Still in his room, Nick didn’t respond to any sound Luna could muster, and she allowed him to stay asleep, because she felt that as an employee she didn’t have the privilege to console him, and she only soured in loneliness.
She chose to stay in the living room, where at least she could hear Ella work, and wondered full-heartedly whether her body could also deal with taking in not enough food. Waking, and checking the clock, she worried Ella as she checked for the prince.
When they made sure he was still in the room, and decided that it would be perfectly reasonable to check at the time they did, they grew anxious when he still didn’t respond to their endless noise. Burdening Luna, Ella couldn’t produce magic in her condition and beseeched her to break the lock with her mercurial form.
They found him: intact, soundless, and awake, and in time forced him to drink water and eat. When she came home Sally joined them, and did not first care to ask. Also, she held back good news until Nick had apologized for worrying them, that Tom would be released tomorrow, and with Ella’s quick thinking, even Stein could go home in a short three days.
Nick talked for the first time about medical insurance (as knowing of it prematurely invited danger for knights), and since Tom had his own from his father, Sally would only use some of her funds to pay a little bit for Stein. The cost was caustic and insulting, since they were indeed minimally troubled by it, and not only a death in the family.
However, her spending was still monitored by her father and having been ignored she didn’t feel inclined to inform him of their misfortune. Ultimately, she would let Tom do it if he wanted since he was the one who almost lost his life.
The notion itself was comparable to the aftertaste of the ordeal in magnitude, that even with light injuries, if, for example, the large swarm of weak darklings was to find them over the dying Lawrence, they would be in much worse shape.
Sally offered to take over what little work was left from Ella, but ended up spending more time than she supposed. All situations ran through her mind, however useless, determining whether any matter of luck would change the outcome. For a veteran knight who was forever more evidently skilled than her, the top of her class, such an easy and unceremonial death was inconceivable. It made wonder whether it was even statistically possible to live out a full career of helping others. The crack in her dream was irreparable. She met much frustration in the paperwork, and Ella’s quickness in her limited secretarial duties seemed more impressive by the minute.
She realized she didn’t ever fit a role in the house, and felt more like a guest in the rabbit hole, so she enjoyed being able to leave more frequently, with task like fetching groceries, or taking Ella’s electric wheelchair for repairs. She was not the only one to avoid others. It may have been because they didn’t have to fulfill any duty as knights, but she definitely saw everyone else sleep more, and she tried to monitor their sleeping habits as closely as she could without interfering on their privacy. However, seeing their suddenly cold behavior, she realized that she didn’t care as much if they didn’t seek help.
Although there was much more on her hands now than ever, knighthood seemed farther away, and some sanity returned along with the sadness of loss. Pierre Lawrence was still a stranger to half of them, but the renewed feeling of vulnerability, that was first lost not so long ago, was very real. She began to think, if she were to die next, exactly what would go unfulfilled?
There were plenty of things but the exercise was foolish. The only longing that would remain would be the wish to succeed as a knight. She didn’t doubt that people would honor fallen servicewomen, but it would only please her if she was able to make a difference first. Surely everyone has that intention, she agreed to herself.
More presently, everyone would recover slightly and her free time would return, especially since Ella would hopefully recover her magic. The only problems were that she, with all of her education and training, couldn’t help the prince cope, and that she could never understand their loss. Lawrence was only a comrade to her.
She had not processed it yet. It would be inconsiderate to mourn him as fully as the others. Tom’s recounts of the two knights he’d seen suggested that they should be stoic, either by nurture or tradition, she didn’t know.
No one had cried in her presence, but she felt that it was a shortcoming of hers, to not tell whether it was because of a priority on the living. A weight came over her head, and she realized the girls met difficulty in expressing gratitude in her brother’s and Stein’s survival when one more important to them hadn’t survived. Nicholas was likely distracted away from dealing with his guilt by the whole situation, and that would be why he got stuck in a static state.
There is that which a medic or mage can’t heal, but understanding had done it for her. She heaved her uniquely starved body and marched to Luna to see if she knew how to replace a door lock.
“Let me see your mercurial form. Make it as thin as you can.”
Luna obliged, but she didn’t look well. Her eyes were extra glassy, and today her hair was hastily combed. She focused and squeezed it until it was about three times the width of a hairclip. Sally didn’t mind, but she took her time, careful not to break her own skin.
“You could have picked the lock instead of forcing your way in. We wouldn’t have to replace the sheeting around it too.
“I wanted to be as fast as possible.”
“I can understand that, but it would be safer to pick the lock. Your mercurial form is really flexible, not to mention Nicholas could’ve been directly behind the door.”
“I never thought to use it like that. Especially during that episode.”
They had tried the internet, and carefully read all the text that came with the supplies. Curiously, Luna had to hold the paper to her face to read it.
“Are you nearsighted? I’ve never seen you with reading glasses.”
Dishearten, Luna slowly gave up, “There are plenty of other people who might know how to do this, Baronet. I don’t want to do it wrong and have to take it out.”
Stein was resting, and Ella had a long tiring day in front of her computer. Nick could afford being interrupted, but it would be bad if he grew frustrated. Naturally, Tom was sitting with him, and Sally and Luna would’ve waited until later to call him up if he hadn’t invited his help.
There hadn’t been many other times where he was as helpful to Sally as that time. He had to struggle too, constantly apologizing for being unsure, but he got it. The sound the new lock made was as satisfying and crisp. Though it was easy to tell for Sally, Tom’s manner of speaking was also artificially crisp, slow, and overcompensating.
“I’m sorry,” he let pass, “I’ve never had to take care of my house so I don’t know a thing about the metal sheeting. The ones you brought, Sal, seem to be the right size. I don’t want to mess with it.”
Luna felt a little harassed by his change of behavior, “I don’t think a normal person would know that much either.”
Sally asked him where he did learn a specific task like that, and Luna was confounded to learn that their family could hire full-time servants. Sally’s strangeness made more sense.
Later she took tea with Luna. Her room smelled of it and she watched her still white teeth and wondered how much she took in. The conversation wandered away. Sally didn’t feel comfortable with all the weight on her head, and it was made worse when she learned Luna treated Ella like a sibling, but she was afraid to ask her about Lawrence.
She felt obligated to give away her feelings, and she felt almost like a schoolgirl when she laughed at how she described Tom, “He’s about as smart as me, and I was surprised he was helpful today. Though, I regret sometimes his treatment of me.”
Luna didn’t ask her to specify. When Sally, having stayed with her for longer than she could afford, asked her for another book to read, suddenly her eyes felt scalding hot. Sally rose up to her, worried that she’d said something wrong, tipping over her small seat in the process.
She snatched away Luna’s hot beverage, not needing much force as her grip loosened. While Sally apologized and turned her head, meaning to ask to continuing sitting with her, Luna said calmly, “Thank you, Baronet. I almost dropped it.”
Luna was taciturn, and didn’t shed more tears. Instead she tried to reassure her partner, but never met eyes. She set Sally’s chair upright immediately, and it was late in the night when she resumed, though the two never heard the others leave to their rooms. Sally was afraid that now it was too private, if she would cry in front of her, but she knew it was best for her to stay if Luna wanted her to.
Sally knew that she should’ve avoided feeling hopeless or numb too, “I may not be able to understand, but everyone is here for you.”
“Yes, and for that I am thankful,” Luna regained her willingness to talk, “Your gentleness was also suspicious once. But remember he was the one who brought me the first books when I moved in. I felt we didn’t have much in common except the will to serve, and I am glad to have lived as long as I have in the same household.”
Sally agreed as she continued, picking up who she meant as ‘us’, “He has left without regrets. As a veteran knight, especially one who’d given up important parts of his life in secrecy, I know that dying on the streets for someone else’s sake, would not be totally disagreeable.”
Luna finally leaked, scared that she angered her.
Sally didn’t stop even when she realized, “I’m sure, he wants just as much to have survived, and be with you.”
Nicholas and Tom heard, but dealing with their individual sorrows, did not intervene when they heard a raise in volume; Sally’s unkindness was not targeted to Luna.
She bit her lip at Tom without him seeing when she came out, and got ready for bed. She felt cloudy in her chest and in her head now, and returned red-faced after she had cooled down.
Luna looked like had her grieving hadn’t progressed from before the night. Sally did not let her speak without saying, “I need to apologize. I’m sorry, sorry. What you said might be truer. Who am I to say? I am just an outsider. I tried to relate to my experience. I am useless.”
“I would like to hear it if it isn’t too personal,” Luna thought she spoke to fast but didn’t stop her.
“I’ve also lost substantial family to darklings. I have a large house, a little far from the suburbs. Sometimes we would spend nights in the backyard, and it happened while only Tom and my mother were home. And my father stopped talking to me and Tom and it’s worse lately, since he won’t respond at all anymore. I think because of unresolved issues, Tom fell into depression when our grandfather died, and then he’s been seeking something he calls adventure, even though he’s miserable now because I suggested that he should become like me and that grandfather we spend time with. I don’t even know when the details of my own mother’s death, and I haven’t the courage to ask Tom again because he thinks that it’s some Pandora’s Box, but when he was closer to darklings he showing signs of sickness. I already inferred that it was violent and slow, and that she shielded my older brother until the knight arrived. I’m weak, and I’m probably the reason Tom’s in such a bad state, if not directly, there was probably something I could’ve done, so I have no place telling you what’s right and wrong about someone I’d met for little more than a week,” She didn’t believe she was telling this to someone she’d met for only a little more than a week like she was some therapist.
Luna let her catch her breath, and even hugged her, but she wouldn’t have it. It was the effects of a darkling, which increased her sadness but not her inhibitions, which allowed Sally to confess. Neither of them saw the death, but it must’ve attached to her anyhow.
It was wrong for Sally to introduce her woes to Luna, but she knew what she had to know to help her cope.
When she had settled, and apologized once again Luna asked to hear the accounts of the night. When Sally summarized them, she spoke objectively, omitting the details that Stein, Nick, and Tom each added to increase their own guiltiness in the matter. Feeling content with the resolution, Luna released her and promised confidentiality, but not before imploring Sally to confront Tom again, and that Luna also thought it was unfair.
It was a family matter, and she felt guilty to listen to the baronet in her altered mental state. She wondered if she could go as far as to cry. Tonight she seemed more expressive in her feelings, almost drunk.