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A Dog's Life(Reboot - see intro to pt.1 blah blah blah etc. etc. and so forth ), Pt. III

The darkness faded to gray; then to light.

YEOWHEEEE

To black again. Thaaaaat hurt.

Hand over her eyes; one more time, now. SLOWLY.

Rebecca groaned as she pushed herself up in bed, palms over her eyes, rubbing; turned to sit on the edge. Slowly - and not a little painfully - the room came into focus. She licked her lips - Ugh - wincing at the light coming through the window. It WOULD be East-facing! What had happened last night -

SHIT!

Her eyes snapped to Gray, who stood watching her, tail sweeping slowly back and forth. Damnitt; she had lost her damned mind - no! She was drunk. With one shot? Well, at least he'd -

Rebecca put her face in her hands. Groan....

Looked back up at the Wolf.

For several moments just stared at him.

Finally asked; "Gone out since yesterday?"

No.

No, he wouldn't have would he? Damn. "Okay; alright -"

She brushed a hand through her hair. "Gimme - uhf - give me a few moments to get dressed."

She struggled into her leathers - a bit stiffly - and bound her hair. Comb it out later. Hells she thought, pulling her belt tight, maybe just cut it short; less of a hassle.

Pushing the door open, she turned back to the Wolf. For a moment she stood like that, hand pressed against the door. The smallest of smiles touched the corners of her lips. She crouched in front of him. Roughed along the top of his neck, moving to below the ears, the back of his jaw. Ending, as she rose with a tap on the ginning Wolf's nose.

"Let's go, pup."

He followed her out the door.

***

A short time later, they entered the dining area; open and well-lit, with wavy windows filling the ceiling and walls between, the addition functioned both as common area for the inn's tennant's and restaurant -at price- to the local community( Doubtless the Inn's true source of primary income!). Rebecca fealt her mouth begin to water at the smells as they passed the door and made for the counter.

The few people within looked up as she entered with her 'pet'. A couple were trappers, and she waved to one she knew as she walked by.

They arrived at the counter. "What ya got today, girl?"

"Duck stew. Bread."

Deer?

Out at the moment. Course ma'am, you could check the market if you gotta have some today."

"And pay extra?" Meals were free to the inn's guests. Ohwell. "Eggs?"

The girl smiled; "That, we can do for you."

"Great. How 'bout some wake-me-up?

Smile; shrug again. "Sorry ma'am."

DAMN!

"Hey, lady!" the 'keeper, who'd been helping with the cooking approached the counter; he was looking at Gray. "Heard there was trouble with that beast of yours. Heard he attacked someone yesterday."

Rebecca cursed under her breath; "No, sir, he didn't attack anyone. If he'd attacked 'im, hed've been dead."

Hmmm...that probably wasn't the reaction she was looking for. She spread her hands; "Drunken...idiot took a couple o' swings at me. Gray can be protective sometimes, an' the guy got knocked over an' scared a bit; but he didn't take a scratch. Dealt with the dog right there an' that was the end of it - look, go ask the tavern's owner if he's dangrous. 'E look dangrous to you?" She turned to the Wolf lying quietly on the ground to give a scratch between his ears and -. She had to bite back her laughter; he'd never even SEEN a dog - where'n hells he get that idea?

His tongue was hanging out. Was he panting? 'Oh, for godssake....'

The keeper still looked dubious. "You got a lead for that dog?

Uh-oh. "No sir, I don't." she said, eyes narrowing.

"Then get one - fast."

"Uh, I really don't think that's nec - "

"Ah, but it is, m'lady, so long as he's in my inn. Or just tie 'im outside for the rest o' your stay - it's all the same for me." He tilted his head briefly. "See - I'm leaving it completely up to you!" He said, giving her a mock grin.

"But I really dont think - "

His expression changed to something decidedly less pleasant.

"Erhhhh, FINE; alright, I'll get one." she growled through her teeth. Maybe Gray'd decide to drop the damn act . "Suppose you'd be s'kind as to make exception for this meal?" she asked in a mock-pleasant voice.

"As the customer asks!" he replied in kind.

'Choke on it!'

She finished ordering - for the two of them.

"'Bekka!" The trapper she knew, a few years younger than she was waving her over.

She took a seat, giving the Wolf beside her a pat as she pulled up the chair.

"'Ey Nate." He was a hand-n-half taller than her, with green eyes, sandpepper hair.

"Where'd you pick him up?" asked Nathan, looking at Gray.

Ohboy. "Long story. So who's your friend?' she smiled.

"Ah, apologies m'lady." He turned to the man beside him, who looked about ten years his senior. "This fine fellow 'ere is Jake Runner...crankiest ass this side of the Rivers." She and Jake chuckled. "And Jake, this fine lady here is Rebecca..." he paused, grinning;she was trying to wave him off -no, no no- "...Sunshine." He finished. Ah, rot. "Which she doesn't like people knowing on account of it bein' such a misnomer and all." She flashed him something obscene. He laughed again.

"Looks like she's ready to prove it, too. Now that any kind of behavior for a refined lady like yourself?" said Jake, chuckling.

Rebecca snorted. Refined hells! Trappers were a different breed, especially in each other's company. "So what's the news?' she asked, trying to change topics.

They stopped. "How long you been out?" asked Nathan

"Too long; why?"

He leaned forward, completely serious. "Rebellion in the Isles."

So; it finally happened. Storm'd been brewing for years; not that the despotic jackass would've seen it coming, even so. "And?"

"And the 'human-proggies' -

"Godsrotted bastards." she mumbled. They were of a mind the only good Wise was a dead Wise. Her eyes snapped back to him. No....

" - are the main beneficiaries of this 'people's rebellion'." He confirmed.

"Shit." she whispered, the implications sinking in. 'No one saw that coming'. "So they own - damnitt, they've got a Godsdamned REALM?!" 'MOTHERS....'

Her meal arrived; duck stew in a simple clay bowl, boiled eggs in a similiar bowl and cooled water in a wooden cup..

"Allready it's flashing over." He continued after the hostess left. "There's rioting in neighboring states on Mainland, states with strongest sympathies - and most need of land. There's tension all up and down the banks. Rumors everywhere - What other surprises they got? Who might be next? Some that say they're allready using their new position to strike out in secret, of attacks -"

"~SHIT!~" Her hand was clenched. " I've had a personal encounter with those 'rumors'; four of 'em on horseback."

They looked at her.

She grinned knowingly. "I got the better of it, though...."

Stare.

She took a sip from her cup. "The mounts they rode; they were nice. Very nice...."

Silence. "Yeaaaaaah...."; From Nathan.

"Hey! Would I lie?...'Ey! I'll take you out back an' show you the damned horse if you won't take my word. 'Is tack as well." She'd just leave out a couple minor details....

They stared a few moments longer. "You're serious, aren't you?" said Jake.

Nathan gave a drawn-out whistle. "If you're being honest....girl, you are somethin' else."

"Damned lucky!" Jake again. They both looked suitably impressed.

She bent to scratch Gray between the ears. "You can say that again."

"We should be so lucky" said Jake; "We're leaving first light tomorrow. Together."

"Which way?"

"West."

Ah. "Well then; I stand warned. Watch each other's backs, y'hear?"

Nate leaned forward, put a hand on her arm; "And you, watch your ass."

***

Some time later, they were standing outside her room..

Rebecca crouched in front of Gray. "Well, I'll bet you're feelin' hungry." One thing or another, neither of them had eaten anything after their arrival in town yesterday. Gray still hadn't.

Yes. Emphatically.

"Wonderin' if I jus' forgot about you, huh...tell me!

Short nod. He looks at her sideways.

She stood. "Stay." she said, pointing with a grin.

She entered and closed the door behind. The room was fairly narrow, bed against one long wall on her left, window on the right. Against the wall opposite the bed there were two buckets, nearly identical; about three palm-widths wide and half as high, spreading upwards with wooden plankings for sides. One of them was covered with a fairly heavy board, sealing the top; removing this, she opened the door - "C'mon in"- and stepped back into the room.

The Wolf smelled it as soon as she removed the cover; duck stew, still warm and filled near to the brim! The other of course held water.

"Suprise." she said, gesturing with a flourish. "Dig in!"

Sitting on the bed, she began taking off her boots. "Innkeeper didn't mind havin' food brought up for you if it meant gettin' my 'dangerous beast' in and outta there sooner." she chuckled "Though 'e did think the lid a bit odd. Didn't wanna give it away too early, did we?" Course Gray'd had to wait a little longer to eat.

She laughed as he suddenly jumped up on her knees and started licking under her chin. "Hey, 'ay! Giddown and eat, now." She pushed him off.

She looked down at him. "How could I 'ave forgotten about you, huh? I told you t' trust me; I'm here for you."

"I promise."

***

At least one of them wasn't bothered, thought Rebecca, as she and Grey made their way along the dusty road bisecting the town in two. Gray, at the other end of the lead wrapped around her hand, walked just ahead and to her right, ears raised and alert, mouth cracked in a half-grin. She wished she could be so relaxed; especially on a day such as this; the sun was out and with the weather warm she wore only a buckskin vest - no need for the jacket - and cloth undershirt acquired at market the previous day. A light, invigorating breeze blew cool against bare skin.

But she wasn't.

“You ARE mine, aren't you.” So she'd said, and he'd accepted without protest - but damned if she'd've said it alert and sober! Still...that exchange had been far more than drink talking - she couldn't deny it. Maybe it only made explicit something beneath the surface of their relationship since...well, since she'd let her mouth get ahead of her about wearing the wretched collar in the first place and Grey'd said 'go ahead and do it', at least. Maybe before that. Not just a game for appearance sake now - if it ever had been. For either of them.

'And I'm still not comfortable that, damnit.'

And a leash! 'That's something else again. If there'd been any choice with th' damned keeper....' But there hadn't been.

All the same, she could've taken time to remove it when they left the inn. More hassle than a clip-on, true. Even so....
How much, then, did it really bother her?

Gray wasn't bothered - hells, was enjoying himself quite nicely at the moment, from the look of him, of that half-grin on his face. And why not? It was perfectly, hillariously silly when you thought about it - look at them! Maybe she just didn't want to find it funny. A smile touched her lips for a moment, then gave way to a more serious look. No; she and Grey wasn't just a silly game, of course. She looked at the Wolf loping beside her. 'Jus' what am I supost to do with this, 'ey fuzzface?'

“Ah, here we are.” The door on their right wore a plain wooden plate, a pair of clippers carved in relief. She turned to Grey. “Ready to look like a new - er - dog? She asked, smirking. Grey's grin widened with a huff, head tilting to the side. Rebecca cupped her chin. “Hmmm; y'know, no-one'd ever mistake you for a wolf if we took off all the fur....” Grey's head snapped up to her.

“Joking!”

****

“Is that a wolf?” the barber asked when he saw them enter.

Rebecca gave her most dissarming smile. “Course not; and you'd be amazed how often people ask me.” she said, sounding put-upon. “Why I'm here, actually-”

“Sure enough looks like one.” said the barber, staring. “Big....”

She let out an exasperated breath. “Look, my good sir” she said, annoyance edging her voice. “'Ave you ever seen a wolf?”

“Ehh - no.”

“Not a wolf.” she said, chuckling. “Trust me.” And who'd say otherwise?

The man gave a final shake of his head. “Heh! You might not either with 'im around. Bet he could take one....” he looked back to her. “You said it's him you're here about....?

“Not exactly; but yes, it is.” She approached with Grey. “People mistakin' 'im for a wolf may be great for privacy, but it gets old quick; fact I'm well nigh sick've it. So...I thought a different cut - er - to his coat, might help with that....”

“A different cut.”

“Yes. Look - I know it's an unuaual request; I'd do it myself, but I wouldn't know what I was doin'. I'll pay double price for your time-”

“Nah.” the barber waved, looking at the Wolf with interest. “Do it 'keepers' purse.”

“Truly; it's no problem-”
The barber just motioned again with his hand, already moving to get his clippers. “An interestin' project.”

Rebecca grinned at the Wolf. “Yeah; interestin'. Don't want nothin' fancy, actually. Jus' get the coat around his trunk taken in; The underside of 'is tail - maybe front of 'is neck as well. Jus' enough to make 'im look less wolfish to the avrage man, get what I'm sayin'?”

“I think so.”

“Jus' keep it simple. Mind if I take a seat?” she asked, gesturing to the chairs used by his customers.
The keeper looked for the briefest moment as if he would say something(she'd be releasing the Wolf.). “Of course.” Rebecca turned to Grey.

“Sit.” She crouched to look him eye-to-eye. “Behave yerself, pup.” she grinned, giving his shoulder a quick rub before walking to take a chair.

A minute later she was back up. “What's wrong?” She asked the barber, also rising from his crouch.

“I don't know. Nothing I did, lady.“ He'd made a start - twice - on Grey's coat, but each time the Wolf had tensed and jerked away, rumbling in his throat. He was on all fours now, a slight crouch, head turned to her. He didn't look happy.

She gave a whistle, motioning the Wolf over with her finger. “C'mere boy!” Grey trotted over, sitting unasked when he reached her. She leaned in close. “~What is it?~” she whispered quietly. He tilted his head, looked downward with a growl, clearly frustrated. She shared the feeling. She looked up to inquire of the barber again; when she saw the light catch off the clippers, suspicion dawned.

She turned back to the Wolf. “The clippers?” He just stared. “Stay.” She stood and approached the barber, reaching with her right hand. “I see those a moment?”

“Sure.” he handed them to her, clearly curious. She took and held them closed, thumb and last two fingers in the handles' loops and first two held against the flat of the blades.

The Wolf's eyes were locked on the blades as she resumed her seat. “Look here.” she ordered curtly, reaching her left hand around to stroke the back of his neck. “Relax.” She slowly brought the clippers up, until they rested flat against his side. He jerked when he felt them touch. Yup; the clippers, alright. She quickly wrapped the lead in her left hand, close to his neck and gave a pull. “Look HERE!” she said, tugging him back; locking eyes. “Calm.” She returned the hand - lead still wrapped around it - to his neck. His fur was up; she could feel the skin twitching beneath his coat. After a few moments, she lowered the clippers again.
Sharp blades. Pointed; Like teeth, or claws. Things a top predator didn't want pressed against it's body - certainly never relaxed when they were. Even play was rough(and often serious)sport. She could understand. Never would've pegged him for it, though.

“Stand up.” Rebecca looked up at the barber. “Gimme a minute with 'im, alright?” The man shrugged. “Okay.”
She leaned in close, resting a hand on his shoulder and whispering so only Grey could hear. “~Look...Grey, we don't hafta do this if it troubles you so much. Say 'no' and we're out the door. We all 'ave issues - I understand; BUT~-” she cupped his chin - “~I think you won't.~” she paused a moment, holding his eyes. “~An' do you know why?~”

Stare.

“~Because~” - Rebecca drew a breath, considering, and leaned forward, nearly nose-to-nose with the Wolf. “~ You're MY pup. I won't let anything harm you; Trust in that. MY pet is strong; a fighter.~” Rebecca moved till her mouth tickled his ear. “~I'll be very proud of you, dear one, as I was back on the trail. And...there's a reward, later, my pet.~”
She saw the barber watching in the corner of her eye, and sat up straighter, resting her right hand on the Wolf's shoulder. “So, -” she said sweetly in her best 'puppy-talk' tone of voice. “-feelin' better now, buddy? Ready to try again?” she asked, giving it a rub.
Grey stood straighter, for a few seconds just staring at her. Then stretching he shook himself and with a bounce turned to face the barber, eyes turned back and up to face her.

Warmth filled her laughter. “Good boy!” she said, patting his shoulder. She stood to signal the barber. “I'm bringin' the chair over.” She quickly drug the chair over, scraping the wooden flooring. Grey followed; she turned to him. “Siddown.”

She placed the chair in front and to the left of him, facing him side-on. Reaching around his neck, she pulled his head down across lap. “Close yer eyes, pup.” she ordered quietly. She turned to the barber. “Get 'is chest an' around th' sides of 'is stomach first; get that outta the way. Leave the top o' the tail and base o' the neck alone, everythin' else to about thumbwidth's. Sorry we gotta do it this way.”

“Eh, whatever's needed to keep 'im relaxed.” Actually, HE looked a little tense now, Rebecca noted with a smirk. She turned back to Grey as the barber bent down, and began stroking.
“Jus' relax, baby....Easy.” she squeezed gently when she felt him tense at contact from the clippers. “You know you'll be fine. Jus' relax.” she could feel him struggling to stay still - but he didn't budge, this time, as the barber began snipping at his coat. “That's it. I”m so proud of you baby. Good job....”

****

It really made quite a difference, Rebecca thought, staring at the Wolf.

With eveything but the base of his neck and part of his tail taken in, Grey looked like a different beast - and yas, a great deal more 'doggish' in the bargain. Rebecca grinned as she wrapped the leash just removed from the Wolf, thinking of the artcle she'd just acquired at market before they returned from his 'trim'. She hoped Grey hadn't glimpsed it before she slipped it into a side-pocket of her breeches.

“I tell ya Wolf, -” Rebecca said as she pulled the vest over her head, “- it is GOOD to have clean cloth underneath again!” With a grunt, she sat on the bed. A mischievious look crossed her face.

'Oh, I am WICKED.'

Reaching for her hip, she pulled out her Knife and began - very deliberately - to polish it with her shirt, making sure the Wolf took note. She looked up at him and smiled. “You did well today, pup. I'm proud.” Grey grinned, tail sweeping in recognition of the praise. She looked again at the blade, holding it in front of her and turning it this way and that, seeing it from different angles. She turned and thumped the bed with her right hand. “C'mere, Grey.” She stood as he jumped on, turning to face him, arms folded - and blade still held in her hand. She leaned over, whispering in his ear as she nudged him down; “Close yer eyes.” His eyes shifted, looking up at the knife in her hand. Grinning, she lightly rapped his nose. “Trust.” He shut them.

As quietly as possible, she lay her knife on the bed, reaching into her side pocket to retrieve her purchase from the market.

Markets allways surprised with their size and variety, out here on the edges of settlement. One easily forgot the sheer number of farmsteads scattered around the small town, hidden all through the forrest surrounding it on every side. On any given day one had a surprisingly decent chance of finding -exactly- what one was searching for...such as a groomsbrush, for example. She'd been very pleasantly surprised. She'd hoped to find any brush that would service, but the one she'd purchased was absolutely perfect - a simple wooden bristle-plate(no handle)with a strap nailed each end to a side behind to secure her palm against the plate.

The right hand in her pocket sliding into the strap with ease, she withdrew it, and quietly leaned over the Wolf, running her left through the rough of his neck. She fealt him tense when she fist touched on account of her stunt a moment before, then relax into it. She'd bet it was more responsive now, as well. At last she brought the palm of her right up to the base of his neck, pressed the brush down into the fur, and ran it down the length of his spine.

His head snapped back to her. “Eyes closed” she said with a gentle tap on the nose. He lay his head back down again. Stroking with the brush, she leaned up from behind to whisper in his ear.

“You did -very- well today, and I am VERY proud of you, pet. You earned this. And everybody's gonna see what a beautifull pup I've got; you're gonna SHINE before I'm done, friend.”

And as she worked around the collar, a pang of protest stirred. 'Shut. UP.'
She fealt his body relaxing under her efforts, turning limp. She didn't doubt behind those eyelids his eyes were glazing. Suddenly she paused, listening. She couldn't possibly be hearing.... She leaned in closer, feeling with her hand.
“Well, I'll be damned.” she grinned in amazement. Learn something new every day.
Until that moment, she'd have sworn a Wolf couldn't purr.

****

They were returning to the Inn when Rebecca cheated death a second time.

There'd been nothing to suggest danger until the it was upon her. It was another pleasant - if partly clouded - afternoon. The two of them being restless(and Grey's practical needs beside), they'd taken a slow, winding walk 'round the outside of town(It was silly, but she'd been secretly glad for some privacy this once when Grey did his business.). She'd had a look through the market again and was nearing the Inn, when Grey drew up, sniffing the air, eyes intent.

“Grey, what is - “

She stopped as Grey leaped around and moved toward her -
But too late; a leather-clad hand clamped over her mouth, choking her -

“'Member me, dearie?”

-as a blade bit into her neck, body far larger and heavier than hers' bearing down on her shoulder as the man from the tavern pulled her in against him.

“Ah ah a-ah” he hissed, rocking the blade against her throat to freeze the arm that started for her hip. “I'll take that.” She fealt him reach around for her knife- switching hands to do it from the other side. 'BASTARD!' His hand was an airtight seal, the breaths thorough her nose coming in gasps, drawing in the reek of his breath; she fealt nauseous.

She fealt her own blade press against her neck, the other leave and sound of an impact in the alley to their right fast behind.

In the corner of her eye she saw him look up, very deliberately at Grey, crouched and bristling, growl rumbling low in his throat like a tortured purr and face drawn taught with rage. “Stay.” A single word, hissed against her ear.

“You owe me, love,” he said, pulling her to the alley; turning her and slamming her hard against the wall. “You wronged me, that little stunt in the tavern -” he stopped as she opened her mouth, driving her shoulder full-weight against the wood, driving breath from lungs. “You wronged me, an' I demand satisfaction - come no closer WOLF or avenge a corpse!”

He spun her again to face the Wolf now at the alley's entrance, pulling her back against and biting in with the knife. Rebecca looked at Grey and gave the smallest of shakes, still stuggling to regain her breath.

“Smart girl.” the man hissed. “Cut suits him.” and he gave a laugh. “Should've seen it back 'n the tavern. But of course, that's what you were counting on. NOBODY sees Wise this side of the 'Teeth, especially -” he brought his mouth to her ear “- especially not where they belong. And with a TRAPPER holding the lead!” He laughed again. “Now what in Hells' name is he spying over here for?” he hissed “...or is he really just a beast what knows his place for a change, hmmmh?”

Grey snarled in rage.

Laughter. “I wonder -” He laughed quietly again before continuing “- I wonder whose idea it was, 'eh trapper?” Laughter once more at the hiss that provoked.

“You cut me” Rebecca finally found breath to hiss “yer dead before I hit th' dirt.”

“You think so eh'?” He sounded AMUSED.
“Perhaps.”

“Why don't you cut it an' find out?” she hissed.

“Allready told ya', darlin'” he said, running his other hand along her thigh. “I want satisfaction first.” she felt his hand move up the inside of her leg and -

'F-kin' BASTARD!!!'; Breath choking in her throat. Grey was in a white rage. At least he didn't plan on ending it here....

“Satisfaction...like your four dead friends?”

A hit. She fealt a knee impact her thigh with viscious force, driving a cry from her as her legs collapsed. Only the man's vice-grip kept her from hitting dirt. If only....

“So it WAS you brought the horse. Any of them get this close?” he hissed in her ear, shifting the knife, reaching down with his other hand. “Any of them have these?” The gloved hand in front of her face held a pair of tri-blades, three bladed corners curving like fangs from the triangles' center. “Don't need luck with these, darlin'.” he grinned sweetly. “Play my chances.” She shuddered when his lips touched her ear.

Grey looked in a near-frenzy now; lunging, snarling. Shifting and jumping back and forth. He was being very loud-
...Wolf was being very loud...TOO LOUD?
Demanding attention. Delaying? 'Nice idea' she considered as the man talked on 'but he'll cut me for spite it comes to it.'

Unless - she'd learned to read his eyes well. There; the briefest instant. And again. She caught his gaze, a question asked and answered.

'For Godssakes, SPEED.' She thought, readying herself -

She heard footfalls - and if the man heard he had no time. His hand jerked, going slack and she was moving, down and hitting like a stone before the scream had died to push off and roll into the open street -

- She was rolling over and over and out of controll down the hillside, no weapon and a plucked goose for the charging horse -

-again and again, scraping bare arms in the dirt before at last stopping herself. Coughing, she turned to push herself up and look to alley. Grey was crouched there, hunched over what she sincerely hoped was a body now, and -

“I thought I told you 'watch your ass'!”

“Nate???”

She slowly stumbled to her feet, grimacing as she tried her bruised thigh. He was a mess, she saw when she looked again - leathers splattered with blood at the shoulder and chest; on his hands as well, both holding blooded blades.
What was he still-... Favoring her thigh, she half-limped past him, to where Grey stood over the body of the man from the Tavern, slouched and still against a wall streaked with blood. She bent down, to pull his face up, to look him eye-to-eye.

She shook her head; “No friend...none of them were that close.” She spat in his face, stood and kicked. Again and again and suddenly -
- she felt sick, dizzy and weak; dropped to a crouch, hands on her knees, heart POUNDING and gasping in air against nausea. “'Bec?”

A hand on her shoulder; she swung without thinking. Her arm was caught, held fast. “Rebecca!” When a few beats passed with no move from her he released it; and she returned it to her knee, waving him back with her other hand. At last she looked up.

“You okay?” asked nathan, picking his own blade back up to clean against his vest.
She took a few more breaths, before swallowing. “I will be.” Dampness blurred her eyes, but didn't fall. 'Of a sudden Mother, I am TERRIBLY anxious to be home....'

In time, she rose. “I thought you were -”

“Gone day before last?” he finished. “We'd planned to. Then we started thinking 'bout the crap's been flyin 'round in recent months, and thought we'd take another day to decide which way we wanted to move out. Well, you know word gets around a place like this, an' we heard about your little run-in with beauty here” he gestured to the body “and we got curious, started checking around.”

Huh?

“Well” he answered her unspoken question “turns out you're not th' only one to come through with a nice mount. All things considering, we thought he'd bare keepin' an eye on.”

She brought a hand up to feel the nicks - some still seeping blood - laced around her neck.

“Discreetly keepin' an eye on.” he hastily ammended. “Too discreet, evidently.” Again he put a hand on her shoulder; this time she didn't flinch. “I'm sorry, Bec.” She only shook her head, looking again to the dead man's body.

“That's twice.” She looked back to him. “Not for stories, this one, I think.”

“Look, Bec, go get some sleep, tomorrow mornin' we can meet in the dining area to talk about where to go now - ”

“No.” she cut him off curtly. “I'm movin' out tomorrow morning.

“Bec -”

“I'm ready to be home, Nate.”

“Then we can come with you - “

“All the way?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Some've it at least, damnitt - “

“Don't worry about - “

“Damnitt Bec, will you listen!” he held up her attacker's blade - simple dagger, utillitarian but lethal; still smeared with blood. “This isn't a joke! The Isles' fall CHANGED things, and pretending otherwise won't change it back; people - trappers - are DISSAPEARING out here - you almost dissapeared!” Bending over, he pried her blade from the attackers grip.
“Luck runs dry, Sunshine,” he said as he handed it to her. “Don't push it.”

“I won't - I'll have company with me.”
Nathan turned, and she followed his gaze to Grey, now lying flat on the ground gazing with intense interest - in the opposite direction.

“Nice cut.” he finally said. And nothing more.

“WHAT THE-” they turned at the voice.

“About time” Nathan muttered. He turned back, resting a hand on her shoulder before leaving to find - whoever dealt with law out here. “Don't dissappear, damnitt.”

As he walked away, it suddenly occurred to Rebecca that her attacker had been quite litterally and visciously stabbed in the back....

Turned out she needn't have worried. Word gets about, in these frontier towns.

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So...comments, reviews? *Holds the mouse* Alright, gimme some reviews or the story gets it! LOL :-D