No more timothy hay

outfit, set between 7:30-9pm

The store had an unfortunate name: Kute Kritterz.

But Beauregard had come to rely on it as a reliable source for high quality chinchilla toys and food. (And, he supposed, supplies for other animals, but they did not interest him.)

At least twice a month he sought to add something new to Annabel's cage (and remove something too thoroughly chewed). She was an inquisitive creature, and she seemed happier with freshly fascinating furniture.

He'd wandered to a section consisting of several bins, each holding a variety of typically brightly colored chinchilla supplies. He dipped his hand into a tub of so-called mini-bagels, hooking a few on his fingers as he tilted his head like a curious dog.

Perhaps Beauregard could... build a toy? The thought was delightful, if slightly overwhelming. He certainly wasn't a chinchilla craftsman.

His gaze wandered from pile to pile as he absentmindedly toyed with the colorful wooden rings on his fingers, and largely in his own world, he hummed a thoughtful "Hmmmm."

he's looking at these things but honestly feel free to reference everything on this beautiful garbage website



Abraham's birthday wasn't close enough, but Asha wanted to get him a gift anyway. For good... kingship. Or something. Also love. Gooey relationship shit that she'd kind of gotten into.

So it was that she pulled up to the most fanciest anti-Petco establishment she could find. But upon walking in, a smell so familiar and simultaneously unexpected it almost dizzied her.

Who wouldn't go see if a... well, someone they once knew was here? He'd probably smell her too, so. She imagined once she turned to whatever aisle he was in he'd probably say something witty about her being a cat in a pet shop.

Beauregard did not make a habit of breathing when it wasn't necessary.

As such, he did not immediately catch the scent of cat piss as it came wafting into the pet store. It was, truly, already something of a pungent place, and he considered not needing to pull any of it into his lungs quite an advantage.

Dropping the wooden rings back into their tub, he moved next to some small... wicker leaves? Or perhaps they were hearts. It was a very charming thing to imagine Annabel clutching it to her furry chest.

Amused and now smiling faintly, he gathered... two, for now, and gazed over the many remaining options.

Oh boy! She turned the corner and saw him there and got no reaction at all. Sweet. Boring. Great. Maybe she should just turn around and leave, except her soul was still kind of conflicted, so.

"Do chinchillas actually play with things?" she asked, approaching with the kind of confidence that came from being powerful.

The voice startled him, truthfully. He'd been very much distracted by his newly broadened horizons. Jumping just faintly, he watched Asha approach looking less miserable than he was used to, but dressed fresh from a military surplus store.

"'Play' is a strong word, but she is an avid chewer," he said. Beauregard smiled pleasantly, a practiced expression. "Likely these are more for my amusement than hers."

He elected not to ask her a question, trusting that she'd approached for a reason.

Why would a shifter come into a pet store? Weren't animals afraid of them?

Hey! It was kind of cool to get the jump on him first. Though did he really not pick her up? Maybe it was some... Queen thing.

Did he know she was Queen? She nodded to his words with a hum, peering to them.

"I guess that makes sense for most. Though a cat would probably enjoy toys on its own."

Lovely small talk! Beauregard wondered as to her angle, still.

"Is that why you're here?" he asked, more teasing than mocking.

But Asha had always been a tad sensitive, so perhaps the difference was irrelevant.

Hey Beau guess what! Asha couldn't be insulted when she did in fact play with cat toys!!

"Actually," she said with a half twitch of a grin, "that's not a bad idea. I came here to get stuff for our aquarium though."

What kinds of stuff?! She didn't know yet. Something to jazz it up. "Any suggestions?"

For the aquarium or for her, whatever. They were both standing here chatting like he hadn't enormously broken her trust.

An aquarium. He supposed fish likely weren't intelligent enough to mind the supernatural.

Asha wanted to distract him from his efforts, and he withheld a sigh for Annabel's sake. He would return to these, empty-headed darling.

Placing the wicker trinkets back in the bin, he glanced largely over her, peering across the store.

"You'll have to lead the way to wherever the aquarium section is. "

Leading the way, her! Asha was pleasantly surprised. She thought they'd just stand there pretending all was unchanged.

"Well—" she turned, looking, "I guess that way?"

Some way that wasn't where she'd been already. She'd start to walk assuming he'd follow.

"Anything new with you?"

He would follow, largely keeping pace rather than lingering behind. To her question, he hummed, trying to find an answer interesting but largely honest. Primarily interesting.

Eventually, news that fell fully into the category of "interesting" popped back to the surface.

"I met Alina the other day at the planetarium. She was... shorter than I expected," he said, smiling faintly. "Also more reasonable than I expected."

The idea of Beauregard meeting Alina made her tense, and she felt it in her shoulders as he spoke. But apparently she'd been "reasonable," so there was that.

Asha was left largely confused. Didn't Alina have a kill order on all vampires?

"She is pretty short," Asha agreed. "How did... that happen?"

"One of her... sort came into the planetarium and panicked when it smelled very much like vampires. She was escorted out quite kindly but had already contacted Alina."

Ahead, the smell of likely unclean water and the hum of bubblers.

"She arrived likely imagining she'd find a puddle of blood, but instead found no one harmed."

Beauregard pondered for a moment the possibility of mentioning their promises of limited violence before deciding against it. Were it something Alina chose to keep private, he hardly needed it being passed around by lovely Asha.

"We talked for a bit, shook hands. Even, dare I say, exchanged numbers," he said, hinting at scandal. "Though I don't imagine we'll have social outings together any time soon."

It was weird being here, she realized. Next to him, chatting away.

Asha had wanted to hate Beauregard, really. In a way, he (and Abraham, if she thought about it enough) had pigeonholed her as a person, chipping away at the human in her and leaving her firmly as a were. A weremarried queen were. So much accomplishment, so much love! She could lose herself in how great she had become.

And yet here, confronted with the smell of rot, she was always reduced to marveling at how much she'd lost of her self along the way. Sometimes, she still wanted to run away from everything. But where would she go? Probably into a shift that would somehow render her cat feral enough to drag her back here. To be Asha was to be powerful, but also buried. Muffled. Imbalanced heavily in favor of the jaguar that lorded over her mind.

All that, and yet she listened, too. "Well, look at you. Building bridges, making peace treaties. Doing what no one ever thought could be done."

Who knew Alina could be so diplomatic, too. Asha huffed. They rounded to the aquarium section, where everything became notably... bluer, and she glanced with minor interest to some underwater river thing.

"I'll give it until one of hers falls and scrapes their knee near Lavender Heights," he said with a faint smile, following her to the bubble river and picking the box up off the shelf rather shamelessly to inspect it.

He held it low enough that Asha could look as well if she would draw near enough.

"I fear this is a science beyond me," he said with some drama.

He plucked the thing she was looking at, so of course she was going to look at it with him. Though she hadn't been around vampire smell in some time, and the nearness nearly dizzied her.

He made his little quip. It all felt like thin ice to her.

"The owner of the planetarium can't understand how bubbles work?" she said with some wide eyed tease, brow raising. Still. She could feel it in her matebond Abraham would want this. "Guess it's a yes then."

She'd hold her hand out for him to give it to her.

"You ever come across that... one that left the body at the college?"

The body of her friend, of course.

He handed it to her, unfazed. There was decidedly a tension. She'd been more fun back in her flirtatious days. Or her miserable ones.

"If buying things automatically gave me their knowledge, I would own several libraries," he said.

In the end it was, of course, a purchase of practicality rather than any deep respect for science.

Her next question was regrettably unpleasant.

"Unfortunately not," he said, and his tone was a bit sourer than he'd hoped for. "I've driven out one troublesome rogue, but he was more..."

A wave of his hand.

"Creepy than violent. I'm guessing whoever did it has either found a separate untimely death or is smart enough to try another grotesque prank."

Then he hadn't been looking. Then again, she hadn't found whoever killed Joey, so there was that too. Could she begrudge him how he spent his time when she herself hadn't pursued immediate action?

"Hopefully the first one," she nodded, tucking the box against her arm. What else, and what else.

Nothing else immediately jumped out to her. As for Beauregard, well. "What was it you were looking at back there? I think I'm good with this, we can head back."


My, what a brief shopping excursion this was. Beauregard couldn't imagine simply purchasing the first thing he laid eyes upon.

This entire conversation was so devoid of personality that he wondered if Asha's had been suggested out of her.

"Bits and bobs for crafting a chinchilla toy," he said. "Or, more likely, looking at pieces and eventually buying something already constructed."

He took a step in that direction, testing that she would follow.

Asha would follow along.

"You can craft toys?" she asked, but then again he'd made her some, hadn't he. The idea that he would go with something already made seemed boring for him. "Do they let you do it right here or do you have to buy them and then hope for the best when you get home?"

If they could craft here then why wouldn't they.

Ah, he supposed he'd made it sound more compelling than it was.

"I may have overexaggerated my abilities, which will be limited to stringing little chewable objects onto a chewable string," he said.

With the rainbow of objects in sight ahead, she'd likely have a greater understanding of what he meant.

"Regrettably I'll likely have to build it at home unless they'll allow me to start tearing into packages of twine."

Oh well, that was a bummer. Asha sighed for it, but went ahead, using her free hand to poke at things.

"Well these things seem fun," she picked up two beads and held them to him. "You could probably hide food inside or something too. Watch her try to get it out."

Asha missed interactive pets. Though maybe they had a treat ball for goldfish.

Abraham would love that.

Sighing at him! How dare he not entertain her enough in buying pet supplies, apparently. Perhaps it was her preference to be off chewing on some human skull.

He held a palm out toward the beads to inspect them, then smiled with an honest sort of fondness.

"I don't get the impression that she is shockingly intelligent, but she does seem to enjoy... simply holding things, and I imagine these would be about the right size."

Beauregard shook his head, amused with himself.

"Absurd. How have you been?"

He couldn't claim to be deeply invested in the answer.

The adoration he had for his pet was, in spite of her feelings about him, enough to almost endear him to her again.

And then the conversation turned more personal, and she gave an inhale — chock full of corpse rot smell — and let it out slowly.

"I guess it depends on who you ask," she said with some resignation. She'd always told Beauregard too much. Even in the face of feeling like she couldn't trust him anymore, here she was, toeing the line to too much. "The cat's pretty set. The group's going great. No drama in Crestview to speak of. I even... have a coyote paying my groceries every month just for the privilege of living there."

A huff, still proud of it despite what Abraham and Frank thought. Whatever man. It was her right as trashuar queen, wasn't it?

Her initial response was not wholly interesting. He imagined this was the sort of intentional exchange where no one truly shared anything. But it got juicier toward the end, and Beauregard paused from plunging his hand into a container of "loofah slices" to look toward her with curiosity.

Coyotes! Certainly she knew how much he loved coyotes.

"Oh?" he said, and for all that it was a short response, it was a clearly intrigued one.

He was interested. It was enough to make Asha feel like a real sleaze of a person, airing out the gossip.

Which ultimately felt a little bit more like Asha Rao.

"Mhm. The guy — it's a guy. He demanded to meet with me during my work rush and then proceeded to lecture me completely just... entirely unnecessarily. Was kind of disrespectful over all. Rubbed me wrong, so I said he could leave Crestview or pay extra rent. A hundred a week."

A brow raise, wondering if he too would get up on some moral high ground.

Beauregard supposed it had to be a different dynamic with shifters. He couldn't imagine a rogue lingering in his territory, even with pay. It would drive him mad.

But for someone like Asha who did not give off the appearance of fairly comfortable wealth, and who possibly went without sensing non-jaguars, it seemed like a very favorable affair.

He chuckled, something of approval, moving to put a piece of loofah into a tiny wooden flower pot simply because it seemed satisfying.

"And he's actually paying you?" he said, surprised but not disbelieving. "I can't imagine the sort of individual who runs their mouth but also is willing to pay some... tax in the end. That's tremendous."

Approval from Beauregard. What a day this was. She let herself smile a tiny but more.

"Guess it was easier to pay than to move? I don't get his decision, but I'm not going to argue with it either." A shake of her head.

"How've things with you been?"

Her mind did go to Safiya instantly. Their last exchange had been... well. Safiya attempted to engage her more flirtatiously and Asha couldn't return the favor.

Dawned on her then that she now had the ability to explain why.

She seemed to brighten faintly. Asha had always come to him mewling for something. Perhaps just attention.

She asked a question similar to what she'd asked before, but perhaps now they were seeking greater honesty for one another. Or maybe this was personal, less about the clutch. He pondered.

"I've been well," he said, but his tone implied he was still thinking.

Clinking two wooden pots together, he continued.

"There was that troublesome rogue that I chose to chase off instead of... ashing. It sticks with me regretfully."

Beauregard glanced up, smiling almost wistfully.

"Being powerful makes choosing between violence and restraint much more complex, as I expect you know."

"Oh I know it," she huffed, arms folding some while she held onto the box in her hand. "If I could have it my way I'd probably be a tyrant."

It was only sixty-six percent a joke.

"So what was so creepy about him?"

It was strange that Beauregard could find someone creepy, to her, but maybe even he had his limits.

Back to the wicker hearts. He grabbed a pair. Asha would likely make very easily for a tyrant.

"There is undoubtedly a gray area with..."

He gestured from his eyes to her.

"But he was using that ability, and his position as a professor in Larkspur, to force young female students to spend time with him. This became prolific enough that I found out. He later came to me, seeking to join my group, and when questioned, seemed to believe these women truly wanted to spend time with him."

Spoken quietly, ended in a grimace.

"I think I pitied him at the time, but see it as more insidious now. I imagine appearing pitiful is a valuable strength of his."

Eye contact. Mind control. The bullshit that left her feeling stuck. Still, the things that other one was doing was pretty vile.

"Wow." She shook her head, visibly stunned and somewhat horrified as well. If human, he'd probably be a serial killer type. "Insane. How did you find out he was doing that?"

Beauregard pondered various levels of honesty. In a different time, Asha likely would have been interested in the more salacious details of his personal life.

But now, with this sourness of hers, plus the topic...

It was less than appealing to share.

"I overheard one of our employees talking about it. I feel a tad regretful for having to clear her memory of the conversation we had on it, but telling a young woman to trust me, a vampire, after hearing horror stories of another seemed like a risky bet."

Asha didn't even have enough to go on to doubt that story. She gave it a nod, feeling... mingled feelings on all of this. Definitely, that guy should have died. But what level of mine control was acceptable when she'd been on the wrong end of it enough times too?

"Well. I hope he sneaks back and you can finish the job. Hope those women are all right now too."

Just ask, Asha. In a few seconds or so, she did.

"How's... uh. How's Safi been? Haven't heard from her in a bit."

Admittedly, probably Asha's fault there.

"You and I both," he said, shaking his head.

And that was sincere. Beauregard found great relief in the idea of ashing the bastard. Even Niamh's existence troubled him for all that she was an unwilling participant. Supposedly.

Then came the question that was perhaps the reason Asha was still in this conversation. So they hadn't been talking!

"She is possibly the most natural vampire I have ever known," he said. "When she can stay out of trouble, anyway. But truly, she seems to grow stronger every day. I am quite proud of her."

He would neglect to mention the birthday Asha had not been a part of. It was for the best for everyone involved.

Of course she was the most natural vampire. Asha's expression turned wistful, and she exhaled through a smile.

"That's good," she said genuinely, but it was the kind of sentiment that was difficult to follow up on. What do you do when you liked someone that much and you were talking to the reason you couldn't be yourself around them anymore?

"Guess she'll become a vampire queen soon then."

Haha. Jokes about conversations.

He could sense something within her, but it was not enough for him to feel anything in the way of guilt. Protecting Safiya from Asha had been essential, and the former had grown so much for it.

"It's a legitimate concern," he said, though it was teasing.

Beauregard settled into grabbing two of approximately everything, realizing it would have been wiser to grab a basket.

"She can have Eventide, one day, when I'm older and tireder and bored."

She watched him grab things. Would offer her hand out to help, if he wanted it.

"That easily?" she asked, with a slight head tilt. "Or. I guess it's different since you live forever. We probably just keep a throne until something else offs us."

Because really, could a were die of old age if they couldn't get diseases?

He did not immediately take the offered help, if perhaps out of some masculine sense he could manage it himself.

"Truly, I can't imagine myself giving it up willingly," he said. "But people will grow bored of me eventually, and that might be enough to drive me off. It is too important that I am seen as charming."

Beauregard took a glance around, briefly appearing slightly pained.

"Could you find me a small basket?"

Having been on both sides of seeing him charming and not, she could see that he was very much a surface level individual.

Also, he wanted a basket. "I could hold stuff for you," she offered her hands more clearly, tucking the box in her arm again.

Because getting a basket involved effort.

This was a ridiculous option. Beauregard found the idea of wandering to the counter with her holding half his purchases absurd.

Withholding a sigh, he would bring a hand to hers to deposit a pile of wooden toys into her palms. Their hands would inevitably brush, cold skin again very, very warm.

"Ask and you shall receive," he said with one raised eyebrow, then grabbed for a package of twine.

"How generous," she commented. The cat tensed for the feeling of cold skin. But the cat was grumpy any time she wasn't slathered in her jaguars. Asha got so little opportunity to wave her away anymore.

Going back to their prior topic, though. "So what would you do if you left? Start another one?"

Another clutch, not another chinchilla toy.

It did take him a moment to process, and she'd likely see in his face the moment understanding struck.

"Perhaps weasel my way into an existing one to see what trouble could be found," he said sincerely.

Leaping right back into creating a new group seemed exhausting. But it was also hard to imagine not being Dominus anymore, for the power and... quite sincerely the way others looked upon him.

"Closer to my roots than this current position."

Now to compare two kinds of twine!

"I guess I don't know what I'd do if someone tossed me out. Probably stick to solitary terrorizing."

It was maybe thirty five percent of a joke. It also was so entirely impossible to imagine any other scenario than death or usurping of her throne that Asha would be left no longer being Queen. If she didn't get straight up murdered, she'd be left so angry and enraged that she was pretty sure she'd turn Abraham into an asshole again through the matebond.

She didn't have a paranoid streak per se, but she'd given passing what-if thoughts.

"Guess you'll know if I go back to making the news."

That was the Asha he knew, hinting at both misery and disaster. Good to see that leadership hadn't changed her entirely.

He gathered the rest of what colorful nonsense felt appropriate, wondering how much all of this would cost in the end. (It was unlikely to be an issue of breaking the bank; he simply hadn't looked at prices at all.)

"Sounds like you simply must make yourself so beloved that anyone trying to 'toss" you out would be devoured by the people beneath you first," he said, then nodded toward the registers before leading the way.

She huffed a laugh at that. "I think they do all love me. Well. There's one who gets a little snarky sometimes, but I remind him he's a fucking adult and then he sits back down and behaves."

As long as she didn't identify him, it was easy to spill. It was always too easy to fucking spill around Beauregard.

"You have any like that? Testing your resolve or anything."

Some life returned to her, and that a better look for Asha.

"None who challenge me directly," he said. "There are those who make the same mistakes repeatedly and test my patience, but not necessarily to be defiant."

Though Sayed (and Safiya, for that matter) hadn't made any blunders in a bit. Perhaps he'd just cursed himself to some panicked phone call in the near future.

"Guess it comes with the age," she said, a slight tease. One day she'd be aged past Beauregard in terms of physical appearance. Eurgh. The idea of it was lame.

Anyway, she followed him to the registers, and then it was probably for the best that she stopped openly talking about group politics, so she veiled the topic some.

"Do you ever just feel a little stuck here, though? By having to be here for everyone."

Sure, they'd gone to Denver, but. There was always some element of background worry that she'd come home to a disaster of some kind if she went away.

That likely wasn't wholly untrue on several levels. He smiled, unshaken by involvement of his age.

Her next question was a youthful one, and he tilted his head left and right as he piled toys onto the register conveyer, moving for Asha to do the same.

"At times," he said, offering the cashier the sort of polite expression that served as a greeting. "I'd stepped out of the Heights for one single moment when the... dog at the planetarium incident began."

He watched the purchase total rise, surprised at the rate of it. This spoiled rodent.

"But that is why I seek to build a strong base that can manage themselves should I have a dinner date across town. It is mostly successful."

The cashier glanced to her with the kind of expression that asked if they were paying together. "Separate," she clarified with a small smile, setting her one little decoration thing down a polite few inches behind Beauregard's.

"How many have you... hired at this point?" she asked in the vein of continuing the veiled talk, though she wasn't sure he'd answer. Or answer truthfully. But mostly she just wanted to compare it to her tight-knit little family.

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