CHAPTER 13

Explanations

In a few minutes they made it out into a ploughed field. Abby and Parker helped Hardison flip the drugged man over so that they could hold him upside down for the ritual. When Hardison and Parker had him braced Abby stepped back and fished out the rosemary scented pouch to complete the ritual. Abby repeated the same ritual she had done for Eliot. When she finished her chant this time Hardison noticed the red seemed to fade from the rogue's eyes and while his eyes still flickered between brown and yellow the red was gone.

"He feels better." Parker tapped her chest. Hardison had felt the change as well when the rage seemed to dissipate at the end of Abby's ritual.

Parker and Hardison laid the man on the ground and Parker covered him with a light blanket she'd pulled from the bag she'd brought. Eliot and Ewen had hung back closer to the trees and were keeping an eye on things.

"How long do we wait?" Hardison looked at Abby and back toward Eliot.

"Once twilight is over it should be safe to move him. But it doesn't look like he'll be going anywhere on his own for a while." Abby looked around at the long field they were standing in. "How close is the van from here?"

The van is a little more than a half mile that way." Hardison pointed. "There's a road a little less than a half mile that way." Hardison pointed down the long field they were standing in, in the opposite direction of the van.

Parker handed Hardison the bag she had brought. "I'll go get Lucille and bring her around to the other side of this field. It will be easier than trying to move Matchitehew through the trees and brush we came through to get here."

Hardison noticed that now that their rogue was man shaped that Parker called him by name instead of referring to him as 'the rogue.'

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A minute or two after Parker left to retrieve the van, Keme, naked and shaky came out of the woods and stumbled into a kneeling position next to his brother. Keme grabbed his brother's hand in one of his own and ran a hand across his brother's face cupping his cheek. Matchitehew's eyes stopped flickering and settled into their human brown color.

"Keme?" Matchitehew's voice sounded cracked and raw.

Tears leaked down Keme's cheeks as he nodded. "Matchitehew."

Abby and Hardison moved closer to the trees to give the brothers what little privacy they could. Even from the tree line most of what the brothers said could be overheard but none of it was understood since they were speaking their native language. Mostly it was Keme talking as the sedation still seemed to be affecting Matchitehew pretty severely. Hardison imagined that even if there were descendants of the tribe in this area their language had probably changed a little over the last three hundred years, so there conversation would be private regardless.

To distract himself from mind bending thoughts of seriously old wolves, Hardison started looking through the bag Parker had brought. Extra paintballs, two first aid kits, two sets of sweat pants, a bottle of water, her spare lock picks, and a battery charger for his phone. His girl covered all the bases. Seeing the first aid kits reminded him of the bloody hole in Eliot's side.

"Eliot?" Hardison called quietly as he looked toward the last place he had noticed Eliot before.

Eliot tilted his head a little to the side as he looked at Hardison and kept one ear in the brothers direction in case they needed him.

"El, how's your side? Do we need to put a field dressing on it?" Hardison pulled a first aid kit out of the bag Parker had left.

Eliot shook his head and sighed. He had planned to stay wolf until they were back at the hotel or at least the van but he could see that there was too much that needed to be done here first. Eliot pushed for speed in his change and it didn't take him long to complete it. Eliot stood for a moment until his brain and his balance were working together. "Thanks Hardison but no. I don't need any bandaging this time." Eliot couldn't help the grin. It seemed like every time they'd had a spare moment on this job he'd needed a new bandage so it was really nice to skip that for the moment.

"Dude that was a seriously big hole in your side." Hardison looked doubtful.

Eliot raised his arms and turned slowly so that Hardison could see that there was no hole. "See? No holes no scratches. Nada. Now if Parker would just hurry up and get back here." Eliot rubbed his hands over his arms.

Hardison put the first aid kit back in the bag and threw Eliot a pair of sweat pants. "This'll have to do." Eliot pulled the pants on feeling a bit more at ease with at least a little clothing. "So what sorta werewolf freakiness explains…?" Hardison waved a hand to encompass Eliot and his lack of wounds.

"The thing we did to force the rogue back into his human shape. Ewen and Keme shoved power at me and I used the pack link to force the change on the rogue." Eliot wrapped his arms around himself and looked across the field toward the road.

"That doesn't explain things at all bru." Hardison shook his head.

"The same magic, or power, or whatever you want to call it that makes me a werewolf, and lets me heal at an accelerated rate, is the same thing that fuels the change from one shape to another. So with all that power flowing through me to the rogue it healed everything else in the process." Eliot scratched absentmindedly at his right shoulder for a moment before he looked down and noticed that the silver burn was also gone without a mark. Eliot was thrilled with that, since it probably would have continued to itch and burn for at least another week or two on its own.

"So what do we do with the dead guy?" Hardison glanced over his shoulders back toward the thicket.

"Leave it there." Eliot paused and looking concerned turned back toward the thicket. "None of you touched the body did you?"

Hardison put a fist to his mouth for a moment and shook his head. "Nah. None of us touched it. I don't think anyone wanted to get that close to it."

"Good. When someone finally finds it the coroner will record it as an animal kill." Eliot rubbed his arms again trying not to shiver in the cold.

"Who… who was it?"

"I don't know. I think, maybe, Keme knows." Eliot focused on the brothers. It looked as though Matchitehew had fallen asleep again but Keme was still holding his brother's hand and stroking his face and shoulder. "We were following the rouge," Eliot indicated Matchitehew with a lift of his chin. "when I smelled something. I smelled, …well it reminded me of you and Nati." Eliot looked at Abby. He could tell that she had been listening and wanted to include her in the conversation. "I think maybe he was some kind of magic user. Anyway we all smelled something and it really spooked Keme, so I got Ewen and Keme behind me, and I took point. I could hear something on the opposite side of the bushes from where we were, so I went through the bushes first. If he hadn't waited to cock the gun just as I stepped out he'd have got me."

"Would have? Would have got you?! I seem to recall a damn big hole in your side not too long ago." Hardison threw his hands in the air.

"Anyway." Eliot glared at Hardison for a moment. "Since I heard the sound I threw myself to the side and the vest took the hit. At that range without the vest I wouldn't have stood a chance. Thanks for that by the way." Hardison shrugged a 'no problem' gesture before Eliot continued. "The force of the shot rolled me into the creek and by the time I got back up the bank Keme was down and the stranger was going at it with Ewen. The speed and the way he moved, pretty sure he was a werewolf. Anyway, Ewen kept him busy and I surprised him from behind. After that it didn't take long." Eliot shrugged.

Finally in the distance Eliot spotted Lucille. "Can Parker hear me?" Eliot looked at Hardison.

"Yes." Hardison tapped just in front of his ear to indicate the earbud was there and live. "She's got at least a dozen questions for you and Keme. You know how she is when she gets going." Hardison's smile and the change in his scent told Eliot so much more than Hardison would be comfortable with when it came to Hardison's relationship with Parker. It made Eliot very happy for them both.

"Tell her to stay with the van. We'll be there in a couple of minutes." Eliot started toward Keme and his brother.

Hardison squinted into the distance and could barely make out a vehicle through the dim light and the humidity in the air. "Go, go, gadget, wolf vision." Hardison muttered as he picked up the duffel bag and followed after Eliot.

Keme, who was just a little shorter than Eliot, cradled his brother like a small child even though Matchitehew had to be close to six feet tall. It was one of those things that had to be avoided in human society since there was no way to make that show of strength seem human. For now in the early hours just after dawn there was no one to see them and this would allow them to move much more quickly. Keme wasted no time, and while he didn't run, he seemed to disappear down the length of the field.

Eliot stayed with Abby and Hardison who moved at a much slower pace over the uneven ground in the slowly brightening light.

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Parker drove them back to the farm they had rented. Keme had left his truck there and it seemed like a good place to regroup away from curious locals who might report a beat up van on the side of the road. As Parker pulled onto the driveway to the farm there was a sudden shuffling in the back of the van. Parker adjusted her rearview to get a better look at what was happening in the van. Matchitehew was fully awake and was digging his fingers into the metal of the rear doors. Keme and Matchitehew had a rapid fire conversation that ended with Keme prying his brother's hand loose from the door and holding onto it.

"What's going on back there?" Parker glared via the mirror at the passengers in the back of Lucille.

"My brother has never ridden in a car before. He knows what they are and there basic purpose, he's just never been in one while it was moving." Keme smiled at her and spoke quietly with his brother.

"We're almost there." Parker announced. She could see the dilapidated house and Keme's old truck. Within a few moments she parked the van and turned off the engine. "So what now?"

"Now we see how stable he is and figure out if he can go home with Keme or if he's going to need more help." Eliot slid the side door open and jumped out of the tight confines of the van.

"You can't possibly be thinkin' of just turnin' 'im loose?" Ewen, who had changed back to his human form just before they drove back to the farm, was hot on Eliot's heels.

Eliot turned yellow eyes on Ewen. "I needed to make him pack to get this job done. I don't plan on taking him home with me. That was never the plan, and you know it!" The growl and threat in Eliot's voice couldn't be mistaken. Eliot took a deep breath. "I'm not planning on just turning him loose this second. Like I said we need to find out how stable he is and see what needs to be done next." Eliot's eye were blue and his tone was calmer by the time he finished.

Ewen closed his eyes and nodded his head in agreement. "Yes. You're right. I'm sorry."

"It's been a long night and looks to be a long day. Don't worry about it." Eliot clapped Ewen on the shoulder before turning to Parker and Hardison. "Parker why don't you and take everyone but us three," Eliot gestured at himself, Keme, and Matchitehew. "back to the hotel. I'll send Keme back for some camping supplies."

"And that is why you are not the mastermind." Parker turned to Hardison, who held up a finger to indicate that he needed another moment.

"Okay, there is a local place to rent a couple of RVs. They don't deliver, but that is probably for the best." Hardison took a look around their motley group that was looking worse for wear. "Right across from the hotel actually. So…" Hardison's attention was entirely focused on his phone and his voice seemed to drift with his attention.

"So, Abby, Hardison, and I will head back into town and pick up what we need. You guys can have wolfy time until we get back." Parker smiled her 'don't mess with me' smile and got back in the van.

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Eliot sighed and shook his head as he watched Lucille make the turn at the end of the driveway. He turned back to see Matchitehew settling himself in the bed of Keme's truck.

Matchitehew was standing in the middle of the bed looking a little disoriented for a moment before he bent and grabbed the blanket Parker had left. He turned to his left three times, as though he were looking for something, before he settled onto his side and pulled the blanket over himself completely.

Eliot didn't know if it was the lifting of the curse or the dregs of the sedatives that were making Matchitehew so tired but Eliot hoped the man could find some peace in rest. Keme leaned against the side of his pickup and watched his brother sleep. Ewen hopped up, to sit on the tailgate of the truck, looking pretty tired himself.

"Eliot." Ewen waved Eliot over. "What's the plan from here?"

"Is sleeping for a week an option?" Keme asked as he joined Ewen on the tailgate.

"I won't stop you, but you should know that Parker has a tendency to draw on people with Sharpe markers when she gets bored and they are asleep." A corner of Eliot's mouth quirked at the thought when he remembered what happened to Hardison the last time. "Keme, who was that man we killed? I could be wrong but you seemed to know him." Eliot knew the man had left them no choice and he was pretty sure he wouldn't be seeing him in his nightmares, but still, it would be good to know how they had come to that point.

Keme gulped and looked pale. "Wisakachek." Eliot could smell Keme's fear. Keme took a few shallow breaths. "I don't know who the man really was but that was the wolf that turned me, and my brother, all those years ago."

Ewen looked back and forth between Keme, and Eliot. "I thought you had killed that wolf not long after you were turned?"

"I thought I had. I swear, I sank my teeth into his throat and shook him until he was dead." Keme took several more shallow breaths. Eliot pulled Keme off the tailgate and had him stand while he took several slow deep breaths. "I don't know… I can't explain…"

"That's alright. He's dead now and no mistake." Eliot rubbed a comforting hand across Keme's shoulders.

"It takes a lot to kill an old wolf and you were a scared child. None of us blames you." Ewen gripped Keme's shoulder in reassurance. "It explains a few things though."

"How so?" Eliot looked past Keme at Ewen's face.

"One of the reasons Nati wasn't sure what curse we were dealing with was because the curse lasted this long after the caster died. She kept saying it should be a certain curse, from what you had described, but that curse shouldn't have lasted this many years. Now we know why the curse persisted." Ewen looked like a man fitting together the last pieces of a puzzle.

"So the curse ended when Wisakachek died? We didn't have to force Mattie's change and do the whole ritual?" Keme looked back at his brother who was still sleeping behind them in the bed of the truck.

"Well I suppose not, but Nati said the curse could last for several years after the caster died if they were very powerful." Ewen shrugged.

"Who is Nati?" Keme looked at Ewen.

"My alpha. She is a magic user and so is my mate." Ewen's eyes flashed yellow for a moment.

Keme turned a look on Eliot. "You are a very strange alpha. I've never seen a pack like yours, that has humans and people that don't actually belong to you." Keme shook his head in confusion.

Eliot chuckled. "Not that hard to understand. I just have very good friends."