There were days when Aymeric hated his job.
He was an administrator within Public Relations – an innocuous name for a government branch that had a rather high death or grievous injury statistic. In this society of theirs, where magical creatures – both sentient and non-sentient – were fully integrated with ‘normals’, there was a lot of friction and misunderstandings that required, ah, some hands on methods to deal with. Public Relations dealt with the registration, observation, case handlings, legal affairs, medical insurance and apprehending of said sentient magical creatures; all to ensure a happy, inclusive society within Eorzea, of course.
Most of the time it… worked.
But the fact was there was so much work with so little staff. Aymeric himself juggled multiple roles and ended up sleeping under the desk of his office some nights of the week. The simple fact was, while Public Relations were vital for the safety, happiness and integration of sentient magical creatures, it wasn’t paid very well and it was considered a ‘dead end’ in your career. Once you were in Public Relations, you never left it.
Plus, the stigma of the ‘monster hunting’ side of it…
Aymeric heaved a quiet sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose, squinting down at the paperwork before him. A new employee had been transferred from the Othard branch, a Miqo’te Werewolf, of all things, and honestly this should be such a simple and straightforward thing to process. Governmental employees were vetted to hell and back, normal or magical, but this ‘Azeyma’a Iriq Lynel’ had a few red flags on his file that seemed a little bizarre, honestly…
“Now that is an expression that cries out for coffee,” a familiar voice brought him out of his thoughts, and Aymeric looked up to see his old friend Estinien lounging in the doorway of his office with a coffee mug in each hand.
“I am gasping for a caffeine shot, yes,” Aymeric grumbled, shoving the papers aside and reaching out, “Give me.”
Estinien let out a rough chuckle, but obediently entered his office proper and handed over one of the coffees. It was in that ugly, bright yellow mug with the neon green dragon painted on it, but Aymeric didn’t care about it for once. He took a large mouthful of coffee, ignoring the slight burn on his tongue, and slumped back in his seat.
“That bad, huh?” Estinien asked him, leaning his hip against the edge of the desk and picking up the paperwork Aymeric had cast aside, “’Azeyma’a? What an awful name.”
“His preferred alias is Aza,” Aymeric muttered into the rim of his coffee cup, “You two might be working together, by the way. He’s in Animal Control.”
“A Miqo’te Werewolf… in Animal Control,” Estinien’s mouth curled into a mocking smirk, “Is that a joke?”
“Mm…” Aymeric set his mug down, pointing at the paperwork in Estinien’s hand, “He has an exemplary record. A very high success rate in apprehending and culling creatures ranging from berserk werewolves to slaying Behemoths single-handedly. A well-behaved team player and displays a high degree of self-control whilst in Wolf Form. So, he’s a very welcome contribution to the Eorzean Branch, since we’ve had an upsurge of monsters recently.”
“And yet,” Estinien said mildly, “His file is marked red.”
Estinien fingered the little sticky red tab on the paperwork and Aymeric made a face at it.
“He has some behavioural issues, allegedly,” Aymeric explained, “As well as some trauma from his childhood. He was taken from his birth family due to… issues and emplaced with a foster family, but by then the damage had been done, according to that report. However…”
Aymeric lifted his shoulders in a shrug, “None of those issues impacted his performance in Othard, and his previous superiors’ reports on him have been glowing, as well as the references from the team he worked with. In my opinion, there’s nothing to worry about with him. Whatever ‘issues’ he has, he’s dealing well enough with them that they don’t impact his professional and social life.”
Estinien eyed him for a moment, “So, no investigation?”
“I didn’t say that,” Aymeric picked up his mug again, “He’s coming in for an interview with myself in the next hour, and he’ll be working in your team for the next few months-”
“What? Aymeric…” Estinien groaned, dropping the papers in disgust on Aymeric’s desk, “I don’t have time to babysit a potentially crazy werewolf.”
“Weren’t you complaining before on how recent jobs have been dull and beneath your skills?” Aymeric said dryly, “I would have thought you’d embrace the challenge of handling an unknown werewolf into your team to spice things up a bit.”
Estinien made a face at him, “He’s Animal Control, Aymeric. I tackle more intelligent prey.”
“Hmm,” Aymeric hid his smile behind the rim of his mug, “Animal Control has been very short-staffed recently, so…”
“No,” Estinien said flatly, “Don’t say it.”
Aymeric took a sip of his coffee, his mood greatly buoyed at Estinien’s visible annoyance, “Upper Management have decided to reassign you to Animal Control until new members join-”
Estinien turned of his heel and stalked out of his office before he even finished talking.
“You need to report to Lucia at 1500hrs!” Aymeric called at his friend’s retreating back, chuckling when Estinien’s response was to slam his office door shut. Oh, he was going to fume for a few days, but Estinien was nothing but professional when it came to his jobs. He’ll bitch and moan in his downtime, but on whatever mission he was given, he’d follow it through without a peep.
That, and Aymeric trusted him to gauge this ‘Aza’ without letting his bias from this report clouding his judgement. Werewolves were still discriminated against due to the unpredictability of their beast form – some were in full control, others required medicine to sedate themselves during full moons, and others had to cage themselves lest they went on a murderous rampage. It meant their behaviour was constantly under scrutiny, and actions that would be overlooked in others were held against them, sometimes unfairly in Aymeric’s opinion.
Aymeric shook his head, then finished off his coffee. Whatever happened, he was sure this Aza would be a fine addition to Public Relations. Some may snigger at a werewolf being in Animal Control, but Aymeric was ready to receive him with an open mind and cautious friendliness. He had dealt with werewolves many times, but this would be the first time he’d deal with one as a co-worker.
It’ll be fine. Interesting. Curious.
With that thought, Aymeric set his empty mug aside and tidied up his desk in preparation for this interview, tucking Aza’s report with its red sticker out of sight.
The Rising Stones was the ugliest building Aza had ever seen.
Then again, that had been his opinion on most buildings in Revenant’s Toll. It was all blocky stone, utilitarian and cold in a way that the Azim Steppes wasn’t. The air was rank with urban pollutants, the noise was painfully loud and Aza had to actually obey traffic laws here. Well, you sort of had to obey traffic laws back in the Steppes too, but only within Reunion’s boundaries. After that you could go max speed on your bike over the undulating plains for malms and malms until the fuel ran empty.
Sighing, Aza turned off the engine of his bike, sitting back in his seat as he eased off his helmet.
He was sitting in the underground parking lot attached to the Rising Stones – crammed full of cars, but thankfully most of the bike parking spaces were free. There was only one other motorbike here, a sleek, handsome piece with NIDHOGG styled over its dark casing. Aza eyed it a bit enviously, knowing that his ancient yet reliable bike looked like a hunk of junk next to it.
Whatever. If this job paid as much as Rasho said it would, Aza might be riding something as nice as that in a few months.
Smiling at the idea of it, Aza secured his bike and made his way to the elevator leading into the Rising Stone’s lobby, his helmet tucked under his arm. Bluebird said he should have dressed up nice for this interview thing, but Aza didn’t see the point of getting into a suit he’d never wear again. There was no way he was riding his bike without leathers, and equally no way he was gonna take public transport in this urban labyrinth!
At least on his bike, the Rising Stones was a tall enough landmark for him to find his way there on the roads. On that underground train system? The buses? No chance. So, turning up to his interview in his biking leathers it was – but hey, they looked neat, right? All sleek dark leather looked nice on anyone.
It took no time at all for the elevator to take him to the lobby, where he hesitated for a moment. The Rising Stone’s lobby was more like an atrium, pale light filtering through the skylight looming above. It was massive, accommodating some gaudy, gold-plated fountain in its middle, fashioned into a mock-aetheryte. Odd choice for a fountain…
There were a lot of people here too – all in fancy suits or equally formal wear, bustling from the large row of elevators leading into the skyscraper proper, to the wide glass automatic doors at its front. The atrium was split by bulky black receptionist desk, with a guarded metal gate leading towards the elevator. Those that presumably worked there filtered through the gate with their cardkey, but everyone else was lining up at the receptionist desks, where they were let through by the security guard.
“Shit,” Aza muttered, eyeing the disgustingly long lines at the receptionist desks, “I didn’t think it’d be this busy…”
After all, the headquarters back in the Steppe was a ranger’s hut that employed about ten people to deal with everything, so he didn’t think the Animal Control Unit in Eorzea would be much bigger than that. He was almost kicking himself for his naivete, and with a sigh, he slouched over to the queue to wait for his turn, anxiously checking his watch as he did.
Twenty minutes… ah, well, hopefully he won’t be too late.
Aza was late.
Aymeric drummed his fingers on his desk as he eyed the clock, frowning as the minutes ticked by. Half an hour… he’d been willing to be lenient by ten minutes or so, as the front desk could be hell to navigate if you were new, but half an hour was taking the piss, wasn’t it? Unless he had gotten lost in the city? His previous posting had been in the Steppe, after all, where, from what Aymeric understood, everyone lived exactly as they did 1000 years ago except now they had Wi-Fi or something. Gods, he hoped Aza didn’t get a nasty shock when he arrived here.
Maybe he should give him a call. His report did have his contact details attached. With that, Aymeric pulled open his drawer, rummaging for the report – when his office door clicked open.
Aymeric looked up sharply. Standing in the doorway was an unfamiliar Miqo’te – short, no more than five fulms, with a powerfully built, stocky body and clad in tight biking leathers with a biking helmet stashed under his arm. His face looked familiar though – golden eyes, dark skin, long, dark blond hair tied into a haphazard braid-
“Azeyma’a Iriq Lynel, I presume?” Aymeric asked, smoothly sitting straight up again as he recognised the face.
“Ugh. Don’t call me Azeyma’a,” the Miqo’te grumbled, his voice thick with an accent Aymeric couldn’t quite identify, “It’s an awful name. Just Aza’ll do, Mister, uh… was it Barrel?”
“Aymeric de Borel. Just Aymeric will do,” Aymeric said, a little taken aback by the rough casualness. Aza seemed to take that as an invitation, as next thing he new the Miqo’te stepped into his office proper, kicking the door shut behind him and swaggering over to one of the seats with a very distracting sway to his hips.
Everything about him screamed absolute confidence in his right to be here. Aymeric leaned back in his seat, mentally filing this away as Aza flopped into his seat, shifting to rest his helmet on his lap. This was one of the ‘behavioural issues’ flagged up – he wasn’t very formal and was about as polite as a spiked bludgeon to the head. That was fine out in the Steppes, but here… well, Aymeric didn’t mind exactly, but he knew other people would take insult if he acted this casual about everything.
“So,” Aza said after a long moment where they just stared at each other, each taking their respective stock of the other, “You my new boss or what? Is that what this interview is for?”
“Hm,” Aymeric clasped his hands together over his lap, “No, that would be Estinien Wyrmblood. You’ll be meeting him later… no, this is a standard interview that all magical creatures new to Eorzea have with a member of Public Relations. This is a semi-informal chat to see if you are settling in well, have any issues you wish to flag up, and to answer any questions you may have regarding your rights within Eorzean law.”
The look Aza gave him was one of wry amusement, “My rights, huh?”
“Magical Creature laws in Eorzea differ to the ones in the Azim Steppes,” Aymeric said mildly. Then again, the Steppes didn’t have any laws whatsoever regarding magical creatures. The Azimis still used a tribal system of government, and whilst they tolerated Othard’s overall authority, how they handled their own magical creatures was strictly their business. The Animal Control Unit and Public Relations in the Azim Steppes always employed locally, and they tended to deal with situations by having the respective tribe’s Khatun deal with the issue… or if it was serious enough, the Khagan. Therefore, one could argue that magical creatures were freest in the Steppes, as they were treated like any other Azimi.
This, Aymeric felt, was going to be the biggest hurdle with Aza. He would no doubt be used to freedoms he wouldn’t have here, and how he responded to that…
“Yes,” Aza said, “You have mandatory registration and identification. Do I have to wear those tacky collars like the receptionist?”
“Some have different ways to identify themselves,” Aymeric said, “So long as it’s visible, you can have it however you wish. Some have badges, or, forgive the pun, dogtags. Others have wristbands or, ah, collars…”
“Hm,” was Aza’s very noncommittal response to that, “I see.”
“We can discuss that later,” Aymeric said, “You’re aware of your new posting?”
“Mmhm,” Aza’s mouth curved into a very handsome smile, “Animal Control Unit, same as before. I am very good at killing things that need to be killed. So, Othard HQ sent me here to help you all out. The Steppes are safe enough, but Eorzea has become dangerous recently, yes?”
Well, Aza was uncomfortably blunt, but not incorrect. With a grimace, Aymeric admitted, “Yes, there’s been an upsurge of Monster numbers here. Altercations between dangerous wildlife and populated areas have been increasing month by month.”
“That’ll stop now that I am here,” Aza said confidently – it sounded beyond arrogant, yet Aza said it in such a matter of fact tone… “Tell me which areas are worst off and next full moon I will go on a big hunt for the nests.”
What? “Ah, pardon?”
“Do you not do that here?” Aza looked surprised, “It’s common in the Steppes to gather up the werewolves on full moon and do a big hunt. It helps keeps the monster populations way down – and keeps us busy on those nights. Two birds, one stone, y’see?”
Oh, Gods. Aymeric could only imagine the media circus that would be. People would have kittens if they knew a pack of werewolves were roving around on full moons near suburbs and the like, hunting and killing monsters in droves. If someone ran across a werewolf in a civilian suburb covered in blood… urgh.
“That… type of thing is restricted,” Aymeric said very carefully, “Especially in urban areas.”
“Ah, of course,” Aza sighed, “I forget. Eorzeans are scared of werewolves.”
Again, blunt… but not incorrect.
“We’ll put a pin in it for now,” Aymeric said, “It’s an idea to consider – it will just require some proper preparation and permissions. Now, let us get back on track…”
The rest of the interview went… okay. Aza was too casual, too blunt and definitely too used to freedoms Eorzean werewolves didn’t enjoy. Yet, he was also adaptable. He did not argue or huff or complain whenever Aymeric told him something he clearly disagreed with. Aza just gave him a look, kept his face stoic, and nodded. He wasn’t exactly polite or friendly… but speaking to him was nice in a very straightforward way. He was, in a bizarre way, kind of professional.
Actually, it was like speaking to a more prickly, reserved Estinien. Aymeric foresaw them getting along like a house on fire in that case.
At least he was nice to look at, Aymeric mused. Those biking leathers hugged Aza’s frame obscenely well, and the Miqo’te’s face was unfairly attractive. Too often during the interview, Aymeric found his attention wandering as he focused a bit too long on those hypnotic golden eyes, or the way Aza’s mouth would curve into a smile, bottom lip temptingly full, or how his hair would catch the light whenever he tilted his head. Very handsome and good eye candy.
But Aymeric was professional, so he kept those thoughts firmly in the back of his mind where they belonged. It wasn’t as if anything would happen anyways, even in a casual sense. Aza was a werewolf, and they tended to pair up with fellow werewolves even for casual flings. Still, it was nice enough to look.
Aymeric could already hear Estinien mockingly calling him a furry. Whatever, his friend just didn’t appreciate the finer things in life.
“I think that’ll do for today,” he said, glancing down at the notes he’d been taking throughout the interview, “So you don’t fret needlessly, you do have the job. This was just…”
“To see if I’m controllable or willing to play nice?” Aza asked lightly, “It’s fine. You can say it how it is.”
“Yes…” Aymeric sighed, “You’re far too blunt for your own good, but otherwise I think you will be a fine addition to the Animal Control Unit.”
Aza just smiled at him, like there was a little in-joke between them, “Mmhm. How much bullshit should I expect from everyone else around here?”
“… moderate amount,” Aymeric said honestly, “Not to worry, though. Estinien, whilst a prickly bastard, is not one to judge a character on their birth or race. Impress him, and you will enjoy minimal bullshit whilst you’re here.”
“Great,” Aza pushed himself up from his seat, stashing his helmet under his arm again, “I think I’ll go find him now, get a feel for him. Thanks for the nice interview. You’re not a bad sort, despite what people say about Eorzean Elezens.”
Aymeric blinked, “What they say…?”
“That you’re all stuck up pricks who can’t tell their elbow from their asshole,” Aza said cheerily, “So, nice to see you proving that stereotype wrong! I’ll see you around, yeah?”
“Ah, yes-” Aymeric began, a little bemused when Aza just walked out of his office without a proper dismissal, leaving the door wide open. Well.
“This… will be interesting,” he mused to himself, “Estinien’s going to hate him.”
Or like him. Hate-like, probably. If anything, Aza will definitely alleviate the boredom his friend had been griping about while Aymeric got to enjoy the spectacle from the sidelines. He chuckled quietly to himself at the thought, leaning back in his seat as he rubbed his mouth.
Yes, definitely enjoy the spectacle… especially if Aza continued to wear those tight leather trousers that just so perfectly hugged his ass.