Somehow, Tsume got me to help edit and upload another chapter of this story despite us working diligently on Shifting Bonds. Not sure how this happened but yay I guess! XD I'm fairly certain that this is one of Tsume's favorite chapters, so that might have something to do with it. This chapter was a little shorter than anticipated but I think it works out.
As always, enjoy the read and if you want to get all of the latest updates and notifications on this story, be sure to follow and favorite. And if you want all the latest on everything we're working on, go check out my profile and give me a follow.
~Naida Inoa & Tsume Nagata
Seeing her sleeping peacefully, Adrik chuckled briefly before he closed his eyes on a sigh. The day had been a long and difficult one, and once he finally had the chance to stop for a moment, he realized just how sore and disgusting he was. Grimacing, the assassin entered the bathroom a second time to lean against the edge of the bath and remove his boots. Ensuring that he could see Vreni from his perch, Adrik set about washing his single set of clothes the old-fashioned way, which was only made more difficult with his uncooperative right hand. Once they were clean and hanging to dry, he silently entered her room and grabbed one of the Dragonfly's towels. The assassin stripped and washed off his blood-stained skin before wrapping the towel around his waist and quietly collapsing into the chair next to her bed. He stayed like that; watching her sleep and listening to the few noises that sounded at such a late, or perhaps early, hour like a silent sentinel. When enough time had passed, Adrik got to his feet and quietly checked on his clothing. It seemed to be dry enough, though his boots were not nearly there and so he left them and took his clothing so that he might sew them up while he waited.
Certain that more than enough time had passed for the medicine to kick in, Vincent, with some of his medical supplies, approached Vreni's door and gave it a few hard knocks.
Looking up from his stitching with a frown, Adrik set his pants to the side, grabbed a knife from his belt, and approached the door. He glanced out the small spyhole before flipping the locks and opening the door. Adrik leaned on the door jam but did not unhook the chain, "And what might you be up too, doc?" he inquired with some suspicion as he eyed the man's bag.
Holding up and patting his bag, he explained, "I'm here to check on Vreni. I assume she is sleeping now, so I've come to check her vitals and make sure everything's alright." It was the first time someone had pulled such a stunt and he wanted to make certain she did not fall prey to any ill side effects.
Adrik grunted in response and moved away from the door momentarily. When he opened it again, the chain was gone and he stepped back just enough to allow the other in. Glancing down the hallway, Adrik verified that there was no else to be found before closing and locking the door securely behind him. "I would be careful if I were you, doc," he said as he passed the man and sat back down in his chair to continue his sewing. "If you wake her, she'll most certainly be out for your blood." He wasn't sure he'd be able to stop her either.
Vincent felt a weight lift from his shoulders as he was allowed entrance to the room and was slightly surprised not to see her laying on the couch. He followed Adrik into her bedroom and wondered how the man had gotten her in there, and to change clothing no less. Raising an eyebrow and glancing at Adrik, he frowned at how the woman was sleeping. He set his bag down and approached her. "I am not worried about waking her," he informed him as he gently slipped an arm under her legs and lifted them so that he could put them up on the bed with the rest of her body. "Those pills were meant to ensure she rested her body. She won't be waking up for quite some time," he explained as he readjusted her body so she might sleep more comfortably. Studying her thin nightwear, he also strode to her closet and pulled out one of her spare blankets and draped it over her. There. Much better. Now he could work with peace of mind. Going through his bag, he pulled out a small flashlight, as well as his pocket watch, and a small sterilized thermometer. Delicately opening her mouth, he placed the thermometer under her tongue and while he let that sit, he removed the stethoscope from his neck and listened to her heartbeat. It sounded strong and normal, so he opened his pocket watch and calculated her blood pressure. That was also fine. Checking on the thermometer, her temperature was relatively normal, so he switched on his tiny flashlight, pried open her eyes, and checked the dilation of her pupils. "Well, everything appears to be alright." He began to place his things back into his bag. "How did you get her to her bed?" he asked curiously.
Adrik watched the man closely while he finished up one of the cuts in his clothing; he only looked down to find the next one. At the man's question, he shrugged. "Wasn't really anything I did," he answered honestly as he started on the next cut. "Once everyone else was out, that's just where she ended up."
Humming thoughtfully at the man's response, Vincent closed his bag. He let out a sigh and was ready to head home for the night. "I would expect her to sleep for a day or two," he told him seriously. In fact, with the dosage he had given her, it was likely to be longer but he knew the woman would never allow herself to sleep that long; pills notwithstanding. "If anything happens, or if there are any changes in her current state, call me immediately."
Adrik sighed heavily at the man's estimate and hoped he was wrong. Adrik was used to staying up for days but he was running on fumes and had lost a fair amount of blood. He had promised the woman that he would watch over her and he wasn't about to sleep on the job. He hoped for all of their sakes that she woke within twenty-four hours. "Very well," he answered tiredly before looking back up at the man. "How shall I call for you?" He wasn't sure what the protocol was for such things.
Vincent grinned. "I'm her physician. You saw her desk earlier." He threw his bag over his shoulder, "Just write my name on a piece of paper and drop it into her lowest right drawer. Once you close it, look for a switch on the ground and press it." That was all he really needed to know. Vreni's men would do all the hard work should he not be in the building.
Narrowing his eyes on the man in thought, he eventually nodded and set his clothing to the side yet again. Getting to his feet, Adrik closed his eyes briefly as his head whirled. He really did need something to eat. Shaking his head slightly, he ran a hand through his unruly hair and headed for the door so that he could see the doctor out. "You'll have to come to me tomorrow," he reminded the physician as he stopped by the door. "I will be here until the Lady wakes."
Nodding, Vincent assured him, "I will then." As he stepped out the door, he paused as he remembered something, "And I will bring that bottle with me. Goodnight," he bowed and quickly headed home to get some sleep of his own.
"Goodnight." Locking up the door behind the doctor with a sigh, Adrik headed for the kitchen and hoped to find something edible to fill his belly with until the marrow. It wasn't as if he were unfamiliar with hunger, he merely needed the strength to protect the leader of the Dreygon until she woke. Downing two large glasses of water, Adrik set about finding something to eat.
Adrik stretched with a soft groan as another knock sounded at the door. There had been a few of those throughout the day and the man had ignored most, if not all, of the people that he saw on the other side. Getting to his feet, the assassin went to see who it was and quickly opened the door to allow the physician into the room. "'Evening, doc," he murmured before heading back toward the Dragonfly's bedroom.
Closing the door silently behind him and ensuring to lock it, Vincent eyed Adrik as he entered the room. "Even an assassin needs sleep," he chastised as he went about sitting down his things. "If you would like, I could fetch Leif so you can get some well-deserved rest," he offered. The man had loyally stayed by her for almost twenty-four hours already. He was sure to be exhausted and hungry.
Adrik grunted at the man's censure. "Tell that to my former masters," he retorted as he collapsed back into his chair. He'd been trained to go days without food or rest. There was always time for sleep later. At the mention of Leif, Adrik scoffed, "So that she can wake up and kill him? I think not." He'd gone through too much trouble saving the bastard.
Vincent chuckled at that and started to lay out some of his equipment, "She will probably be very groggy when she awakes. And probably too tired to exert the energy." As he went about checking on Vreni, he glanced over at Adrik. "As the Dreygon physician, I simply cannot allow the top assassin to go without proper nutrients and rest." He paused and looked to him fully serious, "Don't make me drug you as well." It wouldn't be easy but if he got Vreni on his side in the matter, would Adrik really have any other choice?
All of the humor dropped from his face and Adrik gazed at the man with cold eyes, "I'd like to see you try." He had been drugged before on numerous occasions, mostly for training so that he could learn how to function under the influence of such things. He would not forgive the man for such a transgression.
Adrik was deathly quiet for another long moment before he smiled, "Don't worry about me. I am perfectly capable of functioning with little food or rest. When the Lady wakes, I will sleep."
Accepting the challenge as it were, Vincent responded with, "Take care of your body and we won't have a problem." After he confirmed that her vitals were still stable, he reached for the basket he had brought with him. "It does not matter to me whether you think you can function as such. My job is to make sure you don't need to." And he was going to do that job. Holding out the basket and choosing to accept that Adrik would not budge on sleeping at the moment, he told him, "At least eat something." In the case Vreni had awoken, he had come prepared with food. As it seemed she would not be up for some time yet, the food should at least go to good use.
Accepting the gesture with an acknowledging nod, Adrik took the basket offered to him and set it at his feet. Flipping open the lid, he grabbed the first thing his hand settled on, a fresh loaf of bread, and began to eat it. The still warm bread was much more filling than his meager meal the night before and he thanked the physician quietly. Adrik allowed the silence to settle between them as the doctor went about his business.
Vincent checked on the man's stitches in his hand and nodded in approval. The lack of excitement at watching the woman sleep had kept him from damaging anything. After having him remove his pants to check on the gash on his thigh, his eyes narrowed. "Be careful on that leg," he warned. The man had already pulled on them and he had effectively been doing nothing since he had been sewn together. If he couldn't keep from pulling them, Vincent would be forced to take further measures to ensure they healed properly.
Going to his bag to grab that bottle he had promised to bring, Vincent frowned as there was a knock on the door. Wondering who it could be at this hour, he went to go answer.
Getting swiftly to his feet, Adrik placed a hand on the doctor's shoulder before passing him on his way to the door. Glancing out, he scowled at whom he saw standing in the hallway. If he had been alone, he would have ignored the man, but because Vincent was there, he spoke through the door. "Go away Leif," he instructed grumpily as he watched him through the spyhole.
Leif crossed his arms defiantly. "I am not leaving until I can be certain the Lady is alive." It had been a full day and no one had seen or heard from her. She had missed several important meetings already. He needed to know she was alright. With nothing but the rival's assassin to watch her, there was no guaranteeing he hadn't killed her already.
"You are not coming into the Dragonfly's chambers," he told the other assassin bluntly. He was already beginning to dislike the other man anyway. "I had to disarm one of her drawers last night. A failure on your part that is inadmissible." The man obviously wasn't nearly as competent at protecting as he was at killing.
Growling at the man, Leif clenched his fists and decided to repeat, "I will not leave until I confirm her safety. Even if I have to break down this door."
Rolling his eyes and throwing up his hands in irritation, Adrik looked to the physician. "You deal with that imbecile," he told him before pacing over to the kitchen and back. "Just don't let him in."
Sighing at the two of them, Vincent unlocked the door and opened it, being sure to leave the chain on. "Leif," he called quietly.
"You're in there Vincent?" he asked sounding relieved. If the good doctor was in there then surely he would let him in to see their leader himself.
Giving the man a nod, he assured him, "I am keeping an eye on her. She is doing fine. Just sleeping soundly." Glancing back briefly at Adrik as he paced, he added, "Let me handle this."
Frowning, Leif thought he could trust the doctor and eventually nodded. Reluctantly agreeing, Leif disappeared down the hall.
Closing and re-locking the door, Vincent met Adrik in the bedroom and instructed him to lean forward so he could put the new ointment on his back.
Glad when the man was gone, Adrik returned to his seat and chuckled when the other approached him with his new medicine. Squatting, he pulled the chair out from underneath him and flipped it around so that the back was in the front before he even realized what he had done. Looking up at the man apologetically, Adrik winced, "I'm not very good at following orders."
With a shake of his head as the assassin undoubtedly pulled on his stitches, the doctor opened the bottle and began applying the ointment generously, "Yes. I can tell you are going to be one of my problem patients."
Vreni groaned softly in her sleep causing Vincent to pause and glance up to check on her. When it appeared she was not going to wake, he sighed and returned to Adrik's back.
"Thought you were being generous when you said two or more days, doc," he told the other as he sat calmly while Vincent tended to his back. Adrik glanced over at Vreni and chuckled, "It took her almost another hour after she stormed out of her office, and a few threats later, before she finally fell asleep."
While making sure to thoroughly cover all of the scars, Vincent wondered how he was going to handle two difficult patients. "Even in her sleep, she is fighting the medicine. She is truly something else," he admitted with another shake of his head. Really, they were a doctor's worst nightmare.
Sighing once more, the doctor admitted, "I wish I was only being generous but if I didn't give her something strong, she would have never fallen asleep." The woman was way too obstinate for that. Really, he wasn't too surprised she had lasted so much longer. Her willpower was impressive. "She's a tough one," he stated as he finished up.
"That she is," Adrik muttered as the doctor finished up. Once he had checked everything there was to check, Adrik escorted him out and locked up behind him. Shaking his head with a tired groan, he headed back to his chair and checked to see what else the doctor had in his basket.
Another day passed without preamble. Vincent had come in the morning, and around noon, with food. Adrik thanked him for the sustenance and saw him off after the other finished checking on Vreni and his wounds. When he returned later that evening, he brought more food and instructions to save some for their lady in case she woke. Agreeing to that stipulation, he saw the other man off after a brief chat. It wasn't until late that night and into the early morning that the Dragonfly awoke.
Groaning and rolling to the side, Vreni cracked her eyes open and found that she had fallen asleep with the lights on. She draped an arm over her eyes to shield them from the harsh light and groaned again. Her head was killing her. And she felt like she needed to bathe.
Throwing her legs over the side of the bed, she stood up shakily and held a hand to her temple as her head pounded. When she turned toward the bathroom, she stalled as she saw Adrik sitting in one of her chairs. What on earth was he doing in her room? "Go home, Adrik," she mumbled.
The assassin watched her silently as she managed to get out of bed on her own. Her muttered order made him chuckle but he made no move to leave.
"There is a couch in the living room. Use it," she had meant it to be a command but it came out half-hearted as she stepped past him. Stumbling into the bathroom, she lost her balance and fell into the sink; just barely catching herself before she toppled over. It seemed as though she was moving through a fog as everything was still hazy. What the hell had happened? Did she drink too much? Speaking of, she did feel rather parched. Turning on the faucet, she cupped some cool water into her hands that she sipped from. Once she felt that she was sufficiently hydrated, she made it to the bathtub and collapsed next to it; leaning over the side. She was still so fucking tired. Maybe she could close her eyes for just one more minute.
When the noises in the bathroom stopped, Adrik got to his feet and peeked around the door frame. What he saw made him sigh. Walking into the room, Adrik eased her into a sitting position and knelt beside her. "Would you like to bathe, My Lady?" he inquired softly, so as not to disturb her probably pounding head.
She allowed the tub to support her weight and leaned her head back to look up at the ceiling. "Well, that was the intent, yes." Vreni let out a deep sigh and ran a hand down her face.
"Very well." Reaching out he turned on the bath so that the water was warm but not too hot and sat back on his heels again to watch her. "Would you like some assistance?" he inquired with a chuckle and a teasing wiggle of his eyebrows.
"Not if you are going to make that face the whole time," she told him jokingly.
Chuckling again, Adrik wiped a hand down his face revealing a stoic mask for her, "Better?" he asked seriously.
Laughing in spite of herself, she lifted her head, "I think that will do."
Smiling only slightly at her mirth, he reached around her and grabbed the hem of her grown. Lifting it over her head, he tossed it to the side and helped her to her feet. "Here," he murmured as he placed her hands on his shoulders. Once he knew she was steady, he bent and slowly pushed down her underwear. When they fell to her ankles, Adrik lifted her up and placed her gently into the warm water.
Vreni let out a satisfied moan as she relaxed into the tub. Lifting an eyelid, she watched him a moment before settling in.
Adrik held in his amusement and got up to fetch a cup. When he returned, he moved behind her and scooped up a cup of water before running it over her hair. The light locks were tangled from her long sleep but he didn't bother with them too much yet as he lathered his hands in soap and began to scrub her hair.
Sighing happily, she could feel sleep tugging at her as his hands ran through her hair. "You're really rather good at that," she mentioned, mostly to keep herself awake.
"Barbershops are really a rather good place to learn things," he replied as he rinsed her hair. Once all of the suds were washed out, he pushed her head gently forward so that he could also scrub the back without risking the threat of soap in her eyes. Once he was sure her locks were clean, he rinsed her hair one last time before going back around to her side.
Resting her arms on either side of the tub, she watched him come back around. She gave a small stretch and popped her sore neck. "You know," she mused, "you are a lot more reliable than I figured you would be." She gave him a look of appraisal. "If you are trying to get on my good side," she slid down into the tub, "you and your charming self are doing a marvelous job."
Settling down on the floor beside the tub, Adrik couldn't help his laugh. "I'm not the best for show," he replied self-assuredly and leaned his back against the tub tiredly. "Do you need help washing or do you think you can manage?" he asked her, teasing once again.
She smiled. The man was fucking full of himself. At his question, she looked down at herself and appeared to consider it. The amount of effort it would take to wash herself right now sounded very draining. And the man was already here and offering. "If you want to, I don't plan on stopping you," she stated lazily.
Responding to her tone with his own lazy smile, Adrik moved back to his feet and pulled out a cloth. "Very well," he said as he soaped it up. "Do I need to make the face again?" he asked jokingly but didn't give her time to respond before starting at the top. Rubbing her neck and shoulders with the rag in his hands, he sighed, "We can't have you wandering around only half clean and sore from your nap." As soon as she really woke up, the woman was going to be livid. And making sure that she felt rested and refreshed was a good way to ensure she didn't kill them all.
Vreni rolled her eyes at him and tilted her head to the side so he could get her neck. She hummed apathetically at him and closed her eyes. He was quick on his feet, intelligently speaking, and he happened to be a real smooth talker. Everything he said was well thought out and deliberate. Surely the man had some underlying motive but she couldn't be bothered to figure it out. There would be plenty of time for that in the morning.
With no further retort to respond to, the dark-haired man quietly set about his work. Massaging his way down her left arm until he came to her hand, he then repeated the process on the other side. From there he scrubbed the other's back, kneading the tense muscles that remained until they were loose and malleable under his hands. "How long has it been," he asked her, "since you've had a chance to relax?" He thought the answer might be somewhere close to 10 years or so.
When he first began massaging her back, she frowned and ignored the pain it caused her but the pain quickly turned to pleasure as her muscles gave way under his touch. The laugh she gave him was sardonic in nature, "I do not have the luxury of such things." At every turn, a client needed her, one of her members needed her direction or discipline, or someone was attempting to kill her. Not to mention the worn out battles with the Adari and Stryker. There was too much to do and not nearly enough time to get it done in. If it wasn't one thing, it was always another. But she had accepted this life when she chose to take her father's place and she by no means regretted that decision.
Adrik raised an eyebrow at her; he remained unconvinced. "No?" he asked as he pushed her gently forward a second time so that he might reach her lower back. Leaning around her so that she could see him peripherally, he questioned her response, "Not even now?" He did not think the woman realized that she did not have to do everything, and she most certainly did not need to do it all herself.
She leaned forward to her knees as his hands moved lower and sighed dramatically, "You've found me out Adrik. I enjoy bathing." But as she seriously contemplated his original question, she did come to some sort of conclusion, "I suppose I do manage to find moments of respite from time to time."
Moving around the tub, Adrik reached into the water and lifted a leg. The woman really did have a wonderful physique. "I think," he said seriously, "that's not quite what I meant." Using the cloth, the assassin rubbed between her toes and massaged the pads of her feet as well. "Who checks your rooms?" he asked her, though he thought he already knew the answer.
Fully prepared to have him explain what the hell he had meant, his next words made her wary. Momentarily wondering how that mattered, she let out a sigh, "I do," of course.
Adrik nodded and hummed in acknowledgment of her statement; he was not surprised. "And how often are you able to sit and do your worked undisturbed for more than an hour or two?" Throughout the past few days, there had been numerous knocks on the door from people looking for the Dragonfly. Things that could have, perhaps, been handled by another. Not pausing in his work, Adrik made his way up the woman's right calf and thigh. He would likely need more soap. It seemed the water had washed most of it out.
Now she was curious to know what he was getting at. "I am trying to run a city," she said curtly. "Being disturbed is part of my work. There is much to be done." She made all of the major decisions, and when one needed to be made, she had to do it then. If she all of a sudden told everyone to stop coming to her, there was no telling what would happen in her absence. She just couldn't leave those airheads to themselves. They would just as soon kill each other as they would come to an agreement to solve a situation.
The assassin nodded once again, unperturbed by her tone. Grabbing the soap, he lathered the rag a second time and started on her other leg. "Understandable, of course," he agreed. He was used to being close to Stryker and witnessing how busy they were as leaders. Their jobs were similar, despite their differences in personality and intellect. After a moment of nothing but the sound of splashing, dripping water, he asked, "How often do you find yourself thinking that the issues being brought to you are not worthy of your very limited time? That they could be easily handled by a number of your other, closer members?" he asked her seriously, and he wondered how she would answer him.
Sighing yet again, she used a hand to rub her temples as her headache returned with a vengeance. "Is there a point to all of your tiresome questioning?" It was too late in the evening for her to be harassed by him.
When she didn't answer him, Adrik chuckled quietly. She was avoiding the question and that didn't surprise him in the least. "I apologize, My Lady," he stated gently as he moved past her thigh to wash thoroughly her stomach and chest. "I am merely attempting to familiarize myself with you and your habits," he answered vaguely. He would let her think about his questions and come to her own conclusion.
Because that's what an important person wanted to hear from one of the best assassins in the area. She lowered her hand and closed her eyes, "Aren't there others you could be doing that to?" She could give him a few suggestions as long as it meant he would leave her alone.
The Silent Fox shrugged his shoulders, unconcerned. "Perhaps, but none nearly as important," he answered with a smile as his hand paused at her navel. He gave her another chesire grin; a look of challenge, "Would you like to do the last bit or shall I?"
Somehow, she had a feeling he would say that. As his hand paused, she cracked an eye open at him. Seeing the smirk on his face, she offered him an insouciant shrug. "I have no desire to move. But if you would prefer not to, I could certainly manage."
The pout he gave her generally made women melt; he thought that getting such a reaction from her was unlikely. "So serious," Adrik commented as he washed the rest of her deliberately. She would learn to loosen up around him eventually. He was already seeing faint hints of her humor but she was a stoic, unflappable woman when she wasn't losing her temper.
Once he was satisfied with his task, he ran a few cups of water over her skin to be sure the soap was washed away before holding out a hand to her. "Stay in there too long and you'll prune," he warned her with a grin.
Placing one of her hands in his, she raised an eyebrow at him, "That certainly would not be my fault since someone took their sweet time cleaning me." She stood and clutched his hand tightly to keep herself upright.
"It was very sweet," he acknowledged with a chuckle before lifting her out of the tub to set her on her feet next to the sink. With something to balance herself with, he left her only briefly to retrieve a towel before returning to her side. "Hold on," he murmured as he set about drying her.
Mostly using the sink to support herself, she only had to use his shoulder as he dried her legs. Vreni yawned and was prepared to go back to sleep for the remainder of the night.
Once he had her sufficiently dried, Adrik hung up the towel to dry, as well as the rag, and disappeared out into her bedroom to find her something clean to wear. He came back with clothing similar to what she'd been wearing before her bath but failed to bring her underwear. "I know what you're thinking," he said as he watched her yawn again. "But before that, something much more important." Helping her back to bed, he left her there again momentarily before reappearing with a plate full of food.
She eyed the man as he claimed to know what she was thinking. Clearly, he had meant her desire to sleep, but at that point in time, she was fully considering just sleeping naked. It would be less of a hassle.
Vreni allowed him to guide her to bed and she curled up in it as he vanished. Her eyes had closed the moment she laid down.
Seeing that she had already made herself comfortable, Adrik shook his head and set the plate down for a moment to check on her. Shaking her lightly, he waited to see if she was still awake.
His touch woke her and she squinted up at him. She spoke one word in protest, "What?"
Chuckling, he grabbed the plate he had prepared and held it out to her. "I thought you might want this first," he told her.
Torn between exhaustion and her newfound hunger, she narrowed her eyes at the plate, but eventually, hunger won. Taking the plate from him, she ate quickly, yet carefully, so she could get back to sleep.
Adrik stayed by her side until she finished what was on her plate and took the dish without complaint once she was done. "Sleep well, My Lady," he told her before leaving the room to clean up the mess in her small kitchen.
After she watched the man leave, she properly got into bed and got comfortable. It wasn't much later that she fell asleep once more.