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The Hunters: Moonsong Chapter Thirteen

Bonnie clutched the banana-nut muffin to her chest as if it was some kind of sacred offering.She just could not bring herself to knock on Matt’s door.Instead, she turned big pleading brown eyes on Meredith and Elena.

“Oh, Bonnie,” Meredith muttered, reaching past her, shifting the pile of bagels and the carton of orange juice she was carrying, and rapping loudly on the door.

“I don’t know what to say,” Bonnie whispered back, agonized.

Then the door opened, and Matt appeared, red-eyed and pale.

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He seemed somehow smal er and more hunched into himself than Bonnie had ever seen him. Overwhelmed with pity, she forgot al about being nervous and launched herself into his arms, dropping the muffin in the process.

“I’m so sorry,” she choked out, tears running down her face. Matt held on to her tightly, bending over and burying his head in her shoulder. “It’s okay,” she said final y, desperately, patting the back of his head. “I mean, no, it’s not … of course it’s not … but we love you, we’re here.”

“I couldn’t help him,” Matt said dul y, his face stil pressed against Bonnie’s neck. “I tried my best, but he died anyway.”

Elena and Meredith joined them, wrapping their arms around Matt from either side.

“We know,” Elena said, rubbing his back. “You did everything you could for him.”

Matt pul ed out of their arms eventual y and gestured around the room. “Al this stuff is his,” he said. “His parents don’t feel like they’re ready to clear out his things yet, they told the police. It’s kil ing me to see it al stil here when he’s not. I thought about packing it up for his parents, but there’s a possibility that the police might want to look through his stuff.”

Bonnie shuddered at the thought of what Christopher’s parents must be going through.

“Have something to eat,” Meredith said. “I bet you haven’t eaten for ages. Maybe it’l help you feel better.” Al three girls fussed around, fixing the breakfast they’d brought for Matt, then convincing him to taste something, anything. He drank some juice and picked at a bagel, his head lowered. “I was at the police station al night,” he said.

“I had to keep going over and over what happened.”

“What did happen?” Bonnie asked tentatively.

Matt sighed. “I real y wish I knew. I just saw somebody dressed in black running away from Christopher. I wanted to chase him, but Chris needed my help. And then he died. I tried, but I couldn’t do anything.” His forehead creased into a frown. “The real y weird thing, though,” he said slowly, “is that, even though I saw a person running away, the police think Christopher was attacked by some kind of animal. He was … pretty ripped up.”

Elena and Meredith exchanged an alert glance. “A vampire?” said Meredith. “Or a werewolf, maybe?”

“I was wondering about that,” Matt admitted. “It makes sense.” Without seeming to notice, he finished his bagel, and Elena took advantage of his distraction to slip some fruit onto his plate.

Bonnie wrapped her arms around herself. “Why?” she asked. “Why is it that, wherever we go, weird, scary things happen around us? I thought that once we left Fel ‘s Church things would be different.”

No one argued with her. For a little while, they al sat quietly, and Bonnie felt as if they were huddling together, trying to protect themselves from something cold and horrible.

Final y, Meredith reached out and took an orange slice off Matt’s plate. “The first thing we need to do, then, is to investigate and try to figure out if these attacks and disappearances are supernatural.” She chewed thoughtful y. “As much as I hate to say it, we should probably get Damon on this. He’s good at this kind of thing. And Stefan should know what’s going on, too.” She looked at Elena, her voice gentle. “I’l talk to them, okay, Elena?” Elena shrugged. Bonnie could tel she was trying to keep her expression blank, but her lips were trembling. “Of course,” she said after a minute. “I’m sure they’re both checking things out anyway. You know how paranoid they are.”

“Not without reason,” Meredith said dryly.

Matt’s eyes were wet. “Whatever happens, I need you to promise me something,” he said. “Please, be careful. I can’t – let’s not lose anyone else, okay?” Bonnie snuggled closer to him, putting her hand on his.

Meredith reached over and placed her hand over both of theirs, and Elena added hers to the pile. “We’l take care of one another,” Elena said.

“A vow,” said Bonnie, trying to smile. “We’l always watch out for one another. We’l make sure everyone is safe.”

At that moment, as they murmured in agreement, she was sure they could do it.

Meredith pivoted and stepped forward, swinging her staff down to strike at Samantha’s heavily padded knees.

Samantha dodged the blow, then jabbed her own staff straight toward Meredith’s head. Meredith blocked the blow, then thrust her staff at Samantha’s chest.

Samantha staggered backward and lost her footing.

“Wow,” she said, rubbing her col arbone and looking at Meredith with a mixture of resentment and appreciation.

“That hurt, even with the padding. I’ve never trained with anyone so strong before.”

“Oh, Well,” Meredith said modestly, feeling absurdly pleased, “I practice a lot.”

“Uh-huh,” Samantha said, eyeing her. “Let’s take a break.” She flopped down on the mat, and Meredith, her staff balanced lightly in one hand, sat beside her.

It wasn’t her staff, of course, not her special hunting one.

She couldn’t bring her heirloom slayer staff to the gym – it was too clearly a customized deadly weapon. But she’d been delighted to learn that Samantha could fight with a four-foot-long jo staff and that she had an extra.

Samantha was quick and smart and fierce, one of the best sparring partners she’d ever had. Fighting, Meredith was able to block out the helpless feeling she’d had in Matt’s room this morning. There was something so pathetic about seeing al Christopher’s things sitting there ready for him, when he was never coming back. He had one of those weird little fake Zen gardens on his desk, the sand neatly groomed. Maybe just the day before, Christopher had picked up the tiny rake in his hand and smoothed the sand, and now he’d never touch anything again.

And it was her fault. Meredith squeezed her staff, her knuckles whitening. She had to accept that. If she had the power of being a potent force against darkness, a hunter and slayer of monsters, she had the responsibility, too.

Anything that got through and kil ed someone in her territory was Meredith’s failure and her shame.

She had to work harder. Practice more, go out patrol ing the campus, keep people safe.

“Are you al right?” Samantha’s voice broke through Meredith’s thoughts. Startled, Meredith saw Samantha staring at her with wide, solemn dark eyes, taking in Meredith’s gritted teeth and clenched fists.

“Not entirely,” said Meredith dryly. “Um.” She felt like she had to explain her grimness. “Did you hear about what happened last night, the guy who was kil ed?” Samantha nodded slowly, her expression unreadable. “Well, he was the roommate of a real y good friend of mine. And I was with my friend today, trying to help him. It was … upsetting.” Samantha’s face seemed to harden, and she scrambled up on her knees. “Listen, Meredith,” she said, “I promise you this isn’t going to happen again. Not on my watch.”

“On your watch?” Meredith asked mildly. Suddenly, it felt hard to breathe.

“I have responsibilities,” Samantha said. She dropped her eyes to her hands. “I’m going to catch this kil er.”

“It’s a big job,” Meredith said. It wasn’t possible, was it?

But Samantha was such a good fighter, and what she was saying … why would she think she was responsible for stopping the kil er? “What makes you think you can do it?” she asked.

“I know this is difficult to believe, and I shouldn’t even be tel ing you, but I need your help.” Samantha was looking straight into her eyes, practical y vibrating with earnestness.

“I’m a hunter. I was raised to… I have a sacred trust. Al my family for generations, we’ve fought against evil. I’m the last of us. My parents were kil ed when I was thirteen.” Meredith gasped, shocked, but Samantha shook her head fiercely, pushing Meredith’s sympathy away. “They hadn’t finished training me,” she continued, “and I need you to help me get better, get faster. I’m not strong enough yet.” Meredith stared at her.

“Please, Meredith,” Samantha said. “I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. People are depending on me.” Unable to stop herself, Meredith started to laugh.

“It’s not a joke,” Samantha said, jumping to her feet, her fists clenched. “This is… I shouldn’t have said anything.” She stalked toward the door, her back as straight as a soldier’s.

“Samantha, wait,” Meredith cal ed. Samantha whirled back toward her with a face ful of fury. Meredith took a quick breath and tried desperately to remember something she’d learned as a child but never had occasion to use.

Crooking her pinkies together, she drew up her thumbs to make a triangle, the secret sign of greeting between two hunters.

Samantha just stared at her, face perfectly blank.

Meredith wondered if she remembered the sign correctly.

Had Samantha’s family even taught it to her? Meredith knew there were other families out there, but she had never met any of them before. Her parents had left the hunter community before she was born.

Then Samantha, moving as quickly as she ever had when they’d sparred, was before her, gripping her arms.

“For real?” Samantha said. “Are you serious?” Meredith nodded, and Samantha threw her arms around her and clutched her tightly. Her heart was beating so hard that Meredith could feel it. Meredith stiffened at first – she wasn’t the touchy-feely type, despite being best friends with wildly affectionate Bonnie for years – but then relaxed into the hug, feeling Samantha’s slim, muscular body under her arms, so like her own.

She had the strangest feeling of familiarity, as if she had been lost and had now found her true family at last.

Meredith knew she could never say any of that, and part of her felt like she was betraying Elena and Bonnie just by thinking that way, but she couldn’t help it. Samantha pul ed away, smiling and weepy, wiping at her eyes and nose.

“I’m acting stupid,” she said. “But this is the best thing that ever happened to me. Together, we can fight this.” She gave a half-hysterical sniff and gazed at Meredith with huge shining eyes. “I feel like I’ve made a new best friend,” she said.

“Yes,” Meredith said – not weeping, not laughing, cool as ever on the outside but, inside, feeling like she was breaking into happy pieces – “yes, I think you’re right.”

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