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Location: Outside of Flowers and Canvasses

Simone pushed against the glass of the flower shop exit, making her way out of the strange chaotic energy that still resonated in the air even as most of the Coven had made their exit. She could sense Kali’s presence following close behind. The crisp outdoor air felt good on her face, like a splash of cold water to sober her up after whatever the hell that just was.

“Well, you really know how to make an entrance,” she said, turning her head behind her so Kali could hear. She surveyed the street, unconsciously checking for any signs of danger. The only thing that stirred was the cool wind kicking up a batch of leaves on the concrete. Keys jangled in her coat pocket before she pulled them out and walked over to where her old Camero was parked. She stuck them in the lock, fussing with it before the lock gave and the car door opened with a low pitched squeak. She climbed in, unlocking the passenger side so Kali could join her.

“Get in, old friend. We’re going for a ride.” she said with a slight smirk. She put the key into the ignition, and the Camero started with a low roar of the engine. “It’s… been awhile, hasn’t it? Little ol’ Kal is a big time officer now.”

She waited until she saw the car that Drake, Luca, and Sloane drove off in and started following closely behind them. “I can’t wait to hear about how that happened. You’ve… changed, Kal.”

”Well, yeah. I had to, to survive.” he would say, his eyes staring off outside the window towards something no one else but him could see. ”I’ve been keeping up with your music though. It’s good. I mean it.” he says, finally turning his back from the window to look at Simone directly. ”Honestly though, I didn’t think I’d ever... see you again.”

She saw him looking at her in her peripheral vision, but couldn’t bring herself to look at him directly yet. Her eyes stayed locked on the road as she pushed a piece of her curly hair behind her ear. “Thanks, it’s about the only thing that keeps me sane nowadays.” she said about his comment on her music. “Well, here I am. I do… apologize for leaving kind of suddenly. Leaving you.” Her eyes finally drifted from the road and to his face. “It seems like you’re doing well, though. But seriously, how did you make your way to the FBI? Never in a million years would I have thought that’s where you’d end up.”

There was a moment of silence. An uncomfortably long moment, but eventually Kali would end up answering.

”It’s not that complicated” he’d say, taking in a deep breath as if he was bracing himself for something. ”When the Coven collapsed, I had nowhere to go. I was back on the streets... again.” His eyes looked away from hers as his expression showed for the smallest moment a hint of something painful before the emotion was quickly buried underneath his newly gained professional facade. ”Eventually, an agent found me. They saw I had... potential, and they gave me an offer. It took me a few years to finish training, a few more to get cleared for working on the field by myself. After that I’ve just been heading from one place to the next, solving problems where I’m needed without anyone knowing. Like a ghost. Funny how that works, right?”

The silence was deafening, but she owed him a little grace to answer how he wanted. “I hate to think of you back on the streets again, but you’re a fighter.” she said, nodding her head. “I’m surprised you’d want to come back here after everything. Even if you’re just on assignment. It probably took a lot of balls to come back. You’ve changed, but so has St. Portwell. I’ve been trying to keep track of what’s going on, but it’s too much. It’s not just the Wolfpack. Tons of other groups keep popping and causing trouble too. Something big is happening. I’m glad you’re here to help.”

“The others, though… I worry about them. For Auri to expect us to come back together again and be a ‘family’,” she said, making quotes with her fingers. “It’s a joke, honestly. I don’t know any of them anymore. I can’t trust them. For some reason, I feel like I can trust you though. I don’t know. Maybe you’ll prove me wrong.” she ended.

”To be honest, I expected things to end up this way.” he would say, his gaze now back at the window again. ”You don’t have to fill me in on how St. Portwell’s changed. Like I said before... I’ve done my own research. The Wolfpack especially isn’t something to be worried about” he says, leaning his back against the car seat as he looks up at the sky through the windshield letting out a sigh.

”Well, that’s how it should have been. They were a bunch of small-time crooks before. I have no idea how they got their abstractions. Still, there’s been no signs that they’ve been using it for anything more than just theft and other minor crimes. Well, minor in the grand scheme of things anyways.” he says. There was a certain look in his eyes as he talked about this. A kind of sharp focus that wasn’t there ten years ago. ”Ultimately, while their rise is suspicious, they have no motive. The 8th street Coven is arguably more suspicious but from what I’ve seen they also aren’t in the mood to start a war right now. If anything... there’s just something else going on. Something dangerous. I just hope I can figure this out before we take any more casualties.” he’d say, his eyes now having one of those stares you might see from a homeless veteran fresh from the gulf war. The kind of look that was staring at something right in front of them that wasn’t even there, haunting them, forever.

Simone’s eyes narrowed on the road in front of her and she shifted slightly in her seat when he started bringing up the others. “So… you’ve been researching us too, huh? Learn anything interesting about me?” she asked, partly joking, partly serious. There were a handful of people who knew her deepest secrets and while Simone and Kali used to be close, she never did divulge the details of her real life to him directly. “What have you been hiding behind those eyes of yours, hmm? How are you?”

”That’s classified.” he’d say with a smirk. A rare joke from the apparent government professional though that smirk disappeared pretty quickly.

”Honestly, I’m not feeling great.” he says looking down at his own hands for a moment, ”Something about this group just brings out the worst in me.” Eventually, he looked back towards Simone. This time he wasn’t shying away at all. He was looking at her directly in the eyes, refusing to break that connection no matter what.

”I haven’t actually looked into you. Or anyone else. My research is limited to potential threats and” he’d take in a deep breath before saying, ”I want to trust you. And... I just hope I wasn’t the only one who thought that time we had together meant something. There was a slight quiver in his voice at the end. It was hidden, hidden well, but it wasn’t perfect. The armor, at least around her, had more than a few cracks.

She met his unwavering gaze as long as she could before a bump in the road distracted her and made her peel away to keep the tires safely on the road. Her heart started beating faster as she was the one who let the silence linger between them before taking a deep breath and replying. “Of course it meant something. You were probably my closest… friend. I didn’t take that for granted, but I also had my own demons to slay. Things I needed to protect. After that night battling the Snake… I snapped. Running away felt like the only choice I had at that moment.”

Unwanted emotions started to bubble up, first in her gut and then her chest, like this was the thing she has been waiting to get out for the last ten years. She bit the inside of her cheek hard to distract herself from the emotional pain. “I’m telling you, if I can trust you, you can trust me. I’ve got your back. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this.” she said, her breath stabilizing. Though, she couldn’t help the feeling of wanting to stop the car, take his face in her hands, and peer into what was really going on inside him. She knew what happened at the Battle had changed him in more ways than one. Instead, she kept the wheel steady and concentrated on following Drake’s car in front of them.

It took another moment for Kali to break the ongoing silence.

”I know.” was all he said at first, followed by another moment of silence. There was a hint of hesitation, his eyes seemingly wanting to run away from the gaze he himself committed to but eventually they managed to hold firm in their resolution. ”And I don’t blame you for running.” he’d say as one hand went to grab the wrist of the other in an awkward and uncomfortable gesture.

”It’s just... It hurt. It hurt a lot. And I... missed you. A lot.” his voice quivered ever so slightly as he finished that sentence. Whatever cold professional veneer there was seemingly wasn’t enough to hold back the slightest hint of the boy from ten years ago resurfacing, even if it was only slightly.

“I missed you too.” she replied, guilt creeping into her head as she saw a glimpse of the old Kali emerge from the shadows of his new facade. “But, we’re both here now. Together. Let’s just hold on to that for now. We’ll figure the rest out later.” she said. Drake’s car started to slow and make a turn into the restaurant. She followed, pulling into the lot and finding a well lit spot to park. She shifted the car in park and huffed a big sigh, but didn’t get out of the car right away, giving him a last opportunity to air out anything else on his mind.

He gave a nod as he stared ahead towards the Dairy Queen. ”Yeah, we’ve got a lot to figure out after all.” he says before reaching for the door handle, ”I’ll keep you safe Mona. I promise.” and finally opening the door without another word.

There was too much happening at once for Simone to all make sense of. Britney's sudden appearance left Greyson's sorry attempt at probing the group cut short. Simone didn't even look in her direction when she finally arrived. The warm feelings she once felt for Britney left her body like snuffing out the last embers in the fireplace. People slowly started filing out the meeting at once. Simone glanced at Auri, not able to stop her facial features from forming into a disappointed look. She had tried her best to rally the group, but honestly, what did she expect out of these lot? It was all beginning to feel a little ridiculous, but ultimately Simone still had her eye on the prize. Father Wolf. What were they going to do about Father Wolf?

She overheard Drake, Luca, and Sloane's conversation about hitching a ride out of here. That seemed to be the direction most everybody was taking. However, jumping into the Wolfpack's den as Auri suggested with extremely limited intel on what they were actually in for sounded about as appetizing as the leftover charcuterie board that barely anyone touched. That kind of pissed her off, only because her mom worked so hard on it. Whatever, if she managed to make it home in one piece, she would tell her that it was a hit, garlic aioli and all.

Kali was only a few paces away from her, so she took his arm without thinking, which felt much different than the noodle arms he had back in high school, but that was besides the point. She dragged him with her over to where Drake, Luca, and Sloane had congregated, her eyebrows hesitantly raised. "Hey, we're hungry too, and I've got plenty I wanna run by y'all. Can we tag along? And don't worry Drake, I'll keep a close eye on this one," she said, motioning to Kali next to her. "We can meet you wherever. My car only fits two, so we'll just follow you."

Simone began to think that Auri should have been a bit more choosey with who she invited back to the Coven. At this point, they weren't even focusing on Father Wolf or the information Auri shared. Instead, they bickered back and forth about Kali, some not even wanting to hear him out. The Coven disbanded because of this type of behavior. There had to be a way to get this under control before trying to take on Father Wolf together. Simone was losing faith in Auri unless she could say or do something to get them on the same page without someone getting killed in the process... and soon.

As Eksa tried to speak up and be a voice of reason, Simone could feel the terrible vibrations of her coughing fit in the air. Seeing that Drake finally made the realization that it was actually Jack who popped out of his strange blob, she felt okay to disengage from the two and hustle over to the snack table to pour some water. She carefully walked over and offered the cup to Eksa. "You okay? Here, maybe this will help a little." she said, putting a light hand on Eksa's back as to offer a little support to the struggling woman.

Simone glared at Eve. What an annoying individual, barging into the shop like she owned the place, much like the person Eve was pointing all her vitriol at just did a few minutes earlier. Seemed like she was really just projecting her own issues on to Kali. Before he could even speak, Linquin had to get in her two cents too. Simone's lips curled into a snide smile when Auri served it to Eve straight, but it slightly dropped when she made the comment about her store being destroyed. Well, like she was thinking earlier, maybe she could have avoided some of this bullshit if she had be more careful about who she asked back into the group.

Simone couldn't help herself from sympathizing with Kali's explanation. Yeah, he had definitely changed into someone she didn't realize, but as he kept speaking she could still hear remnants of his former self. He never wanted to hurt anyone back then except the Snake. Why would he want to suddenly cause harm to the group now, even if he's working for the feds? The reason he was getting so much push back was 1. his untimely grand introduction (which she had to admit was doing himself zero favors) and 2. the people who were the most vocal were, let's face it, slightly seedy individuals who she knew for a fact had things to hide about their business. Yes, even Simone had things to hide, but at least she was quiet about it. This was the most inconspicuous group of people she had ever met. If she were in their shoes maybe she'd feel the same way too, but she wasn't, and they were starting to get on her nerves.

Instinctively, she couldn't help herself from stepping closer to Kali when Eve stuck the loaded gun to his head. This bitch... is actually crazy. The fuck?? she thought, but remained silent yet vigilant to the scene in case shit went down. She let out a breath she didn't know she was holding when Eve removed the gun from his head.

After trying to listen to the others, it was finally her turn. "I vote he stays. Like the others have said, if he continues to be honest and has true intentions, he could potentially be benefitting us. The FBI have information. All of us can't just bust into the strip club and start going off Scarface style... I mean, maybe some of us probably think we could," she said, her eyes landing on Drake for a brief moment. "but I don't think that's best thing to do right now. We should be a little more strategic about this. What the hell is making Father Wolf powerful enough to kill some of the greatest wizards we know? Like, we should probably do some digging or surveillance before taking him on."

All Simone could do now was sit and watch while chaos ensued. As soon as the Britney hate train was over, Tayla and Linqian finally voiced what she had thought this whole time. This wasn't a family. Listening to the conversations, it was highly debatable if they were even friends. Seeing Linqian brought up some feelings Simone wasn't necessarily prepared for. She was friends with the girl's brother, Jinhai, and his death was still fresh in her mind. She even quietly attended his memorial service and shed a few tears at the loss. The look that Linquin sent her way seemed less than friendly, and she took a mental note of that.

At first glance, Simone could barely tell that it was actually Tayla hiding behind those baggy clothes. What the hell happened to her? Simone had no idea. She cut off most of the members after leaving for tour, and even when she came back home, contact was limited. Many of the Coven members may not know or remember Simone, but she studied every single one of them, trying to understand their personalities, abilities, and secrets.

Sloane intimidated Simone, even as her monotone voice droned on about Father Wolf, but she was nothing compared to the Priest, who looked and spoke a whole lot like Greyson. His whole aura poked at Simone like a hot sticker telling her to stay far, far away. She remembered what he was capable of, and as a person with a lot to hide, her intuition was probably safe to trust at the time.

Finally, some tangible knowledge of Father Wolf's whereabouts was offered to the group, and Drake pounced on the information like a hungry lion. She viewed him as a lost soul, especially when she heard about Jade's passing. His one-track mind and thirst for Father Wolf's blood emanated from his every pore. Simone barely had time to ruminate on Auri's question "Who's in?" before Kali's dramatic entrance into the flower shop. Her heart skipped a beat at the sight of the not-so-little boy whom she once saved from the brink of his own mind.. and then promptly ghosted at the time he probably needed her the most. He was different and even more unrecognizable than Tayla, especially in his demeanor. Proudly announcing his new career choices almost made her physically recoil from the man. God, how things have changed.

Finn walked in soon after and looked just as dumbfounded as she probably had. The burst of energy from the room at Kali's announcement set off another wave of chaos, and it seemed to never end as Jack popped out of oblivion. Simone stood from her chair, startled as the air shifted around them. Alizee stormed out, and she couldn't blame her. This was all starting to become a lot.

Simone smelled Eve before she saw her, the scent of cigarettes thick in the air. Goddamn... she thought, her nose crinkling at Eve's condition. She was never good at hiding her emotions. It was one of the things she feared the most about herself. Evoke a strong enough emotion, and the truth would surely show on her face.

Then a massive teddy bear of a man made his arrival, and quickly got them off track, though they had already fallen off course in the span of only a couple minutes. Sloane saved the train from total derailment.

Finally, after witnessing the absolute madhouse of characters, there was a situation that Simone couldn't ignore. "HEY!" she shouted in the direction of Drake, using her low-frequency sonogenesis spell to try and knock him back a couple of feet, at least enough to get him out of swinging distance of Jack. It wouldn't have hurt him, but if successful, he would feel something like a burst of invisible force propelling him backward. Anyone surrounding Drake may feel some of the leftover reverberations in their bodies, but she had practiced the spell enough to be as accurate as possible.

"Can we just... chill the hell out and try to get on the same page about what we're going to do next? I know we're all a little on edge, but we'll never get anywhere going at each other's throats."

That was when Kali and Auri emerged from the room they had scattered off to.

"Maybe we can start by listening to his explanation," she said, motioning her head toward Kali.

The Le Fay Family Home
Sometime in the early evening

Light from the sun was still peaking above the horizon and pouring into Simone's family drawing room, where she sat alone behind an old antique piano with her fingers softly lilting over the keys. Her black waves hung in her face as her eyes closed and her nose wrinkled in concentration, trying to find the chord progression that came in a dream last night. She carefully listened to the reverberations in the notes as the hammers struck the chords, producing a unique tone that only this piano could create. Some of her band's most viral songs had been written over these keys, but some she kept to herself, the only proof of their existence living in a beaten-up notebook she used to record her lyrics.

Her head bobbed up and down as she finally remembered the right notes from her dream that made a beautiful, almost haunting, harmonic chord progression. She played it a few times, letting it inspire her as it echoed throughout the empty room around her. She quietly cleared her throat before opening her mouth and singing the first words that rolled around inside her mind.

"Seek, and you shall find
old ones still hanging on the vine
Some of em' never lost their shine,
others wilted and left far behind
I'm on the line between
heaven and hell
Only time will tell

So, in a moment
just give me a moment
to breathe
Please, give me a moment
just a moment
to breathe

Bulls and crows make their home
In a place where no one knows
What's howling at the moon?
Like ah woo, ah woo, ah woo-"

"Simone, are you gonna play wolf in there forever or are you still goin' to that meeting? Cause you better start gettin' ready if you gonna be there on time. And I didn't make this fuckin' snake shark-coochie board for nothing." Her mother appeared from the archway leading into the kitchen. She licked the tiny silver spoon in her hand clean as she leaned on the old wooden arch. "Ya little friends gonna go crazy for this garlic aioli I put on there. Damn, I'm good." She said, smugly chuckling her way out of the drawing room and back into the kitchen. "But seriously, get ready!"

Simone laughed in amusement and rolled her eyes at her peculiar mother's antics. She was right, though. The light had left the room, and it was nearly time to answer Auri's call. She folded the piano cover over the keys and took a deep breath before heading up to her bedroom to change out of her house clothes and into something more appropriate for the evening. She slipped on a silky midi skirt and layered it in a long black leather overcoat with a low v-neckline embroidered with cream floral accents that flowed down her decolletage. She added a silver belt for an extra cinching of her waist to give her figure a much more flattering shape. She accessorized with silver rings, bracelets, and a pair of earrings in the shape of a Sankofa Adinkra. The Sankofa symbolizes taking lessons learned from the past into your future to build a more successful life. "Se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenkyiri." she whispered to herself in the Twi language as she fastened the backs of the earrings. The Twi language was foreign to her for that one proverb, but she had learned it from studying one of her oldest ancestors who lived in Ghana hundreds of years ago. It translated into, it is not taboo to go back for what you forgot (or left behind). Seemed... fitting for the occasion.

She pulled on some opaque tights for warmth and her black leather heeled boots that went up to the knee which added a few extra inches to her short stature. She left her hair down around her face and snagged a scarf hanging from her door before spraying on a spritz of amber spice perfume on her way down the stairs.

Her mother hummed a familiar tune, one of Simone's songs, when she reached her back in the kitchen. "Listen, I know you're not a child anymore, and I can't tell you what to do, but be careful going back there, Simone. We know how that all ended last time - and we need you. The family needs you to stay safe, okay?" she said with warning eyes, grabbing her daughter with both hands by the shoulders. She enveloped her in a long hug before turning around and thrusting before Simone a saran wrapped wooden board full of meats, fine cheese, crackers, and nuts formed into a slithering snake with olives for eyes. "Now go." She followed her to the door and picked up a bell and a thin piece of metal that was always placed near exits in the house. She hit the bell twice with the metal, and a light chiming noise was emitted from it. It was a comforting sound. Just one of their many traditions. "Love you."

"Love you, too." was all Simone could chirp before leaving to jump in her car in search of Auri's flower shop, deep in thought about this decision. She could turn back at any second, but something embedded inside her told her to go. So, for once, she listened.

Flowers and Canvasses

She sat parked in her car, thumbs tapping on the steering wheel in a simple yet musical pattern. She was always producing music and sounds, even subconsciously. "So... you really about to do this. Yup. Okay. No turning back now." she thought to herself, biting down on her lip almost hard enough to break the surface of her soft lips. She tried to steady her breathing as much as possible, reciting the lyrics she had written earlier that evening. "Just a moment, please give me a moment, to breathe..."

Before she could psych herself out, she hopped out of the car with the charcuterie board and headed inside the flower shop. The sign on the door read closed, but she pushed on it, and it gave to the pressure. Not closed for the meeting... party... or whatever the hell this was supposed to be. Truth be told, she was nervous to see her old Coven. While she didn't grow particularly attached to many of the members due to her maintaining a silent boundary, never revealing too much about herself in fear of exposing the family, there was... one person she was more anxious to see than the others. The interesting bond that Kali and Simone developed over their time in the Coven was one that almost filled her with regret. She divulged too much to him on more than one occasion, and at the battle of the Snake, she basically saved him from entirely losing himself to his abstraction. After leaving the Coven, she disappeared to go on tour and ghosted Kali, even when she felt he probably needed her. Her feelings were complicated. Yes, she felt terrible, but would she have acted differently if given the chance? Probably not.

Simone walked slowly and deliberately through the shop to the meeting space, thoughts spinning. Among the flowers was a butterfly sitting atop her favorite kind. Lilies. She stopped to bring one to her nose to smell the inviting floral scent. It helped her calm down, and she allowed herself to look upon the crowd as she approached the group. She found the table where the food was and unwrapped the charcuterie, placing it among the rest of the snacks. She popped a few pieces of popcorn in her mouth and poured a short cup of water for her to nurse on as she found a seat around the rest of her old Coven members. She made eye contact with Auri and gave her a friendly wave of her fingers in the woman's direction. She seemed busy preparing for the meeting, so Simone let her be for now. She engaged in thoughtless small talk with some of the old members, who felt more like acquaintances after all this time. She was able to catch up with a few of them before Auri started the meeting. She stood as it began, propped against a skinny beam next to everyone, sipping her water silently.

All she could do was smile awkwardly and nod as Auri asked how they were doing. Knowing that Father Wolf had killed some of the members of the Coven filled her with dread. It was why she was here. He could be coming after her next. Selfishly, it was less about feeling bad about them dying and more about ensuring her safety and the security of her lineage. She would never admit that though; if you asked her, she would say the opposite.

Her eyebrows raised when Luca mentioned Britney's name. Among many other contributing factors, Britney was also another reason Simone left the Coven. After finding out the lengths she went to to destroy the Snake, it definitely rubbed her the wrong way. She looked at Luca with an air of concern, a perfect example of Britney's digressions. But she asked herself, would she stay in the group long enough to help Luca? At this point, she felt like she needed to use the group to end Father Wolf's rampage, and that was all. She didn't know if she would stay after that goal was reached, and she could sleep at night knowing he wasn't after her. She was conflicted.

She remembered the lesson of the Sankofa symbols that dangled from her ears. Don't be afraid of the past. We must acknowledge it to move forward successfully... So it was reassuring when Auri admitted to her wrongdoing and promised to do better in the future. She would be surprised if the other more egotistical members did the same. However, at the mention of them being a family, Simone already had one and didn't need another. She needed allies.

Suggestions? Simone had plenty but kept her mouth shut for now. What would be the procedure for choosing leadership among the "family"? Because she had an inkling that the previous leadership left a terribly sour taste in the mouths of other members, too. If this was a collaboration, how would decisions get made in times of uncertainty and conflict? These were things that she felt were pertinent to the conversation, but she did not act upon the thoughts. It was enough that she was here at all. She didn't want to put herself in the spotlight with them to attract undue attention now or ever.

I present Simone Le Fay for your consideration. :)

interested :)
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