Aftermath of Plague, and a New CEO

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Aftermath of Plague, and a New CEO Empty Aftermath of Plague, and a New CEO

Post  Kahtenny on Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:19 pm

The scene at Nopalo Memorial Hospital (Nicknamed NiMH for short) appeared to be chaos on the outside, but was busy efficiency within. The ER was packed with victims of the illness coming in, ferried by a fleet of ambulances--as soon as one dropped off patients, another pulled up to provide more. Luckily the facility was equipped and prepared for just such a disaster, and extra medical staff called in to help with the massive caseload. Worst were seen to first...

Gurneys waited in triage with nurses and nurse practitioners pouring over the patients, medicating and maintaining airways, attaching IV lines, taking vital signs and hooking them up to monitors. ER doc of the evening, the man suddenly in charge, was Doctor James Kelly, an older gent with firm and blunt demeanor, but the knowledge books were made of.

Spotting familiar faces in the mix, that of the patron family, he waved for them to be pushed to one side of the triage. "Get 'em over there! I bet someone's been bloody heroic lately," he grumbled. Oh, yes, he'd patched a vamp or two before...

Mircea rode in with Radu, holding the IV bag above his brother's prone form as he moved in beside the gurney.

Soraya’s breathing was becoming shallower, less steady, and she was showing signs of stirring. Given the chaos nearby, it was impressive that she had managed to actually sleep this long, though this sleep was spurred by a weakened state due to illness.

Vlad held Soraya close, unwilling to release her for even a moment, even on the ride there. <Easy, love...> he sent, stroking her hair gently.

Michael followed his parents in, talking on his cell phone. "Yeah, they've moved them to NiMH. I don't know if they'll let you two in, but good luck try... yeah, I know," he was saying. "Like I said, you can try, just to calm her down. Not sure Dad'll like it so much, though. It's chaos here, so... Yeah, okay. Later, then."

Min walked in under his own steam, still a bit shaky, but far better than most coming in. He spotted Michael and moved to his side, determined to avoid Kelly and be a "visitor" rather than a patient this trip.

Michael glanced at Min and shrugged. "Bri's apparently sensed something was going on and is freaking out, so Tom's gonna try to bring her in to try to calm her down. He doesn't know what else to do. She's supposedly hysterical."

Min nodded to Michael. "Just make sure they're prepared for what they're walking into."

"Yeah, I did my best to warn him, but..." Michael trailed off, about to say he doubted anything could prepare them for this scene. Minhea was already on to more important matters. "I'll go meet them outside," he said. Here, he would just be in the way, and it was best he simply remove himself.

Dr. Kelly frowned at Mircea, and arched a brow at Vlad. "What we got here? Spill the bad news, Mircea," the doctor demanded as he walked over. "I know you lot don't get knocked down by stuff like this normally."

"Someone let loose a vial of one of Taggert's special blends in the lab. We got the antidote to most in time, but not before it did its worst," Mircea answered, his attention still fixed firmly on his brother. "We recovered quickly for the most part... except Radu. I'm ... I don't know..." He struggled with that admission.

Dr. Kelly grunted, then pointed Mircea towards a cart. "Glove up, get a blood sample, and start doing further research, then! What're you waiting for? Him to do it?"

Mircea wasted no time following handing off the IV to someone and following Kelly's orders. They'd hired the man for a reason, after all.


Soraya's eyes opened and she flinched at the sound of Dr. Kelly. "Where are we?" she said, cringing instinctually at the loudness within and assuming it was danger, her voice rather hoarse.

"NiMH," Vlad answered from his seat beside her. "Where else would we be?"

Soraya blinked against the light owlishly a few moments, confusion written on her face. "Oh..." she said finally. "Oh... How are they?" she asked of no one in particular.

"I don't know yet," Vlad answered honestly. "Most were showing signs of improvement on the way here. Those that weren't didn't make it, for the most part."

A passing nurse looked at Soraya kindly. "Everyone's on the upswing so far, looks like... But we aren't taking any chances!" she told her cheerfully.

Dr. Kelly glanced over at Vlad and Soraya. "You got her, or do I have to come over there?" he threatened as he took up Radu's chart.

"I've got her," Vlad answered, reaching for her chart when the nurse brought it over. "Unless you'd rather have Kelly see to you?" Vlad asked, uncertain whether or not she was still angry with him.

"Why would I want that?" Soraya asked Vlad, trying to sit up to look around. "And the others," she said again, frowning in concentration. "Radu, Naitachel, Min.... they made it out as well?"

"Min's with Nait. Mircea's with Radu. I'm not sure of much beyond that." He wasn’t about to tell her how close they could be to honestly losing either. "Michael's getting some air, I think," Vlad continued. "He stepped outside."

Soraya nodded as she began ascertaining the scene. "This is terrible," she commented, her voice still hoarse. "I am thirsty," she added.

"Most of the victims seem to be dehydrated. Maybe we should start her on fluids," a helpful nurse suggested as she heard Soraya's complaint.

Vlad nodded, having already moved to start a D6W drip. "Start IV's and ice chips until we're sure they'll tolerate it."

"Yes doctor," the nurse answered, and hurried away to carry out the order.

"Vlad, about earlier," Soraya began watching him work, "I wanted you to know that I never intended for..." She trailed off, trying to find the words.

"Beloved, please. Rest now. We can discuss this later," Vlad urged, uncomfortable discussing this here.

Soraya wanted to protest that given everything, they had no idea what would happen later, that it was always best to try to clear the air right away, but she was too tired to. Instead, she merely nodded and lay back down. "I am sorry," she said quietly.

"So am I," Vlad whispered, stroking her hair gently.


Naitachel was more than pale--he was utterly ashen to look at, almost grey, even his hair having lost much of its golden tint. The lack of color almost made him unrecognizable. He hadn't so much as shifted on the gurney since Michael or Min retrieved him, just a limp creature. The nurse trying to take his temperature was looking utterly dumbfounded--and scared.

Min moved to Naitachel quickly. Taking up his in-law's chart, he began to check him against his norms on his own. "It's okay, nurse," he told her gently. "I've got this one." No sense confusing the newbie.

"I'm sorry, sir," a second nurse said, reaching for the chart. "Who are you?"

"I'm Doctor Minhea Prince," he growled. "Now move and let me do my job."

Naitachel really wasn't well. He'd drained himself to a bad level with all the frying of locks, influenced singing, then the grand finale of frying the whole building. His temperature was normally running a bit high for a human, and now was at half that, his breathing shallow and slow, heart rate slow and fainter but at least steady.

Min began wheeling the gurney quickly to the room where Naitachel would be best tended - a private section of the chapel itself. "Here you go," he whispered to the seraph. "Don't make me start a holy water IV." A jostle of the gurney, and Nait's tail threatened to slide off and out from under his cape-robe.

Min moved to tuck Nait's tail back onto the gurney, then went for the threatened IV, just in case it was needed.

The Seraph stirred faintly, if only to try shifting off his back. It was hell on his wings, so even subconsciously he tried not to lay on his back.

Min reached and gently eased Naitachel onto his side, off of his wings. "Sorry..." he told him. "I forgot."

A hint of color finally seemed to return to Nait’s face, and his temperature and breathing steadied at a better level. Desperately exhausted still, his mind stirred faintly, not coherent but trying for true consciousness.

Min sat next to the sleeping Naitachel, his hands shaking. He could feel his uncles slipping away - one physically the other mentally. He looked down at his own useless hands helplessly.

Naitachel's eyes cracked open, though like Brianna the emotional onslaught hit hard. Mentally, he cringed beneath the chaos and fierce emotional upheaval, confused and disoriented by it. He knew he needed to find... There! Naitachel latched onto what faint tidbit he could find of Radu's soul, and clung to it with all his strength. What was left of his strength, anyway. The Seraph's vital signs sank again a bit, stretching his own soul--and energy--to reach like that.

Min jumped up. "No, Nait. Just rest. Please. Let us do the rest now."

Dr. Kelly frowned at Radu's chart, and poked the man in the ribs. "Keep breathing, you. I'll intubate you if you show off in here."

Radu, for his part, seemed to have decided today was the day to ignore Dr. Kelly as he coded on the table.

A wave of his hand, and Dr. Kelly drew a couple nurses to help him. "Let's move!" he snapped. They rushed Radu's gurney to a curtained area and set to work with intubating him and readying for jump-starting his heart. At least the two nurses he had helping knew the vamps. They bustled with steady efficiency. "Clear!"

Dr. Kelly added in a sharp demand, "Mircea, we need a solution yesterday! Get your ass moving!"

Mircea, who'd set the monitors for Radu's own norms, was back in a breath, a fistful of hypo's in hand. Dr. Kelly gestured for Mircea to go ahead, holding paddles at ready for another jump.

Mircea emptied one after another directly into his brother's jugular. "We've got it narrowed down," he told Kelly. "This should slow things and buy us some time if nothing else. Keep him going," Mircea told Kelly as the last of them was emptied. "We're close... we'll find it." And with that, he hurried back out.

"Then get closer!" the doctor growled at Mircea, before charging the jumper again. "Clear!" And a grumble, "At least pretend I'm accomplishing something, you big lug."

One beat... barely even a beat... answered his demand. Slow and arrhythmic, even for his kind, his heart responded.

"Keep that up, or I'll have 'em get your partner to try jolting you," Dr. Kelly flung at Radu, though he sounded slightly more pleased when grumbling this time. "Get some adrenaline in him!" he told a nurse.

Breathing far too shallow even for vampires, Radu lay still and silent, cold as the grave itself upon the gurney.

A nurse left the research area crying, a plastic tray flung after her. Apparently her work did not satisfy Mircea.

Adrenaline was injected directly to the heart for most efficient results. "Mircea... anytime now is good!" Dr. Kelly growled, even as one of the nurses set the airway tube up to a ventilator. "Get me another dose," he told the other.


Matty arrived with Tommen and Bri. Spying Michael, he hurried to him. "What happened?" he asked softly. "Where is everyone?"

Michael turned his back to Bri, hoping she couldn't hear when he explained, "There was an outbreak of some sort. It seems even we aren't immune to it. Dad, Min, and Mircea seem like they're doing fine, and Mom's slowly on the mend if weak. Things were touch and go for a while, though," he rambled, trying to form some sort of coherent thread. "Uncle Radu and Uncle Nait..." he said, hoping his tone would tell them the rest.

Brianna was still bordering on hysterical, and without ceremony pushed past her brothers and uncle. "Mommy!" she called through the crowd as she entered, though she stopped dead in her tracks at the sight before her and burst out crying. This was awful, all the confusion and pain.

Matty was there behind her, a gentle hand upon her shoulder. "Come on," he whispered, reaching out mentally and locating his brother. "Your mommy and daddy are this way."

Brianna whimpered as Matty led her toward her parents, Michael and Tommen exchanging a knowing and concerned look behind them. "She's okay, Bri. I just saw her," Michael reassured her.

Vlad raised his head as Brianna entered, holding out his arms to her. "She's okay, baby," he told her. "She's just fallen asleep, but she's going to be fine." Without another word, Brianna vaulted into her father's arms and hugged him tightly, burying her face in his shoulder.

"She got like this about an hour ago," Tommen explained to his father as he stepped forward to check on his mother himself. "She started crying and hasn't stopped since."

Vlad nodded. "It's okay, baby," he whispered to her. "It's going to be okay."

"They hurt," Brianna sobbed into her father's neck. "And they're scared and confused... and Uncle Nait and Uncle Radu..." she said nonsensically, though that drew a startled look from Tommen.

"What about Uncles Nait and Radu?" he asked.


Dr. Kelly charged up the machine again. "Clear!" Another shock.... "Damn it, double the dose, and hook him up to a blood drip!"

Mircea flew in then, slamming a very large hypo directly into his brother's heart and emptying its contents, then kneeling beside him. "That's it," he told him softly. "That's all I've got. It's up to you." He looked away, unable to bear the sight of him that way. <Stay...> he begged silently. <Please stay...>

Dr. Kelly arched a brow at Mircea, but watched the "blood drip" and kept an eye to Radu's vital signs, ready to jump again as needed. It dripped much as a feeding tube did--blood directly into the man's mouth. He muttered, "Keep clear, Mircea. We'll hang on to him best we can as long as we can."

Mircea nodded, but didn't move. Not really. Beyond removing his hand from his brother's, he stayed right there beside him.

"C'mon, you damn bloodsucker, get back here and stop laying on your lazy ass," Dr. Kelly growled at Radu, increasing the blood drip and adding a bit more adrenaline to the IV.

Radu's eyes shifted behind heavy lids. He groaned, then nearly gagged as he struggled against the ventilation tube. Eyelids fluttered as he began to struggle. His heartbeat steadied, a painfully slow but steady rhythm, even for a vampire. Mircea looked up, eyeing the monitor. "That’s it..." he whispered. "That's it..."


Naitachel's... did not change. If he heard Min, he was ignoring him.

"Naitachel," Min begged. "Come back... please..."

Brianna might sense Naitachel, if anyone, but he was too preoccupied to reply, and not strong enough to do so anyway.

Brianna herself was calling to both of them desperately as well, a pitiful, desperate plea to return to them.


Dr. Kelly whipped the ventilation tube up and out with a swift pull, using his free hand to keep Radu down. "Calm down. That was close, and it'll take a moment to get back to normal stuff again. You just keep suckin' your Slurpee here," the doctor added wryly. "Mircea, keep him down."

Mircea placed his hands on his brother's shoulders, holding him easily enough in his weakened state. Radu's eyes opened then, pale crystal blue orbs reflecting confusion but little else. <Peace,> Mircea urged. <Rest now...>


The faintest of sighs, and Naitachel let go of Radu's soul, sinking back into unconsciousness again. What little he'd regained, he'd spent. Min started the holy water IV, mindful of the blood, then did something he'd sworn he'd never do... Minhea prayed.

It took a minute, but Min's efforts paid off. Color began to return to the Seraph, his vital signs recovering slowly but steadily as he regained energy. He cracked his eyes open again, and mentally cringed again, unable to do so as physically as he would have liked. The emotions here were an empath's nightmare.


"Dad, what about them?" Tommen prompted again, seeking out some answers but unable to quite make sense of the chaos without.

"Not everyone is recovering quite as quickly," Vlad attempted to evade the question. "They're being taken care of."

"What does that mean?" Matty pressed.

"It means... sit down and wait," Vlad sighed. "That's really all any of us can do now."

Tom frowned. He knew his father well enough to know there was a lot more to this than what he was sharing. "Excuse me," he said, taking one more quick look at his sleeping mother's monitors for reassurance then exiting the room.

Michael looked after his brother, then at Vlad. "Not as quickly my..." he began, before glancing at the crying Brianna and shutting his mouth.

Brianna began trying to squirm out of Vlad's arms, still distressed.

"Vlad please... tell us what's happening. Don’t make us go find out for ourselves. She shouldn't have to do that..." Matty begged softly.

The sound of Brianna's wailing brought Soraya to again. "Brianna, Sweetling," she called gently when she realized what was happening. "Hush now." She forced her arms to move, and she lifted them to reach for her daughter, who finally managed to squirm out of Vlad's arms and onto the bed into her mother's arms. There, the girl curled against Soraya, sniffling as the redhead shushed her and stoked her hair, glancing up at Vlad.

Vlad filled Matty in silently, still hoping not to add to Brianna's distress.


Even in the chaos outside, Tom found his way to the room where they were tending to Radu. He peered at the scene within through the windows on the door, taken aback at the sight of Radu. <How is he?> he managed to choke out to Mircea.

Dr. Kelly checked Radu's eyes, then studied his vital signs. "Stabilizing, at least. So how many of you got hit with this stuff?"

"Four of us were infected during the lab outbreak," Mircea answered. "But this..." He shook his head. "It's not related to that. He'd have fallen either way." The fury in his eyes was evident, even to strangers. "Someone targeted him specifically with this," he told Kelly quietly. "They tried to kill my brother."

The words within reached Tommen's ears clearly enough, and the vampire barged in to the room. "Who?" he asked, infuriated.

Mircea looked at Tommen and shook his head. "I don't know," he answered honestly. "But I will."

"So, what's this, then?" Dr. Kelly demanded, motioning for one nurse to run for a second bag of blood. "Poison or bug?" he asked.

"Biotoxin, likely introduced through the skin, and engineered to affect him specifically," Mircea answered. "Given what we found, it would have likely taken two to four hours to take full effect, meaning it was most likely introduced to him at the charity function we'd been to earlier."

Tom listened to Mircea, his anger rising. "I'm helping you," he announced. "To find whoever this was. It's probably the same person that released the illness, right? Probably the same person who tried to kill my parents, too?"

"Got a suspect?" Dr. Kelly asked. He frowned at Tommen's barging in. "Calm down, boy. You jumping up and down in place isn't going to help any of us."

Tommen glanced at Dr. Kelly warningly. The man was a friend, true, but he didn't like being told to, "calm down," when his family had been threatened and targeted. Nearly lost.

"Related, at the very least," Mircea answered, "But they knew we had the antidote to the toxin they released. I suspect they hoped we'd just chalk his loss up with the others we didn't reach in time."

"Maybe, but I'm sure they hoped the antidote wouldn't reach all of you in time, either, meaning they likely meant for us to lose several people tonight. They just wanted to make doubly sure that Uncle Radu was among them," Tom said.

Mircea nodded. There was no arguing Tommen's point.

With a barked order, Dr. Kelly sent a nurse each looking for the other members of the family, to check on them. Then the doctor grunted. "I don't tell you your business, Mircea. But try not to come back here in a bloomin' body bag. You're all a pain in the ass to revive."

"We do our best to avoid you, Kelly, you know that," Mircea answered the doctor, turning back to his brother. Radu blinked tiredly. He couldn't seem to follow the conversation around him as the exhaustion overwhelmed him. Mircea reached out in an uncharacteristic show of gentleness, brushing errant curls from his brother's face. <Just rest now,> he told him softly. <We've got you.>

Dr. Kelly nodded, and patted Tommen's shoulder as he headed out. "Anger doesn't get things done. You lot gotta be smart about your next moves. Grab me if anything changes--and we'll keep the blood going. I've others to check on..." With that, he headed out.

"Anger doesn't get things done, but it sure is a hell of a motivator," Tommen answered Kelly belatedly, his eyes fixed on Radu.

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Aftermath of Plague, and a New CEO Empty Re: Aftermath of Plague, and a New CEO

Post  Kahtenny on Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:20 pm

Naitachel mentally touched Radu, and seemed to be reassured by that before reaching out to prod Min, who was nearest, and Brianna who was strongest... <Should bring the sword next time,> he said.

<Please,> Min answered, laughing humorlessly in spite of his tears.

<And next time, do not lock me out,> Nait grumbled to Min, opening his eyes and trying to focus. <That was a waste of time and energy...>

Min protested, <The computer locked you out. I just followed protocol. But next time, I'll leave a window open.>

It was obvious by the increase in sobbing that Brianna heard Vlad's words to Matthias, though these subsided again as Soraya held her tightly and kissed her forehead gently. "It is alright, Sweetling," she said.

Brianna haltingly answered, "Daddy was gone... and you were gone... and Uncles Min and Mircea and Radu and Nait, they were all gone too..." She stopped talking suddenly, however as Naitachel's touch reached her. <You're back,> she said with some measure of relief.

The Seraph touched Brianna's mind more firmly. <I was busy... My pardon. Only so much I might do when so depleted.>

Soraya sighed again and looked up at Vlad tiredly. <She sensed us all fading. No wonder she is hysterical.>

Vlad stroked his daughter's hair gently. "We're all here now, sweetheart."

Brianna nodded at Vlad's words, but remained where she was, nestled against Soraya. At least the crying was subsiding. "Nait's back, too," she informed her parents and Michael and Matty.

Vlad looked at Soraya, relieved.

"And Uncle Radu?" Michael dared ask her, knowing if anyone could figure that out, it would be his freakishly strong telepath of a sister.

"He's getting stronger," Bri announced after a moment.

Matty sobbed, overwhelmed with relief. Michael placed a steadying hand on Matty, biting back emotions himself. Matty turned to embrace his nephew, not caring who saw right then.

<It's okay. You were helping Uncle Radu,> Brianna answered Naitachel. <I was scared.>

The Seraph closed his eyes again, taking a deep breath. <I think we all were, little one,> he told her. <But I would fight to keep us all on this plane, and so I did.> Gathering his strength, he reached a bit further, to tap Mircea and Tommen. <What went wrong?>

Soraya returned Vlad's relieved look two-fold when her daughter declared Radu on the mend as well. <That was close. For all of us,> she sent him.

Vlad nodded. <Too close,> he agreed, reaching out mentally, needing to hear the answer to Naitachel's question.

<Someone used a biotoxin on him,> Tommen answered simply before Mircea took over the explanation.

Mircea filled the others in on what he'd discovered, his eyes not straying from his younger brother for even a moment.

<Wait... why didn't it affect anyone else?> Vlad demanded. <We shook the same hands tonight.>

<Did he shake hands with only Smith? I do not recall him touching any other. Except myself,> Nait mused. <I do not think the rest of us touched that man, however...>

Though she could tell there was a significant discussion going on, Soraya was too tired to try to listen in. Given her limited strength there, it would have been a strain to do so. Instead, she settled her cheek atop the now settled Brianna's head and took Vlad's hand.

<It was engineered to affect Radu specifically,> Mircea answered. <It would not have mattered who else the culprit touched.>

<Unless it wasn't a hand he shook,> Tommen mused. <Do you know who handled his food?>

<How was it so specifically created? Surely they would need... samples?> Nait mused. <Or was there a coat check?>

Michael returned Matty's hug, trying to allow them both to settle their frayed nerves, before he began listening in himself.

<The servers brought the food, and there was a coat check,> Mircea answered. <And the toxin appears to have been engineered to enter through the skin. They would have needed samples of his DNA to create it.>

<Someone in the labs, then. Or here, in this place,> Vlad suggested.

<Or who cut his hair, or picked up a glass...> Mircea sighed. <It’s not so hard, really, to obtain.>

<Didn't one of the reporters touch him?> Michael asked, trying to think back to where it could have been administered. He had no answers or suggestions regarding the DNA sample.

<Someone... obtained it, then,> the Seraph reasoned, though what their next step in defense--or offense--was beyond his exhausted mind at this time.

<He's resting comfortably now,> Mircea assured them all, though his mind continued whirring with the possible implications of this event. Reluctantly, he suggested, <Perhaps it's time he... retired again.>

<Whoever did whatever,> Tommen answered, <they had better be shaking in their boots. We'll find them.>

<Count on it,> Mircea agreed, his anger at the attempt nearly overwhelming.

<Not retiring yet...> Radu chimed in weakly at last. He offered the barest of mental caresses to his beloved, unable to manage much more just yet.

<As much as the idea of keeping him out of danger is nice, having him retire would be letting them win, no?> Michael asked, before actually laughing aloud at Radu's protest.

Naitachel mentally cringed away from Mircea and Tommen's anger, and he simply settled back under his own shields again, keeping only a tendril to keep tabs on Radu. He didn't feel up to facing the power of their anger, among the other emotions all around.

<Besides, I hate to say that if Radu hadn't been the target, someone else would have,> Tom agreed. <We need to put a stop to whoever did this. It's the only way to make sure we're all safe.> He didn't care much for the idea of losing his father, or Uncle Min or Mircea, or even Naitachel for that matter anymore than he cared to lose Radu.

Mircea nodded. <We'll need to find who released the toxin in the lab. That's our best lead to who did this.>

Dr. Kelly strode up to Soraya's gurney, and picked up her chart, eying her monitor. "Good... So far so good... She awake yet?" he muttered to Vlad.

"I am awake," the patient said wearily. Perhaps barely so, but she was awake.

"She has been off and on," Vlad answered. "We started an IV and ice chips to help combat dehydration. It seems to be a common concern among the hum..." He caught himself and corrected, "victims."

Dr. Kelly nodded, and arched a brow at Soraya. "So you are," he confirmed. "So get to sleep. If this lot'll let you, that is. You'll feel better when you wake up, but we'll be keeping you at least over the course of the day." A sharp eye flicked to the vampires. "Day's gonna break in a few minutes. Better choose fast."

"We're staying," Vlad answered without hesitation. "At least until our own are released."

"It is rather hard to sleep around here with all this commotion," Soraya teased, squeezing Brianna as tightly as she could manage and winking at her husband and son.

<How are our people,> Radu's mental voice was so weak as to be almost inaudible.

"How are our people?" Matt echoed aloud, knowing his uncle needed to know.

Naitachel reached out to give his mate a comforting, if saddened, touch.

Dr. Kelly frowned. "Lost a few before they could get here, but luckily any who came still breathing are still around. But we'll be keeping the lot for a while."

A passing nurse looked in at Michael, concerned by the laughter she heard just before the doctor walked in. Michael glanced at the nurse in turn and gave her his best boyish smile. "It's alright," the young woman assured him. "A release after something this traumatic can be cathartic." She cocked her head to the side. "Would you like some coffee or something?"

Michael glanced as his parents and smiled at the nurse surreptitiously. He sensed a woman who wanted to rescue those lost puppies she could find, and he liked her for it. "Coffee would be great," he answered, moving in her direction. His voice dropped to a whisper, "I hear the cafeteria here has decent stuff. I'll buy."

Vlad laughed as the smiling nurse accompanied his son to the cafeteria.

Soraya looked after Michael incredulously. <I blame Min,> she sighed.

"So do I," Vlad grinned.

"How long a while?" Matty asked. "I thought you said over the course of a day?"

"Depends on how slowly they rest up," Dr. Kelly tossed back at Matty wryly. "If you can walk straight and sober, we'll consider it. If not, don't even bother to ask. I'll check on you later... Never thought I'd get a chance to see that other one..."

"Which other one?" Vlad asked, abruptly lost.

Dr. Kelly scowled at his list. "Your uncle-in-law. Hell, not sure we even have much of a protocol for him..."

"The protocol for him is hallowed ground, holy water and prayer. There isn't much else that can be done, no matter the injury," Vlad filled him in. <What if it had been him?> he found himself wondering abruptly. <We can't even test his blood safely. How do we protect him?>

Dr. Kelly snorted. "There's always more than that. But I'm not sure if shocking him would re-start him, or blow up the crash cart." Muttering to himself, Dr. Kelly turned to go.

Soraya watched as Dr. Kelly left before settling back in to her bed and promptly dozing off. She felt as though she had years of sleep to catch up on.

- - -

Late in the afternoon, Sophia tapped lightly on Soraya's door, peering in as if to make certain she was awake, up and about.

Soraya was within, sitting upright in bed when the tap came and Sophia's head peeked in. "Sophia," she greeted. "Are they releasing you already?" She hadn't had word yet on being allowed to go home herself, though admittedly she had just awoken from sleeping most of the day away.

"Yeah, finally," the woman smiled. "I just wanted to check in on you before I left." She shifted slightly as she added, "And to thank you."

Soraya's eyebrows knitted together, trying to think as to what she had done to earn herself that. "For what?" she asked finally, unable to pinpoint it.

Sophia laughed. "I was told you made sure I survived as long as you could, until you collapsed. That if you hadn't, I probably would have died before help arrived. That's all.”

"You would have done the same for me, had our situations been reversed," Soraya responded with a shrug. "I am glad that you are feeling better now, at least. You seemed to be in rather dire straits."

"I thought I was going to die," Sophia admitted. "Four people did. Cam, Ginger, Lisbeth, and Sam. All from Lab two."

Soraya couldn't help but nod grimly at the news. That they had lost anyone at all was tragic. "Well, thankfully, we both made it."

"I wish they had too," Sophia confided. "Ginger and I go for coffee every Friday. Went... for coffee..."

"I am sorry," Soraya said quietly. She was beginning to wonder if she had misjudged Sophia. "It is terrible that anyone should have died at all."

“Thought you might like an update. It looks like they're keeping Kyle from accounting, Jess, Kara and Tina from Lab two, your uncle and possibly his husband. Everyone else is to be released... well, and you, maybe. Nobody seemed sure if you'd be up and about yet," Sophia offered.

"Ask Vlad," Soraya replied. "He is the one who seems to be in charge of whether I will be staying." And knowing him, he would take his time releasing her, purely out of caution. Besides, as much as she wanted out, she didn't want to leave before Radu and Nait were cleared as well.

Sophia nodded sadly, then cleared her throat. "Well I... I just wanted to check in and... you know. Update... I guess." She shrugged. "I'm glad you're okay."

The redhead nodded and gave Sophia an encouraging smile. "Thank you. And you as well. I suppose I will... see you soon," she said, trying to be cordial and noting that it was virtually impossible to stop in to see Vlad without running into her.

Sophia smiled and nodded. "See you at the office," she agreed. With a wave of her hand, she turned to leave, almost running into Vlad on his way in.


The Seraph nursed a cup of tea in his hands, sitting on his heels on a wheelchair by Radu's bed. Someone had kindly wrapped him up in blankets until only his face and some stray long hair peeked out. They hadn't wanted him here, but the Seraph had insisted. At least he had a cup of holy water made into tea.

Radu and Mircea were engaged in a quiet disagreement. "Truly, I feel fine now." At his brother's look, he amended, "Much improved, at least. There is no need for me to remain here when I can rest just as easily at home. Better, in fact."

"Perhaps you might finish another bag," Nait mused between sips. "You could use a bit more weight," he added mischievously over the rim of his cup. Yeah, he kind of agreed with Mircea.

"Really, beloved, my weight is fine," Radu protested. He sounded tired, even after sleeping for the better part of the day, and if he were pressed, he felt weaker than he could ever remember, but he had no desire to stay here.

"You'd blow away in a strong wind; now sit back and relax while I hook you up," Mircea disagreed. "You're too thin, even for our kind. I'm amazed Kelly's even considering release." Mircea turned then to Naitachel. "I suppose I should drag in another bed?"

"I did not dig my teeth into your very soul for you to tell me an untruth about your condition," the Seraph scolded softly, though he glanced up at Radu with gentle amusement. "You are not fine, as you do not yet sound fine." Nait winked at Mircea. "I may always sit on him. He is not so likely to be able to lift me yet. In which case another bed is unnecessary."

"You might have to do that." Mircea winked back.

"I am not that weak," Radu protested, though if pressed he couldn't swear it.

Naitachel merely arched a brow at Radu.

Radu rolled his eyes. "Even if I am, I can rest far more effectively at home."

Naitachel looked at Mircea questioningly. After all, he himself was not a medical expert.


Soraya watched Sophia's interaction with Vlad with interest as they nearly ran into each other. Had she imagined it?

Vlad moved to Soraya, gathering her into his arms and holding her closely. "How’re you feeling?" he asked her, taking no note of his assistant's exit.

"Better," the redhead responded, holding to him as well. "Tired still," she admitted, "but better. And you? How are you?" she asked, pulling away gently to look at her husband and brushing her hand through his hair.

"I'm fine, beloved. Kelly had us all sipping blood like juice pouches off and on all day. We're all fine... well, except uncle, and he's at least much improved. And Naitachel," he amended. "I'm not sure how he is, really. The whole thing took a lot of out him this time."

Resting her forehead on Vlad's, Soraya exhaled loudly in relief. "Well, that is good news. I am sure Naitachel will recover as well," she smiled. "The children went home, it seems," she then realized, glancing around.

"No worries," Min proclaimed as he swept in. "I've got him covered!" From a messenger bag he then produced a Torah, a bible, a book of Mormon, a Quran, a Hadith, and a Baghivad Gita, as well as a cross, a pentagram, a Star of David, a prayer mat and a vial of holy water. "Did I miss anything?" he asked Soraya and Vlad.

"No," Soraya laughed at Min's entrance. She paused a moment, then, her voice dropping, "Though I was hoping for a moment to speak with my Vlad."

"Oh... sorry," Min at least had the good grace to appear embarrassed. "Sorry." He gathered up everything quickly. "I'll just... you know... take these to Nait."

Soraya laughed and shook her head. "Well, I had not intended for it to be so dramatic," she commented, before turning to Vlad and sobering, "Though, Vlad, I did want to... discuss what happened with you," she said a bit apprehensively.

Vlad waited until Min had exited, then shrugged. "I'm more worried about what happened to you, to be honest," he admitted.

Smiling, Soraya lifted a hand to Vlad's cheek. "I know. But the fact remains that we had a rather substantial fight before this happened and things were said by both of us that bear discussing."

"Beloved, do we need to discuss that now?" Vlad asked, really not wanting to rekindle the argument now.

"When else are we to discuss it?" she asked, him calmly. "The moment we step out of the safety of this room, you will be off on the hunt to find who did this to Radu, not to mention busy doing damage control with the company. I barely saw you before, and I predict that for some time, I will see you even less."

Vlad sighed. "What would you have me do?"

Soraya watched her husband for a short moment, then shrugged. "I... do not know," she admitted in turn. "But these past months, I have for the first time over the course of our marriage actually doubted where I stood in your life. And I actually felt lonely. I know that is selfish of me. But this isolation is also what led me to accidentally blurt about it in our small groups in class."

"Your place is at my side, as always," Vlad answered, unsure where this was coming from. "For as long as we've been together, you could really doubt that?" He shook his head. "Why did you not just come to the lab and work with us if you were lonely?"

"And do what? I am no scientist. What exactly would you have had me do there?" Soraya asked. "Besides, it is not merely your physical presence that I missed, it was your mental one. Even during the brief conversations we managed to have, it always seemed your mind was elsewhere. How would that have been different in the labs?" she asked him, shaking her head sadly. "Do you not think I know this makes me the selfish one? Do you not think I tried to tell myself it would pass?"

Vlad considered the rest of her statement. "If you were feeling that way, though... why didn't you tell me? You told a room full of strangers, but not me?"

"When? When could I have told you that you were not preoccupied with something else, or when we were not interrupted by your phone or by Sophia?" she answered. "And it was not a room of strangers, it was three people with whom we were doing a practical exercise. It merely slipped out." She hung her head. "For that I am sorry. I know I should not have told them, but in my defense, it was supposed to be confidential."

"You've been in my office numerous times, and I've been home, if only briefly," Vlad sighed, realizing that he wasn't helping. "I am sorry if I made you feel ignored, beloved." He left it there, knowing that no other statement mattered.

Soraya nodded and pulled her legs in to herself, though her hand reached limply for Vlad's. "I have been thinking on it. Maybe it is best that I quit school. At least this way I am more likely to catch you in those brief moments when you are home." The solution seemed a poor one, and it certainly wouldn't leave her satisfied, but it was something. "I do not really know what else to do."

"You cannot quit," Vlad answered flatly. "Not when you have worked so hard to achieve your goal." After a long moment, he decided. "I’ll just quit the company for a time. The others can handle it..."

"After you have worked so hard for that?" Soraya asked shaking her head. The solution was hardly one in which she feared he would begin resenting her for it. "That does not seems a good solution either. Is there no way we can both promise to simply do more to be there for the other? To spend more time together? And to promise that when are together, we will both be present?"

"I can promise that," Vlad agreed. "Can you?"

Soraya smiled brought Vlad's hand to her lips, nodding. "I can," she promised. It wouldn't be easy for either of them, but she was more than willing to make the effort if he was. Nothing mattered more to her, after all. "Anything for you... for us." Then, in an imitation of Brianna's favorite saying, she intertwined her pinky finger with his. "Pinky swear."

Vlad laughed, then held up his little finger obligingly. "Pinky swear."

Soraya smiled and took a deep, steadying breath. "I love you. No matter what, I always have and always will," she swore before kissing him gently. Vlad returned her kiss, caressing her cheek as he did so. <Perhaps I can stay here just a bit longer,> Soraya suggested, relishing in the solitude this room provided them, even if the bed was uncomfortable.

Vlad laughed. <Really? Have you tried lying on that bed? It'd be like making love on concrete.>

Soraya laughed in return. <It could not be any worse than that time in Paris,> she observed. To be honest, she would gladly settle for the pleasure of merely sleeping in Vlad's arms for a few hours before they were forced to return to the demands of their respective schedules.

<True,> Vlad laughed. <Maybe we can just take a day or two off to recuperate at home?>

<Oh,> Soraya responded, breaking the kiss as much to catch her breath as to speak. "Well, then, doctor, perhaps you would sign my release," she asked, pouting prettily. "I think a day or two off to recuperate at home sounds like your best idea yet."

"I couldn't agree more," Vlad replied. "I'll run that by Kelly and see if it flies." Kissing her again quickly, he grinned. "Be right back," and headed off to find him.

Smiling after her husband, Soraya rose and began the task of dressing.


Nait's own room was empty, the bed neatly made. A nurse had to redirect Min. Sighing, Naitachel chugged the rest of his tea and slid to his feet. He stepped over to Radu's bed and hopped up on the side beside him. "So, then, what is the plan at home if we do so?"

"Rest?" Radu answered, thinking he could rest more easily with access to his files, his books, and a bed that didn't feel like a slab in a morgue.

"And eat?" Nait added, arching a brow hopefully at Radu. "You shall end up bruising me at this rate, and surely that may start rumors." The Seraph sighed, and looked to Mircea once more. "I suppose the best answer would be to see if the toxin is gone yet. I should hate to have you to return here shortly upon departing, Radu. Surely it is something you might test, Mircea?"

Min entered quietly, moving to stand beside Mircea, noting the scowl he wore. "I brought you a few things," Min addressed Nait, holding out the messenger bag to him. "Thought you could use them."

Nait smiled tiredly at Min. "Ah, thank you, Min. How are you feeling?" he asked, taking the bag and peering within. "Heavens, you have gone all out on my behalf, surely!"

"I just... you know... wanted you to be okay," Min answered, shrugging. He hadn't intended to discuss it exactly. Just do it. "You are, right?" he asked then.

"Thank you, Min," Nait returned warmly from his seat on Radu's bed. His tail-tip flicked happily. "I am much the better and recovering, and shall be the better for your efforts, thank you." Golden eyes flicked to Radu, concerned. "I suppose we leave the verdict to Mircea."

Mircea drew Radu's blood, a slow process as the thick, black, tar-like substance resisted collection, and moved to inspect it for toxins. "The toxins will not exit my system any faster for lying here," Radu protested.

"Perhaps not, but it would be nice to have the worst of them gone," the Seraph told his spouse.

"I am certain they are," Radu assured Naitachel, hoping it was true.

Naitachel merely reached out and patted Radu's hand, smiling in affectionate amusement. "The others are well?" he asked Min. "Soraya, Vlad...? I can see Mircea easily enough, though he himself ought to rest up as well." <He worries over you strongly,> he told Radu. <Allow us some peace of mind before you come home.>

Mircea entered, frowning. "The toxins are dormant, but still present," he told them, shaking his head. "We've managed to stop them, but not destroy them." He looked at Radu worriedly. "I'll keep working on it. Meanwhile... you'll need to just... relax. Consider it a vacation."

Naitachel eyed Mircea, very much worried now. "Heavens... Is there any way to remove them? I... I cannot purify one of you. It would destroy you entirely."

"I don't know," Mircea answered Nait honestly. "But I don't think we're going to find the answer overnight." He sighed. "I'm going to talk to Kelly. We may need to make arrangements to keep an eye on you for a while at home while I work on this," he told his brother, "And you're likely going to need to take it easy for a while until we figure this out. I don't want to risk a relapse."

"What about my work?" Radu asked. "We've made such progress. We're so close to an answer..."

"Min and Vlad can pick up where you left off," Mircea assured him. "You can't worry about that right now."

Radu looked anything but pleased by that suggestion.

The Seraph slumped a bit, worried still, and sighed. "I will stay with you, then. With so much scandal lately, it is likely just as well." He smiled sadly at Radu. "I hope some of it survived my surge back there." He glanced at Mircea. <Be careful, all of you, and see if you might find some prevention, perhaps? Any one of you may be next...>

Mircea nodded to the seraph, then headed back out. "I want to talk to Kelly before we decide on your release."

“You can't just stay at home," Radu sighed. "Those kids need you. And you need them."

Naitachel shook his head slowly. "Not at risk of exposing them with such scandal. I called on a friend of a friend, who helped cover up the worst of the exposure with his hacking skills, but I cannot risk further yet. Many of them need to stay hidden."

Radu nodded, sighing, surprised to discover himself tiring again so soon.


Dr. Kelly was sitting at the nurses' station, glaring at the charts. No, he was not pleased with the whole lot of them.

Mircea put the test results on top of the pile, pointing to the latest results silently.

Dr. Kelly grunted, pouring over it, and slapped it back down on the table. "So what do you want to call this? 'VIDS'? What you need is... hmmm... probably your own virus to grab and run with that stuff to get it off. That'll take you a while to make."

"Longer than I like," Mircea answered. "It's keyed to his specific DNA, but there's no telling if whoever's behind that has another target in mind." "Meanwhile, there's the risk of mutation as long as it's there, even dormant," Mircea growled, looking over Kelly's shoulder at the results once again. "And no telling what'll trigger it to action again."

Kelly huffed, and leaned back in his seat. "So make a patch of concentrated likeable stuff, and wear it at all times. It'll reduce any absorption the rest of you have if they try you, and meanwhile you make some easily-tweaked virus to help you clear this." He frowned again, brows arching. "You know, given the comparison, why not treat it like AIDS? It's acting that way, after all. Maybe the meds can help."

Mircea considered that. "It's possible. We can't use every medication humans can. Our bodies don't absorb them the same way. But you never know." He shrugged. "We have to try something. He wants to go home now, by the way." Mircea began considering how to use the treatment he'd made so hastily for Radu to prevent absorption, effectively inoculating the rest of the family against the virus. That would keep them safe. But what about Radu?

"Might keep it dormant, at least," Dr. Kelly agreed. "Meanwhile, drop everything and get cracking. This is more your kinda stuff than mine." He arched a brow, and shrugged. "May as well. We'll send him with everything from here, and you can take Gertrude--she'll keep him in line and have me on speed-dial."

Mircea nodded. "I let him know he'll have to be resting. No work. No stress. She can help enforce that while I work on this." He hated to admit how little he liked the idea, but there really wasn't any reason to keep him here rather than home. It wasn't going to help him.

Dr. Kelly smiled slyly at Mircea. "He's going home with a Life Vest, if he's going. That'll keep him going until we can get him on life support." The smirk faded. "Just keep his boyfriend away from it. He toasted the last monitor. Thank God he didn't need it anymore, though."

Vlad took Soraya's chart and approached Kelly. "Need to get my wife signed out. Two days at home resting and she should be good to go."

Dr. Kelly arched a brow at Vlad, and held up a hand to forestall the question. "She's fine to go, but you have her rest, got that? And just wandering around the house the day after, or I'll come by and kick some undead rears in person."

Vlad nodded. "Agreed." He looked at the paper Mircea seemed worried over, his eyes going wide. "What is that?" he asked, though he feared he knew the answer.

Dr. Kelly rose, and thumbed at Mircea. "Ask him. He understands that stuff better. I've patients to torture."

"Our next project," Mircea answered. "I'll get him ready to go," he told Kelly before heading back to let Nait and Radu know. "I'll tell you on the way home," Mircea growled. "I need to get Radu ready to go."


A nurse peeked in on Soraya, beaming cheerfully. "Looks like you're getting set. Need help?" Soraya was grateful to whoever had had the foresight to bring her a fresh change of clothes, and though the activity of simply donning them was tiring, she felt much better once they were on. "I think I have it," she smiled at the nurse, "just waiting for that husband of mine, wherever he is."

Vlad entered, looking worried, having palmed his uncle's test results. "Ready?" he asked, forcing himself to a more cheerful countenance.

"Yes," she answered quickly with a smile to the nurse as she joined him near the door, more than ready to be home.

The look on Vlad's face was familiar enough to Soraya. "What happened?" she asked.

"You've been released," he attempted to evade. "But you have to take it easy at least a couple of days. As expected."

The nurse ducked out to get the forms going.

Soraya sighed, knowing the untruth in her husband's words. She was sure she would find out sooner or later what it was. For now, it was simply time to go. "I think I can manage that."

Vlad smiled. "Good." He handed the paper he'd palmed to the nurse. "See to it this gets back into his file," he told her. "Into the chair, then, dear heart. Let's go."

Smiling at her husband, Soraya sat placidly enough in the chair. She could manage to walk out, but she knew the hospital policy, and simply thought it best not to argue.


Mircea entered Radu's room, plastering a smile on. "Okay. Home it is. With a few minor accessories, of course." He glanced at Nait. "Which you are not to fry."

The Seraph spread his hands innocently. "I promise, I forgot to wear gloves! I shall be more careful!"

Min laughed. "You'll try." He glanced at his uncle. "Do you need help dressing?"

"I've got him," Mircea told them. "I need to get him decked out to go, and we've got a few arrangements in the works. We’ll meet you down stairs."

Naitachel hopped down from Radu's bed, and ducked aside as several nurses entered with the Life Vest among other things. Huddling in his blankets, he sighed.

Min got Nait signed out with the promise that he too would rest a few days, then wheeled him down to wait for the car. <I'm going to bring Radu home by ambulance,> Mircea told Nait. <You and Min go ahead with Colin.>

Radu's displeasure with that arrangement seemed to flood the building. However, he didn't argue.

Nait sent his mate a wordless reassuring mental embrace, full of affection and happiness. He would rather his mate stay safe and as protected as possible until they were home, after all--it gave him peace of mind.

"That kid was working at Chance's auto when Colin took the car in today," Min told Nait, supposing he'd want to know. "Turns out he's REALLY good. Car purrs like a kitten now. I don't think it ran this well when it was brand new."

The Seraph sighed in relief. "Good. Chris mentioned they left rather fast when the scandal hit the internet, but he got that under better control now. I do not know how that boy does it, but he can make the internet seem to think whatever he wishes half the time..."

"Useful skill," Min grinned. "Now if only he could fix Maple's toaster. Damn things broke again. I swear, one of those kids is breaking it on purpose. I wonder if mechanic boy could fix it," he frowned. "Not that it matters if he already bolted."

Leaving the blankets with the wheelchair, Naitachel carefully used his crutches to maneuver into the limo, and sighed as he relaxed on one of the side seats again. "Probably, if he could do wonders to the car. I am glad they are safe, even if not with us. The culprit of that, however, should be found. That was almost criminal. Many there must remain hidden. But I dare not return myself, lest I be used so again."

"I'll take care of that, if you want," Min promised, catching up the blankets and tucking Nait back in before buckling his own seat belt. "Nobody seemed sure where he and the little one are staying, but Chase said he'd keep him on if he'd keep coming in so at least they've got an income now."

The Seraph chuckled softly. "You are the mother hen of late," he teased. "Those two are resourceful... and best if nobody knows that. I wish them the best, and perhaps in due time when things are calm we may meet them again."

"Me? A mother hen?" Min laughed. "I thought I was the fox!"

Naitachel snorted, amused, but said nothing.

"Chase said that older one was odd. Wouldn't look at anyone. Didn't say a word. The little one was cute as hell though. And a chatterbox!" Min grinned. "I think he'd have kept the little guy given a chance. Him and his wife want another one."

The Seraph smiled and shrugged. "It is up to him to make such an offer. But I suspect those two come as a pair. And they have a great deal of baggage."

"Figured that. Couldn't read the older boy, but it doesn't matter. Nobody shields like that unless there's a lot to hide. And that little one..." He shook his head. "I got enough from him that first night to know he probably still has nightmares."

"It would have been nice to aid in that, for them both, but again, best I stay away for now." Nait sighed, curling up amid the blankets. He knew the future would be trying. He was not even allowed to touch his mate.

Min laid a gentle hand on the seraph's arm. "We'll look after them until you can. All of this is temporary. We'll make it right."

Naitachel nodded. "I can but hope and pray so... and sit on Radu when he attempts too much."

"Hell, Nait, you might as well just stay on his lap in that case," Min grinned.

Blushing, Naitachel coughed a laugh. "Min, you truly are incorrigible!"

The window between them opened then. "I'm sorry, sirs. It looks like an accident ahead. We're being diverted."

Min frowned as he looked at the scene before them. Indeed there were banged up cars and irate people, but something still seemed off. "You're just noticing?" he responded, trying not to alert Nait just yet.

The Seraph had drawn in on his shields more of late, due to weariness from such an emotional onslaught in the hospital. He shook his head, smiling tiredly.

Noting how tired Nait seemed, Min tucked him in more tightly. "Get comfy. This could take a while."

Nait nodded and curled up a bit more, tucking tail close. While he had recovered much of his color back, he was still a bit low on energy. "I am as 'comfy' as I may be here, I suspect. Thank you."

The car turned. Stopped. Crept forward. Stopped. Turned. Then stopped again. Suddenly they were jolted by an onslaught of calls and cameras.

The Seraph literally cringed under the emotional and mental onslaught. <Heavens!> he squeaked.

The window slid open again. "I'm sorry, sirs," Colin offered, honking his horn.

"Nait," one voice called, "how are you feeling?'

"Is it true Radu was killed in the lab disaster last night?" another called out.

"Were you able to at least say goodbye?" a third queried. Flashbulbs went off around them.

"...As Minhea Prince, nephew of the late Radu Prince, escorts grieving widower home," someone intoned solemnly into a microphone.

Drawing his wings--and the blankets--over his head, Naitachel huddled like an injured animal. Inside, mentally, he uttered a wail. <Enough, please!>

"How did the accident happen?" someone cried from the rear of the car.

Minhea unbuckled and flung open the car door, slamming it behind him. The crunch of metal and cries of angry surprise followed.

"My camera!" someone protested.

"Don't you vultures have anything better to do," Min hissed at them, cursing them all as rumor-mongering fools.

Someone opened the car door nearest Nait and dove in. "Please, I’m so sorry for your loss, but if I can just have a few minutes of your time," the young woman begged.

Pain built to the breaking point, with him in such a weary state. It finally burst forth with a power even the mentally deaf could hear clearly, though he cried it out loud as well, a keening shout fit to break glass: "Leave-me-ALONE!" It was enough to set anyone backpedaling a couple paces.

A few cameras broke. All the flashbulbs certainly did. The door opened and the young woman felt herself bodily removed from the car. She stood there, then, face to face with a furious Jina Prince. "Sorry I'm late, Uncle," she offered Nait.

Video cameras ceased to function. Flash bulbs broke. The 'reporters' suddenly found themselves unable to report. Colin honked the horn again and began to edge forward as Jina and Min both got back in.

"Sorry, Nait," Min said. "Should have seen it coming."

"You okay?" Jina asked gently.

A golden eye peered from within the dark protection of the blankets, scarlet-edged, just a gleam in the dark. Was he crying? <I... I cannot always be brave...> he apologized.

"Nobody expects you to," Min assured him, handing him his kerchief.

"We can't either," Jina admitted.

The seraph hid himself completely within his blankets, that consoling dark refuge. <I am... as well as I may be, under these circumstances,> he answered Jina slowly. <Thank you... both of you...> A shaky hand took the kerchief and ducked back within. <He is not dead...> Nait mourned quietly, <Or I would no longer be here, myself.>

<We know,> Jina assured him. <I'm not sure where they got the idea he was.>

<Perhaps you might drop me where I may recharge. I do not wish him to see me like this, nor be distressed further by it,> Nait mused.

<You couldn't recharge with the prayer mat?> Min asked, exchanging a look with Jina. He really wasn't sure it was a good idea to drop Nait anywhere with the press on the prowl the way they were tonight.

Naitachel considered, then shrugged. <It would be slower. I simply do not wish him to pick up on my distress.>

<I caught it from home,> Jina admitted before asking. <Do you really think it's escaped him?>

Slumping in the blankets, Naitachel puffed a sigh of surrender. <No. I suppose not, then.>

Min reached for the radio, thinking to distract them with music, but ended up fiddling with the dials as songs seemed hard to find. "...Is rocked by the tragic accident at..." Switch. "...Both boys are thought to have been taken by the same person..." Switch... "...Dubois and O'Reilly both disappeared on..." Switch... "...Encounter earlier this evening, the family is still reeling from the tragic..." Click. "So much for the radio," Min sighed, settling back into silence for the rest of the ride.

The rest of the car ride, Naitachel remained silent, though one might scent that the kerchief had plenty of quiet use.

A sea of people holding candles surrounded their home, blocking them from reaching the gates. Word of how the Princes had gone in and carried their employees to safety before turning back to deal with the danger on their own had already spread, and several Dragon Industry employees stood holding candles among the crowd. Signs proclaiming their condolences to the family, their love of the "dead" hero, and their prayers were placed at the gate along with flowers, stuffed toys and balloons.

Naitachel cringed under his blankets again. Naitachel finally dared speak again. "Perhaps it is best we leave them thinking so. Safer thus," he mused. "The rest of you must be wary."

Colin honked his horn, inching in until the vigil keepers parted.

"We love you," someone shouted. Min rolled his eyes. How the heck had this gotten so out of hand? He wondered.

Jina held up her phone, showing him the answer. A viral post was exploding on Facebook, showing them carrying out injured employees, and finally Mircea carrying out Radu. He did indeed appear to be dead as they loaded him into the ambulance, and the monitors hooked to him clearly showed no signs of life.

At least the emotions blasting here were kindly and well-meant, supportive and concerned. They were still rather overwhelming, however. It seemed someone among their staff had captured the entire heroic effort, including the final devastating loss, on their cell phone, and uploaded it for the world to see. Pictures of the five dead, including Radu Prince circulated with the captions.

Naitachel observed it a moment, then looked away. Or, rather, his blanket-hood did. It still hurt to observe. "So, then, now what shall we do?" he sighed.

Slowly the gates opened and Colin drove them in amid the wave of sad support. "It seems like Uncle has been retired whether he likes it or not," Jina sighed.

"It might be just as well," Min offered, considering Radu's current condition. "But he's not going to like it either way."

"He is safer though so, lest another attempt be made," Nait agreed quietly. "If he need return, well... I suppose we may as well offer the cameras a new 'boyfriend' for myself then."

"One bearing an uncanny likeness to your dead husband?" Jina asked, a hint of amusement in her voice.

Naitachel huffed. "Why not? Unless Radu would be willing to alter his own appearance somehow."

The car pulled into the garage and Colin opened the door. "I am so sorry," he offered them all. "I hadn't realized that Mister Prince..." His eyes were red rimmed and shining brightly. "Please let me know if, you know... if I can do anything."

Naitachel fumbled with his crutches and shifted for the door to emerge. "Thank you, Mister Colin," he stated quietly, careful not to suggest anything further. The fewer who knew the truth, the better.

Min just clapped the grieving chauffeur on the shoulder as he passed, escorting Jina, who kept her head down and her mouth closed.

Clicking up to their suite, Naitachel seemed just a bundle of blankets, almost a ghostly figure as they swept the floor. In the right light, he showed how close kin he was to a Mara, and his almost tragic aura at the moment did not help in disproving that kinship.

Mircea met Nait at the door with a wheelchair. "In you go," he ordered gently. "Let's get you in and settled so you can rest."

"Let him take you the rest of the way," Min suggested. "He'll tuck you in next to Uncle, okay?"

Nait sighed. "Very well." Curling tail close, he struggled into the wheelchair. If anything was designed to make a Seraph attempt bad yoga poses, this was it.

Mircea made quick work of taking Nait to the room. Radu was already settled in and sleeping, appearing for all the world to be as dead as those outside imagined him to be. Only the carefully recalibrated monitors confirmed he was indeed "alive." Or, at least, as alive as his ilk got. Mircea quickly turned down the bed, then made to lift Nait and place him in it.

The Seraph held up his hands to forestall him. "I am capable enough, but thank you, Mircea." Uncurling, he straightened, and shifted over to join Radu, though he would have to move aside for his own rest in due time. Yet he set a wing across his mate carefully over the blankets, to keep him warm.

<You may wish to take his cell phone, Mircea. The world thinks he has passed,> Nait informed him softly.

"Try to rest. Maybe take a day or two, then we'll get you set up in your office. With Radu 'retired', it falls to you to helm the company. Don't worry. We'll be there to help," Mircea told him as he checked his brother's monitors again.

"Does he know he's retired?" Min asked his uncle quietly.

"Me to... what!?" The Seraph almost bolted upright. "I do not know how to. And I cannot lie!" he stated, dismayed. Glancing at Radu, he shook his head. "I suspect not, but the world seems to have decided that, not us."

Mircea nodded. "Honestly, I think it's for the best," he answered as he adjusted the IV drip.

"Allowing them to believe in his death, perhaps," Nait agreed, not certain about the rest. "Could you not handle the company? Or... Heavens, but Vlad is already swamped to the point it harms him and Soraya..." He glanced at Mircea hopefully, knowing no other who might take the reins.

"He knows," Mircea told Nait. "He's very upset over it, and that upset didn't help him at all. However, you're going to do fine. Just remember, when in doubt, say 'let me refer you to someone who can answer that for you,' and send them to Vlad. He'll handle them from there. Just send them to Vlad, or Min or myself. It will be fine."

"You can do this," Min assured him from the doorway. "You'll have a good assistant and plenty of help."

Radu stirred, prompting Mircea to cast a warning glance around the room, silencing Min. Only when Radu settled deeper into exhausted slumber did he nod to indicate the discussion could continue, but quietly.

Naitachel settled back down beside Radu, huddling under his wings a bit, a sign of his distress. "There truly is no other way, is there?" he breathed, eying them. "You must put all to research, after all."

"It would be best for appearances, and for the company, if his widower took the reins," Mircea answered sadly. "I am sorry."

A quiet sigh. "If I must, then I shall."

- - -

Naitachel clicked his way slowly, almost reverently, into his mate's spacious office, looking around, his laptop case slung across his back. It felt odd to be there without him. It gave him a slight chill, knowing he was home, fighting for his life even though he was stable for now. For now. Two days of prayers on his mate's behalf. Two days of singing to soothe and help him rest. Naitachel still felt worn, but more so emotionally than physically. He had to do this. There were no other options.

Tara Sanders rose, hurrying to open the door for her new boss, though her eyes were still red rimmed, her grief still evident over the loss of her old one. "I'm so sorry," she whispered to Nait. "I'll hold your calls until you're settled in," she told him. "Alexis was wondering though..." Her voice broke. "If she should prepare the cart today."

The Seraph paused to reach out a hand and rest it on hers gently, offering his soothing influence. He simply smiled gently, compassionately, not knowing what to say that might not give away the truth. "The cart?"

"Tea. Doctor Prince had teatime daily. Miss Smith usually joins him, though," she whispered, a smile touching her sad features. "we've all been sworn to secrecy on that. Her mother's not to know." A tear coursed down her cheek. "Tea and biscuits, scones... and cheesecake. Miss Smith really likes cheesecake."

Naitachel nodded solemnly, thoughtful and saddened. "Is she coming today?"

"I'm not certain. I don't know if she's aware of..." Tara paused, "his passing. Yet."

The Seraph took a deep breath, then shook his head. "If she is busy, best we not disturb her with that news. When she next... When she comes for tea, I suppose it is best I inform her of what happened." He sighed, shaking his head. "Poor child."

Tara swallowed hard, nodding her head. "I'll tell Alexis then. Bring the cart. Just in case."

"That sounds like a good idea," Nait agreed, turning for the main office with his crutches.

"Sir... I'm sorry, but I have to know..." Tara asked him then. "Did he... you know... suffer? I'm sorry," she shook her head. "I shouldn't... I shouldn't have asked you that." Blinking back tears, she turned toward her desk, trying to focus on the day's work ahead.

Nait froze, thinking of how he had dug his own soul's claws into his mate's to hang onto him, face a touch pale at the memory. "I... have known Radu to suffer a great deal, but that was not something I think one should wish even on an enemy," he offered softly.

A sob tore through Tara at that reply.

"We do what we can, and try to move on as we best may, Miss Tara," he stated gently, heading for Radu's office. The Seraph stopped to unsling his laptop and set it down, then don his gloves before sitting gingerly on Radu's chair due to his tail and wings. He sighed. That was one order of business he would need taken care of, when the chance arose.

Mircea came into the outer office, frowning at Tara's distress. "Miss Sanders," he told her gently, kneeling beside her. "Why don't you take a few minutes in my office. Have some tea. Compose yourself. I'll cover for you here."

She nodded and rose with him.

"If you need a few more days..." Mircea offered.

She shook her head. She needed to help Radu's family through this transition, she thought, scolding herself for being so weak so far. She had to help Nait settle in and things to go smoothly. She owed him that.

"All right, then," Mircea said, catching the direction of her thoughts. "Go ahead and take a few moments. I'll help my brother in law until you return."

Once Tara had gone, Mircea tapped lightly on Nait's door.

The Seraph poked a picture frame with his hand, smiling sadly and blinking away the threat of scarlet tears. He looked so happy in it... One of the few times Nait had allowed a photo to be made at all. Nait looked up, and cleared his throat to settle his emotions. "Come in!"

Mircea entered, kerchief in hand. "Here," he said, handing it to Nait. "Another for your collection?"

Golden eyes studied Mircea, to gauge how he was handling all this. Taking the kerchief, he shook his head. "Thank you. But I do not wish to begin a collection of this nature. I am not even certain where to begin. But more immediate--how is the research going?"

"It's stalled," Mircea admitted gruffly. "My samples have been ruined. I'll have to take more."

Nait frowned, concerned. "What? How?"

"The centrifuge faulted. Caught fire. We almost lost lab five," Mircea answered. In theory, there should have been no way for that to happen. There were triple redundant fail-safes built into the systems to prevent anything like that from ever happening.

The Seraph winced. "Be gentle with him, if you can. He is so fragile, it seems, right now. I... I do not wish to chase him across planes yet." Blinking away tears again, Nait slouched in the leather chair, feet dangling a bit. It was not suitable for him at all, really. Taking a deep breath, he straightened. "We need to find and ferret out our dangers. I think interviews are called for. Can we narrow down those who may be part of the dangers within here?"

Mircea nodded. "We'll have Tara schedule renewal interviews with the new head of Dragon Industries. Let them know that you desire to be acquainted with each of them as your... predecessor... was. We’ll proceed from there." Noting how uncomfortably Nait perched, Mircea added, "And we'll have a more suitable chair brought in for you."

Nodding, Nait flicked his tail against the side of the chair. "Interviews... Though I do hope to add a blunt question of where their loyalty lies, and if they were involved in that catastrophe. If they cannot evade it verbally and must tell me yes or no, I can catch them." He smiled wryly. "What one would not do for a Mara in times such as this. Blunt and briskly efficient, though a tad cutthroat."

"Indeed. It is times like these I miss our old friend," Mircea agreed.

"What ritual may bring him is severe in cost," Nait told Mircea softly. "Mara are not easily welcomed to this world, for good reason." A soft tap at the door interrupted their conversation. Looking toward the door, Nait called, "Come in!"

A slow procession of DI employees made their way into the office, "Mr. Prince," a bespectacled young man spoke up for the group. "We just wanted to offer our condolences, on behalf of all of us who your husband." He stopped, swallowed, continued... "Gave a home here, sir. He was..." He lowered his head, wiping behind his glassed vigorously, then continued, his voice breaking, "He was a part of our family, too."

"We just wanted you to know that, if you needed anything..." A round and rather plain young woman added, "We're all in lab one."

"We're here if you need us," the first young man confirmed.

Naitachel blinked at them, stunned by the emotions rolling off them, and blushed a bit, smiling gently, feeling it touch his heart. "I... Thank you. Thank you all. I understand how brutal this has been to all of you--to so many who knew him--and I thank you for your kind hearts and condolences. This... This shall be a difficult time ahead, I fear, as I was hardly expecting to... well, I am not him, unfortunately, and I can only do as best I can to continue to lead this company along the lines of his wishes." Blinking a bit heavily, he wiped at his eyes with Mircea's earlier-offered kerchief, just thankful the man had given it to him mere moments ago. <If only Radu could see how much they care...> he sighed.

Mircea looked at the technicians and scientists from Radu's favorite bio lab, where his brother could most often be found when he wasn't in the cyber labs, and smiled sadly. "Thank you, Mitchell. Karrie. All of you. That would have meant a lot to him. Thank you." Patting Nait's hand, he rose. "I'm going to get back to work," he told him. "Mitchell, do you think you could have someone hunt down a backless chair for my brother-in-law?"

"Of course," the bespectacled young man said, seemingly glad to find something he could do to help, no matter how small. "Right away."

"Thank you, Mircea," Nait added, smiling as he wiped at his eyes again.

Karrie took out a small, wrapped package and pushed it toward Naitachel. "You might want those," she said to him softly. "Doctor Prince mentioned to us about your disorder... with your tear ducts... I hope you don't mind. I figured you wouldn't want to leave a basketful of Kleenex, given..." She shrugged. "They're linen." A couple of the other techs left flowers and gifts as well.

Naitachel blinked, surprised, and glanced at Mircea in amazement. "I... Thank you," he breathed, awed. Their support certainly overwhelmed him as he accepted the gifts as graciously as he could, off-guard.

Mitchell returned with a padded, leather covered stool. "Will this work?" he asked Naitachel.

Nodding, Nait stood slowly, collecting crutches in one hand... and trailed the other on the arm of Radu’s chair, sighing as he glanced at it one last time. Some fond memories accompanied that look... Taking a deep breath, he nodded again and moved out of the way for the two to be exchanged.

Mircea drew his brother's chair into the corner of the office, uncertain where else to put it just yet, as the stool was placed at the desk.

"Should I... you know..." Mitchell gestured at the chair... "take that for you?"

Nait studied the chair a moment. <It was very comfortable for him. Perhaps send it home?> he suggested to Mircea.

"I'll see to it," Mircea told Mitchell, nodding to Naitachel. That might not be a bad idea.

Mitchell returned to the side of his comrades from lab One and as solemnly as they'd filed in, then, they exited to return to their work.

"Will you be all right?" Mircea asked Naitachel, concerned by his tears.

Nait settled on his stool and sighed, wiping the last ones away. "I shall," he told his brother-in-law softly. "We have no choice, after all. I do have one request, however. Might you deal with his computer for me?"

Mircea almost laughed. "I can do that."


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Post  Naitachel on Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:36 am

Sighing, Soraya exited the elevator (again) onto the familiar floor. She was still pale, and her stride was slower than it normally was. With her, she carried a messenger bag full of books and notebooks, work she had missed during her week-long absence from school. She bypassed Vlad's apparent empty office and headed to Naitachel's, knocking quickly on the door.

"Come in," came a distracted but familiar voice.

Soraya entered, and closed the door behind her. She didn't wait for the invitation to sit before she allowed her books to fall onto the floor, and she plopped into a chair with a satisfied grunt. "These are so much more comfortable than lecture hall chairs," she commented. "Good afternoon," she then greeted belatedly.

A woman waited in the reception area, talking to another in hushed tones. "He just lost it, I swear. Started throwing the samples across the room. and he upended the entire center console. One handed."

The Seraph was pouring over files, spread on the floor like tiles, many with individual names of employees on them. Crouched over a couple, he compared them with notes in another hand. Somewhere beneath it all, a prayer rug had been spread beneath a leather-topped stool that replaced the chair that had been behind the desk. The desk itself had his laptop and Radu's next to each other, both humming with some task. He looked up at Soraya's entrance and smiled wryly. The angel looked utterly harried and somewhat strained. "Ah, good afternoon. How was the lecture?"

"Exhausting," the redhead admitted. "One has no idea how much energy it takes to actually focus on information being provided until one feels subpar." She was mostly recovered, but still low on strength and energy, and that had become apparent about halfway through her one lecture that day. This was doing nothing to make her change her mind about the recent decision she had made. "You look about as great as I think I do. What are you up to?"

Naitachel looked down at the notes in hand, and sighed. "Run that by me again? I am not certain of half the large words you are using," he told her with wry amusement. Straightening, he stepped onto the prayer rug and breathed a sigh of relief. "Now try that again..." Golden eyes smiled with determination. "I," he stated firmly, "am buying us all time. Or, rather, you and the others, as I fear for myself the danger would take much longer to succeed at building."

"Come again?" Soraya asked, not quite following. "You mean you are trying to distract the efforts of whoever poisoned Radu in order to avoid giving him a chance to poison anyone else? I highly doubt I would be their first target, though I admittedly appreciate your efforts on behalf of the rest of the family," she said tiredly.

The phone system on Nait's desk buzzed. "I'm sorry, sir, but they're still waiting out here. They insist it's important."

"No," Nait returned quietly. "I am finding Radu's poisoner. And I intend to see to it they face Mircea and no other. Though I may be admittedly making a rather large target of myself in doing so by attempting this." He started at the buzz, then sighed and flicked a button with a gloved finger. "I shall be out presently, then. I fear my own attempts at filing are far less organized than my predecessor's."

"You do know I can help with that... right, sir?" Tara offered. "I mean... I am supposed to assist you."

Soraya glanced at the phone. "Well, you have truly joined the ranks of the Dragon Inc. men," she said wryly, then shrugged. "I do think filing usually falls under a secretary's job description."

A loud scream echoed up the hall outside. "I am NOT going back in there," a near hysterical voice proclaimed from out there. Surprisingly, given the timbre of the scream, it was actually the voice of a male.

"I appreciate your concern, Miss Tara, but my own systems... are not exactly what anyone but he may have understood..." he answered evasively. "Give me but five minutes, if you may." Flicking the intercom off, he gave Soraya a look that was so rare one might wonder if he was the same person... A determined, fierce, and purposeful expression, a warrior about to fight. "Not in this case, Soraya. I am running on 'gut feelings' as well." Taking up his crutches, he moved to the door, and set them under his arms. "I apologize for taking a less active role, but I would rather... as you said, that no other falls prey to such means. And time is short while I play pretense on top of my hunt."

The redhead nodded, though a feeling akin to helplessness settled into the pit of her stomach. How was it that she was the only one of them not doing anything to help with this situation? How could she ever actually focus on school when so much was going on in her family. "I would hardly call what you are doing taking a less active role. It certainly is more than I seem to be able to contribute at this moment," she answered him. Still, she had come to the seraph in the hope of discussing her thoughts. It was quickly becoming obvious this was hardly the best course of action for the moment. "What was that?" she asked instead, regarding the voice coming down the hall.

"Shall we go see?" Nait chuckled. "I would not mind back-up here now and then." With that, he led the way out of the office into the reception area. "Is something wrong?" he inquired softly.

The three in the waiting area all stood and began talking at once, but were soon joined by two more.

"He's lost his mind," one insisted.

"Mircea?" Soraya asked, making a quick deduction.

"...Threw the filing cabinet into the hallway... The whole cabinet..." another said.

"Stop," Nait commanded firmly, his trained voice carrying a weight of command that could make a General green with envy. "One at a time, please."

"Yes!" they all answered almost in unison to Soraya's query before falling completely silent at Nait's order.

"Sir, he's been working on something secret... Okay, we get that. Most of what we work on is completely top secret, but... well, I guess it isn't going well. Something contaminated his samples and he just..." The woman shrugged helplessly. "He lost it..."

"I'm afraid to go back in there," the second woman whispered, her eyes filled with terror.

The wiry man in thick glasses nodded his agreement.

Soraya glanced at Naitachel. "Indeed, Mircea has quite a temper," Soraya soothed the group. "Perhaps we can go speak with him and calm him."

"He's not letting any of us back in there now," one of the newcomers told the others. "He's convinced one of us sabotaged his work."

"Where are Chin and Lopez?" the wiry man asked.

The Seraph sighed. "I understand. What he is working on is delicate--and urgent. I do not blame his frustration, nor your fear and concern... If you do not feel comfortable doing so, then please do not. I... shall check on him myself and speak to him," he assured them.

"I'm not sure," the newcomer answered, then turned to Soraya. "If you're willing to go in there, you're braver than I am."

<He is trying to save Radu... and he spoke to me earlier of some troubles in his path... I wonder if who I seek is not contributing to this...> Nait told Soraya.

"Does this have anything to do with... what happened?" the wiry man asked, his eyes going wide as the realization dawned.

"As Naitachel said, Mircea has a lot on his mind, and there is something great at stake. Perhaps you can resume work in separate areas for now while we deal with this situation," she suggested. <I gathered Radu's condition was at heart, and continued interference is certainly a possibility. Shall we go see?>

"Laboratory six is currently available if you'd like them to resume their work there," Tara offered after checking her computer to confirm it. The small group looked at one another and nodded. They could do that.

<I think we should. The news thus far... has been bleak,> Nait admitted unhappily, heart wrenching, yet unable to lie. "Mmm, yes, please move yourselves to lab 6, then. Thank you, Miss Tara. And as for what he is doing, I admit I am not the most knowledgeable on such. Beyond that, as most projects are classified, I truly cannot explain further to you at this time."

<Spoken like the true head of DI,> Soraya informed Naitachel supportively. She then moved to the elevators and pressed the button to call the car to their floor.

"If you would all excuse us," he offered. Naitachel blushed slightly, and moved to follow Soraya, crutches clicking on the floor. <Thank you... Though I would rather not be compared to Radu. He is a natural leader. This simply makes me feel... it is not my purpose. It feels odd.>

Soraya smiled and held the doors for the seraph before pressing the button to their desired floor. "Who is comparing you to Radu?" she asked. "You lead this company in your own way, while it is yours. Not Radu's way. No one can claim one is better than the other, it simply is."

The door to the laboratory was locked, the keypad smoking angrily.

Naitachel shook his head, smiling wryly. "It is not how I lead that feels odd. It is that I lead this. The charity was one thing, but this... I am not supposed to help further Mankind, you understand..." As the doors opened and he noticed the keypad, the Seraph sighed. "Mircea... if you would? I should hate to add to your fiery efforts..." he called with wry amusement.

"No, but you are helping your family by doing it. Think only of that, if it helps," Soraya suggested, though her eyebrow raised at the sight of the destroyed keypad.

Slowly, the doors were pried open.

Mircea stood there, eyes smoldering, for only a moment before turning back to his attempts to put the destroyed lab back together.

"Thank you," the Seraph offered as he squeezed within. "I take it... more trouble..." It was not so much a question as a statement. Looking about, the Seraph sighed. "Better you continue alone, then, and no other access this."

Soraya took in the carnage and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "Need help?" she offered him. She was going to give him a few more moments before she did any real prodding.

"Three times," he said at last. "Three times I've drawn samples... a painful process for him, yet he allowed it... to work on this... and three times..." He crushed the tablet computer he'd picked up until it was bits of plastic and microchips. "Three times they've managed to destroy it..." He turned to look past Nait and Soraya, growling at the tech who dared peer into the lab. "NOBODY COMES IN HERE... DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!"

Soraya moved to a fallen bench and picked it up. "Then perhaps Naitachel is right. Isolation is best for future attempts."

"It is," Mircea agreed, storming to the file cabinet and setting it right. "Isolation is always best..."

"Mircea," Soraya sighed, moving to the door and manually pushing it closed, "you cannot work if you cannot see straight from your anger."

Naitachel eyed the computer sadly, thinking back to his own nearly-fried technology and how it was rescued. It dampened his eyes with the memory. "Perhaps you should set up at home instead? None may interfere there. It is... it is not as though our room is of much use now, anyway." Their bedroom was not used by either, the hospital bed in the other room anyway... "She is right, Mircea. One cannot undo the damage, great as it is, but one may move on. We must..."

A strangled sob escaped Mircea then. "I fail him..."

"You only fail him if you allow self-pity and desperation to rule your actions," Soraya answered not unkindly. "So long as you move forward, so long as you try and you keep hope, then you are doing him proud."

Clearing his throat, Mircea nodded, moving to gather files and equipment.

Nait stepped up to rest a hand on Mircea's shoulder. "If you fail... it shan't be for lack of trying. And he will only be at rest--that I can assure. The fires are..." The Seraph's voice caught. "They are not for him. I shan't let it happen. But I do not think it is his time... and we need only keep trying," Nait added softly. "Do not falter, please..."

"I won't," Mircea promised Naitachel. He couldn't give up. Not after all the time Radu spent fighting for him...

<Radu will be fine,> Soraya sent to the seraph in consolation. <If anyone will find a way, it is Mircea.> Soraya rose and began gathering files as well, sorting them as best she could. She placed several of the papers atop a nearby table. "Tell me, what have you learned since you have set out to find this cure?" Soraya asked Mircea matter-of-factly.

Naitachel glanced towards the door, and frowned slightly. "I am not certain it should be discussed out loud."

<I have found little beyond the certainty that this was tailored to him specifically. Someone intended that he alone should be killed by it,> Mircea answered. <And that, despite my best efforts, I cannot undo it. Not yet. I have stopped its progression...but no cure. I have to find a cure, though, or it will, eventually, succeed in its purpose.>

<Hm... And your typical cures have not worked on it?> Soraya asked as she picked up broken glass.

Mircea simply shook his head. <Nothing has so much as come close.>

<So that is something you have learned. You are learning what does not work,> she observed. <That is a step toward finding what does. If you narrow down the things that do not cure him, then you are stepping toward the things that do.>

<I have some theories as to who may have bestowed it and added to trouble here and there, but I doubt they would know how it works, unfortunately...> Nait added.

<Who?> Mircea turned to Naitachel, his mental voice demanding, his eyes blazing pure fury.

The Seraph blinked, eyes reddening a bit, and shook his head. <Not yet, Mircea, not yet. Once I catch them in the lie, they are yours.> He prodded some broken glass with one of his crutches, trying to will the tears to stay and not fall. <So nothing suggests itself, then...?>

Looking away, Mircea shook his head. Nothing.

<It will,> Soraya assured them. <So long as we do not have to keep focusing our efforts on cleaning rather than researching,> Soraya attempted to tease with a weak smile. She found herself having to sit, tired beyond measure.

Noting her weariness, Mircea's anger turned abruptly to concern. "Are you all right? Do you require assistance?"

Nait smiled over at Soraya. <You have a point,> he chuckled, wiping a tear away on the back of his glove. "Soraya has been running between school, home, and everything here. I am surprised you are not more worn, Soraya."

"I'll get Vlad," Mircea decided, then hurried out of the room.

Soraya shook her head apologetically. "More worn?" she asked with a chuckle. "I feel as though I could sleep the next week away and it would still not...." She shook her head. "I am fine," she said, and realizing the seraph would know her lie for what it was, altered her statement, "I will be fine. I just need a few moments."

Nait smiled gently and stepped over to rest a hand on her shoulder soothingly. "A trial by fire for us all. As you said, the solutions shall arise, and we shall find an end to it, in triumph. But hold on to that."

Before she was done speaking, however, Mircea was out chasing Vlad. They returned almost as swiftly as he'd left. "Have you not been resting, beloved?" Vlad asked, his voice filled with concern.

"Really, Mircea," Soraya chastised lightly, "it is nothing. You should not have bothered him." Soraya shrugged at Vlad, hoping the gesture to be non-committal enough to be interpreted as a positive response. "I will rest when the lot of you do."

Vlad and Mircea exchanged a look before Vlad picked Soraya up, cradling her to him. "I'll be back in a few hours," he told the others.

Naitachel laughed quietly, shaking his head. "I fear a bed and I have little chance of meeting anytime soon. Go, see your own at least, and if you wake, please..." <Give Radu my love. I shall visit as soon as I may, but I cannot leave yet. This is too urgent.>

<I will take care of him,> Soraya promised to Naitachel, though she was busy verbally protesting Vlad's ushering her away so quickly.

<Keep us posted on your progress,> Mircea and Vlad asked almost in unison.

Mircea gathered the last of his things and followed after them. "Kindly authorize my equipment requisitions when I send for them, Naitachel. There are things I will need if I am to work from home."

Nait nodded to Mircea. "Whatever you need." <I shall... when I know the truth. Even... even my heart cannot allow them to roam free.> He had no wish to condemn anyone to pain or death, but he had no choice... not if he loved Radu or his family. <Thank you, Soraya. Please tell him I... I...> The Seraph lingered briefly in the destroyed lab, to wipe at a few escaping tears.

<I will,> she promised Naitachel.

Mircea nodded his understanding as he followed Vlad and his wife out of the building.

Sophia was entering the lobby for her first day back to work as they were exiting. Spotting them coming her way, she held the door for them. "Is she all right?" she asked, sounding honestly concerned.

"I am fine," Soraya called to Sophia just as she had told Vlad, though obviously he wasn't listening.

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