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by Wes Leigh


The President looked up from the paper he was reading, frowning slightly. He thought he'd heard a thump in the hallway outside the oval office. He shook his head and went back to reading.


There it was again. He stood up and began walking toward the door, but before he could get there, it opened and two men in suits slipped inside, closing it behind them. They turned to stare at the President, the shorter one on the left reaching up to adjust his sunglasses.

The President stopped and tilted his head. "You're both a little young to be Secret Service agents, aren't you?"

The taller one on the right nodded his head, chuckling. He took off his sunglasses and smiled.

The President shrugged his shoulders in resignation when he recognized the young man standing before him. "It's good to finally meet you, Daniel. And I assume this is Diego Ruiz?"

Diego removed his sunglasses and put them in his suit pocket. "Yes, sir," he replied.

The President waved a hand at the sofas in the middle of the room. "Won't you be seated?" he asked, taking a seat himself.

Daniel and Diego sat in the sofa opposite the President, leaning back and making themselves comfortable.

The President sighed and spoke first. "I told Dautry it wouldn't work, but he didn't listen."

Daniel shrugged. "He underestimated us."

The President nodded. "I knew he would. Politicians like myself often have a better sense of such things than career government employees like Dautry." The President took a deep breath, then blew it out slowly. "Now … what can I do for you gentlemen?" the President asked, beginning the negotiations.

Daniel leaned forward and said, "There really isn't much you can do for us. There isn't much we need. But there is one thing we expect."

"And what is that?"

"Leave us the fuck alone."

The President smiled and chuckled. "You'll have to excuse me for laughing, Daniel. It's just that I rarely hear those kind of requests in the negotiations I participate in."

"My apologies for the language," Daniel replied, "but I'm sure you understand the sentiment behind it."

"I do. And the language doesn't bother me. Although I'm somewhat surprised to hear that this is all you're requesting."

"What else would there be?" Daniel asked.

The President adjusted the cuff on his shirt sleeve slightly. "I thought you might be making demands that I shut down Operation Snowthorn, destroy all the surveillance equipment, stop spying on U.S. citizens … all the usual requests."

"If I did, would you do it?"

The President shook his head. "Of course not. And even if I did, whoever takes this office after me would simply start them up again."

"Then what point would there be in me asking?"

"None whatsoever," the President admitted. "Well, okay, Daniel. We'll leave you the fuck alone. What are you planning to do with your town?"

"Nothing major. For starters, we're changing the name from Agony to Unity."

That brought a quick laugh from the President. "Unity? Well, that's an intriguing concept. Do you think you can do it?"

"I know we can," Daniel replied. "While you're spying on us, you can see how well it works. You'll probably notice it spreading to nearby Packs and Covenants. Unity is contagious, you see. You might even decide that it works so well for us that it might be worth trying on a national scale."

The President shook his head. "I doubt that. It's been tried before and always failed. There's always someone who benefits from conflict. But I can assure you, I'll be watching you with keen interest."

Daniel leaned forward and smiled. "And I can assure you, Mr. President, we'll be watching you just as closely."

The President nodded slowly, understanding exactly what Daniel was saying. Then he stood up, holding out his hand.

Daniel and Diego stood as well. Diego shook the President's hand first, then disappeared.

Daniel took the President's hand and said, "Goodbye, Mr. President."

The President smiled and said, "Goodbye and good luck, Daniel."

The state championship game was expected to be a good one. Everyone knew the Unity Cougars were the team to beat, but the Cooperton Wolverines weren't going to lie down and let the Cougars run over them.

The Wolverines kicked off first, sending the ball high and deep. Caleb Murphy caught it at the 1-yard line and charged forward, colliding with tacklers and struggling forward to the 26-yard line, where the Cougars would begin their quest for another championship title.

Daniel and rest of the offense joined Caleb in the huddle. Daniel gave them the play. They clapped and jogged to line up behind the ball. Daniel called out the cadence, taking the ball from the center and fading back to his left, then spinning and throwing a lateral to Dillon on the far-right side. Dillon started to run forward, drawing the defense in, then turned back and ran behind the offensive line, headed for the left side on a planned reverse. Both Daniel and Caleb were ahead of him, opening a path. Daniel caught the defensive end under the shoulder pads and knocked him five feet backward. Caleb cleared out a linebacker, opening a huge hole for Dillon. Dillon sprinted through, running thirty yards down the field before anyone could catch him and bring him down.

On the second play, Daniel faked a handoff to Caleb, then launched a bomb down the right side of the field. Dillon, running a fly route, sprinted full speed down the sideline and reached out to catch the ball in mid-stride. He pulled the ball in and raced down the sideline untouched all the way to the endzone. The extra point was good. Cougars 7 – Wolverines 0.

The Cougar fans shrieked and cheered.

The Wolverine offense was eager to get on the field. They had a plan to deal with Connor, which in simple terms meant running the ball wherever Connor wasn't. It worked most of the time, but Connor had a way of sliding over unexpectedly and causing havoc. Still, the Wolverines persisted, marching the ball down the field a few yards at a time. They had earned their spot in the championship game and intended to prove it by matching the Cougars, score for score.

Facing a third and long, the Wolverines faked a pass and ran a draw play. It fooled most of the Cougars, but not Connor. He waited for the handoff, then slid between two offensive linemen to drop the running back well short of the first down. The Wolverines had to settle for a field goal. Cougars 7 – Wolverines 3.

The Cougars, back on offense, wasted no time. Their first play was an option run. Daniel had the choice of flipping the ball out to Caleb, the fullback, or keeping it himself. When the defense slid to the side to cut off Caleb, Daniel kept the ball, cut inside, and dashed between the bulky defensive linemen. Before they could react, Daniel was fifteen yards downfield, straight-arming a cornerback and juking a safety, then racing for the end zone with the defense vainly chasing after to score a second touchdown. The Cougar fans screamed and stomped their feet until the stands started swaying. Cougars 14 – Wolverines 3.

The rest of the game was much the same, and in the end, standing on a raised platform in the middle of the field, Connor and Daniel stood side by side, raising the championship trophy above their heads while the rest of the team and all their fans covered the field, cheering and chanting.

Connor was openly bawling, wishing his mom and dad could have been there to see it.

Daniel's parents remained in the stands, jumping and screaming with joy.

The band marched from the stands down onto the field, blasting out the school fight song. As they played, Xavier and Diego mentally shouted their pride in their soulmates, knowing they'd have plenty of opportunities later that night to express their excitement in tangible ways.

The walls of the old mill were shaking as Sebastian cranked up the volume on the music system. Kids danced inside and outside and all along the river. The celebration was just starting, and they all planned to party until the sun rose in the morning.

In a slightly quieter spot, across the river, hidden behind a stand of juniper pines, the boys stood in a small circle, enjoying the feeling of holding each other. Daniel, Xavier, Connor and Diego. In a circle. Hands around each other's waists. Swaying slowly to the music pounding from the mill across the river. The music was so loud, they couldn't carry on a verbal conversation, but that didn't really matter, not for the soulmates.

Xavier leaned over and kissed Daniel's cheek. Well done, stud.

What about me? Connor asked, smiling.

Diego stood on his tiptoes and kissed Connor's lips. You too, BIG stud!

Connor accepted Diego's kiss and said, Maybe now we can all get back to normal. No more football. No more government spies. No more running for the hills.

Diego asked, Did everyone make it back okay?

Connor nodded. The entire pack has returned and settled in.

Daniel turned to Xavier and asked, Are the rest of the Covenant back home?

Xavier nodded. Regina brought in the last family two hours ago. From Pittsburgh. She's royally pissed that she missed the game.

They all laughed, picturing Regina in full bitch mode.

By the way, Xavier, Daniel said, did you decide about the name change for the Covenant?

I did, Xavier replied. I've decided to leave it alone. The Smyth Covenant. And I'm changing my name to Xavier Smyth.

Really? Connor asked, surprised.

Yes, Xavier explained, in memory of Minerva.

The others nodded, understanding and respecting Xavier for his decision.

Good choice, Xavier, Diego said, kissing Xavier's cheek affectionately. Then Diego's eyes twinkled mischievously. He turned to Daniel and said, You know, Daniel, you showed great leadership on the field.

Connor raised an eyebrow, then chuckled and decided to join in the teasing. Well, he's a quick learner. I taught him everything he knows, after all.

Not everything, Xavier said with a grin. He has some natural talent of his own.

Oh, really? Connor asked. What natural talent would that be?

Diego giggled. Come on, Connor. Can't you see it? It's almost like Daniel can see into the future and anticipate every move the other team is going to make!

They all laughed.

Daniel shook his head, smiled and winked.

Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent's pressure, and the temporary failures.

-- Vince Lombardi

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get—only with what you are expecting to give—which is everything.

-- Katherine Hepburn

And that, truly, brings to an end this element of the SOULBOUND saga. To all who endured the ups and downs of this twisted tale of the supernatural, you have my gratitude and my respect. With warmest regards, Wes Leigh.

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