Hawknell Cool
She'd lost her guardian to some nebulous whatever the fuck reason that she wasn't totally clear on that only kind of served to piss her off, which was great because Asha had really loved Esfir deeply. Like a mother, as stated in thoughts and dialogue several times.

She was angry, and hurt, and normally people could go their own way if they wanted, but not people she'd trusted like that. She didn't like it. She didn't like it. She didn't fucking like it. Maybe it meant that someday Axel and Nika and Oliver and probably Indira would go too and then she'd have no one and just be a rogue like Abraham but maybe he'd leave too because why not.


She sat on the railing of the bridge she'd once fallen from, staring down at the river below. She wasn't drinking. She also wasn't high.

She was throwing some little pebbles she'd collected. Down, waaay waaay down, where only her stupid were ears could pick up the little plink splash against the current's flow.

Abandonment sucked.


The fact that he could officially identify this as a habit bothered him. The fact that it had happened enough for him to know to call it that.

Loss never went over well with him. Even when it was not especially traumatic, Levka could barely tolerate the fact that something he'd once cherished was gone. Even if he'd told her, okay. Even if he'd said goodbye this time. Packed up and gone, back to her mother he had to assume. Not being needed was hard enough, but to find he wasn't wanted enough either was...

Enough to drive him out of his own territory. Didn't like it right now, feeling the absence of a bear he'd made and then become very fond of. Easier to step out of his home and take a walk. That was the habit--the going out and getting lost.

Wasn't even sure where he was, other than the fact that he'd wandered into territory that both full and empty.

At least Flint was better, and now he could come with him. Not completely alone, and with something else to focus on that wasn't just how hurt he was by being dismissed after all he'd done. He walked with the dog on the leash, but it was a companionable walk with slack, no one dragging anyone anywhere.

Until, that was, Flint scented someone on the bridge up ahead and came alert, alerting Levka as well who looked up and saw a small woman on the bridge, sitting. Something... familiar there. Inhuman but more than that.

Walking closer, it would take him several seconds of following his dog toward the stranger to realize she both was and was not that. The woman he'd once known as Nika had been declared dead to him some time ago. But that didn't stop him from recognizing her as the woman better called Asha.

He frowned, debating the encounter. He had not cared for her much when they'd last met. Yet...
Plink. Splash. Woosh. Rush. Breathe. Lament. Wonder. Despair. Neutralize. Deny, deny, deny.

Smell the air.


She closed her eyes briefly. They opened orange. Dogs made the jaguar unhappy, and made Asha nervous. A barking dog had heralded her first murder, after all.

"Careful, Fido, I might turn you into Friskies," she said as she looked towards the smell.

Only to find a person was there. A bear person that she had spent a lot of time furious at.

But how did anyone feel fury when they were feeling loss.
Unknowingly, they were going through similar emotional landscapes.

He felt a pinch of don't you dare when her voice rose in warning to his dog. Flint was at no risk while he was around. And Flint, being Flint, made no noise, simply staring at the woman with round, dark eyes, sniffing the air between them as if he could conjure information from the atmosphere.

Levka tilted his head, curious at the look of her. Though dealing with the emotions of others was not his forte in any sense, he was good with body language. And she was guarded. Unhappy. Sulking alone on a bridge.

"Straight to threats. Always bold, Asha."

His own tone... cautious. He refused to like her as he once had, but right now his own irritations with her seemed tertiary at best.
That she was. Always bold, Asha.

Remember how he tried to kill Cliff at the only were fight night she'd been able to go to. Remember how he'd abused Maxine. Remember how he'd swept up Varya from her. Remember how he'd been a threat to Blair.

All those things, and yet her shoulders were still hunched as she looked back out over the river, a hand coming up to rub at her eye with some angrily itchy sadness.

"Just keep your dog away. Jaguar hates them."
Now it was more a warning. Fair enough.

"Stay," he told the dog, and let the leash filter from his fingers to the ground, confident that as the hound sat, he would remain where he was. Sure enough, there was little indication that the dog had any mind to pursue the woman who had drawn his attention in the first place.

And Levka took the chance to come closer, brows lowered in invasive curiosity.

"Seems a mood, if you are feeling like hating dogs."
She didn't know what that meant really. Russianspeak. She did feel his bubble of power as he came closer, that sense of sameness and difference diametrically opposed like two fists pressed against each other.

"I guess. You here to throw me off the bridge?"

Like he'd come out all this way from his mountain snowfuck to murk her sad ass.
He got close enough to not crowd, but to lean back on the railing of the bridge, looking comfortably at her with his head turned.

"Is that what you want?"

Couldn't really ever figure her out. He'd known her at too many different points in too many different scenarios and under one too many names to get the clear picture of her he would have liked.

Maybe last week he would have been happy to push her off at the mere mention, but he wasn't in any mood for the inevitable backlash of such things.


No. But she'd survived it once. Maybe she'd get out and have to heal again. Maybe if she fell enough times she could emerge the kind of person who didn't lose people.
It wasn't very straightforward, and as such kind of annoyed him. But the resolve to behave stayed steady.


He looked at his dog, sitting mildly, panting lightly. Healed and lighthearted even after his bad fall a few months ago. Dogs were wonderfully not difficult to ever figure out.
God, what the fuck was this. She hated this guy. Why were they having some kind of heart to heart.

"Because I'm losing people again and I didn't even pull some shitty bullshit drama this time and I can't have the people I want and whAT THE FUCK IS THE POINT OF ANYTHING," she ended her little tirade with a furious yell out into the night, lighting the jaguar within her to snarls and spits that only she could hear. She leaned forward some, her hands holding to the rail.

Fall. Just fucking fall and tear this mind from her.
He'd expected some malaise he wouldn't understand. A 'woe is me' story that he'd just want to roll his eyes at or else just shrug off. What he didn't anticipate was what he got--something that resonated.

People left, no matter what you did or didn't do, and it always felt... personal.

His hand moved out several inches, toward her, instinct telling him to get within reaching distance in case she fell. Proof she had gained his attention.

But he didn't know how to say he understood, no verses of empathy on his tongue. So instead he just watched her for a moment, poised to act eyes sharply on her. Thinking.
He said nothing, and she just had her own echoing words in her head.

Everything felt so pointless, all the fucking time. Axel was always in some drama. Esfir was gone. Abraham was too good for her prowl. Oliver never wanted to be around. All she had was Nika and she hated that feeling, that only one person ever wanted to be part of this thing she had wept and clawed together in the ashes of her failure.

Crying in front of Levka had to be the lowest fucking low, but it swept up her in a powerful tidal wave, and her face screwed up and some small shuddering gasp heralded it. She buried her face in her dirty hands, just fucking hurt and unable to fix anything.
Oh boy.

He actually didn't know what to do with crying. The last person who had cried that he could think of was Espy, over her daughter, and he hadn't known what to do then, even with the fact that he cared for that woman. He did not care for this one, but he understood. Didn't necessarily want to cry, himself, but he understood the need to shout, to feel angry, unsettled, and wondering if things ever would ever be what he felt he deserved to have.

He turned around to so he could look out over the river, closer still.

"Who leaves? Everyone?"

Perhaps in a way he was asking her if she still had her prowl.
Wouldn't he like that, she thought darkly. It would be so good, to be Ridgefield's failure again. It was enough to break in the crying, leaning back some.

"Heh- yeah, Levka. Everyone stays away or leaves me eventually, I'm fucking poison."
He scoffed.

"No you are not."

He didn't like her. But at one point he had. Had seen something there.

"But we live among fools."

That was the only explanation he really had. For himself, really, but maybe it was good for her, too.
They weren't fools. They were proof that something was wrong with her, or had once been, and it was unsalvageable and worthless and cloud cove bullshit was a fucking joke. Maybe if she left, they'd all stay under Nika and she wouldn't have to walk on eggshells with everything she did.


Unbelieving, but he'd said it like they were a unit together, so. Whatever. Talk, Levka.
"You have done this twice. This..." He gestured faintly out over the river, not meaning anything to do with the water or her sitting on the edge, but searching for a concept. "Creating a place to be with each other. Most do not do it even one time."

Shook his head, flicked a finger against the bridge railing, heard it make a dull ringing noise.

"Fools leave that kind of dedication."

Varya was a fool. Young and foolish and it had made her cruel to someone who loved her. It would have been easier if he hadn't cared.
Asha rebelled against every word he said, but internally, in that infuriating way she did. She'd failed twice. Fools were the ones who believed in her. And she was the biggest fool of all.

"Why are you being nice to me," she asked, rubbing her face. Stop crying. Stop. Stop. Fuck crying. Just useless. Dry face and just talk.

She was stopping.
Was he being nice to her? He supposed he was not being unkind, which when you had just been kicked in the teeth... felt like a version of nice.

"I am tired. Like you. Perhaps if my friends do not stay, at least the ones who do not like me will." He gave her a shrewd look meant to convey humor.

It was a joke. Ish. It was perhaps too true, now that he thought of it like this.
Oh. She huffed as he called out her feelings about him. At least he knew where he stood with her. But what was it and her hanging out so easily with people she claimed to hate? Why was it so... natural to be around and chat with someone who she fantasized about beheading?

He'd lost people too. She wondered who. Certainly not Espy...?

"Here I am. Who left you?" she asked.
Here she was. And truth be told, in spite of being at odds, she was better an option for him than almost any of the others who had decided he was to be reviled.

Her question killed his attempted humor, and he grumbled on an unspoken who hadn't? He had a laundry list of people who had turned away. But the latest stung most deeply at the moment, fresh and frustrating. He'd thought she'd been his turning point, after all. But maybe there were no turning points and he was destined to keep grasping at every scrap for the rest of his life.


Behind him, the dog perked at the familiar name, having sunk to his belly in boredom.
Her gaze went back to the dog briefly. Stay the fuck there, dog.



"Why?" she asked, stupidly.
His shoulders lifted in a noncommittal shrug.

"To go back to her mother. Reasons for this... I could not tell you. I had thought she would stay forever."

It made him feel sulky, to say it, to think it, to try and reason around it. It felt like Lee again, he'd decided. Someone he'd really trusted just... gone away, one day. To leave him to wonder if he'd done something wrong. And if he had, why had they not said so? Why had Varya not told him what she needed in order to stay?

"Foolish or cruel. Take your pick of it."
Ah. Well. Family.


Might as well be nice and agree.

"She tried to disappear on me after you changed her. All the same excuses, every time one of my employees gets bit by someone else and they tell them not to tell anyone. I would have changed her if she let me."
Both he would take and run with. Foolish and cruel. Thoughtless and selfish. Discarded after she'd claimed he'd saved her life.

He tried to remember if he had known that Varya had known Asha before. He didn't think he had--if she had told him, it had not stuck in his mind. A byproduct of having written Asha off ages ago. "Then she would have left you now also, and only you would be crying and not us both."

The winding way of saying for the best you didn't.

Varya was a very good bear. He regretted the loss of her. Was angry he had not seen it coming.
Snort. "Yeah."

She looked at him. Thought about remarking that he wasn't even crying. Thought about asking why he was here. Thought about doing something outrageous, like kissing him on the cheek or something.

She should have gone to Abraham and talked to him and... all that. But he was part of the hurt that was welled up inside her. It was a thing she smiled at and shrugged away and compartmentalized and told herself she was TOOOTALLYYY OKAY with, but she wasn't.

She just wasn't, and she never would be, and the kindest thing for both of them would be to just.

Die, since she couldn't keep her misery to herself like, ever.

"Would you ever give it up? If people keep leaving."
He was being reminded of why he hadn't hated her, that day in the rain in the gardens, when he had named her Nika and she had told him she had wanted to punch him but hadn't.

They were at odds, always, but had common ground anyway.

Her question made him sigh, the answer to mind immediately, but he gave himself a moment to shift around, to get a toe up and then heft himself up and over the rail--to sit beside her.

"No. Can you think why?"
Then they were different.

Asha had been beaten out of queenship before. Maybe it was time to do it again. She'd made it a year this time; the cycle of loss could continue.

"Power?" she asked, a light shrug of uncertainty.
A worthy enough answer, but not his reasons. Power was good but power was... tiring. He shook his head.

"There will always be at least one worth protecting."

Right now, he had three. It would do, with or without his dear progeny.
At least one worth protecting.

It was some wisdom from the bear king she claimed to hate. She nibbled her lip, unsure it helped her when Nika was there to be good queen and take over anyway.

Indira, but. Indira didn't need her failure.

"Yeah," she decided to answer. Yeah.

"I, uh. I guess I dunno. If I'm the one meant to protect or not."

Kinda seemed like at over half the jaguar population both in and out of the other prowl seemed to politely disagree.
He let his heel knock against the vertical part of the rail. A slight vibration to keep him grounded. The water was far and below.

"You are still learning," he shrugged, dismissive of her doubts. They didn't suit her. He'd seen her be much better than this. "You protect well. I have seen you jump into the middle of two very angry bears."

It was maybe the first time he'd thought back to that moment without feeling the anger he spoke of. He even found it sort of funny, considering where he sat now.
She felt the vibration through her back, and it sent her sitting up straight a moment.

The words were unexpected. Like, genuinely unexpected from him. It made her laugh a little for it. What was even happening.

"My own boyfriend won't even join my prowl because I'm that awful."

Oops, she was being tooo open now. Not his words, not nowadays. But it was the sentiment she couldn't ever let go of. He'd be with her if he really thought she was worth it. She wasn't.

"I dunno. Maybe I'm better off being soldier or something. Just toss myself around into everything until someone... rips my throat out."

She'd ripped someone's throat out here, Levka.
She was very dramatic, wasn't she?

Abraham not being in her prowl was news to him, but it wasn't like he'd kept track or paid attention to any of it. It didn't matter to him, but he supposed that would be a sticking point, wouldn't it? No wonder she acted like she had a bullet in her hip.

It was back to scoffing. "No one will rip your throat out. You are already one of the strongest things in the world, even with all your lost fools and reasons to cry. Wasting that would be your biggest mistake."
See, it was at its core about power. But what if she didn't deserve this power?

Why couldn't she just be self assured and think that people's choice weren't her fault somehow when they didn't align with what she wanted?

That would be too easy.

"I make a lot of those," she commented morosely, not helping the case of anyone here. Be an adult and then go sulk somewhere else maybe.

"Thanks. For. Relating to me."
Wasn't so sure she understood him, the way she chose to answer. Or maybe she was just being stubborn and did not want to see the obvious things. For some people it was easier to hate themselves. He personally much preferred hating others.

Oh well, he would not lose any sleep over her, even if he would not be impressed if he found out she'd abandoned her reign after all this. He'd just thought she was stronger than all this.

"I did not do it on purpose," he told her, his smile sharp but not mocking. "But you are welcome." He did, after all, like to be useful. For him this had been a good self-reminder that his own loss had not changed him. None of them had.

"Which way are you getting off of this rail, then?"
"Down," she answered, making a stupid show of leaning forward after she'd gripped with care to the rail.

Just to be a dick. She missed that. Being a dick, but not a hated one. Just for the shock value.
Considering how things had been, it was easy to believe her in that split moment, and his reaction was more gut than thought. Grabbed at her arm to anchor her against the jump his base cognition saw coming.
What was that. Levka, saving her from breaking herself in two again? Maybe.

She leaned back upright, letting him stay holding her arm if he chose to.

"Gonna drop me yourself?" she asked, not sure if she believed it.
He did choose to, still not quite trusting her...

But why? What did he care if she fell? It wouldn't hurt him.

Would it? His face crinkled as he found himself without good answer for himself, or for her.

"Not today," he grumbled.

She wasn't his friend, but Asha was something of a constant in his life anyway. And he was sick of everything shifting around him all the time.
Subtle threat or subtle bow? The ego in her needed to know which it was.

She was so fucking hurt, and sad, and angry. And here this guy was, this guy who had hurt her friends and who she swore she was gonna crack the skull of at times.

Holding her arm, keeping her from her fake threat of jumping off the bridge.

She reached for her hand to place over his, just sort of... something. A thank you she was too stubborn to say. What was with her and the problematic, she didn't know. Abraham-

God, if she could stop thinking about Abraham for ten minutes and whether he'd approve or disapprove of whatever she was doing in her self-imposed isolation. And yet here she was, a stone's throw from where he lived.

She looked out to the river. Say something. Something healing, which was inevitably something distracting.

Anything. Beyond being weres. But what did she know about Levka the human, besides that he was a big flaming misogynist?


"You remember Sayed? The vampire," she asked. Some memories of texts recalled that he was there.
The gesture was better than a thank you. He relaxed a little, loosened that hold when it became clearer to him that she had either bluffed or else been dissuaded.

The name she floated into the air over the river did not mean enough alone, but with the addition of 'vampire,' the face sprung to mind immediately. He had not met many vampires. Even less had a shared history with himself and... this woman.

His teeth grit a moment, eyes narrowed, but then he let go of the reflex reaction enough to confirm in only a 'mmmmm,' noise.
Mmmmmm. Like some sort of bear. Was Levka more bear than human at this point? Maybe.

"He got tossed out of the alder heights clutch. In case you ever run into him, no one has his back."

This was outdated information, but she didn't know that. Anyway, maybe ashing Sayed finally would make her feel better about losing her very own handpicked guardian.
The information made him laugh, sharp and unkind toward a man he had not seen in some time.

"A wonder that that one is not dead already."

Really, if he could go back and do that encounter again, Sayed would not have lived through that car alarm that had saved him the first time. Exposure be damned.

"Good to mind. And you are not the first to try to point me at a troublesome vampire as of late."

He remembered what Katya had said about here information being 'jaguar intel.' He wondered if it was... this jaguar's intel.
He laughed. She gave some kind of dry smile thing, running a hand through her hair and fluffing out some heat trapped in the thick of it.

"Yeah. Looks like the boner hollow types are coming out to play again."

She said what she said.

Asha twisted around carefully so that she was facing Levka. Who, like, she hated. Right. He'd hurt her friends.

But sometimes a hateship was what felt good. And they shared some common thorns in their sides, it seemed.
Yeah. Which meant she knew, was probably the source. How much did she know then about... Katya?

But it was an unsafe train of thought, especially as he pined for another young woman who had left him, and he cut it off, deciding to not pursue it without prompting. It was practice he'd had over the last few years. Restraint. What a concept.

Asha moved around to resettled herself, and he stayed where he was but looked over at her, aware of his dog still in his periphery. Still and patient like the good hunter he'd once solely been.

"I have no interest to entertain any of them still." Boner Hollow type or not.
"That's convenient. I'll just send them all your way and you can take them out."

The ones she didn't like, anyway.

Anyway. All this wasn't so much a thing that helped her mood as a distraction.

Turning reminded her of the dog, though, and she eyed it with all the wariness of a housecat.

Maybe better if she fucked off out of town for a little while. It would be nice to be missed.

None of her thoughts followed much logical progression. Nothing seemed satisfying; just a buzzing static fury that held no solution and no release.

Time for burial until it inevitably gnawed at her again.
He huffed a dry laugh, and made no protest. Having them sent his way would certainly be easier than hunting them down, as he was expected to do with this Reignhart one.

Maybe he should go rove around there, next. Without his poor dog to get in the way in case he happened to find what he was after. He could not have a repeat of that cursed mansion.

"If you want to do some dirty work yourself... feel free to contact me and stack our odds."

It wasn't an olive branch, but it was definitely a token of some sort. A finality sort of thing as he adjusted his weight to swing back around and put his back to the river and put his feet back on the sidewalk along the bridge. Flint perked up.
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