Asinoe checked her watch just outside Lyra's office.
Right on 3pm.
She opened the door and stepped inside, meeting the cold stare of the sallow secretary within.
-You need to find another job- she thought and gave the woman a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
"I have an appointment with Doctor Monére…Asinoe Hardcourt-Bellamantis?"
The woman glanced at her computer for a moment, then hit the intercom.
"Yes?" Lyra's voice was slightly tinny through the machine.
"Ms. Hardcourt-Bellamantis is here to see you,” the secretary replied, sounding unimpressed.
"Send her in," came the curt order.
The woman behind the desk looked disappointed.
Asinoe had no idea what she’d done to this woman, but it was obvious that she did not like her.
-The feeling is mutual-
"You can go in," the woman told her sullenly, turning her attention back to her computer and ignoring Asinoe completely. Steeling her gaze, Asinoe swept past her and into the room beyond.
Claudia was finishing some notes as Asinoe walked in, but she glanced up and smiled hollowly. Behind her immaculate make-up, it was clear she was tired right down to her bones.
"Sin…come in," she pushed a chair out from the desk with her foot, tucking one file away and pulling out another.
"Hi Lyra, how are you doing?" Asinoe asked, moving across the room, "May I sit?"
Claudia gestured to the chair, ignoring the question about her well-being.
"Of course," she waited until the graceful woman sat then steepled her hands, "How are you?" she asked.
Asinoe’s smile was more a baring of teeth. She sat back and eyed the blonde woman carefully.
"I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours…” she purred, “Not to be difficult, but we’re supposed to be 'friends' and you’re not telling me the whole truth."
“Truth?” Claudia raised an eyebrow and took a breath, "Truth is, I am tired. I’m trying to fix things for children who prefer to play games of destruction. I take my eyes off them for a second and they're lining up to dive into the dark oceans again. I’m tired of people being 'friends' or 'family' when and only when it suits their agenda, I’m tired of my sin hanging over my head, I’m tired of demons from the past that still seem be trailing bloody footprints for me to follow…even now…" she winced, " I'm just tired…" she paused, then looked to Asinoe, levelling her eyes, "Now you."
Asinoe blinked, waiting a moment before smiling a genuine smile.
"I am crawling up the walls," she said simply, "The chemical connection Baelian and Alina have has unfortunately carried over to me…and I'm now jonesing for my fix," her eyes lowered to Lyra's desk for a moment, running over the folders and papers there, "Which is half the reason I am here, am I right?"
Claudia shook her head, "Not unless you want help with said 'fix', but as you didn't need my help the first time..." she trailed off, shaking her head as if it was a futile point.
Asinoe’s face tightened with brief anger, then slid into embarrassment.
"I had no idea that I wasn't allowed to see him, actually. Baelian sent a request and I went…with all the written confirmation and permissions. I almost didn't give in, either," she gave a short laugh, "Despite my body going crazy, I made it to the door before he started crying," she looked down at her hands, then looked back at Lyra, "I just couldn't help it. I’m sorry if I did something wrong. The last thing I wanted to do was set him back…which is why I called you to confess, as it were. I want him to get better."
Claudia watched Asinoe in curiosity.
"And in your mind, what's 'better'?" she asked, standing and moving to the window, "It's an earnest question…one which, as someone expected to 'fix' other people, I ask myself a lot. What does 'better' look like?" Claudia looked at Asinoe again. "And at what cost do we pursue it?"
Asinoe gazed at her for a long moment, thinking over her words before sighing softly.
"I think 'better' means stable and healthy,” she replied finally, “Right now, he’s unhappy and jerking all over the place with his DID. Jasper is fighting Baelian, Baelian keeps things from Jasper, nobody ever talks about Niki...and what’s happened to Belladonna?" she ran a hand over her slicked back hair, unconsciously checking for flyaways, "I think ‘better’ would be to find the core and stabilise them all, honestly. As unpopular as that will probably make me, I believe it's time to stop thinking about ourselves and how much we need certain aspects of him and start to think about him and his mental and physical well-being…”
Asinoe paused, looking at Lyra, her eyes narrowing slightly.
"Am I just being naive? I also have DID, and I know what it feels like to live with the knowledge that someone can take it all away at any moment. It's terrifying and stresses me out until I can’t sleep and I rethink everything I do and all the relationships I have. If it does that to me with just one extra person locked away in here, imagine what it feels like to have several aggressive personalities trying to take over all the time and undermining everything you do," she shrugged slightly and looked at Lyra in appeal, "I don't know what to do, but I want to help."
Claudia made a small noise at the words 'locked away' but said nothing about it, waiting until Asinoe finished before nodding.
"They are merging as we speak," she murmured, her eyes shifting to stare out of the window, her words trailing off as she lost herself to her own thoughts momentarily, "Or so it seems. But with that comes other challenges…" she looked to Asinoe, searching her face, "Does the word ‘Kundalini’ mean anything to you?"
A series of mental flashes and strong negative emotions shot through Asinoe at Lyra's words. She blinked and gasped, waiting until they ceased before looking at the blonde woman with wide eyes.
"What the hell was that? Was that a trigger for me?" her face tightened with anger, "Is this a game to you?" she demanded, standing as her heart raced in ridiculous panic. She didn't know what it was exactly, she couldn't put her finger on what had upset her so much…the pictures hadn’t been completely clear, but the terror had been real.
"It's all a game, but not my game," Claudia frowned, covering the space between them quickly and picking up a wrist to take Asinoe’s pulse, "Sit down. You may get light headed…" she instructed calmly, "Can you tell me what happened?"
Asinoe blinked and sat, letting the woman check her vitals.
"I'm not certain. It wasn’t clear. Alina's memories, I think. I saw a room…with candles and incense…and cages. Men in dark robes were nearby…I don't know what was going on, maybe a religious ceremony of some kind?” she shuddered, then frowned at Lyra, “What was absolutely real was the terror. Alina was almost beside herself with fear. With all her memories, as horrible as some of them are, nothing else has registered as this bad emotionally. I don't think I've ever felt her react this way to anything in her past…" she looked up at Lyra, "What was it? How do you know that word?"
"It's related to the Reverend Dream, though I’m sure the word itself was left for me to find by the Professor…" Claudia tensed and closed her eyes, rubbing the back of her neck. She didn't like thinking about the intricate webs of their past, they seemed to stretch on forever, ready to drag them all back without warning. Moving to her desk, she grabbed a pen and paper, "Do you remember any other words, locations, symbols?"
Asinoe tried to sort through the flashes for any details that the panic had washed clean. Ruefully she shook her head.
"Unfortunately not. But now that the memory has awoken, I’ll probably start dreaming about it…" her lips tightened, "That's the usual procedure for her memories."
Claudia nodded thoughtfully, "Are these memories getting stronger? Has she come through at all?"
-Alina has been popping out all over the place. I’ve seen her. HE’s seen her. She ain’t gone nowhere…-
"Not that I know of,” Asinoe lied, pushing Jasper’s voice from her mind, “I've had no missing time. The nightmares are getting more and more troublesome…" she gave a self-deprecating laugh and looked at Lyra angrily, "I only sleep undisturbed when I sleep next to him. Even pills don't help. They usually just cause sleep paralysis and leave me locked in a waking nightmare," her eyes shifted away, "It's horrible."
"Yes, they would be,” Claudia replied without emotion, looking thoughtful, “Those days were no good for anyone. Alina least of all..."
"It doesn't matter, we can fix me later,” Asinoe interjected, twitching slightly at the mention of her parasite, “I'm coping for now. My main concern is Jasper…we need him home, but we need him healthy. I know that merged he may be…someone completely different..." she trailed off, her eyes skittering over the desk again, "But that's a risk I believe we must take. I’ll have nightmares for the rest of my life if he chooses to discard me…but as long as he’s happy and stable…I’ll…survive…"
Asinoe didn't look at Lyra, real emotion choking her throat. The thought was almost nauseating, Baelian…Jasper…whoever he was, was hers and he’d never get rid of her.
“What do you think you should do?" she asked Lyra finally, waving her hand, "Not as a doctor but as a friend…as his sister?"
"It has been a long time since I’ve been either of those things to him, if ever I truly was," Claudia responded carefully, "I feel my best decisions are made as his Doctor. If I had made choices based on logic rather than my bleeding heart earlier, we may have never been in this mess." Her voice tensed as she spoke and she absently drew on the paper before her with the wrong end of her pen, as if writing a single word over and over.
Asinoe watched the path of pen over paper, noting the tension settling in Lyra’s face and shoulders.
"I think, regardless of how he treats us, he would be nothing without us…" she told the blonde woman suddenly, with a bit of venom, "He needs his harem, the women he grew up with, to worship him…or he will fall apart." Asinoe stood, moving closer to the desk and to her side, "Lyra, you mean a lot to him, to us. You’re the only one who has a prayer of fixing or even understanding us so that we can at least try to fix ourselves. You’re very important to us, you are one of us…” she paused, then touched Lyra on the shoulder, feeling the muscles tense further, “Try to get some sleep. The old bastard is dead…there is no real clock ticking. You can afford a few days of rest, nothing will break apart in that time. And please, let me know if there’s anything I can do for you…or him."
Claudia stared at Asinoe, frozen. For a moment she looked like she was going to hug the woman, or cry, or both, but instead she only nodded curtly.
"Thank you, Asinoe. If...if you could let me know when you remember anything more about the Reverend….anything, dreams or memories, that would help. I have a feeling this will unwind in its own time, but the last time I solved one of their damned puzzles, I made a big step forward in Baelian's treatment...and I'd rather not wait longer than necessary..."
"Of course,” Asinoe said with a small smile, “I will let you know immediately!” she stopped, a slight blush rising in her face, “One more thing. If he asks for me again…” she hesitated.
Claudia looked her over, then laughed.
“Yes, you can go. Might allow the nurses some time to get their work done. Just…check in with me first. I can turn off the security cameras myself for your…privacy, but I want a guard near the door and I want to be here in case something goes wrong."
Smiling at her gratefully, Asinoe nodded, "I hate how reliant I am on him, but I appreciate your understanding," she turned and made her way to the door before glancing back at Lyra, "Coffee soon? We can discuss nothing to do with work or him."
The blonde woman laughed again.
"Oh god. That would be amazing. Perhaps we could catch a matinee? I haven't even seen what's on, but a ballet or symphony would be nice."
"Wonderful idea. I haven't seen one in a while either. I'll check it out and let you know our options,” Asinoe gave another smile, “Thank you for seeing me. I have missed you." Throwing Lyra a wave, she left the office and, ignoring the secretary, swept out of the building and to her car.
Asinoe's mind shifted to Jasper as she drove away, blue eyes flicking to the rear-view mirror as the building grew smaller behind her.
She had done what she came for. She had kept her promise.
-Let’s hope he keeps his-
Back inside, Claudia watched the car through the curtained window. The smile had faded from her lips the moment the door had closed, and she found herself wondering if any of what her visitor had said was true.
-You cannot trust anyone. You know that-
She shrugged, chewing on her lip absently.
Whatever happened, something needed to be done about Asinoe.
-Sooner or later.-
Written by Chastity De Vice and Luna Madness.
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.