"Nah, I packed a change of clothes in the trunk," Sam assured her. It wasn't his first day at the rodeo, so to speak, after all, and if anything, he'd come prepared. It might not have been a good idea to have eaten that big breakfast though, but no one was perfect.
"Nudity in the street too? I'm getting all the treats today, aren't I?" One thing he could say about his girl ... despite everything she'd been exposed to, pretty much nothing dampened Becky's personality. She was going to be teasing him for decades, regardless of how appropriate her teases were at any given time.
"I meant your coat and boots!" he told her, chuckling a little at her misunderstanding or at his own mistake in the way he'd phrased it. As for her teasing, it was what made Becky who she was, and he didn't mind a bit. "I'd say a hot bath is in order, wouldn't you?" he asked, as they doubled-back to where he'd parked the car.
"You know me, I never say no to bath-time nookie," she countered cheerfully. Yes, she was stinky; yes, she had foul gunk clinging to her rubber boots and the waterproof mac Sam had insisted she wear; but on the plus side, she had just killed her first monster, without anyone getting hurt, and she had just said yes to the question that had been hanging over their heads for months now. All in all, she felt she had a right to be disgustingly cheerful.
And she had practically been thrown up on for the second time in their relationship, but who was counting? "You did good, Beck," he praised her, even if she had panicked when the thing had gotten close. "Are you sure this is something you'd like to try again?" In spite of his praise, it had been a close call - almost too close - and he knew better than anyone how dangerous hunting could be.
"Hmm, let me think," she mused impishly. "Go hunting for the other half of the key to Atlantis with only one real hunt under my belt, or do it knowing that I'm not going to squeal and try to hide every time something looks at me. Tough decision." She grinned at him, nudging his elbow with her own. "I'm safe with you, I know I am. I just kinda want you to be safe with me, too."
"Is that what all this is about?" Sam asked, turning to face her just as they reached the car. He'd thought she wanted him to teach her to hunt so that they could be partners, like his parents were, or had it been all about Atlantis all along?
She hesitated, her smile dying in the face of the accusation in his voice. "You know it isn't," she told him. "I've never lied to you, Sam, how could you possibly think I would start now? If I don't learn how to do the practical stuff, I'm going to be locked up in that bunker the second they fully initiate me, and you know it. Call me crazy, but I'd rather spend my life with you, doing real things, rather than be a glorified secretary to a couple of old men who think they know everything because they read it in a book."
"No, I guess not. I just ..." He sighed, frowning a little as he turned to pop the trunk so they could at least ditch the smelly rubbers and raincoats. "You know, my Dad watched my Mom die. There was nothing he could do. He had no choice but to leave her behind. I want us to be partners like they are, but I don't know what I'd do if I ever have to face a choice like that."
Becky bit her lip, lowering her eyes as she frowned. "Do .. do you want me to go to the bunker?" she asked quietly, desperately hoping that this was not what he wanted for her life. "I don't think I can handle being in the safest place on Earth, and having to watch you walk away whenever you have something else to do. But if that's what you want, then ..." She shrugged, turning away as she undid the buttons on her mac.
"No, of course not. I want you to do whatever you want to do, and I promised I'd help you find the key. I'm just ..." There was that sigh again, even as he turned her to face him and tilted her chin up to face him. "I love you, Becky. I just don't want to lose you. That's all."
Turned back to him, she shook her head. "Sam, I already came close to dying," she reminded him, her eyes dark with remembered pain. "I survived it, because of you. If it was you standing where I am now, would you really agree to never hunting again and just waving me off every time something dangerous came up?"
"No, I didn't say you couldn't hunt. I just need to sort it out in my head," he told her, though he thought he'd already done that. Her panic in the sewers clearly showed him she still had a lot to learn, and he wasn't sure he wanted to risk her life teaching her, and yet, this was something every hunter had to go through. It wasn't a trial by fire exactly, but even the slightest mistake could prove fatal.
"I've been sheltered and protected from all of this all my life," she said quietly, doubt filling her voice. "If I hadn't been ... if I'd known how to protect myself, maybe ..." She trailed off, her frown deepening as she shucked out of her waterproof mac. The words didn't need to be spoken for them to hang in the air. Maybe my dad wouldn't have died.
She didn't have to tell him what she was thinking for him to know, and suddenly he was pulling her toward him, inwardly hating himself for raining on her parade and reminding her of the dangers inherent in their chosen profession, as well as her father's death. Every hunter had to face the matter of their own mortality, as well as that of those they loved, sooner or later. "I'm sorry, Becky," he told her quietly. "I'm an idiot."
"No, you're not." She offered him a small smile, bundling up the mac with the ick on the inside to stuff it into the trunk. Turning, she perched on the edge of the bumper, working on changing her boots. "You're the best person I've ever known. And I know I'm not up to much. I know I'm just this bookish weirdo with an unhealthy obsession that everyone seems to think needs protecting, but ... protecting me just hurts more. I might feel safe, but I don't feel trusted. I trust you with my life, Sam. But I can't expect you to do the same for me, not when I can't even protect myself."
"I do trust you, Becky," he insisted, frowning worriedly at her, more angry at himself than anything else. All she needed was a little confidence and a lot more training. She wasn't born to it the way he'd been, after all. "If you really want to do this, then you'll learn, just like I did." Okay, maybe not just like he had, but the world was a different place now than it had been when he was growing up and learning to hunt. "I do want to protect you. I'm not gonna apologize for that. That's what people do who love each other."
"I didn't mean ..." She shook her head, letting out a harsh sigh. "I just ... if you're watching my back, who's watching yours? Protecting me isn't just about keeping me out of harm's way. It's about keeping you safe, too, and I know how you feel about hunting. The only way to protect you is to learn all this stuff so I can be there. I promise, I won't flake ever again."
"You didn't flake," he insisted, though in a way, she sort of had. He sighed and took a seat beside her on the bumper. "Have I ever told you about my first hunt?" he asked, as he, too, went about shucking his rubbers and switching to hiking boots.
"No," she said, a spark of curiosity lighting up her eyes as she tilted her head to look up at him. That, at least, was better than the sad frown she had been wearing for a while. "You don't really talk much about your past at all, not since that first date we had."
He shrugged his shoulders, an almost pensive look on his face. "It's all tied up with Hope and my parents and ... I don't like to think about it much." Partly because his parents had died in that past and partly because he was still missing his sister and his kid brother, too, for that matter. "It was a Rugaru. You know what that is?" he asked, as he laced up his boots.
"Uh ..." Becky frowned, searching through that impressive memory of book smarts for the answer. "Monster that eats humans and only finds out when it gets hungry?" she asked, not entirely sure she had that right. Right or wrong, she was pretty sure Sam would make sure she knew.