Hello. This fic is a collaboration between me and Acherona. She and I agreed to have it put on my account since we don't have a joint account here on FF. I will be sending her any reviews that we get.

This is Nick/Jared fic that is heavy on plot. Of course there will also be pr0n in later parts because we both like it that way. Please grace us with some reviews since we worked very hard on this fic and would love to know what you think about it. And by the way TW will give a cookie to whoever can figure out where the title came from.

In case you wonder through the fic which one of us is voicing who here's the list.

TW voices: Nick, Acheron, Simi, Atropos, Marissa, Tabitha, Jericho, Zarek, Katra, Apollo, Hermes, Hephaestus, Zeus, Noir, Cherise, Apollymi, Thnita, Zena, Stratiosis, Paidi, Dikastis, Takashi, Aimee, Remi, Vane, Maggie, The Source

Ash voices: Jared, Amanda, Nim, Kyrian, Savitar, Artemis, Sin, Aphrodite, Urian, Julian, Madoc, Azura, Jaden, Misos, Tory, Archon, Asmodeus, Dev, Kyle, Bride, Fury, Fang, Wren

WARNING: This is a slash fic so if you don't like male on male love and sex I suggest you click the back button now. Also there will be character death later in the fic. If you continue reading after this warning neither I nor Ash have any responsibility for any outrage or disgust you might feel about the pairing.

Disclaimer: Neither trulywicked nor Acherona own nor have any claim upon the Dark Hunter series, nor any characters or locations thereof. We make no profit from writing this fanfiction.


emphasis or note

"person heard through phone"

Jared crossed his arms across his chest and leaned against a pillar as he watched the brunet move across the floor. Really how had he ended up training the Malachi? Jared didn't really understand it. Nick was a fast learner though, he had tapped into his powers much faster than Jared would have thought possible, the brunet still had a far way to go but he was...impressive. The Sephiroth had to admit that, at least to himself.

The redhead peered at Nick, analyzing his moves before attacking him.

Nick narrowed his eyes and dodged the attack, planting his staff to give a little extra leverage. He lashed out at the older man with a quick, vicious kick.

Jared threw himself into a backflip to avoid the boot clad foot and drew his sword, whispering to her softly. The redhead couldn't stop the grin that spread over his face as adrenalin rushed through him. He crouched on the floor before striking out again, the sword singing in the air.

Nick blocked the blade with his staff, spun, and tried to slam the bottom of the pole into Jared's groin.

Oh Fuck! Jared groaned and sank to the floor with something that he refused to admit sounded like a whimper. "That's cheating pretty boy!" He hissed through clenched teeth. His balls felt like they were covered in liquid fire but Jared still lunged forward, got the broad end of his sword behind Nick's legs and swept him off his feet.

Rather than try to keep from falling, Nick went with it, turning like a cat so that he landed on his hands and knees, able to quickly push back up to his feet and spin to face Jared with a smirk. "All's fair in love and war cher and who're you callin' pretty boy? Haven't you looked in a mirror lately?"

Jared flashed a bit of fang as he got to his feet again. "I prefer the term dashing or handsome." He said with a smirk. His package still hurt like a a son of a bitch and he would make the brunette feel some pain of his own. Bending his knees, he gathered power and jumped over Nick, bringing his sword down at the same time, hitting his back with the blunt end...he wanted to use the sharp edge but Savitar was a grouch about blood spilling on his floors.

Nick grunted and stumbled forward then spun to face the redhead. Pain really didn't bother him. Being a New Orleans street rat and having to deal with his father before the bastard has landed in jail had taught him early to take his licks and keep going. He grinned fiercely at the Sephieroth. "You're gonna have to do better than that little love tap cher."

"Oh little boy...if I were ever to love you I swear you'd feel it." Jared grinned back as they circled each other. His blood ran hot in his veins. Spending century after century being that bitch's slave, hanging from those chains and being tortured at whim this was a breeze. Jared relished in the freedom, even if he had to put up with this pup.

The Cajun snorted though a little thrill shivered up his spine at the thought of rolling around naked with the redhead. "I somehow doubt you'd be able to measure up to my expectations, oh ancient one."

"You'd be surprised by what I've picked up through the years...I could make your toes curl and your eyes roll back into your head with the flick of a tongue little one." Jared singsonged. His golden eyes bled red for a second as he crept closer, his sword in a firm grip.

Nick rolled his own eyes and resummoned his staff in preparation for Jared's attack. "Uh huh, you're not the only old warrior who's said that and sucked, in the bad way."

Jared just chuckled and came at him. "Poor baby, I┬┤bet your right hand is still your best bed partner."

Nick smirked and ducked under the strike, responding with one of his own directed at the redhead's ribs. "Sorry to disillusion you cher but I don't have to resort to my hand for a little R&R. You on the other hand, I imagine your hand gets quite a work out."

The redhead smirked and wiggled his fingers. "Both left and right little one...after being chained to a wall it's surprising how good freedom of limbs can feel."

Nick hummed in a considering noise. "I still don't get that."

"Get what? Self gratification? Because if you don't then your life so far must have been dull indeed." Jared slashed with his sword even as his eyes glistened with amusement.

The Malachai dodged the swing and slammed the butt of his staff at Jared's face. "No I meant the chained up shit. I don't get why they'd chain you up instead of befriending you, there wasn't any point in it."

Jared heard his nose crunch and cursed under his breath he reached out his tongue and felt the tangy, metallic taste of blood on the tip of his tongue. "Befriend me?" Jared chuckled hollowly. "Believe me boy...I'd have ripped their throats out first chance I got...I'm not one of the good guys remember?" He kicked the brunet in the gut. "Besides, I think those crazy bitches got off on the power."

Nick grunted at the blow and swept his staff at Jared's feet. "Bullshit you're not one of the good guys. If you weren't you'd have taken my head off ages ago, the hell with the rest of the world."

Jared stumbled a bit before he regained his footing. "Aww do you have faith in me little one?" He batted his lashes at the other. "Careful, I might live to regret it."

The Cajun snorted. "I don't have faith in you flyboy. I'm just making an observation. You're big marshmellow under all that big bad Sephiroth attitude."

"Flyboy?" Jared snorted and got ready to strike again, a part of him was a bit annoyed that he hadn't beaten the Cajun yet. As stated the other learned fast.

A small, polite cough from the entrance of the room through him off and made him stumble and gave Nick the opportunity to land another hit on him. Jared growled and glared towards the doorway.

Nick glanced at the intruder and barked, "What do you want?"

Ash's brow twitched at Nick's less than friendly greeting. "The bears are having a Mardi Gras party and the two of you are invited." The tall man tossed them each an envelope. "See you there." Then he walked out.

The Sephiroth lay down his sword and wiped his still bleeding nose with the back of his hand. "Oh my...I just melt at the love between you two."

Nick snarled, "Bite me fluff muffin," and opened his invitation. It read: You are invited to a Mardi Gras masquerade at the Sanctuary Bar starting at 8 pm. Costume and mask are required. And Nicky, your attendance is mandatory so if you don't show by ten I'll come hunt you down and I won't be happy. See you there, Aimee Kattalakis.

Jared quirked a dark red eyebrow as he read his own envelope. "Costumes? What the hell? I ain't going." Jared shook his head fiercely, his long red hair dancing across his back.

Nick smirked. "Say that in front of your little demon. I'll bet he'll want to go since I know Ash will bring Simi."

"Oh no...Even worse." Jared put on a false terrified expression. "And he's not little...he's compact, don't hurt his feelings now."

Nick crossed his arms over his chest. "Like I said. You're a big fluffy marshmellow under the attitude."

"Watch it or else I might really bite!" Jared snapped his fangs in Nicks direction. "And I think you broke my nose you fucker."

"Aw poor winged baby. Want me to kiss it better?" Nick's eyes were dancing with humor.

Golden eyes narrowed and Jared stepped closer. "Yes." He answered shortly. He wanted to see what Nick would do, at least that was what he told himself.

The Cajun raised an eyebrow. He'd never been one to back down from a challenge and so he stepped up to Jared and planted a kiss right on the bridge of the nose. Then, because he was an ass, he took the opportunity to hook his foot behind Jared's ankle and send the Sephiroth falling onto his ass. Of course then he got the hell out of striking range.

There was a whoosh sound as Jared had the air knocked out of him. That fucking little brat! Now he had an aching head and throbbing nose...Jared wondered just how pissed the Powers That Be would be if the Malachai 'accidentally' got skewered. A red eyebrow twitched as Jared lay staring at the ceiling.

Nick leaned against the wall, a black half-mask fixed to his face. He wore a sapphire blue evening jacket with a high raised collar, open in the front to display the white, fountaining cravat, oil slick blue and gold rhinestones sparkled over the shoulders and collar of the jacket and a gleaming black jewel anchored the cravat in place. Black breeches and boots slicked up his legs, the tails of the jacket hanging elegantly behind them. He held a glass of punch in his white gloved hands and watched the crowd, a smile occasionally flirting on his lips when he spotted one or two couples he knew.

This was Jared's personal hell, seeing smiling happy couples that he didn't have a clue about who they were twirling and laughing around him. The redhead knew nothing of costumes so he had decided to dress as far away from his personal style as possible, he wore a very strict, modern, three piece suit in unrelenting charcoal grey. The shirt and tie were a lighter grey. He straightened his high ponytail and made sure his mask made of peacock feathers were still in place as he cowered in a corner. He could feel Nim moving across his skin, waiting to see of Simi would actually show.

Nick's brow raised as he spotted the redhead and his lips twitched as he took in the obviously uncomfortable Sephiroth. Oh this was just too good, Jared, in a suit, hiding in the corner. If ever there was a Kodak moment this was it. Nick whipped out his camera phone, squeezed off a few shots with Jared none the wiser, and tucked it back away before sauntering over to the older man. "What's a matter cher? Don't see anyone you wanna dance with?"

Golden eyes snapped over to Nick. "I don't dance, and you're right...nobody here is worth my time." Jared tried for a smirk but it came out more nervous than condescending, he felt completely out of his element in all this warm fuzz. "Oh and what are you wearing?"

Nick smirked at the Sephiroth. "It's called a costume cher. Apparently a concept you have a little trouble with. A suit? At a Mardi Gras party?"

"Well, what's the point in pretending to be something you're not?" Jared asked trying to save a bit of his dignity though he realized it was probably a lost cause. He looked over Nick's shoulder to see a tall auburn haired woman dressed in as a princess come closer. The woman lay a slender hand on the brunet's shoulder and her voice was filled with warmth and a strange sense of longing when she spoke his name. "Nick?"

The Cajun stiffened, unsure about what to do or say. There was no chance in hell he'd be able to fool Amanda but he didn't want to put her in danger. If any of Noir's little minions got wind that she or Kyrian knew the whereabouts of the Malachai they'd be gallu fodder. Damn what should he do?

Jared saw Nick stiffen, he didn't really know why because the woman was beautiful and friendly but he could sense the brunet's discomfort. Since he was more or less the Malachai's guard dog for the time being Jared decided to try and help. "Excuse me miss but I think you're wrong, that's my lover you have your hands all over."

Amanda slowly pulled her hand away. "L-lover?" She had been so sure it was Nick, the way he moved and the way he held his head. She missed Nick so much, her and Kyrian both...the Nick she knew was not gay though...no he was a womanizer. "I'm sorry then, my mistake." She bowed her head and walked back across the room, suddenly she wanted to be held by her husband.

Nick watched her walk across the room towards a man dressed as a prince then turned his back so Kyrian wouldn't be able to recognize him. He was sorry that he'd made Amanda sad but he wasn't about to put her or Kyrian and certainly not Marissa in danger. He looked at Jared and spoke softly. "Thank you."

"Pffft for what? I can't have you go on a rampage on my watch now can I?" Jared straightened his feathered mask again. "Can you tell me what we're really doing here? Despite the fun I'm having in this corner and saving damsels in distress I could use my time better than this."

Nick's brow twitched irritably. "Amanda is the last living person I'd go on a rampage against old man and pardon me for thanking you for helping me protect a friend, I'll remember not to do it again in the future. I don't know what you are doing here but I am here because Aimee asked and I try not to upset her." The Cajun caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye. An all too familiar head of red and black hair with a pair of horns and wings. "You can let your demon out now, Simi is here."

"No need to get so pissy, it was a simple question." Jared grumbled back...Geez the brunet was moodier that the two bitches who had owned him combined. He released Nim who hurriedly hid behind his back peeking out at the radiating, goth clad demon on the dance floor.

Then, like a sixth sense, Simi turned around and looked straight at where Nim was peeking out and started bouncing over. Nick blinked. "Oh shit. I think I'd better go bait a bear before she gets closer." The brunette then disappeared into the crowd before the Charonte got to Jared and Nim. She smiled brightly. "The Simi is glad to see you Nim! Will Nim dance with the Simi?"

"Go, dance, bump and grind." Jared pulled Nim from behind his back and pushed towards the other demon. Nim seemed reluctant at first but it was clear that he wanted to be with Simi. Jared almost felt like a proud father as he watched them throw themselves into dancing. Nick was full of surprises though, why was he had a party were he had to hide from the majority of the participants? Jared shook his head as he went in search of booze, maybe getting drunk would make this evening more bearable.

Once again Nick found himself leaning on the wall watching Jared only this time it was exponentially more amusing since the redhead was a few over three sheets to the wind.

The once pristine ponytail was hanging on three quarters and Jared had lost the suit jacket a long time ago. He was dancing or rather bouncing around the dance floor, not noticing the weird looks he was given. He didn't know what the dark haired man behind the bar counter had given him but it had certainly made him feel better, he had lost count on how many shots he'd had but maybe he should get another one.

Nick noticed the Sephiroth heading back towards the bar and, hoping to head off disaster, intercepted him. "I think you've had enough cher."

"Ah Nicky but it sets the blood on fire, you should try it." Jared stumbled closer. "Dance with me..."

The Cajun's lips twitched as he suppressed laughter at the redhead's antics. When Jared sobered up it was not going to be pretty. "Cher you are wasted and I'm not interested in getting my feet stepped on." Nick gestured to Aimee that he was going to get Jared out of Sanctuary. The bearswan nodded and went to tell Ash that he was demon sitting for Jared. Nick gripped the redhead's arm and began tugging him out of the club.

Jared leaned forward and buried his nose in the crook of Nick's neck. "Want to get me alone huh?" He leered.

Nick shook his head. "I can't believe you got drunk. You, an almighty being that is capable of killing a god, are so drunk off your ass you're propositioning your supposedly mortal enemy. Somewhere in the universe there is a fate laughing it's ass off." They got to Nick's car and the brunette nudged the drunk man into the passenger side. "Alright cher let's get you somewhere you won't do much damage."

"I'm not drunk, just not entirely sober." He turned and blinked owlishly at Nick. "You suck as a mortal enemy, you know that don't you...You're as fluffy as a little kitten." Jared snuggled closer. "I've missed touch, do you know what it's like not to feel the warmth of another, only the sting of a whip or the pain of a dagger?" Jared babbled on until he passed out against the Cajun's shoulder.

Nick sighed and turned the engine over as a wave of sympathy washed over him. "I'll let the fluffy comment pass cher since you don' know what's coming out of your mouth cher." Since he had less than no clue where Jared usually roosted in N'awlins, Nick drove to his own apartment. He got out of the car, strode around to the passenger side and slung Jared's arm over his shoulder to cart the unconscious redhead to up to his place. Once inside, after awkwardly managing to close the door, he staggered with his burden to the couch, tripping on a runner at the last moment so that he landed cattywhompous on the couch with a passed out Sephiroth on top of him. He sighed and tried to shove the redhead off of him only to have Jared's arms clench around him. "Oh you're kidding me."

Jared was dreaming, he had a warm body beneath him and his body reacted. He gripped the form under him tighter and ground down, oh yes that felt so fucking good. His lips seached out hot skin and he licked and nipped at the silky flesh, savoring the salty taste. His dream lover was covered in clothes though and Jared struggled to get them off so that he could feel more skin against his own. "Hmmm, Jaden." He whispered.

Nick's brows rose as he recognized the name of the demon broker. He'd heard about the man from Jericho and Ash, when he was in the mood to listen to Ash, but he wasn't aware that Jared knew the man. Regardless, Nick had too much pride to be a stand in for someone else. He grabbed one of the redhead's ears and twisted as his mama used to to to get Nick's attention or to make a point when he'd misbehaved. "Hey wake up!"

"Ow, fuck!" A searing pain shot through Jared's arousal and as he moved to get away from it he fell off the couch. "Hell, why did you do that?" Everything hurt and it felt as if something had crawled into his mouth and died. Jared was utterly miserable.

Nick sat up and started smoothing his clothing. "I don't like to be molested while being called someone else's name. Especially when the ham-handed molester is skunk-ass drunk."

Jared blinked and felt blood rush to his cheeks as the dream came back to him, he didn't remember calling out a name but things were embarrassing enough without him remembering that. "Eh...sorry?" What else could he say? Jared couldn't believe he had groped the Malachai...and apparently his cock was still in the mood to continue. He moved to get up from the floor when the whole world spun around him. "Bathroom?" He managed to get out, he needed to throw up.

The Cajun pointed down the hallway. "First door on your right."

The redhead half ran and half crawled to the bathroom as fast as he could before all the alcohol he'd downed came back up. Why had he had so much to drink?

In the great room Nick got up and went to his kitchen to make some ginger tea. It was what Cherise would pour down his throat when he'd had too much to drink so it should help the redhead that was currently praying to the porcelain god. That and some dry bread and the Sephiroth should be well enough to get his own ass back home in about thirty minutes.

Jared rinsed out his mouth with cold water before rising up to look into the mirror over the sink. He looked absolutely horrible. He yanked out the ribbon in his hair and ran is fingers trough it, letting it hang lose down his back, then he pulled of the tie still around his neck and stuffed it in his pocket. Jared was disgusted with himself, he was finally allowed freedom and he had behaved like an utter ass. He ran his hands over his face and went to find Nick. He found the other in the kitchen. "Is there someone else I need to apologize too?" He asked quietly.

Nick glanced over his shoulder at the discomfited redhead. "No. You didn't do anything except dance badly at Sanctuary." The brunette turned and handed a mug of tea and a roll to the other man. "Drink the tea and eat the bread, it should settle your stomach."

"Thank you." Jared sipped the hot tea carefully, willing his stomach to stay calm, then a thought struck him. "Nim!...Is Nim okay?" Jared couldn't believe he'd gotten sloshed enough to forget about the little demon.

"Easy there cher. Aimee told Ash to look after him. Besides do you really think Simi would let anything bad happen to him?"

Jared relaxed against his seat. "No you're right, Simi will look out for him." He looked up at Nick with tired eyes. "I'll finish this and then I'll be out of your hair." Jared needed to get home, Nick had been more than nice taking his drunk ass in; in the first place.

"Mmm." Nick took a sip of the bottle of Sprite he'd cracked open. He probably shouldn't ask but his curiosity had been piqued. "So what's the deal with you and the demon broker?"

Golden eyes grew dull and flat as Jared placed the teacup down on the table. Fuck what kind of shit had he blurted out in drunken stupor? "Ancient business, and none of yours." He got up from his seat. "I'll get going now, see you in the training room tomorrow."

"Alright. Sorry to pry. I just wondered why you called his name, forget I asked."

He had called out Jaden's name? Well that was a kicker if anything. "No problem, Jaden is the past...the very far away past. I'm sorry I blew up at you, I really have to go though." Jared tried to give the Cajun a smile but it came out more like a grimace.

"It's fine. I can give you a ride if you need one."

"Nah I'll walk, I could really use the fresh air." Jared gave Nick a mocking salute as he started to walk towards the door. "See you later Malachai."

"Oui, Sephiroth." Nick's eyes remained speculatively on the redhead's back until the door shut.

Amanda Hunter hurried along the sidewalk as she checked the watch on her slender wrist. She was getting Marissa who had spent the day with her grand mother and she was already late. Quickening her steps she turned a corner when the hair on her neck suddenly seemed to stand on edge. She felt power in the air, great power. Before she could react she felt a terrible pain sear through her and all went black.

Nick was in a black mood. Today was his usual training with Acheron and he never felt particularly fond of these sessions. Of course half of the reason for that was that Ash still managed to knock him on his ass regularly. Another part of it was that Jared was also there to see him get knocked on his ass. He flipped back from a strike of Ash's staff and brought his own up to defend when the Harbringer's cell phone went off. Nick almost, almost, smiled at the put upon expression that crossed the ten thousand year old man's face. Ash called a time out and answered his phone after checking the caller ID. "Yes Kyrian?"

"She's gone, I can't feel her at all. Ash I can't feel her!" Kyrian's voice was shrill and out of breath and his words tumbled over one and other as he tried to compose himself enough to actually speak.

Ash felt a chill go up his spine and he could tell that Nick could hear Kyrian's words easily from the way the Cajun stiffened. "Can't feel who Kyrian?"

"Amanda, she was just going to pick Marissa up and now she's just...gone. I can't sense her anywhere. Please help me!"

Nick's hand clenched around the staff he was holding and a nasty feeling snaked up his back. Ash's jaw tensed and he told Kyrian to wait for a moment while he checked on what was up. He barked out, "Atropos!"

The shade of the petite woman appeared and frowned at him. "I am not a dog to come to heel Acheron. What do you want?"

"What's happened to Amanda?"

Atty blinked and raised a brow. "Something has happened to the General's wife?"

Ash growled. "She's disappeared Atropos. Do you or the other have anything to do with it?"

Atty closed her eyes and looked for an answer. When she opened them again they were troubled and her brow was knit. "I see nothing nor do Clotho or Lacy. This is not from our pantheon."

With that she faded, leaving both Nick and Ask sick with the implications of that statement. Ash breathed in and called calmly. "Savitar?"

Savitar emerged within moments, clad in board shorts and horrid Hawaiian shirt. He's eyes looked around the room and took in the seriousness from it's participants. "You called." He said calmly.

Jared watched the tension in the room and though he didn't know what had happened really he understood that it was bad. Without being conscious of it he moved to stand closer to the upset Malachai.

Ash met the everchanging eyes of his old teacher. "Amanda has gone missing and the Moirae have no answers. Do you know what's happened?"

Savitar closed his eyes and when he opened them he sighed and looked at Nick with something that almost looked like compassion, it was gone in a second though. "It seems Noir and his brood has found out about the Malachai's connection to the Hunter family. He has her." Savitar said in a smooth voice.

Everything inside Nick went ice cold at those words and he froze. Ash's eyes flashed red briefly before he put a choke chain on his temper. He inclined his head to Savitar. "Thank you. Simi!" The Charonte materialized off his skin. "Why's the Simi's akri sad?"

"We have a problem. I need you go get Marissa and Kyrian and bring them to Katoteros and make sure Tory stays there too."

Simi frowned but nodded. "Yes Akri." Then disappeared to do as he asked. He then spoke into the phone. "Kyrian Simi is going to come get you and Marissa and take you to my place. Don't go and do something stupid before I get to you, understand me."

"Then get here fast, I'm going to get her back!" Was Kyrian's short reply before he hung up the phone.

Jared had stiffened when he heard Noir's name, he saw how upset Nick was and placed a hand on his shoulder to keep him from doing something insanely stupid in the heat of the moment.

The brunette was well aware of the eyes on him, waiting for him to do something rash and impetuous but he liked to think he'd learned from his mistakes. So instead of going off half-cocked, with no plan, into Noir's lair to save Amanda, he just turned sharply, stalked to the nearest wall, and punched it hard enough to leave a dent. He spun back to face Ash. "What do we do?"

The god of fate pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers. "First we get Kyrian and Marissa safe then we get Jericho and the Oneroi together for some brainstorming."

Nick's hands fisted but he nodded sharply. He was still pissed at Ash but he also understood that the Atlantean wasn't the only one at fault, Menyara had pounded that into his skull ages ago, and he knew they'd need a plan. A good one. It didn't make him feel much better though.

Jared couldn't help but cringe a bit at Jericho's name, the titan was pleasant enough but he was still the one holding his leash so the speak, the one with power over his freedom. This wasn't about him though, this was about Nick and an innocent woman. For some reason Jared wanted to help wipe that tortured expression off of Nick's face. The redhead wasn't sure he liked these new feelings, everytime he had allowed himself to feel very bad things had followed. "What can I do?" He asked gruffly.

The brunette blinked at him. The Sephiroth's offer had come out of the blue but it seemed to soothe the bulk of the rage building in his chest, banking it so that it would harden and become controlled. He met the golden eyes, his own showing gratitude at the offer. "I don't know. I know next to nothing about that bastard. Ash is right, we need to plan with the bunch on the Vanishing Isle." It was a miracle that those words hadn't burned off Nick's tongue.

Fuck, if Nick was willing to listen Acheron then things were bad. Jared was a stab first ask questions later kind of guy, something that could explain the situations and consequences he he'd found himself in. He was willing to wait and listen here though, he would put a reign on his impatience and do things Nick's way. "Then we should get going, shouldn't we?"

"As soon as Simi gets Kyrian and Marissa here."

No sooner had he spoken then Simi arrived with Marissa in one arm and dragging Kyrian with the other. "Akri would be very sad if the Simi had to barbecue you so please stop squirming."

Kyrian looked like a wreck, grey skin and taut lines marring his handsome face. He shook off Simi's grip on his arm and rushed to Acheron, not noticing Nick. "What are we going to do? I need to get her back!" Kyrian hated feeling this helpless, why had someone taken Amanda to begin with.

Jared watched the blond man with detachment. He had no bonds with the stranger but he could feel his pain, it practically poured off of him. He looked to his side to see what Nick's reaction was to the newcomers.

Nick winced at Kyrian's appearance. Goddamnit! Why couldn't he manage to protect those he cared the most for? So focused on Kyrian's desperation he didn't notice that Simi had set Marissa down nor did he notice the girl examining him closely. After less than a second of study, the child's eyes lit with recognition and she hollered, "Uncle Nick," and ran towards him. Nick's expression turned to slight panic as Kyrian turned around and gawked at him and Marissa barreled into his legs, hugging them tight.

Hazel green eyes widened and Kyrian whipped his head around mid speech at his daugther's words. He looked at the man she was hugging and he could feel his breath catch. Nick...What the hell was his former Squire here? Amanda had told him about thinking that she'd seen Nick at Sanctuary's party but he hadn't thought more of it. "Y-you...Nick?"

Nick's expression was tormented but he reached down to pat Marissa's head and said, "Hey Rissie." He nodded at Kyrian, "Kyrian."

Kyrian took in Nick's features, the Cajun was still handsome, no doubt about that but Artemis mark stood out on his skin like a beacon. Kyrian walked closer to his former charge and best friend. "Oh Nick...what did you do?"

The younger man winced. "Something stupid. I...it's sort of my fault Amanda's been taken."

Kyrian's expression changed from warm, sympathetic and bewildered to feral in the blink of an eye. "Marissa, go to uncle Ash." He said sternly to his little girl and then he stepped up and grabbed the neckline of Nick's shirt. "What. The. Fuck. Have. You. Done?" Every word was like ice.

Jared stepped closer, ready to yank the blond off Nick if it would be necessary.

Nick reached up, resting his own hands on Kyrian's wrists softly, his eyes full of regret and pain, "I'm sorry. I tried to keep you and your family out of this. That's why I've stayed away. Someone is after me and they're going through the people I care about to get to me."

Rage turned to despair and Kyrian slumped against Nick. "I need her back Nicky...I-I need her."

They obviously had a past together, a strong bond. Jared was a bit surprised of the spike of jealously that spiked through him at that thought. This wasn't about him, Jared reminded himself, this wasn't the time to be selfish. It was just, somehow he had believed the Malachai to be as alone as he was.

Nick gave Kyrian a hard hug. "I know boss. We're going to get Amanda back to you, I swear." His dark eyes flashed to Malachai red in his fierceness for just a moment. "I promise Kyrian, even if I have to take on hell itself, you'll have your wife back."

Ash walked over, Marissa propped on his hip. "Kyrian, there's a few things you need to know about Nick." He met the former Squire's eyes, his own asking for permission to spill the beans, and got a short nod in return. "Nick isn't human or truly a Dark-Hunter anymore."

Kyrian looked even more bewildered than before. He gave a sigh and ran ha hand over his face in an effort to compose himself. "Is there somewhere we can sit down? It sounds like we have a lot to talk about." Kyrian shot the redhead in the room a curious glare but Jared pretended like he didn't see it.

A few chairs materialized out of nowhere and Ash nodded at one. "Have a seat and you're right, there's a lot of ground to cover before we can gather the troops."

"Boy, you don't do anything half way do you?" Kyrian asked. He didn't quite know what to think, the story was more than unbelievable but Kyrian had no doubt that every word was true. "You've always attracted trouble like a magnet."

Nick grimaced. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring my shit to your door. That's why I didn't acknowledge Amanda at the party."

Kyrian nodded. "I would probably have done the same thing in your situation, now we need to concentrate on bringing this a-hole down and get my wife back."

Ash stood up. "And on that note, we need to get to the Vanishing Isle. Tabby and Val are there visiting Bob with Xavier and since Tabby has NJ he's safe there. Noir, for all that he's declared war on the Olymipans, won't dare strike directly at them just yet. "

Kyrian scrambled up from his seat, grateful that something finally seemed to happen. He did not look forward to tell Tab that her sister was missing though. "Yes, let's get going."

Jared had been very silent through Nick's explanation, he felt out of place with all this family crap. If someone needed someone dead then Jared was a go to guy, feelings and bonds were not his thing.

Nick stood up and looked over at the Sephiroth. "You coming Red?"

Jared growled but nodded. "Guard dog...remember?" He smirked at the Malachai.

Nick raised a brow. "Kiss ass cher. Allons-y." With that Nick concentrated and flashed to the Vanishing Isle.

Jared rolled his eyes, gave Ash and Kyrian a mock bow and followed Nick.

Kyrian shook his head. "What's up with those two?" He asked Ash as he waited for the God to bring them to Savitar.

Ash tilted his head. "No idea." He put a hand on Kyrian's shoulder and in an instant they were standing in the middle of a crowd of Oneroi and other immortals.

Savitar inclined his head to them as they materialized. "Nice of you to join us, I've been explaining the situation to our brethren here." He still wore his Hawaiian shirt and his hair was wet as if he had just stepped up from the ocean.

Ash raised a brow. "We had our own round of explanations to go through first. Have any ideas been thrown out yet?"

Tabitha growled, "Here's one, go into Asmodea and rip Noir's head off."

"Okay any less suicidal ideas?"

"I second girly's idea." Jared raised his hand and smiled at Tabitha, he liked her.

"As much as I would like to do just that, I want us to get Amanda out alive...Not piss this Noir guy off so that he kills her." Kyrian said to his sister in law. "We need a gameplan."

"You need a new set of balls is what you need." Tabby huffed and crossed her arms.

A tall, platinum haired man shook his head at them and looked over at Jared and Nick. "How close is Mr. Malachai to mastering his powers?"

"Close, very close." Jared said. He had mixed feelings about that. Nick in full control of his Malachai powers would be a good thing but it also meant that his work was done and that he had no reason to stay. "It's his temper that needs more work."

"Bite me asshole." Nick drawled in reply to Jared's dig.

"Where?" Jared asked and snapped his fangs in reply.

Kyrian rolled his eyes. "Okay if you two are done with your foreplay then maybe we could actually figure something out now."

Nick gave Kyrian a 'are you nuts' look while the rest of the room except Jared snickered at the quip. Jericho spoke again before any more insults could fly. "Noir hasn't sent a demand just yet, he will eventually and it'll be demanding the same thing he's been after since he woke up. The Malachai. When we get that demand I say we give him what he wants."

Jared sent the blond a scathing glare but reigned in his lust to smash his face in and turned to Jericho insted. "What did you have in mind?" He couldn't believe this, he was fucking worried about the Malachai? Had he had a blow to the head that he had forgotten about? Maybe freedom was driving him insane?

Jericho smirked. "The Malachai were made to destroy Source gods. Noir is a Source god who has just kidnapped one of the few people the last Malachai cares about. I say we give him Nick, in all his pissed off, I-don't-take-orders-from-nobody glory."

Over in a corner, standing next to his wife and holding his son, a goteed demi-god laughed evilly. "If he survives, Noir will be begging us to take Nick back."

Kyrian looked over at Zarek. "Nick can be the biggest pain in the ass imaginable." He agreed. "Will you be joining us?"

The Moesian grinned ferally. "I'm always on board to make someone bleed."

"Good." Kyrian gave Zarek a matching grin of his own. "Nick are you ready for this?" Kyrian walked over to the Cajun. "I want Amanda back but I don't want to lose you again...not when you're finally back." He put his hand on the younger man's shoulder. "You're family."

Nick looked at the hand on his shoulder then met Kyrian's eyes. "I lost my mama because I was an idiot. I'm not letting you or Marissa and NJ go through that because this bastard wants to get his hands on me. That bastard wants a piece of me he'll get one, and I'll make him choke on it." With that short, pithy speech, Nick strode off to walk through the doors of the room they were in and head down to the beach.

Kyrian felt a mixture of hope and sadness. He knew Nick was the best bet to get Amanda back but he wanted Nick back too. Fuck everything was so messed up at the moment and Kyrian hardly knew what way was up anymore.

Jared watched Nick go and after giving the other some time to be alone and calm down he followed.

Nick stared out at the ocean. "I'm going to kill Noir."

"I know you are." Jared lifted his face and let the sun warm it, it was amazing how good such a simple thing could feel and how many who took it for granted. "I'm going to help you do it, maybe hold him by the hair as you cut his head off."

The brunette nodded in acceptance. "I need to know how to keep it from fucking with the fabric of the universe though. The whole point of putting the bastard out of our misery is to keep the world from ending."

Jared chew his bottom lip as he thought of what Nick had said. "It won't be easy, you know that but with some skill and luck it can be done. The question is are we willing to pay the price?"

"What is the price?"

"Well, do you have a Chtonian in your backpocket that's willing to be a sacrifice to the source? Your other option is to find someone willing to take the powers that will be released into themself...Either way it's not going to be easy." Jared sat down on the beach and let the sand run through his fingers. "Whatever we do, we need to keep the balance."

Nick looked out at the horizon and nodded. "I hate to say it but our best bet for finding people who could take on Noir's powers is probably to poke around Olympus."

Jared shuddered. "I don't exactly have the best relationships with the Olympians. Do you have anyone particular in mind?" The air smelled like salt and even in these circumstances the sound of the ocean was soothing to the Sephiroth, he was glad that Nick had gone outside, away from the group of people. Jared found it easier to concentrate in the open.

The brunette snorted. "Hey I'm not on friendly terms with any I'd trust Noir's powers to either but Acheron is pretty well acquainted with several that aren't complete assholes."

"Okay, I'll follow your lead...for now. Mostly because it's the only idea we've got." Jared smirked. "Let's go poke the geezers, I'm getting restless." Jared rolled his shoulders and looked up at Nick.

The dark eyes of the younger man were extremely amused. "You have no room to call them geezers cher. Just how old are you again?"

Jared poked his tongue out. "Old enough to be able to teach you a thing or two. Age is only a number...and I'm just like fine wine..." He said in a huff.

"Careful where you poke that thing cher. Someone might try to bite it."

"Sometimes a bit of pain can makes things all the better." Jared replied with a wink. He stood up and brushed the sand away from his pants. "Shall we go?"

Nick had quirked a brow at the redhead's reply but let it pass and just nodded. "Might as well get it over with."

"Well then, charge my boy...make daddy proud!" Jared said dramatically as they started to walk back towards Savitar's hall. Things were about to get grim, Jared could sense it in the air but he'd be damned if he let fucking Noir put him down.

The younger man snorted. "I'd rather find that bastard in hell and rip his intestines out." He pushed open the door to the hall.

Jared chuckled as he followed Nick inside, but he grew serious when he saw all the eyes that turned towards them when they entered. What the hell was so interesting about that anyway?

Kyrian was on edge and he was growing impatient, he knew the importance of coming up with a plan but with every second that ticked away it felt like Amanda slipped further away from him. He took NJ from Tabby's arms and buried his nose in his son's fuzzy hair, he just wanted something to happen.

Nick just went right over to where Ash stood next to the former Thracian general. He met the Atlantean's gaze. "You've been around the Olympian bunch enough to know which ones are decent right?"

A purple brow rose. "Why?"

"I'm killing Noir, period. So in the simplest terms, we need an immortal who can handle absorbing his powers. A god, demi-god, doesn't matter as long as they don't decide to go megalomaniac."

"So you want me to take you to Olympus and introduce you to the least corrupted members. Do you have any idea just what's going to happen the moment I set foot there?"

Nick smirked. "You saying you're not man enough to ignore her?"

Ash growled. "Watch it boy or I'll sick Tory on you." He put a hand on Nick's shoulder, caught Jared's eye, and flashed them to Olympus.

Artemis was sitting in her temple holding Mia in her arms, she loved it when she got to be with her daughter and grandchild. Right now though she was glaring fire at the tall dark man busting a gut in the corner.

"Aw, is Grammy that upset about a little baby spit up?" Sin asked still chuckling.

Artie bristled and vanished the tiny stain from her bright white robes. "No, more upset about the oaf laughing at his daughter." She answered haughtily, then she tensed...she would know that presence anywhere...What was he doing, coming here?

Katra blinked as she felt her father's unique energy signature along with that of two others on Olympus. She caught her husband's eye and tilted her head in question, wanting to know if he felt it too.

Sin nodded and stepped closer to Katra, he knew Ash would never hurt his daughter but he also knew his mother in law's temper. "Maybe you should take Mia." He said quietly to his wife.

The blond woman's brows knit. She wanted to believe that her mother wouldn't do anything so rash as to put Mia into danger but, though Artemis had been changing since she'd truly lost Acheron, she was too volatile for Katra to be truly secure in that belief. She went over to her mother. "Matera here let me take Mia for a bit."

"Hmm?" Artemis was concentrating on Acheron's signature, why was he here? She'd been a good girl, hadn't touched him or that bitch he'd married. "Oh...okay." She kissed Mia's plump, pink cheek before gently handing the baby over to her mother. Then she stood up and straightened her back, she would not face Acheron showing any sign of weakness.

Over in the corner the moon goddess's brother Apollo made a feral snarl. "What is that bastard doing here?"

"How should I know brother dear?" Artie replied, her voice laced with sarcasm. "I assure you I haven't invited him." She knew Apollo was afraid of the Atlantean's power, frankly she was too...and now she had lost her hold on him.

Sin curled his lip, he really couldn't stand his wife's uncle.

Katra frowned at her uncle, her arms protectively cradling Mia. She truly, truly despised Apollo for so many reasons not the least of which was the way he'd treated her mother over the millenia. If she didn't have the restraint of her father she'd have fried her uncle ages ago. Unfortunately that would be bad since it would kill her mother too and pretty much end the world so there her uncle stood, unfried and just as arrogant a bastard as always.

A polite knock sounded on the oversized temple door before it creaked open to show Acheron, Nick Gautier, and, if Katra's eyes didn't deceive her, a Sephiroth. Ash's gaze swept the room, his lip curling ever so slightly in distaste when he saw Apollo then relaxing when it landed on Artemis. He nodded respectfully at her. "I apologize for intruding but I thought you should know we'll be on Olympus for a while."

Oh he truly was magnificent. Artemis felt regret stab through her like a knife, if only she had handled things differently he might have still been hers. She lifted her chin and glared at the group. "What makes you think you're welcome here? And what's with that riff raff trailing behind you." She nodded towards Nick and Jared. Her fingers tingled with the need to blast them, to show that she had power still.

Nick folded his arms and met her flashing green eyes, remembering what she'd said to him after Ash's wedding. Being an old hand at using bravado to cover up stung pride or hurt feelings he recognized that as what she was doing quite well. "We're just going to be talking with a few of the other gods around then we'll be out of your hair."

Apollo came off the wall he was leaning on with a fearsome expression and formed a godbolt. "Don't speak with her you worm or I'll blast you into oblivion."

Nick looked at the sun god and took a step forward, deliberately letting his eyes go to Malachai red and his voice go demonic. "Try it sunshine boy and I'll kick your ass into another dimension. Just because I can't kill you without ending the world doesn't mean you can't have your ass kicked nor does it mean I can't lock your ass into stasis. You wanna rumble then I'll be glad to take you on."

Green eyes widened and Artemis actually took a step back. Well this was a surprise, fear, astonishment and annoyance warred within her. Why had she never felt his power? She looked between Nick and her brother and her eyes soften a little as they landed on the brunet. He had treated her with respect and quite frankly that was a novelty these days. Besides it wouldn't hurt to have all that power on her side, also she was lonely and Nick was fairly amusing. She was very curious of what exactly the once gangly Cajun could actually do now. Atrie sneered at her brother who looked like he was about to soil himself and turned to Nick, completely ignoring the others. "What business you you have with Olympian Gods?"

Nick lowered his hackles and let his eyes and voice return to normal though a hard cast was held to the silver eyes. "Noir took Kyrian's wife to get to me and I have every intention of ripping his head off. We're here to find someone who won't be corrupted by absorbing Noir's powers. Someone who wouldn't upset the balance of the universe." Nick caught Apollo's greedy expression out of the corner of his eye and pointed at him. "Don't even bother offering petite cocotte. I said someone who won't be corrupted not a useless dick who's already corrupted. We're looking for the more pure and least volatile gods on Olympus and you, sunshine ass, don't count."

Apollo turned a nasty puce color trying to keep from exploding at the brunette since that would be tantamount to bending over and slapping a sticker on your ass saying 'kick here'. Katra's lips were twitching at smart-assed man's comments. She liked this guy's attitude and the fact that he had the firepower to back up his words.

Artemis felt a lot like her twin, that sort of power would be amazing. She was smarter than to let it show though, that and she knew herself...she would be corrupted within seconds. No better to let that power go and concentrate on staying on this new fascinating Nick's good side. She ignored Sin's bark of laughter at Nick's comment and stepped up to Nick. "Fine, go out and find some of the more...docile of my brethren." She waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. "Most of them are brainless sheep but do have fun." She looked up at swirling silver eyes that reminded her so much of Ash and placed a small, slender hand on his chest. "Oh and Nick, be sure to come visit me sometime, we could have fun." Artemis saw the way the Sephiroth's eyes narrowed at her words...interesting. She stood on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to Nick's cheek, quirking her lips in a pleased smile when that action made those golden eyes narrow even more. It looked as if things could actually be entertaining from now on.

Nick looked down at the narrow hand the godess had placed on his chest, well aware of both Jared and Ash's glares. He knew well why Ash was glaring, the man had dealt with Artemis for millenia after all and was wanting to protect Nick from being caught in the selfish goddess's web, but Jared's glare was a mystery to him. Nick searched his brain for a diplomatic reply to Artemis. He didn't want to alienate the goddess for two reasons. One, she could be nasty when pissed. Two, he truly didn't think that the goddess should be lonely despite her treatment of Ash. Fortunately he was saved from reply by Katra, who stepped up and nudged her mother away from Nick affectionately. "Matera could you not antagonize my father and the last of the Sepherii?"

"What?" Artemis looked over at her daughter with huge green eyes shining with fake innocence. "I was just being friendly." She batted her red eyelashes and gave them all a radiating smile.

Sin snorted and choked on laughter over in his corner, his mother in law was truly something.

Katra just shook her head and looked at Nick appraisingly before sliding her gaze over to Jared. A knowing smile flirted on her lips, her mother was going to learn the hard way not to play with other's toys if she went after Nick.

Jared raised an eyebrow when he felt Katra's eyes on him, he gave her a small tight-lipped smile. He liked the blond but he didn't like that redheaded bitch with her hands allover his Nick...Wait, what? Jared actually paled some, what the hell was wrong with him? He couldn't be having thoughts like this. "Well we should probably get going." He grumbled, anxious to get out of the too bright temple. "The clock is ticking." Jared didn't look at Nick when he spoke, he felt so messed up.

The Malachai nodded though he quirked a brow at Jared's avoidance of his gaze. "You're right."

Ash shook his head at the two, sweet Zenobi they were dense. He nodded at Artemis, chucked Mia under the chin, and gave Katra and her husband a smile. "With luck this won't take long. Katra, Tory and I will come visit soon." He turned to Nick and Jared. "Let's go."

Jared hurried out of the temple and took in the fresh air, he really needed to clear his head. Olympus was beautiful but everything was too perfect for Jared's tastes, he liked a bit of chaos. He turned to Ash. "You know your way around here, who should we look up first?"

"We'll start with Hebe. This time of day she and her husband are usually in the courtyard."