As Alston ran through the list of women that he thought that he might be able to pass off as his wife, he was running out of names very quickly. All of Sam's girls were out; Sam was too good of friends with Kendrick for Alston to have a hope of passing off one of those girls as his wife. Even if he and the girl would be able to play like newlyweds, Kendrick would know that they were not. After all, if Alston were really going to marry one of Kendrick's best friend's workers, wouldn't he have heard about it before the honeymoon was over?
There was always the option of hiring a hooker, but Alston didn't really think that he would be able to pretend to be in love with one of them. Alston could fake many emotions, but love wasn't one of them; he hadn't been exposed to that emotion enough times to be able to fake it. Even if he would be able to fake the emotions, he couldn't fake the lust. Usually, Alston was glad that he had never seemed easy to stimulate sexually, but at times like this, when he really did need to be able to be stimulated, it really sucked. Kendrick knew that Alston could not fake interest in someone he didn't know, so if he could have been able to do it, this would have been a great time to use that skill.
All of Edan's friends were male, so he was out. Although, Alston was glad about that; he did not like working for his oldest brother. As the years continued to pass and Alston still chose no side, their relationship got more and more tense. Now the two of them were barely on speaking terms. The only time they ever talked anymore was when Edan had a job for Alston. That was when the thought hit him - he could use the Lieutenant.
There was no denying the fact that Alston had taken an interest in the girl. As much as he hated it, since she fought for Xamalie and was trained by Edan himself, he could not hide the fact that she caught his eye. Beyond that fact, Kendrick wouldn't know her by sight. Very, very few people had ever seen her, so he was pretty sure that his brother, who never left the Monan Regna, would have seen her. She had seen Sam, but Sam was blind, so he wouldn't be able to tell Kendrick what she looked like, even if he wanted to.
Getting excited by the possible solution, Alston took off the fingerless glove that he wore to cover his insignia and touched it, saying, "Pike."
Beside him, cornflower blue flames sprouted from the ground and died away to reveal the fairy. He didn't say anything to Alston, his eyes darting around them to try and figure out where they were and if there was a chance that anyone might have seen him appear. Alston had been bound to Pike for nearly three years. Their binding had been an accident, since Alston hadn't seen Pike's eyes, he thought he was helping out another human. Though, truth be told, other than his ability to travel to different places through his transporting fire and the physical characteristics like his uniquely colored eyes and pointed ears, Pike really was just like another human. He certainly was the weakest fairy that Alston had ever met, but that suited him just fine. Alston hadn't started calling Pike to help him get places until about two years after they had been joined.
Part of the reason for the delay was because they didn't really know what the bonding meant for them, and part of it was because Alston didn't want Pike to feel used. He had seen enough people who were bound magically to someone get used as practically slaves, and Alston had no desire to make Pike feel the same way. Although he was pretty sure the fairy didn't trust him completely yet, Pike was starting to warm up to him. Sometimes when he showed up, he would give Alston a small smile. Today was not one of those days, however.
"Hello, Pike," Alston greeted the fairy.
"Alston," Pike nodded, eyes still looking leery of what Alston wanted with him.
"Will you take me to Xamalie? To the castle? I need to speak to Lieutenant Deluvia."
Alston made it a question. Over the years, Alston had caught on to the fact that Pike responded better when he was asked if he would do something, rather than being told to do it. Though it was just a ruse (since Alston could force him to do anything he wanted), it seemed to put the fairy at ease. Truthfully, Alston liked it better too. He felt like a jackass whenever he told anybody to do something, fey or human.
Pike did not respond verbally, but he gave a brief nod, snapped his fingers, and the two of them disappeared in the cornflower blue flames. Ten seconds later, they were appearing in a pitch-black room, that Alston knew was a closet in the basement. It was a closet that was hardly ever used in the first place, and it was in Zara's section of the castle, so if anyone would see them arrive, it would be the princess herself, since she did not keep a staff, as her dad and brother did.
Alston had gotten to know Zara over the years. While he could not stand his brother, he actually did like the woman that Edan loved. When he first approached her to ask if he could use the old closet for entries and exits to the castle, he had expected her to either say no or tell Edan, but she didn't. As the years continued to pass, and Edan still had no clue about the bond between Pike and Alston, Alston began to wonder if perhaps Zara had misunderstood what he needed the closet for, although he was pretty sure that wasn't the case, because Zara was very smart. As he and Pike exited the closet, however, they did not see the princess.
"Where do you need to go?" Pike asked quietly. He had a quiet voice naturally, as though he wasn't made to cause a scene. "You said you wanted to see Lieutenant Deluvia, right?"
"Right. Do you know where she is?" Alston asked.
"Jax said something about the Deluvias meeting to come up with a game plan for dealing with your brother. I would assume she would either be wrapping that meeting up, or she would be out of it by now."
Alston thought for a moment. He certainly did not want to be seen by the Lieutenant's dad. He had seen the hatred in the commander's eyes the night they had performed the rescue, and Alston was pretty sure Commander Deluvia recognized him for who he was. No, he did not look exactly like Edan, but there were similarities between the two of them - enough similarities that Edan's former best friend would have been able to spot. Trying to keep focused on the task at hand, he asked Pike, "Which room did the Deluvias meet in?"
The fairy thought for a moment, and then said, "There is a meeting room right next to the section that they have the Deluvia brothers staying in, so if I had to guess, I would say that one. It's on the third floor, all the way down on the west side."
"And where would the Lieutenant be staying?" Alston asked, thinking about the layout of the southern castle.
"She is in the largest sleeping hall, way down on the east side," Pike said.
Alston was about ready to start his trek towards the Lieutenant when he remembered that he was still wearing a Rogue's uniform. Chuckling, he glimpsed over at the fairy and asked, "I should probably change, shouldn't I?"
At that, Pike let out a very small grin. "It would probably be a wise decision. Rogues don't remain neutral for very long in Xamalie."
"No, they don't," Alston agreed. Walking over to one of Zara's dressers, Alston pulled out the spare Xamalian uniform that he had stuffed in it years ago. His hair was much too long, but that couldn't be helped at the moment. If anyone commented on it, Alston could play dumb and say that he had just enlisted and ask for directions to the nearest room where he could get his hair cut. And, he supposed if the person insisted that they come with him, he could actually cut his hair, though that would be a shame. He took great pride in the fact that his hair was longer than either military ordered haircuts to be. Like most other Rogues, Alston showed off his locks.
After he had changed into the Xamalian everyday uniform, Alston gave himself a quick once-over and then told Pike, "This shouldn't take long. Meet me back here in twenty."
With a curt nod, the fairy disappeared behind the fire, leaving Alston to quickly exit the princess's bedchambers. Alston was a fast walker, he always had been, and in no time at all, he caught a glimpse of the Lieutenant. Her hair was cleaner than it had been the last time he had seen her, and the slight change was breathtaking. Alston had thought her beautiful when she had been living in the woods, with out washing up for weeks at a time. Seeing her after she had been able to bathe was incredible. He actually had to remind himself to breathe after a moment.
She was heading his way already, but when she saw him, she stopped. Judging by the look of confusion on her face, he figured it was a reaction to his uniform. She was probably wondering why he was in a Xamalian uniform. After a short second, she began walking again, and headed his way.
"Alston," she nodded. Though she was trying to hide her excitement at seeing him, she was not able to contain all of it.
"Lieutenant," he returned her greeting. "What are you doing tonight?"
"Why?" she asked slowly, giving him a suspicious look.
"I was wondering if you would like to go see my brother," Alston tried, downplaying which brother he was talking about.
Of course, his efforts were unsuccessful, because the Lieutenant narrowed her eyes and asked, "Which brother?"
"Kendrick," Alston offered, trying to throw her off with a grin.
He could see her pulse quicken in her throat, but she swallowed to steady herself and asked, "Kendrick? Your brother that fights for Temoragu?"
Encouraged by the difficulty she was having keeping control of her attraction to him, Alston pushed forward, "Right. See, I was supposed to have this meeting with Kendrick that we set up a couple of months ago, but then, when I was getting ready to go on the trip to the Monan Regna, Edan got in touch with me and sent me up to your troop. I told Kendrick that I would have to postpone our meeting because I was getting married. Now, it's time to return to Kendrick, and I need a girl."
"You told your brother that you were getting married without even having a girl to be your wife?" she demanded in a fierce whisper, her cheeks flushing.
"I have girls that could pretend to be my wife," he told her slowly. It was a partial lie, but he tried not to get weighed down by it, and continued, "but Kendrick will know that they aren't really married to me. But if I bring you, I think he may actually buy it."
"Why?" she asked, sounding confused. "We aren't married."
"No, we're not," Alston conceded, "but we like each other. You are the first person that I have cared about other than myself for years. Kendrick will be able to see that."
The Lieutenant gave him a pointed look and asked, "Are you aware that I have direct orders to kill your brother?"
"I was able to ignore my neutrality on your last mission," Alston argued, stepping closer. When he heard the Lieutenant gasp, he could tell that she was definitely distracted by him. "Perhaps for this one, you would be able to ignore your loyalties."
It took the Lieutenant a full thirty seconds to get a handle on her breathing, but when she did, she took a step away from him and denied the offer. With a shake of her head, Lieutenant Deluvia said, "No. Ella will not see it as the same, so neither can I."
"What if I took you to Kendrick's home," Alston asked. Of course, he was going to use Pike to take her there and back, so she wouldn't technically know where his brother lived, but it was worth a shot.
"You would do that?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at him. Then, recognition filled her eyes and she sighed, "That's right . . . you're bound to Pike. You wouldn't actually tell me where your brother lives, now would you?"
Damn, Alston thought. Trying again, he admitted, "No, I wouldn't tell you exactly where he lives, but I wouldn't take you directly to his home either. Remember, Kendrick and Edan don't know that I am bound to a fairy. The place I usually have Pike take me to is about two miles away from Kendrick's home. You should be able to narrow down the region that he lives in. That's got to be better than what you have right now."
The Lieutenant narrowed her eyes at first, but then her look softened. "You're right - that would be more than what we have right now. I'll go ask my troop. If they say they're ok with it, I'll do it," she said. "Give me two hours."
Flashing a grin at her, Alston said gladly, "Will do."