'You aren't eating,' the voice noted.
"Neither are you," Claudia retorted, not looking up from her work.
'I am dead, my dear. By your hand, no less. I have no need to eat,' the familiar shadow cast itself over her shoulder.
"Or speak, yet here you are."
'Technically, I am not that either,' came the reply, 'You are wasting man power if they are cooking for you but you do not eat. You are on the clock, child.'
The knock at the door dispelled her delusion.
The rotund head nurse showed Baelian Black into the room, waiting until he sat before exiting to return to her station outside and resume her cynical glaring at Asinoe, who sat patiently in silence.
Within the room, Claudia gazed at her brother.
"Hello Baelian. Thank you for coming," she said softly, taking a moment before dipping her hand into a mahogany drawer and calmly placing a container of pills on the desk between them. It was the same container he had sent Bethany.
He stared at it for a long moment, then met her eyes and shrugged.
"No thanks, I'm not supposed to."
She smiled kindly, "Yes. Actually, you are. These are the ones you have been prescribed."
His face remained passive as his eyes flickered to the container again.
"Are they? I can never tell."
"Why would you have need to tell," she held his gaze steadily, "If you have no access to the others?"
Baelian just stared at her, his blue eyes purposefully empty. Claudia tried not to sigh.
"Do you know who I got these from?"
"I can hazard a guess"
"Guess then," she prompted, as if it were a game.
"I'd rather not."
'This is what you are wasting your time with, Claudia? Trigger him, get your answers and be done with him. Or better yet...'
"I'm sorry to hear that," Claudia replied, wincing slightly as the shadow slammed it's hand against the desk, "Tell me, how are you and Asinoe getting along, now that she is your 'sponsor' of sorts?"
Baelian laughed bitterly, something dark flickering in his eyes, "Oh, she's a gem."
"If you are finding it a strain on your relationship, I can have someone assigned to you?" she frowned, mentally running through appropriate staff in her mind and coming up short.
Baelian slowly blinked and his eyes grew slightly unfocused.
"No," he shook his head, "I...need her."
Claudia watched him carefully. His micro expressions and slight twitchiness was worrying, but something weighed on her far more than his relationship with his PA.
"Did you intend for Bethany to take these tablets?" she asked, tapping the container with a finger.
He blinked and seemed to consider the question for a long moment, then shrugged.
Both of their parents would have beaten him for such a lazy response.
"Then why send them?"
Agitation flickered across his features and those blue eyes narrowed, "Because she provoked me."
"Provoked you, how?"
She watched as his temper slipped through his fingers, the inevitable anger flaring as if on cue.
"The fuck does it matter? When does she NOT provoke me? She's not exactly an innocent victim, no matter how much she plays one..."
Claudia hushed him.
"I know that. None of us are. We are all extremely fallible, my heart. I am just trying to help."
A frown coloured her own features as he pouted, but she continued with her point.
"I am curious though. How did you see it ending? If you thought she wouldn't take them, then you knew she may hand them to me...surely you suspected we would end up here?"
They looked at each other carefully and that strange darkness danced through his eyes again.
"And here we are. As planned. Yet you have nothing to say for it. That is not like you, my love. To pull at strings without reason? You are too clever for that."
He turned her words over in his mind, considering them before nodding.
"I am aren't I?" he whispered.
"And here we are."
She nodded, but he fell silent after that. She waited a long moment to see if he would go on, but he was either unwilling or unable to continue.
'Tick tock, Claudia.'
HE NEEDS TO LEAVE.
The second voice, a low animalistic growl, was not talking about her 'brother'.
She sighed. It was getting too crowded in her world. Pulling open a second drawer, she drew out a bottle, looking at Baelian before opening it and drinking deeply. Afterwards she paused, then held the bottle out to him.
"I am tired of chasing and playing games. I just want to...stop. You know?"
Baelian eyed the bottle, then shook his head declining it.
"Yes. I know," he murmured. She took another sip.
"I just...everything is a web, and I feel like I am stumbling around trying to, you know..." she gestured vaguely, "If I just sorted everything out, maybe I could just put everyone back where they belong and then...stop. And breathe."
"That won't happen Lyra. It never stops. It will never stop," he sounded as hollow as she felt.
"It will," she insisted, half trying to convince herself, "I can fix it. I told you when Freidrich died, I will fix it all. I just have to...work harder."
She was already working every hour she could...the idea of pushing harder made her eyes burn.
"Sorry, I don't know why I am telling you this. It isn't your problem. I am just tired. You just need to get better...and perhaps decide what you are pulling strings for," she smiled, "After all, you know I will dance, if you just ask."
Baelian perked a brow and smirked at her, that familiar glimmer alighting in his eyes as he tilted his head, "Is that right Monére?" he crooned, "What kind of dancing are we talking about?"
"Don't look at me like that," she laughed,"You know what I meant. If anything happens...if you need anything..." she trailed off.
A buzzer sounded loud in the quiet of the room, making Baelian jump. Lyra blinked and looked at the clock.
"Your PA is probably wondering what's taking so long," she stood, moving to the door.
She turned. He hadn't moved from the chair.
Baelian stayed very still, then looked up at her, lost.
"I need Alina."
Lyra hurried over and knelt in front of him as if he were a child.
"I...I know my heart. I am trying. But his work is so complex. I didn't create her, and she was under his care for so long. Not like me, I am all broken experiments and play...she is one thing, done very well," she paused, uncertain, "I would have more success if you helped."
He stared at her.
'Now, there is an idea Claudia. My clever girl...' her skin crawled as the shadowy hand of the Professor grasped her shoulder.
Lyra shook her head, clearing the room. She shouldn't have asked. He couldn't do it. He wasn't strong enough...or had too much to lose.
"...or at least stopped disrupting Bethy so I have to rush over there."
To this Baelian slowly nodded in agreement, and she leant in to kiss his forehead.
"I will let you get back to it then, I guess."
Again, he didn't move.
He gripped her hand hard.
"Lyra. Bring back Alina."
She felt frustration rush over her. The ingrate! She had been killing herself trying to hold and reassemble the family, studying day and night those vile notes on picking apart people's lives and minds, trialing what she could, when she could...killing herself...he wasn't even offering to help...and yet here he was, making more demands for their family.
'His family,' the Professor's voice reminded her again, as it had when he was alive, 'He only let's you call them yours while you are useful to him. He has you rushing around for his own 'greater good' while he drowns his sorrows and doesn't lift a finger to save his own 'soul mate.''
Claudia got to her feet, coldly, circling back to her side of the desk.
"You should go."
"Aren't you going to go over my care plan with the help?" he prodded.
She lashed out then, sweeping her arm across the desk and sending the files, drink and other items across the room with a satisfying crash.
"GET. Out," she growled.
He frowned, shutting down a little more.
"As you wish, Doctor Monère," he replied, rising from his seat and turning towards the door shakily.
She could hear the animal snarling in the corner, it's canine eyes like bright embers in the darkness.
"Faster," Lyra said, through gritted teeth.
Baelian paused halfway across the room, hesitating for a moment before making his exit. The door clicked shut behind him.
We all need to calm down.
She took a deep breath and pressed the intercom button on her phone.
"Ms. Ritchards, please tell Mr. Black's assistant that I will email her my care suggestions. I have work to do..."
There was a knock on the door. Lyra dug her nails into her desk top, her mind screaming in exhaustion and hurt. She looked at the files, coated in alcohol.
She shook her head and a smile forced its way onto her face.
Asinoe opened the door, "Hi Lyra, sorry to bother you, I know you're busy. Can I have a quick word?"
"Of course, Sin. Come in."
The delicate figure of Asinoe Hardcourt slipped through the doorway, eyes surveying the office before rising to drink her in.
"Jesus, are you ok? You look like you haven't slept in a week!"
Lyra shrugged politely. Asinoe nodded.
"Look I'll get straight to the point," she went on, "I don't want to waste your time. I don't know what Baelian said to you, but our relationship is falling apart. He doesn't trust me anymore and, even worse, he has found more pills somewhere..." blue eyes filled with sadness, "I don't know if it's the mixing of medication, but he's begun to turn on me. He thinks I'm keeping Alina from him, that I'm abusing him in some way. I'm really worried about him. I'm scared he had that accident today on purpose! He is getting more and more paranoid. What do you think? Did it help him to speak to you?"
Lyra shook her head, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"He said nothing about you, or your relationship...or anything at all. He is shutting me out, as usual. I don't know why I am surprised. He asked me to bring Alina back...and, well. You can see my reaction," she gestured to the floor, "Has he spoken to Luxx recently? Perhaps he is taking something else? Paranoia is such a common side effect..."
Asinoe looked disappointed, "Not that I know of...but I try not to overstep my boundaries and checking his phone is a definite step over. I'm not with him all hours of the day. His 'little dolls' could have hidden some away for him, for all I know. They would never betray him to tell me, even if it's helping him," Asinoe hesitated, then asked in a soft voice, "Can you bring her back?"
Annoyance clenched at Lyra's throat again, and she blinked when she realised she was glaring at Asinoe.
"I wouldn't risk it, even if I wanted to. I am not the Professor. I know all the theory, but...."
'You know more than that, Claudia. Remember what you did to Grigori? How fun. You enjoyed that more than you would admit.'
She paused, then shrugged.
"It's irrelevant. Even without you to consider, I wouldn't bring her back until it was over. And it's not over. Not yet. He isn't well, even without her. His car crash, what he sent to Bethy...and when was the last time you saw Jasper?" She shook her head,"Perhaps we should have him recommitted, where I can control everything, and wean him off that horrible stuff for good."
Asinoe blinked in surprise, "What did he gave to Bethany?" Not waiting for a resoonse, she continued, "Do you think Bella would allow him to go into Oakleaf with all the negative PR it creates for the company? Can he be confined to the house? I don't know if I would trust him around Tristan in this state...maybe my house would be better?
"At 'the Help's' house? No offense, dear, but Alina was his Mistress, not his official wife, and you are neither. The media would have a field day..."
Asinoe pulled back as if slapped.
"The Help?" she repeated softly to herself, then, a little louder, "Jesus Lyra, I didn't realise you thought of me that way..." she stood up, her eyes averted as she moved to the door.
"I've clearly outstayed my welcome. I'll take Baelian home to his wife. Get some rest, you're working too hard."
THEY DONT LIKE BEING REMINDED, LYRA.
"Don't take it like that, Sin. I am simply saying it as it would be perceived. You are hired as his PA. We all must adhere to the strange rules of society and the media that enforce it. I didn't realise it was a sore topic...is Baelian getting to you?"
Asinoe stopped, her hand on the door knob, her eyes welling up.
"He can be really mean when he doesn't get what he wants...and he can't have what he truly wants..." Asinoe straightened and blinked away the tears, turning to Lyra with a tight smile, "Don't worry about it. I will fix this, I will stop the flow of that blue poison somehow. We'll help him, Lyra...and I'll try to keep him from Bethy, I imagine by your silence on the matter that he somehow got some of that stuff to her. I'll do another sweep," she paused, watching Lyra's face carefully, "Thank you for listening. Do send your list of recommendations to me via your secretary."
Baelian's words echoed in the back of Lyra's mind.
It never stops. It will never stop.
She smiled at Asinoe.
"It will be ok, in the end. Him and you, Bethy and Grigori, Scarlett and Eden...it will all be lovely."
She nodded as Asinoe thanked her and left.
WHERE ARE YOU IN THAT ENDING?
HIM HER, HER HIM, HER AND HER...NO YOU
I, she mused. I will sleep. No one will notice. I will go to Paris, curl up and sleep.
'Tick tock, Claudia,' the Professor's voice interrupted, 'You'll be wanting to get back to my journals...I promise, this next chapter will keep you awake."
HE NEEDS TO LEAVE.
Written by 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.