Back Among the Living
We're finally clearing,
it's been one hell of a storm,
I don't know what I'm feeling,
but I'm not numb anymore,
After you left me,
I laid down my heart and died inside,
but in the middle of dying,
I found the strength to survive,
now I'm back among the living...
Dana had allowed herself exactly twelve hours to mope in her suite at Heolfor, before luxuriating in her shower for nearly another hour. She left her hair to dry as she carefully selected clothing. Black silk stockings covered her legs, beneath a knee length smoke gray skirt, with a ruffled hem, that she topped with a green silk button down and matching cropped jacket.
The blow dryer finished her hair, and she completed her outfit with a string of pearls, earring and black slingbacks. With a final check of her appearance in the mirror, she left her green cocoon, and went down to the garage. Her car had been retrieved from the airport parking garage some three months ago when she'd remembered it and had made a very brief phone call to Rupert about it.
It had been kept in excellent running condition and the tank was full, something she was sure happened upon her arrival home. It was time to face the piper, so to speak. She couldn't imagine Bao would be please to see her, but she couldn't expect him to talk with her about her absence over the phone. The only solace she'd had about it, was that she'd been between clients when she'd fled to her maker's home.
The little black car slid into a spot in the parking garage and she rode the elevator to the floor of Bao's offices. With a breath she collected herself and stepped through the outer door. The receptionist's desk was empty, but that didn't surprise her, it was after all nearly ten o'clock. Tugging at the hem of her jacket, she took another deep breath and knocked on the closed door of Bao's office. She assumed he was there as the light was on, but she could be standing outside of an empty well lit office.
While he didn't think Mara would need him, not with her recent attachment to Jin, he would like to be available for her. It also meant he might run into Claire, or Jacqueline. Although, that was much less likely. One did not go through all that trouble just to return quickly.
As he entered the office he saw someone waiting outside his door. He blinked, you would never know he was surprised. Realizing it was Dana his expression became even more unreadable. He had been both concerned about her, it seemed unlike her to disappear without warning and irritated with her. There was very little excuse for not advising him she would not be in for some time. He was not unsympathetic, a leave of absence could have easily been arranged. Perhaps this was why he very rarely relied on any one.
"Dana. Good evening. Welcome back to Nachton."
He didn't even bat an eyelash and his tone was nothing but polite and courteous interest giving no clue as to his thoughts.
One could only assume she'd left the city. If she had been in Nachton it was more likely than not that he would be able to find her.
She blinked several times, as she spoke. She'd been standing in front of an empty office and found herself a bit embarrassed, but she didn't reveal the feeling, well except for the faint blush that colored the apples of her cheeks.
"Have you some time for me?"
He had not, however, wished to embarrass her and so made no comment regarding her faint blush.
"Of course, please come in, make your self comfortable."
Leading the way into the office Bao set down his brief case and looked fondly at the painting currently hung in his office. Alba in Nicaragua, Martin Johnson Heade, it was rather Hudson River school meets a tropical landscape. He quite liked it, in some ways it reminded him of home.
Minor organizational chores taken care of he sat down, but on the public side of the desk, with Dana rather than using the desk as a mote. He did extend that much courtesy.
"How may I assist you?"
It was with some relief that she took a seat beside him. He did not have to make her comfortable, and she appreciated that he did.
"I do believe I have some explaining to do."
She crossed her right leg over her left and let her facade of professionalism vanish. It did her no good to keep up the charade, and she felt Bao deserved her complete honesty more than her ability to keep up appearances. The fatigue she felt deep within her dulled her eyes, and her spine bowed with the weight of her loss.
"I received a call in the middle of that day, it was Gerald my Lady's familiar."
Dana had to swallow past her tears, before she could continue. "My creator was murdered, her room set afire. I lost myself, and left only a note for Amir. I arrived to find a completely empty manor, a dead familiar, and a single room, it's contents nearly burned to ash."
She let herself slump into the chair. "I should have called, or written, or...something. For the dereliction of my work for you, I do apologize."
He waited patiently as she rather melted. Apparently what ever had called her away had taken its toll. As she told her story his eyebrows rose, but only just. He did understand, at least some of what she was saying, on a gut level. Should he find Amir had been murdered he would not react terribly logically. Of course, Dana couldn't know how close she had touched on his own worries of the moment. It was going to be a very long month.
"I am sorry for your lose. I'm sure it was quite a shock to you. Do you require any aid?"
Obviously he would be able to assist with property transfer and financial details. Bao inclined his head acknowledging and accepting the apology. He hadn't decided how he personally would react to her absence.
"Has the person or reason for her passing been discovered?"
A half hearted chuckle found its way up, but was quickly lost in her next breath.
"No, and that is what kept me in Ireland so long. From what I can piece together from my conversation with Gerald and the lunatic letter he left for me before taking his own life, Sebastian, a good friend/lover/confidant of Lady Erin's had been with her for several weeks prior, but was long gone by the time Gerald returned home.
He had been sent to Dublin to retrieve some coveted doo-dad for Lady Erin, and returned to find her room in ashes. He had become quite ill on his return trip, how ill and what symptoms I can only guess, but I speculate it was his reaction to their bond being severed. I didn't know a familiar could survive such a thing.
Regardless, I could not get a hold of Sebastian myself, I even flew to his home in Spain, then traveled by car back through France to visit his home there, before returning to Ireland. He was no where. My speculation is that he either died with Lady Erin, or killed her, or is in the hands of whomever did."
Her breath died on the last words, and she let tears she didn't know she had anymore fall from her eyes. "If the first is true his ashes are with Lady Erin and Gerald beneath the clover, under the oak, behind the manor. As to the others..." She shrugged with more of a twist of her shoulders than a lifting.
Shaking fingers rose to wipe the tears from her cheeks. "To be honest, I am not sure I want to know, except that I fear for my own safety. Thus my second exodus from Ireland."
That was his only answer. At least she had the presence of mind to handle details like that rather than falling apart into a sobbing mess.
He only raised an eyebrow at what she said regarding the rest. In his experience familiars could survive quite a lot, Bao had his share of them over the years and some he simply let the bond fade when they were no longer needed. To Bao's mind it was in poor taste for the familiar to kill himself without orders. Of course, there could be extenuating circumstances to this particular familiar bond he did not know about.
"A familiar can survive just about anything. Including the death of their vampire. I suspect there is more to what happen to him than just her passing."
Truthfully he was more concerned with her lack of knowledge regarding this Sebastian and what happened to her maker. Bao did try and make allowances for difference in temperament but could not comprehend -not- perusing his maker's killer at all costs and until they were taken care of. And what exactly did Dana mean she feared for her life? Perhaps this was tied to the killings Jin and been discussing.
Ah, tears, certainly she was upset. Bao excused himself to the receptionist's desk and retrieved a box of tissues offering them to Dana.
"Why would you fear for your safety? Do you have any idea why she was killed?"
He asked evenly. She couldn't just let something like that drop. Running never solved anything.
This was not something she had ever experienced before. "No I do not. I talked with every servant I could find, every delivery man, every merchant, every person I could think of. I gathered little about the last two days of Lady Erin's life. She'd had a visit from some person in a dark sedan, no one knew the numbers on his plate. Gerald had been sent away before he arrived, and the servants were dismissed for their monthly night off from the manor shortly after he arrived.
Lady Erin answered the door and no one saw anything but his back. The one servant that saw his face is the one I couldn't find."
She dabbed at the threatening tears again, and sighed softly. "Just after I sold our property in South France I received a short missive warning me to leave while I still could. I dismissed it as hoax, and continued my cleaning of the manor. I'd had a contract company come in and repair the damaged room. Just after that was complete, the cabin in Cork sold and I received another letter.
I kept this one, and took it to the village policeman, who was a friend to Lady Erin, and he did all the lovely police things with it, but found nothing, beyond the postmark from Dublin to indicate its origin."
She blew out a breath and recrossed her legs, her agitation evident in her inability to sit still. "So, I finished getting the manor back up to living standards and gave its selling over to our solicitor and flew back to Nachton."
Her leg flicked once, and she smoothed her still impeccable hair.
"No one knows Lady Erin is dead, I gave them all the impression she wished a change from Ireland and had run away to South France. It might not stand the test of time, but it was the best I could do, paper trail wise with my limited resources and time."
The notes especially perplexed him. It seemed to indicate at least one person knew what was going on and attempting to undermine the other. There was a built in weak link, you just had to find it. If the post mark had been Dublin you already had a starting point.
He watched her breathing, her crossing and recrossing her legs and the threat of tears again and decided that Dana was still considerably upset by this. Understandable. Perhaps, in fact it was likely, that she was not thinking terribly clearly.
"That can be corrected easily enough now."
Bao stated calmly. He could finish the job she had started. Although he didn't understand why she wished to conceal the woman's death.
"What do you plan to do now? Have you received any additional correspondence?"
Dana pulled out a small black purse, that she'd tucked between hip and chair and removed a small square envelope. With a small sigh she offered the thing to Bao. She knew he would find a half sheet of thick paper with "You need to stop looking, get out while you can." written in precise block print with a felt tip pen across the very center of the page so that the fold creased the words.
"I admit that I have made no plans beyond getting home. I would like to get back to work, but I have no delusions I would be operating at one hundred percent."
Her restless hand pushed through her hair and she sighed. "I feel lost Bao. I thought I had said goodbye to Lady Erin when she confirmed my suspicions of her reasons behind creating me and keeping me hidden from the world for so long. I was angry with her, but in the back of my mind I knew she was there. I am having trouble living in a world where she no longer walks, and I let myself get caught up in the busy-ness of erasing her death."
Tears fell again and made her feel stupid along with everything else. It was unfortunate for Bao that he was the first person she'd spoken to of this whole mess, and he would have to take the brunt of it.
"I know I could have done a better job looking for her killer, of tracing the little bit of evidence I had. I could have gone to Dublin. I just... I wanted... Oh, Bao I was frightened. I can protect myself, you've taught me how, but he killed Lady Erin. She had abilities at her disposal that should have prevented such things.
I'm more of a hide and pounce kind of girl and what could I do against a person strong enough to not only kill my creator, but possibly Sebastian? How do you kill a vampire killer?"
Her voice cracked a little and she pushed at her hair again. "I know I should have called you or Amir or hell even Mara but I can't change that I didn't."
She ran out of steam them and blew out a breath. She was falling apart again and that didn't help anyone or anything, but it was there and now all she could do was work to reign it back in, and she began with small even breaths.
"May I keep this?"
He wouldn't offer now, but he would keep it in a safe her in his office. When she was ready he would offer to track the sender for Dana. Hopefully there would be something left to follow, although the distance might be a challenge. He didn't wish to get her hopes up. But it would be an option. If she were so inclined or needed something to keep her occupied Mara might be a better choice, being older and more practiced she might have more luck.
"No you are not."
Bao said with a certain softness to his voice, although his face remained impassive. It wasn't said cruelly, only truthfully.
"I think perhaps you need to spend some time... adjusting to what has happened before you leap back into anything."
And of course that would give him time to decide if he was willing to risk her disappearing again. Forgiveness was not always something Bao excelled at, especially when it came to his work and he hadn't had time to sort out how he felt about her lack of communication and extended absence or weigh in the extenuating circumstances.
"We are not invulnerable any one can meet an unfortunate or unexpected end for any number of reasons. This goes for her killer, or killers, as well. They are not invincible You cannot be afraid, only aware."
She had to see that. He also was not so quite to judge, it might not be that this killer should be eliminated.
As she understood she had made an error by not contacting some one for help he did not belabor that point, only nodded calmly in agreement.
"First, it would be helpful if we understood why she was killed, if this Sebastian was, and why they felt the need to threaten you. As you have done what they suggested it hopeful they will not have followed you."
But there was no guarantee of that. And, on a gut level, Bao suspected this Sebastian of being the killer. He would be trusted by Dana's creator and could easily get around defenses easier, her guard would be down, far too many things made him a likely suspect. But there was no point in casting judgment without evidence.
She gave him another long slow blink.
"I don't disagree, but I also don't know how. I've never lost anyone before, not really, humans come and go, but one doesn't get as attached to them as to one's maker. I've not given myself a chance to process, unless you count the wee hours of the morning when I deluded myself into sleep, but I don't. Count them that is."
Dana was very aware, but fear was as natural to her as breathing. She'd lived with it her entire life, both before becoming a vampire and after. It was the easy emotion. Not being afraid was so much more difficult and so much less comforting. She'd tell Bao none of this, and so did not comment, only skipped ahead to cling to his next words.
"I can't begin to fathom why she was killed. Gerald's letter was the ranting of a mad man. I have that with me as well if you wish to see it. And all of her household said nothing seemed amiss in the recent past. Not Lady Erin's behavior nor Sebastian's nor Gerald's. Everything was...copacetic. They seemed tucked securely in the same idyll that has entertained Lady Erin for decades."
A soft sigh lifted her shoulders. "The only anomaly is the man in the sedan. And if anyone knows something, there are keeping it well hidden."
She thought back over her return to Nachton. "I do not think I was followed, but neither did I announce my travel plans nor keep them hidden. I quite simply left as soon as was possible."
Something occurred to her. "I only received those letters when a portion of our property was sold. I wonder if, when the manor sells, I will get another."
"It is different for everyone, and every time. Give yourself time."
He nodded. Yes he would like to see that letter. While Bao wasn't dismissing this sedan of hers, he refused to become obsessed by it. There were far too many legitimate reasons and it was so nondescript as to be easily forgettable.
It bothered him that she wished to keep her maker's death hidden and yet was selling so much property. For starters, property was valuable and she should have kept it even if she never set foot there again. But beyond that it was an abnormality and would easily point out something had changed within the house hold.
"Have you considered not selling the property? It could be rented out or at least staffed and maintained."
Oh, right the letters. She opened her purse again and pulled out a small stack of papers. "The plain sheets of printer paper are Gerald's letter, an oddity itself, he was a traditionalist, preferred thick vellum for writing missives. Ah, the blue lined papers are the names, addresses and phone numbers of her household staff, and the yellow pages are my notes, such as they are."
She might as well give it all to him, instead of offering it a piece at a time, easier that way.
He was asking a lot of questions that required slow blinks. Well at least today they were. "No, Lady Erin requested I do so, with one third of the proceeds going to me, another third to the people of her employ and the final third to Anantya. I am breaking one request and giving my third to the staff. I've no need of it."
A couple of things occurred to her and she addressed them one at a time. "I've my own properties. I own the ruined castle of the man who owned me before Lady Erin rescued me, it's one of those touristy trap places complete with a Bed and Breakfast on the grounds. I own a villa in France, currently occupied by an eccentric artist, and several industrial properties in Dublin and London, and before all this happened I was looking to acquire property here in Nachton."
And as to the second. "I've kept her death from the small village below the castle because they loved her very much and I didn't want to deal with their grief. It is weak and cowardly of me, I know, and I plan to send word of her death soon, just not the truth of it."
Dana leaned back in her chair and pulled her knees to her chest, pushing her shoes off in the process. The cut of her skirt kept it tight against her legs, so she wasn't showing more than she should, just losing what was left of the professional facade she'd brought with her. And she asked the question she'd been avoiding, because it scared her the most.
"Bao, where is Amir? He didn't answer his phone. Not that I have much right to expect him to, but..."
She trailed off and gave her questioning gaze to her friend.
((ooc- Dana misdialed Amir and didn't have the heart to try again.))
Even more oddities and lose ends. Bao rather wanted to beat his head against the desk. This was a terrible mess. At least she had information and details even if she hadn't known to or how to run them down. It was a start. He'd add everything into his schedule and run some of it down later. He might set one of his assistants on it.
Ah, so that was why she was keeping things quiet. He could accept that, at least it wasn't some foolish attempt to delude the attackers. Certainly, they would already know she was dead.
He cocked his head at her, slightly curious as she apparently retreated further from this reality. For a moment he tried to think how to make this easier for her. But there was no simple answer and to Bao's mind that honesty was more comforting than all the sweet words in the world.
Finally, they reached the topic of his father. Bao was seeing to it that Amir's calls were handled, so if the phone hadn't been answered she had misdialed. However, Bao saw no reason she should be informed other wise.
"He is currently extremely busy on clan business. I am happy to assist you however I may. Although," he amended with the barest ghost of a smile softening his expression "I may not be of much help in personal matters but I will of course do my best."
If Amir had wished Dana to know where he was or what he was doing he either would have told her or arranged to have appropriate details given to her. Cha may not have wanted his help with the assignment, but this sort of thing Bao was certain Amir would have given him some authority on... if he had wanted.
She was relieved when Bao told her Amir was on a...mission? Assignment? Whatever it was. She had fully expected the unanswered rings to mean he simply wanted nothing else to do with her, she was after all completely unreliable now. And that still might be the case, but for now, in her head, he simply could not make time for personal calls.
She would text him later, not as invasive that way, and he could call when it was convenient for him. With that settled in her head somewhat she offered Bao a small smile. "Thank you, Bao."
A few long blinks followed and she sat up, slipping her feet into her shoes. "I should... I should probably go. You've been very generous with your time and patience. Thank you for your help, and for letting me well.." She made a gesture with her hand to indicate the last little while where she'd cried and apologized and admitted weakness and showed him a side of herself she would have rather not have.
Standing she slipped the strap of her purse over her shoulder, and suddenly felt very awkward. She looked down at ther toes, the back up and Bao and bit her lower lip. She wanted, no needed really, a hug and had no recollection of engaging in such with Bao and did not know how to ask. Well, yes she did but it felt silly to say Bao can I have a hug please.
Momentarily he wondered how long she would wait before trying to contact Amir again, how she would react if she knew how long he was likely to be gone. Of course, with any luck she would come to him again if she could not reach Amir.
Manners dictated that he should rise with her. For Bao manners were never forced, they were as natural as breathing (or not breathing) he didn't even thing about it. He easily, casually, and yet politely shook off her thanks.
"It is never any trouble, and good to know you are safe. If there is something more I can do please let me know."
She looked rather delicate, hesitant and as if she had something else to say. He wouldn't pry though, she would speak when ready, that was his usual theory and it often proved correct.
She hesitated a moment more before sighing softly, and closed the distance between them. Dana rested her cheek on his chest, placing one hand beside her face and the other down by her side. She was seeking nothing more than a bit of comfort and physical contact. She would apologize for taking such a liberty later, as that was so much more easy than asking for what she needed.
((ooc permission wasn't given to touch, and I can change it if needed. ))
Honestly Bao wasn't even sure this was appropriate given Amir's relationship with her, but it was also a harmless gesture.
"It will work out. It may take time but it will be OK."
One just occasionally had to change their definition of OK. Dana was going to have to adjust to a reality without her creator. Of course, Bao wasn't sure he would be able to do so. No, if Amir were taken from him there would be hell to pay.
She nodded and sighed softly. She wasn't sure it would be okay, but life would go on and so would she. After a moment she stepped back from Bao and offered him another small smile.
"Thank you, Bao, for everything. I'll...I'll call you in a couple of days, alright?"
She pushed her hand through her hair, the carefully combed locks now in a bit of disarray. She gave Bao an awkward little bow and waved before retreating from his office to the hallway, stopping only to wait on the elevator.
((ooc Dana out pending response.))