some satisfaction thinkin', 'jesus, at least I tried'

Big Bear Diner 

It was that time of evening that many tables were still occupied by people having supper. The diner had a reasonable crowd but there was still a choice of seating. Kenzie selected a two-person booth on the far wall in the corner, away from the entry way and the busiest paths from the kitchen to the dining room.

Once intent upon only coffee and a slice of pie, the aromas of hamburgers and fries and of chicken quarters and gravy had her perusing a menu. Even the listing of milkshakes had her reconsidering. She declined to order anything yet but accepted a glass of ice water from the waiter while she awaited Dakila.

Using her fingers, Kenzie fished once of the ice cubes from her glass and popped it into her mouth, tonguing the small hole in the bottom. Her eyes wandered over the log beams and cabin decor as she took to rolling the ice cube around her mouth, occasionally cheeking it and letting it rattle against her molars.

Fresh from a quick stop at home after work, Dakila was feeling good after a relatively typical day of work. Able to get out of there around time the sun went down, nothing in particular on his mind... it was nice to be able to focus forward and on the situation at hand. As much as it could be called a situation--hardly a fair label. It was just him and a fellow member of the pack out to sit and enjoy company for all he knew for certain.

But it was hard for him to not be looking to what might be coming, even if the evidence was lacking.

It was particularly bear-heavy in here. Dakila didn't come out this way all that often, but it wasn't the first time. Not put off by the sensation of 'this place is not yours' that he experienced nearly every day living in the Glenn, he entered and cast his eyes about. Stopped by the hostess, he asked after his friend and was directed towards the back, where he went after a smile and a thank you.

"Sorry if I kept you waiting," he said to Kenzie when he spotted her. His wolf danced in place with a keening hello of his own, even as he took the spot left open to him. "How are you, Kenzie?"

There was no need for her to turn her head to know he was arriving. She could feel his presence and her wolf was alert and eager.


Her chirp of a greeting was punctuated by the sound of crunching. Ice, hastened to be broken and swallowed. She grinned at him, perhaps a bit too pleased he hadn't bailed at the last minute or stood her up entirely.

His wolf was not the only one excited. Kenzie's was a spectacle of tail-wagging and wriggling; an enthusiastic welcome.

"No wait at all. I'm good. How have you been?"

It was good to see her vibrant. He knew her in a way that wasn't entirely personal, but had seen enough to know for all her boldness she could be cut back by a bad situation. He'd never forget her cowering in the face of their angry King, for all it seemed they had all moved on from that particularly terrible night with grace in the end.

So his smile paired with a nod. "Well enough. Busy with work, but that's not unusual and isn't a bad thing. Still lets me have enough time for things like this, so..." he picked up a menu that had been left in his spot, glancing at it almost mindlessly. "How about you? Been doing okay?" With Alina stepped back for now, he felt it more important for him to be certain that the pack itself was functioning sufficiently.

And also, you know, cared about her as an individual--exactly the sort of thing he would have been inclined to do even before the wolf had entered his life.

There was an eagerness in her breast that filled her mouth with words. Questions and comments which had to be carefully arranged and cheeked lest she ramble her packmate's poor ear off.

"Mmhmm. I've been doing okay." Up and down. Strong and weak. Determined and despairing. The bobbing of her head maybe went on a little too long; some subconscious effort to be convincing. Her answer wasn't dishonest though. She had been doing okay. One day at a time, making efforts to come to terms with her ghosts and move forward. To better herself and her chances at stable happiness.

He didn't need to know the details of how much she had been hurting and struggling. He did however need to know that she had appreciated his protection and comfort. "Listen, I never got a chance to thank you properly, for what you did for me that night." Sincerity gentled and warmed her expression, though there was a uncertain tilt to her head and a pinch at the corner of her mouth. "I should have thanked you sooner." But the days had blurred as she was spun and tossed by a vortex of other challenges.

"So... thank you." Her finger gestured at the menu. "Whatever you want is on me. I really appreciated how you tried to shelter and reassure me, and I'm sorry I ran."

It was a safe answer. Dakila didn't know her well enough to dig, or to even suspect that he might need to dig, but it did make him wonder what her day-to-day looked like. Did she have family around? Friends? Was there anyone in the pack she was close to?

All things to think about, but not before was getting to a point of inviting him here. Listen, she said, and he would. And her gratitude struck him--belated, but perhaps more poignant for it. It had clearly been on her mind. Sooner wasn't necessary, and certainly rewarding him for doing what he did wasn't required, but... "Oh, Kenzie, that's sweet of you. Really... it's okay. It was a bad night, I don't blame you for running in the least. I'm just glad you got out of there when you could."

Would it have gotten worse if she hadn't? He hoped not, but there was no way to know. "I'd do it all again without hesitation if anything like that ever happens again. I hope you know that."

He wouldn't turn down her generosity, though he wouldn't take advantage of it. Coffee and maybe a little to eat for both of them, was all.

Kenzie knew next to nothing about Dakila but it was easy to get the sense that he was a man with a good heart and, besides that he was a pack member, someone who was absolutely worth getting to know better.

"I believe you." She smiled. "But I don't plan on running anymore." Or at least not unless she had to in order to save her tail, and that wouldn't mean hoofing it across Mountainside to barrel into someone else's arms. "Seeing Alina mad like that and throwing things just hit a little too close to home annnd..." she trailed off, rocking her head from side to side as she cast her gaze upward. "I'm what you might call a serial runaway. Been working on not being that though." Her shoulders twitched.

She brought her eyes back to him. "How long have you know her and the rest?"

Serial runaway. If he had to guess that was probably part of the story as to how she'd ended up a werewolf in the first place. Away from the safety net of normalcy and home and family, it would have been easier for her to get snatched by someone careless or fall in with a questionable crowd. Slowly, and perhaps incorrectly, he was putting together a mental profile about this young lady. Kenzie was entirely different from him, but she'd receive no judgement for it.

He smiled to her saying she was working on it, glad--it could be hard to better yourself, but knowing what you were doing that wasn't beneficial was a good step.

It had been a rough night, that night she'd run away, but he didn't need him to confirm that for her.

"Just a couple of years. I've been with the pack since the beginning. My beginning, I mean." He actually didn't know how far back the history of the pack actually went, though he got the impression it had been around well before he'd come onto the scene. "I don't imagine you've been at this much longer than I have?" Surely not, with her age. He hoped not, anyway. She wasn't that young, but the ideas of college-age kids getting snapped always made him a bit uneasy.

"It's actually been eight years for me." Closer to nine. "I've only really just started figuring it out so I can see why you might think it hasn't been so long."

That he had been with the pack since his beginning, and given what she knew of Natalie's history, there was an immediate question on her tongue.

She glanced across the restaurant first. The waiter who had brought the menus before Dakila came had just finished serving a drink to a patron and was checking in on another table; making her rounds, she would be around to them shortly.

Kenzie leaned forward inquisitively. "Did someone in the pack...?" Her teeth caught her lip. She sat back. "If you don't mind me asking."

It was a surprise to him, honestly. Not so much her lack of experience--she seemed fine compared to most of the pack, really--but just her actual human age. She had to have been... what, 20 when she'd been turned? Younger than that? Unless she was deceptively older than she looked, which wasn't completely impossible, but...

Really, that meant a good part of her life had been spent as a wolf. All of her adult, formative years. Had that changed her as a person? Was there any way to know? Outside of... obviously it had to to some degree. Just as any major event did. But who would she have been without a wolf to ride with her every day?

Not that he was afforded much time to decide on anything. The question she posed wasn't unusual, but it would be a lie to say it didn't make him at leasta little uncomfortable. Not her fault, he was just a little at a loss as to how to deal with his own reality sometimes. Katya had always seemed to believe he should have been mad. But his loyalty wasn't even a question now.

"It's okay. I don't tend to talk about it much because it wasn't an accident, but Alina is the one who brought me in." Normally he would have called her by her last name as he tended to when he addressed her aloud, but for a moment he had the feeling it might come across better as his having no hard feelings if he used her given name. Where he called her "Miss Sinclair" as a notion of respect, other might have taken it for distance.

She wanted to know more. To pry into the details and politics. Had Isla been turned by the pack's leaders too? Had any of the others who had come and gone? Had Dakila had a choice in the matter? The way he phrased it almost sounded like he had been granted an admission in to their club.

Kenzie regarded her companion quietly, her grey eyes easily betraying how her mind thought and wondered about him and the pack.

'Ready to order?'

The smiling waitress with a notepad and pen in hand addressed them.

Smiling back, Kenzie replied, "I'll have a coffee and a slice of chocolate cream pie."

The waiter looked to Dakila.

He saw that curiosity, the thinking mind behind intent eyes. He knew that look well. It was one Dakila probably bore himself quite often. Trying to put pieces together from clues.

But before anyone could ask or offer anything more, there was a human in their midst. Dakila offered a smile for the intrusion and took a quick glance the order just after, "Coffee for me as well, and some of the peach cobbler." Pie would have been just as well, but something about peaches in the dead of winter was difficult to resist.

And when she was gone again, he looked back to his younger lupine companion. "I moved to this city more aware than most that it would be dangerous." Perhaps some slight permission to ask for more, while laying a foundation.

The waitress assured she would be right back with their order.

Kenzie watched her for a few paces down the aisle before her eyes returned to Dakila as he spoke. She studied him - curious as to what he meant by what he said. Cordova was ground zero and the general public knew it was dangerous therefore but... Her mouthed quirked to the side with a contemplative hum.

"How so?"

Had he known their King before he moved here? Had he known about the supernatural before their public debut?

There we go.

"People--police, detectives--were transferring out or retiring in droves at the time. Not all of them, mind you, plenty have stuck it out since the initial riots and broadcasts, and they're probably the real heros here. But hmm... I don't know, I heard about the things going on here and heard plenty of first hand accounts and plenty more that were just rumors and I decided this was where I needed to be."

Shrugging, he decided to unfold the napkin-packaged utensils he'd been left.

"I didn't think I was coming here without knowing what I was getting into but... I sort of was coming here without knowing what I was getting into."

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