A Reason to LiveMature

Marcus was all too aware that Xenia was in shock and it was clear she was grateful when Marcus switched his grip on the duffle and slipped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer. They didn't quite make it to Marcus's bike before she started to shake badly enough that he had to drop the bag in a loud clatter and clank of the contents to wrap his arms tightly around her.

"Shhh. It's ok. It will be ok." His voice was soft, but he felt awkward, unsure what to do. There had been no such refuge for him after his first kill, the poor creature the Fraternity had captured and starved before putting it before a young boy and telling him to kill it. His had been in cold blood, no real chance for the werewolf to fight back; at least Xennie had killed to save her life, and his. He was smart enough to know that particular thought would have been cold comfort to her, though, so he kept quiet as he tightened his grip on her slightly. He had no lies for her. She had killed and she would have to come to terms with that and all it meant for her.

His thoughts wandered and, as her hands tightening to hold to his duster, clinging to him, it truly came home to him that in his arms he held the one thing he would not only die for but live for. Her body was so slight in his arms, so easily broken. She was fragile and soft in ways he sometimes had trouble understanding.

At the same time, he had seen her take that swing at Alex. As they had practiced earlier he had watched her aim become utterly precise. She hadn't flinched about riddling the corpses with arrows in earlier and, when it had mattered, she had loosed arrows to deadly effect. She hadn't frozen and had had his back. Never before had he truly trusted anyone with that, certainly not any of the Fraternity. He had always operated just a little bit on his own, even when he and Alex had gone out to destroy.

Just maybe he could learn to trust her with more than just having his back. Maybe he could trust her with his heart, assuming he had one. He was starting to think he did, especially considering the way it had been feeling her naked against him, her mouth balm on his scars, fingertips soothing relief to what had been frozen and barren within him so long.

The feel of her body trembling against his chest brought a growl to his lips. His beast stirred protectively, ready to take all comers. As much as he felt uncertain about everything that had happened it was fairly clear that the wolf within him knew what it wanted. There was no doubt there, no worrying about the way his life had changed. All that mattered was that he held Xenia and that he would protect her. And she him.

Feeling Xenia take a deep breath finally, he pulled back slightly to stroke fingertips lightly along her cheek, brushing her hair back. "You did what had to be done. I'm proud of you, Xenia. Proud to have you at my back." No lies, but he found that hedd have something else to offer. He paused a moment, his eyes shadowed. Her gaze searched his and he could tell she was waiting to see if there was more. "And proud to have you beside me."

Those words were the right ones. Xenia stepped back slightly her hands smoothing over the chest of his duster, palms brushing the supple leather, her eyes meeting his so seriously. He could still feel slight tremors in her and her eyes were a little too bright, but she stood her ground before him. "I'm proud to stand beside you, Marcus. I will do anything to prove that that, prove there is a you and me. It isn't a mistake." Her fingers dug into the leather and she sucked in a deep breath.

"It felt good." It was a confession and it had clearly taken everything within her to trust him with it, but she had. Her voice was so quiet he might not have heard it had he been human. In that instant he understood her reaction all too well. What he'd told Persephone had been true, he had been so pale after he had killed that first time. There was more to the truth, however, something he hadn't shared: Part of why he had been pale had been from the simple fact that it had felt all too right. Killing had been natural to him. Now, with his beast fully awakened within him, that feeling was nearly overwhelming. For Xenia, who had never been violent, who had always been so nice, it would be frightening.

In the wake of dealing with everything that had come crashing down on him, the revelations about his origins, the awakening of his beast, the end of his association with the Fraternity - and the beginnings of whatever this would be with Xennie - he had forgotten that Xenia was also coping with some fairly drastic changes of her own.

Crushing her to his chest for a moment, he scooped her up into his arms. Her hands slid around his neck as she squeaked in surprise as he took the last steps to the bike and settled her onto it before swinging his leg over and wrapping his arms around her. Not the usual position, but he wanted her in front of him, wanted her in the shelter of his body.

"I know, I really do, Xennie. It's hard enough for me, this beast within me. And I've been killing for so long. But you... I wish I'd never brought this on you." He heard her growl and it surprised a laugh out of him.

"Don't you dare say you regret this, Marcus." She squirmed in his arms, trying to turn to face him, but he tightened his hold on the bike and trapped her, soft laughter rumbling in his chest.

"Let's get a drink." The bike purred to life beneath them and he rested his cheek against the top of her head for just a moment and whispered in her ear, "How could I be stupid enough to regret this? Now quit wiggling or we'll never get there safely."

She settled into his arms, although she grumbled for a few moments. Once she quieted, though, it was clear her thoughts were weighing on her as she waited silently for him to pull out with the bike. He knew that she had only begun to deal with what she'd done. The worst of it for her was going to be the conflict: the wolf within her having no qualms about killing while the woman she had been was horrified. He knew that about her. Yet she had held together. She had killed and hadn't thrown up, hadn't broken down. Not yet at least.

He wound the bike through the city, heading for a bar Orion had mentioned near the tunnels. The last thing Marcus wanted was to head into a bar and discover a bunch of Fraternity there scoping it out. Orion had promised him the bar was safe, run by friends. That was a good thing, because Marcus was starting to feel a little shaken himself. There was something about being in danger with Xennie there that upset him. Of course, he knew perfectly well what it was: Xennie could have been hurt, or killed. She'd come so close to dying in the werewolf attack. And now he was realizing that there was going to be no keeping her out of the line of fire. Not anymore.

Maybe with good reason. With Xennie at his side the Fraternity hadn't had a chance.

It was just so different from what he had expected his life to be. He had run from Xenia, thinking he was protecting her. Then he hadn't been there when she had needed his protection. Now, they were both among the monsters. More than that, he was allowing himself to see just what he and Xenia could be. She was willing to put herself in the line of fire for him. She had put herself there. He had felt her body wrapped around his after so long resisting. It was finally catching up to him.

All it had taken was the look in her eyes, the feel of her trustingly collapsing against him as she trembled. It had only ever taken Xenia to undo him. Now he was discovering that she could be the reason for him to hold together too, a reason for him to learn how to not just exist, but live.

Yeah, he could definitely use that drink.

The End

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