Into The Briars

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Part 13: A Fools End

Piper woke up feeling content and refreshed, staring at the ceiling of the room with a stupidly happy grin on her face.

Grace - ever the late sleeper - was blissfully unaware of her siblings sappy ass grin, snoring quietly into her pillow and kicking at the sheets as she dreamed.

Piper didn’t care. She felt amazing, physically and emotionally and mentally, the fear she’d been allowing to control her gone.

Admittedly, she didn’t remember coming back to the room and getting ready for bed, not really. A few snippets came back as she sat up and stretched, shoulders popping as she reached for the sky, still grinning ridiculously.

Brennan - wonderful, tender, strong Brennan - had practically carried her back to the Inn, she recalled now, though it had mostly been because he was loathe to let go of her and not because she needed him to carry her.

After they had spent a good hour or so playing tonsil-hockey, of course. And Gods, could the man kiss; her toes were curling just thinking about the delicious way he’d taken control the night before, so rare for him when it came to their strange relationship.

No, she would never complain about letting go of her fears and inhibitions to kiss him last night; it seemed, for once, that her life was taking a turn for the better.

They still had to deal with Aaron, of course, but everything else seemed to have fallen into place, and Piper wasn’t complaining.

Not worrying about making any noise - because Piper knew Grace hadn’t come in until after her, since Brennan had not only helped Piper get changed but also stayed around to cuddle for a bit afterwards - she clambered from the bed and got dressed, popping into the bathroom to get washed and throw her crazy hair into a rough ponytail. Then Piper grinned and headed out, not bothering to bring the key card with her since Grace would likely still be in the room.

She didn’t know what time it was, and didn’t much care, either; the sun was up, the morning was warm, and Piper was full of energy.

The Primrose was silent at this time in the morning, no guests staying this weekend and the family still in bed.

Piper knew her way around and silently slipped through the kitchen and out the back door, taking in a deep breath of the fresh autumn air and grinning at the sky, planting her hands on her hips for a moment as she glanced around for her goal.

Amber eyes brightened when she spotted the practice staff’s Mason kept on hand, snatching one up and beginning the warm-up exercises she remembered Brennan going through, rolling her shoulders and sliding her feet as she went, trying to keep her movements fluid.

Closing her eyes, Piper simply let her body move, rolling the staff over her shoulders and flipping it from hand to hand, humming under her breath.

She heard the door open and close but pretended not to, listening to the familiar footsteps draw closer as she continued with her practice. Then there was a change in the steps, a preparing step, and the tell tale whistle of a staff slashing through the air warned her of the incoming strike, flipping her staff and blocking it expertly.

Eyes popping open, Piper lifted an eyebrow and grinned mischievously, “Good morning, Gramps. Don’t you know it’s impolite to sneak up on people?”

Brennan’s smile was no less brilliant, eyes bright and challenging as he withdrew his staff, spinning it in his hand, “Twas a test, princess. Wonderfully passed, may ah add.”

“Well thank you, dear Briar King,” Piper was practically purring, far too happy and hyper to resist, loving the way his eyes darkened at her tone, “I could use a sparring partner, if you’d care to oblige...?”

Brennan’s smirk only grew wider as he fell into step, easily slipping into the pattern she’d created for herself. They exchanged blows and strikes, dodging and blocking, and where before Piper had felt awkward and unworthy of sparring with Brennan, now they seemed perfectly in sync, like a sort of dance.

Then Brennan did something fancy with his staff and she found herself caged between his torso and the weapon, her own on the ground and her heart thumping wildly.

“Caught ye.” Brennan murmured, eyes bright as he watched her, lips tugged in a half smile that stretched his scars.

Scars that Piper found herself admiring more than ever, lifting a hand to cup his chin and run her thumb over his lower lip, tracing over that rugged line and making him close his eyes on a sigh, leaning into her touch.

Giddy with affection, Piper used the hand on his chin to guide his face down to hers, once more going on her toes to kiss him, wishing she had a portable stool to help with the little issues their height differences caused.

Brennan was more than happy to help, dropping the staff so he could instead wrap his arm around her waist and half-lift her against him, the other hand cupping her neck as he kissed her back, gentle and tender, the complete opposite of the hungry, desperate kisses they’d shared the night before.

Still, Piper felt herself going a little feint, eyes half-lidded when he lowered her back to the ground, though his hands remained on her waist and shoulder, clearly enjoying touching her without reservations.

Piper blinked happily up at him, taking his hand in hers and nodding back towards the Inn, “Let’s make breakfast for everyone.”

Brennan only grinned and let her lead him back inside, letting go when they reached the kitchen so Piper could start grabbing supplies.

Brennan pulled one of the extra stools up to the kitchen-window and sat with his arms on the ledge, offering input on the food choices and occasionally pointing out the location of a tool when Piper couldn’t spot it.

He also stole several quick touches and kisses while she worked, either running a hand along her arm when she passed or grabbing her for a short peck on the lips.

Piper was humming the whole time she worked, feeling happier then she had in years. And sure, people may have said this was to fast when they’d only sort-of just gotten-together the night before - without ever really saying it, but whatever - but honestly they’d been dancing around their feelings for each other for months so no, it really wasn’t.

Slowly, as the smell of cooking food wafted up through the ceiling, the rest of the family began to appear from upstairs, all looking sleepy but curious.

“My, my,” Serah greeted when she appeared, gaze swapping between Piper and Brennan with a knowing smile, “What’s all this, then?”

Piper only shrugged, returning the woman’s smile as she passed a plate to Brennan, “Thought I’d make breakfast for everyone. As, y’know, a thank you.”

“Wonderful, dear. And, ah, has anything happened I should know about...?”

Instead of answering, Piper caught Brennan by the collar and leaned up to kiss his cheek, returning to her cooking as the man turned red and started to stammer.

Serah only laughed, “Excellent, darling, excellent.”

Chatter filled the room as more people came down, Tanner and Eric working to move all the tables into one long row-table down the centre of the room so they could all eat together, Eve and Hailey fiddling with the chairs and making sure the doors were locked so no one else could intrude.

Grace and Flint made their appearance last, Piper’s sister half leaning on her almost-boyfriend in her still half-asleep state.

She didn’t wake up at all until she noticed Piper’s brilliant smile as she passed, snapping awake and staring, “Piper, did something happen last night?”

Piper only winked, ignoring her sisters happy squeal as she continued to work, everyone helping to bring out table ware and napkins and juice and coffee and tea.

Martha and Kristy helped her bring out the platters of food - eggs and bacon and sausages and pancakes and, on Brennan’s request, French Toast - Piper finishing with the plate of hash browns as everyone else took a seat, leaning past Brennan to set them in the middle of the table.

Eve scowled then, about to get up, “Shoot, Piper, we’re missing a chair, one second-”

“Naw, don’t worry about it.” refusing to let herself be daunted, Piper plopped down right on Brennan’s lap, earning a surprised grunt from the man, “I’m good.”

Everyone was staring then, though Piper simply ignored them and grabbed another plate to start loading it with food, Brennan relaxing and letting his arms rest gently around her waist while she worked.

“Well,” Mason drawled, ”That answers everyone’s question, I think.”

Brennan ‘tutted’ above her head, “Nosey, nosey family ah’ve got.”

“You said it.” Piper agreed, cutting off a square of french toast and holding it up for him, grinning when he took the fork and munched on the treat gratefully, “I hope you enjoy that French Toast, you demanding man, you.”

“Ah damn well will enjoy it, luv.” he rumbled, squeezing her around the waist as he leaned around her to grab more, her heart doing little flips at the word he’d used.

That, admittedly, would take some getting used to.

“Not to break this wonderful mood or anything...” Serah drawled, looking a bit worried, “but, dear, there is another pressing matter you need to take care of.”

Aaron.

“I know. And I promise I will, soon.” Piper looked pleadingly at the older woman, gripping Brennan’s arm just a little tighter then necessary, “Just... not right now, please? Let me have this brief reprise.”

Serah nodded, “I understand, darling. Enjoy your day; you’ve earned it, the both of you.”

Brennan squeezed her again, and Piper smiled, grateful.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, they would discuss what to do about Aaron.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Tomorrow, it turned out, was a very vague term.

They did not talk about Aaron the next day. Or the next. Or the next.

In fact, asides from keeping an eye out for the sorcerer, they didn’t think about him at all until mid-way through November, when snow was just starting to dust the ground.

Piper was just... enjoying herself to much. Enjoying being open and truthful and sincere, enjoying spending time with Brennan, even if they weren’t doing anything especially romantic or intimate.

Hell, they’d had three snowball fights in the past two weeks, despite the fact that the snow barely covered the ground and could hardly be called packing snow. Imp had instigated almost all of the fights, then Snow would join in and the Hound would come barreling out of The Briars to roll around in the fluffy white stuff and, well... how could they resist their pets?

Piper and Brennan would always end up curled together on either her couch or his, sipping coffee or hot chocolate and watching whatever movie happened to be on. Usually mostly just snuggling and sometimes kissing, occasionally making out, very rarely actually watching whatever the movie was.

They spent most of their time together, though it was common to see them apart, as well, since they weren’t glued together as many couples were.

Their days were mostly spent the same as they had been; working at the Primrose, or in The Briars, or working on something at their respective houses. All that had changed, really, was that they always ate dinner together, and always slept in the same bed, whether it was at her house or his.

Whichever was closest to where they’d been working, usually.

It wasn’t until mid November, the 17th, when Grace came over looking rather pale, that their thoughts turned again to the threat named Aaron.

“Dad’s coming.” Grace all but blurted the second she was through the door, not even waiting to remove her coat or boots or anything, “Here. To visit. And to scout a new location for the restaurant, he said, though I doubt that.”

“He still doesn’t know I’m here, right?” Piper questioned, eyebrows up as she took her sisters scarf and gloves, tucking them away on a side table as Grace hung her coat up.

"I haven’t told him, but I bet Aaron has. And I feel like that’s why he’s coming, not because of any personal desire to. He’s coming because Aaron is planning something. I’m scared, Piper; what if he hurts Dad? What do we do?”

“We’ll figure it out, Grace,” Piper led her sister to the kitchen and sat her down at the island counter, smiling gratefully when Brennan slid an already prepared cup of tea to the younger woman, “When is Dad supposed to be coming?”

“Tomorrow. I think. I don’t know, the conversation was so strange and rushed, I don’t know what parts were true and what parts were fake.” Grace gripped her head, and Piper could tell she was shaking, “Can I... can I stay with you? I don’t... I can’t help, I know that, I have no special abilities, but I... I don’t want to go back to school until...”

“Y’can stay. Yer safer w’us, anyways.” Brennan grumbled, tapping agitatedly at the counter, “We shoulda been plannin’ fer this, we’ave no time t’plan...”

“We’ll figure something out.” Piper managed, feeling shaky herself but knowing she had to stay strong.

For Grace. For Brennan.

For herself.

“Ah’v e been wonderin’....” Brennan was mumbling, but his eyes were bright, steady on Piper as he spoke, “Ye’ve been able to draw power b’fore, aye?”

“Yeah, though mostly unintentionally.”

“Maybe ye’could suck th’energy outta Aaron? It’d be risky, but if ye could neutralize’is magic...”

“He wouldn’t be a threat anymore.” Piper answered, frowning, “I might be able to, but I’d... have to get close to him...” she shivered in disgust, wrapping her arms around herself, “I don’t... know if I could handle that, Brennan...”

“Might have ta, Piper.” Brennan looked like he had swallowed something sour, “Ah dun like it anymore then ye do, but if it’ll get rid of’im...”

“I know.” Piper sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves, “I know. We’ll... figure it out. Tomorrow. For real, tomorrow.”

“Alright.” Brennan pursed his lips, downing the rest of his coffee before standing, “Ah’ll take th’couch. Yer sister needs ye.”

Piper only nodded, tilting her head back when he paused to kiss her and savoring the touch, eyes fluttering as he mumbled g’night in her ear before disappearing down the hallway.

“C’mon, Grace.” she murmured, gently leading her sister to the bedroom, “Let’s get some sleep.”

~*~*~*~*~

Piper snapped awake as a shock of alarm ran through her, an electric buzz that shouted danger!

She shot up in bed even as Grace came awake, her sister shaking as she sat up and stared at Piper in alarm.

“What is it?” she whispered, going pale, “This... this feeling? It’s like... like...?”

“Evil.” Piper whispered back, jumping out of bed and thanking the Gods she had worn jeans and a t-shirt to bed, “Malice. Aaron’s coming.”

Brennan met them in the hallway, alert and on edge, blue eyes glowing with ice and staff in hand. “He’s coming.” he grunted, gaze snapping to Grace, “Grace, stay’ere an’call th’police. NOW!”

Grace scurried away to the kitchen with her phone in hand, Piper turning to Brennan even as she heard her sister speaking to a 911 operator, “Yes, hello, police, please-”

“We can do this.” she stated, trying to sound more confident then she felt even as the threatening aura seemed to grow thicker, stifling even in the protection of the house.

“Aye,” Brennan tucked her hair behind her ear, grim and determined and tender all at once, “We can.”

Piper took a deep breath and nodded, striding to the front door and pulling it open, stepping out with Brennan on her heels.

Imp, Snow and the Hound stood in a protective barrier in front of the porch’s door, snarling and hissing and growling at the figures walking up the drive way.

Aaron, of course, was at the head of the group, smirking confidently despite the still crooked arch of his nose. Three of his familiar goons were at the back, not carrying weapons or anything and clearly there for looks more than anything else.

Pipers gaze wasn’t focused on them, however. She was staring at the man in the middle of the group; middle aged, with graying brown hair and tired blue eyes, wrinkles lining his face and a placid, dopey sort of smile on his lips, somewhat heavy set and just marginally taller than Piper herself.

“Dad!” Piper was standing beside the Hound in an instant, hands clenched into fists and hair flaming red, “Aaron, let him go! He has nothing to do with this!”

“No, but he does make rather handy leverage.” Aaron came to a stop roughly five feet away, hands in his pockets as though he hadn’t a care in the world, head tilted back so he was watching her from beneath his lashes, “So here’s the deal, darling. Come back to me, and I won’t kill him. Simple, really.”

“You fucking bastard-” Piper tried to dash forwards but Brennan’s grip on her arm stopped her, the Guardian shaking his head with a frown.

“Aw, see? Even your little boyfriend knows attacking me is a bad idea! And, hey, if I don’t get what I want, I’ll kill his family, to! Simple enough to do, since I know where they all live! So let’s save me the trouble, eh, Piper?”

“Why are you doing this?” she demanded, shaking with rage and hatred and fear, “Why are you do determined to ruin my life?”

“Aw, sweetling, ruining your life was never part of the plan! You were happy with me before, remember that?”

“You had me under a spell! I didn’t know any better!”

“And you would have stayed under that spell, to, and wouldn’t we have all been better off? But no, your bitch of a mother went and killed herself, and took the baby with her! Little witch knew how to cast spells, somehow. Pity, too.” Aaron scowled, scuffing the toe of his shoe in the dirt, “If you’d delivered that baby, the spell would’ve been sealed permanently. No little... slips, like we’ve had.”

"Why?!” Piper demanded again, beyond rage.

"Power, darling! I’m a sorcerer, and if I had you, the most powerful magical battery of our time, I’d be unstoppable! Never mind that your father owns an incredible successful chain of restaurants that, if I marry you, will also be mine upon his death? What more could a man ask for! Besides, we’d make beautiful children, you and I, and beauty is everything to a sorcerer.”

“Not to all sorcerer’s.” Piper retorted hotly, making the blonde man’s gaze shift to Brennan with a sneer.

“It is to all real sorcerer’s, those who have to struggle for their powers and abilities. How else can we lure in power sources like you, darling? Beauty is everything, as is power and wealth. Now...” Aaron held his hand out to her, smile suddenly charming, “Come to me, Piper. Return, and I promise I won’t hurt your father. Or Grace. Or your precious Briar or his family. Sorcerers honor.”

Even now, when Piper was sure he was using his magic, she found herself unaffected, instead utterly repulsed by the idea of giving in to this madman.

She had to look like she was, though, or else their plan - the little bit of plan they had - would fail.

“You swear you won’t hurt them?” she pleaded, trying to act like the spell was affecting her a little, if not completely, “Promise?”

“I swear, darling. Oh, one last thing,” Aaron’s smile grew absolutely wicked, “Take off that pendent, sweetling; I don’t want any foreign magic tainting you.”

Piper panicked mentally, hand coming up to touch the pendent. Could she resist his magic without it? She didn’t know, was terrified to try because what if she couldn’t?

“I’m waiting, darling.”

You can do this Piper. Believe in yourself, you can beat this bastard.

Taking a deep breath, Piper pulled the chain up and over her head, turning to place it into Brennan’s outstretched hand, fingers brushing as they met eyes briefly before she turned away, staring straight ahead as she passed the Hound and crossed to the smirking man, praying she could do what she had to.

I love you, Brennan. I will not let go of you now. I promise.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Brennan watched with a forlorn panic rising in his chest, gripping tightly to the pendent as Piper approached the man he wanted nothing more than to strangle.

Aaron smirked and reached out to grasp her chin when she was within reach, tilting her head this way and that without a care, Piper not reacting at all, “See, darling, now was that so hard?”

Piper said nothing, and fear gripped Brennan’s heart, almost giving in to the urge to rush the bastard as instinct fought to take over.

Ye can do this, Piper. Please, ah know ye can.

“Let’s seal the deal with a kiss, shall we?”

Then that bastard put his lips against Pipers and Brennan saw red, growling as he fought to stay still, every ounce of Fae blood in him awakening and howling for action, for blood, for Aaron’s head split in two by his staff-

She’s mine! How dare ye touch what is mine!

Forced to watch as another man kissed the love of his life, Brennan almost looked away when he noticed a change, eyes going wide.

Where at first Aaron had clearly been enjoying the forced kiss, now he seemed startled by something, looking as though he was about to pull away.

Just as he tried to break it off, however, Piper’s hands snapped up and gripped onto his head, keeping him where he was even as he started to panic, trying to tear her hands away from his head with an almost savage desperation.

And then Brennan saw why; Piper’s hair was glowing, but not it’s normal glow. It was becoming positively blinding, the visible parts of her skin now going pure gold as she sucked energy from the sorcerer, taking back instead of giving, something only very few magical batteries could do.

It only took maybe two minutes total, but it felt like hours had passed when Aaron stopped flailing and his arms dropped to his sides, lifeless.

Piper released him and shoved, the man sprawling backwards on the ground with a look of pure horror on his face, eyes glazed and unseeing as he stared at the sky.

“My... magic...” he gurgled, beginning to shake.

"Gone.” Piper growled, her voice raspy, breaths panting as she stumbled back towards Brennan, still shining with the energy she had absorbed, “You’re not a sorcerer anymore, Aaron. You’re nothing.”

Brennan stepped forwards immediately, waving his staff to cast quick capture spells on the man’s goons before they could think about disappearing.

Piper was against him in an instant, nuzzling into his chest and grasping at his shirt desperately, energy seeping into him just from the brief contacts.

“Oh my God.” she gasped, whining and breathless, “To much energy, I feel like I’m going to explode.”

“Ye did it, Piper.” Brennan murmured, trying to calm her, ears pricking as sirens began to wail in the distance, “Ye did it. He’s not a threat anymore.”

“Don’t care.” she was practically writhing against him, clinging and clutching and nuzzling, “Need... I need...”

Yeah, he knew exactly what she needed, but this really wasn’t the place for that, especially with her father snapping out of his daze and blinking at his surroundings in surprise.

“What the...?” he mumbled, putting a hand to his head and looking incredibly puzzled, “Where am I?”

“Daddy!” Grace came running out of the house then, hugging her father tightly, “You’re back!”

“Grace? What’s going on? Where are we?”

“Grace.” Brennan drew the younger girls attention for a second, seeing her eyes go wide when they spotted the glowing woman in his arms.

“Is that Piper?” she gasped, “Is she okay?”

“She’ll be fine, but ah gotta help’er with th’energy build up. Take care’a these idiots and get th’police t’take ye back to th’Inn, alright?”

“Gotcha. Take care of her.”

Brennan only nodded before scooping the glowing woman up in his arms and taking off towards The Briars, only vaguely hearing their father asking what was going on again in the background.

His entire focus was on the purring woman in his arms and getting them to a safe, secluded place without tripping on anything, made harder by her curious hands on his shoulders and neck.

"Brennan...” she whined, pressing closer to him, and he cursed under his breath, strides lengthening.

“Patience, luv, soon.”

They didn’t go into the main area of The Briars this time. Instead, he veered right when he hit the wall of thorns and headed for the secret entrance right behind his house, the one only he had access to.

The entrance to his personal Grove, the place he’d never brought anyone else before.

Right now, it was the safest place for them both.

Unlike the rest of The Briars, this area was completely private, and he had several furnishings made out of trees and moss and leaves, though the bed - where he would sometimes bunk if in a particularly unsocial mood - had a real comforter and pillows.

Somehow he made it to the bed without his control snapping, his goal first and foremost helping Piper with the excessive amounts of energy she had taken in.

He laid her gently on the bed and crouched over her on his hands and knees, taking a moment to bask in the fact that this was real.

Piper had beaten the odds and was here, real and aware and his, and now she was staring up at him pleadingly with too-bright amber eyes and lips swollen from another man’s kiss that begged to be cleansed.

Brennan sunk down on his forearms and kissed her, gentle at first, testing her sensitivity and tasting her, feeling the energy begin to transfer as she sighed and kissed him back, arms slipping around his neck to play along the skin there.

It wasn’t long before the kisses grew longer, hungrier, tongues and teeth coming into play as they grew more desperate, the energy transfer adding to the heightened sensations as it travelled between them, strengthening his magic and lessening her burden.

Even when they needed air they only broke apart momentarily, Brennan taking the chance to kiss her chin, along her neck, at the hollow of her throat and the rise of her collarbones.

He paused to study her with a heaving breath, noting the glow had dimmed to her usual markings, golden swirls and flame red hair, her eyes a less vivid amber that watched him knowingly, completely aware.

“Feel better?” he questioned huskily, wanting more but not wanting to push her, more than willing to stop now that she was back in her right mind.

“Yes. No. Doesn’t matter.” Piper’s arms tightened around his neck and yanked him down to her so she could kiss him again, biting at his lower lip like she had the night of his birthday, “More.”

“We dun’ave ta-”

"More.” Piper demanded stubbornly, legs wrapping around his hips to pull him down between her legs, rolling her body against him.

“Are ye sure?” he had to make sure, lust addled as he was, that she wasn’t going to regret this, regret him-

"Brennan." Piper was growling, teeth bared and eyes flaming, ”I love you, you fucking dork. Now listen to me and take me, god dammit!”

Well, Brennan thought, swallowing, That settled that.

“As ye wish, m’lady.” he managed to rumble before losing himself to her lips.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Piper didn’t know what time it was when Brennan carried her out of The Briars and back to her house, and frankly she was far to happily sated to care.

Grace and her father had thankfully vacated the premises as Brennan had told her to, and he carried her into the house like a groom with his bride, glowing with both the energy she had given him and a certain smugness about the events afterwards.

He had donned his pants and wrapped her in the comforter of the bed, since she was far too loose limbed to even think about getting dressed at the time, scooping her up in a bundle and carrying her away.

“We could have stayed in the Grove, y’know.” Piper had chided him softly, comfortable against his chest.

“Nay, ah’d rather have ye home, where yer familiar.”

“Dork.” she had whispered, heart swelling once more with the tender affection he showered on her.

Now, Brennan laid her gently on the bed before retreating to the bathroom to relieve himself, giving Piper time to discard the comforter for her own fluffy blankets.

Brennan was back after a moment, climbing in with her and not complaining in the least when she curled up against his chest.

They lay in silence for a bit, with him stroking a hand up and down her back. Brennan thought she had fallen asleep, in fact, and was about to follow after when she spoke up again.

“Brennan?”

“Aye?”

“Is... that what sex is supposed to be like?”

Even half asleep, the question worried him, “Like wut?”

"Incredible?”

Brennan couldn’t help the snort that escaped him, even as he hugged her closer and smirked proudly.

“That it is, Princess.” he murmured, “That it is.”

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