Matters of a Tribal and of a Deeply Personal Nature (aka: Of Tequlia and Captain America’s Nuts)

[Sinclair] Since that night poolside, Sinclair’s been… well. As quiet as Katherine and Lukas are getting used to her being. As quiet as Sarita might be getting used to. It’s going to be awhile before — even if a solid decision is made on the Strider’s part — they can speak to Perun and ask for her acceptance. When it was Theron who failed a challenge he issued, Sinclair beat him into a bloody pulp. Theron’s challenge was foolhardy. Theron’s challenge was thoughtless.

When Sinclair has seen Katherine around the Loft, she’s been nothing but quietly supportive, without probing. They haven’t had time to sit down and get the story straight. Sinclair wants it while its fresh, honestly, but she’s willing to be patient. In ways she never was last year, she can be patient now.

Right now, she’s upstairs in the rumpus room, cushioned into a bean bag chair, playing MarioKart.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] The Strider…well, to put it succinctly, Sarita’s had a rough day. She woke up this morning, feeling like she had bonded with Amy’s new friends, and she found someone missing. A trip to the Brotherhood had revealed that the missing person wasn’t just missing…she’s gone. That has not sat well with the Ragabash, and she couldn’t stay at the Brotherhood. Too many people there, and even though she’s not a creature of Rage at the level of most, she is still Garou, and it is her moon to boot. She couldn’t deal with all the people, their voices and what she knew they said behind her back about her family. It was just…too much for her.

So she headed to the Loft. She used the key that Kate had provided, and after a brief conversation with Lucille–no more than a “Hello”–she heads up to the room she’d gotten permission for her and Amy to use. For her to use, she corrects herself. Gotta remember that now. She’s got a little bag with her, a bottle of tequila. She heads quietly up the stairs, pausing when she sees Sinclair. She looks tired…very tired. The Walker gets a tiny smile. Now’s a good time, I suppose.

“Hey.” She heads in that direction, nodding to her potential packmate-to-be. “S’up?”

[Sinclair] They’re treating her like pack already. She’s not the first non-packmate to room at the Loft, to be sure — Sinclair herself stays now in what used to be the room of a Silver Fang Ahroun — but it shows in other ways. A certain comfort and honesty. Lukas was told and promptly forgot about another pack that was courting Sarita, or inviting her. Sinclair hasn’t the faintest clue that Sarita was spoken to by at least two other packs before the Unbroken talked to her. Frankly, she could not give less of a fuck. She’d say something like bitch, a promise ring ain’t married or poaching is for elephants and eggs, get over it.

More than likely, though, what she’d really say is it’s Sarita’s choice.

So far, Sarita hasn’t had the chance to see Sinclair truly at her worst. Right now the Galliard seems fine, no more glowing or weakened by the phase of the moon than on most nights. She lolls her head back on the bean bag and looks over at the stairs, pausing her game when she sees who it is. “N’much,” she slurs, shrugging. “Whaaadup wichoo?” she adds, continuing the laziness of speech.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] “Careful, chica.” She chuckles a little, though it’s a bit lacking in its usual mirth. “You may not realize it, but you’re aiming a loaded question there. Fourty-four cal.” She moves over and plops down on the on the floor, watching Sinclair play a little.

“Amy’s taken off for a while. She’s got some shit to take care of elsewhere.” The bottle hasn’t been opened; she was planning on just quietly drinking it in her room. She’s not going to break into it yet. She’s not exactly here for a pity party. “So I’m sorta flying with you guys solo for the foreseeable future.”

[Sinclair] To that, Sinclair just shrugs. She’s paused the game, and doesn’t turn it back on right away when Sarita heads over. She leans over, sniffing at the bag and then glancing at the Ragabash without mentioning what she’s pretty sure she’s smelling even through the glass.

She’s quiet to that at first. “Oh yeah, you seem totally fine with that,” she says with mild sarcasm, unpausing the game and zipping along the Rainbow Road some more.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] “Ha ha.” She looks at Sinclair and smiles, just faintly. “I’m not. But I’m not running down the street screaming or chasing after her, either like I thought I would. That’s something.”

She takes a breath, watching the game and then looking at Sinclair. “I do kinda need to talk with you about something, though, so this is good kismet. Has to do with one of your tribemates, and I figured you’d be as good to talk to as anyone.”

[Sinclair] Her eyebrows flick up, but she doesn’t take her eyes off the screen. You ever played the Rainbow Road? Even Sinclair has to pay attention to what she’s doing lest Yoshi go careening off into space to die a spinning virtual non-death. Can’t have that. She looks like she might say something, but her eyebrows lower and she keeps it to herself.

She wins the race without answering anything else Sarita puts forth — that they need to talk or whatever. When that’s done, though, and Yoshi is puttering along on his victory lap, she turns and the bean bag chair swishes and she meets Sarita’s eyes. “Who?”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] “Leon Davenport. He’s the Beta of Harrier’s Grace.” She takes a breath. “I was figuring on talking with Matthieu about it, but someone else with an opinion on the matter suggested tribe before pack. And frankly, I haven’t gotten involved in a city long enough to trust my judgment of where to go over someone else’s, so…”

She shrugs a bit, as if to say ‘there you have it.’ “It’s a potential disciplinary matter, so if I should talk with Matthieu instead, let me know. Lots of places do things a bit differently.”

[Sinclair] “Oh, I remember him,” Sinclair says, as she hears the name. She doesn’t sound impressed, but nor does she sound instantly venomous. She leans up and crawls over to the game, turning it off and then giving Sarita her full attention — no cartoons chirping away in the background. “Tell me what’s up, and I’ll let you know whose problem it is.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] “Well…here’s the thing.’ She turns to face Sinclair, legs crossing, The bottle is kept away from her for now. “It’s story time. Amy was briefly involved with Leon. Leon was interested, he pursued, she accepted. The reason it was ‘briefly’ is because they were kind of poison together. Amy’s not used to being with one person, so she…well. There was infidelity. They weren’t mated, they were just seeing each other, obviously.”

She frowns, running her hand through her hair. Her face darkens a little. “It ended because when Leon found out, he shifted and hit her. Hard enough to give her a concussion. I came in on the end of it, after Leon was back to normal and stalking away talking about how they were done.”

[Sinclair] For what it’s worth, Sinclair listens to story time like one would hope a Galliard of her rank would. She listens without much expression, without interruption, without noisemaking. She listens without judgement — most of all of Sarita, of course, but there doesn’t seem to be any for Leon or for Amy, either. And after Sarita is done, it’s a little while before she says anything.

Rather than spouting off a called it as far as Leon is concerned, or even focusing on Amy, Sinclair does exactly what she told Sarita she would: she starts working on whose problem this is.

“All questions of whether or not Amy was ‘unfaithful’ or if he even had a right to be pissed or how they communicated about their ‘involvement’ are mortal questions and mostly just drama-whoring questions anyway. Whether your permission was sought before or during or after the hooking up is… well, that’s really up to you to figure out how you want to deal with it now and in the future. The bottom line is that Leon never challenged for your sister. Strictly and lawfully speaking, anything and everything he did with her was at your indulgence. Because — from the sound of things — he probably didn’t even make sure you were cool with him having sex with your kin, you could feasibly rake him over the coals for that, too.

“The fact that he hit her at all needs to be answered for. In my opinion, the fact that he shifted to do so is something he needs to be punished harshly for.” A beat. “Leon is packed, though. He has an Alpha he has to answer to. I don’t know much about Mirror’s Whisper, but he’s a Silver Fang — you could always ask him what he’d do if it was one of his Kin. You have the right to demand discipline for Hostile Takeover’s actions — so go to Matthieu and demand it. And if he refuses you, or if their answer does not satisfy you, then drag them before the Philodox Elder.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She listens quietly. It isn’t often that you’ll catch Sarita without a smile on her face, unless she’s really livid or she’s really upset. Right now, she can’t really be described as either. She’s perhaps a little numb over the fact that her sister is gone, but she’s had her cry early. She’ll get over it, and she’ll move on. Instead, she is simply…observant. Listening to Sinclair for her honest advice, and nodding when she gives it.

“Thanks.” She nods again, as if reaffirming it in her mind. “You pretty much said what I thought. No, he didn’t ask me explicitly beforehand, though I assume that he spoke with Amy, who knew I was okay with them being involved. Semantics, I suppose. I’m not going to go after him for sleeping with her, though. That would be hypocritical of me, since I’ve never had a problem with her being with who she wanted before. It would just be piling on another charge because I was angry about the one.”

If she considers it wrong that Amy’s been around the block a time or two, she doesn’t show it. That’s life in the road, after all. “The other, yeah. I didn’t pursue it right away, this was a couple of weeks ago. I was more concerned about Amy and her physical and emotional well-being than punishing Leon. But someone reminded me I was doing an injustice to the next person he might do it to, so…” She smiles a bit.

“Thanks, chica. I appreciate the advice. All this being settled down in a city shit is something I’m still getting the hang of.”

[Sinclair] Strangely, the first thing Sarita says makes Sinclair smile — albeit with a touch of wryness, not quite bitter but not quite far enough off to rule it out. There’s genuine pleasure in it, though, however dim such things are in the Galliard lately.

She frowns though, wincing a bit, to hear that this all happened a couple of weeks ago. “You’ll want to have a good answer ready for why you didn’t immediately seek justice. Right or wrong, if Leon or Matthieu try to weasel him out of trouble for this, that question will come up. Wanting to take care of Amy the way you did might be great and all, but even I might have told you that it was your job to defend and protect her first, and quickly, as soon as you knew she wasn’t, like… dying or something. So… just be prepared to answer on that if it comes up.”

A beat. “And you’re welcome. And good luck.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She nods when Sinclair says that waiting might come back to bite her in the ass. She knew that was a possibility. She’s been kicking herself, subconsciously, for not doing it ever since it happened. It’s only now someone had brought it to the conscious part of her mind that she recognizes it. “Thanks.”

Business over with, she leans back a bit, resting her hands on the floor. “So ugly shit done with…what’s new with you?”

[Sinclair] “Heh,” is what Sinclair says to that at first. She leans back in the bean bag chair, and is quiet a few moments. It takes her time to decide what she wants to say, if she watns to say it. If she wants to be honest or not. Finally she shakes her head, looking at her hands. “Nothing new. Same old shit as every other day.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Her brow furrows a little bit. She remembers the night, just over a week ago, when she first visited the loft. She doesn’t understand what triggered that change then, and she doesn’t expect to. Not any time soon. If Lukas and Katherine, her legitimate and official packmates, are not at a spot where they can seem to help, then Sarita probably has about a snowball’s chance in the midst of a roaring napalm fire of doing something. The Strider knows this.

That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care.

The look of empathy is in Sarita’s eyes. She’s a bit numb herself right now, but she always pushes by that. Not the first time. When she’s in need, her own thoughts come second. She nods a little bit to Sinclair, smiling just the tiniest bit with a touch of wryness to her lips.

“Yeah. I know those words well.” A beat. “Ain’t always a good thing, though.”

It’s an invitation, if Sinclair wishes to speak. If she doesn’t, there’s no apparently expectation for her to, in Sarita’s tone of voice, her stance, her face.

[Sinclair] The lack of expectation is nice. The lack of question, too. Sinclair doesn’t resent her packmates’ concern, their willingness to offer comfort even when she seems like a bottomless well of need for it, unfillable by any embrace or word of care. She could unload on Sarita, tell her everything, but the truth is, she doesn’t really need to do so. Telling another person that she’s been bleeding to death inside for months now isn’t going to staunch the wound. She doesn’t even know, though one day she will, that it’s not just that it’s deep — it is — but it’s infected.

Across the inside of her left forearm are now inscribed the words: what you can[/i]. Along the inside of her right: [b]when you can. There are rings in her ears and tiny colored beads and a miniscule metal feather and she’s wearing a pair of blue and green girl-boxers that reveal the viper on her right thigh. This close, Sarita might be able to tell that that cuff tattoo on her left ankle, dark blue, is filled with stylized, overlapping palm leaves interspersed with dark stars creating certain constellations as though they’re shining down through the leaves. There are words in that tattoo, weaving through the leavse and stars. She can spot words like corpo entender and mas as almas, but just enough to know: it isn’t Spanish.

Sinclair is not a Corporate Wolf, like Leon. Nor a City Farmer, like Owen. She’s an urban predator, a primitive sort of beast covered in ink and metal and even her own raw, broken-beautiful back piece of scarification, as though the beauty itself had to be a wound cut into her. She is also a Galliard. Some of her stories she wears in and on her own body.

What she does tell Sarita is this: “If you’re seriously considering joining us, and I think you’re right on the verge of calling it a sure thing,” never one to mince words, “then I want you to know a few things about me.” She’s serious. Not apologetic, though. “The night of the solstice, when there was an eclipse, we all lost the wolf. No rage, no shift. I could hear my packmates through Perun’s bond at first, but then even that went away. I have a spirit familiar; I could not find him or call to him. We couldn’t step sideways. There was panic. And then, later on, a spirit that claimed to be a direct servant of Gaia, it called to us. It seemed to be offering us a way back to ourselves as we were before.

“I refused it,” Sinclair says, again without shame. Without even, from the sound of things, regret. “I didn’t know if refusing to go meant I’d lose the wolf forever, but to tell you the truth, a large part of me hoped so.” A pause. “Tell the truth, a lot of it was just about rebellion and anger and resentment and a bunch of stuff I honestly don’t want to try and go over again. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t felt that way could quite get what I was going through that night, why I pushed back the way I did.”

She takes a breath, lets it out in one heavy exhale. “Sarita, I’m working pretty damn hard these days to just not slip into harano. I sleep like the dead on a good day; lately I’m sleeping fourteen, sixteen hours a day sometimes just because I can’t get out of bed. Just because I don’t want to be awake, dealing with life.” Her pale eyes, a different sort of blue than Lukas’s or Kate’s, less piercing, strangely soft for such a hard-seeming creature, flick away and then back to Sarita. “When I am awake, when I do manage to get up and deal with it all, I work my ass off. I do. I do my guard duty, I deal with tribal issues, I work with my pack, I get shit done. But I’m a wreck. And when I stop moving for ten seconds or someone says something or whatever it’ll all just open up again and I feel like, yeah, man, collapsing into a pile of sad seems like a great idea, I’ll just do that.”

Finally Sinclair shrugs. “You should know that. I’m not at my best. I haven’t been at my best for close to a year now. I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I keep walking anyway, but sometimes I just. Can’t.”

[Sinclair] [fuck you, formatting]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She listens quietly, her brow furrowing. The last thing that many people want to do when they’ve been dealing with depression for long periods of time is see looks of concern. It is a reminder for those people that they are something…less than alright, and all it does is make them bitter, or make the pain worse. Possibly both. What Sinclair is describing…that’s worse than depression. It’s entirely conceivable, to Sarita, that a look of empathy, of worry or concern, could be precisely the wrong thing to do.

But Sarita, who is normally very good at hiding her emotions if she needs to, is not in a very good position to do so. And she can’t help but soften the look in her face around the edges, eyes gaining a measure of sorrow as Sinclair describes the emptiness that she’s feeling. Sarita wouldn’t wish a feeling like that on anyone. Not Leon, a man who she’s been tempted to find and rip the jawbone off for use as a door handle to the gates of hell. For a friend and to-be packmate to feel it…she sighs a little, and nods.

“I’m sorry that you’re going through that. And I’m sure you know this, and I may not be able to. But I don’t take anything for granted if I can avoid it, and so if there is anything…all you ever need to do is ask. Whether it’s just hanging out on a rougher day than normal, all the way up to…literally, fuckin’ anything. Including fucking off and leaving you alone, if you need it.” She smiles faintly. “I’ve been told I can be a pain in the ass, sometimes. And if you need someone to be a pain in the ass, too. I’m your PITA.”

She doesn’t have any great, wise philosophical words of wisdom. She’s not a swami or the Buddha or some shit like that. She’s just a street-smart Strider who can drive people nuts with the best of them, and so she offers what she can.

[Sinclair] That’s all there is to it. Maybe what happened the night of the solstice had roots in other nights, other winters. Sinclair doesn’t go into the Whys and What Fors, and Sarita — unlike so many — doesn’t ask. Sinclair focuses on the fact that here, right now, she’s been standing on a cliff staring down at the rocks for awhile and if Sarita wants to join the Unbroken, she’s signing up for that, too. Right alongside Lukas and Katherine and Asha. She’s signing up for some Silver Fang Ahroun named Christian coming back one day, maybe, if he hasn’t died yet. She’s signing up for running with two of the most powerful wolves in the sept in terms of the offices they hold and the duties they’re responsible for.

And, y’know, this: MarioKart and tequila on Wednesday nights with a depressed Galliard and an avoidant housekeeper.

“Thanks, Sarita,” Sinclair says quietly, and the appreciation isn’t overblown but it is deeply genuine. She glances at the paper bag the Strider has, then back up to Sarita’s eyes. “Y’know… I’m pretty good at leaving people alone when they wanna be left alone. So if you wanna go to your room and drink yourself to sleep I’m not gonna stop you. But you could also just hang out in here and drink it and watch me play Marvel vs. Capcom 3, too. Or you could share.” A beat. “I mean, I’m gonna play Marvel vs. Capcom 3 no matter what you do, but I figured I’d let you know you don’t have to go off alone unless you’re really just dying to do so.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She smiles a bit. She knows that she’s not just signing up for nights at dance clubs and playing around the pool. Hell, Sarita’s got her own damage, and they’ll likely see it. Especially with her sister gone, the one thing she thought she had left of some sort of semblance of her old life. Even if Amy isn’t part of her old life, it’s blood and…yeah. That’s how it works inside the jackal-girl’s head.

Regardless, they will see it. She’ll need them as much as they need her. Despite some setbacks in her own life, she’s found people she likes…who like her. It doesn’t make the pain of what she’s going through with Amy any less. It’s less than she thought it would be…now at least…but it’s still there. The fact that it’s less may be because she doesn’t feel quite as alone. as she felt. And she couldn’t be more committed to the idea of being with them.

So she smiles, and she nods. She scoots a little closer to the couch, and she opens the bottle. “You gotta share my cooties if you want any,” she says. “I didn’t bring a glass. And if you can time it just right so that one of your peeps hits Captain America right in the nuts, you officially become my favoritest person of the night. Of the week if it’s Jill Valentine doing it.”

[Sinclair] One of these days Sarita might sit down and talk to Katherine and find out what she went through with her own family. Sinclair’s the Galliard of the pack; she could tell Sarita about the night Kate broke down after sending Gabbie away.

And there’s Lukas, who doesn’t talk about these things much, but who might understand some measure of that line drawn between Old Life and This Life and how blood works into all of that.

Sinclair, who didn’t see her parents for almost half a decade because of what she became. Who lost something perhaps even more profound than blood awhile ago, and for whom no amount of tequila is going to help.

They like her and she likes them and they’re going to see the worst of her. Sarita will be here on nights when the moon wanes and Sinclair does, too, see the way the Alpha and the Philodox of the pack both seem to gather closer to her during those nights, protective even though Sinclair when she’s feeling sick is more dangerous than most of the sept is at their strongest. She might be there some day when Lukas frenzies. She might be there when Katherine’s eyes gleam with madness.

“I won’t have much,” Sinclair says, though not like Sarita’s implying she would. “Apparently alcohol makes sad people sadder. Who knew.” She crawls forward to switch to the Xbox and boot up the game before settling back into her bean bag chair at the base of the couch. “Also: challenge accepted.”

And later, Sinclair will credit her ability to get Captain America kicked in the nuts to whatever magic juice Sarita has in that bag. Because it’s gonna happen. Tequila will help.

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