What You Good For?

Jade Gardens 

It had started out this morning as a lighthearted comment from one of the employees. Some mention of how Levka looked particularly cross that morning. Not-the-best-night's-sleep would do that to a guy. No real reason other than the fact that it happened sometimes, of course, but that didn't change the fact that yeah, maybe he had looked a little cross.

Then someone had felt confident enough to suggest Jade Gardens if he needed to zen out, and it had just been... downhill from there.

Why was he here? He didn't even like it here, like, at all. His one memory of it was alright, but only because Esperanza had been here with him, with food. But he'd been in enough of and odd mood that he'd come here regardless, as if there would be something to the advice after all.

So far, not so much.

It was raining. Not incredibly hard, but his jacket didn't have a hood. And it wasn't that he minded the rain so much as he was just already in a bit of a mood. Seeking solace for his non-specific ailment was not working in this winding garden of rocks and trees and ponds with koi who were up and nibbling at he surface of the pond as if the water droplets weren't just more of the same.

On top of this, it was still too hot in spite of the rain, and so he'd found a spot on a bench underneath a small gazebo when the rain had really started to come down in something more than just an annoying patter a few moments ago. For the moment stranded, unless he fancied getting drenched on the long winding walk back to the parking lot.

He did not. So instead he pulled his ankle up onto his knee so he could pry a few smaller rocks from the gravel path out from the treads of his boot, his frown a silent one.

This felt like he was being punished for something stupid.

Asha had googled the weather earlier since she knew she would be out and she wasn't a fucking idiot. As most women who weren't fucking idiots did, she sheltered herself from the downpour with an umbrella.

It was probably entirely too large for a single woman of her size, because it was a golf umbrella, but she and her jeans were mostly dry and happy about it, and also she was taking up a hell of a lot of garden path like she owned it all (which, if called out on it, she would admit she didn't, because she wasn't a fucking bear).

She had been walking along just enjoying the change of pace when she noticed it. The scent. The presence.

Now. Asha wasn't expecting to see anyone else here in the garden given that it was raining, so color her unpleasantly surprised when her jaguar snapped her senses to call and she saw, moderately frazzled, a bear. A very strong bear. Person. Bear person. Werebear.

"What the fuck," she murmured quietly to herself, pausing along her path with a vague feeling of déjà vu.

Was this the bear king? The one who motivated her to be everything he was not? Or was he just... a really strong bear? Would a bear king really be the type of person not to check the weather?

There had been some vague awareness that he wasn't completely alone in the garden--and he didn't mean the very small scattering of humans who found this sort of thing worthwhile or the ones who holed up in the tea house. A were presence, non-bear, inescapable but not unwelcome. Without it being bear, there was not really any desire to go seek it out. Wasn't his buddy, Sasha, either, who had disappeared a while back, so...

Focused on his own haze of having apparently just gotten out of bed on the wrong side, only very specific company would have been particularly desired.

But this one was... closer. Getting closer. Close enough to hear the faint murmur of voice over the pattering of rain, but not actually catch the words. His back slightly turned to the entrance to the gazebo, it was a deep breath that confirmed to him that it was some sort of feline. Familiar, but... eh, unimportant. He let the breath out as a sigh and then took the handful of gravel in his palm before he flung it over the back railing of the gazebo and into the small pond full of fish.

Sat there a moment, debating if he wanted to engage since the cat was on his territory and within short distance or... did he just want to clean out the sole of his other boot. Maybe a moment to see if she made up his mind for him or not.

Well, that was terribly uninspiring. Surely he sensed her. Could smell her. Same as she did him.

But strongbearpossiblykingjackassdude just like, gave a big sigh and then tossed some whatevers that plopped into the pond.

So if that was the extent of his social skills, maybe she could just walk right past him.

So she made to do just that, her cat wary of something so much stronger than her.

He took the time to switch feet, at least, with the way she paused he rather expected her to say something. But he had just pulled another rock free and palmed it when he heard her moving off.

In truth, probably the smart choice, but with the state of his mood there was a little brush of offense to the notion that she could confidently retreat when she absolutely had to know full well where she was standing and what he was. Was it a lack of respect, he couldn't help but wonder?

So in spite of being in almost no mood whatsoever to socialize, he decided to be his own worst enemy. Turning slightly, he got eyes on her for the first time. There was the briefest second where he nearly just threw the small rock in his hand at her to get her attention, but he thought better of it even as he lifted it and instead threw it the opposite directly into the pond as well.

"Hey!" he called to her. A little linger of curiosity, her species right there at the tip of his brainspace but refusing to be forthcoming, so he could afford to be nosy in the rather deserted garden. "What are you?"

There were many ways to interpret the kind of greeting known as "Hey!"

Most of them were: that was rude.

She paused, turned on her heel, and looked back at him. Her cat suggested fucking leaving. Asha remained unimpressed enough to do so. It didn't matter that it was empty; that was just fucking rude to say to a stranger whether you were asking about their race, gender, religion, or fucking species.

"Do you regularly shout that at people passing by, or am I just lucky?"

This said in a firm tone. Her cat disapproved of her not automatically bowing down to greater power, but Asha had enough hubris to stick to her guns at least for this much.

Oh good, an easily offended little lady. His very favorite sort. Don't mind him while he rolls his eyes. Should have just thrown the rock and really earned offense.

"Not usually shouting, but usually not competing with rain," he huffed. Also not usually being walked away from when he made those sorts of inquiries, either, but he was kinda trying not to pick a fight without first figuring out if it was worth it. So he'd keep that brush of his own stupid offense to himself.

Dropping his foot back to the floor of the gazebo, he stood up and walked to the edge of cover, still just barely out of the rain. "Cannot be the first time you have been asked that," he pointed out with a slight frown, taking note of the fact that she was clearly not just some random-ass greenie. She had her shit well enough together, but then again he'd also learned that didn't always make people smart or even sensical.

"No, as a non-white person, it's not," she bristled. But Asha would do him the honor of closing the distance, since he was so woefully incapable and stranded.

When she got close enough to talk relatively conversationally, she looked up to him, meeting his eyes with a moderated sort of defiance to her words. "You the king or just some random strong bear without an umbrella?"

What the fuck was she even on about.

Choosing to ignore her retort, mostly because he really didn't understand the connection in the least, he watched as she came closer, and some of his annoyance at her walking away faded, only to be replaced by a more familiar frustration--unanswered questions replaced by questions turned back. She knew what he meant, she had to--so why didn't she just out with it?

"Nye, if we play this game, you answer mine first," he said. With her closer, he started to get a better feel for her. Some sort of spotty cat. Counted out cheetahs because it would take more than a brain lapse for him to forget a cheetah when he scented one.

What a damn child. First he was rude and then he was pushy about his dumb fucking question.



It made enough sense that he was willing to accept it, without anything recent to compare this answer to. It checked out.

Which then it was probably time for him to answer her question, so instead he asked, "You one of Oliver's?"

He liked that Leopard King, based solely on agreeable and short interactions. Actually, should probably see if Yana sometime wanted to go out that way again and make better on the collective relationship with Red Rock and its denizens. They had been a bit rude last time, if only because of his bad mood and their very specific intent.

Hey, you know what, Asha knew Oliver! And apparently Bratbear so did too. Which meant she should probably admit she was lying.

"Nope, but we're friends."

Or just. Not.

"Are you Levka or not?"

That gave Levka pause, because why the hell would you be friends with a King and not one of his. Like. Okay... The girl earned herself a quizzical look, questioning without pushing yet another vocal inquiry onto her. Yet, anyway.

Part of that was because apparently she knew who he was. Which was simultaneously a little flattering in the basest way, because good or bad, attention was attention, but also a little annoying again at the reminder that in spite of this knowledge she'd still tried to slip off without a word.

Actually, he'd call her on that. "If you knew who I was, you could have said hello," he pointed out with a single shoulder shrug before he turned and went back to sit down on the bench because the wind had shifted a little and was was trying to edge the rain under the lip of gazebo he'd been standing under.

"Kings aren't always the only ones who feel that strong," she retorted. Anyway, yes, this was Levka. She felt a very human urge to punch him in the fucking face for every bit of grief he'd caused her friends.

Her cat, faced with this prospect, was EXTREMELY AGAINST IT. Asha wished she could fold her arms, but. Umbrella. Also, sidenote, if he knew Oliver, how could his royal fuckass highness not tell the difference between her species and his? Did he think all cats smelled the same?


"Also, you should've led by example if you wanted a hello." Asha what you doin. Reminding a king of his poor manners, apparently. Or maybe just seeing how much she could poke and prod.

He'd stepped back, so she stepped boldly in, folding her gigantic umbrella and tapping the end along the ground, and made herself comfortable much to the discomfort of her animal.

"Is this your business or headquarters or whatever?"

He supposed she wasn't wrong, but he forgot about that if only because there was no one else around to rival him, and to someone of the same species, a King felt quite different. But she was welcome to be clueless. They'd both gotten their answers, anyway.

Her reprimand was a bit of a surprise, and he wanted to roll his eyes but surprised himself with a brittle chuckle instead. "Maybe, авось," he agreed. But he was in a mood, so he hadn't. Better circumstances he would have done a lot more to get a grasp on why she was here, after all. Flashback to chasing Sasha down.

Further... well, perhaps 'impressed' wasn't the word, but intrigued by her decision to join him when she probably had better reason to just turn around and go while he was yet stranded, he raised a brow and looked at her openly.

And her question made him laugh again, a little more sincere, even as some fashion of ire towards the idea gave it a rough edge. "No, never." Almost declared that he hated it here, but she inevitably would want an explanation if he did, about why he was here or why he hated it. Both were dumb to explain to someone he didn't even know the name of.

"Lodge up the mountain," he corrected, a little proud of it.

Maybe, avoz.

Asha blinked, genuinely surprised at what sounded like... a totally different language? Did she look like she would have understood whatever he was saying? Maybe he just called her a cunt or something. Especially after it followed his laugh.

Also he laughed at her other question and that was a dumb answer if he thought she wasn't gonna question it.

A lodge up the mountain, fine, good, whatever, BUT.

"Why never?"

Sorry, King, you don't get to slip stuff by her. Most people didn't.

He rolled his eyes. Again.

"Do I look like a whatever-garden sort?"

He situated himself again, eyes down as he began to pick at a particularly stubborn rock in the sole of his right boot again. Just. Occupy himself until the rain fucked off and then he could go home and ignore everything.

Wow he was going there, huh?

"You don't really look like a lodge up the mountain sort. Don't those types usually pay attention to the weather?"

Tit for tat, Asha was definitely pushing buttons because she could. Some part of her wondered if she'd get in trouble with Espy for it.

It was impossible to even argue with. For some reason when she retorted that way, he just thought of Lee as some figurehead for lodge life. If Lee could handle that many people all the time. Probably not. Hermit and all. But he supposed matching the decor wasn't the point, but whatever, that wasn't the purpose of his counter and she knew it. She was just being petty. He glanced at her again, trying to decide how he felt about that.

"Only when there is snow," he said, coolly. A little ruffled, but she hadn't crossed a line just yet. She was mouthy, but it was stupid in how harmless it was at the moment.

Honestly, he didn't even own an umbrella. "Where do you live?" he questioned suddenly, but less for the sake of the question and more for: "This place is trash. I will pack the whole thing up and send it to you." Huff. Like, really, could you delete a place from the planet. After today he was the most over Jade Gardens.

He did what she assumed was backing down off his high horse, mumbling an answer like that. What he said next surprised her and set her on edge, but the follow up earned a snort from her.

"You obviously can't do that. But does that mean you'd share the Glenn if I wanted a slice?"

The answer was probably some version of "Waaahh no it's mine" which would really just solidify her opinion of him as a toddler king, but she asked anyway.

He scoffed shortly, but with some amusement. "Very cute, cat. If you can find a way to build borders around this place and have your own tiny kingdom without interfering with my own, be my guest."

Impossible, of course, as far as he knew. And who wanted three acres of statues and bushes? A jungle cat, maybe.

His dislike of the setting at least outshone the fact that she was clearly too big for her britches.

He was being dismissive, but Asha decidedly was going to take advantage of that. She pulled out her phone, looking at the map of where she was, zooming out a bit to frown.

"If I got a group together... this place and then up north, up to the water. The Marina. You'd still have most of the rest of the Glenn for yourself and your lodge."

She glanced at him, raising a brow. She was brazen, but no one got anywhere by sitting on their hands.

She was pretty damn bold, if he did say so himself. And if he knew her at all, cared for her in any capacity, maybe he would have been more impressed. Well... that wasn't to say he wasn't entirely unimpressed. She was stupid, probably, but the sort of stupid he had probably once been. Forward, overeager, playing with fire.

So points to her, even if it wasn't ever going to happen. Not unless something got [i]incredibly[i] different. He straightened up, put his foot down in a literal fashion rather than a figurative one, and folded his arms over his chest as he really looked at her. Young. Small. Not inexperienced, but power didn't always mean what you wanted it to mean. "I do not deal with theories. You come to me when you have something to show for it other than puppy eyes."

The briefest pause and then he squinted at her. "Why would Mountainside need another Pard anyway?"

Something wasn't adding up to his estimation, but he couldn't really figure out what just yet. Did he need to be calling Oliver?

His posture changed, and Asha the human was here to change her posture right back while her cat was off trying to sulk. She met his eyes and listened to his response.

Blah blah blah. Ultimately, it wasn't a no. But uprooting four people to go to the Glenn just to be told that eventually was kind of a dick move.

So was lying about her species, so.

"I don't like Red Rock enough to live in it."

Okay... did he maybe... like her a little?

Like, if anything could endear him to some random cat who was mouthy and foolish or whatever it was he was deciding she was--jury was still out on final verdict--it was declaring a dislike for something he also very much disliked. He laughed again, softer now, probably a lot more genuine, as if something of the notion had edged his mood out of the obnoxious haze.

"This, I understand."

Still, his answer stood. But with some degree of tension evaporating from his half of the conversation, he wondered, "Do you have a name, spotty cat? Or do I get to make one up for you?" He could do that, but she might not like it.

Oh no. She might have just charmed him. Fuck.

Asha wanted to hate Levka with every bit of her soul but she also really liked it when she could charm someone. So she gave him a little half-smirk, mildly unwillingly, folding her arms.

"I have a name. But let me hear what you'd call me if I didn't tell you."

Her cat was confused by the mood change but ultimately she wasn't getting bear claws in her face so.

Asha considered fessing up, too. But like. What if he knew her from The Larkspur Incident. Any respect she'd gotten would go down the drain.

Oh shit, Espy would totally sell her out anyway.

He liked this decision of hers, too. Something of what was essentially his opinion being asked. A little bit of a game that didn't ruffle him in any way as he assumed he would get her name in the end--else accept his as fact, just as poor Sasha had.

Looking at her for a long moment, really taking time to consider it rather than being flippant about it, on the off chance it did make some impact. He ran mentally through the list of names he could pull from the blue, and ultimately settled on one he liked but didn't necessarily love. Perfect for this leopard and her ridiculous boldness. "Nika, I think."

Beyond the gazebo, the rain was just getting harder, but for the moment he didn't notice.

Well. Fuck.

She actually liked it, or at least the sound of it. Maybe it was... bitch, or something, in whatever language he spoke in. It wouldn't be wrong.

A huff left her, and she looked away and smiled before she glanced back at him. "I'm down for that, I think."

Asha shook her head, listening to the rain. Maybe better to just... admit some things. If Espy wasn't still part of his group. Ughhhhhhh.

"Gotta confess, Bear King. I'm not really a leopard. Though I am friends with a good number of them, including Oliver." Sorta. They met once. She knew his sister a little better.

She wondered if Levka would be terribly offended that she lied for all of ten or so minutes.

You know what? He was fine not knowing her real name, if only because he realized not that her acceptance of Nika meant he'd never remember her actual name even if she gave it to him.

For someone who had been determined to be offended in the start, she really seemed almost agreeable now. Maybe she had more hope about a future Glenn Pard than he did, hah.

Or... not Pard? Honestly, his initial reaction was confusion, because she was clearly a cat and leopard had made enough sense that the confession seemed more like a lie to him in that first moment than the actual lie had. And what was the point?

Lying always just struck him as a lot of work.

But then it occurred to him, if she wasn't a leopard... " You're a jaguar," he said suddenly, as if he'd valiantly just figured it out without a long period of thinking otherwise previous to now.

New light, he stared at her a little harder. Right, that made more sense with her scent, why hadn't he figured it out before? And jaguars were... well, they'd had some bad press lately. " What is this, Nika? Did not want me to steal your umbrella and send you home in shame for showing up on the news or something?"

Somewhere between wanting to mock and just honestly assuming this was the reason for the lie. Erring toward the later.

He already harbored an even stupider tiger, honestly.

It took a little bit, and she watched his face through the confusion and eventual realization, but... bingo.

She nodded once to the word. Jaguar.

"Dare you to try," she said of the umbrella, trying to navigate his words and figure out what he meant in his tone. Was he upset? Annoyed? Just confused? "It's more than that. You don't know a whole lot about me, but you've affected a lot of people I care about. Mostly not in great ways. So I kind of figured I'd punch you in the face or something."

Ugh, just saying it, she sort of still wanted to. Sorry, Abraham. Maxine. Cliff. Beauregard. She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, privately marveling at how fast it had grown back.

"But I guess it's that too. I got my whole species banned from Larkspur for losing control, and I'm not sure how most everyone else feels about me on their turf. And everywhere is someone's fucking turf now, so."

Minus Avondale because it was a shithole. And Ravenswood and the Hollow because something else had it that wasn't were or vampire.

Stealing her umbrella if this went badly for his own retreat to his car would be the exact sort of petty thing he was up for, but right now, judgement was in reserve.

For someone who had deemed fit to lie to him from moment one, she certainly seemed forthcoming with honestly now. Answering questions he hadn't even realized he'd had. So that was how she knew his name, that was how she assumed he was King. Her confession that she had had some intention of violence against him was amusing, trying to imagine her standing a chance and failing.

He was a little glad she hadn't, but not because he was fearful of what she could do to him.

Probably friends with traitor bears, maybe. He vaguely vaguely remembered one of them or both of them mentioning a jaguar... right? The Cordova attack? Eh, it was such old news, he wasn't sure he could even properly reference to call her buddies out.

So, focusing instead on the other point. Both brows up, he realized he either hadn't heard this before or had forgot it. Either way, felt like news. "Jo banned you all?"

It was interesting that he chose to focus on that. Asha almost felt touched, but knew better than to think he actually gave a damn for her benefit. If he did, it would have been creep.


"Yeah," she answered. "Sucked. We were friends right up until that point, then just." She made a gesture of something exploding with her hands. "None of the others deserved that either." Well. Fray and Skuld did. But not Abraham.

Fucking dickboss. Larkspur had been her home way before the dogs came in.

Ah, they'd been friends. That made a bit more sense. Probably felt like a betrayal, then. Not that he was particularly close with Coyote King over there or anything, to lend him any insight. Just met her the once, had her number courtesy of a group conversation between leaders. Still, banning an entire species sounded like an overreaction, unless there was more that he didn't know. Which was entirely possible. But he had one of the jaguars right here in front of him, and well...

She didn't suck, he guessed.

"Sounds like a lot of work, to keep an entire species out," he said, revealing the motivation behind most of his bewilderment. "Perhaps it will please you to hear that I do not give a shit if you are here as long as you behave, and if you do fuck up I will just kick you out, not your cat friends. So maybe no more lying, da?

Give her motivation, he'd forgive the deception. It hadn't cost him anything other than maybe a shade of pride wherein he'd honestly believed she was a leopard.

It would be a lot of work. She honestly had pondered sneaking in, just to see if she could, but she wasn't entirely sure how the... rogue sensing thing worked.

Hey, maybe she could ask the king she was so sure she'd hated but suddenly that all got turned around and she was mostly kind of confused how she felt about him now.

Like. He was literally her motivation to be a better leader. Not to force people into her group if they weren't comfortable or had perpetual teenager brain damage or whatever.

Once again, she was glad Natalie hadn't been infected, from that perspective. She didn't want to sire unwilling jaguars. Though there were other reasons to wish it had worked.

"Da," she imitated, maybe partly to be a little shit but also because yes, sir, she understood. "I know you said you don't deal in theories or whatever but, I wanna know some shit before I consider this for real in the future. How does it work if we do split the Glenn? Do I get to have my own rules in my own space, or..."

Please, she was brave but also in need of an education.

Okay, good, they understood one another.

Well, mostly. She was back on the Glenn again, was she? He almost wanted to scold her, but... "In theory only," he pointed out, literally pointing, to make it clear that this sort of talking was not indicative of any actual future. This was no promise, no leading, not really even tolerance of the idea. But.

"There would have to be agreements. Disjointed rules would weaken anything in place, making it have no point in the first place. This is why it pays to have good neighbors also as well. Less border concern."

Thank god for Yana and Alina, perpetually.

She didn't like the finger pointing at her. It was rude and condescending and she wanted to grab it and bend it backwards until it snapped from his knuckle.

So she looked at his face.

"When you say that, do you mean there's space for compromise, or it's literally just your rules and that's it?"

Her tone was less challenging and more just asking.

"Eh," he said, hands gone back to crossing at his chest, wishing the rain at least would make things cooler. It was just gross right now. "Depends on the thing. Honestly, there are not that many rules in place in the Glenn."

Some mattered more than others. "But if I felt like another group would just make life harder for me and for mine, it would be no deal."

Right. At which point, she imagined she would have to just... challenge him for the entire territory. Could you do that? Could she do that with Jo for Larkspur?

Her cat mostly operated on a basis of... not yet.

"Got it."

Asha didn't have a group anyway. Just her and Abraham and they'd just moved so. Hang tight, rosettes.

She had to remember too what Maxine said. That Levka said lots of things but that there was very little follow through. But maybe Asha was better at forcing someone to keep their word by sheer tenacity.


"Would you ever be down to see if maybe I could, in fact, land a punch right to your face? In like a friendly way."

A small shrug.

"You want to fight me, Nika?" he asked, amused and lightening up more when she didn't defy his logic. Honestly, he'd gotten so used to Maxine's way of fighting him on every little thing that he had almost expected a pointless upset over things that almost certainly would never come to pass. So to have it go otherwise edged this into 'good first impression' territory.


"Give me your number. You have not been banned from Cedar Creek, da? You know the Gym?"

Maybe her motivation was bad, but he didn't care. A fight was a fight, and he was honestly usually down for one. And if it really was a friendly challenge as she claimed, the bear was keen.

Why was it so fucking nice to be called another name by someone?! If he was literally anyone else she might have taken a different kind of predatory interest in him, but she put a hard mental block there.

"More than anything. Still gotta get you back for scaring my boyfriend like a year ago."

Something like that. She had a grin on her face anyway, even if her cat was absolutely certain they were going to end up dead. Asha didn't even know how to fight. She had like a few punching bag lessons under her belt.

She just wanted one punch at his face and then she'd go down hard and be okay with that.

"But yeah, I know the place. If you text me then I'll be able to call you as soon as I learn how to throw a revenge punch."

She'd rattle off her digits for him when he was ready.

Unzipping his jacket enough to get at the inside pocket where he'd stowed his phone against the rain, tilting his head a little at the mention of her boyfriend. "What is his name?" he asked, having a feeling that if her boyfriend was another jaguar, he remembered the snitch, but coudn't remember said snitch's name at this point. He'd fallen pretty hard off the radar eventually.

But hey, nice to know he'd actually scared someone!

That said, it was less important than getting her number right, which was painstaking giving his usual amount of accuracy, but he'd repeat it back to her to be sure, filing her down very simply as 'Nika.' Because obviously that was going to stick. What was her real name? Did he care? Shrug and no, in that order.

And then, lest he forget--because he was magical at that, the immediate text of:



Look, Levka, she hadn't given you her name, she wasn't gonna give you Abraham's name.

"Cactus," she said, and that could be nonsense if he wanted it to be.

Perfect. She'd gotten the bear king's number. She was definitely done here, and she rose to pick up her umbrella. And.

Ughhhhhhh, she couldn't not offer, it wasn't in her nature. Plus it proved she was the better person.

"You good or do you need an escort to your car or bearmobile or whatever?"

Yup, nonsense name, hooray. But cool, he'd probably figure it out eventually if it ended up being important. Which it probably wasn't going to.

So, when she stood to leave, he was pocketing his phone once more and he watched her go to her umbrella without standing, herself. The offer surprised him just a touch, but it was a good note to end on, he decided.

Shook his head with a wry sort of smile. "Go home, Nika-cat. I will survive the rain."

It'd let up eventually, and his pride would rather make a break for his car in a while than let her hold an umbrella for him--or him for her.

Tsk and a snap of her fingers. "Darn, here I was hoping you'd melt," she joked. (Or was she joking...)

With a wave, she'd head off to... well, flip between moods of major self-congratulations and mild self-disgust.


Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)