Part 10: Warnings and Nightmares
Two weeks later, Piper felt on edge.
Despite the Fae’s warning, nothing had happened. She’d done her best to continue the way she had been before; working at the Primrose, exploring The Briars with Brennan, texting Grace about the upcoming meet-up.
Still, it seemed like there was something in the air, some change that she could just barely sense.
Briar felt it to, she knew. He was just as tense and wary as she was, and even more protective during their trips into the Fae realm.
The Fae Hound was a constant companion during the trips, meeting them the second they entered The Briars and only leaving once they were back into the pathway. Piper had to admit it was slightly amusing, watching Brennan and the Hound snarl and snap at each other, clearly not the others biggest fan.
They’d been warming up to each other, though, little by little; Piper had even caught Briar patting the Hound on the head the last time they’d been in the realm, earning a rumbling purr from the Fae creature. She’d looked away before they had noticed her watching, not wanting to put a damper on their male-bonding.
Now, even as she sat behind the wheel of the Trax, listening to Kristy and Flint bicker in the back seat and Briar occasionally adding a snide remark to the conversation, Piper still felt the tension. Her grip on the steering wheel was tight enough that her knuckles were white, gaze firmly kept on the road and stomach roiling anxiously.
As promised, she was driving the youngest of Martha’s brood to Trent, bringing their luggage with them. She was also meeting Grace there - her younger sister was legitimately taking courses there this year, but the main purpose was also so she could update Piper on what had been happening back home.
Briar had come along for three reasons. Or maybe more, she wasn’t sure.
Firstly, he was along to help move the stuff into Kristy and Flints dorms. Secondly, to escape his mother for the day because she was being even more incessant than usual.
Thirdly - and probably the real main reason he had come - he was just as tense as she was and didn’t want to risk anything happening in Peterborough.
“Like ah said, there’re sorcerer’s who’ll stoop t’any means t’get a powerful energy source. Ah don’t want’ye bein’ snatched unknowingly.”
I can look after myself. She would have retorted once, but after the mess with Aaron, she wondered if she could. Against a sorcerer, at least.
Now, she was honestly happy to have him along.
It was an hour and a half drive from Maynooth to the Trent campus, and admittedly, listening to Flint and Kristy bicker had Piper feeling slightly better by the time they hit the outskirts of the campus. Even Briar was smirking a little less harshly than usual, glancing at her from time to time from the corner of his eye.
Piper had lost track of what they were even arguing about at this point.
"Children,” she groaned in her best ‘mom voice’, pulling into the Campus Proper, ”Behave. We’re here.”
“Sweet! Oh, go that way! We’re in Gzowski!” Kristy was between the seats pointing excitedly now, green eyes sparkling brightly.
So much for not wanting to go back. Piper smirked, rolling her eyes and taking the indicated road with a hum, watching for students as she drove.
Of course she’d want to go back. Kristy’s normal, despite her strange family. She probably has friends here, and Carter. Why wouldn’t she want to go back?
Piper hastily shoved the flare of envy that spiked at the thought away, knowing it was unfair to blame the younger woman. It wasn’t Kristy’s fault her life had been messed up.
It was Aaron’s.
I am socking him in the face if I ever see him again.
She hoped she would never get the chance.
“There she is.” Flint’s drawl grabbed her attention, drawing her gaze to the building ahead of them, “Home sweet home until Christmas Break.”
Piper’s nose scrunched, “It’s kind of...”
“Ugly?” Briar grunted, shooting her a look, “Trust me, yer not alone.”
“It is not ugly!” Kristy defended hotly, “It’s interesting!”
“Sure, Kristy, keep telling yourself that.”
"Okay, we’re here!” Piper pulled right up to the curb and threw the Trax into park, twisting in her seat to lift her eyebrows at the siblings, “Time to unpack.”
They really were like kids, the way they both eagerly unhooked their seatbelts and hopped out of the vehicle. Piper turned to say so to Briar and the words caught in her throat, brown and blue locking momentarily as they both just smiled at each other.
Then the sound of the back hatch opening snapped Piper from her daze and she scrambled to undo her seatbelt and hop out of the car, face flushing red.
Not now, dammit, not now!
Piper hurried to the back of the Trax and started to help the siblings unload their belongings, carefully avoiding Briar’s gaze as they worked.
Then she felt eyes on her and looked up, meeting a familiar gaze of deep blue framed by rich chocolate brown.
“Hey,” Piper nudged Briar, still avoiding his eyes as she jerked her head in the woman’s direction, “Gonna run off for a bit, like we’d planned. You guys okay?”
“We’ll b’fine. Go see yer sister.”
Nodding once, Piper turned and walked towards the woman, shoving her hands in her pockets and trying to smother a stupid grin.
As usual, the girl was dressed like a picture from a fashion magazine; brown, high waist shorts with black thigh-high stockings, brown ankle boots, a grey sweater, brown scarf and beanie.
Typical, typical Grace.
“Hey kid.” Piper greeted, unable to help the smile once she was closer, “How’s it going?”
“Oh come here, you grump.” Grace laughed, pulling the older woman into a tight hug, her boots making her Piper’s height, “I’ve missed you. And I am so sick of having to sneak around in my own house to talk to my sister! Fuck!”
“Hey! Watch that mouth!” Piper pulled back with a mock offended look, “Since when do you swear?”
“Since you left, pretty much, because someone in the house has to have a potty mouth. If only to tell Aaron to fuck off.”
Piper’s stomach clenched uncomfortably at the name, lips twisting into a grimace, “Do I even want to ask?”
“Not really, but it’s better you know, anyways.” Grace leaned to the side then, peering over her shoulder with narrowed eyes, ”Soooo, who’s with you?”
“The blonde’s are Kristy and Flint; they’re going to school here, too.”
“Flint’s kinda cute. Introduce me later.” Grace’s lips puckered slightly, “Who’s the really tall guy?”
“Briar - er, Brennan King. He’s the son of mom’s old friend, Serah, though I know you never technically met them. He’s Kristy and Flint’s older cousin.”
“Hmmm.” Grace’s eyes slid back and forth between she and Briar for a second, making her neck prickle uncomfortably, “Ahhhh. Gotcha.”
“Oh please, Piper, I can read you like a book. You like him.”
“Can we not talk about this right here?” Piper grumbled, steering her sister away and in the direction of what seemed to be the rest of the campus, not even bothering to deny it. Grace had always been able to read her perfectly; she was the one person she didn’t try to hide anything from.
“Okay, okay, I get it, you’re trying to act like you don’t like him.” Grace rolled her eyes and huffed, hooking her arm through Piper’s and taking the lead - she probably did have a better idea of where she was going, really, since she’d been on campus for a few days already, “But really, Piper, I know you’re still hurt from the sleazebag, but you obviously want him. Come on.”
"Focus, Grace.” Piper muttered, knowing her cheeks had gone red again, “Catch me up on what’s been going on at home, yeah? Since you’ve clearly been sneaking around to text me.”
Her sisters lips twisted suddenly, her face a grimace, “Let’s get coffee first, okay? I need coffee to talk about this crap.”
Piper would never object to coffee, so she kept quiet until they’d paid and settled themselves into a corner of the Universities Library, overlooking the River.
“Okay, spill.” she demanded finally, keeping her voice low and her eyes pinned on her sisters uncomfortable face, “What’s been happening while I’ve been gone?”
“Okay, well, it’s weird, really. When you took off, I thought Dad would freak out, start panicking, you know. And he did, kind of. At first. But then Aaron started coming around more again, and Dad’s worry just kind of faded.”
“You know Daddy’s always liked him - he’s been a chef at the restaurant since even before you guys met, and I think Aaron reminds him of himself a bit - but now he’s head chef. And it’s like... I donno, like he has some sort of control over Dad.”
“He might.” Piper winced, catching Grace’s confused look, “I’ll explain after, go on.”
Grace nodded, rubbing her arms as though she were cold suddenly, “I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve just started to notice a weird... aura around Aaron. Is that the word? I know Mom used to talk about them a lot, and she hated Aaron. I just get a weird chill off of him, I avoid him as much as possible.”
“He’s always at the house these days, though, with Dad. I think he knows that I know where you are, but I hope I’m wrong.”
Piper swallowed thickly, her mouthful of coffee going down like sludge. She reached into her pocket and gripped her keychain tighter - the one with the Briar dream catcher on it, the protective charm that had helped bring her out of whatever trance Aaron had put her under, “Let’s hope.”
“And I got mad a couple of weeks ago, at Daddy. I mean, how could he not be worried about you?! I get you’re an adult, but as far as he knew you had just disappeared! So I flipped on him.”
“And he just gave me this smile, like he was drugged or something, and he said don’t worry Grace, she’ll come back and it was just the creepiest thing ever. I know Mom used to see weird things, and so did you, but-”
“Wait.” Piper put a hand on her sisters, eyes swirling hazel as she stared at her in surprise, “You remember me seeing things?”
“Well, duh, yeah, you saw stuff all the time when we were younger! Up until you started dating the douche, you were always seeing things!”
Piper sat back and just stared at her lap for a moment, fighting back the angry scream that wanted to let loose. How could she tell her sister she had forgotten most of those things?
“Grace...” she hesitated, licking her lips, “Until I came here, I didn’t remember most of what I used to see. A lot of my memories from before him - especially of Mom - were gone. I’ve just started to remember things, slowly...”
Grace looked terrified, grasping her hands suddenly. “Tell me everything.” she demanded.
Two hours, at least three coffees each, and a text to Kristy to let her know they were fine and still talking later, Piper had laid bare her soul and Grace sat quietly digesting the information, blue eyes murky.
Grace believed her. The way she sat biting her lip, clasping her hands with her brow furrowed, told Piper that.
Her sister always believed her.
About the things she saw. About Aaron cheating.
About what she was, what their mother had been.
What Brennan was.
What Aaron probably was.
“So how do we get Daddy away from him?” Grace questioned quietly, still staring at her lap, “Or how do we get rid of Aaron? Permanently? I really want to punch him, now, and I am not a violent person.”
“No, you’re usually sparkles and sunshine. Besides, I get first dibs on punching if I ever see him again.” Piper shrugged, scowling and clutching the keychain a little tighter, “And I don’t know, honestly. I think Brennan can help, but we need to figure out if Aaron is a sorcerer first. And I don’t really want to get close enough to him to figure it out, if I can help it.”
“True say.” Grace sighed, pouting in a way that reminded her very much of Kristy. Then she smiled suddenly, looking like the little sister she hadn’t seen in ages, “So. Introduce me to Flint, yeah? He’s cute.”
Piper could only laugh, ”There’s the Grace I know.”
The brunette shrugged, standing and grabbing Piper’s hands to pull her up as well, “Hey, I’m an open book. Unlike certain older sisters.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, please, Piper. Even when you were dopey over Aaron, I’ve never seen you so smitten. You really like Brennan.” Grace smiled gleefully at her frozen sister, “And it’s terrifying you, isn’t it?”
“More then you know.” Piper admitted, shoulders slumping in defeat, “I’m not ready for... anything, Grace. Whatever happened with Aaron, it wasn’t love. It wasn’t even real, I’ve discovered. So these... feelings or whatever, that I have for Brennan. I don’t know what to do with them.”
“Eh, don’t rush yourself, sis. Take your time.” Grace grinned and tugged her sister away from the corner, heading for the exit, “Just not too long, cause he seems like a cool guy.”
Piper snorted at that, “Wait till you talk to him, you might change your mind.”
“Nah. Can’t dislike a guy who looks at my sister like she’s some sort of angel come to Earth.”
That, along with Grace’s accompanying giggles, shut Piper right up, face once more a vivid pink as they walked back towards the Gzowski Dorms.
Halfway there Piper thought to text Kristy to let her know they were on their way back, receiving a quick ‘Okay see you soon!’ in response.
True to their word, the others were waiting by the Trax when they got there, now cleared of all of Kristy and Flint’s belongings.
“’Bout time.” Brennan grumbled, though she could tell he was messing with her, lips fighting to tug into a grin, “Thought ye’d gotten lost.”
“Nah, just wanted to keep you waiting.” Piper smiled sweetly at the muttering that earned, turning to beckon Grace closer, “Guy’s, this is my sister Grace. Grace, this is Brennan King, Serah’s son.”
“Call me Briar.” the tall male acknowledged, nodding briefly. Grace returned the nod with a bright smile.
“And this is Kristy and Flint Smith, Brennan’s cousins.”
“Nice to meet you.” Grace was at Flint’s side and sliding her arm through his in an instant, batting her eyes innocently, “Take a walk with me, Flint? The campus is gorgeous this time of night.”
“Ah, sure.” Flint’s eyes sparked, and he nodded a goodbye to Piper and Brennan before walking off with the brunette, Grace shooting her sister a wink over her shoulder.
Kristy blinked and shrugged, giving Piper a wry smile, “She always like that?”
“Flirty as hell? Oh, yeah.”
“Eh, it’ll be good for him. Anyways! I’m gonna get settled in. You two should head home!” Kristy was hugging her suddenly, grinning as she pulled back, “Thank you soooo much Piper! We seriously appreciate the ride! And thanks for coming to help move stuff, Brennan!”
“Stay outta trouble, kid.” Briar muttered, ruffling his cousins hair affectionately and smirking when she stuck her tongue out at him before dashing back towards the building and disappearing from sight.
Piper stared after her for a moment before feeling her companions gaze on her, sighing roughly.
“Grace filled me in on the happenings back home.” she mumbled, looking at him from the corner of her eye, “Nothing good.”
Briar grunted, shoving his hands back into his pockets and turning towards the car, “Talk about it on th’way, aye?”
“Yeah,” Piper cast one last look at the dorm building, “Sounds good.”
The wind outside howled, rain pounding on the roof.
Something snapped, lightning flashed and thunder roared over head.
Piper tossed in bed, sweat beading on her face and teeth clenched, hair a wild tangle around her head as she rolled and twisted, sparking fire red.
Lightning flashed again, thunder rolling above and Piper jolted awake, chest heaving and eyes wide and blank, sheets clutched in fisted hands.
She couldn’t see at first, couldn’t think. Could just lay still and gasp for breath, terror gripping at her heart, a cloud fogging her mind.
No! Piper blinked rapidly, shaking her head and fighting the feeling, vision returning as she scrambled from the bed and dashed from the room, fleeing the eyes she could feel boring into her from the darkness.
Not safe. Danger. Need safety.
Head pounding, Piper flew through the kitchen and out through the mudroom, stumbling in the wet grass beyond the steps. The rain beat at her, but she didn’t notice, fighting to keep her thoughts, to fight against the cold haze trying to cloak her mind.
Need help. Safety.
She was running blindly through the rain, drenched and cold and terrified and desperate, pushed on by the desperation to fight, to win-
The Briars. Need safety.
Brennan. Find Brennan. Need Brennan!
Piper crashed through the entrance to the Briars without a thought, the pathway opening and closing as though aiding her flight from the danger, blocking it from reaching her.
The Briars were quiet and still as they always were, not a drop of rain falling there. Piper didn’t stop, stumbling down the familiar hill and nearly crashing to the ground in the Kirin meadow, crying out when she landed on her hip with a hard thump.
The Kirin herd was there suddenly, surrounding her in a protective circle, antlers raised to fend off whatever was chasing her as they took position, as though they’d been summoned.
Her Hound was snarling at her side, circling her, hackles raised and teeth bared as it pressed against her, Snow chirping worriedly from behind it’s parents.
Imp flitted across her vision before disappearing, rushing off through the circle and vanishing into the distance.
Piper wrapped her arms around the Hound and held on tightly, trying to banish the cold still trying to envelop her heart, the fog lifted slightly from her mind but still struggling to keep it’s hold.
Where was he? She’d needed safety, he was safety, she’d felt him here, had followed the feeling, where-
Piper’s head snapped up at her name, fuzzy vision locking onto the imposing figure striding rapidly towards her. The Kirin moved aside and suddenly he was there, in front of her, worry and anger and fear written starkly across his harsh features, staff dropping as he bent to hover over her, hesitantly reaching for her, “Piper, wut happened? Imp came’an got me-”
"Brennan.” the word was a chocked sob, Piper reaching out and wrapping her arms around his neck, the veil lifting completely from her mind as she pressed her face into his chest, warmth returning as he gave in and folded her into his arms, ”Brennan. Something... someone was... I felt like a fog... trying to control me... I couldn’t... I needed-!”
“Yer safe now, Piper.” Brennan’s voice was a low growl, soothing her frazzled nerves as he lifted a hand to smooth her hair, “Ah promise. Ah won’t let anythin’ happen t’ya. Ever.”
“He’s watching.” she sobbed, unintelligible with fear, “He’s trying to find me. Don’t let him find me!"
"Never.” Brennan swore, leaning back to press his lips tenderly against her forehead, ”Sleep, Piper. Ah won’t let’im hurt yeh.”
"Brennan...” the word came out as a tearful mumble, breathed into his chest as sleep took her, aided by the spell he had whispered against her forehead.
Standing slowly, Brennan scooped her into his arms and hooked his staff into one elbow, nodding curtly to the creatures still standing guard.
The Kirin disappeared, going to check the rest of The Briars, while the Hound and Imp trailed behind him, keeping guard as he crossed swiftly to the exit nearest his house.
Piper would be spending the night with him, lest any more nightmares or sorcerers come to haunt her.
Ah’ll protect yeh. No matter what.
Birdsong woke Piper the next time; pulling her from a calm, dreamless sleep.
The storm had ended and the birds were the only sound she could hear, reminding her of the night spent at Serah’s. And speaking of similarities...
Hazy hazel eyes opened to peer at the broad back facing her, soft breathing carrying in the quiet of the morning.
Brennan wasn’t as far away from her as he had been that night, but he’d still left a respectable distance between them, tucking her under the sheets while remaining on top himself.
Even as the events from the night before flashed through her mind, Piper couldn’t bring herself to be embarrassed.
She remembered the cold, clutching feeling she’d felt trying to invade her mind, her heart. The utter terror that had flooded her at its touch, the desperation that had sent her fleeing into The Briars.
Running to Brennan.
No, she wasn’t embarrassed. She may not have been ready to admit to anything out loud, but clearly her subconscious knew what it wanted.
She hadn’t hesitated when she’d felt that creeping terror.
She’d gone straight to Brennan, to where she’d sensed him, seeing him as safety.
Remembering the look on his face when he’d found her - anger and fear and surprise and a million other emotions - made her heart thump a little, feeling distinctly comfortable there in his bed, lying innocently beside each other.
Well, almost beside. Brennan was, jerk or not, a gentlemanly jerk, after all.
Piper shifted slightly so she was lying completely on her side facing him, eyes brightening as she took in his exposed back curiously, examining the twisted vines of his tattoo. She’d never gotten the chance to take a good, long look at his tattoos, especially not from the back.
The vines - intricately woven and looking more like they had grown on his skin rather than being inked - covered the expanse of his broad shoulders and continued down both arms, where she knew they tapered off at the wrists. She could pick out where several small scars ran through the designs and where certain vines ended and began, thorns lining them. The flowers on his shoulders had reverted to the primroses they had been when she’d first met him again, and Piper wondered if they always did that when he was asleep.
Comfortable and curious and slightly more daring than usual, considering the night before, Piper reached out and gently pressed both hands to his shoulder blades, surprised by how smooth his skin was.
Briar snorted in his sleep but made no other movements, settling back down.
Piper bit her lip and shifted her hands, smoothing them down his back, over the designs and then just slightly lower before moving them back up again, watching the tattoos.
The vines started to writhe, just slightly, under her touch, especially when she traced along them with her fingers, exploring.
I wonder... Piper concentrated and watched as a swirl of gold appeared on her hand and then transferred to one of the vines, the energy soaking in and making the design glow.
Beneath her touch Briar stiffened and she heard a sharp intake of breath, smiling a little lazily and just continuing to explore the vines.
He was definitely awake now.
“Piper...?” he muttered groggily, accent twisting the word and making her heart flip.
“What are these?” she mumbled back, still touching him.
“Wha... m’tats?” he grumbled, relaxing again even as his voice started to drift off.
“Duh. They’re clearly not normal tattoos.”
“Clearly.” Briar agreed in a mumble, her touch apparently putting him back to sleep.
"Hey, no going back to sleep while we’re discussing important things.” Piper purposely sent another jolt of energy into him, feeling him jump a little in surprise, ”Seriously, I want to know. What are they? Why do they move?”
“They’re a part’o me.” he grumped, sounding more awake, “Tho they were meant t’be normal tats.”
“Oh?” Piper started tracing single vines again, curious as to how they all interlocked, “How so?”
“I made th’mistake oh askin’ m’dad if’e knew a good tattoo shop. Turns out, th’shop used Fae touched inkssssssshit!” Briars breath was a hiss as Piper ran a nail along a particularly tiny vine, back stiffening beneath her touch.
Piper froze, blinking in surprise, “Did that hurt?”
“No...” the word sounded forced, but then he was continuing with his answer to her question, “Originally, the tats were jus’the flowers and a few vines. After... Adeline, they kinda took over m’skin...”
“And the flowers change... why?” Piper continued tracing the vines once more, watching his reactions carefully, “They reflect your emotions, or something?”
“Somethin’ like tha’.” he groaned, and it seemed like he was both trying to lean into and away from her hands, “Ah can’t control it, unfortunately.”
“Gotcha.” Piper smoothed her spread hands over the design, scowling when he swore rather harshly and sat up without facing her, “Brennan, seriously, am I hurting you?”
"No.” the word was harsh and strangled, as though he were gritting his teeth, “Yer doin’the complete opposite o’hurtin me.”
Ohhhhh. Even as Piper realized what he meant, she sat up as well, reaching out to rest her hand on the vines again, noticing how quickly he tensed up. “So it’s not... painful?”
“Not th’way yer thinkin’.” now he clearly was gritting his teeth, hands clutching fistfuls of the sheets, “Ye may want’a stop that.”
“Why?” where this boldness was coming from Piper didn’t know, but she continued to trace the vines, lips tugging into a smirk.
"Piper.” her name in that husky rumble was enough to freeze her hands, his gaze a scorching blue stare that made her flush, “Ah only ’ave so much control.”
Piper lowered her hands immediately, feeling ashamed. “Sorry.” She may have been slowly, slowly admitting to her feelings to herself, but she wasn’t ready for anything like that.
Brennan turned away and stood, striding towards the door she hadn’t noticed before while trying to keep his back to her. Piper caught a glimpse of his front, though, and yup, she’d been affecting him like that all right, crap.
Hearing water running and realising he’d gone into a connecting bathroom - and left the door open so they could still talk, she hoped, woo - Piper took a look around the room now, since she hadn’t bothered to before.
Honestly, it was almost identical to the one at Serah’s house; all greens and browns and blacks, masculine and simple.
And the bed was huge, long enough to comfortably house his gigantic 6′6 or whatever self. Piper felt like a kid, she was so small compared to it.
“Thanks, by the way.” she called after him, still looking around the room, “For, uh, last night.”
“D’ye remember much?”
“Not really. Mostly feeling like something was trying to control me.” Piper frowned, shivering at the memory, “I just remember feeling scared, and needing to get to safety.”
“An’The Briars are safety t’ye now?”
You’re safety to me. Piper didn’t say. “Yeah. I was kinda just running off instinct, y’know?”
“Good. Ah’m glad ye knew where t’go.”
“What was it?” Piper questioned, lying back on the borrowed pillows and staring at the ceiling, “Do you know?”
Briar paused for a moment, as though not wanting to say. Then, carefully, “Ah think... yer ex was scryin’ fer yah.”
Her stomach dropped, “Scrying? Like...”
“Tryin’ta use a spell t’locate yeh. An’take control ah yeh again, by th’sounds of it.” a growl had entered the Scotsman’s voice now, accentuating his accent even more, “Bloody coward. Did ye have the keychain with’ye, Piper?”
“On my nightstand, but I don’t exactly sleep with it in my hand.” Piper pulled her knees to her chest then, hugging them tightly, “I can’t believe he almost got me again...”
“This ain’t yer fault, Piper.” Brennan came back into the room then, wearing jeans and a grey tank and obviously having calmed down, “It ain’t. We just gotta step up the protection around ye some more-”
“How weak minded am I if he can do that so easily though, Brennan?” she got on her knees so she could be slightly closer to his height, scowling, “If I was stronger-"
"Piper.” he was in front of her then, staring down at her with achingly tender blue eyes, mouth a determined scowl, “Ye’re the strongest woman ah’ve ever met. Ye’re not weak. E’s a sorcerer, an’a bad one at that. It’s not yer fault. Ah’ll hafta add more protection to yer house; Jeanette ’ad a map o’spells surroundin’ th’house, but they’ve prob’bly worn off without’er.”
“Will that work?”
“Damn right it will.” Brennan gave her a look that was downright feral, “Ah won’t let’im get ye Piper. Ah swear t’ye. Whatever it takes.”
Piper couldn’t help it. Just seeing him so determined, so obviously desperate to protect her, to keep her safe, pushed back her fear of attraction just briefly. She reached out and wrapped her arms around his neck to pull him down and hug him tightly, face against his shoulder even as he stiffened in surprise.
"Thank you." she whispered, tightening her hold to let him know how much she appreciated it, how much she cared.
It was a relief when Brennan finally hugged her back, wrapping his arms around her smaller frame and pressing her more firmly against him, nose in her hair.
"Anythin’.” he whispered back.