Hold up a sec! (open)
Drew shouted across the Tikerak. It was late on a lazy Saturday afternoon, folks were out enjoying the sunshine and the day, and his cheerful shout caused one or two of them to turn toward him. Drew didn't mind.
He hadn't seen Nikhila, not for more than a second or two for a while and Drew never had any trouble spending time with his long time crush. Even if he didn't have a thing for her, Drew liked Nikhila. She also knew his family, the Pack out in Arizona, he'd been feeling a little home sick of late, and she was a link to them.
Dropping his bat bag and his sports bag, he'd just finished up playing a double header over at the preserve, he charged toward the tall lean Indian were.
For now she was just trying to keep busy, to try and keep her mind off it. She'd took over teaching another class for a nice Illamar professor who'd just gone out on maternity leave. Privately, that made Nikhila smile and she wondered if the favor would be returned.
Right now, as she crossed the Tikerak she had her arms full of floor plans and building codes. She'd found two or three architects and contractors within the Pack and was doing her homework on them as well. Of course, after the park she had -no- desire to even consider brining in an outsider build the cabin. She'd build it herself from a kit first.
Drew's voice brought her up short and she froze in place. As he ran toward her she braced herself and put on her most stern teacher voice.
"Andrew Benally if you pick me up so help me I'll not only let Aidan throw you in the hedge maze, I'll help."Â?
He affected a chastened attitude and position, it was less than sincere but he cared enough to at least fake it.
"Woman you have gotten down right mean. What kind of a threat is that?"Â?
He wouldn't last long against the Chief and Drew knew it, especially if what he'd picked up around the Den was true and the two of them moved in together. You just didn't mess with the Alpha's woman. You could admire her from afar and even insincerely try and convince her she was madly in love with you. But you didn't mess with her. He'd learned that back home.
"Besides, I just hadn't seen you recently and though we should catch up. How's the Chief?"Â?
He asked in what he thought was a sly semi-seductive manner. He missed the mark, but he tried.
Nikhila deadpanned letting Drew try and work out just how serious she was about that. Although he did make her smile with his properly told off demeanor. He always seemed to enjoy playing a part, as if it was all just a game to him, which it probably was.
As he was making no move to pick up the things he'd dropped she started walking back that way and he followed.
"He is well."Â?
Recovered at any rate. There was a lot weighing on his mind, the events of the preserve had ramifications.
"Why don't you have dinner with us some time next week and you can see for yourself? I'll even cook."Â?
Drew ate about as many veggies as Aidan did. The only one she would be cooking for would be herself. She was going to have to find new dinner guests.
She cocked her head at Drew, if he wanted to 'catch up' something exciting was happening. Nikhila simply gave him the opening.
"What is new with you?"Â?
"Excellent! You name the where and the when. Of course I'm not the night shift now so time might be an issue."Â?
Dinner would be fun. Drew was already looking forward to it and the idea had only just been suggested.
He lazily followed her back toward his stuff, easily bending down and picking both bags up and then ambling them back toward one of the gazebos that doted the area. It wasn't good manners to leave her standing around if they were going to talk.
"I got a real job. With the Meridian archives."Â?
Drew practically bounced. He was proud of that accomplishment. He'd gotten the job on his own merits, no help from any one. No strings pulled, nothing.
"Not my dream job I'll grant you, collections looks -way- more interesting but it is where I could get in."Â?
So she'd left The Den with the sunrise and had worked until her stomach begged to be fed. Calling a halt to her own gruesome schedule, she left. Stopping at the sushi place a few doors down for lunch before heading home.
Pulling into the lot, she slipped into what had become her usual spot and left the cool air conditioning for the warm summer afternoon. It was a beautiful day and she had a desire to be out in it, even if water was not involved.
Kai set out across the open area behind the Den and saw Nikhila and Drew walking across the other side. She was delighted to see the two friends she'd made thus far and jogged lightly to catch up.
"Drew! Nikhila!" Her light voice carried across the lawn, and she smiled and waved as she closed the gap.
"Congratulations. Now, when will you be applying for your PhD?"Â?
She hadn't even taken a breath before asking that. Nikhila was getting a little cross that the young man was not taking his education as seriously as she felt he should. Granted there were some on the reservation who, no doubt, looked on his masters as a waste of time; but not Nikhila. He had talent he should use it and set a good example for the younger members of his tribe.
More company. Nikhila smiled and returned the wave.
"Kai. Lovely to see you again. How are you?"Â?
Drew sidestepped the question. He was less and less certain he wanted to peruse a PhD. It just seemed like a waste of time. Well that and he'd been in school -constantly- until coming here to Nachton. It was a nice break.
Woot! Saved by the bell! Or Kai anyhow. Close enough he'd take it!
"Heya Kai! I'm not late am I? I thought it was next Saturday."Â?
He did too. Drew might routinely get lost on his way out the door but he was very organized and punctual. He was sure he hadn't gotten his day wrong.
She didn't seem to be looking for him, so he didn't worry about it. Instead, he just tossed his bags into the gazebo and waited for the ladies to sit down.
With a soft laugh she gave Drew a small playful shove on the shoulder. "I suspect you're never late. And no, it's next Saturday."
She found a spot in the gazebo that she liked and perched on the railing, her feet on the bench. "I just finished at work and saw you guys as I was crossing the lawn to take a walk in the woods, thought I'd come over and say hi."
She scrunched up her nose. "So hi."
Nikhila smiled and lightly perched on one of the benches, half laughing as Drew practiced his version of chivalry and didn't just flop down. She wondered who he was trying to impress. She knew better.
"We were just discussing Drew's future goals."Â?
She shot Drew a look that made it clear she'd seen him try and get out of the subject and that she wasn't having it. Even if they didn't continue the discussion now, she had him trapped into a dinner next week.
"At work on a Saturday? I would have thought things would be up and running relatively smoothly by now."Â?
Nikhila almost warned Kai about the preserve, but thought she might mean the woods on the grounds. Either way she'd say something eventually, just not right now.
At least Kai was being nice. He grinned at her.
"She does this some times. It's scary, you might want to run now before she starts grilling you too."Â?
Two could play at this game after all. Drew waggled his eyebrows at Nikhila waiting for the inevitable retaliation and suddenly very leery of the dinner invite.
"Yeah, seriously. All work and no play makes Kai a dull girl and all of that. Even Meridian let's me out on the weekends."Â?
About ten Drew yawned, this flipping back and forth between working at night and playing during the day messed with his internal clock.
A small shrug moved her shoulder. "Jaston told me to take the weekend off, but I've never hired new people before and I wanted all my ducks in a row before I started this interviewing thing. Besides, I'm not working tomorrow."
Resting her hands on the banister next to her hips, she leaned back letting the sun wash over her face. "I know I could have left it all until Monday, but this being the boss thing is a new gig for me and I want to do it right."
As quietly as he could with his 6 foot plus self he approached them from behind, taking the longest way around possible, and bending down to let his shadow loom over Nikhila before wrapping his arms around her and trapping her gently against the bench she sat on.
"Nikhila doesn't grill anyone," he said in mock defense, aiming a killing glare at Drew. "Not unless they deserve it anyway."
To the unknown young woman he said, "Hi. I'm Xeph. New in town?"
He would have recognized her if she weren't. He tried to keep tabs on everyone who arrived at the Den.
Nikhila had more than enough practice in that area. It could be a bit tricky until you got the hang of it. There was so much more too it than just their answers. You had to know body language and be able to determine how their personality fit into the group as a whole.
That shadow could only be one person. Nikhila smiled to herself and waited for a pounce or a grab or something else. When it came, she just leaned into it. Why would she want to escape?
Her smile faded and she did her best to look stern and put upon as she looked up at him.
"He deserves it."Â?
She said simply. Nikhila thought Drew had put his PhD off far too long and didn't even feel bad about Drew's sulking or Aidan's glower at the young man.
"I'm not made up my mind about Kai yet though I don't -think- she needs grilling. She is here to manage the aquarium. We found her some rooms not too long ago."Â?
Before the last full moon.
Instead he just shook his head at the new arrival. It was one thing to want to be through and do it right and quite another to forget what you were dealing with was just a job and there were other things that were more important. Still, he reasoned, it was only one Saturday he had no proof Kai was a workaholic with no life.
Xeph's arrival was unexpected and Drew unconsciously straightened himself up a bit. Just so he didn't look like a sulky puppy and slightly more respectable.
"You know it isn't fair if you're gonna gang up on me."Â?
He protested. Knowing that he -did- deserve some of it, he really needed to map out a plan for the future.
Again he hopped that Kai would take center stage and get him out of the line of fire.
Kai gave Xeph slightly wide eyes for a moment, before her natural optimism took over and she smiled. "Yes sir, I am. I've been here a little more than a week. I'm Kai Brown."
Hopping down from her perch, she crossed over and offered Xeph a hand. She couldn't meet the Alpha and not do...something. Though she was glad she didn't give into the impulse to bow or kneel or something equally as odd.
The young woman introduced herself as Kai Brown and Xeph's smile widened as he recognized her accent, an echo of his own broad-vowelled Aussie-ness. He shook her hand firmly, vigorously, and said, "How do you like the US so far? Little different from our neck of the woods."
Xeph personally enjoyed Nachton, but then he'd done a lot of traveling and hadn't come across many places he didn't like. What was the point of having a whole planet if you were going to stay isolated in one part and not explore?
Nikhila laughed. She happened to agree with Aidan, Drew did need grilling. But she knew that he was trying not to play the father figure too much with the boy. She, on the other hand, had no problem playing the big sister.
"Someone has to keep him in line."Â?
Nikhila teased both men.
She let Aidan play the host and was a bit amused at Kai's reaction to meeting the Alpha. Last week the girl had claimed to be nervous about it. It seemed like she got over that in a hurry.
Drew protested, although, even he didn't believe that. OK so he was a good guy but he wasn't an angel or anything.
A few Pipers? Drew grinned. He actually wouldn't mind that. Hell even if he got knocked around he might learn something. Drew wouldn't mind the challenge at all. Besides, you never knew when that sort of thing would be useful.
"Bring 'em on. I'm game."Â?
He said with utter sincerity.
Ah his evil plan worked! Let the new girl take the heat, or at least take it off him. Drew relaxed a bit, at least he did until he caught Nikhila's look. She was getting mean. Well, OK not mean, she'd always taken his education personally.
She liked Xeph, and wondered why she'd been so nervous about meeting him. She smiled and shrugged with one shoulder. "I haven't seen much of it besides here, the Aquarium and traffic. I don't enjoy that so much."
Laughing good naturedly she returned to her perch on the gazebo rail.
He might actually make good on that promise. Not only would it keep Drew on his toes but it would keep him alert, too. Xeph was torn on the idea of allowing his wolves into the Park under a full moon now. On the one hand, he didn't want to give any ground before the threat of violence. On the other, of course, was his basic need to keep his Pack safe. It was the topic his mind kept running in circles around without cease.
"Being busy is all right," he said to Kai. "One less amaroq for me to keep out of trouble."
It was said lightly; Xeph didn't police his Packmates. Drew was just a special case. He'd kind of promised to keep an eye on him.