Under the Bright Lights

The war between Vampires and Lycans has ended, but an even deadlier threat has risen: Humanity. The world of immortals is a secret no longer, and terrified humans seek to exterminate the source of their fear. Vampires, Lycans, and other immortal species now hide themselves, struggle to survive, and fight back. Their future and their very existence are at stake.
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Asif Zaidi

Long after Lina had drifted off to sleep and Nafisa was napping in the bassinet, Asif found himself still wakeful. Every time he started to doze off in the chair by his wife's bedside, his body would startle him awake, eyes suddenly wide and heart pounding. And each time he woke, he would be compelled to get up and check on them, straining his eyes in the nighttime darkness of the clinic to make sure Lina and the baby were still breathing. It was a long night.

When the morning sun peeked through the window blinds and Lina and Nafisa were awake, Asif started to feel a little calmer, but the tension had not entirely passed - and it ratcheted up again when he learned of what had happened during the night while his daughter was being born.

Asif had always been there for his Pack. Without question. But last night, his place had been with Lina. He knew that in his heart - but would the Pack understand? He was brand new here and had yet to prove himself. Had he disappointed his new leader already?

It certainly didn't appear so. When Lina was feeling up to it, Isaac and Gilda had briefly dropped by to give the family their congratulations, along with a lovely floral bouquet.

As the Fishblatts were taking their leave, Asif pulled Isaac aside and said quietly, "I hope you do not think less of me for not being there to help on the island. Normally I would always be there to support my Pack brothers and sisters, and I do not want to give you the impression that I am unable to pull my weight..."

But Isaac looked surprised, and shook his head. "I didn't call you. That was on purpose; we weren't expecting you. Your family needed you. I know you are eager to help. But... another time."

"Another time," Asif agreed. "Thank you."

Buoyed by the knowledge that he hadn't disappointed his leader - and thus endangered his family's position in their new home - Asif left Lina and Nafisa in the care of his nieces, and went home to check on Taara. Taara was delighted that she had a new baby sister, as she had predicted. Asif thanked Riff and Maria heartily for caring for Taara.

As he was walking down the path to return to the clinic, however, Asif was unexpectedly waylaid by another Pack member - a rather sullen, skulking Lycan named James, to whom Asif had been introduced but with whom he'd had little contact. Asif was quite surprised, then, when James moved to block his path, and that the man's tone was instantly combative.

"So, care to tell me what exactly you're really doing here?" James demanded, folding his arms and staring at Asif.

"I... do not know what you mean," Asif replied with sincere confusion. "It is as I told Isaac. My family was in danger, and I..."

"Ah, yes, such a family man," James said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "I've been doing some background checking on you, Asif. You have quite the history. Your brother's Pack..."

"What of them?" Asif said, feigning disinterest and trying to move past James, but James countered his movements and continued obstructing him.

"You slaughtered them all, didn't you?"

"Yes," Asif lied. He sensed danger here, and wasn't about to spill any more information than he had to. "What of it?"

"You're a violent man," James said. A statement, not a question.

"At times I have had to be," Asif admitted. "Though it was not my wish."

"Do you really think a violent man belongs here?" James asked, leaning close. "This is a nice place. These are nice people. You think you can come here and ruin it?"

"It was Isaac's choice to allow my presence," Asif said, discomfited by the proximity of James but hesitant to escalate the situation. "Perhaps you should take your concerns up with him."

"Oh, I'm sure he wouldn't have if he knew about you," James said. "He just took Riff's word for it. But he may not be so charitable once he hears all the things you've done. And about Lina..."

Asif was now incredibly confused, and was becoming increasingly frustrated with this line of questioning. "Lina has never hurt anyone. You really think you are in danger from her? A woman in a wheelchair, who has lost an arm and a leg? You fear her?"

James snorted. "Fear? No. But I don't think she's the sort of influence we want around the Pack."

Asif longed to demand an explanation. But what good would that do? He needed to get out of here as quickly as possible, to find Isaac and provide his own side of the story before James could...

James clearly wasn't satisfied with Asif's reactions. "I've been digging into Lina's background too. And maybe you should have yourself. Taara isn't yours, you know."

Asif's eyes started to darken, but he kept his voice even with great effort. "My personal matters are none of your business."

"Ah, am I pissing you off now? Are you going to try to kill me too? Like you killed your brother?"

"You know nothing. Stop this."

"Why are you bothering to defend her? I did the math. She wasn't with you - she wasn't back in time for Taara to be yours. She's humiliating you. Is that the sort of woman Isaac wants in his Pack? A woman who lies, who sleeps around, who--"

It was not quite clear who was more shocked when Asif cut off the diatribe with a swift punch to the jaw - James, or Asif himself. James just stood stunned for a moment, rubbing at the impact site and staring at Asif.

Asif recovered more quickly... and realized what he had done. And hated himself for it. How could he have done something so rash? How could he have lost control? He had struck a Pack brother. He would be lucky to escape with his life... but that was not his greatest concern now. They had finally found a safe place. For his daughters and nieces. For Lina. Then in one moment of stupidity and weakness, Asif had thrown it all away.

His eyes were still darkened and his cry of despair was almost wolf-like as he turned and fled.
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Quaxo9 »

Riff

They had just begin to plan a fun day for Sofie and Taara when Asif's strangled howl cut them short. What could have happened between here and the clinic? Just a minute ago, he'd been congratulating his friend on his newborn daughter. Was it bad news from the hospital? Riff ran out the door barefoot onto the sidewalk to see if he could catch Asif.

Instead, what he saw was James lying on the ground, holding his jaw and looking confused. Riff gave him an uncharacteristic scowl. Sure, they were trying to let bygones be bygones but James never seemed to learn anything from the path of destruction he seemed to continuously leave in his wake. Fortunately, he didn't need to ask which way Asif had gone - his nose was good enough to tell him that. Dashing back inside, he gave Maria a quick peck on the cheek and patted the girls on their heads, letting them know everything was going to be fine. He grabbed a hoodie and stuffed his feet into a pair of sneakers before returning outside.

Ignoring James, he loped off in the direction Asif had gone. "Asif, wait up!" he called. What had James SAID to his friend to bring about that kind of reaction?
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Isaac Fishblatt and James O'Brien

Even James managed to comprehend that he had erred - if the pain in his jaw wasn't sufficient indication, the other Lycan fleeing was. The situation had spiraled beyond him, and there was nothing for it. For better or worse, this had become a Pack matter, and he needed to enlist Isaac's help.

He pounded on the Fishblatts' front door, gave Gilda a little wave but charged past her when she opened it, and plopped down on the sofa beside Isaac. Isaac looked at James over his newspaper - perhaps a little warily. "What's going on, James?" Isaac asked in a carefully neutral tone.

"Emergency!" James gasped out. "Pack emergency. It's Asif."

Isaac's eyes widened. "What happened? Is Asif alright?"

"Yes. I mean. Not him. Asif is about to commit a murder. He's about to kill his wife!" James insisted desperately.

Isaac blinked rapidly. "What the hell? What are you talking about?"

Isaac couldn't quite square this with what he had seen of Asif so far. The way Asif looked at Lina. The way he talked to her. How attentively he listened when she spoke. Isaac couldn't imagine what kind of reversal could lead to what was now being claimed. But he supposed he didn't really know Asif that well, and maybe you could never tell. Wasn't that what people usually said after a murder? We never thought he'd do something like this! He seemed so nice! But even so... Asif just didn't seem the type.

"Yeah, it's like..." James struggled to piece together what he'd heard in the past as a viable explanation. "You know, like an honor killing. He found out his wife was unfaithful to him..."

Isaac stared intensely at James. "He...found out?! Just like that?"

"Okay. Fine. I told him. I dig some digging. For the sake of the Pack..."

"Don't bring the Pack into it. I never ordered this. You shouldn't have involved yourself in the first place--"

"I know. I know. But it doesn't matter now. I did what I did. I told him. And he got mad and charged off after Lina."

If any part of this was true, Isaac had to step in to prevent a tragedy. But he and James weren't done.

"Stay here. We'll talk later."

"I should come and..."

"Absolutely not. I'm handling this. Stay. Here."

With one last commanding stare at James, Isaac took off out the back door in search of Asif.
Last edited by Monkey Kitty on Mon May 09, 2022 2:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Asif Zaidi

Asif didn't know where he was going. He had just charged blindly in a random direction - anywhere that was away from James. When he'd put some distance between them, he stopped running and dropped to his knees. He felt like he was going to vomit, but his stomach was empty and the urge only resulted in dry heaves. He struggled to catch his breath.

What had he done? How had he lost control? That wasn't like him. Asif prided himself on his self-control, which was both an innate quality and a trait he had honed carefully over the years. Asif was a man who did not lose his temper. Who stayed calm, who was slow to anger and quick to forgive. He was not the sort to punch a Pack brother - and for what? An insult?

Yes, the things James had said about Lina were cruel, but the costs of Asif's retaliation were incalculable. Not just for him, but for his family. What had he done? Oh... what had he done?

When Riff approached, Asif met his eyes but remained crouched on the ground. "Riff, I... I have made a grave error," he said. Shame pulsed through him in waves, making it even harder to admit his fault. But he had to. Riff had known Asif a long time, and Asif needed his friend's help now. "I struck James. He was saying things. Terrible things. About Lina. And I..."

Speaking the words aloud made the situation seem all the more real. A gasp of despair escaped his lips.

"I was a fool. I have ruined everything. You provided us safety, and in a moment of weakness, I... I threw it away. Please, Riff - I need your help. I don't know what will happen to me, but that does not matter. What becomes of me is not important. Lina and my family must be safe. I need your help to convince Isaac to continue giving them the Pack's protection, after... Please. I just need them to be safe. They should not suffer for my misdeed."
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Quaxo9 »

Riff

He knew it. He knew this was James' fault. That guy needed a leash, a muzzle and restricted internet access. Riff dropped to his knees beside his friend and draped an arm across Asif's shoulders.

"Listen, Asif. You're not going to be in trouble. Trust me, James has had it comin' for a long time. He's kinda...the Pack conspiracy theorist and a-one jerk. The fact that he's still here is testament to how great this Pack is and how forgiving Isaac is. Really, man, it's gonna be okay. They aren't gonna make you - or Lina - or the girls - leave. Ever."

Riff gave him a brotherly pat on the shoulder and tugged on his elbow to encourage him to stand.

"So, let's go. We can go chat with Isaac - and then maybe you should get some rest. Me or Maria can sit with Lina if that helps."
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Asif Zaidi and Isaac Fishblatt

Asif nodded, drew in his breath, and got to his feet. Riff was right. They had to talk to Isaac. Asif was less optimistic that Isaac would be understanding, but there was no use delaying.

As they walked back toward the motel, Asif caught a whiff of another Lycan approaching. Isaac. If Isaac was coming, that must mean... he already knew. James had already told him. It was too late for any damage mitigation Asif might have done...

"Asif, thank goodness," Isaac said as their ways joined. "Just the man I needed to find."

"James... told you?" Asif asked cautiously, not quite meeting Isaac's eyes.

"Uh. Yes. In his own inimitable way, James did communicate the situation to me. First, Asif, I must ask the most pressing question - is Lina safe?"

Asif made eye contact now, but his expression was blank and confused. Why was Isaac asking him if Lina was safe? That was the request he had intended to make to Isaac. Why would the leader think...? Belatedly, it dawned on Asif what James must have claimed. His stomach churned. But there were more important things than that accusation right now. He fought down the feeling.

"Yes, Lina is safe. I would never... I would never harm her, or allow any harm to come to her. She is everything to me. She always has been. I will always protect her."

Isaac nodded. "I thought you were going to say that. But I had to make sure."

Asif nodded. "Thank you."

"I took what James said with a grain of salt, Asif. He doesn't know you. Or Lina. But the claim he sprung on you must have been... disconcerting."

"In a way," Asif replied. "It was disconcerting that he would approach me with such a thing. That he would... would consider this any of his business. But what he actually said - I already knew. Of course I did. I'm not stupid. I can count the months as well as James can. But it is not the way he imagines. Lina has always been an exemplary wife to me. She has always been faithful. But a woman can become pregnant from torture, not just love - you understand that?"

Isaac was chilled by the implication of what Asif was saying, but he merely nodded. "Yes. I understand that."

Asif nodded too. "Very well, then. Lina was gone from me. For many years. I thought she was dead."

"But you waited for her anyway." A statement, not a question.

"I did. Not because I had any hope that she remained alive, but because I just couldn't... there was no one else. No one like her. But by a miracle, she returned to me. She had been abducted by a band of miscreants who abused her in every way imaginable. When she returned - thanks be to Allah, she returned - she was with child. It was an incredibly painful situation for her. There was no way I could take away that pain, not completely, but I could... ease it. By claiming the child. There was no choice that was easy, that was without suffering, but the child could be born into our marriage, have my name - it was easier for her than the alternatives would have been. You would have done the same had it been Gilda, I think?"

Isaac nodded to confirm this. So Asif was starting to understand him. "Yes. I would have."

Asif nodded, and went on, "Years have passed. We are a happy family. Taara is our daughter - Lina's and mine. But what James said... it made me angry, yes, but it also frightened me. Back in Pakistan, adultery would be... well, it is a serious accusation. If it were believed, it could go very badly for Lina. I know there is no excuse for what I did. I was startled. I was frightened. But I will freely admit I was wrong, and however you see fit to punish me, I only ask that you spare my family from any--"

Isaac gently put a hand on Asif's shoulder. "I wouldn't take it that far. James is... uh... difficult. I'm not saying violence is how I want things handled in this Pack, but you were pushed to an extreme, and I will not lay the blame on you for reacting to that provocation. James owes you an apology. And you... desperately need some sleep, Pack brother. I swear to you, I will guard Lina with my life. I will guard your family. But Asif, you are part of this Pack, and we will guard you too. You're exhausted, man. I know you've carried the weight of the world on your shoulders for a long time. It's time to start setting it down."

Asif met Riff's eyes gratefully. His friend had been right. Then he turned back to Isaac. "Thank you. I am... so grateful for your understanding. More than I can say. I have... one more request, if I might. Please do not tell Taara what you learned today. We will tell her when she's older. When she's ready. But right now, she is so... bold. So confident. So courageous. She does not know of the evils people do to each other in this world. I would not teach her to fear, until I absolutely have to..."

"Of course," Isaac said. "What you and Lina choose to tell your daughter is up to you. I would never interfere."

Isaac put a slight emphasis on the 'your.' An acknowledgment of the commitment Asif had made that Taara was his own.

Asif smiled. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. Riff, can you make sure Asif gets a chance to relax a bit before the sky falls again? I'll... deal with James."

It was clear the leader did not exactly relish that task.
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