These Boots Were Made for Walking... (open)
Aishe put her feet up on the chair opposite her, which happened to be occupied at the moment. However, as it was occupied by Kem, she didn't think it'd be an imposition. The little cafe was on the way home from Meridian, and as the weather wasn't terrible, they'd been walking to and from work. In the past few months, the unfortunate incidents of Hallowwen had had the direct impact (pardon the pun) of demolishing their one and only vehicle.
The walk was quite long, but neither Aishe or Kem minded it, an on occasions, like tonight, they would stop for a drink and get in out of the chill. Aishe had her hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate (the barista had given her an incredulous look when she'd declined even the teeniest bit of espresso in it), and Kem was occasionally paying attention to a dry cappucino as he intently stared at his laptop.
Aishe had grabbed a magazine when they walked in, but the life and times of the rich, famous, and annoying were boring to her. It wasn't long before she put it down, engaged in some healthy people-watching, which for her included an analysis of the colors their mouths spewed forth, and then finally asked Kem what website he was on.
Fortunately the gods had made laptops, and it was good. He could surf the web happily while his girlfriend (he still got a kick out of the word) engaged in some people-watching, making the occasional remark to him in their silent way. She had her feet up on his lap and naturally, he had reached out with one hand to cup her heels and keep them from sliding off. It was unusual for him to be very expressive in public, but, well, it was under the table and he could pretend no one would see.
On this occasion it took a few seconds for Aishe's question to sink in, and when it did he realized she'd asked what website he was on. With a sheepish little grin he turned the laptop so she could see it.
There was an undignified snort, and a few bubbles of cocoa appeared at the top of Aishe's mug. Kem raised one eyebrow at her speculatively while she groped for a napkin. The unwary passer-by might have wondered why her concerned boyfriend didn't pat her back or something, but Kem had been undead long enough to know when breathing was necessary and when it wasn't. Not to mention, it wasn't like he had to worry about her dying.
Nice car, she thought, sipping at her cocoa. Midnight blue 2008 M6 convertible. Pretty silvery-blue interior with wood trim. Manual transmission; Kem would never have driven an automatic. Heated steering wheel... did Nachton really get that cold? And a projector that displayed imortant information on the windshield? Hello, Earth to Kiamhaat? Permission to take off Captain?
All for the low price of...
Hot chocolate didn't taste nearly as good when it was in her sinus cavity. When the colored lights cleared, the first thing she saw was Kem's slightly amused (and not at all concerned thanks very much my love) face with a very distinct "I dare you to" expression on it.
"You don't think $113,000 is just a teeny bit excessive?"
She asked when she finished wiping hot cocoa out of her left nostril with her napkin.
Oh yes, she certainly did dare!
"It's a BMW," he said helpfully, in case she's missed it the first time around. "2008 M6 convertible? Leather interior?" He turned the screen back to her.
He was looking as hopeful as he could. He knew her criticism was the good-natured, joking kind and he also knew he could return it in kind without fear of misunderstanding. Fun wasn't a word Kem used often to describe himself, but Aishe... Aishe was definitely fun.
"Seriously though," he said. "You've been in Nachton for a few years now, and you haven't had a car this entire time. Obviously the BMW is not for you... but you could look, couldn't you?"
He'd be happy to buy one for her, if he thought she'd ever take him up on the offer. Kem did feel bad ; Aishe had been dependent upon him for rides (well, she claimed she could walk easily) and he'd really prefer she have some more freedom of movement. But she was proud too. She wouldn't let him buy her a car. Money was something they'd never discussed, and he'd never had reason to enlighten her as to the depth and nature of his financial assets. Aishe would do things her own way.
That didn't mean she didn't need a car, though.
"I can't always drive, and you should be able to go wherever you like. You won't want to stay in Nachton forever."
Besides, if Aishe got a car they could crash that one up instead, when the next zombie invasion came around.
"Not even just a little?"
Bastian eyed Reign skeptically, as he opened the door, and held it for her to enter. He was hungry but he just wasn't sure this place would have anything remotely close to what he craved. French onion soup! He chuckled to himself. What a pathetic werewolf he was, unable to bite into a nice, rare, and juicy steak.
In any event, Reign had chosen this place, so he would damn well find something to eat, and make a point of being the one to make the choice the next time they went out.
Following her into the cafe, Bastian spotted a small table in the back.
"How about over there?"
His hand was lightly resting on the small of her back while he waited for her to move. At least the place looked clean, and he wasn't overwhelmed with any noxious scents, like those of old fryer grease.
Reign said quite firmly. She’d found this place accidentally a while ago and had grown quite fond of the coffee, and as she still wasn’t sleeping –quite- as well as she should be, coffee had become a necessity. Although she was starting to suspect that, the increased caffeine in take was making her a bit more jittery than usual and possibly contributing to her trouble sleeping.
That and she liked the art deco feeling of the place. Reign had never understood it but she liked the whole art deco thing. She wasn’t a massive obsessive die-hard fan or anything but, she did like it better than some things, it made her feel at home.
“Yeah, that looks good. I’m going to grab a coffee, what did you want?”
It was a little thing, but she always seemed to guess wrong coffee wise. Well at least she was wrong half the time it seemed. It didn’t help that Reign changed her order and preference on a nearly daily basis. If she couldn’t remember her own, how could se remember any one else’s?
Ambling up to the counter, she caught out of the corner of her eye a rather distinctive looking gentleman. Now… where had she seen him before. Oh, yes around the neighborhood. Not that they’d ever talked. Still she smiled and nodded, that’s what you did with neighbors right?
He did have a point though, she realized. She didn't have a car, having sold hers when she moved to Nachton to begin with. And while she wasn't about to go searching for a zombie-repelling hummvee or anything, she could see the point in having two vehicles. Kem hadn't offered to buy it for her, which she appreciated.
They'd never discussed money, and Aishe had plenty of reason to believe Kem wasn't exactly in dire financial straits. It didn't show on the outside (save for his choice in vehicle), but everything Kem surrounded himself with was of high quality. The furniture in his house, the appliances in the kitchen, the house itself... nothing ostentatious, but even the casual observer would notice it. It wasn't in Kem's nature to be a showoff, so he never lived beyond his means.
Aishe had a feeling she'd be uncomfortable knowing exactly how much her boyfriend had stashed away over his centuries. Being the head of Meridian's archives was a prestigious job in and of itself, but she also knew Kem did plenty of freelance work identifying archaeological remains, was a frequent consultant on anything Egyptian, and had a side job mucking with investments.
Long story short, she was glad he was simply offering to help her find a car, instead of buying it for her. She scooted over one seat so she could sit next to him, slid the chair a bit closer, and turned the laptop back so they could both look at it at once. Pulling up a website she pointed.
"What about something like that?"
It wasn't outrageously expensive, but it was well within her means. And it seemed very "her."
"It's..." he tilted his head, searching for the right word. "Cute?"
He offered her his quick grin. His style certainly leaned more toward the sleek sportscar than this, but the Rabbit suited Aishe. It was no-nonsense and direct, to the point, without being big and bulky.
The door to the cafe creaked as some more customers came in, and Kem looked up to see a young couple enter. He didn't recognize either at first, but when the blonde woman smiled and nodded in their direction, he gave a quick, surprised glance around, realized there was no one nearby, and came to the conclusion that the nod was meant for them.
His memory placed her after that; he'd seen her walking in their neighborhood before. With a dog, if he remembered correctly. A german shepherd. He smiled and returned the nod.
She might have grown up in the big city, but it was a Midwestern big city and there were rules, at least in her old neighborhood you got to know the people living around you. And she knew she'd been a major slacker on this point, so having her nod returned was encouraging. Besides since the break in she felt it would be good if there were more people in the area she knew. What if Bas hadn't come by when he did? Reign didn't like to think about that. But an extra pair of eyes would be good. So when she got the coffees rather than swinging right back to Bas she made a slight detour by the other table, taking the bull by the horns as it were.
"Hi. I hope I'm not interrupting anything, but I'm pretty sure we're neighbors and I thought I'd introduce myself. I'm Reign, I've got the house on the corner."Â?
She held out a hand to shake, realized it had a hot steamy beverage in it, grinned sheepishly and apologetically looked for a place to set the coffee down before trying again.
Taking it as he stood (manners were never out of place, ever), Kem shook it firmly and made the appropriate intriductions. "I'm Kem, and this is Aishe. We're just up the street a bit. I've seen you out with your dog."
Aishe was shaking Reign's hand now, still seated.
"You're not interrupting anything special. We were on our way home and figured we'd get out of the wind for a little bit."
He was pretty sure she'd moved in within the last year or so? Maybe? Kem only really had any dealings with the neighbors directly next to him; a single mother and her two children. The rest of the neighborhood was really very quiet.
Of course, in retrospect he remembered seeing a police car not too long ago, near the house Reign said she lived in. He couldn't help wondering if she knew what that had been about; it concerned Kem that his nice quiet neighborhood could ever warrant attention from the authorities. He didn't particularly want to move, but if the area became unsafe he preferred to find a new home over... well, the alternatives.
His curiosity wasn't enough to override his good manners however. Kem wasn't about to pry, so he simply let the introductions stand and allowed Reign to take the conversation where she wished.
“Yeah, that sounds right. If it weren’t for him some days I wouldn’t get out at all.”
Way too easy to stay at the table or buried in research.
Relieved to hear she hadn’t interrupted anything terribly interesting she smiled a bit broader.
“About the same for us, plenty of room at the table if you want to join us.”
She hoped Bas wouldn’t mind, she didn’t think he would.
It looked liked her invitation was going to be accepted so she retrieved her errant coffee and ushered the other two over.
Sliding in next to Bas she handed him his drink.
“Look, I found some neighbors. This is Kem and Aishe, folks this is Bastian.”
It didn't surprise him to see the two follow her back to the table, and as they drew near he stood, and held his hand to the man first, and then to the woman Reign called Aishe.
"Kem, Aishe, its my pleasure." His handshake was firm, and warm, and friendly he hoped. He wasn't the most social of people, but usually enjoyed meeting new people, especially friends of Reign. He trusted her instincts nearly as much as he trusted his own, and any friend of hers...
"Please, join us? I'm afraid I haven't had time to meet many people since arriving in Nachton." He returned to his seat and then remembered Reign had said the two were her neighbors. "Has Reign filled you in on her breakin? I don't suppose either of you have heard anything about the two men involved? I'd really like to find them, sooner, rather than later."
He had 'sniffed' around the day after the altercation, but wasn't able to follow the scent far. He guessed there must have been a vehicle parked nearby, and both men must have met up and left that way. He had a great nose for tracking, but that was when his prey was on foot. In a vehicle could be done, but it was extremely rare.
His question to the neighbors was two fold. Not only did he hope to find out more information, but he also wanted to make sure anyone in the area was on alert, just in cast the men returned. From what he knew about such things, break ins weren't random, and often occurred in small groups. It wouldn't be unusual for several people in the neighborhood to be victimized.
Then again, after seeing what those two had seen...they may be halfway across the nation by now.
Reign's invitation to join her and her companion was well-received by both Kem and Aishe. While Kem might be reluctant to put himself forward and make new acquaintances, he had no issues doing so when spearheaded by the combined efforts of other parties. So they found themselves heading over to Reign's table and being introduced to Bastian.
She returned the man's handshake, seating herself at the table next to Kem and wrapping her hands once more around her warm mug of chocolate. Almost immediately she was interested in the topic at hand.
"Break in?" Her eyes flickered from Reign to Bastian and back again, and then she glanced at Kem, her face registering her surprise.
"I didn't know. I'm sorry," she offered the apology to Reign, for the fear the woman must have felt, and on some level, the fact that they as neighbors hadn't been able to offer assistance at the time.
The reason for chatting was clear soon enough. A break in was some disturbing news, and Kem immediately wondered if this Bastian was sounding them out as potential witnesses and accomplices, or just being downright neighborly and warning them of danger. Either way, he slid his chair a bit closer to Aishe's, placing one hand on her shoulder protectively. Maybe he wasn't much of a fighter but anyone who wanted access to their house was going to have to go through over six feet of irritated vampire to do so.
Turning his strange eyes on Reign he asked, "Are you all right, and can we help you at all? Do you know who's responsible?"
It bothered him that their quiet neighborhood could be the cause of such drama. Kem enjoyed living there because it was so quiet. He was willing to help keep it that way.
A bit flustered to be the center of attention all of a sudden Reign nodded and smiled a bit weakly.
"Yeah. I'm fine thank you. We got a bit lucky he,"Â? She rubbed Bas' shoulder "came by when he did."Â?
Ordinarily she would have been a bit cross Bastian had come by even when she'd specifically told him not to bother, but under the circumstances it was on a list of the very best things he'd ever done.
Reign couldn't help but notice the Kem almost immediately went vaguely protective of Aishe and couldn't fault him. It had been scary as all hell. She also noticed the odd color of his eyes, and figured it had to do with his hair and a larger genetic anomaly. The odd thing was it put her half in mind of Pakpao. After all how many blue eyed Asians did one meet?
"No, haven't got a clue who or why. I'd been out of town for a while so I'm guessing they'd been watching the house. A day earlier and they probably would have cleaned it out, a day later and they would have noticed me being home."Â?
An oddly philosophical view to have of the situation, but true.
"It sounds like you haven't seen anything out of the ordinary though."Â?
Their apparent surprise made that fairly clear. But that was good, it was a safe neighborhood and that was one of the reasons she liked it. Although it did make it extremely odd these guys would break in at all.
Not that he was completely cynical or guarded, since he could let himself relax among his pack, and Reign of course. But few other people, save Sabine, and a random mixed group, would he allow close enough to penetrate his mental fortress.
Luckily he was pretty quick at picking out those people he knew he would never be able to trust, and these two did not fit into that category. He was glad to know Reign had friendly neighbors, yet still hadn't given up on the thought of her moving in with him. Not by a long shot.
As was expected, the conversation had become focused on Reign, and her recent experience. Never one to bask in the limelight, Bastian preferred his lover to be the center of attention, and readily slipped into a place alongside her. When Kem directed his questions at her, Bastian sipped his coffee, and enjoyed the feeling of normalcy, amidst the discussion of craziness. The touch of Reign's hand on his shoulder, as did any sign of affection no matter how small, gave Bastian pause. It was one of those everyday, unconscious acts that seemed all that much more poignant by its simplicity.
"I am glad I showed up when I did...just one of those feelings you get, you know? When there is nothing substantial to base the idea on, but you know you just must do something..."
He wasn't sure that made any sense at all, but how do you explain intuition?
"According to the police, the break in really must have been isolated...at least they implied there hadn't been many others in the neighborhood. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if these guys maybe saw something in the paper about Reign's tour, and that's what led them her way. They just seemed too professional to have chose her house on a whim..."
After the break in, in addition to trying to track these men down, Bastian really had done some in depth checking, not only into the men, but the circumstances of the thwarted burglary.
Reign was guarded; not out of distrust of Aishe and Kem, she guessed, but because she'd been frightened and was holding back on just how badly. In spite of her very matter-of-fact words, the situation had disturbed her and rightly so.
Bastian was across the table from her; too far away for Aishe to sense anything, but basic instinct told her he was a fighter. There was something about him. Listening to him talk, and watching him interact with Reign it was obvious that there was something there but equally obvious that he carried a fire inside of him. Aishe couldn't explain any further than that.
Kem, last but certainly not least, was the easiest person for her to read of course. At first their bond had been her only way to understand his feelings, but now it was a crutch... a cheat sheet almost, she thought with slight amusement. Constant contact with him made him easier to read with her strange brand of empathy, but living with him was what had really given her the deepest insight into how her lover thought and felt about most things. His protective hand on her shoulder was a comfort; not because she feared some sort of attack but because she was reminded that they were, and would remain, together in all things.
Something Bastian said just then turned her thoughts away from 'reading' people and back to the conversation at hand.
"What about it was professional?"
Working at Meridian had given her a broad knowledge base of all sorts of thievery; what methods were used in what situations. It was something she had to know in order to track down someone who might have done something similar. Police Squad she wasn't, but if she could help her newfound neighbor shed some light on the situation, she would.
Picking up on Reign's choice of words, he tilted his head at her curiously. "Your tour?"
Was she some kind of celebrity? And if so, what did that mean for them, and their quiet life? Camera crews? Newspapers? Interviews from annoying gossipmongers? He might not be up on the latest pop culture trends, but Kem still imagined he'd have known if someone like that had moved onto their street. And if this was a trend for Reign, much as he liked her, he'd move elsewhere. He'd spent his fifteen minutes in the spotlight centuries ago and didn't necessarily want to live near that sort of thing again, not with AIshe involved.
But enough with the selfish; he thought. Watching out for Aishe's welfare came first of course, but Reign seemed nice enough and he certainly didn't want anything bad happening to her either. He nodded at her sensible words.
"Maybe your being home would have been a deterrent, but either way it's in the past and if no one was harmed, then there's a bright spot for you."
Kem the optimist, there was a new one.
"We haven't seen anything at all strange," he added. "A few more cars than usual in the area, but perhaps that's a good thing."
"Nothing terribly major. I play pool for a living. I'd been off the circut for a bit so this was something of a come back. Some times its minor notarety, but not much of often."
She made a weak attempt at reassuring her neighbors she wasn't some primadonna person with stalkers at her beck and call.
Reign was also quite to discount Bastian's words, basically because she wanted to. It wasn't professionals and it wasn't for any reason. It was just because the house had been empty, that's all. And since that's all it was she could totally deal with that. God help her if these guys had a plan, or an agenda. She didn't like to contemplate that at all.
Falling back on humor as a bit of crutch, she grinned at the other couple.
"I've never had a house broken into before, so how you tell the differance between a couple of nut jobs going with a smash and grab job," She borrowed a phrase from one of her favorite movies "to looking out for me personally I don't know."
It sounded a lot more confidant than she felt. Of course the fact that the whole situation had her this shook up was bothering her a great deal. Reign was not happy to find she was vulnerable, in any way, to say the least.