Sam will learn to duck on time, if only to avoid he way Frank acts afterward.
Of course, Sam had never been able to duck right away when he was told to. He always had to look first.
God, why did he have to look?
"Holy shit!" he yelled, ducking more to get out of the eyesight of that thing than because Frank had told him to.
One, two, three, four shots and it was on the ground. Sam stood up quickly, backing away until he collided with Frank's chest. He was shaking violently, unable to even apologize. He put a hand to his mouth. Oh, God, he was going to be sick.
And Frank's hands were on his shoulders, stilling his tremors through force. It was strangely relaxing. Slowly, he calmed down, and when his eyes focused again he was able to move his hand. His breathing was far from even, but he wasn't going to have a panic attack - unless there were more of those things.
"A Buggane," Frank said, pushing him away gently and moving around him to poke at the thing with the toe of his boot. "It probably wouldn't have attacked if we weren't here."
Less afraid with the other man there, Sam stepped closer, taking in the appearance of the thing properly. It almost looked like a troll, but its entire body was furred with long, black, wiry hair. Its forearms were huge and its legs were short. Overall, it was larger than Sam was, its tusks the size of his forearm and its claws almost as long as his fingers. Its mouth was so large he was sure it could have swallowed him whole.
Frank titled his head, one hand reaching into his coat, pulling out a pack of cigarettes. He was stressed. CJ had managed to get him to stop, for the most part, but he still kept the pack. He said it helped him "deal."
"They're territorial?" Sam asked, voice quavering only slightly. Frank gave a grunt that meant "no," his lip turning up as he pushed its arm with his foot, the cigarette settling on his lips. "What's the matter?"
And then the Buggane started to stir, groaning in pain. Before Sam could move - but not before he could yelp - Frank had the gun out again. Two shots and two clicks. Sam tried to remember if he'd heard any shooting before he'd entered that chamber of the ruins. He should have heard it - but was there anything else in this mass of rocks and strange altars worth shooting? Then again, Frank was known to shoot at things for no reason. It pleased him.
After a few deep breaths, Sam asked again. "What's wrong?"
Frank grunted again and pulled the cigarette away from his mouth, blowing smoke down at the beast. He didn't look at Sam. "When I say 'duck,' just do it."
Sam felt his face heat up. He bit his lip, trying to keep the blush down. He hated feeling like a nuisance. He rubbed at the side of his face nervously. Maybe it was a good idea for him to just go home...
His hand was pulled away from his face, and with wide eyes he stared up at Frank. His lips were still pressed thin, and the X-shaped scar over his left eye twitched slightly, as though begging to open again and look at him properly. His hair was a mess, falling out of its ponytail, and the cigarette was hanging rather loosely. He stared for a moment in silence, his good eye searching Sam, as though the answer to some question - maybe the question of why the Buggane was there - laid in the boy's freckles. "You scared the shit out of me," Frank said, finally, letting go of his hand and walking away.
Sam followed without a word, still not sure if he was the source of Frank's stress or not. The man was never direct unless he was barking orders.
When they got to the stairs of the ruins, Frank started explaining. "It's probably here to protect the altars. I found some scrolls with fairy-writing on them. I think they do their little nature ceremonies down there."
Sam nodded as though that all made sense. It did, in a way; it explained the moss that hadn't been washed away in spite of the place's obvious recent use, and the way the walls glittered in the light of the torches that lined the halls. It didn't explain what the Buggane had to do with it, though. He'd heard of them before.
"I'll show you some books about it later," Frank said, knowing full well that his companion was confused. "It didn't say anything did it?"
"No, it just growled."
"And you didn't sense anything else down there?"
"Oh. No, nothing... it was just some really strong magic. It kind of... set me off."
Frank paused, turning to raise an eyebrow at him. Sam blushed furiously. He never felt comfortable when Frank looked at him that way. He ducked his head, resolutely moving forward, past the older man. They were halfway to the van, and he couldn't wait to get back to it now.
He heard Frank laugh behind him, deep and rough. He ducked his head further, as if burrowing into his jacket. Why did he have to be so nervous all the time?
He heard CJ before he saw her. "What do you mean, one month? How the hell are we supposed to finish this in a month? No, fuck /you/!"
He lifted his head, smiling. The van. Thank God!
"Hey!" CJ said, waving. She was leaning against the hood of the van. Her black-and-blue dyed hair nearly disappeared into its dark red paint in the night, but the shine of her braces and the near-glow of her pale skin gave him enough to see her by. "How'd it go?"
"It went all right," Frank called back from behind him. "Just fairies and a Buggane. Had to kill it, though."
"Fuck, Frank, are you smoking?" Sam knew he'd be hearing about it for the next hour. "God, you're a pathetic man. Can't even quit properly. Hey, why'd you have to kill a Buggane?"
They were at the van, finally out of the woods. It was parked at the very end of the faint dirt path, but it hadn't been nearly wide enough a way to bring a vehicle in. Frank moved to get into the passenger side, shrugging. "Just did," he answered nonchalantly.
"It attacked me," Sam added, etting into the back. There wasn't a lot in there: a few rolled-up sleeping bags, some food, a lot of books. They had few personal effects. The most valuable things they kept were Sam's panpipes and the book CJ had undoubtedly been talking to their publisher about.
"A Buggane attacked you?" CJ asked as she got in, as though this was completely bizarre.
"It was protecting fairy altars," Frank grunted, settling in. He didn't bother to wear his seatbelt. "I found scrolls."
"What did they say?" CJ asked, suddenly very interested.
"Dunno. Didn't get Sam to read them."
"What? Why not? We could have put the translations in the book!"
Frank sighed, regarding her as a parent would a petulant child. "It's not a fluff fairy book, CJ. It's about protecting yourself in the face of magic. The publishers don't want that shit."
CJ huffed. "We need something to fill it with. That was Danny on the phone. He wants it in /a month/. Can you believe that?"
Frank grunted. "He can bite my ass. He either gives us the time we need or gets less than what he wanted."
"That's what I said." CJ settled in, starting the van. As it rumbled to life, Sam felt his eyelids droop. He brushed blond hair out of his face. He needed to get it cut.
"I'll call him tomorrow," Frank said, opening his window and tapping his cigarette, letting the ash fall as the van rolled, slowly turning away.
"Jesus, Frank, put that damn thing out."
Frank puffed on it, staring straight ahead. Sam yawned again.
"There's other people in the fucking car, Frank."
"You're free to step out if it bothers you."
"I'll push you out. Don't think I won't."
"You couldn't push Sam over."
"Hey," the boy protested weakly, realizing too late that he was drifting off. It was somewhat embarrassing - he felt more like a five-year-old than a seventeen-year-old when he fell asleep in the back seat like that - but he couldn't resist the lure of slumber.
"You are small, kid," Frank said.
He was asleep before he could protest being called "kid."
He dreamt of fairy rituals and Bugganes with cigarettes.