Out of Rehab (attn: Bao)
Amir sat on the side of Bao's desk in his upstairs office, swinging his feet idly and letting his heels tap-tap gently against the desk, something he knew would grate on Bao's nerves even if his middle child decided not to show it. He did it with an amused half-smile, however, making it plain that he was looking for a reaction.
He was pretty sure most of th people who knew Bao assumed Amir was his son, or nephew, or friend's son, or something of that nature. The irony generally amused them both. Amir waited for Bao, thinking of possible reasons for his having been gone for a few months.
Juvenile prison. Boot camp. Oh, rehab. He was hooked on drugs. Totally.
Amir rolled his eyes upward thoughtfully; it could happen. If tigers and kittens could be considered drugs. Surely Jin's blood counted as an illegal substance or something, even without being turned into one. He'd have to consider it.
His work with the group of scientists at the lab had taken quite the frustrating turn. The she wolf that he had his commands on, the Arch's curator, had somehow managed to make it known that she was being controlled. Not by who, or why, which kept it from being a total disaster but it was still a mess. She was their source of fresh blood samples; where else did one get a supply of werewolf blood to study but from a werewolf after all. And, more importantly, she was supposed to be finding a way to retrieve their missing data. Bao, however, had been forced to put that assignment on hold as he tried to assess how much damage had been done and how much he was willing to risk to continue to use her now that she had alerted her pack something was wrong.
It was inconceivable and infuriating she had managed to call for help and as a result a great deal was on hold.
And then there was the matter of his father. Bao was immensely relieved to have Amir back. Immensely. He would not have known how to proceed without his creator. Yet, at the same time Bao was a bit, which was to say he was uncertain about a great deal. He was still convinced he had been less than useless in the rescue effort and even more so in Amir's recovery. It was, perhaps in some ways, a worse fate to be unneeded by his creator than to have lost him. But with stubborn pride and extreme loyalty Bao swallowed those doubts and refused to show them. He hid them behind his naturally stoic demeanor.
This, however, did not mean that Bao didn't -almost- smile at Amir attempting to goad some sort of response from him by letting his heels beat against the desk and by refusing to use one of the perfectly good chairs. Some games were comforting even when nothing else seemed to be going right.
"Cha, it is an antique. Could I persuade you to put fingerprints on the window instead?"
It was said with faint irritation, although undoubtedly Amir would see the underlying amusement. He doubted anyone else would, well perhaps one or two others.
Amir took a great deal of comfort from normalcy these nights. He found himself seeking out things that looked normal and felt normal. However, that inevitably led to his wondering if they were 'his' normal or Subira's. Tonight, he particularly wanted Bao's company. He had avoided Bao a little bit in the past few weeks because he wanted to sort his thoughts out before addressing what he meant to, and he suspected he wouldn't have been able to do so in Bao's presence.
Amir flopped backward onto Bao's desk, ignoring the stack of papers that was now jammed into his lower back. Ah, he could almost hear the cringing.
"How do you manage this job? It's so... boring. Aside from the nice view, all the bloodshed is verbal and written. Not nearly so satisfying."
He lifted his head enough to raise one eyebrow at Bao. It wasn't the first time he'd asked that question. The answer wasn't always the same, either.
"Something to remember you by until you grace me with your presence again?"
Bao said his voice completely serious with out any sarcasm or humor. But that was because there was a grain of truth in the statement. He had noted Amir's absence and wasn't sure what to make of it. But he would never in a million years comment on it. It wasn't for him to question his creator's motives here. Things had been different since Mara and Jin and brought Amir home.
That, was just it wasn't it, Mara and Jin. Bao didn't fit any longer. Not that he wanted to have a physical relationship with Amir nor did he begrudge him the comfort of either Jin or Mara. In some ways he was quite happy for them, but at the same time he no longer understood the dynamics of his family. It did not help matters that he was fairly certain Jin did not like him. After all, every meeting he'd had with the man had been awkward to say the least.
Any further dwelling on the matter he'd intended was cut short by Amir. Bao slowly closed his eyes and stopped moving and breathing. He did need those. For tomorrow. With any luck they were not creased and would stay in order. After a moment he pretended not to notice, but did save his work and turn to give Amir his full attention.
"But it is less damaging to the suit. You do have to admit that."
Bao paused though to consider the question and all the answers he had given before. It often depended on his mood, and tonight was no different.
"The results are not so immediate but they are satisfying and when my skills are needed, there is no one better. I think the excitement of your job might be too much for me."
He almost chuckled out loud as he noticed Bao's reaction to the change in positions. Ah, outright panic. Amir had never caused any harm to anything of Bao's, his papers included. He could feel them beneath his muscles, still just fine. He flexed his abs, rising to a sitting position and glancing behind him at the perfect pile of paperwork.
"Ye of little faith," he said, narrowing his eyes at Bao, who had not uttered a word.
He pinned his dark gaze on Bao. "You do still have faith, do you not? Has anything else struck you as being too much for you lately, Bao?"
Subtlety didn't always get you far with Bao. Sometimes you had to pin him down and let him writhe, or else he would continue to slip from side to side and avoid giving you answers. Oh yes, he knew Bao.
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees casually, although his face was anything but. He searched Bao's expression. Amir knew Bao was a loyal son. He always had been. Amir would trust him with anything he trusted Mara with. But Bao was having some difficulty adjusting to the way things were now. Bao had only ever truly known Amir as Subira's toy.
Away from Subira, Amir could be much, much more dangerous in his own way. He needed to know where his family stood, and Bao had always been foremost in that family.
After looking deeply into Bao's eyes for a moment Amir reached out and placed a hand gently on top of Bao's head.
"I was the one who turned you, Bao. Not she."
"Ah well then I shall look forward to having them replaced often.â€
For the finger prints were a recurring feature of Amir's visits to his office. A fringe benefit if you will. In a peculiar way, Bao appreciated them.
Perhaps his faith had been in short supply of late Bao considered as Amir sat back up revealing absolutely no damage to the documents he'd lay on. It was hard to have everything you'd known for centuries be shaken. Did this go all the way to the roots, to the foundation of what he knew to be true. Had a branch been trimmed from the tree? Had a new branch sprung up from the truck? Was it both?
While Amir had asked a very direct question, Bao could not find an equally direct answer.
"The law doesn't often require faith, nor does it change quickly cha. It does its best to address new realities as they become relevant but it can take time to take into account all the nuances of those realities.â€
So much had changed, yet not changed, Bao knew he was withdrawing slightly, subtlety, from his father and sister. He did not wish to be in the way and felt it might be best if Amir wasn't distracted as he found himself again. Bao had gone so far as to rationalize that he himself might be a painful memory, a product of Subira's wishes rather than Amir's choice.
Apparently his father had considered that. Quietly, without so much as blinking Bao held Amir's gaze looking either for confirmation of Amir's words or evidence that he was being placated. It might have been his imagination but Amir's eyes seemed clearer, more focused. While the minor and mild display of affection was a surprise it did reassure Bao some what, this was his father. Perhaps Bao had tiny bit of faith left.
"That means a great deal and how it should be. For it is not she that I answer to.â€
Bao's loyalty had never been with Subira for all she was Amir's creator. He believed in those goals that their work with all his heart and soul but he answered only to his creator and that would continue to be the case, so long as Amir would have him. He could only hope that Amir understood that.
Leave it to Bao to equate family and law. Amir knew he had a rigid set of beliefs. But Bao liked to view things in black and white, without seeing the various shades of grey. That was why law suited him; it was either right or it was wrong. Amir had been there for a long time. Now, however, he was seeing the true nuances in the world around them and he hated to leave Bao stuck.
He smiled at Bao, moving his hand away but not leaning back. "You aren't the law Bao."
Amir tilted his head at the vampire he had created the same way as all the rest; three hundred years of teaching, and then you may find your own way. Bao had never really gone away. Oh, of course he'd done his own thing but he'd never really been too far from Amir, like Mara. Compassion wasn't always Amir's forte but he knew Bao was feeling the differences that Subira's absence had caused.
"Change happens to us all. You know what happens to the tree that can't bend with the wind."
Amir could think of no better way to make his point. Bao had to bend, or he would break. One couldn't live a life so rigid that they never learned to cope with change. Amir had changed and Bao must change with him. Their family was changing, too, and Amir would not apologize for that. Jin would be remaining; Amir had done very little over the centuries for his own peace of mind and sanity. Jin's company, his affection, was important to Amir as much as Mara's were.
Perhaps the intense body language should have bothered him, certainly it would unsettle others, but Bao wasn't overly bothered by his creator leaning forward as he was. It wasn't comfortable necessarily but it also did not allow for him to retreat.
"A tree, an old tree often shelter from the elements, protection for more 'delicate' plants." He -almost- smiled aware of the irony there. Neither Amir, nor Mara nor Jin was exactly delicate. "But as the tree ages often branches have to be removed to allow the tree to whether storms and continue to flourish."
At least Amir had survived, he would continue to flourish, even if it should remove him from the picture. While it wasn't what Bao wanted, that is how he justified things. There was no malice in the matter either, to Bao's way of thinking Amir's survival and recovery was far more important than anything that he might feel.
Finally he allowed some of his doubt and uncertainty to show, it was only a shadow, a flicker across his face that was gone as soon as it had appeared.
"I do not know which way to bend cha."
It was said uncharacteristically quietly. Bao hated this rootless feeling, he was adrift and couldn't find the harbor. It was weakness and not something he understood or allowed himself. He had no way to cope with it.
He did not understand why Bao's uncertainties continued to plague him. What else caused him distress? Sure, Amir had never had much in the way of a long term relationship, but he had had affairs now and then and none of them seemed to bother Bao the way this one did. Was it because Mara, too was one of Amir's? Or was it Jin, the 'outsider,' so to speak?
Amir frowned, concerned at Bao's uncertainty. He had many moments of uncertainty himself since 'dying' a few weeks ago, but his family helped him through them, Bao included. He sat back a little bit on Bao's desk, giving Bao a little bit of relief from his sharp gaze.
"Trees bend many ways. It depends where the wind blows from. You need not choose one direction."
If Bao preferred to continue speaking in metaphors Amir as up to the task. He tempered his advice, however, with words of caution. "The wind will blow, though, no matter what happens."
Bao's situation couldn't stay the same forever. Amir sighed to himself, quietly. Why did his children insist on having deep-seated emotional problems? He should probably check up on the other four, just in case they too had developed some kind of strange paranoia or something in the last few months.
Bao had weathered many changes in the past; no vampire his age had not. What was different about this time, Amir didn't know because Bao refused to speak straight with him. Amir didn't want to force it from him. But then, he had never had to. It bothered him that Bao, his friend, his creation, the man who had stood by him for centuries, was now withdrawing.
As he didn't understand where his doubts came from Bao could not express them accurately to Amir. They were just there. Perhaps it was because he did not know Jin and was convinced the man did not like him, possibly saw him as a threat or a rival. But why, their rolls here were nothing alike. Still it seemed true. Perhaps it was that Bao wasn't certain he knew Amir any longer. And he certainly did not know how he fit into this new dynamic.
"Reeds and saplings are more likely to survive the storms. A more established tree takes some time to adjust and to learn where the wind is coming from."
If this had been totally work related Bao could alter his plans, he might not do it gracefully or without complaining but he could do it effectively and efficiently. New information, people and circumstances would be factored in and plans could be adapted. This, was not business and Bao's personal life was stilted. He had limited coping skills, but as he'd just told Amir he would find them. At least he hoped he would, he wanted to.
"And in general they do so with a great many protests."
Bao didn't often protest he retreated, he held his own council and tried to learn what was needed. It was just taking longer to learn this time. Maybe, perhaps... he should possibly seek out Jin. No. that wouldn't be happening. He would not apologize for his existence or begging for acceptance.
Now where had that thought come from? It was uncharacteristically bitter. Bao took a deep breath and refocused himself, dismissing his previous notion. It was illogical, granted a lot of this was illogical but he refused to consider this idea.
"A tree with strong roots can cope with flood, drought and even fire. It only takes time."
Roots he had, Amir had given them to him. It was a comforting notion when considered in that light. The roots were still there they had not been shaken, they were still healthy.
"Trees don't have much time to figure out where the wind is coming from. They pretty much have to handle it as it comes. Really Bao, why all the angst?"
He arched his brows impatiently. He was tired of beating around the metaphorical tree. Amir wanted a straight answer from Bao and he was determined to get one.
"What, exactly, is bothering you? You might as well come out and say it."
Or Amir couldn't fix it. He wasn't used to this evasion from Bao. Sure, he'd seen Bao do this time and again with other people, in court, with Clanmates. Not with him. He didn't like it.
Perhaps it wasn't Bao's faith being shaken.
He kept that thought entirely to himself though; the last thing Bao needed right now was to see Amir's uncertainty. Amir had always been strong for Bao as he had always been for Mara. He wasn't going to stop now. He was, however, going to needle Bao until he got a real answer. And if Bao thought he had anything on Amir in the 'stubborn and persistent' area, he was going to learn a whole new lesson tonight.
In both a minor show of defiance or avoidance and to stall for time Bao took a moment to clear off his desk. Apparently he'd not be getting any more work done tonight. Which was just as well, his heart had not been in it once Amir arrived. The trouble, however, was that he could not respond clearly to something that wasn't clear to him. And the parts that he did understand he couldn't say to Amir. He could not look the other man in the eyes and say he was feeling that he'd been replaced and was no longer needed. Bao would cut out his tongue first.
"And how would you have me answer that?"
Although he'd answered a question with a question, it was an answer. At least for Amir it was an answer. Even though Bao had not been Amir's constant companion, there had been time spent apart, it was with his creator's blessing or at his request. Bao needed Amir, he needed to know there was still a direction, a path, still room for him and that he was still needed. Wanted didn't necessarily matter (although, even Bao found it nice to be wanted), needed mattered. He'd not seen any evidence of that since rescuing Amir.
He'd not been needed to confront the wolves who held Amir, he'd not been needed for Amir's recovery, he'd not been needed when Mara went to Africa. Everything he'd done in all of those situations were things anyone could have done, and likely things most would have done. This lack of need was slowly but surely crippling Bao. Even now he needed to know what Amir wanted from him.
Testily, he crossed his arms in front of his chest. "I expect you to answer it tonight, Bao," he said. "Use your words."
Amir was growing angry. This was new; Bao had never done it before. Moreover, he was growing concerned. It did seem as though the trust they had had when Subira was in the driver's seat was being shaken.
Be that as it may, Amir was not going to wait all night for a straight answer. He could not address a problem he didn't know about. It crossed his mind to force the answer out of Bao with Command but he felt himself stiffen and had to repress a shudder even just thinking of it. Hadn't he just spent the last two thousand years laboring under the effects of that ability by his own Creator? He wouldn't use it on Bao.
Instead Amir switched tactics. He slid from Bao's desk and walked noiselessly over to one of the armchairs. Sprawling into it he laid his head back against the arm and looked up at the ceiling.
"I have all the time in the world."
And he wasn't leaving until he got an answer.
"It is a problem of my own making."
Bao said slowly. It was as if hearing those words allowed were an epiphany. It stunned Bao, who simply sat there and considered what he'd just said. He might have blinked once and did consider smiling, although that notion was quickly dismissed.
"It is a problem of my own making."
He said again and found it was no less true.
"I think that I was... afraid."
There was no possibly way that he could have recovered Amir by himself, there was no way he could have put him back together alone. Why hadn't he seen it before. While he was no less convinced that Jin did not care for him, that didn't matter. Jin cared for Amir and that was good enough.
Again he was struck by the urge to laugh. Apparently he'd been spending far too much time with his volatile daughter. She was rubbing off on him. Even so his voice never faltered and his expression didn't flicker.
"Was, cha." He emphasized the past tense. "And change does not always come easily to me. But perhaps there need not be as much change as I thought."
It wasn't all better, it hadn't magically been fixed in those few words. But Bao understood the problem and his reactions now. He could deal with them and control them.
"Afraid of what?"
There were many changes happening. Bao's unreasonable fear 'of his own making' could have to do with any number of things.
"Afraid of the dark, afraid of kitten toes, afraid of fat women, what exactly?"
He dropped his head back to the arm of the chair and swung his feet a little bit. having this revelation was all well and good but Amir still had nothing to go on and Bao wasn't going to get all slippery about it and win that battle.
Bao said simply. And there were many ways to lose someone as they'd just proven. First there was worries that Amir might not have survived, then there had been worries that he had been replaced and on top of all that Bao had been afraid that he had -only- known Subira's creation.
This time he did smile, just barley as he watched Amir lounge in the chair. His attitude and posture in some ways very much matching his youthful appearance.
Yes, that is what this all stemmed from. He wouldn't get maudlin or even overly expressive but...
"You are rather important to me.â€
And nearly losing him had obviously left Bao unsettled, to say the least.
Amir didn't respond immediately. He hadn't really realized Bao was so attached. He also failed to see how this fear of losing Amir was of Bao's own making. Amir was a member of the Hunt. He risked his life on every mission he went on, just about.
"Has it not occurred to you in a thousand years, Bao, that we are mortal?"
The term 'immortal' didn't please Amir. Vampires could be, and were, killed. Sure, they wouldn't die of old age or natural causes, but they weren't immortal.
"You will lose me eventually."
Amir was a fan of math. It was good stuff. And it said that all it took was for the dice to roll against him once, and that once would be enough.
"If you're speaking figuratively, however, you have not lost me. You've just found me."
There was more to this, yet. Bao still wasn't being entirely truthful with him and it grated on him. "You fear to lose me and you have issues with change."
Amir sat up. "So who is it that bothers you, Bao? Mara? Jin? Or both?"
He was done waiting. He wanted answers and truth.
He wasn't fond of confessions but as Amir wasn't going to let him slide with half answers Bao would do his best.
"It was an error in judgment though, there is a difference between being of no assistance and more general assistance."
And it was something that had built up in his mind until he had come very close to or possibly to being convinced he was not needed. Which had lead to him pulling away, which had lead to him believing Jin was his replacement; as much as Bao disliked clichÃ© these were all dominoes that fell one into the other and he had let them. Rather than stopping them and taking control he'd let them fall.
For the time being Bao did not address the idea of actually losing Amir though. One revelation a day.
"And how was I to know that it was not she who wanted me rather than you? Again, an error on my part something I should not have doubted or at least asked you directly."
Ah... Mara and Jin. Bao shook his head slightly trying to work out that.
"They need you and you need them. It is of no matter if we," and by 'we' he meant Jin as Bao had never had any issues with his sister, "might not be the best of friends. Our goals are the same, we are not at odds and that is all I need to know."
He nodded his head at the conclusions Bao seemed to have drawn for himself. Many of these issues were ones Amir could not help with since they were, as Bao had claimed, mostly in his own head.
"There are some tasks we aren't suited to, Bao," he said, his voice gentling some. "You have no place in the middle of a Pack of wolves unless they've broken the law. No more than I have any place in a courtroom... well, unless I've broken the law."
He flashed a fanged grin a Bao. "When it comes to sneaking around, well, you must admit Jin and Mara are the best two for the task."
Both by Order and by ability, the felines had it all over he and Bao in the stealthy area. Amir was capable of being quiet when he needed to be but any stealth he employed was natural, not the byproduct of a useful ability. His own abilities were best utilized in combat. Bao's did not particularly lend themselves to either situation, in Amir's opinion. His seemed best used behind the scenes.
Regarding the matter of Jin and Mara Amir wondered if Bao were oversimplifying what he felt for the purpose of getting out of an uncomfortable conversation. He didn't deny that that was one of the things bothering him though, so Amir was satisfied in that his guess there was correct.
He just nodded at Bao. Amir couldn't help with this. Mara and Jin were staying; or, more to the point, he was remaining with them for the time being. What the future held, he couldn't say, but the fact was he desperately needed his support network right now and Mara and Jin and Bao were all three of them very important. He had thought that was clear but apparently it wasn't.
"I need my entire family," Amir pointed out, "and last I checked that included you."
He sighed softly. "Families grow and change. Just because we have brought in one additional member doesn't mean anyone else's role is diminished or made inconsequential."
Amir quirked an eyebrow up at Bao. "Perhaps one day you'll add someone to this family, as well, and we'll be all the stronger for it."
Pigs could fly, too. Maybe Amir should try to encourage Bao some more in that direction. It had worked wonders for Mara.
"Perhaps I am not the most ideal choice but that does not mean the desire is not there. I wanted to help more than I was able.â€
While he was happy with his work behind the scenes, and he was good at it. But once in a while even the most dedicated felt they could do more. And, perhaps, just perhaps his ego had wanted more. Too much time in the shadows could occasionally leave one wanting more. Yet, at the same time Bao recognized that if he, Amir, Mara and Jin all possessed the same set of skills there would be no balance and less could be accomplished. Within their own little family they exemplified -why- there were three orders. He would do well to remember that.
Perhaps this was all he had needed, was to be reassured. Any one else he would have suspected of throwing platitudes at him in order to end the conversation. But Bao did not think Amir knew the meaning of the word.
It had been a while since they had added to their family and certainly never before in this way. Bao did not feel it necessary to apologize gain for his actions or reactions. Rather he would try and master them.
"I will do my best to remember that in future cha.â€
Perhaps there was something more, something deeper for he had never felt this way when Amir had made new children. And for a moment he wondered if any of his own children had ever felt this way.
He would add to the family? Bao shook his head. His one attempt, his only daughter had been a miserable failure. She had told him no in no uncertain terms. Yet if you looked at their family none of Amir's other children were here, none of Bao's Perhaps his creator had meant something else. It took a second but Bao's thought settled in a particular direction and his lips twitched faintly in a ghost of a smile.
"It is possible. I have had.... two dates or so in the last few hundred years. I'm sure one of them will pan out.â€
Where the humor had come from Bao wasn't certain, but it suddenly seemed appropriate. A wight had been lifted, hopefully from both of them. Eventually it was possible that he and Jin would even come to appreciate each other, time was all that was needed at this point.
Bao's dry humor had him raising his brows again. His lips twitched up although he didn't smile. "Gave out your phone number somewhere back in the 1800's did you?"
He sighed. He wasn't sure he'd have called back either. Bao wasn't really his type. Not that way. Amir had done his best to instill a sense of humor into Bao when he'd noticed one seemed to be lacking, and over the years they had reached an understanding. Or, rather, they had come to understand each other very well.
Bao, however, really needed to expand his horizons. This conversation was proof-positive of the fact that he had to look outside of his immediate family for some sort of social activity. A relationship might be healthy for him even if it was an abject failure.
Amir was surprised he was even thinking that; the last thing he wanted to become was some kind of vampiric matchmaker. That wasn't what he was doing, he reassured himself. He was just trying to encourage Bao to get out a little bit more. That's all.