Ashes of Fate, Season 2

by Cynus

Episode 9


Tristan was doing the best he could to slide his clothes onto his still damp body, but it was proving more difficult than he had anticipated. When Finn and Max had burst into the pool room and told the group that they needed to make haste back to the Capitol as quickly as possible, Tristan had lost his focus. He and Micah had been sneaking private moments whenever the others' backs were turned, and he was both aroused and worried at the same time.

Micah seemed to be less affected by the news that something had happened to end their vacation early. He had calmly gotten out of the water and shifted his skin slightly to let the water slide off of him, and then had begun to dress. He was almost completely done, and Tristan had barely managed to get his underwear on. He took a note from his boyfriend's example and took several calming breaths before heating up his skin in an effort to dry himself faster.

Finn was pacing anxiously as he glanced back at the others, and Max was trying to console him which is when Tristan first heard the news that something had happened at all. "We don't know anything, Finn," Max said, laying a hand on Finn's shoulder and holding him in place so that he stopped pacing briefly. "How do you know it was an attack? Lieutenant Williams said that Ivan disappeared, he didn't say that Ivan was attacked."

"You know why they were there, Max," Finn said with a shake of his head. "Ivan had plans to be in the capitol for the duration of our excursion out here. How can we trust that he's all right?"

"Look, I'm not saying that we don't need to go back, I'm saying that you need to calm down," Max said with a forced smile. "It wouldn't be the first time that Ivan lied to us either about what his plans were when he wanted to do something else we wouldn't approve of. Do you remember when he snuck off to meet that woman in North Dakota? You expressly forbade that he meet with her alone as she requested, and then he went anyway."

"You really think that he would use that as a lie?" Finn asked incredulously. "Of all the things that he could use…"

"He'd use the one you approved of the least that he knew you wouldn't want to be around for," Max interrupted. "Now come on, as soon as the boys are ready we'll go."

"Sorry for taking so long," Zach offered. He was even further behind than Tristan and getting his clothing ready, and was still attempting to towel off. "If you want I can just carry my clothes and I'll dress when we're flying back."

"If Tristan is willing as well, then let's do that," Finn said with a nod. Max was shaking his head but Finn turned back toward him and said gently, "I know you think I'm overreacting, Max, but... I have a really bad feeling about this. We need to get back there as soon as we possibly can. There is no doubt about it this time. Something has happened."

Max nodded slowly and turned to Tristan. "Grab your clothes and let's go. We need to hurry." He then turned to Luke and Hayden and said, "Can the two of you go get the aircraft ready? We'll follow."

Luke and Hayden shared a look and then Hayden took off at a run. Luke turned back to Max and said, "He'll pick us up in the garden, assuming you want to leave as quickly as possible."

"Very good," Finn said, directing everyone toward the outer door. "You three can finish dressing there." Tristan, Micah, and Zach nodded and Finn turned toward Jacob with a raised eyebrow, "Jacob? How are you at sensing other presences?"

"It's one of my specialties," Jacob said as he fell into step beside Finn who was starting to move toward the door. "I can normally discern if something is there without much of a problem, and I can also generally tell its nature without too much time."

"Good. When we get back I'm going to need to and Zach to head to Peter's room and see if you can sense anything," Finn said as the boys caught up to him. "I'm going to be interviewing my staff to see what they know, and I'd love a head start on finding out what happened at the source."

Tristan stumbled at what he had just heard, but it was Luke who beat him to the question. "Peter's room? What would Ivan be doing in Peter's room?"

Finn looked back to meet Max's eyes temporarily as he held the door for the rest of them to file out into the garden. Max sighed and nodded, and Finn addressed the group as they moved to where the garden opened up to an area wide enough for the aircraft to land. "Ivan offered to perform a wish ritual for Peter in order to give Peter what he had always wanted. Ethan and Nevala were assisting in the ritual, which is why they stayed behind."

"Why didn't we know about this?" Jacob asked indignantly. "We're his friends and we should have been there to support him!"

"Peter and Ivan agreed that it was best not to get everyone involved in case the ritual didn't work," Max explained with a shrug. "The last thing Peter wanted was to be fed hope from his friends and then have that hope fail to bring about the desired result."

Jacob and Luke continued to press Max and Finn for details while Tristan and Micah shared a long look. They reached a wide point in the grass to wait for Hayden, and Zach moved up to join them while he continued to dress. "What is that all about?" Zach asked, nodding toward the others. "What in the world did Peter do? I'm totally confused."

"Peter's wanted to become a man. He always has," Micah said with a shrug. "I guess he finally found a way to accomplish that."

"What do you mean? Peter's always been a man…" Zach began, but then he saw Tristan shaking his head and stopped. "You mean Peter has been a woman this whole time?" He asked incredulously. "Wow. I never would have guessed that."

"Yeah… Peter has always concealed it well," Micah offered. "Um, does that bother you?"

"Whatever works for him… er… her?" Zach said, scratching his head.

"Peter's male, just stick with him, all right?" Tristan said with a smile. "What are you doing anyway, Zach. You're supposed to be getting dressed. You know I've seen you naked a thousand times, advertising it some more isn't going to make things any different."

Zach's eyes flashed angrily as he scoffed, "Seriously? That was a low blow, Tris." He shook his head and started pulling on his pants quickly, "Fine. I'll stop wasting your time. Maybe I should have stayed missing from your life."

"Zach!" Tristan called out as Zach stormed away, his shirt in his hands. Micah placed a hand on Tristan's arm when Tristan started after him and shook his head.

"That really was unnecessary, Tris," Micah said with a shake of his head. "I have a reputation for having a mouth, but since getting to know you I've gotten a lot better at that bad habit. There's absolutely no need for you to acquire it."

Tristan opened his mouth to respond but Micah silenced him with a kiss. "You're going to have to figure out how to make things up to him. He's your brother, and you really shouldn't fight him like this," Micah said before patting Tristan's cheek. He glanced up and Tristan followed the look, seeing that Hayden had arrived with the aircraft. "It's time to go, but we'll talk about this later," Micah said with a tone that left no room for argument.

As Tristan nodded he glanced back at Zach who was sullenly finishing getting dressed and he wondered if he was already too late.

Micah paced around the room, collecting scents from every corner and trying to make sense of what his nostrils were telling him. There had been four people in the room for sure, which accounted for his missing friends and Iva, as well as a feline of some variety. Judging from the fur it had been a tiger. The scent of the fur was reminiscent of Peter, though Peter's human scent was also present. There was the possibility of another scent as well, though that one seemed to be coming from all corners of the room at once, as if whomever it belonged to had somehow managed to occupy the entire space at once.

Tristan and Zach were avoiding each other's eyes, and Micah tried to not be distracted by that fact. He needed to keep himself focused on the task at hand if he was going to help Ethan, Peter, and Nevala, but his lover and Zach were not making things easy. He almost stopped and screamed at them to stop when Finn opened the door and stepped through.

"They took Nurim as well. Kidnapped him right out of his cell without even opening the door," Finn announced, looking around the room and shaking his head. "Everything was perfect, like they were let in. I had three guards posted at Nurim's cell after what happened last time, and none of them knew each other well enough to be conspirators. I'm sure something else is going on here."

Micah glanced at the others as they digested the information. Hayden and Luke had been talking quietly in the corner but they quickly came to attention at Finn's announcement. When the group had surveyed the scene in the room, it had been obvious that there was something nefarious going on, but with the knowledge that Nurim was gone as well they had an idea as to who.

Tristan and Zach seemed almost to not hear the words at all, and Micah decided to ignore them with equal dedication as he turned to Finn, intending to offer up his own report on the scents in the room when Jacob beat him to it. "I did find something interesting, though I have to admit there is a lot more than just one thing that was interesting here," Jacob explained. He gestured at the large canvas with the circles that had been used for the wish ritual. "What they hell was all of this used for, anyway? This is some pretty serious ritual stuff they had going on in here."

"Jacob, I need you to focus on the task at hand," Finn said impatiently, though his eyes looked at the canvas with disgust as he added, "We can talk about the ritual later."

"Well, aside from the fur that is covering the canvas," Jacob said with a smirk, "I also sensed the presence of something I've never sensed before. It's definitely got the taste of European magic to it. The same as witches use." He shook his head and then looked up at Finn's eyes. "Whatever it was, it wasn't human, which rules out witches themselves."

Finn sighed as he ran his hand over his shaved scalp. He looked out the window and cursed. "I know what it is then, and it's the worst possible answer," he kicked the wall in front of him in frustration as he turned back to the group and continued, "Nightshade sent a Goblin after Ivan. I bet I even know which one it was, too. Fucking Sparrow," he growled and shut his eyes, focusing for a moment as he inhaled deeply. "Yeah, I can smell his stench…"

"Sparrow?" Jacob asked, taking a step back in surprise as his eyes widened. "No… It can't be."

"What?" Finn asked, distracted. He shook his head and went on, "No, he's not dead. Reports of his demise are usually exaggerated."

"Wait?" Micah asked when the room returned to silence. Luke and Hayden had been nodding along and following, and Jacob was suddenly filled with resignation. He could see that neither Zach nor Tristan knew the name either, but they also weren't about to ask. "Who is Sparrow?"

"The most notorious trickster Nightshade has to offer," Finn explained with a growl. "I'm not surprised you haven't heard of the name 'Sparrow' though. He changes his name up every decade or so."

"So now we're facing a trickster?" Micah asked. "That must be the other scent I got then. All of the others were here, though. Ivan, Nevala, Ethan, Peter… a tiger."

"A tiger?' Luke interjected. "What the hell? Do you mean Peter was shifted?"

"Judging from the amount of fur I'd guess not," Micah replied with a shrug. "The tiger and Peter were separate."

"That aside," Finn began with an impatient wave of his hand, "I'm going to have to work out a rescue mission. At the moment, all I know is that we'll be headed to Europe, and I would appreciate your assistance in this matter. I understand if you refuse, but remember, we'd be rescuing your friends as well and not just Ivan."

"Of course," Hayden replied immediately. "We won't leave Ethan and Peter behind, not to mention Nevala, no matter what the stakes may be. If we have to rescue Ivan as part of the deal, we can accept that."

"Definitely," Luke agreed. "Will you be the only one coming with us, or is Max coming as well?"

"That is up to Max. I know that for this mission he'd want to come, but at the same time, he'll need to make sure the government is running with him gone," Finn said with a grimace. "I am planning on bringing a small security detail as well, assuming you are willing to take them in your aircraft."

"The last time we took a trip that long we went down in Canada," Hayden said with a grimace. "I don't know that the ship will survive crossing the ocean. I'm going to need some time to get her ready."

"I'll help you," Luke said and then nodded at Finn, "We'll have it running as fast as possible, and let you know when we're ready to leave."

"Understood," Finn said with a nod. "And the rest of you?" He asked as Luke and Hayden stepped through the door. Micah and Tristan shared a look that left Micah nodding as he turned back to Finn.

"We're in, of course. We wouldn't miss it," Micah replied.

"Whatever you need, I'll do it," Jacob said resolutely. "All three of my friends are people I owe my continued existence to, and I wouldn't dare leave them behind. Just tell me what you need and I'll be there."

"For now, the four of you can prepare for the trip," Finn said with a nod. "Gather whatever you think you'll need. You know your talents better than I do, and feel free to tell the soldiers of anything you require. Our full resources will be made available to you."

"That's very generous," Micah replied when no one else spoke up. "I'll make sure we're ready by whenever you need us."

"Meet me back here in an hour," Finn said with a nod as he started toward the door. "I'm going to go investigate Nurim's cell personally, and then I will go through my final check in here."

"Understood," Jacob said and then looked at Zach. "Come on, let's go see what sort of weapons we can get for you. This mission is going to require a lot more than just a knife, I think."

"I…" Zach said, glancing up at Tristan briefly, "I'm not sure if I…" He paused and shook his head. "Never mind. Let's go get ready."

Micah watched them go with a blank expression, not sure what to make of Zach's final words. After what Zach had said in the garden, Micah knew that Zach was not feeling as if he were part of the group, despite Jacob's efforts at including him at all times. Of course, the problem lay in how Tristan was treating him, and that was something the Micah intended to address at his earliest convenience. For the time being, however, they had more important things to worry about.

There wasn't much that he could think of that they would need aside from basic provisions, and those could be easily supplied, but there was one thing that he wanted to take that was back in their room. He started toward the door when he noticed that Tristan was not following, and instead was staring at the open doorway forlornly.

"What's going on, Tris?" Micah asked. Tristan seemed startled by the question and then started toward the door. Micah was left standing in the center of the room, wondering what was going through his lover's mind.

"Are you coming?" Tristan asked over his shoulder, stopping at the door and staring back at Micah expectantly.

"Tris, I just asked you a question and you ignored me," Micah said, unmoving. "Until you tell me what's going on, I'm not going to leave this room."

Tristan turned around and faced Micah, scratching his head. "I'm sorry, Micah. I honestly didn't hear you. I just thought you asked me if I was coming or not. What did you ask?"

Micah smiled and shook his head, "You know what? Forget I said anything. I think you're just distracted, and that's okay. Just figure out how to make things up to Zach, okay?"

"Zach?" Tristan asked as Micah walked past him. "Why are you so concerned about him? Aren't you worried about him being in love with me?"

"If I thought you had a chance of leaving me, sure," Micah said as he turned around to kiss Tristan passionately. "But I know that's not going to happen," he continued as he pulled away, "Besides, he's your brother and you love him. Don't forget that."

Tristan nodded and slipped his hand into Micah's as they left the room. They continued in that manner as they returned to their own room and gathered together a few minor things. "Come to think of it, there isn't much that we need, is there?' Tristan asked as he looked around the room.

Micah's eyes settled on the bookshelf and he remembered what he had come back for specifically, though he wanted to surprise Tristan with it. There was no way he could think of to get Tristan out of the room, however, other than telling him to leave outright. Then he thought of Zach and realized that he would be able to kill two birds with one stone.

"Hey, why don't you go see if Zach and Jacob need anything and then you can talk to him?" Micah suggested.

"And then you'll do what? Keep Jacob busy?" Tristan asked with a grin.

"Actually, I was thinking I could go help Finn get things ready," Micah offered with a shrug. "Give you guys some time alone. I'm sure that Jacob will be understanding and give you guys some space."

Tristan nodded and moved to leave, but then he spun around and dashed toward Micah, kissing him hard on the lips. "Thank you for taking care of me, Micah. I love you."

Micah was so stunned that he didn't even notice Tristan leave, but when he did, he found himself smiling wider than he ever had in his life. He turned toward the bookcase and retrieved the copy of Grimm's fairy tales that Tristan had fallen in love with before. He hoped that Ivan wouldn't miss it for the time that they were gone, despite the fact that it was probably more valuable than anything Micah had ever owned. He carefully slid it into a backpack and then slung the pack over his shoulder.

He stood and then left the room, figuring that he might as well act on his word and go find Finn. After all, Zach and Tristan did need time to patch things up, and the sooner the better. Micah knew better than anyone how important it was to treat family correctly while they were around.

The engines were old. Two decades old, and had seen a lot of use over that time. Although Luke had been the one to design them in the first place, Hayden had been the one that had put them together and kept them running through all those years, and now that Luke was inside of them he was surprised at how good of a job his husband had done.

Without the resources of Area 51 which had built the aircraft in the first place, Hayden had been forced to replace some of the original parts with other materials, and Luke was stunned to see it all working together. Everything still seemed to be in order, as far as he could tell. With how far it had been modified from the original design, there was a lot that Luke was unsure of, but he trusted Hayden's judgment, and he would have to ask him to look it over before he closed off the engine again.

"Hey, you guys need any help?"

Luke poked his head out from around the turbine and saw Max smiling at him from a few feet away. He was dressed in plain clothes and carrying a toolbox. Luke grinned at him and wiped his dirty hands on the rag next to him before extending the hand to Max.

Max shook Luke's hand eagerly as Luke replied, "Sure. I'd love to have someone else in here who knows what he's doing. At least then I'd have a second opinion to validate what I think. It's been a long time since I've been this deep inside of these engines."

Nodding, Max stepped up beside Luke as they discussed the inner workings of the engine. It didn't take long for Luke to gain an appreciation of Max's knowledge and skill, and by the time Hayden walked around from the other side of the craft to see what all the noise was about, Luke and Max were laughing like they were old friends.

"Max," Hayden said pleasantly as he clapped Max on the shoulder. "Welcome to the crew. I see you've met the engineer who built her. Has he been giving you the tour?"

"Yep," Max replied with a grin, but then the smile fell and his tone grew serious as he continued. "Look, I know you guys don't have to do this to help us rescue Ivan, but we really don't have the resources to get us across the ocean undetected by Nightshade. Your baby here," he added while slapping the side of the aircraft, "Is all we have. Thank you for your help."

"Did you forget that our friends are in trouble too, Max?" Hayden asked with a solemn expression. "Of course we're going to help. Now let's just get over there and take care of this thing as quickly as possible. I may have been fighting Skinwalker all these years, but I've never cared much for Nightshade. That old werewolf blood is not my cup of tea."

"You've faced Wers from Nightshade before?' Max asked with a bit of surprise, but then he began nodding and said, "Oh right, at the beginning of the war they were all over the place. I'm sorry, working with the two of you I actually started to forget that we were enemies once."

Luke smiled warmly and replied, "Honestly, I was starting to as well. I didn't think I would reach that point, but truth is, I like you, Max."

"Hey, no time for getting sappy," Hayden interjected as the others chuckled at the comment. "We've got work to do. Have the others found where we're headed yet?"

"After Finn finished with investigating Nurim's cell he was going to try to follow Ivan's spirit trail," Max replied. "I'm sure he's probably doing that now, and most likely he wanted Jacob there for backup in case things became hectic in the spirit realm. With Ivan and Nevala both gone, Jacob is the only other person here who could really help Finn at all."

"Why, because he's a ghost?" Luke asked.

"That would be the reason, yes. Finn is hoping that Ivan was able to leave an energy trail when he was removed from Peter's room," Max explained. "Even if Sparrow teleported them across the ocean as he is quite capable of, Ivan would have left a trail through the Aether that Finn could follow. Jacob, being a ghost, naturally travels through the aether whenever he wishes to. When he flickers out of sight and then reappears, that's how he's moving."

Luke shook his head at the explanation, not sure if he had followed it. "You know," he began, looking at Hayden with a touch of remorse, "I never really thought about it before, but I don't know all that much about Jacob. I mean, I know who he is as a person, but I don't know a lot about what he is. I've never asked him what it feels like to be a ghost. Maybe I should have before now."

"I always kind of viewed it as being like asking a person who's in a wheelchair about how they ended up like that. I thought it was disrespectful to ask," Hayden said with a shrug. "You're right though. I confess that I really have no idea how he does things, and we've been working together for a long time."

"The one thing I've learned in politics, is that you don't get answers if you don't ask questions," Max said with a dry chuckle. "Or maybe I learned that from Finn. Sometimes I can't be certain whether it is my experience or his that I need to listen to."

"Why not both?" Luke asked, glancing at Hayden. "I've learned more from the shared experience with my husband than I did on my own. He's definitely my better half."

"Oh no, here's the sappiness again," Hayden replied, rolling his eyes. But then he leaned over and kissed Luke on the cheek. "I'll let you two get back to work. I'm going to check out the rear engines. Um, before I do, any word on when we'll be leaving?"

"Finn will probably send Micah up here as soon as he knows more. He's the fastest runner and certainly the one that can get us fired up and good to go as quickly as possible," Max replied. Hayden nodded and stepped away, and once again Luke was left alone with Max. Luke watched as Max seemed to focus inwardly for a brief moment until Hayden disappeared around the back end of the aircraft. Hayden had triggered a thought in him, and that fact was piquing Luke's curiosity.

"Is everything all right, Max?" Luke asked when Max didn't turn back to him. "Max?" He asked again, and this time Max faced him, blinking several times before blushing.

"Sorry. Just thinking about how good the two of you are together. I envy you," Max said with a shrug. "Finn and I are so busy working our own things that we never have time to do projects like this together." He gestured to the aircraft and then added, "I wish we were more together than we are."

"What's stopping you?" Luke asked. "Time is exactly as available as you want it to be. Priorities are everything. If you want to be with him, be with him."

"Work gets in the way…" Max protested, but Luke laid a hand on his arm to stop him.

"Then stop working. Can't others run Ivan's affairs?" Luke asked with a supportive smile. "Seriously. If you want to do it, you've got to be the one that steps up and says you need to."

Max's mouth scrunched to one side as he thought about what Luke was saying. Luke smiled and shook his head before returning his attention to the engine, knowing that Max would speak when he felt the need to. He knew that his own relationship with Hayden had been through the same thing before, but he didn't want to bog Max down with that detail. The secret, he had learned, was that if someone wanted something out of the relationship, it was their responsibility to try to make it happen.

"I'll think about it," Max said at length, "But not until after we rescue Ivan. Someone has to run the country if Ivan doesn't come back. If that has to be me…" he trailed off and shook his head, chuckling mirthlessly.

"Then at least Finn can captain your security detail and you'll be together all the time," Luke said with a grin, and was pleased when Max giggled at the thought. "Come on and help me clean this fan. The sooner we get this thing running at peak condition, the sooner you and the love of your life will be together nonstop. Priorities, Max. It's the only way to get what you want."

"Zach, I'm sorry about what I said earlier."

Zach looked up and met Tristan's eyes, first feeling surprise at his brother's sudden appearance but then he found nothing but suspicion. Tristan certainly didn't seem apologetic, at least not yet. The only emotion that Zach could read was guilt, and that wasn't enough for Zach.

"Yeah, I'm sure you are," Zach said bitterly. "You're about as sorry as I am over what I said. Problem is, I actually meant what I said, and you did too. You can't pretend that you wish I hadn't come back into your life, at least not the way that I did. You've been trying to get rid of me ever since I told you that I loved you. What exactly am I supposed to do with that, Tris?"

"Zach…" Tristan replied, shaking his head. "That isn't true. I was happier than I've been in a long time to know that you were alive and healthy. But now… I guess it's just awkward for me and I don't know how to handle it."

"Awkward for you?" Zach said with raised eyebrows. "How do you think this has affected me? In all this time, I've been thinking that I lost you, and then in telling you what that loss meant to me I managed to lose you for real. This is beyond awkward for me, it's devastating."

"What can I do to make it up to you?" Tristan asked, his eyes pleading. Zach looked away, knowing that he couldn't face the emotion he saw there. While Zach had been acting out of bitterness, he now knew that Tristan was legitimately sorrowful for having hurt him. Tristan had been in the wrong, but Zach hadn't been doing any better.

"I don't know," Zach said honestly, keeping his eyes glued on the floor, "Nothing you've said or done has changed how I feel about you. I wish things could be different, but I guess they can't be. No amount of begging, no amount of waiting, is going to make any difference. You just don't feel the same way about me as I do about you. Maybe I should stay behind when you lea…"

Zach's words were cut off as Tristan gripped his chin and kissed him. The act was so surprising that Zach stood stunned for a few seconds as Tristan kissed him again, but then Zach was pushing Tristan back and staring at him with wide eyes. Tristan's eyes were full of lustful energy and his hands reached out to rest atop Zach's hips as he pulled in close and ground their crotches together.

"What the hell are you doing?" Zach asked, attempting to push Tristan away, but with sudden strength Tristan pushed back, throwing Zach down onto the bed and then quickly ripping Zach's shirt open wide. He hungrily bent over Zach's chest and began devouring his right nipple while his hands frantically worked on Zach's belt. "Tris! Stop! This isn't right! This isn't how it's supposed to be!"

"Zach! Stop!" Micah shouted as he pinned Zach to the bed. Zach was sweating profusely, and when he looked up into Micah's blue eyes which were full of concern, he wondered if he had been dreaming. He looked down and saw that he was still fully clothed, though he was definitely showing signs of arousal. He glanced around the room, noticing the way that Tristan and Jacob were looking at him with equal degrees of embarrassment and concern.

"What the hell happened?" Zach asked as he waved Micah away.

"We came in here to check one last time for any further clues on what happened to Ivan and the others," Finn explained as he rose from a seating position behind Micah so that Zach saw him for the first time. "I started delving into the energies in the room, and you were standing next to me. I'm afraid you were hit with a mixture of Djinn and Goblin juice. The good news is that you're going to be all right now."

"Wait, so you… heard all of that?" Zach asked with an embarrassed smirk.

"Saw, actually," Jacob clarified. Zach gasped and looked away, and Jacob coughed before addressing Finn. "So, did you get what you needed?"

"Yes. Ivan left me a trail that I can follow, though I will need to send you," Finn replied with a nod. "I can't go myself and stay there, and I'm thinking that it would be best if I can send someone that can gather intelligence while we're on our way."

"You'll have to send me? Won't that mean separating me from the knife?" Jacob asked, glancing nervously back at Zach who subconsciously reached down to cradle the hilt of his knife in the palm of his hand. "I don't like the idea of being separated from the only piece of Kurt that I have left."

"I'll reconnect you as soon as we're on the other side," Finn promised, smiling reassuredly. "They're in Switzerland at the moment, and I know a man who can get us there quickly. Reuniting with you should not be a problem. Since Luke and Hayden are busy doing maintenance on our transportation, I'm sure the journey itself will go over smoothly as well."

Jacob looked at Zach, and then Tristan and Micah. The latter two shrugged and Jacob turned back to Zach who was remaining motionless from his position on the bed, the knife held in a death grip in his hands. Jacob glanced down and then back up at Zach's eyes, a question in his gaze. "It's your decision, Jacob," Zach said slowly. "I'll take good care of the knife for you while we're separated if you choose to go through with it."

"Is there no other way that we can rescue them?" Jacob asked when he turned back to Finn.

"Our chances of success would be greatly increased by you choosing to go through with this," Finn replied solemnly. "We need an inside man, and you're all we've got."

Jacob nodded slowly, and then said with a grimace. "Very well. I'll do it. I owe Ethan and Peter that much. Send me."

Finn stepped forward and put his gloved hand on Jacob's chest, and then began chanting as Jacob's form flickered and began to become insubstantial. The knife grew warm in Zach's hand as he held on, praying that Jacob would be all right. And then in a moment it was done, and Jacob was gone. The knife grew colder than it had ever felt, and once again Zach was left alone.

As Tristan's guilty eyes settled on his own, however, he realized something. Although it had been a dream, some part of it had been based on reality. Tristan's eyes were filled with sorrow, pain, and…

Zach let his eyes drop, unwilling to accept the love that Tristan was trying to send his way. It wasn't the kind of love he wanted from Tristan, and he knew it would never be. One thing that was certain, however, was that he now could not stay behind. He owed it to Jacob to make the journey with the others. As much as it pained him to stay with Tristan, he needed to see this through to the end.

Cells lined the walls, warded cells that he could not get into no matter how hard he tried, though he could at least see their occupants. Ethan, Nevala, Peter, Nurim and Ivan all had separate cells on the same side, preventing them from seeing each other, though they would speak to each other on occasion from the front of their cells.

Their accommodations were nice, considering they were prisons. The beds appeared to be soft at least, and they were fed regularly. Jacob wished that he could manifest his form physically, but it didn't seem like an option. He was as formless as he had been when the shaman in Canada had disenchanted Kurt's knife several months before. As far as he knew, he existed somewhere deeper in the Aether than he had before. He was acting as a poltergeist.

That should have given him a greater control over objects, but it didn't allow him to affect the cells at all. Something powerful had made sure that the cells were impenetrable to spirits. He doubted it was as much a matter of keeping the souls out as it was about containing those who could touch the spirit realm. Ivan and Nevala were both shamans of a sort, and without the dampening effects of the wards, they were likely to be without their powers. At several points Nevala manifested a flame for some reason or another, proving that at least he had some capability, but that did not allow him to see Jacob or interact with him.

And so Jacob spent his time investigating the complex instead of the cells. It was a heavily defended manor house in the heart of Nightshade territory. He had heard the man in charge of the house speaking to someone via telephone, but with only being able to catch half of the conversation, which was also in German, Jacob wasn't completely certain of what to make of the situation.

He knew they were in Switzerland, and that they were waiting for a representative from Nightshade to arrive, but otherwise there wasn't a great deal of detail to find out. Sparrow had left after dropping Ivan and the others off, and the house owner didn't know when Sparrow was meant to come back. It appeared that Sparrow came and left when he wanted to, and though it annoyed the house owner, there was little he could do about it.

Most of the soldiers who guarded the place were unaware of the identity of the prisoners held in the basement dungeon, but there were plenty of rumors being bantered about the manor. Most assumed that it was a rebel leader who had been captured, which surprised Jacob a great deal. From his understanding, Nightshade had eradicated all rebellion over a decade ago. Even the Nine Dragons had given up hope on defeating Nightshade, and had all but abandoned Europe.

The fact that there was still a rebellion, however, was something exciting, and it also gave a contextual basis for Nightshade's plan on committing genocide against the human race. The humans had to be making great strides if they were threatening Nightshade enough to make them take such drastic measures.

Jacob wished that he could communicate that fact to his friends somehow, but whenever he returned to the cell block he could only watch his friends slowly deteriorate. Peter seemed the most bothered by his confinement, and Jacob often found him pacing his cell. A fact he found strangely fitting considering the tiger that Jacob had also found in another portion of the manner, locked in a cage. The tiger seemed to match Peter's pacing; whenever one of them was moving, the other one was moving in the opposite direction. It was clear they were connected, and Jacob took it as a sign that the wish ritual had been effective.

The tiger was the closest thing Jacob had to being able to interact with the others. Its cage was not warded, and its animal senses seemed to be able to pick up on Jacob's presence whenever he chose to stop by. Every so often, Jacob would move to the room that held the tiger and simply watch the beast, though he rarely received more than a growl in his direction.

It was on one of these excursions that he caught movement out of the corner of his eye, down a long hallway that intersected the tiger's room. Jacob turned toward the movement cautiously, waiting for it to appear again. He was not disappointed, and a form moved through the hallway again, walking along an intersecting pathway in the distance. Jacob's eyes widened as he got a better look at the man, realizing suddenly why he seemed so out of place in the manor and why he was easily getting Jacob's attention.

Jacob raced down the hallway, looking down the path that the man had taken, and seeing him disappear into a room. There was no doubt about the man's identity now, and even though he was certain he was walking into a trap, Jacob had to find out what the man was doing here. It hadn't been long since he had lost Kurt, and his heart began to ache as he moved cautiously down the hallway, keeping his eyes open for any sign that the man was leaving the still open doorway.

Stepping inside, Jacob found the man sitting down to a large desk, a paper in his hand. Jacob was frozen in place as he stared at the man he never expected to see again. The last time that he had seen him, he had been lying dead in Tennessee. Faust had been killed by Jacob's own hand, Jacob was sure of it.

The door closed behind Jacob, and Jacob glanced back to see if someone else had entered, but was instead puzzled to find the room just as empty as it had been before. He turned to Faust again to see the old man looking up at him and grin. "Well, you're not supposed to be here, are you?" Faust asked with a dry chuckle.

Jacob backed away and then tried to run, but found his way blocked by the door. It was warded like the cells had been, and he knew then that the trap he had been afraid of had been sprung. He turned slowly back to Faust's sneering face, and sighed in resignation. "You caught me, Faust. Are you going to kill me too?"

Faust's wicked laughter was all Jacob needed to hear in order to answer that question. Knowing that he was doomed to his fate, he closed his eyes and waited.

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