The Morning After (attn: beat up wolves)
Xeph opened his eyes, which was a marked improvement from several hours before, when he couldn't.
He was in his bedroom, next to Nikhila, and they were finally human again. It had been difficult to come back here still under the effects of the madness, but they hadn't had much choice. It was amazing the amount of damage one vampire could do. It was time for Xeph to stop underestimating him.
He had assumed they were mortal, like everyone else. And he still assumed it, but he'd hit the jackal with everything he had last night, and he hadn't forgotten the sheer volume of sedative he'd pumped into the silu just a few weeks prior. Xeph was even more driven, now, to fight him. He just had to figure out how.
Nikhila had been returned to them mostly unharmed; that was the important thing. She was a little bit cut and battered, but she seemed more shaken than anything. They'd managed to get themselves back to their apartment before collapsing on the bed, both falling instantly asleep for once.
Now, Xeph bit back a few moans and groans as he rolled off the bed, careful not to disturb Nikhila. Things were really bruised and broken up inside, but he could move around - carefully. And he wanted to check on Lily and Hammer.
Stumbling around in the darkened bedroom, he managed to find shorts and a shirt, arranged them on his body in an appropriate manner, and staggered out the door to Hammer's apartment nearby, where he knocked softly.
She'd cursed herself for a fool all the way back to The Den. It had been her fault, she should have been faster, more aware, more alert, and she should not have been taken like that. If she hadn't Xeph, Hammer, Brig and Lily would have finished the carrion. In fact, if Lily hadn't wasted her time guarding her they probably would have won.
On top of all this all she could do was remember her brother, remember the times he'd beaten her. How helpless, how useless she'd been.
Yes, she'd gotten out of this situation physically unharmed, but mentally she was a bit of a mess. She needed to feel Xeph, to feel safe. For if he was there, she was safe.
While he was very careful, very stealthy in leaving their bed and even the rooms Nikhila woke, she knew he was gone. She pulled his pillow to herself taking some comfort from the scent, determined not to show weakness or hinder him. He had to be the Alpha now and she was safe. She'd not stop him.
As she'd always done after Makhesh beaten her, Nikhila simply tried to get on with life. Although, right now, she was getting on with life by not leaving their bed. Aidan would be back soon she told herself.
Brig, himself, and the other rest of the Pipers that hadn't seen the Alpha and his company home, arrived at the Den with four more bodies, similar to the two previous deaths of clan members Jake and Melissa. Eviscerated. The Pipers were debriefed, the bodies taken care of, and with a dismissive wave to his cousin, Hammer made his way up to his quarters, his feet heavy on the stairs.
Lily would more than likely be in his quarters, fast asleep, recovering from the full moon madness and wounds. Instead of walking in the direction of his quarters, Hammer turned and quietly made his way to the Alpha's rooms. Letting himself in, he heard the distinct breathing of the Alpha and his mate. Hammer stood outside their bedroom door, eyes closed and exhausted, his body releasing the tension of the evening, slowly but surely. The evening had been a close call for everyone, especially his son.
Hammer's eyebrows rose up in surprise. It still shocked him to say it. Xeph was his son. His role as Beta and protector had taken on a new meaning when Lily dropped that bomb. Leaning against the door frame, he fought with the urge to peek in on him. It was odd - he thought the feelings of being a father would be different. Maybe he had expected that cold part of his father to rise up and fight the inevitable love most fathers had for their sons, but the coldness never came. Hammer realized that Xeph had always been his son, blood or not.
Turning away from the door, he exited quietly and returned to his own rooms.
As Hammer now sat on his couch, the soft knock on his door did not surprise him - hurt his ears, maybe, but not surprise him. Standing, he padded barefoot to the door and opened it.
Wordlessly, he stepped aside, letting Xeph in the door.
He brooded for a moment, trying to put into words the various questions and comments on his mind, too many of them for the moment to really isolate one. He wanted information. He wanted to know how many wolves the vampire had killed, who they were, if they were loners, if they were in Packs. Then the more immediate questions - how were the Pipers, how was Hammer, how was Lily? Then the general questions like, how the hell did one vampire manage to do so much damage? Who was the bastard anyway? And how could they ultimately get rid of him?
Nothing came out though, so full was his head of questions. Everything bottle-necked at his throat and he ended up grunting wordlessly instead, which Hammer could probably interpret as a general query as to his state of health and well-being that morning.
'Yeah, I'm fine.' He twisted a bit and lifted his sizable arm, looking at the tender, soft skin where the silu had sliced him. 'Tender but healed. The Pipers have been debriefed - apparently Ringo's presence was because of the bodies that vampire left behind. Four of ours, no telling how many of theirs.' He said referring to the VR's.
Ringo's presence and subsequent declaration of payment for the life of his one for their females still annoyed Hammer. A female wouldn't break rank like that, especially a Nakubili, for anything less than something extremely precious.
Grunting, Hammer added, 'It's only a matter of time for Ringo to figure out why his female protected ours. And that female silu knew Nikhila. This has shit storm written all over it.'
He looked over at Xeph who still looked tired and very angry. 'What about you and Nikhila?'
"He made his point," he growled, regarding the jackal. "It just pisses me off though."
He shook his head. "It's not safe for Nikhila to leave the grounds anymore. Even with the Pipers, who knows - if she runs into the wrong person, or more than one of them..." He bit off the sentence, not wanting to voice it out loud. One lone vampire had done a number on them last night. Sure, if he hadn't had backup at the last minute they would have had him, but Xeph doubted he would be caught alone the next time.
If one or two of them showed up where Nikhila was, the outcome could be bad.
"She's resting. She feels guilty," he said. "Like she's not useful. It'll be all right."
He knew Nikhila. Between knowing her and having a good wolfish insight, he had an idea how she felt this morning. But Xeph could set her to rights. Nikhila struggled with herself like this; she thought that because she wasn't a fighter, she wasn't worthwhile.
He lifted a shoulder with a wince. "We're beat up," he said. "We'll live though."
Xeph was pretty sure he wasn't going to be playing tackle football today, but there was no damage done that he wouldn't recover from. His eyes, nose, and throat remained irritated and red from the silver shavings thrown into them, and probably would for some time, but everything else was on its way to mending.
He glared at Hammer, angry at he circumstances. "We can't back down, you know," he said, voice quiet with anger.
'Of course not.' Quietly he added, his eyes looking at the bedroom door where Lily lay in his bed, 'The Pipers are ready and waiting; rebuilding to the full twelve would take two weeks at the most. We've hesitated to replenish Piper 5 (Michael's dead squad) since they were put on...suspension.'
The thrill of reactivating the Pipers ran up his spine, but he waited patiently for his Alpha to respond.
"The Pipers are off suspension. As of last night's heroics." He eyed Hammer suspiciously. "I want to know what they're up to, though. Regularly."
The Pipers' previous actions had endangered the Pack when they'd engaged in activities slightly outside the realm of Pack protection. Or at least, somewhat more proactive than Xeph would have preferred.
"Surveillance," he said then. "I want information. Intelligence. Times, names, dates. Find me what you can about the vampires who were there last night. All of them."
It was a start. Xeph needed to know who they worked for, what their business was in Nachton. The jackal, of course, he knew. But he was bound by some sort of vampiric mind-meld voodoo and couldn't elaborate to Hammer.
"They want to hit us, we'll hit them back."
'Marthinus would be a better source of who those vampires were.' Hammer bristled at the thought of contacting clan Tacharan. 'I'll have him look into it with his resources.'
The Pipers would be up and running in full strength in less time, he'd see to that. At least he could inform Brig of that before dropping the bomb of himself and Lily.
"I don't know how much help he can provide," Xeph said thoughtfully. "I know the vampires are split into Clans the way we have our Packs. Beyond that," he shrugged. "If he can help, if he's willing, then fine. But let's keep a close eye on him, too."
Marthinus' integration into the Kadzait had not been smooth, nor, in Xeph's opinion, was it anywhere near complete. The man still had mixed loyalties and conflicting interests. Xeph wasn't at all sure of how far they could trust any information from Steyn. But it was worth a shot.
Her dressing gown was nearby and she slid from the large bed and wrapped herself up in it, padding softly toward the living room as she belted it around her waist.
"Perhaps I can help," she said.
Lily crossed the room to Iov and stood on tiptoes to brush his lips lightly with her own, then leaned gently against him and looked at Aidan expectantly.
"If you want someone working with Marthinus and you can't spare the Pipers. I'd be happy to," she offered. "You have all of Stafford's resources as well. That goes without saying."
She raised her brows at Aidan as his first reaction was to bend close and examine her head. Lily put up with it patiently, without pointing out that she had the same regenerative capabilities as all of their kind. Sons would be sons. He was surely thinking on the matter as he did, too.
If she weren't needed or in the way, that was fine. However, right now, right at this very point in time, she wanted to hear that from Aidan rather than assume it. And if she were in the way, well then she'd fail at accomplishing something else. The only trick was, she wasn't quite certain where he'd gone. Hammer would probably know. Of course, Hammer would probably be with him.
After a moments hesitation she finally decided 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' and dressed very quickly in yoga pants and a camisole, throwing a bathrobe over all that and softly padded down the hall. Frowning at the door she paused for a second, debating if this was a good idea or not. He could be still sleeping, after all he'd not come out of that encounter unscathed. And, she realized with a start, she'd never actually knocked on Hammer's door before. Well, there was a first time for everything. First time or no, the knock was a bit shy, cautious.
Hammer was referring to Marthinus breaking rank and going after Piper 5 without the Pipers - the incident that ended up putting the Pipers on suspension. Hammer suspected it was a thin line he walked between helping his new family and his old one.
Lily entered the room just then, fluttering quietly across to him and kissing him gently. Hammer felt something closely related to a blush rise up in his cheek when she kissed him in front of her...their son. He was still struggling with their public display so he awkwardly grinned and looked away from the both of them. The soft knocking at his door could not have come at a better time.
Standing quickly he excused himself and grabbed a shirt that hung on the back of one of the other chairs as he answered the door. Nikhila was standing shyly at the door, no doubt looking for Xeph. Stepping away from the door, he held it open for her.
'Good morning, Nikhila. He's in here.'
"Morning, how are you feeling?" That was a question Nikhila was probably going to have to get used to hearing a lot of. She looked all right; a little tired maybe, but otherwise fine. In the back of his head he lazily noted the small scar she had that almost matched Lily's and filed away the fact that whoever the mysterious woman was, she was right-handed.
Finally, he looked back at Hammer. "Will Steyn work with my mother?"
He didn't really relish the idea of Lily getting more involved, but it was her Pack too, and he didn't realistically think she'd sit by on the sidelines and do nothing.
Lily smiled at Nikhila as she entered and did her own quick once-over. Aidan wasted no time in gathering his mate close to him. The sight of them together filled her with warmth - maybe they took their time getting to this point, but they got there and that was what mattered. And they would have something precious that she and Iov had missed out on - the raising of their son or daughter together.
She looked to Iov when Aidan asked, also curious as to whether Marthinus would consider her a partner. Lily hoped so; they had gotten along well previously and she did have some formidable resources at her beck and call. She could certainly be of some help even without getting physically involved - or at least cutting down on the risk.
Without thinking she took Aidan's hand and let him pull her to him. It just felt better than staying alone in their rooms. More important he wasn't saying she shouldn't be here, so Nikhila relaxed just a little. Still standing she softly kissed the top of his head.
"I'm fine. You?"Â?
She'd been quite worried for a bit. Those damned silver filings had done a number on him and breathing was important, as was being able to see. While the others also seemed to have recovered, at least mostly with a quite slightly worried look she extended that inquiry to both Lily and Hammer as well. Perhaps especially Lily as she had very clearly been injured because she tried to protect her.
Apparently they were already working on some ideas. Whether for pure defense of some sort of retaliation she didn't know and didn't ask. Either she would be told or she would find out as the conversation continued.
She gracefully sat down on the floor next to Aidan hoping that the morning sickness she'd started to develop would keep to its usual pattern and not bother her until late afternoon.
'I doubt he has a problem working with your mother, it would just be the level of information that he'd have a problem with, but given the circumstances,' and he'd have to tell him everything, Hammer knew this, 'I'm sure he'd be helpful.'
Xeph's eyes grew hard at the idea that Steyn might have any sort of issue. "I hope so," he said, the words light but his voice as unbending as metal. He didn't want to have to force Marthinus' cooperation, if such a thing was even possible. Xeph didn't want to try to find out. It was hard enough dealing with these outsiders, without adding one rebellious ex-familiar Kadzait into the mix.
He turned to his mother. "Do what you can," he advised her, "but try to stay out of danger. If you find anything unusual, or if anything at all looks dangerous, let us know right away."
Xeph knew he didn't have to tell her that... and yet, he had to tell her that. Lily hadn't been born yesterday and she'd handled plenty of dangerous situations in her time.
"Of course, dear," she said placatingly. Yes, sons would be sons.
And mothers would be mothers. Lily offered Iov a smile and glided toward the kitchen of his small apartment, fully intending to make breakfast. After all, they were all here, and with a night like they'd had food was a requirement. No one was really dressed to go down into the greatroom of the Den, and considering how slowly they were moving it was unlikely they would be ready any time soon.
Loathe as she was to revisit the fight, she assumed it would happen sooner or later, so she kept her ears tuned as she pulled out various items from the refrigerator.
"Why not begin now," she said, with a little shrug. "Did any of you recognize any of them?"
She looked to Nikhila, especially, for the female vampire had seemed to know who she was.
Nikhila didn't know this Steyn that they were speaking of. However, that was hardly surprising, she didn't know the whole pack by name. She tried, but naturally being slightly reserved she hadn't managed yet.
Nikhila cast an anxious look at Lily, worried that she would be again risking physical harm. But Lily was smart, Nikhila believed she wouldn't let herself get in over her head.
Noting Lily had headed to the kitchen she quietly spoke up.
"Do you need some help? I do have some steaks in our fridge."Â?
She had no idea what Hammer's dietary preferences were, but she knew Xeph's.
The question of familiarity with those creatures made her cold. The look that Hoang had given her had been frightening and she had no doubt it would find its way into her nightmares.
Nikhila nodded slowly though, pleased that she might be able to help a little bit.
"The second male, the one who came in as back up. His name is Bao Hoang. He is the legal counsel for the backers of the blood sample project I've been working on."Â?
She had told Xeph about him once. Especially about the fact that he'd made her nervous and she'd seen far too much negative energy about him. Apparently her intuition hadn't led her too far astray.
"I think we're set but I wouldn't turn down another pair of hands," she said. She didn't really need the help, honestly, but Nikhila might need something to do. Like Aidan though, Lily was fairly primitive in her tastes. She had already spied a package of bacon that might need to be consumed, and two flank steaks.
She found an assortment of appropriate pans and set them atop the stove, already planning a menu for those who liked things cooked and those who just wanted the good stuff.
As she arranged things to her liking she kept her ears tuned to the conversation in the living room. The name of the second man they'd run into didn't ring a bell, but she would look into it. She kept quiet on the topic though; she didn't need to cause Iov or Aidan any undue worry.