Gwen froze against the wall once they gained the parking lot. She'd stepped into one ambush, only one, but it had taught her many things. One was never think that you're safe. Another was, never think that your friends are really your friends.
Gwen considered the possibility of both.
Then she turned to the woman.
"Where's the car?" she asked briskly.
Boudiccea pointed to a small primer-colored truck, parked not in the lot, but in the street behind the lot.
Gwen reassessed her opinion of the Garou. She'd parked far enough away that they wouldn't have to pass any police on their way out.
Smart girl. Or she's been trained.
They went to it silently, Tommie reconnoitering around the vehicle before he allowed either of them to approach it.
"How well do you drive?" Gwen asked.
"I can drive. I got it here," the werewolf pointed out.
"I can probably drive better than you. I've been practicing longer," she tried to smile, but on the Wyrm thing it was a hideous grimace.
Boudiccea turned to Tommie.
"Let her drive," he said, motioning to Gwen. "I need to talk to you anyway."
They climbed into the back of the truck, leaving Gwen the coffee-cup and cigarette butt strewn cab. It was a straight shift, Gwen appraised, cracking her knuckles before starting the ancient engine. It sputtered to life, and she drove carefully, legally, out of the lot and down the street. She flicked the headlights on at the first intersection, then began to make turns to see if she’d picked up any pursuers. Within minutes, she was satisfied that they’d managed to leave without attracting attention, so she switched on the radio and rummaged a half-crushed pack of cigarettes from her pocket. The dead left behind would be a source of trouble, she was sure, but she didn’t see any way they could have avoided it.
The radio was full of reports of the explosions downtown, but she heard no new details in the listening.
Finally, curiosity got the better of her, and she turned the radio down to a level where she could hear the conversation going on in the back of the truck. She was nothing if not curious.
Tommie and Boudiccea lay hidden beneath some cast off dropcloths in the bed of the truck as it pulled out of the parking lot. They both knew the police would be watching for any activity at all, and two people sitting in the back of a truck was noticeable, perhaps not suspicious, but notable was suspicious in a town where terrorist activity had just erupted. They would have looked for people doing it, so they avoided it. Finally, the truck sped up, and the glow of sodium arc lights began to trace across them.
They’d gained the highway.
They both sat up, almost as one. Tommie looked over at her.
There had been white paint, still tackily wet, on one of the covers. It had rubbed off in her hair, creating a white stripe down her left temple.
“My Whitestreak,” Tommie whispered one of the few words he knew – and could pronounce – in Garou; her true name. He was struck by the eerie synchronicity of the streak. In life she’d had one just like it. It had been one of the things that had fascinated him.
She didn’t look like his woman, but that could be changed. If she was back to stay, if she wanted him to change it, if, a thousand ifs went through his mind. She lowered her head and looked at him from under her brows. He suddenly had a flash of her doing that the day she’d told him she was pregnant. It was so typically Boudiccea that he smiled.
And then the tension between them shattered like a lightning blasted mirror, and they flew into each other’s arms.
Her lips were on his before he could even begin to work his magic, the way of making himself feel like the living. She did not seem to care, though, and hungrily bit at his mouth. He could feel her hot breath on him, then her hands running across his back, down his spine, drawing him close and closer still…
He pulled her to him, kissing her deeply and burying his face in her thick dark hair. So maybe she didn’t look like his woman, she certainly acted like her. Then her lips were on his neck, moving to his ear.
“Tommie, I have always loved you,” she whispered. “I left you, but I still loved you. Will you forgive me?”
He laughed then, because to ask if he would forgive her, at this point of time, was so very like her. And he realized how much he had missed her, how much he had gone on missing her, even when she had been dead and in her grave for a year. She pushed herself a little away from him, looking quizzically at him as he sat laughing quietly. And then he took her in his arms and gave her her answers.
And she, in the same way, gave him his.
When they reached a safe distance from the city, Tommie tapped on the window separating cab from bed, and motioned for Gwen to pull over.
She turned into a rest stop about five miles from the New York/New Jersey line, and coasted to a stop near a bank of pay phones.
She smiled in amusement as the two of them climbed from the back of the truck, disheveled and more than a little dirty. Tommie walked to the window.
“I don’t want this truck in the city. It’s stolen, and stolen in a town where a lot of strange things just happened. I don’t need any hunters tracing it to my city. I’m gonna call my driver, and take my limo on into New York from here. You’re welcome to come along if you want to.”
Gwen knew from the tone of his voice that he was trying to do the decent thing, by offering her a place to stay as payment for her help. But she was bone-weary, and wanted to return to her city as well, so she shook her head.
“No, I think we’ve probably seen enough of each other for a while. I’m heading back to Washington. I can ditch the truck somewhere.”
He thought for a minute, then put out his hand. Gwen took it, shook, and then drove off into the night.
And that, she thought as she pulled into the traffic and headed back to the beltway, was probably the wildest thing I’ve ever done. Goddam, half the Giovanni power structure dead right before my very eyes. Things may be looking up for me after all.
Tommie watched her taillights disappear into the night, then turned to Boudiccea.
“I’m gonna call my driver, baby,” he said softly to her. “Then let’s go home.”
Tears sprung from her eyes when he said the word home. She’d never heard such a welcome idea. Then her eyes got round as she remembered something.
“What about … the boys?” she said. The last she had seen of Kenneth
no, remember, he likes to be called bruce now, hes not a little boy anymore
was when he had wandered past the ambulance she was sitting in, outside the casino. He had looked lost then, and more than a little scared.
“They’ll be fine. I’ll give them a call too, though, tell them the good news.”
And as he pulled his cell phone from his jacket, she sat down on a bench outside the rest stop, and began to laugh.
The sky feels so cool against my skin, and the pavement and the crickets and the stars and …
She was still lost in the sensations when he sat down next to her a few minutes later.
“The limo’ll be here in about twenty minutes. Traffic’s bad in the city. I talked to TJ and he’s gonna find his brothers and be back to New York sometime later tonight. I didn’t tell him, not over the phone. That wouldn’t have been the way to do it, I don’t think.”
She smiled and stroked his cheek. Her eyes sang of her love for him. He looked down at his hands, then back up at her.
“So, are you gonna stay?” he asked quietly.
“Want me to?” she asked.
He shook his head slowly, then turned to her. His piercing gaze was nearly hypnotic. She felt herself falling into the depth of that gaze.
“I want you to do whatever you want to do. Or whatever you have to do. Just make sure it’s what you want. If you can’t stay – if this is some weird ghost thing you’re doing, running around inside this woman’s skin – then let me know now. I have no idea whether you’re back to stay, back for one night, or if I’m just dreaming all this.” He chuckled and looked at the sidewalk.
“World looks real enough to me, but then again, I know ain’t nothin’ all that it seems to be…”
He felt her warm little hand on his face. She gently pulled him to look at her.
“Tommie Gunn, I told you when I was in the skin – when I lived – that I would love you forever. Do you think even the most feral of the Stygian Overlords could change that? I would die for you, Tommie.”
She paused to wipe her eyes. She could see red tears cresting in his, but a long-unspoken understanding between them meant she would not touch them. To do so would be to bring his vampiric nature between them. And that she would never do.
“I watched over you for a year. Every one of your tears was like an ocean of pain for me. I can’t begin to tell you how wretched I felt for running away from you, all those years ago.”
“I have no idea what has happened. Maybe it was the magic, maybe it was the energy, maybe it was a gift from Gaia herself. I will not squander this second chance. Many do not get one. I will cling to this to the end of my strength, and beyond.”
“I love you, Tommie Gunn, now and forever. Not even death shall separate us.”
He got up and walked over the sign that said “Scenic Overlook”. New York’s nightscape lay sprawled before him. He motioned her to come to him.
“See all this? I run it. Yeah, Pinkerton’s the Prince, kinda like the Alpha among your kind, but I run it all. A cricket don’t fart in Times Square that I can’t find out about it. Mostly, the city runs just fine without me takin’ a controlling interest in it. I got good people in good positions, and it pretty near runs itself.”
He turned to her, taking her hands in his. He looked deep into her eyes, through them and into her soul itself.
“I would give all this up for you right now, Whitestreak of the Redwoods.” The last was her real name, and he howled it, as she had taught him to pronounce it.
Tears spilled from her eyes as she hugged him to her. The years between her leaving and now suddenly slipped away, and she held him tight.
“Let’s go home, baby,” she whispered to him.
If Tommie had had a heartbeat, it would have sang her name then.
And they kissed deep, and the lights of New York seemed a little warmer, a little cheerier to Tommie as he saw them through half-closed eyes.
They seemed a little more like home.