The girl who named all her pets after food

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#51
Okay. He was taking another track. Being super calm in the face of her hysterics. That felt just great.

And apparently it wasn't about her. It was about him. She didn't prefer that and it boiled her further.

"Well you're wrong!" she'd slip in after his stupid negative self assurance, voice warbly with an attempt at trying to control. "You're absolutely fucking wrong about holding it over yourself forever. You know why? Because I would have ended up eaten or dead anyway if you hadn't."

God, that was just one thing.

There was missing her life. There was wishing he could have somehow just. Warned her first. There was a lot of complex feelings but her outburst demanded that be what she voiced.

Anyway.

She was being apologized to but not for the right reason if he was just going to hold onto it forever.
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#52
That wasn’t true at all.

There were billions of humans who weren’t eaten or murdered or... whatever every single day.

If Asha hadn’t been a jaguar, she wouldn’t have been mangled so horribly by a vampire. She would probably still be friends with Robbie. She’d be a happy, functional bartender with her own place and car and friends and family.

This was a strange thing to witness, her yelling at him somehow also in support of him.

She only offered him forgiveness now because she had a cat in her head that maybe lately she hadn’t had the best control of.

Looking at her with a slight frown, he was at a loss. Asha said a lot of words but... didn’t really make it clear what she wanted.

"I don’t know how to fix whatever is wrong right now," he said a little dumbly. Trying to be a better communicator did not inherently make him a better communicator, unfortunately.
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#53
Oh of course he'd just dodge everything she said. He was sorry for shutting her down but he still used one of a thousand ways to keep doing it.

She shook her head and just. Reached for a tissue to blow her nose because fucking whatever, man. She'd be washing her hands when she answered.

"Just let me make some fucking food and we can eat and nap."

That was basically all he liked to do around her anyway. Can't argue if you're both asleep. Or just Asha is asleep. Whatever.
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#54
That did not fix it but Abraham was out of solutions.

He looked briefly to the fish tank where Sush was definitely chasing around the new girl please god don’t eat her.

Grabbing the fish food from a cabinet, he tapped a little bit into the tank. He still needed to empty the other one and put it somewhere, among other tasks.

"Well," he said quietly.

Well.

"Thanks for... all the tank stuff. And for helping. It. Makes me happy in a pretty dumb way I guess. I can... get out of your way and clean this up after."

The fish tank made human Abraham happy, which felt like a rarity these days.
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#55
"You're welcome. I've got it."

Short, quiet, but genuine enough.

Go text Wallace or something. Your actual friend who you never actually argue with ever because he's so fucking perfect. Bet he doesn't have a body count.

If anything, Asha resented this the most. Not being changed, but feeling constantly, constantly inadequate.
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#56
He would move to the couch. Eventually.

But first he would stop to try to kiss her on the cheek, just... lingering near for a second to figure out how she felt about it.

They’d been so good lately about not arguing. He sincerely didn’t want it to end here.
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#57
God, he just wouldn't stop.

It smoothed her furrowed brows a little. Just a little. But she wasn't overjoyed with him. The kiss was sweet and it made her hurt in a different way.

Deciding that he could just make the food himself since he was intent on harassing her into harmony, Asha looked up at him.

"You're so unfair," she said quietly, looking from his eyes to his lips and then back to his eyes again.
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#58
"I'm not really skilled enough to play fair."

A small smile so she knew it wasn't more self deprecation. Abraham was being pretty fair here, but.

He'd let her have it. Sure. Abraham was Cheater McCheaterface for not buying into her hysterics. She could contact the jaguar with further complaints.
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#59
"Too skilled," she huffed. He was smiling and genuinely, she wanted to slap him.

He controlled the conversation and wouldn't let her try to drop it and then when she had her outburst he still neglected half of what she said at his whim and then after she gave up he had the nerve to come kiss her. On the cheek. Like he was so fucking innocent.

Fuck you.

She met his eyes and it was a challenge. She wondered if he'd catch on or just walk away and make her pull him back to her.

She didn't have much leverage, but she had this.
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#60
Abraham didn’t really know what her deal was at this point?! If she was still angry, or.

And now she was staring him down so he looked back, eyebrows rising some in general confusion.

Dealing with Asha honestly felt more like dealing with an actual jaguar long before he ever turned her.
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#61
Okay. So it was a staredown. He wasn't picking up hints. Or he was playing dumb to get her to make the first move.

Well. Too bad. Not gonna manipulate her that well.

"Guess that's all I get?" she asked, letting her eyes trail downward to his chest.
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#62
What?

Were they supposed to be having sex now? Like. Was that the next step. Was that the only way to solve arguments?

Abraham wasn’t a therapist or anything, but that felt like a pretty effective way to build some nasty associations between activities.

"I- you didn’t seem like you wanted more?" he said, feeling weirdly sort of pressured into whatever this was. One hand reached out toward her arm, trying to maybe seek her hand to encourage them into dumb hand holding and maybe get her to face him.

He held eye contact mostly out of confusion.
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#63
Boy this was actually kind of painful. Why come for a cheek kiss and then stand there if you didn't want more? Hashtag Abraham decisions.

She let him take her hand and she turned to face him fully, leaning her hip against the lower cabinet. She raised only a single eyebrow, and the arousal had managed to die somewhat.

What, Abraham. If it's not what she thought it was, then, what.
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#64
It was kind of frustrating.

Abraham hadn’t really been looking to bone, buuuut. Like. Okay sure.

He knew how this all worked by now. His goal entirely was to tangle his fingers into hers as he stepped in to crowd her a little, seeking to put his lips to hers to confirm yes this is what they were doing?

The stare down still had him kind of confused.
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#65
Well now he was doing the things she'd expected him to do naturally before. Except now it was just because she told him to?

Asha felt his fingers in hers, let her eyes half-close to still look at him as he moved in for the kill until he was too close to see properly.

Her jaguar slapped and clawed at his angrily, complete with hissing and threat, and honestly she was more into that world than this one. Go on girl, get im.

She kissed back, but it was subdued, waiting for him to lead because right now she was firmly rooted in cat world.
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#66
Abraham wasn’t into it and neither was his jaguar. It dizzied him immediately, his cat tumbling defensively onto its side, hissing and clawing and tumbling.

Whatever kind of power play this was, neither liked it, and Abraham found himself releasing her hand and moving his own slightly further up, resting on her forearm and... holding it.

Not too tightly, but certainly it was a deliberate grasp.

He kissed her lightly still, caught between two worlds and struggling to balance his actions in each.
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#67
Well.

There was the kissing that hardly was. There was the onslaught of her jaguar against his. And then there was this weird... Trading hand holding for an arm hold. He wasn't hurting her, but.

It was an uncomfortable touch that just felt kind of controlling. Asha pulled from the kiss to look at him, expression one of slight confusion.

"You okay?" she asked.
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#68
He let go the second she pulled away, maybe even too quickly.

It did not feel like himself. The jaguar was at least separated from hers as they ceased their touch. That was probably for the best.

"Cats are in my head," he said, and he made no effort to resume whatever the fuck that had been.

For his pulling away, his jaguar pushed at him some, but it wasn’t enough to even suggest a shift.

"This feels pretty weird."

He took a step back to... look at the empty tank as though he might work on cleaning that up or something.
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#69
"This feels pretty weird" was great to hear after she'd basically...? Made him kiss her? Or something?

"Okay," she nodded. Yeah. The arm hold had been pretty weird. The cats had been maybe more aggressive than usual.

Maybe he could have fucking just given her space before.

A lost appetite for several things and she just gave up here.

"Um. Think I'll just skip to the nap. Probably feel better when I wake up. Sorry."
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#70
That was probably for the best.

It felt like a failed resolution but she was doing everything in her power to hate his guts even as she yelled at him about forgiveness.

"I’ll make lunch," he said, because someone probably had to. That also did not sound like an invitation to be around her. "For whenever."

And frankly, if the cats were going to tangle with such genuine anger, he didn’t really want to be close enough to touch anyway.
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#71
Right.

That was it.

Cool.

She'd, uh.

She'd grab his hand and take him to the bedroom and ask "Why can't you let it go."

She'd apparently turn around and be the one to continue this god damn it Asha.
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#72
That was not what he expected even a little and now he was confused on several levels.

She took his hand and his jaguar came alive again, all warning and threat in a wrinkled face and lengthy claws.

"Let what go," he asked because he was pretty sure she was the one not letting things go right now.
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#73
Yeah well her cat hissed back and bumped into his. Shut up jerk cat.

"Changing me. Or do you just want to be mildly miserable around me forever."

They crossed into the bedroom and she turned and sat on the bed and looked up at him for an answer.
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#74
God. Why did they have to get into this.

"I’m not miserable," he said, though admittedly he’d been a little miserable a few minutes ago.

"Fucking up someone’s life isn’t okay even if they start to feel better later."

He believed that strongly and rattled off what followed with clear familiarity with this particular train of thought.

"You can’t see your family. You lost your bartender job that you cared about. You can never have a normal family of your own. I chased you around on fucking broken glass to take your phone away. I forced you into dependency for months."

A nurse was dead because of him.

"You almost died to a vampire entirely because I turned you. There’s a whole lot of shit that doesn’t become acceptable just because things feel better now."
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#75
His first retort was met with an eyeroll. Yeah okay Abraham.

But then she had to listen to him get into it, and just.

She was quiet for a moment, just letting it hit her. Almost everything she'd lost spelled out for her like she didn't fucking know. Yup! Abraham! All those things were just super true! Good work! By the way you forgot about Shiraz, you know, her pet who she'd loved probably way fucking more than you loved your fucking fish!

Asha breathed evenly and then patted the bed, and would make sure to speak in as objective and detached a voice as she could for all these reminders really fucking hurt.

"Okay. You're right. So. What should I do, just be sad about it all with you forever too?"
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#76
He didn’t want to fucking sit next to her. She didn’t get to yell at him and then act like he was being the problem here.

But he did regardless, though not close enough to touch because his cat absolutely had no interest in playing nice.

"I didn’t say that even a little. And I’m not fucking sad. But don’t ask my opinion on turning someone and then get upset when I give you that opinion."

If she thought he was selfish enough to bat his eyes at turning more jaguars so she could be some pretend queen, she was sorely mistaken.
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#77
Maybe everyone's turning didn't have to lead to months of fucking disaster? Which would be possible if they had a few jaguars to begin with to help guide newbies through it? It just felt like common sense to her at this point, but she'd been spending a lot of time with well-adjusted grouped up weres.

They all just seemed happier for it. Even the bears who had to deal with creepy Levka for a King.

"Okay. Well. I'm sorry for suggesting it. It was stupid, I get it."

Not really, not if it was a willing turning, but we can play pretend for now.

"But I am... this, now. And I don't want to just– I see what everyone else in these groups has and I feel like I can reach for it. Work for it and get it and eventually be in an actual real position to help us feel safe and secure. And any others like us that we find. And my whole point is I think that's what your cat is trying to say too. Like, did you know a leader can feel it if one of their own is in trouble? For miles around their town."

There was so much a leader could do, Abraham. And she wanted to be the one to be able to do it. Maxine said she could. Jo seemed to agree that she could.

Because she could.
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#78
Asha had been talking to too many fucking leaders, it sounded like.

He felt like he was being ineffectively coddled, but he managed to stay quiet until the end. She hadn't offered anything convincing. Whatever the fuck his cat wanted could be moderated. It would not get everything it wanted, just as he couldn't.

"Then we wait for other jaguars to show. I've talked to weres who have gone decades without a group who are plenty well adjusted. I don't live to serve this animal I didn't ask for and I never will."

She couldn't keep herself together in the presence of literal canaries. What the fuck was she going to do with a group of rookies riling her up.
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#79
He like. Didn't even give a fuck about what she said. Hadn't he said his cat had wanted to protect her? That was easier in a group.

But no, it was about not being a "servant."

She decided it was probably better not to argue with him over it.

"Okay. Waiting. That's fine."

Maybe. Probably. Asha could be patient, right?

"So let's say we have enough one day. And a space of our own. Maxine says I'd be a good queen. Jo does too. What about you?"

She wanted to lean on his shoulder but the timing didn't feel right yet. Her cat called to his anyway.
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#80
Abraham didn’t have a good answer for that question.

As of right now, Asha had... limited capacity to lead. He hardly ever saw her interact with anyone outside of Wallace, and that often went very poorly for virtually no reason.

His jaguar was not over the needless meanness of before, and it didn’t make his mind a whole lot clearer.

But in the end, Asha was ambitious. Abraham was not. He mostly wanted to be left alone.

"I think you can be whatever you want to be and do well. Iron’s manager or jaguar queen or whatever. Just don’t rush it."

That was half true but he wasn’t ready to argue over a hypothetical likely years down the road. There was a good chance they wouldn’t even be friends then, if they were even friends now.
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#81
"Okay," she said. Okay. Don't rush it, whatever, fine, but he could absolutely bet she was going to keep her eyes and ears open for every fucking opportunity that came her way.

At least she had his support. So far.

"Are you gonna stay mad at me now."

Look. They'd talked.
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#82
Was she kidding right now.

"I was never mad at you. But I am going to go cook lunch before I get hangry."

The. End. Please. God.
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#83
Okay.

She decidedly wasn't hungry now. So she'd nap and then shower and head off on her own later.
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