A Study in Tea...

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A Study in Tea...

Post  Naitachel on Thu Dec 22, 2011 4:29 am

"And I thought undergraduate coursework had a lot of books," Soraya sighed as she hefted her backpack onto the table. It had been yet another long day of coursework, and it was crunch time; finals were coming up. Her back ached, her head ached, and she was looking forward to the freedom of winter break. Not to mention the fact that her clinical rotations started during the spring semester. But for now, she was stuck staying late at school to finish her group projects, even when the other members of her groups were less than helpful in doing so. With a grimace, she sat heavily onto one of the nearby couches, seeking only a few moments' respite.

Matty sat back in the chair, tossing the wad of paper that had been his homework into the fruit bowl across the room. "At least you're learning something new." He yawned. "I'm not exactly enjoying high school for the billionth time either."

Naitachel glided into the room, arching a brow as he stirred his tea with a spoon. Setting a wing-shoulder against the wall, he leaned on it and watched the pair. "Is knowledge ever truly wasted?" he asked, amused. "The tea is ready, by the way, if anyone wishes any."

"What, you mean algebra is not more thrilling the 13th time around?" Soraya teased wryly, gingerly removing her shoes. "My classmates think me an oddity, as I refuse to give them many details about my life. They seem to think I am living in some sort of cult or something. And they keep asking to hold study groups at my house specifically. I do not know how many more excuses I can give them. Tea would be wonderful," Soraya answered quickly, grinning up at Naitachel.

"So let them." Matty shrugged. "If they want to see the oddity that is your family, let them come at night. If you want... I'll even show them why you're so private." He bared his fangs and narrowed his eyes in a mock-threatening manner.

The Seraph took a sip of his tea, then pushed off the wall and ducked back into the kitchen to collect more for the others. Bringing it out on a tray, he flashed Matty a smile and chuckled. "Perhaps on All Hallows Eve, if you will try that. I have no desire to clean the place after someone wets themselves." He set it down on the coffee table. "I do not see why the idea is a bad one, however. Why not invite them one evening? When all is quiet. They may think us odd, then, but I suppose we can manage our usual pretenses."

"What pretense?" Jina asked, gliding in with a handful of handbills. "Oh, tea! Wonderful!" She grabbed a cup and sipped it quickly before looking at the others. "What'd I miss?"

Naitachel's features twisted into a bit of a grimace and he gestured at his crutches by the door. "Very well, my pretenses, and your... rather less-then-pretended selves?" he corrected with a wry chuckle.

Soraya chewed on her lower lip a moment. "Well, the fangs would have to remain hidden, for one," she said, giving Matthias a meaningful look, "but for another, well... I am almost positive they would know Vlad if they saw him, and I prefer not to be known for being his wife," she sighed, before realizing how that sounded. "I merely mean that I prefer not to have preferential treatment for being the wife of a famous businessman. The lack of pretense is exactly part of what worries me," Soraya laughed in response to Jina's entrance.

"I'm all for inviting them. We'll just tell them Tom and I are your cousins instead of your kids, or something. Are they cute?" Michael chimed in from behind Jina.

"Have I ever denied you as my children?" Soraya responded quickly, raising an eyebrow at her son. "I am not about to start now. And none of them are, 'cute,' in a way that you are given license to, how do they say, 'hit on them,'" the redhead answered, before looking at Naitachel and shaking her head exasperatedly.

The Seraph shook his head, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. "Now, now, no biting the guests... At least not while they are visiting. We wish for no suspicions. And if you worry over them recognizing Vlad, then perhaps you might merely choose a night when he is busy?" He bent to pour and serve as others needed, then took up his own cup again, giving it another stir with his spoon.

"Min will. Just watch. He always does," Matty drawled.

Soraya sighed and picked up one of her feet to massage it. "You see now why I have reservations of bringing anyone here?" she asked Naitachel. "Why do you not have friends over, Matty?" Something told her his reasons would be similar to her own.

"Why don't you want them to recognize Vlad?" Min asked. "Are you ashamed of him?"

"Because," she answered impatiently, again, "I want to avoid being treated differently due to whose wife I am. I am hardly ashamed of him," she defended herself. She knew, however, that keeping the knowledge secret beyond this first semester would likely be impossible.

"I don't bring friends home because I don't have friends." Matty shrugged, leaning over the books in front of him, avoiding eye contact with the others.

Nait glanced over at Min. "Vlad is somewhat recognized by the media, you might say. In fact... did we not have some trouble just last month with some such? I admit I missed much on that, as I was helping at that one hospital at the time." The Seraph flashed Matty a sympathetic look, but that was not something he could aid much with. He did step over to set a soothing hand to Matty's shoulder, however.

Soraya glanced at Matty with sympathy. "They are hardly my friends, either," she said, standing and moving nearer to him. "They are simply curious. It is difficult not to be with a group as small as ours."

"Of course it is..." Matty shrugged. "We're so weird... what's not to wonder..."

"Indeed. I must admit, I know of no other families who actually continue to eat dinner together," Soraya smiled at Matty playfully. "That makes us odd."

Naitachel laughed. "True enough. Or that speak much to each other. An unfortunate trend, truly. Still, then... shall we plan it, then?"

Matty just shrugged again.

Soraya raised an eyebrow at Naitachel. "You truly intend to have all of those prying eyes inside our home?" she asked incredulously.

The Seraph spread his hands, letting go of Matty's shoulder, careful not to spill his tea. "Why ever not? They would ask a few questions, more sloppily than the media folk, and leave when one makes the right hints, yes? I imagine the company Christmas Party is more difficult."

The redhead grimaced. "Perhaps simply one study group. Keep it innocuous enough. I will have to ask Vlad when he will be busy." Not that Vlad wasn't busy most nights. "Speaking of, I presume he is still at the office?"

"It's all stupid. I don't know why we have to deal with any of them," Matty said, standing and gathering his books. "They're going to say all the same stupid sayings and ask all the same stupid questions and live and die just as stupid. I'm sick of it." With that, he stormed out of the room, leaving his tea on the table.

"I imagine he is," Jina answered Soraya, frowning after her youngest brother.

Naitachel gazed after Matty with concern. "I wonder if something has happened at school..." he mused quietly.

"A crush, perhaps?" Soraya mused in echo of Naitachel's concern. It was either that or someone he had known had passed recently. They tried to avoid reading obituaries, but sometimes news still travelled to them.

The Seraph paused a moment, considering the emotions Matty was giving off, and shrugged, sighing. "Quite possible. Regardless, he feels no hope."

"Well, there was..." Michael began before realizing he was speaking aloud and forcing his mouth shut. He did, after all, attend the same high school as Matty.

"There was what?" Jina demanded.

Soraya's eyebrow rose at Michael again, though her middle son merely shrugged. "This really hot lunch lady at school. I mean, you really wonder why she ended up in that line of work." He grinned.

"And?" Soraya prodded. Michael was obviously trying to change the topic at hand.

Nait arched a brow at Michael, curiosity perked.

"And... nothing..." he said, though his tone suggested a question more than an answer.

"Honestly... a lunch lady?" Jina's expression pinched. "I doubt that he's this... MATTY... over a lunch lady."

"She's hot," Michael asserted lamely, glancing at Nait who would likely detect his evasion better than anyone else.

Shaking his head at Jina, Nait pointed out, "Why not? She can be as lovely as any other lady. Even the 'bag ladies' on the street have their moments of beauty."

"Sure… that smile when they're handed a bottle of schnapps is radiant," Jina retorted.

The Seraph arched a brow at Michael. "So, has she shown any interest in him? Friendship, at least, or companionship?" Nait snorted. "They were not always 'bag ladies', you know."

Michael blinked, having a difficult time believing they were actually taking this bait. "Um, no..." he said again. It wasn't really a lie, but mainly because Matty hadn't pursued anything with her. The girl he was actually interested in was, in fact, not this lunch lady.

The Seraph frowned slightly, now confused. "We are discussing who he is interested in, correct?" he tried to confirm.

"Michael," Soraya's warning came. She knew her son well enough to know when he was lying, even without her empathy. "Who is she?" she asked again, this time a little more forcefully.

"Assuming he's interested in anyone. Come on. This is Matty. He gets this way." Jina stood, rolling her eyes and headed toward the door. "He's our lovable emo, remember?"

"You can just ask him, you know," Michael said, torn between feeling the traitor to Matthias and giving his family information that might help get through to Matty. He did always seem to put his foot in his mouth by saying too much. When his mother's eyebrow lifted again, he sighed and relented, "She's just a student."

"Ah," Nait stated quietly, thoughtfully looking into his tea.

"Her name's Monica," Michael sighed, sitting at the table. "I don't know much about her, but I've seen him giving her the puppy dog look when she wasn't looking," he explained. "Maybe we should have Min give him lessons on approaching her?" he suggested with a wry grin to both Naitachel and Jina.

"If anyone, Min may be the one with the best advice for him," Nait murmured sympathetically. He recalled loving others before he knew Radu... and knowing the whole time that he could not be in their company more than a few weeks at best.

***

Matty stood near the heavily draped window in his room, wondering for the billionth time if perhaps he wouldn't be happier if he simply pulled off the curtain and had done with it.

"I'd be sad if you did it," Brianna's small voice came from behind Matty. "I'd understand, but I'd be sad."

Matty sighed. Of course Bri would catch him. Bri always caught him. "They're having tea in the parlor."

Brianna hopped up onto Matty's bed and sat there, the perfect replica of a small lady. "I'd rather sit with you."

Matty remained there by the window, one hand on the draperies, uncertain what to say to his niece.

"Is she pretty?" Brianna asked, finally, breaking the silence that lingered there.

Matty nodded. She was beautiful. Radiant. Quite possibly the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen...

Brianna smiled brightly. "Think she'd want to come to one of my tea parties?" she suggested.

Matty shook his head. "No, Bri. She can't come here. She doesn't belong here."

"Why not?" Brianna asked, hopping off the bed and coming to a stand next to Matthias. "Mommy did, and she's not a... like us."

"She's not like her, either. Monica won't live forever. And she doesn't belong in the dark... She deserves sunshine. She deserves to grow old with someone." His voice broke as he spoke. Clearing his throat, he shook his head. "I couldn't do that to her."

"Mommy picked this," Brianna reminded him, but she wasn't going to push Matty further than that by convincing him that this Monica would make the same choices Soraya had. Instead she merely took Matthias's hand and held it as tightly as she could. "She'd be lucky."

Matty looked at Brianna levelly. "You think we're lucky, Bri?"

"No," Brianna answered quickly, without hesitation. "I think she'd be lucky to have you." Brianna had resorted to merely standing there, holding Matthias's hand without saying a word, if only to be a comforting presence.

***

"Perhaps we should get Min involved, then," Soraya agreed with Naitachel. "Or perhaps we should simply allow this to run its course. It always has," she said, though quietly she feared the day it wouldn't simply run its course.

"Get me involved in what?" Min asked, entering the room, his appearance disheveled but happy.

Nait glanced over at the vampire in question. He, too, wasn't certain how much heartache Matty could handle. "Advising Matty. His heart has fallen for a young classmate, and he is despairing. You do have the most experience in such matters."

Min frowned, his carefree attitude abruptly replaced with an appearance of deep concern. "Is it that time again?"

Soraya merely nodded sadly. "I wish there was something we could do for him," she said, her books now forgotten on the table. She had been worried about those, but now they were the last of her concerns.

"Tack the curtains up solid and watch him," Jina said simply. "It'll pass. It always does."

Min glared at his sister, shaking his head. "I'll check on him," he said to the others, then headed off to do so.

"What?" Jina asked the others. "It does..."

"Until the day it doesn't," Soraya said to Jina pointedly.

"Perhaps so, but there may come a time when it grows too much for any one heart," Nait offered quietly. "Only Matty would know when the strain becomes too great. We would learn only after the fact."

Jina opened her mouth to answer, then snapped it closed. She had no idea what to say.

"Well, at least he has the support of a loving family," Soraya sighed, resting her head on her hands. Even if they were frequently gone, these days.

"Seraphs are lucky in that we have few urges for more than mere friendship, but Matty is not so fortunate," Nait added. "He deals with a great deal of pressure." Naitachel glanced over a shoulder towards the kitchen, briefly puzzled. "Has anyone brought Mircea anything to... ah... eat? I imagine he is staying late to his labs tonight, as is his wont, but we do have a bit from the blood bank left over..."

***

Min entered the room behind Matty, placing a hand on Brianna's shoulder. "Hey, kiddo," he offered his brother quietly.

Brianna glanced up at Min when he entered, but remained where she was, holding Matty's hand.

"I can take him some," Soraya suggested. "I would like to stop in and see Vlad, if I can, at the same time," she offered. She was tired, but she wanted some time with her husband as well, before she retired for the night.

"Good, because I don't have time to go over there tonight. I've got a group of new kids coming in from all over the US to audition for our summer training group. I get to make some dreams come true... and shatter a few, but that can't always be helped." Jina shrugged.

Nait glanced towards Matty's room, torn. He had hoped to catch a glimpse of his brother-in-law, as it had been a while, but he did not wish to abandon Matty in his plight. <Might you need my aid? I think Brianna actually has him in good care, and you are likely more useful than I right now,> he told Min, concerned.

Soraya glanced at Naitachel. "Care to join me?"

"Gets hard sometimes, doesn't it," Min offered quietly. <Don't worry. We've got him.>

Brianna nodded at that, as if to answer both for herself and Matthias. She was only in her late 80's, and already she felt the strain of the years passing by.

The Seraph nodded, and finished off his tea. "I think I shall. I have not seen Mircea in some time, it feels." He smiled at Jina. "Do try to let them down gently, those who fail? Dreams are extremely painful when destroyed, but if given new dreams they may simply be substituted."

Soraya quickly took up her keys and Mircea’s, "dinner," then headed for her car with a wave in Jina's direction. She was anxious to see Vlad.

"I'll make an effort," Jina assured him with a smile. "I remember what it was like to be less confident in such things..."

Naitachel nodded, and waved to Jina as he scooped up his crutches at the door. "Do not wait up for us?" he joked as he turned to hurry after Soraya.

Min could see easily enough that there weren't any more words that would ease his brother's pain. Instead, he just drew him to his chest, and Brianna as well, and held them both. Sometimes, that really is all you can do.

"I won't," Jina grinned, waving back. "See you... sometime tomorrow."


Last edited by Naitachel on Sat Dec 24, 2011 4:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: A Study in Tea...

Post  Naitachel on Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:13 am

The drive to Dragon Enterprises' central headquarters was short at this time of night, and Soraya made quick work of it. They even entered through the garage, as usual, and used their security scans to gain access to the controlled floors. "Would you like me to go with you, or do you mind delivering this on your own?" she asked, indicating the blood pouch.

"Good evening Mrs. Prince. Mister Prince. Can I help you tonight?" Sal, the security guard called out to them both. Spying the blood pouch, he blanched slightly. "More material for the lab, then?" He shuddered. "I know it's important work he's doing, but that gets me squeamish."

Naitachel accepted the pouch and dropped it into a pocket of his long coat, then took hold of his crutches again. "I will take it to him. Good evening, Mister Sal. How are the wife and children?"

"Good. Real good," Sal answered with grin. "Missy's got her first tooth comin' in. And SJ's finally got that cast off. Now if I can keep him outta the trees, right?"

"Good evening, Sal," Soraya answered, flashing him her best smile. "Something Mircea forgot at home. Is Vlad in his office?" she asked him. At Sal's news about trees, Soraya faltered. "Yes, indeed. Trees can be more dangerous than they seem."

The Seraph shrugged a bit and smiled brightly. "I wish you the best of luck in that endeavor. Perhaps you might interest him in planes before he tries flying again?"

"Watch him carefully," Soraya offered, hoping not to sound overly concerned about it. Still, after what had happened to Michael, trees and children in any combination made her nervous.

"Yes ma'am. And yes, ma'am." Sal grinned. "He's in his office, and we're watching him closer now. If it's all the same, sir, I think I'd rather he kept his feet on the ground, you know? Flying ain't for people else'd we'd have wings, right?"

"Indeed," Soraya laughed, and waved. "Thank you Sal. Send your wife our best." With that, she set for the next set of elevators and scanned herself into those, before holding the doors for Naitachel to join her.

Nait blushed slightly at that, and glanced at Soraya, shrugging slightly, sheepishly. After all, he hadn't been there to help prevent Michael's accident--a mission had called him away. As he moved towards the doors with Soraya, he added over his shoulder, wondering where his errant mate was now, considering how much Radu seemed to try to accomplish in any one night... "Have you seen Radu about?"

"I know he's in the building, but you know him, sir. Always busy. He's probably in one of the labs," Sal answered. "Mircea probably knows which one?"

"Ah. Thank you, Sal!" Nait called as the doors shut.

Soraya smiled and pressed the button designating the floor of Mircea's lab, then pressed the top floor, where Vlad's office was. "You can always ask him where he is," she suggested wryly.

Naitachel smiled warmly, and shook his head. "And interrupt his concentration? Sometimes that lab activity is delicate work." The doors dinged, and opened. "I will see you later, then. Give Vlad my regards," he offered as he stepped out, crutches clicking a steady rhythm on the tiled floors.

"They are all yours," Soraya breathed to Naitachel as the doors opened to this floor. It was obvious Mircea was deep in conversation and in one of his moods. "I will--do the same for Mircea," she called after Nait, allowing the doors to close behind her. The ride to the top floor was short from here, and the doors opened without too much delay.

***

A tall, reasonably pretty blond woman stood in Mircea's office, shaking her head vehemently. "We've tried that, sir. Nobody matching either description. Are you sure Archer didn't find them..."

"He doesn't have them. We've looked," Mircea growled, picking up a slide and carrying it to the microscope on another table.

"We'll keep looking sir. Meanwhile, the quarterly reports suggest..." the girl continued, moving on to the next item of business.

<You are concerned and angry. Is something amiss?> Naitachel asked Mircea as he clicked his way down the hall to the lab in question.

Mircea almost dropped the slide in his hand. <Nothing...> he sighed. <Missing research...> He wasn't about to go into detail and admit how completely unethically he'd behaved... and why....

"Good evening, Mister Prince," the blonde greeted Naitachel. She nodded to Mircea. "I'll just file these for your perusal later." She smiled, heading quickly out the door.

The guilt he felt radiating from Mircea made Naitachel pause at the door. <You know that telling me an untruth is to no avail,> he reminded gently, though he did not press further. "Good evening, Miss Lillith," he told the blonde in passing. Stepping within, he added so softly as to almost be to himself, "Soraya and I brought you your dinner."

<I know,> Mircea sighed. Still, he made no move to offer more of the information. Not yet. Not before he knew for certain.

The Seraph stepped around the tables to rest a hand on Mircea's shoulder, offering what comfort he could as freely as ever. "So, what are you so intent on, if I may ask?" he inquired, glancing at the microscope and slide the man was peering at. <And where would you like me to place your dinner? I believe it says it is type A-.>

"It's a genetic anomaly," Mircea answered, standing aside so that Naitachel could see. "It weakens the muscles and softens the bones of its victims until they simply can no longer support or sustain themselves. I'm seeking a cure that would not... completely... alter them." He sighed. "Thank you for dinner."

Naitachel set his crutches aside and peered through the microscope. Drawing back, he offered a somewhat sheepish shrug. "I wish I might aid you, but there is nothing that I am permitted to offer," he stated quietly. "The answers you seek must be of your own devising."

"I know," Mircea sighed. "I know..."

A young, bespectacled boy came into the lab with a tray full of samples, tripping over his own feet as he did so. Mircea moved quickly, righting the tray with one hand and the boy with the other before either could hit the floor. "Slowly," he reminded the boy. "For the sake of both you and our research if you please."

The Seraph fished Mircea's meal from his pocket and set it on the table nearby. Then he found himself a seat on one of the stools. He hopped up when the boy stumbled, but Mircea was the faster to react. "Are you all right?" he asked the boy. <I understand your urgency, however.>

"Yes, sir," Joseph replied. "Thank you. I’m fine, sir. I'm... sorry..."

"It's fine, Joey," Mircea sighed. "Just... can you get the rest of those for me?"

"Yes sir," the boy replied with a nod. "How're you, by the way? Haven't seen you around much lately, sir," Joey said to Naitachel quickly.

Mircea glanced at Naitachel. Could he really understand the reason for his urgency? Was it possible he knew?

"I am quite well, thank you, Joey," Naitachel returned gently. "I have been keeping myself busy at... I believe it is called Saint Reardon's?" <I shall have to move on to another soon, however. Apparently my "deformities" disconcert the lady in charge.> "I see you are kept busy by Mircea, here," he teased the boy.

"Yes sir." Joseph grinned. "I'm glad he does, though. I love working with him. It's always interesting research."

Naitachel settled back on the stool. "Speaking of research... Any idea what has Radu so very preoccupied?" He sounded amused. "I should hate to interrupt something delicate."

"He's in lab number six," Mircea answered sounding distracted as he peered at another slide and jotted notes. "At least he was earlier."

Nait slid off his stool to his feet and took up his crutches again, smiling brightly. "Thank you!" Heading for the door, he added silently, <Do not forget to eat, please. Or I shall have to send him to you.> As he trotted down the hall, he paused, feeling tension throughout those in the building, wondering what was going on.

***

Vlad paced his office, frowning, as he spoke into his Bluetooth headset. "That's ridiculous. The lab produced four times that last year, and still came up short what was needed. Now you're asking us to cut production and raise the price? Are we trying to save lives or not here?"

Soraya walked quietly toward Vlad's office and knocked quietly on the door before letting herself in. She stopped short of walking all the way in, however, when she saw that Vlad was deep in what was obviously an important conversation. She probably should have called. With a sigh, she began to remove herself from the office as quietly as she could, to allow Vlad to work.

<Don't leave,> Vlad said to Soraya even as he continued the conversation on the phone. <I'll be done in a minute.>

Soraya stopped in her tracks and turned back to the room, leaning against the door as she did so. <I did not mean to interrupt. I am sorry,> she said quickly.

<I'm not.> Vlad smiled.

Soraya shrugged and smiled in response. <I missed you,> she explained. <Is everything alright?>

<Bureaucratic nonsense interfering with sensibility, as usual,>
Vlad sighed. <I missed you too.>

<Would you like me to singe someone's hair on your behalf?>
Soraya suggested, moving to take a seat on one of the leather chairs.

Vlad almost laughed, but shook his head quickly as he continued his call.

<Pity,> Soraya answered with a grin. The grin, unfortunately for Vlad, quickly became mischievous. The redhead stood, and, slyly began to unbutton the blouse she was currently wearing. <Hot in here,> she said wryly.

Vlad tipped his head back, trying hard not to laugh, and stared at the ceiling, trying hard not to lose focus on the conversation he was having aloud.

Soraya took the tip of Vlad's head as an invitation, and, after shucking her blouse completely, made her way to stand in front of Vlad. Standing on her tip toes, she placed a feather-soft, lingering kiss on his throat. <Hot in here,> she said again.

Vlad swallowed hard, trying hard not to groan as the full weight of his desire took hold. He listened, nodding as he listened to the meaningless excuses from the other end of the line.

The seductress chuckled at her husband's reaction. She knew her act was having its intended effect. This time, she kissed a little lower, along Vlad's collar bone. Of course, doing so meant undoing his tie and unbuttoning the top of /his/ shirt, as well. <Is this distracting?> she asked innocently.

<A bit, yes,> he sent, swallowing hard as his body responded to her touch of its own accord.

<Sorry,> she answered, though she didn't stop. A few more buttons of Vlad's shirt undone, another kiss, this time upon his bared shoulder... <Should I stop?> Obviously, she was enjoying herself immensely, both for the tease itself and its promise, and for the reactions she could still draw from Vlad after all this time.

"Blaine," Vlad said aloud in response at last. "I'll have to call you back." He hung up, ignoring the protest of the person on the other end of the call. He drew his wife closer to him, then, kissing her passionately as his hands moved lightly upon her skin.

Soraya couldn't help but giggle as Vlad kissed her. <And here I was hoping not to interrupt,> she said, though her own body responded to Vlad's touch with as much fervor as his.

Vlad lifted her to him, kissing her neck... her shoulders... as his own needs became more demanding.

Coherent thought left Soraya as the proverbial dragon she had awoken now demanded its due. Not that she was complaining.

Vlad's hand was behind her neck, cradling her gently as he kissed her, slowly laying her back on the table in the middle of the room, when the door abruptly flew open. "Mister Prince, sir, we've got a prob... oh... my. I am so sorry..." the auburn haired receptionist sputtered.

Soraya's eyes flew open and her body tensed as a voice suddenly intruded. Her yelp was one of both surprise and frustration. Her hands instinctually moved to cover herself.

Vlad's head dropped onto Soraya's shoulder as he sighed, frustrated beyond measure. "Yes, Sophia? What is it?"

The girl blinked, trying hard not to stare, at the way his shirt clung to his slender but well-toned frame. Um... sir... that Admiral is back... and Archer... they're asking to speak to someone again."

Soraya remained still as a deer in headlights, though her free hand remained cradling Vlad's head to her. "Admiral?" Soraya asked with a sigh. That sounded important. Important enough to have to call an adjournment to this meeting. <Sometimes I hate your job,> she confided quietly, obviously frustrated.

<Me too,> Vlad replied. "Taggert again? I thought we already passed on their proposals."

"We did, sir, but they've come with another counter-offer," Sophia replied. "They seem very insistent, sir." She couldn't take it anymore. She removed her suit jacket and passed it toward Soraya. The last thing she wanted to see was her bosses head cradled against someone else's bosom. Even his wife's.

The redhead allowed her head to fall back onto the table. Shop talk always seemed to ruin the mood. After another moment, she lifted herself to her elbows, then began trying to squirm out from under Vlad. "Duty calls, then," she said unhappily as she began casting about for her discarded shirt. The jacket landed neatly within Soraya's reach, and the redhead snatched it up, using it to cover herself more fully than she could manage with her hands. She glanced quickly at Sophia, smiling gratefully as she darted across the room to collect her shirt, then ducked into the private bathroom.

Vlad swore softly, rising and righting his own clothes as well.

"Your wife... she's very pretty," Sophia said casually, trying hard not to sound jealous.

"She's perfect," Vlad agreed with a smile, not seeming to notice. He moved out past her, to face the demon known on earth as Admiral Taggert, and his equally notorious henchman, Archer.

It took Soraya several long moments to compose herself before she reemerged. "Here," she said awkwardly, handing Sophia her suit coat. "Thank you."

"Of course, Mrs. Prince," Sophia replied, trying to keep the hint of coldness out of her voice. Accepting her coat, she turned on her heel and headed to assist in the meeting with Vlad, supposing Soraya would move on to whatever it was she did for the day and leave them in peace.

Sophia's less than friendly demeanor was hardly lost on Soraya, and the redhead found herself frowning. What was going on here? She would be sure to broach the subject with Vlad when she had the chance. For now, Soraya ran her fingers through her hair one more time before sighing and making for the elevators. She hoped it wouldn't be another three days before she laid eyes on her husband again.

***

Pausing by Lab 6, Naitachel tentatively cast about, seeking his errant mate. Possibly this new crisis, whatever it was, had called him to it...

A rotund little man, nearly as big around as he was tall, headed up the hall with his arms full of files, reading the top one as he went. So intent was he upon his reading, he failed to notice Nait before him, almost running him over.

<Is all well?> Nait called to Radu, concerned by the atmosphere now pervading the entire building. He stumbled back as someone almost ran into him, wings shifting under his coat for balance and tail making the tail end flutter. "Pardon?" he asked, startled, as he tried not to drop the crutches.

"I'm so sorry, Mister Prince, I didn't see you. Are you alright? I didn't hurt you did I?" Hugo sputtered, trying to find a way to shift his files to offer a hand to his boss' spouse… who he'd just run down in the hall through his own negligence.

The Seraph settled the crutches back on the floor correctly and smiled reassuringly at the man. "I am quite all right, thank you Mister Hugo. No harm done. Have you seen Radu about? I must admit, hunting him down makes one wonder if they should tie a cat-bell to him, as he moves too swiftly to be caught otherwise."

Hugo laughed. "He's been in and out of the first five labs all day. Hands-on, isn't he?" He shook his head. "I think we might have a breakthrough in lab three, though. He unlocked that sequence, finally. We might have it licked pretty soon. I think he got called down, though. Some big muckety-mucks from Washington trying to weasel their way into his research again or some such. I know he'd be glad to see you, though. He's getting thinner, if you can believe it. Not good. Could do to have you check in and all, I think," Hugo rambled on.

Naitachel shook his head, chuckling. "They never learn, do they? No matter. I suppose I will head down, then, and hope to ferret him out..." He paused, frowning slightly. "Thinner? Heavens. Well, if you find him missing a few days after this, be certain the reason will be myself attempting to add some padding to his bones. I wonder if I needs must kidnap him for such at times..." A fond sigh, if a patient one. "I shall see you another time, then, Mister Hugo." With that, he set off clicking down the hall for the elevator again. But not before calling back, "Please remind Mircea to eat before you leave, lest he follow Radu's example!"

"I will, sir." Hugo grinned. "I think he needs to find himself a husband, maybe, to do that for him long term though, don't you?"

Naitachel chuckled as he paused for the elevator to arrive. "A wife, you mean. Mircea has no interest in males. Who knows what the future may bring him, however? Until then, we needs must make certain he fills his needs somehow."

"I'll do my part, sir," Hugo agreed easily enough. "We'll all try to. I don't think there's one of us here who doesn't fancy the idea of being along on one of their major breakthroughs. It's exciting!"

With a wave, Naitachel boarded the elevator. "The best of luck to you there. I shall see you another time, Mister Hugo!" The doors shut on his cheerful smile. He punched the button for the floor with conference rooms, smile fading to a thoughtful expression. When it opened again, he stepped out into another hallway, and set to clicking his way down that, tentatively probing with his empathy to understand what was going on, and perhaps if he might help...

***

Radu was in the conference room, along with his nephew and the representatives of the military and central intelligence.

The Seraph arched a brow as he noticed men with guns standing in the hallway. Hardly intimidated, he clicked past them purposefully, knowing few challenge those who seem to know what they're doing. At the door, he reached out to crack it open, not wanting to interrupt so much as slip inside with as little notice as possible. The tension was thick enough to cut with a knife. He knew their own would need level heads to play with such authoritative figures safely.

"We'd hoped you'd be more anxious to further this research," Taggert said condescendingly. "After all, the lives it would save. The quality of life it would improve. It seems somewhat selfish to abandon these victims, and we are fully aware that your labs have already made great stride. We have witnessed the proof, before the test subjects expired."

Radu's jaw clenched. He sighed. "I think you are mistaken, Admiral. This is not a field we've explored. If we had, however, I do not believe we'd be willing to militarize our results."

"Ah, who do we have here?" A tall, ruggedly handsome forty-something gentleman with distinguished salt and pepper hair and a perfect smile exclaimed at Naitachel's entrance.

Naitachel blinked, straightening as he was noticed, and colored slightly. "Pardon--I had no wish to truly intrude." <You felt as though you need the... "backup" however,> Nait told Radu and Vlad quietly.

"You are welcomed to stay," Taggert invited, pulling out a chair for the newcomer. "I take it you're the infamous Naitachel, spouse to Radu Prince?"

<They're piranha,> Radu sighed.

<They're vermin,> Vlad disagreed. <And I'm half tempted to call Mircea to be the exterminator.>

"I had no idea I was infamous, but you are correct--I am Naitachel. And you are...?" he inquired politely. <They do not feel ready to attempt force,> he observed. <I do not think we need go that far. They feel rather determined, however, and sly...> The Seraph moved to the offered chair, casting his mate a concerned glance, worrying that Radu was, to his eyes, indeed much thinner. He settled on the edge of the seat carefully. "Thank you."

<Not yet,> Vlad agreed. "This is Admiral Jackson Taggert. And that..." He tried hard not to sound as ready to spit at the vile taste in his mouth the next man inspired, "is Archer."

"I would say 'well met', but considering we are at odds here, that would not necessarily be the truth," Nait stated carefully.

"Such a lovely introduction," Archer deadpanned. "Perhaps you could talk some sense into these two. We're offering to partner with them to save lives. You'd think they'd want to be part of that, wouldn't you?"

"You're asking us to engage in research of a questionable nature, ethically, and then hand it over to be perverted in any way you see fit with no safeguards in place whatsoever. That's just not how we work," Vlad replied.

The Seraph arched a brow at Archer. <A nasty piece of work, indeed,> he mused on the man. "I believe we are accomplishing the saving of lives as well as is feasible at this time, gentlemen. Ethics are, you understand, an important factor. My question is single, and simple... Why do we need you?" <I believe negotiations were easier at the end of the Second World War...>

"We've got an entire military full of willing test subjects. Men who've suffered terribly debilitating injuries who would benefit from the results of this research. We could offer ample supplies and support for the research. You'd have anything you needed or wanted in unlimited quantities. And you'd get recognition that could only help your company. Research is expensive. The sort of grants and tax breaks your company could receive through this is simply unimaginable." Taggert looked at them as if that should have been all they needed to hear.

<I believe you are right,> Radu sighed silently.

"And we could provide you with enough assistants in the labs to accomplish this without needing to be quite so hands on," Archer offered, glancing at Radu. "You're wearing yourself thin... literally, no offense... Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go home at reasonable times. To take the time to eat... to rest... to spend time with your family... and still get everything you're working on done? We can provide you enough well trained and highly qualified support to let that happen."

Nait glanced at Radu and Vlad. "Test subjects we have in plenty... supplies and helpers we have as is most efficient for the moment... and money nor recognition are not the objects of this research. Again, I ask, why you?" Naitachel's brow furrowed slightly at Archer's addition, eyes narrowing slightly. "Mister Archer, I believe that is where I have been negligent in my own duties." <Which, I believe, should be remedied soon,> he told Radu with wry fondness. <At the rate you are losing weight, you will do me harm when we next have some time alone.>

"We could ensure that he's well fed, at all times." Archer cast them a knowing glance. "Whatever type," he stressed the word, "of food he prefers."

<I could never harm you, beloved. I have simply been somewhat distracted,> Radu assured him.

Naitachel stiffened slightly at the implications of Archer's words, and he looked at the man sharply, then arched a brow at him and chuckled, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Mister Archer, if you are proposing to steal my spouse, I shall be forced to be at my most stubborn in my refusal!" he laughed. <Yes, but skin and bones do not make for pleasant mating practices. Do not make me request padded armor for our bed.>

Radu smiled and looked away. Were he capable of blushing, he no doubt would have.

"As attractive as he is, I'm afraid my interests are more of a clinical nature," Archer assured Naitachel good naturedly.

"I hate to suggest this," Taggert began slowly. "But the military is aware of the research your company has already begun in this field. We could simply take what we want in the name of national security. However, we'd rather have your cooperation."

"We do have... some components... of the earlier research in our custody," Archer added, unaware of the recent escape of their 'test subject'. "We just want the original researcher to help further the process. It's for the good of the nation, I assure you."

The Seraph shook his head firmly. "All the same, Mister Archer, I would feel very much hurt and inadequate if you propose to 'take care of him', as any spouse would." He glanced at Taggert, and touched slender fingers on the table, tapping them thoughtfully as if practicing musical scales. "You may try, Mister Taggert. I would not count on success. We are a stubborn family, you understand." He felt a cold thrill run through his feathers at Archer's addition... and frowned. "Mister Archer... No, you may not have Mircea." Yes, things added up nicely. "People are not to be bartered with, like gold."

"Mircea. I rather suspected as much, though I was uncertain. Some thought perhaps it was your husband." Archer smiled. "Thank you for that."

"They're both very talented researchers." Taggert nodded. "We'd welcome both, honestly. We need them."

Golden eyes glared at Archer, displeased at being used so. "Regardless, neither are for sale. I have had far higher bids than yours before..."

"They're not interested, and none of us have time to dance around and around this again," Vlad said shortly, standing and straightening his tie. "If you'll excuse us, now, I believe we've given your offer all due consideration and now need to get back to our work. Sal will be here momentarily to escort you all out."

Radu nodded and headed for the door, supposing that was clear enough. He paused at the door, awaiting Naitachel.

"Good evening, gentlemen." Naitachel drew to his feet and collected his crutches, then clicked his way over to join Radu. <I apologize for my slip,> he murmured to Radu. <Mircea has been fretting over something... or someone... lost. I fear the latter.>

Taggert's eyes went cold and hard. Archer's face took on a terrifyingly neutral expression. "I wish you'd reconsider," Taggert said icily. "I'd rather not have to proceed in opposition. However... if you're certain...."

Radu moved to stand between Naitachel and the two men. "We're certain," Vlad replied, his voice sounding just as threatening. "Good evening, gentlemen."

<It's alright, beloved. You meant no harm,> Radu assured him. <He is guarding whatever this secret is far too closely. It may be time that it was shared.>

The Seraph paused, feeling an icy chill of foreboding. "Mister Taggert... for the sake of more than the lives around us or your own, I do hope you think wisely of your options. Your very soul is at stake."

Radu and Vlad flanked Naitachel, escorting him out with them and leaving the intruders for their own security people to remove.

<I do not think Mircea is ready yet, however,> Nait mused.

Taggert called out to Naitachel's departing form, "I'm an Admiral, dear boy. I don't have a soul."

<I'm sure you're right. However, we need to know what it is we're facing and why,> Radu answered. <We'll wait if we can, however... we may soon have no choice.>

"He shall find, to his detriment, he does," Naitachel muttered as they passed the guards. <Whatever has occurred, it bothers him greatly and cuts deep,> Nait told Radu. <I do hope we do not reach such a point, however.> He said nothing of his foreboding. It was not something he wished to worry them with yet.

Both men just nodded their agreement as they escorted him to the elevator and away from the despicable men in the office.

"In any case, Radu, they were correct on one thing--you do need to stop missing meals." Nait arched a brow at his mate.

"I've not missed so many," Radu protested. "And it's for good causes. Come, see what we've done."

Vlad shook his head. "It doesn't matter, uncle. He's right. Go eat. The work will still be here when you return."

"You have missed enough, however, that I suspect I should invest in a liniment company on my own behalf," Naitachel chuckled. "Eat first, then we may go see. Before I have ghosts haunting me for allowing you to reach such a state."

Knowing when he was outnumbered, Radu sighed and gave in gracefully, following Nait obediently to somewhere he could, presumably, eat in peace.

The Seraph clicked a crutch on the floor, frowning at it slightly. The tips were wearing down, not that he actually leaned on them much at all. He laughed lightly in triumph as he led Radu off to find a willing meal.
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Naitachel
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Re: A Study in Tea...

Post  Naitachel on Sun Jan 01, 2012 4:05 am

Naitachel swept about the main family room, carefully picking up and subtly dusting low surfaces in passing with his tail under his coat. They were expecting guests. He even had snacks ready--luckily nothing that required cooking or microwaving. He dared not touch the microwave after he fried the third in a week. These new ones were just... too sophisticated for him. But he was excited to have new people visiting them. It was a change in routine.

"Hooome," Soraya called, purely a warning to let her family know there were others in the house now. She had finally relented in allowing others from her class visit when Naitachel had even started nudging her to do so. She still wasn't fond of the idea, however. She turned to welcome them, before stopping short. Judging by their saucer-rounded eyes, they hadn't expected her home to be quite so... grand. And she had forgotten to warn them about this. "Well, this is it," she said sheepishly instead. "This way," she continued, ushering the group of 4 others to follow after her toward the family room.

Naitachel straightened abruptly at her warning, and swiftly hid someone's old dagger behind his back. Someone had been paring their nails the old fashioned-way... His tail ducked under his coat. "Ah, welcome home?" he offered sheepishly, trying not to look guilty.

Celine and Marrietta just finished cleaning as the study group arrived. Quickly, they scurried out, not wanting to interrupt their work. "Master Naitachel," Celine whispered as she passed, holding out her hand for the dagger lest someone else see it, hoping they weren't already too late.

The Seraph quickly passed the dagger over to her, hoping nobody noticed...

"We can set up in here," Soraya said off-handedly to the group comprising of 3 males and one other female. Still, none of them had said anything. "Oh." She stopped short, indicating Naitachel, "this is my... uncle-in-law, I suppose," she grinned, "and dear friend, Naitachel. Nait, these are Cordelia, John, Emmett, and Bryce." The redhead was clearly nervous about all of this, and she bitterly wished she could rescind the invitation.

Naitachel bowed somewhat to their guests out of old habit. "Pleased to meet you," he offered. "Welcome to our home."

Celine moved silently around them, dagger hidden in the folds of her skirt.

Emmett stood, gaping, in the middle of the room. "Dayum," he whispered as he took in the grandeur. "You didn't tell us you were loaded."

Soraya reddened a bit at that and glanced at Naitachel in a look that spoke nothing but, "I told you so." "I did not think it mattered all that much," she answered Emmett while she glanced over at Cordelia who was inspecting one of their paintings with interest.

"Is that... a real Monet?" Cordelia asked, awed.

Bryce looked about curiously, not bothering to hide his scrutiny and surprise. He arched a brow at Soraya, and almost stepped back at Naitachel's greeting and introduction. "Pretty impressive place, Soraya. Uh... old world style's kind of evident, though. You guys collect antiques?" From the way his eyes shifted to Nait and back to Soraya, he wasn't sure if 'uncle' fit her relative, but he wasn't about to say anything about it.

John, however remained next to Soraya as he glanced around, and responded, "Thank you," to Naitachel, displaying more poise than the rest. "Nice to meet you," he added hastily.

Naitachel nodded to John, and glanced at Soraya in a bit of dismay. <Antiques?> he asked.

"We collect things here and there," the redhead answered vaguely, then indicated the table. "We can set up here," she suggested, lifting her books onto the table and sitting. She wanted to get this over with. <Yes, well, anything more than 30 years old has some version of antiquity to these folk,> Soraya reminded Naitachel.

Min entered through the great room entrance, his hip-hugging jeans sitting low on his hips, a shirt in each hand. "There you are," he proclaimed as he saw his sister-in-law. "Which should I wear tonight?"

Cordeila's attention quickly shifted away from the Monet and toward Min. He looked familiar, but placing him was a bit difficult when there was so much else to look at. "Hi," she squeaked.

Soraya had to bite her lower lip to keep her response to herself. This was Min's house, too, after all. "The red one," she answered simply.

Bryce moved to follow Soraya's example by bringing his book bag to the table, a bit unnerved still, only to stop and stare at Min's question. "Eh? He your husband, Sora?"

Min smiled brightly, giving a slight bow to the young lady. "Thank you, Sis," he said, kissing Soraya lightly upon the cheek. "Oh... you're still coming tomorrow night, right? Both of you?"

John quickly sat next to Soraya and set to work on retrieving his own materials, trying to remain unfazed.

Naitachel turned to move towards the kitchen. "I think I will get your refreshments," he offered, edging off so as to not draw too much attention to how he didn't walk right...

"My brother-in-law," she corrected Bryce quickly. This was already getting out of control. Soraya nodded and smiled at Min. "Of course," she answered.

"Yes, yes," Nait chuckled. "We will come tomorrow, Min..."

"You're leaving? Already? I'm Cordelia," the woman said, extending her hand to shake Min's.

Bryce grunted, then set his books down on the table by John. "Where you guys going tomorrow?" he asked, just for the sake of conversation.

"Don't you have staff for that?" John called after Naitachel. It was suddenly becoming apparently that John was also familiar with comfortable living.

Min's smile brightened. "Min Prince. It's a pleasure. But yes, I have to get to the club soon." He brushed Cordelia's fingertips with his lips. "It really was pleasure, though..."

Cordelia blushed brightly and giggled, which was a sound rather not heard around the girl - she tended to be as stiff as day-old-French bread. "Yes, where are you headed?" she asked absently, though she watched Min still.

"Oh, just a club Minhea wants us to see," Soraya answered Bryce. "We promised to meet him there."

Emmett was trying to place where he'd seen the man before, when John's question made him curious. "Do you have servants for that?" he asked.

"We prefer to do for ourselves if we can," Nait called over his shoulder. He slipped into the kitchen and banged around a bit as he collected things for their guests. "Would anyone like anything to drink?" he called.

Min backed toward the door, waving a moment, then turned and dashed out, donning his shirt along the way.

<Whatever strong liquor you have that can take away all this pain and make me oblivious for the rest of the night,> Soraya answered Naitachel wryly. Aloud, she simply said, "Water would be lovely."

"What club?" Emmett asked, trying hard to place where he may have met the man before. He opened his messenger bag as he spoke, setting his study materials out on the table.

John's eyebrow raised as he listened to Naitachel banging around, but he refrained from commenting. Instead, he answered, "Yes, water please. With lemon if you have any. Oh, and filtered. If you don't have filtered, then I'll take a Scotch."

"Beer," Bryce called without hesitation. "Never thought you the clubbing type, Sora," he murmured. His eyes went to Cordelia as he spoke. He hadn't pegged her as that type, either.

"I did," Emmett told Bryce, winking in Soraya's direction.

"Oh, uh," Soraya said, opening her own notes, "Vampire, I think it is called. Something like that?" She watched as Cordelia nearly banged into the table in her effort to crane her neck to watch Min as he left, before she took the nearest available chair. "I am mostly going for Minhea's sake, really. I do not go clubbing all that much. Though I do enjoy dancing," she shared quickly. Emmett's wink caught her off guard and she couldn't help but laugh and shake her head.

<We have brandy, if you like, but that could make studying difficult,> Nait laughed back. "Water with lemon, water, a beer... anything else?" he called.

"Oh... uh... diet coke if you've got it," Emmett answered. "Who'll you be dancing with?"

<At this point I should hardly care,> Soraya answered, though her tone made it obvious she was merely being facetious. Soraya lifted a brow in response to Emmett. "Naitachel, likely. I doubt Vlad will go. He is generally busy these days," she explained, hoping her unhappiness about that wasn't too evident in her tone.

Jina came down the stairs outside the primary doors, her light, lilting lyric soprano filling the hall as she rehearsed tomorrow night's opening aria.

Bryce frowned at Emmett. "You'd go," he muttered. His eyes bugged at Jina's entrance, and he almost dropped his jaw. Oh, he knew her... "Holy...!"

"Same," Cordelia said, finally returning from her daze. "Diet Coke, I mean."

Jina swept into the room, her note fading as she noted the gathering. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize anyone was here."
Cordelia watched as the newcomer entered the room, and again found herself trying to place her. "Was that from Carmen?" she asked Jina.

"Too busy to take his wife dancing?" Emmett said, looking at her seriously. "I could never let myself get that busy."
"Everything alright, Bryce?" Soraya asked at his sudden outburst.

"Yes... yes it was." Jina smiled. "An opera fan?"

Bryce blinked, and swallowed. "Uh... she's... she's... I go to the theater and opera--she's that star with the ballerinas!" Yeah, his stunned mind fumbled on the name, beating itself black and blue in horror that it was too shocked to remember.

Speaking of the Seraph, he swept back into the room gracefully with drinks and snacks on a tray. "Here we are," he announced cheerfully. "Well, they did say they had some major breakthrough in the labs, so I am certain once the excitement dies down..."

Soraya shrugged and smiled. "To be fair, school has kept me rather busy as well, lately. He makes as much time as he can," she assured him. Soraya tried to hush Naitachel, though obviously it was too late.

"In the labs?" John asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Labs? Don't tell me he's one of those torture the mouse types." Emmett frowned.

"Yes, well, I grew up listening to the great ones," Cordelia answered Jina. "What labs?" she asked, however, her attention diverted by the mention of labs.

"Oh, I apologize. This is Jina, my sister-in-law," she said quickly, before introducing the others around the table in kind. She hoped that would take the attention away from this most recent declaration, though obviously that was to little avail.

Naitachel blushed a bit, and set the tray down on the table, using it as a distraction and hoping his long hair might help hide his embarrassment. "Oh, no, ah... no tortured anything, I assure you."

"I enjoy the greats myself. There simply aren't any Dame Margaret Price's left, are there?" Jina answered the question put to her, hoping to draw the attention of the others as well.

Bryce just stared at Jina, almost drooling. "Yeah," he agreed absently.

"Have you seen the latest production yet?" Jina asked them all.

Swiftly, Naitachel passed around their drinks, putting each to the voice that had called for it.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, no, there aren't. You do animal testing?" Cordelia frowned.

Bryce blinked slowly. "Uh... yeah...?" Shaking his head, he frowned a moment, then corrected hastily, "Oh, no, I mean... no, haven't seen that one yet." All the rest, sure...

"Wait a second," John finally spoke up, before frowning. "No... no that can't... never mind," he then retracted, as though whatever realization he was about to reveal couldn't possibly be true.

"What can't be?" Emmet pressed, curious.

"Nothing. I was just going to make the ridiculous suggestion that Soraya here is married to Vlad Prince of Dragon Enterprises or something. That's preposterous, of course," John laughed, shrugging it off.

Soraya looked at Naitachel, horrified. "No, no animal testing," she told Cordelia, hoping to salvage this somehow.

Just as Soraya was about to prod the conversation in the direction of Jina's production, Vlad entered, followed by Radu. Vlad came dashing into the room to rifle through some papers in the desk, followed by Radu at a more measured pace. "It is unlikely such modifications would work without..." He stopped midsentence. "Without…" Vlad prompted before looking up. "I... am sorry. Study group is tonight?"

Naitachel paused as he straightened, a bit stiff for a moment, then flashed Soraya a sheepish smile. Only to stiffen again on hearing and feeling their mates run behind him. The Seraph rubbed the back of his head, and turned to offer Vlad and Radu an embarrassed smile. "Ah, I fear so..."

Bryce's gaze shifted from Jina to Radu and Vlad, and his eyes went round. "Holy crap..."

John, who had been mid-drink, nearly choked on it. "No, no way." His thus-far carefully held composure quickly fell away.

Cordelia's mouth merely hung open, speechless.

Radu looked down at his shiny leather shoes. Vlad sighed. "You reminded me this morning, didn't you?" Picking up the paper he'd been searching for and handing it off to Radu, he moved to Soraya's side, kissing her soundly. "Sorry dearest."

Soraya winced at the sudden silence. "This is my husband, Vlad," she introduced, "and his uncle, Radu. These are... classmates of mine. I did." There wasn't much to be done for it now, though she was admittedly somewhat irked. He had to choose now to be home.

"You're...." Cordelia began, pointing unabashedly at Vlad in sheer dumbfoundedness. "Woah."

Vlad glanced at his uncle, only to note him shifting as if perhaps meaning to fade into the shadows in the corner. "Pleased to meet you," Vlad offered. <Uncle, you can't just disappear. They'd notice it here.>

Bryce's gaze shifted to Jina, then Vlad and Soraya. "Uh... Um, nice to meet you?" he struggled, trying to guess what to say. "Holy crap--never thought... Seriously, Sora?"

"No wonder your husband's too busy to take you dancing," John said, standing and extending his hand to Vlad in greeting, as he was sitting next to Soraya as it was. "My family's always admired your work," he stated. "We're the Deerfields..."

Soraya shrugged in Bryce's direction. "Seriously," she answered. "I simply hoped to avoid this type of reaction from the lot of you, so I kept things quiet."

"As in Alofonse and Catherine Deerfield?" Vlad asked, accepting the young man's hand. "I'm an admirer of theirs, as well."

"My grandparents," John answered, a grin breaking out on his face. "Wow. Wait 'till I tell them I've met you. They'll be flabbergasted."

"Ah, Radu, perhaps I might see you to the hall," Naitachel offered, understanding his mate's discomfort. "I am certain Vlad shan't be long..."

Radu moved toward the door, grateful of Naitachel's help, when Emmett asked loudly. "Aren't you the guy who founded the Brightflights charities?"

Radu glanced at Naitachel, hoping he'd field the question. He'd been the reason Radu had founded the charity for sick and needy children. Couldn't he just take the questions?

Naitachel glanced over his shoulder at Emmett, and nodded. "Ah, yes, he has..." But made no effort to add to that, hoping the questions might end there and let Radu escape.

Bryce shook his head, making a face, and took a long pull on his beer. "So... he helps you study?" he asked, smirking slyly at Soraya, a rough joke.

Soraya's eyebrow raised at Bryce's jest. "I do most of my studying myself," she answered, "though occasionally I do get to practice our psychological evaluation skills on him," she offered.

Emmett looked intrigued by Soraya's answer. "Does he need reevaluation often?"

"Are they still working on the multireactive cardio chip?" Vlad asked John.

"No, sadly they had to scrap that," John answered, "It just wasn't working in a way that minimized side-effects enough to make it worthwhile," he explained. "But they're working on something new. Something big, but I'm not privy to it yet. What are you guys working on that's so exciting?" he asked.

"Nothing we can share just yet," Vlad answered, clearly well practiced at that answer. "I'd be interested in helping them further the chip research though if they decide to pick it back up. Have them give me a call."

"Sure," John answered, grinning. Ah, but to be useful to his family in terms of connections - that was priceless. "I'll even make sure you end up on their Christmas Card lists."

Bryce choked on his beer, then coughed a laugh. "Hell, is that what drew you to him? He's a fun study?" Shaking his head, he corrected lest offense be felt, "No, really--how'd you meet?"

Soraya laughed. "It was a joke," she responded to Emmett. She wasn't about to air any of her family's proverbial dirty laundry to them.

Soraya glanced at Vlad. These were the questions she had hoped to avoid. She wasn't much of a liar and so much of their history needed to be embellished to make it fit. "In a rainstorm," she said.

"Where?" Emmett asked, eyeing Vlad appraisingly.

"So... Min's your brother then?" Cordelia finally bespoke.

"Yes, he is," Vlad answered, unsurprised by her question. Didn't the women always ask about Min?

Radu made it out the door and down the hall, having no intention of playing twenty questions when there was still so much work to be done.

Naitachel chuckled quietly, staying at the door. <A lucky break for you,> he teased his mate.

"In the street," Soraya said vaguely. "Naitachel and I were lost and Vlad and Radu rescued us." That was rather an oversimplified version of the story, but it would do.

Bryce shook his head and grinned, raising his beer in toast. "Heck of a lucky break for you two, then, eh?"

"And we'll add them to ours," Vlad assured John about the Christmas card list, before turning to Soraya. "You looked so beautiful, standing there lost, soaked to the skin, and... breathtaking..." He shook his head at Bryce. "We were the lucky ones."

Cordelia's cheeks blushed brightly at Vlad's answer and she sipped her drink.

Emmett sighed, a dreamy look in his eye. Where did he find one of those? he wondered. Or maybe both of them. He imagined himself there with them, dancing at Min's club, body writhing next to theirs... between them both... the friction building...

Soraya herself blushed at Vlad's words. "Yes, looking the sodden rat," she confided to her classmates, allowing herself to laugh. "I think it was a mutually agreeable outcome to the situation." She smiled and took Vlad's hand in hers.

Bryce blushed slightly at Vlad's description of Soraya, and smirked to cover for it. "Heh. I need to pick up a wife like that. Which street corner?"

Cordelia giggled nervously. "Sounds like a trashy romance novel," she blurted before coloring even more brightly. Again, who would have known that the straight-laced Cordelia liked romance novels.

Naitachel shifted uncomfortably, glancing at Emmett uncertainly. "We were rather lost at the time... I am not certain where, actually."

Soraya laughed at Bryce. "You make me sound like a prostitute." Soraya became a bit flustered. SOMEONE in the group was emitting a particular type of energy, and it was starting to get to her.

"Really, Bryce, you ought to be ashamed. These are fine, upstanding people," John chastised soundly. Still, he had obviously been lost in reverie a few moments himself.

Bryce snorted. "They're as human as the rest of us," he retorted. "Besides, that's gotta be a running joke--you two picking each other up on a street corner."

"She said in the street, not a corner," Cordelia corrected, ever one for details.

"Actually... a square, with a statue," Nait provided quietly.

Soraya glanced at Vlad, hiding a smirk regarding the, "human," comment. "Excuse me," she said quickly, however. It was getting warm in there, and she needed a moment.

Vlad laughed. "True, she did. Thank you, Cordelia." To the others, "Believe me, my dearest will never be mistaken for anything other than a lady." He kissed Soraya quickly. "I need to get back to work, though. Goodnight, everyone. Good to meet you all..."

"Goodnight." Soraya smiled at Vlad after returning his kiss. With that, she collected her glass, though it was still mostly full, and made for the kitchen.

Emmet's mind continued to wander, imagining what would come after those hot, sweaty dances, the aftermath of writhing bodies and soft caresses...

Bryce waved to Vlad. "See you around, man." He eyed the others wryly. "That's likely, considering how much studying we're getting done."

"Nice to meet you, again," John said.

"You too." Vlad smiled, then exited quickly, leaving Soraya to study with her friends.

"A square with a statue," Cordelia mused, head resting on her hand. "Romantic," she said, glancing at Naitachel.

Naitachel glanced after Soraya, and grimaced, then stepped over toward Emmett. Tapping his shoulder, and trying to disrupt that train of thought empathically, he asked, "Would you like anything to eat? You seem a bit..." And let it hang. Even though that brief touch made him feel like dipping his hand into a dirty laundry basket on laundry day at their quarters. The Seraph resolved to wash hands as soon as he left the room again.

"Ooh... yeah..." Emmett purred, then blinked. "I mean... sure... starved. Thanks."

"Yeah, studying. Right," John said as he finally settled back into his chair. "What're we supposed to go over? Chapter 18? Personality disorders, right?"

Cordelia finally snapped back to attention herself. "Chapters 18, 19, and 21," she informed them. "Personality disorders, sexual dysfunctions, and social deviance," she said firmly, as she leafed through her book to the desired areas.

Nodding, Naitachel retreated swiftly to the kitchen after Soraya. Once within, he made a beeline for the sink, and nodded at her. "Your friend Emmett shall require sustenance," he stated softly. "You know I dare not try the microwave... Have we any Lean dinners left?"

"I will take care of it," Soraya assured Naitachel. She smiled at him as best she could and set her now nearly overflowing glass down.

"I've got the meals well enough," Deanna, the cook, insisted. "Please Missus Soraya, Mister Nait. It will be done soon."

The Seraph glanced back at the family room, and set a hand on Soraya's shoulder to help her brace up again. "I think I have... broken some of that rather unwanted concentration... for now, anyway," he admitted. Nait cast the cook a relieved glance, clearly grateful beyond measure. "Thank you."

"Thank you," Soraya said, though that was only the tip of what was bothering her. "I appreciate your efforts very much," she confided. Her attention then moved to Deanna. "Thank you Deanna," she said, picking up her glass and spilling part of its contents onto the counter without noticing before she returned to the group.

Naitachel glanced back toward the family room again, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Just what they needed... Someone practically in rut.

***

Bryce nudged Emmett with an elbow. "C'mon, man, wake up. Stop drooling after Jeana. We got work to do, or you'll never get invited again."

"We were hardly invited to begin with," John corrected. "More like pestered our way in. I'm sure we could manage it again," he grinned, though he set to task on going through the notes for relevancy.

"Not Jeana. She's pretty enough, but I don't do blondes. They're a hot couple, aren't they?" Emmett sighed then.

Bryce kicked Emmett under the table. "Speaking of sexual dysfunctions..." he muttered. "Yeah, yeah. Move on, bro. Married, remember."

"Huh?" Cordelia, said, startled and glancing up at Emmett. "Seriously? Classic," she sighed. "Yeah, she's pretty, but you realize Emmett's totally the type to go after a woman simply because she's unavailable."

"I know. I did say couple, remember?" Emmett grinned. "And believe me... I function."

Bryce snorted, making a face. "Just don't 'function' here. The rest of us don't want to see it."

"Not just women," Emmett announced, laughing at the reactions. "And how do you know what they do and don't want to see. I hear that some of the Princes are into... unique... experiences."

"Next thing we know, you'll be asking to take the uncle and his... whatever... too," Bryce muttered to Emmett as he stood. "Let's go eat. Better to work on a full stomach," he announced.

Cordelia rolled her eyes and coughed as Soraya reentered the room with an announcement dinner would be served.

"Well, now... shall we?" Soraya suggested as she opened her own books. She hoped to set aside whatever emotions she was receiving from others as well as her own and get down to business so that she could send them home as quickly as possible.

Deanna called in a few servers and began carrying in the first course. "Pardon sir," the tall leggy blonde leaned to asked Bryce. "Tomato bisque or French onion?"

Bryce sat back down, blinking. "Uh... the second thing."

Naitachel sighed. It was going to be a long night if he was going to have to exert his soothing influences...

The girl placed a bowl in front of him and moved on to the next person as another served the salad and a third served fresh bread loaves. The courses continued, one after another, until the seventh... the desert course, finally hit the table.

***

"I could so get used to this," Emmett said before glancing at his watch. "We're not going to get to studying tonight, are we?"

Bryce patted his stomach. "I vote we try again another night."

"Part of the reason I wanted to avoid my home," Soraya answered quickly as she swirled played with her dessert. "The cooking is too good, and, therefore, distracting."

"So, same time tomorrow night?" Emmett suggested, "Or should we come earlier. Probably earlier, right, if we want to actually study... 5 good then?"

Cordelia merely looked at the stack of flash cards she had set out, shrugged, and put them back in her bag. She could just study once she got home.

John snorted. "Really, man, you've got no manners," he told Emmett.

Suppressing a belch, Bryce shrugged. "Sounds good to me. Earlier'll do."

Soraya merely looked at him helplessly. Had she really collected a set of constant drop-ins now? "Actually, I have plans tomorrow night," she reminded them. "Sorry." <I told you this was a bad idea,> she told Naitachel morosely.

Naitachel glanced up from the book he was pretending to read, trying to hide the effort of exerting what influence he could on the room.

"What? You don't want to come don't come," Emmett answered John. "Okay then." He stood, gathering his messenger bag. "No problem. The clubs don't get going until much later. We can study before you go." He made for the door, waving goodbye to the others. "G'night, guys. See you tomorrow." With that, he was gone, pleased by the return 'invitation'.

"Min'll be there, right? I'll join," Cordelia said, following after Emmett, much to Soraya's chagrin.

John stood and shrugged apologetically before following suit.

"Then the day after," Bryce grumbled. "Text when'll be good, Sora." He stood and tossed his things into his bag haphazardly, and moved to go. "Never mind them--they still need to get some work done. And they can't force it."

Soraya smiled gratefully at Bryce, hoping what he said would hold true. "Good night Bryce." Truth be told, she would still prefer studying elsewhere.

"G'night," Bryce told her, heading out.

<I never considered that your colleagues might be the ones requiring the aid of that which they study,> the Seraph mused apologetically.

<You have never heard that those who study psychology are often the ones most in need of help?> she answered. With a sigh, she stood. "Bedtime, then," she said, not doubting that the other side of the bed would likely be empty until almost dawn.

Standing, Naitachel did the only thing he could offer Soraya--he gave her a hug. "I am sorry," he offered softly, for both himself and Vlad.

Soraya smiled at Naitachel and returned his hug before excusing herself and making her way upstairs for some much-needed rest.
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Re: A Study in Tea...

Post  Prince on Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:08 am

Henrietta's father was holding her hand again, his large bear-like paw entirely obscuring hers from view, only the tips of her little digits poking out from the space between his thumb and index finger. They both stood very still as her mother entered, waiting for the sharp-ish looking woman to start things off.

She didn't shift on her feet or look around as most children would, despite the fact that her father's hand felt too warm around her own, or the fact that her shoes weren't comfortable, or that she was expected to wait quietly until spoken too.. none of these things being a child's forte.

Mrs. Smith entered and stormed the receptionists desk like an army general. "We're here to see Mr. Radu Prince," she announced without preamble.

"Of course, ma'am," the pleasant young woman replied, smiling at the child. "If you'll just have a seat I'll let him know you're here."

Henrietta's father winced somewhat visibly as the receptionist replied, leading his child toward the seats and glancing pleadingly at his wife.

"We're supposed to see him at 11:00," the small, sharp-eyed woman answered without a hint of warmth. "It's 11:02."

The receptionist buzzed Radu as the woman spoke. Hearing both her tone and inflection, he bit back a smile as he moved swiftly to open his door. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," he greeted then. "Miss Smith," he added, offering the slightest of smiles to Hattie. "I apologize for keeping you waiting. Please... come in..."

"Punctuality is very important," the woman reminded her daughter, more for Radu's benefit than hers.

Radu gestured toward a stylish but comfortable looking couch as he seated himself in the chair beside it and picked up the internship application.

Hentrietta's father sighed audibly at this good fortune, drawing his daughter closer to him as her mother spoke, though it seemed an unconscious movement on his arm born from a wish to save some part of his daughter's little girl sweetness from the sharpness of her mother. "Thank you," he responded quietly to the boss of his boss, taking a seat before urging his daughter to greet the stranger. "Go ahead, Hattie."

Henrietta glanced back at her father before turning her gaze on her possible employer and smiling mechanically. "Hello. It's good to meet you. I am grateful for this opportunity to be interviewed."

The large man at her side seemed somewhat saddened by his daughter's response, but said nothing.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity as well, Miss Smith," Radu replied, noting the well-trained response as well.

"Mother said you'd have questions prepared and that I must answer them as honestly and appropriately as I might, or else my in-ta-grity will be compromised," Hattie responded, seating herself gingerly on the cusion between her two parents.

The woman sat straighter, clearly pleased by her daughter's prompting.

Radu's eyes reflected a hint of sadness that a child so young could believe her integrity was in question.

"I'm grateful for that," Radu replied gently. "Though, having worked with both your parents over the last several years, it hadn't occurred to me to question the integrity of their child," he assured her. "Your scores are quite impressive. I enjoyed your publication in Scientific Weekly on the future of cybernetics."

The woman's eyes reflected pride that the head of her entire company should be familiar with her child's work.

"I'd like to hear more on the topic, if you'd care to share your goals with me. How would you see yourself furthering them here?" Radu asked her.

The woman glanced at her daughter, as if silently reminding her of the answers they'd rehearsed at home.

Hattie tried hard to suppress a wide grin that threatened to overcome her carefully contrived expression, knowing that smiling too big would reveal the loss of one of her baby teeth in the back of her mouth. "Oh. Thank you. Mother said it was too emotional, but Daddy said it was perfect." She paused for a moment to consider his question. "Goals?..." She glanced at her mother. "I want to improve the quality of life for all people by assisting in the advancement of the cybernetic industry, thereby creating more durable and efficient machines to help take much of the danger out of everyday life." She peeked at her mother once more, checking for her reaction, before looking back at Radu.

The woman frowned at the child's apparent pleasure at having proven her wrong, but relaxed slightly as she repeated verbatim the answer they'd practiced.

"I see," Radu answered carefully. "A noble goal." He glanced from the child's mother to her father, when an idea struck him. "Actually, I'd hoped I might talk to Miss Smith one on one."

The woman's eyes narrowed. "Sir? I'd thought, because of her age..." she began.

Henrietta's father patted her shoulder warmly, nodding his assent before glancing at his wife to gauge her response, realizing too late that she mightn't be on board with it. He straightened his posture slightly, raising his voice into its natural deep tones. "Come on, Darling. We know our little Hattie won't get into any trouble...?" He smiled at his daughter. "Will you, dear? Besides, we can't be with her while she works if she gets the internship."

Hattie cast a small, grateful smile to her father from slightly behind his shoulder, out of her mother's line of sight.

"We'll be working on some confidential applications in her field, Ma'am. I hope you understand," Radu answered in his most concilliatory tones.

"Oh, of course," the woman replied as both points dawned on her. "Does this mean you'll take her on then?"

Radu smiled. "I should be better able to answer that after she and I have spoken."

The woman paused, then nodded and stood. Giving her daughter a look as if to warn her, "Remember what we practiced." She headed out the door then without a backward glance.

Henrietta's father rose to go, leaning over to kiss his daughter on her forehead before following his wife out. "No worries, Hattie. I'm sure you'll do great."

Hattie watched as her parents exited the room, her expression almost as blank and smooth as she would have it, the only tell being a twinge of anxiety in her eyes as her father left the room.

Radu watched the door close, then sat back in the chair, looking at the child kindly. "Tell me about your interests, Hattie." He watched her, curious to know who she really was, without the rehearsed answers and practiced expressions.

Settling back into the seat so that her toes barely reached the floor, Hattie blinked up at Radu, taking in his appearance for a long moment. "My interests? I... I like to find out how things work and how to make them work better. And..." She paused, her eyes flicking away to the ceiling as though she were attempting to recall something. "I enjoy the challenges that are posed in my proposed field of internship." She paused again, relaxing very slightly. "Oh... and I like those light up robot toys... You know? Like the iPod Puppy?" She rested her hands in her lap, trying absently with a piece of ribbon on her dress. "I also like to see how things move."

Radu smiled. There couched amid the practiced responses she'd been taught to give, was genuine interest and joy in her field. That's what he'd hoped to see. "So, if I were to turn you loose in a room full of android prototypes, what would your first impulse be?" he asked. Noting how her hands seemed to want something to do, he leaned forward a bit. "You know," he confided. "I usually reserve this time for tea. Would you care to have some with me?"

"A whole room full of them?" she questioned, excitement in her tone. "How far along? If their brains function already, I'd talk to them first. If not, I'd look at their arms, and legs, and things like that... I wouldn't open them up though. Someone else made them." She tilted her head for a moment at his remark, her mouth watering at the thought of a snack. "Well, I suppose... if it's what you usually do... then I would... appreciate... joining you for tea."

Radu smiled, buzzing Tara.

"Yes, sir?" the cheerful voice answered.

"Has Alexis brought the cart yet?" he asked her.

"Yes, sir," Tara answered. "Should I send it in?"

"Yes, please, Tara. And could you make sure to send in an extra cup for my guest?" he asked, knowing full well there was always more than enough on the cart.

The cheerful sounding young woman laughed. "Of course sir."

Henrietta sat a little forward on her seat, her eyes fixed on the door for a moment in anticipation of what would be coming through it. "What sort of tea do you drink?"

"Typically, I enjoy spiced chai or green tea, however there is usually a very broad assortment available on the cart in case I should choose to explore a different option," Radu answered. "With scones and biscuits and such to compliment them, of course." He paused as Alexis, a short round woman of indeterminate age with kind eyes and a bright smile, brought in a heavy laden tea cart. Once she'd left, he poured hot water into their individual pots, each of which matched a cup on the tray, and indicated the basket filled with various teas so that Hattie might make her selection. Only when she had done so did he continue. "Now, suppose I told you that I'd built them and that you were more than welcomed to open them up, to tinker and alter as you liked. Their brains were installed, but not progressed beyond the most rudimentary stages, however, but that you were welcomed to help develop them as you saw fit."

After placing a spiced peach tea bag in her pot and putting the lid on, Henrietta reached gingerly forward, looking a little guilty as she did so. "Mother says I shouldn't snack because it will make me unhealthy and slow." She sighed, setting the treat down on her little plate before addressing his response. "In that case I would check them for signs of sentience... I know that we're not there yet, and mother says it's silly... but I always worry that they may have gained sentience on their own and if I don't check then it would be like doing surgery on someone without asking them. If they don't have any sentience, then I'll look at EVERYTHING. Brains. Wires. Bodies, etc. I think the best way to make a cybernetic person is to model it first after the actual structure of a person, and then improve for whatever purpose you're making them for."

Radu nodded. "I agree..." Quickly he clarified, "Not about the snacks, mind you. I find that most work better when their desires are satiated, and I think best over tea and treats, myself. I agree regarding the work, however." He laughed. "I've always felt it necessary to check first for sentience myself. Just in case." His physiology didn't require either tea or treats, however, he found them somewhat civilizing, and relished that one break he allowed himself each day as something akin to sacred.

Hattie nibbled on the corner of her cookie, her cheeks turning rosy at just the littlest taste. "Really? You check too? Mother says that they can't gain sentience until we make them gain sentience. But I was wondering... Mother says they can't... But do you think that... when they get sentient, they get souls?"

"I've always believed in the possibility," Radu admitted. "Though I'd like as not be reluctant to admit that to anyone. It seems the concept of souls is somewhat out of fashion these days."

Hattie smiled more broadly, the gap in the back of her mouth where her baby tooth fell out now clearly visible. "I think there has to be a soul. Otherwise, why would we be here? I mean. We've almost got the mechanics... but we don't have an explanation for WHY. You see? So, there's something. and if there's something, why not a soul?"

Radu settled back, sipping his spiced chai and considering the tiny girl before him. "Well put." He smiled. "Perhaps when they gain sentience they'll tell us."

Hattie's smile faded very slightly, and she shifted a bit on her seat. "Do you... do you think that if I succeeded all the way... I could keep one?"

"I think it would be only fitting," Radu answered honestly.

"Really?" Hattie sipped some tea, smiling pleasedly at the flavor. "If you could have a cybernetic person, what would you want it to be like?" She swished her feet before her, her toes brushing the floor. "I would want a little boy or girl cybernetic person."

"I think I'd prefer to have a cybernetic child as well," Radu admitted. "I don't imagine I'll have one otherwise."

Hattie's eyes grew large and sympathetic. "Why can't you have a human baby?"

"I am, genetically speaking, ill equipped for breeding," Radu answered, suspecting that was as close to telling her the truth as he dared.

"Ooooh..." Hattie's little face got very serious for a moment, then she rose from her seat, walked softly around the table, and wrapped her tiny, soft arms around his neck for a moment. "I'm sorry."

Radu was startled, but not at all displeased, by her innocent response. He patted her back gently. "Thank you," he replied. "So... what would you do with one?" he asked her curiously.

Hattie moved back to her seat, munching a little more happily on her treat. "I would be the best big sister ever. I would teach it to draw, and do calculus, and to read, and to play hopscotch." Taking another cookie sheepishly from the tray, Hattie continued to munch and drink her tea, the idea of a cybernetic sibling appealing greatly to her.

"Alright, Hattie. Two questions. Possibly, the most important questions of the entire interview. Are you ready?" Radu smiled.

Hattie nodded, growing briefly serious though not nearly so much as when her mother was there. "Alright. I'm ready."

"The first question is, why us? You'll be a tremendous asset to any company, and I'm certain that you've had other offers. So, why Dragon Industries?" Radu began.

"Dragon industries has the best of everything I could need. I mean... well, mother wanted me to say how much I admire you, so don't tell her... but I don't know much about you. I know all about your facilities, though! It's like a trade. You get me. I get your lab equipment."

Radu laughed out loud. "Thank you for your honesty. I am far more impressed with that than I would have been with flattery."

Henrietta relaxed another degree, physically loosening in her chair. "Oh good. Mother said it would be... imp-ru-dent... to tell you that, but you seem nice."

"I fear I must, once again, disagree with your mother. Pray, don't tell her." He winked. "Now. This next question is very important." He paused, giving her a moment to compose, then asked, with a smile. "Will you agree to join me regularly for tea?"

Hattie's eyes widened slightly as she looked down at the cart laden with snacks and teas, sucking in her breath to answer. "You mean... you want me to come here and snack with you more often..?" She shifted, attempting to suppress her excitement. "Yes! I would like that very, very much! Could... could we have cheesecake next time...?"

Radu couldn't help but laugh again. "Of course we can."

Hattie beamed broadly, her missing baby tooth once again revealing its self in her moment of self-forgetting. "Oh, that's wonderful! I love cheesecake. Mother doesn't like it, but sometimes Daddy gets it for me when she's gone for a while."

"I'm quite fond of it, too, though I rarely indulge. At least, not alone. With the right company, however..." He grinned.

Hattie reached up and took one of the pink ribbons out of her hair, and held it out to Radu. "This is a promise," she said solemnly, enacting the child's rites of promise giving. "You have to keep it with you. Then, if you want to end the promise. You have to give it back. Okay? The promise has to be that we will have tea together and be friends all the time. And you have to put your other hand over your heart when you say it. And this hand on the ribbon. This way, even if I have to stop working here, or you have to stop being the boss, we can still have tea, because promises are special and stuff like bosses and work places don't matter to promises."

Radu accepted the ribbon, nodding solemnly. He started to place his hand over his heart, then stopped. "Wait... okay." He reached up and removed the platinum chain from around his neck. "Then you'll keep this. Until you want to end the promise, of course."

Hattie beamed broadly, taking the chain into her left hand and placing her right over her heart. "I promise to always be your friend and to have tea with you... Oh, and to never tell my mother on you. Now, it's your turn."

Radu nodded again, suppressing a smile, beyond impressed with the wisdom of the child. Placing his hand over his heart, he repeated. "I promise to always be your friend... and to have tea with you... and to never tell your mother on you, either."

The little redhead child took the platinum chain and clasped it gently around her neck, tucking it beneath her dress. "It's good that we added that piece about my mother. She would be very unhappy if she knew I had snacks and tea a lot. She would make me eat broccoli to clean my body from the sugar."

"I am so glad we avoided that." Radu smiled. "Now... how would you like to see our androids?"

Hattie nearly choked on her tea in her excitement. "You already have some! I would love to see them!"

"There are ten, in various stages of development," Radu told her as he led her out of the office.
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Re: A Study in Tea...

Post  Prince on Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:09 am

Naitachel sighed and gestured for Soraya to come into the office the Brightflights Charities had assigned him, and smiled in relief. "Thank Heaven you have come. I dare not touch the thing myself any further--I fear even going near it. But they want certain computer files, and I am supposed to set up certain systems... and I fear I may have already messed that up."

Soraya entered the office at Naitachel's beckoning. "What on earth were they thinking?" she muttered under her breath as she sat on the seraph's stool facing the computer. She hit a few keys and played with the mouse a few moments. "Well, you have indeed already messed it up," she informed him. "How in the world did you manage to get your system's critical files there?"

Nait blushed and hug his head. "I... ah, touched the black box... here..." He carefully indicated a certain spot, but wisely from a distance this time. "I do not know what to do... Mircea is busy, Min is starting some new business, Matty has gone to sleep, Michael is... occupied... the twins are in public right now, Tommen is feeding... I suppose I should call Radu before this becomes truly toasted. Perhaps he might know what to do lest I cause worse."

"Have you tried Vlad?" Soraya asked, frowning at the screen as she tinkered around some more. She would have suggested Brianna as well, given the girl navigated computers better than most despite her apparent age, but she was off practicing for some play she was putting on.

Naitachel drew his phone and opened it, holding it a bit away with two fingers. He tended to go through at least one a year... "Vlad please," he commanded it. The phone rang...

"Vlad," he answered absently, into his bluetooth as he peered through the microscope.

"Naitachel here... My pardon, Vlad, but are you busy? I appear to have... made a bit of a mess of things..." the Seraph apologized. "I do believe this 'cybernetic age' sees myself as some sort of enemy."

Soraya's eyebrow quirked, though she remained silent as she moved some of Naitachel's errant files back to where she thought they should be.

"Does this truly have a webcam? And is it... Heavens, does that mean it is on?" Nait asked Soraya in a soft whisper, eyes widening at a blinking button on the screen.

"What happened this time?" Vlad asked, still sounding distracted.

"Built in," Soraya responded. "And yes, it is on and recording all of this jubilation," she said wryly.

"Well, the Brightflights Charities demanded I send certain files to the board members for tax purposes, and supposedly there are some photos on this that promotions requires, and it seems I have not set up half of what I was supposed to... But... Ah... I forgot to wear gloves and... Ah..." Nait trailed sheepishly, embarrassed. "Oh Heavens... It is recording as well. Can we not turn that off?" he asked Soraya.

"If I can find the file that gives the cursed thing the proper commands, certainly," she answered, still peeking through the various directories. "Truly, Naitachel... This is... spectacular." There were no other words for his amazing skill at creating havoc on a system one would otherwise think impossible. "Hello, Darling!" she called more loudly to her husband.

"I can send Sophia to assist you or you can come in and we can remote it from here," Vlad told her as he moved to the next slide. "Hello, beloved," Vlad replied, the smile clear in his voice as he continued.

"I only just touched it..." Nait admitted unhappily, watching Soraya poking within. "Er... is it a bad sign when the files labled 'Windows' is spelled 'swodinW'?" he added to Vlad uncertainly. "Do you think Sophia might be of aid?"

Soraya shook her head, unable to contain the laughter. "It is a bad sign when a button that should type the number 6 gives you an N instead," she informed the seraph.

Hearing the extent of their issues, Vlad frowned. "Um... no. I don't think Sophia can fix this. Come in. Find Radu. Quickly."

Naitachel blinked at his computer, then backed away from it slowly. "Yes, well... perhaps we should be coming in, Vlad..."

"This must be why they gave you a laptop - to make sure you could carry it to the repair shop easily," the redhead mused as she tried to the system's power down only to have it open Internet Explorer. "Off we go, then," she said, resorting to merely shutting the poor crippled machine's screen.

"We will be in as swiftly as we may. Goodbye, Vlad, and thank you." Flipping the phone shut, the Seraph sighed. "If I did not know better, I would say my computer truly dislikes me." He sighed and gestured at the acrrying case nearby. "If you would, please, Soraya. Would you like to drive, or shall I?"

"See you soon!" she called to Vlad too late. She set the computer into its carrying case, picked up the bag itself, and eyed Naitachel warily a moment. "Perhaps, given your track record for the day, that we do not chance your getting another speeding ticket. Besides, I am hardly dressed to ride in a sidecar today." Indeed, she was wearing a long skirt and tank-top, an attire hardly made for motorcycling.

The Seraph nodded, and gestured for Soraya to lead. "You may well be right. I certainly have no wish to take further chances this day. After you... At least this gives excuse to visit, yes?" he laughed. "Perhaps they need a break from work."

Soraya gave a non-committal, "Mmm," to Naitachel's suggestion of visiting as she led them out of the room and toward her car. "You might want to consider asking Radu to modify this computer as your cell phone has been so that it can at least stand a chance," she mused.

"Probably a wise suggestion," Nait agreed with a sigh. "I had hoped to not truly ever have need to use it, however... but the accountant lost his copy of certain things, and others lost stuff as well somehow, so..." He sighed. "Why this still has it is beyond me."

"It is the wonder and the curse of technology, I fear," Soraya teased as she unlocked her car and got in. "You really should not expect to be director of this organization and never have to use a computer. It is the way things are now."

Naitachel slid into the other front seat and belted in, clearly uncomfortable in such chairs. "Perhaps so. Though I had taken directing a bit more literally, and simply spread the tasks among those who assist me. I am more a figurehead than leader, even if they do not realize it."

"Delegation is part of a leader's job, Nait," Soraya responded. "The fact that they do not realize it means that you are their leader."

Even if some of their own leaders didn't seem to have the strongest ability in delegation.

Nait gazed out the window, and sighed. "It does not feel right for me to be so..." he breathed softly. Fumbling out his phone, the Seraph dialed his mate to break the bad news.

Soraya shrugged as she sped down the highway. "Those thrust into positions of power and responsibility do not always ask to be so," she said. She wasn't saying this to make the seraph uncomfortable, but merely to help him realize that he had several others looking up to him and that though he minimized his own role, he was still in large part the beating heart of his organization. "Besides, at least what you are doing is making a greater difference. Me, all I do is sit in a classroom all day."

"In order to make a difference in due time," Nait continued for her. "You are learning important things to that effect."

"Ah, but I will never run an organization." Soraya winked at him, steering her car expertly off the highway and through the traffic that comprised downtown New York.

***

"Did the team I'm to join create these ten?" Hattie asked.

"No, Hattie." Radu laughed. "The team you're to head has only just been formed." He shrugged. "I created them."

"Head?" Hattie tilted her head questioningly as she followed the VERY tall man down the hall. "I get to head the team? Wow!"

"You are the most qualified," Radu replied as if it should have been obvious.

"Oh! Well, I had just thought... that because I'm younger... maybe you wouldn't want to put me in a leadership position. I know that some adults have trouble with that sort of thing."

"As I said... I read your piece in Scientific Weekly." Radu smiled as he keyed in the entry code to the cybernetic lab. "I really was very impressed."

Hattie couldn't be more pleased with how things were going. Her fiery red hair swayed slightly behind her as she bobbed on the balls of her feet in anticipation.

The doors to the cyber-division opened and Radu led her in to face a row of ten androids in various stages of creation. The last resembling something from "I, Robot."

Hattie let out a small squeal of delight, passing before each of the cybernetic creations before stopping in front of the most developed of the robots. She peered up at its face, running her hands over its arms and legs and face before making her way back. "How far have you come in the creation of a cybernetic brain? Do they speak? Reason?"

"The brains are basic, with only preprogrammed responses. They speak, but do not truly reason yet," Radu told her, reaching back to switch the nearest on.

Hattie moved to stand directly before the one he turned on, her head tilted back so that she might look into the creation's face. "What sort of basic responses? Simply diagnostic responses, or preprogrammed pleasantries as well?"

"Both," Radu said, "and some basic search and respond capabilities allowing it to answer simple queries."

"Oh. Good." Hattie became a bit more businesslike, but no less vibrant as she watched the cybernetic humanoid turn on. "Hello. What is your name? What are you called?"

"Hello," The android replied.

"I'm afraid they are as yet unnamed," Radu told her. "Feel free to correct that."

"Oh good. Unit, your name is Andy. What is your name?"

"My name is Andy," the unit replied obediently.

Shifting back to stand closer to Radu, Henrietta watched the unit noting a few things. It lacked expression. It would need at least physical microexpression and expression. That would come with further development of the brain. "Good. Andy, run basic diagnostic protocol. Report any abnormalities."

"Diagnostic running," Andy replied. After several long moments, it concluded. "Diagnostic complete. No abnormalities found."

Hattie clapped her hands delightedly, turning to Radu. "So far so good. It's really beautiful... Now. Andy, walk three paces forward, then turn and walk back, and then turn and return to your original position."

The android walked across the room, it's cervo-joints whirring slightly as it did so.

It turned, walked back and stood back in the precise position it had been in before.

Hattie tilted her head, circling the robot as it followed her command, careful not to be stepped on. "Hmm... Andy, you're not as graceful as I'd like, but no worries, we'll fix that."

Radu smiled brightly at that. "I'm certain we will."

"Mr. Prince..." Hattie started, kneeling to look at the cybernetic man's knee area. "Do you think it'd be wrong to make it so they can feel pain? I mean... I just realized that if I copy the human brain, they'll feel pain... But we open them up and take them apart and things... Would that be wrong?"

"I think," Radu knelt beside her, "that it would depend on why you gave them that ability. If it were to improve their understanding of the human condition and make their own self preservation instinct stronger, than no. It would not be. However, if you were to give them that ability simply to ensure that it could be inflicted..." He looked at her questioningly.

Radu's phone rang then. "One moment," he told the child, answering quietly. "Radu Prince."

"Radu! My pardon... but are you busy?" Nait asked a touch shyly. He hated interrupting Radu when he was busy. Glancing at Soraya, he shrugged slightly and winced as the seating and belt made feathers pull painfully. <You never know--someday you may...>

"Not terribly. I am...what is the expression... playing hookie?" Radu laughed. "I'm in the cyber-lab with our new head of cybernetics, showing her around."

Nait smiled at the phone, and took a deep breath. "I fear I may have to recruit you, if not perhaps your new technological expert, as technology itself has... ah... taken a bit of a dislike with my handling of it," he stated sheepishly. "Soraya and I are on our way over, but unless one of you may rescue it, I fear this computer is toast..."

Henrietta watched Radu for a moment, before remembering that it was rude to eves drop and turned her attention back to the mechanical man, looking over his limbs once more.

Radu laughed. "Come to the cyber-unit. I'm quite certain my new accomplice and I can attempt to rescue the files."

"Thank you. This may save us from the IRS... Goodbye for now!" With that innocently-ominous note, Nait hung up and tucked his phone away. "Well, he suggested we meet at the cyber-unit..." he told Soraya.

***

"I fear I may require your help on something somewhat less interesting than androids," Radu told Hattie.

Hattie stood, casting a smile at Andy. "Andy, activate hibernation." She turned to face Radu, flipping her hair--slightly messier than when she entered--behind her shoulders. "I like to help. What are we going to do?"

"We are going to attempt to prevent my spouse from losing all of his files. I fear he's somewhat less than tech-friendly. Or, rather, tech is somewhat less than friendly to him," Radu answered.

"Oh. I can do that." Hattie smiled.

Radu suddenly realized what he'd just done. "Um... Hattie. If we want to preserve Andy and his brethren, it might be best for us to wait for Naitachel in the hallway."

Henrietta didn't understand the remark, but she nodded in agreement... anything to preserve the robots. "Okay. Does your friend hate robots?"

"Oh, no. He doesn't hate anything," Radu answered as he led her into the hallway. "He and electronics just rarely cohabitate well."

"Oh..." She thought about it for a moment before nodding in very, very serious understanding. "He's an electro-jinx."

"Precisely!" Radu agreed, clearly pleased to see she understood.

Henrietta stuck her arms out to her sides, turning in slow circles as they waited for those who were joining them. "I've never met one before, but mother said that my dad's stepmom was a jinx to electronics. She even got a virus on her cell phone."

"That is quite a feat," Radu laughed. "However, I suspect Naitachel could do her one better. He pushed the button on the elevator and shorted out an entire building."

"The whole building!?" Hattie paused, shocked, before breaking into a gale of girlish giggles. "He... He's a natural disaster!"

"Yes, he is," Radu laughed with her. "But he's also an amazing person."

***

Soraya navigated the car into a designated parking spot. "You do realize the cyber unit means you are near more electronics."

"I shall endeavor to avoid touching anything, I promise," Naitachel swore solemnly. "But that is where he said to meet..." Naitachel stayed with Soraya, truly wishing he did not have such a dangerous touch to such electronics...

"Why look so forlorn?" Soraya asked the seraph. "You look as though you are headed to your execution. It is this poor computer that should fear for its life... along with the rest of this floor."

Naitachel smiled sheepishly. "That is rather the concerned, actually. I fear I am either costing a great deal of money, or making some investor in electronics extremely happy..."

Soraya shrugged as she stepped off the elevator. "Consider it living on the edge," she offered. "Which way?" she asked, realizing her sense of direction was failing her again.

Naitachel glanced around, reached out mentally for Radu, then nodded down a hallway. "This way." And led the way with his crutches clicking on the floor. "I do hope nobody mistakes it as a sign that technology is evil..."

The redhead followed after Naitachel, shifting the carrying case so that it was as far from Naitachel as possible. "No, I think they simply think it a sign that you are allergic to technology in your own, spectacular way."

Naitachel sighed. "But it does not bother me... I bother it... I would say technology is more allergic to myself..."

"In its own, spectacularly explosive way," Soraya concluded for the seraph. "Hello there!" she then called down the hall toward Radu's familiar figure.

***

Hattie turned toward the voice down the hall, reaching her hand instinctively for the bottom edge of Radu's shirt, her little fingers closing reflexively over the fabric in a security grip.

Radu waved, and gestured that Hattie should join him as he made his way toward the two approaching, careful to shorten his strides so that the small child might keep up more easily. Radu took her hand gently, understanding the shyness she demonstrated better than she might think.

"Hello!" Nait called as well, slowed by having to use the crutches as a pretense for his oddities. "I do apologize. It sounded as though you might actually be enjoying a moment away from the office," he added apologetically. "Heavens know you need to escape that place once in a while..."

Without preamble, Soraya handed Radu the carrying case for the computer. "The victim, sir. Pray, keep this one away from it. The spacebar now actually makes the poor thing take pictures with the webcam," she informed them, smiling at the young girl with hair much like her own. "Hello," she smiled.

Naitachel glanced at the laptop and blushed warmly, eyeing his feet...

Radu waved it off, leaning to kiss Naitachel upon the cheek. "Hattie, this is my niece-in-law, Soraya, and my spouse, Naitachel." He gestured then toward the child. "This is our newest head of our cyber division, Miss Henrietta Smith." Taking the laptop, Radu gestured toward an as-yet empty office. "Do you mind, Miss Smith, if we use your office to look this over?" he asked the child.

Hattie's grip loosened slightly as the pretty person on crutches approached before smiling mechanically, but not entirely insincerely up at the fiery haired woman. "Hello. I'm Henrietta Smith." Her eyes widened, then, a beam splitting her face as she watched Radu kiss Naitachel. "Oh. He's your wife!" Then it sank in. "My office?" She glanced toward the room, curious. "No. We can use... my... office."

Radu smiled, as he placed the laptop upon the desk and opened it, folding his long frame into the low seat there. "He is... or I'm his... we've yet to determine that precisely," he quipped quietly.

"Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Smith," Soraya answered, glancing at Naitachel questioningly. Well, stranger things had happened.

The Seraph blushed again, but smiled brightly at Radu, then over at Hattie. After following them into the office, he offered the child a graceful bow as the crutches allowed. "Good to meet you, Miss Smith. I apologize for interrupting, but, well..." Radu's comment made him become an almost glowing scarlet. "Ah... well, some mysteries may be best left as mysteries?" <We may investigate that later in detail...>

Henrietta turned and curtsied to Soraya. "Hello, Ma'am. It's a pleasure to meet you too. I'm so happy to be here! Mr. Prince was just showing me Andy and the others." Before tilting her head at Nait. "I didn't know boys could be wives... but I guess it's okay, and you look like a pretty wife anyway."

Radu frowned at the display, when Windows declared itself "snidwow" and the chimes were somehow replaced with a drumroll. <Perhaps,> Radu agreed as he keyed in a series of root commands in an effort to backdoor into the programs now inaccessible by the confused machine.

Henrietta turned toward the computer at the strange sound, approaching the machine on the desk before wrinkling her nose at it. "WHAT did you DO to it?"

Naitachel wondered if he could become more red. "Ah... thank you, Miss Smith..." Though the response to the computer made him wince and cringe slightly. "I... touched it?" he admitted in a faint voice.

"Perhaps you could excuse me," Soraya said, not one to miss one of her rare opportunities to see her husband, "but I think I will leave you to the rehabilitation of this poor creature." She flinched at its startup noise, but was, admittedly, not as surprised as she should have been.

"Please remind him to turn off the sequencer in lab four," Radu told her absently as his frown deepened.

The Seraph nodded to Soraya, and winced again as the computer belched. "Please give Vlad my regards--and thanks."

Hattie smiled at Soraya, her mind too caught up in the computer to fuel her self-conscious robotic responses. "Your husband works here? Have fun!" She then patted the back of one of Naitachel's hands. "It's okay. It's not as bad as shorting out the whole building, right?"

Soraya laughed and waved as she departed, heading for the elevators... Wait, no, turning around and now heading for the elevators.

<And you as well, Soraya. I am glad you spared this one from giving off sparks during transport here...> Nait added as she retreated.

Radu backed up, clearly startled by the sound of gaseous emissions now coming from the speakers.

<Glad I could be of service,> she responded as the elevator doors closed.

"Well.. perhaps it is not that bad..." Nait agreed with Hattie hopefully.

***

"Beloved, might I remind you again of the importance of laying gloved hands only upon these keys?" Radu suggested as the computer sputtered, coughed... yes, literally COUGHED, then began to recite the Gettysburg Address in Portuguese.

Hattie approached the computer, her little face growing very professional in expression as she looked over what was visible on the screen, and then tried a few buttons. "We may be able to detach the hard drive, attach it to a functioning computer as a secondary hard drive, and use the functioning computer to find the files you want... maybe. I don't think this computer will ever truly be serviceable again, however. At least, not without days of work spent simply putting things back where they go and then putting the hard drive back in and hoping it works."

Radu looked at the child, then gestured to the standard, company issued laptop on the far corner of the desk. "Might I borrow yours for a moment?" he asked.

Naitachel winced and cringed, clearly embarrassed. "Yes. I fear I forgot this time..." Golden eyes glanced at Hattie sadly. "So I have slain another one, then, yes?"

Radu exited Windows entirely, going straight into DOS and keying code after code. "If you would hardwire it to yours, I think perhaps between the two of us we can at least rescue his files."

Hattie smiled warmly at Naitachel. "More like... caused brain damage so severe it nearly induced a comatos state." She walked across the room, fetched the laptop, and brought it over to Radu. "Here you go. By the way, do we have cooling pads? Attaching the second hard drive could be hard on the laptop, so it'd be a good idea to have a cooling pad nearby as a... precaution."

Naitachel pointed at some flat electronic device laying on a shelf. "Is that what you seek?" he asked.

Radu gestured absently toward the top of the filing cabinet. "Yours is in the top drawer," he told the child. Glancing to where Nait pointed, he laughed, "Or you could use that one." Shaking his head, he returned his focus to the nearly destroyed machine before him.

Hattie hooked her computer up to the gaseous, coughing machine on the desk, pulling the cooling pad off of the shelf, and began the process of weeding through irrelevant files, or files necessary for the other laptop to function which were now in the wrong places or irreparably damaged. She tried hard not to pry into anything, transferring anything that wasn't damaged and wouldn't cause damage over to her own file space. "Wow. This is incredible. It's remarkable that you had a computer left at all... You're lucky it didn't quit on you entirely or your files may have gone into the dark cyber-ether and their found their resting place. I mean... really! They could have just been gone!"

"I did not intend the device any harm," Nait mourned, leaning on his crutches unhappily. "Though... I was told those accounting files and pictures are vital for the Brightflight's next tax filing..."

Henrietta smiled brightly, having achieved some success. "Well, the good news is, I think I've found your accounting files. The bad news is, I think they've been translated into Japanese."

Naitachel breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, at least that is easily remedied..."

"No worries. We're a multi-lingual lot," Radu told her absently as he continued to work on rescuing the other files. "We'll translate them back easily enough."

Naitachel looked about curiously while the pair fought to save anything from his laptop, and leaned over to peer at the lable on a box...

"I got it!", Hattie cried out, having successfully come up with a faster way of doing this. "All the files that aren't damaged are being moved to my desk top, but instead of going straight there, they're being filtered through my system so they're organized properly."

Radu smiled. "Thank you, Hattie," he said softly, a hint of warmth in his voice. "I genuinely appreciate your assistance in this."

Naitachel straightened and turned, smiling hopefully. "How wonderful! Thank you ever so much! I feared I may have caused some true catastrophic damage there!" He glanced at Radu, grinning. "She truly is a prodigy among scientists!"

"Mrs... ah... Mr... Umm..." Hattie frowned, looking at Nait, before deciding it must be clear who she's speaking to. "Umm... I think maybe you should keep your files in hard copies. So that you don't lose them if an accident happens again."

Nait blinked, then asked slowly, uncertainly, "You mean... use a printer...?" One could guess from his expression that he feared for the printer's safety...

"Or..." She smiled at him. "I could set them to printing so that they should be about done when you're ready to go..."

"Indeed she is." Radu laughed. "I suppose the other alternative would be to teach you to upload your file contents into dropbox for its own safety." He answered Nait, before telling Hattie, "It might be easier, as there are so many 'Dr. Prince's' or 'Mister Prince's' here to simply call us by our given names. Please."

"Nait," the Seraph added as an afterthought, smiling apologetically. "I answer easiest to that, Miss Smith." He brightened again at the suggestion. "I believe that may be the wisest course... lest I set more electronics to risk..."

Nait nodded at Radu, and admitted, "Though I wonder if even that would be safe from me..."

"Oh. Okay, Mr. Radu." She started the printing process before turning to face Naitachel. "Mr. Nait, why do electronics die when you touch them? Do you have some sort of unusual electrical impulses in your body?"

"We'll set the computer to automatically back up it's contents to dropbox daily. Then you won't have to try to do it yourself. Perchance that will work?" Radu smiled. "And please. Just Radu is fine."

"Simply 'Nait' is easier, Miss Smith?" Nait chuckled. He arched a brow at Radu, and waved a hand at his laptop. "Do I currently still have a computer?"

"You will have," Radu answered as he turned his attention back to the burping, coughing, hiccuping machine before him.

The Seraph glanced at Radu, uncertain about answering the question regarding his abilities. The child had caught on quicker than most adults...

"Then I'll call you Nait, and Radu, and you can call me Hattie." She then leaned against the desk. "Nait, maybe you should take a physical and have those things measured. It's possible that you have some sort of electromagnetic irregularities."

"That sounds fair, Hattie," the Seraph agreed, amused. Naitachel blushed a bit pink, and eyed his crutches' tips on the floor. "Ah... I think that is rather well established, and... I do not like having a 'physical'... It is... very uncomfortable."

She nodded solemnly, commiserating. "I understand. Doctors poke and prod all over."

"Indeed," Radu agreed absently, before announcing, "There." The computer stopped burping, coughing and hiccupping.

Eager for a change of subject, Nait glanced over Radu's shoulder, resting his chin there. "You saved it?" he inquired hopefully.

The windows chime sounded... this time properly... and the logo flashed correctly. "I'm not sure I can recode it again. It doesn't like being backhacked and rewritten." Shutting it down, Radu put it back in its case, and offered it then to Nait. "It's working properly again for now."

Hattie checked on the printer which was busily spitting out document after document into a single neat file. "You're going to need someone to sort through this when it's done."

The Seraph nodded, straightening, and accepted the case carefully, slinging it over his shoulder by the strap. "Thank you..." He turned a bright smile to Hattie. "So long as it is all there, I shall find a way to get it organized. And thank you ever so much, Hattie--you have been a great boon in sparing this poor device from imminent demise."

Noting the time, Radu rose and held out his hand. "Your parents should be readying to leave. I assume you'd prefer to keep their hours?" he asked Hattie.

"You're welcome. Radu did more than I did, though. I don't think I could have made it work again after what it went through..." Hattie paused, stretching her hand over her mouth as a yawn rose from her throat, her eyes closing momentarily. "Well. They would prefer I kept their hours, probably. I'd just as soon move my bed in here." She reached her other hand out to Radu's, wrapping her small digits around his palm as far as possible.

Radu laughed. "Maybe later," he teased. "I will however, have a comfortable couch brought in, in case your hours or theirs run overlong."

"So you will remain primarily here?" Naitachel shifted his crutches a bit, then re-adjusted the laptop case to be out of his way. "It will be nice to see you again, then, Miss--pardon, Hattie." Nait was quite happy with the idea of meeting this little light in his mate's life again.

Radu took her hand gently and led her from her office, back to his own where her parents already waited.

***

Soraya emerged onto the floor that contained lab 4.

Sophia passed the elevator doors just as Soraya stepped out, talking on the phone. "No, I don't think so. I'll check with Vlad and let you know if we'll be available," she told someone on the other end.

Soraya nearly ran into Sophia as she stepped out of the elevators. "Oh, pardon," she said, though her apology was clearly lost to the woman's phone conversation. She wasn't quite able to stop from frowning, however, when she heard the familiarity with which she addressed her supposed boss, and the insinuation that they were somehow making plans... She shook her head, then, reminding herself that they spent a lot of time together here. It was natural for them to be familiar with each other, and to have times to their day that required synchronizing schedules... And yet, somehow that thought wasn't much more comforting either. She straightened, then, and made to find Vlad herself, deciding it was better to avoid Sophia and simply find her husband.

"Oh... Mrs. Prince," Sophia said as she turned around, spying her and smiling somewhat coldly. "I didn't see you there. I'll have to call you back, Marc," she said into her headset. "Can I help you with something?"

Soraya stopped and turned, plastering her own smile on. "I noticed," she answered, "But no need to worry. I did not intend to interrupt your call. I was merely going to find Vlad. I can manage, thank you."

"Let me," Sophia offered, touching her blue tooth. "Vlad, you're wife is here by the elevators." She paused. "Yes, I was afraid she might. Would you like me to escort her to you?" She paused again, then laughed. "Alright then." Touching her bluetooth again, she turned that smile back to Soraya. "He'll be right here."

"Afraid I might what?" the redhead in question couldn't help but ask.

"Get lost, of course," Sophia replied as if it should have been obvious. "Wait right here. He'll join you momentarily." With that, and a wave, she was off, high heels clicking smartly upon the floor.

Soraya frowned. What exactly was that supposed to mean? "Why do I suspect she actually intends me to feel like an unwelcomed and helpless child around here?" she grumbled, crossing her arms. In a typical show of defiance, Soraya decided she could meet her husband halfway, and began walking toward lab 4. Only to run into the very person she sought.

Vlad approached, kissing Soraya lightly. "Hi. Min said you were here. Have you been waiting long?"

"Oh!" Soraya said, before she processed that information. "I... Min said I was here?" she asked him, confused. "Did Sophia not just call you?"

Vlad looked confused. "Sophia?" he checked his phone to find he had, indeed, just missed a call. "I suppose she did. I'm sorry, I was pre-occupied. I'll have to apologize for ignoring her later. Min spotted you pulling into the parking lot, though, so it's fine." He led her toward his workspace. "What brings you here today?"

"But she... had an actual conversation, or she behaved as if she did," Soraya protested, shaking her head. "Vlad, we spoke about 30 minutes ago," she reminded him, "or at least you spoke with Nait."

"Oh, right. The computer. I didn't realize you'd be bringing him." He smiled tiredly at her. "I should have, though, shouldn't I? Come look at this." He took a slide from a nearby tray and put it onto the microscope, then gestured for her to take a look.

The redhead shrugged. "Your memory simply seems to be reflecting your age, these days," she teased. "But, busy as always here, right?" She looked around surreptitiously, then opened her mouth to mention her discomfort with Sophia when he invited her to look into the microscope. "What is it?" she asked as she peered into the lens.

"It's a vanishing cancer cell." Vlad grinned.

"A what?" Soraya asked, startled. She looked over to him, eyes wide. "Truly?"

"Yup... we're still correcting the final sequences, but I think we might have it. Finally." Vlad smiled brightly. "And, if you note, the healthy cells around it are fine..."

Soraya smiled and hugged Vlad happily. "Congratulations!" Thoughts of Sophia were, at least for the moment, pushed out of her mind at this revelation. "You have been working on this for so long. It is incredible."

"We're so close," Vlad grinned. "We hope to have a definitive cure before the end of the year."

The redhead hugged Vlad again, trying to squelch the somberness that came with the knowledge that, with this, Vlad would be relentless and at the office even more. This was a good thing. "No, a great thing," she spoke aloud. "We should go celebrate," she suggested.

"Yes, we should," Vlad agreed. "I'm... I don't know what time I'll be home tonight, but... isn't that charity thing coming up?" He checked his calendar on his phone, confirming that the charity ball was less than a month away. "Or... I'll try to get home early," he amended, realizing she wasn't going to want to wait that long. Truth be told, neither did he.

"That would be nice," she answered. Indeed, she had hoped they could celebrate that evening. "I have no projects that require tending to. I can pick up some wine on the way home. And some Thai food, if you like. Or, would you prefer to go out?" she asked, excited at the thought of actually getting an evening with Vlad.

"Get the wine, but don't plan dinner," Vlad told her. "I'll try to be there at a reasonable hour. Barring that, I'll have dinner sent home and we'll celebrate some other way when I get there. Alright?"

Soraya nodded and kissed Vlad happily. "See you tonight, then," she smiled. <Hm, perhaps I should find something new to wear,> she teased with a wink, sending him a quick image of a dress she had worn so many years ago, first in an attempt to retrieve a certain sword, but kept for more private moments.

<You temptress,> Vlad replied, laughing as he watched his wife walk away.

<How else am I to get you home?> she sent back, waving at him from the elevator as the door closed.

***

Her mother's sharp features contorted slightly at the sight of her daughter approaching, hand in hand with the her supervisor's boss. "The interview went well, I take it?" she asked.

Hattie smiled broadly at Radu, and then at Nait. "I hope so. I like it better here than at home. Andy's here, and you and Radu... and my mother is busy, and I get cake and tea." She quieted down as they approached his office, her smile remaining right up until the moment that her mother's sharp eyes turned on her. She let go of Radu's hand, growing more still and far less comfortable. She nodded to her mother. "I've been accepted as an employee and looked over the appropriate items regarding my position here."

Naitachel clicked along slowly in their wake, content to let them have a last moment together. He was quite happy at their rapport. Few cheered Radu up so greatly, so swiftly... That the girl might stay on gave him the hope that she would light his mate's life for a long time to come. Nait stayed well back, down the hall, not wishing to intrude...

Henrietta's father smiled at the happiness his daughter displayed, looking vaguely distressed when a single glance from his wife wiped it from his daughter's beautiful face.

"Your daughter is an amazingly sharp scientist. We've decided to accept her here, and allow her to head up our cyber-division. We've just been to her labs and shown her where her office is. Tomorrow, she'll be issued her badge and entry codes." Noting her mother's displeasure, Radu's expression became stern. "I believe she'll be a tremendous asset to our company. I fear, though, that her hours might need to be slightly different than your own, as she is heading her division." He gave her mother a moment to let that sink in. "We're going to issue her own car and driver to get her back and forth to work, meetings, and public functions so that she might keep the hours appropriate to her position." He looked at the woman, daring her to argue, as he pushed down the anger that threatened. How could she turn this child's joy into something so stiff and formal... so completely devoid of feeling.

"Will you be keeping those same hours?" the woman asked, looking from his hand to her daughter's disapprovingly.

"At times," Radu answered. "We'll be monitoring her closely to ensure that she has the freedom to exercise her talents and interests without sacrificing her childhood to it, as unusual as that childhood may be given her intellect. It would not do to sacrifice one for the other."

"Mister Prince, I think perhaps you should..." the woman began, only to be silenced by a stern look from Radu.

Henrietta's father caught her eye, read the glance, and patted his wife's hand. "Darling, Hattie is still a child. If she feels trust toward her superior all the better. I would personally feel better, not worse, knowing that a respectable, decent man like this would be looking after her safety." Though he said this, he shot Radu a gentle warning glance... a glance that communicated, 'I'm putting my faith in you. don't betray it.'

Hattie lifted her chin, fighting the urge to sag her shoulders in the face of her mother's coldness. If it weren't for her father, she might try not to go home... but she knew how her mother was to him when she wasn't near enough to hear what was being said.

Radu inclined his head, his expression far more gentle when turned to the father. "She'll meet the candidates for her team tomorrow. We'll assign her an assistant to handle her scheduling and she'll be issued a company phone. Her company laptop is already in her office. Rest assured, she will have all the help and support she requires, for whatever reason." He stressed that last, hoping she'd understand he didn't just mean cybernetics.

Though she tried really, really hard, Hattie couldn't suppress another wide yawn. As she began to yawn, her father rose out of his seat and scooped her up, hoping to hide her little 'indiscretion' from her mother and replace it with one of his own... treating his sleepy little girl like a sleepy little girl. He held her in the crook of his left arm and held his right hand out to Radu. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Prince. I am so happy my daughter has found a place here and I am very proud to be standing in this room holding the new head of cybernetics." He smiled down at Hattie, whom he held gently. Both of them flinched slightly at the mother's response, but he didn't put her down. "Say goodbye to Mr. Prince, Hattie."

Henrietta rested her head on her father's shoulder, holding her hand out to Radu in as professional a manner as a sleepy eight year old can manage. "Good night, Mr. Prince." She then called a little louder to the man on crutches behind Radu. "Goodnight Mr... Nait."

Radu shook his hand firmly. "It's been a pleasure, Mister Smith." Radu smiled. "Miss Smith," Radu shook her hand gently. "Sleep well." To Mrs. Smith, he simply said, "Please, take gentle care of this dear child. She is by far the brightest light in the entire institution."

A distance down the hall, Naitachel smiled. "Goodnight, Miss Hattie," he answered, voice carrying gently.

"Of course," the woman answered tonelessly, before turning and marching out.

Hattie and her father exchanged a look... in which it was clear he felt a little better about his standing in her eyes. He nodded once more to the men before cradling his daughter close and exiting the room.

Naitachel clicked over to Radu, smiling slowly, warmly. "You like her a great deal," he observed quietly, affectionately. "She is a lovely child."

***

Sophia waited in the lobby for the elevator to arrive, talking to someone there beside her. "I'm quite sure she can walk as far as the car," the woman spat, rolling her eyes and sighing.

Soraya emerged from the elevator, obviously more intent on finding her keys in her purse than anything else. <Mind if I leave you here to run some errands?> she was calling to Naitachel, thinking the seraph could easily find his own way home.

<By all means. I think I may fly back,> Nait mused to Soraya, catching a hint of her amorous intent and smiling mentally.

"And she just stood there?" the woman beside Sophia asked.

"What else could she do?" Sophia responded. "It's not as if she actually knew where she was going."

The woman shook her head. "I can't imagine why he's with someone like that."

Soraya was distracted from her task as Sophia's voice carried to her again. She couldn't help but have a sneaking suspicion...

"Loyalty, I'm certain. He's a very loyal man," Sophia answered, applying a coat of ruby red lipstick and straightening her jacket.

Soraya lifted a hand to her waist. "Or love, perhaps," she chimed in.

"Possibly." Sophia shrugged, seemingly unperturbed by Soraya's arrival.

"Or maybe he just doesn't want to be taken to the cleaners in a messy divorce," the other woman laughed.

Sophia smiled, but didn't reply. "Did Vlad find you ?" she asked instead.

The woman hid a snicker behind her hand at the question.

Soraya couldn't help herself. She probably should have simply walked away, but Sophia was finding ways to get further and further under her skin. Logically, she knew this was on purpose, and made herself smile brightly. "Well, at least this woman is likely fulfilled enough that she has no need to gossip about others' lives, then, to fill her own loneliness. And yes, we found each other, thank you," she answered. "Good evening ladies. Try not to work too hard," she greeted, an obvious comment on their current activity.

"I'm so glad to hear that," Sophia smiled coldly. "And she might be. "And good luck with your classes." She feigned forgetfulness. "What is it you're studying again? Social work or something like that?" she asked sweetly.

"Something like that," Soraya answered nonchalantly. "Now if you would excuse me, I must be going." With that, she waved at the women and made her way out of the door toward her car head held high.

Turning to her companion, she then said, "Goodnight, Doctor Linstadt." Smiling even brighter when the woman replied, "Goodnight, Doctor Brennan." Each reminding Soraya in turn that they'd already achieved doctorates and position in their own right.
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