First Grade Math (attn: Gretta)
Josh was seated in Mel's living room, perfectly at home there. The full moon was finished, two nights past, and Josh had kissed Gris good-bye and they'd both headed off to their respective offices, Gris to his and Josh ostensibly to the office he and Mel shared. Except, of course, he'd come to the Den for breakfast and a morning visit with his honorary sister.
He had his happy face on, the one that most people didn't recognize as 'excited, happy, really stoked about something' because it tended to look a lot like the rest of his expressions. Only, Mel would know the difference. She always did, like the rest of his family and, now, like Gris. Gris, who had arrived home early the morning after he'd been meeting yet more clients at work looking tired but in an incredibly amorous mood. Josh was only too happy to reciprocate; after all, since he and Mel had arrived home from North Carolina a few days ago they'd hardly seen each other and when they had, Gris's work had worn him down and he'd been very tired.
He seemed to be making up for that and Josh, a lifelong, born member of a werewolf family whose job was, literally, to recognize the signs in others and counsel them, had begun to add some facts together. Every angle he looked at it from he could find other coincidental explanations for some of the things Gris said or did, but the one common theme prevailed and Josh was both amused y it and a little nervous about it.
He couldn't help but wonder if he were dating a werewolf... but if he was, he wasn't going out with a Kadzait.
Aware that he could very easily be viewing his own situation through biased eyes he'd come to see Mel and ask for her opinion. So, sitting here in a black suit with a stylish and sharp purple dress shirt underneath it, he raised his eyebrows at Mel and said, "I need to know what you think about this situation."
He knew Mel would probably add the facts up and figure out who he was talking about but he put his problem out there from he perspective of an observer anyway. "What would you tell a person whose partner has been exhibiting some strange behaviors lately?"
He paused and thought. "Well, not only lately but, if you add everything up, since the start of their association."
She regarded him serenely from her place curled up on her sofa. Her legs were folded beneath her and her hands were tucked up into the belled sleeves of her cotton peasant shirt with its intricate embroidery on the cuffs and along the square neck line. Her hair was almost tamed today by the red kerchief she wore folded into a triangle over her head. Most of it still spilled out the back but at least it was out of her face.
Josh asked what 'someone' should do if that person's partner was exhibiting signs. She could guess what signs he meant and which partner he was referring to. Perhaps this explained his dampened lessened relationship related bliss.
"I would advise that someone to be sure they are correct in the signs that they are observing first before confronting their partner with such a tricky conversation."
He knew that as well as she did. They had advised people of similar things often enough but it was different when the situation was personal.
Of course she knew what he would find. Gris was clearly a werewolf and not of their pack. Gretta quietly wondered how that might change Josh's relationship. It would be an interesting adventure for her best friend. He wasn't always the most willing adventurer but she thought that this time would be an exception. He had a great amount of willingness to forge into the unknown for someone he loved; she had good reason to know that quite well.
The signs had been adding up fairly quickly from the many observations of Gris and the conversations with Josh but she had declined from mentioning it. That was something that was best sorted out between them and she knew that the revelation wouldn't make Josh love Gris any less. Gretta tried not to poke her nose into people's business until she was invited and, while Josh had long ago given her a standing invitation to be nosy and voice her opinion, Gris had not.
She thought it best to start from the beginning, as they would with anyone else who claimed to have a similar dilemma. "So, what signs have you noticed?"
Generally he and Mel handled cases that were the opposite. They had to help people come to terms with new identities, how to deal with the revelation of being a werewolf, how to adapt, who they could trust with such knowledge and when and where and how to inform them. It wasn't often they had to take a human and encourage that person to find a werewolf and say 'so yeah. I know about the moon thing. Did you want to tell me about it?'
"It feels more like I should wait until he trusts me with that information," Josh said. "I mean, he's probably nervous about saying anything. And we've only been dating a few months. Not really long enough for him to spill a deep dark secret like that."
Only, Josh thought, it sort of was long enough. Or it would be if Josh were the one considering this. He was beginning to accept that he loved Gris, that it wasn't too soon to feel so strongly about him. He didn't want to pressure gris with anything at all, though, knowing that this commitment and relationship thing were new to his partner and a smothering, clingy boyfriend was probably the last thing Gris wanted or needed.
Josh took a deep breath and leaned back, watching Mel. "Plenty of signs," he said. "Enough that when I thought about it I felt like an idiot for not noticing earlier. What can I say," he said, spreading his hands. "Love is a deaf blind mute."
He began to point out to Mel all the things he'd noticed about Gris beginning with (and blushing a little to divulge it to Mel, even though they had no secrets between them) the fact that Gris had worried about harming Josh in bed the first time with a too-tight grip. The terminology he'd used when talking about his brother and his family, which seemed innocuous at the time, took on a different dimension when paired with everything else. He'd referred to a Pack, but Josh had assumed it was just a phrase. But most telling was Gris's disappearance for the last few nights, especially when Josh had just returned home from a trip. They were still new to each other. They still missed each other desperately after a few hours, forget about days. Then, too, was the incidental fact that Gris had always managed to avoid touching Josh's necklace. Almost every Illamar wore a piece of silver. Josh's was a rope chain and a small pendant. He was almost never without it but Gris had never come into contact with it.
He told Mel about Gris and Kiyoshi, although he left Kiyo's name out of it. The small man's identity was none of his business, although now he realized that Kiyo, too, must be a werewolf. perhaps Evan, too, belonged to their Pack.
"He was tired every morning," Josh said as he described his partner's behavior over those three telltale days. "Not hard-partying tired but 'running all night' tired."
Josh knew the difference. Growing up in an Amaroq family you always knew. He experienced a pang of jealousy. Was everyone Amaroq but him? Now that he was here in Nachton, could he plead his case to Xephier? The Liechtenstein Alpha and Josh's own father had wanted him to serve in the Pipers there but Josh didn't want to. Moving had given him a reprieve. Maybe it would be safe for him to be Gifted now, if Xephier were willing to help. Josh hated asking for favors though.
He felt another stab of insecurity, a feeling he was largely unacquainted with and didn't enjoy, when the realization sank in that gris belonged to the Vyusher R'asa. He looked at Mel, worried.
"They don't have humans in their Pack," he said softly. "What will he think, knowing I am Kadzait, Mel? Do you think it's possible that he would break it off?"
Josh didn't want that. He felt his pale face growing paler at the thought. Sighing, he dropped his face into his hands. "What should I do? My instinct still says to wait until he wants to tell me himself, but he also deserves to know who I am before we get ourselves into a combined Pack mess."
It wasn't fair to Gris, really, Josh thought. Josh knew how to figure out his partner's hidden identity but with Illamar, there was no way. There were no hints, no subtle clues. They were human, fully human, and lived a life of privileged knowledge without the inconvenience of having to cover for themselves. Of course, they had a whole Pack to take care of themselves. You couldn't be Illamar and not lend a hand to your fellow Kadzait if they needed it, but Josh had to admit sometimes it was easier just to keep the secret and not live the secret.
Josh talked about waiting until Gris brought up being a werewolf to him instead of letting his partner know that he knew. "Maybe, just don't be disappointed if he doesn't tell you for a while.â€ Gretta looked at Josh seriously. "It is likely that it has nothing to do with trust but more worry about losing you." The knowledge that werewolves are real and that humans have been living in a carefully kept lie didn't sit well with most people. They said things like 'I love you and any secret you have is okay with me' but they didn't have any frame of reference for something so radically different. They had counseled more than one new werewolf against just laying their identity out to everyone they knew, bold as you please. There was a huge difference between finding out that someone had a criminal past, was married or had an affair than not being human. She wasn't telling him anything he didn't already know but normally Josh was an objective outside observer. This time was different. He would wonder why Gris hadn't told him already and it would eat at him and worry him every week that went by that his lover continued to keep his race a secret. "You aren't your average human but he doesn't know that.â€ She smiled at him and teased. "You look so normal.â€
She listened to Josh's observations, each one adding to the certainty that he was dating a werewolf. He then said that Gris had been tired every morning on the three nights of the full moon. "Mmm, and he smells like a werewolf.â€ Gretta toyed with a flower on her sleeve. "If you are adding up facts.â€ It wasn't very noticeable and it wouldn't help you pick a stranger out as a werewolf but when someone who doesn't own a dog had a faint canine scent then it was another good sign. It took knowing that the person didn't own a dog or live around one but she knew that about Gris thanks to Josh.
Shrugging, Gretta shook her head sadly when Josh asked about the Vyusher R'asa and whether Gris would break off their relationship when he found out that Josh was a human member of the Kadzait. "I don't think so but we don't know their customs. Maybe they have some taboo about dating Kadzait.â€ And maybe Gris would be willing to go against any custom for Josh. She thought he might if there was a choice that had to be made but she wasn't the one laying her relationship on the line.
"Well, you can talk to the Alpha and see what he knows about Vyusher customs.â€ Maybe Xephier knew more. "Until then you could try to bring it up subtly and see if he is willing to do the same. Maybe with enough hints you will be able to show him that it is okay to come right out and say it.â€
Amusing, Josh thought, that the werewolf thing was fairly inconsequential to him. He doubted Gris felt the same, but as he'd observed before it was hardly fair to Gris - he couldn't possibly know Josh was a Kadzait. So should Josh try to take that worry away from Gris and tell him what he knew, or should he stick to his initial feeling and let Gris tell him in his own time?
He waved a hand at Mel. "Of course," he said, shaking his head. "I can be patient for it. I know how it works."
It was what they did, after all. "I just wish I had some frame of reference for this." Then he let a little smile flicker over his lips. "If nothing else we can learn from my own experience and know how to handle it if it ever crops up again."
With the Kadzait and the Vyusher R'asa living in close proximity for the first time in centuries this situation was actually likely to happen again. Illamar were not numerous, but Josh was one of a handful in Nachton and there were others younger than he, looking for someone to share a life with. They could find themselves in his position too.
Mel called him normal and Josh wrinkled his nose at her. "Good thing I look it," he said. "I don't feel it."
This was not normal at all... how often did the human in the relationship have to find out how to tell the werewolf he was a human? Or something like that. Josh gave a small sigh.
"He smells perfect," he pointed out mildly when Mel said Gris smelled like a werewolf. "Like herbs. Like the forest. Like Gris."
Josh knew Mel hadn't been criticizing but he still felt obligated to defend his lover. It was part of the possessiveness of his nature, he thought, that Gris was his and whether he was present or not Josh would always, always, act in a manner that would have pleased him. He hoped. It was important to him to be there for Gris, always, and that meant being there for him when he wasn't even there. He wanted Gris to know Josh would be in his corner every minute of every day and night.
Then his adopted sister brought up the notion that maybe the Vyusher R'asa would consider their relationship taboo, because of the mixing of the Packs. "God, I didn't even consider that," he said, forgetting to breathe for a second.
Worry after worry tumbled over in his mind and he finally grasped at what Mel was saying. "That is a goo idea," he said, emphasizing the words. "We don't know very much about them and we should. If we're all going to work together, anyway, which is what Alpha Xephier wants."
Xephier had said as much to them both before. "I should ask him. And, yes, maybe hint at it for Gris. Give him something to latch onto. It's not my place to make him tell me his secrets, but maybe I can let him know, my way, that it would be all right."
Josh leaned over, cupped Mel's face in his hands, and gave her a soft kiss on each cheek. "What would I do without you?"
Sitting back up he looked at Mel with a warm, genuine smile. "I just want to stay with him," he said. "I know it hasn't been long but I love his company."
Loved him, he wanted to say, but that kind of thing was a sentiment he wanted to express first to Gris, when he was ready to hear it. After that he might shout it out to everyone around him but it was Gris who should hear it first of all.
"It will happen again.â€ She asserted quietly. "It has probably happened before. We can definitely use you as a test subject.â€ Gretta grinned at him. "Thank you for volunteering.â€ The two packs were living closer together now and even trying to become better acquainted. That meant more mixed pack relationships.
"Yes, he smells nice.â€ She laughed at Josh's defense of his boyfriend's aroma. "He smells like one of us.â€ Josh spent so much time with the pack that he smelled like a werewolf also. She wondered if Gris had noticed or just overlooked it as a normal scent or perhaps a product of Josh spending so much time with him. It would be far more difficult for Gris to puzzle out Josh's supernatural affiliations than the reverse. Her partner was obviously human; he had even broken his wrist at the time they first met. He wore silver always, which made hugging him a tricky prospect sometimes. She gave Gris props for being an artful dodger. It had taken Josh a while to sort the puzzle out which said something for Gris's ability to look 'normal' and love's ability to blind even the most observant.
Gretta smiled when Josh gave her thankful kisses and asked what he would do without her. "I have absolutely no idea.â€
"Hmm.â€ She patted him fondly on the leg. "I am sure it will work out well. He seems to love your company also.â€
It hadn't been very long ago that Liam Xephier had run the Kadzait with a far less compassionate hand. There had been no Illamar then; there had been humans who were little better than slaves. It was Aidan Xephier who had changed that concept and welcomed the Illamar to the Pack as equal partners. It had happened before Josh's life had begun but he was still one of a minority. he did like being who he was, but he really couldn't help thinking now and then that he should have been Gifted. That it might be possible here in Nachton.
That gave him pause for thought too. How would Gris feel if his partner belonged to the Kadzait as a werewolf as opposed to a human? He gave a little sigh, not sure why life had to be so complicated.
His smile returned when Mel said Gris seemed to love his company. There were few people quite as observant as she, so he knew he wasn't just seeing things. "I'm glad you said that," he told her. "It gives me hope. I know things seem awkward and complex right now but I just have to be patient. It will work itself out."
And even if after their secrets lay before each other Gris decided he didn't want Josh, Josh knew he had a Pack and a family that would help support him. Hopefully he wouldn't need it. He leaned back on the comfortable couch and closed his eyes briefly, envisioning a future in which his partner trusted him in all things while also accepting Josh for what he was. Time would tell.
((ooc: Both out))