In the Loop

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#1
Sunday, Aug 11th, late afternoon
@LEVKA


Esperanza had not had time since Friday to inform Levka of the events on the horizon - now, after church and before dinner, she found a moment to settle down and call him.

Incoming Call
Esperanza

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#2
Phone calls without even the slightest idea what they could be about were both the best and the worst. But for Esperanza, answering his phone was a no-brainer.

Hello.

Tone, of course, suggesting warm familiarity with the anticipated voice on the other end.
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#3
Good afternoon, your majesty!

Starting light, a grin in her tone.

How are you doing today?

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#4
Was that greeting supposed to be flattering? Because it was. He didn't read any further into it than that because there obviously was no reason to.

Well enough. Things are quiet and normal for now. Are you good?

The nature of the beast was that he did not give or take the typical 'how are you' greetings as anything but a sincere question.
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#5
Her intention had been to make sure he was in a decent enough headspace to help bear her load, and now she was having a small struggle to not feel like she had only asked it as an opening for her own woes.

Well, I have been better. I wanted to let you know that I am sending Alejandra to live with my parents at the end of the month.

Something he would not be too torn up about, she figured, before she toed into things that might be taken differently.
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#6
It wasn't something he had ever wanted to suggest. Family, to him, was one of the more important aspects of life, even as a were. If he had had his way, Esperanza would have been able to keep her daughter safe and oblivious for the rest of her life, much as he had his own. But a young daughter and her bear mother were much different from a grown son being a bear and his mother human.

Still, the disappointment he felt on Esperanza's behalf was rather mild.

I am sorry to hear it has had to come to this after all, Esperanza, but you are doing what is best, I think.

He assumed it was forever. It felt rather cruel to ask and confirm.
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#7
She sighed, long and soft and perhaps a bit of a means to keep the lump out of her throat. It was hard not to be emotional about it all.

I think so too.

She should have done this a long time ago.

However - I am going to have a birthday party for her before she leaves. August eighteenth, if you would like to come - I will invite the other bears, too, and Asha. And her little school friends, of course.

She wanted to invite Cliff, but thought that maybe was not such a good idea.
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#8
He was somewhat sad to think that his guardians would not be here for it--they had loved Alejandra perhaps most of anyone other than her mother--but in the end he could not change any of this.

Of course, gladly. Is there anything that she might like?

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#9
There was not much entertainment to be had for adults at a child's birthday party, outside of finding amusement in the words and actions of young children. It was nice to think that some of the people important to her would take a slice of their time to humor her.

Ah... she is very into sea life right now. Dolphins and otters and mermaids, and things like that.

She huffed a soft, melancholic laugh.

And it will be held at Asha's business, the Terrace. Which, by the way - she has lost much of her memory. She may not remember you.

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#10
He made mental note, certain he could find something lovely for the young girl he had indirect fondness for as a parting gift, and hoped that if nothing else, Esperanza could take heart in knowing she'd done her best.

They'd have to speak on it more another time, if needed, but for now...

It took him a second, truly, to remember who Asha was. It wasn't that he forgot the jaguar, ever. It was just... her name never stuck with him as Asha no matter how many times people said it to him. First impressions were a terror that way, and it was only the mention of the Terrace that allowed him to put two and two together.

He sounded more confused than was reasonable because of this when he asked,

Why, exactly?

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#11
She hummed, a regretful sound.

A vampire meddled with her memories.

A chapter in the middle of her friend's chaotic story.
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#12
Wait, what?

Of all the things he'd expected to hear today, this was so far off his radar that he might have taken it as a joke from any other source.
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#13
She was sure Levka had heard her, and this was more of a rhetorical question, some measure of disbelief.

A vampire meddled with her memories.

She repeated herself anyway.

She has been in a very bad place lately. I offered to let her stay in my home for a little while, after Alejandra's party.

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#14
That elicited some noise of genuine displeasure.

You are sure of this? That she is truthful and that forgetting... whatever is all that was done?

He wasn't convinced, of course, but just the word vampire tended to make him bare his teeth.
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#15
Knowing Levka this well, it was not hard to know when he was unhappy, she thought. She didn't blame him.

I am sure.

There were so many things she could probably never know, but she had full faith in Asha's confession.

I have visited her a few times, and not much else seems to be, ah, amiss. She did not speak very fondly of this vampire, though. A man named Beauregard.

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#16
He knew that name. Knew it well in relation to Asha, no less. He growled once, then huffed in derision.

She and her vampire on bad terms? What has she done...

The last bit, mostly a muse to himself, and he found he still didn't trust any of this, as much as he did trust Esperanza.

I would prefer it if you did not bring her into the Glenn but if you must, you must keep the very most close eye on her. I do not trust any of it.

It was a lesson though, that proved he was right in his mind. Trusting vampires was the last thing he'd ever do.
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1

#17
Esperanza sighed gently to his remark. Asha had indeed mentioned previous encounters with this vampire, and while she could not know what their relationship entailed, she held firmly to the jaguar's renouncing of her trust for him. She plucked one curled strand of hair from her shoulder and twisted it thoughtfully around her fingers.

This was not a do-or-die situation, Asha needing company, for as much as Esperanza longed to keep her comfortable. She could not spend her days at work and guarantee what Asha might do in her absence - not that she thought the woman would cause any trouble. It risked upsetting one loved one in order to keep the other one happy. This was made perhaps more difficult in seeing, with decent clarity, both sides of this coin.

Okay. I understand. Oh, also - maybe it goes without saying, but, the prowl has disbanded. In case you did not know. Crestview is currently not claimed.

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#18
He trusted Esperanza with it, to understand and to act as best she could. He refused to believe she would disappoint him, but if she did, well... he'd not think on it now. She was a woman sending away her own daughter, after all, for their security.

The hints and whatnot that had gone about the jaguars made this news not terribly surprising, though it did make him frown, considering how much this would have affected things if Yana had not seen fit to decide her borders were closed to a second group. Really, smart of a woman as she was, that was probably one of the smartest retractions he'd ever seen her do.

Perhaps it is a rather cursed place.

The hyenas had suffered after having been there. The broadcast had been there. And now the jaguars. It was such a benign and boring place on paper, but for all that Levka was not a superstitious person... he would never put down roots there, if for some reason that became a consideration in some twisted future.

Maybe he should check in his resident jaguar sometime soon, actually. Get a better grip on the story and... you know, be sure they were in any danger of stress shifting in the middle of a gas station or something sometime.

You will let me know if you find out more that might affect us?

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#19
Perhaps it was cursed. Esperanza let out a quiet laugh, but it was nearly mirthless. With the idea of ghosts and vampires, perhaps curses were not so far fetched.

Of course I will. How did the fight night go, by the way?

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#20
Seeeee, she was the best. And he chuckled, mood twisting somewhere right around to much better when she asked about the fight.

Wonderfully. Big turn out, you should have come and watched Yana try and maim me.

Very easily he could have turned this around and complained about Cliff to her, how he was there and clearly large and in charge of some ragtag band of soft and squishy ursine nonsense. But she was dealing with enough and frankly, compared to vampires, Cliff was a manageable source of trouble.
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#21
She laughed heartily for his information, happy for a temporary distraction in the form of the sleek cheetah queen tossing poor Levka about.

And I am sure she looked as beautiful as ever while doing it, yes? Let me know when the next one is. Maybe I will come and join the audience.

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#22
Yes.

Interjected swiftly on the point about Yana and without the slightest hint of begrudging.

I am sure it will happen, it was probably more successful than I think Alina realized it would be. But a bit of rest for us all first. Even little Riley did not come away without her own battering, so as you can imagine... it gets only worse when Alina allowed hybrid and other little part-shift tricks. There was catering, perhaps something we could help with?

Something... she could help with, really. For all the owned and operated, Esperanza was the heart of Big Bear these days. And it seemed he was happier to talk about the fight night than he was the more upsetting initial tones of the conversation.
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#23
She abandoned the twirl of her hair, but wound up plucking long strands that had come loose of the day old curls anyway, grinning to the Russian man's words. Violence was one of those things where she split and tangled with her own beast - it was not a very Christian thing to do, she thought, but the bear was hardly above it. It left her with some sheepish desire to attend.

A laughed sort of "oh!" for the idea of Riley having thrown herself in the ring. She would have never thought! And hybrid shifts - goodness. Catering, though. That might be the thing that sold her attendance.

Oh, that is a fine idea. I cannot imagine one set of cooks having an easy time of keeping up with all those hungry beasts.

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#24
The man doing the food was some sort of cat. But very little? I forget what they are called, but the medic I saw was also one. It was very curious to me. Next time I will remind Alina that you are available. Show them how a bear does it.

Though the cats had done very, very well, he would admit. Thinking about that night made him both restless and hungry.
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#25
A very little cat, as a Were! Color her intrigued. Esperanza abandoned the task of pulling stray hairs from her head, laughed for Levka's competitive spirit.

Okay. You do that. And let me know if you find out what kind of cat that was!

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#26
I will!

He'd have to find one and ask again. Or maybe Yana knew.

But I do hope you are taking care of yourself, Esperanza. Perhaps see you at the diner soon, but if there is anything you need...

Just a phone call away, obviously.
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#27
She smiled gently for his kind words.

I promise, I am doing my best. I will let you know if I need anything at all.

Otherwise, he would be able to feel her washing in and out of immense grief over the next several days, maybe even weeks. Or longer. Who knew.

I appreciate you very much, Levka.

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#28
And I appreciate you.

Even he, stuck in his own little world, could accept that she'd done a lot more for him than most, even with her heart in so many different places.
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#29
She smiled against the phone, and while he obviously would not be able to see it, it carried into her tone. Warmed with a chuckle.

Good night.

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#30
Goodnight, Esperanza. Be well.

It would trouble him, though, that he could do nothing for her grief.
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