First Time At The Loft

[Cold Victory] The hour is late, but not so much for them. An unlikely sight: Lukas, not swimming determined laps up and down Kate’s pool but floating on one of her loungers, feet and hands trailing in the water, eyes on the stars dimly visible through the pool room’s glass ceiling.

He’s turned off the artificial birdsong in here. There’s only the faint hum of pool filters and pumps, the quiet lapping of water against the tile.

[Brutal Revelation] Nobody seems to really dig the birdsong as much as Katherine does. When Sinclair’s swimming alone she turns it off. When they’re all hanging out together she argues for music instead of pretending they’re on an island somewhere. Katherine calls the birdsong authentic; both Lukas and Sinclair seem to rebel against what is so artificial. Asha does not care, or so it seems. And Christian’s not around anymore. Sarita has yet to voice an opinion on the stereo system of the pool room.

It’s the middle of the night, and when Sinclair comes in she’s fresh from a shower upstairs. Her still-wet hair is in a tight braid that’s been coiled into a bun, as severe as her hairstyles get. And no wonder: with her hair back that hard, it makes her face look all the more animalistic, her cheekbones vaguely feline, her eyes wide and hungry and ghostly in their paleness. She’s not wearing one of her bikinis, or one of the suits she lounges in. Lukas has swam with her, practiced with her enough, to know what it means when she’s wearing one of those black or dark blue or vivid red one-pieces with a halter top and an X-shaped back.

She doesn’t bother with goggles and a cap, but it still means she’s about to work. Not just ‘swim’. Work.

When the door slides closed behind her, she’s already processed the presence of her packmate, sensed him just before she opened the door in the first place. The last time she really saw Lukas was saying goodnight after they patrolled Bellamonte Park and parted ways, she to the Brotherhood and he — most likely — to his mate.

Tonight her suit is red. And there’s all the ink and metal on her skin that’s become so familiar, even that oversized and disturbing viper around her thigh. There’s the scarification that’s glimpsed through the open back of her suit. But now there’s black script on the insides of both forearms, wrist to elbow, spelling out — well. It’s hard to see from his angle.

“Hey, Lukas,” she says, coming to the edge of the pool and lowering herself into a sitting position.

[Cold Victory] The last time they saw each other, they patrolled together. He didn’t say a lot to her, but he could sense her unrest. He didn’t ask about it. He didn’t push — not after his abortive, failed attempt to reach out to her, to reach her, to make her feel included, loved, in touch, family.

He was there, though, quiet and waiting. And at the end of the night she said, I don’t know how to fix this. And Lukas didn’t know either. But he heard her: heard how at a loss she was; heard how she wanted to fix this. And maybe it was a start.

Tonight, she lets herself into the pool room looking like she wants to work. He lifts his head from Kate’s lazy lounger, his pale eyes catching the light, throwing it back. “Hey,” he returns, and waves his hands lazily in the water a few times to paddle himself closer to the edge, out of Sinclair’s way. “Want me to put down some lanes for you?”

[Brutal Revelation] Family, he wanted to her to feel. Not alone. And it would have helped more if that was the sort of loneliness that family and pack could alleviate. If it was feeling disconnected from her packmates somehow, that might have been what he needed to see, and what she needed fixed. But what it is… she doesn’t know how to fix, barely knows how to cope with, knows she doesn’t have much choice but to survive with regardless.

At least she didn’t sound completely hopeless at the end of that night, or completely resigned to just waiting out the misery until the salvation of inevitable death.

“Nah,” she says, and she’s not the sort to excuse herself, subjugate herself, oh no no it’s okay I don’t mind. So she says nah and that’s all it is: exactly as unconcerned as it sounds. She drapes her legs into the water and folds her hands on top of her knees. “You haven’t told me about your challenge yet.”

[Cold Victory] There’s a flicker of a frown across Lukas’s face. Then he shifts to prop himself on his elbows, the lounger rocking under his shifting weight, indenting under the points of his elbows.

“No,” he agrees quietly, “I haven’t.”

The lounger turns a lazy circle in the pool. After a while, a corner bumps the side, and Lukas reaches out to arrest it, one hand gripping the edge of the tile. A moment later he sits up altogether, straddling the lounger now, legs in the water up to the knees.

“Do you want to hear the facts first, and then what I thought about it?”

[Brutal Revelation] She watches him move around in the water. It’s hard to be graceful on a lounger if you dare to do anything but lie on it, but she doesn’t laugh. However, a small smile moves across Sinclair’s lips after he speaks, an expression more of fondness than amusement, more on the mouth than in the eyes.

“Begin at the beginning,” she tells him instead. “And when you come to the end… stop.”

Which may mean just the facts, ma’am. Or it may mean that he needn’t separate facts from his thoughts. Or it may mean that she’s quoting Alice in Wonderland. Lukas can take it as he will, and tell her what he will.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She hasn’t actually been here before, but she’s had the invitation and she’s not one to turn such a thing down. She the Bitchmobile is parked at an available street corner, probably looking very out of place with the rest of the block. It would be like if someone pulled down some artwork in the Louvre to make room for a velvet Elvis and Dogs Playing Poker.

She looks up at the place and grins, making her way toward the building and preparing to have to be buzzed up. Either that or given some very suspicious looks by doormen. Probably both really, she imagines.

[Brutal Revelation] The door is buzzed and opened by a stout, mature latina who may very well never sleep. From the outside, the Loft doesn’t look like much — sort of stark and more like a warehouse than a residence. Inside it unfolds into polished surfaces, glass and pale wood and wide open windows overlooking small courtyards. For the home of a Fang who was once a staunch Royalist and is now… well, not quite a Renewalist… it is shockingly and perfectly modern. Also: very, very clean.

Very very clean.

Outside, Sarita’s Bitchmobile wasn’t quite as out of place as she might have expected. There was an old 70’s El Camino with a black fuzzy dice parked outside, too — it’s possible Lukas’s black BMW is in the garage or around the corner or maybe he came her via the umbra. But Sinclair drove, and Sarita’s probably seen the El Cam around the Brotherhood often enough to find it familiar.

More familiar than the interior of the Loft. Miss Katherine, Lucille explains — first in English, then in rapid Spanish as soon as she realizes she and Sarita have that in common — is unavailable, but Mister Lukas and Miss Sinclair are in the pool room.

The pool is the crown jewel of the home, enormous — nearly Olympic size, from the look of things. There’s greenery at the edges, enough to conceal speakers from whence birdsong often pipes. That is cut off now, though, the room silent but for the water and the low voice of the Shadow Lord sitting on a lounger in the water. Sinclair is perched on the edge of the pool, glancing over her shoulder as the door slides open. She gives a small upward nod to Sarita, but then she turns her attention fully back to Lukas, because what he is telling her

is important.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She gives Lucille a friendly smile and is very warm and talkative with the woman as they travel through the loft to the pool room. Sarita takes it all in with an impressed look…the girl isn’t completely without class when she needs be, but she is definitely not used to accommodations like this. This is like, what the hotel rooms she and Amy would get after a particularly good score (by her) or con (by Amy) in order to splurge and because Amy was sick to death of sleeping in the van. It’s a perfectly comfortable van to sleep in. Yes, it’s still a van, but hey, there are worse places to sleep. Even if it doesn’t have a shower.

Regardless, the point is that Sarita can’t help but feel a bit underdressed as she makes her way into the pool room, even though she’s the most dressed between her worn jeans, heavy black shirt, cowboy boots and the ever-present duster. She smiles and returns the upward nod to Sinclair, and one to Lukas too. She doesn’t say anything yet, so as not to interrupt the conversation.

[Cold Victory] That fond little smile mirrors itself on Lukas’s face. He thinks a moment, then, and begins.

And he begins at the start. He tells her how he walked into that Sept where he was fostered. He tells her how he wore the sword of his ancestors — the same one he uses when he spars with her, but otherwise rarely equips — because it made him think of things he was taught long before he was anyone’s rhya or even anyone’s yuf. He tells her how he chose which Garou to challenge, and how in the end it was the one known for her unbending honor.

And he tells her what the challenge was. That there was a pack without an Alpha and Ahroun. That he was charged to step into that place, to lead them to find their rightful Alpha.

He tells her, then, how from the start he felt hidden layers in that pack. Secrets. Things he did not know, and was kept apart from. He tells her how that made it impossible for him to trust them from the start, and how that in turn made it impossible for them to trust him. How later he discovered their Beta and Theurge, Key of Heaven, willfully kept him out of their intimate circle. How he made this so easy for Key with his own distrust.

He tells her — with shame in his tone, but without shying from it — that he zeroed in on their Philodox, a muddled creature by the name of Eyes That Wax and Wane, a creature more or less incapable of deceit. That he separated her from the rest of her pack like prey to try to wring the truth from her, gaining only that she trusted her pack, and that she was not so muddled as to not know what he was doing.

Of the actual events of the challenge, the quest, he speaks only in quick, simple terms: that there were eaten humans, reports of skeletal Garou walking the forests. That they tracked the Alpha, and that it was surprisingly easy to follow her into the forest, into the ground, across the Gauntlet into some spiritual cavern deep in the earth. That they went deeper and deeper, battling the skeletal Garou and overcoming them; that the rest of the pack, the Blackwings, operated as a smooth, efficient whole. That they followed him, but that he never quite felt their Alpha, or even a part of them.

Lukas tells Sinclair how they found the true Alpha, Stormstrike, eventually — buried beneath the earth. And she was a proud thing, proud to a fault, strong and vicious and quick. She fell upon her Beta immediately and without explanation, cursing him for an oathbreaker. Key ran; she chased; Lukas followed her, the rest of the pack at his heels. He tells Sinclair how Stormstrike would not submit to him, would not fall in behind him, figuratively or literally; how he did not force her submission.

And he tells her why. Which is not something he’s told anyone to date:

Because I didn’t trust any of them at that moment. Because I didn’t trust them to not turn on me, one and all, if I turned on their Alpha.

He tells her how they fled from the underground caverns, which collapsed around them as they ran. He tells her how Key escaped first, Stormstrike right behind him; then Lukas, then the Philodox and the Ragabash, Sunthief. Last, the Galliard, Threnody for Gaia, who was caught in the cave-in and trapped under the earth.

He tells her how Stormstrike caught Key, then. And told Lukas — ordered him — to hold Key of Heaven while she rescued her packmate.

He tells her how he refused. How in that moment, his pride and outrage kept him from obeying her. How she killed Key of Heaven instead of letting him run away.

I didn’t know if he was guilty of what she accused him of or not, he says of this. I didn’t know anything. It was a mistake to let her kill him. It was utter failure.

Key of Heaven came back, he goes on to say. And Lukas managed to wring the truth out at last:

that Key of Heaven and Stormstrike had broken the Litany together, not by charaching but by tasting forbidden flesh. That Stormstrike fell to the Thrall of the Wyrm first, and Key of Heaven counseled silence; that the hunger stayed with her, and eventually Key of Heaven convinced her to succumb again. That he tasted of human flesh with her, not once but again and again, until finally the Wyrm dogged her heels so that Stormstrike was moved to confess. That instead of allowing her to confess and doom them both, he raised skeletal Garou through some dark magic and set them on her, buried her in the earth.

I wasn’t sure, Lukas says, wry in retrospect, even then that Key of Heaven hadn’t done that to protect her. I was that unwilling to believe anyone, even someone like him, could be so twisted.

Stormstrike hadn’t told any of this to her pack before. She didn’t reach to them either in her imprisonment. It was a sort of protection, Lukas says, though such a condescending one that in the end the pack was only more infuriated to discover it. He tried to counsel Stormstrike to speak to her pack as an Alpha should, here at the end of the road — but she didn’t do that, either.

The trip back to the Sept, he says, was silent. If they spoke, he didn’t hear it. Back before the council of Stark Falls, every last one of them were judged: the Litany-breakers for their crimes, Key of Heaven put to death for his corruption and his cowardice and his malice; Stormstrike stripped of pack and rank and voice for her pride and failures.

The Blackwings judged themselves, and judged themselves harshly. Then they judged Lukas and his challenge, he says, with more —

(here he pauses, looking for the word)

— more impartiality and magnanimity than he expected, or felt he deserved. And in the end, Iceriver, the Adren he had challenged, asked him to speak to the Blackwings in Stormstrike’s place, to tell them what he thought she should have. So he did.

I told them to learn from what had happened, he says, and to face their own failures. To recognize that they followed blindly, and that they could only be misled so utterly because they allowed themselves to be. But I also told them not to become mired in their failure and their pain. To not become cold and untrusting, too scarred to go on. And I told them that each of them had the makings of a good Alpha — and failings that they would need to rely on the rest of their pack for.

Ultimately, I suppose I told them to pick themselves up, learn, grow stronger, continue on. Which, in a way, was what Iceriver-rhya told me, right before she passed me to Adren.

And there it is, the end.

Somewhere in the course of all that, Lucille lets Sarita in. Sinclair greeted her. Lukas glanced over as he spoke, drifting in the water on a ridiculously Beverly-Hills-mansion-esque pool lounger, nodding to her without breaking his narrative. He doesn’t stop because she enters. He doesn’t go back, either — simply continues on as though she were,

in fact,

a packmate.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She finds the story intensely interesting, to be sure. While she listens, she starts to put pieces of it together, and she’s figured out that it’s a challenge before the end. She finds a piece of poolside furniture to settle herself down in to listen to the rest, head cocked to the side and a faint version of her usual lopsided grin.

[Brutal Revelation] Sarita hears most of it, though not the very beginning. And she sees the way that Sinclair takes it all in. The Galliard’s expression is utterly blank, devoid of emotion or attachment, but intensely focused. It’s as though so much of her energy is taken up by listening, by mentally recording, by remembering, that there is simply no room left in her right now to reflect upon it personally. In fact, other than glancing at Sarita to acknowledge her and — in a way — welcome her in, Sinclair barely even blinks as Lukas is speaking.

It takes awhile before he’s finished. It’s a long tale. Not three days, as Katherine’s Adren challenge — another story she must listen to, another packmate she must seek out soon, before the memory fades — but a single night, a clenched fistful of hours leading up to the name he now wears beside Wyrmbreaker.

There are times when Sinclair gives advice. She was the one who, quite some time ago, talked to Lukas and told him quite plainly to stop fucking around and challenge. She was the one who got down in Kate’s face and made double-damn sure Katherine had not forgotten their true purpose, the reason for their pack’s existence, and how separate from Power and Influence that purpose is. Sinclair’s the one who beat the tar out of a Theurge they were once packed with because she didn’t think he knew how to listen to anything else. Sinclair’s the Galliard, and while it is not her duty to play the Half Moon, she sees things differently than Kate and Lukas do, or ever would — that is why she’s here. That is one of the primary reasons he sought her out, a long time ago. She added something to the pack that was lacking. She still does.

But she has no advice for Lukas, and he is seeking none. She heard things in his retelling, things that mattered, but she let them go as quickly as she heard them, because he was talking, and she needed to remember. Remember everything. She’ll be up late tonight, writing. Recording. And after that, her private diary, where she’ll work out her own thoughts, her own reflections. How she feels about it all.

When he’s done, she takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. She moves for the first time since looking at Sarita, blinking a few times and then cracking her neck. She doesn’t ask Lukas to explain the name he was given; she understands now. Without the words being spoken, Sinclair understands that much at least with the sort of intuition that allows Galliards to be, so often, the namers.

Sinclair looks at Lukas. She’s been looking at him all this time, really, but for the first time in several minutes it seems like she’s seeing him as herself, meeting him somewhere in the middle of that gaze. “Thank you,” she says. Then twists, and looks at Sarita again. “Welcome to paradise,” she quips. “I have some spare suits if you wanna jump in.”

[Cold Victory] Lukas’s mouth moves a little as she thanks him. It, like that first smile, isn’t really humor. Something closer to wryness, and fondness – brotherly love, perhaps. Then Sinclair’s welcoming Sarita to ‘paradise’, and some tension lifts from Lukas. He lays back on the lounger again, holding on to the edge of the pool to keep from tipping over.

“Sinclair and I campaigned hard to get Kate to put this pool in,” he says. “It used to be a lot smaller. This your first time here?”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] The little smile breaks out into a full-fledged grin with the welcome to paradise. “Yeah, seriously. This is….something. I’m feeling like there should be some security guard following me around, making sure I’m not gonna like, steal silverware or something.”

She gives a little chuckle and a wink, then waves off the offer to jump in. “I’m cool for now, thanks. I do love an occasional pool dip, but I feel like I should just let all this bad-assness sink in for a bit. I shouldn’t swim while my head is already doing so, y’know?”

A little nod goes to Lukas when he asks if it’s her first time here. “It does happen to be so, yeah. Was I too obvious with the silver- dollar-sized eyes? Very impressive, by the way.” Though she’s been talking about the environs to date, at this point it’s clear she means his retelling of his challenge, or probably more specifically the challenge itself.

[Brutal Revelation] “We didn’t have to campagin that hard,” Sinclair amends. “I think Lukas tried casually suggesting it over cognac, then joking about it one day while we were all swimming, then I made puppy eyes at her and she pretty much caved.”

Paradise, then. And Sarita’s first time here. Sinclair huffs a laugh when she mentions stealing silverware, glancing at Lukas. There had been quite a noise made after the first couple of times Sticky Fingers showed up around here. Sinclair kicks at the water, not really at anything, but Lukas might be splashed slightly.

Her hands grip the edge of the pool. Have been like that for some time now. It was awhile ago since she unfolded her hands and braced herself with those newly tattooed arms. She hasn’t let go.

“You know — not talk about her behind her back or anything — but as pleased as Kate gets when people get all googly-eyed over what she can provide, I think what makes her truly happy is when it feels like everyone’s… home, here.” She’s watching the water ripple around her legs, the way they distort under the water. Tips her head to the side a bit.

[Brutal Revelation] [*campaign]

[Cold Victory] Lukas gives that wry little half-smile again and Sarita congratulates him, or praises him. His name, she knows now, is more a reminder than a boast; his challenge could only be called a cold victory at best.

Sinclair kicking her legs sends Lukas drifting out across the pool again, turning in a slow circle until an idle paddle halts the turn. “We actually did have someone steal the silverware once,” he notes, “so if Lucille looked at you askance, that might be why. Tell her you’re pack and she’ll warm up. A little.

“But, yeah. I think once upon a time Kate wanted this to be a packhouse. That never really happened, but … we all crash here from time to time. If you or your sister take up a room here she’ll probably be thrilled. Speaking of which, how’s she doing? She seemed to take it pretty hard when I told her the thick of battle probably wasn’t the best place for her.”

[Brutal Revelation] It’s unmistakable. From her angle in the poolside seat Sarita can even see it. Sinclair rolls her eyes. There is nothing subtle about it.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She chuckles a little at the explanation for the silverware, and shakes her head. “Naah, she didn’t, at least that I noticed. We found a nice common ground and things seem generally cool.” Of course, what Sarita might consider ‘cool’ and what reality might be the case could vary significantly from time to time. “I’ll mention that as a possibility to Ames. Digging the Brotherhood and it’s nice to be around to be able to see Kyle every two weeks when he actually stops by, plus Gina’s right next door to us now. But you never know.”

When Lukas asks how Amy is doing, her brow furrows, and her expression slips just a little. “She did take it hard. But she’s resilient. She probably won’t give up on hoping that one day she’ll end up being able to be involved in some capacity. It’s just…who she is. I’ve already had people in my face about it but it’s something that was sort of programmed into her from well before I found her.” She speaks about it like it’s something she’s not comfortable with at all. No Garou really could…not that she would ever tell Amy that. But it’s also something she’s had to come to terms with, even if that hasn’t been easy.

“It’s weird, I know. And I don’t expect that most people will ever understand it or be cool with it. She was upset, but I’m keeping an eye on her and I think she’s bouncing back pretty well. She’ll be fine.”

[Brutal Revelation] At Sarita’s explanation, Sinclair quiets, listening. Then she looks over at her possible packsister again, thoughtful. Some time ago she might have just flat-out said Are you for fucking serious? and they might have ended up in a brawl or something. For all she knows, here and now, Sarita saw that eyeroll and raised her a couple mentions of how she’s already gotten shit for Amunet’s insanity, and how most people won’t understand or be cool with it.

Sinclair just watches her for a moment, though not a long moment. “How much of your time and energy are you willing to expend on having to watch her, though?” Sinclair asks, in a voice that is — considering the athletic, predatory female it’s coming from — surprisingly gentle. “I mean, if she doesn’t figure out sooner rather than later that she can’t go charging in alongside the Garou because it’ll get her fucking killed? You’ve got better things to do than make sure she doesn’t go suicidal because she wants something she can’t have. Wants to… be something she won’t ever be.”

A brief pause: “I’m not saying this to get in your face, Sarita,” Sinclair goes on, her voice low. “But I wouldn’t want to see you dragged down and distracted by it.”

[Cold Victory] “For what it’s worth,” Lukas adds, “I suggested some ways your sister could make a difference without actively endangering herself or making herself a liability. She seemed to take to the idea of a bit of human-world recon and espionage.”

It might be noted that he doesn’t actually join the debate Sinclair seems to be setting up. Rather, on that front, Lukas — like Sarita herself so often does — simply watches. And listens.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She listens to Sinclair, head cocked to the side. There isn’t bitterness or anger at the Galliard for speaking her mind about it. She’s being a lot more reasonable than other people have been, and she didn’t get particularly angry at them either. Here, or in the other towns that they’ve been in. She gives the other woman a little understanding nod.

“Believe me, I know what you’re saying. And no, I know you’re not.” A brief pause. “I guess I should clarify. I’m not saying that she’s gonna be sneaking out to come along with us against our will or anything. And yes, it’s insane, and a little bit suicidal. More than a little bit. But I should make this clear. I’m there for her to help her get back up if she falls. I’m not running out after her to stop her every time she goes and does some stupid-ass thing. But she is my sister, and she’s all I have left of my direct blood family. As long as she still has the ability to draw breathe, I’ll be there for her.” Her expression tells the words that she doesn’t say plainly–that the Strider accepts the very real possibility and even probability that she might outlive her sister.

“In truth,” she adds, “Last couple weeks have been…eye openers for her. Can’t say as it’s all been great for her, but it’s changed her perspective a bit. And she’s not as nuts as she sometimes seems. She is realistic about most things, and she did mention your ideas, Lukas.” She nods to him. “I think they’d be great for her.”

[Brutal Revelation] There’s a slight huff at the mention — even the idea — of Amunet sneaking after them. Maybe it’s hubris. Maybe it’s the sheer facts of the matter: an Adren Ahroun, a Fostern Philodox, a Fostern Galliard, a Cliath Ahroun, and a Cliath Ragabash being tailed unwittingly by a Kinfolk. Sure. Right. Like, if that even happened, they wouldn’t just stuff her in someone’s trunk til they could deal with her. It’s not a cruel sound from her mouth, but it’s a dismissive one — as though Sarita’s telling a joke, and Sinclair gets it.

Sneaking out to come along with them. Sure.

The rest of the time, she’s just listening. And it’s a different kind of listening than when she was mentally recording Lukas’s challenge. It’s more involved. She’s… there. She’s not just a scribe. She can see in Sarita’s eyes that awful and — frankly — backwards truth: that Amunet might go out and get herself killed long before the war digs its claws into Sarita and rips out her heart. Which isn’t how it should be. Which isn’t how it will be, for most of them.

In the end, Sinclair gives a nod. “Forgive me,” she says eventually, a bit slowly. “I don’t have any brothers or sisters that aren’t packmates,” she adds with a faint shrug of one shoulder, paired with a small shake of her head. “And I’m not …great with Kinfolk, even my own.”

Especially.

There’s reason enough for that. Sinclair walks into a room and gets one of two reactions from their rageless cousins: they quail or they get their back up, depending on how strong their backbone is. They aren’t comforted by her. She can’t put them at ease. She could burn through every drop of her rage and she would still make people’s neckhairs stand on end, make their brains light up with flashes of primitive fight or flight instinct. Sure, there’s the rare kinfolk who gets a surge oh ooh, sexydangerous, but even they can’t do much more than stare at her before heading for the door. Her parents feel it. Lucille feels it. Jenny and Reuben and everyone else at the BroHo feels it.

I’m not great with Kinfolk is a nice way of putting it. She avoids them; they try not to make eye contact with her. It works out.

“She’s your sister,” Sinclair finishes, with a second shrug, as though, that’s it. That’s all that needs to be said, in the end.

[Cold Victory] “What happened to the rest of your blood kin?” Lukas asks, turning his head to keep the females in sight as the vague motion of the poolwater turns his float slowly about. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She nods a little bit to Sinclair. Oddly, despite the Strider’s filial ties to her sister, she knows what it’s like to be an only child too, and there is a bit of that understanding in her eyes. It’s almost redundant to be of two worlds that way when they are of two worlds by their very nature. Perhaps that made it easier for Sarita to adapt to her new situation. She probably couldn’t tell you herself.

“She is,” she says in response, and that is all.

When Lukas asks about the rest of her family, Sarita looks that way and shakes her head with a smile. “Not at all.” A little shrug. “My father was the Trueborn, Amy and my blood link. He had a family with Amy and her mother, and my mother was a one-night stand. My mother didn’t know what Esteban was or what I was, and I didnt’ until my First Change.” She pauses a moment. The hesitation is brief, but it is there, before she continues.

“My mother died in a drug-related shooting. That’s when Esteban found me, gave me the basics and sent me off to the nearby Sept. Didn’t see any of my family again until Amy. Her mother died of cancer, and Esteban died soon after in a Spiral raid on their Sept.” She shrugs. There’s no bitterness in her voice toward her father, just less of an attachment than to her departed mother. “Amy found me not long after that.”

[Brutal Revelation] Some of who and what Sarita is, and how Amunet plays into that, unfolds as she tells them what happened to her father, her mother. It comes across, too, in the things that aren’t said, the thing that aren’t expounded upon —

he had a family

basics

sent me off

— and in those flickers of hesitation. Sinclair, perhaps not surprisingly, is a good listener. She tips her head to the side. “Found you? How? Did she know about you?”

[Cold Victory] In a strange way, Sinclair and Lukas — possibly the two most war-invested wolves in the pack — also have the most mundane upbringings. Sinclair was a cheerleader. Lukas has two parents and an older sister; all they were missing was a white picket fence and a dog. The sort of life Sarita describes — drug shootings, one night stands — is very far from his experience.

He rolls sideways off the float, though, as Sinclair picks up the thread of conversation. In a few swift, powerful strokes he reaches the edge of the pool and hauls himself out, sheeting water. Like Sinclair, then, he sits on the edge, legs in the water, at right angles to the Galliard. While he listens, he looks at the fresh ink on Sinclair’s forearms, curious.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She gives a little nod, having expected that question. It’s asked a decent amount of the time. “Esteban knew about me from my birth, and his family knew that I existed for years. Amy knew she had a Trueborn sister since birth, and…that honestly has a lot to do with why she’s the way that she is. Living in the shadow of someone who isn’t even a quote-unquote ‘real’ part of your family, I don’t think, is very easy.”

She runs a hand through her hair, leaning back. It’s not a story that pains her, but she is a bit hesitant as she talks about these portions. This isn’t just her story…it’s hers and Amy’s. That’s significant to the Strider. “Anyway, when Esteban died, she found the information he had on me in his things and tracked me down.”

[Brutal Revelation] There is a reason why most of the time Sinclair and Lukas are both in the pool, she’s coaching him. He has raw physical power, raw physical grace and endurance, but Sinclair is the athlete of the Unbroken. In the water or on dry ground, those skills shine. She was a cheerleader. She was a swimmer. She was a runner. When she got older she surfed, she played volleyball. Last year she learned how to snowboard.

Drug shootings and one night stands aren’t so far from her experience, though. Not because of how she grew up, because of any experience from her life before her Change, but there is this stretch of time between earning the name Warcry and that fateful trip to Las Vegas that ended up with her coming to Chicago where things were very, very different.

Though their roles play a part, too. Lukas is a warmaster, a leader. Sinclair is a the memory of the pack, the voice of history. Sometimes she advises but that’s really Kate’s forte. Sinclair has the strange but sometimes vital ability to sit back, and listen, and absorb

and neither judge, nor act, nor attempt to alter. It is what it is. She hears hints of things in Sarita’s telling of her life, but right now, she doesn’t chase any of them down, scratch them out of the earth. One challenge to Sarita tonight seems to be enough.

She does look at her brother when he hauls himself out of the water, and notices him peering at her forearms. Without interrupting Sarita, she takes her hands off the rim of the pool and turns her arms towards Lukas so he can read the script inscribed into the skin there. Her eyes, then, turn back to the Strider.

Hearing what she does, a faint frown creases her brow, then smooths…willfully. One gets the impression if she let herself she’d just keep frowning until her face stuck that way. Since Lukas has had enough time to read her arms, Sinclair lowers them again, folding her hands on her knees. “You know…”

And hesitation. A beat of it, as she considers her words. It may seem to come out of nowhere — Sinclair seems okay with that. “Sarita, when it’s just us — the pack, I mean, now and particularly if you decide to join us for realsies — you can say whatever you have to say.” She pauses again. “You can trust our discretion. And if we fail you in that way, it’s your right to call us out on it, especially given your moon.”

Sinclair wrinkles her nose, then relaxes her expression again. “Okay, the blunt way of putting that is: if you feel weird about talking about your sister to us ‘behind her back’ or because it might be her private stuff, we all totally get that — just stick around and you’ll see how much Lukas talks about his mate, for example, which is like not at all and don’t think none of us have noticed he’s got a wedding ring now but were we invited, noooo of course not — but, yeah. My point is that what you say among pack isn’t going to come back to bite you in the ass later, even if you choose to leave the pack. I’ve had that happen. I wouldn’t do it to anyone else, and I’d yell at Lukas or Kate or Asha if they tried to do it, too. But they wouldn’t. Cuz they’re them. Y’know?”

She slips into the water. Finally.

[Derek Anderson] He entered the building and after introducing himself in the lobby, he rode the elevator up and once at the penthouse, he was greeted by a severe looking womannamed Lucille. He grinned at her slightly. Despite being almost 6’4″and being quite fit, the woman was almost intimidating to him

Lucky for him, he made a good impression enough, having stopped by his place to get changed after coming home from the theater. He was dressed in a nice purpple shirt, dark pants and shoes and had put on a long, warm jacket. He was led inside, toward one of the bench, then left.

Of course he heard those present and recognize the woman beside the pool and even those two inside the pool. He odesn’t get closer though, keeping out of conversation distance so he wouldn’t be unintetionally spying on them

[Cold Victory] Lukas isn’t terribly subtle about looking at the script. He leans over when Sinclair turns her arms to show him, reading the dark ink on her winter-pale skin. Somewhere in the middle of that she slips in the mention about his newish wedding band — that dark strip of black tungsten and gold that encircles the fourth finger of his left hand now — and his eyes flick up. He laughs quietly, a little abashed, a little pleased, but then the conversation moves on and his eyes go to Sarita.

“What she said,” he says. There’s a reason the gibbous moon chose Sinclair: it’s rare that she ever makes a statement Lukas feels compelled to add to or correct. “I’d add more, but that about covers it. I’m not going to run around airing a packmate’s laundry. Or a proto-packmate’s. Or whatever. No more than you would, I think.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She actually flushes at that. Clearly, she hadn’t even considered it that way, but as Sinclair says it, the words make complete sense and it makes the Ragabash wonder why the hell she didn’t already have that in mind.

“You’re right…my bad.” She sighs. “Too much time on the road. Two back-to-back against the world and all that happy Custer’s Last Stand-style horse shi-ite. Kinda got used to holding each other’s secrets safe from everyone else.” She smiles and taps her temple.

“Keeping it in mind.”

[Saschenka Neal] It was probably wrong to dead meeting the Elder of your own Tribe. Be nervous, of course, but dread? Sasha had never thought she’d have that feeling when meeting one of her own. Still, that was exactly what was pooling in her stomach and it had taken most of the taxi can ride over to convince herself to actually go, and not turn around as soon as she hit the doors.

Her clothes are much better then her usual working nights, nice sweater, nice jeans tucked into nice boots and her hair spilling over her shoulders. She’s even got a good fall coat on,as she comes through the door. There is a murmur, and a polite nod to Lucille, as well as a quiet thank you as she’s lead to where she needs to go and where she’s told to stay.

What she doesn’t expect is more voices, or even to see a familiar face- Detective Anderson. Her stomach clenches even tighter and it takes a second or two for her face to smooth out and for Sasha to force the tension out of her body. She even managers a smile to the man. “Detective Anderson. Thank you again, for your help.”

[Cold Victory] For a moment the Shadow Lord’s head turns; he looks through the glass doors at the passing figure. Turns back, though, when Sarita speaks.

“Don’t,” he says as she apologizes. “It’s nothing to ‘my bad’ about. You didn’t do anything wrong, Sarita. Like you said, it’s been the two of you back-to-back against the world for a long time now. I think Sinclair’s just saying — it doesn’t have to be like that anymore. Not if you’re with us.”

He pushes up on the palms of his hand, then, drawing his legs out of the water and under him. Standing, suddenly tall, he pads wet-footed over to the lounge chairs and draws his swim robe up, shrugging into it as he heads for the pool room’s door.

“Be right back,” he says. “Going to see who the pureblooded new faces are.”

[Brutal Revelation] In the water now, Sinclair moves, well… less like a wolf and more like a fish.

No, not like a fish. Like a shark. Even in the pool she’s more predator than prey, more beast than girl. The shocking red of her racing suit makes her look that much more vicious. She’s not swimming though, she’s treading water and enjoying the feel of it, still part of the conversation and still close to the edge of the pool.

“And I commend you for it,” she tells Sarita, of keeping secrets for her sister. “Just… y’know. You can trust us, is I guess what I’m saying.” She shrugs, and water sluices off of the names along her bicep, the metal through the other. Then she’s underwater a moment, coming up with her long hair drenched and close to the scalp.

She comes up and sees Derek through the glass walls. That crease appears in her brow once more, much like it did earlier as Sarita was talking. Then there’s Sashenka, and she nods as Lukas hauls himself up to go see who the new shiny shiny Fangs are.

Sinclair turns back to Sarita. “Come on. You should go get one of my suits. Jump in. Paddle around. I swear not to dunk you. I can’t speak for Lukas. He tends to jones pretty hard on that Big Brother vibe and would probably noogie you.”

[Derek Anderson] He offer her a warm smile “Good evening Sasha, didn’t think I”d bump into you tonight”He say, plased to see her. They had bumped into each other a few times and the meetings always ended well. HE liked his fellow, she was nice, smart and funny, though sometime unwillingly.

He looked back at the pool, watching Sarita for a moment then caught Sinclair looking in his and Sasha’s direction. He grin slightly and looked away. Something crossed his mind and he looked up fora moment before looknig again at Sasha with a smile.

[Derek Anderson] (*his fellow kin..)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She looks up, following Lukas’s gaze, and sees Sasha and Derek. She grins a little, head cocking to the side. “Hey, I know both of them.” Then the thought occurs to her. How the hell do I meet all the Fang kin first? The thought gives her one of those Cheshire-style grins, for no reason that she can even discern. Sometimes the Strider just finds shit funny. You don’t earn the deed name “Echoes of Laughter” if it wasn’t the case.

She looks over at Sinclair and finally gives in. “Okay, okay.” It’s a good-natured and willing surrender. She shrugs out of her duster, settling it against the back of the chair. “Show or tell me the way.”

[Katherine Bellamonte] There is no way to avoid the truth.

A Philodox, above all other auspices knows this to be quite true and correct and the truth was — Katherine had been avoiding her pack-mates. Specifically Sinclair and Lukas and even more exactly — her Alpha. She had gone to challenge for Adren at her father’s Sept and she had failed. Failure was not a thing easily written into the Bellamonte manuscript. It was most certainly not on Katherine’s.

She did not fail.

Her Uncle had taught her this much from an early age and despite her hatred of the man and his ploys, she did believe in some things still, deep in her core. Her family were not made to be laughing stocks. The Bellamontes who would go down in the history books would never be those that failed in their endeavors. Humility, Honor’s Compass had admitted to Nobility’s Burden, her father’s old Half Moon pack-mate, humility had been something a long time coming to Katherine’s psyche.

But she had it in spades, now. And she did not know how to process it.

So, she spent time, much of her time, with Martin, or at the Caern. Or in the Umbra; wolf-formed and freer than her human skin felt at present. She was a presence still on the totemlink but she was distant, even in person. Her smiles were half-mast; insubstantial and when she arrives at the Loft; entering silently from the garage she does not announce herself. Merely deposits her keys and stands a moment, listening to the activity.

The Loft, as both Kinfolk soon discover upon entry was what had once been a rather impressive warehouse space. It had been re-built on the inside, concrete given away for floor to ceiling window panes in several places and on the first floor an equally impressive enclosed swimming area. Lucille; a compact Hispanic woman with peppered black hair and wise, quick eyes would lead both after coats were taken down a white washed entry hall that opened up into a sitting area.

The floors were polished wood that gleamed, a rich rug thrown across the floor beneath an arrangement of black leather sofas to greet any exiting or entering from various doors. In a far corner; a staircase made of steel and stone wound upwards to a second level and somewhere, masked by the dominating pool room, there was a kitchen and master bedroom.

Lucille, noting her Mistress, gestures curtly at the Kinfolk to arrange themselves as they saw fit and rushed to take the pretty blond’s coat. Katherine turned her face, and her maid murmured something lowly in her ear. There was a nod, and Katherine came forward; her pale eyes intent on at least one new face.

“Good evening, welcome to my home. I am Katherine Bellamonte.” Derek received a brief cant of her head before the Half Moon’s attention returned to Sashenka. “You must be my newest arrival.”

[Saschenka Neal] “I didn’t expect to see others tonight either.” She admits, following his gaze and recognizing at least one in the pool. Seeing Sarita is both comforting, and bring more dread about the embarrassment that’s soon to follow. She stands at a parade rest, fingers gripping her wrist perhaps a touch to tight… especially with Lukas coming over.

They only tighten further when Katherine walks in; a kin can’t see breeding, but she -can- see the way the woman holds herself. This was a Trueborn Silver Fang, well bred, true and true. And she was looking at Sasha.

“Yes ma’am,” she answers politely and respectfully, bowing her head slightly in deference. “It’s an honor to meet you, thank you for allowing me into your home.”

She’s one who’s grown up around Garou, that’s obvious.

[Brutal Revelation] Sinclair grins at Sarita. “Upstairs. It’s the second room on your left past the pool table. Top drawer of the dresser. You should be able to find something that fits, we’re about the same size.”

And with that she tilts to her back and sweeps her arms, swimming backward a bit. The last she heard from Lucille, Miss Katherine was unavailable. And she’s been waiting. She’s been quiet. God only knows Sinclair has had reason enough for the last couple of months to not reach out overmuch, to not invite anything that might become a long discussion.

But she knows Kate is back in town. She knows Kate is near. She knows Kate as a steady white glow in her mind, a pristine presence only sometimes marred by a darkening of emotion or a blinding flare of megalomania. And she smiles at the glass ceiling of the pool room, smiles at the stars.

[Cold Victory] The creature approaching the glass doors of the pool room sweeps rage ahead of him. Quite tall, broad across the shoulders and thick through the chest, Lukas is possessed of a frame that seems to year by year gain muscle mass and solidity. Once, his ancestors were black beasts in the carpathians, shrouded in the furs of their enemies, as strong as the mountains themselves. He’s descended from the same stock, cut to the same cloth.

His expression is curious, though, rather than threatening. He seems about to sweep the doors open and greet them when he catches sight of his packmate coming from the direction of the garage. It’s the first time he’s seen her since she left for New York, and for her own Adren challenge. They haven’t spoken of it, but every one of the Unbroken knows the outcome of that challenge; knows it in the foreboding silence of their totem, the lack of the storm-god’s presence in their bones.

Lukas looks at Katherine a moment, his eyebrows pulling together and upward a little. She goes to greet her kin, though, and Lukas doesn’t interrupt, instead raising a hand in a silent, courteous greeting through the glass. Derek, he’s met. The woman, he hasn’t; but she’s Kate’s business, regardless.

Turning back, he steps aside as Sarita heads up to get one of Sinclair’s suits. “I’m not going to dunk you,” he says to her on her way out, an aside, “but Sinclair might make you feel like a mudskipper to her swordfish.”

He keeps his robe on, though unsashed. Pulling up one of the loungers at the side of the pool, he nods at Sinclair’s forearms. “What’s up with the new ink?”

[Derek Anderson] He smiled as Sasha found herself the focus of Katherine’s attention. He offered the regal woman an nod and a smile when she noticed him. Having no real business with her tonight, he was quite happy to let both woman talk. His attention drifted toward the pool once and it was hard to say who or what he was looking at.

Of course he didn’t look for too long and when Lukas came closer, his attention was on the man. HE offered a polite smile and nod to the Elder then he brought his eyes back to Katherine and Sasha’s meeting

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She nods to Sinclair with a grateful smile and starts to make her way out of the pool area. When Lukas said he wasn’t going to dunk her, she gave a grin at him. “Hey, all’s fair in love and war. That includes pool wars. Therefore, I make no such promises.” A chuckle, and she gives Sasha and Derek little nods, and a smile to Katherine–not going out of her way to interrupt, just not pretending they aren’t there–as she disappears off to the stairs and up.

[Brutal Revelation] She swims for awhile. Just a little while. To be alone. To be in the water, alone, a sport without cheerleaders and where fans are more of a distraction than a charge. She does just a single lap though, once back and forth down the immense pool, and then she comes to the edge, puts her palms on the concrete, and lifts herself up and out. The motions all slide together, blur into an illusion of a single motion, as though her joints are just levers on a well-oiled machine.

Her arms brace, and then lift. Her knees bend and her legs come up. The balls of her feet press into the concrete and push downward as her legs unfold, as she rises from an eyeblink of a crouch to standing, dripping. Sinclair takes the time to run her palms over herself, skimming excess water away, her hair already tightly yanked back, braided, and coiled at the nape of her neck.

Then she bolts out of the pool room, jumps on Katherine’s back — pool water and all — and hugs the Philodox tightly from behind, burying her face in Kate’s coat, between her shoulderblades.

“Kate Kate Kate Kate Kate,” she says, infinitely pleased. Smiling.

[Katherine Bellamonte] Lukas is noted; but his pack-mate’s eyes linger on him merely a moment, she smiles, but there’s little outward joy to it. Instead, she turns her attention on the two Kinfolk with her and directs both to take up seats on the sofa leather. Lucille is sent for tea, coffee or whatever beverages are requested and their elder; a pretty thing with the regal features and elegant turns of phrase and motion that spoke clearly of her upbringing, and breeding.

“Sit, please.”

She instructs if they have not already, and — Sinclair rushes from the pool room and leaps on her; Katherine staggers a little, and her eyebrows knit, “Hello, Sinclair,” there is fond endurance in the Aristocrat’s voice as she introduces her — and slightly damp, sits and crosses her legs, hands on one knee. Katherine’s slacks were of a fine white material; the lines crisply pressed and the sweater matched with it V necked. She could have as easily fit in at a country club as she could at her home at present.

Even a little wet with pool water, courtesy of her sister.

Sarita passes through at some point during all this and Katherine smiles at her, politely before settling into business. “I will not lie, Ms Neal, your name is one I am familiar with. You have a certain,” The Silver Fang frowns, breathing out slowly, “Reputation among us. I would be remiss not to take that into account upon you setting foot into my governed area. But,” Lucille appeared again, bearing a tray of tea.

“As I said to Derek, I do not care so much for what you do on your own time, as long as you do nothing that discredits your tribe, or my standing as its Elder in the process. Whatever your transgressions were are, as far as I am concerned, firmly in the past. You receive as do any coming under my protection, the benefit of a clean slate.

Where you take this, is entirely up to you.”

[Cold Victory] [delete the last bit of my last post, where lukas addresses sinclair! wires crossed!]

[Brutal Revelation] There are new tattoos on the insides of Sinclair’s forearms. Three words in black going from wrists to elbows, but Kate doesn’t have time to make them out before those arms are flung around her from behind. She squeezes the Silver Fang hard, perhaps tighter than even an absence of three days would warrant, but then

she’s not hugging her like that because Kate was gone for three days. Sinclair was gone for three weeks last summer and it didn’t warrant being clung to like this.

She smacks a kiss on the Philodox’s cheek, lets her go, and once upon a time she held Kate from behind, arms pinned down, and it was a very different sort of embrace, but that was ages ago. She unfolds her arms and, without a second glance at the two Kin being treated to tea and cakes and whatever else, walks back into the pool room. She leaves it cracked for Sarita, but otherwise closes it, as though to give the Fangs some privacy.

Tribe business. Not pack business. There’s a line. Most of the time, there’s a very firm line.

She heads back towards the water, glancing over a Lukas and giving him a small smile. On second thought, she stops, and goes to sit on one of the cushioned loungers near where he is.

[Brutal Revelation] [I’ll probably end up editing my post about SINCLAIR SWIMMING ALONE and all that before I post it in my scene log, too. LOL. *lurnz to reed for futar*]

[Derek Anderson] He offered a warm smile at Sarita when she greeted him and then simply blinked at Sinclair when the woman jumped on Katherine’s back. Weither it was because of how good the Glass Walker looked in a swimsuit or because of her behavior, it could be debated. Both might be a good answer.

He sat as Katherine had offered. He did look at Sasha with some curiosity when Katherine spoke of transgressions, but he would never ask in public. Maybe if they end up at a cafe or dinner alone he will. He could chec her past too, but it would feel..improper.

[Saschenka Neal] A woman, wet, and dressed only a bathing suit, leaping upon a Silver Fang Elder, should pretty much erase all tension in a room. Half sitting when it happened, Sasha gets a little wide eyed at the action, almost… disbelieving that it just happened. Still, the newcomer only makes her skin almost crawl and doubles that flight or fight response that is totally leaning towards flight.

She forces her body to sit though, sitting up straight with her hands pressed into her lap. There is a thinning of her lips at the mention of her… reputation, as the other so delicately puts it, and her head bows ever so slightly. It’s not… embarrassment, not exactly, but maybe a bit of shame. Whatever the emotion, she at least holds it close to her.

Her eyes flick up though, at the but, and there is tightly controlled surprise at the mentioning of a clean slate. Of all the things she expected, that was certainly not it. It takes a moment for her to realize she should respond, and moved beyond stunned.

“… thank you ma’am,” she says quietly, her gaze dropping again. “I understand, completely.”

[Cold Victory] As Sinclair sits down beside him, Lukas leans over, bumping his shoulder against hers. Even through the sleek satiny shell and the thick absorbent liner of his pool robe, she can feel the warmth and solidness of the flesh and bone beneath.

“What’s with the new tattoos?” he asks.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Somewhere halfway up the stairs, Sarita chuckles when she hears Katherine start her address to Sasha. She knows it well already, and she very nearly pauses to listen to it just to see if she can mouth along with it, albeit out of sight. She doesn’t though, and instead finishes her trip upstairs.

Her own clothes get folded up and settled somewhere out of the way after she changes into the swimsuit. She just goes with the first one that she sees, unless there’s a big giant sign that says NO DON’T TAKE THAT SWIMSUIT THAT’S THE WRONG CHOICE. Hey, some people are weird about their swimsuits. Some people juggle geese. Anyway, she’s not partial to a particular style, she just gets dressed, finds and grabs a towel and makes her way back downstairs.

She’s nice enough to tiptoe silently around the periphery of the greeting as much as possible so as not to disturb them. Plenty of time to be disturbing later, right? The door is slipped open and then shut behind her.

[Katherine Bellamonte] “Please be warned,” the Silver Fang goes on without more than a heartbeat between her words and Saschenka’s modestly stunned reply, “that while I am the one who answers for our tribe here in the city, I can not be everywhere all the time, and I cannot control the reactions you may elicit from other, more traditional members.”

She smiles, a brief, shaded look full of sympathy and forbearance on the topic of her tribes-mates.

“But you find no instant quarrel with me, this place, too, my home is a safe place to come if you are ever in trouble or simply need a roof over your head. My pack-mates, if not myself, will always make you welcome in it.”

[Saschenka Neal] “I understand,” she replies, and the very faint smile indicates that she does all too well. She would suppose that being left to fend for yourself was the worst, but… well, people always thought of new ways to cause misery. If being a CST had taught her anything, that was certainly it.

There is a small nod and some of the tension leaves her shoulders. “Yes ma’am. Again… thank you, very much.”

[Derek Anderson] If Sarita didn’t want to disturb him, well walking around in a swimsuit wasn’t the way. His eyes followed her from the moment she appeared till she pass the door and get out of sight. His brain hamster had left the wheel and was face pressed against the glass one of his eyes was, drolling. Only thing that stopped Derek to do the same was his Silver Fang upbringing.

He wasn’t the type to stare at woman or think inapropriate thought, he was usually jsut a nice and charming. He had reacted a little at Sinclair earlier, she was beautiful, but his fascination with that particular Garou was special…it was her whole presence, the danger. While Sarita was a gorgeous woman and she happened to be smart and funny and they aways had fun hanging together

This…this is what he would be thinking about..if only he could think right..but..he can’t

[Derek Anderson] (*think right now…)

[Brutal Revelation] When she’d come back in, Sinclair had initially moved towards the pool. Thinking twice about it, she’d moved to one of the loungers near the one Lukas was taking up. When he looked up and smiled like that, as though he was all happy about something, because she had come back in, she’d sat next to him instead.

Sometimes Sinclair hugs Kate because she wants to hug Kate more than because she thinks Kate needs it. Sometimes Lukas hugs Sinclair or wants her — or any of his packmates — nearby because of what it fulfills for him, how it makes him feel. Sometimes they can feel the fact that she was always an only child in the way she tolerates physical affection more than responds to it. Sometimes they can feel the same damn thing when she leans into a hug, or when she nuzzles despite being in homid, or when she seems so hungry just for someone to not be afraid to touch her that her acceptance of a hand on hers is almost desperate. Starved.

Truth be told, when she sits down next to Lukas instead of across from him, as she’d intended, it’s more for his sake than for her own. It’s as though all night she could sense him wanting to get off the lounger and curl up in a furry pile with his packmates. It’s as though for the past several days Katherine hasn’t been around and Katherine’s been quiet and they haven’t been connected telepathically through Perun. It’s almost as though she knows him, and understands him, and — yes — loves him. That shows in how she decides to sit next to him, and how she smiles sort of patiently but also sort of fondly when he bumps against her like that.

Upstairs, Sarita finds a whole drawer full of swimsuits. Bikinis, racing suits, one-pieces, two-pieces that are slightly more modest than bikinis. Some look more comfortable for lounging, some more comfortable for swimming. Black, red, navy blue, green, purple, brown and pink… Sinclair has swimsuits like some women have shoes.

The room itself isn’t very lived-in, but it’s comfortable. Big comforter on the bed. A purple letter jacket with white sleeves laid on the back of a chair — it’s from Cheer Eclipse, it says, and the arms are covered in patches from years past, awards past, national championships won all those years ago. There’s a door to the bathroom next door, and clean towels everywhere, like it’s a luxury hotel.

And in the pool room, Sinclair is smiling, and it’s fading. She looks at her arms, turning them wrists-up on top of her thighs. “I got them the night after we went and patrolled the park, you know?” Which isn’t much of an explanation. For a Galliard, she stares at them silently, as though not quite sure how to explain, any more than she knows how to stop being like this.

[Cold Victory] Lukas reaches out, his fingers still faintly damp from poolwater when he turns Sinclair’s arms around so he can see the inking again.

“What you can,” he reads, a question, an invitation for explanation, “when you can?”

[Katherine Bellamonte] There’s a faint trilling, and moments later Lucille appears with a phone in hand. “It’s Master Edward,” she announces, in her heavily accented English, and fair brows knitting, the Half Moon rises to her feet.

“Excuse me a minute, make yourselves comfortable, help yourself to tea if you like.”

Taking the phone in hand, Katherine’s expression devolves into tense lines; her brow furrowed, sweet tones sliding into another language altogether; her voice sharp; rising as she pads out of sight into something rather fiercely argumentative. At one point, there is most certainly name calling.

In french.
How quaint.

[BRB, must start dinner!]

[Saschenka Neal] …. she’s not dead yet, or kicked out. Even invited to come back. Definitely better then she thought.

Still, she can’t help but bring up her fingers to pinch the bridge of her nose, letting out something that is almost a shuddering breath as Katherine moves away. She has a headache from being wound so tight, and she’s still about exactly what the woman has all heard, what Derek is going to say, and who all is exactly in the house hearing the conversation. Sarita in a bathing suit isn’t even noted, when the woman comes back down and slips back to the pool.

[Derek Anderson] Hanster finaly get back in wheel and start spinning, brain fonctions returning. He blinks a few tie then notice Katherine was on the phone and Sasha looknig very nervous. Fighting the temptation to loo through the window poolside, he turn his body so he was sitting sideways with Sasha

“How are you handling it?” He ask her with some concern in his voice “You look like you just escaped execution”

He tilt his head, studying the blonde woman’s face, trying to read the thruth from her expression, if she dare answer that se was fine

[Brutal Revelation] She doesn’t jerk away from Lukas’s hands going to her arms. The air is wicking away the moisture on her skin, cooling her to the point of being chilled, but she has no robe for modesty nor warmth. Rage heats her from within. Determination, too. She watches him look over the words, and for a moment something twists inside of her. She closes her eyes, staunching some wound in herself as though to stop the bleeding with her bare hands. There isn’t even a bandage, nothing to cover it with. Just the profound ache of a hole where something else used to be.

Her eyes open slowly, and something in her has changed. She looks exhausted. She looks — frankly put — depressed. Different than she’s been all night. More like she did when she stood in Bellamonte Park and could hardly bear up under the weight of whatever it is she’s carrying.

“Yeah,” she says, barely more than a whisper. It isn’t much of an explanation. Then again, maybe it is: she doesn’t even try to be understood, right now, as though it just takes more out of her than she has to give in the moment.

What she can, when she can. And right now, she can’t.

The pool room door slides open, and shut, and Sinclair looks over at Sarita when the Strider enters. She smiles. It’s less easygoing than before. “Hey,” she says. “Ready to get schooled?”

[Saschenka Neal] Oh, dare it she did.

“I’m fine.” Sasha answered smoothly, dropping her hand back to her lap and forcing herself to lift her head up. “It’s simply… been a long day.”

It’s not as convincing as she wants, especially since she was never a very good liar. Still, she has to save some face somehow in front of her fellow kin. Even if it wasn’t a very good save face.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Now that’s just a cornucopia of swimsuits. Maybe even a smörgåsbord. Actually on further consideration, it probably does his smörgåsbord status. Ultimately, she’d chosen a simple black one-piece. She does know that Derek’s downstairs and she knows he’s kinds sweet on her. She has no intent to torment the poor boy. So that’s what she’s wearing when she slips into the pool area, the towel resting around her shoulders.

She grins at Sinclair. “Oh, I have no doubt I’m gonna get schooled. All the time I spent around the public pool back home was lounging and ogling lifeguard.s” A shrug and she sets the towel aside, then slips into the water.

[Derek Anderson] He had been lucky Sarita had decided to be modest, she might have killed him on the spot. Heh adn’t really thought she would be walking around in a swinsuit tonight. Anyway, his thoguhts come back to the person in front of his, a very nervous and lying Sasha.

“No you’re not”He say, answering Sasha in his deep warm voice “You don’t have to tell me the truth, but don’t pretend either, Well have have moments. It’s obvious why you were nervous and still are. If my guess is correct, breathe slowly, take it easy, you’ll be fine. Katherine won’trouble you if you don’t step over the line. And I doubt youwill” HE say with a smile

“YOu have friends to keep you in line just in case” He say with a friendly grin.

[Cold Victory] The truth is, Lukas doesn’t even know what that means. What you can, when you can. The subject is missing; the sentence is without a center, without an anchor, shiftless, its meaning locked somewhere in Sinclair’s mind, somewhere behind that facade of bravado and brutality she wears so well that it’s taken him this long to even begin to intuit its inherent thinness.

“Sinclair — ” he begins, but then Sarita is back, and the truth is there are tribal matters, and there are pack matters, and then there are matters that are personal, that are so close to the bone that they can barely be brought to light. Lukas lets the subject go as Sinclair makes an attempt at bluster; as Sarita, his newest sister-to-be, slips into the pool.

Well. He almost lets it go — “Let’s talk more later.”

[Saschenka Neal] Snapping at a kin is not a great way to start a clean slate so Sasha does take a deep breath and let it go, looking after at the other. She watches him for a moment before she answers calmly, “… I’m fine, thank you for your concern. And I’m sure people will remind me to keep in line, if I can’t somehow keep myself.”

It’s not very nice, to be irritated with someone who’s only trying to be nice. And, really, especially a Fang kin that’s being nice despite understanding she has a ‘reputation’ amongst the tribe. She also has to remind herself his last line wasn’t an insult, but an honest offer to help if need be.

Sighing, she closes her eyes and says more sincerely, “… thank you. I am fine though.”

The last line was almost a request- drop it, just for now, and he could ask all he wanted later?

[Derek Anderson] He nodded to her “All right Sasha, and i just meant you have me and Neda if you need help, support or anything. You don’t need a big brother or anything to remind you how ot behave. Nor do I. We’re all adults. I jsut want you to know I’m around if you need anything ok?”

He spoke calmly, looking into her eyes. He didn’t ask more details, didn’t push her for a more honest answer. He told her what he wanted to tell her. If she need anything, now or later, she new she could ask. It was her choice to do so or not.

[Saschenka Neal] It was uncomfortable having someone meet her gaze like Derek was and Sasha had to work on not looking away. No one had met her gaze like that in some time.

Smiling ever-so-faintly, she nodded. “All right. Thank you.”

[Derek Anderson] He nodded, breaking contact with her eyes “You’re welcome” He looked at her again, but more in a general way now “How are you settling in?”He ask her, glimpsing toward the pool area, jsut to make sure they don’t get jumped by Sinclair or something. At least, that’s what he tell himself.

He return his attention on Sasha as she answer, trying to look at the person talking to him as often as it’s possible

[Saschenka Neal] ((Night everyone… thank you 🙂 Sasha will leave after saying thank yous and goodbyes when Katherine returns))

[Brutal Revelation] There are a few things that Sarita can tell when she walks into the pool room again: that look in Sinclair’s pale eyes as though she’s just been drained of all energy, as though just talking and smiling and hanging out is significant work. That look Lukas has, that desire — if not outright need — to help her, to fix it, to make whatever is wrong better. The awkwardness of just not understanding, of not even knowing what triggered that rapid switch from Sinclair seeming okay to Sinclair having to work to make herself get up and walk over to the pool’s edge again.

She looks over her shoulder at Lukas when he says his name. There’s a severity to her with her hair back and wet like that, with her suit a racing variety, with her eyes so pale as to be ghostly. There’s not so much a vulnerability as an emptiness wrapped in a razor-wired shell, a glass sphere that could collapse under too much pressure,

but those are illusions.

There’s a look in her eye, though, that he’s seen when she’s come back from frenzy. A wildness and a fear, a holding on to whatever last shreds will help her claw her way back up. It isn’t bluster. It’s survival.

She just looks at him for a moment, then looks over at Sarita. Yes, it’s personal. Yes, it’s profoundly, agonizingly personal. It’s not something she’s talked about to Asha, for one. It’s not something she even spoke to Lukas about for months. But she does say this, at least, turning back to her Alpha. “It’s a reminder. To do what I can, when I can. But you can put whatever verb there that you want. Fight what you can. Give when you can. Speak. Breathe. Get out of bed. Smile. That’s why it just says what it does, and no more.”

As she’s telling him this, she has two fingers stroking down the inside of her left forearm, as though reading it like braille as she tells it to him aloud. “Because no one can ask more than that of me. And I can’t ask myself for any less. I’m not going to fucking slip off into harano because of this, but…” there’s a second or two of a pause, then a breath. “I’m sure as hell not going to try and tell myself every day that sooner or later I’m going to be fine. I’m honestly not sure I’m ever going to be what you’d call ‘over’ this. And waiting to be All Better and hating the fact that I’m not has been killing me.”

Her arms go back to her sides. “I know it’s hard for you seeing me like this, too. But I know talking about it isn’t going to change the fundamental problem. And talking about it isn’t really helping me get through it. Not when I know how badly you just want to… fix it.”

She’s at a loos for a moment after that, then exhales and walks back over to him, bending at the waist and putting her arms around his neck.

[Cold Victory] What is there to say to that?

Lukas doesn’t look particularly relieved. When Sinclair bends to hug him, slide those strong lean arms of hers around his robed shoulders, he’s unresponsive for a moment, frowning even as she’s leaning in. Then his hand comes up to cover her back, warm and large, patting once.

They don’t have the totem right now. He can’t nudge her across that bond and say what he wants to say, but perhaps she’s known him long enough to intuit it from his silence and his touch alone. And what he wants to say is not Okay or Thank you for telling me or I know you can handle it or even I trust you to do what’s right for yourself.

Just: Yes. I hear you. No more; no less.

When she straightens, Lukas’s hand drops away. Sarita’s in the water already. It might be odd for her to witness this, might make her wonder just what the hell was going on, really, with this strong, vicious wolf they call Warcry, and Brutal Revelation; this wolf that, word around the caern has it, is one of the stronger fighters in the Sept, and not without her share of controversy and notoriety. Perhaps Sarita hasn’t been here long enough to realize what an unusual thing it is to see Sinclair so…

well. Vulnerable. Fragile, almost.

“If there’s something I — we — can do,” Lukas says as Sinclair’s heading to the pool, “let me know. Even if it’s just listen. Or be there. Otherwise — well. I’m here.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] The sudden shift in dynamic took her just a second to notice, having been concerned with trying to not make the police officer in the other room uncomfortable. Sarita is a fairly empathic person though, and so as soon as her attention is more focused on the people in the room the about-face in the room’s mood is picked up on. Her brow furrows a little bit and she doesn’t lose a beat. Instead of the more playful tone she’s known for, she inobtrusively slides into the water. The ripples form around her and she takes a deep breath, submerging herself deep within the water of the pool and beginning to move through the water, her form staying close the the floor of the pool.

She’s not a great swimmer–she wasn’t lying about that. But she’s good at holding her breath and while she has nowhere near a great form to her movements, she’s able to move with some vaguely tolerable level of speed. She keeps on the far side of the pool from Sinclair and Lukas, getting used to the water and getting her swimming arms back a bit, motor memory from years before beginning to come back. Staying underwater also allows her packmates-to-be to converse without feeling like they’re leaving her out or being eavesdropped on. More comfortable for all.

[Derek Anderson] He talked with Sasha a little then let the blonde woman with her thoughts. He got up and walked to the window of the pool, leaning slightly sideways against it, watching the pack and future pack members interacting with each other. His eyes weren’t lingering on the women’s body. His initial surprise at seeing those two beauties with less clothes than he was used to, was gone.

No he was just watching them, witnessing a glimpse of Sinclair’s vulnerability? Affection? And Lukas’s almost paternal pat in the back, feeling like he had witnessed something forbiddeen, that could kill him. Well knowing Sinclair..it actually might. So he looked away. He had a few connections in the city, some people he was getting to know better, but no one particularly close, that will come over for dinner or spend their saturday afternoon with.

He smiled slightly, it’ll happen eventually, jsut ont now and seeing those two be so close, made him realized how new he was to the city to be lacking that kind of relatioship with someone.

[Brutal Revelation] She doesn’t let go for awhile. Probably not til after he’s already withdrawn his hand from her back, and then she’s slow to straighten, doesn’t instantly turn and walk away towards the pool. So she’s facing him when he says what he does, and her brows tug together, aching a bit — though for a different reason than before.

“I know that,” she says quietly. “I always know that, Lukas.”

Now moving away, she glimpses Derek peering at them through the glass walls, the crystalline clean doors. He’s looking away, though, turning his gaze from them, but her eyes narrow as she looks at the back of his neck. “Jesus Christ,” she mutters, walking towards the water and seeming to speak more to Sarita now. “You’d think they taught staring all the fucking time at the police academy or something.”

She slips back into the water, kicking off the side of the pool and propelling herself towards Sarita. “I see you found a suit that fits.”

[Katherine Bellamonte] Katherine emerges.

Her cheeks are flushed, and her temper cooling. She hands off the phone to Lucille, who stands ready to receive it with a comforting look in her dark eyes. She had witnessed more than a single argument between Katherine and her sibling. Usually, there was never a clear victor.

“Derek, I’m so sorry to leave you for so long. I take it Ms Neal was seen out?”

She steps toward the Kinsman; her face appearing alongside his, peering through frosted glass at her pack-mates.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She’s just come up for air when Sinclair is heading back for the water. “Huh?” She says it as her hands smooth over her head from eyes to hair, wiping excess water from her face. She blinks and looks over to Derek looking away, the corner of her mouth comes up in a vaguely amused smirk.

“It’s cute, in a ‘never gonna happen’ kind of way,” she says with a shrug to the Galliard. “He doesn’t mean anything by it.” She obviously holds the kinfolk no ill will. Truth told, the attention is something she kind of likes, even she’s not going to pursue it. It reminds her that she’s human as much as she’s other things, and unlike some Garou the humanity is something Sarita has never outgrown.

She smiles when Sinclair mentions the swimsuit. “I did, yeah…thanks. That’s a lot of swimsuits. I’m impressed…”

[Derek Anderson] He looked a Katherine with a smile “It’s ok Katherine, Sasha said she was sorry but she had to go. She appreciated the welcome, she’ll be around I’m sure. As for me, I was just passing by, like you offered me to. I didn’t expect you to have time to spend with me or anything”

He look back at her pack “You should join them, I don’t want to keep you from their company. From what I saw earlier, someone was missing you” He grin slightly as he remembered Sinclair on Kate’s back. It had been funny.

[Brutal Revelation] Sinclair rolls her eyes as she moves onto her side in the water. “It’s annoying, in a ‘going to get his eyes torn out of their sockets’ way,” she says, almsot but not quite echoing Sarita as she cuts throught he water a few feet away. “I swam a lot growing up. And I went to a college that’s walking distance from the ocean, so.”

She shrugs, and looks over at Lukas. “You coming in?”

[Cold Victory] Lukas’s eyes stay on Sinclair’s a moment, frank and piercing. When she finally does turn away to join Sarita in the pool, he looks away as well. Derek’s looking through the pool room doors. Lukas eyes him a moment, then Katherine beside him.

He beckons: a quick, easy jerk of his head in place of some hand motion. Come in, the gesture says — an invitation, or perhaps simply a request.

[Cold Victory] Then, to Sinclair – “Nah, I’m going to chill out here a while.” The smile he offers is a little wan. But only a little.

[Katherine Bellamonte] “Dear me,” she retorts dryly, her arms sliding over her chest as she nudges open the door to the pool room with a narrow hip. “How esteemed you apparently consider my life, Derek to believe I have not even an hour to spend with my family. Come, come on.” She gestures with a turn of her long neck and slips inside the steamier room.

There is a definite tropical edge to the room where her pack-mates linger; some seated around the pool edge, some in the water itself; were it not for their combined Rage, it would be most pleasant in here with its birdsong, twittering and chirping from speaker somewhere, concealed by imported plant life.

The female Fang crosses toward her Alpha, stopping only to slip first one, then another shoe from her feet so they are bare as she reaches him. “Edward says hello,” she notes with a touch of weariness. “Oh, you remember Derek perhaps, Lukas? Kin of mine, a Detective on the force.”

Katherine pulls up a seat; and glances upward at the tall man, abruptly curious. “You must know Izzy Montoya, then? She is also a Detective here in the city. Have your paths crossed, yet?”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] “Ahh.” She nods in comprehension, doing an iffy but serviceable backstroke. “Yeah, not a lot of ocean property in New Mexico, so we only had the public pool, and yeah…repeat previously said sentence about summer lounging and lifeguard ogling.”

She stops moving through the water and looks over to Sinclair. “Where’d you go to college?”

[Derek Anderson] He wasn’t sure he felt entirely comfortable being around some of the msot important Garou in the city, but he couldn’t exactly say no. So it was with a smiel on his face that he moved with Katherine “Well, I jsut know you are a busy perso Katherine” he reply to her as the made their way to Lukas.

He offer a smiel and slightly bow to him “Good evening Lukas, I hope the night finds you well?” He ask the Shadow Lord, looking at him, without direct eye contact, as he always id with true born. It had kept him alive for 24 yrs, so he had no intention of doing otherwise, unless asked to do so.

His attention turned back to Katherine when she asked about Izzy “I have met her, twice. She’s a hard person to get to know, but we left on friendly enough terms the last time. We don’t work in the same precint but I assume we’ll bump into each other again” He kept his attention on Katherine and Lukas, doing a pretty good job not glancing at Sarita and Sinclair.

[Cold Victory] “Of course.”

The last time Lukas and Derek met — albeit briefly — was at a bar where half the Garou population of Chicago seemed to spontaneously congregate. Lukas was fully- and rather well-dressed then. Right now, he’s in square-cut swim trunks and a dark blue swim robe, broad-shouldered and athletic, looking rather like some olympian taking a breather by the side of the pool. His eyes are still the same, though, direct and cutting and pale. So is his handshake, firm and courteous.

“Good to see you again, Derek. You know,” the corner of his mouth tilts up, wry, “if you want to join Sinclair and Sarita in the pool, we could probably find you swim trunks somewhere.”

His eyes go past Derek then, rest on Katherine a moment. “Glad you’re back,” he says to her, quiet and simple.

[Brutal Revelation] “UCSD,” is Sinclair’s simple answer. “Just for about a year, though.”

She lifts herself up out of the water a bit to look over at Kate, smiling at the Fang. Then her attention goes back to Sarita. “Not a lot of Striders in SoCal. I haven’t met many members of your tribe, to tell the truth.”

[Katherine Bellamonte] “Very true,” Katherine says, turning her smiling face toward her Kinsmen.

“You are about the size of my elder brother, give or take,” she says, taking in his form, head to foot and returning with a sure, measuring glance. It cannot be entirely comforting, being eyed so by a creature like Katherine. “I am certain Lucille could track down something if you want to swim.”

A beat; Sinclair smiles out of the water at her, and her sister gives her a little quirk of her eyebrows, a particular gleam that is comforting for how Kate-ish the expression is, even if a certain sensibility lingers about her eyes in the process; tightens just so the edge of her lips.

To Lukas; it is a longer, steadier stare that he receives. Her eyes dip, briefly, to the ring on his finger and there, again, is a brief flicker of some emotion in her pale eyes. “Yes, well,” Katherine laughs her easy, empty Aristocrat’s laugh. “What wonders my father’s Sept held, it was lacking my own pack.

I will go back.” She breathes sharply, and runs fingers over her pant leg, smoothing already smooth material. “I will go back.” She re-affirms, quietly.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] “Ahh, cool.” She nods. “Passed through that area once. Didn’t stop. Looked like a nice campus.” In all honesty if there were a story there, she would tell it. The Ragabash has more than her host of stories filled stories of her (or, more recently, her and Amy) passing through interesting areas or having misadventures. San Diego, however, is not one of those cities.

She is getting her waterlegs back a little bit, and she’s not having to try so hard to keep afloat. “Yeah, I hear that one a lot.” The words are in reference to Sinclair not having met a lot of Striders. “We wander so much, it’s tough to catch a lot of us. Especially since, like most tribes I imagine, we have a fair number who avoid cities. Best chance of running into us is if one of us passes through a sept. Otherwise you’re gonna have to hope to find us in random encounters at rest stops or elsewhere on the road.”

[Derek Anderson] He shook Lukas’s hand firmly, certainly not even trying trying to crush the man’s hand. It was jsut a good handhsake. He wasn’t entirely comfortable having Katherine appraise him, but he didn’t show it. Instead he smile to both elders “It’s fine with me to go into the pool but I certainly won’t get in unless I have their permission”

Not to mention the fact Sinclair might just kill him for finding himself too close to her. Granted they were at Kate’s so she mgiht not do it right away. She could just wait later. So he turned to face the two women in the pool “Would you mind some company?’ He ask, looking at their face, just not staring at them in the eyes. But he didn’t look away, unless he had to move his head slightly to look at one then the other

[Brutal Revelation] “You’re not just passing through though, are you?” Sinclair says, swimming towards the side of the pool now, draping her arms back, elbows resting on the concrete. “I mean, you’re considering joining the pack, so… I figured not, but do you really intend to stay for awhile?”

[Cold Victory] As Derek moves toward the pool, Lukas’s eyebrows flick together faintly. He gets up, swim robe rustling against itself lightly. The pool’s huge, and a quiet conversation at one end is easily out of earshot of the other. When he inclines his head toward the perimeter, inviting Kate for a walk, he may as well be asking her for a private word.

If she falls in beside him, it’s a little while before he says anything. When he does, it’s simply: “Do you remember when I first challenged for Ahroun Elder?”

[Katherine Bellamonte] She does fall in beside him, the sleeves on her sweater pushed up her forearms; a slender wristwatch slipping over the delicate tendons in her wrist joint; her fair hair bound back from her face and neatly coiled with a clip at her nape. She expressions her thought at his question; her shoes left behind so her feet make little noise beside his step.

“I believe that I do, yes.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] “Oh, I’m staying.” She says it with a definite nod. “Listen, my Tribe wanders. And there are some very good and very unfortunate reasons why we wander. But even with that being said…and as much as I love life on the open road….”

She shakes her head. The truth of the matter is evident on her face…its weariness. The Latina may be a mirthful woman, but when she thinks about taking to the road again, there’s a wary dullness to her deep brown eyes. It isn’t an easy life, and it can’t even really be explained to people who haven’t done it, or at least moved consistently. Army brats, Romani…they would understand it perhaps the closest. She doesn’t quite have the words to express all this properly, so she just smiles, and finishes the sentence with:

“…it’s time for me to settle. It may not be home, but it’s somewhere I can believe is so.”

She looks up at Derek when he asks about whether he can join them, and a bit of the amused glimmer hits her eyes again. She gives a shrug, looking over at Sinclair. “What do you think?”

[Cold Victory] “I lost,” Lukas says: ever blunt about the obvious. A few steps later, “It sucked.

“To tell you the truth, even now, I’m not sure I … ‘deserved’ to lose, I guess. What I mean is: I’m not sure I wasn’t the best candidate there, regardless or whatever reason Hatchet passed or failed me on. Maybe that’s my pride speaking, or maybe it’s just the clarity of retrospect, but I cannot genuinely, without false modesty, say that Bones to Dust was a better Ahroun Elder than I would have been. Than I am.

“But here’s the weird thing. If I had won that day, I wouldn’t have been as good an Elder as I was when I won months and months later. It wouldn’t have been driven to be as good as I became, and am still becoming. I would’ve been exactly the sort of Ahroun Elder I showed myself to be that day when I lost — strong, dominant, willing to teach and train, but ultimately … not really seeing the big picture. Not really one to try to weave the Sept into a united force.

“It took losing to teach me about unity. And it took losing to teach me the humility I needed to be a better leader. To really see beyond my pride and my ambition to what really mattered.

“And sometimes I think Hatchet knew that. I think he didn’t fail me because I wasn’t good enough, but because he knew I could be better.”

They’re halfway around the pool now, and Lukas slows, turns to face Katherine. “My point is this,” he says. “I think sometimes we don’t get failed because we’re failures. Sometimes we fail because our elders know we haven’t achieved the potential we could yet. And it’s their painful way of egging us on. So… yeah. I know you’re going to go back. And I know you’ll succeed this time. But I guess what I want to say to you is that sometimes failing is more important than succeeding. And there’s no shame in failing with honor if you learn from it.”

[Katherine Bellamonte] Katherine is quiet as Lukas speaks. She does not interrupt him, or seek to protest anything he tells her because she knows too well the truth to his words, and perhaps has known since her return to the city days ago the reason why Nobility’s Burden denied her a more advanced ranking.

When Lukas stops, turns to address her the Silver Fang mirrors his action without thought; it is liquid smooth; even without their totem the sons and daughters of Perun are well synced. They are so familiar now, especially this pair, who were once bitter rivals and by right of their birth tribes alone should have remained so, that they become reflections of the other. She takes a moment, Katherine and a hand reaches up to brush aside strands of hair in a bewitchingly human fashion.

“I understand why I failed, Lukas. I am not entirely saddened because I did not get to take my little rank badge and toddle home here again the triumphant child.” There’s a brief lift of her shoulder, in surrender, perhaps, to the honesty of her words aloud. “I am saddened mostly because I am not nearly half as ready as I believed I was. Oh, I can judge with the best of my auspice do not get me wrong, and I know the Litany backwards and forwards in two languages.”

Here a brief smile, a shake of her head.

“I can see honor when its there in someone, and I value I am becoming a better judge in many things, my own sanity included but I was so focused on proving something to everyone at that Sept. I was so sure I would march in there as Christopher Bellamonte’s daughter and conquer a new ranking. I was so focused on the outcome, that I did not see half the ways I was failing those I was there to help.”

She nips her lower lip, thoughtful, eyes distant.

“I am sorry that I lost, and in turn that we lost Perun for a time, but I am more sorry that I failed myself.”

[Brutal Revelation] Briefly, her eyes track Katherine and Lukas walking around the edge of the pool. There’s an ache in her gaze, a longing to be included, to be near, to be with them. To not be cut off the way she is right now, because of —

There’s no blame, there. No recrimination. Just loss. Just a sharing in it, a sorrow for Kate, something. She can almost hear Lukas, though. She knows that look in his eyes, the way he’s watching Katherine. For a moment she’s only half-listening to Sarita, dragging her eyes off of her other packmates to look to the Ragabash once more.

Play a good hostess. Make new friends. Get up out of bed. Put one foot in front of the other. Breathe.

Sarita asks what she thinks, though. Sinclair frowns, peers. “Huh?” She didn’t hear Derek, apparently, or was pointedly ignoring him. She glances over at him, shrugs at Sarita as her gaze comes back around. “The hills are alive with the sound of all the fucks I do not give,” she says, and there’s an undercurrent of wrath to it the likes of which Sarita hasn’t yet seen in her and which Derek, to be honest, does not deserve from her. But there it is: something almost like hate, and hearing it in her own voice, she pushes against the edge of the pool and draws herself up out of it once more.

She takes a steadying breath, rising to her feet from a fluid crouch. “I’m sorry, Sarita — it it wasn’t obvious when you came back in, I’m kind of –”

There’s no words. Except the ones on her arm. And the one she said she wasn’t going to give in to, that dark term living in the backs of the minds of any Garou unfortunate enough to descend into wolf-killing depression. Harano. She won’t, she said. But whatever is going on with her, it’s bad enough for that to be a real fear for her, a real enemy to fight against.

She’s sorry she’s so… even if she has no way to finish that sentence.

“I need to go be with them right now,” she says. “And I know that’s rude and you might feel excluded and da-da-da-da-da but I also have a feeling you’re not the butthurt type and you’ll get over it pretty fast, so… you swim, whatever, you know you can crash here and Kate would probably be ever so stoked if you did, but… I’ma go over there now,” she finishes, leveling a finger at Katherine and Lukas. Dropping her hand, she does exactly what she said,

and walks around the perimeter of the pool to her packmates.

[Derek Anderson] He almost grinned at Sarita;s tone when she asked Sinclair then heard the other woman’s hate in her voice. Oh he knew Snclair didn’t particularly like him, in fact, he was sure she disliked him. He never thought she hated him. Well it was fine, she had the right to, even if he wasn’t sure what he did to her, beside the fact that he was kin.

He watched her go then gave Sarita an apologetic look “Sory, I didn’t meant to chase her away. I should leave. I’m not sure I should be around your pack after all” He put his hands in his pockets “Well..it was good seeing you again Sarita. Tell the others I bid them good night”He say with a little smile at her.

It’s not that he had to go, but beside Sarita, they weren’t his friends, in fact they probably could care less about what happened to him..except Katherine, for whom it’d matter if what happened to him reflected badly on her. With a nod to Sarita, he started to head toward the door.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She looks the woman over and there is no measure of being upset in her expression. She completely understands. She doesn’t have packmates, but she has a sister. And of course she knows it’s not the same…but in some ways, it is. She knows, in some fashion, what the Galliard is feeling, and she’s been there. Recently, even.

So no. There is no butthurt. She just looks at Sinclair, and she nods. “Go,” is all she says, and when Sinclair is headed on her way, he looks back to Derek.

“Relax, big guy. You didn’t chase her off.” She watches him, head cocking to the right. “That’s not you. A’ight?”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[SHE. Ugh, stupid missed letters.]]

[Derek Anderson] He look in the drection of the three packmates then look back at Sarita with a small smile “Kinda looked that way though. So, want some company? Seem like you might be alone for a few” He ask her, looking down in her direction. “By the way, how are you doing? You seemed in a better mood than last time we saw each other.”

Well to be honest, the mood she had been when she arrvied for when she left, her mood had been consierably better..even despite what he almost told her. LUckilly, he had kept his mouth shut, even if Sarita knew what he had been about to say

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She grins and shrugs, pushing off from the wall and doing another poor backstroke. “There’s room if you’re interested.” She smiles a bit and shrugs. “And I’m cool. Been a shit ton worse. How ‘about yourself?”

It’s vague, perhaps. She’s not being incredibly open with her sharing at the moment. But she’s not looking especially guarded, either. She just has a natural vagueness about her sometimes. As Lukas and Sinclair have learned tonight, not sharing an enormous amount is just second nature and habit for her.

[Cold Victory] It’s Lukas’s turn to listen, and listen he does: quietly, with hands lacing loosely behind his back. His mouth moves faintly when she speaks of rank like a badge; of herself as a child. He grows serious again as she speaks of her father, that shade always standing in the shadows, a measuring stick made unmatchable by death.

“You shouldn’t be,” Lukas says as she apologizes to him. To the pack. “My tribe and my tribe’s totems don’t tolerate blind failure. But that’s not what happened here. You strove for something; you failed; you understand why you failed and you’re learning from it. There’s nothing to apologize for.”

He reaches out, chucks her gently under the chin. “Chin up,” he quips quietly, and then looks beyond Katherine as Sinclair joins them. “Hey,” he says — smiles.

[Katherine Bellamonte] Katherine is not ignorant of the goings on within her own pack; above and beyond what has been occurring with her own challenge, with Lukas getting married to his mate in the most human, traditional sense, beyond this she has been aware like a flickering candle on her windowsill, threatening to extinguish yet dancing for her all the same as if demanding its light be recognized by her eye; has been Sinclair.

Has been Sinclair’s own anguish; her own struggle.

When she comes to join them; when Katherine is done canting her Alpha a rather lopsided, girlish gleam as he chucks her beneath the chin like a boy and tells her to buck up, to keep her chin held high the Silver Fang turns her eyes on her sister and opens up one side of her body for the other female to come to dock beside. An arm curls around her, and Katherine’s perfume invades her senses.

The essence of Chanel and powder and whatever else Katherine kneads her skin with to keep it smooth and unblemished. “I did see my father’s grave.” She admits, with a great deal of love in her voice; more in fact, than they are accustomed to hearing. “I heard stories of him I had never before.” She tilts her head at Sinclair.

“I shall tell you them, and you will remember him too.”

[Derek Anderson] He smiled to her “Glad to hear you’re doing ok. I’m doing good myself” He was used to her vagueness by now and it was fine. He never really pushed her further. She knew he would listen if she wanted to talk and didn’t need to remind her everytime “I’ll ask Lucille for trunks. I’ll be back in a few minutes”

He headed out to find the woman, asking her about Katherine brother’s swimming trunks. Hr followed the woman and she found him a black and green pair with a towel, then left him so he could change. He did so quickly grabbing the towel and making his way downstairs.

If he looked in shape when he was dressed, well not there was no denying it. His shoulders were big, well defined as were his back, arms, upper body and abs. He wasn’t absurdly cut, but there was no extra fat at all on his body. His torso was shaved and looked smooth but solid, as the rest of him was. The trunks were low, slightly under waist level, making the start of “V” shape at hips level so many women found sexy, apparent. He wasn’t flauting as he walked to the pool, he was jsut walking as he always did, back straight, looking straight ahead, making him look..almost regal..even in swimming trunks.

He smiled to Sarita as he got in the pool “So anything new?

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] “In all honesty?” She shakes her head. “Nothing new with me. I hate to kill my own mystique, but I’m becoming a remarkably boring person.” She gives him a smirk, still backstroking her way around the pool.

“Just smokin’ cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo, as Bruce Willis said.”

[Derek Anderson] He chuckled at her then smiled “Playing solitaire with a deck of 51 too?” He say moving almost effortlessly in the water. He wasn’t the swimmer Sinclair was, not was he a beginner. He didn’t too close to her, just moving around the pool

“And to be honest Sarita..you are a remarkable person…just not boring. I doubt that it’s genetically possible for you to be boring.” HE grin “Not with those wits of yours”

[Brutal Revelation] Sinclair moves into the crook of Katherine’s arm when she comes up alongside her as though this is what she was going to do all along, would have nudged Kate’s elbow out of the way and wriggled her way in even if the taller woman hadn’t made room for her so naturally. And it is: so natural. So much family there, instant and warm.

Katherine is aching from her failure, but she’ll recover, stronger than ever. Sinclair seems… less. Not less intense, not less good at what she does. Less herself, as though bits and pieces are slipping away into the gnawing hunger she’s been carrying around inside for months now. Nothing seems to appease it, nothing seems to heal it over. Not even the comfort that comes so naturally when she leans against Kate quite touches it.

She speaks of telling Sinclair tales of her father, to which Sinclair nods. “The story of your challenge, first,” she says. “The rest, later.” But that’s sort of All Business. It’s her duty and her calling; she’s never deviated from that.

One has to wonder, though. Her pack can’t save her from this. Battle hasn’t saved her from this. Her duty hasn’t saved her from this. Lukas is at the point of being at a loss, nothing to do but ache when she aches, watch her shrink into her misery. Katherine, first of the pack to be told of her heartache, knows just how long Sinclair has already been living with this, and knows just how little progress has been made in the last several months.

Sinclair, still leaning against Kate, reaches over and takes Lukas’s hand.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She blinks at what he says, a brow arching high. “Those ~whats~ of mine?” From the way that she says it, it doesn’t look like she thinks he said “wits.” Close, but no cigar. “Wanna try that again, partner?”

She’s looking mostly severe. But if Doug looks close enough, he can see the hints of a grin at the corners of her lips, and the mischievously amused gleam in her eye.

[Cold Victory] It’s not easy, watching his sister sink so inexorably as this. To stand by and, with all his strength and power, be utterly unable to do something. To fix it. To help it.

One of the more bitter lessons Lukas has had to learn is that sometimes he doesn’t have all the answers. Sometimes he can’t keep his mate from being afraid of him. Sometimes he can’t protect his packmate from all harm. Sometimes he can’t get everyone to just stop being idiots and work together. Sometimes — keeping that flame going, keeping it burning in the chambers of his own heart, is all he can do.

Still: Sinclair takes his hand. And he squeezes her fingers gently.

[Derek Anderson] He blinked and stop swimming, luckiy for him, he was tall enought to be able to touch the bottom of the pool and keep his neck and head out of the water “What? What did I say?” He watched her carefully, even as he notice the amusement she’s trying to hide, he frown, trying to remember what he said that could have almsot anger her.

“I said with those wits of y….” He tilt his head and looked almsot shocked “Awww come on Sarita..you know I’d never stay what it could sound like” He say, watching her “Well, I hope you know.”He shook his head “I was talking about your mind. For real”

He flashed her a mischevious smile then just pushed water at her using both palms, making a pretty big wave that would splash over her.

[Katherine Bellamonte] Katherine leans her cheek against the side of the Glass Walker’s head. She breathes out gently, and Sinclair can feel the other wolf’s breath stir strands of hair. She can feel the warmth of the Silver Fang’s arms banded tight around her shoulders, her hand idly resting on a shoulder.

Brutal Revelation reaches over to take Lukas’ hand; and Katherine, her eyes trained on her Alpha’s face with the intent detail of her auspice; of a sister; but more exactly of a long time friend reaches over and chucks beneath his chin with her fingertips. “Chin up, Wyrmbreaker,” she murmurs quietly, and allows her fingers to stray for a moment over his cheek. Stray to his earlobe and tug at it with an affection born of long standing knowledge.

Of a certain intimacy that makes it at once so hard and so inviting to newcomers to the Unbroken to look upon.

I want that, some think at once as they wonder how can I penetrate that?

[Brutal Revelation] Sinclair is, as before, soaking wet. But Katherine doesn’t pull away now any more than before. No, rather she holds onto the Glass Walker, laying her cheek to that saturated hair. Sinclair doesn’t tuck her knuckle under anyone’s chin but breathes in Katherine’s unique scent, blended together with perfume, powder, with the way her clothes always smell so clean.

They were a very different pack, when she first joined them. She was a very different wolf, and so was Kate, and Lukas, too, though the changes in him are more internal, less obvious to those who don’t know him so deeply.

She and Lukas hold hands. Katherine tug Lukas’s ear. And after a moment, Sinclair wriggles away from both of them and flaps her hands, going “YeaaaEEECH. Any more gooey-sweet and I’m going to turn into a kindergarten teacher, mother of god.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She cackles when he figures it out, sounding a little disappointed. “Aww, no fun. I was hoping to carry that on for a good solid minute, at least. She grins and winks at him. “In all seriousness, thanks. I appreciate it.”

Over on top of her duster, the Strider’s cell phone goes off. More specifically, the phone plays Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok.” She sighs and swims to the edge and pulls herself out, walking over. By the time she gets there it’s chirping a voicemail message. She checks it, listening.

[Cold Victory] At that, Lukas bursts into laughter. And then, so quickly that poor Kate doesn’t have a chance to react: he seizes her around the waist and tosses her poolward.

Cannonball!

[Derek Anderson] He smiled at Sarita’s deception and her thanks. “Well you know me..I”m sharp..once in a while and you’re welcome” He watch her move ot her duster and let her listen to the voice message.

He was swiming around when Lukas literally threw Kate in the direction of the pool…he quickly swam away to clear the spot where Katherine will land.

[Katherine Bellamonte] There’s a shriek, and a very loud splashing before a scowling, sodden Half Moon appears from the depths of the water; narrow-eyed.

“Destruction, Shadow Lord.” She spits; and lobs one of her discarded sandals at his head.

[Brutal Revelation] Sinclair is good at many things. And breaking an otherwise unbreakable moment — ignore the pun, if you pretend it wasn’t there then it doesn’t matter — is something she’s good at. So she gags on how cute and cuddly and warm and intimate and loving they are, and Lukas immediately responds by throwing Katherine in the pool, and Katherine makes them both very happy by reacting just as they knew she would.

Sinclair is also good at swimming. The pool is deep, and she takes two quick steps to the edge and dives in as though she was once one of those lifeguards Sarita might have ogled — though, of course, with breasts instead of rock-hard abs and a sexy v-line — and for a moment there’s nothing but the rapid blur of red underwater as she darts towards the Silver Fang

grabs her ankles

and dunks Katherine under again. She lets go almost immediately, bobbing to the surface and yelling — as though aware retribution is coming any second: “SARITA! HELP!”

[Cold Victory] And of course, on land, Lukas dodges the sandal with an exaggerated, hands-over-head crouch. “You won’t saddle me so easily with an ignoble death by shoe, foul Fang!”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She’s just setting the phone down when she sees Katherine go FLYING at the pool. There’s a moment where she’s actually confused–did someone attack here and she didn’t notice?–before it sets in. Her eyes widen, a big Cheshire-sized grin on her face. She sees no possible way that this is ending well.

And she loves that fact.

“To the rescue!” She has no idea who she’s rescuing at this point–perhaps she just hasn’t decided–but it doesn’t stop her from taking off in a dead run and jumping in.

[Brutal Revelation] “Jesus, man, careful how you crouch, YOU’RE WEARING TRUNKS. Fuck!” Sinclair yells at him.

[Derek Anderson] And suddenly the pool was filled with playful packmates. He made his way to the edge of the pool and smoothly got out of the water. The man was graceful for his size and was quickly out. HE walked to his towel, letting the the true borns enjoy themselves. He watched them with a smile on his lips. It was quite entertaining.

[Katherine Bellamonte] “I’ll do far–glugag!” The pretty, fair haired Silver Fang is yanked in a highly undignified manner back under the water and erupts back out as Sinclair is yelling for help; launching herself at her sister with the laughter best suited to — well, honestly — the age she looks to be. Twenty-two, beautiful, care-free.

“Down with the Glass Walkers!” She shouts, splashing, dragging Sinclair beneath the water and turning as she falls backwards again. “Come here and say so, usurper!” Thankfully, she is underwater when Lukas so graciously flashes them all. There are some things Katherine would never recover from.

[Cold Victory] So —

the creatures currently splashing about the pool are the Philodox Elder of the Sept, a Fostern Galliard, and one of the more clever Ragabashes to come around for a long while. The creature at the side of the pool, accused of potentially flashing more than he intends with his duck-and-crouch, suddenly gets a gleam in his eye.

Sinclair knows what’s coming by the way he whips his swim robe off. She has enough time, at least, to close her eyes and start hollering uncle before Lukas turns around, drops his swim trunks, and gives the entire pool a hearty full moon.

[Brutal Revelation] Sinclair, knowing what’s coming even without the benefit of totemphone, lets out a shriek and dives underwater again, wriggling away below the surface so Kate can’t get a handle on her. She may still be screaming underwater. There’s no way for her to beg anyone to tell her when it’s over.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She pops out of the water, catching her breath as she laughs. Then she turns around…and is struck by the image she sees. “OH GOD, MY EYES! Sweet Merciless Loki Himself, my poor tormented eyes!!!”

Said eyes are covered dramatically and, still giggling, she desperately turns away.

[Derek Anderson] He was watching the women in the pool and turning his eyes he saw was couldn’t be undone..the Elder mooning them all. He quickly his his eyes with his towel “Sweet mother of god” he say softly. Yup, living around true borns was dangerous…he never knew how much until tonight.

He shook his head and directed his attention at those in the pool.

[Cold Victory] “You so asked for it!” Lukas yells, shaking his — quite frankly — lily white ass at the pool. “You so totally asked for it!” And on that note, the Ahroun pulls his trunks back up, takes a running leap into the pool, and tucks his knees to his chest at the last moment for a genuinely

huge

cannonball splash. Sarita doesn’t get very fall, turning away. Lukas — just like he promised not to — grabs her and dunks her, letting go an instant later to backpaddle out of the way, laughing.

[Katherine Bellamonte] The ruckus goes on for quite some time in this manner — Katherine’s shrieking, Lukas’ lower pitched laughter coupled with Sarita, Sinclair and Derek; watching perhaps before later on, forgetting for a moment what he is in relation to these creatures and leaping into the fray.

While outside, passing by, Lucille peers into the pool room and her lips quirk; she shakes her head and wanders past, basket of laundry under an arm.

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