Don't Make Me Beg (attn: Nikhila)
In spite of everything that had been happening lately, Xeph didn't neglect to maintain the Hall of Echoes. On the contrary, cleaning it, caring for it, only gave him a calm spot in an otherwise hectic life to organize his thoughts. And after thinking on this topic, he had decided what course of action to take - request, really.
So, basic maintenance done, he slowly ambled back and forth between the stone pillars that made the Hall what it was, pausing now and then to look at a particular rock or handprint, waiting for Nikhila to show up.
She walked through the hall slowly, quietly, through the large oddly lit room, although she kept mostly to the shadow, not wanting to disturb him. She knew Aidan must have something important to say if he'd asked her to meet him here. And while she was still confused and off kilter from the events in the preserve just the feel of the stone kept her calm.
If she was distressed by those events undoubtedly he was more so. Nikhila worried for him. Standing in the shadow of one of the pillars she watched him, knowing that Xeph had most likely sought out the Hall for the same sense of calm it gave her.
Although certain Aidan knew she was there already Nikhila stepped softly into the light so he could see her.
"You do keep it in beautiful condition."Â?
"We take care of the things we love," he said, brushing his hand lightly along a sandy-colored limestone with no prints on it at all.
He closed the distance between them and wrapped his arm around Nikhila, pulling her close, cushioning their unborn child between them. He spent a moment paying her lips the attention they were due before regarding her with a critical eye. She looked better today than she had since their adventure in the Park. Well-rested, as if she were settling down finally. Her dark eyes were troubled though, and he knew they had plenty to talk about.
Xeph wanted to make it plain that this discussion was to be taken as Alpha to Amaroq, not as an overprotective husband to his straying wife. She wouldn't take it well, and he didn't want any arguments to come home with them.
He sighed and rested his cheek against hers. "I need you to do me a favor," he said. "You're not going to like it but I hope you see the sense in it."
Not the hall so much, but there were things far more precious in this space right now.
Nikhila saw his look and hoped she passed whatever it was he was testing for. Her arms wrapped around him as she quietly, steadily meet his searching look. His expression was serious but not harsh as were his words and tone.
Her mind went into overdrive as she tried to guess what it was he would ask of her. What could be so weighty? But Nikhila remembered who she was talking to, and Alpha or mate, was able to feel safe as he held her and relax.
"You know I will do my best."Â?
She answered simply. Like it or not she would at least give it due consideration. It both wasn't like her to dismiss something out of hand and if he deemed it this important she would consider it carefully. It did bother her a bit that he knew already she wouldn't like it. It did make her a bit apprehensive, but if there was a good reason for the request. She willed the butterflies in her stomach to be silent so she could hear Aidan out.
"I need you to stay here. At the Den. Indefinitely." He nodded downward, indicating that the 'indefinite' part was directly related to the tiny life she was currently harboring.
"It's dangerous out there," Xeph continued. "They saw you. And they recognized you."
He snarled as he recalled the female's low, mocking greeting. "Too much of a risk for you, right now. And soon, you won't be able to Change."
Without even the protection of her wolf form, Nikhila would be easily captured if it came to that, and Xeph didn't see this situation getting resolved soon.
Nikhila frowned darkly and considered the request. It did make some sense, she understood why he'd ask this of her. She did. In fact she realized, she probably should have seen this coming. But, she couldn't help it, the request felt like a punishment, as if he didn't trust her. It was hard enough to stay in the city and now to be asked to stay confined to the Den? She really couldn't stand the thought of being caged like that.
Wrapping her arms around herself Nikhila began to pace, considering. God, he was right. It was the only sensible thing and she certainly couldn't go back to the lab after that and there really was no other reason for her to -have- to leave the grounds. But she'd not be able to help from here, she'd not be able to protect him. Although, she realized bitterly, she couldn't do that anyway. She'd failed the other night.
This was, Nikhila realized, an old argument; very old, years. It was essentially why she'd run away before. Well, she'd promised to work where her strengths were, and he was certainly handling it much better this time. Or maybe she was letting him handle it better, actually thinking about things.
Nikhila nodded shortly, agreeing. She didn't like it, but she'd given her word before and she would keep it now.
"I can do that. But please, don't try and protect me further, let me know what is going on and how I can help."Â?
It was possible with some planning and only during the daylight hours she'd be able to go out occasionally, but she'd worry about that later. They could discuss that if it became necessary, she'd not try and dance out of that promise just after making it.
The rest of her request she didn't voice, but it undoubtedly showed in her eyes. She needed him to be careful, to stay safe and not to do anything stupid She needed him to come out of this alive. But it was a bit hard to say that to an Alpha. Some things just went with the job.
"I'm not trying to protect you. Not this time," Xeph said. "Not entirely," he conceded. "But you have our future there. And very soon it will be noticeable."
The leadership of the Kadzait wasn't set in stone, but certain lines tended to produce more than others. The Xephier line (how ironic, that he technically wasn't one) had been one such. It wasn't guaranteed that their child would be the next Alpha... but it was a strong possibility.
"I don't want to give them anything," Xeph said, "any hold, any edge. They'll be back."
Nikhila, though, would take it all personally. She always did. She was sensitive about this topic, so he thought maybe a little damage control wouldn't hurt. "It's not you. I know you can handle yourself. You're working for two now though."
And many many more, in reality. The Kadzait weren't exactly everywhere, but they counted their numbers in the thousands. If their child did inherit Xeph's tendency to be the Alpha, then Nikhila was proteting much more than just their small family.
"At any rate," he said, "Someone's going to have to oversee the building." It couldn't hurt, either, to remind her that they would soon have their own house going up on the grounds. Xeph wouldn't be able to supervise; that task and most of the decisions it entailed would fall to Nikhila.
The idea that they would be back did not exactly comfort her, but the fact that he wasn't hiding or denying this did oddly comfort her. Aidan wasn't trying to keep her out of it, just off the front lines.
Quietly though she ventured something that had been bothering her.
"They will be back and they identified at least four of us."Â?
Nikhila didn't say any more than that. She wasn't challenging his judgment or his request but she knew he and Lily were rather recognizable. At the very least it wouldn't take much to work out who they were and Hammer was rather distinctive looking, although, possibly harder to identify.
"She will need more than just her mother."
Damned carrion threatening their whole family, the child's mother, father and grandparents. Without thinking about it she'd growled that thought.
At any rate, she let him sooth her, to reassure and comfort her and remind her this was much larger than just their little family. She still wasn't thrilled with this, not at all, but at least she was feeling a little better about it, for now.
Nikhila almost, almost, laughed, but it would have been the same humorless almost bitter kind of laugh Aidan had given earlier. Everything did happen at once didn't it?
"This doesn't get you out of helping some and you've just inherited the grocery shopping."Â?
She said dryly. Those thoughts were not addressed to the Alpha, but to her partner. Yes, he was quite right to rely on her and let her assume a lot of the responsibility of the house, lord knew he'd have more than enough on his plate, but well it was his home too. And there were other daily needs that didn't go away just because they'd been attacked and he did still have to eat, she wasn't going to let him starve to death under any circumstance.
And he knew, he knew in his head but he couldn't tell Nikhila. It was all blocked up behind a wall of sinister, whispered words. Xeph clearly remembered the jackal's voice.
"I'm here to give you a choice. You have to understand, our races cannot possibly live side by side. Do you see? The treaty that once was written was put in place for a reason. We need large populations to live off of, and you - well, you can survive without humankind. That's why it was written as it was. Now we find you here, brazen, in our city, playing with our meals. Will you turn them, too? Of course. It's what you do. You render them unfit for consumption, you taint the stock. We did nothing to you, and you bring your pestilence here. You dishonor yourselves, and the treaty that was signed by your ancestors."
They were planning to eradicate them. These vampires were going to move against them; the jackal had been telling him for months now but Xeph was powerless to convey that to his own Pack. He could have stopped these murders. He could have - done what, moved his Pack away from Nachton? Never. They belonged here. With people. Not on the outskirts.
He gave Nikhila a wolfish grin. "Don't worry. Our child will grow up with both mother and father. I don't intend to do anything foolish."
Boy, if Nikhila only knew what kinds of stupid things he'd done in the past few months... maybe best not to enlighten the unpredictable pregnant lady.
As she moved onto another topic, he tabled his thoughts. Xeph could do nothing about them for now. He had to plan, to try and figure out what to do the next time the jackal-vampire came to play. He would; Xeph knew it. He was pretty regular in his visits.
"I can do the shopping. No problem." He offered Nikhila his best "good boy' smile, dreaming of the mountain of raw meat he could bring home to stuff into the refrigerator.
"Apparently this one holds some of the same grudges we do."Â?
Nikhila, however, didn't think that vampires had inherited memories.
"Maybe he is very old. Or perhaps he or his family was some how involved."Â?
That thought boggled the mind. He would have to be extremely old. It was more likely that his family had been directly involved in the conflict or maybe it was his job to protect his clan. She would have to think about it more.
Strange Aidan hadn't thought of this.
His grin made her smile, but just for a second.
No, if the good of the Pack was involved he would do something foolish, risky and dangerous. It was, of course, his job and who he was. She wouldn't try and change that.
"Maybe try and keep the idiocy to a minimum and consider the idea of back up now and then? For my sake?"Â?
She smiled again, appreciating the lie he'd offered her, trying to put her at ease. Xeph was Xeph and she loved him for who he was. Nikhila also though he might be a little more careful, a little bit, he did want to meet their child. He wouldn't do anything completely unnecessary, at least he'd have a reason.
Almost sensing his thought Nikhila quickly poked him in his side. She was a bit gentler than usual thinking he still might be a bit tender but she wasn't going to trust that innocent look for anything.
"I'll make you a list."Â?
It was the best he could give her. Xeph would always take care of his Pack, but he'd made a promise to Nihkila was well. Just because it wasn't legal and binding didn't make it any less important.
Frustrated that he couldn't directly confirm Nikhila's guesses about the jackal, he nodded. "Something like that, maybe. Although it doesn't have to be."
He found himself mimicking the vampire's words. "Look at who we are. Our two bloods don't mix. They can't feed from us; we can't Gift them. As if we'd want to," he spat the words with a sneer before continuing. "We can Gift humans though, and they need humans to live. We're in direct competition for a single resource, and we always will be."
The vampire didn't need to be old. He just had to be. That was enough to cause conflict.
"Thank you. There are times you're far too good to me."Â?
There were very few people he would have allowed to push him that far or given that clear a promise.
She didn't know much about vampires, very little beyond what her own memories told her and had never considered what Aidan was saying. Perhaps this was why they had this conflict. But that would have been centuries ago, when populations were much smaller. In a city the size of Nachton both packs and apparently the vampire clans could all live together along with the humans. The world had changed.
If it hadn't been for the near sneer in Xeph's voice, she would have thought he might have sympathized with the vampires. As it was, the only ones Nikhila felt sorry for were the humans. To be fought over and, in comparison to the other races, and fragile. They had a right to live in peace too.
"You'd think they'd realize there was room enough for all of us now."Â?
The vampires, had attacked, they'd only defended themselves.
Her thoughts continued to something else that she'd been curious about. Nikhila had never seen the two packs work together. And she had a great deal of sympathy, border line guilt, for the female Vyusher that had died. Nikhila had no doubt she had slowed the female vampires attack and protected both herself and Lily.
"Would the Vyusher know anything? Why were they there?"Â?
He laughed dryly at Nikhila's observation. "I've had trouble enough convincing our own Pack there's room for humans. I'm not going to press my luck and branch out to foreign relations." He shot Nikhila a grin. "Not when the natives are so friendly to begin with."
Xeph didn't try to hide the sarcasm in his voice. They were at war. Maybe it had never ended... who knew. That was where they were now, though.
He tilted his head and considered the idea of the Vyusher. "I'm not sure," he admitted. "We can send a message, but honestly I don't think they would hide this sort of thing."
The Kadzait and the Vyusher weren't always on the best of terms but since moving to Nachton, both Packs had had a truce of sorts. Xeph couldn't imagine that in the face of a vampire threat, the Packs would do anything but band together. To do otherwise would be to die.
Xeph did have a point, they couldn't exactly go expounding the virtues of peace and harmony to the vampires. They probably wouldn't last thirty seconds. Although, if they were different from the Vyusher and if all the vampire clans didn't always get along perhaps, just perhaps, some of the vampires would at least listen or maybe they could police themselves and deal with these violent creatures. Maybe there were vampires who valued humans and that could be a starting point in a new relationship with them.
One could dream couldn't they?
"Well, maybe that idea is a bit ahead of its time."Â?
If it were possible it would have happened by now.
"They have as many issues with the carrion as we do. At least it would be more eyes and ears. I'm sure they will offer some help, at least information."Â?
They wouldn't find any answers today, here and now. Not just the two of them, but they did have the whole Pack. It wouldn't be easy, but they could win this and hopefully with as little bloodshed as possible.
Nikhila sighed and leaned up against Aidan. She knew being restricted to the grounds would leave her feeling caged and trapped and that she'd spend a lot of time worrying, but there was some comfort to be had in the feeling of his solid broad chest.
"Have you ever considered putting benches in here?"Â?
She just realized they'd been standing here for a while.
"Always trying to be the peace-monger," he said. "Sometimes it just doesn't work. Sometimes it isn't meant to be."
Xeph believed that, too. There wasn't any more room left in him to consider peace with vampires. With humans, of course. That was well-proven. With his fellow wolves, also a proven. But with vampires? Never. And definitely never, after the events of the previous full moon.
"We will talk with the Vyusher," he confirmed to her. "I agree,they may know soemthing. If not, we can at least share with them what we know. There were more than just Kadzait killed in the Park."
That was something; whatever gripe the vampires had wasn't completely with his Pack. Xeph didn't know that the jackal was responsible for every death or if his friends had helped but either way they had killed indiscriminately. The Vyusher might be willing to collaborate.
Nikhila's next question made him grin; it was a signal that they were done with the disagreeable part of the discussion. He looked around the Hall with raised eyebrows.
"Benches? Here? I hadn't considered it." He looked at her and she stared back at him as the silence dragged out into a minute, then a minute and a half.
"Okay. I'll consider it."
Both were futile endeavors. What had happened in the preserve proved that. As much as Nikhila wanted to find a peaceful solution, she thought it would be more likely to get Aidan to eat salad every day for a month.
She frowned into his chest uncertain if it was a good or a bad thing that the vampire had killed indiscriminately. It was ruthless and uncalled for, but at least his grudge hadn't been just with the Kadzait.
Nikhila simply looked at him, waiting for him to think about the benches, even though she wasn't quite serious. They wouldn't be quite appropriate for the hall, well maybe one or two. She smiled as he agreed to think about it.
She looked up and flashed him an impudent grin and teased him.
"Are you done being the Alpha for now?"Â?
He was, at least she was pretty certain he was, or she never would have said that.
He wrapped his arm around her waist and steered her toward the doors that led up and away. "Let's go see if we can't find something less Alpha-y to do, for a little while."
Like go home, snuggle, and watch a movie. He didn't care that it was the middle of the day. In their apartment, with the curtains drawn and Nikhila next to him, was where he wanted to be for the foreseeable future. He had work to do later; he had to contact the families of the deceased Kadzait, then he'd offered to fill in for an ER shift and his clinic would be open tomorrow. Busy times. For now, he was going to enjoy holding his mate.
He wasn't sure if his request would be followed. Of course Nikhila would start out with the best of intentions, but what he'd requested of her would be difficult for her. They'd get through it, he reasoned. They were together, they would support each other. It would work.
((ooc: Xeph and Nikhila out))