Getting Ones Bearings (Attn Xeph but open :) )
Xeph had been as good as his word and shown the young man where Meridian was, not that the Towers were hard to spot. She'd had the presence of mind to grab a bus schedule for him. Hopefully he'd be able to manage that as he didn't actually have to drive. Nikhila shook her head at herself for thinking like that.
It was a small restaurant, which didn't surprise her. It also explained why she'd over looked it herself. Small or not, it was light and airy and they were quickly seated. For the most part, she was content to let the two men talk, letting Drew get acquainted with his alpha.
He really did pay attention to how to get to the towers, and how long it took. He was looking forward to starting with Meridian, but grateful he had a few days before he was to start. If nothing else, he probably needed to make at least one or two practice runs.
Stuffing the bus schedule Nikhila had given him in his pack pocket, he followed them into the restaurant.
“So we’re talking raw fish here?”
He’d had some sushi but not much. Arizona was notoriously land locked.
It was fortunate that he and Nikhila had already had a chance to gawk at Nachton's sights. It was a remarkable city, especially for people who came from nowhere. Canberra had been spectacular, but Nachton was another beast altogether. Where Canberra gave a sprawling impression, maybe because of the planned green areas within, or the river dividing it, Nachton gave a high-tech modern sort of feel with its skyscrapers and grid-like roads.
Xeph grinned at Shiye from across the table and said, "Well? What do you think? And when does your internship start?"
He had no doubt Drew would get along just fine in Nachton; the young man seemed friendly enough and his father and grandfather had written well of him.
It was really, really different. Drew hadn't had the chance to travel much. Sure, some with playing baseball but not a lot and nowhere like Nachton. And he'd tagged along with his father, grandfather and occasionally an uncle or two on various pack errands but it had been a rare occasion for him to leave Arizona.
"It's damned big,"Â? He grinned an apology at both of them for the profanity. He hadn't meant to do that. "It puts even Phoenix to shame."Â?
To date Phoenix was the biggest city he'd dealt with. Granted it wasn't anything to sneeze at but tended to be sprawling rather than vertical.
"If nothing else it puts me in mind that I should do some more traveling."Â?
Unlike some of the Kadzait Drew wasn't a wanderer by nature. He knew where home was and he was attached to it. But if he was going to be any kind of a leader at all, he was coming to realize he couldn't stay totally isolated.
"The gig starts next week though. I thought I'd give myself some time to settle in before charging headlong in to musty files and un cataloged artifacts."Â?
Nikhila whole-heartedly approved. She’d been to the Reservation and seen Bitter Springs, isolated did not begin to describe it. Especially how far out you had to get to the Pack’s home. Drew’s father did his best and encouraged his people to grow and learn but opportunities were limited.
Of course, she also didn’t think he should travel like she did. No he should keep his roots and just let them grow and expand.
“There are plenty of places to see even just a day or a weekend from Nachton. It’s a good place to start.”
His planning surprised her, it shouldn’t have but it did. Nikhila was half way tempted to call Kem but wasn’t sure what she would say. Warn him about the ball of energy that he would be housing in his archives? Ask him to keep an eye on the young man? No, this was Shiye’s venture she wouldn’t intrude.
The waiter showed up, and Xeph wasted no time in ordering a sushi platter for three as an appetizer and a 'salad' of steak tartare in sunomono served over cucumber. He'd had that particular dish before and it was irresistable to anyone who preferred their meat fresh.
Xeph ordered a Kirin Ichiban for himself, then glanced at Nikhila and added an order for a pot of jasmine tea. Raising his eyebrows, he looked expectantly at Drew for the remaining drink order.
Although truth be told Drew was a bit intimidated by both cities. He’d seen maps and wasn’t optimistic, but damned it he was gonna try.
Drew laughed and did his best to look heroic and super hero-y… ish.
“Not with me around. I can file like no one’s business and do the work of at least three interns. Well two and a half I’m sure. Probably any way.”
It all depended on what they let him get up to. He was also having nightmares about knocking over priceless artifacts and shredding original manuscripts. But he wasn’t too worried, it was all just nerves he’d be fine once he got there and got going.
He’d seen the menu and read the descriptions and what Xeph had ordered sounded good and rare… rare was good; rare and good went hand in hand for him. Although he did wrinkle his nose at the beer selections, well nothing was perfect. He settled for a coke instead. Maybe he’d need to look into setting up to brew while he was out here, on a small scale any way.
She visibly flinched at the idea of Shiye going to either city on his own. But she didn’t discourage him. She’d just worry a bit while he was gone and help Xeph explain it to his family when he wound up in Canada with out a passport and unable to get back into the States.
“Try not to scare the regular staff. I’d hate to lose a good contact because you tackled some one to save them from a paper cut.”
It was a gentle warning. She’d seen him get enthusiastic and when he could reign himself in it was a wonderful thing but when he couldn’t… Well at least he was very good at apologizing and putting things back to rights as well as he could.
Feeling a little on display just standing there, Jillian strode across the room with a purpose, a little more quickly than she started out, once a waiter seemed headed in her direction.
No standing next to the man who looked just like the man in the photograph she held in her hand, Jilli spoke hesitantly, now not so sure she should have come, even if security had told her it was fine.
Dressed in a black skort and red blouse, only slightly less pressed than they were when she changed into them at a small gas station outside Nachton, Jillian Talia Molinero was tired, and excited, both nearly beyond belief.
"I'm Jillian, sir...I've arrived a bit early, and don't mean to impose, but your security guy said it was okay if I came here." Smiling at all three at the table, Jilli suddenly hoped the floor would open up, and swallow her whole, leaving her somewhere outside by her car where she could make a fast get-a-way.
But the floor didn't open up, so she kept herself standing there, trying to remember to breath, as the seconds dragged on.
"I don't know where to go now, Mr. Xephier."
A softly-spoken word made him nod out of habit, and when the girl focused his attention on her, he smiled at the sight of her. She sppeared younger than she was, in the way of their kind, and she looked much like the picture he'd seen.
Xeph had known Jillian would be showing up at some point this week; his two "arrivals to look for" had been her and Drew, and now they were here. he was impressed that Jillian had found this place but glad she had. Xeph had a protective streak, and knowing this young one had no family left brought it to the forefront. He was happy to have her under his eye in Nachton, rather than risking her safety on the long road trip out.
"Jillian," he said, standing politely. "It's good to see you here and safe." He offered her his hand; she was an adult and he imagined, while young, her parents' deaths wouldhave aged her considerably. He didn't think she'd appreciate being treated like a child tonight.
"Why don't you join us, and let me introduce you?" Xeph slid the fourth chair at the table out and waited to see if she would occupy it.
"it's more than okay that you're here. I had hoped for you to meet my friends. They live at the Den as well. This is Nikhila Gounder, who's the Dean of the Academy and teaches several courses there, and this is Drew Benally, who is new to Nachton like yourself."
To Nikhila and Shiye, Xeph said, "This is Jillian Molinero. She'll be joining us at the Den."
As an aside, Xeph added, "and if you need to be formal, it's technially Dr. Xephier. But you're welcome to call me Xeph. Everyone else does."
He added the last with a friendly smile; Xeph almost never stood on formality, but he'd known plenty of folks in the past who had thrived upon it. Some people preferred to remain distanced, and if Jillian was of that sort, he didn't mind.
"We've just begun," he said to Jillian. "Why don't you have dinner with us? Afterward, we can get you settled into the Den."
She took his huge hand and firmly shook it, just as her father had taught her so many years ago, as a small child. She also accepted the chair, with a quiet 'thank you', as she smiled again at the other two people who turned out not to be related to her new benefactor at all.
"It's nice to meet you Ms. Gounder...I may be taking your classes this term, since I'm hoping to attend the university here."
Looking at the younger man next to her, Jillian sat a little straighter. Though he was older than she, it was comforting to be in the company of someone more her peer than the other two, and he helped set her at ease even more so.
"And Mr. Benally, it's nice to meet you as well."
She might have gone on to ask him more about Nachton, the local pack, and a bunch of other questions, had she known him better. Until she did she had no way of knowing how he felt about people her age, so she stopped herself from running on. Sometimes people of his age had no time for people of hers, and she didn't want to start off in Nachton making a pest of herself.
"Thank you Xeph, I am a little hungry."
Which was an understatement but one she hoped no one found out about. She was financially safe for a while, due to her parents life insurance, and her father's prudent handling of the families funds. But knowing she might not have any regular income in the immediate income made her equally as prudent with the money she did have.
In light of this, she had only eaten a small breakfast earlier that day, and hoped her growling stomach didn't give her away before she had put more food in it.
"I apologize for interrupting you all...please...?"
Hammer rolled his shoulders as he crossed the parking lot to the front of a small sushi restaurant. The Alpha had mentioned an informal get together was happening and showing up to introduce himself was probably prudent. Still, social gatherings were not his style but the Alpha's request carried weight. He had not spoken to Xeph since their last meeting in the Halls but he wanted the Alpha to know that he did not carry any grudges and was even up for a party.
He stooped down to enter the door and scanned the small place, immediately seeing the Alpha and his party. Hammer smoothed down his uncharacteristically stylish red tie and adjusted his cuffs as he walked over to the table. With a nod to the table he introduced himself, announcing his arrival.
'Xeph, Nikhila.' Ahh, the foreign pack mate again. Xeph favored her company, interestingly enough. Nodding toward the new faces he gave them his best face - which was still very stoic and emotionless.
'I'm sorry if I'm late. I'm Iov Hammerthynn. Good to meet you all.'
Jillian still seemed a bit nervous even as she decided to join them, and Nikhila was trying to play why they would be an intimidating group. Perhaps she was just a bit shy. She also offered her hand.
"Actually it's Doctor as well. But outside of a class room Nikhila does just fine."Â?
Before he could say anything Nikhila made to head Xeph off at the pass.
"You're the one who started in on titles. So you don't need to look at me like that."Â?
She pleasantly needled him in his ribs, just to emphasize her teasing.
"It is very hard to intrupt family."Â?
It was all Nikhila could do to reassure her, that and smile warmly and not laugh at any one calling Drew 'Mr.' and look around for a waiter. They'd need another order placed wouldn't they, doubly so as Hammer arrived.
It wasn't tense, at least it didn't feel tense to her but after being something of a cross between a sounding board and a pressure valve one never knew. Although she was certain neither Xeph nor Hammer would do anything to make this less than a social gathering. Having faith in both men she favored Hammer with a calm yet bright smile.
"No, not late at all. I'm glad you made it."Â?
She had memories of the gnarled wolf through both Xeph and his father and would have liked him from those alone; her own impressions of the man were favorable as well. Recent events or not she was still please to see him.
"Have you met Drew and Jillian then?"Â?
Drew actually did laugh at being called Mr. that was too funny. From the looks of things he and Jillian were about the same age. Hard to be 100% sure but still.
"Yeah no fancy title to hit you over the head with let's go with just Drew, I guess Andrew if you want but..."Â?
He trailed off flopped back in his seat an let her get settled and finally shrugged.
"What Nikhila said. I just blew in myself a few hours ago. Haven't even unpacked so we can be lost together."Â?
Yeah right, no one, well very few people, got lost the way he did. Still it would be nice not to be the only new face getting gawked at.
The next arrival startled Drew a bit and he wound up swallowing a bit hard. It wasn't that the guy was scary, well maybe a little, but totally unexpected. Lots of unexpected tonight, he loved it.
Again he offered his hand.
"Nice to meet you too. For the record though I'm Drew and she's Jillian."Â?
Not feeling at all odd or awkward about being slightly silly, he amicably pointed the young lady in question out.
Boy Nikhila had some interesting friends. He should have come out here a while ago.
Xeph hopped out of his chair as Hammer arrived, pulling it aside and sliding over another table to accommodate. The waiter was back in short order with their appetizers and Xeph ordered another two of the same to make sure everyone had a chance to sample and pick.
He chuckled as both Nikhila and Drew reassured Jillian that she wasn't interrupting. "See? It's just not possible to interrupt."
While the first waiter headed back to place the order for more appetizers, a seond showed up to take drink orders for Jillian and Hammer.
"Glad you could make it, too," Xeph said to Hammer as the Beta seated himself. "I wasn't sure you'd gotten the message."
He hadn't seen Hammer since that night a few weeks back, but he was over the anger he'd felt then. He'd given Hammer his job, and that was that. When he regained confidence in the Pipers they would be reinstated but until then they could perform reconnaisance around the Den and grounds.
Turning to Jillian then, Xeph said, "I don't think it will be a problem to enroll you at the Academy for the fall semester, if that's what you want. Hammerthynn, Nikhila, and I have all been known to teach classes there on occaision. Mostly Nikhila, though. If you're interested in biological science she's who you want to get to know."
Drew was the center of attention next as Xeph filled Jillian and Hammer in on his circumstances. "Drew here will be starting an internship at Meridian next week, working in the archives."
'Drew. Jillian. Pleasure.'
The Alpha made arrangements to find a seat for Hammer and he nodded with as much of a grin he could muster. 'I barely got the message, but I'm pleased I did.' Although you'd never know it by the blank expression on his face.
Turning toward Drew during Xeph's explanation he sat his large body into his very small chair. Tucking his tie and undoing the button of his XXXL blazer, Hammer commented on the newcomer's fall plans.
'Interning at Meridian, that's a fine establishment. What will you be interning for?'
Jilli was all of five foot six inches, and short even by her pack's standards, but her parents had been on the slight side as well, her mother only five feet eleven inches, and her father an inch taller. So she was accustomed to being among people of considerable height. Yet these men, standing so tall around her, made her feel significantly tiny. But it didn't intimidate her, at all.
Nikhila was gracious, and Jilli thought quite beautiful. She immediately took a liking to the older woman, placing her just this side of being her mother's age. There had been a couple older women back home who tried to pick up the slack of Jilli's missing mother, and Jilli appreciated them for that. Ultimately though she grew to resent their intentions a little, which was partially responsible for her leaving the pack and coming east. She was too old to be truly mothered, yet too young to give up the desire for such comfort completely. She guessed the decision on who she would accept that type of affection from needed to be hers, and not forced upon her by others.
Drew seemed wonderful...so unaffected by his good looks, or anything else, and Jilli was glad to shake his hand as she had just done with Nikhila. For a split second Jilli could see Drew as a wolf, and had to stop a giggle before it came out. The vision she saw was of one very large, slightly gangly, but ever so faithful, and loving a puppy.
Not that he was anywhere near the age of a pup, but his mannerisms were refreshing, and not conceited, or disgusting as many boys could be.
Xeph was so accommodating, and did it with such ease, Jilli felt less and less an intruder with each passing moment. She still wasn't saying much, but that was born from the respect she was taught to give to elders, her inquisitive mind wanting to take in all that was going on around her, and her need to speak well, when she did speak. Being raised as the daughter of an Alpha had taught Jilli it was necessary to be seen and not heard much of the time, and she would definitely continue that around THE pack Alpha, without a second thought.
She placed her order for food and drink, opting for a large glass of ice water, and a HUGE ahi steak, medium, with a salad, and rice. She wasn't sure if all of her pack could eat like wolves and not gain weight, but she could, and did, and with great gusto.
Somehow she did manage to squeak out a response regarding her schooling.
"I would like to enroll for fall classes, but I haven't yet decided on a major. I don't think it will matter though, I'm sure I'll need biology and a bunch of other science classes...I know I'd like to do something in the form of research...clinical, marine, biological...maybe even microbiology...I do need to pin that down sometime, I know."
Thinking she would get her feet wet a little in each field, to help decide which one she liked best, Jilli probably would go undeclared for at least the first semester, or year, and nail down her basic classes, with some extra science thrown in if she could manage it.
"Good to know I'll have a whole den of professors at my fingertips."
Her acceptance of those around her was now as complete as it could be from just one meeting. However, those who knew her would see this readily in the way she now opened herself up. She wasn't shy, by any means, but she was highly respectful, and tried very hard not to insinuate herself into places she wasn't wanted, or accepted. Seeing they were happy to share their lives here with her, did more than anything could to reassure her, and waylay her few fears.
Hearing Drew was going to be working in some 'archives' didn't sound the least interesting to Jilli, but in all fairness she knew that might change once she knew what the archives were for.
"Meridian? What kind of company are they?" The large Russian man also inquired into Drew's employment, so Jilli sat quietly and waited to hear the answer.
He grinned at the big one eyed guy, not quite sure what to call him. Iov seemed way too familiar and Hammerthynn was a mouth full, and probably not nearly as taste as whatever it was that they were snacking on. No worries though he’d figure it out.
“I just finished up my archeology degree so it should be less files, records and news clippings and more artifacts. But my money is on sorting out field notes and fetching coffee. Very un Indiana Jones but a good foot in the door. I’ve got hope though, I read in one of the journals Meridian was just wrapping up a dig in Colorado so I might be extra useful.”
Mock the grad student all you want but he had some credentials, they might be extra glad they’d picked him. After all a dig in Colorado would make good use of his American Indian Studies degree too, especially given what he’d read.
She was a little thing but he approved of the order. Too many girls at school ate –nothing- Drew hated that. How could you enjoy yourself if you were so worried about what you ate.
Before Nikhila could say anything he leaned forward and confided in Jillian in a stage whisper.
“Just watch Nikhila and the microbiology. It’s scary.”
And could make your eyes bleed and lord who cared about mitochondria and mutations and amebas and viruses. Especially the viruses with Nikhila. It gave him the creeps to think about all these living things he couldn’t see. Nasty, just nasty. He much preferred his dead people and extinct civilizations.
Sipping her tea she smiled and nodded to Jillian. It was good to see some one looking forward to classes.
“We should have fall enrollment up soon. The summer term is just wrapping up, almost finals time. And of course I’ll be happy to speak to you about your interests and what classes there are.”
If she was just starting out the odds were Nikhila wouldn’t have her in any of her classes right away. With all the other fun responsibilities her job entailed Nikhila found it prudent to limit herself to teaching upper division courses; but of course she had time, or could make some, to guide a new student. There wasn’t even a question.
“I’d of course suggest you start with the general classes and then decided where your passion lies. Much easier to go from general to specific than from one specific to another.”
She smiled softly, quietly and came down off her soap box. If she got started on a topic sometimes it was difficult to stop. And this was to be a light evening, as apparently Drew seemed to feel necessary to remind her. But she declined to respond to his teasing and kept her peace. It was just good to have family around.
Discreetly, under the table she let one hand rest on Xeph’s knee. She suspected he felt the same way.
"I don't really count as a professor," he goofed at Jillian. "I put comic books inside my texts."
Well... he wasn't actually lying, although he'd only done that in class a few times, all of them during his students' exams. Where was the harm in that?
Answering her next question, he said, "Meridian Apex Enterprises is one of the oldest businesses in Nachton," he explained. "They handle all kinds of research, from tehcnical to historical and everything in between as far as I know. They're well-known for their acquisition of archaeological and historical artifacts and they have an enormous archive as well, which is where Drew will be interning."
His answer didn't even begin to cover the range of talented employees Meridian had at its fingertips. Being part of the Stafford Foundation had educated Xeph on at least the basics of the Nachton superpowers. Meridian Enterprises was right up among the top few, including the Stafford Foundation and Duibne Industries.
However, he wasn't about to give poor Jillian a lecture on Nachton economics when she'd just rolled in. It took some restraint but he shrugged and said, "Anyhow, that's just a little piece of what they are. They'll love Drew and we'll probably have to pry him away with a crowbar."
The talk of Meridian fascinated him however, with the murmurs of being parallel to Duibne Industries. Marthinus had mentioned a little of one of the city's powerhouses but made no move to comment.
He looked into the faces of his table mates and tried not to draw conclusions. The young lady was small and appeared to be very young. He would have to ask her about her family connections later. Drew seemed respectable and polite. Nikhila he had known for some time and with veiled curiosity watched her interactions with Xeph.
Xeph had spoken of his time with Nikhila and Hammer had taken notice of the increase of time together they were spending. Hammer had no opinion of Xeph's private life since the Alpha needed no guidance on personal matters from his Beta. Still, it was interesting to watch.