Lachlan walked towards his office feeling tired, but the rush of victory coursing through him would not allow him to rest. Seeing no way around it he went into the compound to get at least started on the work that had no doubt piled up on his desk while he was away. When he’d first taken the position of Ash it had been to help prepare the Fae for the fight against his enemy the Garuda, he had never intended to live beyond that fight and now he was stuck as a politician for years to come. He could resign from his post but not until after he had made a big enough splash that he could leave without disgrace, he would never allow the world at large to believe he was unfit for the job, no matter how much the job annoyed him.
His head of security Ruby was waiting for him as he approached the doors, never a good sign.
“Ruby, has something happened while I was away?” Normally she would say yes then look at him in smug satisfaction while detailing how she had handled it herself and tell him there was no need to worry. There was no smugness this time, only exasperation and frustration, so it had to be an ongoing problem.
“Yes sir, Doctor Lewis was detained when she was found in your office. She is one of the lower cells awaiting your judgment.” Annoying, but not enough to ruffle Ruby’s professional feathers.
“Anything else?” They had all known the good doctor would step out of line again in the near future; it was just a matter of when and how. Coming to his office was a rather tame version of all the scenarios they had each imagined since she’d been loaned to the Dark.
“Yes sir, the Santiago heir came by once news of her detainment reached him and said he had some information pertaining to her actions that would be worth hearing. He refused to explain his information to me so I cannot give you an overview, I apologize.”
“It’s fine, it seems like I’ll need to set a few meetings on the calendar for tomorrow. See to it that I have adequate security for when I leave the compound.” Even though it rankled to have to bring a group with him wherever he went he found it was easier to work with his security detail than against them. While he was used to keeping himself safe he could compromise when he needed to, as the Ash he had an image to maintain after all.
“Dismissed.” The next day was set to be a long one, so he decided to start with the Siren. The heir to the Santiago family was known to be a bit of a reformist and a rabble rouser on occasion but he held respect for the old ways. He would do his best to not waste his time, unlike most.
Tracking him down in the early hours proved to be fairly easy, after finding him at the police station he was positioned in he allowed the younger man to lead him to a private area and gave no sign of his authority over him, the last thing they needed was for any of the humans to start looking too closely.
“Ash.” His tone was respectful, holding only a hint of true defiance. He was of the elite, even if he was a rebellious member, bowing to the authority of another would grate on him. Most over a certain power level only ever showed the most basic level of civility and due respect but it was all he asked of them. He had no need to make them debase themselves by demanding his due, it would only make a powerful enemy out of a once neutral ally.
“Santiago heir, I hear you have information for me.”
“Yes sir.” Short and to the point, he only wished others were so concise. Now however it was like pulling teeth to get the man to speak. He was like a spooked animal remaining still to avoid notice.
“Let’s start with how you managed to hear about the detainment of my wayward doctor when you do not work out of my compound and have no connection to my security team.” That was what had rankled Ruby so much, she thought she had a security leak and she couldn’t find it.
“Bo told me. She assumed I had something to do with Doctor Lewis being caught and came here to vent her anger.” Bo? How would she have known? He thought about it before coming to the obvious conclusion, people didn’t usually watch their words around the woman either because of her beauty or since she hadn’t chosen a side yet she was seen as being on the same side as whoever she was speaking to. He would have to do something about that soon, but for now he had other problems to deal with.
“Why would she assume that?” Hale was one of the ragtag group that the woman often aligned herself with. Why would she suspect him, and suspect him first by all accounts.
“Because I had previously tried to talk her and Doctor Lewis out of trying to find Dyson and Kenzi. Unsuccessfully.” Now he looked down, biting his lower lip in an act of self contrition, he was ashamed that he had failed. He should be.
“Obviously. So you knew they were planning to break into my office and you took no steps to warn my security team?” If he had come to them before the act Ruby would have mentioned it, if she hadn’t detained him as a possible co-conspirator.
“When this whole mess started all I knew about was their end goal, not how they were planning to go about it. Telling your security then would have wasted everyone’s time.” True, Ruby could have assigned someone to keep an eye on the woman but once she crossed the lines into any Dark territory she would lose them. They may have tightened security as a precaution but that would have only ended the same as it already did, with the capture of doctor Lewis.
“Who told you about that?” In the moment that may have sounded like a good enough excuse to not come to his people, but they both knew it wasn’t. Even if he only knew that much it was enough of a reason to go to them. He would have to think of a suitable lesson for the boy later so this didn’t happen again.
“Vex.” He felt his brows climb at the unexpected answer. He knew that Vex was an on again and off again ally for many, it was why he’d agreed to allow him the use of his doctor. He hadn’t however thought him enough of an ally to cross lines for something like this.
“Why did the mesmer come to you?”
“Everyone else was gone, sir. He wanted to stay in our good books but he didn’t want to lose too much in the exchange so he wanted to talk to someone he thought could give him the best edge when this all shook out.” Maybe he would let that small lesson in humility be enough of a lesson for him. To be the choice of last resort for the mesmer would be humbling all on its own.
“What was your plan to stop them, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Since I didn’t know what they were planning, I had Vex keeping an eye on them and listening to their planning sessions. When we realised they were spinning their wheels we had a few of the Fae that worked in the bar gossip about you being gone where Lauren could overhear them. After that we sat back and waited for them to take the obvious bait. We figured that they would trip the security in the compound no matter how they went about it and I didn’t want to go too deep into Light Fae business with Vex as my only ally at the time. If they still hadn’t made a move by the time you came back we would have shifted to plan B and told you everything so you could handle it how you saw fit.” Since his plan, or at least the one he was admitting to, involved telling him at some point he was willing to let this lapse go for now. He had done the best he could while backed into a corner by the succubus, something he was intimately familiar with himself.
“Very well.” Getting up he walked out without another word. He had a busy day ahead of him and the Siren no longer served any purpose to it.
He had a mesmer to parlay with.
Vex was not a stupid man, no one could make it as far up the hierarchy of the dark side doing stupid things. So when his secretary announced the leader of the Light had come by to have a bit of a chat he didn’t waste any time at all letting him in. He even tried his hardest to be on his best behavior, this little meeting had the potential to go very well for him. Games were all well and good, but there was a time and a place for such things.
“Well, well, well this is a nice little surprise. What brings you by?” He knew that by now the Ash knew at least a bit of what he and Hale had been up to with the doctor lady, word had already leaked about her new accommodations. Now it was just a matter of feeling out his mood, was he happy that they had at least tried to step in or did he feel they had fallen short of the mark. Either way there wasn’t much he could do to him, he would just have to satisfy himself with the Siren as whipping boy if that was the way this was spinning.
“I heard you were very helpful during my absence. You kept a very close eye on our tempestuous doctor.” The opening gambit was friendly, but they always were. You can’t stab someone in the back until you get them to turn for you.
“Of course I did. Poor little dear thought she was here to spy on me, I had to keep her in my sights to make sure she didn’t stumble over the wrong threshold.” The last thing any of them needed was the doc getting eaten or whatnot while in his custody. That would have been beyond embarrassing.
“Humans can be so very ill informed.”
“That they can.” They both knew it for the surface lie it was. Lauren had likely been told to look around as much as she could, but a spy that both sides knew was a spy wasn’t really much good now was it. This had all been a test, now it was time to see who passed and who failed.
“The Santiago heir told me that you and he worked out a bit of a deal with one another in regards to the good doctor.”
“That we did.” He waited a beat for the Naga to pick up the thread of the conversation but he simply sat back and kept his silence. “He gave me his word that if I kept a sharp eye on the doc and her super charged Bo then when it all shook out I would get a bit of a surprise in me stocking from good old Saint Lachlan.”
Normally he would offer to sit in his lap after a line like that, but now wasn’t the time to push it. Maybe later.
“Did you have any particular present in mind or did you want me to choose for you?”
“Dealer’s choice.” Either way had its highs and its pitfalls, if he named something he risked short changing himself or driving himself out of the bargain entirely. Best to let the chips just fall where they would and see where everything was after the fact.
“Very well, come by the Dal at noon tomorrow and we’ll discuss terms.”
“Deal.” Watching that tight ass sway out of his office he sat back and basked in the glory of being him. Sometimes like could be grand.
Lauren was waiting in the holding cell, holding herself together with both hands. She was so scared she couldn’t think straight and that was something that had never happened to her before. When things went wrong her mind was the one thing she could always rely on but now it was just blank.
She knew she was in trouble but she didn’t know what was going to happen now, she had never been this deep down before and no other human she had ever met had ever been given so many chances before the hammer came down. She was so screwed. She should have listened to Hale, but she’d been so blinded by Bo and her desperation to find Kenzi and her own desire to make things right after how she messed things up between the two of them before by running her mouth. She should have kept her head down and done what she was told!
Hearing the slat in her door slide open she looked up expecting to see Ruby again but was startled by the masculine face staring at her.
He was back from wherever he had been and he knew what she had done. She felt her body begin to shake as tears pooled in her eyes. The last time she’d been relegated down here by him she’d been able to hold onto her anger enough to keep everything else at bay, this time fear was ruling her emotions. She felt herself start to slide off the bed and towards the floor without any real plans to move, she was still trembling as her knees found the hard concrete. Kneeling facing the door she bowed her head and begged the Ash for mercy, an emotion she knew he wasn’t moved to often.
“Please let me out.” She couldn’t stay here, it was so isolated and cold she wouldn’t survive here alone.
“Why would I do that? You’ve broken my rules repeatedly, you are where you belong.”
She had no defense she could make, even blaming Bo wouldn’t help her now. Not only did everyone already guess at Bo’s involvement, but Bo was unaligned. She was a human of the Light Fae, she had broken faith with the Ash, she was the one in danger here not Bo.
She wanted to castigate herself for even thinking about giving her lover up in exchange for her freedom but the cold of the cement had already started to seep through her clothes and deep into her skin and she couldn’t find it in herself to feel sorry. Bo had been the one to push her to this point!
“You will stay here until I have the time to deal with you.” The sound of the slat slamming closed echoed against the walls until she put her hands over her ears to drown it out.
There was no answer.
Trick was just finishing getting things back where they belonged after his short time away. His people did love to move things around in the name of efficiency when he was gone. He always had to move it all back when he returned. Things were the way they were for a reason, and some traditions were best left alone. This generation needed to understand that, and one day hopefully they would. Seeing Lachlan march towards him with a frown on his face was enough to make him pause and try to guess at what could have happened in the less than a day they had been back to make him so angry.
It had to be Bo. He loved his granddaughter but she had a way of getting under the skin of every Fae she came across. The previous Ash and Evony had been in agreement nearly from the beginning that she was trouble, and as much as he hated to admit it they weren’t wrong. He tried to help steer her towards an easier path, but he had made the mistake of trying to control her mother and he was trying to be more relaxed with her. He wanted Bo to make her own life choices, but some days it was a hard promise to keep to himself.
“What happened?” They hadn’t been gone long, she couldn’t have done much damage.
“While we were having our little sojourn in the woods the succubus talked her doctor lover into breaking into my office to try and find the location we sent Dyson and Kenzi to. Apparently she thinks she should be the one to decide when they return to civilization, or maybe she just wanted to join them at the cabin. That part wasn’t clear.”
He knew that the consequences for their actions would fall mostly on Lauren as the claimed human of the two, it wasn’t fair but it was the way things were. Bo would be a trickier mess to fix. Since she was unaligned technically her attempt to gain access to the Ash’s inner office could be seen either way, as a breach and thus a punishable offense which would automatically declare Bo as Dark no matter what she wanted. Or as a simple misunderstanding on her part having been human raised, where Bo would suffer no lasting consequences beyond the humiliation of the facts becoming public gossip.
“What have you decided?” If Lachlan sought retribution he would do his best to mitigate the damage, but he wouldn’t be able to do much and what little he could do he knew wouldn’t be seen as nearly enough in his granddaughter’s eyes.
“Hale and Vex worked against them to what could be claimed to be the best of their ability so I’ve told the Mesmer to meet me here tomorrow to talk compensation. The doctor has been locked away until I can give her fate the proper thought, and Bo I am leaving to you.”
“Me?” While he would be pleased to be in charge of her punishment, giving him the necessary control to help her he knew better than to trust such a kind offer.
“Yes I am calling in that favor you owe me.” Lachlan looked smug as he leaned forward with a look of near manic glee in his eyes.
“We were both there, you heard Dyson admit to his feelings just as I did. You lost the bet Trick and I’m calling in my favor. Deal with Bo.” Now Trick understood his game, he wasn’t handing over the punishment for this one offense he was putting Bo onto Trick permanently. As long as Bo committed no capital crime where her execution would need to be ordered he would be the one in charge of reining her in. A task he wasn’t sure anyone besides Kenzi would have any success with.
“Are you trying to welsh?” The words alone were a slight against his honor, he had never gone back on his word in his life and he would not start now. He would deal with Bo as requested.
“Good I would hate to lose my good opinion of you over something so trivial.”
“Trivial my foot.” If Bo continued to go against convention and make waves then whatever punishment she earned would be handed down to him as her new unofficial keeper. He would then have the option of handing that punishment down to Bo herself or absorbing it himself. This was not a kindness done to him, but he understood why Lachlan felt he had to do it; he might have done the same in his place.
“Ta ta for now old friend. I have so much to do being the Ash.”