Stoneridge Winery 
Set during 'Late-o-ween'

 Every single decision and choice she had made from how she had switched her hold on Levka's arm to what she ordered and how she positioned them within the room - it was intentional. She grabbed the first sweet and light wine she could, poured him a strong serving of a homegrown riesling and kept the bottle close for good measure. Already on Were tolerance and the alcohol content was low, hopefully saving the general populace from some brand of altercation or another.

 Besides, if the situation called for it - she wasn't above throwing around weight for the sake of keeping everyone intact. Her mind ran over how shit ran downhill, the likelihood of a chain reaction should someone get too in their animal feelings, sparking off a series of firecrackers. A whole building of tigers, bears, jaguars, and who knew what else.

She filled his glass for the second time and surveyed the open space of the floor over his shoulder. It made sense to keep him more or less turned from the rest, even if that meant that they were regretfully blocking some of the hor devours. Sorry folks, priorities. "I did not know Esperanza would be attending, a pleasant surprise." She muttered it against the rim of her glass, content to play at ignorant for the sake of all involved.




He was officially too agitated--and too warm--for the coat, so he'd undone what he could and loosened his tie, and the moment they'd reached a resting spot, he'd even taken off his hat and dropped it on the nearest table. This was also a matter of priority, as he needed to not be getting worked up over being annoyed and uncomfortable on top of the way he had to actively resist looking behind him.

Even if he recognized what Yana was doing, how purposeful her series of actions were, he had to be grateful for it. If he were here alone, without her--though why would he be, in the first place?--this might have gone a lot more poorly. Perhaps only Esperanza had really seen the depth to which his feelings had been hurt by the whole fiasco, months ago.

Speaking of... "Neither did I. I forget she is familiar with others." And at the moment he felt a little rankled by the idea that he shared her with anyone at all. Unfair, of course, and he knew it even as he felt it, but seeing Cliff approach her so warmly had definitely yanked on his fur more than a little. The frown felt permanent even as he drank a little too heavily at a wine he wasn't even enjoying.

Still wary at the idea of Maxine showing up--though he had yet to pick up on her particular presence--he tried to sneak a glance around, turning slightly as he did so. He wondered if Nika even knew what she was potentially inciting, inviting someone like Cliff to this.

Abraham was just about to go hide in a corner somewhere. But first he needed to get some food. And specifically, he wanted some fucking pizza.

Bad news, though: there were two people blocking the pizza. He pondered his options. He could get some sliced meat. Or candy.

Or. Or, his intake of wine and liquor suggested, he could shimmy between the wall and table (there was like a foot of space!), grab pizza, refuse eye contact, and shimmy back.

Emptying the glass he was holding, he set it down on the table, then pulled out his phone and...

Really casually began to scoot with his back against the wall, looking at his phone, just... trying to... get near the pizza...

And forget that Levka and Yana existed at all.

In the midst of hanging out at a table with food and Cliff, Asha suddenly had a need to see where Abraham was, if he was having fun.

Boyfriend tracker, engaged. Where did he scuttle off to...oh. There he was. Past Levka and Yana who seemed to be glued to each other. Sliding... along the wall. Maybe he'd dropped something?

Asha watched Abraham quietly from across the room with amused bemusement and a slowly increasing arch to her brow, but did nothing otherwise, waiting for some natural conclusion to this that would explain all of it.

 It was a strange two way pull between the empathy she felt and the desire to stalk the space further. Mingling sounded fun, at the same time leaving him to his own devices after this surprise felt like setting them both up for failure. So she stayed put for the time being, didn't address the implication of his comment because - frankly, it was absurd. Credit where it was due he was still working through the jumbled mess of his feelings and as so she would allow him time to settle on his own accord.

 The slightest movement to her left and she turned, a quizzical expression as her brows knitted and she assessed the jaguar on what seemed to be an espionage mission. She supposed they were blocking the table, which was rude - but he could have asked politely to squeeze by. Recalling the nail polish incident and his museum visit before that, she finalized the body of proof that he was just inherently awkward. He also was a prime example of a distraction, something to keep a certain bear out of the spotlight for as long as possible.

 "Посмотрите," She turned so her back was still towards Abraham, reoriented herself so Levka could get a decent glance at him. "Abraham пришел как ковбой из деревенских людей. " She nudged his foot with hers, as if she could nose aside the whole conversation of bear business. Still, almost immediately she glanced back. "Do you need help?"

"Look, ..." / "... came as the cowboy from the village people."


No Maxine so far as he could continue to tell, and Cliff was... still there, pretty much clear across the room and presumably just as keen on avoiding contact as his former king. Which Levka should have appreciated, seeing as it made it a lot easier to keep his own shit together, but instead he just mostly felt a roil of irritation for the fact that he still didn't know why those two had left and at this rate no one would ever bother to tell him and it was going to continue to hate them for being goddamn cowards--

And then, suddenly, mercifully, a distraction. The use of Russian enough to pull his attention abruptly away from the skulking he'd been doing, and he found himself looking at something he was a little surprised he hadn't noticed on his own.

Abraham was an interesting creature to him. His first impression of the man had been... well, probably almost exactly a year beforehand. He scarce recalled that conversation, outside of the fact that Abraham had been nervous and a bit of snitch. Ultimately useless to him, he'd been forgotten largely until recently. And now here he was, back again, no longer the baby cat. Quite the quick evolution, actually, and some small part of the bear was impressed by that.

Still, he hardly knew him, hadn't had a conversation with him since they'd gravitated back into one another's circles. But the jaguar had helped Mathis in a time of need, was proving a decent enough ally in Belle Vista, and so while the current impression was sparse, it still erred on the side of positive.

The seemingly permanent frown eased up a bit as he assessed the man who appeared to be trying to sneak past them. If he thought the phone would save him, Yana proved him wrong and the village people cowboy had the spotlight put on him.

"Hello, Abraham," he offered, going for reasonably friendly but also feeling... slightly perplexed as to what the jaguar was trying to accomplish. Maybe just not interrupting the slightly tense conversation right here, which was probably fair.

For anyone following along at home, Abraham had meaninglessly typed "Dhshshshs dbshsgwajbde whdgec" into Google, which apparently would pull up no results! He was just here for the pizza, thanks, no one needed to mind him, no one in the entire party-

Yana. Levka. He heard something in a language he didn't understand, and then his name, and then more things in a language he didn't understand! Abraham had some small hope that maybe they'd just shit talk him and then leave him alone, but.

Yana was asking if he wanted help. And Levka was greeting him. He wasn't drunk enough to try to sink down beneath the table and hide, but he was drunk enough to dream of it a little. He gave a little wave to Levka, and a "hello" as he scooted along. He was at least to the pizza now.

"Just getting pizza, was trying not to disrupt, but-" BUT THIS HAD BEEN A REAL DUMB IDEA, ASSHOLE. "Looks like I did anyway."

This was not charming. He piled pizza on a plate a little sloppily, then made to shimmy back.

"Uh, thanks for coming. And all that."

Maybe he would be allowed to escape and he could hide in a corner to eat. His jaguar huffed at it all.

He did not just do that all for pizza Abraham why. Asha pressed her lips together, not sure if she wanted to laugh or cry for him.

Instead she'd send a text.

you better bring me some after all that
Queen Asha

If he'd look her way she'd imitate the hello wave he'd done for Levka. If Yana and Levka looked her way her wave would be accompanied with a friendly smile because she would love it if they'd mingle a little more.

Just probably not with Cliff.

He was thankful that things weren't incredibly awkward with Asha, despite her having to use a literal cane to get around. But the banter was still the same, and he found comfort in it. There was a drink in front of him, his third or maybe fourth of the night, but he wasn't too numb to notice her peering across the room, and then pulling out her phone. With a quirked brow, he glanced the way she'd been looking and noticed... Levka and Yana, and Abraham. He looked uncomfortable, but that was to be expected.

"I give him a solid thirty seconds before he leaves without any food." Cliff huffed with a creeping smirk. He didn't make an effort to keep the fact that he was watching the whole ordeal pretty closely. Not that he expected anything major to happen. But you never knew with five year olds that some how abducted a grown man's body. Let him be noticed. He'd even offer a smile to Yana if she caught his eye.

 Tormenting him felt like the Were equivalent of smelling fear and then shoving that same uneasy party into a locker. Still, if they were to be neighbors - surely it was better to clear this implication towards discomfort and be done with it? "You're not interrupting anything." Which, he wasn't - not really. At least nothing that she minded having interrupted, happy to have just ignored him if that had been the case at all.

 "Pardon my curiosity," She cleared her throat, set up him to have to say more than two parting words after a quick glance to make sure Levka's glass was still more or less full. "Any rhyme or reason on choosing a cowboy?"

Maybe if he felt more mentorly, or even more invested in Abraham as a person, Levka would have offered some advice--if you want something bad enough to make a fool of yourself it might just be easier to interrupt. Not that Levka found Abraham terribly foolish, just... odd? Odd, yes, that. This was a jaguar party, was it not? What did he think he was interrupting when in theory he had some power in this space?

Well, maybe it was respect for Yana, which could not be undervalued.

Abraham tried to make a quick exit--which again, weird, but whatever--but Yana seemed inclined to hook him into conversation. Borderline small talk, but not of the worst variety. Still, he didn't have anything to add and instead took to his glass as the continued lifeline that would keep him from obsessing. A little more to drink... Watching Abraham with pizza on his plate also put food on the agenda, but in a moment.

Maybe Abraham had accidentally sidestepped through a portal into hell. Never in religious text was it depicted that you got there by scooting your ass against a wall to slip by a table, but here he was.

That Asha was watching or texting him was beyond his notice. There was only Yana, Levka, and Abraham, the last of whom was separated from the other two by a table covered in pizza.

Yana cleared her throat, pardoning curiosity and likely ushering in some kind of complete horror show. What could she be wondering about that she had to apologize for. Maybe something like "Abraham, what precisely is wrong with your brain to make you think it was a good idea to go shimmying between tables for pizza?" And he wouldn't have an answer other than "wine and probably some damage sustained early in life."

Instead, she asked about his costume, and he was suddenly very aware he was a grown adult man dressed as a cowboy. Abraham did not have a good answer for this, either. He'd... wanted to dress as a cowboy as a kid and never did? He'd shunned it in his twenties because it felt like a costume for white people?

He gave kind of a nervous laugh, feeling sweat at his back (which was currently basically pressed against a wall).

"Oh, I dunno. Probably one of the less obnoxious couples costumes," he said, sheepish, and this was only something of an answer. Bringing Asha into it felt easier, even if she wasn't here. "Why'd you two, uh, pick yours?"

Oh, her poor nervous boyfriend. Her cat gave a grumble to the intense feelings and even the wave of heat she felt from him, wanting to soothe him. But Asha would remain where she was, looking back to Cliff with a grin.

Her coming to his rescue would probably only embarrass him more or something.

"I dunno, he might make it to a minute," sure quipped back. "So how's your bear thing coming along?"

Might as well dive back into conversation.

God, if he'd been in Abraham's shoes. Not that he would ever be. He wouldn't have approached in the first place. He seemed to be doing well, so Cliff was inclined to let it be. If something came of anything, he was sure the Kodiak would be able to pick up the tension. "Moon went good." He said in answer to Asha. "And I actually am in the process of getting some of the land we shifted on. I plan on fencing it off, and keeping it private. A little shifting sanctuary type thing." It was pretty exciting, and through the haze of alcohol and tension of mild concern, Asha would be able to sense that.

 She glanced back over her shoulder, looked towards Asha and offered the tiniest hint of a smile before she refocused on the awkward jaguar ahead of them. Perhaps she could have the former more of a friendly inspection, but the fact was that she wanted to avoid that little corner of the room as much as possible for the time being. Half on autopilot, she refilled Levka's glass.

 "Had the components on hand, I didn't plan this too much." Clearly, since apparently, she set herself up to either buffering herself in a fight or taking home a questionably sober bear when all was said and done. Sensitive ears picked up the brunt of the conversation, kept talking for the simple sake of keeping the dialogue from taking center stage.

 "Well that's very darling of you two." Half because it was well-intentioned despite how it might have sounded from the source. Half because he looked like he was ready to melt through the floorboards and sink into the earth below and some small part of her found that shaky unease loosely humorous. Sorry, Abraham.

His glass refilled, Levka somewhat idly considered the words 'couples costume' and recalled Yana expression some derision about that. Perhaps he was beginning to understand why. It was kind of an odd holiday and... yeah darling. Maybe not the word he wanted to be exposed to in public. That level of endearing felt a lot better in private moments.

Distracted, he thankfully missed any overhearing of the conversation across the way, and merely stared at Abraham a moment before he just rode Yana's coattails with a, "Yana chose not to help me, so I kept it simple."

The more sentimental value of his chosen character for the night was left off the table--something for him and Yana only in his currently irritable state.

"Perhaps you go back to your girl so that this costume couple is more obvious?" he suggested, some derisive bit of mercy, maybe.

Watching the jaguar squirm wasn't actually improving his mood, which was a shame.

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