The Highway Man



By: Lopaka Tanu

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Email: jlrjroon@ccrtc.com

Fandom: Due South

Category: Slash AU Crossover

Rating: Nc-17.

Warning: Character Death, Horror, Out of Character, Violence, Humans Getting Ate, Language, and some other odds and ends.

Archive: Sure, tell me where.

Challenge: A story for Halloween, and The HighwayMan by Loreena McKennitt.

Summary: While Benton Fraser is on the trail of a Nodalisk, not all is what it appears to be in a small town. Can he survive his prey, a delinquent wolf, and the crazy denizens of Chicago Lake? All in all, it is just another day in the life of The Highway Man.

Author's Note: This story is a whole lot of stuff mixed together. Some of it is in POV mode and some not. Just hang in there and you may yet survive. I created monster specially for this story, in writing, there is no bad monster, only bad authors. Guess the Crossover, I dare ya.

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Part 1

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees. The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas. The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor. And the highwayman came riding, Riding, riding, The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



He sat at the counter sipping the coffee. This road side diner was no different than any other. In the middle of no where, it was just perfect for his purpose. No one to recognize him, and no one to remember if he had been.

Benton Fraser was no stranger to these places. This small out of the way town had one bar, a diner, a service station, and a town hall. So small not even a boarding house to put him up for the night. Not that he planned on staying long. The locals didn't look friendly, and some down right hostile.

A sigh escaped his lips as he set down the cup. He paid for the meal, left a small tip for the lousy service, picked up his broad brimmed hat and walked out the door to his burden once more. This was a never ending cycle, as the door closed he looked around to see if anyone was watching. No one around, he faced the annoyed being at his feet.

"What is it that is so important? Can't I have five minutes of peace with-out you demanding my attention?"

'I want my body back.'

Ben glared at the wolf. "You have your body."

'I am sick of being the wolf!'

"Forget it. I am not changing, you know that, Diefenbaker."

The wolf snorted at him then turned to head down the road, tail up and mocking him. 'I will remember this, *Human*.'

"Fine, be that way, but you are still not getting me to change. I told you before you even did it." He might have been talking to himself for all the good it was doing. Ben let the wolf walk on further down the road before putting on his hat and following. If he was going to make it to his destination before sun down, he had to leave now. There was lot of space between here and Chicago Lake. Being on foot didn't help matters, thirty miles was thirty miles.

Sometimes he got lucky and someone would pick both him and the white wolf up. Most of the time, though, they would take one look at one or the other and keep on going. If they were linked, he would have been more than happy to leave the annoyingly self centered wolf.

Eighteen years ago he had been a normal person. Eighteen years ago, he had had a life, someone to love, and a good home. Being a Mountie was not the best job, and he barely earned enough to get by, but it was who he was. Was being the operative word.

That all changed the night he met what he thought to be another normal punk teenager on the run from the law. He should have never listened to the kid, just taken him in to the jail and let it be. No, he had to be the hero and actually feel sorry for the trouble maker. His grand mother had instilled too many values in him to let it go. So now he was paying for it, and he would continue to do so until they found one who could remove the curse.

Benton shook his head. Thinking like that would only get him into more trouble. He didn't need to think on what he was so painfully reminded of every time he looked at Diefenbaker. Now he knew better, now he felt no pitty, only a dull sense of anger.

Diefenbaker had been a teenager all right, and rebellious to the last. On the run from people he wouldn't say, and the law for petty crimes too numerous to mention. He was a nightmare from which there was no escape, and it was all his fault. Diefenbaker had no one to blame but himself. 'If he had not tried to escape, if he had not flipped in front of you, if you weren't so damned noble and Mountie like. *Always got to get your man.* It is was just a stupid saying, and not even the official motto.'

Oh well, he had learned his lesson the hard way, and he wasn't about to forget it ever again. They said the road to hell was paved with good intentions, now he knew it was true. Since then he only took contract jobs for people that could pay. Didn't matter if what you wanted done was illegal, just as long as it didn't harm the innocent, he would do it.

His last job had ended badly, before the contractor could pay, the entire clan was wiped out by his current prey. They had wanted a group of red necks dead for killing one of their young. Ben had been more than happy to oblige them. Payment would have been a cerulean dragon's heart dagger. Nothing special, just a pretty piece of cutlery. When he had returned after fulfilling his end of the agreement, they were all dead, butchered.

He had recognized the scent of a Nodalisk. Creatures smelled of acid and pine trees from their diet of pine sap and the digestive juices of mammal stomachs. A Nodalisk, like all beings, could assume human form after it had fed. It would not reveal itself again until when next the need to feed struck it. In the natural form it was six feet of fur and claws, similar to a badger, only with six arms.

The creature had left a trail of death across the Midwest, back to the borders of his lost home. He refused to return there until he could find a way to relieve himself of the curse. This creature was bringing him close to braking that promise. If it was not for the dagger, he would have simply let the monster get away. But no one takes what is his and lives, no one.

Benton was shaken out of his revelry by the sounding of a horn. A look behind him revealed a truck pulling over, a black haired man behind the wheel. A deputy sheriff's cruiser. He sighed, this was all he needed, the local law harassing him. The cruiser pulled up along side him, the window already rolled down.

"Where are ya headed?" The deputy lowered his mirrored glasses and accessed Benton.

Ben did the same from under the brim of his hat. "Chicago Lake."

"Same here, just finished makin the rounds. Need a lift?"

"Gotta wolf with me."

"Got a permit?"

He nodded as he lifted his hat and pulled out the paper for the deputy.

The deputy glanced at it, nodded and handed it back. "Jump in, wolf too."

"Thank you kindly." Benton replaced the paper in his hat, and opened the door. "Diefenbaker!"

The petulant wolf took one look at the cruiser and snorted his disgust.

"Now!"

Dief ignored the commanding voice and continued walking down the road.

"Looks like you have a problem child." The Deputy smiled as Ben nodded. "Better warn him there are several local wolves, and they don't tolerate strangers. If they can't dominate your wolf, they will try to kill him."

"Here that Diefenbaker, you have the choice of being out here with all your cousins, or riding with me. What will it be?"

After a few moments, the wolf came bounding up into the cruiser growling his anger. He took the front seat and dared Benton to move him. Dief hadn't counted on the Deputy doing just that. A large hand grabbed the scruff of his neck and dragged him in the back with-out any care for his feelings or dignity.

"Off the seat mutt!"

Dief glared but complied with the orders.

"Thank you." Ben said as he climbed in and shut the door.

"Not a problem. Always nice to meet somebody new, especially around here. No body comes to Chicago Lake anymore, not since they closed down the brewery after the fire. Sure the local county kids spend all their time there, being the capital of the county, but no one I haven't seen before." He looked at Diefenbaker through the rearview mirror. "Or arrested for that matter."

Ben looked at the wolf as he choked for a moment. "That must be a lot of trouble for one person."

"Not as much as you might think. They usually only stay for a night, let the alcohol run through their system, and then I let them go. Of course the county roads are always clean now." He smiled again as he observed the interaction between Benton and Diefenbaker. "I'm John Kanin, deputy John Kanin if ya didn't get the cruiser."

"Benton Fraser, nice to meet you." He accepted the offered hand with a tight smile. "This here is my wolf, Diefenbaker. Please ignore any transgression he might perform, he has no since of decency or morals."

"Well as long as he keeps his paws to himself and not hump the legs of the town's folk, I promise to look the other way to an extent."

"Thank you kindly. I shall endeavor to keep him out of trouble, but he seems to be even more than my efforts can handle."

'Hey, I am right here!'

"Yes, you are. And if you weren't so reckless, neither of us would be." He tried to smile at the look John gave him. "Diefenbaker is unhappy we are talking about him. Don't look at me that way, you can walk to town. I am sure there are plenty of wolves who would love to have you."

Diefenbaker growled at him as he settled down on the floor board of the back seat.

"I must apologize, Diefenbaker has been rather cranky lately. I must appear to be..."

"Nuts?"

"Yes."

"Nah, I have seen wolves react like Humans before, that is nothing special around here. Now a wolf acting like a spoiled brat is another thing." John laughed at the angry growl from the back. "Nothing new. So tell me, what brings you to a small town like Chicago Lake?"

"Business. I am here to collect my property from one who stole it."

"Yeah, well just don't cause any problems around here and we will be just fine. There is an inn at the far side of town, and a general store two blocks from that. Stay away from the lake side unless you want to be over run by the local young after dark. Big parties up there, that is when I get my next week's work detail." He wiggled an eyebrow. "It is sort of a competition among them, to see who gets caught among their friends by driving by and throwing trash out of the back of their trucks and cars. Just a fair warning, they have been known to get overzealous in their efforts while under the influence, so be weary around them."

Fraser nodded. "Sound advice, I will be sure to heed it."

"You do that. Looks like we are here. I will drop you off at the inn, sheriff's station is just another three blocks from the general store, so if you need me, yell really loud." He pulled over in front of the inn to let Benton and Dief out. "You take care and follow my advice. I have been here two years now, and I still don't know all the secrets around here. If you see anything out of the ordinary, contact me directly. I think the sheriff likes to keep things like that under wraps, bad press is not something this town needs."

Ben nodded and waved as John drove away. Something about what he said struck a nerve. The local sheriff tried to hide strange events. That might be a problem with his goals, especially if he is hiding the creature. He took a long look at the town, it was larger than he originally thought.

There were a good thirty thousand people living in Chicago Lake, more than the quiet hamlet he had been led to believe by the locals of Mareborn, the town he had just left an hour earlier. This would complicate things a little, but not much. He just had to be more careful than usual, that's all. Now if only he could convince Diefenbaker to stay out of trouble.

Said wolf was busily sniffing at the air, he smelled many wonderful things. From food to sex. The girl and boy on the corner holding hands and sucking face, were the source of the sex. 'Girls', he gave a snort to the thought. The kids were only about two years old. Okay so they were more like fifteen, but they were still kids to him. The food however was coming from the restaurant attached to the inn. Meat!

He started to whine involuntarily. 'Oh gods this is so degrading. Fraser I am warning you, get me some meat and a place to stay now or I will do something you won't like.'

Fraser stared down at his companion with a smirk. "Like what?"

'You asked for it Mountie!' Before Benton could do anything he was off like a light. He ran towards the opening door of the restaurant, intending to dash inside, but a man blocked his path. He barreled over the man landing butt first on the man's chest. With a cheeky grin, he looked at cold blue eyes. 'Hey stud muffin, fancy meeting you here.'

"Get off, toilet breath."

The low deadly tone made Dief back off lowering his ear and his tail between his legs. A whimper escaped his lips as the man stood with mechanical precision.

"I am terribly sorry. Diefenbaker was hungry I guess..."

"Save it!" The spiky blonde fixed Benton with steel tinted eyes. "I will expect payment for the damage to the suit."

"What's goin on here?" A tenor voice asked with an undercurrent of threat.

"Big blue here's dog tackled me as I was leaving. Make sure he gets the bill for the damage to my suit." He looked at the second spiky blonde with a steady gaze until he received a nod. As he turned to go, Benton blocked his path. "Get out of my way."

"I think you should let me check you over..." Ben didn't get to finish as he was picked up by the collar and set down out of the way by the second blonde.

"After you, cousin."

"Thank you, Tyler, you may earn my support yet." The first blonde shrugged his suit jacket in to position again and stormed off towards the parking lot. After his car tore out of the lot, the remaining men and wolf looked at each other.

"I would stay out of his way if I were you, stranger."

"I am sorry about Diefenbaker."

Tyler eyed Benton with an appraising stare. "What brings you to Chicago Lake?"

"Business."

"Good, I'm a business man myself. Perhaps I can be of service."

Benton shook his head no as he headed in to the restaurant. "Thank you, may be later."

As Ben passed, Tyler scented him. Eyes flashing yellow for a moment, he smirked. "Any time. Don't worry about my cousin, he is more of a blow hard. He won't do anything over a torn suit, hates them with a passion. Just try to avoid him and you will be fine."

Ben nodded his thanks and continued in to the building, Dief at his heels. The people in the restaurant looked at him but continued on with their morning meals. All of it was meat. Well there was a guy at the counter with toast as well. He didn't like the looks of things, but Dief was in heaven.

'Hurry up, I am starving.'

The restaurant went quiet as they focused on Dief and Ben. Dief glared at them.

'What are you lookin at?'

"Diefenbaker!" Benton gave a weak smile as he scolded Dief. "Go outside now!"

'But...'

"Now!"

'Up yours Mountie.' He turned and ran out of the restaurant.

"Sorry about that, he can be rather rude some times." With another apologetic smile he headed up to the counter. "Can I get a large order of the special?"

"Comin up." The young woman behind the counter took his order.

Left to his own devices he looked around the room. Spotting the door to the inn, he headed through the glass divider. A homely looking man was behind the counter reading a newspaper and eating a donut. "Excuse me, is there room available?"

"Yeah, forty a night," the bored clerk stated with-out looking up.

He paid for the room and collected his key, before heading back to the restaurant. Once again the room went quiet as he entered the establishment. Ignoring their stares and whispers, he paid for the food when it arrived and walked out. So much for keeping a low profile. Diefenbaker was going to pay for it now.

Ben spent the next half hour searching the town for both signs of Dief and the Nodalisk. After nothing turning up, he returned to the inn and his room. He set his satchel next to the bed and slowly stripped from his leather and cotton clothes. Assuming the lotus position in the center of the bed, he took a deep breath and concentrated.

Dark images came to his mind's eyes. 'Where are you Diefenbaker?' He looked out through the eyes of the wolf and saw dark shapes. As he drew nearer the dark shapes Dief started to talk back.

'Where am I? Wouldn't you like to know?'

'Yes, as matter of fact I would.'

'I warned you, Mountie.'

'You are in no position to threaten me, Diefenbaker. As the Human, I have the controlling share of our abilities. Now where are you?'

'About to create a hostile take-over.'

'What...' The thought was unfinished as the images gained focus and he saw what little color the wolf could and recognized himself on the bed.

'Say good night Fraser. I promise not to get in to too much trouble. You will like being the wolf. As a matter of fact, try it for a few years.' Diefenbaker jumped on Fraser's back sending them both flying over the bed.

'Diefenbaker, you know what happens when you become human.'

'I get the control!'

'We become vulnerable.'

'So what!' The wolf lunged again at Fraser who narrowly dodged the blow.

'We could die!'

'That is a risk I am willing to take. For eighteen years I have been stuck as the wolf. It is now your turn!' He made one last jump and sent Fraser in to the end table, knocking him unconscious. 'Finally!' Dief concentrated on being human, with-out Fraser's controlling mind to stop him, he finally returned to his true form.

He stood shakily on his hind legs looking down at his body. "Gods it's good to be back." He admired the shape of his body for a few minutes as he touched himself to make sure he was all there. Turning to the mirror, he admired the short spiky locks of blonde hair. Dief shot his mirror self and winked. "Lookin good, gorgeous."

With a smirk, he reached down and grabbed himself. "Nice to see you to. Been too long." A final shake, he released his member and looked back at the mirror. His eyes flashed yellow as a memory from earlier rose in to his mind. "So you grew up, little Tyler Creed. Wonder what Ray meant when he said you wanted his support? Guess it's time to get back in the family business."

He gave a look at the unconscious white wolf at his feet. "Enjoy the stay as the wolf, Benton. Better get used to it, you are going to be that way for a long time." Diefenbaker Cates started to laugh as he moved to head for the door. As he lifted one leg to go in front of the other, he forgot about being Human and fell flat on his face.

This was going to take some time.

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Part 2

He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin, A coat of claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin; They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to the thigh! And he rode with a jewelled twinkle, His pistol butts a-twinkle, His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Dief put on the leather outfit he found inside the bag, the same one he had been wearing the night he was locked in that body. If he ever got his hands on that woman, he was going to stomp a mud hole in her ass then stomp it dry. Victoria. Whore! Whatever Benton had saw in her was beyond him. Women were nothing but trouble, bitches to bare offspring, that's it.

Now if he could find someone to fuck, this day might start to get better. eighteen years with-out sex. Licking himself did not count! No matter how much pleasure he derived from it. It was probably the only good thing about being a wolf. One thing about being a wolf, you learn to enjoy the simple things in life.

Clothes, he had always enjoyed a good set of clothes. A suit was something not even he could tolerate, he knew where Ray was coming from. Ray was a year older than him, but they were the best of the worst crowd back before. Silently he wondered what Ray was up to that got him so important.

Dief thought back on what the deputy had said. The brewery was gone. He wondered if his brothers were still in control of the hill. If anyone was in power it was his brother Willard. That guy was always so serious. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, if his brother was in control, he might be able to use that to his advantage.

Silently he hoped that bitch Vivian had married Donner and not sullied his family name with her presence. She was too much like Tyler for the good of the pack. Definitely time for him to find out all that he had been missing.

One last strap and the leather vest was in place. It barely covered his eternally youthful skin. Like the leather pants, it was held together like a corset, leather laces up the sides. It cut away from his front, to reveal more laces that held a piece of leather barely big enough to conceal his package. The back of his pants was solid leather, while the vest was strips of leather and laces. Leather gauntlets finished the outfit, each contained a removable dagger on top, and a retractable dagger on the bottom.

Bad Boy look now complete, he practiced walking, and a little kata to loosen up the limbs. Now he was ready, look out Chicago Lake, Diefenbaker was back and ready for action.

Exiting the inn's room, he noticed there were cars heading down the main drag towards the lake. This was going to be fun, it had been too long since he went to a good party. He had learned that many things had changed including the sayings. His pierced ears were no longer a statement of rebellion, but a show of your style.

He decided that golden hoops were the look he was going for, and pulled a pair from the leather bag that contained the things Benton collected for the jobs they did. It was mostly jewelry and ancient coins, the money they collected was in another pouch on his other hip. A silver chain around his neck, and six gold rings, three for each hand, a silver ring with a bracelet attached went on each wrist and ring finger. Dief decided that he liked the silver and replaced the gold rings with the silver ones in the bag.

His stomach protested the lack of food, he had not eaten today, what with knocking out the Mountie, relearning to walk, and getting that dog smell off him in the shower, who had time? Letting his stomach do the leading, he found himself back at the restaurant. The crowd went silent at his appearance. With a wink at one of the few good looking men in the place, he strolled up to the counter.

The waitress was frozen in place, didn't know to melt or run screaming. He liked making that impression on people. She was rather homely looking, about two years younger than his looks, and no nonsense type person. Dief could respect that. Giving her his best grin he ordered a double of the special and paid more than enough for that and tip. She chose to melt.

After he got his meal, he tore into the ribs, and hamburgers. Most of it was gone in a matter of minutes. What little was left he ate slowly so he could talk with Sophia, he read off her name tag. It turns out, she was the daughter of Donner and a human. His brother had married that whore and had a son. His brothers were dead and the whore was in control. That stopped him, he was the last of his generation. He finished the meal quickly and set out for fun leaving Sophia swooning over him.

Time to forget his plans for town conquest and have some fun. Chicago Lake was nothing but small potatoes and he would be moving on soon anyways. Like Benton, he wanted that Nodalisk to pay for stealing their bounty. It was a very pretty dagger after all.

He followed the few cars that were heading out to the lake. Night had fallen by now, and the fun would be starting soon. There were plenty of locals to seduce and get what he wanted from them. Of course Fraser need not know this, any of this. It was after all his home, and his secret to tell if he wanted. Fraser was in for big surprise after they were half way across the country. That is when he would tell him about Chicago Lake being his home, not before. That whiley Mountie might get them in to trouble if he did it too soon.

The lake was like it was back in his day, the place to be. Unfortunately, not like back in his day, everyone was here, from the humans, to the geeks. Just goes to show the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Luke took after dear old dad, and let everyone come to the party. Oh well, he could have some fun here still.

He looked around and caught site of a group of kids that might interest him. In the center was a boy that had blonde hair, and on his arm was a fake blonde. Luke and Presley, had to be. From what Sophia said, she was worse than Vivian ever thought about being. Time to do a little chlorination of the dating pool. His nephew would thank him later.

"Presley, you cheap little slut. You screwin James Dean wanna be over here behind my back?" He shoved Luke out of his way and got in the girl's face. "What the hell do you think you are doing?"

"Excuse me, who the hell do you think you are?" Luke was trying to get in his face.

"I am this little whore's boyfriend, who the fuck are you?"

"You are wrong, I am Presley's boyfriend."

"Oh yeah, then why does she call my name in the heat of passion?" The mere thought of touching the bottle blonde made his skin crawl, but he had to play out the part.

"She... she... Presley, what is he talking about?" Luke turned to face the blanching girl. "Answer me."

"She can't, guilt is a powerful silencer." On the inside he was smiling. "Wasn't I enough for you? I guess that night you spent with my bros should have been a clue about how you like it, fast and with as many as you can get. You really are a tramp!" She was glazing over, tearing up, the lip tremble, and she was off. Score one for the Dief!

As he lost sight of her, he started to laugh. Gone was the wicked witch, and now came the good witch. He turned to face the glaring group of boys. Ah, the brat pack. "What?"

"Who the hell are you?"

"The name is Dief, call me D, and you die." He grabbed a beer from the glaring guys and walked off laughing. Been too long since he had any real fun, and his nephew was just a little too easy. The hand on his shoulder didn't surprise him, but the face attached to it did.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?"

"Well if it isn't little Tyler Creed."

Tyler pulled back as if burned. "What did you call me?"

"Still trying to hang with the cool kids are we? Go on back to your mommy and leave this to the men." Dief turned to go, but was grabbed from behind by two large men and a cloak pulled over his head. "Let go of me you freaks. I swear you will be sorry you ever laid a hand on me. You hear me Tyler, I am going to beat your ass. I guess you never learned your lesson..."

He was silenced as a fist connected with his abdomen. "Oh I learned, I learned real well. You see, if you higher men to do your work for you, you don't have to. You taught me that. The only thing that stopped me from killing you all those years ago was my Cousin. Well Ray aint here to protect you any more D."

Dief felt another kick to his ribs. "You are gonna die you little son of a bitch!"

"Afraid not, you see, I got quite a few friends now. You should have stayed gone Diefenbaker. Deal with this trash, permanently!"

It was over! After only eight hours it was over! 'This is un-fuck-ing-be-liev-a-ble! Fraser, you had better not get used to it, because when I heal, you are going back to being the dog!' He focused on the wolf and let his form shift back to being Diefenbaker the wolf.

Unprepared for the shift, the goons lost their grip and gave Dief the chance he needed to get away. He slipped through the trees before they even noticed he was a wolf. His angry howl filled the night as he took off.

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Part 3

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark innyard, And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred; He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there But the landlord's black-eyed daughter, Bess, the landlord's daughter, Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Benton was having the weird dream about where he was a wolf again. He knew it was a dream because he had warned Dief about what would happen if the wolf had tried to take over control again. The night was early, and the moon had yet to rise this evening.

He noticed all this through the window. Dief had really done it this time. That wolf was going to pay with his hide! Now all he had to do was find a way out of here before he went nuts about being locked up. The wolf in him wanted to be out and run. Finally he opened the door knob with his teeth and paws. Then he was off like a streak.

The town was surprising busy for a Tuesday evening. People were heading out towards a the restaurant and inn. He watched them from the shadows knowing they would not take kindly to having a wolf this close. The Retreat was packed with people, he scanned the crowd and noted that Dief was not there. A few cars were heading out towards the lake, which was the most likely place the trouble maker might be.

With a huff at having to run on all fours, he was off. The woods were surprisingly easy to navigate in the moon light, and the noise from the people acted like a homing beacon for him. As he drew near the crowds, he sensed more than just the normal teens and their hormones. He smelled wolfs, cats, and a scent he would never forget, the Nodalisk.

The damned creature was here, probably stalking it's next victim. There was something different about it though, it smelled off, not that it mattered anyway. If he had his way that creature would be burning in the morning sun like the rest of the filthy trash that roamed the night. Speaking of trash, where the hell was Diefenbaker?

Shaking in the bushes off to his right drew his attention from the smells of the crowds. It was something big and it was coming fast. Fraser dove out of the way in time to avoid being sliced by the large paws of the large cat. He reared on the creature with wide eyes, nostrils flaring. Correction, the were tiger.

The tiger was a mixture of blonde and gold stripes. His fur stuck out in thick disorder as he gave a warning snarl towards Ben. Long white teeth bared to show he meant business.

Benton backed up giving a submissive gesture, even if his wolf form was fully grown and with his pack, there would have been no challenge. The Tiger would win hands down, or paws up as the case may be.

Bristling, the Tiger advanced on the tiny wolf, regarding him with the keenest blue eyes. He sniffed the air around the wolf and snarled again.

Fraser went with his instincts and rolled over bearing his belly as the ultimate act of submissiveness.

After a moment more, the Tiger paced over to him and sniffed at his body.

Fraser inwardly groaned as the whiskers tickled the insides of his lower legs. He tried to stop the huffing breathes when the tiger was at his throat.

The large beast lowered its head and inhaled the scent of the wolf. A tiny growl, and he opened his jaws wide.

Looking into the gaping mouth of the Tiger, Fraser's body lost control and went himself.

A snicker came from the Tiger as it lazily turned and walked off in the woods leaving a stunned and embarrassed Fraser behind.

He rolled over with a huff of indignation. The damned Tiger had only been playing with him. His anger was about to get the better of him when he smelled the pungent odor of the Nodalisk. Turning toward the scent he came across the sharp features of the creature's sour looking face.

The Nodalisk released a shrill scream as it spread wide large jaws.

Unimpressed by the display of aggression, Benton leaped in to action. Jumping on the back of the large creature, he bit deeply in to the skin over the skull snapping at the main spinal cord.

Hoarse screams filled the night as the Nodalisk started to go limp under his continued assault. With the last of its strength, the Nodalisk threw him off its back. Mid way through the air, his world shifted back to normal. A curse died on his lips as he struck the tree, back first.

Darkness was descending fast as he watched the crazed monster turn towards him and run at him. He could only watch in a daze as the creature poised to strike. In the next instant however, his body was coated in foul smelling blood. Opening his eyes one last time, he saw as the Nodalisk was shredded by the Tiger.

Last thoughts filled his mind as darkness swept in. He finally realized what was different about the Nodalisk's scent. This one was female, and slightly smaller than what he had been chasing. It was the wrong damned one. He grunted with laughter then passed out.

________________________________________________________

Part 4

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize tonight, But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light; Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day, Then look for me by the moonlight, Watch for me by the moonlight, I'll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Morning light shined through the windows glaring at him, telling him to wake up. Benton Fraser squeezed his eyes shut after a quick attempt at opening them. A grouchy snort at his side told him there was another being in the room. An imparticularly annoying being at that. "Were you born this much a pain in the rear end, Diefenbaker, or did you cultivate it over years of practice?"

'Be silent you petulant Human! At least you can be Human.'

"I might have let you become Human if you had ever shown any worthiness of the title."

'Oh like being an all so high and mighty Mountie is better than a entrepreneur?'

"You were a thief!"

'Was not!'

"And a liar to boot. There are several other things I could call you, all be accurate, but that would not be appropriate in any venue." A clearing throat brought his eyes snapping open to a face he recent met. This was when he also noticed he was not in the cabin he had paid to rent. "Good morning."

"Yeah, noticed that did you?"

"Yes, quite."

The blonde man with the lean body and dark blue eyes focused on Diefenbaker as he spoke again. "Returned home at last, ya little shit?"

'Hey, Shortstuff.'

Tyler snorted at the wolf. "Pot-Kettle Syndrome, I see you still have no manners. May be I should teach you a few lessons in pack etiquette."

'You and what army, Creeder?' Diefenbaker stood at attention, teeth baring and ears perked up.

'Silence! Tyler finish the job you were told to do and leave.'

All three men, two men and the wolf to be exact, went pale at the strong mental voice.

Tyler bared his teeth at Diefenbaker, then turned back to Benton. "You are lucky to be alive, and shall remain so only as long as the pack sees fit. You are to never reveal what you know about us. Follow our laws, and you may yet live to see tomorrow." He turned to go back out the open door then stopped. "Oh, there is one other thing. You can never leave Chicago Lake alive. Have a good day, gentlemen."

Still caught up in the rush of it all, Benton's mind shut out all that he had just learned. Instead it all focused on one thing. The little white wolf beside him that was busy grumbling at the closed door.

'Of all the things to happen, the bastard Creed thinks he can treat me that way. I will show him who is Alpha. I am so going to make you pay for those remarks pup.'

"Diefenbaker!"

The wolf turned narrowed, glaring eyes at Benton. 'What, Mountie!?!'

"What in hell have you gotten us into?"

'Me?' Diefenbaker stared incuriously at Fraser. 'You are the stubborn ass who brought us here. You just couldn't let the Nodalisk go, no you had to rush off and defend your wounded pride.'

"Don't talk to me of wounded pride, you are the one who's pride caused us to be stuck in together in the first place."

'Oh not that horse shit again. It was eighteen years ago, Benton, GET OVER IT!' The wolf growled at the former Mountie and bolted for the door, with a simple twist, he was out.

Fraser looked at the door with a mixture of rage and fury. He was going to kill that little wolf one of these days. With a silent yell, he shredded the sheets in his hands. Anger abated for the moment, he climbed out the bed. His clothes and satchel were near the bureau. Not caring about how they got here, he grabbed a pair of shorts and headed for the bathroom door.

His shower was short and cold as the hot water tap only groaned when turned on. Dressing in the cutoffs, he headed back in to the room to finish drying and grab a shirt. One thing he had learned over the past two decades was how not to care about what he wore, as long as it did its job. Barefoot and still wet, he headed to find the source of the strong mental voice from earlier.

Outside his room was a long hall that ended in a grand staircase. The sun light filtered in windows overlooking the salon as he strolled down the steps. About midway down, he picked up the sounds of music drifting in from the back of the house. Curiosity filled him as the haunting melody drifted up to him.

Quietly he crept down the stairs and headed towards the music. The closer he got the more of the tune he could make out. He finally reached a large double door. Turning the knob slowly, Benton pushed the door open. Breath caught in his throat as the single person inside danced and sang to the music.

"A clouded dream on an earthly night." His hand twirled as one leg arced infront of the other, balancing as his upper body leaned back and hips swayed. Like a cat, his spine twisted in turn to the music, going the opposite direction of his hips. "Hangs upon the crescent moon. A voiceless song on an ageless night, sings at the coming dawn."

Fraser watched the loin clothed hips and was afraid the person underneath it would snap in half at the angles he achieved. Worse yet the tail peeking out from beneath it was swaying and giving him naughty ideas.

Anklets jingled in tune with the beat and the bracelets. "Birds in flight, are calling there. Where the heart moves the stones." The blonde spiked head turned to face Benton, eyes closed as the man was lost to the beat. The black mark across his eyes and the jewelry in his pointed ears gave him a wild look. "It's there that my heart is longing." Eyes snapped open. "All for the love of you-u."

Fraser was frozen by the blue stare. As the song and dancer finished, he let out a sigh of relief. "Hello..."

The blue eyes narrowed. "You!"

"Yeah, me, I uh, you see." The last thing he remembered was the blonde spinning around and him seeing the business end of the bare foot, then nothing.

_________________________________________________________

Part 5

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast; And he kissed its waves in the moonlight, (Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!) Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Diefenbaker ran down the road towards the lake howling in anger, how could they do this to him? This was his town! Grumbling, he followed an old trail for a while hoping to spot some easy prey. He was in no mood for hunting, just something cute and fluffy to sink his teeth into.

After he had ran off back to the inn, Tyler was waiting there for him, him and his little bitch Buddy too. They had come with a letter of pack law from Vivian saying he was under arrest. He had been brought in front of the council and was about to be tried for something he had done years ago when Kowalski had burst in the room with Benton over his shoulder.

He had never been so glad to see the damned Mountie, that is until they heard what had happened. Benton had got in a fight with a female Nodalisk, nearly getting killed. Not only had the idiot exposed that he was a wolf, but he had also gotten in a fight with the wrong damned one. They turned to Diefenbaker as he started to growl. He had spent the next half hour explaining how they got linked.

"Picture it, Back ass woods of Canada, 1984. A young entrepreneur who just happened to be a runaway wolf meets a stick in the mud Mountie who has a major Jones for this Victoria chick. They have a fling, she decides once you go Mountie you go celibate. His sexual frustrations make him put extra effort in to his work. This is when he meets our hero, the cute, sexually misguided wolf-boy. Wolf-boy has a deal in the works to get him some Canadian papers in order to effectively hide from the losers he calls family.

"Mr. Not so Straight or Narrow, while fucking Wolf-boy's brains out in his marriage bed, gets them caught by the witch wife with his screams. She gets pissed that he could get it up for the cute wolf, and not for her frosted ass and curses them both to be as one. One can not live with-out the other, neither can die or age if in their true form, oh and one has to be the wolf while the other man. We both share the same wolf form, but maintain our original form. So for the past eighteen years our hero and his zero have traveled the north American continent looking for a way to lift the curse.

"While they travel, they come across others in need of their help. For a reasonable price, they do. All this time though, our hero is trapped in the body of a wolf. He finally gets his chance to be human if only for a little while and he gets assaulted by the spiked, blonde bitch and his little bitchettes. So you see it is all just so not fair to our hero."

Of course Vivian, the whore dog she is, didn't see it that way. She saw it as the ample opportunity to get revenge for all the nasty names he called her in school. Not like she didn't deserve it.

So here he was, stuck with Benton the Mounted Idiot, again. His punishment is to be stuck with the man until the curse is lifted, which is only when he learns the true meaning of love. Which means he and Benton were stuck this way forever. For the incident happening on Ray's land, he was charged with the welfare of Benton. Needless to say the man was pissed.

At least he got out of having to make up for all his bad deeds with this town, he would be here forever. As soon as Benton had his dagger, they were out of this one whore house town. He was distracted from his thoughts by noises near the lake front.

Voices coming from the distance lead him to a large clearing in the center of the woods. He checked the moon and his memory and smiled. So it was tonight that it would happen. Samhain night had to be celebrated with tradition, and he knew the perfect traditionalist for tonight. His smile grew broader as he noted who the work crew was.

Luke and all his little friends were in bright orange jump suits with their names stitched on the front pocket. 'Get caught much?' They were clearing the field of all debris, setting up the fire, tables, and the sacrificial altar. One of Luke's little friends was telling him something.

"Have you seen Presley today?"

"Nah man, she disappeared after that weirdo in the leather fuckin told her off."

'I am not a weirdo little shit! For that you are going down, nephew or not!' Growling, he was about to bound in to the clearing when something grabbed him from behind. He turned to bite the man, but was silenced as the clawed hand reeking hand slapped him across the muzzle. His final moments were filled with the stinking smell as the Nodalisk tore in his belly.

His death howls shook the trees, causing the worker crews to come find what happened. The sight that greeted them had several of them running for the bushes to heave their breakfast up. With-out having to be told what happened, they knew that he was dead. But what was really disturbing was that the body was shifting from a wolf to a man.

"Holy shit!" Deputy John Kanin stood back watching as the wolf finished the transformation in to a man. "That's not good."

"No," a hand on his arm and he was brought around to face yellow eyes. "No it is not, and you seeing it didn't help matters either."

"What?"

"I am sorry deputy." A dark smirk across the full lips. "Actually, no I'm not."

The next instant John was on the ground under a large gray wolf, and unconscious. The wolf looked at the young ones surrounding him. 'Go tell Vivian and the Sheriff, we got a body.' Tyler turned his muzzle down to sniff at John's face. "And we got our sacrifice." His once again Human face smirked with yellow eyes.

_______________________________________________________

Part 6

He did not come at the dawning; he did not come at noon, And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon, When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor, A red-coat troop came marching, Marching, marching King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Ray stood over the fallen man, a perfect print of the top of his foot on the temple. With a disgusted sigh, he walked over to the door way at the other side of the studio, turning off the cd player. This was just perfect, the man he knew nothing about, who had caused him more trouble than his past was laying on his floor. He had to find out what gods he pissed off and make good with them.

Stepping over the body, he headed to the parlor and grabbed the phone. Pounding in a few numbers he waited for the answer. Tail twitching in aggravation, he sighed. "C'mon Frannie, pic up already." When the other end finally did answer he went quiet.

"Hello," came a gruff deep voice.

"Yeah, hey Lieu. How's business?"

"Kowalski?"

"The one and only."

A deep sigh. "What did you do this time?"

"Nuthin, I swear." He looked down at the man in the door way twenty feet away. "Oh well okay I did do something, but the guy snuck up on me. What was I supposed to do, lift the ole loin cloth and say ride me big boy?"

"Wouldn't be the first time."

"Hardy har har, what am I ta do about tonight? I gotta take sleepin Mountie here with me wherever I goes. An I aint gonna dance in front of no stranger, bad enough he already gotta peep show of me in the studio rehearsing." He was starting to pace and hit things with his tail. "I need to know what the council said about this perve. I mean am I supposed to keep him with me twenty-four seven until they decide he is no longer a risk?"

"Hold on, Kowalski, don't get your panties in a twist. From what we gathered last night, which is not a lot because we all know how much of a liar that damned wolf is, Benton and he are only in town long enough to catch a local nuisance, then they are gone. The Council needs more information before they decide anything." Welsh sighed. "Vivian is pushing for the elders to make them stay, while Sherman, as their elder, is against the entire idea."

"Since when do we let the wolves push us around like this?"

"Since they are the largest group of were animals in Chicago lake, they have most of the political say."

"How did a group, that's only means of introducing a new member is through reproduction, get so god damned big?"

"They are wolves, you do the math."

"These are wolves we are talking about here, not rats."

Welsh's laugh echoed over the phone. "Might as well be. Just see what you can get out of your esteemed colleague then report back pronto."

"Fine, Lieu, some help you are."

"I do my best."

"Yeah, just as long as it doesn't interfere with my Samhain festival. I am gonna get that fluffy pussy tonight."

"How is Stella?"

Ray groaned. "Stella is still being the frosty bitch. I tell you, I am going to win that hunt tonight if it is the last thing I do. Last night I got some real good practice."

"I heard she disappeared."

"She attacked wonder mutt in here. I had to defend my honor, as he was in my territory, it fell to me to protect him."

"Be on the look out, I hear there is another one. It is said to be spraying, looking for a mate."

Examining his finger nails, Ray smiled. "Greatness. I will deal with it like I dealt with Ms. Priss."

"Don't ya mean, Presley?"

"Whatever Lieu, gotta go, sleepin Mountie is waking up."

"Good luck, if he is anything like Diefenbaker, and from eighteen years of being in constant contact it is a good chance, you will need it." The line went dead as Ray laid the receiver back in it's cradle.

Stretching his muscles, Ray walked back to stand over the awakening Benton. Head tilted to the right, he bent over and stared at the Mountie's face. Benton's eyes opened as a guilty smile crossed his features.

"I wasn't fooling you..."

"Not for a second. How much did you hear?"

"Who is Stella?"

Ray looked away as he pursed his lips and nodded. "Okay, we can work with that." He grabbed Ben by the front of his shorts and lifted the man up. Sniffing around his crotch, Ray smiled. "Fresh."

"Excuse me?" Fraser felt like a child as the smaller man carried him by the front of his shorts back towards the stairs one handed. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to pry, but can you possibly put me down?"

"What, don't like being carried like a picnic basket?"

"Not particularly."

"Too bad, Benton buddy."

"Ah."

Ray stopped in the living room on the other side of the stair case and laid Fraser out like a buffet on the coffee table. "Don't move. We are going to talk about you."

"Why can't I move."

"Because yur a freak, things... weird things... painful things happen around you. Every time I see you, some one get's hurt, last time it was you, next time it could be me. So just lay there and answer my questions. Pretend I am a therapist and you are my patient."

"Okay." That sat there for about five minutes while Ray grew more aggravated.

"Well are you going to tell me?"

"Tell you what?"

"Okay I have yet to ask a question, stupid me. Start with how you and ass hole... I mean Diefenbaker met."

Benton laid there, his hands folded over his lower abdomen in thought. "It was eighteen years ago, I was a member of the RCMP, and you are correct, he is an ass hole."

Ray smiled, he was getting to like this Benton Fraser.

"I was on a case for forgeries. I busted the men making visas for American criminals who were trying to escape their country. Diefenbaker was in the next room hand cuffed to a radiator. I thought he was their prisoner because he was an innocent kid. He looked at me with the saddest eyes, I had no idea how in-depth he was at acting. Instead of processing him with the rest, I let him go on the belief that he would stay for the trial.

"That night he ran for the border to Alaska. I tracked him down, not knowing what he was, I was puzzled how he had came to be so far so fast. Finally I cornered him near a wide river and he fell in. I grabbed him out of the ice and saved his life at the cost of my Stetson. As we headed back to my posting, he grew sick. Fearing he might catch pneumonia, I stayed in the same bag to share body heat.

"This went on the entire week until we reached my cabin, the day before I was going to take him in for his crimes. That just happened to be the same night my fiancÚ Victoria came back from visiting her mother. Diefenbaker was feeling slighted because his charms did not work on me, so when she came in, he rolled me on top, and started writhing beneath me.

"Victoria took one look, screamed a curse, her body was back lit by black light, and she uttered another curse, in Latin I believe it was. Diefenbaker and I merged as one, that is the last I remember before waking up the next morning a wolf. In anger I tackled him and demanded answers from him. He passed out when his head hit the bed, and I wished I was human and here I am. Since my mind was more disciplined, I had the control, even in my sleep he could not transform back to human. That is until last night when he finally realized what it took to make me loose my control." Benton finished with a sigh. "You turn."

"What?" Ray sat forward from his daze. "What do you mean, my turn?"

"Your turn to tell me how you met Diefenbaker."

"Fine!" Ray sat back again thinking. "He and I grew up together, two members of the were animal community. We were the worst lot around here. Now it is your turn again, why are you here?"

"We first came to town on the trail of my client's killer. You see over the past eighteen years he and I became freelancers. We did almost anything if the price was right. My last client, a Skilosh Demon Clan had several of their young brutally beaten, and one even killed by the local rednecks. Diefenbaker and I were hired to terminate their existence for a Cerulean Dragon's Heart Dagger. It was a very pretty dagger, and I wanted to see justice served, so we took the job.

"Unfortunately, their clan are peaceful beings, unable to defend themselves. So when the Nodalisk came along, they were slaughtered. We came back as the last of the trail from the Nodalisk started to go cold, literally. Tracking the beast, we followed a trail of carnage all the way to Chicago lake. I thought perhaps I might have gotten him last night, but a large were Tiger killed it, it being a female was the wrong one. So our killer is still out there with my dagger." Benton turned his head to regard his host. He noted the spiky hair and the color of both it and his eyes. "My turn, was it you?"

"What d'ya mean?"

"Was it you who saved me last night?"

"Oh, yeah, sure." Ray stood up looking at the wall clock. "Listen, I gotta make a few phone calls. You go in the kitchen and make yerself somethin, I dunno, jus somethin." He left the room with-out preamble.

Benton let out a sigh of relief when the scantly clad man left the room. Moving his hands, he looked down at the painful bulge that had been growing since Ray had sat down in his peripheral vision in nothing but a loin cloth. As Ray had to continued to spread his legs, causing his penis to shift in to sight just under the front flap, Benton thanked the heavens for the restrictive pants. Something about the sight and smell of Ray was driving him to a severe case of blue balls, a kind of reaction not even Victoria could elicit from him.

He sat up on the table and turned to face the rest of the house, where to find the kitchen? A resigned sigh, and he was off in the maze known as Ray's place.

_________________________________________________________

Part 7

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead, But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed; Two of them knelt at the casement, with muskets at their side! there was death at every window and hell at one dark window; For Bess could see, through the casement, The road that he would ride.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Fraser glanced around the kitchen as he listened out for his host. Something was going on that Ray was not telling him about. For starters why was the man dressed like he was going to run through the forest hunting wild animals. Another thing that was bothering him about Ray was how the man drove him crazy with need.

It was most unsettling to find himself in the position he had not been in since his days before the training academy. He had wanted to grab that man by his tail... Ray had a tail! Ray wasn't Human! That explained something's, but why Halloween night?

Ray had said something about hunting and getting some... mating with a woman named Stella. What was so special about Samhain night? Beltane was the night in Celtic legend for mating rituals. Including the stag hunt for the right to claim the virgin maiden. Was this some similar ritual, was Ray going to hunt a stag for a chance with Stella, and the main question, was this Stella a virgin? If Ray's description of her was anything to go by, it was a good possibility.

Then another thought occurd to him, Ray was interested in Stella, a woman. That meant he was out of the picture, unless Ray too liked men. It was not totally unheard of, he was living proof. There was still a chance if he really wanted it, the only question was, did he want it? Did he want to take Ray, to mate with the wiry were tiger?

His paradoxical thoughts were interrupted as Ray strutted in to the room, tail swishing from side to side with a smile on his face. "Guess what, Frase."

"What, Ray?"

"You are coming to the festival tonight. There you are going to participate in all the fun and games we have, and you are going to have a good time. Then afterwards we will decide what to do with you." His smile was short lived as he saw the glazed look in Ben's eyes. "Come on, it aint that boring." He turned around in a snort, tail tip twitching in agitation. "I don't think you understand what I am offering here."

"I understand perfectly, Ray."

"Wha..." Before he could turn to reply, he was bent over the kitchen sink. Warm hands were gripping him under the breach cloth, rubbing his man hood in gentle strokes. His eyes glowed blue as Benton lifted his tail, stroking the base of it. His body tensed with the pleasure, breath catching in his throat. Mindless of all else but those hands, it was when he felt burning hot flesh touch his inner thighs that panic gripped him. It wasn't time, he wasn't ready, his mind shouted. "No."

Fraser ignored the moaned response as he readied himself to take the were tiger.

"No, let go. I'm not ready. I'm not ready! Get off me, I said let me go!" With all his strength, he tossed Benton back against the wall behind him. Silently, he let his head droop to the sink. He wasn't ready, ready for what, he didn't know. It just wasn't time.

"Ray, I'm sorr..."

"Save it, Fraser, just go get dressed." He ignored the pathetic attempts by Ben to apologize and waited until he was out of the room before he collapsed against the counter and started to cry. It was in this position thirty minutes later that Tyler found him.

Tyler was at his side in an instant and holding him close. "Did that bastard do this?"

Ray shook his head as he mumbled a no.

"Then what happened, it has been years since I seen you like this?" He stroked his cousin's hair as he rocked him. "Tell me what happened, I am tired of you waiting until it just goes away. It will never away until you tell me about it. Why were you crying the night Diefenbaker left?"

Ray tried to pull away, but Tyler held fast.

"Tell me!"

"I can't, it hurts."

"It will hurt worse the longer you let it fester. Tell me so I can have another reason to celebrate that bastard's death."

Ray drew back from Tyler to look at his face with wide eyes. "It can't be!"

"Yep, found him not an hour ago, in the woods near the festival site. Something tore his belly out, and swallowed it whole. Son of a bitch deserved what he got." Tyler found himself against the wall opposite his cousin.

"Never speak of him that way again!"

"What the hell crawled up your ass? He is just another Cates mongrel, it's not you and him ever... Holy shit! You mean you and Dief were..."

"Yes! That is part of the reason for what I can't tell you. What I won't tell you. Is that all you came over for, was to gloat over the death of my friend?"

Tyler looked away as he nodded.

"Fine, ya delivered your message now get up and go. We will be at the festival in a few hours time, and I don't want Benton knowing about this. No matter what he might say, he and Diefenbaker were friends. Now get out of here."

"Yes Ma'am." Tyler saluted his cousin then ducked out of the house laughing at Ray's stern face.

Ray was overwhelmed. He couldn't think about the ramifications of what he had just learned, right now. There were other important things, he had a festival to attend, he had people to meet, he had... He needed to get away. "Frase, hurry yer ass up! Time ta go. Pitter Patter."

The sounds of Fraser coming down the stairs like a heard of elephants gave him an alert that the other man was close. Wiping the traces of tears from his eyes, he ran to the bathroom to reapply the black kohl to his face. As he came out, he saw Fraser dressed in leather pants and matching vest. Ray took time to take in the view.

Fraser spun slowly. "Do you think this will be appropriate?"

"Eh yeah, c'mon, we don' want to be late."

Fraser noticed the slight puffiness around Ray's eyes, but held his tongue in favor of smoothing going. He only hoped that this would continue until they would simply deem them harmless and let he and Dief go. Speaking of the wolf, he hoped the damned child had not got in more trouble.

_________________________________________________________

Part 8

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest; They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast! "now keep good watch!" And they kissed her. She heard the dead man say "Look for me by the moonlight Watch for me by the moonlight I'll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell should bar the way!"

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Benton was in awe as they left the forest surrounded house. All the trees were at least two hundred years old, and remarkably healthy. Ray owned a house the size of a city block in the middle of an old growth forest. The place was plantation style with willows and other hanging trees. There were flowers in constant bloom on the trees as the last warm days slipped in to the cool night. Fireflies floated up among the dense trees giving a magical quality.

Sweet smells from the flowers and the plants filled his refined senses as he walked with Ray down the trail towards the Festival as Ray called it. Samhain night was magical here he had said, and from what he could see already in the waning sun, it was truly paradise. The moisture hung in the air giving it a cool feel and a musky taste.

"Swamps. We have the mesquites and other blood parasites sprayed for. That is why you are not turning in to one bright red swell." Ray waded through the cool grass along the trail, letting his tail brush the hip high stalks around.

Benton watched and longed to touch that tail. The gold stripes in the blonde fur matched the crazy hair of his beautiful man-tiger. As they walked he barely registered the world around him, his eyes only for the majestic creature in front of him. He felt an emotion swell in him that he had not dreamed of in over two decades. It was so odd, he almost had no name for it. Content, he was for once content, or he would be soon if he had his way, especially if he had his way with a certain younger were Tiger.

Ray occasionally looked back and blushed at the appreciative glances he was getting from Ben. "It is only a little bit further." He felt calm and comforted, despite what he now knew. Tomorrow he would deal with his friend's death, tonight he was going to have fun!

Drum beats were heard first as they drew near the dark clearing. With- out their having realized the sun had set, and the fires at the Samhain festival was driving them nearer. Next came the flutes, pipes, and other wind instruments, last of all the string instruments above most the Dulcimer and Fiddle.

Smells of swamp water, lake mist, bon fires, and the forest filled the night to mix with the already sweet smell of the moon flowers, Jasmine and Gardenia among them. The Harvest smells were in the air to. Fresh melons and fruits were everywhere as they drew near, the meats had yet to be caught or were waiting for them to be cooked.

Snatches of voices drifted across the meadow to them as they entered under an arch of vines and bound tree limbs. Flowers and ivies lines the clearing like an enormous gazebo. All this combined with the joyful singing and shouts of the people, made Ray feel drunk. He gave in to the temptation of the beat and started to move in rhythm, dragging a protesting Fraser with him.

Soon the music took on a sensual feel as people started to pair off. Ray still had Ben in his grasp when another's voice broke through his stupor.

"Well this is a surprise, Stanley Kowalski."

Ray froze in mid motion, his back straitening like a ramrod. "What do you want, Vecchio?"

Ray Vecchio laughed as Kowalski turned to face him. "Just to say, good luck, you're gonna need it, Pollack."

"Same to you, Squid face."

"Now boys, can't we behave more civil around here?" A short blonde woman came up between them, placing a hand on each of their shoulders, but favoring the balding man. "This is not a night of fighting, but merry making and Joy bringing. Besides, save it for the race, remember, winner get's to be my next mate, and I am already in heat."

"Okay, you be ready Stell." Ray Kowalski turned to Ray Vecchio. "May the best man win, and then may he beat your ass later Vecchio."

Vecchio was about to lunge at Ray, his hazel eyes flashing blue. "Wait until the race Ray, then we will see who is better. Come Stella, beautiful, we have other things to discuss."

Benton watched all with a dispassionate gaze until he saw Ray's face fall as Stella snubbed him for the other Ray. His hand clasped Ray on the shoulder gently then pulled back before Ray could shrug it off. "What is that all about?"

Ray looked down as he waved off as if he could block the emotions before looking up at Ben's concerned eyes. "It all ties in tonight, we have this big festival every year..."

"Not that! Well not just that, but the whole coolness towards you. I do not understand their attitude towards you."

Ray looked away as a mist started to form in his eyes. "It is nothing." A gentle hand under his jaw made him look in to Ben's sincere eyes.

"It is not nothing, Ray, I care about it, about you."

He spoke in such a gentle manner, Ray felt tears come again. This time one ran down his face over a cheek, right in to Ben's hand. Benton bent his head forward and kissed the tear off Ray's face with tender lips.

"It is okay, I am here."

Ray nodded as he pulled back a little. "Years ago when we were kids, Stell and I were close. She hung out with our group, Dief, Frannie, Stell, Jack, Louis, and Me. Vecchio was one of the popular kids, his younger sister Frannie, hated his guts. Stell was the only one of our group that actually liked him. He and I had hated each other since the first grade when I started school here. My mum and dad both died in an accident so the Lieu raised me in their house.

"Anyways, it was the summer we graduated from the local high school. Vecchio had been at college for two years. He came back and Stell was all over him. She and I had been going steady since he had left two years before, she and I were going to get married. Or so I thought.

"Jack and Louis were teasing me about how I wasn't good enough for a common slut like Stell, Frannie defined me against them, and Dief just stayed silent the whole night. We heard Stell and Vecchio going at it in the back of his car, big fancy thing, he had, and still does have a lot money. My family left me the house, the land and a trust to pay for the taxis, that's it. Everything else I gotta work for, that wasn't good enough for Stell.

"So we hears them going on like a couple porn stars and I lose it. I took a bat to his expensive car and to him. Stella dropped me like a bad habit right then and there. God help me I cried, begged her to take me back, me the bad ass, second only to Dief cried like a baby. She laughed, gut busting laughed at me. I stormed out of there, leaving a stone cold Vecchio and his sister to beat the hell out of Stell. Frannie god bless her heart, stood up for me at every turn.

"There was nothing I could do, my future was a wreck, and I had no one to love. Lieu had a job in the city at that time and I was on my own. So the boys and I got drunk. Frannie joined us about an hour after the incident. She tried to apologize but I just told her I loved her. She took it the wrong way and slugged me. I kissed her for it and set her strait. Louis decked me for that. She and he were an item. Jack was waiting for the right one, he later came after Louis died. Frannie was inconsolable for nearly two years, thank god she had Ma for her and the kids.

"Anyways, back on topic, Dief and I were the only ones left that night about two in the morning. We were sitting on a log over looking the lake, drinking Lieu's strawberry wine and skipping stones. I don't know who made the first move, but he tackled me and pinned me against the log. He ripped my pants in his haste and took me there over the log. Afterwards he took off running, I didn't see him ever again, but he left a note on my pillow saying he was sorry. The stupid bastard thought he had raped me."

Tears were cascading down his face as he looked to the sky. "He never did anything I didn't want him to do. They never knew the real reason he ran, but he stole money from his dad and the brewery to get out of the state and for that the wolf clan never forgave him. I paid it all back with interest, so there is only the actions he has to pay for. I say eighteen years with your calming influence evened it out." Ray looked down at his feet to hide his emotions.

Benton's face assumed a look of questioning. "What do you mean?"

Ray looked up with a hopeful expression. "I mean a man of such good nature, kind, loving, and pure." A tiny smile lit his face.

Fraser let out an amused chuckle. "I am far from pure, Ray."

For a minute the were tiger seemed to study his very sole. "No you're not, you are as pure as the driven snow." He made a motion towards Fraser's eyes. "No hints of yellow in the snow atall." This time Fraser released a deep belly laugh.

"So back to this festival, what is it all about, I was under the impression that Samhain was used to bless, purify the livestock and the fields for fertility in the spring. Also to celebrate a bountiful harvest in the name of the deities."

Ray nodded impressed. "It is, but with our kind it is so much more. We celebrate more than just purity tonight, but a fertility right that is usually associated with Beltane in the spring. Unlike Humans, the were clans have always celebrated our good fortune here on this night. Many of our kind our conceived on this very night. Ones born on this night are considered blessed by the gods to be virile or fertile." At this he waggled his eyebrows before both broke into fits of laughter.

"What are the festivities then, if not a traditional by Human standards?"

"Let's see, there is the usual Samhain tricks for the kiddies and people who like them, such as bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving, pie contests, drawings for the contest winners, then there is the competitions for livestock and garden harvests. I have some entered in the garden for Lieu, him and his gourds. Then there are the contests for those with the skills, archery, darts, wrestling, water dunking, and wood working skills, which is more along the line of competitions, but is still considered a contest of skills.

"After that we have the feast of Samhain with those beasties caught by the archers, and what he have brought for harvest. Then there is the game hunt, the main event of the evening. The single men who wish a chance to mate with our alpha this night, usually a virgin, hunt a Nodalisk for its fur. They must catch the beast and bring its body back for inspecting by she who is queen." He made grand sweeping gestures.

"They bathe in the smelly blood of the god awful thing, then comes the crowning of the Samhain King/Pumpkin King/Jack Frost/Great Forest Spirit. He has too many names. Back to the dude, he lights the great purification fires on either side of the great arch towards the lake. We all must pass through for the blessing of Samhain, and fertility. After this the nannies and kids are driven home or to their slumber parties, most go out to the haunted ridge for the all night festival there. We adults pair off with the ones we wish to be with and watch. The King and his Queen mate in the middle of us on the altar of the Moon Goddess at the center of the meadow on the furs of her lover's bed. He will have to be a great hunter or else he will not get the chance to participate in the game hunt. So he has a lot of furs for them.

"If the Goddess smiles upon them, then their union will bare offspring. When they climax, we all give a great cheer for it is a sign that we will bare children for another year, another year our people will live on." A big smile lit Ray's face. "After that we..." He started giggling as his eyes lost focus and he remembered past feasts.

"And then what, Ray?"

"And then we have an orgy that would make the Romans blush."

"Ah." Heat spread up Benton's cheeks. "Yes, oh dear, I uh um, yes." He straitened up. "Well then, very good."

By now Ray was heaving with laughter. This promised to be one of the most memorable feasts yet.

_________________________________________________________

Part 9

She twisted her hands behind her, but all the knots held good! She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood! They stretched and strained in the darkness and the hours crawled by like years! Till, now, on the stroke of midnight, Cold, on the stroke of midnight, The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Ray was on the ground laughing as Fraser held the largest apple in his teeth. Unable to close his mouth or bite the apple, many pig squeals were heard from the crowd. Even Ray was not above the good natured ribbing of the former Mountie. It seemed the clans had allowed the man to be accepted for this night. For this, Ray was grateful.

Up next came the pie eating contest. Ray refused to enter, but he forced Benton, much to the man's chagrin. On his left were six kids to his right were two other men, both who's girlfriends were watching with Ray. In fact they were all pointing and laughing at the men in their bibs.

Ben narrowed his eyes at Ray, but let no other emotion show on his face. They were told to take their marks, and bent forward over their pie's. Each pie was made of vanilla pudding and cool whip on a crust, but to the winner went a choice of Chocolate Cream, or Lemon Murengue. Ray had told Ben to win at all costs, the Lemon was his.

The contest began with a shot from a pistol, but was cut short when a bird fell dead to the table. After it was plucked and added to the feast, the contest was resumed. Two of the kids put up stiff competition, but Benton and his magic tongue as was later dubbed, saved the day, and won him more than just a pie. He declined a second go, but agreed to come back for the finals.

As he came down the steps, he blushed at the appreciative glances he got from the women. However his face went pale white as Ray decided to clean him up, with his tongue. He relaxed when the thick purring started to rumble from Ray's throat. Ray's movements got some of the whipped cream on his face.

"Oh dear, Ray, you seemed to gotten some on you in your enthusiasm."

Ray licked his lips testingly. "So I have, care to help clean me up?"

Benton nodded as his eyes narrowed. He leaned forward and lightly licked away the cream. Giving Ray's lips a once over, he was surprised when they opened. Before either of them knew it, they were kissing, gently using tongues to map the other's mouth. A throat clearing to their right broke them apart.

Ray glared at the offending man for a moment then snorted as he embraced the tall black man beside him. Pulling back, he glared at the man who had cleared his throat earlier. "What the hell is your problem Dewey, aint nothin you haven't done with Jack."

"Be that as it may, I didn't grab him like that on our first date."

Ray started choking to the point Ben thought they were going to have to call an ambulance. After he finally got in under control, he glared at the white man with blood shot eyes and red face. "You and he were fuckin long before yer first date."

"Well that's just fuckin, kissin is another thing all together..." Jack's hand clamped over his mouth.

"Jack Huey, this here big mouth is my domestic partner, Thomas Hewey." He offered Benton his free hand, but drew it back with a yelp to cradle his other hand. "Son of a bitch, Thomas."

Dewey spit and made an overt display of retching. "Nasty. Do you wipe your ass with your hand sans tp?"

"No, that's why I got your tongue!"

Ray grabbed Benton's arm and dragged him away from the bickering couple. "C'mon Frase, lets leave the love birds alone. Coupla sick nasties if ya ask me. Then again I grew up hangin with Jack, so what does that say about me?"

"I believe it says a lot on your character to not let such things as petty as sexual practices interfere with friendship."

Wide blue eyes were staring at him with wonder. "Ya really do talk like that. What do ya practice this shit in front of a mirror in order to school yer face?"

"I do not understand what you mean?"

"Yer a freak, Frase."

"Ah, thank you, Ray."

"You are welcome, now let's check out that dunking booth. I hear they are looking for a jerk to dunk."

"Are you suggesting that you might be a good jerk?" Benton regarded his companion with an appraising look. "You might pass for a sour puss, but never a jerk, you are too short to be a jerk." He said it with such a serious look, Ray slapped him and stormed off. A smile found his sore features as he ran out to find the sulking man.

Over head in the night sky the stars shown through the billowing trees as they swayed in the breeze. He found Ray staring up at them with a light smile. "You know Frase, there are so many of them. Every time I look at them I wonder if there is some one out there for me. I always thought Stella was the one. Lately I have not been so sure. May be there is no one for me."

"I don't know Ray, I like to think there is at least one person in all the world for some one. On a world with billions of people to choose from, what is stopping you from making that choice?"

"Fear I guess. Most of us are not allowed to leave the county, it's not safe out there for our kind."

Benton nodded as he brought Ray up close to his body, wrapping his arms around the wiry man from behind. Ray settled up against him with a sigh as Fraser rested his chin on his head.

"See those kids and those women over there?" He pointed towards a group of six kids, two babies, and three women. Ben nodded. "That is Frannie Welsh, she and Lieu married about three years ago. Since then she has had a set of twins and another set on the way. The other hellions are Louis' brats, but he loves them all the same, he did with me to. The other two women are Cassie and Ma. Cassie is engaged to a punk named Zuko, needless to say her fathers are livid."

Another nod, then he waited for something more on her parentage, but nothing more was forthcoming. "So she was adopted?"

"Yeah semi adopted by James, but the whole 'I'm a grown woman you can't order me around' got in the way and she moved out. That was about a year ago, now they are okay again. Her birth father, Tom Cat, would be here tonight, but he has a litter on the way. James is about to have a major meltdown over the stress of all the other kids, and Cassie combined. I lost count after number five. Those two are worse than rabbits about such things."

Ben didn't miss the wistful tone in Ray's voice. "That's why you are doing it."

"What?"

"The race. You want kids of your own."

Ray nodded, there was no use trying to hide his feelings. "Yeah, I wanted them for a long time, just Stella always said no. So I had to patiently wait and bide my time for a chance like this."

"Why wait for her, why not have them with some one else?"

A snort was his reply. "Have you seen my house?"

"What is wrong with it?"

"I'm poor, Benton. I've got no money and the only reason the government hasn't stolen that from me, is because there is an ancient trust set up for my family by my ancestor Dalin what's his name. It pays the taxes which get raised each year, yet some how the money is always enough to keep uncle Sam away. I don't question it, just accept that there will be money there to keep it in my family. But that is the problem. I have no family. There is no heir to my family. If I have no legal heir in the next year, then I can kiss the trust good bye. Call it insurance to keep the house and land in the family. We can't sell any of it, and we can't develop any more than what already is, not that I would. So I am broke and in my world that doesn't attract a mate. I will lose the house and my life if the trust is taken away. If you haven't noticed, there are no bums in Chicago Lake. You either make a living, or you end up as soil. So you will excuse me if I want a family." He pulled out of Fraser's arms and stalked off again, this time Fraser let him go.

_________________________________________________________

Part 10

Tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs were ringing clear Tlot-tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear? Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill, The highwayman came riding, Riding, riding! The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up straight and still!

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Benton missed the next few events as they passed. He simply wandered among the people as meeting and greeting. People he never even would look twice at stopped him and told him the old bits of information about Dief or Ray. About how close the two were in their younger days. It was even speculated they had been lovers for a time.

He could only smile and nod in agreement as they prattled on. As time went by, he began to worry about Ray, the man had simply disappeared on him. Worry was starting to grip him when he sensed something off behind him. Following his gut, it lead him to a small clearing on the edge of the woods where both Rays were talking animatedly.

"Come on, just this once..."

"Absolutely not Stanley. I would rather see her dead than in your arms."

"I need this, I want this. This may be my last chance, no scratch that, it is my last chance. There is no more after that."

"I said no!"

Kowalski looked away for a moment as his eyes flashed. "They are taking the house, Vecchio." He waited for any reaction, none was forth coming because Ray Vecchio was already gone. Ray sat down on his haunches, lowering his head to his knees.

As Fraser drew closer he could make out the sounds of crying. Gently he crept in to the meadow so as not to make a sound. In a matter of steps he had Kowalski in his arms. The smaller man tried to brake free, but he only held on closer.

"Let me go!"

"No. Not until you tell me what that was all about?"

Ray shook Ben's hands off him, but they were back again in an instant. "Do you wanna hear how big a loser I am? How I am losing my house because I can't get laid?"

"I thought you had another year."

"I do, to have an heir, tonight is the deadline for conception." He turned in Ben's arms and looked him imploringly in the face. "I have to win that race tonight, it is my last chance. If I lose, with it goes my house and any chance I have at having a family of my own."

"Surely there must be some one else who can..."

Ray shook his head. "There is no one else. There are but a few breeders among my people, and most are taken or of an age where they can not breed. Stella is one of the only Breeders left that has no fixed mate. The other three are pregnant."

Benton held him close as he let the tears fall. "Something has occurred to me. Yesterday when we ran into each other, you told your cousin about him expecting your support. What support, and why would you be cousin to a wolf?"

"My mum was the only one of her litter to survive. Her mum died in child birth. Her dad married a wolf, mixed marriages usually produce no offspring, but when an alpha wolf and Royal tiger mix, the children come out always wolf cubs. Mum had three sisters, only one of them was able to reproduce, hence my cousin Tyler. That woman was a force to be reckoned with, she made the ground tremble with her mere presence in her day. She has since retired to the back ground to aid her powerful son, the only child of Jeserith Creed, a local bad ass. He broke pack law at a pack council, they ate him for it. It was only my family's power that prevented them from killing his entire family.

"My family holds a seat on the council, though it is occupied by Lieu, I can take it any time I want. Tyler needed another vote in order to allow him to choose his new mate, since his last one skipped town two years ago. Last night I gave him that chance. Tonight he will announce and take his new mate in front of the pack. This union will produce a child, and secure our family line. If I fail to produce an heir, it will revert to my second cousin at the age of ascension. At least it will not fall in to the hands of Vecchio like so many other things of mine."

"She was never yours, Ray. You merely thought so."

"A guy can always dream, can't he Frase?"

Benton nodded as he cleared his throat. "Yes he can."

In the night their lips met once more. They broke apart at the sounds of horns blaring in the distance. Ray offered him a chagrined smile. "Hunt's on. Wish me luck, beautiful."

Breathlessly he watched as Ray ran off. "Luck be with you, and god speed, Ray."

________________________________________________________

Part 11

Tlot in the frosty silence! Tlot, in the echoing night! Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light! Her eyes grew wide for a moment! She drew one last deep breath, Then her finger moved in the moonlight, Her musket shattered the moonlight, Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him with her death.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Forty men had gathered at the center of the wooded clearing. Ranging in ages from twenty to sixty-five, all were there to prove their worthiness of the gift of life. The right to reproduce was their reward. Failure meant another year of no children for some, for others it meant the end of their line.

All were silent in the solemn moments before the hunt. Tonight an enemy's existence would be ended for the sake of their continued existence. They would celebrate his loss as any true warrior lost on the battle field in a honorable fight. There would be no more life for this creature, only the certain doom of being what it was.

A great battle cry rang out from the men as they charged off after the scent of the Nodalisk, and so it began!

They ran in packs through the trees, each searching for the Nodalisk's unique scent for their own. Soon they were divided up in to groups of young and old, the young looking out for the others in order to get a leg up ad possibly turn an advantage to their own. The elder ones keep to themselves unless they sought the aid of fellow.

Both Rays were independent of the entire group. They kept an eye on the stragglers, and the other, but continued on their own. Each followed a trail, yet both knew the other might be on the right one as their own the decoy. The trick was to discover which was which, and turning it so that no one else knew.

Clad only in breech clothes, and limb jewelry to drive the Nodalisk from any hiding place from the clanking metal, the strove forward. In the distance they heard the panicked calls of the Nodalisk.

It had heard them coming!

The thrill of the hunt spurned them on inspire of the danger. All they knew as the chase, it was in their blood, who they were. The shrill cries of their prey only set them harder on its trail.

Ray Kowalski saw his chance, and sped up crossing Vecchio's path, spraying the other man with his scent throwing him off the trail of the Nodalisk. Vecchio screeched in anger as he hissed at Kowalski. Ray ignored the fallen man and continued on faster. He was close, he could already taste the scent of fear on the wind.

In a clearing the creature turned around spooked. Ray ignored his reaction to tear the creature to pieces, or was it a man? Too late he realized his mistake and Vecchio was on it. The Nodalisk tossed Vecchio in to the trees and started off again.

Not waiting for a second chance, Kowalski took off in pursuit of the creature. They were mindless killing machines. All the Nodalisks knew was to kill. So why did Ray feel an aversion to killing it?

This was not the first hunt he had been on, this was his sixteenth to be exact. So why did this one bother him so much? Why did killing the ancient enemy bother him?

During his introspection Vecchio had taken the lead again with a few of the younger men at a close second. Trying to put it out of his mind, he pushed on. He had a race to win and a prey to catch. This was for the sake of his family, the sake of his house. Last of the line of the purest golden tigers. He was going to be the last of his kind.

No!

He couldn't be the last of his kind, not if he had to kill every beast between here and hell. Pressing on he followed the others in to a clearing where he heard the death cries of the beast.

No.

He was too late. Vecchio was covered in the blood of the dead animal and cheering with the young men around him. When he caught sight of Ray, he made a shooting motion.

Ray Kowalski was the last of his line.

The line screamed in his mind as he stood there listlessly as the joyful young men around him shouted their catch. He watched as Vecchio tore the clothes and things from its body for trophies of the hunt. A cerulean dragon's heart dagger was one of the items he placed on his belt.

Drifiting off, Ray ignored the men around him and walked back towards the festival. He had lost, in a month's time he would lose his seat on the council to Vecchio, he already lost Stella to Vecchio, and he would soon lose his house to Tyler. At least Tyler would allow him to stay on the land.

Tears streamed down his face as he walked the long ways around the camp to be alone in the sanctuary of the clearing again. When he got their, Benton was waiting for him. Neither spoke, just sat their on the log holding the other as tears ran down his face. It was over.

_______________________________________________________

Part 12

He turned; he spurred to the west; he did not know she stood bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood! Not till the dawn he heard it; his face grew gray to hear How Bess, the landlord's daughter, The landlord's black-eyed daughter, Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



They had brought the smelly body back and Stella had applied the blood to the bald pallet of Ray Vecchio. He had applied to her face and they were busy kissing in-between dousing the other. He was crowned with leaves and berries from ivy. She was give a similar one of flowers and honey suckle.

After they were covered in the blood of the Nodalisk sacrifice, they joined hands and grabbed the twin torches. Walking as one, they headed towards the great arch and lit the great bon fires on either side. Stepping through the smoke and incense, they kissed again.

A shout rang out as the others started up in an old song. Kids joined hands, arms swinging and followed the happy couple through the sacred flames of Samhain. Followed by the adults, the last through the sacred arch were Fraser and Kowalski.

Like the walking dead, they clung to one another and ignored the glare and triumphant jeers aimed at them from Vecchio and Stella. Soon the kids were rounded up and sent off on their way to the family events. Vecchio then grabbed his new mate and carried her to the altar in the center of the ring of the meadow. Laid out were his furs that his mother and sister had brought with them. A pillow of finest silk and lace supported Stella's head as Vecchio laid her down.

Kowalski was to afraid to turn his head and watch. So he clung to Fraser instead. As her moans and cries of pleasure filled the meadow, Ray collapsed. Fraser picked him up and wrapped his body around him. His legs wrapped around Fraser's hips gave them a more intimate grip.

As Stella and Vecchio climaxed a shout rang up, and the happy couple got up from the altar. Wrapping the skins and furs around them, they walked over to the fire. Now came the moment that had been the talk of most of the evening. The new mate of the Creed Clan.

Led out from the sacred groves of low hanging willows, wrapped in dark blue cloths, the tall figure walked with an air of hesitancy. Tyler walked in from the opposite side of the circle dressed only in a doe skin breech cloth and silver arm bands, he strolled up to his mate to be. He picked up the figure and laid the person on the altar.

Taking his time, he was gentle to open the cloak and bury his face in the warm earth toned skin of the neck. He stared in to the eyes of his intended, nodded and then took the figure over the altar. Cries of passion filtered through the groves as they finished. Howls from the wolf clans went up as Tyler wrapped his mate in the clothes again. Only then did he remove the face cloths, to reveal much to the surprise of everyone but one other there, John Kanin. John's dark eyes met with the blue of Benton's and he smiled.

Benton nodded and carried his own back towards the arch of trees and vines they had arrived through. Ray's hand on his arm stopped him from going through. Their eyes met and Ray nodded. Benton smiled.

________________________________________________________

Part 13

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high! Blood-red were the spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat, when they shot him down on the highway, Down like a dog on the highway, And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



Fraser pressed Ray in to the cool moss as he ground their hips together. They ignored the sounds of the others in similar states of mating. Growing harder by the moment, he kissed Kowalski until the other man gasped for air. He couldn't help it, there was something so irresistible about this man.

Growling, he nipped at the smaller man's neck. He tasted good too. Smiling at his new discovery, Benton started to lick and bite his way across Ray's body. He ground his erection in to Ray's leg as he continued over his soon to be lover's body.

Ray was in heaven, he had wanted this. No he needed this, needed it to forget what was happening. He wanted to be at peace for once in his life, top be perfectly content with his life. Benton was about to give this to him and he would welcome the gift with open arms and legs.

His cries were heard by all as Benton took him in his mouth. The sucking and the motions of the experienced tongue were playing devil tricks on his body. All he could do was lay there and moan.

Benton could wait no more, all this teasing was playing havoc on his health. Freeing his erection from the bindings of his pants, through the laces, he settled down between Ray's legs. He slicked his erection with whatever it was they were providing and placed himself at Ray's opening.

Ray felt the probing member and looked up into Ben's eyes. An inner voice told him it was now, he was ready. He nodded with his eyes and hissed in pain as Benton shoved in him with one quick motion. Pants of breath were his way of dealing with the pain and the intrusion. As the aches subsided, he nodded again and Ben continued.

He pulled out and thrust back in, building a rhythm they could both adjust to. The tight heat that was Ray felt like it was swallowing him whole with each thrust. Each thrust a small part of him felt like it died, and he liked it. They were both grunting and moaning before long.

Ray's whimpers of pain were muffled by Fraser's cries of pleasure. A build up of pressure started behind their eyes and worked out from their. Benton closed his eyes and threw back his head with a shout as he came. He continued the steady thrusts until he was sure the last of his seed was spent and Ray had come to.

There were no more sounds of mating coming from the clearing. Instead almost all was silent, couples laid across the field tangled in arms drifting off or already asleep. Benton wiped the sweat off his lover's brow and kissed his barely responsive lips. Ray was completely out of it.

Finally pulling out, he kissed the man once more and pulled his breeches closed tight with the laces. Looking around, he noticed Vecchio slip off on his own and smiled. Time to finish his business here. Quietly he stepped through the mass of bodies and followed the way ward man.

He caught up to him at the base of a massive tree. He turned the pissing man around and lifted him by the throat. "I want what is mine." The perfectly reasonable tone was anything but.

Vecchio's pants went wet as he noted the yellow tint to Benton's eyes. He nodded and handed over the dagger.

"Thank you kindly." He was about to let the shaking man go, when he turned back to look him in the eyes. "You will leave Ray Kowalski alone, the same goes for your whore. I hear of either of you even so much as saying he looks bad in something and I will make what you did to the Nodalisk look like a game of hide and go seek. Got that!"

Ray nodded again as words failed him.

Benton nodded then tossed the balding man against the tree as he walked back towards the house where Ray lived. The walk was longer with-out Ray along, but he had to be this way. He couldn't afford to get attached. The house door was open, but he entered not caring. "Diefenbaker!"

"Wha-a-at?" The shivering form of a young man wrapped in blankets came in to view from the kitchen with a large sandwich and donuts in his hands.

"Time to go."

"Di-i-id it werk?"

"Yes, they think you are dead, the Nodalisk is, and I got the dagger back. We can leave any time you are ready."

Diefenbaker nodded and set the food down on the floor. Quickly crawling out of the blanket, he changed back in to a wolf. 'You never said the damned meat lockers were so cold.'

"Well you shouldn't have been so careless and gotten killed by the Nodalisk before the hunt."

'Semantics, either way I was killed by the Nodalisk and we got what we came for. Plus the town is no longer looking for me, praise the gods for that.' Diefenbaker wolfed down the food before he headed for the door. 'Get the stuff and hurry up, I like Chicago Lake to visit, but Living here is unbearable.' The wolf started to go again, but Ben spoke up.

"He said it wasn't your fault."

'What?'

"He said he wanted it to, it wasn't rape. He was hurting that night and you gave him what he needed to go on. Thank you."

'Don't mention it.' Dief snorted and trotted out the front door.

Benton couldn't decide if he was going to be happy for his friend or sad. Either way it didn't matter, he could never come back here again, at least not in this life time. As he finished gathering their meager belongings, he wrote Ray a small note, thanking him for his hospitality and the wondrous evening. He signed it, with love, The Highway Man.

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Part 14-Epilogue.

Still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees, When the moon is a ghostly galleon, tossed upon the cloudy seas, When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, A highwayman comes riding, Riding, riding, A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

THE HIGHWAYMAN (performed by: Loreena McKennitt)



He ran a hand over the front of his suit with a small smug smile. It rested on the large lump for a moment as he looked at it in the mirror. Turning sideways you could barely make it out in the suit he wore.

"What are you doing Cousin?" Tyler's voice rose up from the door way to the large bedroom.

"Just looking myself."

"This recent development of narcissism is not necessary a good thing. What is the hold up, the council is meeting in five minutes and you are needed to prove your case to hold on to your seat."

Ray nodded, but continued to look at his reflection. "How is your mate, Tyler?"

"Fine, whiny bitch complains alot about back aches and foot pains."

Ray gasped in fake shock. "Do you kiss your lover with that mouth?"

"Among other places, and he loves it. Now what is the hold up?"

A faint smile crossed his lips. "Do you remember what happened a month ago?"

"Besides the whole Samhain feast, and Diefenbitcher showing up again only to get killed, yeah."

"Yes that, do you remember what happened after you knocked your John up?"

"Sure, you left with that Benton fellow."

"No, we didn't leave. We completed the ritual with the rest of you." He turned to his stunned cousin. "With each other."

Tyler put two an two together and got... "and that is the evidence you have for the council. You mean you are...?" He gestured with his hands to show a bulging stomach.

Ray nodded with a smirk, then turned back to the mirror as his cousin let out a whoop of joy. He stroked a hand down over the slight bulge of his stomach as his heart fluttered with joy.

Elsewhere.

'He says his name is Charlie, Charlie Turnbull. He is good at oh so many things, not to mention he has a mouth that can..."

"Diefenbaker!"

"What, just because I got me a sweet piece of ass that is willing to wait on me hand and foot, doesn't mean I have to feel bad about it.'

Benton nodded his agreement. "Fine, but his money is coming out of your cut of the profits."

'Fine with me, not like as a wolf I can use them.' He turned around and ran back to the shed off to the right of the garage to bring back with him a man in tattered clothes and greasy hair. 'Turnbull meet Benton. Benton, meet my lover, Renfield Charlie Turnbull.'

Blue eyes flashed at Benton as they shook hands. "A were cat Diefenbaker?"

Turnbull nodded. "I was bitten three years ago as a Canadian Mountie on loan to Wolf City Police Department..."

"Hey you, get yur ass back here!" A large fat man with a bat came out of the garage chasing after Turnbull and Diefenbaker.

Both were animals shared a look then took off. "Diefenbaker, what have you done?" Benton yelled at him as they ran for their lives.

'He was mistreating poor Turnbull. I had to get him away, plus he has a mouth that can suck the chrome off a bumper!'

"DIEFENBAKER!"

The End!

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