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musings on the nature of power

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Kali had been young when she first met Julia. She was a born wolf, raised in her pack to someday lead it. Being a beta chafed, sometimes, when Kali had to endure the long stares of her male packmates or the snotty remarks about her feet. She fought with her claws, all of her claws, and no matter how many snide comments people made she wasn’t going to reduce her fighting ability.

Even so, Kali wished she could use her toe claws to cut her packmates’ eyes out as a lesson in manners. As a beta, she couldn’t do that. If she was an alpha, though- well. Needless to say that anyone who dismissed her because she failed to be conventionally feminine and “hygienic” enough wouldn’t be anything but conventionally dead. And so when Kali met Julia and Julia didn’t even look twice at her toes, just ran her eyes over Kali’s body in a way that was not dissimilar from the way men checked her out but infinitely more pleasant before looking at her face and smiling, Kali had liked her on the spot. Julia, Kali had decided then and there, had a very nice smile.

Beneath that nice smile, Kali learned soon enough, lay determination. Julia was the pack’s new emissary, and she took her job seriously despite her young age. She wasn’t at all afraid to contradict and disagree with the pack’s alpha or to argue against decisions she didn’t feel were right. Kali admired Julia’s power as much as she admired her smile, as much as she admired the way Julia moved and the way she referenced obscure literature and the way she half-glanced in Kali’s direction whenever she walked by. Kali really just admired Julia, but despite her utter surety when it came to fighting she wasn’t quite sure how to approach anyone in a romantic way, let alone a sweet, beautiful brunette.

Julia, however, had no such uncertainty. She waited six months, just long enough that she was firmly established as the pack’s emissary, and then she made her move. Kali was obviously someone who valued a direct approach, so Julia took one- she waited until most of the pack was away on various missions and vacations, pulled Kali into a closet, and kissed her. Once she got over the initial shock, Kali quite enthusiastically kissed her back.

After that, Kali’s admiration turned to love. Several members of the pack weren’t pleased with the new relationship, fearing that the unrepentantly vicious Kali might break the new emissary, or that the couple would fall apart and cause a split in the pack. Despite their fears, Kali was happy- she was in love, and she had access to the power and prestige of dating an emissary. But then the Argents came, and Deucalion fell and then rose to alpha status. He started dreaming of an alpha pack, and it sounded like everything Kali had ever wanted. She still struggled to cleave her will to someone else’s, to follow and obey without question. Kali loved power as much as she loved Julia, and she knew it.

It was true that she eventually joined the alpha pack for Ennis, her friend whom she loved so dearly. But she also joined because of the promises he and Deucalion had made her, promises of unlimited power and unbound freedom. Kali wanted to join the pack so badly that even when Deucalion had told her she must kill her pack as well as her alpha, she hadn’t even minded. Her packmates were her packmates, yes, but they were also boorish and boring and judgemental and they were in her way. But then Deucalion had leaned in close and smiled at her, teeth white and shining like they had never ripped open a throat, and told her that she also had to kill her little emissary. Kali’s mind had gone blank with panic for a moment, then been overwhelmed by thoughts of Julia. Julia’s touch, Julia’s smile when they were curled together in bed, Julia’s heels, Julia’s laugh, Julia’s skin and scent and hair, Julia. But Kali might have loved power more than she loved Julia, and so she simply smiled back at Deucalion and said that she would do it.

Kali went back to her pack and bided her time. She couldn’t wait too long, but she needed time to convince herself to do this. She tossed and turned in bed at night, unable to rest with various potential plans swirling in her head. Julia noticed, but she didn’t say anything, just watched Kali with softer eyes than usual and brought her extra tea throughout the day. She didn’t push Kali, not the way most other people would. It made Kali’s decision harder, but Kali still loved power, still craved it.

Kali executed her plan, and it went almost perfectly. She took her alpha out first, to give herself more strength and to disorient the other members of her pack. They were easy pickings in the end, and if an inordinate number died not by the claws on her hands but by those on her feet, then Kali simply cites karma. In the end the only flaw in the plan was Julia, Julia who had her own flaws but not ones like this, not like Kali’s insatiable need for power. Julia who looked on with horrified brown eyes as Kali killed her packmates and then turned towards her, soaked in blood. Julia who didn’t run until Kali was almost upon her, who still didn’t flinch away from her even when Kali brought her claws up and tore at her face again and again.

Kali left Julia dying in the dirt. She heard Julia’s heart still struggling to beat, still fighting because Julia was a fighter beneath her soft smiles and quiet words. Kali knew that Julia would die in slow agony but she couldn’t make herself go back, she couldn’t turn around. Kali had quite the gift when it came to self-delusion, but she couldn’t lie to herself about this. Kali didn’t keep walking because of her love of power. She kept walking because she was too weak, too much of a coward, to turn around and kill Julia. And if she had to stop and vomit into a bush before she could make it to Deucalion to tell him she was ready to join his pack, no one else ever had to know.

 

Years pass and the twins join the pack, too. Kali takes pleasure in her newfound power, and if she still has to cleave her will to that of another alpha at least it’s easier to handle now. Deucalion announces that the pack is going to Beacon Hills to follow up on rumours of a new Hale alpha (there have also been rumours of a potential true alpha, but Deucalion doesn’t mention them). Kali swallows down the bile in her throat, bares her teeth, and promises Deucalion that she still remembers the terrain well from the time she spent there in her younger years.

The pack arrives and starts scouting out the local talent, as it were. Personally, Kali thinks that pursuing Derek is a waste of time, even if he is a Hale. Little Cora Hale, now she has potential. She’s a fighter, that one. Kali can always tell when someone has iron at their center. It’s something she knows well, and if she has to fight down thoughts of Julia whenever Cora is particularly obstinate then it’s really just a point in Cora’s favor. Scott McCall shows promise too, even if he is still a teenager. But Deucalion wants to recruit Derek, so she goes to his loft and threatens his girlfriend to secure a fair fight with him.

She looks familiar- Derek’s girlfriend, that is. She’s an English teacher and she looks so much like Julia that it takes Kali’s breath away. Kali kills one of Derek’s betas and leaves his loft triumphant, but she’s still thinking about the pretty little teacher. It’s impossible, and there weren’t any signs of recognition in the woman’s eyes when she looked at Kali, but Kali’s blood is singing in her veins in a way it hasn’t in years and she can’t help but think maybe.

Kali ends up being right. Julia had survived. Julia was alive. Julia was now Jennifer and she had gone dark to try to get her revenge on Kali, on the whole alpha pack, but Julia was alive. Deucalion berates her and Julia assaults her and Julia is alive. Deucalion makes some remark about how Julia’s heart should have bled a little more but Julia never really was a bleeding heart. She was kind, but she was also ruthlessly practical.

There’s a white-hot pain burning in Kali’s belly when she thinks about it. Kali (almost) killed Julia to get power, Julia’s getting power to kill Kali. It makes a kind of sick sense, but Kali doesn’t like it. Julia is resplendent like this, raw and powerful and no longer ruthlessly practical but outright ruthless, but she hates Kali and she wants her dead. Julia stayed alive just so she could live long enough to kill Kali. Julia is more powerful than she ever was as a simple emissary. Julia is alive.

That’s the thought that is pulsing in time with her heartbeat as Kali leaves the hospital, Deucalion and twins and Scott McCall in tow. Kali wonders sometimes, when she is alone and quiet and left with her thoughts too long, if there really is something more important than power.

Even after all this time, Kali thinks that maybe Julia wonders that, too.