Starting Somewhere (attn: Xeph)
Kem waited for ages outside the little veterinary clinic that Aidan Xephier called his primary workplace. He didn't go in; not while Xeph was still there. Call it honor, call it choosing your battlefield; whatever. He'd wait until Xephier came out. Dressed in dark clothing and hidden well enough in the shadows at the end of the side street the clinic was on, Kem leaned against the wall of one of the nearby buildings.
For a long time no one went into the clinic; it was well past closing time and Kem began to wonder if Xephier was actually inside at all. Then he straightened a little bit and narrowed his eyes as a figure too small and too dark to be Xephier entered the clinic. It did so slowly and silently, the door not making a single sound.
Curious, Kem crossed the street on quiet feet and inched along the saide of the wall that made the front of Xephier's building. The shades were drawn but he crouched down a little and tried to see through the slats. He caught glimpses of what was happening inside.
The new person, a man, stood with his back to the front window. He was talking to Xephier. His whole body was wound tight; Kem could tell just from looking at him that he was ready to snap if provoked, and Xephier looked like he wanted to provoke. It was the look on the werewolf's face that made Kem wonder. Xephier didn't have any trouble looking fierce but right now he looked downright bloodthirsty. He was glaring at the smaller man with narrowed eyes and a frown. His nose wrinkled in a snarl every once in a while as the smaller man spoke but he himself didn't say a word. Kem watched as Xephier's hands clenched and unclenched at his sides, fingers clawing at nothing.
It went on for at least half an hour. During that entire time, only the smaller man spoke and Xephier looked more and more resigned. Finally the smaller man turned. Kem got a glimpse of his face and recognized him as the man he, Pak and Aishe had met months ago. Amir. Definitely a vampire. What was he doing here at Xephier's clinic?
Where Kem's inclination wouldn't have been to hide himself he suddenly felt like he should. Amir was heading toward the door and Xephier was scowling at him angrily but not moving. As the door opened Kem ducked back into the shadows again and pressed himself against the wall in a depression between the buildings.
Footsteps faded. Kem waited a few minutes and then stepped out from the darkness once more. He sucked in a startled breath as he walked into something large and unyielding. A hand snapped out and locked around his neck, squeezing and lifting at once. Wary of being dragged off his feet Kem snapped his foot out twice, once down low and once up high. He was dropped, rolling away to come back to a crouch on the street.
Easy to think it when you're standing there doing nothing, a little voice inside his head said. Letting the silu walk all over you. May as well skin yourself and offer your hide for a rug now.
It was over though; inevitably the jackal left with a smug expression on his face and Xeph shook himself out of a fog of mental orders. This time though, he saw movement outside the clinic, a shadow, just at the corner of the front window.
Following behind the vampire who'd just left Xeph stalked quietly down the alley. He could smell someone there. Whoever it was was waiting. His nostrils flared. Following the scent, which was faint as if it didn't belong to the person outside the window but to someone he or she had recently associated with, Xeph moved along the side of the building just as one of the shadows there moved as well.
Reflexively Xeph snapped out, grabbing whoever it was by the neck. Pent-up rage at the jackal surfaced and he gripped tightly, in no mood for stupid pranks or games. A pissed-off werewolf was a dangerous werewolf.
He expected retaliation but when the stranger snapped off two kicks that shouldn't have been that strong, Xeph had the feeling he'd just been kicked by a mule in the stomach and the chest. he let out his breath in a rush and clutched his stomach. The stranger dropped and rolled and the hood of his sweater fell away to reveal a fall of silvery hair.
Xeph gaped. "Kem? What the hell."
He crouched, still wary. Kem was a vampire. Xephier was not in a vampire-trusting mood. But Kem had also shown in the past that he was willing - more than willing - to work fairly.
"I could ask you the same. Do you usually get grabby with innocent bystanders or was that just special for me?"
Okay so that wasn't entirely fair. He'd been sneaking around after all. Kem stood and brushed himself off. Glancing up at Xephier as he did he shrugged.
"I have a question that you might be in a position to answer."
And, he didn't add, Xephier sort of owed him one. Even if he'd previously claimed he might not be able to return the favor, Kem thought it was worth a shot.
"I wasn't the one lurking in the alley," he pointed out. "You did that all by yourself. What's with the ninja act anyway?"
He tilted his head at Kem when he told him he needed an answer. Xeph wasn't sure what answer he would be able to provide.
"It depends on the question."
It rankled. Kem had behaved honorably in every meeting. Xeph even knew what he'd done for Drew when the younger were recounted an attack on Reign. If taking two silver bullets for an unknown werewolf wasn't a gesture of good faith, Xeph didn't know what was. He owed Kem a great deal. For his protection of Drew, for his protection of Reign that night. Any other vampire might have just let it happen.
And he repaid kindness and goodwill with suspicion and anger. It wasn't right.
"You had a date," he said. "I didn't want to interrupt." He didn't address the fact that he was, in fact, dressed a lot like a ninja in the sense that he was wearing mostly black. It was obviously rhetorical; anyone with hair like Kem's would cover it up when they were sneaking through the Nachton side streets to have a clandestine meeting with a werewolf. Duh. He'd left his pirate suit at home.
From Xephier's expression it was best to avoid the topic of the other vampiric visitor. Fine. That, he'd look into later. And it definitely bore looking into. Right now he was only interested in one thing ad that was Reign.
"A while back there was an attack on a mutual friend of ours," he said. "Your boy, Drew, was there. On the good guy side."
Xephier nodded shortly. Apparently this wasn't news to him. Kem continued. "Last night Reign had a visitor," he said softly. "Of the four-legged variety. I want to know who that would have been, and if it was one of yours."
"I don't know who would have been there last night," he said with honesty. "We go by every few nights to make sure everything looks all right. To make sure any unwanted visitors know we've been there. As far as I know no one was scheduled to swing that way. But Reign has friends. There's nothing to say they didn't decide to check up on her alone."
He furrowed his brow at Kem. "Why does it matter to you?"
"The wolf that was there last night wasn't a friend, unless your friends are inclined not to announce their presence."
No friend of Reign's, as far as Kem knew, would show up unannounced, cause Sirius to go apeshit, and then run at the first hint of confrontation.
"So this was something new," he said out loud, as much to himself as to Xephier. "What the hell do they want from her?"
He remembered what Drew had told him following the first attack, and the note he'd subsequently sent to Nikhila. Maybe he should have started there instead.
"I don't know what they want," Xeph finally said. "We're working on it too."
He hesitated a moment. "If I learn anything I'll send it along."
Fuck him. He thought he was going to be able to repay a favor, but how could he call it even when Kem was doing this to protect yet another of Xeph's own? he wanted to throw something. He had information Kem could use, he was certain, and he couldn't get the words past his lips. Kem needed to be watching for the jackal himself, before it leaped on him from behind. And he had no idea. He couldn't have.
Kem finally looked at him again and Xeph shuddered at the sight of his near-colorless eyes. Xeph's own might be mismatched but at least they weren't empty of color. And yet, he could hardly apply that description to the man in front of him.
"Thanks. Same here."
It was Reign who was important, anyway. Kem knew she belonged to the Pack but now she belonged to him too and through him, the Evenhet. If the combined intelligence of an entire wolf Pack and a vampire Clan couldn't sort her troubles out, he had a scarily bleak outlook for her long term well-being.
"I'll send it through Drew if I have to," he said to Xephier, heading out of the side street that led back onto Nachton's busy Strip.
"What you thought you saw before," he ground out, the words difficult to say, brushing as they were on the edges of orders he didn't know how to refuse.
"Whatever you might have seen," he said, "didn't happen."
They stared at each other for a moment longer. Xeph still had the feeling Kem was the one who might be able to help him. And, if he was any judge, his warning would only serve to ensure Kem did exactly the opposite of what Xeph had just said.
Kem nodded. Xeph let go. He watched as the vampire pulled his inhuman, colorless hair back behind his shoulders, tossed the black hood of his sweater up, and turned the corner, disappearing into the crowd on the Strip.
((ooc: both out))