I would like to once again remind readers that I put tags on these parts according to what the themes are of the OVERALL story line, not individual parts. For those who are registered users of XN, please feel free to vote for this story if you enjoyed it. If you are following this saga then you may want to bookmark the page so you can keep check for new parts as they are posted. As always I would like to thank everyone who has given this story a chance by reading it.
Ethereal awoke late the next evening in her own bed. Stealth was nowhere to be found. Instead, she discovered a perfectly penned note on the bedside table along with a single red rose. Smiling, Ethereal rose from the bed and opened the heavy, crisp piece of paper to read the beautiful calligraphy inside:
I took the liberty of remedying a situation that would raise a lot of questions that neither of us, I'm sure, are eager to answer right now. Please forgive me if I have offended you, but I have only your best interests at heart.
Still smiling, she folded the paper up and immediately tossed it into the fire. While she was disappointed that Stealth was not there, she knew full well that he was right. The last thing she wanted was to give Requiem any reason to force Stealth to leave the sanctuary of the mansion. She did not think he would be so petty as to demand his leave. Yet she did not want to push her luck to see just how infuriated he could get with her before putting his foot down and Stealth out in the cold.
Sighing a bit, she went into the bathroom to freshen up before going to the study to see if there was any news of the S.H.i.E.L.D. organization.
She discovered Requiem and Stealth in the study, just as she assumed they would be. Ethereal knocked quietly before opening the door and slipping inside. The two vampires looked up as she entered the room. Her sapphire eyes went immediately to Stealth’s black orbs, the mental link they now shared instantly opening wide like a window flung open to the winds. Ethereal faltered momentarily as the sensation of the link took her off guard. Stealth was instantly at her side, offering his arm to her as she almost fell against the desk. A small gasp of surprise left her lips before she managed to compose herself. Stealth helped her to the chair he had just vacated, asking, “Are you alright?”
Ethereal looked questioningly at him, as if she was perplexed as to why he would be asking. Surely he knew what had just happened. Yes, but for Requiem’s sake
….The thought brushed lightly against her brain, reminding her that Stealth could hear her every thought and answer them without ever opening his mouth. She looked at him briefly before smiling.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine, thank you. Just a bit clumsy this morning is all.” She sat down, giving him another little smile before lowering her head.
Requiem snorted. “Hmmm, knowing you, Ethy, you probably haven’t eaten a bite since you crawled out of bed.” She started to give him the usual snappy come back about him minding his own damn business, but she realized that she was actually starving, something that was quite unusual for her. Ethereal rarely ate. It was another trait inherited from her fey parentage. She could live off of little more than a few pieces of fruit, but suddenly she found herself famished.
It’s the blood loss
. Ethereal looked up at Stealth, but he paid no attention to her, being busy situating himself in the chair on the other side of Requiem. Laughter filtered through her mind as Stealth’s voice filled her head again, If you keep looking at me every time I say something to you, he is going to know. Unless you would like to go ahead and tell him. After all, it is his house. I think it would be best if he knew
Ethereal’s brain immediately began screaming NO! at him. His laughter filled her mind again. As you wish. But you will notice that you will need to eat much more often than normal if you continue to share your blood with someone.
She would love to have smacked him at that point, but that would surely raise questions. Instead, she smiled, looking at Requiem as she said, “No, I haven’t eaten. I guess all the excitement is starting to get to me. I suppose I could use something to eat.”
Requiem barely paid her any attention as he said, “Have Annette bring you some breakfast.” He glanced up at Stealth, “Actually, I think it would be nice to have a sit down meal for once. I never have use for the dining room. Now I have plenty of guests and no reason to have those guests sitting in my study trying to eat.” He got up from his chair and offered his arm. Ethereal stood up, wrapping her arm in his. “I’ll have Annette prepare us all something. Come, Stealth.”
Requiem lead the way out of the study and towards the dining room. His voice was oddly cold as he continued, “Stealth, would you like to try some of the synthetic blood products they are making these days? I do not think you would like them, but I do not think Ethereal will be up for another feeding for a few days.”
Ethereal stopped dead in her tracks at his words, looking up at him with accusation shining in her eyes. “What, did you think I would not find out?” Requiem looked at her with extreme disappointment in his eyes. Disappointment, and, she noted, jealousy. “It would be very hard not to smell your blood on his breath, or his….fluids…on your body.”
Ethereal snatched her arm from his, the insinuation bringing about an instant flare of anger. “Don’t you dare stand there and judge me. If I didn’t know better I would say you were jealous. Is that it? Are you jealous that someone finally took up my offer? Heaven knows you never would give me the time of day when it came right down to it. It’s not like I never offered, Requiem. You just chose to never take up the offer. At one time I would have given anything, anything, to be your companion. But you refused. I had something that Stealth needed, and wanted, so I gave what was mine to give.”
She stood her ground, watching Requiem’s face change from anger to rage to cold hard hatred before he looked down at her in defeat. “You are right, Ethereal. I thought I could keep you with me but out of the vampire world. I chose not to accept your gift. I have made it clear that you do not belong to me. I have no right to tell you who you may feed.” He looked at Stealth apologetically. “Please, forgive me. You are right. I am jealous, and hurt, and angry at myself for having been so stubborn for nearly a decade.”
She shook her head slowly, sighing before cradling his cheek in her hand. “Silly vampire. I offered him the same thing that I have offered you. Blood, no strings attached. I do not wish to be anyone’s companion at this point. As for, um, other, things, that just kinda happened.”
Ethereal looked over at Stealth who gave her a sheepish smile. “Actually, I’m afraid that’s entirely my fault.”
Requiem turned to look at him, realization dawning on his face. “You didn’t tell her, did you?”
Ethereal watched the two vampires, not liking the way the conversation was going. “Tell me what?”
Requiem turned his gaze to the small woman, laughing a bit before turning his attentions to Stealth. “Oh, I’m staying out of this one. You are going to be the one to tell her.”
“Tell me what, exactly?” Ethereal demanded.
Requiem inclined his head towards her. Stealth rolled his eyes. “Um, you know how I said that our minds would be forever linked once I fed from you?” He didn’t wait for Ethereal to answer before he rushed on. “Well, that’s not the only, ugh, ‘side effect’ of donating your blood to a vampire.”
Ethereal looked from one to the other, confusion written all over her face. “What are you talking about? What ‘side effect?’”
The two vampires exchanged glances before Stealth continued. “For vampires, sexual desire and hunger kind of go hand in hand. That is to say, having sex is pretty much a prerequisite of feeding.”
Ethereal turned slowly to look at Requiem. “Are you trying to tell me that the reason you never wanted my blood was because you did not want to fuck me?” Her voice rose as she said that last part. She didn't know rather she was offended or flattered. Okay, offended. She was definitely offended.
Requiem moved towards her, his face that of a predator stalking his prey. For the first time since meeting him Ethereal felt real fear surge through her body. She involuntarily moved backwards, finding herself backing into the wall of the hallway. Requiem moved towards her until he was inches away, his breath soft against her skin. He placed a hand on either side of her body, fencing her in and eliminating any source of escape. Ethereal’s eyes darted to Stealth, but he, too, had moved closer to her, his own black orbs filled with hunger and lust.
“Oh, no, my dear,” Requiem whispered, his lips brushing lightly over her ear. “I wanted very much to fuck you. But since I knew I could not do one without the other, I chose to simply let you be.”
Ethereal shuddered at the vampire’s words, her mind suddenly opening as Stealth fed her images of the three of them locked in the eternal vampire embrace, her body locked together between the two of them, her body filled up with both of them, the vampires’ mouths locked on either side of her neck. She gasped as the images flooded her mind, her body suddenly flushing with unbridled desire, the strength of the passion so overwhelming that she began to shake uncontrollably as she continued to see the three of them together, her body being used by both of them over and over. Requiem caught her as her knees gave way beneath her as she convulsed, a moan of wanting coming from deep within her soul. “Yes,” she whispered, “Yes, please, yes….”
Requiem held her closer as Stealth withdrew the images from Ethereal’s mind, telling her softly, “Yes, but not today, little one. Your body could not feed both of our desires so soon.”
Ethereal continued to shudder as the images repeated themselves over and over inside her head. She took little notice of Requiem's arm wrapped around her body as he guided her to the dining room. She knew the little scene dancing in her head was not sitting on the 'repeat' button because of Stealth. She herself was the one replaying the orgy she had been force fed earlier. And, she realized, she couldn't stop herself from repeating the performance in her mind's eye over and over again. It wasn't until Annette set a plate of food in front of her and Requiem called her attention to it that she finally came out of her stupor long enough to force the scene out of her mind and concentrate on the food in front of her and the conversation going on around her.
"I don't think they were just ingesting the blood," Stealth's quiet voice brought Ethy out of her haze. She looked up from her omelet to listen to the two vampires sitting across the table from her.
"What do you mean, "just" ingesting it? What more could they do? It's common knowledge now that a human who continues to ingest vampire blood will eventually die." Requiem looked at Stealth as if he had suddenly become daft.
Requiem looked at Stealth as he swirled his glass of synthetic blood around. "What I mean," Stealth said as he continued, "is that it's common knowledge among vampires that a human who continues to ingest vampiric blood will eventually die. Most humans who take the blood as a drug don't know this until they finally keel over. But what about scientists? What have they discovered about our blood? Do they know that ingesting it will kill the human? And if they do, then how would they go about getting the same results without the side effects? As I said, the soldiers I encountered were not losing their new found vampire strength and speed. And I also noticed that the smell was in their blood somehow....they didn't smell like a junkie oozing the stuff from the pores of their skin...."
Stealth sat back in his seat and looked thoughtfully into the distance. "They smelled of vampire blood when I spilt their blood. And their hearts..." Stealth suddenly sat up straight in his seat and looked at the other vampire excitedly, "Their heartbeats were slow, just like a vampire's, but they smelled perfectly human until I ripped them open."
Requiem could tell Stealth was on to something, but he dare not interrupt the other until he had his thoughts in order. Ethereal sat enthralled, her omelet completely forgotten on her plate.
"What would happen if a human were to shoot up vamp blood instead of ingesting it?"
Requiem sat in stunned silence for a moment. The thought had never crossed his mind, and he didn't really understand why it had never occurred to him, or a human for that matter. "I can't really say, Stealth. I do not know of a human who has ever tried it."
Stealth nodded his head in agreement. "Nor do I, but what if someone else did? What if this S.H.i.E.L.D. organization figured out some way to get the vamp blood to give all the benefits and none of the pitfalls that ingesting the blood would incur? What if, for arguments sake, a human were to have vampire blood introduced directly into their bloodstream? What do you think would happen?"
Requiem sat for a moment in thought, one hand absently twirling a dredlock around his finger. "Hmmm, well considering what we know, it could have the desired effect of increased speed and strength. And if it acted like a drug, it would explain the slowed heart beat. But I would think that if it were going to have the same effect as ingesting it then it would cause the recipient to die much quicker."
Stealth nodded. "Yes, I agree. But what if by introducing the vampire blood directly to the human blood that the increased strength and speed lasted much longer because it had not been degraded by the human digestion process? And if you continue along this same line of thought, it is also very possible that anyone who had this done to them would also have a very short life expectancy once the blood was introduced. The soldiers who assaulted my home were definitely expendable. They acted like they knew they were on a suicide mission and didn't care. All that mattered to them was to complete the mission at any cost. Perhaps their slowed heartbeat wasn't just because they had the blood in their system, but maybe it was slowed because they were dying."
"Yes," Requiem said. "It all makes sense, but until we have someone-" his reflection was cut off by the shrill ring of his cell phone. Excusing himself, Requiem answered the phone, giving only short replies to the person on the other end.
"We have a situation," he said as he hung up the phone. "That was Joshua, the leader of the werewolf clan here in Shadow Cove. He has informed me that they have been having numerous different wereanimals showing up at The Compound over the past few weeks. Everyone's story has been similar. Soldiers showing up picking off members of their clans. It is rumored that entire clans have been completed eradicated. The ones showing up at The Compound are refugees seeking asylum. Joshua has asked for my help. He wishes an audience with me and has requested that I come to The Compound this evening. It would appear that his second in command has went to pick up more refugees. Joshua has invited us to his home to discuss this S.H.i.E.L.D. organization. We are hoping that the new refugees will have more information for us."
Stealth stood up, pushing himself back from the table. "Of course. I think it is very important for us all to share as much information with each other as possible. In these dire times, we need to all come together to protect each other before we are all destroyed."
"These are my feelings as well, Stealth, as is Joshua's." Requiem glanced at his watch. "It is nearing eight pm. The sun will be setting soon. We can take my limo. It has sun proof glass so we will be safe. The Compound is more than thirty miles away. Night will have fallen by the time we arrive."
The two vampires moved towards the door, talking among themselves. Requiem stopped as he approached the door and turned back to the table. "Ethereal? Come, we are leaving for The Compound."
Ethereal looked at him in astonishment. "You mean you want me to go with you? I figured you would order me to stay here."
Requiem laughed. "Normally I would. But this concerns you as well, and I cannot protect you if you are here at the house and I am with the wolves. You deserve to be in on this just like everyone else. Come now."
Ethereal wasted no time in scrambling to her feet and hurrying after the two vampires. In less than five minutes the three of them were seated comfortably in the back of Requiem's limousine, the long sleek car rushing them towards the outskirts of Shadow Cove and The Compound where Joshua and his clan awaited them.
The sun had set nearly half an hour before the black limousine made its way through the double steel plated gates of the werewolf Compound. Ethereal spent the entire time nestled between Requiem and Stealth, listening to the two of them bounce ideas off of each other.
The werewolf Compound was sitting on over 400 acres of land. The entire area was heavily wooded. The Compound itself sat in the middle of the acreage. A ten foot high cement wall surrounded the entire house. The wall was three feet thick and had small covered outposts every one hundred feet so that the wall could be patrolled. The entire accommodation had belonged to the werewolf clan for more than five hundred years, and during that time the wall had only been patrolled once over all those years. But as the limo pulled through the gates and made its way up towards the house, the wall was once again crawling with werewolves patrolling the area.
"Joshua has stepped up security I see," Requiem noted as their small entourage was escorted through the home. Their arrival brought forth little more than a ripple of curiosity from the multitude of wereanimals that were mulling around the Compound. Requiem and Stealth made sure to keep Ethereal between them as they followed the wolves, noting how some of the younger ones jerked their heads up to sniff after her. Ethereal paid them little attention, being use to the sniffs and stares from working around the supernaturals for years.
The three of them were finally shown into a large room filled with a hodgepodge assortment of wereanimals. Joshua, the Alpha male, made his way through the group towards them. "Ahh, you made it. I was getting worried." He brushed his lips lightly against the ring on Requiem's offered hand. Stealth bowed politely to the Alpha.
Requiem took Ethereal by her elbow and propelled her forward. "Joshua, please allow me to introduce you to a dear friend of my household, Ethereal Oscurita."
Joshua offered his hand to Ethereal who returned his handshake.
Requiem said, "You know, my dear, in the werewolf society, the proper way to greet the Alpha of the clan is to get on all fours and rub against his legs, much as a cat does its master."
Ethereal looked at Requiem as if he must be crazy, her gaze jerking back and forth between Requiem and Joshua's amused faces. Finally Joshua laughed, patting her hand before release it. "Yes, that is the proper greeting for an Alpha, but I always found the practice demeaning, so I don't demand it. I don't necessary discourage it either, in the right company..." his voice trailed off, but his brown eyes danced merrily in the dim light.
Ethereal, relieved that she would not be expected to grovel at the Alpha's feet, giggled nervously before sitting down between the two vampires. Others gathered around them, eager to tell their tales of woe and misery.
Initially, all the stories were very similar. Everything had started off quietly enough well over a year before. In the beginning, many of the losses to the clans were considered accidents. Members gone missing were often thought to have moved on to another clan in some other community or state. The lack of communication between the different wereanimals put them at a disadvantage that was quickly exploited by S.H.i.E.L.D. Had the different clans kept in contact with each other they would have realized six months ago that the random disappearances and accidents were not so random after all. By the time members of the clans became suspicious, the S.H.i.E.L.D. had began full on assaults of the various clan houses. Now most of the clans lay in ruins, the few survivors seeking out shelter where they could find it.
"As best as we can tell, it started out small, with the weakest members of the clans and fledgling vampires without sires being picked off one by one. They chose the ones who would not be missed as their first targets. Then they started picking off the trained members, but again they chose the ones who were the least likely to be missed or whose deaths would be considered accidental. This continued for the better part of six months," Joshua explained.
"Then roughly two months ago, S.H.i.E.L.D. descended on all the clans in this state at once, leaving Shadow Cove and the surrounding area untouched for reasons unknown at the present time. Things lay quiet for about a month until once again the cycle started up, with clans on the outskirts of the city being picked off one at a time. Then there was the attack on Stealth's mansion. The only things that they seem to have left untouched, for the moment at least, is this Compound, Requiem's home, and his club. We can only guess at this point that they are gathering their strength for another assault. What we don't know is whether they will attack at once or try to pick us off one at a time." As Joshua ended his speech, others quickly began talking amongst themselves, each throwing out what they had witnessed and what they personally believed was going on or would happen in the coming weeks.
"What I don't understand," someone in the group said, "is why are they picking us off? What did we do that made them suddenly decide to start wiping out all the supernaturals in this state? And is it really all supernaturals or is it just lycans and vampires that they dislike so much?"
Several voices rose to answer his query, some wondering aloud if anyone knew if any of the fey had been taken out like the lycans. "Can you even get hold of a fey anymore? I mean, are there even any around in this area or what?"
More voices blended together as everyone tried to answer each other at once. It was then that Ethereal cleared her throat. Immediately everyone in the room stopped talking and turned to her as she stirred in her seat. The slight vibrations of her movement sent her scent into the air, turning all attention to her as some of the newly turned wereanimals moved closer to sniff unabashedly at her clothes. Ethereal, use to the unusual behavior, paid them little attention as she stood. "If I may offer some insight into the subject...." she inclined her head towards Joshua, basically asking for permission to put her two cents worth into the conversation.
With the slight nod of Joshua's head, Ethereal launched into her small speech. "I don't know what you may have heard or thought you know about fey. For whatever reason, my mother knew of their habits intimately, and she taught me what she had learned during the time that we were together." She paused to gather her thoughts before continuing. "Each fey species is different. But the one thing they all have in common is that if they do not want you to know of their existence, then you won't. You do not 'accidently' stumble upon them, and if you do, then it is no accident. They are masters of magiks both of the earth and the elements. Only necessity will move them out of their natural habitats. For the troll and gnome, that would be in underground caverns. The Sprite, Elf, and Dwarf all live within the forest, but they use the magik of earth, elements, and nature to conceal themselves. They can turn themselves into trees or plants or even hide in the water. As a general rule, neither human nor vampire nor even a wereanimal would know one even if they were to step right on top of one. They smell just like the environment around them so you would only notice their aroma if they were to step outside of their natural habitat. My point," she said as she sat back down, "is that they will either live or die as they always have, in hiding, away from the rest of the world."
Joshua looked at Ethereal, asking her gently, "You have never known another of your kind, have you?"
Ethereal smiled at him. "No, I have never come across another fey that I am aware of, and I am the only half breed that I or anyone else has ever heard tale of. The punishment for a child born outside the species is death to both parents and child. The only reason why I was spared is because no one knew about me until several years after my birth, and by then my mother had disappeared and left me with a completely new identity. So many years have passed now that even if the fey were to find me, they would not risk exposure to hunt me down. I do not make waves for them by spreading the knowledge I have acquired of them, so for now I am not considered enough of a threat to warrant a confrontation."
Ethereal settled back into her seat, smiling in amusement as some of the younger lycans took turns snuffling around her legs. She had one young man who looked to barely be a teenager to practically climb in her lap before an older female called to him sharply, "Daniel! Get out of her lap, son, haven't I told you that you cannot keep crawling all over people? Humans aren't use to it."
Ethereal laughed openly. "I don't mind. I work at The Red Fang so I'm use to being around curious little lycans." She ran her hand through the boy's sandy blonde locks, taking note of the slightly darker spots around his hair line that would eventually fade out as the child got older.
The boy took this as an open invitation to snuggle up next to her, sniffing away at her hair and neck. Ethereal let him satisfy his curiosity, trying to keep her attention on the conversation and off the tickle of the child's nose on her skin.
The low growl that surged up from the boy's throat caught her completely off guard. Shocked, Ethereal wasn't quite sure what had set the little wereleopard off until he yelped out, "Momma! One of them bit her!" The teenager jumped down off of her to land on all fours down on the floor. His whole body was vibrating so hard Ethereal could hear the hum that was the result of the violent shaking. The boy's light brown eyes darted between Stealth and Requiem and back again. Comprehension dawned on her face as she put two and two together.
"Calm down!" her voice was gentle but firm, her blue eyes staring deep into the younger man's darkening spheres. "It's okay, I told him he could." The teenager looked at her doubtfully, but his vibrating slowed down. It was obvious now that he didn't trust either of the vampires sitting beside her. Ethereal wasn't sure if he thought that she was here against her will or what, but she wasn't up to explaining things to the youngster either. He could take her at his word or not, she didn't really care right now.
Joshua let out a series of light barks which sent the teenager wereleopard slinking back to his mother, who wasted no time in giving the young man a tongue lashing. "I'm sorry about that. With everything that's been going on, there have been rumors abounding about vampires taking hostages and forcing them to be donors, among other things. Again, my apologies for Daniel's behavior. He was, in his own way, just trying to protect Ethereal. I had not realized she was a companion or I would have introduced her as such."
Requiem opened his mouth to speak. Ethereal cut him off, stating hotly, "I'm not a companion. For either of them." She didn't know why she got so defensive about it, but knowing Requiem had turned her down time and again just made her want to rub it in his face.
Joshua, however, gave her an odd look that immediately sent her squirming in her seat. And when Stealth's words from earlier regarding a vampire's feeding habits came back to her, Ethereal blushed a bright red. Now she understood the slang term "fang bang" that the vampires had used around the bar, and why Requiem was so animate about her not donating to vampires. It now occurred to her that he had not been worried about her life so much as her reputation.
"I'm not...that is to say....I mean...." Finally Ethereal gave up and looked angrily at everyone who was giving her that strange look. "Stay out of my sex life already!" With a little 'humft' she got up from her seat and stalked out of the room, leaving Requiem and Stealth to carry on the discussion of S.H.i.E.L.D. with Joshua and his pack.
Honestly, she thought to herself, it's none of their business who I sleep with, and it was only one vampire! It's not like I go around sleeping with every fang I come across!
Feeling annoyed and distracted, Ethereal walked through the house and out the back door, finding herself on a large deck that was gently lit by solar lamps. Sighing, she made her way to a swing at one end, sitting down and swinging herself lightly with one foot. She wasn't sure how long she had been sitting there staring up at the stars and moon when she became aware of the large dark shape that had materialized out of the darkness to sit nearly motionless a few feet from her.
Startled, Ethereal could get out little more than a soft squeak, her heart jumping into her throat and lodging there.
The hunkering form cleared his throat before stating in a deeply quiet voice, "My apologies, miss. I did not mean to alarm you. If I may?"
Ethereal sat there for a moment before realizing he was asking permission to move. It was a strange request in this setting, although she had seen wereanimals get drawn into fights because they had moved too suddenly. It was the equivalent of an animal attacking a perceived threat because it moved towards it, like a cornered dog.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Please, would you care to join me?"
The dark form stood up slowly, thanking her for the invitation as he moved. Ethereal stared in wonder as the man stood to his full height of over six and a half feet. As he came into the glow of the lamps, she openly gasped. The being standing in front of her was dressed in a type of synthetic body armor that stretched across his broad shoulders. His waist length hair was silver and glinted in the moonlight. His eyes were the color of polished steel and peered out from his tanned face. He bowed his head slightly in thanks before settling on the floor at her feet. Even with him sitting on the ground he was face to face with her.
It took Ethereal a few seconds before she was able to compose herself enough to introduce herself. Unlike the vampires or even the werewolves, he did not take try to take her hand. Instead, he bowed his head in greeting. "I am Nikkolas Redpaw of the Clan of the Claw. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"You too," Ethereal echoed, her voice barely above a whisper. She mentally shook herself, blushing under the man's gaze. She lowered her eyes and murmured, "I'm sorry for staring. I'm use to being around wereanimals, but I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly what you are."
A small smile appeared on his face but he made no attempt to enlightened her as to his heritage. Instead he merely stated, "I am from a very old clan from out of Canada."
Ethereal's interest was immediately spiked. "Canada?" she asked. "How fascinating. I've never met another supernatural that was not from the states." She looked him over once again. "Okay, I give up. I don't have a clue as to what your animal is. You're too big to be a wolf. Tiger perhaps?"
Nikkolas inclined his head slightly before stating, "Or, perhaps, I'm an elephant?"
Ethereal sat there for a split second in confusion before bursting into laughter. The man joined in.
"I'm sorry, I could not resist. You seem so very serious, your brow all wrinkled, trying so hard." He laughed again before continuing. "Do you not have werebears in the United States?"
She nodded her head, obviously impressed. "Yes, we have werebears, but I've never seen one with silver hair."
Nikkolas laughed again, the sound rumbling up from deep within his chest. "No, I'm afraid the silver hair is strictly a trademark of my clan. You see, my family is not your traditional brown or black bear of the states. We are polar bear."
Ethereal's mouth gaped open. "Polar bear? Well that explains it!"
It was Nikkolas' turn to look at her in confusion. "I'm sorry, I must explain. I come from fey heritage, elf and fairy to be exact. While our senses are not nearly that of the wereanimals, we are quite familiar with the scents of the earth and animals. You, however....your scent....well, to be honest, you don't really smell like anything. It reminds me distinctly of winter time, after a fresh snow, when all you can smell is the cold."
Nikkolas seemed to roll this over in his mind before nodding his approval. "I have never had anyone describe it in such a way. But yes, you are right. Moving around in the snow and cold masks our scent quite well. I'm afraid the natural barrier will eventually fade, though. I am the last of my clan and as far as I know, the last of my species. I have no reason to return to the great north, especially with the war going on. My natural scent will eventually come back now that there is no longer any snow for me to tread through."
They sat there in comfortable silence for a while, Ethereal looking off into the night without really seeing anything. She was imaging the great bear sitting at her feet as he must have been only a few weeks ago, surrounded by drifts of snow as tall as she, his large paws breaking through the snow. The wind blew lightly, ruffling the white fur of his coat. It saddened her a great deal to know that this thing had reached so far and caused so many of them pain.
"Is that what this is, a war?" she asked more to herself than the man sitting at her feet. She continued to stare off into space, her mind going over and over the events of the past few days. "War....yes, I suppose it is a war. So many have died, will continue to die, will continue to lose their families." Ethereal shook her head. "I don't understand what they have against us. I can understand them not wanting the vampires making other vamps left and right, but the wereanimals can’t turn a human at random. And vampires are so pissy about who is turned and allowed into their world, the humans needn’t worry.”
Nikkolas listened quietly. “It’s human nature to fear what they do not understand. They look at vampirism and lycanthropy like it was a disease, something that must be fought against and eradicated at all costs."
Ethereal made a snorting sound. "Well vampirism, yeah. I can see someone thinking it's "catchy" like a cold or the flu so far as anyone can be turned if the sire has a mind. But lycanthropy? You don't turn into a werewolf because you get bit. That's just a bunch of movie B.S. and it has been explained so many times to the public that I feel like throwing my coffee cup at the TV every time one of those Public Service Announcements come on."
Nikkolas laughed softly, mentally picturing the petite red-head hurling a cup of java at her television set while screaming for people to grow up.
"Well it's true!" Ethy said in defense. "I just don't understand humans. They run around having unprotected sex with hundreds of people knowing that they have more than a ninety percent chance of catching HIV but they freak out and avoid lycans like they were sadistic devils or something! AIDS kills but all lycanthropy does is slow down the aging process and make you turn into an animal three nights out of the month. Women don't get that bent out of shape about their periods, so why freak out over the lycans? The only way you are going to turn in to one is if you are carrying the lycan gene and it gets activated. Humans would rather risk a fatal sexually transmitted disease than live next to a lycan." Ethereal threw her hands into the air in exasperation. "How can humans be so...so...stupid!"
Nikkolas had a slightly lop-sided grin on his face during her tirade. But he understood her frustration. Humans didn't make a lot of sense when it came to proven scientific fact. He realized long ago that humans chose to believe what they wanted to believe and refused everything else, even when it had been proven to them time and time again.
"Eh, it baffles the mind," Nikkolas responded.
Ethereal just shook her head, staring out into the night sky that was beginning to show the hints of the approaching dawn around its eastern border.
"Oh, I didn't realize it was getting so close to daylight!" she said as she jumped up from her seat. "I'm sorry, Mr. Redpaw, but I must check on my friends. I don't know what their plans are for the daylight hours."
"Nikkolas, please," he said as he got to his feet. "Please allow me to escort you back inside." With that Nikkolas offered his arm to Ethereal. She took his arm and the two of them went back to find the others, making small talk during the short journey.
When they made their way back into the living room they arrived just in time to see the whole place in a flurry of activity. Nikkolas immediately excused himself to search out Joshua, his animal instinct picking up on something that Ethereal could only guess at.
"Ethy, there you are!" Requiem hurried to her and drew her into the small crowd gathered around the alpha of the pack. "Something has come up. It would seem that Tatum, the pack's beta male, was sent to round up some stragglers from another pack when they were ambushed by S.H.i.E.L.D. soldiers in a parking garage across town. They are held up in the garage, but their ammo is running low and every time they thin out the soldiers more pop up to take their place. They are in desperate need of backup."
Ethereal listened intently, taking note of bits and pieces of Joshua's commands to his fellow pack mates. She noted that Nikkolas had been immediately dispatched as one of the front runners of the operation. "Ethy," Requiem said to her, "they are going to need everyone they can get to help with this. Most of the refugees are just women and children. The S.H.i.E.L.D. organization has been very careful in picking off the trained soldiers of the packs first and then cleaning up the leftovers later. It has left this pack understaffed in trained soldiers and over populated with members that need protecting."
Ethy nodded. "I know how you are Requiem, always spoiling for a good fight." She smiled at him, trying not to picture him or Stealth spontaneously combusting in the early morning light.
Stealth pulled her into his arms, seeing the pictures in her head dancing before his own mind's eye. "We will be fine. The garage is underground so we will never see the daylight. But it is as Requiem says, they need every able bodied person to help in this rescue.
Ethereal tilted her head up to look at him, a stern look on her face. "I'm glad you feel that way, because I'm coming with you."
Both of the vampires immediately began to animatedly protest her announcement. She cut them short. "No arguments. You just said every fighter was needed, and that includes me. Besides, there's no way I'm letting you two off to have all the fun."
Requiem put his hand on her shoulder. "I must refuse this request, Ethy. We will have enough people to protect without adding another one to the pot."
Ethereal's jaw tightened slightly before she spoke again. "It's not a request. You yourself have trained me so that I can defend myself. You don't have to worry about me. Not to mention that my specific....abilities....to fight from afar will be greatly needed in such close quarters. I'm going, and that's that."
Stealth's brow wrinkled up with her comment, wondering what unusual talents the little fey in his arms had up her sleeve. But it wasn't the right time or place to ask. The clock was ticking.
Requiem sighed. "Very well, my dear. I know that arguing with you is completely pointless. But promise me one thing."
Ethereal smiled at him. "I will promise you anything, Requiem...within reason."
A small chuckle bubbled up from within the vampire. "Ahh, that's my Ethy. Just please try not to do any hand-to-hand combat unless you absolutely have to, huh? I'd prefer it if you would stay on the sidelines and out of harm's way as much as possible."
Ethereal nodded her head in agreement. "I'll stay as far back as I can and do as much as I can from where I'm at. I have no desire to get myself killed any more than you wish to see me splattered all over the parking garage."
Requiem pulled her close for a quick hug, noticing how Stealth shuddered at the thought of Ethereal's frail body sprawled out in a pool of blood.
"Alright, let's get going every one," Joshua said as he herded everyone out of the room. "Remember, this is a rescue mission. We get in, get our family, and get the hell back out as fast as possible." A chorus of agreement went up from the pack as Joshua finished up his instructions. Within minutes the group of two dozen lycans along with the two vampires and one small half-fey woman had armed themselves tooth and nail and piled into four heavily armored SUVs, their little entourage heading out into the breaking dawn.