Alright, folks, last chapter! I'll start posting book 2 of another series of mine, Free Spirits, sometime after New Years, so stay tuned. ;P
Although the abomination was dead, they spent hours more talking to the police and helping to clean up. The Betas all reluctantly sat out to let paramedics handle their injuries. The girl Skylar had saved ran up and hugged him, her injuries fortunately minor. Not long after, Skylar was laid down when he nearly fainted; the stress of the night and the excitement of everyone around him just about shut him down.
Fergus was back and forth constantly between cleanup and himself, obviously unwilling to leave Skylar alone for any more than a few minutes. One of the paramedics finally caught him, though, and he was wrestled into a checkup due to his trembling hands and loud, grating breaths. He'd broken ribs and lost blood. Skylar didn't mind so much when Fergus had a blanket slung over his shoulders and was told to sit beside Skylar in the ambulance. He must have fallen asleep, because when he opened his eyes, Fergus was urging him to get up.
"Hey, kid, we're heading home," Fergus said. "Just didn't want you to panic when I picked you up."
Skylar resisted. "I'll walk," he mumbled. "You're hurt."
"But..." Fergus sighed and nodded, too tired to argue. It was a good thing too, because Skylar ended up supporting Fergus more than Fergus supported him as they left the ambulance and limped over to the portal Olivia had set up.
Though tired, Skylar almost immediately sensed something amiss when they stepped through and limped into the mansion. It reeked of lingering despair, fear, and panic. When he looked at his father, he had a distant look in his eye.
"Something's wrong," he said, turning to Jean. "I want you to get anyone who's injured to Maxwell. Aqsa, Oann, with me."
"Me too," Skylar said.
Fergus glanced at him and nodded curtly before he led everyone inside. Skylar couldn't sense anyone in the manor.
"Smells like Kane," Oann suddenly snarled, bristling like an angry dog.
Fergus made a beeline for the first hall on the right, though, straight towards the void room, seeming to forget his injuries as his pace quickened. Although he'd closed himself off, Skylar could see his father's panic in his shallow breaths and trembling fists.
He flung open the door. Everyone skittered backwards when several gunshots sounded, but no one got hit.
"Valerie!" Fergus said, sweeping into the room.
Valerie, who'd been under the table at the other end, dropped the gun and met Fergus halfway across the room, burying herself into his arms with a sob. Skylar, Aqsa, and Oann followed them in, but there was only one other face peering out from beneath the table. Skylar met Jimmy as he crossed the room next, crying as he clung to him. Oann and Aqsa walked over to Fergus and Valerie.
"What happened here?" the shifter asked.
"Kane took them," Fergus managed. Oann went very still. "I made a mistake," Fergus whispered into Valerie's hair. "I should have had someone else here too. This is my fault. I'm so sorry, beloved."
Oann wordlessly left the room. Aqsa followed. Skylar decided to pull Jimmy out of the room as well and into the empty hallway to give Fergus and Valerie a moment to themselves. He closed the door behind him.
"Jimmy, what happened?" Skylar asked. "Are you okay?"
Jimmy shook with his sobs. "I just ran away!" he cried. "They took Sandra and Tado and Ying and Kirian, but I just ran away like a coward!"
"Shh, it's alright. No one could've expected you to fight, to fight...Kane."
The boy looked up at him with watery turquoise eyes. "B-But I could've done something," he whispered.
Skylar pulled him back into the hug. "It's okay. We'll figure this out. Da will. He always does."
A millions plan bounced around Fergus's head as he glared over top of Valerie's head at the opposite wall. If Kane had been wondering why he took personal offense to his behaviour before, he shouldn't be questioning now. Not after he could have killed Valerie. Not after he could have killed their unborn child. Not after he'd taken the kids.
"This isn't your fault, love," he told Valerie for the fifth or sixth time.
"I'm trained," she said. "I could've done it. I could've shut down his gun, I could've attacked, but I froze! I could've even think! Tado's the one who shot him. He's barely sixteen, Fergus. I'm over twice his age, but he's the one who shot him!" She hugged him tighter, making his ribs ache more. "And now he's gone."
"Even if you were mentally prepared to fight back, Val, Kane would've had you outmatched," he said. "You never would've been able to take on him and his allies."
"I should've been ready to die for them," she whispered.
Muffled yelling rose up from outside the room, making them raise their heads. Fergus and Valerie shared a look. He took a second to wipe away her tears and kiss her on the forehead before he ran out of the room to deal with the next tragedy.
He entered the foyer to find Oann in the form of a massive black wolf standing over Cosimo, saliva dripping from his maw as he snarled in Cosimo's face. It seemed that the shapeshifter had dragged Cosimo up by the tears in his clothes.
"Oann, get off of him!" Fergus yelled.
Oann's sharp eyes snapped up to meet his. The air was filled with the cloying shiver of fear. Several of the kids, even the bolder ones, were huddled near the adults and far from the scuffle. Oann removed his paw from Cosimo's chest and shifted back to human form. The lines of fury were no less visible in this form.
"He coulda stopped Kane easy!" Oann bellowed. "It ain't your fault, and it ain't Val's either! It's this son of bitch's for doing nothing!"
"Attacking him won't solve anything," Fergus said, holding out his hands to seek peace.
"Then maybe it's about time we got rid of him," Olivia cut in. "Cosimo's done nothing for any of us since we showed up here, while we've fed and given him a safe place to stay. He won't even look at his own son, Fergus! He's nothing but a worthless slob, a waste of our time and money! If he was worth anything, then he would've been up here trying to stop Kane!"
"But he's one of us!" Aqsa said, stepping forward. "Even if he's not who he used to be, he's still one of the Defenders. That has to be worth something. We can't cast him out."
"If he's going to keep being a waste of space, then he's no Defender," Olivia snapped.
"Aqsa's right," Fergus said. "Cosimo's one of us."
"If he were, then he would've fought to protect the kids!"
"Then throw me out too!" Valerie said as she joined them. "If he's not a Defender because he couldn't protect the children, then neither am I."
Uncomfortable silence followed. Olivia glared, but she didn't say anything, and neither did Oann, who was finally standing up straight. Fergus met Jean's gaze across the room and they shared a nod. She ushered all of the kids towards the elevator, taking them to get checked out for injuries.
Valerie spoke when they were gone. "Oann, why don't you get dressed and we'll discuss what's happened in the meeting room?"
A deep guttural growl grated through his gritted teeth as he spoke. "No. Don't throw yourself in the same category as him, Val. You help out in other ways. Him? He drinks and smokes in the basement, expecting us to feed him day to day!
"What the hell happened to you?!" he continued, this time to Cosimo. "You were the only one of us who managed to keep his sense of humour no matter what we went through. I thought you'd pull yourself together with the Defenders all in one piece, but instead you continue to wallow in your own fucking self-pity, waiting to FUCKING DIE!"
Cosimo laughed bitterly. "At least I don't pretend that there's nothing wrong with me. I know I'm a fucking mess. Do you know that you're one too?"
With a howl of fury, Oann descended on him again, this time with the jaws of a bear. Cosimo had enough of a sense of self-preservation left to go intangible and scramble out of the way. While Oann growled and held a paw to his head after smacking his snout on the floor, Cosimo leapt to his feet and thrust the heel of his palm into Oann's head. He kneed him, as well, before Olivia leapt into the fray. She wrapped her arms around his throat to choke him out.
"Selfish bastard! When it's yourself, you fight just fine, huh?!" she yelled.
In order to dodge an elbow that Cosimo aimed for her stomach, Olivia released him. She immediately followed with a kick to the ribs that made him stumble. Oann lunged from behind once more.
Before Fergus could step in, Aqsa raised her hands. She brought down two energy barriers that separated the three and ended the scuffle. As Fergus strode forth, he took some of Olivia and Oann's hostility, using it to fuel his anger.
"Enough!" he yelled. "No more fighting! No one is fit to deal with this right now; not after the abomination. We're better than this, anyways. We're better than using force and violence to solve all of our problems. For now, get your injuries treated and go to your rooms. Sleep it off. We'll see what tensions are like in the morning."
The Alphas dispersed, some of them shooting Fergus or Cosimo glares as they went. When Cosimo tried to slink by Fergus, however, his hand shot out and grabbed his sleeve. He dragged Cosimo close. For the first time in years, he saw real fear in the man's eyes.
"Tomorrow, you better have a damn good reason for why Kane has void collars," Fergus hissed. "And if you don't, I won't stop them from throwing you out like the garbage you are."
Cosimo swallowed hard and looked away. "I'm sorry, Fergs."
"Get out of my sight."
Cosimo slunk away. Valerie came up behind Fergus to rest a hand on his arm, but he curtly told her to go and rest before turning to the elevator. He wanted to check on the kids once more before crashing for the night. He was glad that they hadn't seen the fight between Oann, Olivia, and Cosimo. He was glad that they hadn't seen him fail to keep everyone together.
Max reported that the kids were all doing fine; although he wanted to keep them to be monitored for the night. Skylar and Arin, but mostly Arin, were the worst off because of their burns, but despite being tired both were bright eyed and would make a swift recovery.
"Fergus, where is everyone?" Lizz asked. She was curled underneath a blanket on a cot. "What the hell were Oann and Mr. Salvatore fighting about?"
"Tensions are high right now, that's all," Fergus said. "You should get some sleep."
"But where is everyone?" Blaine piped up. "I can't see anyone in the manor."
Fergus swallowed hard beneath the collective gazes of the youth. "They're...gone," he said. "Kane came here while we were fighting the abomination and took them. But we'll get them back," he said quickly, seeing the distraught looks on everyone's faces. "I promise you."
"They took Tado too?" Lizz demanded. "And Ying?"
"Well why aren't we going after them now?!"
"None of us are fit to fight right now," he said calmly. "We don't even know where they are. This will take time, Lizz."
"You can't just leave them with that monster!" she yelled. "How could you let this happen?!"
"Lizz, what the hell?" Skylar snapped. "It's not his fault!"
"Well he's in charge! Maybe he should have done better!"
Skylar looked at Fergus plaintively, but he couldn't meet his son's eyes. "You're right. I'm sorry. I'll try to make up for this. As soon as we can figure out where they are, we'll go after them. For now just...sleep. Get better. It's been a long day."
He walked towards the door with stiff legged strides, but Blaine caught his sleeve before he could exit the room. "Fergus, you should postpone letting me see Mum."
"It's fine," he said. "I can wait."
He nodded once. "Alright. Thank you."
On his way out of the room, he met Jean. She turned to follow him back to the elevator. "I take it things went badly?" she asked. "I just saw Cosimo rush past..."
They stopped in front of the elevator as he explained what had happened. "I saw Oann go to his room," Fergus finished, "but I'm sure he'll be outside, getting drunk, or both in no time."
He flinched when her anger flared. "You can stop sounding so fucking condescending," Jean snapped. "He's doing his best to kick the drinking for Arin and Kirian's sake. And you're one to talk," she added, jabbing a finger into the centre of his chest, "because you were back to smoking a week into taking care of the kids."
The familiar tug of addiction made Fergus fidget now that he'd been reminded of it, but he couldn't smoke with his ribs in the shape that they were. "...Just be there for him," he said. "I'm sorry. I should know better. Tell him I'm sorry about Kirian, but I don't think Kane has any intention of hurting them if what Valerie told me is true."
She nodded. "Will do, Fergus. You should get some sleep, though. You look like the walking dead."
He couldn't bring himself to step into the room with Valerie, though, not when he was on the verge of tears and she was already stressed as it was. Not wanting to sit alone in his office, though, he wandered into the big empty meeting room. His hands shook as he sat on the couch and called James. Voice mail. He didn't leave a message. He dialled Elliot's number.
"Fergus! How's it shakin', bacon? I heard about your victory in Niagara Falls!" a familiar voice greeted him. "Magics has already gone in and mussed the details; no one knows it was an abomination. Can you imagine the panic that could've caused? They told me to thank you on their behalf for taking care of it before too much damage was caused. They never would have been able to get someone there in time, and because of you and yours, there were no casualties! They still haven't found the magicker who did it, I'm afraid, but—"
"Aleesha Black," he said numbly.
"Wonderful! On the ball as always, I'll give them a ring tomorrow about that. So what's up, honey buns? You sound glum."
Fighting the urge to break down and cry all the while, he explained the night's events. For someone who loved to talk, Elliot was able to listen quietly and politely. He was crying by the time he finished.
"I can't do this, Ellie," he sobbed. "They all blame me, and with good reason too. I can't even make my own team listen! Whatever touch I had to make them listen before... It's gone. I keep fucking this up. I'm not fit for this. Maybe the Society should take over, or, or Jean...Jean could make them listen."
"Now, Fergus, you listen to me," Elliot said. "You're the leader for a reason. It wasn't a fluke. It wasn't because the Society appointed you. It's because your team chose you. Tensions are running high right now, just like you said. You can't control their every little action, anyways. No leader can and no leader should. You did manage to de-escalate the situation, didn't you?"
"Mostly because of Aqsa..."
"But you guys are a team, so that's perfect! You're supposed to work together like that. If things were really falling apart, then some of you would have already left. They still believe in you."
"But I keep messing up."
"Well, I know for a fact that you are a good ninety-five per cent human," Elliot said with a chuckle. "And as they say, humans make mistakes. Just please don't make me give you the whole 'we learn from our mistakes' pep talk, okay? I've already given it to you enough."
He smiled through the tears. "Skylar joined the fight today," he said. "He was...so much better than I thought he'd be. Phenomenal. He's been doing so much better, I just... I hope he'll be okay until we get those kids back from Kane."
"Oh goodness, yes, you told me he was in the fight! He sounds like an absolute sweetheart, you know. I'm sure he'll be fine, but that does remind me: I've finally been cleared to visit you all in summer! It took me months to get permission, but I'll finally get to see the grown up versions of our Betas. And I'll get to meet Casey's son...and your and Valerie's child too!"
"That's great news," he said. "It'll be good to see you again. I'll stop taking up your time, though. Thanks for the talk."
"Anytime, honey buns. Call me tomorrow once you've got things sorted, alright?"
He ended the call and stood up, hissing when his aches and pains flared. With every intention of popping a few painkillers and finally calling it a night, he made to leave the room. He stopped but a few steps towards the door when he met Lucifer's eyes, now solid red. Her cloak was gone. Her black pants and backless top hugged her round figure.
"Now isn't the time," Fergus growled. "Run back to whoever sent you."
"I don't think so. Do you know how mad he'd be?" she said. "I'm afraid I'll be sticking around."
"No. I barely know who or what you are," he said. "You have dubious morals, and you said somebody sent you even though you refuse to tell me who. Thank you for saving Arin and Skylar –I really am grateful for that!– but I can't in good conscious let you stay here."
She slunk closer. "You don't have a choice in the matter. Whether the let me stay in one of your spare rooms or you force me to remain outside, it doesn't matter," she said. "And anyways. I could contribute to your cause. Would you really let that slide?"
"Then you can make your case to my team in the morning," he said as he brushed past her. "My opinion's just one of many."
"Do you know that I'm a demon?" she asked.
He paused, hand on the doorknob. "Great, one who's taken the empty husk of some poor girl's body for their own," he said sardonically. "And the name Lucifer isn't a vote of confidence either, mind you."
"Don't you think humankind wrongly condemned me in their myths and legends?" she said. "Haven't you ever heard those stories and thought were this to be true, at least he sought to better humanity? I brought you mortals knowledge. Is that worth nothing to you?"
His grip on the doorknob tightened. "...What did you really bring us?" he asked quietly.
Her grin burned into his back. "Knowledge, my dear," she whispered. "I brought you knowledge. I brought you magic."
Fergus glared at the door. "If you want to appeal to my teammates to let you stay, I won't stop you," he said. "Ultimately, it's their decision, but you better be ready to be a little more up front with us."
"I could help you find the man you seek," she said as he opened the door. "The Sight, Kane Lightwood yes? Tell that to your team and I'm sure they could be swayed."
He shot a look over his shoulder. It had sounded like she'd whispered that in his ear, but he could see her across the room, standing in the moonlit window. She didn't cast a shadow. He stepped out of the room and closed the door.