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 [C] I hope you find what you're looking for [INVITES]
995 POINTS EARNED
192 POSTS MADE
Every place that Vincent and his family had lived in the past couple years had been somewhere remote, removed from the city life. The Forks home had backed up to a forrest; New Orleans to something that wished was a forrest, but was actually more of a swamp; Livorno, to a great many rolling fields. In returning to New Orleans, they had decides to favor the woods once again, settling down in the bayou in a place that had land largely anchored by youthful trees. Despite their relative lack of years, the trees had thrived, and were making headway into places they ought not to. Like the Albright’s new yard.

Vincent had spent most of the day anchoring about four of the trees in the backyard to be felled. They were pretty young, but not so young not as to have nearly a dozen plus feet on him. He guessed someone had homesteaded here back in the fifties, and planted the trees then. Though their house wasn’t that old, there was a definite cultivation evident in the lay of the land that spoke much about whomever had called this old patch home before. However, they weren’t around anymore to deal with these encroaching trees—and Vincent was. Plus Aiden.

Honestly, something like this was usually solitary work for Vincent. He liked to sweat and toil, to be fully occupied by the necessity to act with caution in the face of potential danger. A tree couldn’t threaten you, but you could certainly go to town on it. It was metaphorical. Sure, he couldn’t systematically destroy and rearrange the various constructs of his life, but he could systematically destroy a piece of shit log and put it back together in a design that would otherwise suit him.

However, it didn’t take a genius to see that something was troubling Aiden. Out of all his pseudo-relatives? He would never bring it up with the kid, but he was hard-pressed not to feel a certain sense of protectiveness.

It didn’t have the flavor of any of his other relationships, no. But spend a couple months locked in a box alongside someone, and even if you both walked out whole, you felt obligated to one another. Especially when one or more of them was, in a way, your kin. No one would talk about it—about what happened, or how Aiden had gotten the worst of it. Vincent got that. Everyone functioned like things were fine, and maybe some of them could shed the thick, scaly skin of their problems, but not he. Maybe Aiden was fine in that respect, but he still was going to go out of his way to check on the young man, just in case.

Vincent was digging through the shed when he thought he scented the boy-man. The broad-shouldered werewolf stepped back through the door, two woodchopping axes in hand, and pivoted to face Aiden with a crooked half-smile. He had texted his “grandson” a couple hours before, asking Aiden to come over and help. If nothing else, they would beat the stress out of their skin by swinging big-damn-bloody axes at the soon-to-be-shattered stumps until they were firmly broken down into submission—er, firewood.

“Hey Aiden.” Vincent offered one of the two axes up to Aiden. He was already drenched in sweat from tying down the trees for their falls, and the wooden handle was slick in his grip as he offered up the handle-end.. “Ever chop down a tree before?”
Aiden was trying his best not to take his dad's departure personally. Maybe it was for the best, considering that his mom seemed to be okay and she was the one that Jacy had ultimately walked out on. At least, that's how Aiden interpreted it. He didn't see it as a mutual break-up but that his dad didn't want to be part of the family anymore.

A part of him knew that it wasn't true, that both he and CJ had agreed on it. But Aiden was still angry that Jacy had left in the first place, had been gone for so long and cheated on his mom. Not just once but consistently. Aiden had done it once, had slept with someone else when he had given in to the lies that Charlie had been sleeping with Nate. It had made him lose Charlie, even just temporarily and it sucked. It hurt and he still felt guilty. How his father had been able to do it for so long without feeling any kind of remorse...Well, he didn't understand it and didn't think he ever could.

It was that anger that fueled his current pain and attitude. He knew he was acting immature and erratic or whatever, and he wasn't acting like himself but it was all he knew how to handle it. His life, his family, were in transition and he didn't know what to do. He knew he'd figure it out and find his way back to his normal chipper self but in the meantime, he was a bullet-loving, blood-curious, obnoxious little punk who sneaks into his dad's hidden liquor collection that he had forgotten. Not enough to get noticeably drunk but enough to feel normal.

There were some people who he could count on to be there without really having to explain. His mom and sisters of course, cause they knew. His girlfriend, Charlie, was extremely patient with him; even though he had no idea as to why she stuck with him. She was gorgeous and fun and sunshine and he was goofy and odd and childish. Still, he loved her more than life. He had his grandpas Vince and Ben, and some friends too.

When he got the invite from his Grandpa Vince to go over and cut down some trees, Aiden was quick to accept. After all, it would mean sharp objects and brute strength and what better to handle his anger issues than that?

When he arrived to the Albright house, he didn't bother to knock, walking right in. He grabbed two cookies from the plate on the table and stuffed them both into his mouth-Norah always made the best cookies and brownies. As he walked into the backyard, Vince walked out to hand him an axe. He started to answer with a hello of his own, but with his mouth full of cookies it came out a jumbled mess. He shrugged and shook his head no at Vince's question.

He took the proffered axe and admired it a little too much, noticing the sharpness of the blade. He finally swallowed the cookies and grinned at his grandpa. "Nah, but it can't be too hard to pick up. Swing, hit the same spot again and again until it falls down, yeah?"
995 POINTS EARNED
192 POSTS MADE
“Sort of,” Vince replied mildly, his gaze on the way Aiden handled the blade. Some people, they see fire, and it consumes more than the kindling. There’s an unspoken fascination with the potential for wildly untamed destruction, or a hunger to be afraid of the possibility fire brings. But for some people, their interest lies not with the quenchable fire, but with a knife. He had found, in the course of his life, that those who craved a knife? Some of them were looking for a way to use that blade to cut out the pain inside.

Vince turned towards one of the trees, the one closest to the house, and gestured at its trunk with his own ax. He drew a shape in the air, right next to the tree. “We’re going to need to make a triangle cut here, where we want it to fall. Then we’ll chop at it from the other side, higher up. These trees are pretty small, so I don’t know that they won’t fall if when we’re making that first cut, so one of us will spot, and one of us will chop.” He glanced at Aiden’s hands, then bent down and picked up a pair of gloves that had been covered by the long grass. He offered them to Aiden. “Why don’t you start? I’ll show you the stance.”

For all the shit they went through as a group—from something as narrowly specific as Aiden and Vincent’s time with Deucalion to as grandly broad as being driven out of Livorno—some simple things still had more power to cause an impact than others. If you wanted to compare, you would probably assume being brutalized by a madman for months on end would have more of an emotional impact than, say, your father leaving… but it didn’t.

It just didn’t.

Vincent didn’t assume he knew exactly how Aiden felt, what with Jacy walking out for the last time, but he could hazard a guess. Aiden’s gaze had taken on that of the thousand-yard-stare Vincent was all too familiar with, the one that glinted savagely when the light hit it right—and if Vincent could help stave off some of whatever this kid—his pseudo-grandchild, if you will—felt, then he would do that. Because Aiden deserved better after all this.

Vincent motioned a few times with his axe to show Aiden how to chop at the tree, and then stood back, one hand patting the trunk of the tree as he moved behind Aiden and out of range. He wanted to stay well out of the way of that very sharp tool, even if he knew the kid wouldn’t purposefully hurt him with it. Superb healing or not, he had no deserve to experience an axe to the face.

“Whenever you’re ready, Aiden.”
Lauren PST she/her thirty Offline Drama 4 years
145 POINTS EARNED
33 POSTS MADE
Aiden
Eighteen
He/Him
Intern
Straight
Single
Cancer
PLOT WITH Aiden
Aiden rolled the axe in his hands, admiring it from different angles. Well, maybe admiring was not quite the best word. He wasn’t admiring it in the way that he liked the axe, but moreso in the “think of what I could do with this” kind of way, which was even creepier than the first option.

He wasn’t a murderer. He didn’t want to kill, he had no motivation or intention to do damage. But the thought of maybe, just maybe having something like this if he comes across Deucalion again, or someone comes after his mom or sister again, or something like that…Maybe he could even hunt down Deucalion himself and make sure no kid in any town ever has to go through that again…It was worth consideration.

He watched silently as his ‘Grandpa’ Vince demonstrated the best way to cut down a tree. While Vince wasn’t CJ’s real dad (that would be Grandpa Ben), Vince still had a fatherly role in Aiden’s mom’s life and for a bit he was more of a grandfather than Ben was. Now they were both grandpas to him and he loved them both. They were cool, and he had fun with them. But Vince…He knew what it was like to be confronted by Deucalion in the same way that Aiden was. Ben was no stranger to him but still, Vince was there. He knew and understood what Aiden had endured and even though he had never said anything about it, Aiden knew he was trying to subtly help him get through it.

Pulling the gloves on his hands, he gripped the handle of the axe once more and mimicked the stance Vince was standing in. He swung hard, finding a sense of pride at the thwack that resounded in his ears. It was a good cut (he thought, anyway) and as he tugged the axe out he looked to Vince for approval, stepping back in case Vince wanted to step in for some reason. ”That was pretty cool.” He couldn’t help but think about the sound that Deucalion’s head would make when it hit the ground, and he knew his eyes glazed over a little as he imagined it. He turned his attention back to Vince, hoping his very attentive grandpa wouldn’t notice the brief distracted look.
995 POINTS EARNED
192 POSTS MADE
Maybe if this were any other situation—a casual meeting, off-hand and unplanned—then Vince wouldn’t have noticed Aiden’s distracted look. But Vincent’s intention with this afternoon had never been free of ulterior motives. He couldn’t read Aiden’s mind, but he was pretty okay at reading people. Besides, experience lent itself to knowledge. What better teacher than the past, right? What he saw, he wasn’t unfamiliar with. He couldn’t say he had always shaped those emotions in a positive way, but he knew, to some degree, that he had felt before what Aiden felt. That he often still dealt with it.

Vincent reached out and grasped the handle of the ax. He didn’t take it from Aiden. He had turned to drink, to rage, to many things, to deal with the hand that had been dealt to him. Was he even remotely qualified to guide Aiden down the right path? That was what he wanted to do. Yet he wasn’t certain that it was his place to do it—that he would be a hypocrite if he even tried. He knew the pain all too well—for every physical scar, he had two or three emotional ones that shaped him—and his motivation today was simply that he didn’t want Aiden to have experience it.

Bit late for that, really. You can’t undo what’s been done, Vincent.

His other hand reached out, then, and covered Aiden’s for a moment, but he didn’t speak. Instead, he let Aiden proceed with what he had showed him, standing out of the way of the swing of the all-too-sharp blade.

When Aiden was finished, he might have noticed that Vincent’s gaze was on him. How often had Vincent seen that look in the mirror? Regardless, he tipped his head in an indicating nod at the tree. “You can keep going if you want. I’ll tell you when to stop.” Or, you can stop and we can talk, Vincent thought, but he didn’t know if that was even on Aiden’s mind as a possibility. Maybe he didn’t want to discuss any of it. Maybe he had learned from his parents and family the stubborn, but self-sabotaging, habit of bottling it up. Even Vincent was guilty of it.

A long pause swelled to fill the moment between their words. Vincent’s words were cautious, plodding, as though he was placing each of them down gingerly and slowly in front of Aiden because they were very, very fragile. “I still have nightmares about what happened there. About him. You’re not alone, Aiden.”

Aiden certainly had endured the worst out of any of them in those two-ish months spent literally caged. Vincent could only imagine what that had been like; though Deucalion had used him more than once, and had taken advantage of Vincent’s malnourished and moon-starved state to get the cop-turned-wolf to communicate with Claire about his demands, he had not straight-up abused him. Aiden had borne the brunt of that. And Aiden had spent not one, but two times with Deucalion—the first being back when Vincent was still the only alpha to speak of in the Dunn/Albright pack. Anything Aiden had gone through since then could have only contributed further to the weight on the kid’s shoulders. Vincent could definitely see that.
Lauren PST she/her thirty Offline Drama 4 years
145 POINTS EARNED
33 POSTS MADE
Aiden
Eighteen
He/Him
Intern
Straight
Single
Cancer
PLOT WITH Aiden
Aiden knew that of anyone in his life, Vince would be the one who understood him and what he had been through the most. There were others who had been taken by Deucalion, of course, but Aiden had been taken and tortured by him twice now. He still had nightmares and his wrist would never be the same. Sure, it was a small thing that wouldn't negatively affect his life too much but it was enough to make anyone freak out, especially someone as young and innocent as Aiden.

He tried to hide it and was successful sometimes but there were times when he just couldn't shake the feeling that there was something wrong, that someone was watching him, that it was going to happen again. He felt like a fool for feeling like that sometimes and so he didn't want to really vocalize that often.

Vince seemed to get that without having to ask. Even if they didn't really talk about it, Vince seemed to understand what he was feeling and that had brought him closer. He didn't feel obligated to talk about things. He could just be himself and not have to explain things.

Aiden nodded as Vince said he could continue cutting down the trees. As Vince continued to talk about how he also still had nightmares and that he wasn't alone, he swung the axe harder and harder, finally letting himself really just...let it out.

He didn't stop until he had felled three more trees. He dropped the axe, out of breath from the exertion. "I hate him." He knew Vince would know exactly who he was talking about and that he wouldn't have to explain any further than that. He hated that he was showing this weakness but he had to trust that Vince wouldn't judge him or ridicule him for it.
995 POINTS EARNED
192 POSTS MADE
Finally, it seemed like Aiden was ready to let it all out. Precision chops gave way to a frenzied attack against the trees, which Vincent largely stayed out of the way for—he only stepped in or out to guide the trees when they went off course. He had hoped Aiden would do something like this, not because he wanted Aiden to feel the pain or anger associated with the memories, but because he knew Aiden harbored a deep, deep well of emotion over all the suffering he had endured in his very short life. Vincent knew bottling things up helped no one—and it was something he was immensely guilty of, without a doubt—but sometimes it took someone else lending a hand to ever let any of that out at all.

Aiden’s reaction was hardly surprising. It killed Vince that the any of the kids had to face what they had in their lives so far. He knew, and quite personally, that the earlier in life you had to confront fear, danger, and tragedy, the more and more it affected you as you grew into adulthood. It twisted parts of your self that should remain untwisted: in Vincent’s case, it had very nearly destroyed his ability to cope. He still did not really believe in himself, not in a way that made sense. With Aiden? It was hard to tell so far, but Vincent suspected that his confidence in himself and everyone around him had been deeply shaken. Did he feel he could trust someone? Well, he seemed to be trusting Vincent right now. That was something.

Vincent leaned over to pick up the axe Aiden had dropped in the grass. He examined the blade for a moment, then flipped it upside down and leaned it against one of the still-standing trees to keep it out of the way. He wasn’t sure he really had any good advice for Aiden, but he also wasn’t even sure Aiden was looking for that—his actions now were just a means of stalling while he figured out what to say, if anything. Vincent’s issues were unresolved himself; who was he to have any sort of answers to the questions Aiden wasn’t asking?

But Aiden needed someone. Or something. He didn’t deserve to have to handle this alone.

You are justified in every way.” Vincent suddenly turned and walked up the length of the yard to a cooler sitting by the back door. When he returned, he had two sweating bottles of water in his hands. He offered one to Aiden. “You’ve been through hell.
Lauren PST she/her thirty Offline Drama 4 years
145 POINTS EARNED
33 POSTS MADE
Aiden
Eighteen
He/Him
Intern
Straight
Single
Cancer
PLOT WITH Aiden
Aiden hated to cry. He hated any sign of weakness, because he fully believed that it was one of the reasons he had been singled out so much. He was weak; he loved to cuddle with his mom and sisters, he wrote love songs, he was sensitive. And just maybe that was what had brought upon all of this.

Because why else would he have been targeted more than once by Deucalion and the bad guys in general? He had done something. Whatever it was he didn’t know, but it was his own fault. Maybe he opened his mouth too much, maybe he asked for it, he didn’t know. But he was tired of it. He didn’t know what he could do differently. And he wanted nothing more than to just...stop.

The act of using the axe and cutting down the trees, the exertion and energy that it took to chop them down giving him a chance to get out some of that pent-up emotion. He was angry, hurt, confused...All of the above. He didn’t have his dad around to help, and his mom was his best friend but he couldn’t put more burden on her shoulders with his childish stress.

His breathing was still heavy as he wiped the tears from his eyes with his arm angrily, and he looked everywhere but at Vince. ”He’s still out there, isn’t he? He could come back at any time and just...wipe us out. He could do whatever he wanted and nobody could stop him.” Yes, he was afraid. If he had returned more than once, who was to say that he wouldn’t do it again?

”I know it’s not just me, and that he hurt you and mom and Noelle and others too. I hate that he still keeps me up at night and that I still can’t...just...deal with it. I hate being weak.” He was whining. He knew he was whining. But isn’t that why Vince had brought him there? To give him that outlet?
995 POINTS EARNED
192 POSTS MADE
Vincent was quiet while Aiden let his emotions out. Their society was fucked up enough that this explosion of fear, anguish, and suffering might be considered a show of weakness by most—after all, aren’t men supposed to be strong even in the face of the worse? But they were human—well, wolves—and they felt and experienced life the same as anyone else. Everything he had been through, everything Aiden had experienced… Vincent knew good and well they had done and seen was far more than the average human could bear. Male, female, or anything in between. It was a miracle any of them were still standing.

So he didn’t fault Aiden in the slightest for needing to vent everything out. And he didn’t judge the kid when he did it; how many walls had Vincent punched through? How many times had he wept helplessly in the face of what he thought was certain doom? They were all fractured beings, taped together with determination driven by a fear of the alternative, and painted over with love and halfhearted reassurance that this isn’t gonna happen again.

But it would. It always did. Maybe not in quite the same way, but life would find a way. That was the downside of what they were, of the bullshit they had fallen into, and couldn’t escape. Whether they liked it or not, between Claire, Vince, and Ben alone (to speak nothing of the other packs)? They were involved in the controlling of the current of supernatural life here. He didn’t know why. He didn’t understand how they had gotten there. But people cared, sometimes, about what they had to say, and they just as often listened. Sure, plenty of times they didn’t do anything about it… but they listened.

Aiden turned to him. Vincent had to force himself not to fold his arms, to develop a defensive posture; instead, he let his arms hang loose at his sides. He was just as worried as Aiden, but Aiden needed him to be a rock right now, and the last thing that the kid needed was to see someone who was supposed to be comforting him also crumbling.

Vincent reached out to put a hand on Aiden’s shoulder, meeting him eye for eye. “Yeah, he’s still out there.” He couldn’t lie. He couldn’t say they had taken care of Deucalion, because they hadn’t; he had been smart enough to get the hell out of dodge as soon as his plan went sideways. Deucalion had plans, yes, and he was probably livid they hadn’t panned out—but he clearly valued his own life just as much, if not more, as he valued the success of those orchestrations.

He’s out there, but even if he comes back? We’re ready for him. We’ve defied him twice, Aiden, and if there’s a next time, we’ve got a hell of a lot more manpower on our side. We know how he works. We know how to stop him.

In theory, anyway. Claire had stood up to the beast of a man even when Deucalion was grooming half her pack for her destruction. Deucalion’s fatal weakness seemed to be his failure to understand just how strong those he aspired to have were. Vincent had crumbled under the pressure, yes, but not in the way Deucalion had needed and he had abandoned that attack because of it. Claire, however? Claire had stuck to her guns to the end, and Deucalion just hadn’t planned for the idea that she could still get through to her pack even while they were starved for the moon, and drugged to the gills to attack her.

You’re not weak for being afraid of the unknown, Aiden. That’s why you find ways to prepare for everything. You train. You teach yourself how to fight. You remind yourself every day that you’ve been through the gauntlet, and next time? Next time you’ll be able to take it a little better. I won’t sit here and say you’ll be safe for the rest of your life because that’s a bald-faced lie, and it hurts worse when you don’t expect it. But I will tell you that you’re stronger than you think. Every night you’ve stayed up, every worry you’ve worried, every bit of pain you’ve passed through the fire for? It’s made you stronger.

He let go of Aiden. He wasn’t even sure if this was helping, this honesty, but Vincent didn’t know how else to be. He abhorred lying; Aiden deserved the truth. No, it wouldn’t get easier, but yes, he’d make it through. He was his mother’s son, wasn’t he? Aiden had reserves yet untapped. He was still learning.

Don’t call yourself weak, ever. Don’t beat yourself up for reacting realistically to what you’ve been through. But don’t let it cripple you either, okay? It’s real easy to let the fear take over, but that’s not living.

OOC: THIS THREAD IS NOW CLOSED
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