A/N: I know, I know...I suck at updates and answering reviews and well just about everything. I'm sorry I've made you guys wait...again. I'll let you get to it and I'll meet you at the bottom. *Leaves to assume the position to grovel.*
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters or anything else here. I'm writing purely for shits and giggle purposes. Please don't sue.
One last thing, big shout out too my totally awesome Beta, slcurwin, for putting up with me. She laughs and all the right places and makes me feel so smart. Thanks! Also let's not forget my growing number of helpful interpreters, 94larkla for the Swedish and my Scottish sweetie Senga!
Adele was in shock. She never expected to see her grandson again, well not in this life time anyway. And never would she have guessed it'd be while at a bombing in Rhodes with him all gussied up as a firefighter. She sighed, 'My baby finally grew up and got responsible.'
Bull whined and huffed, nudging her side with his big head. He may not be able to communicate with words while shifted but he could still hear the thoughts of others in this form and had no problem getting his point across. Now was not the time for a family reunion, she needed to stay focused.
Gran refocused her attention back to the fire captain or chief; she wasn't really sure how to address him. "I think it would be best if we spoke in private," she said while giving wary looks to the other rescue workers that happened to be standing a little too close to be of any practical use.
The fire chief barked orders out to his men and added, "There's a crisis at hand, lives at stake and you ladies are standing around trying to get 'the good gossip'? If I catch any of you within fifteen feet of this meeting without being personally invited, you'll be cleaning the firehouse and EVERYTHING in it when we get back!" Then he turned his attention to Jason, "Not you Stackhouse. I'd like to know how exactly you can 'vouch' for this woman when you told me you had no family or friends to speak of."
Jason had the decency to cringe when Gran glared at him, but told his boss, "I never said I had no family exactly. I said I had no one at home who cared. They kinda disowned me back when I was still drinkin' and whorin' around Louisiana like an ol' Tom cat. You 'member what I was like, when Mel first brought me around."
Adele and the Fire Chief both said in unison, "We'll talk about this later." They then turned to each other and a small grin appeared on their faces.
"Carter Whitmore, ma'am," as he put out his hand, "Chief of firehouse 451 and this yahoo's father-in-law."
Gran shot another sharp look at Jason then put out her own hand. "Adele Stackhouse, the yahoo's grandmother and your solution to this catastrophe."
"Hell, I'll welcome any help I can get, but to be honest I'm not sure what you can do. We're all stumped. I've never seen smoke behave like this in all my days and I was in 'Nam and saw some hairy shit. This stuff just isn't normal and we have no clue how to get past it to get those people out. It's completely surrounded the perimeter of the hotel but so far, hasn't moved out more than ten feet from the entrance and as far as we can tell it hasn't moved inward either.
Octavia finally spoke up, "That would make sense considering as far as I can tell the original nature of the spell was for protection. It's been seriously modified though, either because of the explosion or the other magic's in play having an adverse effect. I won't know for sure until I can get a closer look at the original blast site. Do you know where it originated from?"
Chief Whitmore and Jason stared as though Octavia just broke out in song and started dancing a Broadway number. "Spell? Magic? Ma'am no offence meant but are you feeling well?"
Octavia and Adele resisted the urge to roll their eyes. It still truly astounded Adele that even after three years of vampires being 'out of the coffin' so to speak, most humans were still in blissful denial that anything else supernatural could be out there. The thought literally did not occur to most of them. She figured they were in for a surprise when Were's and Shifters made their existence finally known.
"Chief Whitmore let me ask you a question. You are aware that vampires have revealed themselves to the general population correct?" When he nodded and opened his mouth to say something, Adele put up a finger and continued with, "Then why is it that the idea of magic and spells makes you think we need our heads examined? You said that the smoke, not fire, but the smoke was not behaving as it should. There are a lot of things in this world that defy explanation by conventional means. Things and beings that science and humans simply cannot understand and most actively try not to, but today for the sake of those poor souls trapped in that building, human AND vampire alike, you are going to need to broaden your sense of reality to include things that you would normally pass off as hogwash. Now, do you think you'll be able to do that so we can move on with things? We are burning daylight standing around yammering and we need to get those people out before the vampires wake for the night. Scared doesn't look good on anyone, least of all vampires, understand?"
It took a moment for everything Adele said to completely sink in. Once it did things began moving quickly. Whitmore nodded, "Alright, I'll do the best I can. Where do we start?"
"That's all we ask for, we'll try to keep this…as uncomplicated as possible. First, is there a way for me to see the blast point? There is a lot of damage. Was it just one or were there more?" Octavia said directly.
"We're not entirely certain at this point because we haven't been able to interview all the witnesses yet. From what little we know, a fire was started at the ground level which caused the fire alarm to be pulled. Then approximately ten minutes later the explosion that did that," he pointed at the hole in the building, "occurred either on the third of fourth level taking a large portion of the building down. We believe that most of the human guests were evacuated beforehand but there are still employees and of course the vampires trapped inside. We have no way of knowing how many there are or where they're located. I can use one of the lifts to get you up to the same level as where the smoke is emerging from but I can't risk getting closer than thirty feet."
"Don't worry about locating those inside, we'll handle that part. We'll also be able to, if not stop the smoke, at least control it enough to get everyone to safety. We'll just need you and your men to do the leg work, so to speak." Octavia smiled at the confused look on the mens faces.
Jason was the one to finally ask, "How you two going to be able to do all that?"
Both ladies simply smiled at him.
"Don't ask, don't tell, boy," Whitmore said as he clapped Jason on the back. "Chances are pretty good you don't want the answer. It might make your head explode; hell it might make my head explode."
With that he escorted both women and the large dog following them to the closest lift basket and gave the operator instructions. When Adele and Octavia saw the small confines of the basket they knew they were going to need two. The excuse was that Octavia needed space to work and Adele refused to leave 'the dog' on the ground. A slightly larger lift was found on a nearby construction site that gave them the space they needed for Bull. There was no gate for either basket and they were wondering how they were going to get the dog in when he made an impressive leap straight inside. Jason thought he heard an extra thud or two once the dog landed but when he looked he didn't see anything but the large mutt whacking his tail against the metal bottom. Jason shook it off then handed each woman a radio.
Once the ladies were set inside the buckets and lifted into the air Adele looked down at her companions and asked, 'Are you two alright? Did you get hurt when you fell off Bull?'
'Nope,' Sarah thought at Gran. 'Hunner's the only one that fell off.'
'Baby girl do you remember who that was?' Oh, she remembered alright. Over the years his face had faded from her memories but any time there was a holiday or birthday with no word from Jason, Gran would worry and wonder what happened to her grandson. It was hard for Sarah to forget him completely because of that.
'Yeah, but I don't miss 'im. I have a daddy.'
Gran nodded once and thought, 'Fair enough now let's get to work.'
Two years before when Sookie was learning to control her newly expanding powers, the family had discovered that touch helped amplify not just what they heard but how far they could project. By working together, Adele, the children and Bull would be able to pinpoint the locations and number of people inside the ruined building. They'd be able to also find those in the rubble and distinguish between the dead and the dead-for-the-day. This would hopefully limit the number of vampires exposed to the daylight due to rescue efforts. There were already nearby basements being converted into makeshift triage centers for the undead, all they needed to do now was get through this blasted protection spell gone awry.
Octavia concentrated on the source of the spell. It was a nasty piece of work, done in haste and with great power, but that power was corrupted. There was something feeding the spell and until Octavia could separate the two or figure out how to smother it, she was going to need help. She signaled the man at the controls to lower her so she could speak directly to Chief Whitmore. Anybody could hear her conversation over these radios and the last thing she needs is Amelia's or her own name leaked to the media.
It took only about ten minutes to get Amelia there along with Gladiola and Bear. They were waiting past the blockade for the call. It was too risky for them all to go at once. Since the children could 'disappear' and Bull could shift to something that wasn't likely to cause mass hysteria in an inner city area, the likely choices were the two older women. They would be taken more seriously because of their age and less likely to be seen as a threat. Amelia had brought a heavy bag full of any 'equipment' they might need and once their party was fully reassembled, the witches got to work on the fatal gas cloud, while Bear introduced himself as Mrs. Stackhouse's head of security.
"Whoa! Wait a minute," Jason said. "Why's my Gran got security?"
Bear gave him a hard look but finally said, "The political climate of the vampire world is a pit of vipers at the best of times. My employer did not want to risk the safety of his human companions on the off chance someone tried something stupid. That is all I'm at liberty to say."
Jason was about to push for more but one look from Whitmore had him backing off. He'd talk to Gran later.
Meanwhile, Adele had made contact with Desmond Cataliades. Before the explosion, he and Diantha had been busy getting as many of the monarchs as possible wrapped in sheets and quilts snatched from all the beds they could locate on the floor. They had just begun the process of placing them in a closet when the room Adele had escaped from just hours earlier, detonated. Desmond reported that Diantha had been knocked out and was bleeding from a nasty head wound. They were both trapped in the closet with only five of the thirteen royals. He did not know what had become of the others.
"Gladiola," Adele spoke at normal volume. Even though she was still forty feet in the air and wasn't using the radio, Glad heard her clearly and lifted her head up toward Adele's voice.
"They're alive. Your Uncle says Diantha is unconscious and they're both trapped. As soon as there's a chance you'll need to go in with Bull to get them. They have five of the royals, including Sophie-Ann, with them and I can feel three more near their location. That still leaves five unaccounted for, plus Pythia is in the wind. Desmond says her handmaiden led them to the room and left shortly after. He never saw the AP and she wasn't with the others."
Gladiola nodded her acknowledgement of the message and held back waiting for an opening. If news of the missing royalty got out, the entire Amun clan was at serious risk of being over thrown and divided up between the others if too many of their leader's were lost or incapacitated, making it a complete political nightmare.
The next half hour dragged on while everybody watched the building intensely. The smoke had managed to grow to envelope the entire lower half of the hotel but it had slowed significantly once Octavia and Amelia began their chanting. Finally, Chief Whitmore noticed, it had stopped completely but it was not shrinking back any. Before he had a chance to ask he heard Adele over the radio.
"Chief Whitmore, Octavia and her associate have managed to stop the spread but they cannot begin to extinguish it until the sun sets. It seems to be feeding off the energy of the sunlight. Would it be possible to get anybody above the barrier? Say, on the roof?"
"We have no idea how stable the rest of the building is. It's too risky to use the roof as an extrication point. However, we could send a couple of people in to search for survivors and gather those found in one location to make it easier for extraction once this thing can be eliminated completely."
Adele offered, "What if we gather all the vamps in one location inside the hotel before they rise. We can get blood to those that are injured quicker this way and minimize further injuries."
"Excellent game plan, give me a few minutes to rustle up a chopper. Will you still be able to help from where you are or…?"
Bear answered for him before he finished his sentence. "Yes, Mrs. Stackhouse will work better from where she is. We," he pointed to Gladiola and himself, "will go into the building and lead a team. We've already marked out locations, on the blueprints of the structure you gave us earlier, of all the people Mrs. Stackhouse has been able to locate on the top floors. The majority of them are vampires. There are a few living trapped under rubble or behind blocked doors. If you sent in two teams, one can concentrate on the humans, the other on the vamps, it would cover more ground."
"No offense intended Mr. um-uh…"
"Oookay. No offense Bear, but I can't send you and that little girl into that building. You don't have the training or credentials to enter a hazardous location let alone lead a team."
"Mr. Whitmore?" Adele called over the radio. She didn't need it to listen to the conversation but she did to speak to him. "Do you remember what I said earlier about there being more in the world than just vamps? You're staring at two of them. Now, I don't believe you really need or want to know more than that but rest assured that my people know what they're doing."
The chief looked skeptically at the two people in front of him for a moment until Gladiola flashed him a grin. She didn't normally show her teeth when she smiled because they were very sharp, almost like looking into the mouth of a shark. She had two rows of short but sharp pointed teeth that left Carter no doubt in his mind that he did NOT need to know more. "Noted, permission to lead a team granted. I'll get to work on those choppers." He left the small work tent they'd been using in a hurry.
Bear and Glad both chuckled a bit at his hasty departure but sobered up shortly as he returned with the police captain and the S.W.A.T. commander to designate teams. Glad was forced to smile a few more times in order to prove that despite her young image (she barely looked 16) she was up for the task. Truth of the matter was, she and her sister were older than every human and Were in the area. Only a few vamps and their Uncle had them in age. Speaking of the Were's, as it turned out, much to Bear's surprise and satisfaction, several members of the SWAT team were wolves from a local pack. This was good because they were more aware of the innate dangers of injured vampires than humans were, even with all their rescue training.
There were still almost five hours left of daylight by the time the two teams of rescue workers made it into the building from the roof access. They split into two teams, Bear and Glad lead the first with two of the SWAT wolves. They split with the others immediately and began gathering those that they could gain access to. The other eight men, lead by a veteran wolf on the police force, two more Were's and the rest human, headed straight for the east stairwell which they knew from the blueprints was the furthest away from the damage and less likely to have suffered any damage from the blast. They went to the bottom floors to find survivors. Each team had a radio that allowed Adele to communicate with them if they missed someone. Even the Were's in SWAT were dubious as to Adele's abilities once told but it didn't take long for them to figure out she was finding the survivors long before their noses could.
They worked for hours. Each team meticulously combing the floor and clearing it before moving down to the next, and they were careful to note which areas were stable and which were not. Glad found her family first, just where Adele said they were and with Mr. C's help they got the eight vamps left in the Pythoness' rooms, down to one of the lower floor ballrooms until night fall. One of the wolves stayed with them as a guard just in case any of the human's left in the building decided to try something stupid. A few were covered or wrapped in sheets to keep them from being exposed, others had not been as lucky.
Many had missing arms or legs, hands and feet burned so badly from exposure to the sun that the flesh was gone and the bone was black. Some who had chosen to sleep inside their travel boxes still did not go undisturbed because the blast damaged the box in some way and exposed it's occupant to sunlight, fire or the deadly gas which had striped the lower extremities of one unfortunate vamp of all flesh down to the bone. What made it worse was that because of the severity of his injuries, he was conscious, hissing and screaming in agony. Bear did the kindest thing possible and ended him.
Diantha was conscious by the time they found her so she managed to move under her own power but couldn't help much more than a human could. Once downstairs she took over sitting with the undead, while the others continued their efforts. One look from her would be all most people would need to stay away.
It was about an hour before dark and Adele, Octavia and the others were taking a much needed break. "Yes, Jason?" Adele said from her seat under a tent. Bull was resting by her feet and the children, still cloaked under Sarah's ability were napping on a soft blanket under the table. It was an odd sight to be sure, but nobody dared go near the large dog that was lying next to the empty fabric instead of on it. However, with the chaos of the day, several odd things went unmentioned, like the empty bottles of water that would appear on the ground next to the dog along with several empty granola bar and fruit snack wrappers.
"Ummm….I know now's not the time to catch up an' all but ….ummmm…..I was wondering if I could talk to ya a bit?" Jason had been wracked with guilt and curiosity since first seeing Adele earlier that day.
"Of course, dear. Sit down, we've all been working hard, we're just taking a quick break before we get to the rough stuff. What's on your mind?" Adele watched Jason take a tentative seat across from her as he eyed the blanket with intrest.
"Well, I was wondering how everybody's been? You, Sookie, and Sarah? I, uhh, I know I haven't kept in touch but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking of y'all."
Gran raised an eyebrow at him, a mannerism she picked up from Eric. "I'm sure. We're all fine, a lot has happened in the past few years. A few months after you left Hadley came home long enough to drop off Hunter for Sookie to raise. Apparently she got the idea from you, or so she said in her letter."
"Awww hell, she actually did it, huh? 'Scuse my language." He remembered his Gran's dislike of cursing. "I'm sorry Sookie got stuck raising our kids. How's she doing? She still with that vamp I saw her with or did he move on?" Adele could tell Jason had changed since she last saw him, matured a bit perhaps. He was honestly inquisitive as to his sister and daughter's well being and for once his thoughts reflected this.
"They were married last night in a private ceremony. She's, rather they, have been through a rough year. It's not really my place to say more. Sookie would be here now except she went into early labor last night and is still resting from the delivery." At the look of shock on Jason's face Gran added, "Don't ask, it's a long story best come from the source, if she wants to share it. There's something else on your mind dear, go ahead and say it."
It had been nagging Jason for all day when he noticed Gran had been acting a lot like Sookie use to, especially with the information she was feeding the rescue teams inside. He lowered his voice a bit and leaned in closer over the table. "Gran, what's going on with you? You're acting like Sookie use to when we'd play hide 'n seek as kids. Did you get what she has? Is it contagious or somethin'?"
Adele sighed, "Jason, your sister has a special gift that she's been burdened with trying to manage her whole life. It's not a disease and I didn't 'catch' anything from her. I have however, acquired my own "gift" so to speak. It's similar to Sookie's but not as strong. I know that this is difficult to understand Jason, and no you're not broken. It is very difficult to explain the details and this is neither the time nor place. But you need to know that your lack of a "gift" like Sookie's did not in any way make you less than her. I have always loved all my grandchildren the same no matter what they did. You were just as special to me."
There was a time when the idea of somebody being in his head and knowing the things he was thinking before he had a chance to say or not say them, just creeped him out. But for once he didn't feel that way. It almost felt comforting, having somebody just know, without being told how you feel and trying to validate those feelings. It felt like family. He was pissed at himself that it took so long to come to that realization. As Eric once told him, he had to lose his family in order to fully appreciate them. He was sickened with the waste of it all.
He cleared his throat and changed the subject to hide the unshed tears in his eyes. "So, uh, I don't get it. Why we gotta wait 'til dark to stop this smoke stuff? And what's up with you having security? You get famous or somethin' while I was gone?"
Adele chuckled wearily and said, "No Jason. Eric hired them to keep us safe during the conference." Well, it was mostly true anyway. "As for the rest…."
Octavia had been quietly sitting off to the side with Amelia during the awkward family reunion and wishing she had the ability to hide her presence the way Sarah did. She was glad to finally be able to contribute to the conversation and cleared her throat to answer for Adele. "It's basic science really. You're familiar with the fire triangle, yes?" With Jason's nod she continued, "It's similar to that. Just as a fire requires fuel and oxygen to feed a fire and a spark to ignite it, so does this spell. The explosion was the ignition and sunlight is acting as one of the sources of fuel. Once its exposure to the sun is cut off, we're hoping we can smother the source with a strong containment spell."
At the slightly baffled look still on Jason's face, despite his nods of understanding, Amelia put in her two cents worth. "We're gonna kick dirt over it, so to speak."
"Oh! Well, why didn't you just say that? That sounds simple enough. Is somebody gonna answer that phone? I can hear it vibratin' from here." While everybody searched for the vibrating phone, Adele's phone began a similar dance in her bag. She had Sarah shut off the ringer for her so she wouldn't be distracted by it but now as she checked it she noticed she missed seven calls from Eric and Sookie over the past hour. Uh-oh, this would not be pretty.
A/N: *waves sheepishly* I'm sorry. That's all I got. No fancy excuses or 'reasons' why I've been such a fail at updating. This chapter just wasn't sitting right even after my Beta had a go. I'm still not crazy about it but there has been a guest reviewer the past few days that has been leaving the kindest reviews after almost each chapter. It was enough to make me kick my own... butt... into gear. I'm not sure when the next chapter will be up. Please bear with me while I find my writing mojo again.
For EVERYONE who has reviewed or Favorited this story...even after my long siesta... I thank you deeply. I'll try my best to update more often now.