Far upstate in the adirondacks, on the verge of dawn's arrival over Saddleback Mountain, the male who had taken the deer down the night before the male who had taken the deer down the night before was tracking another. Slow and uncoordinated, he knew the hunter role he was playing was a joke. The strength he got from the animal blood just wasn't enough anymore. Tonight as he'd left his cave, he was so weak he wasn't sure whether he could dematerialize at all.

Which meant he probably wasn't going to be able to get close enough to his prey. Which meant he wasn't going to feed. Which meant... the time had finally come.

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It was so odd. He'd wondered, as he imagined everyone did from time to time, how exactly he was going to die. What would the circumstances be? Would it hurt? How long would it take? He'd assumed, given what his line of work had been, that it would have been fighting.

Instead, it was going to be here in this quiet forest by the hand of dawn's burning glory.

Surprise.

Up ahead, the buck lifted its heavy rack and prepared to bound away. Gathering what little energy he had, the male willed himself to cross the distance between their two bodies... and nothing happened. His corporeal form flickered in space, blinking on and off as if his light switch were being triggered, but he didn't change positions, and the deer shot off, white tail flicking as it crashed through the underbrush.

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The male let himself fall back on his ass. As he looked at the sky, his regrets were many and deep, and most involved the dead. Not all, though. Not all.

Although he was desperate for the reunion he expected to find in the Fade, though he hungered for the embrace of the ones he'd lost so recently, he knew he was leaving a part of himself behind here on earth.

It couldn't be helped. The leaving behind, that was.

His only solace was that his son had been left in very good hands. The best. His brothers would look after his son, as was the proper way of things in families.

He should have said good-bye, though.

He should have done a lot of things.

But the shoulds were over now.

Ever mindful of the suicide legend, the male made a couple of attempts to stand, and when they failed, he even tried to drag his deadweight body in the direction of his cave. He got nowhere, and it was with a slice of joy through his dark heart that he finally allowed himself to collapse onto the pine needles and leaves.

The male lay there facedown, the cool, dewy forest bed filling his nose with smells that were clean even though they came from the dirt.

The first rays of the sun come from behind him, and then he felt the blast of the heat. The end had arrived, and he welcomed it with open arms and with eyes that were closed in relief.

His last sensation before he died was his liberation from the ground, his broken body being drawn up into the brilliant light, drawn unto the reunion it had taken eight horrible months for him to find.

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