OMG! 66 reviews! Geh… gah! You guys are so awesome. So, so awesome. Thanks to:

criti-sized, for her way long reviews and beta help

Hero of Avalon, for the super tips on trying to get more into the details

luv me like no other, for absolutely being with me on this story from the beginning

Bearer-of-the-Unknown, for picking up a multi-chapter fiction that's already long, most people hop on at the beginning or never

Klutzilla, not sure if you're still reading, but thanks for dealing with my need for speed and weirdly spat out first chapter

kimono3kitty, for appreciated my crazed, weird ideas about the after life

sadistikitty, for reminding me that, no matter how over-eager I get, it's no excuse for being careless

and finally,

Carmel March, for always having something nice to say

Okay, those were just the people on the first page of reviews. First page of FIVE. FIVE, guys. YOU ROCK!


Chapter with negotiations is totally redone. Totally. Eh… I knew I needed Audrey to say yes, but I wasn't sure how to do it. I'd totally forgotten that Jonathan was still there. Like WOAH.

So yeah. Go reread the end of that. It'll make sense.

Sorry this chapter is so long. DAMMIT. I get carried away.

Chapter 23; Desperate Measures, POV: Meghan

It took me a moment to realize what I was seeing, the walls were blindingly white. I was in a hallway, I decided, a hallways which curved out of sight to the right and left and was lit by the ceiling, which glowed softly without seeming to have any lights on it.

I started when I saw Roark on the floor, clutching at her head and making a small, breathy sound. Fear choked me unexpectedly, weak lungs dragging breath, and I dropped to my knees next her, fumbling, dragging her hands from her face.

I expecting to see an open wound, I expected blood. Instead, I saw that her eyes were full of sparks. Acting on instinct, I cried out, lifted my hand, and smacked her hard across the face.

She coughed, twitched once all over, and blinked the sparks from her eyes. I sighed in relief.

"I apologize," she murmured without breath. "There was a boy, this time."

"A boy?" I repeated, confused.

"A human child. He was in Broken's memory. His name was Jasper. Saise had lots of children around the lab."

My blood chilled. "What?"

She shook her head, closing her eyes tightly. "Help me up."

The simple request gave me a moment's pause, but I got myself together. I stepped to her side and put my arm around her shoulders, heaving once to get her to her feet. She was small, so even I could do that.

She paused, staring around her with her eyes narrowed. I could tell her head was clearing by the way her expression was hardening.

"We should go that way," she decided after a minute.

I opened my mouth, shut it. Might as well do what she said. That strategy had worked out for me once or twice. "Can you walk on your own?"

She gave me a disappointed look. "I am a warrior, Meghan. I can manage a bit of second hand brutality."

I stepped away, and she brushed herself off, regaining balance and fiddling with the straps on her sword.

I started down the tunnel a few steps ahead, neck craned. No sharp corners meant no one could hide any closer than the curve, but it also meant that there was no relaxed time, and that I lost sight of the spot where we started immediately.

Sweet prickled along the back of my neck the first time I looked back and saw nothing familiar but endless white hallway. Claustrophobia made my hands damp. What a dreadful place to get lost.

Roark didn't seem to be doing much better, though the halls weren't bothering her. When I looked at her sideways, she was staring away, brow furrowed in pain, eyes flickering across the floor like a schizophrenic on K (1). It was sort of freaking me out again, I almost expected to see green beneath her lashes (2).

She found a few doors by touching the walls in different places, and by the time she found one she seemed interested in and jerked her head for me to follow her through, I had lured myself into a state of calm. She knew where she was going.

I was surprised by what I saw once my eyes adjusted to the gloom. It wasn't white anymore, but dark and wet and smelling of sea salt and brine. Roark and I stood on an outcropping of cliff, a path which spiraled around an enormous crevice up into pitch black. Water lapped at the rocks bellow us, and a stone half way across the body of water glowed green.

Something huge shifted bellow the water, and at first I thought it was a shadow until a dorsal fine reared from the wake, rising higher than the ledge I stood on and throwing a spray briny water onto bother of us. I took a step towards the wall, raising a hand to my throat, where my pulse beat wildly.

"Roark, there's a thing-" I started, but she slid her free hand across my mouth before I could finish.

"Quiet, Meghan. We're trying to sneak up on someone," she said quietly.

I replied in a whisper, injecting as much venom into my voice as I could. "You could have told me that before."

"You could have tried not to scream. You should have been expecting something worse, anyways. This is hell."

I half shrugged. "Can you fill me in now, at least? I'm pretty sure I blew our cover already."

"I doubt that. She has an unusual gift." She extended a finger, and I looked to a point on the water where a girl with golden hair (3) stood half submerged, the shadow of the giant whale fish type thing growing and shrinking beneath her. Her body was swaying liquidly, and her hands stretched in front of her at odd angles. She wore a half dress with big green and blue spots over jeans. It looked weirdly normal.

"What's she doing?" I hissed. Her movements were hypnotic; it took me a few seconds to wrench my eyes away.

Roark shrugged. "Broken's leaking information, but I'm still unsure. I would guess that she's calling up the whale, but as to why, I could not say. She should know her way around, at any rate."

I shrank away as Roark reached for her sword, weary of being knocked off the ledge. I looked away, but white light flashed so brightly in the gloom that it hardly helped. Bellow, the blonde woman's head snapped up.

A hand wrapped around my waist, and Roark raised a single eyebrow. It took me a moment to get what she was asking, and when I did, I nodded without thinking.

I still gasped when we took off- there was no time for anything else. It was only a second of something that felt like freefall, and then I was standing on rock again, across from where I had been.

The demon straitened, and I noticed she had no sword, just a big, braided belt. Her eyes, average blue, flicked between Roark and me, and I read confusion across her face easily. It was sort of a relief, the expression made her seem less dangerous.

"Your name?" Roark asked. The demon considered for a moment, then dropped her hands, which had been extended. Black water was dripping from her fingertips, staining her jeans, which I noticed were almost the same as mine, but with glittery chains leaking down her hips.

"Ivette. I'm level 1."

"An incubi," Roark mused. "Why are you here? You smell like Saise. Does she have business with you?"

"I am Saise's business," she said simply.

Roark's eyes flashed, and Ivette looked off into the water.

"What sort of business?"

The demon paused, probably deciding where her allegiances best lay, and eyeballed Roark's sword without turning her head.

"My Mistress's workings are not for you to know, Roark."

I blinked. Roark had asked for Ivette's name, so they couldn't have known each other. Or had she forgotten for some reason? Her whole past seemed a bit funky. She spoke about her life like a witness to a car crash, and I was pretty sure that's how she thought about it too. Maybe forgetting huge chunks of time was just one of those things she hadn't bothered to mention.

"Perhaps you're right," she said. Unlike me, she didn't seem to find the conversation out of the ordinary. "Do you know of prisoners being kept here?"

Ivette frowned. "There's a woman. She has red hair. That's the only prisoner left."

I drew in a shaky breath. Only one left. The implication of those words swelled in front of me, pressing my chest like a stone under my ribs.

Roark didn't blink, but her fingers twitched. I took a step closer.

"Of course," she said, not missing a beat. "The prisoner, then. Where is she? You will show us the way."

Ivette crossed her arms and hunched her shoulders. "I guess I can do that. I don't really like having her around. I have to clean up after her."

"What?" I asked.

"I guess she's sick." She looked at me for the first time. "Who are you?"

"Not important," Roark said. Strikingly, ridiculously, I was offended. "Just start moving."

Ivette shrugged, brushed by both of us, and started up the steep incline. I scrambled to follow, and Roark gave me a long look that I couldn't decipher.

Words rose in my throat, thick and choking. I wanted to say something. Not in front of Ivette, and not something cliché, something important. Something that would stop the cold feeling unfurling in my stomach.

Something that would keep me from knowing, with striking, premeditated certainty, that our mission would end in tragedy.

Jonathan was dead. I had only met him once, and I couldn't believe it. He had seemed so normal, like none of this weirdness could have touched him. But it wasn't him I felt sorry for.

Staring at Roark's back, panting as I tried to keep up, I couldn't help but remember the look on Audrey's face after Charlie had died. She had been like one of the Christmas Carol ghosts, unable to truly live or die. I knew she was already dead, sort of, but it was the part of her that was living that was important.

I glanced at the water when Ivette stopped to draw up a door, tracing her finger across the rock and igniting little black fires, and swallowed hard.

If I was going to get out of the Adair alive, I needed Roark at her full strength. I wondered if she could give me that, or if she even wanted to anymore.

For the first time, I realized it was only circumstances that had pushed us together, circumstances brought by Jonathan. First, wanting us to meet, then later when she needed my power to get into the Adair. She must have been planning it through the week we spent in my apartment. Maybe if I'd had any actual friends before, I wouldn't have thought…

My eyes stung and I pushed my thoughts away. It was stupid to be worrying about that. Stupid that my own social life brought tears to my eyes, not the fact that someone Roark had been in love with had been killed. I hated myself for that.

The room we walked into was small and full of techy stuff. I stood on something that looked like the floor of an elevator, wine colored carpet and a ring of gold wrapping around the edges. Mirrors stretching up from the floor, but were broken off jaggedly about twelve feet up. Above the mirrors, cables and twisted wire erupted like worms, weaving into darkness in glistening, metallic coils. (3)

And there was a lot of space above us; I noticed uneasily. The walls were uneven rock, dripping with condensation and illuminated by flat, glowing panels and white doors stationed in no real order.

Far enough up, I could only see blackness, as distant as the night sky.

Ivette fidgeted, spinning a curl of hair around her little finger. "There's a door. Eighth one up on that wall."

She pointed to the one behind me, and I counted up. Just within my spectrum of sight at the slanted perspective, I could see the one she was referring to.

"You're going to go down a long hallway," she continued. "The eighth door on your left. Turn right when you get through and keep going until that hallway ends. There will be a big, ornate door. I don't really know how to open it, but she's in there."

"What, you're not coming with us?" That sounded like a trap. The Adair were bound to be filled with danger.

She shrugged and hunched her shoulders forward until she looked two feet shorter, still pouting. "Not unless you make me."

"Listen up," I snapped, irritated. "We're the good guys here. Don't go acting like some damsel in distress. Saise is the one who fucking kidnapped our friend!" I bit off the 's' at the end of 'friends' with some difficulty, leaving the singular hovering nervously in the air.

Ivette didn't even twitch. "Believe what you want. Can I go back to Chloride, now?"

Roark had been staring up at the tunnel for the entire conversation, barely moving. Her wings, hanging limply, left smears of blood high up on the walls that glittered but didn't disappear. Her face was very pale when she looked at me.

"Yes. Yes, that would be best," she said finally. "I don't want anyone else involved."

"She'll tell everyone. She'll tell them all that we've come," I said, frowning. Roark shook her head.

"They already know we're here," she said. "I can feel it."

I fisted my hands, glancing up like I though someone was going to fall from the sky and attack us. It wouldn't have been the first time, after all. "Fine. Sure. So time is of the essence?"

A nod. "Hold onto my arm."

I balked, then stepped forwards and grabbed her tightly. My fingers dug into her skin, but she didn't say anything, just grabbed hold of the fabric at my side with one hand. She backed to one wall, then jumped.

My body jolted as her foot hit first one wall, then the other, and it took me a moment to realize that she was climbing, not flying. Climbing up the passage. The space was too small, she must not have been able to use her wings. Then we were falling, just for a second, and her hand snaked from my side to open the door… we were on solid ground.

I loosed my fingers, flexing them gingerly as I took in my surroundings. Basically the same as the first hallway, all the walls were strait, and white, windowless doors lay in parallel rows.

Roark turned and walked away. I tripped over my own foot, too eager to follow, but before I could catch myself, she had grabbed both my wrists. She didn't meet my eyes, instead, she looked strait through my neck.

"Roark," I said, and it came out a whisper. "I am so sorry. So, so, sorry. I wish… Oh god, Roark. What can I say? What can I do?"

She shook her head. "Let's not talk about it. We'll get Audrey, get out, and then I'll deal with this." She noticed my apprehension, because she went on. "I'll keep you safe. I'll keep… all of us… safe. He won't be the first death in this war."

-Important ish paragraph- I nodded, willing myself to believe that she was okay. She lived with death all the time, after all. But then, so did I, and I wasn't okay with it. I'd tried to tell myself I was, but I wasn't. Just saying it a bunch hadn't changed that in the end. (See, because you can lie in first person, now it's coming out that she really cares and shit. Blah)

I followed absently, thoughts else where, until Roark stopped moving and I walked into her for the second time that day. I opened my mouth to ask, but stopped.

A large door of dark, rich wood filled the entire space from ceiling to floor. It was engraved with a picture of a landscape, and I bent forward to see it better before withdrawing. It was the Adair, carved so intricately that the roses in the foreground looked deadly. Around the edges wound a border of fruits and flowers and animals. It was lovely and haunting at once, and I didn't want to use my hand to open it.

Roark hefted her sword- I'd forgotten she was carrying it- and traced along the entire frame, standing on tiptoe to get the top. The door clicked and shifted, letting a single line of light spill onto the floor.

Using just the tip of her sword, she pushed it fully open. The room beyond was an explosion of color, red and orange and pink, with a sort of oriental feel. A huge, canopy bed of cherry wood was unmade, and a glass table sported a selection of cheery, hotel-perfect fruit. The whole place smelled like hibiscus.

Audrey wasn't there.

But Jonathan was.


(1) K is a medicine they used to use for schizophrenics. Didn't work very well, it left people sort of… weird. I think they still use it on people who think their way out of the regular meds (it happens, most schizophrenic's doses gradually increase their whole lives as they become resistant).

(2) Changed Ivette's hair to gold.

Working on character development, so I should tell you this is a very non-Meghan-ish thing to say. Still, I got artsy and now I don't want to take it out. If I have an opportunity, I'll have Roark or Saise say that and knock it out of here.