Several months later...
Oscar Gabriel, eldest (if disgraced and disowned) son of Baron Gabriel was not having the best night. He had acknowledged to himself early that he was off his game. But there was a gorgeous little thing in the corner that kept distracting him... and Ariadne was the third woman of the night to notice that his attention was not in the right place, or on the right woman.
Well, Oscar decided, downing the last of his beer and standing. Only one thing for it.
"I would advise against that."
The redhead stumbled, taken by surprise, and rounded on the man who had spoken. He, Oscar decided, looked far to respectable to be in this seedy bar, even with his suit jacket hanging over the back of his chair and his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Oscar frowned. Were those burn scars? Huh. Wait, words.
"Advise against what?"
The blond nodded towards the corner, where the girl was leaning forward, one hand on her conversational partner's wrist. She was smiling widely, head tilted to one side. "You're going to try to talk to her."
Oscar puffed himself up, frowning. "How dare you assume-"
He was interrupted by a whirlwind of green silks. "Crehador spilled everything, and I didn't have to use a quarter of the bribe I expected," the woman announced, sliding into the other man's lap, grabbing his tie, and pulling him into a deep kiss. Oscar's mouth dropped open. "He's easy, Riff, make a note of that, and he has impeccable sources. Good target." Still speaking quickly, the girl swung the stool around to face the bar, catching the other man's tumbler of brandy and taking a sip. "Ugh, Riff, you always buy the cheap stuff!"
"That, milady, is because I am actually sensible with my money," the blond said dryly, smiling, steadying her with one arm around her waist. "You verified the location?"
"I did! Mr. Alderman was glimpsed at a party three days ago. Difficult to believe, as he's been in his grave for a week." She sounded gleeful, slid her arms around her… ah, Riff's shoulders and pressed their heads together. "So what's a dead man doing-" She caught sight of Oscar over the man's shoulder and glared at him. "Oh. You. Go away, we're busy."
Oscar shut his mouth with a snap. He didn't stop staring.
The woman sniffed and resumed ignoring him. "Anyway, Riff, I think we should talk to the coroner next, see what he thought of the body. There was an actual body, I believe, so we've got either a living impostor or a dead one, and it would be best to have a hypothesis before verification."
"Perhaps tomorrow, milady?" he suggested politely, relaxed tone at odds with the fact that she was still on his lap. "Do you know when that particular coroner is on duty, in any case? Besides, I doubt the morgue will be open at the moment, given the lateness of the hour. You should be in bed."
She grinned in wicked response. "Will you be there with me?" She gave him another kiss, this one slower, before he could respond, then tilted back to her feet. "But you're right, of course. You always are. I don't know what I would do without you, love. I suppose we'll have to return home, then."
"That might be advised," the man said, standing and catching his lady's elbow in support as she swayed. Oscar had to actually look up at him. He hadn't had to do that to any man in years. "Come, it shouldn't be difficult to find a cab."
Oscar watched the pair go, before sitting at the bar again and catching the keep's attention. He really shouldn't drink too much, he reminded himself wryly. He was supposed to be meeting with an acquaintance tomorrow.
Contemplatively, he stared at the tumbler, abandoned by what's-his-name. Riff. "Gin, please," he told the keep.
The hell with his appointment with Cain Hargreaves. The hangover would be gone by tea-time anyway.
A/N: I've started college again (classes begin tomorrow morning) so I'm finishing this up now. Have an epilogue!
I hope everyone enjoyed the ending of the fic, and that it lived up to its expectations. I've really enjoyed writing it, and I have been incredibly proud of it, as it's the first multi-chapter fic I've completed and posted.
I want to leave a very special thanks to the people who have reviewed this story and consistently followed it. I read and reply to every review, and take them to heart. Thank you all so much for your kind words.
A sequel/parallel story is planned, written from Cain's perspective, but I do warn you not to expect it for a while (several months at least). I've not written a word for it, and classes will be in the way, as will my extracurriculars and on campus job. A few (AU) one shots may be polished and published before anything for this continuity is. Keep an eye out for it, however! Probable title: "How Does Your Garden Grow?"
Again, I thank all of the readers, those who reviewed and those who did not, for reading this story.
I bid you all adieu.