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

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Isaac Fishblatt

There was little Isaac could say in response. A terrible, weighty thing had happened. The Pack had been changed irrevocably. What they had lost could never be regained.

That didn't make it Riff's fault, of course. There had been no other solution... well, other than walking away and allowing innocent people to be murdered in their homes, which Isaac was not prepared to do. Their Pack was unused to conflict, but conflict seemed increasingly determined to find them; this crisis of lifestyle had been inevitable. If it hadn't been tonight, it would have been something else.

But even so, there were no real words of comfort for such a time. Isaac simply looped an arm around Riff's shoulder in a mute gesture of solidarity.

The howl - a fitting gesture of mourning - brought the rest of the Pack to the grove. They came slowly, in ones and twos, looking confused and forlorn. Isaac noticed a number of faces missing. Those they had lost, of course, and others who had chosen to leave.

Isaac addressed the Pack. "Tonight we kept our neighbors safe. You should all take pride in that. Those we lost gave their lives in a noble cause - their deaths were not in vain, and will not be forgotten. I'm going to go collect their remains, along with anyone who wishes to assist me. Then it's time to go home."

It was a very deliberate choice on Isaac's part to go himself to retrieve their dead. He could have sent someone else - but he did not want to give them impression that he was not willing to face what had happened, and take responsibility.

When they returned to the beach, bearing the weight of two dead Lycans, Isaac saw that two of the boats they had come in were missing, undoubtedly taken by those who had departed in anger. Isaac wasn't surprised, from a logistical standpoint - they all had to get off the island somehow, after all - but somehow the sight still stung.

He said nothing, though, and reorganized the others into their boats for the silent, melancholy trip home.
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Riff

He couldn't help but feel responsible for the deaths of the two and the subsequent splitting of the Pack. Sure, it had been a group decision to make friends with the new islanders. A group decision to protect them as part of the community. A group decision.

And now a group repercussion. A group mourning. A permanent mourning.

They were partway across the water when his phone binged. Right, the island was outside of cell service. Maria. He couldn't pull his phone out fast enough - and was rewarded with a bit of good news. A lot of good news, really. He'd been right - the mage had been bluffing. Maria and Sofie were fine and there was finally a new arrival.

He tapped Isaac on the shoulder and passed him the phone. Certainly not everyone would appreciate a celebratory announcement right at this moment, but he thought perhaps a bit of good news would do Isaac some good too.
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Isaac Fishblatt

Isaac sat in silence in the boat, shoulders hunched, lost in thought.

When Riff showed him the text, though, a genuine smile played at his lips. At least by providing this family with sanctuary, he had made an unequivocal right choice.

"Wonderful!" he said quietly - and sincerely. "I'm so happy for them. I'm glad the Pack has a joy on such a sad night. I'll tell the others once they've had a chance to grieve their losses. And of course once Lina has had a chance to rest up, I'll want to go offer congratulations in person. Riff, thank you - for everything."

When they got home, the remaining Pack members quietly parted ways with few words. Isaac sensed they would be back, though. Those who had stayed were committed for the long haul.

He was relieved when it was finally time to crawl into bed next to Gilda. She listened with sadness - they had been her Packmates too, even though she was no Lycan - and sympathy.

Then she whispered, "I'm proud of you. You're a good leader. They are right to look up to you."

It couldn't completely erase his doubts - tonight, nothing could - but knowing Gilda still had faith in him eased his journey into much-needed sleep.
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Riff

As much as he'd wanted to go straight to Asif and Lina's motel room and thus, straight to Maria. But no, he wasn't going to go to her like this - the stink of battle on him - the blood. What if Sofie woke up? Sure, he couldn't protect her from this life forever, but a little longer. Just a little longer for her relative innocence.

He hopped in the shower, blanket and all, soaking it and trodding over it in the tub until the water ran clear. Dragging himself out, he wrung it out and hung it from the shower rod. He rubbed his head and face all over with a towel before wrapping around himself - a replacement sarong, he supposed - but likely not acceptable wear. He dug out a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and left for the neighbour's.

Rapping lightly on the door, he whispered Maria's name. As much as he didn't want to talk about the night, he really hoped she was awake.
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Maria Yeats

The door opened within seconds of Riff's knock - making it seem like someone had been waiting for his arrival. This was confirmed when Maria appeared in the open doorway, kissed him, and took his hand to lead him inside.

Taara and Sofie were asleep in Taara's room, but Maria had been waiting up for Riff to get home. She was wearing an oversized hoodie over her nightclothes, and a mug of tea and mystery novel suggested how she had been occupying herself while she waited.

It was pretty obvious to Maria that Riff was unhappy. Had the mission gone wrong?

"Are you okay?" Maria asked worriedly. "I'll make you a cup of tea if you want to stay up and talk for awhile."
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Riff

He wrapped her a slow, gentle embrace, nuzzling her hair and breathing deeply of her scent. He was so incredibly lucky to be having this moment. If he had been wrong about the mage's threat...but he hadn't been wrong. And the proof was in his arms.

"I'm sort of okay. We...lost people. It's...shattered the community. The Pack is split. And as terrible as all that is...I'm just glad that you and Sofie are okay. That you're safe. I don't know what I would have done..."

He couldn't go there. But it was all too easy to put himself in a place of loss. He'd experienced it all before. But to lose Maria...before he even...got to ask her to marry him.

Maybe...a job wasn't that important. Maybe he shouldn't wait to be able to provide his family with a house. Maybe, just maybe, life was too short - even for immortals - to wait for what mattered in life. He might not be able to have everything ready...but tomorrow...he would get one piece that he really felt he couldn't do without.
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Maria Yeats

"Oh no, Riff, I'm so sorry..." Maria wrapped her arms around him.

She knew how much it must be bothering him. Riff was a sensitive soul - that was one of the things that had attracted her to him in the first place - and he was no doubt taking it hard. She also knew he had done his best, though. She was confident of that. He would never let his Pack down... this new Pack included.

"The Pack being divided - should we be... concerned?" she asked carefully. The wounds of what had happened to their old community were still not quite healed. Were they to be severed again from the support they had just found? From safety?

"But I'm just so glad you're alright," Maria added. "That's the most important thing - that you made it home. I was so worried about you. But it... sounds like you were worried about us too? Is something going on?"
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Riff

"No, I don't think it's like when our Pack divided back home." Riff made the connection immediately, remembering that awful day when things came to a head. The day the Pack splintered and began fighting amongst themselves. The day Boris lost his ear. "No, I think...I think it more likely that the people who left want a different way of life. I mean, I hope they come back. I sincerely hope they rethink their decision after they've had some time to process. I don't feel like they're going to rise up against Isaac, though. I think...I think we're safe."

He nuzzled her gently again, his eyes turning a bit hollow at the thought of what he was going to have to tell Maria. He didn't want to keep secrets from her. Was she going to be angry with him? Too late for that thought now...

"I was. I was so very worried about you and Sofie. The mages...they told me they took you. Showed our room empty. They said that if I told everyone to stand down and let them take Nick and Serafina away, that they'd let you go." He swallowed hard before continuing. "But I didn't believe them. I don't know if I just didn't want to because I wanted to protect the Greenways - but I...I don't know what I would have done if I had believed them. Maria, I'm so sorry. I...don't want you to think that I put you at risk...but I could have. I did. I...I'm so sorry."

Riff was shaking now, on the verge of tears, but unable to ask for forgiveness. Saying it out loud had made his gamble all the more obvious. It had been a gamble. And it was with Maria and Sofie's lives. How could they ever forgive him for that?
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Maria Yeats

Maria wrapped her arms around Riff. He was much taller than she was, so her head hit at about chest level when she leaned against him. Her hands moved soothingly on his back.

"You did the right thing," she said. "Look, I know you love Sofie and me. I don't have any doubt about that. But we can't be what sends you off course when things get tough. These people needed you. You had no reason to think we weren't okay... and we were okay. You were right to use your judgment. It can't just... be a thing where any time someone makes some vague threat against us, you drop everything and everyone to rush to our side. You were right. You don't have to apologize. You made the smart call. And I honestly feel safer knowing you aren't going to let people use us as your Achilles heel. You don't have to prove anything to us. You're such a good man, Riff. You care so much. Don't let that caring break your heart, though, okay? You, me, Sofie - we're fine. I promise."
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Riff

He stood there in her embrace, unable to speak. How did he get so lucky to have someone so smart and beautiful interested in him? Wanting to be with him. Forgiving him and agreeing with his decision all at the same time.

"I love you Maria." he whispered. "I love you."

He wished he could get more words out. That he could be more articulate. But right now - that was all he could muster. And honestly, it was all he really needed.

~~~~
The next morning, Riff was still suffering under the dark cloud of the night before's losses. But his surroundings reminded him that there was a reason to celebrate the day. The thought of Asif and Lina's new baby managed brought a smile to his face that soon became his normal lop-sided grin. He hummed to himself as he filled a glass of water at the sink. It was so good to have his friends here - and so lucky to get to share in their joy.
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