Mountainside Planetarium - Clutch Only 
@Sayed Adel @Beauregard Bertrand

She'd texted Beauregard about the situation. His responses were... well, very "Beauregard." A young Dominus with a young Dominus mouth. She could not influence his moods, but she wished all the same that this situation could settle happily.

Betraying little of those worries to Sayed, all the same she primed him for what kind of attitude would make this easier.

"You likely already know that those at the height of power command a sort of hierarchical respect. All the same, he is an amiable kind of man, especially to those who can hold good conversation with him."

She would not betray the Dominus' abilities, of course. To her, that was simply a thing to be discovered, should anyone try to act against him.

Leading Sayed through the main floor of the planetarium, past the clutch-only keycard entrance and downstairs to the private lounge, she moved along until she was nearing Beauregard's office, moving to knock on his already open door.

The moment they'd entered the boundary of the clutch's territory, Sayed was nervous. "Oh, I've met him before," he said quietly. He'd been respectful, he thought, and hoped that Beauregard's offer still remained. He had no idea whether or not the rumor of a clutch forming had gotten to the Dominus, but even if it had, it had dissolved into nothing now.

Part of him wished he could just have Raziyya speak on his behalf, but he knew that was weak. And surely Beauregard would not be the kind to go around killing off vampires who meant him no harm and only wanted to join the clutch. As the woman stopped at Beauregard's office, Sayed stopped too, though perhaps a few steps back and off to the side.

Beauregard was not thrilled with it all.

Sayed had seemed polite enough, but he was foolish to drop a Dominus' name to a group of shifters. And to disregard his offer in favor of Amy and the like?

Well, it was challenging to forgive.

But here he was, willing himself into a friendlier state. With Savannah and Ellie vanishing on a mission that felt very much like abandonment, it would perhaps do him well.

"Raziyya," he greeted. And, of course:

"Sayed. Come in. Take a seat. I imagine we have much to discuss."

He would not rise to greet them, but he did smile convincingly enough, attention moving smoothly from one vampire to another. How much did Raziyya know, he wondered.

She'd known of that, but... it was still her duty as Guardian to prime what she considered newer vampires before meeting with a Dominus. Especially one who was aware of his leadership abilities, one who'd used them before.

Raziyya would ultimately spare Sayed the explanation, only nodding in acknowledgment.

She gave a smile to Beauregard as they entered, the familiarity of his greater presence soothing. She found it more natural to stand to his shoulder, or linger by the door.

But she would spare them both the formality she'd employed in prior centuries and sit in a chair, slightly turned towards Sayed so she could easily see them both.

Beauregard's smile seemed welcoming enough, but Sayed still couldn't shake the feeling that the leader was perhaps irritated with him- if he'd known about them trying to form a clutch. "Right, thank you," he said gently while quickly taking a chair. His eyes moved to Raziyya for a moment, wanting to ask her in Arabic if Beauregard knew about the clutch, but knew that doing so would be considered extremely rude.

So instead, green eyes moved back to the Dominus, and he gave him a nervous smile. It felt like he'd been sent to the principal's office. "Yes," he answered. "I was hoping your offer was still available." No doubt there would be questions. "And I'll answer any questions you have, of course."

He was polite, which was certainly the more intelligent of his options. Beauregard had superficially liked him in their first meeting.

But there were obstacles for them to overcome in the meantime, and he looked to Sayed with perhaps borderline predatory interest.

There were no obvious wounds. No signs that he'd found the point ends of a shifter.

"Wonderful," he said of the vampire's willingness. "I'd love to know what inspires you to join us now, as opposed to a few weeks ago. Any notable events in your time as a Cordovan rogue?"

It was a very obvious trap that would be very easy to avoid if he didn't try to be overly clever.

She kept silent, listening from one to the other. As always, Raziyya knew to hold her peace in the presence of authority unless directly addressed.

She knew the answer, of course. But she was not the one being asked.

The first question wasn't a surprising one, but it still threw Sayed off just because of how it was worded. He wasn't strictly a Cordovan Rogue. He lived in Avondale. He was staying in Larkspur. He was only in Cordova that night because he knew he'd be safe from the shifters there. He didn't know if Beauregard was hinting at him somehow being in cahoots with a clutch that had dissolved before he arrived, but he decided to just not argue the point.

"I ran into trouble with some shifters," he said quietly, looking down to pick at the hem of his sweater for just a moment. He was embarrassed, but figured it better to be truthful than to lie- especially since he'd already told Raziyya what had happened. "When I shared that with Raziyya, she told me that a proper Dominus would be able to help."He lifted his eyes back to the leader. "I thought I knew what I was doing, but I don't. I need the guidance that a clutch offers."

There they were.

Carefully chosen words and clumsily earned wounds. He was lucky, truly, that they weren't worse. Beauregard eyed them with only marginal interest.

"Two cats and a bear," he said, dropping some small fragment of what he knew here.

Beauregard sat up a bit straighter, leaning forward to rest his elbows on the desk, fingers intertwined.

"I heard you were staking a claim in Avondale. A bit of a drive from here if you're looking to keep watch on such a vast territory all by your lonesome."

Well, he knew the one had been a bear, but Sayed didn't know the other two were cats. It made sense, given that he and Amy had ran into a cheetah before. And then came the misunderstanding. If Sayed could blush, he would have. "I didn't mean it like that", he said quietly. "I was in Avondale with another rogue. We came upon a cheetah who was being rude and aggressive. I told him that Avondale was my neighborhood because that's where I lived. And then, when I ran into the others a few days later, they were asking me about a clutch being formed. No one had said anything about a clutch."

He sighed again and rubbed his face as he looked back at Beauregard. "There were talks of a clutch being formed. In Avondale. But none of us wanted to start problems with the shifters or you all here. It was just supposed to be something small, and after my experience with my old clutch in Chicago, I thought a small clutch would be better. I didn't know it would cause so many problems." He paused and shook his head. "Anyway, after I was attacked, most of them left."

Beauregard listened to a lengthy tale, studying the boy's face as he spoke. How old was he, the Dominus wondered. Looks and power were deceiving things.

The story came to an unconvincing end. An attack, followed by wounds, and then the group left, save for this one needing healing. How dreadfully convenient it would be for Beauregard to heal him up, only for him to slip off back to Avondale.

"It would be cruel of them to leave you behind, injured. Who left and who remains?"

He'd take the answer with a small mountain of salt, but Sayed did have an air of sincerity about him.

Sayed looked back to Beauregard, and was slightly relieved that he didn't appear angry. Sayed was doing his best to be as honest as possible with his answers. When the Dominus asked about who had left and who stayed, Sayed gave a small frown. It didn't matter to him to tell the leader who had left. But he didn't want anything to come back on Pandora.

"Amy, Holly, Regina," he paused as he tried to recall the other vampires. "Robbie? And Jaxon. They all left. It's just me and a woman left." He gave a small grimace, not sure how well Beauregard would take not hearing her name. "She's actually who I've been staying with. She's my friend. I doubt that she would want to join your clutch because she tends to not like men. I think she felt more comfortable with the clutch Holly was starting because Holly's a woman and there were more female vampires in the group than male ones." Maybe Beauregard already knew who Pandora was.

Many names on the hit list she recognized. And apparently they were all gone? How convenient and disappointing.

"How unwise, to relegate all men to a single distasteful breed," she hummed of the woman he stayed with. "Perhaps she should meet with me."

That be would be all.

She was unhappy that much of her call to action had dissipated. Beauregard, make more enemies. For her sake.






What a collection. Beauregard could not help but allow some frown overtake what had been a largely neutral, leaning toward perhaps even pleasant expression.

That they would all collect together was astounding. What did Kilo find appealing in such a group? Did it take a teenager to find his flakiness charming? And what would Regina want to do with such a lot of misfits? They seemed so wholly an incompatible lot, and Beauregard wondered if their only mutual interest was in acting as irritants.

And now apparently there was one other vampire, so deliberately unnamed. Carmen, perhaps? She seemed the sort of dreadful bitch who would blame her personal failures on an entire gender.

There was a temptation to knock this boy into a permanent sleep right here. Instead, Beauregard offered a bitter, bordering on incredulous note of laughter. Raziyya spoke first, and it was likely for the best, offering him a few seconds longer to measure his tongue.

One domina had died to her own hubris, and apparently a second domina-to-be had abandoned Sayed's dear friend. Such illustrious leaders, women.

And then there was Sayed himself, who at least appeared male. Perhaps this mysterious friend knew about some castration Beauregard cared not to learn of. There were far more women than men in Eventide, but he would not appeal to an absent zealous feminist.

"That's quite the group. I imagine they were very eager to recruit, given that they've made enemies of every agency in the region. Shifters, vampires, Cordova Police. Had their faces printed on wanted posters, no less."

Sayed was easy prey, so new to the region.

"I can't imagine why they'd all simply vanish and leave you behind. They offered no word? No warning?"

Sayed looked at Raziyya as she spoke, and didn't care for her words on Pandora. He said nothing about it though, instead turning to look back at Beauregard as he laughed. Sayed definitely didn't care for that. "She's older," he tried to explain. "I'm sure she's had several lifetimes of dealing with men hurting her. She just needs time to get to know men she's going to be around. That's how we became friends. Plus she hasn't been in the area for too long, either."

He made sure his voice was informative rather than argumentative. He wasn't here to argue. He was just here to answer questions. At the mention of them making problems for everyone, Sayed frowned. He'd not gotten that impression from the group, though he didn't know them very well. "Right, the injured shifter said Amy was wanted for murder." He hadn't gotten the chance to ask her about that before she left.

The next thing that came from Beauregard had Sayed frowning. "No, they told us they were leaving. They just wanted to leave the area, I guess. Amy gave me a gift before she left." He thought of her silver dagger, resting in the pockets of his messenger bag. "I just didn't feel like leaving again. I like the area, even though I was attacked here."

"Older." Beauregard could only imagine Taraneh's inner dialogue to such a comment.

If this mystery woman had lived so long and couldn't put together that the common denominator in every one of her apparently traumatic incidents was, in fact, her, Beauregard found no sense of loss in her apparent refusal to join his clutch.

It would take some deliberate efforts to behave. To recognize that Sayed appeared to have been unknowingly pulled into the band of idiots.

He wondered what gift this was, notable enough to be mentioned but not described.

No matter.

"I admit, Sayed, no clutch wants to be made to feel like a second choice."

It felt necessary to mention that, to make it clear that Beauregard was aware this seemed some variety of last resort.

"But I understand your reservations toward an unfamiliar clutch. I think you'll find a safer place here, and a group very unlikely to vanish on you."

Or so he hoped, anyway. He was not over Ellie and Savannah's rude absence.

"Do you have questions regarding Eventide that I can answer before we proceed?"

Beauregard had a way of shutting things down quickly. With just a few words, Sayed was already starting to feel bad again. "I understand, and I apologize. This is my third year being like this, and I felt ignored in the last clutch. I didn't want to join another large one and feel like an outcast again. Clearly I was hasty. While the smaller group seemed like a good idea, I think I can find the same sort of community here. I mean, Raziyya is the first vampire to talk to me in Arabic." He paused and looked back over at her, giving her a small smile, before turning back to Beauregard.

"I am very thankful for your kindness." The leader asked him if he had any questions then, and Sayed felt like he had a million. Most of them were mainly about rules, so he figured he could just sum up the majority of them simply: "What are some of the main rules you enforce in the clutch?"

Excuses, naturally. At least the boy continued to seem polite. That he and Raziyya had chattered in Arabic was somewhat interesting. She certainly favored a certain skin tone.

"Our rules are very simple," he said, falling into a familiar routine. "We avoid unnecessary confrontation -- with any species. Shifters are allowed within territory if they mind their manners. If they don't, you simply alert the group, and the shifter will cease to have anything to mind at all."

Not that they'd had such troublemakers recently. Only vampires, it seemed.

"Leave meals roughly in the shape you found them, and without memories that would leave them inclined to become a problem. If you find difficulty in clearing a memory, I am happy to assist."

A slightly emphasized smile. Beauregard did enjoy the simpler varieties of being helpful.

"If you stay out of trouble as best you can, and call for help if it does find you, you'll manage just fine here."

The rules, Sayed assumed, were fairly standard. They would at least be easy to follow- provided the shifters left him alone. Sayed nodded. "Those are very reasonable." But if Sayed were going to join the clutch, he'd need to know what to do about the shifters who may have it out for him. "You mentioned before that the shifters I ran into were two cats and a bear. I'm assuming the injured cat was contacting you? I saw her on the phone. I'm sorry for bringing you up, but they had asked me what vampires I'd met. If you know them, would you be able to help with them?"

Mainly he just didn't want to be ambushed and attacked again. He didn't want anything bad to happen to them. Well, maybe a little bit, but mainly for the bear who had attacked him when he'd had no reason to do so. "And should I live in the Heights? I was planning on leaving Avondale."

Now, at least, Sayed had the sense to mention the unfortunate namedropping. But had he mentioned Holly? Regina? Amy? Robbie? Kilo? His mysterious misandrist friend?

Those were questions he could ask of Asha after this meeting. For now, he told himself he'd behave.

"Avondale is nestled against multiple shifter territories," he said. "You put a colossal target on your back by threatening one of their animals so close to its home."

How could they even find enough to eat in Avondale? Boggling questions, truly.

"However, I am confident that if you join this clutch, they will cause you no trouble, at least within our territory. There are rogue shifters with their own wills, of course, as there are rogue vampires. But if you are within the Heights, I can sense when you're in danger and be there to protect you. Living here keeps you within that protective space, and so I would recommend you do so. You'll find meals much easier here as well."

Sayed frowned as Beauregard mentioned threatening a were. That wasn't how he'd seen the interaction at all, but maybe shifters were more sensitive than vampires. Still, that could all go away if he joined the clutch. And that was what Sayed was planning to do. "I want to join," he said, finally. "And I'll move to the Heights as soon as I can find a place here."

Older? She wondered how old, and in what sense. Raziyya had met many men in her time, and they came in all different breeds. But Sayed was young to an extreme, so she held her tongue. At least he was contrite where it mattered.

He brought up their mutual tongue, and she was unsure how to feel about their connection bared so. Raziyya could be so protective of those she felt kinship with, and yet she did not want to be looked at as a foreign "other."

She gave him a smile all the same, a look almost bordering on the maternal.

Raziyya did glance to the Dominus at mention of an "injured cat." His informant, apparently, and perhaps one who knew too much, whether Beauregard thought so or not. How Raziyya would like to find her and fix that.

It would be even easier than usual, considering the animal was detrimented in some way. Alas, the conversation gave her little in the way of information to permit for that.

Simple enough.

Beauregard smiled, nodded, and rose from his chair to offer a hand across the desk.

"Welcome to Eventide District Clutch," he said. There was a magic to it, instant, a snapping into hierarchy. He could feel it, and truly, it pleased him.

"I could heal up those wounds a bit, if you'd like."

"Thanks," Sayed said with a smile, taking the other man's hand and shaking it. That was easy. He asked about the wounds then, and Sayed nodded. "That would be great, honestly." They still hurt, and all Sayed really wanted to do was just forget about what had happened to him that night.

Raziyya would feel it too — the sense of their same shared energy signature, that he was part of the family now. She hung back in her chair, watching the exchange.

Beauregard was kind to offer healing while she, on the other hand, pondered murder, or maiming. Or at least muting.

"What were these shifters' names?" she asked, tone curious and light as if they were simply speaking of the weather.

Beauregard could sense Taraneh's eagerness. It was insulting that she would attempt some veil of innocence. He would have work for her when this conversation ended.

"Yana and Asha, cats. Levka, a bear."

He circled around the desk, clasping his hands together as he inspected the wounds he could see.

"I will not be able to fully heal them, but some progress is better than none. Pardon my reach."

He sought the edge of the boy's collar with one hand, tugging it aside to get a better look at the injuries. Lucky he hadn't been beheaded.

His other hand moved to touch one of the wounds directly, finding some personal disgust in it but keeping it off his face.

Conversation would be nice now, to distract from the process, but it took considerable focus. A few fruitless seconds passed, but following Taraneh's prior instructions, he felt the unpleasant sapping of his energy into wounds that began to further scan and close at the edges.

So not only did Beauregard know one of the cats, but he knew all of their names. Sayed said nothing about it, though he was somewhat suspicious that he knew all three of them without actually being there. Though maybe the injured cat had told him who else was there. And it was probably a good thing that the Dominus knew the shifters causing problems in Avondale.

He winced slightly when he felt the vampire's hands on his wounds. They were still painful and sore, but soon enough, the pain started to lessen as the wounds began to heal. The couldn't be fully healed, but if the pain could be stopped, Sayed would be happy enough about it. Green eyes moved to look up at the Dominus as he worked, and he wondered if Holly would've ever been able to do something like this.

The Dominus answered. Yana, Asha, Levka.

"I see. Which was the injured one?" she asked.

It was an unhappy process. He could feel himself being sapped, energy pulled from him to heal this vampire who was only barely one of his own.

Taraneh's question went ignored for a few seconds as he focused.

Unpleasant, unpleasant, unpleasant, as if someone was draining him of his last few meals. He frowned instinctively, eventually pulling his hand away and feeling as though he'd just aged a few decades.

"Asha," he said, glancing to Taraneh and then Sayed. "I'll have a keycard made for you in a few days so that you can access this area as needed. If you need any assistance finding a place in the Heights, do let me know."

His smile was practiced, but perhaps a vampire with a level of familiarity as Taraneh possessed would have some sense it was tiredly offered.

Sayed was feeling a lot better, but he was smart enough to assume that it took a lot out of the Dominus. "Thank you," he said quietly. Sincerely. "I'm sorry that I doubted this clutch would be beneficial to me. You've been nothing but helpful and kind to me since I've arrived in Mountainside. If there's anything I can do to help repay you, please let me know."

The vampire leader was even offering to help him find a place in the Heights. "If you have some ideas on places within the Heights, I'd love to see them. It doesn't have to be right away. I'm still staying with my friend- Pandora." He hadn't wanted to give her name, but if Beauregard was interested in knowing her name, then he could supply it. Besides, Sayed doubted that he'd try anything with her.

She was being disregarded, but no matter. She had a name at least.

Looking to the Dominus, she let concern for him take the fore as he and Sayed spoke of dwellings. And when Sayed mentioned Pandora, her brow quirked. She knew that name, didn't she?

Perhaps. She'd crossed many paths in her years. But a name was only a name and there were billions of people in the world; she wouldn't be sure it was the same one she had shared company with.

Skirting the topics, she'd be a good Guardian. "I can help with house hunting as well. But is there anything I can get you, Beauregard?" Raziyya asked. Perhaps some staff of the museum.

Sayed fell into apologies and kindness, and truthfully, Beauregard did appreciate it. He also name dropped his apparent friend. Pandora was certainly a name she'd chosen for herself, a very theatrical one.

"I will send some information your way later this evening. You have my contact information, so if you'd use to to provide me yours, we'll be all set."

Taraneh did not need to be offering him assistance in front of a brand new clutchmate. He might have scowled at her were it not necessary to keep up other appearances.

"I don't believe so," he said, chuckling, hinting at confusion. There was none, of course. They both knew he was tired.

"If there's nothing else, you're welcome to be on your way, Sayed. I look forward to your getting to know the group."

Sayed watched both vampires closely after mentioning Pandora, and though he knew he was shit at reading people when they weren't being utterly obvious, he still felt that things would be fine. It wasn't like Pandora was actively trying to hurt the clutch or anyone else inside. She just wasn't interested in joining and likely wouldn't care to visit the Heights.

"Oh, yeah, of course," he said to Beauregard, pulling out a small notepad and pen from his bag. He quickly scribbled down his name and number, tore the sheet off, and held it out to the Dominus.

"And thank you, again, for everything," he said with a shy smile, turning to escort himself out.

Ah. She could only give a nod and look elsewhere, embarrassed for her apparently needless concern. Instead her gaze fell to Sayed.

She offered him a small smile as he departed, hoping to get to know him further soon, before looking back to the Dominus to see if she would be dismissed.

Obedient and polite. Sayed was likable, in the end, despite some questionable decisions. As the other vampire left, he looked pointedly to Taraneh, a wordless request that she stay.

He would wait until he heard the youngest vampire leave the lounge for another floor before leaning back in his chair, hands moving to rest behind his head.

"I don't trust that they've left Avondale."

Such a gaze. She wondered if she'd earned reprimand of some sort. How useful it would be to dive into his thoughts in the silence that followed.

When he spoke, it was a relief that had her shoulders relaxing some. Something to do; he had to be sending her off.

"Do you think he is lying?" she asked, understanding (or feeling that she understood) his directive and taking care to meet his eyes for the compulsions he spoke of before.

A question already felt like too much effort. Beauregard was certain he could lean just a bit further back and doze here, perhaps at risk of knocking his chair over.

But for now he would focus on the discussion at hand, gaze wandering up as he thought.

"I'm uncertain. He seemed very sincere. But this group -- they're as bullheaded as they come. I wonder if perhaps they shooed him out for causing problems. It doesn't make sense that they'd simply vanish."

Little tendrils of paranoia wrapped easily around his thoughts. He sighed, cranky for his own exhaustion. Beauregard freed one hand to rub at his face, eyes closed.

"I don't know and I hate it."

If she could trust he would have wanted her comfort, she might have offered it to him in the form of perhaps a motherly caress of some kind for all his tiredness. But he was terribly capricious, and she had yet to learn how to accurately navigate it all.

What she could offer instead was usefulness.

"I'll canvass the area to be certain," she offered, tone quieted but genuinely seeking to be helpful. "You mentioned suggestions were needed first, so we could do it another night if you wish."

He took a slow breath in, unnecessary, but indulgent in a state of drowsiness.

"Now is just fine," he said, though he did not immediately move to act on this proclamation.

"The healing is terrible. It leaves a man feeling so ancient."

With a huff, he righted himself in the seat with a determined sort of suddenness. There was a scolding frown on his face and in his tone, though it was limited in its harshness.

"Do not ask if I am in need in front of another vampire again. It makes me look weak, you know."

His eyes sought hers, though he made no suggestion as of yet.

Ah, there was the reprimand. She wondered if it was tangled to a suggestion, and might have warned him against wasting the effort.

But she knew better.

"My apologies, I should have known better," she said with a very slight head tilt, meeting his eyes. There was some mischief in her look, for all she kept from smiling. "Now that we're alone, can I bring you anything following this, Beauregard? A meal? It's not good for a youth to feel ancient."

Picking on his words was probably cruel when he was exhausted. Perhaps he'd rip her necklace off.

She should have known better indeed. At least they were in agreement.

But within a moment, she fell into mocking him. He frowned, a bit exaggerated, and grabbed a pen off his desk.

"Be nice. I'm tired."

Certainly not following his own directions, he flung the pen at her with minimal force, seeking to strike her in the chest.



She was less fond of his attack, but laughed in her offended surprise all the same. "How lewd, Hooligan," Raziyya judged, knowing it was not his intention and daring to think she was getting him back for his teasing on the drive from Avondale.

Picking up the pen, she twirled it in her fingers, meeting his eyes with a smile.

"But as you wish. I live to serve, old as I am."

Beauregard was very difficult to quake in matters of any potential lewdness. He smirked some, settling in for actual work first.

"If compelled to give information to anyone but me during your scouting trips in Avondale, you will offer your very best dishonesty in response."

He did not miss a beat before continuing.

"You will now draw a picture for me using that pen."

His expression shifted into a lopsided smile, wondering if it would anger her. He flipped over the scrap of paper with Sayed's information and slid it toward her.

double success


Fine. Then it was his aim and she should slap him next time. For now, he was infiltrating her mind, placing safeguards; a thing she only knew because they had already discussed it.

And then he... was awful.

He wanted a drawing now, and her mouth fell open in some wordless protest. She was hardly an artist. And yet as she took the paper and held the pen in her hand, her mind jumped to an idea.

And she immediately brushed it aside. She did not want to depict that. She couldn't do it justice, and he'd probably mock her besides.

There was one thing she knew how to draw, ever since she became familiar with writing instruments. Practice made... passable, given the simplicity of the image.

She fell to work quietly, pen dragging over the limited space in careful silence until, within a minute or so, she was done. Looking back at him with some pout to her lip, she held the finished drawing out to him.

He'd probably mock it.

Her shock was delightful. Beauregard rest an elbow on his desk, hand up to rest his chin upon.

He watched her draw, very pleased with himself, and also very tired. If he closed his eyes during this process, he would risk slumping into dead sleep. That would be... embarrassing.

Eventually she scribbled something into life. Plain, feminine, perhaps to be expected. This was not about the end result so much as the effort of making her do it. He took it from her happily.

"I will put it on my fridge," he said, teasing, but gentler. Beauregard set it to the side, regarding her still with his chin on his hand. "I believe I have bullied you more than enough this evening. That is all I need of you."

Not a scrap of it undeserved.

She waited for some kind of judgment, and found... foolish feelings at the idea that he'd keep that stupid flower. Until she remembered he would have to, for Sayed's number.


He seemed to relent, and she gave a small huff, even if some of her was mildly flattered for his childish teasing. "How kind of you. I'll report back to you when I return. Rest well."

For all of his rudeness, she'd keep the pen, tucking it into her purse as she made to leave.

He saw her steal the pen, and for a moment, he considered attempting to snatch it back.

But he was in no shape for a physical confrontation. Nodding fairly amicably to her, he did not move from his comfortable, if lazy, position.

"I will."

That would be a slight dishonesty, if only because he would fall into dead sleep at his desk shortly after getting up to lock the door after her.

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