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What is she doing here? 

 

Tom marched toward the door with a determined stride. The crowded floor seemed to part around him, as if they all instinctively knew to stay out of his way. If anger had an odor...

 

As if intended, Roderick slipped just behind Tom as he got near Eris and Ahanu. Tom gave him a quick glance, and Roderick looked away briefly, guilt plain on his face. 

 

This was his fault. They'd have a discussion about this later. Rage boiled up inside him unconsciously...the moon was soon and it was evident. Brows furrowed and a low growl escaped. Suddenly, a gentle calm slid over him. His rage subsided a bit. A barely controlled inferno reduced to a contained blaze. The fury and passion was there, however, thanks to Roderick, it was contained. For now. 

 

Walking up to the tiny woman, Tom greeted her with a warm and welcoming smile. His smile was tempered a bit as he caught a whiff of Eris's silver necklace, but that was quickly dismissed, smile returning in full. 

 

Welcome to Bakkhos. I'm glad you decided to come. He said as he offered his hand to her.

 

This wasn't untrue. There was a part of him that was glad to see Eris again. Tom was just not a large fan of surprises...especially those that involve someone like Eris. 

 

Stealing a quick glance at Roderick, he noted that he appeared to be nervous, slightly. Great. Someone was smitten. This is why this scenario exists? Yes. They would definitely be talking later. 

 

 

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She hated people.

 

She hated people.

 

She hated people.... dark lashes narrowed as she stared down a party goer that had attempted to make a beeline toward her and Ahanu with a tumbler of something from the bar.  A small head shake and he was moving back toward the bar.

 

Nose crinkled slightly, refusing the urge to rub it to ease the smell of pheromones... and chlorine... and sweat... booze-y sweat, crappy perfume.  Sex.  The whole damn room smelled like hot blood and sex.

 

...and agitated Lycanthrope.

 

...with a smitten Roderick in tow.

 

For Christ's sake.  

 

Eyes flicked to the still somewhat deserted patio as an escape.  Seemed all the fun was in here, which meant she would rather be out there.  A glass of something, watching the dark sky in swirls of winter cold and warmed air, relishing in the silence.

 

But no.

 

Silent, rolling thunder may have parted the seas for him, but it stopped short when it hit her cool wall of indifference.  She didn't move, for anyone, and she didn't care if they wanted her to either.  He would never be able to sneak up on her...not that she wasn't okay with that.

 

Nostrils flared slightly as she breathed it in, the fresh blood in her veins allowing her to read more into the intricacies that most would never know.  Alpha, with a scent as good as a fingerprint now.  She'd killed an alpha once, regretfully... but he'd been trying to kill her in full fang mode so it was necessary.

 

"Welcome to Bakkhos, I'm glad you decided to come."

 

The slight curl of her lip paused, then tilted upward on one side in a lopsided grin.  Brow quirked.

 

The word liar almost slipped from her lips.  She nodded slightly, the faint amused expression on her face evident she knew the jig was up between Ahanu and Roderick.  It wasn't often she overlooked things, but wasn't surprised.  Ahanu was beautiful in every sense of the word, she expected it, but Ahanu rarely returned affection.  The Viceroy wouldn't be tweaked about it, the air magus could be with anyone she chose.  Just wasn't sure if Roderick knew what he was getting into...

 

The shaking hands thing again...she had to remind herself he was just being polite. Unless she was feeding, fighting or fucking she hated touching people.  A distaste that had lingered from her mortal years.  When people wanted to touch her they were either teasing, beating the crap out of her or shooting at her... among other humiliations she no longer had to endure.

 

Graceful hand withdrew from her pocket to shake Gallo's, grip iron, skin warmer than usual.  Business had essentially concluded between them, he wasn't under any obligation to entertain her.  She could entertain herself.

 

"Pleased to be invited Mr. Gallo.  I'll get out of your hair now and let them have their..."  lower lip rolled through her teeth, "...date."

 

Brutal honesty was quiet, calm, rum rich with honey, and still licked of amusement.  She'd gotten all dressed up to be a chaperone.  Dark eyes flicked to Ahanu, she nodded toward the patio.  Veiled, aloof smirk glanced at Roderick a moment before releasing Gallo's hand and sliding hers back into her pocket.

 

She wouldn't ruin an evening for Ahanu with her business.  Business could come later.  Pristine, plain manicure traced delicately down the silver chain briefly to make sure the gold ring was still tucked in the folds of her shirt.

 

Another time.

 

"Besides, I forgot my bikini," comment to Ahanu was under her breath, extremely rare warm humor quiet as eyes slid over to the patio to find an escape route.  "Keep the car... I'll find my own way home when I want to leave."

 

When, not if.  Not bored, just tired of crowds.  She hated people because people hated her.  The bullying and ire thrown at her for twenty years of her life had stored in her psyche like kinetic energy.  It would be a long time resonating back into the world, if it ever ran out.  Came off as arrogance, and she was okay with that.

 

Glance again to Gallo was uncharacteristically more cordial than usual.  She'd been had, but was okay with that too... for a while anyway... because it was Ahanu.  There would be a limit though to her tolerance for watching drunken brouhaha, even if it was trying to be fashionable.  The Sheut didnt want to hold her back.  The entire room smelled like sex and ego.  She needed silence, air, and a damn drink.

 

Besides... Bakkhos may have thought they were scoping her out, it was completely the reverse.  There was some clue in their tight inner circle that the world was more organized than they thought, how much of a clue they had that she was that umbrella that weathered the storm for them to rebuild was yet to be seen.  Maybe she could get some insight tonight.  

 

Or maybe she could just stare at the stars.

 

Stars were more interesting.

 

Nod was slight to all, and she moved to make her escape.

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When Eris’s lips quirked in a half-smile at his admittedly ingenuine greeting caused him to smirk a bit himself. It wasn’t that he was upset at her presence here. His current default mood with regards to the moon, coupled with his personal disdain for surprises gave away the half-hearted attempt at polite deception. Most knew to step lightly around Tom during these times. Even the party-goers here who didn’t know him from Adam seemed to instinctively know to stay out of his way. This effect seemed to have no sway over Eris. She appeared to be more uncomfortable with the crowd than himself. He had given it some thought since their last encounter…she was one of few people in the world who didn’t display any sort of fear when dealing with him. This was oddly refreshing. Whatever occurred during the Nevus Event…she had gained some confidence with her new-found strength. But he could almost smell the cringe-like feelings coming from her when this close to so many people. Interesting.

 

Tom turned his focus on Roderick and Ahanu. So this is why she was here. Roderick had pulled a fast one. He felt his rage boiling…then he felt his rage dissipate, slightly. Roderick was clever. He knew how this would play out and he preemptively smothered Tom’s rage as it began to swell. Jaw and fist clenched, he turned a near-feral stare at Roderick. The look was brief, there and gone in a second. The message was clear though, Roderick had crossed a line.

 

Roderick had put a hand to his head in pain. He had made the rare mistake of underestimating the torrent of rage that Tom was capable of. Roderick’s mood-altering powers had limits, and he had just been brought to the brink of those limits. Withdrawing his hand from Eris’s, he put a firm hand on Roderick’s shoulder and gruffly said, “Go and enjoy yourself. We have a long day tomorrow.” Roderick led Ahanu deep into the throng of people as Tom returned his attention to Eris.

 

Just as Eris had turned her attention to the near-empty patio, Tom asked Eris, “Care to join me on the patio for a…quieter experience?”

 

Tom strode forward with a deliberate stride that was as likely to change direction as a train on the rails. The cool, night air was welcome. As soon as thud of his Alessandro Démesure Oxfords could be heard echoing on the cobblestone patio he looked to the bouncer on duty here and simply nodded back toward the club. Without a word coming from Tom, the bouncer rounded up the half-dozen or so patrons from the patio and ushered them back inside, leaving just Eris and Tom outside in the quiet night.

 

Tom walked behind the bar that was situated in the corner near where the bouncer had stood. He grabbed a pair of glasses from underneath. He reached for a bottle of Zyr and poured it into one glass. He held the bottle above the other glass and looked at Eris, silent question obvious.

 

 

 

 

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Keen attention caught the smirk.  Little sassy pants was he then now, quietly watching the Alpha in the room focus on his companion, then her own Ahanu.  Neck should have bristled, it didn’t.  Ahanu was capable of taking care of herself if needed… she’d seen her suck the air out of someone’s lungs before, it had been amusing for the mere seconds it had taken the guy to fold and indicate he was going to finally talk.  The ripple through the air though, like heat from a room wiggling into a frigid landscape was blatant.  Only there for a moment, leaving a scent like fire lingering in the air.  It was making more sense; the parting of the crowd for him, the unconscious slight stance change of Ahanu to a protective position next to the Sheut.

 

Humans were strange, they smelled things… felt things pattering on their skin, could taste it on their palate, subtle tweaks of behavior, but could never seem to put two and two together unless they were highly tuned.  They perceived it as a “feeling”, and their fight or flight response made it simple for them to understand.  Fear.  Her senses could untangle it, deconstruct it, follow its source, and it was buzzing right up her arm from the handshake.

 

Brow quirked at the stare that seemed to also quirk Roderick.

 

The hand that let go of hers left a pulsing echo of energy in her palm that she slid casually back into her pocket.

 

“Go and enjoy yourself. We have a long day tomorrow.”

 

Ahanu inclined a glance slightly to Eris and the Sheut returned the gesture.  Then they were gone, the dark eyes watching after them with an almost melancholy “baby’s all grown up” expression… or just simply amused. It was hard to tell, her reactions to things were not typical.

 

“Care to join me on the patio for a…quieter experience?”

 

Her pause was intended.  Quieter experience would have been by herself… few others intent on each other would have been by herself.  Someone expecting she talk, wasn’t…

 

Again the slight nod, “don’t mean to take you away from your guests, I’m just not the crowd type.”

 

Quieter must have meant no people at all, because all the subtlety of the earlier Capo she’d met was gone.  His strides were heavy, his presence was heavy.  Odd choice of time frame for the opening of a club, or deliberate.  As noticed before, people were aware of presence through ways they didn’t quite understand, they recognized big.  She watched them leave, not really caring one way or the other, eyes shifting upward to the sky.

 

You could see stars, so much more than before the world ended.  The traffic, the blaze of light from the bustle of the city would choke it out almost a hundred percent of the time.  They were at least visible now, along with the crazy rip in the sky.  In central and south America, they were beautiful.  In a plane over the ocean, breathtaking.  Cheek turned toward the cold slightly, the swirl of heated patios fighting with cold air so much more noticeable to her.  Kept her alert.

 

She nodded in response to his unspoken question.  Not an incredible fan of vodka though, but that particular one she enjoyed.  It was sharp on her taste buds, especially after a feeding… seemed to light up the surplus of iron and burn through the new warmth in her blood.  It would be rude to refuse, and would keep her on her toes, so it was a good idea all around at the moment.  But, probably bring attention to something that might already be itching at him.  She smelled different, and not just the ‘rolled in the hay’ with someone kind of way.  It was on her skin, and internal; warming her core, powering her “engine” with more heat than normal.

 

“Does everybody do what you tell them to?”  voice was quiet, eyes casting over the patio to decide where exactly she was going to sit. She didn’t want to sit anywhere.  A refined store not choked with people, sweat and hormones was one thing.  A club was completely another.  Agitated earlier in the evening, feeding encouraged control, but she hated crowds… and that hate supercharged the aversion to touching things, and brought the itch to smash someone in the face or tie a wayward Sheut to an east facing fence post at dawn to the forefront.  Mythos sprang to mind.

 

“What happens when they don’t?” she slid into a chair at the bar in front of where he’d perched, smirk was light, and she let it go.  Eyes cast upward again for a moment, one leg crossing gently over the other… she wasn’t fond of bar chairs, however swanky they may be. They made her feel short, but she handled them with the grace of someone model tall.

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The cool air and quieter area was welcome. Eris appeared to have quite the disdain for crowded places…and Tom didn’t care for them either. The world had become more accustomed the post-Resonance world. Tom had grown accustomed to the external changes in the world, but internally…it was getting harder. His tolerance for annoyances…setbacks...was waning quickly. If he had spent another hour in amongst the sweat, noise, and hormones…he’d have likely gotten violent. Roderick’s stunt had accelerated the depletion of his patience.

 

The removal of the offending stimuli aided in his regaining control over himself. He had enough awareness to detect that Eris was averse to that sort of environment. This spoke more about her relationship with the other girl that she’d be willing to come to such a place to appease her. Apparently, he was the only one not in the loop concerning this rendezvous.

 

“Does everybody do what you tell them to?”

 

The question snapped him out of his daze. This was an interesting question. He hadn’t given it much thought. He ran the business and had to make decisions. Subordinates that didn’t follow orders were of no use…except to serve as examples to those who might be like-minded. Tom knew that he was feared. Even those who were unaware of his lycanthropic condition sensed something about him that kept them from provoking him. He didn’t fancy himself an authoritarian-style leader. He took care of those under him and served those above him loyally. He had a near mechanical way of dealing with poor subordinates or threats to the family. Ruthless efficiency. Although now…his handling of things had become more savage.

 

The unexpected question brought some levity into his demeanor. She did not fear him. Eris was the one of the few who appeared to stand still in a world where everything moved very fast. He hadn’t encountered many like that before. Himself, Gaspari and the other Capos, a few others who had gained new found strength since the Resonance. Eris was one of these powerful entities. In a way, it was refreshing. His mood seemed to lighten when speaking with those who weren’t speaking defensively. She knew what he was and likely knew better than to bluff.

 

“Usually. Although I try not to make unnecessary demands.” He smirks slightly and takes a long pull from his drink. His mood was beginning to mellow…slightly.

 

“What happens if they don’t?”

 

This time Tom allowed himself a soft chuckle. He topped off his glass and held out the bottle toward Eris in case she wanted the same. No…she wasn’t posturing. He had been weight and measured…was he found wanting? Maybe he should let her come with him upstate sometime. No. That was stupid. Although the idea was tempting…for a reason he couldn’t put his finger on at the moment.

 

“As with everything, that depends.” His voice wasn’t full of malice. It was as matter-of-fact as you could get…with a hint of something else. Eagerness? Satisfaction? Something. He took a sip as he studied her over the rim of the glass.

 

“What about you? I suspect that you aren’t one that is told what to do or ‘no’ often. How do you handle such things?”

 

 

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Static.  Thick and velvety.  It was the best description she could even attempt to muster for what was peppering her skin.  She could smell it in the air, like copper, a smooth exterior that would crackle with friction and static when brushed the wrong direction.

 

Large, calm eyes were waiting for his at her question.  Knocked out of a strong string of thoughts apparently.  It was there again.  The ruffled bristle.  He had some sort of ability beyond just a Were presence.  Not magic, but inherent.  More so than other Weres.

 

Unnecessary demands.  Was that because he didn't want to or because he didn't think they could meet his demands?

 

She shook her head once politely at the topper offer, finally taking another drink as she watched him. 

 

"Everyone takes orders from someone, some exclusively, some at their own leisure.  You weigh the consequences on not, and decide if you're willing to accept them."

 

It was the first hint there was a higher authority than her associated with 'whatever' he suspected she may be, also opening the door to investigate how much he knew of Sheut.  So far, she suspected not much if anything.

 

"I don't take orders, for the record."

 

Drink was long, placing the glass on the counter thoughtfully.  Her comment spoke volumes of accepting consequences for not following orders.  She did what she was told because she wanted to, not because she was afraid of what would happen if she didn't.  A hint of some kind of conscious loyalty maybe; fragile, yet unbreakable at the same time.

 

"Ahanu though, is different to me than I suspect Roderick is to you."

 

Elbow leaned on the counter as she took another drink, chin resting lightly on her knuckles.  She really didn't know how to relax, as Gallo seemed to have a penchant for even when irritated.  The Sheut was always business.  Even when business wasn't business.

 

"She's family.  Toby, Evie.. family.  Anyone threatens them, I kill them. There is no gray area.  They understand they are free to do as they wish.  For now anyway, they choose to work for me.  Even if they left, I would still protect them."

 

Expression was calm as she looked up at him.  Toby was by rights a forfeited life in the Sheut world.  Nobody dared touch him, not so much as fear of her, but absolute certainty they would die by her hand.

 

"No punishments, no reprimands.  They know where we stand.  The guys that sweep my hangar however, firing them is enough.  Labor is labor.  Loyalty is something far more rare."

 

Fingers tugged at the slithering silver chain on her neck, reaching to lift it over her head and coil it on the counter, the gold ring it held now finally visible.

 

"Don't be too hard on Roderick though.  Ahanu is a catch."

 

Last drink was taken, the glass softly clinking on the counter as she seemed to poke the bear.  Silver, plus the problematic sigil ring added to the lingering but lessening irritation of Roderick's ruse brought up all simultaneously. 

 

She was quiet a moment, finger tapping the ring once.

 

"You have a problem."

 

Small fingertips unclasped the chain and slid the ring off, sliding it over to him with the sigil visible.  Separating the ring from the silver if he wished to take it afforded him some courtesy.

 

"I took this off a man claiming to be Bakkhos, casing my fence again with a buddy of his.  They're pressuring places up and down the river, old mob style money for protection."

 

The chain was sliding through her fingers as she fiddled with it absently, finally putting it back on.

 

"When they don't return and friends pay me another visit, we have a few options.  You can be there to meet them and have a chat my way, or I can drag one to you that is still able to talk and you can do it your way; you would just need to let me know where to drop him off.  Discretely, of course.  Somehow I don't think this club is a good hand off spot."

 

...and by "you" she obviously meant Bakkhos, but... admittedly hoped it would be him to come and meet her inevitable guests tomorrow night.

Granted Bakkhos probably hadn't divulged her kind to him for a reason, but she didn't work for Bakkhos... and the fact he most likely didn't know was getting in her way.  If he came, he was was definitely getting the 'birds and bees' talk.

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"Everyone takes orders from someone, some exclusively, some at their own leisure.  You weigh the consequences on not, and decide if you're willing to accept them."

 

This was true enough. This indicated that she was part of some organization. This made sense. It would be unlikely that an airport would be functioning at such a level without some sort of organizational support. There was more to learn about this one, and he suspected Matteo might know more than he has shared. 

 

"Ahanu though, is different to me than I suspect Roderick is to you."

 

This was also true, to an extent. Roderick was more than labor. It seemed that the people she named were family to her and not employees. She obviously would kill for them, as evidenced by the destruction at Thyrsus during the Blood Moon. The passion she felt was likely not matched by his own, but he had killed for the Family before, and Roderick specifically more than once. Funny thing about his powers, when they don't work...it really upsets whomever he tries to influence.

 

"That is where you are wrong. I can, have, and likely will again...spill blood in defense of Roderick."  His eyes darkened and a low growl could be perceived beneath his words. Whether he was still seething from earlier, or perhaps feelings were being dredged up with remembering having to defend Roderick from his would-be attackers...it was unclear. One thing that is incredibly clear to any perceptive enough...he is a man who walks the fine line between control and fury. 

 

"Roderick is a good kid. I bet Ahanu and he will have a great time. As I'm sure you have surmised, I don't particularly...enjoy...surprises."

 

The stench of silver was more noticeable outside, away from the sweat, hormones, and booze...but he was able to mask his displeasure. Then she pulled the necklace from around her neck and set it on the table. Was there a hint of a smirk in her face? He wasn't entirely sure, but he couldn't shake the feeling that she desired to provoke the beast. He didn't recoil from the necklace, but his nose did scrunch up as the scent was amplified by being fully exposed. He reached for another glass under the bar to slam atop the offending jewelry and slide it away, just as she deftly looped it back around her neck. 

 

"You have a problem."

 

He picked up the ring and examined it while Eris continued.

 

"I took this off a man claiming to be Bakkhos, casing my fence again with a buddy of his.  They're pressuring places up and down the river, old mob style money for protection."

 

Now that was interesting. He didn't recognize this particular sigil, but was certain it wasn't Bakkhos. Who would have the audacity? Brows furrowed in frustration as his hands balled into fists. Who would dare? This would not go unpunished. This would be ended quickly. Violently. 

 

He closed his eyes and took long, slow deep breath in an attempt to calm himself. In doing so, he released the ring he had been holding and it was dented noticeably. A bouncer had attempted to enter the area Eris and he occupied, presumably to offer some sort of service or product, but he instinctively turned on his heel and fled back into the crowd. 

 

When Thom's eyes opened, they met Eris's. A tempest of fury and rage burned beneath a thin layer of icy-calm...the calm of a wolf just before he bares his fangs and lunges. He wanted to destroy everything in sight. He wanted howl in rage and let the fountain pour forth indiscriminately at whatever lie before him. He wanted to grab Eris by the waist and see where that path led. He was all feral instinct...tempered by the thinnest, yet unbroken layer of self-control and humanity. 

 

"I would like to join you when you find them again. Let us discuss with them the error of their ways together."  

 

He wanted to get eyes on this operation himself. He didn't want bodies delivered with stories. He had no real reason to believe that Eris would lie to him about something like this. However, the other Capos would trust his first-hand account of matters.

 

"Then we can see what they have to present to the others in my family."

 

The other Capos would want to ask their own questions, of course. It was only right that Eris have first crack at them.  If he was being honest with himself, he desired a similar outlet.

 

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"That is where you are wrong. I can, have, and likely will again...spill blood in defense of Roderick."  

 

She smiled, she really did, even in the face of his anger.  It was rare, and genuine, almost reveling in the rage that was in the aura around him.  There was clearly more to Ahanu’s story she was not interested in divulging at the immediate moment.

 

“Of that I have no doubt.”

 

"Roderick is a good kid. I bet Ahanu and he will have a great time. As I'm sure you have surmised, I don't particularly...enjoy...surprises."

 

“Neither do I,” answer was precise.  “But they happen.  That’s always the struggle with creatures like us isn’t it?  Deciding how much of ourselves we can allow to leak out versus how much strength we have to hold it in.  Yours waxes and wanes with the moon.  Mine, is always a shackle on my ankle.”

 

It wasn’t an attempt to poke the bear, per se… she was testing his limits. Watching expressions, body language, gauging what she could get away with, what she couldn’t, and where she would have to step in if there was ever a moment of confrontation or lack of control.  There was a reason he was not in the loop yet.  Gaspari, Carducci.  They were altered.  Had control at every moment.  Lucky?  Lucky was just a dick she didn’t give two shits about.  But Gallo, Gallo was a wild card.  Her experience with Weres usually ended up with her either killing them first, or killing them second.  Control seemed to be his thing, but he had definitive edges, and Roderick seemed to be a part of that… not yet sure quite how.

 

Eyes narrowed slightly, watching the mangling of the ring with calm interest, feeling the itch of her canines which decided that very moment to say hello.  Damn it.  Her senses were on alert, anger, hunger, any extreme emotion could trigger them but she had just found the level of boil he needed to exude to punch them out of her.  She was going to have to watch her words carefully.  He was observant, but she could hide them.  She was a master at putting a façade over what she was thinking.  Elbows leaned on the counter, hands intertwining as she propped her chin on her knuckles to watch him wrangle with himself.  Ears itched at the entry of the bouncer, and his retreat.  When Gallo’s eyes opened, her large irises were almost fully engulfed in pupil.  She could see things that others could not, waves and light so much brighter than a normal human being.

 

"I would like to join you when you find them again. Let us discuss with them the error of their ways together."  

 

There was a smile in her features, but not on her lips.

 

"Then we can see what they have to present to the others in my family."

 

There could be many things to say.  One certainty was that Gallo would want to know everything, and that everything could be more than just trying to shake down territory.  It could have to do with the Sheut.  It was like trying to explain the birds and the bees.  The others, already knew somehow before Glamis decided to plop her ass into the East Coast position.  It was Gallo’s turn, she’d just never had to explain it to someone before, and knew enough about him now not to put him on the spot with his peers around to explain it to him.

 

Should she have him pinkie swear to not slug his buddies first for not telling him?

 

She sat back from the counter, hands quietly folded on the top of her thigh.

 

“I know you understand the importance of need-to-know, and discretion.”

 

She took a slow breath, like a cat trying to get a feel for the air.  It was thick.  Her words were quiet.  It was Gallo.  She was picking up his rage, echoing back his anger, body preparing to defend itself perhaps; instinct from past experiences with Weres. This could be a good thing, anger hitting a wall.  Or, it could be a bad thing, the butting of heads escalating until one of them snapped.

 

“There could be information revealed when they’re questioned that you have not been privy to yet.  It’s important you understand it cannot be repeated.  They are either trying to start trouble with your people by claiming territory, or they are pressing to interfere with mine.  I’m hoping to keep yours from taking the fall if mine think it’s your fault.”

 

Eyes narrowed slightly, the thought had never yet occurred to her.  They weren’t strong arming, they were trying to get in.  Sniffing around.  For what exactly?  Something she had.  Her plane?  Her logs?

 

Her flight information. 

 

They could trace her information back to Glamis if they knew where to look.  Man, Ausar was going to kick her ass… but good to realize it now so the impending theoretical weakness could be taken care of.

 

She blinked slowly, watching him before deciding whether or not to continue.  There was no way to predict his reaction.  Digust?  Fascination?  Indifference?

 

“Gaspari, Carducci,” she paused a moment, “Mythos.  They are aware. They know who I am, they know what I am.  I know you know Mythos and Toby are the same as I am.  That push back you feel now, that's me.  That itch, the scent that keeps forever changing but somehow stays unique.  I need to know if you want to be brought into this loop.”

 

She poured herself another drink.

 

She was going to need it.  Words were low, teeth on edge, pulling her calm in from every direction.

 

"No more surprises Thomas."

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When Tom was near the height of his rage, most people stayed away from him...scattering away from him as if his anger were a wave that washed away debris. Eris was like a wall where the water crashed into it and was dispersed. A part of him was frustrated at this, as it was atypical and not conforming to usual patterns. Order mattered. However, there was a relief...like a hurricane hitting a coast, the tempest of fury slowly dissipated as it was no longer being fed. The fear others exhibited in his presence seemed to justify his rage...strengthen it. Eris's presence was the antithesis to this aspect. Calming...but not soothing. The unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. This time. 

 

"Yours waxes and wanes with the moon.  Mine, is always a shackle on my ankle.”

 

These words helped Tom regain a bit more focus. Engaging the rational, problem-solving side of his brain was a tactic he used during the early days of his transformation to help mitigate the beast inside. Reason was the antithesis of emotion. 

 

Eris also had a beast inside did she? She wasn't a were, of that he was certain. In today's new world, she could be any sort of beast in lady's clothing. But then she got uncomfortable. It was slight, and likely would have gone unnoticed...except more of rational Tom was seeping back into consciousness. Scent changed slightly...heart rate increased maybe? Was that adrenaline? It was impossible to tell for sure over the stench of silver draped around her neck. Tom knew from his first encounter with Ms. London that inches to her meant miles to anyone else. Whatever discomfort she was attempting to mask, she did a damn good job of it. But its presence was noted. Perhaps she wasn't as unphased by his presence as he had assumed? She was strong, but a vulnerability had presented itself. So there is a limit to her then...worth noting. 

 

“I know you understand the importance of need-to-know, and discretion.”

 

The wall still held. Interesting. That wellspring of primal fury still burned hot within him...a constant companion, however the surge had just crested against that...almost...unbreakable wall. Her cryptic beginning to what was certain to be an interesting revelation of some sort caused him to sit back down and pour himself another drink. As he took his first sip, he saw the ring and raised an eyebrow as if seeing it for the first time. He had not been aware of the damage done to the ring until just now. He gazed into Eris's large pupils and listened intently. 

 

 

“There could be information revealed when they’re questioned that you have not been privy to yet.  It’s important you understand it cannot be repeated.  They are either trying to start trouble with your people by claiming territory, or they are pressing to interfere with mine.  I’m hoping to keep yours from taking the fall if mine think it’s your fault.”

 

What was she getting at? She knew much more than he did, of that he was certain. Who were her people? There was no doubt now that this was about more than just a woman and her airport. There were bigger players involved. Of course there were. Someone who wanted to start a war between Bakkhos and...whomever she represented? Maybe the Blood Moon was a blessing in disguise if it put these two organizations on the same page...about this at least.

 

"They are aware. They know who I am, they know what I am.  I know you know Mythos and Toby are the same as I am.  That push back you feel now, that's me.  That itch, the scent that keeps forever changing but somehow stays unique.  I need to know if you want to be brought into this loop.”

 

His face soured. He was aware that he didn't know everything, but it was never pleasant to have that thrown in your face, however innocently...or carefully in this instance...it was done. Mythos, Toby, and Eris. He had noticed that their scents were similar in some fashion. He never thought overly much about it, as it never entered into his consciousness as something important worth investigating. Now that it was brought to the forefront of his mind...it itched. She, Mythos, and Toby are all...something. The same thing. There were other weres and even other wolves since the Nevus event. What other monsters have come to be since then? Everyone knows about the zombies meandering aimlessly wherever they happen to be currently. Some were changed uniquely, like Gaspari and Matteo. There was some uniformity to the others. 

 

Tom's brows furrowed in thought. He closed his eyes for a moment...his anger was still there, just controlled...however a side-effect was that all senses were dialed up as well. Closing his eyes helped to eliminate some of the distraction...he would have found himself studying Eris's face more if his eyes were open currently. No distractions. Think. There is an answer here. Breathing slowed...and then it came to him. 

 

He recalled a conversation he had with Mythos and Matteo not long ago. Matteo kept making jokes about Mythos dialing up every Hollywood stereotype of vampires. Tom didn't think much of it, as it wasn't something to note then. But now it made sense. That shifting scent. In fact, he had never interacted with Eris, Matteo, or Toby during daylight hours. Well damn.

 

He opened his eyes and met Eris's with a slight smile. A relieved smile...a satisfied one. Finally, some sort of victory. It made sense now. It wasn't entirely shocking to him, he had to admit. Werewolves...zombies...why not vampires? He expected to see ghosts soon enough now. He even let out a soft chuckle. 

 

"I take it your days of sunbathing on the beach are over?" The question was deliberate and obvious. This was not designed to provoke, but rather to communicate understanding without speaking with all the grace of a sledgehammer. She guarded whatever secret she had carefully...and unless he was mistaken, he had to be careful which words he used. 

 

"Is this your revelation? Or is there more to it?"

 

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Picking up body language had allowed her to survive this long.  Even from her brace-faced teenager days, she knew when to cut bait and leave before she got beat up for refusing to do somebody's homework, or lean into discomfort because it was that important to find the line.  In the DEA a world ago, it meant the difference between life and death, a deal going south, when to pull the trigger and when to take the finger off and keep it on point.

 

He seemed to not like being told he was out of the loop.  It wasn't unexpected in his surrounding responsibilities and place in his family, but he understandably definitely seemed to not enjoy being reminded.

 

Her demeanor fell into complete calm when his eyes closed again.  It was like a vibration, a hum that buffered against her bones from an unheard subsonic sound.  Again the itch at her canines, lashes lowered.  He was so interesting when so few people were.  A creature with a facade, and secrets underneath.  Humans had struggles, secrets... but not like this.  It was like looking into a mirror, and it was fascinating.

 

As amiable as her thoughts were toward him, toward the encounters, something snapped them back.  She'd caught herself actually enjoying his company, her self-yank back to reality like a choke chain.  Eris London didn't spend time with anyone.  Tolerance led to trust, trust led to friendship, and friendship led to... weakness.  His smile was met with the cool indifference of Eris London, Viceroy, the look that others read as arrogant and often the precursor to a vicious attack, or a declaration of "war".

 

"I take it your days of sunbathing on the beach are over?" 

 

Thoughts wrestled with themselves, settling on "done"; visibly in an elegant way, dark eyes watching the deep sky beyond the windows for a long moment.  Scolding herself silently.  She should never have come.  Tolerance, trust, friendship... all weaknesses.  She didn't want to look at him.  Too charming, too sharp.  Did he think he was being coy?  She was pissed because he had beat her to the punch?  No, another layer of restraint tightened the shackle on her own ankle and yanked the choke chain on herself harder.

 

She didn't care about him.  Let him stick his damn nose into a world he was clearly not afraid of, he'd get bitten.

 

No.  

 

A long inhale was drawn and pushed out just as calmly.  Her wall had finally been hit, a freight train of a Were slamming into an unshakable and immovable mountain that was now pushing back.  Not just a wall, but a wall that could press back against every force known to earth.

 

Every pair of eyes from the club that had been watching in curious fascination as the two sat alone on the patio seemed to pepper her skin with needling irritation.  It was like they were mocking her.  She was in a zoo.  A tiger seen with another tiger, circling each other in vicious curiosity.  Every observer feeling the electricity, waiting for something to happen.  Gossiping.  Their whispers touching her ears, every cable that kept her restrained snapped taught as eyes slid from face to face in the crowd beyond the patio.  Hormones, phoermones, bravado, aggressiveness, passiveness, sweat.  She could clear half the club before they knew what had happened and how much blood was spilling. 

 

"Bravo."

 

Eyes were still on the thick crowd in the club proper, the single word articulated keenly in such a way that the glint of agitated canines were truly real, a single word response only.

 

Phone slid from her pocket, thumb hitting one number to speed dial as it held to her ear.

 

She still hadn't looked at him, the hum on her skin reminding her constantly that he was still there.  She knew his limits, she just didn't trust him when she was pushing hers.  He couldn't be demanded to leave because it was not her compound.  She hadn't spoken to him other than a terse recognition of his correct assumption.  It meant she'd have to make a decision whether or not to continue.  The fact was, she needed to.

 

She didn't want to.

 

She want to talk about rum, and bourbon.  Planes.  The modern decor.  The prop plane that was so close to getting back into the air now that Evie could machine the parts.

 

"Time to leave," voice was low to Toby over the phone.  "Pick me up, Ahanu is staying with the car.  You know what, nevermind, I'll find my way home."

 

Phone snapped shut and she slid it into her pocket.

 

She was pissed because she had to bring him into a fold she would have to protect him within.  If the Sheut didn't want him in it anymore, or he stepped wrong, either her moose of a brother or herself would have to solve the problem.  She would never let Gabriel do it.

 

She liked him.  He got her.  He understood her without having to explain it to him.  He had the audacity to say no to her without fear.  He was unique, but there would be a time she might be asked by authority beyond her to shut him up, or teach him a lesson... and the thought of it coiled anger she rarely felt.

 

"I have to go," she slid down from the stool.  "I'll call you when I catch my mice.  Thank you for your hospitality."

 

She needed air, and she needed it now.  A caged creature that had no problem being impulsive whenever she chose, unable to do so, was dangerous; and the fact she was unwilling to put him in a position to cover for her violence only pissed her off more.  She couldn't look back, she didn't want to look back- the icy false exterior would be completely betrayed just by looking at him, eyes scanning the patio for another way to leave.   She would have to go through the crowd, or find a way off the patio to walk the streets back home.

 

"Quickest way to the street, please," words were quiet, turning back halfway across the room to slide her hands casually in her pockets.  The distance helped, but not much, the long inhale to calm almost finding the words to form an explanation.  He'd been nothing but kind.  He deserved an explanation.  Lower lip was rolled through razor canines, choosing her next words carefully.  Not a chance in hell he would, but she would anyway when she got back.  She had to.  Re-center herself.  The sky was her calm.  She could talk there, focused.  Time to fix this, he'd seen a crack in her armor.

 

"Nevermind," lips pursed tightly, dead seriousness on her features as she closed her eyes, shook her head and erased everything from the last ten seconds.  This could be done, this could be done to Bakkhos benefit, and hers.  New business forged.  Disaster averted.  "You want to see your pride and joy party from another angle?  You can ask anything, but not while in here.  I'll have you home before curfew, promise... with all the answers you need, and a new business proposition.  Come up with me in the Koala..."

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Tom exhaled sharply as soon as the words left his mouth. He had offended Eris. He wasn’t being rude…he had done something far worse. He had revealed to his counterpart that her defenses had failed, yet remained outside the wall. It wasn’t his intention, obviously, to provoke the silver-draped viper. His attempt at subtlety had been interpreted as arrogance. Fantastic. It was hard enough to have a civilized discussion with others who thought you were inches away from ripping their head from their shoulders…however true that may be. It was an entirely different matter to remain discreet while also appear nonthreatening…to someone who is least likely within a square mile to be threatened by him. This is why he loved his numbers. They were predictable, reliable, and decidedly less tricky.

 

“Bravo.”

 

Yep. He had miscalculated. Tom had upset Eris. To what degree, however, was still uncertain. Was she insulted that he had beat her to the punch? Was there a level of insecurity that her aura of superior-indifference was protecting that had now been revealed? Either way, Tom couldn’t shake the feeling that something significant had just occurred. He’d have to mull over that later, when he was calmer. The moon coming soon meant that he would not likely be able to think too deeply about it without Roderick around. A low growl escaped his controlled façade. Thinking of Roderick beckoned his anger toward the deceit from earlier in the day.

 

"I'll call you when I catch my mice.  Thank you for your hospitality."

 

She just up and left! Despite her best efforts to keep her cards close to her chest, this was her most obvious tell. Retreat. Were she to cleverly deflect, he’d be left to speculate…however he knew he had touched a nerve. Was it his lack of awe at discovering vampires? Was it as simple as he had deduced the answer before she had the satisfaction of a reveal? Or did she suddenly feel vulnerable and tried to hide it? He was about to call out to her to wait and come back as she turned around.

 

"You want to see your pride and joy party from another angle?  You can ask anything, but not while in here.  I'll have you home before curfew, promise... with all the answers you need, and a new business proposition.  Come up with me in the Koala..."

 

A relieved smile touched Tom’s face. She had regained her composure and was no longer retreating. He was used to being the wolf that sheep fled from. He didn’t want to be chasing away other wolves now too…unless he had to. Koala? He presumed she was referring to an airplane. Either way…it appeared that he had to extend some trust her way if this relationship were to continue. Besides…she’d have to kill him before sunrise if she wanted him dead.

 

“I would like that. I think you and I have much to discuss.” He sniffed and his face soured. “Besides, the pheromones, sweat, vomit, and other party smells are gong to be noxious soon.”

 

He stood up and strode toward her. When he got near, he was disappointed that the silver necklace overpowered the other scents of her. He’d have to find a way to subtly get that away from her. Maybe it brought her comfort around him? Or maybe it was just another subtle test thrown his way. Regardless, it was unpleasant.

 

“Care to ride with me to our destination?”

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Lips pursed in a thoughtful expression, much like an indifferent feline; contemplating the world and how to murder everything in it while staying sleek and polished. In reality she was drawing attention away from the canines that had descended. It was an art form, practiced and rehearsed to perfection.  The growl from him jumped a snap from hers that never made sound.  What an awful, awful dangerous pair they were.  His smile when she asked if he wanted to leave the party perked up a corner of her lip.

 

“I would like that. I think you and I have much to discuss.  Besides, the pheromones, sweat, vomit, and other party smells are going to be noxious soon.”

 

Her smirk preceded a soft, knowing nod of her head, the same thrumming on her skin like a calm heavy rain starting up again as he neared.

 

“It was already noxious when I got out of the car.  Clubs and parties are a bit distracting to me,” fingers slid into her pocket to remove the phone.  “Good thing I ate before I arrived.”

 

Canines quietly snapped together once nonchalantly, the comment and click of her teeth delivered as a very dry yet obvious joke.  She did have a sense of humor, especially when the weight was off and she didn’t have to hide.  But it was menacingly accurate.  This many people in a small space looking to get laid made blood hot, the smell indescribable.  Like a room full of every flavored chocolate in existence to a hungry stomach.

 

“Care to ride with me to our destination?”

 

“Best plan I've heard all day,” she answered, pressing a button on speed dial.  Toby picked it up on the first ring, he must have been expecting another call for pick-up.  “Sweep the deck and turn the Cessna, going up.”

 

Toby’s response was questioning, it was unusual for her to ask for both to be prepped unless there was a job scheduled.  He was not an experienced pilot and Ahanu was obviously not returning with her at the moment.

 

“Guest’s choice, possible new client,” she finished, snapping it shut and sliding it back into her pocket.  It was also to give the Were a "proper tour" of her little fortress that seemed to be of interest to rivals at the moment, and a chance to see which of her prized possessions was more comfortable for him.  She had things nobody else did.  She had access, quick access, to places in the world that now were off limits to almost everyone still alive.  She was also the only pilot known to actually have the balls to fly in and out of those places.

 

"Helicopter or private jet... whatever suits your fancy."

 

The Koala was lower, less pressure, easier to take off and land from the helo-pad… but her Cessna was smooth, graceful.  She fancied a little hair tossing from her Koala at the moment, but it was up to him.  For her, any flying would do… it allowed her to breathe, away from the city stink and even the constant presence of other people.  She could open the doors, let in the night air.  Of course, completely up to him.  Her demeanor had changed almost on a dime.  People, she hated.  Flying... flying was a world she ruled like no other, and it was decisively one of the only things that gave her joy.

 

“Lead the way,” she nodded.

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Tom's mood lightened a bit at Eris's apparent change of mood as well. He could certainly use a couple of hours beholden to no one. A quick flight seemed like the perfect way to clear his head. When she made the joke of having eaten, he allowed himself a smile at the joke. He was not as comfortable joking about death, however the openness was refreshing. 

 

"It makes little difference to me. Surprise me." Tom smirked as he strode toward the door leading back to the club. He knew that the last sentence was likely to elicit some sort of reaction. He stood in the doorway between the patio and the club and surveyed the room once more, scanning for anything that might require his immediate attention. The cop and other were seemed to be behaving. He pulled out his phone and sent off a quick text.

 

Matteo. I'm heading out for the evening. Going to check out Eris's place. Will let you know what I discover.

 

Turning back to Eris, he muttered a simple, "Follow me."

 

He led Eris through the crowd as it parted around them. He had come to expect this phenomena, yet it still amazed him whenever it occurred. He couldn't tell rightly if it were supernatural or if the beast had given him some sort of instinctive presence. Either way, the path ahead was clear as a dance floor could get without a single bit of accidental contact. As they neared the back entrance, they walked past the bar that Ari was tending. The small, Asian woman looked first at Tom, then to Eris, and then back to Tom. With a simple hand to his chest and a nod, Ari returned her attention to the patrons. Were his hand to the chest have been a fist to the chest instead, Ari would have followed behind them for an uncomfortable discussion with Eris. The open hand indicated open passage. Bakkhos was always on guard.

 

Once in the back, they descended to the garage where he parked the X5. He held the passenger door open for Eris to get in and, after closing the door behind her, climbed into the driver seat and started heading toward the air strip. 

 

"I know approximately where your airstrip is, but you'll have to navigate more specifically as we get closer." 

 

Tom then started the drive to the airstrip in what was likely to be another interesting venture.

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Lashes lowered slightly at his reaction to her joke.  He was so careful to be a gentleman even though he knew full well she could just brush off moodiness as a Were thing.  The businessman seemed to have spent a lot of time finding the edge of control that kept the world safe, and him somewhat sane in his predicament.

 

"It makes little difference to me. Surprise me."

 

Her chuckle was genuine, but quiet.

 

“That’s a risky statement with me,” she said softly as she followed, sincerely relieved that whatever his odd mojo was it kept the room from bumping into her.  The Viceroy hated people.  They were evil, ungrateful, selfish, greedy little things and she could never in a million years do what he did.  Individuals, she could learn to like.  Individuals, could be intelligent.  Society as a whole, needed its proverbial teeth kicked in. 

 

She slid quietly into the sleek vehicle, legs crossed rather demurely and hands folded on her thigh.  No interest was paid to the seatbelt.  She could flip the damn thing, there was nothing that car could do that would kill her except… explode maybe?  Fingers went to slide the ponytail over her shoulder as he got in, leaning against it would tug at it.  Such an odd need to be perfect in public.

 

"I know approximately where your airstrip is, but you'll have to navigate more specifically as we get closer." 

 

She gave directions, but otherwise rode in silence.  She had a tension headache from the crowd in the club.  She wasn't sure how he managed.

 

Past where the neighborhoods started to feel abandoned, the buildings began to disappear, opening up to flat ground for almost a mile and an incredible view of the reawakening city along the river.  A dimly lit area next to the water was surrounded by chain link topped with razor wire and inside it a vast, empty tarmac.  On the side closest to the water was the hangar.  Clean, impeccably cared for.  The whole compound itself was not well lit, a single street light over the main entrance gate, the tarmac incredibly dark, and a lone exterior light on the building.  If not for evidence of being cared for, it looked empty… the shadows and shapes unable to be seen in the darkness anyone’s guess as to what they were unless lit by daylight.

 

Her orders to her people were always simple, don’t attract attention.  It was an unassuming place, but a strategic one at that- with treasures inside the spacious hangar that most hadn’t been able to salvage, let alone know how to fly.

 

Phone was retrieved as they neared the gate, a code entered, the gate sliding to one side and back into place after they’d gone through.  The gate was heavily secure, but it wasn't the only thing keeping the place secure.  There were no less that two pairs of eyes on them at any given time, and at least one through the sight of a rifle.

 

“Straight into the hangar,” she said quietly.  “You can park in there.” 

 

It was her turn to be welcoming into her world.  He parted seas of people and moved what seemed like mountains, she ran a world that worked like clockwork without a glance and ruled the sky.  The large door opened slightly in the center to reveal a low light inside, then smoothly began to pull apart.  The glint of a Cessna could be seen in the shadow, with another plane under repair in the far corner.

 

Toby was already making his way down a set of stairs from her loft inside the hangar, small vintage Coach duffle in one hand.

 

“Welcome to my castle,” lips pursed in a quirked smirk as Toby opened the door for her and handed her the duffle.  She in turn slipped the silver chain from around her neck and handed it to him.  The petite vampire hadn’t forgotten, just didn’t have anywhere to put it until now.  This was not the intended outcome for the evening.

 

“You can leave the keys in it, the car will be safe, follow me.”

 

It was her turn to lead the way, back up the stairs in the hangar, past the main loft to the catwalk and up to a door.  She could move in heels with an ethereal grace, pushing the door open to inhale a fresh updraft that tossed her sleek ponytail to the side.  Code was punched at the door and the running lights on the deck lit up, illuminating the black sleek beast of a helicopter in front of them.  She stopped at the cockpit, setting the bag down on the seat and removing her shoes one at a time, replacing them with matching Coach Mary Janes and putting the bag with her heels behind the seat. Oddly enough, without the heels she looked just as fashionable, but it was now painfully obvious how petite she was and still managed to look formidable.  She opened the side door for him.

 

“After you,” smile was oddly relaxed.  Her entire demeanor had changed.  “Put the headset on and buckle up.  Any last requests?”

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Tom was relieved to see Eris’s demeanor soften. In a lot of ways, it seemed that their moods mirrored off of each other’s. Seeing her chuckle and joke helped to soften the edge he had. That raging furnace of primal fury was still right there…but the door to that furnace was closed at the moment. The heat present, but the flames contained.

 

As they drove in silence, he listened and sniffed for any sort of hidden cues. The silver, again, drowned out most anything he could hope to glean. It was too rude to ask her to lock that away somewhere in the bottom of the river. He’d have to deal. The furnace door began to vent a bit into his consciousness.

 

“Straight into the hangar,” she said quietly.  “You can park in there.”

 

As he was guided to where to park, he had been correct…the strip was hard to miss. He was surprised at how well-kempt the place was. This was her castle. Her prize.

 

 

“Welcome to my castle,”

 

Tom’s lips quirked in a slight smile at her choosing the same words from his mind. He noted Toby as he descended. He remembered their initial encounter. Eris seemed to command the same sort of loyalty from her subordinates that Tom had from his. Despite her attitude toward them as free-spirits that happen to help her…there was certainly a pecking order here, and Eris, to this point, appeared to be at the head of it. Tom silently thanked Eris in his mind when she handed Toby the silver necklace. The constantly spraying skunk was now to leave…finally. The vent to the rage furnace began to slide closed again.

 

Tom had no doubt about the safety of his vehicle in her hangar. In all fairness, he kept nothing of any true value within the vehicle. He’d certainly have the vehicle checked for any additional hardware after this visit by some of the mechanics in the family. Trust, but verify. He followed behind her as she ascended to the catwalk and eventually to the helipad. Her scents finally becoming noticeable. God he hated silver! It was evident she was in her element. She was more comfortable here than a badger in their den. He suspected that an unwanted encounter in either place would likely be similar.

 

“Put the headset on and buckle up.  Any last requests?”

 

Tom smiled. A genuine warm smile. This felt nice. She could just as easily plunge this chopper into something and hope his durability was less than hers…but he doubted it. It was important to get to the bottom of this fake-Bakkhos thing and likely set up a friendly relationship with Eris and whatever organization she was a part of. Allies were usually better than enemies. Besides, if the alliance didn’t work, then enemies was an easy thing to transition into later. Besides all that, he had to admit…he just enjoyed the friendly company of someone who wasn’t afraid of him.

 

“Never wear silver jewelry again. It stinks.” He winked at Eris as he smiled and put on the headset. Roderick would have had a heart attack if he had seen such an interaction.

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Her psyche was finally somewhat calming to an acceptable level.  The world outside her razor wire made her want to kill everyone, and everything… and sometimes she did, the level to which she had to depend on the world to sustain her and Toby’s lives was an unfair circle of hell.  Some days it ground her patience into dust like a mortar and pestle, some days it was an outlet for brutality she’d not been able to use her entire life to release the raging pressure of revenge.  There were times she wondered why she even entertained to continue to exist when she’d been fearless into death.  Maybe there was a shred of humanity deep in her core somewhere, some kind of twinkle that wasn’t irritated, or arrogant, or standoffish.

 

The feel under her fingers of thousands of pounds of metal and power helped to focus those thoughts.  The scent of blood she couldn’t drink reminded her she wasn’t immortal.  …conditioned demeanor compartmentalized and pushed to the side for a little while at least.  She didn’t have to defend herself here, in her world.

 

“Never wear silver jewelry again. It stinks.”

 

In her clicks and flips of switches, she’d almost forgotten he was there if not for the scent of his blood.

 

Smile was genuine, amused, “but it’s my favorite necklace.”

 

Voice hummed before the graceful hands pushed the limits of over-torquing the guts of the beast as it fired and came alive, unsure if he’d even heard her.  One minute and thirty seconds or less and she would be in the sky.

 

“Pendant at least,” she didn’t elaborate, the tiny opal pendant on the long slithering chain was always close to her skin somehow… unless it was on a silver chain and she was feet from a Were.  Opals were perfect, powerful.  All the colors and internal fire.  They were also deceptively fragile, the perfect dissonance that described her entire existence.  Someday she would crack, all that fire would come pouring out, and it wouldn't be able to be healed- or stopped.

 

She seemed to breathe in relief as the skids lost touch with the world that everyone else was chained to.  Almost immediately the pad beneath them dimmed and they were left in almost complete darkness save for the glow of her controls and the city.  What looked liked tangled strings of white Christmas lights sprawling away from them in every direction quickly came into view the higher they lifted.  It was breathtaking, and felt free.

 

“I learned to fly when I was fourteen.  Spent every moment from then on in the sky away from the world.  People are horrible creatures.  Dominant, willing to eat their own in order to feel superior.  Vicious to each other when they’re not being completely selfish.”

 

Silence fell for a moment, starting the small tour that would take them completely around the city.  Her control of the machine was almost graceful, gentle even.  But, there was limited time for his questions… and her willingness to answer them.  She couldn't stay in the sky forever.

 

“It was the only way I could escape, it's still the only way I can escape.”

 

Dark eyes cast to the side slightly to watch him before returning to the sky in front of her , the seemingly permanent but noble scowl was gone.  A soft calm had replaced it, much more fitting to the petite frame… almost natural.

 

"Releases the pressure, the need for violence that constantly grinds on my bones."

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Her change in demeanor was palpable. It was clear that Eris was at home in the cockpit. He hated to ruin this change of atmosphere by peppering her with questions...but he had many. He might be forced to inject some artificial levity to his questions in order to avoid her parking the chopper wherever they happened to be and asking him to exit. 

 

Rapid-fire, since I'm sure you don't really want to talk about this bit, so let's get it out of the way. When did you change? What sort of folklore things are true and what is nonsense? 

 

Tom paused a moment to wink at her and offer a smile. These were serious questions, but he was wanting to take the gravity from them. Tom had to admit...there was a sense of peace in the air while flying through it. Looking out the window, he noticed one of his warehouses where there appeared to be a back-door bootleg deal taking place. He'd have to take care of that later. Turning back to Eris he studied her for a moment. He suspected he saw shades of her former self coming to the surface as she flew. Tranquility. Something he was likely to never know again.

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Rapid-fire, since I'm sure you don't really want to talk about this bit, so let's get it out of the way. When did you change? What sort of folklore things are true and what is nonsense? 

 

Smirk was half on her features at the wink, settling back into her calm a moment.  Unusually silent.  Of all things… business, money, monopolies, power, chess moves, he asked about that?  It wasn’t sore, but it wasn’t exactly something she spoke of often either.  Divulging personal things always gave someone fodder for something… always.

 

“We’re infected, like you.  Same idea, different flavor,” voice was soft through the com, a quality to the headsets that made it hard to make a play at hiding the tone of one’s voice.  What you heard, was what was there.  “Sun is bad.  We have to eat daily.  I’m stronger than you, maybe faster, but don’t heal as quickly.  Everything else is… fairytales.  We’re alive.  We breathe. Can eat normal food though we don’t need it.  Some of us have residual magus power.”

 

She didn’t elaborate, but it was left to the positive that she was one of the “some”.

 

She pulled them up a bit further, tilting the beast slightly to start the lap around the city.  It was something she never would have thought about anywhere else, the type of memory that could be paralyzing, or enraging.  He had asked, and she had promised.  If anything came out of this, it would definitely be a seed planted to discover if she could completely trust him.  On one hand, she hoped he would fail and she would have a reason to go after him.  On the other, it was almost cathartic to have someone next to her that she felt really “got it”.  The rage that only disappeared in certain places, with certain circumstances.

 

“I was infected during the first Event,” she was quiet a moment.  Odd how one could remember a voice, but faces slid into memory so easily.  “Stationed in South America.  I had terminal cancer, but something was changing in my blood.  I could feel it move, feel every nerve and muscle.  My oncologist… said it was nothing.  A Sheut Ka was preying on the dying in the hospital, taking advantage of the growing chaos, and I refused to let him take me out. I would die on my terms.  When I die, it will always be on my terms.  But, in the fight...  Whatever magus I would have become, was gone then… and now I’m this.”

 

The dark lashes had lowered slightly, watching the twinkle of the river before opening again to look up at a switch.  Alone, she wasn’t abrasive or arrogant, she was simply- calm.  Reflective.

 

Sure, it wasn’t part of the deal… but… “what about you?”

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Tom listened to Eris share her Resonance Genesis keenly. Vampires were like the lycanthropes and zombies then. Viruses that transformed their host was the thing they held in common. The outcome...much different. She had been bitten. He secretly hoped that she had been transformed by the Event like he had. It would have been another shared bond. He already felt a kinship with her...an anger that seems to be insatiable. A desire for control...in one form or another. He had to assume that she had deduced as much about him from these exchanges as he had from her. Probably more, in all reality, as he was hardly an unknown outside of the family. 

 

Despite himself, he felt more at ease. He wasn't foolish enough to let his guard down completely. She was also an apex predator in her own right...protecting her territory...scouting for more. Despite all that...it was refreshing to be with someone who understood...or seemed to at any rate. 

 

So, the Resonance turned you into a mage...only to immediately be turned into a Sheut Ka? Is that what a vampire is truly called? I suppose there is quite a bit about that portion of our new, wonderful world that I don't know about yet.

 

He wanted to ask her more about her secret organization, dealings, movings, and all that other business stuff. He would. He found this...more personal conversation to be more engaging at the moment. She wanted to know his history? Assuming she didn't already know...he obliged.

 

The night of the Resonance, I changed. When the world had gone to hell, so did I. The Event introduced me to the Beast and informed me that I had a new, permanent partner in all of my dealings.

 

He looked at Eris and offered a sheepish smile at his words, but if she happened to glance at him, she'd know in an instant it was feigned and forced. His voice gave it away too. He didn't enjoy remembering these things. It was important to remember. 

 

One aspect of my condition that I don't reveal to many...I'll share with you. I was one of the first. I was never bitten. I don't know if there is some sort of scientific...or perhaps mystic differentiation between the bitten and the...awakened I'll call them. I have noticed, however, that other weres seem to have a much different experience from my own.

 

 

 

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So, the Resonance turned you into a mage...only to immediately be turned into a Sheut Ka? Is that what a vampire is truly called? I suppose there is quite a bit about that portion of our new, wonderful world that I don't know about yet.

 

Lips pursed, then became thoughtful.

 

“No,” she didn’t elaborate for a moment, eyes moving again to the same gauge as before.  “I am a mage and a Sheut.  I was not infected by the trash that was preying on the dying, I was chosen by the Sheut that watched me kill him.  I was given a gift because even in the end of my life I refused to die on anyone else's terms but mine.”

 

There was something there, bitterness, combined with vulnerability maybe, she was hard to read… an odd recollection of a very poignant time of her life.  She’d refused to die, even at the end of the world, even when the trash had broken her brittle bones in attempts to strike fear, course adrenaline into the blood he would take from her.  She’d refused.

 

“By my oncologist,” it was quiet, then the slight reminiscent smile came.  “The doctor that had been watching me fight for my life for a year, was the one that turned me after I killed the thing that tried to murder me. The mage perks just stuck around.”

 

The man was more than she could ever explain to the Capo.  Old.  Ancient.  Someone special in the world of the Sheut that she’d fought to save when the world went to utter shit.  It was her refusal to let him die that had landed her in Ausar’s good graces, and the position she held now… and the fact her obstinacy was tolerated by those that could soon as smite her than look at her.

 

The fact you could be “infected” and a mage was unheard of.  Some, very few, could cling to something before they were infected. For whatever reason, she had been cursed with both. Because she was so close to death?  She never knew why both had stuck.

 

“Sheut are not new world... but that’s also what we are up here to talk about.”

 

…but it also was a give and take.  Divulging personal matters not many understood or were brave enough to hear opened doors and built alliances.  Plus, something about him just got under her skin.  She couldn’t put her finger on it yet.

 

The night of the Resonance, I changed. When the world had gone to hell, so did I. The Event introduced me to the Beast and informed me that I had a new, permanent partner in all of my dealings.

 

The dark eyes moved back to him a moment to watch as he shared his truths.  He definitely didn’t like his truths.  He reminded her so much of someone she used to know.  Ghosts.  Long breath was drawn and her eyes went back on the path ahead. 

 

“You didn’t go to hell, you defined your new normal.  We accepted who we were because we knew no other existence.  If you would have been born a Were, then became a man… you’d be just as conflicted as you are now.”

 

It was delivered with such certainty with the world.  It wasn’t that she didn’t feel the same polarity, she just wasn’t… trying to be anything else than the devil that she was.  She couldn’t ever go back, so there was no use fighting it.

 

One aspect of my condition that I don't reveal to many...I'll share with you. I was one of the first. I was never bitten. I don't know if there is some sort of scientific...or perhaps mystic differentiation between the bitten and the...awakened I'll call them. I have noticed, however, that other weres seem to have a much different experience from my own.

 

That was an interesting revelation.  Very, very interesting.  Every qualm she’d had about enlightening him in the ways of the world was now gone.  He was unique, more than a magus, or another infected Sheut.  He was part of the Nevus, or touched by it.  There was no doubt. Face was unreadable.  He was in her territory.  She’d be praised for this.

 

Then the calm soured a bit.  She reached up and turned the connection off with the ground.  They couldn't call out, and nobody could call in...not that anybody had been eavesdropping, it was safety only... but now they were isolated.  They could only hear each other.

 

It was like the thought of her dragon being accosted by her own.  Where he fascinated her to no end, he would not be fascinating to the others.  He’d be a weapon.  Or property.  Or an experiment, a zoo exhibit.

 

Eyes narrowed slightly, then relaxed.

 

“I didn’t hear that.”

 

It was matter-of-fact, and undeniably a nudge to never mention it again.  It also spoke volumes that what and who she belonged to was more far reaching than he could ever imagine.  She didn’t mention her dragon to the collective, because she liked Johann.  Her personal trio were immune to the collective because she refused to let them touch her people.  The petite Sheut could definitely have a soft spot for those that were unique.  Outcasts perhaps. 

 

Tom.

 

She wasn’t sure what he was to her yet, or why she cared, but his confession definitely bubbled a protectiveness that was reserved for almost nobody.  Toby, because he was a stray.  Would have been killed, she refused to let them kill him.  Ahanu and Mouse, had saved her life.  Johann, because he had an old soul, and was still so sincere… and a fucking dragon.

 

Tom was touched by the Nevus.

 

The same long breath was pulled in and exhaled slowly.  This changed so much.  It was huge, and she had decisions to make regarding it.  Eyes watched him a moment before traveling across her gauges to monitor like a good pilot.  The night had taken a really, really significant turn.

 

If she had been anywhere but in the air, in her calm…

 

“Who else knows about that?”

 

The question was quiet, almost concerned... and there it was.  The weird little flicker in her chest that reminded her she'd just taken a step that she couldn't turn back from.

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Eris opening up about her turn was somewhat surprising, even though the intent of the conversation was to speak about the uncomfortable and guarded. It revealed a bit more about her that might seem obvious but provided confirmation. Her fighting spirit predates her altered self. She was a genuine warrior. She was not simply someone who had become emboldened by their newfound powers from the Resonance. Tom had suspected as much from their earlier dealings. It added a certain amount of genuineness to a person. The Event didn’t make the person…it simply augmented them, and their identity remained the same. Tom liked those people. He didn’t care for the others.

 

Tom raised an eyebrow at Eris mentioning her mage powers. He had heard of other lycanthropes who had previously had powers that were lost to them forever. Perhaps the vampire virus worked the same way and she was a rare exception? The why was unimportant…to him anyway. It was just good to know that bit of information. When Eris spoke as if to begin to reveal some about the Sheut…Tom opened his mouth. Her demeanor changed completely.

 

“I didn’t hear that.”

 

Or…I wish I hadn’t. Damn. He knew that it was unique in some way…but this revelation meant more to Eris than a simple neat fact about himself. There was some gravity to that aspect of himself that made her visibly shaken. Was she scared of him…or for him? It seemed to be the latter when she asked who else knew about it.

 

Tom took a moment to think before answering. He found himself trusting her for some reason. He couldn’t understand why. Well, he was pretty sure he knew why. Nothing about her guarded stance suggested deceit for the sake of it…but rather as protection. He understood that…she likely would as well. He had revealed a big secret about himself…perhaps bigger than he had known. What would she do if she knew about his father? He couldn’t shake the ‘zoo-exhibit’ feeling as she glanced at him. He was special…now the question was whether he was special like a unique individual or a novelty zoo creature?

 

He looked over to Eris as she was commanding the chopper on its flight. His voice came across the comms even and sincere…maybe mistaken as grave and somber.

 

“Only those closest to me and whom I trust.”

 

Let her interpret that how she will. He was not in the mood for carefully crafting words. He knew that things were going to get very serious and that he had plunged head-first into a new situation in which he wasn’t sure what awaited in the future. Time to see what Eris had to say in this new adventure the two of them have embarked on. What had he gotten himself into?

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She could almost feel the quirk in his eyebrow.  Humans seemed to lack the attentiveness to notice subtleties without them being thrown in their faces, she’d learned even as a human to read even the smallest glance.  Her life and the lives of those on her team had depended on it.  Expressions changed the way a person breathed, held their body, it was why she was so unreadable most of the time.  There were few left with the focus to notice.

 

He was being cautious, and at the same time comfortable with her.  He had good instincts. If she felt someone was worthy enough of her protection, she would viciously defend them.  However, as much as she was loathe to admit it, she did really answer to a higher authority. Question was, would she turn the cheek to take the hit if it ever came to that.  Did he “fit” into the criteria of her ”family”?  They were all unique, a collection of irreplaceable souls if there ever were.

 

Expression neutralized as he looked at her.

 

“Only those closest to me and whom I trust.”

 

She reached up and pulled her headset off, hanging it sharply on the hook.  Eyes had already found the helipad she was looking for and had lowered slightly for approach.  Even in the most secure of places, the coms off, and the ground a thousand feet below… she still didn’t trust anything but her own voice in the free air.  If her removal of the headset hadn’t been an obvious signal to stop talking, the touchdown on the roof of a skyscraper probably was.  It was hers. She owned the top ten floors- all of which were empty.  It was a depot for high paying clients to be picked up or dropped off to save drive time- or others she didn’t want in her compound.

 

Graceful fingertips hit a code on her control and the helipad changed to a low lit blue glow, completely locking off the deck unless she hit the code again.

 

“Out,” she quipped without the headset.

 

As the rotors ended their rhythmic hum and lulled to sleep for the moment, she hopped from the cockpit, sleek ponytail flipping like a whip in the updraft.  Footsteps were completely silent, lack of heels revealing how petite she was while still managing to look formidable.  Again the partial retreat as she moved away from her beast to the edge of the deck, hands on her hips, breathing in the updraft and darkness of the towering building over the city, waiting for him to get out.  One could see everything from their vantage point, and it was the only true place to have a conversation that nobody could overhear.

 

Hands went to the railing, tapping quietly before pushing up and turning to him with lowered lashes.  Lips stayed closed for a moment, wanting so much to lash forth everything he was flirting with.  Hands went back to her hips, profile soft as she looked out over the miles that faded into black darkness.  The entire world was a muffled silence, only the decaying hum from the engine and the sound of air moving across ears.

 

She didn’t even know where to start, hands slid from her hips to her sides, the expression on her features again in that place that was unreadable…

 

“Thomas Gallo, I am the Viceroy of the East American Alliance of the Sheut Nation.  I am responsible for any and all territorial actions under its purview, including determining whether or not you and Bakkhos, Bakkhos territorial skirmishes and the Satyr Stadium’s dealings are a threat the to the greater stability of our world interests.”

 

It sounded so, fucking… god she sounded like the damn executioner.  There was no more subtlety around it; the getting close to them via closed door meetings, tolerating Mythos being part of the family, making amends for damage done to their property. It wasn’t all just business, it was responsibility, but the carpet was definitely now rolled out to reveal she had an ulterior motive. Everyone did.  The reasoning hovering above it rang out incredibly clear; she was buffering them for now from greater problems at potentially great cost to herself.  Bakkhos was orderly, they were quiet, they took care of their own problems and others with great efficiency. They were useful.

 

But.

 

The skirmishes and ambushes on her compound were a problem.  Satyr was a problem.  Resurgence of old mob wars were a problem.  They were a threat to the Nation, and she had to silence them.

 

Face softened slightly, the dip in her brow betraying it had been gotten out of the way.  Hands slid quietly into her pockets, and again the cast glance to her shoulder to cool her eyes on the darkness beyond.

 

The Capo had definitely gotten under her skin.  Kindred souls perhaps.  The deep breath allowed the unique power of his presence to really penetrate her skin for the first time, smashing against her own psyche in an obstinate stalemate for a moment before her entire demeanor softened and she let it wash through her like the updrafts themselves.  Where most may have found it threatening or terrifying, she found it oddly comforting; made to feel safe perhaps because something out there existed that could attempt successfully to protect her or her family.  She had no more need to hold her cards close to her chest at this point, and she was done with the cryptic conversations.  It was a strange place to be, a toe dipping into the waters beyond her compound and her tiny circle... but that's how empires were made, right?  She just couldn't shoot someone in the face anymore when they were a threat like her job in the DEA.

 

Plus, she liked him.  Oddly enough the big brute was charming.  Hands pulled from her pockets, reaching behind her to pull herself up to sit on the railing.  Legs crossed demurely as she balanced precariously above the city like it was the most natural thing in the world.  Nothing but free fall behind her, she managed to make the unthinkable look as graceful as sitting at the bar in his club.

 

“Now that that’s out of the way I can tell you what I really want to say, if you want to hear it.”

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Tom noted which building she had decided to place the chopper. Must be one of her holdings. It all seemed to make sense to him. She had substantial resources...but how much? He closed his eyes during the descent and took some long, slow, deep breaths. Now that her silver jewelry was no longer with them, he was able to detect the other scents. The scents of the soaps used, hair care products all wafted to him with a scent that was hers...and a little of something else. He surmised that it was someone else rather than something. He'd have to catch her after a few meals to solidify that hypothesis, but he was rather sure he was correct. He enjoyed the relative silence as they approached the helipad. He understood why she flew. It was calming and peaceful. He might see about regular flights when things get...frustrating.

 

When they landed, Tom let a small chuckle slip when she gave him a curt "Out." He followed her to the edge of the rooftop. The sights, sounds, and scents of the city invading all of his senses. He glanced at Eris and he knew something serious was about to occur. Behind her unreadable expression was...something. She was stressed...nervous? He hadn't worked out how to identify the subtle shifts of scent that accompanied someone's moods. He wasn't even sure it was scent. Like smell + taste = flavor...the combination of sensory cues Tom was receiving from Eris painted an...uneasy demeanor with the diminutive woman. Even though she was well-schooled at masking her motives and disposition...for him to perceive this much was telling. 

 

“Thomas Gallo, I am the Viceroy of the East American Alliance of the Sheut Nation.  I am responsible for any and all territorial actions under its purview, including determining whether or not you and Bakkhos, Bakkhos territorial skirmishes and the Satyr Stadium’s dealings are a threat the to the greater stability of our world interests.”

 

There it was. Tom took a few moments to take in the new information. There was a lot of input being thrown at him currently. His stone-faced demeanor hardened further...somehow. It was often mistaken for the scowl of a demon. Those close to him, however, know that this is simply his 'thinking face.' When deep in thought, Roderick has said to him at least, that he has a 'resting death-face.' 

 

So the Sheut are as much of an organization as they are a virus-race like the lycanthropes. They are organized...globally. Eris is a high-ranking member of the East American subsection of this alliance. That means there is a Western one too at least. What are territorial actions? Just making sure that their holdings are not hindered by Bakkhos dealings? I guess this is why she was so interested in repairing Thyrsus after the Blood Moon. Territorial skirmishes? Those have all but died down. Bakkhos was slowly, and methodically squashing up smaller, less-safe criminal upstarts. It is one thing to do what is best for you and yours and ignoring laws to do so. It was an entirely different matter if that resorted in undue chaos and needless danger. Satyr Stadium? This was six months to a year out from being ready...what was their concern regarding that? What are their world interests? Who are they? 

 

These and dozens of other questions flooded his mind in the seconds he spent staring at Eris's now-softened expression. It appeared that those words were weighing heavily on her. Finally...being willing to deal plainly? This would be a welcome change from his usual day to day. Business was usually best when the dance was abandoned and a simple presentation of terms were laid out. He looked forward to dealings such as this. If the Sheut Nation was a large as he was beginning to believe they were...they could prove to be an invaluable ally in this new world. 

 

Then something changed. 

 

Eris perched herself up on the ledge of the building with the same deliberate grace any bird or cat would demonstrate. 

 

“Now that that’s out of the way I can tell you what I really want to say, if you want to hear it.”

 

Tom quirked an eyebrow in question. Just when he thought Eris was going one way she went another. And when Tom thought he was on the same track, she changed directions again. 

 

He allowed himself a small grin as he took in her silhouette against the nighttime sky. Vampire...or Sheut...either way...no matter what he was supposed to call her, she was still a woman.  

 

"Go on." 

 

 

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She wasn’t sure if he seemed to think she was joking, or in a joking mood… or something else. Narrowed lashes sincerely hoped it was not this obsession of thinking her stature made her “cute”.  She was not a cute elf-like creature. Stupid fucking small frame… made people under estimate her, but kept them thinking they could still treat her that way after they knew she could kick their asses.

 

Her “payload” delivered with pure business, she wasn’t expecting much.  Either he would tell her to go fuck herself and to take him home, or he would listen.  If he was prudent, and smart, he would listen. Though she would have no qualms making a few calls to her moose brother to selectively take out her problems… she would much rather do it herself.  Slapped on the wrist recently for lashing upstart heseks to the east fence of her compound in the mornings to let them burn in order to loosen their tongue, it didn’t deter her from still taking care of business if she had to.

 

It just bothered her that she had to make that decision, his expression leading her to believe he was seriously pondering what she’d said.  After a few moments of his silence, her eyes narrowed… the dangerous zone to those that knew her.  She didn’t want to be forced into this corner, for reasons she couldn’t put her finger on yet.  That was what pissed her off more.  Why did she give two shits whether or not she may have to selectively gut Bakkhos.  She didn’t.  She shouldn’t, but for some reason she did.  It was a healthy organization, which meant she didn’t have to build it.  Approaching them one at a time was necessary, it gave her the ability to see what they knew, gauge their interest, and decide if they needed to live or die.

 

"Go on." 

 

His grin pissed her off.  Was it normal for Weres to be reckless?  She wasn’t quite sure yet which to call it.  Reckless or fearless.  Head cocked slightly to one side, fingers tapping on the railing as she drew a long breath, demeanor as quiet as his.  Maybe a bit of both with this one…

 

“Bakkhos is useful to me.  It’s powerful, it’s respected   It keeps itself in check, and for the most part any upstarts that threaten its power are squashed. If you take care of our trespasser issue, I won’t have to, and you’ll re-cement your holdings and status in the city.  I've no doubt you do this all the time.”

 

Dark eyes closed a moment, as she scented the air that had rifled up the side of the building.  The warmth of her dinner was starting to wear off.

 

“Bakkhos keeps me from having to worry about New York.  The threats that surround us are vast, and inevitable, and you allow me to keep my attention on them so they don’t bleed here.  They are serious, and they could end the life we've been able to put back together.”

 

Trolls in Ohio.  Tech rumors in Detroit.  A budding pirate threat up the east coast with the outworlder issue.  Ferries full of outworlders boarded and sunk.  Black market on the southern fronts. A pissed off, powerful elf fae whatever crossing through her territory and doing business in it that was rabid about the outworlder deaths.

 

“My question is how far do you want your family’s reach to go?  What would you be willing to do to keep it safe, and in power for as long as you wish it to be?”

 

She needed constables.  She knew she’d needed constables for a long time.  Adrian was constantly bitching at her about it.  The rest expected it, and the petite Sheut didn’t like being told she couldn’t do it all on her own.  She didn’t trust people, and she didn’t want their help.  Matteo was a brute, Lucky was a moron.  Gaspari, was just living the dream.  Carmine... Strollo.... made her head hurt.  But Tom, Tom was a gentleman.  All gentlemen had extremes; it was the power to control the extremes that gave them the right to call themselves gentlemen.  He was powerful, and he was dedicated to a powerful organization.  Constables within Bakkhos were a perfect choice, and a mutual benefit.  Plus, he was growing on her.  When she pushed, he pushed back.

 

“To keep my hands from having to bring down a hammer, you have to pull the vampires from Satyr.  Make it a scandal that people were pretending to be vampires, I don’t care.  Any press is good press.  Vampires, the gauche vernacular, do not exist.  Cannot exist in public knowledge.  You do that and I can keep you off the Nation radar for the immediate moment.”

 

Again, the unreadable face.

 

“You don’t, and I will have to do it myself.”

 

She was serious, and she didn’t elaborate on how it was to be done, she didn’t need to.  Her instinct was to get rid of the first round of fighters.  Nobody would touch the place after that kind of tragedy, it would be a temporary set-back for Bakkhos, and a big pain in the ass for her because it would cause a ripple effect… but secrecy of Sheut Ka had to take precedent.

 

“I don’t want to.”

 

There it was.

 

“I don't want you to be someone they tell me I have to damage, or kill.”

 

She truly didn’t want to, he was part of the wild, like her.  Refined and infinitely dangerous.  In the end of the world she wanted the strong to survive.  Some saw the powerful as a threat, she saw them as allies.  The Sheut was infinitely loyal to Ausar, there were others though that had power over her that would never be in her good graces.  Detested.  Would kill if she could.  Adrian, was one. 

 

Brow pursed down under the rich chestnut swipe of hair across her forehead, a barely there lift to the corner of her lip, it was almost… affection.

 

“I'd rather have you as my first constable.  They won’t be pleased you’re a Were but I don’t care what they think anyway…”

 

The purse of her lips and glance cast out to the city betrayed she really didn’t give a rat's ass what they thought. 

 

“You’d still be whatever it is you do in Bakkhos, you would have knowledge of our moves and you can keep your people informed.  You would also let me know what I need to keep an eye on.  I understand if Gaspari needs to be in the loop.  I would expect it.”

 

There was more he needed to know about the organization and she needed his approval first, but that was the gist.

 

“But I don't want to deal with Gaspari.  I want to deal with you.  Only you.”

 

Yah, she’d said that out loud.  If people asked, she hated everyone.  There were a few she tolerated.  A little.  Fingers tapped again, eyes cast back to him.

 

"Because you're interesting," she added, the small sentence with the hint of a smile catching a glint of fang for the first time.  It was one of the reasons she didn't like to smile.  Canines were like goosebumps, reacting to extremes- he was in an extreme at the moment, and she didn't want to admit it was something she couldn't control.

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“Bakkhos is useful to me.  It’s powerful, it’s respected   It keeps itself in check, and for the most part any upstarts that threaten its power are squashed. If you take care of our trespasser issue, I won’t have to, and you’ll re-cement your holdings and status in the city.  I've no doubt you do this all the time.”

 

Where was she going with this? Apparently, her organization was trying to figure out Bakkhos. What role did Mythos play in all of this? He agreed to see about these Bakkhos-pretenders skulking about her premises because it was mutually beneficial for the moment. If the Sheut were as large as she was proposing, then turf wars over the airport were something that should be avoided.

 

“Bakkhos keeps me from having to worry about New York.  The threats that surround us are vast, and inevitable, and you allow me to keep my attention on them so they don’t bleed here.  They are serious, and they could end the life we've been able to put back together.”

 

What were these threats that surrounded us? Did ‘us’ mean the Sheut or New York? She felt like she was explaining, but all her words did was provoke more questions.

 

“My question is how far do you want your family’s reach to go?  What would you be willing to do to keep it safe, and in power for as long as you wish it to be?”

 

She was setting up a sales pitch…of a sort. Dangle the carrot before the big ask. Usually these sorts of negotiations take weeks and carefully-worded documents, lawyers, etc. This was different. She was acting on her own…in the interest of the Sheut, certainly…but on her own. The privacy, impromptu conversation…something didn’t smell right, and it wasn’t simply the vomit wafting up from the alley below. Someone was not having a good evening.

 

“To keep my hands from having to bring down a hammer, you have to pull the vampires from Satyr.  Make it a scandal that people were pretending to be vampires, I don’t care.  Any press is good press.  Vampires, the gauche vernacular, do not exist.  Cannot exist in public knowledge.”  

 

There it was. The ask, the carrot, and the stick. Again, with Satyr. He knew Matteo was months away from trying to open it. Considering the poor luck he has had, it was probably closer to a year before that got underway. Eris was concerned about advertising vampires in the arena? Satyr Stadium was hardly on his radar at this point beyond projecting alcohol needs for the place once it opened. Again…that was far off. In this new world…planning more than a few months in advance was arrogant. Hiding vampires from advertisements didn’t seem like a big ask. Matteo might require some convincing, but Tom was fairly certain that he’d acquiesce to that request.

 

“You do that and I can keep you off the Nation radar for the immediate moment. You don’t, and I will have to do it myself.”

 

Fury. His eyebrows drew close and a growl escaped his lips before he could stop it. This threat must be crushed. Eris had no idea what she had awakened.

 

“I don’t want to…I don't want you to be someone they tell me I have to damage or kill.”

 

Like letting the air out of a balloon, her confession deflated the inferno trying to erupt from his chest. Eris was someone who found herself between a rock and a very hard place it seemed. She answered to higher powers and Tom wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she was none too pleased about it. So this issue with Satyr came from others then? Or was she predicting the likely outcome? War with an entity such as this was not likely to be in the interest of Bakkhos. He let out a deep breath as he calmed.

 

“I'd rather have you as my first constable.  They won’t be pleased you’re a Were but I don’t care what they think anyway…”

 

Tom huffed derisively at that last statement. She certainly did, she just resented that fact. More important than her posturing, however; what did she mean by Constable? Where was this conversation going?

 

“You’d still be whatever it is you do in Bakkhos, you would have knowledge of our moves and you can keep your people informed.  You would also let me know what I need to keep an eye on.  I understand if Gaspari needs to be in the loop.  I would expect it.”

 

Was he being hired? He was getting annoyed again. Goon for hire? Certainly not. Maybe she was just hoping that Bakkhos’ “peace-keeping operations” would include some upstarts she and her organization were dealing with? There was a lot to unpack.

 

“But I don't want to deal with Gaspari.  I want to deal with you.  Only you. Because you’re interesting.”

 

Tom grinned slightly at that last. She knew enough to know that he wouldn’t be flattered. He suspected that everyone was afraid of her and she had grown accustomed to that. That was understandable. He respected her. If he wanted him dead, he was pretty sure she would know how that. His relationship with the Strollos kept a lot of people from challenging him early on. However, as he earned his own reputation, he had to defend it from time to time. Rarely, but occasional reminders were necessary. He spotted her fangs. She appeared to go to great lengths to hide them. He understood why, especially if secrecy was important to them. They weren’t always out though…Tom wondered if she didn’t have full control over them. Tim to focus on more important things.

 

“You wish to leverage Bakkhos’ initiatives in keeping peace and order around the city? Squash the bugs that you encounter since we’re ‘doing it anyway’ is that it?”

 

Tom wasn’t angry or disrespectful…just getting to the point.

 

“As far as Satyr goes, that is all Matteo. I can recommend your suggestion about keeping Sheut Ka out of the arena. I have as much authority of the happenings in Satyr as Matteo has in Thyrsus…which is almost none…but I can see what he says. For the moment, I’ll leave out your almost-veiled threat.”

 

His demeanor was hard, but not angry. Succinct and to the point, Tom was going to address these points one at a time.

 

“You need to tell me more about your organization and what its goals are. Vast and inevitable threats? Like what, exactly? Don’t try to tempt me with ambitiously reaching for power and all that. I may hold a powerful position in a powerful organization, but my thirst for power is not insatiable. If you are trying to dangle a carrot, that is the wrong one.” The hardness of his eyes and small grin on his face appeared to war with each other. He was trying to keep it light…but he was deadly serious. His role in the family gave him purpose. A goal. A reason. Since everything went sideways in his life just before the Resonance, he had been driven and he lived off of that drive. It kept him just this side of sane in some instances.

 

“I suspect ‘constable’ has a specific meaning in your organization. Please tell me what that means. I have more questions, but I think you can address what I’ve asked first.”

 

He moved over to the ledge no more than a foot from her and leaned against it with one elbow facing her. This evening had become even more interesting than he had anticipated. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about it. Getting this close allowed her scent to become more perceptive. The scent of her latest prey was fading. More of her own individual scent came through as he took a deep, calming breath. He looked into her…deep, damaged eyes and listened to what she had to say next.

 

 

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