Beast Mode feelings are fatal


It'd been quite a while since she'd come to Rice Bluff. Possibly... the river. That'd been a bad time. Good in the sense that Dakila had been there for her. Healing, for all it was drastic. Still, it unearthed so many different roots of feeling as she drove through the worn down city. It felt as it always did, claimed, smelling almost tangibly of wolf. As she drove, she thought of the last time she'd seen Dakila in person, sitting on her couch, telling him that she couldn't continue to be with him. It wasn't fair for either of them.

Seeing him again would be weird, for all she was privately excited. Just... there were things there, still. That's what happened when you ended a relationship on good terms. All of those same feelings you had for someone were still there, nothing was broken or severed. She still liked him, still thought he was a good person. Just... there were things in their lives that pulled them in separate directions. Even now, when they seemed to be on similar paths when it came to groups... there were still things that felt like they drove wedges between them. She wouldn't know until she saw him if that was it; they just felt like they did.

Heart heavy and beating, V hopped out of her Juke in the parking lot of the gym, the cat pacing as she pulled in heavy breaths of the smell around them. She knew this smell. Pulling her phone from her bag, she texted Dakila that she'd arrived, and wandered toward the front door.


Dakila had sincerely considered wearing some of the shirts he'd worn more frequently back when they'd been... dating. And it wasn't like that was the only reason he had ever worn them, and he still wore them from time to time now, but it felt a bit loaded. If he associated them with their relationship phase, Vidya certainly would. And he didn't want to do that to her. But then why had he considered it at all at first, with that in mind?

He'd decided against it in the end, erring into casual instead. And by time she was at the door, he was too, swinging it open with a smile that came very easily.

"Hey!" Stepping back to let her in, the main portion of the gym laid out before them, currently very quiet. They really did not have a huge number of patrons, and it was very rare to see more than a couple of people in here at any given time, in spite of the amount of area the equipment inherently required.
It was that weird phenomenon of feeling like the person you hadn't seen in a while looked so much older. In reality, it hadn't even been that long. Still, he seemed different as he opened the door and she looked up into his face, smiling. It would take her a bit to realize why. In the meantime, she greeted him with a waggle of her fingers and a soft, "Hi," As he ushered her in. For all she felt drawn to look him over, she turned her attention to the quiet gym. "This looks great!" She chimed.
He fell to the back as he closed the door and let her step in to look at things. His smile remained.

"Thanks. Me and Max, the manager here, have put a bit of work into it. Feels better than it used to, back when it was just a side business for our former king." A small history of the place, reclaimed and refurbished as something more than just an idle idea made reality.

"Feel free to look around. I can show you the back if you want. Normally pack only, but... you know."

She was trusted and it wasn't like there was anything going on back there right now anyway. Wolves... and their welcome guests might have been a more accurate way of dividing it out.
Vidya listened as she ventured forth into the main floor, eyes scanning the equipment, the flooring, the general vibe. More love and time had gone into it this time, now that it wasn't Alina's side business. Vidya smiled fondly, turning to look to him as he invited her further back, into a space that was meant specifically for the pack. And guests, apparently! "Let's see!" She agreed with a laugh, "I promise not to get jealous," She liked the Prowl's upstairs area, honestly. It was cozy! And a good place for a nap between clients :).
That made him laugh, too. A good moment of distraction from the fact that he just wanted to keep looking at her in the 'are you really here' sort of way that came with breaking off with someone you'd spent great deals of time with for a while. Like he knew her very well, but he'd had to let go of that and that was fine. But looking at her was different than looking at most. Because where did you pick back up, and what did you leave to lay there undisturbed?

"Alright then, this way," and he'd open it up into the back space and let her on through. The kitchen area, complete with fridge, the door leading off to the side for places to rest up (which he'd taken more advantage of himself than he'd expected to), and then main space--couple of couches, a few chairs, a projector. All modern industrial and smelling steeply of wolf and coffee. Liza might not have been in here in recent history, still on 'sabbatical' and all, but that espresso machine still got plenty of love.

"Sort of like an exclusive gym club inside an already exclusive gym. Little silly but it works."
Honestly, this was similar to what she'd expected of it, considering everything else she'd seen thus far. It was a nice, functional space with a clean aesthetic. "Very fancy." She mused playfully, eyebrows waggling as she ventured in. For the moment, she kept her bag on her, not yet sure if she was going to stay for long. Not really sure what she was doing now that she was here! It was sort of hard to look directly at Dakila.

"I don't think I even knew where the pack only room was at the brewery."
That made him chuckle. "Yeah, it wasn't much. It wasn't like this. I think Alina liked to think of her house as a gathering space instead, but sometimes that was a bit harder to swing."

Not long to dwell on the old pack, though, he turned and gestured. "Food, drink? Sit? I don't know what all there is to show you beyond this, but would love to catch up, if you have a bit."

Like she would have come all this way if she didn't.
Not like this. Alina, who had abandoned them all, had preferred her home. Strange, at least to Vidya. Whatever, most things about the former King were strange. The one that was taking the lead in her stead was one she much preferred. He was nervously hospitable, and she laughed some as she nodded, and moved to find a seat. "I do," She confirmed. When he joined her; wherever he sat; she angled herself toward him and inhaled deeply. Exhaling, she questioned, "So, it is you, Max... who else is a part of the Pack now?"
He sat down on the other end of the couch, a comfortable but not significant distance from her. Unable to stop smiling, he let his posture be relaxed and casual. This was much better than trying to catch up over the phone.

"Okay, so. Me, Max--he manages this place for me. My Second, Liza," who was still his Second in spite of recent disaster. "Jane, Natalie. A newer kid, Julian, who I've been working with." All names that wouldn't mean a whole ton to her, but the lack of certain others that he would have mentioned while they'd been together would have likely been telling. Nearly everyone was gone, and the ones who had come back felt like little miracles.

"Might have a new one soon. Don't know if she'll want to join the pack, but that's its whole own mess."
Vidya nodded to the names, unsure if she would remember them. Liza, she committed to, being that she was the Second. So, five in total, with one questionable one. A mess, hm? "Oof, I know too much about messes. Is that what's been hectic for you, then?" She wondered what it was, exactly, but wasn't going to outright ask. Though, with Weres, the most common mess was an accidental turning.
"That's probably the worst of it," he admitted. "Though hardly all of it. I..." He pressed his lips together into a line for a moment, finding he hadn't really had anyone else to express certain things to, so maybe Vidya was a good third party who would understand but not have any stake of her own in it.

"I knew her beforehand. She actually worked with me."
The worst of it, but not all. There was always bound to be a handful of things to juggle, one of the reasons she was grateful she and Frank could equally share the load. But Dakila was on his own here, despite having a Second and other members. They weren't exactly the leaders, were they? Maybe that was why he was willing to open up like he was, and she was more than willing to listen. Some part of her knew she was coming here to do this. Listen to the things he was finding difficult in leadership. It was just part of it, and she was happy to be the one he unloaded some of the weight onto.

This new wolf, it was someone he knew. Someone that worked with him. A cop, then. Eesh. She'd considered time and time again how much effort and strength it would take not to break under the pressure of being a Were in law enforcement. It was clear to V that it was not something just anyone could do. Something she admired in Dakila greatly. In that same stroke, it didn't bode well for this mystery wolf. "Hmm, I'm sure that's been... hard. She didn't know about you, did she?" Why would she ever?
He absolutely did not want to dump on this woman. And not even for the sake of his reputation. He just... it wasn't hers to deal with. But outside of wolves and other cops, she was the one who had probably seen the most of him, and she maybe understood him best of anyone at this point, even after months post-breakup. So it was nice to not have to lay the nuances out there,
Vidya just... got them.

"Not at all. A nasty shock for us both. Complicates things for me at work immediately, and she... well, obviously she can't keep working. Telling her that wasn't pretty."

Hadn't relished it. He wasn't the sort of person to go on a power trip and enjoy it. Even if it had been reassuring to him to know that he did have some sway on the situation and could control bits of it, the fact that that had been necessary hadn't nestled well into his self-perception.
It was incredibly precarious. The cops and supernaturals had a very strange... nuanced relationship that Vidya didn't even fully understand the scope of. That Dakila continued to work in law enforcement while pretending to be human was entirely out of the realm of what Vidya thought she could do. It was dangerous, risky not just in that he could shift on the job, but that if anyone found out, the information could fall into the wrong kind of hands.

Vidya was chewing on her thumb nail without realizing. She pulled it away when she did, folding her hands in her lap, "Yeah, eurgh... It's for the best, but that sounds tense. At least she's not a danger to herself or anyone else. Especially you." She gestured to him. "Is she... I don't know, mad? That you kept it from her."
He didn't notice her nail chewing, too busy rubbing at his own jaw and mouth as he thought and explained.

"Probably. It's... difficult to say. One of mine turned her, a long-time friend she'd had, that had already revealed that he was a werewolf to her. That was a whole mess in itself, but he called me the next morning to let me know while she was still there. She put two and two together and she was absolutely livid. But as soon as they showed up here to talk to me in person, she seemed pretty resigned. We haven't exactly talked about it since."

That didn't mean there weren't tensions, not at all, but what flavor they took, he hadn't figured it out yet.
The story was messy, but she listened with understanding. Understanding for both involved. Not for the one that had revealed himself to her in the first place. That particular thing boggled her mind, but she was not in a place where she could judge, she guessed. It just wasn't her business. Still, yeesh. "Mmm, it does seem like you probably should, at some point. I'm sure she will come to understand why you had to be secretive. It's dangerous... all of it." She said her gaze lingering on him a moment, then dropping to her hands, "I still don't know how you're doing it all while also leading." It... sort of made her feel guilty.
He nodded, fully intending to talk to Oryx at some point. It wasn't really so much his own timeline as hers, because it wasn't his sense of grief. He would not chase her down and make her feel better, but he would be here when she was ready. With Max at the helm he could only hope that would be soon.


"I don't know how I'm doing it, either," he admitted, but it was with a laugh, downplaying the seriousness of how true that was. "But I don't... feel like I know how to quit either of them?"

If he'd been more honest he would have said, quite firmly, that he absolutely could not imagine throwing in the towel with the pack or with the STF. Both needed him so badly.
Those words seemed heavier than they sounded. She could imagine the stress, even if she couldn't fully realize it for herself. It was a lot at once. All while trying to live a normal life and deal with his own personal relationship with his wolf? It was a wonder he had such control on it. She could tell he was stronger since the last time she'd seen him. A true Prince.

"That's hard. It... I know that feeling well. It's hard to try and make a choice about what you should focus on." Hello, they were spiraling quickly toward the topic of their breakup. But, well, it was the closest thing to this situation she could think of. "But it's important that you find time to just... exist." She said, softening and leaning over to brush her finger tips lightly over his forearm. The cat paced curiously, peering at what little she could see of that familiar creamy white fur. "It isn't good to just focus on either the pack or the task force, and nothing else."
Choosing what to focus on was difficult. More and more it felt like the pack, but... he couldn't just quit his job. It was more than just a nine to five that paid the bills, in so many ways. But that meant he was at an impasse with himself, and would continue to be. And it was this sort of unhappy, drawn thought that he was in when he felt the touch at his arm and he looked down to her fingers, almost surprised to see them there.

"Where's the time for anything else?" he said softly, injecting half a laugh in there as if it were a joke, but it just... wasn't?

"Barely even finding time to sleep, some days," he admitted, looking back up at her. Hadn't said that to anyone else but she existed on the fringes of his issues so it didn't make him feel like he was burdening someone who was also relying on him.
Oh, Dakila... she wished there was more she could do for him. She wished she could reach into his chest and rip out the parts that were weighing him down. But there was little she could do from her place on the outskirts of the issues. In the end, she was just his ex. And a friend, she supposed. Someone he felt comfortable talking to. And... even if it hadn't been like that in the beginning, she was now another leader he could take advice from. That was weird to realize. They'd both come so far and changed so much since they met in that dark room.

"Did you know... that there can be two leaders that aren't mated? That's the plan with the Prowl, when I'm strong enough. Me and Frank will both be equals." Maybe that could be the case here? He had a Second, Liza. Was she strong enough, or willing to do it?
He very nearly told her that she was the only thing outside of the pack and work that he even thought of anymore, ever, but the moment passed and it seemed for the best that, right now, he didn't. There was such thing as too honest. It wasn't helpful for either of them if he painted her like that, however technically true it was much of the time. But why else had he met up with her here tonight? If his time was so lacking.

Vidya's next point was much more reasonable than his own mind was being, and he looked at her a steady moment. Mulling.

"My Second just went through a rough time herself. Had to spend a bit convincing her that she was worthy of even being that." And now he felt like he was just bitching, and he didn't like that, especially not about Liza, so. Sighing, he shook his head, "It's a thought, and one I'd like to pursue, but there's not a clear path right now, and I guess that's part of the ongoing problem."
Of course, it couldn't be that easy. Liza was struggling as it was, and asking her to lead along side him didn't seem like a hopeful option. And so, he was wedged deeply into a situation he didn't know how to get out of. And she wasn't sure how much of a hand she could extend to help him out. Biting at the inside of her cheek, she renewed her touch on his arm, something hopefully comforting. "I'm sorry, Dakila. It all sounds like too much to handle alone." She said with a saddened sigh.

And, despite herself, she felt herself wanting to step back into a role that was meant for that. She had plenty support now, what was the point of staying impartial when he needed help, and she cared so much about him still? Ugh... it was all so difficult to traverse.

"Is there anything you think would help?"
Vidya wasn't wrong, it was too much to handle alone, and the fact that she could see it too just put him back on the mental path that something had to give. But he had no idea how or what just yet. Only inklings... and some of them were actually fairly terrifying prospects. Nothing here was obvious or easy.

The touch on his arm was good, and he moved his other hand over to put it on top of hers, finding comfort in it. Wasn't the same as with a wolf or... as if they were still together, but it was still simple, needed human contact from someone who was sympathetic--empathetic, even--who wanted to be here, whatever that meant.

Shook his head, not really a denial to her question, but the slightly faraway look in his eye was him thinking. "Of things available? Not sure. I mean, well, I didn't mean to make this about me at all, but having you here for a minute helps. Feels hard to talk to some of the others without burdening them with things when I'm... trying actively to do the opposite." Because what else was a prince for, if not to make his people feel secure? "Balancing worlds is the worst of it. Work is more and more tedious all the time."
Nothing. Not as far as he knew, anyway. Other than... well, it seemed like she was helping at least a little. Being there for him to vent about it all without burdening the people he was supposed to be leading. There was something to be said about his unwillingness to share the burden with the others in the group, but she got what he meant. Maybe it just wasn't that kind of group dynamic. But she was able to shoulder some of it because she got it, and she knew how to handle things like this.

Her life was all about balancing things. She was pretty happy with the balance she had now, but that couldn't have been said a year ago. That's why she'd let him go. It had all been too much to balance. Now, it was his turn to figure out what he had to let go or change in order to find his footing again. If her being there helped, then she didn't think she could step away again. That wasn't saying she wanted to throw herself right back into what they'd had before; she still was wary of if that was good for either of them; but she didn't want to go back to hardly speaking.

She looked at their hands, taking a moment to thing before pulling in a breath and looking up into his face. There was the urge to move in a kiss him on the cheek, but she stayed where she was. Balance. "I can be here for you, then. Don't worry about burdening me. Its good to have someone to talk to about it, if you feel like it's helping. I want to help."
Immediately he felt like he'd already asked too much of her. This wasn't... wasn't... He didn't need to be coddled, and didn't expect that was what she intended to do, but he still felt a bit like he'd led her here, given her little choice.

But could he really afford to turn her away? Even if all she did was hear him out from time to time, that was more than he had at the moment. Yes, he had Liza, and she was currently privy to a lot of what was going on just by the nature of living in his house, but some of what was in his mind he just... Too much for any one person. Simply put.

Vidya wanted to help and he looked back at her, expression careful. A man still balancing decisions every step of the way. But then he nodded. Dakila already knew that Vidya knew how to create necessary boundaries, and if it got to be too much for her he trusted that she would remove herself. Which was absolutely a good thing.

He'd missed her, but he wouldn't say it. He already felt like he'd been unfair here, leaning on her good heart. "I ever tell you you're a damn good lady, Vidya?"
She laughed at that, cheeks warming as she sat back a bit, hands withdrawing as she cast her eyes away. "I try." She said in false meekness. Eyes back on him, she added, "But give yourself some credit. You're incredible for getting this far." She assured. If he had to, she was sure he'd make it all on his own. Not without a lot of struggle and stress, though. She wasn't interested in letting that happen.
"Everyone's just lucky that I was always bad at doing things only for myself in the first place," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand, not really thinking it was anything special. He couldn't fathom being any other way, after all. Working hard and dedication had been in him since the day he was born.

Crossing his arms lightly over himself now that he was sitting back, he watched her warmly, a little apology there. "Sorry for luring you out here so I could complain, apparently."
It was both a blessing and a curse. She just hoped being able to talk about it would help him a little. The apology was met with a small laugh, her weight shifting as if pulling her face from beneath the surface of some pool that she had hardly any business wading through. "Don't be. I'm glad I could come and see, and talk with you." She said with a nod, then ran her tongue over the back of her teeth in the moment she considered saying it. Ultimately, it came naturally, "I've missed you a lot."
And there, she said what he'd been unwilling to, and he was... actually pretty glad for it. Made it easier for him to accept that she wanted to be here, that he wasn't needlessly unloading onto her, and that she could, and even wanted to, handle it. "I missed you, too," he told her, no hesitation now that it was out there as a sentiment. They'd always been fairly casual, and yet...

More he could have said, thought to say, but he found himself just looking at her for a long moment. Letting himself.
Why did that feel so heavy. It sunk into her, warm in her chest, and she inhaled through a smile. His gaze didn't leave her, and she met it for a moment before ultimately looking away. She wanted... she didn't know. And how she felt, well, she didn't know either. What she had to do, she did know. So she smiled softly, maybe somberly, and nodded after a few moments. "I should get going." She said. "You should try and get some rest. We... should go grab dinner some time soon, though. Maybe you can come see the salon next.
A short meeting, but enough. More than he'd dared to expect. The suggestions that followed spoke... something. But he didn't let himself get too caught up in it. He nodded, standing, offering her a hand up.

"I think that sounds like a plan. And... promise, I'm going home and going to bed not too long from now."

He'd do his best to uphold that promise.
She wanted to stay longer, but... It just was better than she left now. So she took his hand, and let him lead her out. "You better. I'll figure out a way to find out if you didn't." She teased.

At the door, she lingered a moment, looked up to him. Inhale, exhale, and she lifted up to press a brief, platonic enough kiss to his cheek. When she dropped back down, she pressed away a smile, and said "Goodnight, Dakila.", a laugh in her voice as she added, "Stay sane." And if he didn't stop her, she'd let that be her goodbye as she moved to leave. On the way to her car, her cheeks burned.
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