Aisha had to admit, when she had chosen the alpha, Franklin Clay, to aid her in her quest to bring down the warlock that had had her father killed, she had expected - well, she had expected an alpha. In her experience, werewolves were incapable of relinquishing control of their packs, insisting upon being obeyed unquestionably.
Yet this alpha was so much... less than what she had expected. Oh, he was violent, there was no doubt, and he was intent upon being respected by his pack. His pack, though, was also vastly different than she had expected. She, as a jinx, had not had much interaction with many weres, but the few she had encountered and had to do dealings with had looked down upon most other of the Kin, the magical creatures that lived alongside the Mundanes. And yet, this alpha’s second in command was a dhampir, a race she had thought had dedicated their lives to wiping werewolves from the face of the earth. He had another werewolf on the team, but then a Null and a goddamned elf?
She should have perhaps expected that such a diverse team would not have conventional dynamics.
Still, she had ingratiated herself to the alpha, managed to catch his eye, and if the rest of the team didn’t like it, well, in this he was an alpha, and the team left her alone.
But she hadn’t accounted for the women in their lives.
The person affectionately called ‘Pooch’ by everyone - not the other werewolf, even though she would have expected it - had a wife, Jolene, another elf, a hard-eyed beauty with their baby strapped to her front.
By her side was the Null’s sister, a woman known as Hannah, who was not a Null like her brother. Hannah Jensen was an accomplished Battle Mage, vicious almost beyond what Aisha herself was capable of when provoked.
See, Aisha had managed to convince the team she knew how to lead them to Max, the warlock that had framed them before the High Council. While she hadn’t completely told the truth in regards of that, she had certainly gotten their more or less grudging acceptance.
Then, when they had managed to get close enough to Max to sniff his fading scent in the wind, Pooch - the elf - had insisted he would not go another step until he could check on his wife. She had pointed out - strangely, along with Roque, the dhampir - that with the High Council certain of the pack’s guilt, it was not safe to go back to their homes. Pooch, however, had been stuboorn, and so the Null and werewolf had figured out a way to get him to his wife and newborn child.
That had prompted the Null to insist that he, too, could see his sister and niece, that they could get away with it without the High Council noticing. She had been even more firm (along with Roque) but in this Frank - a wolf, and so focused on family bonds to the exclusion of all else - had not been on her side. Instead he had allowed the Null and werewolf to figure out another plan that could put them in contact with the sister and niece.
So here they were, the whole pack plus civilians, sitting in an IHOP, staring at each other as they stuffed their faces. Franklin was sitting close to Aisha, at least - a buffer between her and the two women who were eyeing her suspiciously - and Roque was yet another body between her and the rest of the team and their family.
“So this is the heroine we have to thank?”
Aisha looked up from her plain pancakes, startled. “Excuse me?”
Jolene, the elf, shifted their baby against her chest and pinned Aisha with a too-intense, too-knowing look, golden eyes glowing in the sunlight - a trick that let Aisha know Jolene was a wood elf.
(Pooch’s eyes would glow green at night; a sign of blood elf heritage. It was interesting that a blood elf would pair with a wood elf, but not unheard of. Still, one more quirk, one more oddity, that put Aisha on her guard.)
“Um, well... I just wanted to find the warlock who had my father killed,” Aisha said finally, glancing back to her coffee and picking up the cup in self-defense.
“And we’re so thankful you chose my brother’s battle pack to aid. Sure, I would prefer him to be home, not about to go off on another harebrained quest to hunt down this person, but that doesn’t change the fact that they would have been dead had you not been there.”
Licking her lips, looking over at the other werewolf - Cougar’s hat was pulled low over his eyes, but those wolf eyes glittered at her in the artificial light - Aisha hesitantly ventured, “Well... I am not exactly a heroine.”
“Oh, she’s being modest,” Franklin said, worming a little closer to her, and that was the one good thing still going for her - Franklin was still focused on her, wrapped around her finger - but she winced a little.
But then Pooch got into it, the silver charm dangling form his ear tinkling as he chuckled. “Yeah, man. There we all were, on our knees, Wade there with his spell already half-finished, and she came in, magic flaring out to keep us from dying.”
“A jinx, correct? You cause things to mess up, play with the odds of things happening. Make things more likely, or less likely,” Hannah said, almost as if she was musing aloud.
If anything, Aisha was feeling less like a heroine and more like the hunted. Taking a sip from her cup, she finally gathered her thoughts enough to say, confidently and calmly, “I am a jinx, from a long line of chaos worshipers and deities, and it is my intention to be a part of this battle pack until we hunt down that warlock.”
“Well, I can’t fault you there,” Jolene hummed, cutting into her chocolate chip pancakes. “Of course, if anything were to happen to our family - and make no mistake, this battle pack is our family - we would be most displeased. So while you’re out there, being a heroine, just remember: bring our boys home.”
Aisha lifted her eyes to meet Hannah’s almost electric blue eyes, full of pain and also fierce defiance, and then over to Jolene’s glittering gold that were... scared.
Of the people sitting at the table, Aisha realized, these women, sitting there with their children, clutching at their family members - they were the true heroes. They were the heroines of this story, the people who stood tall and waited for news to reach them. The people who had to be braced for the worst, but constantly hoped for the best.
“I will do everything in my power to assure our chances are the best out there I can make them,” Aisha said finally. “You have my word as a jinx.”
“Well, that’s good,” Jolene said delicately, sipping from her coffee cup. “I’m glad we understand each other.”