Ry felt Charles look over him and glanced over his shoulder at the man as he examined his wing. His face fell when the animal trainer told him that the bone that was broken was the one right at his shoulder, the one that connected his wing there. This was an injury that would take a couple of weeks to heal properly.
“Please, bandage it up,” he said quietly, his gaze now at the floor. He was usually a free being, flying made him forget for a time that he was bound by contract to the carnival and to Jim. He tried to keep the tears from falling but it was hard. He won’t be able to retract his wings until the right wing heals. He won’t be able to fly.
“I promise that I won’t fly or do anything to jeopardize my wing.” It was apparent that he felt defeated, broken. “Not being able to fly is like being caged anyway, Charles. And if Jim wants me in the cage, I have to comply. It’s…in the contract.”
Charles fell completely silent, watching as Harold licked Ryan’s hand in an attempt to cheer him up. He frowned and knelt in front of Ryan, keeping one knee on the earth and the other up, propping his two hands. “Ryan,” he said gently, trying to figure out what to say.
“It’s going to be okay. It’s one broken bone, hey. It will heal soon.” There was a comforting smile there, genuine because he wouldn’t be able to take seeing Ryan cry. He had the overwhelming urge to fix everything for everyone, but this was something he couldn’t fix at all. All he could do was tend to it and wait.
“Maybe I can convince Jim to let you roam free,” he suggested. “I mean, I can try. We never know with him.” He sighed and looked up at Ryan. “Cheer up, Ry. You’ll be in top condition soon. I’ll get the bandages yeah? Don’t be too sad.”
Rich purred and winked. “I’m really sure it’s quite long.. If not very long..” He lay on the bed, lolled a bit on it and smiled at him. “Come on.. take all your time you need..” He let his view slide over him and this Duke was really attractive.
Charles stared at Rich for a few moments, rather unsure what the purring was all about. “Alright,” he said finally, straightening his back and starting to recite the poem for Rich.
She smiled and took a sip of her glass, enjoying the amber liquid. “hmm…can’t do it without you though so together we can manage this, if you can stand to be so close to me darling, promise I don’t bite.” Pulling out a file she placed it in front of her and opened it, taking the picture within and turning it towards him. “This, my darling, is ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch. Everyone knows it but until recently we found out who owns it. Estimated at $120 million is now owned by a financier who has it well guarded, more than the Queen actually. And I want it, it’d be a beautiful addition to my collection and an almost impossible task to complete. Perfect challenge. What do you think?”
He leaned forward to take the file, pausing briefly when he saw the pale face eternally trapped in a blood-curdling scream. And he might have made the same face that moment, knowing exactly what she wanted. The Scream. One of the most famous paintings in the world. And there he was, being tasked to take part in stealing it.
“Love,” he began, pausing after the endearment. “I think you might be over-estimating me a bit,” he said seriously. “I can get the reproduction there, but as you said, it’s impossible - well. Maybe extremely difficult, not impossible. There might be a few … options,” he finished, biting his lip as his mind raced.
Francie saw a blond man and her professor, and though she was still studying the detailing on her canvas, she was listening to what he said, and she couldn’t help but get a little bit excited when they were told he was a journalist. But she couldn’t afford to lose focus, not when she was nearly done, so she pushed the thought out of her head, sort of. The thought of someone who flew around the world writing articles standing in the not-quite-as-well-lit-as-it-should-be classroom in East London… It was distracting. Even just a little bit.
But then she felt someone behind her, the tiny prickle on the back of her neck which told her she wasn’t alone, then someone said hello and she turned around. She hadn’t noticed before but Charles The Journalist was actually quite handsome, she smiled, “Hi, you’re the writer, right?” She asked, although she knew he was. She hadn’t been that engrossed in her work, but she was trying to act like she wasn’t bothered. She casually leaned on the work surface beside her, remembering just in time to move the pallet so she didn’t get paint all over her jeans.
The student beside Francie was stealing glances, but Charles kept his eyes on the blonde girl. “Yes,” he grinned. “And you’re the artist,” he returned, smiling as he stood on his tiptoes and fiddled with his hands behind his back. “Obviously. Loving your green freckles, love. Very expressive.”
Charles pulled a seat from behind him and sat himself behind Francie, smiling at her all throughout. “Hope you don’t mind if I watch you? It helps me create a story. There’s rich imagery there. Like you’re my model, and my words are paint on the paper canvas.” He leaned back and pulled out his red notebook, ready to observe.
“I don’t know,” she murmured, watching Ella settle on her stomach. “Talking to animals doesn’t sound too bad. Animals are easier to understand. Animals usually only hurt you if you do somethin’ stupid.” MK glanced at Charles. “Your trousers want mending,” she observed casually.
Charles hummed in agreement, knowing all too well what MK meant. There was a sort of wistful smile on his face and he closed his eyes. “And they don’t leave. Ella’s been with me for ten years now. It’s just… I need to talk to people sometimes. Stop doubting whether they understand me.”
He looked down at the thick old trousers, looking for a tear. “Oh. I suppose I’ll figure it out later,” he shrugged, even if he didn’t know how to stitch at all,
“Aren’t they the same thing?” Sebastian asked, genuinely confused as he walked into the armory. Leaning against a worktable, he motioned for Charles to sit in the worn old chair. Grabbing a pen and a small flip-notebook, indicating he was ready to take down the order whenever he was ready.
“No, they’re not,” he insisted, settling himself down on the comfortable old chair. He pulled the black notebook out again and flipped it to the page where he’d listed the orders. “Here we go,” he signaled, before he began dictating the order.
25 Glocks each with different specifications later, Charles sighed and pressed two fingers to his temple. “We still have 30 pistols to go through and 40 AKs. Just a heads up. Told you it was tedious.”
Susan smiled at him, curling her legs up and snuggling in to his side. She wasn’t sure where things were going from here. Charlie was her rock. Charlie was her constant, her phone call at 3am when she had no one else to call, her protector and her ward all at once.
“We’re going to be fine,” she repeated and in that moment, she almost believed it. That was what he gave to her. Hope. A lightness of being. Comfort where none existed before.
She wrapped an arm around his waist and sighed. “Why does everything have to be so complicated? Lying is so easy. Truth is what’s confusing.”
It all felt incredibly surreal. He didn’t expect their dynamic to change that fast. In fact he didn’t know what to expect. A part of him wanted everything to stay the same, but the nature of the last conversation would never have allowed that. So, just like that, he rested his chin on Susan’s head and rubbed circles around her shoulder blades, as if that answered anything.
Or maybe it did. Maybe it meant that he was going to stay, no matter what. Maybe it meant that he would be there to hold her as long as he was alive. Maybe it meant addition, not difference. Maybe, he didn’t have to stop buying ridiculous shoes or taking her to extravagant trips. But this time, he would hold her if she needed to be held. And it would be fine.
“… The truth’s painful,” he answered simply. “It’s why we pretend. And by pretending, we complicate things more. It’s a vicious cycle.”
Spamilla glanced at her watch. She was impatient. It had been several weeks since something had happened and she knew that something big was overdue. The shop needed to close. Besides a few stragglers, there was nothing much to do besides begin the closing process, which filled out the rest of her time. She did a few quick dishes before hurrying out the door and directly into the chest of a stranger.
She hopped back to get a better look at the man. Dressed neatly, but something about him told her that he wasn’t from here. She narrowed her eyes lately before relaxing her visage.
“Sorry if you came for the joe, bub, but we’re closed now. Anything else I can help you with?”
A distinctly American voice sounded out in front of him, and Charles turned sharply only to meet a shock of hair. “Oh, sorry, did I-” He stepped back and shut up, listening to the girl instead.
“S’fine,” he laughed. smiling politely. I was just looking at that bridge over there.” He turned his head slightly to the right and looked back at her. “Rather clueless how to get there, so I thought I’d ask inside. But you’re closed, though, so.”