Life, the Universe, and Everything

Timeline: May 2, 2008

Rey sat on a rough wooden stool, roasting a hot dog on a stick over the fire she’d built next to the cabin. Behind her she’d laid out a blanket, with a picnic basket filled with food. She’d planned to lay outside and look at the stars for a while, and hoped that Grey might join her, if only for a short while.

She pulled the hot dog away from the fire to look at it. “Not quite done.” She put it back over the flames for a while longer. A few moments later she tried to work the hot dog off the stick into the bun but lost hold of both of them and they fell into the fire. “Ah well,” she said with a laugh. “Tonight’s offering to the gods of fire.” She grabbed another hot dog from the picnic basket.

The sound of footsteps caught her attention. Turning toward the sound Rey met not just Grey but Ramiel and Jyn as well.

They were all laughing. But it was Ramiel that spoke.”If that is the way she handles those, I am so sorry Grey.” He winked at Rey to let her know he was only kidding.

“Ouch babe.” Grey smiled as he came up and sat down next to her. “Hope you have more.” He began digging out food while Ramiel went for more roasting sticks, leaving Jyn and Rey to say hello.

“Jyn?” Rey jumped up and rushed over to her friend to hug her tightly. “What are you doing here? You weren’t going to be coming until next month!”

Jyn dropped her backpack. “Surprise!” Excitedly she hugged Rey. “I wasn’t sure about these two. They saw me and said they knew you, but,then I saw Michael and he vouched for them. Anyway I’m here.” She looked around. “This place is so cool, it fits you.

“Oh, yeah why I’m here, sorry.” She seemed a bit frazzled. “It was a long trip or at least seemed that way.” She paused and took a deep breath. “Dad had a heart attack. Not major. Well he has to take it easy, but I went ahead and took my exams early and went to help out for a bit. Mom told me to go ahead and come out for a visit since he is doing better now.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your dad, and I’m very glad to hear he’s doing better.” Rey hugged Jyn again. “Here, have a seat.” She indicated the stool. “Did these guys introduce themselves properly?”

“Not really. The big guy said he could bring me here, and that one.” she indiacted Ramiel,” he said it would be funnier to let you introduce them.”

“Funnier, huh,” Rey said with a grin. “Well, the guy with the white hair will tell you want he wants to be called. He’s got a mind dirtier than Old Mr. Jacob’s pickup truck, but I love him like a brother anyway.” She moved to stand next to Grey. “And this is Grey.” Her smile deepened and her face softened as she looked at him.

Ramiel took Rey’s introduction of him as an invite. “You can call me anytime you would like a private massage. My tongue technique is world famous.” He smiled at Jyn.

She looked at Ramiel giving him the not in your dreams look. While on the inside seriously considering if he would be worth a try.

Rey laughed. “You are *such* a lech!”

“Grey. Hmm from the looks of it you have won the heart of Rey. Sorry to be so cautious when you approached me.”

Grey smiled as he shoved the rest of the hot dogs onto sticks and began cooking them. “Consider it forgotten, I get it a lot anyway.” His smile widened. “After all who would believe a beauty like Rey chose me huh.”

“I hope it is okay that I surprised you Rey. If it is a bad time I could go hang out in town for a while.” Jyn said.

Rey was glad the firelight almost hid her blush. “No, it’s okay, Jyn. I was in the mood to have a pretend camp-out. Roast some hot dogs, make some s’mores, that kind of thing, then just look up at the stars for a while.” She chuckled. “I have people dropping by all the time, at almost any hour, so I’m used to it and prepared for it. There’s more food in the house, if we need it. Potato salad, sausages, some burgers and a grill we can use on the fire here. There’s steak too, but that’s for tomorrow,” she said, playfully poking Grey on the belly, “so leave it alone.”

“I make no promises when it comes to meat.” He said as he moved for the cabin.

“Then you’ll just have to face my cooking tomorrow, sweetie,” she said with a grin. “And bring some of the Mudslides with you on your way back!”

Jyn had moved over toward the fire. “I love camp outs.” She glanced at Ramiel then back to Rey. “So tell all about everything.”

Rey sat herself down on the blanket, and started with the night she woke up in the hospital, and ended with the trip to Baltimore, leaving out all the supernatural stuff or changing it to something more mundane, like Frank becoming a heroin addict rather than becoming a ghoul and Cherise was the drug dealer. She couldn’t keep the blush off her face when she talked about her pursuit of Grey, though. It was so unlike the way she was in high school, and for a moment, she wondered what her friend thought about the age difference between them.

Both Ramiel and Jyn stared at her. He was surprised she told so much, and Jyn had tears welling in her eyes.

“You have been through all that and I wasn’t there for any of it. I am so sorry. You should have come home sooner, I could have helped. OR at least tried.” She reached out and squeezed her friends hand. “I am just going to have to make it up now.” She said with a smile.

Rey returned the squeze. “I pushed you away that night for a reason, Fer,” she said. “And I stayed away from Baltimore because I was scared. I’m still scared. And you don’t have to make up for anything.”

“Says you.” She smiled when Grey returned with the mudslides. “Maybe Blondie here can take me out tonight so you and your man can have some alone time.” She said. “I can be here as long as I want. All summer even if it is so much fun I can not tear myself away.”

“What about your summer job?” Rey asked in surprise.

“Mom decided I should take the summer off, and frankly I agree with her. I have let life pass me by for too long. It is time for a break. Unless of course you don’t want me around for that long.”

“No, that’s not it at all!” Rey shook her head. “I’m thrilled to have you here.”

“Good because I intend to have the time of my life while I am here.” She smiled and hugged Rey. “No worries.”

“You know me, I always worry.” Rey returned the hug, then stepped back with a big smile on her face. “Remember how much my parents just loathed tattoos?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ve got two, and I designed one of them. Want to see them?”

“Are they someplace decent? Or do we need to go inside?” she asked.

“Mostly decent,” Rey said with a chuckle, turning her back to Jyn and pulling down the waistband of her shorts and lifting her shirt to expose the pawprint. “I’ve got this one.”

“Oh I love wolves.” She cooed over the paw print.

“So do I,” Rey replied, glancing over at Grey. “And if you like that pawprint, wait until you see some of the stuff I’ve got in the cabin.”

Rey turned around and pulled her shorts down in the front to expose most of the tattoo across her pelvis (though she didn’t pull down the front of her thong to show it all). “And this is the one I designed.” She looked over her shoulder at Ramiel with a grin. “And stop leering, you.”

Ramiel wiped away imaginary drool. “What can I say, I am a consumer of fine art. No matter where it is.” His smile broadened.

All Rey could do was laugh. “Jyn, if you want a better look at this tat, I can show it to you under better light later.”

“I would love to see more.” She stood and headed for the cabin dragging Rey with her.

“Don’t eat everything before we get back!” Rey let herself be dragged along.

Once inside Jyn toured the cabin.”This place us great.”

“Thanks. I love it.” She went over to the couch and moved the wolf quilt. “Take a look at this.”

“I don’t remember you liking wolves this much. But then a lot of time has gone by.” She sighed. “But enough of the doom and gloom of the past. What advebture would you like to have?” Her eyes were large and shiney with excitement.

“I’ve got a bunch of ideas,” Rey said, “but none that we can do tonight as we’re not prepared.” She paused. “Though I suppose I could ask Grey if he has any ideas. He knows this area really well. But first, did you want to see that tattoo?”

Jyn nodded. As Rey showed off her tattoo Jyn was inspired. “I want one.”

Rey chuckled. “Okay. Do you have something in mind?”

“Okay I like wolves to, hm but I do have another obsession of mine. Ancient egypt. I can’t get enough. I ahve even taken some courses in it for fun as electives. I have been thinking of switching majors. Crazy I know, but hey life is short.

So let me think. What egyptian god is my favorite.” As she mumbled off the names of various major and minor gods she tapped her lower lip. “Oh I have. I want a small Jackal on my lower back. Anubis the God of death and resurrection.”

Rey frowned. “Jyn, are you sure everything’s okay?” she asked softly. She looked more closely at her friend.

“Yeah I am fine.”

She shivered as Rey seemed to look through her. “Cut that out it is creepy.” Sighing she went on. “I have been really stressed lately. I was there when Dad had his heart attack, and could do nothing to help him. I panicked and froze. I am a nurse in training for christ sake and I froze and watched my father’s life slipping away. Mom snapped me out of it and the paramedics showed up in time, but since then I have stayed by his side. At least tried to. So I am needing to unwind, kick back, change my life some. I have all the papers I need to switch majors, I think it will be for the best. Okay a minor set back time wise but it is better than killing people.”

She smiled. “I have dealt with all that, so where is the best place to get that tattoo?”

“You mean, where to get it on your body, or where to go to get the tattoo done?” Rey asked.

“Where to get it done. I think I will get it on the back of my neck, or lower back. What do you think?” She was very excited by the thought of getting a tattoo. “And maybe I will even take your lech of a friend up on his offer. I could use a good tongue lashing.”

“Well, Grey gives me all I can handle,” Rey said with a laugh, surprised that she was’t blushing this time. “Cambion can be a really nice guy, and is almost always a gentleman, even though his libido doesn’t have an off switch. As for neck or lower back, depends on what you want. If you like having your neck nibbled or whatever, then that’d be a good spot. Lower back, well, it could be partially obscured by your clothes, and drive men wild wanting to see the rest of it.”

“I think I will go with the back of my neck. And I was kidding about, Cambion? What a weird name. Poor guy his parents must have been hippies or something. Though I will admit a certain physical reaction to him. He is gorgeous. But I am not really looking for anything like that right now.

So where should I have the tattoo done? What is the closest place to go?”

“Well, there are a couple of places in Concord, but I don’t know what the quality is like. Grey did mine.”

“Really?? Wow would he do mine?” She asked.

“I don’t know,” Rey said, “but we could ask. I’ve been thinking about getting another tattoo myself, but haven’t come up with any ideas.”

“Well we could ask Grey to do it, since he does awesome work, then when they are done maybe we could go have an outdoor adventure. Maybe tour the area for a week or so and camp out, what do you think?”

“Sounds great to me, but I’ll have to talk to my boss about getting the time off. Did you want it to be just the two of us, because Grey knows the area really well, and could probably take us to some really spectacular places.”

“If we knew where we were going it would not be an adventure. So let’s make it just the two of us.”

“Okay,” Rey said with a nod. She knew it was unlikely they’d be completely alone, as the pack would keep an eye on her. “So, back out to the fire, then to talk to Grey and get something to eat before it’s all gone?” She grinned.

Thousands of tiny lights blinked in the sky above. The fire crackled and dinner cooked over the grill as the two friends toasted the halfway point on their trip. The countryside had been filled with obstacles and untold adventures. From loosing the map and wandering in circles for half a day, to the possible batch of poison oak they fell into, all the way down to the very unfortunate run in with a skunk.

“I think he was more afraid of us.” They had laughed for days afterward. “You should have seen your face.” Jyn said to Rey when the skunk appeared beside her just as she had squatted for a bathroom break.

It was a fun filled and free trip. Each of the girls sporting a new tattoo and no time schedule. The next day the mountain awaited for them to climb. Tonight was for rest.

Grey had ventured out to help them from time to time, having promised Rey he would keep an eye on them.

More than once on the trip the girls had been chatted up by men as they stopped in towns for food or supplies.

The grill was smoking and Jyn was sprawled out on an open sleeping bag. “This is great. I just wanted to say. I am really glad we did it. One week, we have covered a lot of ground in one week.” She sighed. ” I don’t want it to end.” Turning on her side she looked at Rey.

“It has been fun,” Rey agreed as she checked the cooking food. “Did you get that black guy’s – what was his name, Warner? – did you get his phone number? He seemed really interested in you.”

“Not my type.” She smiled and drank down her beer.

“Well then, what is your type?”

“Rich.” She laughed. “Honestly I have no idea. Grey seems great though, a little old for me though.”

“He was concerned about the difference in our ages too, but I don’t care.” Rey chuckled. “He’s got the stamina of an Olympic athlete. Or at least what we’d expect one to have.” She grinned.

“Whoa there TMI. ” She laughed.

“Hey, I’m just saying, you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Rey joined in the laughter. “I really do love him, though. I can’t picture my life without him anymore. Can you imagine that? Me, who swore never to have a boyfriend or get into a committed relationship of any kind, now happily settled down in a small country town.”

“Makes you wonder doesn’t it.” She said lazily.

“Yup.” Rey checked their dinner one least time. “Looks like we’re ready to eat.”

Hamilton, is there anyone or anything skulking around that we should be worried about?

I smell fish ma’am, is there some for me? the little cat asked. And there is nothing that I can tell.

Of course there’s some for you, Rey replied as she got the plates and started dishing out the food.

The night passed peacefully and the next morning came way to early and loudly. The alcohol from the night before left their ears ringing and eye squinting. The mountain loomed above them as they climbed like the guy who won’t leave your cubicle. Yet the girls persevered and pushed themselves along the steep incline through episodes of ears popping in the changing elevation. The day passed in the sky with what seemed like great speed. The disc of the sun made it’s journey with ease and by the time they reached the top it was afternoon. Lunch was filled with stories of their most embarrassing moments, as well as the most romantic. They had made up for years of lost conversations over the last week, and rejoiced at the years to come. The return trip was proving a bit more difficult as gravity just wanted to pull them downhill faster. A few stumbles happened form time to time and Jyn had a pretty good scare when she slipped on a loose rock. It happened when they were about halfway down the mountain.

The girls were laughing at Ramiel’s expense when the ledge beneath Rey crumbled. In an amazing display of agility Jyn managed to maneuver to get Rey to a secure position. As Rey turned she saw Jyn hanging hundreds of feet in the air by her fingertips. Rey grabbed her wrists in what appeared to be a futile attempt. Both gravity and the weight of her pack was working against them.

“Oh god, Jyn, don’t let go. Don’t let go!” Rey fought back hysterics and pulled as hard as she could. Please, oh please. I’ve got to save her.

Jyn looked into her friends eyes. “Sorry,” she said as their grips parted and Jyn fell down the mountain. Rey could see through teared eyes that she landed on a outcropping of rock a few hundred feet below.

“No!” Rey screamed so loud she felt like she was tearing her throat. “Hamilton, please, help me find a way down to her. I’ve got get to her.” She looked over the edge, trying to find a way down to her fallen friend, or if there was another path she could take to get to her from below.

Hamilton helped her down to her friends side. Her breathing was ragged, but there. Blood stained the rocks that had embedded into her back, and her legs were obviously broken. Blood pooled in her ears and one eye had been stained red.

“Oh god, Jynnefer, I’m so sorry.” Rey reached out to stroke her friend’s face and hair, then looked around. “Help! Someone, please help us!” she yelled out through her sobs.

Her speech was garbled and broken as she answered her friend. “It….t.’s…o….kay. For..r….yo..u…it…i..s..okay.” Her eyes began to flutter as she clung to the final thread of her life. Rey’s sobs had drown out the noise of the man wolf climbing the rock face. Grey stood before her in Urshal form. “Rey!”

“Jyn fell. The ledge, it collapsed under us,” Rey could barely make herself understood through her body wrenching sobs. “She pushed me to safety but she fell… I couldn’t hold on…. I couldn’t save her…”

Miss. Hamilton spoke softly. I am not able to heal her Miss, the damage is too severe. Hamilton was not sure if Rey even heard him.

Grey knelt next to her and held out his paw like hand on her shoulder. “She still lives and there are others in the distance. We need to move her. There is a place nearby. Rey we can take her to a friend and maybe…” He scooped Jyn up into his arms and took off.

Rey followed as quickly as she could, ignoring her friend’s blood smeared on her face and clothes, pushing herself as hard as she could to keep up.

Grey lead her across a good distance. She was a good distance behind him but he was making his path obvious for her. Eventually she came upon a cemetery, where Grey was talking with a woman that Rey recognized as Dark Sun. Rey watched Dark Sun speaking to Jyn, and then Jyn nod her head faintly. With that Grey carried Jyn off into a building and as Rey ran up Dark Sun stepped in her path to block her. Rey could not help it as her body froze in it’s path.

“I’m sorry, Dark Sun. It’s just…. Jyn’s my friend. Can you help her?” Tears welled up in Rey’s eyes again and rolled down her face.

“It is not up to me.” Replied Dark Sun. She glanced behind her as Grey returned without Jyn. Dark Sun nodded to Grey as he put a hand on Reys shoulder. “Now you leave,” she said to Rey.

Rey nodded. “Could… Could you tell her something for me? Tell her thank you?”

Dark Sun said nothing but her eyes held an understanding of what it meant to Rey.

Turning around and walking away was one of the hardest things she’d ever done. It went against everything she was, to leave Jyn behind, but she had to go. She took Grey’s hand in hers and held onto it like a lifeline as she forced herself to walk down the path, oblivious to where she was going.

They walked together for a while, but soon Rey found herself shaking with exhaustion as the adrenaline rush started to wear off and the emotional drain started to hit. “I need to sit down.”

He found the nearest place to sit down and shifted back to human.

“I feel so cold.” She’d started to shiver, and a cold ache had taken root in her gut.

Grey wrapped his arms around her and held her in silence.

She buried her face against him and the shivering slowly subsided. Tears rolled down her cheeks, but they were those of relief, not grief. She’d done her best to get Jyn to help, and now it was out of her hands. She only hoped that if her friend didn’t make it, she’d done nothing to tie her to this world, nothing to prevent her from moving on.

Eventually, she lifted her head and pressed a light kiss on Grey’s cheek. “Thank you for watching over us, for being there.”

“Not there when you needed me. I am sorry.” He gently stroked her hair as he spoke.

“Yes, you were.” Rey’s voice held a bit of strength in it. “If you hadn’t been nearby, I’d probably still be back there and Jynnefer wouldn’t have had a chance. She saved my life and, I think…” she paused, a lump forming in her throat, “I think she might have actually let go, so she wouldn’t pull me over with her. It all happened so fast. She said she was sorry, and then she fell.

“Before we left for our trip, she said she was sorry for not being there for me for the stuff I went through. She said she’d have to make up for it.” Rey shook her head. “She didn’t owe me anything.”

“You did what you could, she knows that. Have o regrets Rey, carry her strength with you.” His words were whispers.

“No regrets,” Rey said. She took one of his hands and laid it over her heart. “And her memory lives here.” She pulled her head back to look at him, to try and see in his face, in his eyes, what he was feeling.

There was only love and sorrow to meet her eyes. His arms wrapped around her and picked her up in one motion. “I will carry you the rest of the way. Though we may need to make a few stops.” He said with a half smile.

She didn’t protest, instead putting an arm around his shoulders. “What kinds of stops?” A million different possibilities raced through her head.

“To rest of course, you’re heavy.” He was fighting back a grin as he said it.

“And it’s all your fault, you know,” she replied in mock indignation.

“Is that so?” He asked in a humorous tone.

“Yes, it is. I have to exercise [i]hours[/i],” she said, deliberately exaggerating the last word, “every day because you’re such a good cook. Besides, muscles weigh more than fat. Don’t you like my muscles?”

“Point them out to me and I will adore them.” He laughed as he said it and hoped that he was able to ease the pain in her heart.

“I like the sound of that,” she said with a smile. “Maybe our first stop should be someplace where I can get cleaned up a bit, then I can show you some of my favorite muscles.” She knew what he was doing, trying to distract her, to ease the sorrow and pain she was feeling, and it made her love him all the more. “Actually, I’ll show you some right now.” And with that, she kissed him; a gentle press of her lips to show him how much she loved and appreciated him.

He did as told and carried her off to the next town.

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