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Realistic or Modern More Than An Assignment

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
The shots remained full and Cian set his down next to Alannah's as she jumped into work mode once more. He knew from past jobs that media attention was never ideal when unprepared and so he took the card she gave him and did as she had asked. Alannah hurried off to the nearby bathroom and he watched the door that she slipped into. He placed the phone to his ear and spotted Alannah's blazer on the chair nearby. Not wanting her to forget it he grabbed it and hung it over his arm.

"Hello, Kirkbridge government building, Thea speaking."

"Oh hey Thea, it's Cian here." The room lit up for the briefest moment with a flash and he turned his back to the bathroom door trying to find where the source of the flash had come from. He spotted another man with a camera bag at the front door to the pub, his camera trained on Cian. There was another flash as his photo was taken once again.

"Cian... Can I help you?" Thea's voice sounded over the line and Cian forced himself to answer her.

"Hey Thea, can you send a car to a place called the Pinbar? Ms. Heshmati needs a ride. ASAP, if you can." Cian muttered, his eyes narrowing on the rather presumptuous man as he took yet another photo.

"Sure. It's on it's way!" Thea ended the call and Cian shoved his phone into his pocket.

"What the hell man?" He muttered to himself. He began to turn back, hoping Alannah was done in the bathroom, As he did, he caught the an empty seat were the other man from the press had been sitting. "Shit." Was all he could say as he jumped into action, heading for the bathroom where Alannah was.
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
It wasn't until Alannah stepped into the clinical lights of the bathroom that she fully felt the effects of the shots and the beer, a slight buzz filling her ears as she wandered over to one of the sinks and looked into the mirror above it. There was a moment or so where she blinked at the reflection staring back at her, a reflection that initially didn't look like her. Or the version of herself that she had grown accustomed to, anyway. The woman standing in front of her had gentle waves of hair that had fallen out of her ponytail framing her face, wore a shirt with the top two buttons undone to cool herself down from getting excited over air hockey, and her eyes were sparkling with something unrecognisable. It seemed a shame to suddenly tame this stranger back out of existence, but the opening of the bathroom door startled her back into the reality of her situation, and Alannah suddenly remembered that she needed to move.

Quickly redoing and smoothing out her hair, she then fastened up the buttons of her shirt and straightened it, before reaching into her bag to apply a layer of lip balm to her lips. Then, she took a step back, seemingly examining herself for any further signs of the evening, while mentally prepping herself for whatever was waiting for her and Cian on the outside. There was no doubt in her mind that it wouldn't be good, and for now all they could really do was attempt damage control, or at least that's what she told herself as she gave herself one last nod, took a breath and steadily began towards the door again.

What Alannah hadn't been expecting though, was when she opened it for a camera to be shoved straight into her face, the flash of it momentarily blinding her. Her eyebrows pulled together in a frown, her mouth opening as if to say something, but before she could get a word out the questions started to hit her, thick and fast from what felt like a hundred men, when in reality was only one. "Having a good time, Miss Heshmati? Is it true that the Wests were behind the shooting this morning? Who is the man you're here drinking with? Do you think a secret date in the middle of the afternoon will look good for your campaign? Can you answer the questions, Miss Heshmati?" But Alannah couldn't. Normally she was well equipped for this kind of thing, but not today. Today, she simply froze.
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
Cian rushed to the door, the man from the press had his camera lifted in one hand and an audio recording device in another. The man's questions came out in a rush, not leaving any time for Alannah to answer even if she wanted to. He didn't have to look long at Alannah to recognize that she had been thrown off balance. He wanted to say the shame and fury that coursed through him was because of his lack of professionalism, but the way she looked just then, it sliced his heart in two.

His hand reached out and with one rough motion he gripped the cuff of the mans collar and none to politely wrenched him to the side. The man let out out a noise of outrage as his equipment was jostled and while he fumbled to get all his gear back to rights, Cian slipped Alannah's coat over her shoulders and plastered himself to her side. With a guiding hand he began to walk her out towards the main entrance of the bar.

"I'll press charges you know!" The man called from behind them. Cian paused, the muscle in his jaw twitching as his teeth ground together.

"Well then, if that's the case, I hope you're prepared for my client to follow through on charges of verbal assault and illegal recording in a private bathroom." Cian said, his tone gruff. When the man from the press did not immediately respond, Cian began to lead Alannah forward again but a noise from his phone had him grabbing it to see the test message. He had to take a steadying breath before he could relay the message to Alannah. "Thea says the car pulled around back for us. Seems the press is waiting to pounce at the front."

The two of them made a quick turn around and with the help of a friendly barkeep they were led through the kitchen and let out into a dark alley. The sleek black town car with its dark tinted windows had turned it's lights off, so as not to gain the attention of the press. They clambered in and once they were safe from the eyes of anyone unwelcome Cian felt the rush of shame fill him once more. He had completely screwed up everything. Part of him half expected for Alannah to fire him on the spot. He had let things get too comfortable and he had unknowingly put Alannah in a compromising position. He sat across from her now, the town car had a slightly longer back and was set up a bit like a limo, with seats that faced forwards and backwards. Cian had set himself facing the back, just in case they were being followed. His arms folded over his chest and he did his best to school his features into something more professional.

"I apologize Ms. Heshmati. I did not think far enough ahead to consider the press. I won't be doing that again." He couldn't give her excuses, he wasn't the type of man to skirt around his mistakes. He would own this one, and he would make sure no such thing happened again.
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
Cian was by her side in seconds, pulling the journalist away by his collar and wrapping Alannah both into her jacket and into his side. Currently, all she was really capable of was letting him guide her, the words swapped between the two men muffling into a jumble behind the sound of the pinging arcade machines that saw no reason to take a break. The rest of their quick journey through the building passed by in a similar manner, in somewhat of a blur, Alannah affording Cian a rigid nod in response to his explanation that they needed to take a back exit. Of course there were more press outside the front of the building. She had known that would probably be the case before he confirmed it.

When they finally clambered into the town car, the door shutting behind them and the tinted windows shielding them away from any prying eyes, Alannah finally let out breath, mind scrambling to try and catch up with itself. There was an undeniable feeling of guilt just starting to settle on her chest as she thought about what the press may have seen. In her heart, she knew that neither she nor Cian had done anything wrong, not really. All they were guilty of was providing the media with material that they could twist. Unfortunately though, in the middle of a campaign, that could be enough to bring Alannah's image to its knees.

The reality of this began to sink in, in the silence of their new surroundings but just as Alannah opened her mouth to apologise, it would seem that Cian had the same idea. Her lips closed again momentarily as she blinked at him from her seat opposite, as if she was suddenly seeing him again for the first time. As far as Alannah was concerned, he hadn't done anything wrong. He wasn't responsible for her. This was on her head, not his. "It... It's fine," she eventually managed, shaking her head a little. "You don't have anything to apologise for. I should have known better."

"Miss Heshmati?" The voice of the driver interjected then and Alannah let her eyes find his in the wing mirror when she realised he was waiting for her instruction. "Oh, sorry. Could you take me to my apartment, please? And then wherever Mr McRannall needs to go." Her apartment. Alannah hadn't been back home since this morning and entering her building alone felt as welcoming as it had a few hours ago. Not that she had much choice.

Once the car had started up and quietly slipped away around the back of the building, and Alannah was absolutely sure that they had left the press behind, she deflated back against her seat, gaze cast downwards. She wasn't used to being someone who needed help and the slow realisation that she had just been next to useless in a situation she should have taken control of didn't really sit right with her. "Thank you, for stepping in back there," she spoke into the silence eventually, soft eyes reluctantly finding Cian's. "I can usually handle those kinds of situations but I guess maybe... I'm just tired, or something. It's been a long day."
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
Alannah stayed quiet and Cian could all but see the measures she took to calm and collect herself. Her quiet words did little to ease the guilt that prodded his heart, and for one brief fleeting moment he thought to gather her in his arms and tuck her close to him. He wanted to soothe and be a source of comfort for her, he wanted to draw his hand down the gentle curve of her spine and back up towards her neck. She would be soft everywhere, he thought to himself.

"I should have known better." Her soft words brushed away at his apology and his spine stiffened. The arms that remained folded over over his chest tightened as the truth of the situation settled firmly in his belly. He had broken far too many of the body guarding rules this day and he knew better. Those dark eyes with flecks of gold had drawn him in and he'd let his heart guide him when in reality his heart should have nothing to do with the job. The town car rumbled to life and slowly the alleyway slipped past them as they ventured out onto a main road and into the city.

They were quiet a long while as the city moved past them. The drivers music started to fill the void and soft notes of piano and saxophone filled the car. Cian warred with himself on what to say, everything that came to his mind seemed entirely too emotional and he could not allow himself to make that same mistake again. When he thought with his heart things went wrong, all too many times in the past had proved this. Alannah was the first to speak and she surprised him with her thanks.

"I think after the day you had, you're entitled to peace. I think it's important to recognize that what happened was scary, you're human Ms. Heshmati, and you do not have to handle everything perfectly. Give yourself the time and space to come back stronger. You're doing the best you can, and I see that." Cian had begun to lean forward as he spoke, his elbows resting on his knees as he took in the sight of Alannah. The lights of the above street lamps moved rhythmically across her skin as they travelled down the highway. The light started at her hand and danced up towards the sweep of her shoulder, it lit up the strong line of her jaw and curved up towards those intense eyes of hers before stopping, only to start once again as they passed under another light. Realizing he had been staring entirely too long Cian swept a hand down his face and let out a small self deprecating laugh. "Lord I sound like my mum."

The car turned and Cian could see they were entering a residential part of Kirkbridge. They arrived at the apartment complex Alannah resided in and Cian stepped out of the car first and after he ensured there was no one in sight he gave Alannah the ok get out of the car and he walked her inside and to the elevator. Once again his heart warred with his mind as he debated on riding the elevator up with her. If she invited him in, he was certain it was game over for whatever professionalism he had managed to maintain. So instead he stepped back when the doors opened and he gave Alannah a small sad smile.

"Get some good rest tonight Ms. Heshmati, you deserve it." The doors closed on her and he watched the numbers tick up until she reached her floor. After a few long moments he turned on his heels and walked back to the car. He gave directions for his own place and leaned his head against the cool window of the car.

Oh man was he ever in trouble.
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
If Alannah had been expecting Cian to say anything in response to her thanks, it wasn't the reassurance that she got. She was very used to people telling her what they expected of her, or what she needed to do next. Being a politician could be a thankless job which meant on the rare occasions she was praised or encouraged, her response was often brushing it off uncomfortably or blinking in surprise, as she was doing now. This was quickly followed by a small ball of emotion forming in her throat - Cian's words meant more to her than perhaps they should have done and she found herself momentarily unable to respond. Although she did manage a slightly high pitched sounding giggle at his self-deprecation - nobody wanted to sound like their parents.

Upon arriving at her apartment, Alannah thanked the driver, the towering building looming above them as it warned of her impending loneliness. She didn't want to go in there alone, but much like Cian was currently experiencing, she found herself battling with the idea of inviting him in. In the end though, it was her head that won. Giving a small nod to his instruction and murmuring a good night, she had been about to let the doors close when suddenly she placed her hand in the way to stop them. "Oh and Cian? I don't know what your boss is like but if I were you I'd maybe give them a heads up about what might be in the newspapers tomorrow. Y'know, just in case." The warning was sound, maybe even professional but deep down Alannah knew that the true reason she had given it was because she cared.

------------------------------------------------

The next morning in the office was almost as chaotic as the day before. Almost.

The first stories of Alannah and her 'mystery man' had begun to emerge on local news websites and would no doubt soon be covered on local news channels in bars, in cafes and homes all around the city. Once a story like this broke it spread like wildfire and her team were already firefighting in a failing attempt at damage limitation. Alannah herself had spent all of five minutes in the office and she was already in a terrible mood. Last nights exhaustion and regret had quickly turned into annoyance and irritation, at the media outlets, the journalists, not Cian himself but the board for hiring her a bodyguard in the first place, and mostly at herself for letting her guard down. As a woman, and a woman from an ethnic minority background at that, Alannah had to work twice as hard as some of the opponents in her field, and that meant that when things fell down they hit twice as hard.

Currently, Alannah had locked herself in her office, and her forehead was pressed against her desk. Her colleagues were well versed in how to handle this side of Alannah, with many of them adopting a proceed with caution approach, some actively avoiding her altogether. Stuart unfortunately, fell into neither of these categories. "What were you thinking, Alannah?" He ranted down the phone. "I told you to take the afternoon off, not hit the town with our newest employee. You know, I've got a good mind to ring Booker and Sons and--" Alannah's chest constricted.
"No, Stuart. You can't do that. This isn't Mr McRannall's fault. If anything he was just doing what you asked of him, remember?"
"I didn't ask him to take you to a bar, Alannah."
"He didn't take me anywhere! Believe it not I'm a grown woman who can make my own decisions and I agreed to go to the bar with him, to get to know the guy who you hired to follow me around for the next god knows how many weeks! This whole thing is ridiculous, you know what the press are like."
"Yes, I do and you should know that too. We're going to have to come up with something, anything that isn't you taking off for an afternoon of drinking with a stranger after being shot at only a few hours before. We could have really done without this today, especially when Preston is already on his way to your office to discuss--"
"Oh shit."
"Alannah?"
"Sorry Stuart, I gotta go. I think the story just hit the news channels. My dad's calling."
"Alannah? Ala--"

Slamming the receiver back down onto its stand, Alannah couldn't suppress the outward groan that escaped her lips as her mobile buzzed on the desk in front of her, and flashed with a picture of her father mid telling her off. The image usually made her smile, but perhaps not when it was about to become a reality. Picking her phone up, she pressed two fingers into her temple to massage the tension that was starting there before screwing her eyes shut and connecting the call.

"Namaste, Papa." What happened next could only be described as an explosion, a concerned explosion but an explosion all the same. For the next five minutes Alannah tried to reassure her parents (her mother chiming in, in the background), occasionally merging into Hindi when she thought it might get her point across more clearly. But in the end, exasperation won out. "Papa, I was not in a bar with a strange man! He is my bodyguard!"
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
The phone call to Booker and Sons had been for the most part a rather painful experience, Cian had held off for as long as possible, waiting until the early hours of the morning before finally mustering the courage and picking up the phone. Cian had sat on the old leather ottoman in his tiny living room and with his head resting in the palm of his hand he listened as Booker went on an extensive monologue on the merits of professionalism and appropriate bodyguard conduct.

"I know, boss... yeah I know. I can always cover until you find someone else. I'm sorry Booker."
"You're damn right you're sorry. I can't believe you went and put the moves on one of your clients no less." Cian was about to protest that he had not been putting any moves on Alannah but Booker went on with his tirade for long minutes. "... I started this business on my own blood and tears kid, I had a dream and a plan and I took it and made it into something great. My gandpappy, if only he could see me now. Listen here Cian, I'm not about to let some lumbering emotional giant-" Bookers words cut off and for a second Cian wondered if the line had dropped.
"Boss?"
"Say is that you on the front page of the Kirkbridge Post, Cian?" Cian could hear the sound of newspaper pages being ruffled.
"Ah, it could be... I did say we had a run in with the press." Cian shifted slightly, a deep sense of hopelessness filling him.
"Well shit, you didn't say it was front page news." There was a long pause as Booker deliberated and read through the article. "Hey kid, have you got any of those shirts that have our logo from the last team building we did?"
"I think so... Why?"
"Anytime you're with her wear the shirt. Any press is good press. Just wear the shirt ok." Cian was cut off from saying anything in response when Bookers rushed tones filled the line once again. "Anyway I gotta go kid, catch you later. Hey! Martha, Cian's gonna get our logo on the front page-" The line cut off as Booker excitedly announced his news to his wife.

Cian had to sit there for a moment in shocked disbelief as his phone screen went dark with inactivity. Well that certainly didn't go the way he had expected. Letting out a snort, Cian got to his feet and went to dig out the navy tee that sported the logo as requested.

~~

When Cian arrived at the office, he was one of the first people there. He took his time as he walked from the underground parking up to the main entrance and waited casually for the first of the employees to arrive. He was a little disappointed when it wasn't Alannah when the first arrived, instead Cian lifted an awkward hand of greeting to Stuart, who in return shot him a death glare.

"Morning sir." Cian tried a friendly smile but it quickly slipped away as Stuarts death glare cranked up to eleven. Cian waited patiently as the smaller man fumbled with his keys and opened the front entry way. Once inside the awkward silence carried on through the whole journey up the elevator and into the offices. "Have a good one!" Cian called to Stuarts retreating back as he headed for his office and slammed the door behind him. It didn't take long for the rest of the staff to slowly trickle in. Cian was given a seat near Thea's desk and gratefully sat next to his new friend and greeted all those who entered. When Alannah entered, looking like the put together politician she was, his breath caught. They shared a glance for a few brief moments and then Alannah carried on towards her office and got down to business.

The office came to life as they worked tirelessly to fight against the firestorm that was the previous evening. All around him phones rang off the hook and raised voices struggled to bring a comfortable conclusion to the past. Thea took pity on Cian after seeing his expression and leaned over to give his big arm a pat.

"Stuff like this happens all the time." She whispered. "They always act like its the end of the world, but strangely enough it still spins." Thea leaned back and handed him a stack of papers. "These need to be stapled if you want something to keep you busy." She told him and eyebrow raised. Cian gave the woman a grateful smile and took the stack. He was about halfway through the stack when an unfamiliar man walked through the office doors. He walked with purpose towards Thea's desk and flashed them both a brilliant smile. Preston was your typical white man in politics, with brown neat hair and a suit that was pressed to perfection.

"Hello, there. I'm here to see Miss. Heshmati." He told the two of them with the air of confidence that immediately had Cian curious.
"Any you are?" He asked.
"Cian, this is Preston. He's a councilor a few hours away from our city." Thea told him, the look in her eye telling Cian he better keep his nose out of it.
"Pleasure." Preston said, reaching out to shake his hand. Cian gave him a polite smile and returned the handshake.
"Just this way." Thea jumped to her feet and began to lead Preston towards Alannah's office. Cian followed behind them and he stood, ever the giant behind Thea and their guest as Thea knocked lightly on the door and opened the door slightly. Alannah's aggravated words reached them and Cian felt his cheeks heat as she explained to someone over the phone that she had not been with a strange man but with a bodyguard.

"Ah, Miss. Heshmati, I have Preston here to see you." Thea said.
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
Alannah really needed to be more careful about conversations she had in her office. When Thea opened the door, not only with Cian but Preston too, she felt her heart flip over and her cheeks colour ever so slightly at the thought of what they might have just heard. Thank goodness she'd partially been speaking in another language, as her father was still currently doing down the other end of the phone. Again in Hindi, Alannah apologised and explained that she needed to go before placing her phone back down onto her desk and standing to greet her visitors. Hazel eyes flickered to Cian first and then quickly away again to Preston. They hadn't spoken to each other today yet; Alannah figured it would be best for them to keep their distance given the rumours floating around the office and elsewhere, although she hadn't failed to notice the navy shirt that he was wearing now that he hadn't been yesterday. She couldn't help but wonder if this was an attempt to redraw the boundary between them. And then she wondered why she was wondering this when her idol was standing right in front of her. Come on Alannah, get it together.

Looking ever the professional wearing a loose white shirt that tied into a bow at the neck and dark grey suit trousers, her hair tamed back into a clip, Alannah plastered a smile onto deep red lips as she approached Preston, who held out his hand towards her lower back in perhaps a slightly more than just a professional greeting. "Alannah, always a pleasure." One kiss on one cheek and then another on her second, Alannah felt her chest flip a little. Don't look at Cian. Do not look at Cian. "It's nice to see you again, Mr Wright. Thank you so much for travelling over here."
"Oh please, it's Preston to you Alannah, you know that. And it's no bother at all, I was pleased when you reached out to me again. I've been keeping a close eye on your campaign."
"I'm really glad to hear that, and I'm looking forward to wracking your brains for some tips given the success of your own." Ugh. Schmoozing was an inevitable part of her job but then why suddenly did it feel so forced? In an attempt to hide her own momentary discomfort, Alannah turned then to Thea. "Thank you Thea. I can show Preston around from here." To this Thea nodded and gave a wave before heading back to her desk, which left Alannah to face Cian next, a flare of unwarranted irritation clipping her voice. "You too, Mr McRannall."

There was small pause that followed this dismissal, one that could be considered slightly awkward. Preston was the first to break the silence as he looked between the two, light blue eyes eventually sticking to Cian. "I'm sorry, I don't think we've been properly introduced? I don't recognise you from the last time I was here." Alannah jumped in then, maybe a second too quickly.
"Oh, I'm sorry. This is Cian McRannall. He's my... bodyguard."
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
Cian took in the body language of Mr. Wright and Alannah and he couldn't seem to stop himself from straightening to his full height and folding his arms over his chest. The every so rarely used primal part of himself imagined taking Preston's arm and twisting it painfully behind his back and forcing him to duck walk out of the office. Instead his gaze dropped to the floor and Alannah's cheeks were kissed in quick succession. Something about that made him deflate, and he knew in no uncertain terms that Alannah would end up with a man like Preston, if not the very man himself.

They exchanged pleasantries and when Thea was dismissed Cian stayed where he was, in part he wanted to cramp Mr. Wright's style, but also it was his job to supervise any interactions with people from outside of the office. At least that's what he told himself as Alannah finally met his gaze for the second time that day. Her irked tone had his own hackles rising and he raised a brow at her as she dismissed him. He was trying to figure out the most professional way to sass her when Preston stepped in.

"I'll be around for quite a while." Cian said, his dark eyes meeting the icy blue of Preston's. Cian knew he should have just left, he should have waited outside the door and let Alannah carry on with her day.
"Bodyguard...?" Preston trailed off and he considered for a moment, "Well at times like these, we can never be to careful. I trust you come highly recommended." Preston said as he scooted just a little closer to Alannah. Cian eyed the distance between the two politicians for a moment before he gave into temptation once more and looked at Alannah.
"I promise to do everything in my power to keep her safe." He didn't take his eyes off her as he spoke. "Have a good meeting." Cian gave the two of them an incline of his head and slipped out the door and closed it softly behind him. He took a step to the side then and leaned against the wall, his eyes trained on the every busy office. With a deep sigh, Cian resigned himself to sentry duty.
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
Alannah was the first to drop her gaze, a wave of guilt washing through her. Cian hadn't done anything wrong. He was just trying to do his job and it wasn't fair for her to take her annoyance at herself out on him. Things felt very different now to what they had last night and a part of her longed to pull back the easy nature of their interactions again. This part however, was currently losing the battle to the more professional side of herself, the side that was still wounded by the media and doing everything in its power to put that right again. That didn't mean though that she had any right to make Cian's job difficult in the process.

Once the door had closed behind him, Preston was the first to break the silence as he took a seat on the opposite side of Alannah's desk. "I heard about what happened at your event," he began steadily, icy blues fixed on the woman opposite him. "I didn't realise Stuart had taken such steps to protect you though. Is it really that serious? I've heard rumours..." Alannah gave a little shrug.
"There are lots of rumours flying around but that's all they are really. Just rumours. Nobody has been caught yet and until then--"
"You have a bodyguard." Alannah smiled and gave a small nod as she sat down in her own seat, making a concerted effort not to look towards the door.
"But anyway, enough about that, I won't bore you with the details. Shall we make a start?"

Meanwhile, Thea hadn't completely missed the tone in which Alannah had dismissed Cian with. It wasn't her job to pry but she was good at observing, she had to be in her role and that meant that she had also spotted the way in which Cian seemed to grow a little taller upon being introduced to Preston. She could also see Cian now from where she sat, standing against the wall by Alannah's office door, eyes watching the goings on of a busy office. Call it a hunch but but she figured she had just the thing he needed to pass the time while he waited for the meeting to finish. So, pulling herself up from her chair, she wandered over to a filing cabinet, sifting through various folders until she found the one entitled, Preston Wright. Then she headed over to Cian and thrust it into his chest. "Found some light reading I thought might interest you. To help you do your job, of course." She flashed him a smile and turned to start back to her desk.

An hour and a half or so later was when Alannah finally emerged from her office alone. She knew that Cian was still standing by her door, she'd been waiting for him to sit down and although she would never admit it, it was part of the reason she was beside him now. "You know you're gonna get dead legs if you stand there any longer," she quipped quietly as she closed the door behind her, tone less frostier this time but her expression remained guarded as she paused for thought. "I'm just going to grab us a couple of coffees. Would you like one?"
 
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BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
"Light reading?" Cian echoed as the rather hefty folder weighed down his arm. He took a look at the name on the folder and chuckled a little. "Hey, thanks Thea. I appreciate you." He returned her easy smile and watched his new friend walk away and get back to work. Eager to uncover all of what made Mr. Wright such a valuable asset to Alannah he dug right in and pulled out the first stack of papers. In the time that Alannah and Preston were chatting Cian had learned a number of interesting tidbits, all of which made the guy seem generally great, much to his chagrin.

Preston Wright had spearheaded a community focused campaign that centered around more supports for the lower class and tax cuts that helped smaller businesses. His community upgrades had brought about more affordable housing and in the three years since the campaigns creation the numbers of those without housing had dropped considerably. Wright was now leading the charge on mental health supports and early numbers were already showing crime was already on its way down. Cian took a look at one of the newspaper clippings that showed Preston with his brilliant smile surrounded by a diverse group of individuals, all looking as equally happy as him.
"Well I'm a bastard." He muttered to himself, of course Cian had to admit he understood what everyone saw in this bright young politician now. When the door opened next to him, Cian glanced down at Alannah and placed the papers out of sight. She looked as professional as ever and Cian imagined for the briefest moment that it was Alannah in the place of Preston in the photo. It suited her.

"Ah... yeah I suppose you're right." Cian stretched his legs out and bent his neck to sort out a kink there he had not noticed. "Why don't I walk with you? It'll help these old dead legs of mine. I can't be decomposing on the job." He shot a wink in her direction and they fell into step. Like the day before, it was so natural to set his pace with her as they headed for the elevator towards the little coffee shop that resided on the ground floor of the building. As they waited for the elevator Cian suddenly spun around and gestured towards Thea.

"Would you like something, love?" The endearment suited Thea and he watched as the smaller woman gave him another one of her smiles.

"I'd kill for an americano please." Thea asked and Cian gave her a thumbs up. He turned back just as the elevator dinged and the two of them stepped in. Cian was silent as Alannah picked the ground floor and the doors slid closed.

"How is the meeting going?" Cian asked as he leaned against the wall of the elevator. "It seems like Mr. Wright has a lot of good ideas."
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
Alannah had suspected that Cian would come with her, given that it was his job to go wherever she went, although that didn't stop her heart from flipping a little all the same, even more so when he shot her a wink. Damn. She had been totally set on keeping her distance but how could she when one simple little quip drew her right back in to the easy back and forth they had established only the day before? And that was before she even considered the fact that it was literally impossible for her to stay away from Cian, given the very nature of why he was here in the first place. These thoughts whirred around her mind as they headed towards the elevator, Cian's quick spin towards Thea eventually interrupting them. Love. He'd just called Thea love. Why did that leave Alannah wishing that he would call her that, too? It was a brief thought but a significant one, and one that caused her to remain silent as she tried to ignore the gentle spread of heat in her cheeks when they stepped into the elevator through the open doors.

A silence settled between them once the doors had closed them in, one that didn't feel entirely comfortable, so Alannah was grateful when Cian broke it and with a work-based question, a question that was safe. She nodded initially, not looking at him. "Yeah, he does. His own campaign has been very successful and a lot of his values are the same as mine which makes working together really easy, and that's not always the case in politics, believe me. If you piss off the wrong person it can turn into a bullet heading your way, apparently." It was a fairly dark attempt at humour, but Alannah punctuated it with a sideways smirk as she glanced at Cian this time before facing the doors once more. Seconds later, they dinged and reopened.

The two stepped out into the foyer on the ground floor and headed towards the coffee shop in front of them. "The meeting's going well though, thank you. One of our initiatives is to try and set up learning centres in the more deprived areas of the city, things like libraries, workshop spaces and computer stations so that people have free access to the internet, and Preston has some really good ideas about how to try and get funding for them. He's much better at schmoozing the big wigs than I am." They joined the back of a small queue as Alannah merged into a brief silence, mind scrambling for things to say. Work based things, specifically. "I'm actually attending an opening event for one of the libraries tomorrow afternoon. You'll be coming with me, I assume?"
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
Cian had to bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself from smiling too brightly at Alannah. Her dark humour had him wanting to send a bark of laughter echoing in the hull of the elevator. Instead his smile was a little crooked with the effort of his cheek bite. He was about to say something when the doors opened, revealing the main lobby and the friendly red letters of the coffee shop. Alannah returned to talking shop and he was grateful for it. It was entirely too easy to blur the lines of professionalism with Alannah.

She spoke of good changes for the community and plans for the future as they settled into the line. Cian could so clearly see the hope and determination there in those eyes of hers. The line moved forward a bit and the two of them stepped forward to make up for the space.
"I will be." He confirmed when she asked if he would join her at the library. "I heard about it's opening on the news. Seems like its quite the big deal. A lot of what you're doing seems like a big deal actually." Cian couldn't seem to figure out what to do with his hands, so he shoved them into his jeans pocket, his hands curling tightly. "I maybe googled you a little last night." He confessed, hoping it didn't sound as creepy as his anxiety was screaming it was. "My dad actually had a club that meets at one of the maker spaces you helped create. He's really fixated with those community 3D printers." The line moved up again and they would be next. "A lot of your work seems to be based on community. If you ask me, that's what people need these days more than ever. So I think its pretty great that Preston's able to help you move closer to those goals."

They reached the front of the line then and Alannah put her order in first and Cian ordered for himself and Thea. In an after thought Cian ordered a twelve pack of doughnuts, leaning over he whispered to Alannah.
"What are Stuarts favourites?" He asked, hoping that a peace offering of food might get him out of the dog house with Alannah's boss.
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
Alannah made a small humming sound of consideration when Cian informed her that he would indeed be going with her to the library opening and then smiled when he told her that a lot of what she was doing seemed like a big deal. It certainly felt that way but it was nice that he recognised how important Alannah's work was to their city and the communities within it, regardless. In fact, Alannah felt this even more so when he disclosed that her work had touched a part of his life quite closely, the way in which he confessed how he had found out causing her to double take initially. "You googled me a little, Mr McRannall?" Her lips were already quirking into that familiar smirk. "I'm not sure if I should be flattered or creeped out." She was teasing him of course, the chuckle that followed informing him as much. Although, in amongst her amusement she had to admit that she quite liked the thought of Cian getting home and thinking about her, no matter how those thoughts had presented themselves.

"Oh really, he does?" She was back to smiling genuinely once they shuffled forward in the queue. "Is that the place on the corner of Fallow Street? That was one of our first projects. I'm glad to hear that your dad's been able to use it." Cian following words really resonated with her but before she could comment any further they had reached the front of the queue and she needed to order her own and Preston's coffees, which she did and then stood aside to let Cian order his and Thea's. What she hadn't been expecting though was for him to lean in and whisper to her, his breath momentarily tickling her ear. Alannah's chest flipped slightly before she righted herself again, once she focussed enough to realise what he was actually asking her.

"He's partial to a chocolate donut with sprinkles on the top. He'd never admit it but his face lights up when he sees the colours." Alannah grinned, but then nudged Cian's arm to request he bend down so she could whisper to him this time, her hand covering her mouth as though she was about to reveal some big secret. "Mine's a sugar ring, if you were wondering."

Once their orders were placed, the two of them moved along to the collection point next, where Alannah watched the barista for a moment in thought. "I wouldn't worry about Stuart too much, y'know? He's always annoyed about something and he'll have moved onto his next irritation tomorrow." Then, she glanced sideways at Cian, wondering if what she wanted to ask next could still be considered a question of a professional capacity. "What is your boss like, if you don't mind my asking? Did you... Did you manage to speak to them about last night before the story broke?"
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
Alannah's smile was out and Cian could have done a jig, it was so nice to see it again. Cian had thought perhaps he might not see her brilliant smile to its full capacity again. He had to laugh at her gentle teasing and nodded when Alannah spoke of the correct maker space that had been occupying his dads free time. When they ordered Cian listened earnestly to Stuarts doughnut of choice and was about to order a box filled with them when Alannah nudged him once more.

At her silent request that he bend down, Cian obliged, doing his best to ignore the butterflies that fluttered deep in his belly. Her warm breath bathed over his ear and he could barely contain the full body shudder that threatened to wreck down his spine. His head lifted and their eyes met for the briefest second before Cian cleared his throat.
"We'll take six of the chocolate with sprinkles and six of the sugar ring please." He told the barista. The woman moved away to gather the doughnuts and another barista stepped in to give them the first of their order. Cian made sure each of the cups were secure in the carrying tray before lifting it. Alannah's question had him wincing a little bit. He thought of lying to her, telling her that he'd been man enough to break the news right away. However the thought of lying to Alannah seemed even worse than emasculating himself.

"I'll be honest. Ms. Heshmati, I waited until this morning to call Booker. Which ultimately worked out for the best strangely enough." Cian's brow furrowed in memory of the strange exchange between the two of them. "Booker's one of those types that has no problem jumping in to get the work done. He's an old soul, his work is his life." Cian thanked the barista as she brought over the large box of doughnuts and Alannah took it. Laden with all of their goods the pair turned to the elevator once more. "Anyways, he saw the front page and demanded that I wear the shirt whenever I'm with you, something about trying to get his logo on the front page." Cian shrugged as he pressed the button to call the elevator.

"Hopefully if I do my job right, you'll be front page news next time for something that's actually news." Cian looked down at the young woman who worked so hard for her community. The elevator dinged upon its arrival and the two of them stepped inside. Cian couldn't describe the small pinch of anxiety that entered him when the doors slid closed once again. He wasn't ready to stop speaking with her, he wanted more time with her.

"Is there..." He trailed off for a moment, frantically trying to find something to say. "Is there anything I can help you with today Alannah?"
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
Cian changed his doughnut order at the last minute and Alannah blinked before her expression evened out into another smile. She had meant her comment as a joke mostly, but that wasn't to say that she wasn't absolutely delighted at this turn of events, so much so that she was quick as a flash to take the box once the barista handed them over. When their coffees followed shortly after, the pair started making their way back towards the lift, with Alannah listening carefully to Cian's answer to her question. She didn't blame him for waiting until this morning to speak to Booker, she had done the same with Stuart after all, but she was somewhat intrigued to hear about why that had worked out for the best.

"Ah, I did wonder about the shirt," she mused. "I thought that maybe it was just an attempt to reassert some professionalism after I thrashed you at air hockey. Your explanation though checks out, I guess." Then she followed this up with a shrug and an impish grin, one that softened again when Cian looked down at her. Her own chin tilted slightly so that she could see him properly in return as the elevator doors closed and for the briefest of moments Alannah was cast into a flash of what she wanted to do now that they were alone together, and in a confined space no less. In fact, the thought almost had her blushing and it was somewhat of a relief when the elevator dinged again and released them back into her office. That being said though, the feeling of relief was short-lived as she realised that it was now time for the two of them to part once more. Like Cian, Alannah was hesitant to move, her own mind tripping over itself for things she could say to prolong the encounter. Unfortunately in the end, she came up short.

"No. No, I don't think so. Thank you though." She managed another smile and then slowly took a step backwards. "Well, I should probably get this coffee to Preston so..." Then she eventually turned around to head back to her office, feeling pretty rubbish as a whole ton of regret began to pile onto her shoulders. This was a good thing though, wasn't it? The time apart was good. She hadn't wanted a bodyguard in the first place, and Cian was especially good at making sure it didn't feel like she was being followed and--

"Actually, Mr McRannall." Alannah's voice carried across the short space between them all of a sudden, at the same time that her hand had reached the handle of her office door. She didn't open it just yet though, but instead turned to look for Cian once more. "Would you maybe like to sit in on this meeting? Preston and I were going to talk about the library opening tomorrow and it might be helpful for you to get a better idea of what to expect." Alannah met his gaze as evenly as she could, despite the thumping of her heart against her chest. "Plus, we aren't going to manage six sugar ring doughnuts by ourselves, even if I could give it a damn good go."
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
He supposed he should have known that there would be nothing useful for him to do. It made sense, one did not just walk in off the street and begin their politician career. However that bit of logic didn't stop his stomach from sinking. Cian followed her into the office, stopping at Thea's desk. Thea seemed eager for her Americano, but Cian simply held the small cup and watched as Alannah moved to her office. Thea reached out with an expectant hand but was left hanging as Alannah suddenly turned, her hand on the door as she invited Cian to join the meeting. Thea had to hide her smile as she watched the body guard's face light up with a sense of purpose. He was like a magnet being sucked into Alannah's pull and Thea had to clear her throat loudly before he walked off with the blessed caffeine.

"Ah sorry love." Cian's eyes cleared and he handed to cup to Thea.
"Good luck in there." Thea told him with a grin. Cian returned it and then sauntered off towards Alannah, who waited for him at the door.

"We can't let those doughnuts go to waste, can we?" Cian responded lightly as he approached her office door. They shared a secret smile for a moment before opening the door and returning to Preston. Preston sat at one of the two chairs on the opposite side of Alannah's desk and his head lifted from his phone upon their arrival.

"Ah welcome back Alannah." Preston seemed to look expectantly at Cian, waiting for him to leave, but when Cian took the seat next to him and pressed a coffee into Mr. Wrights hands the politician blinked at him in surprise. "Thank you?" His voice raised slightly in question and Cian gave him one of his best professional smiles. Alannah took the time to explain to Preston that Cian would be joining them as they spoke about the libraries opening.

"Alright. Well as I was saying," Preston drew up straighter in his seat and Cian couldn't miss as the man's eyes kept blinking sideways to peer at him. He spoke for a long while about his own past experiences, going into detail about what he personally thought made each venture successful. Cian listened carefully, taking great interest at how long this man seemed capable of speaking about himself. Both he and Alannah were on their second doughnuts when Preston finally came up for air.

"In conclusion, we've learned that you gain more positive attention when you have bigger names involved, like local celebrities' and donors of high upstanding, like the West's for instance." Preston paused to take a sip from his coffee and Cian glanced at Alannah, he shifted in his seat and it was clear from his expression he had something he wanted to say. When Alannah prompted him to speak, Cian took his time to choose his words carefully.

"I certainly agree you'd garner a lot of attention by using big names, but isn't a library opening for the community? I remember seeing a photo of yours a while back that had you surrounded by community members when you opened up that safe drug site." Cian would not elaborate that a while back truly mean less than an hour previously. "Besides, involving big names at this time might prove dangerous for both parties. I would hate to see the legal fees if someone else tried something while you brought in celebrities."

Preston shifted uncomfortably, his gaze dropping down to the lid of his coffee, Cian found it strange that the man couldn't even meet Alannah's eye. "We actually may be taking a step back on those safe drug sites. It seems they were not as successful as projected." Preston told them both, and Cian could not stop the frown. That wasn't right, based on the up to date file Thea had given him, the statistics were quite promising. He kept his mouth shut on that matter for now, and looked to Alannah to see what she thought of all of this.
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
Had Preston always talked so much about himself, Alannah wondered as she finished off her second sugary doughnut? She couldn’t say that she had noticed before now, but Cian’s welcome presence seemed to have highlighted it somehow, as well as a slight air of discomfort in Preston that again, she hadn’t noticed previously. Generally, Alannah enjoyed her meetings with him – they were insightful and she took a lot ideas that she could then make work for her own campaign. However at present, it seemed to be taking him a while to get to the crooks of what they were here to talk about and when he did, what he had to say wasn’t what she had been expecting at all.

Preston’s mention of the Wests had Alannah’s lips pausing around her coffee cup before she took a sip in an attempt to hide the anxiety that the name settled in the pit of her stomach. The West family were notorious in Kirkbridge for many different reasons, not many of those good ones. Of course, a lot of it was mainly rumours but the most recent one was their supposed involvement in a shooting attempt of a certain politician. Whether it was true or not was yet to be seen, but right now inviting them along to a library opening that would be surrounded by children didn’t sit right with Alannah, and neither did giving them such a platform.

From Cian’s response, it seemed that he agreed with her but although there was some satisfaction in feeling like a united front she could also tell that Preston was starting to bristle. She was just about to shoot Cian a subtle warning look when Preston dropped the bombshell that his team were taking a step back from the safe drug sites. “What?” She finally spoke up, brows furrowing in confusion. “But they seemed to be doing so well. What happened?” Preston had started to look even more uncomfortable now as he adjusted his tie.

“They’re just not… cost effective. I mean sure on a surface level they’re a good thing and people in the community benefit from them but then they also benefit from maker spaces and low taxes. We have limited funding and the safe drug sites are expensive to run and probably not as successful as other areas of our work.” Alannah could feel herself getting hotter as she listened, straightening a little in her seat.

“But if the community is benefitting from them Preston, surely there must be a way to keep them going? You could run a fundraiser or an awareness campaign or… heck, even getting those celebrities you mentioned involved could help? The drug safe sites are something we’re really passionate about here and it could potentially harm our policy if you have to remove them from yours.”

It was clear that Alannah had touched a nerve from the way that Preston was working the muscle in his jaw. “With all due respect, Alannah once you’ve been elected you’ll realise that sometimes… sacrifices have to be made. We can’t fix everything. It’s just not possible.” A brief silence fell over them then, one in which Alannah looked visibly hurt by his comment. Preston was someone who she looked up to, idolized even, and he’d just stabbed a great big knife in her chest with the reminder that she didn’t have elected party member experience. It was a low blow, designed to knock her off the scent of what was truly going on here, even if she didn’t realise that herself yet. Alannah wasn’t naïve enough to believe that she could fix everything as he had suggested, but she’d give it a damn good try, even if it killed her. They both knew that.

“So what did you think of the big name idea? For the library opening?” It was clear that Preston was keen to move on and Alannah, still reeling a little let out a shaky breath. “I can see the value in pulling fame to an event like that, I can. But I’m with Mr McRannall on this one. The library is about community and it’s the community who need to represent it. It’ll allow them ownership of the space and encourage accessibility. A celebrity would be good for garnering attention, granted, but community use of the library is much more likely to insight longevity.” Then Alannah smiled a little although it didn’t reach her eyes. “Plus, we have the charity gala on Friday. There’ll be enough celebrity presence there to last us a lifetime.”
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
It was like two wild cats were circling the last piece of meat. Cian watched in rapture as Alannah politely, yet concisely laid her cards on the table. Each point Preston had brought up she countered with calm facts and feedback. Both sets of politician's shoulders were set straight as they engaged in debate, it was clear to see that they were both emotionally invested, just not in the same thing. Cian was all for healthy conversation, but when Preston implied Alannah was too green to the work and didn't understand, he found it difficult to keep his mouth shut. There was a part of him that wanted to intimidate and coerce the man to apologize. However the thinking part of his brain won out this time. This was a part of Alannah's job, and she had still shown up to work each and every day knowing that she would have to defend each and every idea and policy she put forward.

Cian couldn't help the swell of pride as Alannah rejected the idea of a celebrity sighting at tomorrows opening. She spoke clearly and he had to respect the determined glint in her eye as she followed her heart.

"Well I suppose this meeting has been rather illuminating for the both of us." Preston stood, clearly done with the situation. Cian stood as well, more than happy to escort the man out of the office. "Think on what I said Alannah, I think in time you'll come to see things my way... I've always enjoyed these knowledge transfers of ours. I truly felt my experience would be of value to someone still trying to pave their way. I hope perhaps I might feel that way again... Don't make the same mistakes as me, Alannah." There was something in Preston's final words, Cian could have sworn it sounded like regret.

Alannah stood as well, and after her good bye, Cian was more than happy to have Preston take the lead as they walked out the office and to the elevator.

"I hope you have a pleasant rest of your day, sir." Cian said as Preston pressed the down button, illuminating it a bright red.
"Ah yeah... you too." Preston barely met his eye and focused on the numbers above the elevator. There was an awkward silence for a moment and Cian gave the man one last curious look before stepping away and leaving the man to his own devices. He'd have to be wary of that one, he thought to himself as he returned to Alannah's office. Something felt off about the guy. Cian stepped back into the office, not before grabbing the file on Preston and shut the door behind them, wanting to Alannah a bit of privacy to process the events.

"That was... well I'll be honest I don't really know what that was." He admitted as he seated himself across from her once more. He opened the file and found the picture he had mentioned of Preston and placed it on the desk between them. "This guy I respect." He tapped the photo, he was about to bad mouth the Preston that had just been ever so helpful with his advice but cut himself off short when he saw the look on Alannah's face.

"Alannah." He used her name for the second time in his life. "Is everything ok?"
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
To say that Alannah felt overwhelmed would be an understatement. There was so much that had come up during that meeting, that her thoughts didn't know what to address first. The suggestion of using a celebrity to better her cause, and suggestion being The Wests no less, wasn't something that she ever thought she would have heard come out of Preston's mouth. He was, or had been at least, a man of integrity - he had never previously been one for the pomp and ceremony that often came with political events and in part that was what paved the way for his success. He was different, refreshing to both the people of his city and Alannah herself as a young woman starting out in the field. This was not however, the man who had just sat before her and put down the importance of a policy that he had once been as invested in as she was. This, along with the way that Preston had said goodbye to her seemed to suggest that there was perhaps more going on with him than she was currently aware of and whatever it was, it wasn't good.

"Take care of yourself, Preston." The small brunette shook his hand and watched Cian lead him from the room before she deflated back down into her chair. Her mind felt like it was whirring a mile a minute, so even when Cian re-entered her office and placed the picture of Preston down onto the desk between them, it was all she could do to make a murmured sound of agreement. In fact, it was only when he used her first name that she snapped out of her momentary stupor, blinking hazel eyes to bring her back into the room to be met with Cian's darker eyes looking over her with clear concern reflected in them. Seeing him there made her chest ache a little and for a brief moment, Alannah wanted nothing more than to bury her face in his neck and let the warmth of those big arms pull her into--

"Yeah. Yeah, no. Sorry, I just... I don't know. That meeting was kind of weird, wasn't it?" Alannah attempted a smile, but the expression didn't quite reach its full potential. Instead, she let out a sigh and finally pulled Preston's file towards her, using her fingers to trace over the smiling faces in the photograph. "Preston has never really been like that before and I'm not sure what's changed. You're right, Cian. It's like he's no longer the man he was here. The Preston I knew would never give up on those safe drug sites, no matter the cost and he certainly wouldn't have considered a family like The Wests to represent government policy. Especially not when they're potentially..." Dangerous. Criminals. "... Not all that they seem." Another exhale as Alannah sat back in her chair, looking up at Cian once more. It seemed silly that in such a short space of time he had become a comfort to her, but just knowing that he was there settled the anxiety churning her chest slightly, and this time she managed an expression that was closer to a genuine smile than the first attempt had been.

"Sorry," she breathed. "I know it's not really your job to listen to the ins and outs of all of this. It's just with the shooting and now Preston, it kind of feels like there's something big going on that's going to affect me but I don't really know how yet. Does that sound weird?" Not quite realising how on the money she actually was, Alannah shook her head in the next beat, almost like she was trying to shake off her own vulnerability. "But anyway, thanks for sitting in. I hope it was at least a little bit helpful for one of us."
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
Alannah went through the motions of reconciling her own expectations with the truth of the situation. Despite having known one another less than twenty four hours, Cian had the sense this turn of events had been quite the shock to the normally prepared politician. He laced his fingers together and settled back, ready to be the set of ears she needed as she verbalized her thoughts. The hold on his own fingers tightened as Alannah leaned back in her chair, a small line of frustration appearing between her brows. Every muscle within him tightened and he resisted reaching out to soothe away the tension she held within her.

"I can't speak for the man, but based on what you've said things are different for Preston and he's doing what he can to keep his head above water. I think you handled him well, and I'm so sorry that the conversation went in a direction you weren't expecting." The urge to soothe and comfort increased tenfold as she apologized to him. He leaned forward, his body instinctively taking position of someone that had his undivided attention on her. The grip he held on his own fingers felt almost painful as he forced himself to ignore the desire to run his hand over her skin.

Cian spotted the last of the sugar ring doughnuts sitting alone in the box and after a moments hesitation he eased his hands apart and reached for it. He carefully split the pastry in two and offered it to Alannah, he settled back with his own half and chewed for a moment before speaking. It was clear he was taking his time with his words as he considered carefully what to say.
"I don't think that sounds weird at all." He told her. "I think based off everything that's occurred, you have every right to feel that way." He wanted to tell her that she could count on him to protect her, that he would do everything to keep her safe, but something stopped him. That felt a little too much like laying all his cards on the table. "Tomorrow I'll follow your lead. Preston may have opinions but you know what's best for your campaign."

The fell into silence for a moment, as the both of them contemplated their next steps forward. It wasn't awkward or uncomfortable, rather Cian found the quiet rather comforting. He finished off the doughnut and was about to stand and let Alannah continue on with her day when Thea knocked at the door again. The woman peeked through the door and at Alannah's invitation she stepped further into the room. She held the stack of papers Cian had been stapling, which had suspiciously tripled in size since he had started it.
"I hope you don't mind Alannah, I could really use Cian's help with this. Jessica bumped her computer and sent it on the fritz, IT is here, but we lost a few hours of work, so I'm helping Jessica input the data in again. Jessica's working at your spot now, would it be alright if he stayed here?" Thea approached and Cian automatically stood and helped her with the heavy stack of papers, taking them into his hands.
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
Cian’s reassurances were more of a comfort to Alannah than he maybe realised. Really, it was enough just to know that he was there, but to know that he also understood and believed in her too? Those were the kind of things that she needed to hear right now, and this coupled with him reaching forwards to split the last sugar ring doughnut with her, briefly alleviated the heavy feeling that had started to weigh down upon her shoulders. Her features softened as she peered at the half handed her way, and then back up to the dark eyes behind it. She even managed a small smile, trying the whole while to ignore how such a small gesture had started a drumming in her chest that she wasn’t entirely used to. “Thank you, Cian. For the doughnut, obviously,” Alannah smirked, “But also… just for being here. I never thought I’d say this when you walked into my office all of two days ago but I’m really glad that you are.”

Alannah was happy for them to drop into a comfortable silence then, one in which all that could be heard was the two of them tucking into their shared sugary treats. In all honesty, she could have happily stayed locked up with just Cian in her office for the rest of the afternoon, but she knew that wasn’t feasible, or at least she didn't think that it was until Thea knocked on the door, afterwards Alannah waving for her to come in. She listened to her explanation of needing Cian’s help and then her request for him to stay where he was, trying to keep a neutral expression as her eyes flickered from Thea to her bodyguard. “Well I suppose that could work, so long as Mr McRannall promises not to cause any distractions. I’ve seen how you staple those documents and I almost feel sorry for the paper.” Thea let out a chuckle then, her face brightening when Cian stood up to retrieve the ridiculously heavy pile from her arms. “Great, thanks so much. I appreciate it.” On her way back out though she paused by the door. “Make sure you both behave yourselves though, won’t you?” And then with a not so innocent grin, she left them alone once more, Alannah’s cheeks warming slightly at the implication, which she tried to brush off by shuffling some things off her desk to make room for Cian at one end. “Pfft. I can’t help but feel that warning should have been aimed only at you.”

The rest of the day passed by much quicker than they usually did now that Alannah had some company. There was a mixture of comfortable silences as she delved into preparations for the next day, as well as further research into what Preston had disclosed to her earlier, work that was all the while punctuated by sneaky glances from behind her computer at Cian as he worked too. She found herself noticing small things about him, like the way that his brow creased when he was concentrating, or the way that he ran a hand over his face when he needed a break. Or at least, she noticed these things until she caught his eye and then found herself trying to subtly dive behind her screen as if she’d been doing no such thing. Alongside these small moments however, there were also breaks of natural conversation in which Alannah probed a little deeper about Cian himself, asking him about where he lived, how long he’d been in his line of work for, and then questions of a more casual nature such as would you rather have the body of a monkey with a human brain, or a human body with the brain of a monkey? In fact, it was this very discussion that they were coming to an end of when it reached half past five and the office started to empty.

Alannah gave a yawn as she waved through her window to some of those who were leaving, eventually turning to Cian when they were the only two left. “Well, today went a lot quicker than I was expecting it to,” she admitted, swinging a little in her chair. “I think I’m probably going to stick around for a small while longer though. Why don’t you get yourself home? You’ve done more than your fair share of work today.”
 
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BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
It was almost like the fates were smiling upon him. Cian felt the warmth in his chest spark to life and blaze brightly as Alannah's eyes shifted between him and Thea. For a small moment he thought that set of her brow and shine in her eyes looked hopeful. That and the use of his name on her lips had him feeling like he was on cloud nine. It took him a moment to realize the implications of Thea's playful barb and his eyes flashed up to Thea's in alarm and she smiled mischievously at him. Well shit, was he that obvious? Here he was thinking, he had done a pretty good job of hiding his more than friendly interest in his client. At Alannah's added quip Cian cleared his throat and set down the heavy stack of papers. He eased down in to the chair and regarded Alannah with narrowed eyes.
"Careful." He mustered up the sternest voice he could. "I haven't yet promised to not cause distractions." It clicked in his brain only after the words were out of his mouth that such a statement could be taken in a darker more pleasurable way. In an effort to salvage things, Cian reached into the now empty doughnut box and found a stray sprinkle from one of Stuarts doughnuts and flicked it in her general direction. It landed neatly in her neatly arranged hair and Cian tried and failed to not smile as she patted her head searching for it.

The rest of the day drifted on by as Cian and Alannah worked. More than once he had caught her curious brown eyes regarding him, and there was something deeply rewarding about that. He chose to ignore the fact that the reason he had caught her looking so many times was because he too couldn't seem to keep his eyes off of her. Their conversations drifted closer and closer to the ease of the day before and as the sun began to set lower and lower on the horizon he pondered those deep questions that would haunt humanity forever.
"Well it has to be the body of a monkey then. I'd be like Spiderman swinging through the forest." He had told her as they waved farewell to the last of the office staff, which had been the rather defeated looking IT man. Alannah was kind in looking out for him but Cian shook his head.

"If you stay, I stay. That's how this works Ms. Heshmati." He gave her a wolfish grin as he stood. "I'm just going to do a quick sweep and make sure we're the only ones here." Cian left her for a few short minutes, quickly peeking in both bathrooms and down the line of cubicles that lined the centre of the office. He paused in the other offices too and found them all thankfully empty. He finished his sweep at Thea's desk. He ensured the elevator was set to its after office hours, allowing only those with a card to enter. He returned to Alannah's office and paused to push together the two guest chairs. He settled on one then and lifted his tree trunk legs to place his feet in the opposite chair. He leaned back and pulled out his phone, looking up to Alannah and giving her a thumbs up with his free hand.

"All clear." He told her.

Much later, when the sun had set and the city below them began to light up in its nighttime ritual, Cian was distracted by a soft noise coming from behind Alannah's computer. The soft steady typing noises had been replaced by a deep inhalation of breath. Confused he looked up from his phone game and leaned to the side. He froze when he saw her form folded over her desk. Her keyboard had been pushed to the side, and her head rested in the cradle of her arms. God, she looked beautiful while she slept. Unable to help himself, Cian switched the app to his camera and lifted his phone. He framed her there in that screen, the light of her computer sending soft white light down on the crown on her head. Her lips occasionally pursed as she dreamed. He caught the moment with the press of his shutter. He wouldn't dwell on the fact that it was probably a creepy thing to do, instead he quietly rose from his spot and went to the coat stand in the corner of her room. His zip up hoodie hung off one of the metal pegs and he lifted it now. Crossing the carpeted office quietly, Cian stepped behind the desk and gently placed the opened hoodie over her. Doing his best not to wake her.

Once he was certain she was nicely tucked in he tip-toed away from her and towards the light switch, he dimmed the lights slightly and peeked through her office window, give the empty space one more careful sweep with his eyes before returning to his chairs. He settled himself in and pulled out his phone once more, ready to watch over Alannah for however long she needed.
 

Becboc

houseplant hoarder
Alannah went to protest Cian's insistence that he stay too, but before she could he was on his feet and leaving her office to check the rest of the floor. Perhaps usually she may have put up more of a fight but there was definitely a part of her, a relatively large part that wanted him to stay. Despite how the day had started, and her meeting with Preston, her afternoon had remained relatively stress free and she could only really put that down to the bodyguard she was now watching head towards the bathrooms. Having Cian around, and the kind of conversations that they fell into with ease, were perfect in taking Alannah's mind off of all of the worries she had swirling around her head at any one time. They were still there of course but they felt smaller, easier to deal with. This wasn't something that she was used to feeling, and it was perhaps a little scary how quickly she was becoming attached to the warm fuzzy feeling that settled in her chest whenever she saw Cian coming towards her.

He came back to her office just after five minutes later, pushing two of her guest chairs together so he could settle down into them and give her a thumbs up. Alannah grinned back at him and then proceeded to bury her head back into her computer so that she could finish up her piece of work and finally allow them both to go home.

It was a couple of hours later that Alannah groaned slightly as she woke up from her accidental nap, eyes squinting in the darkness of her office while she tried to work out where the hell she was. Her arms stretched out in front of her, and she attempted to pull herself back up into sitting, looking first out of her window to see the city shrouded in darkness except for the lights of the buildings opposite, and then through her internal window to see Cian's head poking above the two seats he'd pushed together earlier. Shit. Had she fallen asleep? What time was it? With all of the disorientation of a newborn deer, the brunette fumbled around for her phone to check the time which indeed told her that she had lost at least half an hour and it was nearing 9pm. Shit.

Sitting up properly then, Alannah reached for her desk lamp and flicked it on, which is about when Cian's hoodie that had previously been draped round her fell to the floor. She frowned a little when she noticed, leaning over to pick it up and then eventually putting two and two together. She had only intended to put her head down on her arm for a second to give her eyes a break from her screen, but she must have fallen asleep and then... Hazel eyes flickered once again to her bodyguard, and she felt her chest stutter. Her office hadn't been dark earlier, and she certainly hadn't been anywhere near Cian's hoodie, which could only mean that he had... tucked her in? Alannah felt her cheeks go warm. Oh my god. What if she'd been snoring? What if she'd been dribbling? Her hands flew to her face as if she was trying to check before finally she gave in to another little groan, realising that it was actually far too late to worry about any of this. All that actually mattered was that she had fallen asleep and Cian had not only not left, but seen to it that she was comfortable while she slept. She could remind herself that he was just doing his job by waiting around for her to go home, but then she couldn't really convince herself that making sure she was looked after when she fell asleep on her desk was a part of his duties, too.

With these thoughts floating through her mind, Alannah stood up eventually, taking Cian's hoodie into her hand and padding bare foot out of her office and over towards the guest chairs. She looked a little sheepish as she held the jacket out to him, eyes still a little bleary from her power nap. "I take it this is yours?" However, when he went to retrieve it, she pulled it back again and sat down in one of the chairs opposite him. "Ah. I didn't say I was finished with it yet. This thing makes quite the blanket and it's cold in here." Plus it smells like pine. Like you. Alannah smiled a little as she brought her legs up and crossed them, draping the hoodie over her front, exactly like a blanket. It was almost comical how much it swamped her and the two of them shared a look of acknowledgement before giving way to a few beats of comfortable silence that passed until Alannah spoke up again.

"So, I guess I fell asleep, huh? I swear I only put my head down for like a second and then the next thing I know I'm waking up to 9pm." She lifted a hand in the next instance, stifling a small yarn and a chuckle as it punctuated her point. "You didn't have to stick around, you know? I mean there's staying late and then there's this. I hope you get paid over-time." Another grin, which eventually ended in a sigh before her expression softened once more as her eyes found Cian's. "Thank you though. For not ditching me. And for you know..." She swayed her head a little, trying to find the right words. "Tucking me in. It's been a long time since anyone did that, let me tell you."
 

BoneBrain

Everything's Shiny Cap'n
Cian had been sucked into a new idle game he had downloaded for his phone, so it took him an extra moment before he realized that Alannah had roused from her sleep. He caught her sleepy form padding towards him, there was a peaceful air about her that had him doing a double take. Her short brown hair had come loose during her sleep, her strong arms held tight to his sweater. He didn't even realize that he was smiling at her, instead he straightened in his chair and let his legs slip off the second guest chair that he'd been using.

"It is." Cian said in agreement to her query about the hoodie. His arm reached out to take it, but at the last second Alannah drew it away from him. He chuckled as she settled herself across from him in the seat his legs had previously been using. "You keep it as long as you need." Cian told her, his voice coming out a little gruffer than normal. He liked seeing her there, tucked away under his sweater. A small bit of the sweater folded, revealing part of Alannah's shoulder to the cold and he leaned forward instinctively to set the fabric to rights. She seemed so small there, under his sweater. Smiles seemed to curve their lips simultaneously and Cian settled into the cozy evening with her. Outside the faint sounds of traffic and evening noise sounded dull from the other side of the window pane.

"It sounds like you needed a little rest." Cian chuckled as she yawned once again. Seeing her yawn set off the reaction in his own brain and he quickly held a hand over his mouth as he breathed out in a heavy gust. "Christmas bonus here I come." Cian added before quirking a knowing brow at her. "I'd kill to see your overtime statistics. I bet you have me beat by a long run." His arms folded over themselves as Alannah thanked him and revealed a small bit of information that had his stomach doing an odd little roll. It had been a long time since anyone had tucked her in? He bit lightly into his bottom lip as he considered what to say in response. The idea of Alannah alone most nights fit the dedicated politician image she had curated, it was clear she was dedicated to her work, and yet he knew in his heart that he would happily ensure her comfort day after day.

"Anytime, Alannah." His dark eyes were like embers in the dim lighting of the office. "You know, you're the biggest workaholic I've ever protected." He teased her. "Well, actually hang on that's not true. There was that other guy. Some programmer I worked with once, I swear he lived in front of his computer for the month that I was with him." He was about to go on when another yawn cut off his own words. "I think we both need a good sleep, we need to bright eyed and bushy tailed for tomorrow. All those library books aren't going to read themselves." Cian stood and offered his hand out to Alannah in a friendly gesture to help her to her feet.

"I'll be picking you up from your place tomorrow morning. Around eight or so. I want us both to know the lay of the land for the library tomorrow. We'll talk about escape routes and hiding places before the event." Cian wanted everything to go perfectly for Alannah and he wanted to show her that she was safe with him in every situation her job took her. "We'll have a great time." He winked down at her.
 

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