Consequences and Causality
The alarm on his phone chirp softly, subtly, but Bao didn't hear it. It chirped again, more insistently, he still stared blankly at his computer screen. It wasn't until the third time when the chirp became rather loud and insistent that he finally heard it. Bao looked down at it, and dismissed the reminder. It wasn't a meeting, just a reminder. He was, however, a little startled by the time obviously he'd not been thinking clearly since the night before.
Once he'd left the real estate development with a gentleman, who'd turned out to be the head of Evenhet's security, Bao had hopped to speak to Pakpao and ensure she would recover fully. His daughter, however, had other plans. She'd flatly refused to see him. From what he understood she'd been taken into Evenhet's medical facility for treatment but he'd not been admitted. He'd pressed for access to the men who'd taken her and been refused on that front as well. The elder, Pakpao's friend, Kem had been quite insistent and very firm that he was not to be be admitted to Evenhet territory at all. Not to see the rouge vampires and not to see his daughter.
It was quite distressing. He was on his third cup of Turkish coffee in the Manor's dinning room, one of his favorite places to work, and he'd not drunk one of them. They would sit and get cold and be removed and replaced by conscientious staff members. Bao could only thinking about Pakpao.
It was not his fault that she'd been kidnapped. It was something he repeated to himself often, but he could not make himself believe that. Seeing her hurt, injured, bleeding, scared, he'd wanted nothing more than to rip the men who'd done that to her apart. He had, however, been denied that pleasure. Much as he'd been prevented from offering her any comfort or support, she'd turned entirely to her clan.
He had lost her. They had both worked so hard at developing a relationship, and it had all been thrown away for no earthly reason. Alfred's fight was with him and this was an unreasonable price to pay, he had only been an administrator. He had only helped with legal and financial matters. Of course that had made him all the more efficient in dismantling the project after his control of the curator had lapsed.
The curator, she was the cause of all this. Bao felt a momentary sure of anger toward the she wolf. The desire for revenge, however, quickly dissipated. Bao felt himself vacillating wildly between hostility and hatred for the wolves, for Jarrod and Blaise, and a feeling of despair and grief for what he'd lost with Pakpao. He couldn't control the feelings, it was becoming physically painful.
His phone chirped again. Bao snapped and with all the inhuman speed a vampire was capable of threw it against the dinning room wall. It shattered. Shocked by what he had done Bao slumped into his chair and buried his face in his hand. He sobbed once and quickly suppressed that concentrating on a chi exercise trying desperately to control his emotions. This was not at all something he was used to and that in itself was frightening, but he couldn't allow that. He couldn't be afraid, he had to think about how to resolve this and what the next step was. Bao knew that, but he couldn't make himself process things logically. All he could do was feel.
She entered quietly and found that he was staring at his computer. His phone chirped one of those tones that suggested an alarm or an alert or something. Bao picked it up and threw it at a wall.
Clutching her tea cup to her chest, she stared at him in silent shock for a long moment. Bao seemed equally surprised, if what little she could see of his expression was any indication, and then he started to breath more deeply at a measured even pace. Obviously trying to work through whatever had upset him.
Coming forward, she gently set her cup down next to his on the table. Claire placed both hands on Bao's shoulders and squeezed gently. "Perhaps less coffee, oui?â€
With a small smile that didn't erase the concern from her eyes, she bent down and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek. "What is the trouble, Cher?â€
Claire reached over with one hand and pulled another chair out and around so that she could pull it up to sit beside him. She smoothed the chocolate colored button down dress beneath her, very conscious of her legs that were visible from the knees down. Jacqueline and Akahana had convinced her that some of the later styles were indeed very feminine. This particular dress was reminiscent of the 50's with its lapel shirt styled top. It was cinched in the middle by a wide pink belt and finished by a pink flower brooch on the left lapel. White heels with straps around her ankles were now tucked to the side underneath her chair.
She leaned forward and placed one hand on Bao's arm and the other sought his hand. Claire wrapped her slender fingers over his long smooth ones and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
"I'm afraid I've not had any coffee yet and so the caffeine cannot be blamed."
Bao thought to dismiss his laps, to play it off somehow, but Claire was a special case. Her voice was calm and soft and invited confidences.
He held her hand and considered the question. What actually was wrong? Carefully considering his answer Bao noticed Claire's legs. That was an unexpected sight. He wished that he could enjoy the sight more, without being distracted by this situation.
"There were some difficulties last night. They have left me rather distraught. "
Claire, of course, knew about Pakpao. She'd even help pick his daughter's Christmas present, although they had not met.
Bao wondered how much he could or even should say to Claire. Certainly this wasn't a conversation he could have with Amir, not this more emotional part of it at any rate. He should probably talk to Mara, Mara who had been and in some ways was still, the bridge between he and Pakpao but he was rather afraid his older sister would take Pakpao's side in all of this.
Little of that activity seemed to be getting done either.
"Come, join me in the living room?â€ She stood, replaced her chair under the table and picked up her own cup and saucer. Moving into the next room with its soft rugs and heavy curtains, Claire felt it was a better place to be speaking of troubling personal matters.
She set the cup down on the coffee table and then seated herself slightly sideways on the sofa. Reaching her hands out to Bao, Claire drew him down onto the seat next to her turned in the same fashion so that she could wrap her arms around him and hold him close.
Leaning her head on his shoulder, she spoke softly. "Do you wish to talk about it?â€ She wouldn't force him to confide in her. If he simply chose to sit here silently with her then that would probably be somewhat helpful as well.
((OOC: In case it wasn't clear. She was drawing Bao down on the sofa so that he was facing away from her and she was holding him from behind. She figures he could use a good hug or two. ))
For the moment Bao had managed some control over his emotions. He was calm, hollow, but unable to think. It was probably for the best he thought as he followed Claire.
Her head on his shoulder was welcome. Any human contact was welcome, he had been denied this last night. At the same time the light weight, her soft scent, directly challenged his temporary numbness and his control.
Bao took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He did not want to discuss this and yet felt unable to keep it to himself.
"My youngest, you remember she is with Evenhet, she was attacked, kidnapped, injured and I was unable to do anything. In fact, it was rather indirectly, or possibly, directly my fault."
A note of anguish crept into his voice as Bao forced himself to be honest, more of less, about what happened. It had been his fault, the culmination of a long line of bad decisions.
"What do you mean you were unable to do anything? She is safe now?" Claire suspected that Pak Pao must be safe or he would be far more agitated and she doubted he would be sitting here trying to do his work and ignoring his coffee if she were still in danger.
He had said that he was responsible and she shook her head slightly. "It might have happened to her because of her relationship to you." That was the only way she could imagine he was connected to the kidnapping of his child and seemed the most logical assumption given his phrasing. "but unless you actually kidnapped her yourself then you are not to blame. I suppose you could have paid someone else to kidnap her but that seems very unlikely so explain how you believe it is your fault. Does she blame you?"
"She did not ask for my help at all. I was an after thought and even when I got there with the others she wanted nothing to do with me. I was not even permitted to take the culprits into Anantya custody or even question them."
It was a terribly impotent feeling being that helpless but Bao summarized as best he could and was pleased that he managed to sound very neutral, even clinical about something that was distressing him a great deal.
Like Jin the night before Claire seemed inclined not to assign him fault or blame. They both seemed to take the view that while he might be the cause he could not be held liable. They would both make admirable jurors. Under other circumstances he would agree with them, however Pakpao was the judge in this case and she seemed inclined to fix the blame to him.
"I believe she does. After she was retrieved I followed her home and she refused to see me. She was adamant enough that one of Evenhet's elders flatly refused to to admit me to the Towers."
He couldn't find fault with how Kem had conducted himself or the refusal to admit him. Had there situations been reversed Bao would have done just the same.
"I have to assume she is now well they did refuse bagged blood for her. I am, however, certain she will no longer want anything to do with me."
That was what was bothering Bao most. He'd invested a great deal of time and effort into this relationship. He had come to care for Pakpao and quite badly wanted to make up for how he'd turned her. He had not quite accomplished that but had been making progress. Now it seemed that he was being dismissed for something that had started before they had met here in Nachton.
She hummed thoughtfully as he spoke and squeezed him a little tighter, willing him to see the side of this event that he hadn't yet realized. "You are a darling man, Bao, but I think you are being a little dense." Claire patted his leg briefly in a consoling gesture before returning the arm to its place around his waist. "Do not worry, it is like that for many men."
Leaning her head against his cheek, she explained. "Your daughter -did- tell you what happened which meant, in some form somewhere, she wanted you to be there. I believe that says the relationship is not nearly as broken as you think. If it were then she wouldn't have let you know at all."
"You came. You offered your help and support and that matters more than anything. It might not seem like it now but it will." She knew all about betrayal and Bao hadn't let Pak down. He might not have been the white knight riding in with a flaming sword and saving his daughter single handedly but Claire suspected that particular need was more Bao's than Pak's. If it were Sorin, who wouldn't win father of the year awards any time soon, then the fact that he had been there ready to support and help would have been the best thing he could have done. "She might be angry with you now but I don't think you have burned any bridges just yet." If Pak saw it that way then Claire would personally march down to The Towers and give the girl a piece of her mind. Bao was trying and she could at least have the decency to let him.
"Give her some space but keep reaching out. You shouldn't give up on family." Claire thought Bao understood that very well. He had a very close vampire family who loved and supported him and who he loved and supported. She had seen him do everything he could for Amir when he was injured and held prisoner by the wolves. He wouldn't give up on Pak unless he thought she wanted him to and Claire doubted that deep down Pak wanted him to stop trying to be there for her. She might just want him to prove he really did care but that truth might be hard for Bao to see at the moment.
"Call her and ask how she is doing. Leave a voice mail message every day if you have to but I believe she will eventually realize the truth. Which is that this was not at all your fault and you were there ready to help her."
She startled him into the closet to a laugh Bao was inclined, a short polite cough.
"I'm not often accused of being dense. What a comfort to know it is related to my gender."
Women's roles had changed a great deal since Amir first turned him, but perhaps that willingness to tread into the more emotionally murky areas of life had not. It was fascinating.
"Would you continue to say that if you knew she only sent to me after finding out it was my fault?"
Oddly enough his guilt was decreasing. It was very easy to believe Claire was right, although she had been hostile and accusatory Pakpao had contacted him during the situation not after there might be something to this.
"It was not a terribly secure bridge to begin with. However, if it has not been destroyed there may be hope."
The rest of this was beyond him though and Bao knew that he had already used the trump card of her children. He had nothing more to offer.
"How... much time? Space? Do I send flowers?"
Bao was out of his depth. Business etiquette he could do with his eyes closed but how to apologize here, he didn't know and while he was feeling a bit better Bao knew if rejected he would fall apart.
"I... I feel I should have done more. Our relationship has been unorthodox at best. I was... I was not as responsible as I should have been in turning her. I do not think I can ever make that up and now this..."
"Honestly flowers say you are sorry. I do not believe that is exactly the message you want to begin with. I know that you personally feel guilty and somewhat responsible but that is not the same as negligently getting her involved. Plus, flowers are the easy answer that requires little thought and effort."
Tapping a finger against her bottom lip, Claire closed her eyes and thought about it from Pak's point of view. "If it were me and I wanted to know that Sorin truly cared for me then I would want him to make sure it never happened again."
She turned a little and looked over at him. "Since you cannot yet hand her the head of the people responsible then all you can do now is assure her that you are going to continue looking until they are brought to justice. Until then I would suggest some other way to make sure any event like this never happens again."
Being a spy, even an old fashioned one, let her experience technology that seemed like magic to her. Their people could make tiny objects do amazing things."Perhaps...perhaps you could have one of those tracking devices the Night uses made into a piece of jewelry. The problem isn't that she can't contact someone." Because she obviously was able to contact Bao while in trouble. Evenhet were good at that kind of thing. "It is that she might not know where she is to explain it to someone trying to help."
Bao had also said that their relationship wasn't the best because of the way that he had turned Pak. That he hadn't been the most responsible. Claire wasn't entirely sure what that meant but if Pak was not entirely accepting of Bao then the gift might be met with suspicion. "I would think it would need a switch she could turn on and off. No one wants to be tracked all the time. But turning it on could send an alert to you and perhaps the program could be sent to another person she trusts as well. It would be a thoughtful gesture that says you care about her safety and are willing to abide by her wishes in this matter but that you are concerned about her, like a father should be or at least like a friend would be."
Claire smiled at him. "How does that sound? Maybe the necklace could be something that reminds her of home?"
He honestly wasn't sure how Pakpao would view suck an offer. If she could turn it off and if it was something tjat she did not have to wear it might be acceptable. Of course, he remembered the look on the elder's face, some one might grind it under their heel.
"I think that is a charming idea. A wearable GPS."
It was rather surprising that Pakpao hadn't been ablento communicate her position better. She must have been relying on her phone, or more likely, not inclined to think about such needs.
"I agree the alert should go to someone of her choosing. She may be more receptive if I do not force her to trust me."
if he didn't force her to trust him, if he let her know he valued her safety above his own ego and ability to care for her that might better show his sincerity.
"It is terribly awkward having her in Evenhet. She can quite effectively shut me out and very completely."
She could quite literally wall herself off in a tower and he had no standing to demand anything of her or the clan. It was not a problem with his other children.
"Do you know someone who might make such a thing? Someone who would be familiar with Siam?"
Of course Bao would be able to find someone but if Claire knew he would prefer her recommendation.
He just had to be able to communicate it in a way that his daughter would understand and find acceptable.
"I can see where her being in a different clan would be challenging but at least she is in the same city. " Not that travel was very difficult these days. "I have some friends among their clan. So this elder who refused you access, was it Alfarinn?" She tried to imagine the blond Norseman refusing a worried father access to his daughter but she just couldn't see it. Of course Pak would be his clan mate and if she didn't want to see Bao then Alfarinn would have respected her wishes. Maybe that was it. Claire just couldn't see him flatly refusing; he had always seemed very diplomatic to her. Or maybe she just wanted to believe he was that charming because he had convinced her to betray her own father.
The necklace gift was going to be given a chance, it seemed. She smiled at Bao and nodded. "I know a guy who can do some stuff." She looked at him sideways and spoke all mysteriously. "He can get it done."
Patting his hand, Claire smiled. "So now there is plan. Call her, tell her how you feel and that you are worried about her. Offer her the best you can in a thoughtful apology. It will work out if you are patient. Which I know you can be."
"Feel a little better?" She reached down and picked up her cup of tea. Sipping the warm brew, Claire smiled over the rim at Bao.
Bao actually suspected that Mr. Nevrat was not fond of him and might have been rather broad minded in ensuring those wishes were fulfilled. Not that he had been rude or aggressive just very firm. Bao did not wish to complain though, this had enough potential for difficult inter clan relations that pointing fingers at an elder would likely only cause more trouble that he did not need.
From her words and tone Bao thought that Claire was playing, teasing him. Bao, however, was not certain how to reciprocate.
"I should like to meet him if that is appropriate."
A half smile flitted over his fave. Bao didn't know of he could be patient in this matter. He needed to know if there was any chance of salvaging thinks with Pakpao or if he should just surrender to the inevitable.
"You my dear are a charming optimist."
Feelings were not Bao's strong suit. He had to consider the question carefully. The truth was, he didn't know. He just wasn't sure at all. He still was conflicted, desperate; to the point that he was seriously considering sending Ran to Pakpao to ensure someone comforted her. And Bao still intensely disliked the idea of him touching Pakpao.
"A bit. ... I think. It is new territory for me."
Better, he didn't think better was the right word. But more in control and that was a relief. He was, at least, more clearly able to appreciate Claire's rather shapely legs.
This day would be particularly easy to remember and therefore every bit of conversation that had happened in it. Clearer and easier to access than most, not that she had any particular troubles in that area to begin with. Bao's phone hitting the wall and splintering into a spectacular number of pieces would be an image tag for her memory that would let her draw up the rest. How the room had seemed to become still and silent afterward. Bao's shaken expression and his efforts to even out his breathing. How her tea cup had been warm and real in her hands. How Bao had felt even more real and solid with her arms wrapped around him.
They moved on to the discussion of creating this gift for his daughter and Claire smiled when he asked to meet the person who would make it. "I would not imagine it to be a difficulty. He is a clan mate though I do believe he is residing elsewhere currently." She shrugged unconcerned; there was more than one person who could make what they needed.
Bao said he was feeling better...he thought. She smiled and raised her eyebrows at him. "New territory? Having to be patient? Surely not. Therefore it must be this expressing of emotion that is new, yes?" Claire regarded him kindly. It had not gone unnoticed by her that Bao had difficulty letting anyone see his feelings. She had been patient, believing him worth the effort and they had all eternity, did they not? Sometimes that had been difficult and even frustrating but right now was not the time to bring that up.
There were people he felt comfortable expressing himself with; Amir and Mara chief among them. Claire had entered that small circle as well along with one or two other people. But even with those very few Bao did not offer much and only what he wanted to see. He certainly had not wanted her, or anyone, to see his temper like that. It was even more embarrassing than his melt down with Ran.
Claire's logic, however, was irrefutable and she had not left him much room to side step the question. No did he wish to. Rather to Bao's surprise he did not mind confiding in Claire.
"It is not my forte, I'm sure you have noticed.â€
He agreed and half apologized. It all seemed to steam from Pakpao as well. That Bao did not understand at all, why she should alter his equilibrium so much. He was not in love with her, he was not sexually attracted to her, and he cared for other people and did not react this way when things went wrong.
Although, now that he considered it, he had. He had gone rather 'emo' he thought the term was, after Amir's encounter with Xephier's pack. Bao frowned rather darkly. This could not be a good thing. He didn't think that he was old enough to be loosing his grip on reality or control of himself. The idea, however, was more than slightly unsettling.
First Amir, then Ran, now Pakpao and he could not express himself to Claire. This could be a rather large issue.
"It is not a skill that is overly useful in my line of work, in fact it can be a liability.â€
Bao knew how to exploit an overly emotional opposing counsel. So long as he was not so cold and calculating to alienate a jury it was a powerful weapon. Behind closed doors with only other lawyers and executives his impassive unflappable demeanor was even a wonderful advantage.
"It has come to my attention.â€
Right now they were sitting here side by side. She could have easily been sitting here with anyone else for the amount of affection shown by Bao. It tended to be rather one sided. At first she thought that he was simply very reserved and that was sweet and wonderful. It was certainly very different from Sorin and Claire had thought that was exactly what she needed.
However, it wasn't simply a cultural or personal preference; this truly seemed a psychological problem. She thought Bao cared for her but that was difficult to tell. He seemed to at least like her more than most but being one step up from a stranger wasn't much to warm her thoughts or her bed at night.
"With your daughter it isn't about winning a case. At this moment there might be some need to think carefully about what you do but having no emotional response would very likely be a detriment. I cannot imagine she wants to believe she is not important to you.â€ Claire didn't know the facts there but no one wanted to feel trivial.
Smiling, she set down her empty cup and saucer and then folded her hands in her lap. "I believe that you won't lose your incredible control and enviable poker face in the court room by opening up a little where it matters in your personal life. Feel free to get a second or third opinion if you like. This is simply this humble doctor's opinion.â€
"She is unique among those few I have turned.â€
That was his only answer. Even that did not commit or give much indicate that he actually cared for her. It was a practical answer not warm and fuzzy.
He blinked at Claire's words. Perhaps this went beyond his difficulties with Pakpao. It was probable that his neutral and formal demeanor was alienating others. Being very focused on his work this didn't often, if ever, bother Bao. He had a fair number of good acquaintances, friends eve, that he enjoyed spending time with but had to concede he was not easy to get to know or like. He was not popular or gregarious. That, however, had never been one of Bao's goals or desires.
"You think that, perhaps, some more moderate.... expression might prevent such outbursts?â€
He read between the lines and translated slightly. Claire might be right. Reliving some of that emotional pressure might even help keep him in control when it was imperative. It would keep him from such in appropriate reactions as his phone or his session with Ran. In theory Bao understood and agreed. He was not, however, at all certain that he was able to do such a thing any longer. This wasn't something Bao was ready to admit though.
In this case, she only had basic instinct, years of observation and a degree in psychology to go on.
Bao asked if what she was suggesting was that lesser displays of emotion might curb the need to throw expensive electronics at very solid objects. "Yes, quite probably. In some cases such expression wouldn't be helpful but that tends to be with people who have trouble controlling their emotional displays in any situation. For you, letting some of it out would likely help you release the pressure of built of emotional stress."
Standing, she leaned down and patted his knee. "You are worried about her and about the status of your relationship. That is stressful. It is not something you can simply win by finding a loop hole or an obscure law and that too is stressful. In your own way, you are a man of action, Bao. You see problems and you handle them. This is difficult for you because there is no clear solution."
Claire smiled. "Perhaps you should start by writing a letter to Pak. I am not suggesting you send it but consider all the things that you would like to say to her if you ever felt it safe to tell her. Or as if the other night had been more dire and these were the last words you would ever get to say. Once you are done you might find that you have a better idea of what she means to you and some of the things in the letter might be worth actually expressing to her."
She picked up her cup and saucer. "I will let you get back to work. Let me know if you need me for anything."
((OOC: Claire out. That will be $485.00 please.))
"I think perhaps you are too generous in your assessment of me madam, but thank you for the kind words.â€
It did help to have someone who seemed to understand and supported him. Certainly Amir would do both, but Bao would always worry that his creator would harbor disapproval for his turning of Pakpao, his involvement in the project, and both of those leading to Pakpao being attacked. Mara might understand but she and Pakpao had become friends and he suspected she might take Pakpao's side or resent him for placing her friend in danger. He did not suspect that Claire was holding something against him when she said these things.
"I had not considered that. It might be easier to write these things out.â€
Especially if he didn't have to send it to Pakpao. Still, there was some logic to treating the situation like a closing argument. He could lay things out clearly and even if he did not share them with his daughter, it might make more sense to him.
Pleased by the suggestion Bao wanted to kiss Claire, not passionately, but a quick peck on the cheek But, despite their conversation about trying to display a bit more emotion, he couldn't follow through on that impulse. Out of long habit he held himself in check, uncertain if it was appropriate.
"No. Your suggestions are quite insightful and valuable as always. Thank you.â€
While true, that response felt far too stifled and formal. It bothered Bao. He stood as she did and took one of her hands, the one not holding her tea, and kissed the back of it. He was going to have to make an effort to develop this relationship as well as repair the one with Pakpao. Perhaps there as a book in the library that would assist.
((OOC... out as well. Does she take American Express?))