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    astone2292
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Love in the Shadows - 24. Chapter 24: Pitiless Panda

Shaw sat outside of his apartment in his camping chair and a lit cigarette. He hadn't heard from Stefan since they met up in the parking lot. Confident that he has maintained the trust of the murderer, he puffed on his cigarette and blew a large plume. Would a check-in be too much to ask for?

He left a letter to Henry a day after he said his duress word, asking for some overtime while he was on desk duty. But he carefully worded in a code, dictating that he was on the mage's good side by spelling out the first letter of each word to reveal his intent. The detective knew the Chief got the message when he passed the office and got a head nod as the bald man shredded a singular paper. Good. My plan is in motion. Just need Stefan to give me an assignment.

He flicked the cigarette butt over the balcony and returned inside.

***

Ingle sat in his black Jeep Grand Cherokee as he watched his coworker go in the apartment. Mace better be right about Shaw. Undercover work tends to blur some lines, especially if your perp is cunning. Got a feeling that Shaw is playing the good fight, but I cant shake my wolf's intuition. How many levels of reverse psychology will he play to get Stefan?

"Watching my associate close, are we?" The officer's blood ran cold as he heard the whisper in his cab. Fuck! Behind me. How this guy get in my car?

He turned slightly and saw a middle-aged man with gray hair in the backseat. Has to be...Gregoro! No way in Hell I can take him on! I'm outclassed, hands down. Fuck, what do I do? I can try to be on his good side, but I think that might get me killed. Got no other cards to play, though. "Can I help you?"

The mage crossed his arms. "Well, I take it you are a shifter in the local pack? I figure we could...make an exchange."

Furrowing his brow, Ingle let out a slow and steady breath to calm his nerves. "What kind of exchange?"

"I want information. And I imagine you want to protect your pack and coworkers. Is that correct, officer?"

Anger flew throughout Ingle's body, but his wolf hushed him. The officer needed to remain calm. "That's right. But I'm a loyal pack member. I'd rather die than help someone like you."

Clicking the roof of his mouth with his tongue, Stefan shook his head. "While I do admire your loyalty, I don't believe you are seeing the bigger picture. You see, I've been keeping my eyes on you for several nights now. You watch the detective, and that simpleton hasn't even spotted you at all. He practically looks right at you every time he smokes one of those awful cigarettes. I assume you report directly to your leader? The one who has latched on to Little Vinnie so tightly?"

He knows more than I thought he would. Damn, this ain't good! "Yeah, so? I'm still not helpin' you."

"Then allow me to retract my offer for a new one. I just need a message delivered to Vincent. I would do it myself, but I fear he wasn't fond of my last letter. And I'd hate to barge in to your leader's house to talk to the boy."

"And in return?"

"I'll let Shaw live. He may be a neanderthal, but he has connections that suit my needs."

A message, or a life. Hate to help this asshole, but I got no choice. Shaw's the inside man on Stefan, and Mace needs that. "What's the message?"

Stefan curled a smile and leaned forward in the seat. "Tell Little Vinnie to go to his workplace's rooftop tomorrow night at nine in the evening. He can bring all the friends he wants, but I will give my solemn vow that I will be civil. No magic, no weapons, and no nonsense on my part. I merely wish to talk."

"You have got to be jokin'! Vincent wouldn't fall for that!"

"Then let me give an offering of my peaceful intentions." The mage out his hand into his inner jacket pocket. Ingle swiftly drew his pistol and aimed it at Stefan. "Oh, that won't be necessary, officer. Those would just go through your seats, and this is a rather nice vehicle." He slowly retrieved a gold locket and showed Ingle.

A...locket? "You see, officer. I believe Litte Vinnie will know what this is. I would like for him to have it. It was something lost to him many years ago, and I want to reunite it with the proper owner. Take it, along with my message."

Hesitation pounded on Ingle's mind, but knew he needed to play along. Even if the message is a trap, I can't just risk Shaw's life over this. "Fine. I'll get this to Vincent." The wolf took the locket and put it in his cup holder. "But don't think I can be some puppet to you."

"Oh...puppet is such a distasteful word. I prefer associate, or acquaintance. Thank you, officer. I will take my leave then. And do be sure to get Little Vinnie the message. You'll find that he will be more than happy to get this back."

"So what's stopping me from-" Ingle stopped his breath as Stefan slipped away in the shadows, leaving a fog of black clouds in the backseat. Damn! Gone. Ingle held the locket and examined it. Opening it up with the lightest touch, he squinted his eyes and realized what value it would hold for his Mated Alpha. Yeah...gotta get this to the little guy. Won't be happy but where it came from, but it'll be nice knowing that he has it.

Grabbing his phone from the cubby under the radio, he dialed Mason's phone number. "Alpha. I'm stopping by."

"Everything good? Shaw up to something?"

"He's fine...for now. But there's been developments. Need to meet with you and Vincent."

"Come on over. Dad's here too."

"Yes, Alpha." Placing the locket and phone away, the officer started his Jeep and drove to the Alpha's home. Ten minutes later, he pulled into the gravel driveway. Mason was waiting outside on the porch and walked over to the SUV.

Stepping out, Ingle bared his neck and shoved his hands in his jacket pockets. "Alpha. We have a problem."

"What's going on?"

"Best we talk inside. I...have something for Vincent. And it's not from me."

Furrowing his brow, Mason nodded and made his way back inside with Ingle in tow. Walking in, the officer saw Vincent and Lei talking on the couch. He noticed Vincent was speaking in short sentences with terrible word connections. "Vincent. Alpha Wilson." Baring his neck to the two, he was gestured by Mason to sit on the couch across from them while the bigger man took his recliner. "Better get this out now. Can't dawdle on it."

Lei looked to his son-in-bond. "You might need your human out for this one, Vin." Nodding, Vincent changed his mindset. He quickly closed his eyes and reopened them with a smile.

"Office Ingle! It's good to see you again. What's going on?" Vincent held out his hand and was swiftly met by the tall mocha-skinned man. But Vincent was concerned when the officer didn't smile. This might be bad. His wolf agreed in his mind and both paid attention to what the man had to say.

"Good to see you too, Vincent. Look, this isn't going to be pleasant to hear...for any of you." All three men bolstered themselves in their seats. "I was watching Shaw from across the street in my car. Everything is normal. He goes out for a cig, goes back in and watches NCIS reruns." The office furrowed his brow and swallowed. "Stefan appeared in my backseat."

Mason and Lei couldn't withhold their anger and let it blast through the room. Vincent's head began hurting from the murky aura that slapped his neck downward. Rising from his recliner, Mason started to let his anger simmer. "What came of the confrontation?"

Baring his neck in submission from the anger, Ingle kept his head down and stared at the floorboards. "He wanted me to give Vincent a message...and a gift. Forgive me, but I already examined it. I think it would be vital for Vincent to have it."

After blinking a few times, Vincent nodded. "Mace? Can you calm down a bit? You're making it hard for me to think." His mate nodded sat down, and cooled his jets with Lei following suit. "What is it?"

Letting loose a long and deep sigh, he pulled the golden locket from his jacket. "This is the gift." He dangled the jewelry from it's thin chain and landed it into the palm of Vincent's clasped hands. Upon it dropping in his palm, the mage gasped and didn't say a word as he shivered.

...My...my mom's locket. Oh...oh, Gods. I thought all of my parents' belongings were lost!

Mother? Never asked. Where mother?

...she's dead. Both of my parents are dead. I...I was going to talk with you later tonight about it. But...can you try to keep your anger to a minimum?

I try.

The man that Officer Ingle mentioned...Stefan. He's an evil mage...and seventeen years ago, he murdered my parents.

Vincent clasped his eyes shut as his wolf's anger permeated in his mind. He could feel part of it leave his body and float in the living room. I thought you would try to keep your anger to yourself?

No! Not for that! This man need to die! Where he?

He's a shadow mage, like me. He can be anywhere and everywhere he wishes. Now, can we get back to what Ingle has to say?

A growl from his inner mind echoed in his consciousness. Yes. But I want more. More detail.

Of course. Opening his eyes, he saw everyone's attention was on him. "Sorry. Had to explain to my wolf the whole Stefan thing." As much as I want Stefan dead, it is nice to have this in my possession.

Ingle titled his head in confusion, but quickly saw the edges of the mark on the right of the smaller man's neck. They mated! He's a shifter now. But he already has his wolf's mind? Okay, kid! Fast grower! "It's all good. But the locket isn't the only thing. In exchange for me giving you this, Stefan is keeping Shaw alive. He suspects that he isn't completely on his side. But I know Shaw. He's ready to dive in many folds of reverse psychology in order to get his man.

"And there is a message. For Vincent." Ingle stretched his shoulders in preparation to give the request. "Stefan wants to meet with Vincent."

Another wave of anger filled the room as Mason skyrocketed to his feet. "Like Hell! Who do the fuck does he think he is?" His eyes burned amber as he began pacing through the room.

Vincent watched his mate stew in his frustration, but the mage remained focused. "Did he say why?"

Ingle shook his head. "No, but he just said that he wished to talk, and that's it. You can bring anyone you want, but he swore he would perform no magic or bring any weapons."

"He's lying!" Mason halted his movement and let his eyes burn with pure hatred. I don't trust a damned thing that bastard has planned!

"Mace...I need to." The Alpha spun his head around fast to his mate. His eyes still burning, he did his best to not look pissed off, but the feelings had no time to cool. "You don't know Stefan like I do. He plays a serious game, and he does what he says. If he says there won't be violence, then there won't be any. But if he says Shaw's life is on the line, then it is. There's no other option."

"He's right, son." Lei spoke, even as he hated the words that left his lips. "You need to listen to your mate. We can't risk a life. It is our job to protect this pack, and all who live in the territory." Crossing his arms, the elder Alpha huffed. "I share your rage. My mate was attacked by this man, and unfortunately, he holds a deadly card. If Vincent says play the game, then I say we play."

Mason's nostrils flinched in anger. Mate and father right. We must. His wolf spoke softly, and the Alpha could not believe his alter ego.

What?! All of a sudden, you're one to play it cool? This man attacked two people in our lands and threatened more! How can we play a fuckin' game?

I trust mate. Do you? Blinking wildly, Mason fought within himself.

I do. Unconditionally, but-

No but! Trust! Sometime, human mind overthink. Calm down. Nodding, Mason breathed deep. "Alright. We play. But I'm going too."

Vincent smiled at his mate and got up. He walked over and gripped the larger hand and rubbed circles on the man's palm with his thumb. "It will be alright." The mage looked to his father-in-bond. "I also think we need to play a card of our own. But I won't go with it unless everyone agrees."

Ingle spoke of the meeting time and place, then the group began planning. Vincent revealed his card, and much to Lei's discomfort, he nodded in understanding. When they came to an agreement for the game plan, Vincent grew a sly grin.

"Alright, Stefan. Let's play."

***

The game plan was shared with Caleb and Dave when Lei and Ingle left. Dave was hesitant with the plan while Caleb stated the flawlessness of its ingenuity. Mason had them together on a conference call on his phone with the speaker on so Vincent would hear as well. "So you two know your positions?"

Dave confirmed he would be across the plaza rooftop while Caleb hid on the rooftop access ladder if things got hairy. The lion wanted to go scope out the layout of the rooftops and Dave offered to meet him there. The two council members hung up, leaving Mason and Vincent alone. His earlier comments about Stefan ran amok Mason's mind. "Hey, hot stuff? You mind if we talk?"

"Always, big guy. What's up?" Vincent curled up on the couch with his mate, resting his head on the bigger man's chest as an arm wrapped around to his side.

"I want to apologize for how angry I was. I looked at you with that harsh anger, and I did not mean for it to be pointed at you."

The mage gazed deeply in the brown irises of his man and smiled. "You don't need to say sorry. I was in the same boat, Mace. The fact Stefan wants to meet...it weighs heavy on me." Emotions were caught in Vincent's throat. "I've...I've never actually met him...face to face. Not since...well. You know…"

Mason leaned up and held his mate's face. "Then we will meet him. Together." He kissed the side of Vincent's forehead. "We got this. The plan may not be to catch him, but it's the next best thing." The wolf gathered up all of the love in his heart and shot it through the shared bond.

Vincent nuzzled his head on the chest as he swam in the sent emotions. "Love you too, Mace. More than you will ever know."

"Right back at ya, pup. C'mon. It's getting late. Let's get ready for bed." The mage nodded and felt the exhaustion hitting him from the day's activities. He followed Mason into the bedroom and stripped himself of all clothes. Hopping in between the sheets, he fell fast asleep in a matter of seconds. Mason chuckled to himself as he repeated after his mate.

***

"Objection, your Honor! Badgering!"

"I'm not badgering anyone, small fry!"

"Your Honor, I move to strike this testimony if the defense can not hold himself."

A gavel echoed twice in the courtroom as the frail female judge cast a stare at the bulky defense lawyer. "Sustained! Mr. Bultzer! Heed Mr. Alvey's warning. I'm tempted to agree with him. Do you have anything productive to ask the witness?"

Bultzer shook his head. "That's all for this witness, your Honor."

"Good! I'm calling for a thirty minute recess so everyone call cool themselves. Dismissed." With another sound of the hammer, the court and the bodies in it moved out. Kaplan collected his papers and files to place them in his briefcase. Taking a last swig of the complimentary water, he kept his collected composure as Bultzer advanced.

'Think you're tough shit, Alvey? You're nothing but a punk!"

Both men turned as a gavel pounded the judge's stand. "Mr. Bultzer! There will be no approachment of any sort during this recess! I find out you are harassing the prosecution again during the duration of this trial, no matter the length, I'm holding you for contempt! Is that clear?!" The shrill judge let her voice fill the courtroom as the audience turned to see the kerfuffle. "Well?!"

Bultzer shoved his hands in his pockets and simply nodded at the judge, but as he swiveled to leave, he glared angrily at Kaplan. But the Beta didn't back down. He's just another bully. And nothing but. Closing his briefcase and sliding it off the table by the handle, Kaplan noticed a friendly face in the audience. "Mr. Scott! Good to see you."

Tierney smiled at his friend as they shook hands. Kaplan slightly bared his neck, as to remain inconspicuous from the surrounding human crowd. "Kap, you're doing great as always! I wanted to come and show off what you're made of to our new friend." The Beta noticed the much larger black man in the fresh and fitted burgundy suit. He's an Alpha, no doubt. But why is he with Alpha Scott? "May I introduce you to Mr. Cyrus Vonder. He will be taking my position at the office when I retire."

Cyrus extended his hand out to Kaplan. "It is a pleasure Mr. Alvey, and I agree with Tierney's description. You are…" Clicking his tongue and widening his eyes, the panda made a dramatic pause as he searched for the best word. "...tenacious! Tierney said that this is your fighting arena, and I say, you are one frightening character." Cyrus leaned in and spoke in the softest of whispers. "And he told me you are very...insecure of Alpha figures. I want you to know that no harm will come from me."

Kaplan nodded, but held his heart in mindful security as he shook the bear's hand "I appreciate that Mr. Vonder. Both your compliments and your promise. It is a pleasure to meet you. Mind if we take this outside? I could use a smoke after that round."

The panda smiled and nearly flashed his eyes. "Cigar or cigarette?"

"Cigarette."

A light giggle left the big man's lips. "Then allow me." The bear brandished a shiny platinum case and popped out two unlabeled cigarettes. Cyrus led the way outside and lit up when he stepped out onto the courthouse steps. Handing the metal lighter and cigarette to the Beta, the panda felt a shimmer of excitement in his fingertips as they scraped Kaplan's. Oooh! He feels nice. Not my destined...but oh, I wouldn't mind taking a venture with him.

Kaplan puffed and handed the lighter back to the owner. He whispered so softly so the shifters could hear. "Thank you, Alpha."

"Oh, Mr. Alvey. No need to use that term with me. I prefer Cyrus, or Mr. Vonder if you want to be nasty." Tierney laughed hard as Cyrus started an intense giggle fit, while Kaplan shook his head. Hmm...this little wolf might be hopelessly straight. No harm in trying though. "But...Kaplan, is it? I'm not one for beating around the bush, so I may be so forward...would you mind joining me for lunch? Or whenever your trial is over with?"

The Beta blinked several times, and took a small inhalation from his nose. He's...slightly aroused! Oh, Gods...is he trying to...take me on a date? "I'm flattered, Cyrus, I really am. I'll gladly have lunch or dinner, but I'm afraid that would be as far as I would like to take it."

Cyrus flicked his eyebrows upward in delight and nodded. "Of course. Do please disregard my...scent. My breed doesn't do business like that but once a year or so. And, well, it's about that time, at least for me. Our season tends to be from March to May, but I've always been on a different time schedule. I respect your wishes, and I accept the meal plans. My treat, of course. Mr. Scott, I hate to not include you, but I wish to learn more from your Betas about their particular roles you have them in, if that is acceptable?"

Tierney smiled and nodded. "That is fine by me. Although I would like to talk with you some more before then."

"Of course? Could we grab a coffee and a Danish? I'm rather peckish at the moment." The Alpha nodded to the panda and waved to Kaplan as the lawyer stepped back in the courthouse. When they were alone, Tierney spoke to Cyrus.

"If you are to talk with Kaplan-"

"You forget, Alpha Scott. I liberated his former pack. I know the boundaries you intend to speak of, and I admire your fatherly bond with the Beta. It is quite touching. Let it be known I have no intention of bringing emotional turmoil...or straying him away from his preferred gender of mating." Cyrus began giggling with his velvety voice.

Tierney grinned, nodded once more, and walked with the bear to a nearby coffee shop around the block.

***

The trial ran into the late afternoon hours. Kaplan fought his damnedest against Bultzer. Asshole kept stalling. And stalling. Long-winded speeches to the witnesses, jury, and judge. Pulling his phone, he noticed that Tierney shared the contact 'Cyrus Vonder,' and a text from the new contact.

'Good afternoon, Mr. Alvey! Pardon the message, as Alpha Scott gave me your number. I take your trial is running late, so may I ask for dinner?' Kaplan smirked and appreciated the formal spelling and punctuation of the message. Typing back, he repeatedly stumbled over his words, erased, and rewrote the message numerous times.

'Sorry about that! Just got out of court. When and where would be good for you, sir?'

He put the phone away and pulled a flimsy pack of cigarettes from his suit jacket pocket. As he lit it, he smelt a familiar scent waft through the air. "Now, would be fine with me, Mr. Alvey." Out of surprise, Kaplan coughed smoke out into the air as he turned to face Cyrus. "Apologies for startling you! Are you okay?"

Catching his breath, Kaplan processed the scene. Was he waiting? For me? "Uhh, yeah! I'm good." He quickly shut his trap as his voice squeaked, which caused a light giggle from the Alpha.

"Good. Would you mind if I walked with you? I believe there is a quaint little spot not far from here that's been calling for me to visit since I arrived." The panda watched as the wolf puffed on the cigarette and nodded. "So...New York? I've always found it odd that a pack of wolves crammed themselves in this concrete jungle."

Never thought of it that way. "Yeah, that's interesting way to think about it. It's almost a concrete forest. I always thought of this pack as the proving grounds of fame, just as humans do. People of all different backgrounds come here to find their place in the world."

Stopping at the crosswalk, Cyrus looked to the shorter wolf. "But it seems you are still searching for your place. You are moving to Kentucky with Alpha Scott, correct?"

"Yes. This pack has served me better than I could have ever hoped. But Alpha Scott gave me a chance at life, and my loyalty can't deny his place in my life. I almost feel that I can do more good here, but my wolf desires to help him, or Alpha Wilson in his pack."

"Spoken like a true Beta. Your loyalty is stunning, Mr. Alvey. I envy it. There has never been a Beta at my side to travel with me from pack to pack, country to country. There have been candidates, but none to whom I could trust."

Kaplan curted his head in curiosity. "Is that a trait of your panda?"

Widening his eyes in surprise, Cyrus leaned his head to his walking accompaniment as they received the sign to cross the street. "Did Tierney tell you of my breed?"

"No, I knew when you spoke of your breed's mating season. It slightly differs from other bears' seasons. And pandas are one of the few to wait until the proper season within the shifter world to mate. If you intend to keep it secret, it's safe with me, sir."

"Oh, please! Tell the world! I don't keep many secrets in my life. I didn't get to my current status just from being born. Being upfront and unabashed did, as well as my goals of uniting the shifter world in the new age traditions. None of this...hierarchy of pure-bred Alpha genes, or priority of heterosexual matings. Love is love, and peace is key."

"Wow! That should be a part of a speech. I recommend that to be used in yours when you claim the title of Alpha of this pack."

Cyrus gave a subtle stare to the Beta. "And once again, you speak as a Beta. Be careful, now. I may end up stealing you from Tierney!" The panda erupted in a fit of giggles and held his sides.

Kaplan smiled at the man. He's so jolly! But maintains the demeanor of a fit leader. "I'm not saying I would, but I wouldn't mind sticking around New York."

Oh? This was a curve ball! "And why do you say that?"

"Weather is nice, plenty to do, and I've already built up my attorney reputation here, for both shifters and humans." And...well...one more thing. But I...no! I can't.

Cyrus noticed the thought on the tip of Kaplan's tongue. "Don't mean to pry, but you seem to have something on your mind. Feel free to speak it. I know we just met, but I tend to be a trustworthy person." Shooting the wolf a gleeful smile, the bigger man wanted nothing but honesty from Kaplan.

After a moment of thought as they walked, Kaplan knew he wanted to tell his secret, but skirted by with another. One that he knew he would face sooner rather than later. "I've been meaning to talk with Alpha Scott about this, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to get a second opinion. I just ask you try remain unbiased."

"Of course." Cyrus slowed to a halt and nodded for the wolf to do the same. He wanted the wolf to be as comfortable as possible if he was to reveal a secret that affects his life.

Kaplan took a deep breath. "I have been thinking. With Alpha Scott retiring and moving away...I don't know if he would have need for a Beta as a retiree. I'm still in my prime, ready for action...and I can't see myself in a small town." He furrowed his brow and looked down to the dirty sidewalk. "I don't think Kentucky is a smart move. Not for me, at least."

Hmm. Confliction can be terrible thing to battle. And this one is...a war for this wolf. To leave and be with the one he's loyal to, but be skipping out on his potential? Or to abandon his friends to achieve the goal of helping the strangers around him? That's a tough one...even for me. "Young Beta. You have a difficult conundrum. You asked me to stay unbiased, but my answer will make it seem like I am not. I believe you should stay here.

"It is where your goals lie. And making yourself happy is the ultimate goal. Forcing yourself to be miserable for the sake of others may seem like the noble cause. But once the others find out of your suffering, and how you did it for them...their pain can be worse than just saying 'so long' or 'see you again.' You know you have done good here in New York, which means your friends know that too. Just like you know yourself, they know how much good you can do for the world."

The Alpha stared into the eyes of the Beta as they filled with tears. Didn't want to make you cry, but I felt it was necessary. "Mr. Alvey? Are you alright?"

The wolf fought the tears. He felt them welling in his lower eyelids as the chilly air blasted Kaplan's face. Reflecting upon the words the Alpha spoke, he knew they were of truth. "Thank you, Alpha Vonder. I know you were speaking from the heart and not the mind. Just needed to hear...hear something other my own mind." He felt a light pressure put onto his shoulder, and looked up to see that it was Cyrus' hand.

"Any time you need another voice, you know who to call, Kaplan. I may not be your Alpha, but I would like to consider us friends." The two shared a genuine smile. Cyrus noticed the tears falling down the man's cheek and pulled his handkerchief from his front suit pocket. "Use this. No need to think I'm some evil man making a grown man cry."

Kaplan chuckled and graciously accepted the fine cloth. He dabbed his eyes and felt how soft it was against his skin. "Thank you again, sir."

Accepting his handkerchief back, he stuffed it in his pants pocket. "I hope I wasn't too...blunt with you. I have a tendency to say things like I see or feel."

"I respect bluntness. I am an attorney after all." Cyrus chuckled, causing light laughter to come from Kaplan.

"Well, Mr. Alvey, the restaurant is just ahead. Let's grab some dinner. After you." Kaplan nodded and trekked ahead. The two kept going and chatted along the way. Cyrus kept his eyes on the man and was enjoying his presence intensely. He watched as Kaplan passed their destination and chuckled to himself. "Oh, Kaplan. We're here." Kaplan looked at the building he just missed and let his jaw drop, much to Cyrus's delight.

"You...can't be serious? Craft? This place is legendary!"

A muffled giggle was kept inside Cyrus' mouth. "I told you this place has been calling for me. And I have been craving their prime rib!" The Alpha opened the door for the Beta, and as he watched Kaplan go in, Cyrus caught a glimpse of something that caught his eye. Was...that a blush I just saw?

The host swiftly seated the two shifters and a waitress handed a wine selection list to Cyrus, who asked for a bottle to be brought to the table. The waitress named the menu for the evening, to which Kaplan became concerned over the prices. This is a coursed dinner! Like...the kind of dinner with three forks and two spoons! And he ordered a bottle...a bottle! Is this guy loaded?

As the waitress went away and came back with two freshly designed salad, Cyrus glared at Kaplan with a smile. "You seem rather surprised, Mr. Alvey."

Kaplan, in lack of a better term, was flustered. "I...umm...yeah, actually. This is...a lot! I was half expecting a cheeseburger and fries type of thing."

Cyrus dipped his head and gave a pursed grin. "Kaplan. Now, I love a cheeseburger, but do I look like someone who would have that for dinner with a brand new friend? Besides, I needed time to speak with you, especially if I am to learn more about the Beta-level pack dynamics of NYSP. And this is my treat, and I wanted to come here."

Smiling meekly, Kaplan nodded. "Yes, Alpha Vonder."

"Now, let's cut out the formalities." The waitress arrived once again with the wine. "Oooh! Chianti! I live for a good Chianti. Do you enjoy wine, Kaplan?"

The Beta did. He wasn't an enthusiast, but he found the world of dark dry wines to be enjoyable. "I do. Can't say I've had this one though."

Brandishing a corkscrew, the waitress quietly opened the bottle and poured a glass for each men. Cyrus lightly grasped his and swirled the liquid, letting the fumes waft into the panda's nostrils. "Mmm! This is a fine one! It will pair perfectly with dinner. Thank you, miss." She smiled, nodded to Cyrus, and then bared her neck to Kaplan before walking away. Kaplan smiled as well but he took his eyes on a field trip to admire the decor of the dining room.

Oh...a pretty young thing like that doesn't grab your attention, Kaplan? Even I have to admit she had a nice tushie. You, on the other hand, didn't even give her a second thought, much less a first one. "Kaplan." The wolf brought his attention back to the Alpha. "I was meaning to bring this up later in the meal, but I want to...discuss something with you."

"Anything, Cyrus. You gave me advice, so I'm all ears."

Taking a sip of his wine, Cyrus smacked his lips delicately and set the glass down without a sound. "I have a confession to make. Since I set foot in New York, I've been wanting to meet with you."

Wait! What? "I'm...I'm sorry, one more time?"

"I wish to explain myself, but I would prefer to be able to get it on the table." The Alpha took another sip of wine before continuing. "You see, I've been a busy panda. Fixing packs across the world. India...Alaska…" Cyrus fixated his stare at the Beta with an expressionless face. "South Dakota."

Kaplan's heart dropped. Fuck. Did Alpha Ren send him here? The wolf's chest began tightening, and he started having trouble breathing. "Relax, Kaplan. I smell your fear. I want to tell you what I did when I was sent by the Executive Council. They sent me to evaluate the Oglala Lakoda County Pack. The evaluation quickly turned into an investigation when I learned of your unfair exile."

The Beta felt the honesty in the bear's words. He got his breathing under control and leaned forward to listen. Knowing he captured the wolf's attention, Cyrus continued on. "Your exile was void of true reason, and it set off a notification on the EC's radar. Upon my arrival, I was immediately met with hostility from Alpha Ren. This was due to my...flair, and tone of voice. To him, I wasn't fit to be of Alpha status. Regardless, I continued the evaluation. Over the weeks, I found numerous counts of ill-reasoned exiles and reprimandings.

"When I reported them to the EC, they tasked me with leading an investigation. Over the course of a month, I gathered a disturbing amount of incriminating evidence, including skimming from pack dues and several reports of both physical and sexual abuse from pack members. Needless to say, EC stripped him of his title and right to challenge for land."

Cyrus let out a light giggle as he revisited the memories. But he caught the sunken stare Kaplan was giving the glass of wine. Cyrus left his colorful side on the sidelines and got serious for a moment. "Kaplan, I'm telling you this because you deserve to know. I assure you of this. That man...that pile of garbage...no. He doesn't deserve that generous synonym. He is trash. Pure filth. He will never harm you, or anyone else for that matter.

"By the time I left OLCP, a new Alpha was elected. Not placed in by challenge tradition. Democracy. I personally trained the Alpha for over two months. It's been years, and I still go back and visit to see how Alpha Price is doing." Licking his lips to wet them, Cyrus leaned forward and let his heart lead the rest of his story.

"I wanted to meet you...to apologize to you." He watched the Beta look up with his eyes trembling, begging to let the tears flow. "I didn't know who you were, what your intentions were, or if you even carried any feelings of vengeance against Ren. But I'm here to apologize. Because I squashed any hopes of you extracting revenge on him."

W...what? Feeling short of breath, Kaplan sat up straight and focused on his thoughts. I...never wanted revenge. I just wanted to leave. To escape from that world. To...escape him. But...what does Alpha Vonder mean? "I...I'm sorry, sir. What do you mean when you say that?"

Kaplan saw the man sitting across from him close his eyes and twitched his head, as if he were suppressing strong emotions. "Cyrus? Alpha Von...der…"

Cyrus turned his head back to face Kaplan and let his bright emerald irises shine. The Alpha blinked several times to cool his emotions, allowing his eyes to return to their light brown color. "Forgive me. I just...get flustered when I think about how things ended there. When I got wind that Tierney visited OLCP, I made it my intention to perform a follow-up. Ren found me rather quickly, but that's no surprise. That wolf...he had it out for me. After getting my ear-full, I couldn't help but giggle in his face. He lashed out with a shifted claw. Ruined my favorite scarf…" The Alpha picked up his glass once more, and downed the remaining wine.

"That was when I shot a bolt of lightning through his heart."

Copyright © 2020 astone2292; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Oh yeah, I love Cyrus. He's smooth as chocolate mousse, but can be as hard as needed. Being a fixer isn't an easy job.

Stefan likes his games too much. What will he use to toy with Vinnie? He says he won't use magic or bring weapons, but it doesn't mean he won't involve someone else in their meeting.

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Cyrus is an intriguing character. He knows a lot about Kaplan and makes some very interesting observations about Kaplan.  I was impressed by how he used his voice and behaviours to get Kaplan to confide in him about regretting to leave New York.  He did give great advice that may seem self serving, but didn't do it for himself, but to help Kaplan.  I bet he doesn't take the other Betas to dinner at restaurants the same caliber as Craft. Cool story about 

I am very anxious about the meeting between Stefan and Vincent.  I wonder what surprise Vincent has in mind for Stefan.  

Cyrus does have a unique affinity. I did enjoy the story about ex-Alpha Rey and Cyrus' apology. The punch line was the best. :gikkle:

Quote

After getting my ear-full, I couldn't help but giggle in his face. He lashed out with a shifted claw. Ruined my favorite scarf…" The Alpha picked up his glass once more, and downed the remaining wine.

"That was when I shot a bolt of lightning through his heart."

 

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6 hours ago, raven1 said:

Cyrus is an intriguing character. He knows a lot about Kaplan and makes some very interesting observations about Kaplan.  I was impressed by how he used his voice and behaviours to get Kaplan to confide in him about regretting to leave New York.  He did give great advice that may seem self serving, but didn't do it for himself, but to help Kaplan.  I bet he doesn't take the other Betas to dinner at restaurants the same caliber as Craft. Cool story about 

I am very anxious about the meeting between Stefan and Vincent.  I wonder what surprise Vincent has in mind for Stefan.  

Cyrus does have a unique affinity. I did enjoy the story about ex-Alpha Rey and Cyrus' apology. The punch line was the best. :gikkle:

 

I did my best to embody a panda's natural behavior in Cyrus. He's joyful, playful, but deadly when irked. 

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You manage to cram a lot into each. Chapter.  The whole setting up of Shaw, and hooking in Ingle into Stefan's machinations is brilliant.

And getting more of Kaplan's story is great. I especially feel for him since I had a good friend who was rather small and gay guys used to hit on him all the time. He was usually flattered and would politely decline.  Once, at a party, someone slipped him something in his drink and I had to rescue him.  I got him out of there before anything happened, but he was pretty loopy for a while.  He cried in my arms for a couple of hours because he felt safe and knew I wouldn't take advantage.  I never found out who slipped him the mickey and I'm glad.  I would have wanted to zap him through the heart as well.

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4 minutes ago, Quixo said:

You manage to cram a lot into each. Chapter.  The whole setting up of Shaw, and hooking in Ingle into Stefan's machinations is brilliant.

And getting more of Kaplan's story is great. I especially feel for him since I had a good friend who was rather small and gay guys used to hit on him all the time. He was usually flattered and would politely decline.  Once, at a party, someone slipped him something in his drink and I had to rescue him.  I got him out of there before anything happened, but he was pretty loopy for a while.  He cried in my arms for a couple of hours because he felt safe and knew I wouldn't take advantage.  I never found out who slipped him the mickey and I'm glad.  I would have wanted to zap him through the heart as well.

Long chapters mean plenty of topics to cram them with. I learned my lesson in the sequels. 

I empathize with your friend. As a short guy myself, I had to deal with stereotyping with my height and high-pitched tone in a Bible-belted community. Hiding behind khaki cargo shorts and tube socks, I learned to deflect any insinuations of my homosexuality in order to prevent ass-whoopin's. I resonate with Kaplan with this. To hide your true self due to powers beyond your control is a fickle nightmare. 

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9 minutes ago, Dan South said:

Cyrus is fab-u-lous! Clearly that scarf was too…

Oh, Cyrus is wonderful. I can't wait for you to read more about him. 

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