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  1. #211
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    Seeing that Sara and Hirsch were alright, Riff managed to rein himself in long enough to hear what James had to say. Or rather, the important information behind what he had to say. Riff turned to Hirsch and spoke in a low voice, hoping that he wouldn't alarm the girls.

    "Isaac said that there's some guns and silver rounds in the attic? I think now's the time."

    Minor armaments acquired, Riff scooted out the door, passing a pistol to Isaac with the warning that it was loaded. The second pistol he kept for himself, keeping it in his hand, finger resting on the guard, ready to fire if necessary. Emotions were running high - he could smell the fear - and he could sense that they were about to break into a run. Riff took the half second to add to his brief instruction.

    "We're going to get her back. She's going to be okay."

    She had to be. There was nothing else he'd find acceptable - and he knew that Isaac felt the same way...only more.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  2. #212
    Gilda Fishblatt

    Gilda had to force herself not to stare at the door.

    If Isaac just comes here, I can convince him to let me come home...

    Not using her Siren powers. She would never manipulate Isaac that way. But he was a good man. He was kind. He would surely be forgiving...

    But should he? Did she deserve to be forgiven?

    James was right about her, she told herself. Not about Kraus, of course; she had never loved Kraus, only tolerated him out of necessity. Nor had she ever been a Nazi, or believed their filthy, repulsive ideology. No... James was right that she was fundamentally not a good person. That she could never be the person Isaac deserved. That ultimately, this would always be her solution. She would always be a monster from the ocean depths who manipulated men. Gilda had imagined she was past all this, but today had shown her that she had always been a breath away from reverting to form. Isaac really did deserve better...

    A slap stung Gilda's face, and her eyes watered.

    "Pay attention!" Maximilian demanded, grabbing her chin roughly and making her look at him. "Or I'll make you pay attention."

    Gilda had forgotten to watch out for that. Isaac had never hit her. Would never hit her. She had gotten complacent. Plenty of men had - and they still would.

    She smiled at him, "I'm sorry," she said. "I was just thinking about how lucky I am to be here with you."

    This seemed to satisfy him, and he kissed her again... then his hands moved to her shirt buttons. Gilda's heart started to beat wildly.

    "Stop!" she said playfully. "We're still getting to know each other, and it's still afternoon. We have plenty of time for that. It takes a lady time to reveal all her charms to a man."

    Maximilian seemed unimpressed. "You're less fun than I had hoped. We'll have to do something about that." He tightened his hold on the fabric of her shirt and ripped.

    Gilda was torn between terror and self-loathing in equal measures. Why did she keep putting herself in situations like this? She didn't do it on purpose... but after all these years, it had happened again. Was this just... who she was?

    Before either of them had a chance to act, the door behind them burst open. Gilda collapsed in a puddle of relief, clutching her torn shirt around her. Whatever happened - whether Isaac forgave her or not - at least this part was over.


    ***


    Isaac nodded to Riff. "We will," he agreed. "And she'll be alright."

    Clare was going to go with them - that was without question - and on the way, Isaac made phone calls to several other Pack members. They didn't know how many Lycans they'd be dealing with, and it was better to be prepared.

    Tracking Gilda had proven significantly easier than anticipated, thanks to Gilda herself. She had managed to leave a trail of her possessions - a crumpled tissue here, a chapstick there, a button dislodged from her sleeve as a marker on the path - as well as dropping strands of her hair. Gilda seemed to have touched every tree and branch within her reach that she could run her hands across surreptitiously. She clearly knew how to make herself findable to a Lycan, and was doing everything possible to alert them to her location.

    Gilda's trail led to an old barn on what had once been a small farm but had long ago been reclaimed by woodland. Isaac smelled a number of Lycans on site - as well as Gilda. He motioned to a door - and when they were all in place, he forced it open.

    "Let her go!" Isaac demanded.

    "No way!" Maximillian replied. "She's mine now!"

    "Let me go!" the Siren's voice echoed.

    The Lycan did as she commanded - he had no option - and Gilda ran to Isaac's side. She wasn't sure what the future would hold for her... but at least it wouldn't be here, with these men.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  3. #213
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    The trail Gilda had left was nothing short of impressive. They never had to slow down, never had to look for her trail. She mightaswell have put up a set of streetlights leading directly to the old barn with a giant arrow on top of it. The other scents that pooled in the area, however, had his hair standing up on end. He hadn't been in the presence of so many other Lycans in such a long time - and this time it was a whole pack that he was there to end.

    But maybe - just maybe - it didn't have to go that way. He immediately doubted his optimism as Gilda piled through the open door, clutching herself and clearly wanting to be as far away from those people as possible. The anger rose like bile in his throat, but he choked it down. Everyone deserved a chance. If even some of them could turn from the propaganda and move into less racial society, it would be worth it. He kept the pistol in his hand at the ready and cleared his throat.

    "Hey, so we know that you've been following Auguste and her Nazi religion - but she's gone now. You don't have to follow in her footsteps of hate. Stop this persecution now and let's talk about how society can be. How everyone has their role. How we can all be an equal part."

    It wasn't much of a speech, but Riff hadn't really planned on giving one in the first place, so he hoped it would do.

  4. #214
    None of the Lycans who were listening looked very impressed with Riff's speech. It didn't seem to be the delivery of it, though - Riff had done that perfectly adequately. No, they simply didn't want to do what he was offering. They didn't want to change their ways. They had no interest in overcoming their prejudices.

    "I don't think so," Maximillian replied. No one seemed to want to contradict him on the subject. "Auguste wasn't the one who brought us to the cause. She just provided us with the means to act on it. She recruited from people who already wanted to take a stand. And we're going to get rid of the subhumans on this island and take over this Pack..."

    This was followed by a string of invective and slurs directed against Isaac, Keisha, and a number of other members of the Pack who didn't fit their racist ideology.

    "Then I see we are at an impasse," Isaac said calmly. It was clear to him how this was going to turn out - especially given how his frightened wife was now shivering behind him. His teeth were already starting to lengthen, and his eyes to darken.

    Maximillian didn't answer. He growled, launched himself in Isaac's direction, and the fighting began in earnest. When it was over, it was the hometown Pack left standing.

    Isaac was breathing hard and had some cuts and bruises, but was basically unharmed. "Gilda, are you alright?" he asked.

    "I'm okay," Gilda replied. She wasn't, really - but she told herself she should be. Nothing truly bad had happened, had it? Kisses she didn't want. Hands roaming. A torn shirt. It could have been much worse. Much worse things had happened in the past. But even so, it hurt. She had been scared.

    And now the fear was even worse, because she was about to find out if she was going to lose Isaac forever.

    "I'm so sorry," Gilda said, and burst into tears. "I'm so sorry. Please forgive me..."

    "Sweetheart, there's nothing to forgive," Isaac said gently, drawing her into his arms. "You were so brave. You protected our family."

    "You aren't mad at me? You... you don't want me to leave? Even though it's just like what I did before, back in the bad times? I swear I didn't... I let them kiss me, but..."

    "Gilda. It's alright. I'm glad you aren't hurt. But nothing could have happened here that would have made me leave you. Nothing. You're safe now. It's okay. We're okay."

    Gilda nodded, and buried her face in Isaac's shirt until the tears subsided.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 10-04-2020 at 06:46 PM.

  5. #215
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    And just like that, it was over. The gun was empty, there was blood on his hands. He hadn't missed this. He really hadn't missed this. Things in the Underground sometimes got a little rough, but things hadn't gone to this level in a long time. Usually because it might draw too much attention from the humans - not for lack of animosity among groups.

    At least some good things had happened: fewer Nazis and a safe Gilda. He did his best to give them some privacy - nodding to some of the other pack members, they went to check out the rest of property. It wouldn't do let anything fall through the cracks. In the end, there was nothing of interest. Nothing to suggest there might be other Nazi groups, which was his main concern. The place was a burner and they planned to do just that once they got tidied up and asked for the presence of the volunteer fire department. Good think some of their pack were members.

    All this business made him a little anxious to check in with Maria and Sofie, but there was no way he was going to do that in this state. Better to get back to the hotel and clean up. And maybe get a new shirt. He didn't want to intrude on Isaac and Gilda, so he sauntered over to Clare to let her know what he was intending to do and then made some tracks.

    All cleaned up, he felt like a new man, though it had been hard to get his nails spotless. Leaving the motel wearing a shirt that had been dropped off for them, he stopped to survey the building. He felt a deep sense of gratitude for everything that had been done for his family...chased by the feeling that he needed to provide something more permanent for them. Like the house Isaac and Gilda lived in, or that centuries old farmhouse they'd visited earlier that day. Having a house was sturdy...right? He set his chin and determined to pick up an application form from every place between here and the library that would let him take one. Maybe he could type up a resume at the library. Or maybe...

    The werewolf's head was in the clouds of possibility. When he finally arrived at the library, it was to the tune of some folk song with a few pieces of paper under his arm. Anyone who saw him likely would never have guessed the day he'd had - even cleaned up, he still kind of looked like a street performer. Other people's opinions didn't matter too much to him, though. Not when the two people he loved most in the world didn't seem to mind.

  6. #216
    Maria and Sofie

    Maria was finishing up her shift, taking care of the last of the shelving, while Sofie sat in the corner with a picture book. When the door opened and they saw it was Riff, Maria smiled... and Sofie jumped to her feet and ran to him, throwing herself into his arms. Maria's smile broadened, watching her daughter's excited reaction to her boyfriend's return.

    "Hi, Daddy!" Sofie said brightly.

    Maria's heart sank. She knew Riff cared for Sofie. Loved her, even. But that didn't mean he wanted to commit to being her father. It didn't necessarily mean the two of them had the relationship Sofie was imagining. Maria realized it was her own fault. In the infatuated stories she had told her daughter about Riff, she had never thought to communicate that adult relationships didn't always last. That Riff's presence in their lives could be temporary. It had seemed like such an impossible dream that they would ever see him again at all, she had never bothered to try to ground Sofie in reality about what that would look like. Now she saw how serious that oversight had been.

    What if Riff didn't want a daughter? It would seem like they were trying to tie him down. He was used to his independence. Maria had been so careful not to imply they would limit his freedom...

    "I'm sorry," Maria said, and bit her lip. "She doesn't understand. I'll explain it to her better. Just please don't be upset."

  7. #217
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    "There's my little girl!"

    Riff bent down to pick up little Sofie and swing her around. She called him "daddy". His heart soared. Smiling and chuckling, he kissed her temple and held her close. As Maria approached, he stretched out his arm to encircle her into a familial embrace. He was planning on kissing her but what she had to say confused him completely. Blinking, Riff searched her face as though the answer would be written right there in words. Then it hit him.

    "But...I'm not upset. This...this is what I really wanted. You...you both are the people I want to spend my life with. Is that...maybe you don't? I mean, is this what you want too? I guess...I was hoping...maybe you do?"

  8. #218
    Maria and Sofie

    "I do," Maria assured him. "I do, very much. I just... wasn't sure how you were feeling about it. I know you love Sofie. And me. But it's a lot. I've been asking a lot of you. I'm trying not to, but... it's a commitment. Having a daughter. Sticking around. You've had your freedom, and I don't want to take that away from you."

    Maria was very conscious that she and Sofie were changing Riff's lifestyle significantly. It simply couldn't be helped. A family of three - including a small child - couldn't be as mobile as a single man. She just didn't want Riff to regret it. She didn't want him to think they were too much of a strain. She wanted him to stay forever, but asking that seemed like too much. She was relieved that he was volunteering it.

    "I'm glad you're okay with it," Maria finished, a little lamely. "You're the person I want for her dad. And my partner."

    Sofie looked at the two of them like they were crazy. She didn't understand what they were talking about. In her world, everything was fine.

    "I colored a picture. It was ducks," she informed Riff with a seriousness that Maria couldn't help but smile at.

  9. #219
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    Nuzzling the top of her head and kissing her scalp where her hair parted, he whispered. "Life without you was barely enough to tide me over until I had you back in my life again. Maria, there hasn't been a day where I haven't looked forward to us being together again. All three of us. You have never done anything but add to my life. I love you." He pulled his head up and turned to kiss Sofie on the forehead. "And I love you."

    He also loved how kids could see the heart of a matter. There was never a doubt in Sofie's mind that they were a family. So maybe...maybe he needed to do something to help remove that doubt from Maria's mind as well. Maybe he hadn't been vocal enough or...sure enough or something. Or maybe what she needed was a symbol. Riff knew that symbols were important and that traditions had value even now. But how could he ask her to marry him if he didn't even have a job? Or a house for them to live in?

    Big questions. Big questions that needed to be thought about but not right this minute.

    "Ducks? I like ducks too! You know, I hear that they have ducks that live at the park here. How about we go see them tomorrow?"

    It was getting late and his body was telling him it was suppertime. Once again, he was thankful for the welcome Gilda had laid out for them - there was a bounty at the motel room waiting for them. Gilda. He had so much to fill Maria in on after Sofie went to bed...

  10. #220
    Maria and Sofie

    "Yessss! Ducks at the park!" Sofie said enthusiastically.

    "I love you too," Maria told Riff quietly. "Thank you for being here for us. For wanting to stay. It's a dream come true."

    This truly was the future she had dreamed of. The three of them together. Almost like a family. Of course, in the wildest of her dreams, she and Riff were married - but that part was probably too unrealistic. She wasn't really marriage material. Still, that didn't matter, she reminded herself. The important part was that he wanted to stay. Maybe they could have another child someday. It would be nice for Sofie to have a sibling - and she would like a baby with Riff. But that was very much a conversation for another day.

    Later that evening, after Sofie was asleep, when they were snuggled together on the couch, Maria asked him, "So, what happened today? Seems like it was an eventful day."

    She was sure it hadn't been all good things... but it was still nice to be part of a Pack again. It was good that the three of them wouldn't have to face everything on their own.

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