Lie To Me (Invite Only)
Amir had received a somewhat garbled text from Ran not too long ago, which was disturbing on a number of levels. For one, Ran's assignment had been pretty easy. Amir didn't really think he needed to be paired with anyone to accomplish it, but it never hurt to learn to work as a team. So for Ran to somewhat cryptically inform Amir that something had gone wrong and they needed him at the Manor on the down-low, Amir had been curious and concerned.
Secondly, Ran's forte was communication. In any number of languages, until he was blue in the face and you would pay practically anyone to shut him up. Amir wasn't used to getting garbled anything from Ran. An odd, misspelled text was highly unusual.
When he reached the Manor, Rupert informed him that Ran had arrived with Ambrose and they had taken him to his room. Amir raised his eyebrows at that and had quietly hurried along.
Upon reaching Ran's suite with its wide arches, low floors, high ceilings, and skylights, Amir found Ambrose quietly arguing with another vampire he didn't know. They both looked up at him when he entered, and Ambrose jerked a thumb in the direction of the shower. That was where Amir headed, following the sound of running water.
Nothing in Ran's suite was fully enclosed; there were no doors, just walls separating each room. Even the shower was a walk-in; three sides with an open entry and two gentle rainfall showerheads above. At the moment, both were running. Ran stood beneath them, naked, his arms braced on the wall, hair sodden and dripping down his face. Amir could see an open wound on the side that was facing him, and several strips of missing flesh on the side of his head over his ear. There were also several parallel gouges across his back and ribs, all fairly short but deep, and some that appeared newly-healed. He was physically fine (or would be), but Amir knew his second-youngest tended to be sensitive of his own failures, and his entire posture spoke of defeat.
Amir quickly stripped, set his clothing aside, and stepped under the water. Ran barely moved, and Amir suspected whatever had gotten him to this state had exhausted him. Sometimes, just the sheer drain of healing alone could justify a nice long nap after a refreshing drink.
There was nothing sexual in the way Amir stepped under the water with Ran and wrapped his arms around him; just comfort. This wasn't always their dynamic. Most of the time, a good body slam was enough for Ran. Tonight seemed different.
"Kudzu," Amir murmured over the fall of water, "what happened?"
"Oh, hi," he said, short of breath. "That job you wanted us to do? Turns out it was a little more involved than wannabe vampire hunters. This is a little message from Subira." He gestured to indicate himself.
"The good news is, we have Anika, the woman who did this. I'm guessing maybe she's your sister. I thought you might have some questions for her, or maybe Mara might. Long and short, she locked me in a chest freezer and tried to persuade me to tell her you were alive."
He shuddered and his knees half gave out at the memory. The freezer had been the worst part. Amir's arm around his waist kept him upright. Ran gasped for air to keep talking. He didn't need much of it to live, but he definitely needed it to communicate.
"Other than that, there's a bullet in my chest, I think, and I could really use some help getting it out."
He indicated the supplies on the shower shelf; a scalpel, a forceps, and when those had failed, his multitool; but the location of the wound made it difficult for him to reach at all, much less at the angle and depth he needed to pull out a bullet. It had shifted somewhat as his body tried to heal around it or expel it, but he still hadn't been able to grasp it.
Amir understood those things anyway. He gripped Ran's shoulder and squeezed gently.
"You did good, Kudzu. I'm proud of you."
Centuries ago; years ago, he wouldn't have been able to say those words. He could now. Expressing his actual thoughts was much easier now that they were his alone.
"We'll end this soon. Thank you for covering for me." Because he knew Ran didn't have to; bonds stronger than loyalty existed. He had feared that Ran could be taken easily by Subira because Ran trusted so easily, but Ran's loyalty was unquestionable and his will was strong. Amir felt certain that Ran was his, and always would be.
Ran indicated the medical supplies and the bleeding gash on his side where he'd clearly attempted to take care of himself. Amir turned off one of the showerheads and guided Ran to the bench seat along the wall.
"I'll get it out."
It took a few minutes, and a little more bloodshed, but they had all performed something similar to this for each other over the years. A bullet could do some damage, sure, but it was hard to kill them with one. The wounds to Ran's body weren't anywhere near as harmful as those to his sense of security and his pride.
When he finally pulled the bullet free, Ran shivered and slumped back against the shower wall with a soft groan of relief. His wounds had continued to heal, but Amir reached over, turned the second rainfall shower back on, and drew Ran beneath it to wash away the blood.
Ruffling Ran's soaked blue hair, Amir pulled him close once more. "Drink up, bird," he said, tilting his neck. "Let's get you healed up. Then you can catch me up with those two outside, and sleep for a day or two. I'll send a car for Mina, if you want, or go get her myself."
Amir figured Ran hadn't wanted Mina to see him like this, or she'd have been upset. But the cheerful, sweet little student would perk Ran right up once he was fit to be in public again.
Ran's bite was gentle but sharp; he rested his head on Amir's shoulder as he drank sparingly and gratefully, sucking gently and straightening up when he was done. Amir checked his side; the gunshot wound was quickly closing and Ran seemed much more comfortable.
"I'll be outside when you're ready. Don't take too long or they're going to think I drowned you in here."
Amir flashed Ran a quick smile, which was returned, before stepping back out of the shower, drying quickly off, and getting dressed again. Emerging back into the main living area, he pointed at first Ambrose and then the other vampire.
"You both look great," he said, ignoring the patch of dried blood on Ambrose's shirt. "How come Ran looks like that, and you're fine?" I'll grant you that more often than not he deserves what he gets, but when he goes out with a partner I sort of figure the injuries should be evenly distributed."
He didn't, not at all, but he was going to give these two a little shit anyway on Ran's behalf. His sense of insecurity was probably off the charts right now, and his perceived failure would hit him hard. Hearing Amir going to bat for him would help bolster him. These two didn't have to know Amir wasn't serious. Let them sweat a little.
Ambrose thought he'd cooled down a little on the drive back to the manor. He really had. He'd asked Ran a couple more times if he needed any help with his injuries, he'd gotten hawk lady secured, but at Ran's insistence, on the DL and was heading back to Ran's suite to regroup when Reggie had strolled through the door.
It had been all Ambrose could do to -not- shoot the man in the face on site. He'd actually had to make a mental list of reasons not to lose it. They had, however, immediately started arguing and had somehow wound up in Ran's rooms. Honestly Ambrose was a little surprised and a little leery when Rashid showed up.
For all Ysabel had been worried and had even warned him about Rashid Ambrose rather respected the man. Hey, he'd read The Art of War based on a conversation with the much older vampire. Something his own maker hadn't been able to get him to do. And now it felt like the man was a thunderstorm in human form. He'd felt this before, edgy, anxious, hair on the back of your neck wouldn't lay down and your horse or a herd was prime to bolt at the slightest provocation.
Perversely this made Ambrose mad, fucking livid. To be caught out like this one one of his first jobs by someone he respected and for no actual reason. He didn't even try to be stoic and restrained and sure as hell didn't make any excuses.
"My fault, I was late, I shouldn't have been so fucking stupid."
The last bit he snarled at Reggie with a look so cold and hostile it should have been leathle.
Honestly Reginald had been rather impressed by the aerial acrobatics and felt Ran should be quite pleased with how he'd acquitted himself, as should Ambrose. But the cowboy didn't see it that way and they'd stated bickering. He'd let the argument carry him back to Ran's rooms and was starting to get extremely cross.
"Really Ambrose I do have to resolve that other matter I don't think we need to keep on this."
Reginald said in a rather tired bored tone as someone else entered the room. Someone Ambrose didn't seem surprised by and who he hoped Ran wouldn't be surprised by.
Although Ambrose for some god knows what reason wouldn't let him leave and kept arguing. He did manage to keep his voice down, mostly, even if he did continue in a rather emphatic fashion.
And then the newcomer was back and the atmosphere rather changed. He couldn't place his finger on how or why but it did. Given the way the man just assumed control and his cousin's response he must be somebody, something to do with The Hunt no doubt.
Rather conveniently Ambrose seemed to be taking more responsibility than not. Oh certainly there was some passive aggressive implications that -he- was the reason they were late but Reginald was going to overlook that. He'd seen this song and dance before.
"We did have a little bit of a miscommunication, could have been quicker but we did manage to get things wrapped up fairly quickly."
He wasn't stupid enough to try and blame Ambrose but he did feel rather justified in side stepping any responsibility. While he had lay the trap and lay it well there had been no reason Ambrose had to step into it.
He raised an eyebrow at Ambrose. "We haven't spent very much time together, but the one thing I have noted is that you are most definitely not stupid. Impulsive, perhaps, but I trusted that Ran would be with a good partner."
He turned his dark stare to the other vampire, then. "I haven't spent any time with you at all, and I don't like not knowing who you are and what you had to do with whatever happened tonight. So let me be polite and begin. My name is Amir Rashid, and I would very much like to know what went on tonight."
As eh spoke, he focused in on the newcomer. He didn't like him, although to be fair, he didn't like most people when they first met. Certain things about him weren't about to change.
"Let me be perfectly clear. Ambrose and Ran were on a mission given to them by the Clan. Ran is mine, and while he can most certainly withstand far more abuse than what he took tonight because I made him and I trained him, I did not expect to see it happen on a what should have been a fairly simple, routine effort."
Yes, he knew they obviously ran into more trouble than expected, but Ran could fight and Ambrose could too. Also, as he'd noted, Ran's injuries were hardly life-threatening. More aggravating. Amir wasn't above using them to guilt the truth out of these two though.
As he dried and dressed, he heard his Creator speaking in the living room. Once again he felt that warmth suffuse him. Amir didn't show it often, but he cared. The way he claimed Ran as his went miles toward rebuilding Ran's battered confidence. In life, he had been largely unwanted. Even as a young vampire, he had never been entirely sure Amir and Mara wanted him around.
But when Amir laid claim to him like that - Ran shivered happily and grabbed a new pair of contacts - there was no better feeling, really. To be part of a real family, to be wanted and valued... he sat down for a second to just soak it in.
Finally he shook his head at himself, popped his new lenses in (purple and pink swirls), and headed out to his living room. Fortunately it was neat and clean, thanks to housekeeping. Ran couldn't be tidy to save his life. While the others stood, he made his way to the couch and flopped down on it.
He remained quiet, content to let Amir be all threatening and growly, curious about what Reg had done to detain Ambrose. He hadn't gotten that whole story, and on the ride back to the Manor he'd been too out of it to really pay attention to anything Ambrose might have been saying.
Well he would have been a bit more respectful if he could actually form complete sentences just now. Reginald was also having to work rather hard to keep his knees from turning to jelly and he had somehow totally forgotten where the door was. He was very much hoping to remember where it was quite soon as he was extremely anxious to use it. He'd worry about the consequences of expediently excusing himself later.
His mouth was terribly dry and he was feeling like a mouse confronted with a hawk. He couldn't even remember to introduce himself let alone spin the story.
"We... er... I... "
To make matters even worse Ambrose was not taking the attention off him or offering any kind of explanation. Honestly even being thrown under the bus would come as something as a relief just now.
He swallowed hard and tried again, although he wasn't feeling any less nervous.
"Honestly didn't know Ambrose had anything to do with an order... didn't intend to interfere... we've been making each other miserable for years..."
That was legitimately the best he could stamer out. He'd be embarrassed later.
At least he could still think straight thought. He wasn't out to get Reggie off the hook, hell no, asshole screwed up and screwed with him once too often. The only reason he spoke up was so Rashid would actually have an intelligible answer.
"Reggie and I have been screwing each other over since almost day one. He got me cornered in an alley, probably would have locked me up for a few days. He didn't know I was on the clock and he was a little slow to believe me but once he let our grudge go and pitched in."
It was a shit reason, there was no getting around that, but what was he going to do lie? Nope, not worth the effort. He did rather leave out the bit about the commanded thugs and the dead guy in the SUV that Reggie still needed to take care of. That was probably some of the "impulsive" Rashid was talking about.
He did note Ran coming back out looking better than he had and would have said something but it seemed like it would keep for a minute or two Rashid tried to give his cousin a heart attack.
"Reggie, is it?" he asked ominously. That was the only time he'd heard his name.
"Surely Ambrose informed you that he was on Clan business."
When the other man stammered out something about making each other miserable for years, Amir and Ran exchanged a glance. Amir could sort of understand what Reggie was saying, but were he and Ambrose family? Old lovers? What? Aside from lately, though, Amir's family tended to get along well. Even with the current mysterious animosity between Ran and Bao, Amir couldn't imagine for a second that either of them would allow an Anantya mission to be compromised.
"If your personal issues take precedence over an Anantya matter, perhaps we need to have a more serious chat than I thought," Amir said darkly. He narrowed his eyes. "One on one."
He frowned, flashing the tips of his fangs. "I dislike having to discipline vampires who should know better, but I will if I have to."
Amir liked this guy less and less every second. Ambrose had even attempted a sort of half-hearted defense, upon which he turned to the young Huntsman for just a moment.
"You're better than that," he said seriously to Ambrose. "I don't care who started it. Childish squabbles have no place here. I expect better from you in the future."
He pinned Reggie with his glare again. "You, who knows." He gestured to Ambrose. "At least this one has value."
He did have to swallow a snort when Amir mentioned not wanting to discipline vampires. Bullshit. Utter bullshit. Amir lived to wipe the floor with misbehaving vampires. He relished it. He probably wrote diary entries about it. Holy shit, it was hard to maintain a straight face.
With Amir's next words, Reg was crucified while Ambrose was practically adopted into the family. Ran had taken decades to have value. Okay, maybe not entirely true - he'd always had value as an interpreter and he'd never have been turned otherwise, but still - it was a hell of a declaration from Amir. Ran hadn't realized they knew each other that well.
Finally, though, he had to take pity on Reg for real. For one thing, Ran didn't want a mess on his carpet - although who were they kidding, he'd call housekeeping rather than clean that himself. Still...
"Reg was useful when they arrived. And it was all right. I'm not completely worthless on my own."
Let's just forget the whole 'tasered and locked in a freezer' for a moment. Ran would have been fine. It wasn't likely they could have killed him. Probably.
If he hadn't spent most of his life correcting people and actively trying to prevent his name from being shortened he wouldn't have been able to say anything, honestly it was reflex he wasn't even aware he'd spoken.
He'd felt something remotely extremely vaguely like this before, the first time he'd gotten Ambrose thrown in prison and his cousin's maker had come to save her offspring. However, it was rather like comparing a pike to a great white, possibly a megalodon. He really wasn't sure he could move.
"Well yes." It had been practically the first thing his cousin had said once he'd fully grasped the situation. "But I... he... years... hard to believe."
Truthfully that was the first time Reginald had ever realized he'd held any kind of bias because Ambrose had one leg. He'd always assumed his disdain had more to do with the low birth lack of culture and education and rough manner.
One on one was undoubtedly an -extremely- bad idea. Against a huntsman of his own age he could probably hold his own, if Amir's reputation was to be believed Reginald figured he'd have better odds against the noon day sun.
"No, of course not. Clan always first..."
Still he didn't protest or really try to escape any kind of responsibility, not really. Even if he did it very probably wouldn't matter. Undoubtedly even Margaret's protest would not offer much of a reprieve or protection and quiet frankly her maker didn't like him.
He had value. Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind Reginald knew that, believed that; he simply couldn't remember it right now. Right now he just wanted to survive this encounter.
When Amir said Ambrose had value he managed to look away, at his cousin, and tried to see this so called value. He couldn't, not really but for the first time ever he allowed for the possibility. After all Ambrose hadn't totally thrown him under the bus and he had made a near impossible shot even if he had injured his partner in the process. The bastard wasn't even saying "I told you so".
Fuck that. Ambrose knew damned well he couldn't hold his own against Rashid, hell he couldn't hold his own against Damaris. He was glad Rashid wasn't on him like this. Did he say anything though? Nope, not really Reg had made his bed. He did, however, resolve to look Rashid up in the next night or two and ask if he might give him some lessons or pointers. Someone had to know how to compensate for his leg and oddly enough he didn't want to ask Damaris.
That resolve was shaken a bit when Rashid turned to him. Ambrose, however, simply refused to look away or make any kind of excuse at all. He just tersely nodded agreement.
"It was a dumbass mistake. It won't happen again."
If nothing else he'd start shooting a whole lot sooner next time.
Wait, what? First he was not stupid now he had value? Ambrose barely knew Rashid but, he knew the type (hell he was the type) that was practically a sonnet, a romantic ballad. He wouldn't let it go to his head.
He did his best to catch Ran's eye and attempt to ask if he really was OK now and if he was going to be a grudge. Honestly, Ambrose would understand if Ran was planning on it, he'd just rather have it out sooner rather than later.
"He did okay on no information. Let me get outside damned sight faster than I would have otherwise."
He wasn't at all sure how Ran had filled Rashid in on but just assumed that sounded like back up and not him running away.
"I suppose since Ran and Ambrose have spoken for you..." Amir let his voice trail off, and then shrugged. "I'll be watching."
He simply nodded at Ambrose. Everyone made stupid mistakes. He wasn't pleased that this particular one had endangered Ran, but no one ever said life was safe or easy, and Ran could take care of himself - as he'd pointed out without trying to sound hurt. He didn't even address Ran, except to send a wry smile his way. Of course Ran could hold his own. Amir had been kicking his ass in the dojo regularly to make sure of it.
"I'd like to see this vampire," he said. "If anyone needs anything from her, let me know beforehand."
He left it at that; Amir couldn't afford to let news of his survival get out to Subira. It may already have. He had to know, though, who the other vampires were that Subira had recently made.
He practically felt the air in the room change when Amir ceased his death glare on Reginald. Not a moment too soon, honestly, because Ran really didn't want to have to call someone to clean.
When Amir made it clear that Anika wouldn't be leaving the Manor, Ran shrugged. It wasn't a surprise to him. At the very least, what she'd done had been a direct attack on her own Clan. If Ran could have killed her, he would have, but it was far more important that they extract as much information out of her as they could before.
"Do you want me to come with you?" he asked Amir, "or go instead, just in case?"
In case she somehow managed to get away and send a message, was what he meant. Amir understood. He shook his head. "No. I'd rather you call Mina and be back in top form by tomorrow night. She'll send more, and they obviously know you. You're hard to miss."
His Creator turned to Ambrose. "You could stand to practice too."
Then he looked at Reginald. "And I'm assuming you could, as well."
It wasn't really a command. Amir wasn't about to tell someone else's family what to do; Ran knew that. But, it also wasn't NOT a command. Ran found himself highly curious as to what Ambrose and Reg would do. He grinned at them both, trying to let them know they'd probably live.
There was discussion about apparently eliminating this vampire Ambrose had shot down and surprisingly Reginald discovered he just wasn't interested. Usually he simply collected information as a matter of course and any little tidbit, and this was not little, caught his interest. This time he was starting to think he might be better off not knowing. What an interesting concept.
And then Amir was looking at him again, fortunately considerably less intently, but even so Reginald found himself swallowing hard. He'd very much like to confer with Margaret just now, he wasn't quite sure what protocol was or how much authority Amir had. Regardless, he knew that declining this request (?) would only earn him further scorn and disdain.
Huh, storm blew over. Yeah apparently that really was just Rashid. Damaris could be an intimidating pain in the ass but Ambrose -really- didn't envy Ran growing up with that.
He just shrugged at Rashid's question about hawk lady.
"Don't know her don't care to. What he said though." Ambrose jerked his head in Ran's direction. "I've got extra hands if you want them."
Want, not need, want. If Ran could put a dent in her and he could bring her down, however temporarily, Ambrose was certain Rashid could take her out without breaking a sweat.
He might not know who exactly Mina was or how she related to Ran but he wouldn't mind going and letting Belle feed his ego and... celebrate... with him.
Rashid turned back to him and Ambrose nodded understanding the invitation.
"Honestly was going to look you up in a night or two anyway. Sooner is just as good as later."
Ambrose really hadn't expected Rashid to offer or actually work with him, just point him in the right direction. So he'd sure as hell take him up on the offer. He just might make out a will and tell Belle he loved her before hand. He casually wondered who'd tell her if he wound up a pile of ashes. He wasn't -too- worried though.
He was distracted from those thoughts by a faint cautious nod from Reggie. That was the gutsiest thing he'd ever seen the man do, Ambrose had to hide a laugh behind a cough/throat clear. If he could only hazard a guess at how bad this could go, Ambrose doubted Reggie had any idea at all.
The fact gave him an immense feeling of relief. He couldn't wait to talk to Mara and Jin. But first...
"No, you have a date with Mina and then I'll see you tomorrow. Mina too, if you like." Amir had been giving Mina some self-defense pointers, something he would rarely have bothered with when humans were involved, but times had changed and he had changed and he knew Ran was fond of her. Amir was willing to admit that familiars could be more than expendable tools.
"Although tomorrow might be intense for her." Amir didn't plan to go too light on any of them. He looked at Ambrose. "Same. No point in procrastinating."
He looked at Reg last, with a barely noticeable lift of his shoulder. "You don't belong to me. But I'd prefer to see what you're made of if you intend to further fuck with my family. I've trained my fair share of youths, and most of them are still alive."
He knew it was ironic coming from someone who looked like a teenager, but Amir knew he was a good trainer. Of the many things he'd ever done, it was the one he had actually chosen for himself, without any outside influence. Free of Subira's Command, he enjoyed it even more. He wasn't easy; that he knew, but he was fair.
He couldn't force Reg to show up since he had no official authority in that respect, but let the boy ask questions. He'd most likely discover the offer was genuine and worth taking him up on. If not, well, everyone had to grow into their roles at one time or another, and maybe this wasn't Reg's time. He would know now, though, that if he messed with Amir's family there would be consequences.
((ooc: all out))