Spend Your Days Biting Your Own Neck

Cobalt Ridge Ski Lodge - Sleuth Only 
@Lee Joyce
@Esperanza Castillo
@Kroc Saurturi
@Jackal Volkov

details of anyone other than Lee left vague so you can decide when they arrived (or have yet to arrive), how they may have helped, and where they are now!

It had been a bit of a trial, getting Lee upstairs without any onlookers, but it had been managed. A miserable state of affairs being what it was, Levka did note that he did not hear a peep back from the betrayers, but it was what it was, and he didn't want to put his energy into them right now anyhow. For the best. As terrible as 'best' was right now.

So it was, the benefits of having the second suite upstairs made itself known when there was a bed ready and waiting for Lee without any fuss about it. No one displaced, no cramming him onto a couch. He had a full proper bed and private. Not that he'd realized it yet, unconscious and likely to remain that way for a few hours beyond the point of being put in it.

But the quiet was plenty, and gave Levka too much time to think. Pacing had not helped as the events of the day had caught up to him. And a bear was in distress, however quietly he manifested it. And it was with some private horror he realized he had little control of what came next--just barely managed to get his shirt off before the crack of a stress shift knocked the breath out of him.

If anyone asked, he'd done this on purpose. And thus, Levka became the first one to really test the integrity of the reinforced floors.

A tense shift rather than an angry one, he'd fretfully chewed an honestly really terrible wicker chair to pieces in the corner of the bedroom before he'd anxiously settled in, right next to the bed, for however many hours it needed to be that he played vigil. And there he was now, with dark settling in, listening to Lee breathe, a single paw on the bed while his head lay heavy across the blanketed lap of his Second, the massive rest of him on the floor, waiting for him to wake. A state of lightly dozing, as waiting was tiring business.

 Levka had said not to rush, but Esperanza felt the urge to get to the aid of her sleuth as quickly as she could. She felt scrambled, worrying about Cliff and Maxine, about Lee - all of them. Her maternal instincts were kicked in high gear as she shuffled around, contacting Alejandra's regular sitter while throwing together a meal in the kitchen. It ended up being a casserole-quiche sort of mashup, a pan overflowing with fluffy eggs packed with chicken and whatever else might be high in protein. Ultimately, it turned into a breakfast feast, as she baked bacon and breakfast sausage as well. Who knew how many stressed out bears needed a hot meal. Hopefully it would taste as good as it smelled, but for once, food was not really her first priority.

 The sitter came, gracious and understanding as ever, for which Esperanza was eternally grateful. She would miss the young woman when she moved to the Glenn. She bustled around some more, making sure her oversized medical bag had all she might need before nestling the food into her back seat. She couldn't get on the road quickly enough.

 Of course, the drive did little to quiet her mind. She worried teeth against her lip the whole way. She wanted to text Maxine. Wanted to force things to be right, to make them want to stay. It was beyond her control, this she was bitterly aware of. How had Lee crashed? Was he so upset over the departure of their friends that he lost control? What kind of shape was he in?

 All these and a thousand more things streamed through her mind as she drove, struggling to keep herself at the speed limit. By the time she finally pulled up to the lodge and parked, she was more fully anticipating her move here.

 Esperanza looked like a classic frazzled soccer mom as she trotted up to the giant building: wearing jeans and one of the few t-shirts in her wardrobe (of questionable cleanliness, thanks stains), hair hair in a haphazard ponytail, with a massive bag slung over her shoulder that she had to pretend was heavy and her arms laden with all the food she had made. Her beast rubbed anxiously against her psyche, easily awakened by the knowledge of distress and the scent of food. She was doing her best to assure the blonde creature that she definitely knew what she was getting into.

 She wasn't sure who all was here as she hurried up to the suite, as the familiar scents of several bears lingered in the lodge. It didn't really matter, as much as it did; she wanted to be with them all, but it didn't take her long to find Lee and Levka, hearing their pulses and the soft sounds of breathing through a particular door. She managed her way inside somehow despite her full hands, gave a small gasp of startlement at the sight of the massive white beast, and tried to get inside and close the door as quietly as possible. Not that it really mattered at this point. She put down the still-warm dishes on a table and moved to lower her medical bag to the side of the bed, glancing between the King and Second cautiously. Her beast released a guttural sort of whine in her head, pawing at each of the men. Esperanza would gently relay that message; first to Levka, if he would let her, sinking her fingers into the plush fur on his massive neck with a melancholy smile. The other hand moved to Lee's forehead, brushing hair away from his face to inspect the puncture over his eyebrow. "Ouch," she whispered, and unless stopped, would move to open her bag and get ready to assess the damage.

Esperanza arrived, and it felt like a blessing. The woman's gentle presence was utterly required right now, and she was permitted with a rumble from the polar bear to touch and be close. The presence of the kermode as well, friendly and familiar, was welcome after so much tension with other bears. Maybe some part of him knew he didn't deserve her, but she was here and he was keeping her all the same. Turning his head a fraction to look at her, one orange eye half-open. He wouldn't move much, but he did ease back a couple of inches to give her room to look at what bits of Lee he wasn't resting his head on.

He'd stay right here, unless asked to move at all. It wasn't like he could leave the room anyhow, and he had no desire to stop being vigilant.

The past few hours were the best sleep Lee had in a while, which was to say that he couldn't feel a damn thing. Unfortunately, all good things came to an end, and the bliss of unconsciousness as no exception.

Of course, the first thing to come back to him was a widespread ache throughout his body.

Lee felt like shit.

Although, he was comfortable and warm—in bed. The man heaved a deep breath before his eyes opened.

This wasn't his bed, and Espy was there. Those two things together made Lee wonder just what the hell he had done before-

"Holy shi-"

Needless to say, waking up to a massive polar bear resting his head in his lap wasn't something Lee was used to. At all. Sitting up with a start, the Texan immediately regretted it and winced at the pain he felt all over. "Fuck." Sinking back down into the pillows and blankets, Lee looked around as he tried to piece everything together.

Bear. Polar bear. Levka? Levka.

Espy. Chef Espy. Food. Hungry.

Fancy bed. Fancy bedroom. Fancier than Lee's house.

Lodge? Lodge.

Hurting. Sore. Wreck.

"Christ..." Lee blinked, looking back at his fellow bears, still confused but no longer immediately terrified.

 Being close to these two, able to touch them and see that they were generally fine, brought her a fresh sense of comfort. Missing Maxine and Cliff moved to the back of her mind for now, sure to come back around later; at present, she had a job to do.

 Lee's deep breath was her first warning to his waking, but his outburst gave her a start of her own. She abandoned her bag in favor of reaching a hand to his chest, a touch that was meant to be both reassuring and guiding, to press him back into the pillows. He did a fine job of doing that himself, though, as soon as he realized the pain, judging by the way his wincing. She hovered in silence for a moment, releasing a held breath as he seemed to get his bearings again and returning to her bag.

 "Good morning, Lee," she offered gently, moving to sit on the bed beside him so that she could dress the wound on his face. "This may sting," she followed with a warning before applying a germicide to the wound - he probably wouldn't need it, but better safe than sorry - and then an adhesive bandage. "How do you feel? Do you remember what happened?" This as she fished out a small flashlight, shining it into each of his eyes one at a time to check his pupils for any sign of a concussion.

So intent upon his second and his status as he was, Levka felt the slight shift to coming consciousness. The slight uptick of a heart rate, the slight change in cadence of breathing. Small ears on a big head rounded forward, expectantly, and he heard the inhale and felt relief. He had known without a doubt that Lee would wake, but it was still somehow very reassuring to have it come to fruition.

What he hadn't anticipated was Lee's tension, and for now he didn't even connect that fear to himself. What bear would freak out about another bear? (Possibly plenty of bears after being woken up a dead sleep, but okay, sure.)

Levka might have tried to push Lee back down, but Esperanza did it much better and much more gently, and Levka rumbled in his throat at the battered man, edging in juuust a little closer. With Esperanza doing the talking, Levka was quiet, intently watchful and... he snuffled into Lee's hand that had come untucked from the blankets in his waking. Warm breaths and then... okay, so he licked Lee's hand. Or really, it was more like licking his forearm because the bear was far too large for licking just even a big hand like Lee's.

He won't interrupt your examination, but he's glad you're up.

A guiding hand pressed Lee back into the sheets, and Lee didn't fight it. Still, the Texan didn't take his eyes off the polar bear; not that he had ever seen an normal polar bear before, but this was a monster of a polar bear. Such fear quickly passed, though, once Lee felt a cold nose nuzzle into the palm of his hand, reminding him of a dog. Then Levka's nosing around for attention gave way to... the rather unsettling sensation of a bear's tongue licking the length of Lee's forearm.

Lee tried to pat Levka on the snout—he assumed it was Levka—before turning his attention to Esperanza.

Was it morning? Lee had no idea what time it was, nor how long he had been out. Also, warning Lee that something was about to hurt rarely ever prepared him for it.

The Texan inhaled sharply when Espy applied a germicide to a particularly sore spot on his forehead, but he refrained from behaving too much a child in the nurse's office. Once a bandage was applied to the cut, he sighed a breath that he didn't even realize he was holding. Something between a frown and a grimace disturbed Lee's beard when the woman asked how he felt, if he could remember what had happened.

"Feel like I got the shit kicked outta me," he answered, not exactly in the appropriate mindset to watch his language in a lady's presence. "Like I've been in a wreck."

In other words, he remembered.

He refrained from blinking while Espy shined a light in his eyes. Lee didn't know what she was looking for, but dilation of his eyes weren't congruent, one more dilated and slower to react than the other. Another groan escaped him, and Lee blinked once the shining bit was over.

Damn, were his ears ringing. The Texan chalked it up to nearly being given a heart attack.

 Esperanza would frown softly at the man for his clipped explanation, but it was quick to fade as she went to work. Hard pressed to begrudge him for anything right now, she couldn't blame him for his language, but would take that to mean he remembered pretty well what had gotten him into this mess. She observed his pupils individually, noting their out-of-sync behavior. "Concussion," she declared softly. "It can take normal people a couple of weeks to recover, but you should be okay in a few days. Try not to strain your brain too much." The flashlight turned off with a click, and she tossed it back into her bag before looking down to his decidedly crooked shoulder.

 "Oye," she said sympathetically, prodding it with her fingertips. "It is hard to say without an x-ray, but you may have fractured your humerus. Definitely dislocated... we are going to have to pop it back in." She met his gaze with almost sad eyes. It would hurt; granted, he could probably fix it with another shift, but doing it now would make things easier for him in the long run. Gingerly, one hand moved down his abdomen, testing the lumpy looking sections on his rib cage. "Some fractured ribs most likely. Does it hurt to breathe?" She glanced at Levka. "I cannot do much for those. Levka and shifting should speed things up though."

Esperanza was such a mom. She even had that mom frown.

The eventual declaration of a concussion from their impromptu medic didn't exactly tell Lee much, being as uninformed on medical terminology as he was. He reckoned a concussion was that thing when your brain rattled around in your head more than it should, and Espy's cautionary advice leaned toward that assumption. "Shouldn't be too hard," he said to the bit about straining his brain.

It almost sounded like a dig he might have expected from Cliff or Maxi-

Exhaling sharply at the unexpected and unpleasant prod to his shoulder, Lee's nostrils flared as the woman came to the sound conclusion that his shoulder was disclosed. That, he understood. The phrase "pop it back in" also wasn't that difficult to figure out.

Doing that was going to hurt like a bitch.

For the time being, however, Esperanza buried herself with the rest of Lee's ailments, observing the busted ribs and asking questions accordingly. The Texan offered a stiff nod, his breathing constricted by his uneven, painful ribs. Yet, his thoughts quickly returned to a pressing concern that had nothing to do with his injuries.

"Where are they?" He asked either of them, mustering the strength to sit up again. Although what had transpired before the crash came to him in bits and pieces, Lee recognized the dread that put even his normally placid beast on edge.

Where were his friends?

The bear let Esperanza work. Shuffled a bit more towards Lee's feet while she kept working, looking him over. A diagnosis they could live with. No fun for Lee, but no impending death. Nothing that good bear genetics wouldn't fix. A small miracle he'd lived, but one that Levka was grateful for. Today had been enough of a blow without the death of his Second.

Speaking of...

It was Levka who spoke up at the question, his head lifted from the mattress, but one paw still on it, as if he couldn't stand the idea of separation right now.

"Left," he said in the low, gravelly voice that came with these animal forms of theirs. "Maxine knew something was wrong. Called until I told them I had you here. And now they have left the Glenn."

He disliked giving this news for a number of reasons, but he wasn't going to sugar coat it. Lee had been in a critical accident and his friends had decided leaving was easier than being here for him. That was how he saw it, anyway. They hadn't even tried to see if Levka would let them come back for long enough to confirm for themselves. Now they would never know if he would have even let them.

Then again, maybe for the best. The state he'd been in might have made him liable to shifting and then eating Cliff instead of the wicker chair.

 His confirmation of difficulty breathing made her more certain that he'd suffered a few fractured ribs. Other than the these things she had covered, he seemed fine - except for the concern over his friends. Her friends, too. Esperanza's frown was there still, but it was more of melancholia than maternal concentration or worry. She turned her face away from both men for the duration of Levka's rumbled explanation. She wished they would have come back.

 This was no time for wishing and wanting. She wished a lot of things. She wished that none of this had happened in the first place - but she had to stick to the now. As such, without warning, she placed one hand on Lee's upper shoulder, on the muscle close to his neck. Her strength should come as no surprise, thanks to the whole bear thing, but anybody who was none the wiser might have been surprised by her grip. The other hand took a firm hold just under the deltoid muscle on his dislocated arm, and in one quick movement she shoved the joint back into its socket with an unpleasant pop.

 "There. Who wants breakfast?" She piped, as if nothing had happened, rising off the bed to move toward the food.

It was always a bit of a mind bender, hearing a Were talk in animal form.

What Levka had to say was even more troubling, such that Lee lost the willpower he had been working up to make a second attempt at sitting upright. They knew; they knew Lee had gotten hurt, and they had still taken off. That by itself hurt more than all the broken bones in his body.

His friends were gone.

Lee was visibly lost, and the only thing that stirred him from his stupor was the pop that rang in his ears alongside a great deal of fucking pain. At least he hadn't seen it coming.

Groaning through gritted teeth, the man turned his gaze to Espy when the woman mentioned breakfast. He gave a wordless nod.

Food would help.

It was a dark, unhappy feeling in the room. Maybe they didn't realize the extent of it--he certainly hadn't ever in all his years as a bear and not a King--but he had a very real sense of what they were going through. It was probably for the best that bears weren't really made for frowning, but there was a certain hooded cast to the orange eyes that kept almost constant watch on Lee himself. A tension that played up into the curve of fur-covered shoulders while his head seemed to droop and hang from his neck like there was little left to hold it up.

So when Esperanza got to business without a word, the polar bear flinched a little as the pained sensation radiated across his sympathetic senses. A grunt of his own as Lee was groaning and he went around to the other side of the bed opposite of Esperanza, squeezing into the space that was almost too tight between bedframe and closet doors. He stepped and crunched on the remains of the victimized chair as he went, before shortly settling in next to Lee to snuffle at his head. Thought to lick him again, but only got so far as opening his mouth before he just huffed on the man and made a low noise of sympathy as he turned his head down and lightly shoved his forhead down into the far less injured shoulder of the man.

He made no comment of food. He was starving himself, but he was a 1500 lb bear and he'd eat every offering in less than a minute if given the chance. Lee first. He could eat later when his nerves had settled.

Putting this in Kroc’s thread log! Ghost writing Jackal. :D

Her bear was unhappy. Distressed. After being told by Levka that Lee had been injured in an accident and that Cliff and Maxine had left the Sleuth, it was no wonder that the mountainous creature was less than thrilled. She would rather be gathered with her fellow bears than taking care of the crushed vehicle but at least she was with Jackal. Her mostly silent companion’s presence did wonders for her nerves while they took care of the evidence of the wreck. She understood why Levka had asked that they do this, so that the human cops didn’t come snooping around looking for a car crash victim, however that didn’t mean she had to like it.

They got the job done though and headed back to the lodge in a swift fashion, the two polar bears heading up the stairs almost as soon as they arrived. While neither of them had ever connected with Lee on a personal basis, Lee was still part of the Sleuth and the more support for him right now, the better. Her knuckles rapped on the door sharply, a warning before she pushed the door open to allow Jackal and herself inside.

Kroc stopped, watching the giant polar bear with a flicker of surprise appearing on her face. Obviously, Levka had shifted. At least he had done so here, in the safety of the lodge, and not out in the middle of the road. Still. Initial surprise shaken, Kroc moved to where Lee was, ever silent Jackal in tow, cursing softly in Russian when she looked over him before looking to their King. A nod was given, indicating they’d done as asked before they retreated, giving Lee his space and staying generally out of the way.

 Espy was not the kind to hide her emotions; she was typically unashamed of most feelings she had. Right now, however, there was too much going on for her not to keep her composure. It seemed it would be best for everyone here that she quietly did what she pledged to do for this sleuth, and so she set to making a plate for Lee. She might have made one for Lev, too, but he looked awfully comfortable squeezing onto the groaning bed beside his Second.

 She looked up only to catch sight of Kroc and Jackal moving in, as silent as ever. She still cast them both a loving smile. "Hello friends. Please make yourselves a plate." This as she took one mountain of breakfast food to the incapacitated Lee, then glanced at the massive bear taking up a healthy portion of the bed. "You hungry?" Surely he was. She was starving as well - no surprise there.

Although the room was suddenly full of motion, it was still rather quiet besides the shuffle of feet and paws. The crunch of a splintered wicker chair pulled Lee's attention to the side where he was met by a rather large polar bear in search of cuddles. Levka's breath was hot against the man's face, but Lee still managed a flicker of a smile, raising a hand to pet that massive snout. Somewhere inside Lee's soul, the grizzly called out to its kith and kin, exhausted and reclusive in that metaphysical space after all they had endured tonight.

Levka reminded Lee of a giant Labrador retriever, or maybe one of those Newfoundland dogs.

Then came a knock at the door, the sound compelling Lee to turn his gaze yonder. If Lee were honest with himself, he had hoped that Maxine and Cliff would step through that door. Instead, it was none other than Kroc and Jackal. That they made an appearance was both surprising and comforting. Lee didn't know them, nor they him, yet they were here all the same.

The tattooed woman muttered something Russian—Lee assumed it was Russian—and her soft tone led him to think that she was probably swearing. "Yeah," he said in agreement, offering them each an easy nod.

Kroc could have been calling him a shit driver for all Lee knew; she wouldn't be wrong.

Regardless, everything else soon played second fiddle to the prospect of food, a plate laden with delicious foodstuff appearing in Lee's lap courtesy of their resident chef. "Thank you," Lee said to Espy, sitting up a bit more so he could eat. After a shift to and from bear form and what felt like one hell of a beating, he had an appetite.

Lee took his first bite, and damn if it wasn't good comfort food.

Kroc and Jackal were back. Levka was cognizant and aware enough to realize that well before they were at the door, and he felt a twinge of relief. The entire Sleuth, or what was left of it, in one place. A safe place. No more accidents today. No more upsets. Just them. Together.

It was impossible to say that Levka wasn't a dangerously sentimental man.

So while he stayed close to Lee, he did settle back enough to give him room to breathe, and when Kroc and Jackal arrived, the former giving the signal that what had been asked of them was done and settled, he nodded a fraction back, ears flicking back at her cursing in sympathetic understanding. He could feel the muted distress of them all, and he was fair certain that if he hadn't already been four paws on the ground, the need to shift would have been overwhelming.

As such, when Esperanza brought food for the bedridden and the others two stayed out of the way but lent their presence regardless, he sniffed at the plate as his stomach ached with hunger but...

"Later," he insisted to the woman, not wanting to waste her efforts and her generosity on a bear that was prepared to eat all of that and the table, too, if he had to. And even so, it probably wouldn't do more than marginally make him feel better. It could wait until he was back to his usual self and a little less impossibly voracious.

For now, wish Lee shifting to sit a little, he'd be here for support, wedging his head partially behind like he somehow made a better support than pillows and headboard. Or maybe it was less about Lee and more about his own comfort. Either way, the effect was the same. They were all here, and at least a few of them would be for a while.

 It would take Esperanza a while to come down from her BearMom stance. Once she was sure anyone who wanted food had some, and was confident that there was little else she could do to help Lee's healing, and all was as well as it could be, would she sink into a seat with her own plate of food. She was emotionally worn, tired from the rush of multiple feelings, but she had enough energy to eat. She wished that Cliff and Maxine were here - it didn't feel whole without them. Now that she wasn't keeping busy, it was hard to keep the thoughts at bay - she would do her best to keep her mind occupied with those around her.

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