As I approached the good doctor pulled himself up and rapped his knuckles against the window pane.
"Dr Watson?", I coughed announcing my presence and he turned to face me.
"Oh, Miss Janus", he looked rather flushed.
"I was looking for Miss Orchid and Mr Rip are they in?", I heard a shout from the house, it was Orchid.
"Beq! We're trapped!", her voice was soon joined by appeals for me to stay back from rip and Miss Trafalgar.
"the steps, bombs!", shouted Rip.
It transpired that while Miss Trafalgar had been inside some devious criminal had conspired to kill them all by placing high explosive devices on the door step, luckily the quick reactions of Rip had saved the all. The culprit had done his homework, through oversight or simple poor design, the house was a trap, with a single entrance at ground level. I ran back to my house, which was nearer than the firestation and retrieved my ladder, bringing it back and leaning it against the roof of the lower floor, allowing the 3 to descend in safety.
I don't intend to dwell too much upon these events the scurrilous broad sheets carried many a story of the event and how young Loki had saved the day, though more by luck than judgement, destroying the devices with a series of carefully thrown snowballs. Suffice to say, both Rip and Orchid were shaken and shocked, their beautiful home severely burned and tainted by smoke.
The tension had become too much for Orchid, she had left shortly after they had been released, to calm her nerves and Rip now faced with the charred remnants of his entrance lobby was unlikely to feel like talking. I approached him warily, offered my commiserations and promised them complete freedom to my home, that under the circumstances I would move out to the Vernian until their house could be made habitable. Rip surveyed the damage declaring that everything was fine. They'd sleep there that evening. He thanked me cordially and I left my plans in tatters, I'd now have to mentally prepare myself for this again. Moreover there was the mystery of why anyone would seek to kill or injure either of the three. I could only assume that this Relic character, a self styled terrorist was the culprit. Events were to prove me wrong, very wrong.
It was about 5 hours later when I returned, Rip had done a good job, the smoke damage remained, the door charred but neatly rehung. I paused outside the door, took a final deep breath and knocked.
"Who's there shouted Rip", his voice gruff, a note of wariness to it. He came out and opened the door, I smiled meekly."Beq"
"Rip, Orchid, can we talk?", I asked my head bowed slightly eyes looking through him and into the house, he nodded, slowly opening the door.
Orchid was sat on a sofa at the back of the dining room, and nervously glanced back and forth between the two of us.
"yes we need to talk Beq",Orchid watched me as I sat down, one eye on the bottle of Absinthe left on the table. Rip looked across to me, hand on the couch, and is if reading Orchid's view, made it quite clear that I was not to touch the bottle. I smiled nervously. The air hung thick with the silence and tension.
"Soooo....", said Orchid, staring into her lap.
"What did you want Beq?", asked Rip.
"Rip, it is you that I have come to speak to, to perhaps answer your questions, to let you express yourself". Rip turned to orchid
"Would you please let us speak alone, if you are here, you will cloud both our thoughts
"No", I shook my head.
"I would rather she stayed, at least if that is her will", my hackles were up already and we'd not started, why must men feel that they should molly coddle women?
"It's okay Beq... I think, I think he would only censor his true words if I were here. If that is what you are really after..", Orchid rose slowly and headed for the bedroom.
"thank you Orchid", Rip looked over at me, "How long of you known us, the both of us?"
"long enough to hold you in my heart as dear friends"
There was a knock at the door. Rip frowned and got up to answer but Orchid rushed in.
"I-I'll get it.. you two continue, she pulled the door open. "ahhh, Mr. Renfold."
"ah just who I wanted to see miss orchid"
"Might we speak outside?"
"of course", Orchid stepped outside pulling the door to behind her.
Rip sat back down, "yes, long enough to hold us dear. Long enough to develop a large amount of trust?", I nodded, "that is what I thought. Trust, it is fickle is it not?n Takes a deal of time to gain and an instant to lose.".I looked to where Orchid had been sitting and Rip's eyes followed my own before return and settling on me again.
"Do you really think I chose this path?"
"We never choose our path, only how we travel it."
"Is your view of me now so tainted that you think I went out of my way to hurt you?"
"Beq, I don't think you went out of your way to do that but by what ever means it happened you did
"I am guilty not of loving Orchid for I could never consider that a crime, I am guilty of a lapse in strength, a lapse that left me exposed my inner most fears and secrets open, had it been within my choice, those emotions would have been forever buried."
"Do not grovel before this bastard."
Nareth's thoughts filled my mind.
"You are so strong, Mistress. You are so true."
"Beq, how can I blame you for loving her, I myself do with all my heart, I hoped you would understand that, and I never knew you felt that way...but the lapse in your strength, that was a breaking of my trust, you do know that. You have NO clue, the respect I had for you, the trust I bestowed, the admiration.", his words cut deep.
"Do you discard all your friends when their strength fails them, is that why you hide behind that sword? I saw how you looked up to me, I never sought such elevation, and I was not worthy of it."
"Yes, you are, Mistress. You are worthy of far, far more. You have betrayed no one, no one who matters.
"It pains me that you think I have discarded you, if I had would I be here speaking with you right now? I am beside my sword because it is my past, horrible things. We never seek to be admired but our actions make it so, just who you are does."
"The way that you look at me Rip, is it not a look of hatred? I did not seek this tension in my mind, how can you lecture me on my failings without knowing what I endure? I am sorry for the pain I brought upon you, I would have wished it otherwise but Rip, you are not the only one hurting.".
"He does not know hurt, Mistress. He means to possess your love, as a man might possess a horse or a dog. Lock her away, make a secret of her....
I looked up as the door edged open and Orchid crept slowly back in and up to the bedroom, a vial in hand.
"It is a look of anger and sadness to see what the charm has made you become, YOU think I truly blame you? I know you are not fully in control, the Beq in there has to fight."
"I was weak Rip, so very weak"
"I know you are hurting too Beq, all three of us are. This has been a hard time for all of us."
"hard.. yes and so lonely"
"...Steal the light from her eyes. It is a trick, Mistress. There is no sympathy in him. None. He only means to gain the upper hand.
"If you say lonely then the charm has blinded you. Do you not see that even through this there are those that care of you still?"
"There are shades of loneliness, as there are kinds of love.", Rip Wirefly nodded slowly.
"That I can understand Beq"
"Imagine her, rotting in a cage...while he holds the key".
An image started to form in my mind, Orchid pale, near death, locked in a filthy cage staring forlornly through the bars. Not this time, I had to dismiss this trickery I had to try to be clear.
"Please. We could set her free. She would thank you, in the end. Mistress....
I shook my head, rubbing my eyes, trying to focus.
"We all seek solace when times are bad, it is in our nature. In my weakness, I allowed my base instincts to rise, I cannot deny them, but I would not have let them go if I had had the power to resist."
"Beq, you have a void in your heart that need filling but Orchid is not the one to fill it, I am sorry", another palpable hit, it was the truth, the void in my life left by Tali has lain empty for years, all those who might have come to fill it have been pushed aside, the emotions buried, buried until now. Yet with that realisation came an echo of his words, it was not his decision, it was Orchid's.
"That is her choice not yours, you cannot hold dominion over another's heart, no sword had that strength. She has made it clear that the passion that burns inside me is not reciprocated. I can respect her will, I cannot change my own so easily."
"I never said I hold the strings of her heart, I no more control her heart than I do my own, Love happens and I understand that."
"He is locking her up like a canary. She will sing for none save him and in the end, she will not even sing for him. She will forget the song. But...you are free...Be wary...
"yet you banished her to tell me that she does not love me? she needs no guardian, she knows her heart and mind"
"So now you will bend my words?", Did I? was I? I took a deep breath
"Do I? Did you see the look of fear in Orchid's face last night? I do not mean to tie you up with words Rip."
"I did see her fear, that is a face that pained me to see but what did she fear Beq?
"It was a fear of violence Rip, the anger that boiled beneath your surface, the anger that wields those weapons.", I paused, I had lost my temper, I was attacking him, and to what end? Rip was a victim here not me. Was I sure it was a fear of anger, of violence, perhaps it was something else, a fear of loss, a fear of me, a fear that I might seek to tear them apart, as Nareth would have me do. I stopped. I was wrong, I should not be here at all. I stared upwards to the bedroom, wondering what Orchid was doing, sure that she'd be listening at the floorboards.
"There are many fears Rip"
"Beq the fear she had was past the violence, it was the fear that two she cared for would part"
"Is that your sentence then? You presume to judge me and I have admitted my guilt, my lapse of strength, yet you offer me no penance?"
"How do I Beq, everytime I say that it was not your full control, that it was not you doing it you retort with another excuse. So then let me ask you, how are we to get through this beq?"
"I would never have brought this upon either of you, I love you both too much for this, whtI have done I am truly sorry for. But it is done there is no through, we draw a line underneath it and move along, I have lost your trust but the only way forward is for that trust to return. Orchid and I cannot live with you forever looking at our every interaction with suspicion, and neither can you. It would kill your heart, destroy you."
" But...he will always, always be suspicious..forever. You know that."
"I need your trust Rip"
"Beq, my trust, you know in time that it will return, but it will not be an instantaneous thing and you know that but for now I must trust I think."
"I know that I am no longer worthy of it in your eyes."
"It pains me trust you so readily but I must. Trust is a two way street Rip
"Pain... He does not *know* pain."
"Do you not trust me Beq?"
"Not as I did, last night you would have cut me in two if you had thought to get away with it, your strength stayed your hand, but the anger, the fury fought it. I have to trust you with my life and more than that. You know the choices I have made.", as I said this the noises in my head were growing, drowning out all other sounds.
"If you don't trust me Beq then... I have never done anything against you, Last night I stayed my hand, anger and, and yet you do not trust me fully? Though you did that I would still give my life to save yours and you doubt your trust in me? It pains me you would think I would do that to a friend, WHY would I wish to bring harm to someone I HOLD dear."
"I can trust you Rip when you trust your own heart, when you trust Orchid. She is the innocent victim in this, to look at her with suspicion hurts you both. It is me that you must blame not her, and I know that you will say this is already so, but do not answer me, think, take this deep inside and understand. She fought for you that night, she fought against her love of a friend in need, to see her way back to you."
Orchid stepped slowly out of the bedroom..
"When have I EVER said I did not trust her?"
"no, you never have", Rip looked to the door, "then why do you assume? I trust her more then I do myself.", Orchid sighed heavily, staring down at the floor. a tear fell from Rip's eye, trickling down his face.
"Then commit that to your heart Rip."
"He speaks from his position of authority and force..."
"Who said I haven't already? You still assume I do not trust her". Orchid McMillan nodded, glancing to Rip, speaking softly.
"It... it seemed that night Rip, at Loki's, that you were far more angered that I was there with her, than just seeing her could anger you.". Rip closed his eyes and bowed his head.
"You assume too that I was angered at that.". Orchid opened her mouth to respond, then shut it promptly, her lower lip trembling lightly. Tears ran in streams down Rip's face and he held it low.
"Rip, I... if I'm truly mistaken, please, make me understand."
Nareth's anger had become menacing
" He loathes you. You are loathsome in his eyes."
The voice in my head rose to a painful crescendo
"No!", I cried out at the throbbing pain.
"There was a bit of anger at seeing her with you again, admittedly, but that is not from a lack of trust with you, but of her, I was angered at the sight of her."
I leant forward holding my hands to my head squeezing, as if to steady my mind. the noise had risen beyond pain, and vanished, the silence the emptiness, the void left behind more painful than the sound itself. Rip stared at me, tears welling, not knowing the reason for my madness. the pain subsided and I sat, rocking slightly. breathing heavily. Across the room I could see the look of concern on Orchid's face. Then as my breathing returned to normal, she focused her gaze upon me once again.
"Beq, I... you both sat here, speaking of trust..I think the trust you both missed the most, was my trust in you."
I looked up, meeting her gaze, sadness in her eyes. "We obviously had great trust in each other Beq, to... to even have me there with you while combining the charm... I've trusted you more than any other friend I have, and yet you put me in a position to choose! To choose between hurting at least one of the two I am closest to.". I bit hard at my lip, holding her gaze. Orchid lowered her head, staring at the floor again, speaking softly, "I need to learn to trust you again, all over again."
"I would undo that if I could Orchid, you must understand as much already. I can but try to rebuild this. If that is what you wish". Orchid nodded slowly, keeping her head lowered.
"I-I can't bear to lose either one of you.", her whole body shook.
"That is not the choice, I don't think Rip or I would wish you hurt more.", Orchid glanced up slightly, looking from Beq to Rip
"I would wish to not hurt her at all", he muttered and Orchid smiled, I swallowed as the words bit home.
Orchid McMillan exhaled slowly, turning her gaze upwards again.
"Do either of you have any more thoughts? I'm not sure much more talk today will help, unless we all get a chance to clear our minds and think a little."
"I have said my piece", Rip sat back, his tears drying. But what promise could I make, Could I promise to be stronger than a charm whose power now dominates my head, whose intensity had just crushed all sound and thought from my mind? I could not, it would be a lie.
"I need you both to understand, I cannot earn you trust, not now,, not as you would like. I was weaker then for so many reasons, but still this charm binds me, and when I am struck low again I will fail. I have no super human power of will. If I could I would stand before you and shield you from anything, but my armour is not perfect, I am not that hero Rip saw, I am just a woman. Just a woman.
Rip puts his head down shaking it
"None of us are perfect Beq, I would never expect an instant turn-around. All I ask is that we all try., Orchid was firm, her composure regained.
I could hold back my tears no longer and now the sobs came suddenly.
"Did I not try? I failed but not for lack of trying". I had fought the demons in my mind hadn't I? I was no longer sure myself. "I think we have said enough, we need time to clear the air."
I stood to leave, wiping the tears from her eyes. My own tears had brought Orchid back to the verge of crying once more as she avoided looking at either of us. "Rip, comfort the poor girl will you please.", I forced a smile and left.
As I left the house, Rip's words echoed in my mind even as another pressure rose behind my eyes.
"You have a void in your heart that needs filling", a void....
As I stood in the snow outside the house, I was suddenly aware of Nareth. She was clearly angry still. The pressure began building inside my head again. Like a wave coming. Bearing down...Rage, Nareth's rage. Then within the roaring torrent came words
IF YOU HAVE NO WISH OF MY COUNSEL, THEN ORDER ME SILENT, MISTRESS, BUT, I BEG YOU, DO NOT ENDURE THIS INDIGNITY.
"Your counsel, you know my heart you see the turmoil, I love them both dearly, what I did was wrong."
In my mind I saw Nareth leave her casket.
"No...Mistress. It was not wrong. It was only contrary to the mores of this place. And time."
"But we are defined by our actions and their perception, to hurt a friend is wrong whatever the time or place."
"What I am...what I just witnessed...There is unspeakable anger in me. And yet, I cannot act upon it, as I am bound.
And then she was with me, by my side. I could feel her glare from behind her goggles, the anger that seethed within her. We walked back to my home and I invited her in once again.
"Mistress. You should know...you are free to dismiss me when you wish. It is part of the arrangement. I am bound to say that.", She glowered at the floor as she removed her goggles. "Night.", she whispered, an observation at the final setting of the sun. "I am...hungry.", Nareth's body shuddered, and I felt deep pity for her, for the way she existed, a small pained sound left her lips and then stared in disbelief as a pair of black wings un furled from her back. "I did not mean you to see this...I am weak...I have not fed...my control slips. Weak...and angry.
"That anger is not necessary"
"It is not something I can...help. I beg you, dismiss me...", Nareth's body shuddered again."I would not have you see...". Nareth stood.
"Please go Nareth do what you must".
"What I must.", she echoed.
"I am destined to be alone it seems."
"I cannot leave if it is not your will."
"It is my will, go Nareth, be gone."
"Yes, Mistress. Summon me, when you have need.", and with that she was gone, and I was once more on my own. and rip's words echoed back again.
"A void in your heart that needs filling".....