The few remaining Cabal who had survived the onslaught were slowly regaining consciousness. When they realised the ordeal they were now facing they dropped all their weapons in instant surrender. They weren't going to pick a fight with this girl. Will and Kate picked up the fallen weapons and corralled them into a group.
"Pssst, tentacles," hissed Henry, trying not to attract the said tentacles attention.
In the pool several large and slimy tentacles flopped about splashing people and waving about in the air. Sally was leaning over the edge of the pool her head resting on her hand looking thoroughly irritated at the splashing monster.
"I think he likes it here," said Will, with a grin.
The mood in the room had soared to new heights and in the calm after the commotion, humour reigned. John looked across at Helen after examining his bloody bandages.
"You shot me," he stated with a slight tinge of disbelief. "Again."
She shrugged with a smile.
"Ashley," growled Bigfoot as he kicked a mound of blue beads and watched with a sigh as they scattered and tinkled across the floor. "You're sweeping this up."
"That was so freakin' intense," gasped Henry, admitting his shock. "Arggh," he yelped as a tentacle enthusiastically prodded and investigated him.
"Aww, he likes you," laughed Kate, stopping suddenly as another tentacle pulled a Cabal body into the pool.
"Oh come on! There's no need for that," said Will in disgust.
With a splash the body was thrown out of the water and landed on Will.
"I guess Cabal taste like crap," reasoned Kate, watching Will struggle out from under the body but not moving to help him up.
Tesla watched the group as they lightly revelled in their victory high. He rolled his eyes with mild disgust. It was up to him to be the only one with any sense. Helen was understandably distracted what with making eyes at Druitt and Ashley's return.
"I hate to be the party pooper but... did I hear rumour of a bomb somewhere?" said Tesla.
Their faces fell.
"I don't think I can stand up for very much longer," admitted Ashley.
"Let me deal with it," offered Druitt.
"And what do you know about explosives?" sneered Tesla, much aggrieved to find he was a tiny, insignificantly minisculey bit pleased that John was free of his burden.
"I shall teleport it, genius," he shot back with a hard stare.
There was an almost awkward silence as John looked at Helen and Ashley. Where did they all stand now, he wondered. He wasn't the only one wondering. Magnus nodded her consent.
"What shall we do with this lot?" asked Kate, still guarding the remaining Cabal and waving a gun menacingly around their heads.
"Go back to your leaders, whoever they are," Magnus ordered the prisoners, "And tell them not to bother us again."
"The Sanctuary is defended," said Ashley, insinuating all their imaginations could dream up.
"Doc, there's two more out here," called Henry from the hallway where he had been trying to get away from his new, tentacled friend. "It's the two teenage agents. I think they're unconscious. What shall we do with them?"
"Put them in the infirmary and I will check them over shortly. They shouldn't be running around with the Cabal, that's for certain."
"They can clean up this mess they helped create. And then we'll send them home."
"But they're Cabal," protested Will.
"They are children, Will."
"That one tasered me!" He pointed an accusing finger at one of the girls.
"You tasered yourself," came a loud whisper from the brunette lying flat out on the floor with her eyes shut, arms and legs all over the place in 'pretend to be dead' mode.
"I did not!" shrieked Will.
"Enough!" ordered Magnus. "Henry, take John and Nikola to the lab and find that bomb. See if you can diffuse it. If not, release the security systems and shut down the EM field so John can teleport it away."
"Sure, but when this is over can I have bomb diffusing lessons?" Magnus gave him a look. "I'm just saying, with hindsight they would be useful."
He scurried after Druitt and Tesla as they stalked down the corridor towards the main lab. Nikola was walking faster than he usually would trying not to let Druitt get ahead of him. Even injured Druitt's lengthy stride outpaced Tesla.
As the team went about their tasks Magnus wrapped an arm around Ashley's waist and let her rest her weight on her as they made their way from the pool area.
Finding themselves alone for the moment they exchanged a glance as they both noticed the silence hanging between them. What was there to say? Magnus said everything which needed to be said with a kiss to Ashley's temple. Ashley rested her head on her mothers shoulder as she was led to her bedroom. She was too tired to notice it hadn't changed a jot since she'd been 'dead'. Eventually she would realise there was not a speck of dust in the room. Magnus had not allowed anything to be touched and the Big guy had made sure that not even dust was allowed to interfere with Ashley's belongings.
They say down on the edge of the bed Ashley futily trying to stop her eyes from closing.
"Can't sleep, we might blow up," she murmured sleepily.
"No, we wont."
"But there's a bomb."
"John and Nikola will handle it." Ashley gave her funny sideways look. "They may be trouble but I have faith in them. Besides, Henry is with them." she added as though Henry would have any affect on the two egotistical maniacs.
"You sure?" Ashley mumbled sleepily.
With that affirmation along with her complete faith in her mother, Ashley felt no apprehension in falling fast asleep.
Hours later, Ashley awoke in her own bed in the Sanctuary for the first time in almost a year. She buried her face in her warm pillow and stretched in the comfortable bed. She looked down and realised she had miraculously ended up in her pyjamas. How had that happened? She rolled over to find her mother sitting on the chair in her room watching over her.
"Mo-om. I wish you wouldn't do that, it's kinda creepy."
"Sorry. I was a bit worried that you'd disappear again if I let you out of my sight."
Ashley sat up suddenly and looked around, a puzzled frown on her face.
"Wait a minute. We haven't blown up."
"They did it?" she said as though she hadn't really believed they could.
"How are you feeling?" asked Magnus.
"What happened with the bomb, Mom?" Asked Ashley, ignoring the query to her health. "How long have I been asleep?"
"Only a few hours, not long enough. As for the bomb, they spent so long arguing about how to diffuse it they ran out of time and your father had to teleport it somewhere in the ocean. He was soaking wet when he returned. Now, how are you feeling?"
"You sound like Will."
"I feel like I got beaten up by a tornado then dragged through the Rockies by my hair, kicked in the ribs by a herd of Ozaugh and now need another years worth of sleep," she said without hesitating. "And I could eat a scabby horse."
Magnus wrinkled her nose at the colourful turn of phrase.
"Well almost all right then."
"Where is everyone?"
"Don't you want to get cleaned up and changed first?"
"I want to see everyone is okay first."
"Very well, come and see," said Magnus unable to deny Ashley her wish and with a smile held out her hand.
They made their way through the building to the main door and opened it to step outside. Ashley stood barefoot on the warm top step to the Sanctuary, squinting in the strong sunlight with her hair ruffled from sleep and in her creased pyjamas. She raised her hand to shield her eyes from the brightness. It was a beautiful sunny day. The sky was blue and clear from clouds, it one of those spring days which were almost summer and warm enough to sit out in the sunshine. Ashley sat down on the top step and looked around at the group of cut throats, murderers, mercenaries, monsters, vampires, werewolves, hunters, geniuses. All friends and family. They all smiled and winked as she joined them in their temporary haven of tranquility.
Everyone was sprawled over the steps and surrounding lawn soaking up the sunshine. The mood had never been so peaceful amongst them and a aura of quiet thankfulness for just being alive pervaded the scene.
Kate lay on her front on the grass making a daisy chain of all things. Henry was lying on his back near her, staring up into the sky and trying to avoid the odd daisy which was flicked at him. Will sat on the bottom step observing everyone, just relishing this unprecedented moment of harmony. Bigfoot sat next to him with his face tilted towards the sun letting the warmth penetrate his fur. His nose was in the air sniffing the breeze either on alert or just enjoying the outdoors.
Even Nikola was there, leaning against a pillar and staring at the ground lost in thought, probably counting the bits of gravel.
Ashley leaned back against the wall and smiled at her father who was sitting on the bottom step with a slightly bedraggled air about him. His long leather coat was laid out on the grass to dry after it's urgent dunking in the North Pacific.
He returned the smile as her mother sat down next to her and they all for once sat in companionable existence.
"Welcome home," Magnus whispered in her ear.
Ashley leaned back onto her mother and sighed, perfectly content.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed and sent me weird rambling PM's. Dark Sides is dedicated to you and thanks for your support.
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