as Holo charged off to the south.
It seemed as though the day had hardly passed at all, though they covered the entire distance back to Ezzio. Just outside the village, Holo returned to her human form and dressed herself. Her typical attire was present once again, her loose leggings and violet shirt covering her naked form. She slipped her cloak over her shoulders, covering her ears and tail, and asked with both a smile and a twirl, "How do I look?"
"Lovely as always, my princess," Lawrence replied with a polite bow.
"Always such a gentleman."
She leaned up against him, and he surprised her with a delicate stroke of her tail. Her cheeks instantly reddened and he replied, "Not always."
She turned to face him, and crossed her wrists lightly behind his neck, "My, you have become a very bold wolf; touching my tail as you wish."
"Does it upset you?" he asked.
She said nothing, she simply pushed up onto her toes to bring her lips to meet his. As she pulled away, he returned the gesture rubbing his nose to hers. They stared into one another's eyes, and Lawrence asked, "Shall we then?"
He pulled away from her and offered his arm, which she quickly accepted. Their arms intertwined, they continued the last few steps before once again coming upon the Inn in Ezzio. The sun descended on the hills in front of them turning the sky a beautiful array of ambers and blues. They stood there, staring at the surreal sunset in complete awe.
Holo lay her head on Lawrence's shoulder as they watched, and quietly spoke, "It's so beautiful."
"I don't think as long as we both live, either of us will ever forget this day."
"I think you are right, my prince," she replied, squeezing his arm just a little tighter.
They stood like that for a moment, then two, then ten, until the sun was just about to fade completely. "Lawrence?" Holo asked.
"Yes princess?" he said, not looking away from the sun.
"Will you be gentle with me?"
He let out a chuckle and turned to her. He gently ran his hand down her cheek, rubbing his thumb softly across her lips. Her large red eyes, and her beautiful smile, she truly was as Lawrence always said, Completely irresistible.
He smiled finally, and replied, "Always, Holo."
And that is that :) If you made it this far, I hope you've enjoyed it :)
I don't think I'm quite done with this series. I'm sure there are one-shots and other tidbits floating around inside my head for these two, it's just a matter of finding them, and the time to get them down.
Until then, I thank you very much for reading,