A Cover Is Not the Book

Belle Vista 
Directly after the events of this thread

The drive wasn’t very long and was relatively quiet besides the engine and the sound of tires on asphalt as Frank made the way through the city streets and eventually quieter neighborhoods. He’d fully expected to leave the scene back in Restaurant Row with some kind of injury by just how aggressive the vampire had seemed, but instead, the only blood on him was from where the girl had pressed her neck towards his collar and shoulder. Yana stepping in had made a world of difference and he sincerely hoped she was as well as it had seemed before he’d left the area.

Parking in the driveway finally, he quietly got out and made the way over towards where the woman was currently passed out in the passenger seat. She’d been conked out the whole time and it was worrisome. Unbuckling her, he helped slide the strap off before lifting her into his arms as carefully as possible. Closing the door with a dull thud, the car was locked with a flashing of lights as Frank picked his way to the front door. There, there was a bit of juggling with keys and the weight in his grasp, but eventually he got it to to unlock before making the way inside.

With the outside put away and in his own space, tension left Frank’s shoulders considerably. For now, he set the woman up in the guest room, lightly positioning her head on a pillow. From an initial check of her pulse, everything seemed to be fine. Heading to the bathroom, he began busying himself finding a washcloth to help clean up her neck and hair a tad while puttering around trying to get potential needs out and ready for anything. Soon enough, hopefully, Yana would be here so he could see to her as well and they could figure out how to resolve this whole fiasco. Till then, Frank would resolve to do what he could while keeping an ear out just in case the vampire had decided to follow.

 She liked to pride herself in being thorough - liked to think of herself as efficient. So even though the matter of the peculiar human was a serious one, she drove around restaurant row and the surrounding neighborhoods at a crawl for some time. Keeping her eyes and her nose on edge, some slight sign of rot or a blur of movement from her peripheral. Content he was good and gone, only then did she turn and head for Frank's house, only half wandering if then and there was a good time to call Mathis.

Perhaps Frank already had, perhaps not.
Maybe later, definitely later.

 Her side stung as she stretched to get out once she'd parked behind him, starting up the drive and adjusting her jacket (even though it was too warm for it). Shifting her weight as she listened for anything peculiar, minded her posture and waited to be received.

There was the slight sound of an engine outside that had him pausing. A moment or so and his cat was loudly proclaiming they had a were visitor. Frank sincerely hoped it was Yana as he put down items and set a brisk pace down the hallway. Turning the knob, Frank opened the door to see exactly whom he had hoped. She was standing, looking alert, all good signs, but still his gaze went about looking for anything amiss.

”Come in please,” he said earnestly, moving out of the way so she could do just that. If she would, he’d close the door behind before continuing. ”Are you hurt?”

 She relaxed a bit when the door opened, forced something close to a smile as she mumbled a thank you and headed inside. Only then did she shrug out of her jacket, lifting her arm to showcase the tatters along her side, where the fabric stuck close to the blood that welled towards the surface. "It'll be alright, it's not grave." More of a scratch than anything else, but a scratch with what had felt like well-sharpened blades.

"You're alright? The girl?"

As a jacket was taken off, his attention was snagged towards the material and blood on display for him, worry etched onto his face more so. ”I’m still going to take a look at it.” This was better than the worst he’d seen, but still.

As for the question on the girl. ”She passed out on me and is in the guest room. From what I can tell, she’s okay, just exhausted,” he responded with a motion down the hall where said room was.

Feet already taking him onwards into the house, he continued with a tired smile. ”And I’m fine, just jumpy.” He made the way towards where he’d started to rifle things out just in case, gauze and alcohol wipes in the forefront of his mind. While they waited for the woman to wake up, he'd make the bet use of the time and see to Yana.

 "Fine, if you'd like." Theoretically, she could just heal it herself - but she wouldn't diminish his efforts to help. Following just behind him, she winced as she pulled her shirt up to under her breasts, exposed the whole of the four curved lines. She would watch him as she stayed there, tried to play the part of a good and cooperative patient while she chewed over the circumstances.

"I assume she's seen too much to just ... leave."

He offered a hum in agreement towards wanting to do this for her. It would make Frank feel better knowing she was attended to in that department as well as it’d be a way of saying thank you for showing up to help him. Walking into the hall bathroom that’s light was still on from prior, he reached for a package of alcohol wipes off the counter and would turn to see her with the shirt pushed up. To her credit, it definitely didn’t look bad as she’d described now that the fabric was out of the way for him to see properly as well. It’d be simple and he sighed in relief, glad she hadn’t just been putting a brave face on.

Opening a sealed wipe, the alcohol quickly perfumed the air and he grimaced some at her question. Beginning to dab at the side, he looked up at her face briefly before back down at the marred skin. He wasn’t sure what she was implying there, hopefully just the need for a warning. ”That depends on if she still believes a vampire’s words when she comes to.” He’d also ran really fast with her in his arms, but Frank honestly wasn’t sure if that had even registered for the girl considering her state, that or anything else that was completely out of the norm. Setting about more broadly cleaning each now while being careful with pressure, he'd finish and move onto bandages next.

 She would aim to be the ideal patient, keep still and cooperative and do little about the sting of the alcohol except for wince. When he dismissed the idea that the situation was a precarious one, she shot him a look. "The girl was attacked by a fully unleashed vampire, she presumably will remember that we saved her from a creature with fangs and talons. If you think that isn't suspicious Frank than I worry about your mental state."

That wasn’t a reply he was hoping for and Frank stifled a sigh. A person with suspicions about who was a were wasn’t a good position to be found in. He hated the idea that they might have saved her from one set of fangs only to be forced into another predicament where there was definitely a threat of them, his own included. Now that he was having a moment away from the initial need to get her out of there, it was a solid truth right smack dab in front of him, summed up perfectly by Yana. It reminded Frank that the girl knew about him being a were and that wasn’t the best feeling to know yet another human did. That was dangerous and his jaguar was offering all sorts of advice to solve this which it all ended with teeth.

Crumbling the wipe up to put back into the same foil package, he set that on the countertop before grabbing for the roll of gauze. ”I’m not discrediting that. I was just hoping she might chalk anything weird about us to exhaustion.” He took the pin out and began unfolding some, looking up at her as he did so. ”Or, I hate I’m saying this, that the vampire might’ve gotten her convinced nothing happened.” What with their mind games, or whatever it was.

Directing attention to what he was doing, Frank went to hold the start of the gauze to Yana’s side before unrolling and wrapping it around her, his brows stitched.

”It outed me so I don’t…,” and he let that trail off, not knowing what to do in all honesty to solve this. Other things he knew, but this kind of thing? No. Prior experience did little other than knowing he should say something.

 It was an absurd amount of care for a few scratches that would heal quick and without risk of infection. But she allowed him his work, moved wordlessly to help him hold the gauze and scoffed at the idea of the girl simply forgetting. It was a very optimistic outlook, very sunshine for the incident that they were coming down from.

 "I'm not suggesting we kill her, Frank." She kept her voice down low for the sake of discretion. "I'm simply suggesting that it might be on our best interest to see to it that she exits your home changed. Belle Vista, thankfully, has managed to avoid public spectacle after spectacle, I'm not interested in breaking that streak."

 Her sleep was not peaceful, the herbalists mind filled with images of movement in the dark, fang, blood, and breaking bones. She kept seeing the man's face change, a man that had the appearance of a tax accountant had been such a monster.

 Florian woke with a start, her eyes flashing open as she tried to sit up. It wasn't a good idea. A groan escaped her as her core, ribcage, abdomen... It really did feel like what she imagined getting run over felt like. That vampire had hit her with such force, such speed... She was lucky her spine didn't break. Some of her ribs may not have been so lucky.

 Florian couldn't stop the tears as she sunk back down into the mattress. She was in an unfamiliar house, in pain, and terrified. Covering her face with her hands she cried as quietly as she could, the only words coming out were "Jackie", and "scared". She felt like a child, spooked by the boogie man. Only she was in her forties, and the boogie man had tried to rip her throat out for snack time. One hand came down to rest on the spot where she'd been bitten. Did this mean ... Was she one of them now? Would she turn into a vampire? The tears fell harder.

He stopped and pinned it after a light cover. It’d probably heal fine soon anyways, but bandaids didn’t really work for this kind of thing so oh well, overdone handling never hurt anyone. No one could fault him for not caring here in the end. ”When you take a shower you can leave this off after.”

Pulling away, he stilled considerably at Yana’s words, watching her with disbelief, waiting a moment to truly get his words in order here without offending as much as he truly could. “I understand… But, you can’t.” Frank could hear his heartbeat in his ears. That would ruin her life, he couldn’t allow that. “I didn’t get her out of there only to get turned, especially in my house,” he said tightly, matching the level of volume on display.

Speaking of, it seemed she was awake. A sudden soft intake of breath and sobs floated by and he set down the gauze to the counter. ”There has to be another way.”

Walking past her if allowed, he went off to the guest room assuming Yana would follow.

 Can't. Can not? The good nature dipped from her face in degrees, the drop of her brows, the way the corners of her lips fell until her mouth was drawn into a tight line. Quietly, she moved, stopped in front of the hall to intercept the doctor from his intended destination down the hall. She planted herself like a certain rose bush, head high as she looked down her nose at one Frank Beringer and felt more than heard the hissing and spitting of her own beast.

 "This is your house, Frank Beringer - but this isn't your land. And while I will do my level best not to stain your floors, if I say she's to be secured, then that is what is going to happen. I respect you as a doctor, a man, and a Were. But you will not stand in my home and tell me what I am going to do, especially if you offer no alternative solution besides: We make her pinky swear." She kept her voice low, mindful of the whimpering down the hall. "Do we understand one another?"

Yana rounded on him and he stopped, not even a few steps out of the bathroom, his own cat hissing loudly in his head at hers.

He took in her words with a frown that weighed heavily on his face, teeth clamped down tightly as his jaw tensed some, arms folding over his chest. Frank honestly didn’t know what to do, stuck in between a crossroads of Were politics and his own morals. Eyes momentarily flicked towards the floor, before back at her, taking a deep breath and offering a curt nod. He didn’t want to back down in all seriousness, considered even telling her to get out of his house which had no way of ending well. Again, it was her territory as she’d so nicely reminded Frank and it was a courtesy for her to even allow him to stay here. He really didn’t have an idea that solved this as well as turning did. There was no fucking winning here. “Yes.” The words felt like ash on his tongue and made Frank’s stomach sour. ”You’ll have to do it though,” he sighed. It was her land after all, but he kept that biting reply from being said. He looked at Yana with a hardened gaze before making to move past her again.

Heading down the hallway towards the guest room, he assumed Yana would follow, lightly knocking the wood door before letting himself inside. “Hey there, you’re safe. It’s alright.” Frank spoke softly, lying he realized, noting the tears and blood that needed to be cleaned, but for now it was probably best not to spook her. The jaguar watched with grumbling discontent at the whole thing and he pushed back on it like a hand coming to push on a muzzle of a too energetic dog. ”Are you hurting anywhere?” Frank took slow steps over and would stop if wanted.

 When the man entered the room, she looked up with a start, jumping a bit in her curled position. Once her mind was able to catch up to the hear and now, she realized it was the man who had saved her, and immediately relaxed. He'd gotten her out of there, bless. Had the woman who showed up after also made it out safe?

 When he asked if she was hurting, she nodded, her words failing in replacement of another choking sob. Her body shook and she felt cold, while the rational Florian deep down warned her that not only was she hurt, but she was in shock, and this man was a shifter.

 "Ribs," even if he was a shifter, he had helped her, protected her... He didn't seem any more a threat than her best friend was so why offer him mistrust and offence when he'd down so much for her, as a stranger? "I think there's a few broken..." the herbalists voice shook weakly to match the quiver of her body. She just wanted to stop hurting.

 Of course she would have to do it, not a problem but ultimately telling as far as she was concerned. She'd keep her judgment to herself, all the same, stay out of his way and consider how to best proceed. Content for the time being to stay down the hall, out of sight but in plenty of distance to listen to the doctor and their new friend conversate.

 Pressed to the wall, she watched the ceiling and listened to the self-assessment, took comfort in the knowledge that, if nothing else, when the time came to strike - the girl almost definitely wouldn't be running all that fast.

The lack of an immediate presence behind him did wanders to focus on the now, to shelf that anxiety and resigned anger at the unfairness of the situation for only a few minutes into the future he imagined. Eyes watched him and recognition was there, something he had hoped wouldn’t be the case and was severely troubling. Even if the vampire had forced anything of her actions or memory, nothing had been in regards to the entirety of the event. All the shifters in Belle Vista were in harm’s way here to Yana’s point. Keeping his sigh in, Frank continued forward, watching the nod and listening attentively to the stalled sob and sum up to ribs.

Coming up to her bedside, he nodded. ”There’s not much I can help with that besides offer meds and prescribe time. Let me see, though.” Frank reached for the hem of her shirt, but waited to do anything else. ”I’m going to lift your shirt up and check, alright?” If she’d agreed, Frank would do just that, moving the fabric up just enough to check out the woman’s midsection, trying to see any discoloration of the skin.

 She watched him cautiously as he approached but did not shy away. She had no outworldly senses to tell her that the woman had arrived, or that she was hiding behind the wall listening, so she focused on the being she could see.

 Florian nodded, lifting her arms slightly to allow easier access. A quick breath was sucked in from the movement as it aggravated her injuries, but apart from that, she sat still.

 Under her shirt was the beginnings of discolouration. Rose streaked with red, then rimmed with yellow. It would darken given a few hours into a purple. It was worse over the fourth and fifth rib from the bottom, but didn't appear flailed.

 "I..." She began, not sure if she should tell him about her powers. Likely he already saw her use the earth to her advantage, and he was also already sold out as a shifter... If anything he was in a more precarious position than she. "I can heal myself. It takes time and is exhausting, but I can speed up the process exponentially. All I need is someone to guide the healing so they don't heal wrong. Is there a way to... I don't know, splint? Wrap? So they heal in the right shape? I've never broken a rib before."

The skin looked tender and he lightly ghosted over it before touching the more painful areas, watching her face for a reaction here to understand where breaks were, noting the way she breathed through it all. It seemed there were most definitely breaks. Luckily, nothing was exiting skin, but without an x-ray he couldn’t tell if there was anything internal going on.

Taking his hand away, Frank paused from doing much else as the girl spoke up about her abilities. It was still a lot to wrap his head around, the fact magic like this was a reality and that she even had two, not just the earth one seen previously. The best Frank could do was apply it to what he did know of accelerated healing and further with that with what a queen could do without truly doing it himself.

Rubbing at his face, Frank considered for a moment. ”I don’t know much about how to use… powers.” That felt weird to say, to feel roll off his tongue. ”Or how to guide you if I did have them." He'd sit on the side of the bed next to her while continuing. "I can tell you ribs aren’t like a broken arm or leg. You don’t want to wrap them while they heal or it’ll stifle them or cause pneumonia if you don’t breathe deep enough. If you’re going to try to heal yourself with that, the most I can do is offer you insight into how they should be, watch your breathing to know if your chest is rising correctly, that sort of thing.”

 He examined her injury as delicately as he could, but touching a broken rib wasn't like getting a gentle back rub. It was more like... getting hit with a baseball bat, even from the lightest pressure. She closed her eyes and focused on breathing, knowing that holding her breath would do nobody good, but little whimpers still escaped at the most tender spots. She spoke her piece, and took his response into consideration. Perhaps she ought to call Jackie? Bringing her here may be dangerous though... she didn't know what animal this man had within him, and if he was territorial... it may cause more harm than good to have another strange shifter in his home.

 "It'll take the better part of two days for me to heal, with long breaks of sleeping and eating in between... even then I can't guarantee it will work to be honest. This... power is pretty new to me still. Hasn't been flexed in a while either." She'd only really healed minor lesions and bruising before, and a cold here and there... but this? She had no idea if she even could do anything other than potentially make it worse off.

 "I-if possible, could I perhaps have my bag? I have a friend I would very much like to contact, she works as a nurse and has... uh, some background working with people with abilities, and shifters too. I wouldn't get her to come here, but perhaps it would be best if I was in her care..." she flushed realizing it may have come off as insulting, "Not that I don't trust you! I'm forever in your debt, I'd certainty be dead if not for you and that woman who saved me, but... she's the closest thing I have, and I really feel like I need some familiarity around me right now." Hopefully he'd let her go to Jackie, she felt like she really needed her friend right now.

Frank had no idea how so much healing could even happen in two days for a human. The magic applications were fascinating and in better circumstances he would’ve loved to have asked her more about it, seen it work, how it compared to were healing, the whole nine yards.

The ask for a bag had him already shaking his head slightly in a no. There wasn’t a bag and the rest of the request was troublesome, all of it barreling forward too fast while he sat there. Raising his brows some at the insinuation that care couldn’t be found here, it was all brushed off as she explained herself. She had no idea he was a doctor and that was fine for now, he got it and this nurse with more experience in this regard made sense. The information that there was one out there that was treating magic users and shifters alike had him really curious as to whom this was. An added last comment of how she trusted him, trusted them both, dipped and tugged on his gut and Frank’s face faltered.

“I understand, but I don’t have your bag. You can use my phone and can call her, but —”

He let out a huge sigh to the floor, hands coming out to wave to the sides a tad for emphasis.

”I don’t think you can leave right now.”

 She frowned when he said he didn't have her bag. Dammit, her house keys had also been in that. Well, her cottage wasn't exactly proofed for a break and enter, she could easily break in, and she had a spare key somewhere inside no doubt. She didn't like the idea that she couldn't leave though. Yes, she was in pain, yes, she was scared and in shock, and yes, it was very likely she'd collapse before getting anywhere near to home, or Jackie's hospital. She didn't like it though. She wanted a sense of control over what was happening, it felt like her life was slowly spinning away down a rabbit hole right now.

 "Could I call then? I'll be quick." She chewed her lip, wondering what she would say if Jackie even picked up. "Other than that, I guess I could start healing, not sure how much I can get done before exhaustion hits... as I said, all very new." She found herself suddenly laughing, in a sad, pitiful kind of way, which ended abruptly with a wince and hiss of air through her teeth as the laugh hurt her side.

 "It's both funny, and maddening... I'd been just talking to my friend recently about wanting to use this power to help people, shifters specifically if I could. Or anyone really who was unable to go to hospitals for fear of being outed prematurely. Here I am on the other side, having to heal myself after being helped by a shifter. Funny how this happened. In a morbid sense."

As she asked, Frank almost moved some so he could get his phone out of a pocket, but thought better of it. He… didn’t want someone arriving to his house, towards what was no doubt about to be a more troublesome event in a few. So he played nice with trying to still get a handle on how long and how this power worked as she described key parts of it.

It was a lot of talking for someone just having gone through such an ordeal, who’s ribs were no doubt hurting, but he appreciated the effort nonetheless. Her hiss of pain was caught and Frank watched with concern, surprised that she kept going even after. An icepack and pain meds would do wonders for her. She seemed sweet and it was making this all entirely too much. Here was someone with healing that wanted to help others, even weres with a fear many could easily succumb to. They were of the same mindset here and he was swimming in guilt while the cat prodded at them to handle the situation their own way.

”That’s really admirable,” he said and offered a smile. Admirable, but stupid as weres didn’t like being found out and, he assumed, nor did vampires. ”If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get my phone for you. Maybe, some ice packs and pain meds too to help with it all.” Giving her leg a pat, Frank stood, offered a guilty glance before turning and heading out of the room.

 Despite her pain she spoke, hissing when the pain grew to be to much. The man listened with interest, and he smiled at her drive. The fact that he thought it was admirable did wonders for her imagination at the makeshift healing spot she could set up. Ah the possibilities. all she had to do was survive the next few days and get home, or to Jackie. Pronto.

 The look he gave her as he stood... it felt wrong? Like a flavouring of guilt had found a resting place in his gaze. Why did he look guilty? He'd saved her after all... Why the guilt?

 He left her alone, and suddenly she felt restless. She felt the need to gather her things and flee somewhere familiar, broken ribs or not. Carefully, and quietly she rotated, and touched her bare feet to the ground. Her shoes were nearby, under a chair. In her bloodstained dress she held her breath as she tiptoed, trying not to make noise while avoiding movements that would aggravate her rips. Unfortunately... pretty much every movement aggravated her ribs. She bent to get her shoes, and nearly blacked out at the pain. She clattered to the ground, knocking the small chair over as she gripped the shoes in her hands. Breathing shallowly, she lay on the floor trying to make the world stop swimming. Her vision rimmed with darkness as her heart pounded. Dammit. There was no way he didn't here that.

 Her attention snagged on the mention of the girl's friend, something she circled and considered. They were, after all, in Belle Vista. But the world was big and coincidence wasn't that had to come by. Maybe it was Jackie, maybe it was a lie, perhaps - and this was likely, it was an unfortunate coincidence. She considered texting the girl, hadn't had time to move for her phone as Frank turned to leave out of the room, staring at him with gold in her eyes and opening her mouth to speak before she heard the clatter from behind him.

Unfortunate, not altogether surprising.

 She would brush past him, coming into the room and assessing the mess as she calmly used the toe of her shoe to push the woman's shoes further from where she was sprawled out, her brows lifted as she stared down at her, the slightest tilt of her head as she approached with care. "What's your friend's name?" Noticeably no offer given to help her up and back onto her feet.

Frank left the room with steps that felt sluggish. Taking in a breath as he made it into the hall and Yana on the way to the kitchen. He regarded the gold eyes staring at him and stopped, hands in his pockets where his shoulders pulled up and down a tad in a shrug. He didn’t like this, was about to state some feeble last ditch effort to save this girl, when the sound of clattering and a dull thud had Frank tensing. As Yana brushed past him, Frank turned on his heel to follow, an anxious energy taking place immediately as he watched her go past the threshold of a preconceived useless safety line.

Just a straight up question, no help offered, and Frank frowned in displeasure as he hurried over to the girl. She’d fallen and his gaze drifted to the shoes nearby. Perhaps, she’d thought of leaving immediately? ”Here, let’s get you up.” Kneeling down, he offered hands to help her up and would do so if taken or allowed. He was curious throughout it all about what her answer would be to the friend, if any of them knew who she was.

 The jig was up as soon as she hit the ground. The woman from the park stalked into the room with a stare so... Uncaring, or just cold... Compared to the man who had saved her who was all gentle touches and kind words, this woman meant business. Florian wasn't sure she liked that. She pushed the herbalists shoes away from her with her toe, not bothering to assist the woman who was swaying while sat on the floor.

 The man entered the room as She asked about her friend. Florian looked between the pair and shook her head slowly, trying not to make her spins worse. "Thank you for helping me," She began with a wince, "You put yourselves at risk for my sake, but I can't put my friend at risk by giving you their name." even if they somehow knew Jackie, she didn't like this woman and was t about to sell out a friend, or a shifter.

 She looked up at the man who was offering aid with an apologetic expression. She didn't want to be difficult, but she didn't feel safe, especially not around this woman. She did however place her hands in his extended ones to accept aid in standing, because there was no way she'd be able to get off the floor on her own.

 She wouldn't move to stop Frank and his ever-present need to sweep up crumbs the second they fell on the floor, watching him held the woman up and pursing her lips to reel herself in when the woman dug in her heels. "I can respect your loyalty, it's admirable - however ..." It was stupid, in this situation - although she knew better than to say that outright.

 "You've found yourself in a very unfortunate situation. I know someone who loosely fits your description, hopefully, they're one and the same. However, I can not deduce that if you don't give me a name, and if you don't give me a name - if I can't see that connection for myself ..." She lifted her hands the slightest bit as if to show they were tied in some way or another.

"Then I'm afraid it puts us at an undesirable crossroads. So if you'd please, a name." A little more firm now, wondering precisely how big the tantrum would be if she did, in fact, end up having to kill the poor girl.

 She didn't like being strong armed. Not one but. About as much as she liked her broken ribs. This woman, whoever she was, was used to getting her way, one way or another. Florian wasn't having it. Her friend meant far more to her than her comfort. Sure, she didn't want to get hurt or worse for Jackie... But she would, if it meant keeping her out of whatever further mess she'd gotten herself into. She should have just kept her mouth shut.

 "I will not give the name." She answered, shortly, and with a slight hiss as she moved with the help of the male shifter. She allowed him to assist her back onto the bed, but she did not lay down. She stayed as poised as she could in case she'd have to protect herself, despite the pain.

 "But I can tell you my friend is a woman, is blonde, and her name begins with a J. Deduce that." Florians words had a bit more attitude than someone in her position ought to use, but she really, really was beginning to dislike this woman.

Hands taken, he helped lift her up before beginning to maneuver the woman back to a sit on the bed. The topic at hand had his brows pinched as Frank let go once she was on the mattress. She didn’t need to fall again and her standing wasn’t doing anyone favors at the moment so he was glad to see she’d complied. 

The reply given to Yana had him grimacing, stopping in the beginnings of stepping away and back to the task he’d originally put himself to. It was harsh, full of attitude, and the kind of response that never went well with her. But, this woman was human and that had to account for something, right? ”Careful,” he warned in regards to the tone. There were other ways to say no and copping attitude was probably not the best in her position. For now, he looked to see what Yana would say, would do.

 She watched her, eyes narrowed as she pushed her own beast back just enough to keep the gold from her eyes. She did not, at any point, tolerate attitude with grace and compassion. Sometimes it required a gentle approach though - kin, other Were's it would not be painless to dispose of, in public. Regrettably, for the woman in front of her, she fit none of the criteria for exemption and the mental rush of violent imagery was oddly soothing about the night she'd had.

 "I would heed his warning, the ice you're on is more of a sheet than anything else." She looked to her phone, checked the time before looking back up and taking a photo of the woman, attaching it to a message and quickly shooting off a text.

 Putting up with being tossed from foster home to foster home as a child, putting up with being locked in a room, beaten on the school yard, and treated like less than human had made her a little... weak in some things, and headstrong in others. She did not take well to people talking down to her. No sir. So when the woman stared down at her with a near venomous gaze, she felt the urge to glare right back- her male saviors warning however made her reign in that fire in her veins. She offered a split second glare as the woman shot off a picture before sending it in a text to who knows who, before looking away from the woman indignantly.

 Things were going so much better before she'd shown up- well, not so much better in the park, this woman had somehow fended off the vampire long enough to arrive here after all. Florian owed her their escape. But nothing more. This woman scared her, she was sure of that. A primal fear deep within her very core of being human. She got a small feeling like that when around the man, or even Jackie, but there was this air of power coming from the woman. It was in everything, her glare, her body language... the way it seemed the man was cautious around her, if not scared himself. This woman was some big shot, and Florian was rubbing her the wrong damn way.

 She did not respond. Rather, she simply sat as still as she could. Trying not to move her ribs any more than she already had. Fuck they were hurting.

Yana backed up his warning and Frank looked on, sincerely hoping the guidance given was noted and applied. As the queen messed with her phone, he was pleased to see the woman give nothing more than a glare to what had been said. Good, this was better.

”If you’ll both excuse me.” He looked to each before turning to head out of the room.

Leaving with the somewhat feeble faith nothing would escalate incredibly so while gone, Frank made his way down the hall and towards his original destination from before—the kitchen. The goal was the same, to get ice and meds for the pain.

 Her only acknowledgment to Frank was the slight nod of her head, stepping a bit further to the side while she waited for the next text message to come through. Eventually pleased with herself, she looked back up to the other woman, face still serious as she turned off the screen of her phone and slid it back into her pocket.

"Jackie will be with us presently. In the meantime, I'd suggest continuing to reserve your strength."

 She sat in stubborn silence, breathing shallow as she awaited the man to return with something for the pain. Once he was back, shed begin the healing process as best she could.

 The woman spoke, the name of her friend falling from pretty lips causing a cold chill to run through her body. She was glad her friend was on her way, but terrified of what kind of trouble Jackie would be in.

 "I hope she's not in any trouble... She didn't tell me anything, I just... Well really it was my pets that told me, and a bit of experience. She did nothing wrong," there was desperation in Florian's voice, a pleading in her eyes. She could handle her own pain and injuries but not getting Jackie put in the dog... Cat house?

As he went down the hall, Yana’s words were heard confirming Jackie would be arriving and that had pieces being put together. The reply from the girl, much more muffled and eventually dropped off. He hadn’t met Jackie yet, but she’d been mentioned in passing a few times. The fact it was another shifter of the Coalition that the woman knew made this more precarious. It also meant another cheetah in his home and he wondered if Yana’s plan here was to just send the girl off with her after all was said and done.

Turning into the kitchen, he went up to a cabinet and rifled through the miscellaneous contents for some ibuprofen, moving sleeves of lemonade and coffee around, bottles of vitamins and headache medication to the side. It was a familiar enough action and noise to go through here, enough so he could almost forget for a moment the reason why, wish it was just that—an everyday action. Picking up a bottle, the pills tapping against the plastic, Frank closed the door before walking to the freezer. An icepack was easy enough to grab out of the drawer and a towel in a drawer to wrap around it. Throughout it all, Frank couldn’t help the nagging want of trying to delay this all, rewind in a way that everyone here wouldn’t be stuck in this position. With a light smack of the freezer door closing once more, he’d be heading back to offer some relief for the woman who’d yet to give them a name and vice versa.

 It was some time before Jacquelyn arrived, carefully stopping at each red light and stop sign, not going even a mile over the speed limit. Actually, she drove just a little bit under the limit, terrified that a cop would pull her over and that she'd shift out of stress. A single thought repeated in her head on a loop, her only mantra right now: This isn't the end of the world. Yana isn't going to kill me. Florian will be like me. It will all be fine. This isn't the end of the world.

 By the time the GPS on her phone let her know that she'd arrived, Jackie was at least halfway calm. The silent drive over had helped, certainly, as had not getting stopped by the police. Now that she was here, however, the mantra repeated faster. Walking up to the house, the small SUV beeping its lock behind her, Jackie nervously wrung her hands before noticing that she was doing so and forcing herself to stop.

 Not the end of the world. You will survive this and Florian will be a cheetah and we can all live happily ever after because this is not the end of the world.

 Take a deep breath. Knock. And now she would wait.

His drive was much shorter than Jackie's, but the timing lined up to the two of them arriving at nearly the same time. He'd chosen to move on foot, aware that it was riskier, but quicker than waiting for traffic lights. His home wasn't far from Frank's since his move, so his time estimate in his text was pretty accurate. As he approached the front of the house, breathing heavily and working to steady it, he spotted Jackie lingering at the front door. "Jackie," He called, somewhat breathless as he made his way up the familiar walkway to the door.

After making sure everything was as it should be, meds and ice given, reaching out to and knowing Mathis was heading over via text, they waited and he watched the healing powers at work. It oddly seemed calm in the house in a way tension before some big event occurred felt.

With nothing to significantly break up the pointed looks, the soft sound of rustling, breathing, and a ticking clock, the presence of something else seemed significantly lively and a tad surreal. The arrival of Jackie had his cat’s attention as a car shut off, as footfalls could be heard getting closer, as the very real presence of another were went right up to his doorstep. When a knock eventually sounded, he was already almost to the front. A second presence added on as he approached and Frank’s forehead creased some as his cat urged caution. That’d make three cheetahs and only one jaguar which toyed on a more animal part of him now that they were all physically here. It was very aware of where it stood on the pecking order, an outsider, so they had to be careful.

Frank brushed the feeling off as best as possible and opened the door, taking in Jackie before his darkened gaze softened some at Mathis who looked a bit winded. “Come on, inside.” He’d open it wider and step to the side to allow them to do just that. “Jackie, right? Your friend’s in the guest bedroom down the hall, to the left. She’ll be happy to see you.” Frank motioned to the vague whereabouts with a tried smile that dropped quite quickly. It wasn’t the best of introductions for the two of them, but he imagined there’d be better ways later on down the road.

If they’d all file in, the door would be closed and he’d try to catch one of Mathis’ arms. There was the additional point burning at the front of his mind, but he didn’t want to worry Jackie just in case she heard.

 She sat still on the bed, her breathing shallow as she tried her best not to move around and shift her ribs. It seemed that they were stuck waiting, and while she wanted the comfort of having a familiar face around, sitting still while hurting badly wasn't a very fun past time, so, she began the healing process. Slowly her eyes closed as she leaned against the head board, appearing to enter a meditative state. Below closed eyelids her gaze shifted to the vibrant green that signified power usage.

 It was slow tedious work, locating the individual injuries under her flesh. There was more damage than she thought, significant bruising, and some muscle tears, along with internal bleeding- though that was minimal. She focused first on the bleeding, figuring that it was the most life threatening of the injuries, though a doctor may or may not tell her otherwise.

 Exhaustion sunk into her like a deep ache, sweat dotting her brow as her hands began to shake. The bleeding ebbed to a halt as soft tissues mended themselves. Next, she moved to her bones, trying to make sense of what she was metaphysically seeing. The breaks were fairly clean, save for a few chips. How would she get rid of the chips? Or could she reform them to the bone? These questions where unique to her case, and she didn't know who to ask, or even what to ask. As a wave of nausea came over her she opened her eyes, the flash of green dissipating back into her natural grey gaze.

 Florian sagged against the headboard, feeling like she hadn't slept or eaten in a number of days. A groan escaped her as her gaze blurred. Just a little bit of healing and her tank was back on empty. Being so lost in her work, she completely missed the arrival of more people until the sounds of footfalls neared the room. Oh, how she wished she was at home...

 She did not engage the wounded woman on the bed, nor did she entertain her excuses. Instead, she watched, both brows lifting when Frank mentioned Mathis' impending arrival. It was a strange place to be, mentally. On one hand, she was genuinely grateful to hear it - on the other, did she ask Frank to invite Mathis?

No, she fucking did not.

 It seemed the girl was doing something - presumably healing herself - and while she watched her like a hawk she did not interrupt her. Instead, she turned when the door opened and she felt not one but two companions slide into the home. Turning to look down the hall she offered Mathis the slightest hint of a smile, motioned to the bed as she went back to leaning against the wall.

 "Always glad to see you, not sure why you're here all the same." They were friends, she didn't feel the need to dilute herself. She looked to Jackie, shrugged her shoulders and nodded towards the bed. "I can still take care of this if need be, but if you think she'd thrive with us then - well, as discussed."

 She practically jumped out of her skin when Mathis arrived, so involved with keeping herself calm that she had no clue what was happening around her. "Mathis," She breathed, the additional cheetah not comforting her at all. Not because she didn't like him -- she did, from how little she knew him -- but because he was Yana's second and Florian either had to be turned or die and what if he told Yana to not even give Flo a chance? What if he advised that she be put down? What if --

 The door opened. The door opened and a wonderfully kind, if worried and stressed, face appeared to invite them inside. At this point, the blonde couldn't even fake a smile at him as she thanked him for the information and hurried to follow his instructions. She could feel the draw of Yana's cheetah and the sharp, metallic smell of blood, a smell not unlike the hospital she'd just come from. Fortunately, that afforded her a little bit of a reprieve, so used to smelling blood all the time that it didn't not draw a rise from her inner kitty now.

 Her Queen's words to her sliced through all of her thoughts and worries, boiling everything down to a very fine point. Jackie hadn't even stopped to consider the fact that Florian's fate was now in her hands. There was a certain parallel here to her own turning that Jacquelyn could not ignore. Despite the fact that Florian didn't seem to be dying from her injuries, she was indeed in a position to lose her life and it was up to her to decide her friend's fate.

 It was a few moments before she looked to Yana, gaze a steady green as she gave a firm and resolute answer. "I'll do it."

He seemed to have startled Jackie, whom was visibly stressed. Whatever she was summoned for, it didn't seem to be the case of coming to have a chat with an injured friend. He didn't have time to question her, since the door opened moments later. A familiar, welcome face. Blessedly uninjured. Mathis couldn't help the breath of relief from escaping from his rising chest, and he waited for Frank to usher them in and direct Jackie before stepping closer to him. The touch on his arm was overlapped with his own hand, and he looked to his eyes, noted the shift in color, and made to speak when his Queen's voice echoed down the hall.

He turned to look to her, and only then really noted the pungent smell of blood and antiseptic. An unfortunately familiar smell. He could sense the woman, but couldn't see her from where he was at the moment. Nevertheless, he glanced back to Frank and squeezed his hand firmly, before pulling away to follow Jackie into the room as Yana questioned his presence here, then directed her attention to Jackie. "You can't expect me to stay home after something like this." He said, his tone somewhere between an attempt at keeping things friendly, though there was an edge of tension now. What Yana had said to Jackie sunk in then as he looked to the injured woman on the bed, noted how poorly she looked, noted how Jackie looked at her. He didn't have all the answers here, but he was not dim witted. It was clear what 'as discussed' must have entailed. Jackie confirmed as much with her agreement to it.

"And I'm glad I came. Do, what?" He interjected, aware it was rude but not at all feeling ashamed for it. He looked to Yana namely, aware of Frank behind him, Jackie beside him, the girl before them. What had he walked into. It sounded, to him, a volunteer to turn the girl. She was injured, but not dying, but there had to be a reason. And while that was all well and good... Jackie doing so was going to be more than a quick nip to the wrist. She wasn't strong enough to take a hybrid form. She'd have to fully shift. Inside Frank's home. Mathis' jaw set firmly as the situation laid itself before him, though he didn't look from Yana, unless, of course, the woman in question was going to speak up. He fully expected her to.

 It sounded like, and she so hoped she was being unfairly quick to judge, Frank the jaguar had raised up like a frightened house cat when she had so graciously reminded him of his place in the pecking order of Belle Vista. Above the public, above the standard Were that called it home - but no cheetah, certainly no authority. She assumed that sobering reminder sent him to the phone, yowling for back-up, tugging on apron strings.

 She lifted a brow at Mathis' questioning, inhaled slow and steady as she tilted her head back to assess him. "Secure the girl, Mathis." Simple, really. "She witnessed a rabid vampire in Belle Vista, she was attacked by one. She saw and confirmed what Frank is, and she knows his home address. She saw me handle the aforementioned corpse - although sadly he got away."

 "I had every intention of handling this, however, it's been brought to my attention that present company, Florian, is in fact friends with our Jaqueline. Our Jackie, who we've since uncovered is known to Miss Florian. Miss Cavanagh was aware that Florian knew she was a Were and allowed her that information unchecked and without informing myself or, presumably, you."

 She adjusted the band of her watch, smiled weakly to Jackie before she glanced back to Mathis. "And since they are friends, since we have on our hands a failure to adhere to a simple set of rules, Jackie will be addressing the issue under my careful watch." Briefly she glanced to Frank, looked him over from head to toe. "You could have at least filled him in properly, Mister Beringer."

A hand came over his and he watched him, words on his tongue till Jackie got out of immediate hearing. But, Yana’s voice heading towards them, enveloping Jackie as she made her way over, had him looking over to the room. Mathis’ hand left his with a squeeze and he resigned himself to letting go as well, following after a moment and a breath, all ears to what could be heard better as they approached.

And wait… This was getting out of hand. Jackie was here to turn her if he was following and that truth had his chest tightening, an already soured stomach flopping unhelpfully. Yana turning someone was something he’d been begrudgingly okay with it. Something had to be done, afterall, and he refused to do it. This, whatever this was? No. If he’d been put up to the task a few months back to where he could weirdly feel Jackie in, the cat would’ve had too much sway to be comfortable. Jaguars went for the back of the neck and applied here and the woman rescued would be dead. Where did cheetahs attack first? How much did it actually listen to it’s host in Jackie?

He stayed by the room door, watching the scene, prickling, but Mathis spoke up first. What exactly? That was a step for clarification to what Jackie had said she’d do, a mild challenge even to Yana and he watched a bit surprised at the approach. How Yana responded next had him thinning his lips. So neat and packed and all of it as if it was the morning to do list. Here they were debating some girls humanity like it was nothing and she was right there and it had him considering her for a moment. Florian seemed more exhausted than when she’d come in and Frank wished he would let her rest properly.

His jaw was tense, working some on words that didn’t come out, biting back from immediately saying something to cut Yana off, folding arms across his chest as the cat paced close. The try at the end to pull him into bad light had him bristling, unable to let that go as it seemed as if he was purposefully keeping information back. That was far from it and his brows furrowed and mouth set for a moment before he answered. ”I'd only had time to mention that there was a vampire attack and we were fine before he was heading out. I didn’t know if you’d checked in. Pardon me for not divulging the entire goddamn Odyssey in a few texts when I thought we had it handled.” Frank didn’t like it, but it was a choice he could make on his own. He’d merely wanted to talk, let him know what was up and that he was upset with a choice with no clear answer and just have some kind of grounded support. He didn’t expect Mathis to stop anything, didn’t dream of it, didn’t even realize he might’ve come over despite guiltily hoping so.

 The pain in her chest and abdomen was no less apparent than before despite her healing the active bleeds. The world swam before her, making her queezy. She lowered her eyelids, breathing shallow as voices picked up once more.

 The words being said we're lost to her, but when she heard Jackie's voice, her eyes opened once more, momentarily, before sagging closed with exhaustion once more. She was only vaugly aware of her surroundings, entering a sleep like state. With Jackie here, there was nothing to worry about, right? She could rest...

 As soon as the others started talking around her and about her, Jackie felt... Insignificant. Invisible, even. This was her fault. It was literally all her fault (with the exception of the vampire attack, of course) and here she was, heeding her leader's instruction, trying to keep her friend from losing her life and they were all just... Ignoring the fact that she was even there!

 Green eyes glued to the floor swirled with the inner turmoil and frustration that was finally getting to her, her cat's tail lashing as they stood, unimpressed by everyone's decision that she and Florian (the two that were most affected by all of this) were just said to the wayside while the adults talked.

 Newsflash. Jackie was an adult too.

 "Forgive me for interrupting but I do believe it's between myself, the Queen, and Florian." Mathis, to her understanding, didn't make final decisions. That was Yana. And Frank was not even a cheetah. "It was my mistake and the law is that we do not reveal ourselves. I disobeyed and Yana gave me the choice. Bring her into the fold or silence her so that she cannot reveal our secrets. I made the choice to keep my friend alive." Finally lifting her eyes, Jacquelyn looked first at Yana and then Florian, mouth formed into a tight but apologetic line.

 Later, in private, she would apologize.

Secure the girl. Right. Mathis shut his mouth, listened, ignored the prickling of frustration that he felt rising behind him. Florian knew too much, and given she was in rough shape from the attack, Mathis could agree that it was a smart move to turn her. It wouldn't be an easy transition, but she would be stronger for it, and the fact that she'd been divulged to too much would be moot. However... to have Jackie do so was... Well, he could understand wanting to make a point of it, some sort of lesson in keeping to the secrecy that was in their nature. But, to have her shift fully in Frank's home was an overstep. It was convoluted, and sure to cause some emotional trauma to the woman.

It needed to be done, but surely there was another-

Mathis' jaw tightened as Yana addressed Frank directly with some prickly criticism. Despite himself, despite the calm that came with being within Yana's presence, he bristled. It was an unneeded slight, and before he could speak up, Frank was coming to his own defense. It would have sufficed to inform her just that Mathis had jumped the gun on coming over. But the snark was met, and Mathis grimaced out a sharp, "Frank, enough."

He understood. He knew why Frank had issue with it. Knew it was in some ways an inhumane way to do it. But as much as he knew Frank, he knew Yana. It was a risky thing for even he himself to challenge her, so for Frank, a jaguar that was being allowed to live in Belle Vista out of good graces, and, he suspected, his connection to Mathis himself.... It was dangerous waters to tread. Fuel to a fire that did not need to burn.

He was effectively stuck between a rock and a hard place. Between his Queen and the man he loved. Jackie spoke then, and he’d pause to let her. It was unfair to speak about her like she wasn’t even here. She wanted to do it, and he wanted her to, but the method was... it just was a lot at once. He could understand why she was willing, that she wanted to take responsibility for this, to keep the woman from having to be killed. He understood. With an apologetic raise of his brows, he looked to Frank.

"It has to be done, Frank," He implored, his eyes searching for his in a pleasing look. He held it for a moment, and looked to Yana then, "It has to be done, however way you think it should. If Jackie wants to do it, I’m not going to argue that. But is there no other way to infection? Is shifting the only option here?" He’d infected Allegra in another way, but he wasn’t going to suggest an organ transplantation. But, if it had to do with sharing something within the Were’s system... “Blood? I don’t know.” This wasn't a situation he wanted to be in. Juggling the will of the Queen and the comfort of his boyfriend. It was more than he'd thought he would be coming to check in on.

 It stood to reason, if he thought they had it handled, then why was he scurrying to his phone one way or the next? She didn't recall the moment where she held up an index finger, signaled for a moment and turned to hunch over her phone and call Levka to try to glean some sage bit of wisdom.

For the record, she doubted her handling of this would align perfectly with his either.

Then again, it was not Levka's territory. And it most definitely was not Frank the jaguars.

 Any specter of humor that might have lingered in the corners of her eyes or some lax bit of her posture dropped at once at the mention of The Oddessy. She listened to Jackie, quietly proud of her, but the whole while her eyes were focused on Frank alone. Watching him as if the slightest sniffle or a twitch might send her across the room in some feral display, slamming his head into a wall or the first solid bit of furniture.

She didn't do that - instead, she allowed Mathis the respect his position deserved, empathized with the boiler room he found himself standing in.

 "Not to dredge this lake again, Frank - but as you will recall when we first met, I told you that the only thing I will demand of you is respect. That stands." She looked to the girl, slumped and exhausted and with a good reason for it. "You will not raise your voice to me. You will not curse at me or allow your nerves to get the best of you when we're talking." She didn't ask if he followed, trusted in his intelligence before she returned, for what felt like the billionth time, to the matter at hand.

 "I apologize if you felt lesser, Jackie - I'm happy and proud to see you understand." The mention of alternatives snagged her for a moment, rubbing at the back of her neck before she shook her head. "I don't want to risk it. I can pull Jackie back as soon as she bites or scratches the girl - it will be quick."

Enough? He turned to Mathis with surprise and let words die in his throat till all that was left was a heavy exhale. The tone was what had stopped him and he sent a questioning gaze before Jackie spoke. She seemed an entire other mindset he didn’t, couldn’t, understand right now. If Asha had forced him into this choice he would’ve balked. He wouldn’t have done so so easily. It was selfish of a leader to force some kind of bs lesson using a life on the line.

The fact Mathis even spoke up to support Jackie doing this was just… he really couldn’t process it right now. It was like they were all on a whole other station he just wasn’t tapped into. Nothing like this needed to happen and he felt the need to snap back as much, but kept his mouth shut, instead, holding that imploring gaze with his own hardened one before pointedly leaving it, glancing towards where Yana’s burned at him briefly as he leaned against the door frame.

At least alternatives were wanting to be considered and it teetered towards familiar enough territory as something similar had turned him. It was enough for Frank to redirect attention towards the group and speak up. It might work. “We could try, it’s-”

Yana finally spoke up and here was the retribution no doubt about to fall. A rehash of a warning was given, rules reestablished, and he tensed. He,... didn’t intend disrespect. He was just extremely frustrated and completely out of his element here, but there were consequences to that and luckily this was just a reminder. Frank nodded tightly, crossing his arms. “I understand,” he responded as levelly as he could achieve right now, before looking to the floor, more so than anything to keep from making it worse.

The grain of the wood was intricately followed as he listened. She was off to talking to Jackie again. It was sincerely throwing him to hear that the choice was something to be “proud” and “happy” about, but he again, stayed quiet even though there were a million and one words ready to burst out.

To a different method they might try, Yana killed it instantly and wouldn’t give it a damn chance. “I hope it really is that easy,” he breathed, shaking his head some. This was too risky and if it went well then there’d be trauma. It wasn’t a win win. Collective anger could be tasted on his tongue as it boiled in his stomach about the situation and words unsaid while glancing at the slumped woman. He hoped this went well.

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