A Mutual Outing
"Alright people, listen up. We are joining the Kadzait tonight for a joint gathering. We've had some of these before and they have gone wonderfully. Our brother pack has much in common with us and we are stronger together." Vaughn emphasized this point before getting to his next piece of information.
His pack had been very receptive, so far, to the idea of allying with the other pack because they could see the other pack as brothers to their cause. It was a far smaller leap than allying with a vampire clan. That would have been tough. He would still do it, if necessary, and if Evenhet were willing. The more on their side, the better.
"The Kadzait have human members of their family." A hush went through the group of R'asa followed by low murmuring, disbelief and disparaging remarks beginning to surface. Humans were not to be trusted lightly. They did on occasion but very very rarely. The Vyusher had always skirted closely to human territories far more closely than their Kadzait brethren and past relations had not always been very positive for either side. Much like the human Romany, the R'asa had often not been trusted, liked or tolerated by those around them. Of course Vaughn thought that the VR had not made themselves very easy to love. In the beginning especially, still realing from their defeat at the hands of the vampires, it was easy to lash out at the humans unfortunate to be nearby. Their racial memories made them stronger in many ways but they also made werewolves slow to change without strong leadership. New things had to be forced on a pack, in his experience, either by necessity or by strength of will. He hoped that he and Etta were strong enough to change the VR. And he vervently hoped it was for the better.
"They trust and love them. They are, many times friends and family of their Paterna. Treat them as kindly as you would all of our Kadzait brethren because that is what they are."
He looked over the crowd to make sure that his words had made it through even the thickest skulls and that his instructions would be followed. Then Vaughn smiled and dispersed everyone to their vehicles.
"Let's go have some fun."
((OOC: This speech is being given at Shady Pines before they leave to go to the Par and Preserve. He wanted to make sure his people knew what to expect and that they would be on their best behavior. No embarrassing Daddy! ))
He had set up for cheesy movie night later in the week with Josh and had slipped Underworld into the list. His boyfriend seemed pretty keen on the idea. Gris was nervous and excited about bringing up the truth of his background and so many of the activities in his life. He couldn't imagine keeping it a secret for much longer. Now was better. He didn't want Josh to worry that there was someone else. Or for him to see a reaction to silver or a miraculous healing and have to explain himself after such a shock. It would be better to introduce it slowly.
The Kadzait were bringing humans to the Gathering. That too was exciting. Gris hoped his pack behaved themselves and that perhaps they would be open to being more trusting around the largest population of sentient creatures on the planet. If so then maybe Josh could still be a part of the pack even if he chose not to be gifted.
Tavi was looking around carefully at the people approaching from the other pack; a look of relief crossing her face. Gris, watching her closely, raised his eyebrows. "What's up with you? Didn't play some practical joke on their Alpha or something did you?"
She laughed and shook her head. "No, I hear he actually has a good sense of humor." Tavi checked the crowd again and turned back to him. "I dated a Kadzait not long ago. I figured it would be... awkward."
Nodding, he asked the rather obvious question. "I guess it didn't go well?" After all, she was looking around to make sure the guy -wasn't- there.
"Uh, no." She rolled her eyes at him...for the obvious question. "Would you believe he seemed more uncomfortable with the fact that I was also a werewolf but part of the Vyusher than he was that I was a really young looking human who caught on to his secret." She huffed and muttered something disparaging about the entire male population.
Gris gave her a one armed hug and shrugged. "We aren't all bad. I promise."
Tavi glanced from him to Kiyo and then back again. "No, not all of you are, but the rest of you are gay." Then she stuck out her tongue at him, laughed and headed toward the fire. "I'm going to go dance."
Turning to his remaining friend, he smiled. "Hmm, maybe we should find her a nice straight guy. We know some of those, right?"
He was wringing his hands together nervously when Gris addressed a question directly to him. Kiyo blinked stupidly for a second and then tried to catch up to the conversation in his mind. Dragging it up he nodded at Gris and looked at Tavi, equally befuddled by her words.
"But I'm not..." he started to say, but realized that his sexuality was a moot point. So he stuttered instead, "... I mean Tavi doesn't need a straight guy. I mean she does eventually but she's fine how she is. I know a few. Somewhere. At Terminus maybe..."
His voice dwindled off as he saw, across the field, an enormous man headed toward them with a smaller, middle-aged woman next to him. His eyes grew wide and he stumbled over nothing in his haste to move behind Gris.
He thought you'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to recognize Aidan Xephier in this town. And even stupider, dumber, and blind-er not to recognize Lily Stafford-Hammerthynn. Even Kiyo knew who they were. Hell, he read the papers. Lily's face made the news almost as often as Vaughn's did, and he was the Mayor. He was suddenly terrified. There was way too much alpha-ness around for him. He wanted to run and hide.
He attempted the latter, briefly wishing Gris would eat a few more hamburgers so he had a larger hiding spot.
Now he joined his brethren again, this time with another surprise. He had arranged this with Vaughn specifically to introduce Joshua and Gretta to them. He fully intended for them to continue their roles as diplomats not only within the Kadzait but between the Packs as well. In addition he knew Joshua had a huge interest in culture, and he'd expressed much interest in learning about the R'asa simply for the joy of knowing. Xeph didn't think that was a bad thing; both groups could learn from each other. No one ever knew everything.
He had invited Joshua specifically as the sole Illamar tonight. He didn't want to intimidate or overwhelm anyone by throwing too many humans at them at once. Joshua was more easily accepted than some because his entire family were Amaroq and he had grown up amongst them. Some of the others, who had joined them later in life, weren't so easily understood. In addition Joshua was polite, well-spoken, and knew how to read people. He would understand what to do and what not to do amongst a group of wolves.
Of course he'd brought his mother along too. She was a peacemaker at heart, and her gentle presence was always welcome. Lily had enjoyed every single meeting they'd had and would have been hurt to be left out, even if she only sat quietly and observed contentedly.
Xeph saw Vaughn there and waved at him in a friendly manner.
"Evening," he said in his broad Australian accent. "We heard there was a party."
He extended his large hand to the leader of his brother-Pack and said, "I wanted to introduce you to some friends of mine. Of course you know my mother, Lily. But I'd like you to meet two of our somewhat new arrivals to Nachton. This is the Amaroq Ms. Gretta Lang, and her partner Mr. Joshua Wesson, our Illamar representative. They serve as a diplomatic team for our Pack and they've agreed to remain here in Nachton working with me for the time being. I'm sure they'd be happy to answer any questions that might come up."
Xeph looked pointedly at Joshua in particular. He was aware that there might be a great many questions directed at the sole human in the mix but he knew Joshua could handle it. He and Vaughn would be sure nothing got out of hand, either, but he suspected that after the initial surprise and, perhaps, wariness wore off, it would be no different from any other gathering.
He was not a short man but following Xephier, he certainly felt like one. Nonetheless he was still able to catch a good look at he small crowd gathered there already, both Kadzait and R'asa alike. As they got closer Josh realized with mild surprise that Gris was present. He nearly leaned across Mel to get a closer look at his boyfriend, every cell in his body forgetting themselves as he swayed closer.
Then he remembered himself and, with a sigh, turned his attention to his Alpha. Josh reached down and straightened his shirt, suddenly feeling nervous. Gris was here. How was Gris going to feel about this? Slow, he was planning to go slow with Gris. This was the opposite of slow. He smoothed down his plaid shirt, which was tucked into his jeans over a dark blue waffle-knit henley.
He couldn't be nervous. He was at work. He made sure his most neutral, carefully polite expression was on his face (it usually was, no stretch there) and had to make a conscious effort not to stare at Gris as he was introduced. He held his hand out toward Vaughn, all the while wondering if his relationship was about to come to a crashing burning halt right here.
Maybe this was for the best, Josh realized. Gris would know, and their secrets would be exposed to each other. Well, some of them. Sometimes he wondered if Gris would ever speak openly of his family, but that was beside the point.
Another fact that he hadn't thought about suddenly hit him. He knew werewolves. Gris had always been reluctant to disclose his age, and Josh had thought it was because he was afraid to admit his youth to his partner. But, he now realized, Gris's appearance only meant he was older than he looked. Could it be that he was actually much closer to Josh's age than he had thought? Josh found that idea almost absurdly pleasing. Oh, it wouldn't matter either way, since he'd pretty much ceased to worry about it, but it would be another thing they had in common and he found himself musing over that thought as he swept his neutral but friendly gaze across the people assembled. His eyes stopped on Gris and, almost comically behind him, Kiyoshi, just for the barest of moments and he gave them a very brief, nearly imperceptible nod.
She doubted then that it had so much to do with the Vyusher R'asa in general and suspected that it had much more to do with a single member.
Therefore, she wasn't at all surprised to see Gris amongst the people gathered around a large campfire. A shorter man with long dark hair was standing almost directly behind Josh's blond boyfriend. Not beside him, behind him. Gretta tilted her head and smiled. That one needed space and time to get comfortable with people.
Tonight she dressed in a beautiful teal coloured sarong with a large white flower print on it and a white wrap bandeau around her small breasts. Looking at all the people who seemed to believe it was cold, she was glad she had also brought a thin cotton scarf wrap to drap over her shoulders. It was her mind to spend some of her time in wolf form, running with new friends. Josh could handle the polite conversation and she could see how the R'asa worked together as wolves. Together, her and her partner would learn much about the other pack.
She should go and say hello to all the Kadzait, especially their human members that they had brought. The Alpha's daughter should set a good example. Tavi looked over at her friends to see if maybe they wanted to join her.
That was when she saw Kiyo hiding behind Gris who was moving forward toward the group of new comers rapidly, walking as fast as a person could get before breaking out into an actual run. He seemed oblivious to the smaller werewolf in his shadow. Kiyoshi appeared to want to be anywhere but in the small group of people that included two Alphas and the Kadzait representatives.
Catching up to Gris and Kiyoshi, Tavi wrapped a protective arm around her shy friend. "Hello everyone. I'm Tavi." She gave them all a very cheerful wave in lieu of half a dozen hand shakes. She had already met, in passing Xephier and his mother, in a previous mutual get-together. The others she didn't know but speaking to everyone could wait until later.
Patting the oblivious Gris on the arm, she nodded toward the fire. "See you later, yeah?"
Tavi turned to Kiyoshi and guided him away from the group of important leader-type people. "Let's go dance." She wasn't really giving him a choice since she had a hold on him and was moving toward the fire. As they walked, Tavi handed him a couple of the sparklers and produced a lighter.
"So, what got into him?" She asked her friend with a nod toward the blond. Gris had been focused and ready to dance and drum just a few minutes ago. Weird, knowing his background she wouldn't have pegged him as the type to have a problem with humans. She knew he was dating a human and had gone to school with them for most of his life. Maybe he was really interested in meeting the other pack. He hadn't mentioned it though. Tavi's curiosity was peaked now and she hoped Kiyo had an answer.
His thoughts of meddling in his friend's love life vanished into the wind when he looked up at the approaching Kadzait. Was that? It sure looked like her. Gris squinted a bit and took a step forward.
Kiyo had moved behind him and Gris had to turn slightly to see his friend. "I think I know one of the Kadzait." It looked like Gretta. Josh's partner. He smiled, in excited relief; maybe telling Josh wouldn't be as hard as he thought. Perhaps his boyfriend already knew one werewolf. He had said that he and Gretta had grown up together. There was just no way for her to keep such a secret from a close childhood friend for so many years. It would also explain why Josh looked years older than Gretta. He had always assumed that Gretta had been younger, following around a much older Josh like a little sister. But maybe not.
And then his heart stopped beating. The tall Kadzait Alpha moved to the side and turned to the person behind him. The man standing next to Gretta. The man that he was dating.
Wait, what? Josh was Kadzait? But he was... and then it made sense. Josh was one of the human members of the other pack. He wouldn't have to worry about his boyfriend understanding. Gris felt relief wash over him in a huge rush that nearly caused his knees to buckle. He wasn't sure when he started moving toward Josh but he felt that he couldn't get there fast enough. Happiness and relief were making him giddy with all the possibilities open to them now. He also hadn't noticed that Kiyoshi was still clinging tightly to him. He had meant to be reassuring a moment ago and now he was inadvertantly taking his friend along for the ride.
Tavi blocked his path just before he reached Josh. She took Kiyo by the hand, giving him a strange look. He saw her wrap an arm around his friend's shoulders and give a quick greeting to the Kadzait before heading back toward the fire with Kiyoshi. She did ask him a question that he partially heard, his thoughts already turning back toward Josh now that Tavi had rescued Kiyo. "Uhm, yes. Later."
Standing in front of Josh, he greeted everyone by his eyes were locked on his boyfriend's. "Hi, I am Greer. I am one of the Vyusher R'asa." Something that was already apparent but he wanted to say it officially to his partner.
Now, however, his hiding spot was suddenly moving forward. Kiyo was dragged several steps, not prepared for such an overt gesture of spontaneous friendship. Gris was the sociable, gregarious sort, but Kiyo was astonished at the speed with which he moved forward...
... until he got a good look at the two Kadzait representatives. One of them, the human everyone was so intrigued (in both good and bad ways) about, was Josh. Not a Josh look-alike. It was actually Josh.
"Whuuuh..." Kiyo's jaw dropped and he wrestled himself away from Gris as Tavi came to his rescue and bore him away from the group of Alphas.
He blinked at her and then nodded his chin toward Josh. "The human," he said, trying to find his words again. "That's Josh. Gris's Josh. That's his boyfriend."
Then suddenly he began to laugh behind his hands. "Oh Tavi, he was trying to figure out how to tell Josh what he was. We thought maybe... cheesy werewolf movies or something... and there he is."
Biting his lip he stopped before they could reach a campfire. "We can't dance," he said urgently to Tavi. "What if they need some help?"
He wasn't sure what kind of help, just that... obviously, they belonged to two different Packs. Whatever Gris was going to do, or Josh, either of them - Kiyo wanted to stay to support his friend even if it meant getting Alpha all over him.
And it wouldn't be a big deal now. Xeph looked at the man who was introducing himself as Greer. With his intuition he saw Josh and Gris together, intimately together. Not engaged in an act of intimacy, but they were standing close, speaking, touching, talking. The image Josh presented him was the same. Two people in need of exactly the same thing, and Xeph couldn't provide it. Yet.
He hadn't planned to introduce one of his Illamar to the R'asa and immediately lose that man to a private one-on-one conversation. He didn't think Josh would allow himself the luxury either, which was part of why he enjoyed working with Josh... and also, sometimes why it was frustrating. Joshua would take duty to his grave, given the opportunity.
Catching Gretta's eye, Xeph raised an eyebrow of his own and smiled softly at her. They would do their best to let Josh (probably to force Josh) to have some private time, as soon as it wouldn't be rude to do so. Many of them would run later. If no opportunity presented itself before then, maybe that time would be ideal.
And that left him with a very serious Gris. A very serious, very sexy Gris whose smile had been replaced by a somber expression as he introduced himself as R'asa. Josh wanted to reach out, hold his partner, hug him, tell him everything about his life that he hadn't explained to him. But he was at work - even if it was casual. So he restrained himself and smiled softly at Gris.
"It's nice to meet you, Greer of the Vyusher R'asa. I'm Josh. Illamar and Pack Liaison for the Kadzait. I expect you have questions. I'll be happy to answer them for you."
Like Gris, he addressed everyone who gathered around them, his grey eyes flickering away but always returning to the blond man in front of him. So handsome. So perfect. And, for the moment, so very unattainable.
"It's normal to socialize around the fire, yes? Shall we go over there?" He glanced at Alpha Xephier, who nodded and grinned.
The Alpha headed in that direction, but Josh couldn't seem to tear his eyes away from Gris.
Josh's partner seemed amused and unsurprised by the entire encounter. While watching the two men he came to an understanding, despite the poker face that the Kadzait maintained. His senses told him that they were each others' weakness. He would imagine they might also be each others' strength but something like that didn't happen without a relationship so, despite them introducing themselves to each other here, he suspected they already knew each other quite well.
Grayson's father probably wouldn't be very happy about that, if he didn't already know about his son's relationship status. Vaughn never understood or condoned Grayson's abandonment of his second son. Originally he had left that in Godrick's hands to mend the breach. After all Godrick was the Alpha in that part of England, not Greer's father. But Godrick thought that Garick's plan to send his son to boarding school was a smart one. He told Vaughn that after a year or so he was sure that Garick would want his son back after enough time to mourn the death of his eldest son. It hadn't turned out that way.
Vaughn had been keeping a distant eye on Greer Grayson ever since. He still remembered what it was like to be a boy without a father. Only his father had died and at least he knew that he had been loved. Vaughn couldn't imagine the pain that the young Vyusher had suffered at the hands of his own father, alive but uncaring, especially after losing his brother, his pack and his home. Yes, he kept an eye on Gris, and unlike his father, Vaughn had never found the man to be lacking. He had grown up strong and capable despite everything. Greer had more strength and potential for leadership than Gavin, Godrick's son. He certainly had more than enough to be Beta like his father. Though perhaps he could stand to care a little less about what his family thought.
He hadn't spent much time with Garick's son but he had heard of his abilities as a tracker and lately he would occasionally get dinner conversation from Tavi that included stories about her friend. The young Grayson had done well for himself and was a productive member of his pack, no matter what his father thought. And no matter what kind of relationship he chose to have.
Vaughn looked up at Xeph and smiled. "My daughter brought some things for the kids to play with...and I suspect some of the younger wolves at heart.â€ He was happy that Tavi had mostly stopped dying her fur an outlandish colour. Last he saw she was back to her normal shade and pattern; though she did threaten to go green for Saint Patrick's day if it happened to be a full moon.
Many of his people had gathered around to greet the new comers and express interest in what it was like to be a human in a pack. He was happy they were keeping an open mind. Antoine and Tavi's friend Leo were some of the first to move forward, more followed and now there was more pack around their group than there was at the fire.
Josh mentioned the fire and he nodded in agreement. Looking at his people, he said "Let's give them a chance to get to the fire, hmm?â€ Vaughn gestured toward the large crackling blaze in the center of the clearing. He moved toward it, knowing his people would follow.
((OOC: Vaughn has Cult Following so his subtle cues are all it takes for him to get what he wants from his pack. When he moves toward the fire, the others will follow. ))
Gris seemed a little lost for a moment, a confused frown forming on his lovely features. He glanced up at her, she shook her head slightly side to side, and then he looked back at Josh.
The Vyusher took his eyes off Josh and turned toward her. His smile was back on his face though this time it was not quite so bright and she could tell that it didn't quite light up his eyes like it had before. He told her that it was good to see her again.
"It is good to see you too.â€ Gretta reached out and pulled him close for a friendly hug. "Have you ridden to anyone else's rescue lately?â€ Gris shook his head, no, a little more warmth coming back into his features. She could tell though that this ache was one that only Josh could soothe. "It will be alright.â€ Gretta breathed ever so softly in his ear before letting him go, careful to be as close to silent as possible with so many werewolves present.
When Gris moved back there were others to take his place. "Bon Soir, I am Antoine.â€ A hawk-nosed dark haired man stepped forward. "I am often called Bird.â€ She repressed a smile as the Vyusher R'asa Alpha made a small gesture pointing toward his nose from his place behind the other man's back. "For my sharp vision.â€ The French man said, stressing the words as if he sensed the unseen gesture. He stepped back, giving Lily a smile and her a wink before he departed. Another blond stepped up and introduced himself and then asked Josh a question.
She turned her attention to one of the R'asa when she was asked one of her own. "What is it like working with a human? Do you have to worry about him getting hurt? How long was he a part of your pack before you started working together?â€
Gretta smiled. "I find it perfectly normal working with Josh. We've known each other all of our lives so he is like my brother. I know his weaknesses and limitations and he knows mine.â€ Hopefully they understood exactly what that meant. Josh knew about her problems with silver, her monthly shifts and odd gifts and the other things that made her different. Some of it was useful and some of it was something to overcome. He also knew of her inability to keep on track, find her phone and deal with institutions. She knew that he wasn't fond of robots and kept him away from any life sized displays of Borg or other android/metal/robot hybrids. Often Gretta thought her job was much easier. "I do worry about him getting hurt like you would with any friend that was human but our job doesn't tend to be very dangerous.â€ The last question made her smile. "Josh has been a part of our pack all his life.â€
The Vyusher R'asa blinked up at her and nodded. He thanked her kindly for her answers and then walked away, deep in thought. She suspected that there would be some interesting conversations around the other pack's den for the next few days.
Vaughn invited them to move toward the fire, turning to leave himself. Gretta marveled when almost all of the Vyusher R'asa turned nearly as one to follow their Alpha, in some cases stopping their conversations in order to move toward his destination. Strange, but potentially very handy.
She took the small reprieve to shove Josh toward Gris. Right this moment they were not the center of attention which Gretta suspected was her partner's reason for bringing up the fire in the first place. "You need to say something to him.â€ Gretta hissed softly into her partner's ear. She was sure that he wanted to talk to Gris but he might not know that his words seemed to have been misunderstood. Her partner didn't have the hearing of Gris but luckily most everyone else was no longer around them.
There was a smile there for him which was the only thing that kept him from walling himself up immediately. He had learned to protect himself from pain and emotional hardship a long time ago. Not to trust too easily and to do his best not to display public weakness. It was hard not to fall into a cold response, equally as impersonal. He had wanted to hug Josh, hold him tight, be held in return, and be happy at the thought of sharing so much together but that moment seemed pretty shattered.
Now he wasn't sure if everything was okay. What if Josh's behavior was because the Kadzait didn't approve of relationships with the Vyusher R'asa. All this mutual gathering stuff might just be a lie, perhaps they weren't good enough for the other pack.
Hadn't Tavi just been telling them that her former Kadzait boyfriend had been more upset to find out that she was Vyusher R'asa than to have her be a human who had learned his secret?. Did they accept humans more readily than their cousins? Somewhere there was almost a logic to that. His brain sped forward supplying the reasoning that a human could always become a Kadzait or at the very least had no reason to have mixed loyalties but a Vyusher R'asa would be loyal first to his own pack.
Oh God, was he going to lose Josh just as he thought everything was okay?
He hoped that they would at least get to talk about it before Josh dumped him. Perhaps the small smile meant that everything wasn't over between them. Maybe Josh wasn't willing to be seen by the Kadzait with him, perhaps he was embarrassed by him and unwilling acknowledge him in front of his pack. But maybe that small smile meant that Josh might want to see him again.
Finding his dignity, Gris turned to Gretta and smiled, relying on plenty of Grayson experience to make sure that the show went on even if he was in a panic on the inside.
She hugged him and asked if he had rescued anyone else lately. Gris noticed that the Sarkis was paying close attention to him and seemed intrigued by the question. "Not lately, at least not in so dramatic a fashion.â€ Gretta whispered softly in his ear and her words of solace nearly brought tears to his eyes. It wasn't Josh saying these much needed words but they were still a lifeline out of the darkness of his quickly plummeting thoughts. If she said that it would be alright then it was probably true. She knew more about the Kadzait, and Josh, than he did.
Perhaps Josh wasn't going to disown him after all.
Vaughn mentioned something about letting their friends get to the warmth of the fire. He could feel the intent behind the Sarkis's words and knew that he was right and that they should extend a better welcome to the Kadzait. The need to comply warred with his need to be near Josh. He gave his partner another long look and then turned slowly toward the fire, lingering behind the rest of his pack who had already followed Vaughn.
Wrapping her arms around Kiyo's shoulders, she slowed his forward progress. "We're alright here. Better to watch from really.â€ They would be able to see any problems arise from outside the small circle of people almost better than being in the middle of it. Certainly they would be in a better position to do something about it. If fur started flying then she didn't want to be jammed in the middle when she could rally some more friends and take control of the situation from the outside. "Besides, there is nothing faster on two or four feet than me. I promise we will make sure nothing happens to him. "
"I sure hope he has better luck with this Kadzait than I had with mine.â€ Tavi sighed and watched the group looking for signs of trouble. She saw Bird introduce himself and Leo and the others. She heard her father talk of her toys and then later suggest that everyone move toward the fire.
"Ah, see, they are coming this way.â€ Tavi smiled at Kiyo and twirled around him. "Now can we dance?â€
((OOC: She's sort of hugging him from behind, watching the other group from around his shoulder. Purposefully getting Alpha (in the making) all over him. ))
"As long as you keep half an eye on them," Kiyo said, including Josh in his statement. "You'll like Josh. He's... he's nice."
Joshua treated Kiyo kindly too. He hadn't shown any impatience at Kiyo's hesitant manner and he was equally quiet, which made Kiyo feel better about it. He cast a few glances over his shoulder but he went along perfectly willingly.
"We can dance," he said, taking a cigarette lighter from his pocket and flicking it open in a well-practiced gesture. "Sparkler?"
He held up one of the ones she'd given him. "I have my poi too. For later."
That was one thing the kids in particular couldn't get enough of. Fire poi. Nothing like setting your poi on fire and spinning around like crazy to delight an audience.
He headed toward the fire and his Pack followed, as did Vaughn's Xeph saw Gretta linger for a moment and trusted her to convey what needed to be said to Josh. If not, Xeph would do it. This was a casual outing, but Joshua viewed it as work. He was always too damned serious about looking perfect, being beyond reproach, honoring his family and his Pack. This was time to cut loose a little.
At least he hadn't worn a suit. Xeph had actually half-expected to have to send Joshua back to change into jeans before they came to the Park but fortunately his serious Illamar had figured that one out.
He turned his back to them, knowing his Pack was there with him. He would keep an eye out on Josh, and on Greer. They needed to talk more urgently than he'd thought, and hopefully they would take advantage of these few minutes.
He smiled at Vaughn. "I should have brought Noah along," he said. "He loves sparklers." Already he could see a few of the toys being lit up. "And he's just about old enough that we don't have to worry about him poking his own eye out or sticking it up his nose."
He grinned at the R'asa Alpha. Kids would be kids.
Josh could see it in Gris's face, the slight frown, the disappointment, and for a moment he was confused as well. Didn't Gris understand this wasn't just a casual outing to him? This was work. He had to work to make it understood that he was as good as his Amaroq counterparts. He had to train every day to make himself strong, to counter the effects of an aging body, to be as perfect as possible.
But he had to be perfect for Gris. For once, Josh had something else in his life that was just as important - no, more important - and he was failing miserably. He was no good at expressing himself, and he hadn't even been sure that Gris would want him to. But if Gris's expression was any indication, he had wanted Josh to react differently. Josh apologized silently to him, a thousand times, for being who he was. Poor Gris... stuck with a man who never seemed to have the appropriate reaction to anything. He had hoped Gris would see the joy in his eyes. He would sort this out, if he could. Of course Gris had no way to know what Josh was thinking. They hadn't had a chance to talk like this.
But Gris was being replaced by others who had questions and much as Josh wanted to sweep them all aside, he had to be polite. Still, he watched his partner constantly, or as much as he could, begging him for patience with his eyes.
Someone asked him when he had joined the Kadzait and how. Josh attempted to smile as he answered, "I was born to the Pack. My family are all Gifted, but I was not."
"The time wasn't right," Josh answered politely. He wasn't going to discuss the failings of the Lichtenstein Alpha here. "Someday."
"Is it hard keeping up with a partner who's faster and stronger than you?"
Josh let his lips twitch up. "Only when we're racing for the first cup of coffee," he said. "Gretta and I are fortunate that our jobs rarely require us to be physically compatible."
Diplomats rarely had to get physical. But even so, anyone could see Josh wasn't a pot-bellied desk jockey.
Finally Vaughn and Xephier moved everyone toward the fire. Mel whispered urgently to him and Josh frowned, glancing at her with irritation - not at her, but at himself. He didn't respond but he lingered and let everyone move on ahead of him.
And then he turned to Gris, who was watching him and turning toward the fire. Josh could only hear in his head the panicking voice saying, "No no no no no no no..."
He closed the distance between them quickly and reached for Gris's hand. "Gris," he said softly, tugging his boyfriend back gently. He hoped, he prayed, that he hadn't ruined everything. He wanted to explain things to Gris, he wanted to do this together.
For now he just slid his arms around his partner. "Gris," he repeated softly, drawing him close. "Please tell me that this is all right. I didn't know... I didn't know if you would want me when you knew. I wasn't sure if you wanted everyone else to know..."
He found himself shaking with nerves, with anxiety, with fear that he was doing everything so wrong when it mattered the most. He hadn't had a chance to ask Gris how his Pack would take it if Gris were dating a Kadzait. He wasn't trying to hurt his boyfriend... he was trying to protect him.
He looked at Gris with earnest grey eyes, pleading with him. "I didn't want to force you to acknowledge me if you didn't want to," he said softly.
Gris could reject him any moment, really, and Josh would be broken. All Gris had to do was turn and walk away and Josh wasn't sure how he'd manage to pick the pieces of himself back up and put them together. He felt his arms tighten involuntarily. The urge to kiss Gris, to claim him, was very strong. He fought it back for a moment, but really, just a moment, before lowering his head and kissing Gris on the lips with a great deal of restraint, just the lightest of touches. If Gris didn't want him, well, he would get one last perfect kiss.
Josh's arms slid around him and relief flooded through him for the second time in less than ten minutes. A little sound that was curiously close to sob escaped him as he hugged Josh back. Everything would be okay; Gretta had said so and it seemed she was right.
"Of course it is okay.â€ Gris said urgently. "I want you, Josh.â€ He looked into his partner's pale grey eyes earnestly hoping that the passion of his emotions came through. "I wanted to tell you... I was going to try to bring it up slowly...â€ Gris smiled a crooked smile. "I didn't want you to run away screaming.â€
With a soft little laugh, he shook his head at himself. "I didn't know I wanted anyone to know either until you didn't seem to want to acknowledge our relationship and then I realized I didn't care who knew, my pack, your pack....It didn't matter. I want to be with you. You want me to be yours. I want everyone to know you are mine.â€ A part of him realized what he was saying, what he really meant but he didn't think now was the time to confess that. They already had enough revelations for one night, his emotional commitment could wait.
Josh's motives made sense when he explained them. How confused he had been. "I wasn't sure of the same thing...â€ Gris smiled; he should have known that Josh was trying to protect him. Josh always protected him, unless it was Josh that needed saving. He would have to admit that except for their first few meetings, his boyfriend rarely needed him to ride to his rescue. But he was willing; perhaps he could get Tavi to dye his fur white for the job and everything.
"My friend had dated a Kadzait. She said that he was more upset when he found out she was a Vyusher than he was when he thought she was human. I thought maybe; it would be the same.â€
But clearly it wasn't. Josh leaned forward and kissed him. Gris returned it with all of his heart, wishing they had more time to further discuss this and express their assurances, in numerous ways, that everything was perfectly fine.
"I might not care who knows but I think you are right, for tonight. We should behave.â€ Most of the people were at the fire and most wouldn't notice what transpired between them. Aside from the brief kiss, they could assume they were close friends who learned something important about each other. "The Sarkis wanted the pack to understand that humans could be trusted with our secret.â€ He gave Josh a final hug and then stepped back. "We should let that message stand on its own merit without them debating about our relationship and the merits of intermingling the packs.â€ One new thing at a time for werewolves. "But I am so happy, Josh.â€ He smiled again, beaming brightly at his boyfriend. That feeling of excitement was slowly coming back. "Perhaps we can talk more when everyone runs.â€
"So you and Gretta are diplomats for the Kadzait.â€ It made more sense now. Josh's job was actually fully with his pack, or so it seemed. "Kiyoshi and I are a tracking team for the Vyusher R'asa.â€ Gris glanced over at his friend who was waving sparklers around with Tavi. "Kiyo's nose always knows...â€
Reaching up, Josh briefly touched his palm to Gris's cheek. He smiled, a genuine smile that really only emerged for Gris lately, and shook his head slightly. "I won't be running away, screaming or otherwise," he said softly.
As Gris continued, relief washed over Josh in a nearly palpable wave. His knees felt like they just might give out and he was suffused with joy and hope. He nodded, agreeing with Gris's words, warmth spreading out to his whole body from his heart as he realized the weight of the words Gris had spoken. Gris wanted him... still. And Josh so badly wanted to be wanted, the same way he wanted Gris in return. He had been afraid Gris would shy away from that sort of thing but his partner never had.
"I do want everyone to know," Josh murmured softly. "More than you know."
When Gris told him about his friend Josh gave a little 'ah' of understanding and then tilted his head. "We have no taboo against loving where we will," he said. "Alpha Xephier is an extremely open-minded individual."
The subject would surely come up in the course of the evening. After all, it was Xephier's thought that had caused the entire civil war within the Pack and paved the way for humans like Josh to have a place within its structure.
And then, just when Josh was preparing himself to make a choice between Gris and his own duty and ideals, a choice he already knew Gris would have won, his boyfriend spoke words that rang so dearly to Josh's heart he could have cried. Gris hugged him once more and Josh caught him in a near-crushing grip.
"Thank you," he said, his voice shaking with emotion. As Gris stepped away Josh felt his heart pounding. "Thank you, Gris. You cannot possibly know how much that means to me. How important it is that the people here know that I am part of my Pack in the fullest sense and to have them trust me for myself... as much as I value your vouching for me."
He could barely speak any more, still stunned by Gris's ready acceptance, his understanding and support. He let go of his boyfriend reluctantly and offered him a soft half-smile as they began to slowly make their way toward the fire.
"If you want to run with them I will understand," he said. "We have all night, and many nights after this. I will tell you everything you want to know. And I'd love to know everything about you in return. I'm happy too, Gris. I... I don't even know how to say how much."
He shook his head, chagrined that he couldn't find adequate words. It was ever his failing, but he would do his best that night, and every night from here on out, to demonstrate to Gris just how he made him feel.
They fell into step together. Josh nodded at Gris. "We handle all sorts of situations," he explained softly. "Within the Pack as well as awkward situations that might arise when you cross between two worlds."
He listened when Gris explained that he worked for his Pack with Kiyoshi. It became clear why he'd seen them at the Park, then. They worked together, perhaps they ran together too. Clearly they were friends. He wanted to ask where Evan was, but there were other people around them as they got closer to the fire and Josh wasn't about to ask about someone else's personal relationship while in the company of a large group.
He watched as sparklers were lit and several children waved them enthusiastically around. A few of the kids ran over to Kiyo, who was holding out a lighter and igniting the sparklers for them. Nearby was Vaughn's daughter, Tavi. Josh hoped to meet her as well, something more than a brief wave in passing.
As much as he wanted to take Josh off to the woods somewhere and love him passionately and then hold him tightly while they discussed their united future, they couldn't do that, yet. He might not have known what his boyfriend did for a living but he did know that it was important to him.
Giving Josh's hand a squeeze, he smiled. "Who said I was going to vouch for you?â€ Gris's grin said that he would do more than vouch for Josh if it ever became necessary and maybe even if it didn't. "They need to know that some humans are okay because they are good people who are loyal to their friends and family, willing to keep other people's secrets because it is the right thing to do and because they care about what happens to the pack. Adding a relationship to it would be saying something that they already believe, which is that a human with a strong enough reason to be loyal might be trusted.â€ He shrugged slightly. "We've had bad experiences; ones that have lead to many deaths on both sides so the R'asa doesn't trust easily.â€ Gris had some of those memories himself. He didn't hate all humans because of a few bad ones in his past but he did know the collective evidence that said controlling outside information was the safest for the pack. "Even now they prefer that in a relationship like ours...â€ He paused and added. "Without you being part of another pack. That we strongly consider the gifting option.â€ Because relationships weren't always forever but a bite on the leg sure was.
Being more serious, he looked over at Josh. "I want them to love you for you. I can introduce you to the most open minded of the R'asa that I know.â€ Conveniently that tended to be the younger generation which was who he spent most of his time with. Most influential amongst that crowd was Tavi and Gris suspected that she would be more than willing to listen to anything Josh had to say.
"I can run another night. There will be plenty of them. Maybe later I can change for you...â€ Gris looked a little uncertain; perhaps that was not something Josh was interested in seeing. He doubted that his partner would be upset by his wolf form but perhaps he would be disappointed. "I don't quite stack up to beefy Kadzait standards...But I have been told that my coat is exceptionally shiny.â€ Gris brushed his hair back with a smug gesture. He wasn't entirely certain he had a shiny coat; he was rarely around a mirror in wolf form. Perhaps he should buy a full length one for the apartment.
"Oh, I have a place with my pack...â€ Gris blushed a little. "I haven't been spending much time there lately as you might have guessed.â€
Josh explained what he and Gretta did and he nodded. "We don't have special delegates for that to my knowledge. I know that Tavi and her brother help with some very difficult cases in both werewolf and human lives. They work with relocating people that are in danger. Like a R'asa witness protection program.â€ They did it for their own people for free but they offered all kinds of special services to humans for a price. The R'asa might not trust mankind but they had learned how to profit off of them.
"Shall we go place nice with the crowd for a bit?â€