This is War (private - Lily, Xeph, Hammer, Brig)
Brig had jumped in the shower the minute he got back into the Den and slipped on a pair of 9 inch seamed chino shorts and a white, short sleeved, linen button up shirt. The weather had peaked into the 90's that day and it was light enough to keep things airy and free of sweat.
His Piper sergeant, Charlie, had told him that the Beta was waiting for him in his quarters so Brig made haste to the opposite side of the floor where Hammer lived. With a quick knock, he pushed opened the door and poked his head in.
'Oi, Hammer,' he called out as he closed the door behind him. Immediately he was struck by the new smells in his cousin's home. 'What is that?', he mumbled to himself. 'Oh my god, has he been cooking?' Brig walked off to the kitchen and poked his head in, smelling the room.
'Hey Hammer, where are you, mang?' Brig stuck his hands in his pockets and pushed into the kitchen, reaching into the fridge for a beer and was surprised to find more food. Taking a bottle, he twisted the cap off and drained half the bottle when he entered back into the living room to find his cousin standing in the middle with a strained look on his face.
'Jesus, Hams, what's wrong?'
The tell-tale whoosh and pop of Brig opening a beer prompted Hammer to leave the bedroom to wait for his cousin in the living room. As Brig exited the kitchen, Hammer was reminded at how little Brig had changed over the years.
For a man as tall and intimidating as Brig could be, he was never short of friends or a goofy grin. Brig was there for Hammer when they were children: being the big brother when he was alone, the protector before their gifting, or just a friendly face out of the frozen, emotionless ones that his immediate family members were slowly suffocating him with. The expectations had been more than a ten year old could fathom, but Brig was there - lanky and rail thin sixteen year old companion who never judged him for who he was or what he had done. Brig had never failed him, and it was this thought that he held onto when he finally spoke to his cousin who had walked quickly over to him, beer in hand as always.
'Jesus, Hams, what's wrong?'
'Don't call me that, Brain,' he said with a tight grin.
Hammer claimed it bothered him, but Brig knew. His cousin knew that the secret names they had given each other as children always reminded the other that he was never alone. Brain for Brian because bean pole didn't quite fit his taller cousin. Taking the offered beer bottle, Hammer twisted the cap and gulped half the bottle in one swallow.
'Thanks for coming, Brig.' His cousin held his arms out and grinned. 'No, don't...' was all Hammer could get out before Brig gave him a ferocious bear hug. They would never do this in front of anyone else and it made his cousin that much more special to him and what he had to say that much harder. Brig would understand. He always understands.
'This is personal, you guessed as much.' They sat down on the couch and Brig turned to face him, arm thrown over the back. Hammer slowly finished, 'It's about Lily.'
Brig's eyebrows furrowed and then it smoothed out into a huge grin.
Nodding, Hammer sat forward and rested his elbows on his knees. 'I love her.'
'I KNEW IT!' Brig yelled out loud enough to make Hammer jump.
'God finally you admit it!'
Hammer looked at him with startled eyes. 'What?'
'I know you've always had a thing for her, Hammer. Come on, she's gorgeous, so sweet, and gorgeous!'
'You said gorgeous twice.'
'Well she is!' Pointing at him, Brig laughed. 'I knew you had feelings for her. Does she know?'
Hammer's mouth dropped open and then shut again.
'You tell her? Wait, you already did, right? Wait, are you two a thing now?'
Brig looked around the room and inhaled again. 'That's what I smell, that's...that's Lily's scent!' Brig grabbed his cousin again and shook him. 'Man I am so happy for you. I always feel so guilty getting married and you standing there with that look on your face...'
'I'm always thinking, god Hammer needs to find a nice girl.'
'Did she move in? Are you two living together now? Does the Alpha know? It's been long enough since Liam's death, god rest his soul, and he's a good kid. You practically raised him. His stepfather, the Beta.'
Suddenly there was a soft knock at the door and Brig stopped his jabbering when the door opened. Both men stood as Lily entered with a smile with the Alpha right behind her.
'Sir,' Brig nodded, and with a smile, he bowed at the presence of a lady. 'Hello, Lily.'
Brig couldn't help but grin.
"You'll be fine," he whispered as they entered.
Lily tried to brush the concern from her face, and the smile upon her lips was genuine as she entered the room and saw Brig there with that big boyish grin on his face. Iov, though... poor Iov, who clearly hadn't had a chance to say what he so desperately needed to say, stood there looking like his world was about to collapse.
Lily crossed to him immediately, slipped her hand into his huge one, and squeezed. "Hello, Brig."
She didn't know Brig well. She'd always been so cut off from the rest of the Pack, so isolated. But Brig was family, in a way.
He knew, though, who the wrath would really fall on, and he was here to stay out of it unless he needed to intervene. He didn't want to play the Alpha card. He wanted them to be a family. He'd never really had one. Not a big, family-type family like this. But if it was a matter of protecting his friend and father, he would do what he had to do.
He acknowledged Brig with a smile and a nod, but then he waited. This was Hammer's to reveal.
'There's more, Brig.'
His cousin had been looking at Lily, his face radiating such happiness that it warmed Hammer's cold rock of a heart. Brig's expression changed for a moment, like he was trying to recall something, when he reached out and took Lily's hand.
Brig fingered the delicate ring on her engagement finger and said softly, 'This is your mother's, isn't it, Hammer?'
Nodding, Hammer squeezed Lily's hand gently and told his cousin the happy news. 'Yes, I've asked Lily to marry me.'
Hammer watched as his cousin held Lily's small hand in his large ones. Brig looked as if he was going to cry and Hammer, at that single moment, had never felt so happy and proud. Nothing meant more to him than his acceptance of what happened and he told Brig so.
His cousin pointed at him again. 'Let me plan the bachelor party. Oh MAN! All of us guys,' he drew a huge circle, pointing at the Alpha as well, 'Vegas. Huge steaks. Maybe some mountain lion hunting, strippers.' Brig grabbed Hammer's shoulders. 'Strippers, Hammer, strippers!'
'Xeph is my son.'
Hammer blurted it out since it looked like Brig wasn't going to stop talking. Brig had taken a big breath and was about to speak again when Hammer repeated it.
'Brig. Xeph is my son.' He put his arm around Lily. 'He's our son.'
'I...don't understand.' But he did. It just didn't sound right. 'That would mean...' Brig tilted his head, confused. Pointing at Hammer, he then pointed to Lily. Then he turned and looked at the Alpha. 'He's Liam's son.'
'No, he's mine, Brig.' Then Hammer smiled at him.
'He can't be your son.'
And that's where Brig was confused. Yes, he knew Hammer had feelings for Lily. He may have been the only one to really notice it, but it was never anything you talked to Hammer about. It wasn't in his cousin to even consider that kind of betrayal. Not against Liam. Not against the Alpha. Not against someone Hammer called 'friend'.
Brig had been away with Liam since Hammer had been ordered to stay with Lily over that ten year period. Someone had to fill in Hammer's place and who better than the Commander of the Pipers. Who else could Liam trust as much as he trusted Hammer? And that trust was solid in Liam's mind.
Brig had seen the decay of his old Alpha's mind first hand. Their years on what Brig thought were useless missions gave him plenty of time to watch their Alpha lose control. And yes, he had seen Hammer's reaction when Liam and his men returned. Hammer had been sullen, even more quiet, and Lily...she was never out publicly after Liam's return. Brig just assumed...
Despite the man Liam may have become, Hammer would have never betrayed their Alpha by laying with the Alpha's wife. Definitely not impregnating her and letting everyone believe it was Liam's, even Liam himself. Brig watched as Hammer trained Xeph, taught him what it was like to be a man. The Alpha is the man he is today because of Hammer.
Shaking his head, Brig's face grimaced. 'You wouldn't do that, Hammer. You...couldn't do that.
"Iov didn't do it alone. And Iov never knew," she said after taking a deep breath. "I hid it from him. It was my secret, until recently." She didn't look at anyone else, just Brig. "Aidan didn't even know."
Closing his eyes, Brig tried to fight the tension building in his body. The wolf in him was begging to come out, to rage, and to punish Hammer. Lily misunderstood. It wasn't even really the lie she told, but the lie Hammer told to Brig.
'You stood there with me, Hammer.' Brig opened his eyes and glared at his cousin. 'You stood there when I ripped that fucker's throat out with my bare hands. You stood there with me, standing for the injustice did to my baby brother and his wife's honor. You stood there and you were just as guilty as he was you fucking hypocrite.'
Hammer put his hands on Lily and moved her aside gently.
'How could you not look at Xeph and see it?' Brig looked at the Alpha now and saw it, plain as day. The hands, the shape of his face, the breadth of his chest, god his EYE...little things that all pointed to Hammer, but Lily's side had softened it. Still it was there, all along.
'I know why you didn't see it, Hammer. The same reason I didn't. You never once considered you'd do something as low as fuck another man's wife and knock her up. That's not like you, is it, Hammer.'
Hammer came at him with the full force of his inhuman strength but Brig was waiting for it. They grabbed at each other, pulling at each other's shirts when Brig yelled in his face.
'Look at him, Hammer. LOOK AT HIM.' Brig felt his voice break as he pushed back against his cousin. 'How could you, Hammer? We ended a man for the very same thing. You were there...WITH ME.'
With those words, Brig sullied everything that had been between herself and Iov. She gasped at the sudden anger, the shock, the pain his words caused. Brig hadn't been there. Brig hadn't seen what Liam did to her. It wasn't Brig who was thrown down and beaten, raped, abused all in the name of power and possession. And it wasn't Brig who had been a port in the storm, the only one she could turn to.
When she would have tried to jump between the two, a large hand held her back. Aidan moved forward in two long strides, and suddenly the tension grew even heavier.
Lily's face was pale, but her eyes burned with anger. She jerked forward and he stopped her gently. Mismatched eyes on Brig, he took two long strides. Quick as a cat he came in underneath Brig's arms, his own coming up and sweeping out, breaking the two mens' grip on each other. Planting his heel behind Brig Xeph snapped his elbow up forcefully into the slightly shorter man's jaw. Yanking his heel back he swept Brig's feet from underneath him and "helped" him down with his other hand, crouching down and glaring.
"Yeah," he said softly, anger seething even though his voice never rose above a conversational level. "Go ahead. Look at me. Look at what happens when a good man sacrifices everything he has, including his own honor, to do what the Pack needs."
The Pack had needed Liam, and Liam had needed Lily. Needed her to the point of nearly destroying her.
"It's not all black and white, Brig," Xeph raged quietly. "Maybe you'll never see it the way they saw it," he jerked his head behind him toward Hammer, glancing at his mother, "but I'll be damned if I stand there and listen to you foulmouth my parents. They gave everything to Liam. For duty."
He stood, looking down at Brig, features twisted as he held himself in check. "You should be so lucky to give up what hey have."
But Brig's insults pushed him to the edge of what he knew to be himself and Hammer would have torn his own cousin's tongue out to punish him for it.
Brig yelled in his face to look at Xeph. To look at his son and ask himself why he never saw it - why he refused to see it. Hammer had no choice but to be two men and to forsake the one thing, the only thing, he held so dear. Before he could reply, his son stepped in and broke the fight up, forcing Brig to calm down.
Suddenly it was wrong. His reaction, his admission...the Alpha admonishing Brig for upholding standards that they both held true. But he couldn't stop him and neither could Brig. The Alpha disengaged and left Brig on the floor - his cousin wouldn't have even considered fighting the Alpha back, that just wasn't how they were written.
Hammer did the only thing he had never done in his life. He begged.'Brig...please.' He knelt down to his cousin who glared at him through angry tears. 'Please understand.'Brig slowly stood and Hammer rose with him. His cousin straightened his shirt and rolled his shoulders. Hammer realized just then that there would be nothing he could say, nothing anyone could say, to make Brig see.
'I've loved her all this time. You know I did. I've never loved anyone...but her. And I gave her up not because she asked me to, but because it was the right thing to do. This doesn't change what we did together for David. I was there for you because it was right, but what I did...it didn't tarnish the honor we got back for your brother.'
His cousin knelt down next to him and pleaded. It disgusted Brig. This wasn't the Iov Hammerthynn he knew, that he grew up with. The Hammer he knew died all those years ago when he crossed the line with the Alpha's wife. He couldn't help it, it was just the way they were written.
Brig stood slowly, Hammer rising with him. He clenched his jaw and turned to Lily. 'Ma'am, I apologize for my insults. Please forgive me.'
He knew better, she wouldn't be forgiving him anytime soon, but then it didn't really matter.
Turning back to Hammer, he gave him a long, final look. There were no words. Certainly no apologies for being what they had been bred to do. Brig stepped up to Hammer, never breaking his stare, and then passed him.
Quietly, he opened the door and left.
((ooc brig out))
He watched Brig as he left, lifted his chin defiantly as Brig made his apology to Lily, maintained his dominance until the other man had gone. Only then did he turn and look at Hammer, at Lily.
"It could have been worse," he said, his voice breaking the silence. When no one said anything, he repeated it in a softer tone. "It could have been."
He sighed, still looking from one to the other. "I have to go... go check on Nikhila. You know where I'll be if you need me."
He left the apartment, dropping a kiss once more on his mother's cheek as he passed her. They needed each other now. To stay... well, he'd be in the way. They would talk again soon.
((ooc: Xeph out))
Aidan left, as well, and she hugged him tightly before he exited, leaving her alone with Iov.
There was silence in the room. Lily concentrated on breathing. Finally, her feet like lead, she made her way to where Iov stood. Moving close beside him, facing him, she reached out with one hand and touched the roughness of his face.
"Just give him time," she said, her voice barely a whisper.
'Lils.' His voice cracked and he felt it, the first time since he was a child. The pain he had managed to squash down for over a hundred years - the pain that was from the man he could have been but not the man he was now. Hammer felt a tear roll down his cheek.
'He's...if there was ever anyone,' he started, but he began shaking. Again he grimaced and lowered his head in shame. 'Lils you don't understand. It's just not how we were bred. Forgiveness...it's not ours to give.' Hammer felt his legs go weak and he dropped down to a knee, his hands finding the floor. He wanted to throw up but he forced the bile back down.
There were no words for the pain he felt.
Then finally, after a century of being the man he had become, the child he was let go and sobbed quietly into his hands.
Lily knew what Iov was to Brig, too, though. She believed that in time he would come around. One way or another. For now she just wrapped her arms around Iov, doing her best to steady him with her presence. She wasn't sure that could be enough; they had been apart for so long, and now their very existence together was tearing him apart.
If they'd stayed apart, if they'd never revealed any of this... no. If she had never revealed any of this... because in the end, it was she who had known. And it was she who had brought this upon Iov now. There was nothing she could say or do to change what had been done now, though. It was over.
How could she ever be enough to make up for this, though?
She sat next to him and swallowed her own tears, because she knew no pain of hers could compensate, could compare, to what Iov was feeling now.
((OOC out - Continues in Karma Police))