"Oh but it's sad when a love affair dies, But when we were hot, we were hot... Our passion was just too intense to survive..." (Goodnight and Thankyou - Evita)
Baelian stood at Claudia’s door in the darkness, staring at the heavy wood with his brow furrowed. He'd been in front of that house for almost ten minutes...ten minutes that he knew that she knew he was there. Yet he didn't knock and Claudia didn’t send anyone to let him in...the both of them existing in a strange little bubble of lapsed time, where nothing was quite real until someone came a-rapping.
Someone like Baelian.
‘Come to dinner,’ she had said, and he had politely refused, citing other plans, business matters...anything but the truth.
He hadn't wanted to come. He didn't know how to even begin to deal with...with this.
Closing his eyes and sucking in a deep breath, Baelian lifted a hand and let it hover over the door, allowing it to fall to his side seconds later as his head bowed against the smooth surface with a thud.
-Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Get it together for fuck's sake you coward-
Claudia, meanwhile, had been standing in the entrance hall with her forehead pressed against the opposite side of the door for too long, her eyes squeezed shut and she reminded herself to breathe.
-Go away. Come in. Just knock you fucker.-
The thud of his head against the wood startled her and she pulled back, deciding to take it as a request for entry and, fixing her hair, moving to oblige.
His eyes nearly knocked the wind from her, though it was still clearly Baelian. She knew that it would be, silently hating the part of herself that searched for him amongst the shattered pieces of his personality. Baelian had jumped as the door opened, stepping back somewhat so he didn't fall through it.
"You came," Claudia said softly, pausing awkwardly before standing aside to give him clear passage, "Please...come in."
He'd been drinking, but not to his usual excess...just enough to take the edge off...things. His body was finally clear of the effects of the ambrosia and whatever other poisons the Professor had seen fit to give him, but the craving was still as sharp as ever.
Baelian suspected it always would be.
"Thank you," he nodded slowly at her invitation, his eyes lowering as he swept past her. His nose wrinkled as he caught the scent of her perfume, something inside him twitching and shifting, rattling against the steel trap of his mind. He ignored it, coming to a stop in the entrance hall and throwing a glance at her.
She looked tired as she scanned him over carefully, her face falling when realised that what she was searching for was no longer there. Inside her chest something wrenched so hard she couldn't breathe, and for a moment she just stood there. Then she steadied herself mentally and gestured down the hall.
"The lounge, I think?" she said quietly, moving to lead him down the hallway and into a warmly lit room furnished with elegant antique couches. "I thought you were tied up this evening...” she began, shaking her head and moving to sit on a nearby chaise almost nervously. “I don't have any food to serve...I haven't been very hungry of late, but I could call the chef?" she offered, her eyes not quite making it up to meet his.
Baelian looked about silently as he hung back a few feet, his cobalt eyes scanning the all-too-familiar room as memories that weren't his danced through his mind.
-Evidently we’ve spent a lot of time here as of late-
"I finished up earlier than expected," he offered by way of explanation, pausing as his chest constricted and a flood of new sensations and memories threatened on the edge of his mind.
-God, what did you two get up to?-
Baelian was still piecing it all together, wading through months of buried emotions and goings on, his analytical mind struggling to categorise and file it all away…too much at once with too many feelings attached.
- Yeah, imagine how Nikolai felt-
"I'm not hungry, thank you," he replied politely, moving to sit on a single armchair nearby, but not too close.
Claudia nodded slowly.
"Well, I’m glad you came. I feel this might get even more awkward if we leave it too long." Emerald eyes scanned him as he looked around, analysing and over-analysing his movements and expressions in turn.
- Does he remember? Do I want him to? God. I hate this.-
"So...you received my letter, obviously," she said, trying to invite him to say what he wanted and leave, if he were so inclined.
-Leave me. Don't leave me.-
‘Darling it's okay...please breathe...Niki...’
The echo of her own words from the previous night felt like a slap and she flinched.
-This is why you should only have relationships for the good of the family, the Monère’s have always been excessive in everything they do, why would love be any different?-
"I did..." Baelian dragged his eyes away from the liquor cabinet with its missing glass shelf, his brows furrowing slightly as they flickered to the new rug, then back up to her. He paused again, his tongue snaking out to wet his lips, those shimmering eyes fixing on her and hardening slightly.
‘…throwing 'family' back in my face to hurt me, ends now. I think we both know the depths of my ties here. Insult my genius, my ancestry, my weaknesses, my ridiculous delusions...but no more my devotion to you or your family…’
"Your terms are acceptable," he went on after a moment, though the waver in his voice betrayed his bravado, "I see no reason why we can't move forward from this like adults..." His breath caught and he swallowed, blinking. "It was a failed experiment, nothing more. It's done now."
Claudia nodded sadly.
"You were suffering, I was trying to help. I didn't know Sin was...you know..." she lowered her eyes to the floor, "I thought if I was just smart enough…then maybe you could all be ok. Maybe not great, but ok…for a while." She winced and fell silent, trying to hold back the lump in her throat. She felt stupid.
Baelian was studying her in silence, something akin to anger flashing in his eyes for the briefest moment before it was gone and he was nodding again.
"There was a lot going on. We both did things that I assume we are not proud of..." pain flickered through his gaze, "But there's no sense agonising over it. We either kill each other or move on. You've already killed me once...and the look on your face says that I don't have to bother reciprocating..." A hand came up, fingers rubbing at his temples. "Jesus Lyra..." he murmured, then drew in a sharp breath and seemed to steel himself again, "I had an idea I wanted to run by you," he said, changing the subject completely.
"Shoot…" Claudia replied, before realising her poor choice of words and laughing, "I mean…oh God, this is awkward! Please tell me your idea."
A ghost of a smile crept across Baelian’s lips, his eyes glimmering with dark amusement before he became serious again.
"It has come to my attention that you've attained a rather large piece of property..." he said slowly, "I'm sure you can appreciate without me telling you why that the plans that you originally had for it will no longer work..." he lowered his eyes, a fine tremor running through him at some memory or another, "But I might have an alternative to offer, if you're still looking for a business partner…"
Claudia tensed. She hated the idea that now not only Nikolai, but her adopted family was going to be taken from her, but she had wondered what to do with the land that she had bought for the both of them. She certainly couldn't live on shadows and maybes, it wasn't logical.
"What is your plan?''
A brow rose and an almost mischievous smirk alighted his face. Leaning forward, he shrugged as that errant hair fell into his face.
"Well....we're now down an Oakleaf and an orphanage..." he said, "Maybe it’s time we started from scratch properly...you know...for the next time I have a breakdown..." he added almost as an afterthought.
'You're useful, that's all,' she recalled unwillingly, feeling hurt boil in her chest.
"I suppose…the land should be used for something. It’s so beautiful, and the plans could be easily altered…" she nodded, her smile not reaching her eyes. Baelian watched her for a long moment, sitting back thoughtfully then shaking his head.
"Stop that. I see what you're doing..." he said with a slight scowl, "You're doing that victim poor-me-being-abandoned shit again...we've been over this…" tilting his head, he stared at her, "You said in your letter that you'd earned your place in this family...that I was never to question it again. And neither should you. I'm asking you a legitimate question about something that I think is important. We destroyed Oakleaf, Lyra...and yes it needed to go, but there are people who need somewhere safe...there are still those we can help...unless you're more interested in bathing in their blood nowadays?" A hand came up to silence any protest, his head shaking, "And if that's what you want to do then fine...tell me no, tell me to get out and I won't bother you with this again. I'll do it on my own. Or find something else to occupy me. I just thought..." he stopped, closing his eyes and sighing, "I just thought maybe we could do this together."
And suddenly, just like that, he felt like her brother again. Her hypocritical, broody brother.
"Oh shut up, Baelian!" Claudia flared, "Jesus Christ. I am allowed to feel sad. You lost your mind when Alina left, so you of all people should understand how I feel…" she sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Don't get me wrong. It's a wonderful idea…and one I think we should follow through on…" she blinked hard, "I just...it's been barely two days, I don't even really know what happened..."
Claudia stood and walked to the desk by the window, collecting a glass of red wine from where she had left it.
"There's more if you want..." she said with a small gesture.
Baelian shook his head, waving the offer away.
"Strangely enough, I don't feel like drinking right now," he told her, following her movements with his gaze, his nose wrinkling. "You had a lot of sex for someone who doesn't sleep with Black's..." he added, the tiniest hint of teasing in his tone. He was trying to make light of an impossible situation, his eyes skittering away as he frowned. "Take your time...you don’t have to decide about the land right away.”
She looked at him and shrugged as she took a drink, making a face as if it were vinegar and swallowing hard before putting the glass down.
"It felt like he actually saw me," she almost mumbled, "It’s so stupid." Shaking her head irritably at herself, she placed a hand on her stomach as it began to churn. "It took me so long to figure out how I felt..."
Baelian’s expression softened and he nodded, bowing his head as if he were ashamed.
"Yeah...ironic really...I would've thought that that one, of all of us..." his words trailed off and he gave a bitter laugh, "I don't know what I thought. I mean he IS all of us. I don't even..." putting up his hands, he shook his head and stood
[I tried to tell you]
"I know you did..." Claudia gestured to the Jackal in the corner, then gave her ‘brother’ a wry and sad smile, "At least what I see is just smug beast, and not a cunty homicidal Russian," she joked, "You don't see Alexei now, do you?"
Making a face, Baelian scowled.
"Alexei? No, thank fuck."
She smiled, relieved. It was good to see him sober, logical, and rational. More or less.
"How much do you remember?" she asked him carefully, her mind flickering over the months that had passed, "I mean, you remembered about the land...is that because it was so recent?"
A shadow fell over Baelian’s face and he moved through the room slowly, his eyes trailing here and there, a hand moving to trace the furniture. Fingers danced over the fresh paint on the walls, the newly plastered holes that Niki had made.
"Most of it..." he murmured after a moment, "I remember most of it." His expression betrayed nothing about what he was feeling about any of it, those cobalt hues were empty. "Some of it is hazy," he added, "But it’s all there. I'm the protector and the keeper of secrets, remember? That's my job. Or so you once told me."
Claudia fingered a ribbon on her dress unconsciously, blonde hair falling over her face as she bowed her head and intently studied the fabric.
"Well, that's awkward…" her laugh was breathy and tight. The satin felt too smooth beneath her touch, synthetic and uncomfortable.
-Nothing feels right anymore. -
"I'm sorry you have to remember. I know it's not your cup of tea...I'd suggest you talk to your doctor about it...but I don't know if you'd be comfortable...given the circumstances," she half-joked, then looked up at him through her lashes. "But I would listen, if you wanted to..."
Baelian stopped moving and leant against the wall, sighing and bowing his head, his arms crossed over his chest.
"I think..." he said, choosing his words carefully, "That it might hurt you more to hear it." He glanced up at her through the veil of his hair, his lashes fluttering. Desire flickered briefly through the depths of his gaze, swallowed up moments later by sadness. "They're not my secrets to tell," he murmured.
Claudia’s teeth grit against a swell of sorrow and she reached back, pulling her long hair from her face and inhaling deeply to steady herself. She hadn't meant that exactly, not in so many words, though it was clear that she ached to hear confirmation from him that she was either foolish or loved. Or both.
She wasn't sure which answer was worse.
"That's not what I was asking..." she sighed heavily, "But I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to know. I don't think anything true can hurt me anymore...he had a knack for giving me the truth whether I wanted it or not."
-Don't force the point, you look desperate and dull.-
[And if you don't ask, you'll be burning up inside with wondering what if you had?]
Baelian watched her, studying her with an all too familiar intense stare. He was reading her expressions, her mannerisms, and the flicker of her lashes.
"Ask me," he said slowly, "If you want to know, Claudia..."
There it was, her name, drawling off his tongue with an inflection that only he had ever used. It seemed instinctual, unintended...Baelian didn't even realise he had done it until something in her face changed and a spark of vicious, passion ignited within her that she quelled as soon as she caught it…but not soon enough. Bright green eyes flicked to his face, searching his features and challenging him to mock her for her weakness.
-Don't ask. Don't ask. Don't. Ask.-
"I suppose I should...as it changes his previous doctor's diagnosis," she said tightly, knowing full well she wasn’t fooling anyone. Her fingers reached out to the coffee table, plucking a black folder from where she had placed it the night he had left, the crumpled pages flattened and put tentatively back in order. She tapped her fingers against it, considering what was riding on the answer.
"Did Niki love me?" she breathed, finally. It hurt to say his name.
A flicker of pain flashed through Baelian’s face and he winced, a hand unconsciously rising to his chest. His breath quickened, his head rising to press back against the wall as he gazed at her sadly.
"He did," he said simply, his eyes closing. Claudia was on her feet in an instant, the flutter of pure joy within her disappearing quickly into concern.
"I'm sorry...I didn't realise it would seep through..." she hovered close to him, her hands out in case he fell, “Breathe, mon Coeur," she said softly, placing her hand on his chest as she always did, “Breathe...then you can tell me about this facility of ours." She gestured to the folder that she’d left behind on the table, hoping to distract him, "You must have ideas."
Baelian jumped when Claudia touched him, his hands coming up to grip her shoulders for a brief moment before he dropped them to his sides and pulled away.
"I know how to breathe..." he said breathlessly, slinking out of her reach, "Just..." a hand came up and gestured for her to give him a moment, his brow furrowing. Then his expression calmed and he shrugged, moving to the liquor cabinet and pouring himself a shot of bourbon. "I have many ideas," he went on, downing the drink and making a face, "But probably nothing you haven't already thought of, Doctor Monére."
-So much for not drinking.-
Claudia nodded slowly as she watched him. "I will put together some ideas and send them through, then," she replied. Moving back to the table, she plucked up the folder and flipped it open, picking up a pen and running a very firm, triumphant line through the name 'Asinoe' beneath the building labelled 'Asinoe/Alina'. She smirked, then, realising she probably looked a little mad grinning idiotically at a piece of paper, lifted it to show Baelian.
He snorted, shaking his head. A shadow fell over his face as his thoughts turned briefly to Asinoe and he shuddered, remembering in half lucid flashes her crooning and teasing voice and the hot tears coursing over his cheeks as she pulled tighter and tighter on his hair.
-Cry for me-
Blue eyes opened and Baelian smiled at Claudia, though it didn't reach his eyes. He wanted to thank her for giving his Alina back, he felt like he should say something...but he couldn't find the words.
The silence weighed on her painfully. His dead-eyed smile was like a punch in the gut, and she felt herself tear up, her eyes swimming as she looked to the ceiling.
-Don't be a baby-
"Has Jasper reappeared?"
"Not yet, but he's around..." came the reply, his even stare fixing on her as he stood almost awkwardly near the liquor cabinet, "There’s still too much of Niki in him. We're working on rebalancing him before letting him loose on the world. Belladonna has him," he told her nonchalantly, as if he were talking about a group of adults caring for a child and not just the voices in his head.
Relief fell over Claudia’s features for a moment.
She blinked, watching the walls between them build and strengthen with no idea how to fix it.
-If I could touch him...like I used to. If it could just feel like Baelian again.-
"I suppose it all takes time," she sighed, "How do we do this? I feel like I just need something to start with..."
Eying her, Baelian tilted his head, shaking dark locks free of his eyes.
"I don't know..." he said slowly, carefully, as if he were concerned that one wrong word could send some invisible house of cards tumbling down. "I mean, I know what we were, I know how it’s supposed to be...but now everything's...I don't know, Claudia. I'm standing here and I want to shove you against that wall and fuck you till you beg and bite you so you bleed and cut things open and cover us both in blood...but it's not me...I know it's just the things I'm keeping from him that I have to hold..." his breath caught and he winced, making a face, "It's still so strong..."
Her breath caught at his words, but she pushed her response back down, deep inside her where he wouldn’t see it.
- Me too. God, now that I know what you can be...-
"Well, we still have that in common," she gave an awkward half smile, "When you’re ready, it would be nice to curl up as we used to…re-establish our previous intimacy, but for now..." she cast a look at the clock, "Is Alina expecting you, or would you like to walk down to Main Street for a midnight ice cream?"
- Child-like treats, platonic activity, light physicality without direct eye contact. Perfect starting point to re-establish...God this is killing me.-
Baelian closed heavy-lidded eyes, settling his breathing as one hand clenched and unclenched. A tremor ran through him and he winced again, then seemed to calm, cobalt hues opening and fixing on her. He nodded, his lips curving into a soft smile.
"I could do ice cream," he offered slowly, not moving.
She smiled back and walked to a nearby writing desk, grabbing a few notes from the drawer and tucking them into her pocket before frowning and approaching him, her hands moving to fix his collar.
“Ice cream it is...but not...oh. Sorry," she withdrew her hands as if she'd been slapped, "I should ask first." He'd flinched at her approach, shying away from her touch instinctually, those damned blue eyes widening as his breath caught and he held up a hand. Guilt flashed through his face, followed by a short laugh and a shake of his head.
"It's okay," he said, raking a hand through his hair, "I just...it's gonna take some adjusting to...I'm not used to...this..." he gestured at her, his eyes flashing with hunger as he shook his head again, "My body's gone and done a whole bunch of 'making friends' without me. Now I know how Asinoe felt..." his laugh cut off, his smile fading at her name. "Though at least all her sexual exploits were alive..." he added with a raised brow and a slightly bewildered expression.
Claudia sniggered in spite of herself and nodded.
"There is that." She pulled the hair from her neck and stepped back unconsciously, feeling flushed. "I know what you mean though. I never felt like this before. I mean, even the Professor thought I wasn't...." she gestured vaguely, "…inclined."
He nodded, a frown painting his features as a recent memory surfaced unbidden.
"He base that assumption on your rejection of his advances?" Baelian asked with a scowl, following Claudia as she moved towards the door but maintaining respectable distance. She flinched but didn’t respond.
"Ok...big question. Serious one. You have to answer..." she said finally, glancing over her shoulder and fixing emerald eyes on him with a solemn expression, "Which flavour ice cream do you want?"
Baelian stopped, gazing at her in the warm light, those bright eyes glimmering with a myriad of unspoken emotions.
"English Toffee..." he said flatly, "The fuck else would it be?"
She laughed at his response as they moved down the hallway and out of the house, closing the front door behind them and heading out into the street. She opened her mouth to make a joke about his taste for 'French' flavours as of late, then stopped awkwardly.
-Too soon, maybe-
"I wasn't sure, the re-fracture could have left serious damage...you might have turned into one of those people who like liquorice,” she smirked, "Or worse, that multi-coloured American disaster."
"Gods forbid...I'll take fucking corpses any day..." Baelian muttered, sweeping forwards to fall into step beside her. "Are they gonna open for us at..." he paused, frowning as some half-remembered memory fluttered through his mind, "Is there anyone on Main Street that's NOT terrified of us?" he asked after a moment. His breathing had steadied, though the tremor still danced through his form every now and again when he glanced at her.
Claudia looked at him, her smile turning playfully amused.
"Oh come now. The ice cream parlour loves us. Remember how much we bought for Opium and Bethany? I mean, sure...we didn't eat much of it, but they don't know that…” she paused and made a face, "We really should have waited until summer to do that, they were both freezing by the end."
Baelian chuckled darkly at her words, though he seemed a little uncomfortable at the thought. Sauntering through the warm night air, he fell into silence, saying nothing more until they passed an alleyway. Then he perked a brow, frowning, and let out a bewildered laugh.
"I'll say one thing for our dear friend Nikolai..." he said, almost blushing, "He knew how to make you crawl through the filth. An alleyway? On your knees?" Smug blue eyes flashed at her and he shook his head in feigned shock, "Claudia Monére what WOULD your father say?" He ducked from the inevitable swat of her hand that followed, laughing and quickening his pace to escape her wrath. Her eyes flashed, pale cheeks flushed, and she darted after him, scowling playfully as her first swipe missed its mark.
"What can I say? The man brought out my creative side…" she took another swipe, cuffing him lightly across the back of the head, "Don't make me mess up your hair…" she threatened with a grin.
Baelian pouted at her, ducking away from a third swipe and reaching out to clamp his hand about her wrist, drawing her instinctively towards him.
"Don't make me mess YOU up..." he growled, his body shuddering against her. For a moment he looked as if he would devour her, his pupils dilated and his fingers dug into her flesh. Then he was releasing her, his eyes widening as he stepped back and shook his head. "Oh. Well. Wow..." he laughed, almost embarrassed, a hand pushing his hair out of his face and smoothing it back, "That was...okay then..." His eyes closed and he took a deep breath. "How far is this ice cream?"
Claudia had gasped in delight as he’d grabbed her, a small, whimpered 'oh' falling from her lips before she could catch herself. She melted against him, her eyes fluttering closed to fight back the desire to see one or both of them bleeding. When she opened her eyes, he was backing away again.
"Uh, just the next corner,” she wrapped her arms around herself and cleared her throat, her body trembling as she pushed a hand to her stomach.
-No…no…stay down, damn you.-
Baelian nodded and kept going, glancing at her sideways.
"Are you ok?" he asked, noting her slight change in demeanour, "I'm sorry. I don't really know what to do with..." his words trailed off as they rounded the corner to be met with a darkened store locked up tight.
"My life is over," he said flatly.
"Son of a bitch. We are going to have words. Fuckers…" Claudia murmured, gritting her teeth.
-We could break in.-
She looked to Baelian and her stomach churned.
-God damn it. Maybe it’s a good idea to avoid dairy until everything is less…emotional…or at least until the new medication settles.-
She thought about the new tablets she’d begun taking to calm her mind ever since Nikolai had left.
So far, they were proving useless.
Turning on her heel, Claudia ducked into the nearby alleyway, slumping against the brick wall as she gagged, and spat…decorum out the window.
Baelian drew in a sharp breath as she staggered away, his lips pressing in a grim line. For a moment he stood there, studying the closed shop front as if it symbolised something enormously significant that he couldn't begin to comprehend. Then he shifted to follow Lyra, his heavy footfalls crunching over the gravel as he made his way into the alley. Blue eyes widened at her slumped form and he reached out tentatively, his fingers brushing her back ever so lightly in some feeble attempt at offering comfort.
"Just let it out," he murmured, edging closer and pulling back her hair, his pale digits tangling gently in golden locks as he tried to keep it away from her face. "It's okay, Claudia..."
His touch and her name on his lips sent her sinking to her knees, her breathing slowing and deepening as she tried to keep herself under control.
"I'm ok. I just...I’ve had some medication changes lately…I suppose you know that, but I switched back...and Valium....you know....to numb it a bit…" Claudia grit her teeth as her stomach sent another purging shudder through her body. She dry retched, her hand finding purchase on his leg and gripping tightly as every muscle in her body contracted to expel food that wasn't in her system.
Baelian nodded, his eyes sliding closed as deft fingers held her hair at bay, his free hand rubbing her back systematically- back and forth. His fingertips tingled where he touched her, a growling voice echoing from somewhere deep in the recesses of the cavern that was his mind.
-Be still. She is not for you anymore-
A shaking breath was drawn in and he stroked her head, his own dark locks falling over his eyes as he stared down at her, her touch on his thigh making him grit his teeth.
-I could think of better things for you to be doing with those lips...-
Swallowing, he frowned and continued to nurse her gently, focusing on keeping his breath steady.
"Yeah. Medication sucks," he offered non-commitally.
-I got all the medicine you need right here, sugarplum-
Claudia leant her head against his thigh wearily, her hand winding around his leg to steady herself.
"Maybe I took too much…maybe I should take more. I still want to taste him…to watch him ignite a match and decide whether to light a candle or a building with it as the flame makes its way to his fingertips…" she shot a guilty look up at Baelian, as if she only just realised that she was talking aloud, her emerald eyes veiled by haphazard locks. "I'm sorry. I just mean that I will miss being challenged…by him..." she shrugged, then giggled...cutting it off with a cough, "Though, I must say, Lucas is rather amusing to watch as he detoxes in a cell. Keeping ahead of his delusions is quite its own set of challenges."
Baelian nodded again - it was the only thing he could think to do - letting her hair fall through his fingertips as he stepped away and leant against the wall, pulling out of her grasp.
"Well I'm glad he's keeping you entertained," he said, watching her carefully and offering a hand to help her up as required, "Give the fucker hell...he can take it..."
Claudia nodded slowly, taking his hand and pulling herself carefully to her feet, a little too close to him for comfort.
"You should go. I could use a walk by myself…and honestly…" she said softly, backing up slightly, "I am three seconds from caving in and kissing you..."
Baelian blinked, his head tilting as he studied her in the shadowed moonlight, her words sending a tremor through him, and starting that deep ache from within that clawed steadily at the insides of his subconscious with each syllable.
-Baby I'm even less than that away from fucking you to death right here-
He counted the seconds silently in his mind, his teeth gritting as he willed his feet to move. Lashes fluttered and his eyes slid closed, his head nodding in agreement with her suggestion.
-Yes. Go. Now. Walk away and leave her in peace-
He meant to do it, he truly did. But somehow the intention didn't translate into action.
"I think," he said after a moment much longer than three seconds, "You may have to cut that tie yourself..." he bit down on his tongue to stifle the random pet name that threatened to punctuate his words, his jaw tightening.
[Don't do this. You'll just get hurt]
-Yes. Baelian has enough on his plate...-
[Fuck Baelian....he isn't my concern.]
Pain flickered behind her eyes as she nodded, realising she still hadn't released his hand.
"You really are something, you know that?" her voice was soft with restrained adoration, "Even fractured, you are the most..." green eyes slid hesitantly to meet his, "…impressive soul I have ever known."
For Baelian there was nothing but pain at her words, that dull ache in his chest and the whispering in his mind the moment they left her lips. He heard them and understood them, he knew they were supposed to be for him...but somehow his mind didn't process them as intended.
~You're pathetic. Worthless...a coward~
There was always someone's voice - Jerald's, Olivia's, his own saboteur - gnawing at his insecurities and telling him that it wasn't true.
He wasn't special, he wasn't anything.
-Take the compliment and move on-
Baelian’s lips parted to reply, to thank her or to laugh and make a joke or...something...but no words came. Instead he just shrugged slightly, his head bowing, his hair falling into his eyes again as his thumb played over her hand. He studied her pale skin in the scant light, the curve of her fingers and her finely polished nails.
Then he waited for her to make her choice.
-Tell me a story Claudiaaaaaa-
Watching his expression and the conflict that danced through his eyes at her words, she felt her heart sink. Claudia shook her head, annoyed at herself for even expressing such sentiment.
-So what? It's a rare occasion that anyone in this family is honest.-
Leaning in and tucking his hair behind his ear, she kissed his cheek, lingering to inhale his scent.
"I can't. He left me, you need to leave me too...” He smelt like Baelian – though it baffled her that there was a difference. And yet, somehow, beneath it all he was still the same. Before she realised exactly what she was doing her lips were brushing his lightly, her breath steady and measured as she held tightly to his hand.
-Or you can stay-
The word fell harsh and fast from Baelian’s lips, wide blue eyes glazing with tears as he stared at her.
"No I promised...I told you I wouldn't..." he was trembling with the effort it took not to touch her, his body pressed back against the brick wall, his breath quickening as he began to shudder. "Walk away Claudia..." he almost pleaded, "Just turn around and walk the fuck away."
Claudia jerked herself back from him as if she'd been slapped.
"It's my neighbourhood, Baelian...if I walk away I will just have to walk back again," she pointed out, choking on the tail end of her words, "I can't leave, I live here..."
[He wants you to let him go]
She looked up at the clear night sky and inhaled deeply, her eyes swimming as she slowly released his hand. Steadying herself against the wall, her fingers curled into a fist against the rough surface. Baelian's body swayed as she moved past him, leaning into her, his lips parting as he breathed in her scent and a soft moan escaped him.
"It will...get easier..." he murmured, mostly to himself, "it has to get easier...some time..."
A sharp shudder went through Claudia as she nodded, her fingers tracing the flaws in the bricks curiously.
-If you say so-
"I suspect it will," she didn't sound confident, "We have full lives to return to...I have a man to hunt and a submissive to spoil, and you have a lot of wives to look after...Grigori alone is a full-time job."
Baelian flinched at the word 'wife,' then nodded, his eyes sliding closed.
"I'm sorry he wasn't strong enough..." he said after a moment, focusing on his breathing, "I thought he was stronger than me. I was wrong..." A hand came up to rake through his hair for the hundredth time, his face crumpling like a child's as he shook his head, then laughed bitterly. "I just wanted a fucking ice cream..." he almost whined.
Claudia smirked bitterly.
"I’m not expecting you to follow through on his proposal," she told him, “You don’t have to worry.” She flicked a hand at him and gestured towards the building, "And I'm sorry about the ice-cream.".
Baelian smirked, then shook his head.
"I wouldn't do that to you anyway, I'm a terrible husband," he said, his mood lightening somewhat as he wiped at his face. For the briefest moment his eyes glimmered with mirth and mischief, something dark and dangerous swirling in their depths. Then it faded and he shook his head again.
"It's all right. I need to go anyway..." he said, "I've caused enough trouble."
Claudia shrugged, having little else to do. She was unused to feeling so powerless.
"Off you go then."
He didn't want to go, it was in his eyes, in his erratic breathing and the fine tremor in his body as he stared at her. Heavy lashes lowering as he gave a choked laugh.
"I'm doing it..." he murmured, pushing off the wall and putting one foot in front of the other, his body feeling like lead, "Watch me go all over the place."
-Pussy. Grab her by the hair, shove her face against the wall and fuck her like a Katorga-
He faltered in his steps, swaying slightly as a wave of dizziness flittered through him.
"I'll call you...soon...we can discuss, things."
Claudia nodded turning away from him and pressing herself against the brick wall, letting the rough surface bite into her skin.
-A few seconds more, then he will be gone…and I can walk home and have a cold shower.-
"Be careful getting home..." she murmured, letting her eyes drift closed.
-And something for my stomach...tea. Burning hot tea-
To Baelian’s credit, he went…forcing himself forward and not giving her another glance as he left the alleyway.
"Goodnight Cl...Lyra..." he whispered, drawing in a deep breath. He almost bowled into a gaggle of young girls drunkenly traversing the streets as he rounded the corner. They giggled and shrieked and crooned at him, but he barely gave them a second look as he made his way back into the night, heading towards wherever the fuck it was that he'd left his car, leaving Claudia alone in the dark.
“Goodnight mon Couer,” she whispered to the brick wall.
-Goodnight and goodnight-
Written by Luna Madness and N. Ristovski.
All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016. Natalie Ristovski.