Dragomir couldn’t sleep, and part of him didn’t want to doze off, either. He didn’t want to dream, and yet he wanted a respite from thought. He wasn’t sure how much time had gone by; for all he knew, a day could have passed or perhaps only an hour. However long it had been, he could only think about Niles and what would happen to him if he were to be executed or sentenced to life. Dragomir knew Niles would always visit him, but Dragomir didn’t want Niles to have to endure something so hopeless. If he was to be locked up forever, he’d rather Niles left him and found happiness with someone else.
Dragomir sighed, opening his eyes and looking up blankly at the ceiling. He was losing hope; it was a hard thing to hold on to in such an abysmal place, and he worried that he’d ruined any chance of release during his interview with the Colonel. Dragomir rolled over and cursed himself for the thousandth time for being so stupid. He kept thinking of all the things he could have done differently, both during the interview and on the mission itself, and all he managed to do was work himself into a greater state of misery.
All he wanted was to see Niles. Only Niles could make him feel better. Perhaps Niles had found away to get him out? But he couldn’t get his hopes up. He could only count on seeing Niles, because Niles had promised to visit him again.
Dragomir wasn’t aware of time passing, but he was sure that when the door next opened, a considerable amount of it had gone by. Left only to his own miserable thoughts, he’d grown sluggish and apathetic, and as the guard readied him to move to the adjoining room, he had to constantly remind himself that he was about to see Niles. He’d already suffered through so many false hopes and wishful thinking that it was difficult to believe that they would at last be together.
Though it would only before a short time, it would make all the difference, Dragomir assured himself as he walked slowly to the room and took a seat in the chair to wait for his visitor. It would be Niles; it had to be Niles, and Niles would save him.
Niles anxiously waited as the guard let him into the visiting room and closed the door behind him, informing him of his time limit. Once again, he next to ignored the man, instead rushing to see Dragomir. Niles' heart fell to see that he looked absolutely dreadful; his skin had almost a grayish hue to it, and there were dark circles under his eyes. He looked sullen and hopeless, and it nearly broke Niles' heart to see him like that. Pressing up against the bars, he slipped a slender arm through, wanting to touch Dragomir, to make sure he was all right. "Dragomir...how are you faring? You look so pale...are you all right?" His stomach clenched with worry, and he got the feeling that once he got home, he was going to be sick again. But he didn't need to think about that now, now the only important thing was Dragomir.
“Better,” Dragomir choked, “now that you’re here.” He gulped and bit his lip; he couldn’t find a smile. He closed the difference between them, pressing against the bars and slipping his arms around Niles with a sigh of relief. “I’m so glad you came…” He let his head fall against one of the bars and closed his eyes. He felt almost like crying, but he refused to do anything to cause Niles to worry. “The Colonel came to interrogate me…” Dragomir said slowly, opening his eyes and squeezing Niles a little tighter. “I’m afraid I didn’t argue my case very well…”
Niles felt his stomach knot, and he looked up into Dragomir's eyes. "Oh no...what happened?" he asked, hoping that they hadn't already decided that Dragomir should be found guilty. "No matter what, Dragomir, I'll get you out, I promise," he swore, grasping the bars with conviction. "I'll do everything I can, I'll make sure you get free."
“Thank you…” Dragomir said weakly. He had no doubt Niles would work to get him out, but reflecting back on his interview with the Colonel made the prospect seem rather grim. “I know you’ll find a way.” His lips quivered, but again he was unable to smile. “The Colonel told me to plead guilty…or else face execution.” Dragomir’s voice was tight and it felt difficult to speak. All he could do was hold on a little tighter to Niles, desperate for his reassurance and thankful for his confidence.
Niles paled instantly, beginning to quiver. "Execution...?" His voice only came out, strained, as a hoarse whisper. "You mean...the death...penalty...?" He felt as if he couldn't breathe, he couldn't think; those words had destroyed any train of thought he could have had. "No!" he cried out, his voice cracking. "No, no, no! No!" He was practically screaming now, gripping the bars with white-knuckled intensity. The tears he had promised himself wouldn't come rushed forth, and he lost all control. The thought of Dragomir executed...it was just too much for him to handle. If that were ever to happen, there was no way Niles would be able to live. It was an unbearable thought, and he didn't know what to do now that it was in his head.
Dragomir tried in vain to press closer to Niles, to comfort him, but the bars impeded him, and he shook slightly. He hated to hear Niles cry, and he hated the thought of the pain his death would cause him. Dragomir sniffed back his own emotion and squeezed his arms further through the bars, pulling Niles a tiny bit closer to hold him tightly and to comfort him as well as reassure himself. “It won’t happen. We’ll find a way around it…They’ll see reason…I’ll find away to convince them that I’m not guilty.” He had to. That was their only option, their only chance to be together again, because this meeting for once a day through bars was intolerable. They had to do something.
His tears slowing, Niles tried hard to get control of himself...but the idea of Dragomir executed was just too much to bear, and he had to get it out of his mind, somehow. He took Dragomir's hand into his own, kissing it for lack of any other way to kiss him, before drawing back slightly. Closing his eyes, he tried to imagine how things were going to be, how Dragomir was going to be free, and they would be together again and everything would be all right...but somehow, thinking about it only made it worse, and he leaned against the wall for support. "Oh, Dragomir, what are we going to do? Even if I do everything I can...what if I fail?" Tears threatened again, and he didn't know what to do.
Dragomir gripped the bars as Niles pulled away to lean against the wall. “You won’t fail; I know you’ll find a way.” He sighed dejectedly, pulling his arms back through the bars and pacing rather agitatedly. “I don’t think I can do much…they’re convinced I’m guilty…Niles, you have to help me!” Dragomir looked pleadingly to Niles. It felt terrible to burden him with so much, but Dragomir really didn’t think there was any other way. Already it seemed he’d spoiled any chances of convincing the Colonel of his innocence and getting him to repeal the charges. No, everything relied on Niles. “I can’t…I can’t stand it in here…” Dragomir gasped. “It makes me remember everything that I’ve done…” It made him feel as though he deserved to be locked up…
Niles looked at Dragomir in confusion, not understanding what he was saying. Everything he'd done...? That could mean with Donavan D'Aubgine back in the old days, right? But...perhaps there was something Dragomir was not telling him? No, that couldn't be it, it wasn't true. But then...what? No, no, Dragomir wouldn't lie to him... But... The words were slipping out of his mouth before he even knew what was going on. "Dragomir...you didn't do it...right?"
Dragomir looked up at Niles sharply, almost disbelieving of the question. Niles didn’t trust him? The blow was too much; if Niles didn’t think he was innocent, then no one would. “No!” Dragomir said louder than he’d intended. “I didn’t do it! You don’t believe me?” he said accusatively. “Do you think I’d go back to them? I won’t, I wouldn’t!” he bellowed, pacing. No one believed him, no one trusted him, and he couldn’t bear it. If Niles had so little faith, nothing could be done. He’d never say he’d done it for the lighter sentence. He’d hold fast. He’d die for it. He was flushed and hot with anger, and he stopped moving to look at Niles. “I’m not guilty,” he snarled. Too much emotion had been built up and repressed, and he couldn’t control his temper. He didn’t want to fight with Niles, but now he couldn’t stop himself.
When Dragomir began to shout at him, Niles descended back into tears, almost clutching at the wall behind him for support. "No—" he tried to explain, but Dragomir would not calm down, and there was no way Niles' feeble efforts could stand up to Dragomir's forceful bellows. By the time he got a word in, he had already sunk so far into hysterics that his speech was choppy and hard to understand. "No—I didn't mean...but what you said before—I never thought that you'd—!" he sobbed, tears streaming down his face. He was glad for them, for all the tears blurring his vision, so he couldn't see the hateful expression on Dragomir's face. It was more than he could withstand, he knew it was his all his fault for being so stupid, but it seemed as if there was no way to redeem himself now. "I-I was confused—I didn't think—I just wanted to have you back!" That was the truth, and there was nothing more he could do. The look of anger, of accusation, of absolute hatred that had been on Dragomir's face was burned into his mind's eye, and suddenly, he felt his stomach churn. He was going to be sick. Clasping a hand over his mouth, he didn't dare try to look at Dragomir, and, with tears still blurring his vision, he threw himself out the door and out of the building before collapsing into grass outside and retching, gagging and choking miserably as his sobs continued to shake his body. Now that he had messed everything up so miserably, there was nothing left to live for, nothing worthwhile for his life. Feeling empty, he made his way back towards his automobile and automatically began to drive home. His mind was blank, his heart was torn. The pain and tears seemed to swirl into a whirlpool of nothingness. Without Dragomir, he might as well be dead.
“Niles!” Dragomir called after Niles all too late as he fled from the room. Just like that, Niles was gone before he could stop him. Niles’s departure had brought Dragomir’s anger back under control, but the emotions within him continued to rule his mind. He couldn’t think for the grief; Niles didn’t believe him, didn’t trust him and now he was gone. Dragomir knew he himself had pushed Niles away, and he swore loudly, spinning to hit the solid stone wall with his fist. His knuckles split and bled, and he thought he heard the bones of his fingers crunch, but what did it matter now? He was done for and alone. Niles probably wouldn’t come back, and worse than that, Dragomir didn’t know what Niles would do by himself now.
Dragomir fell against the wall and held his bleeding hand to his chest, wishing he could cry. He couldn’t bring himself to do it, though; after the previous explosion of emotion, he was left feeling empty and numb. He didn’t care what happened to him, but he was worried for Niles. He couldn’t bear the thought of facing death if Niles still thought he was guilty. He had to see Niles again, at lest one more time, to apologize and to make things right.
Niles hadn’t been at work since Dragomir’s arrest, and Julian was very worried about his condition. He’d heard word that Niles had been to visit Dragomir everyday of his incarceration, but Julian knew that visiting hours were strict and that Niles was probably suffering for it. He was glad, actually, that Dragomir had been locked away; it meant that Niles could at last move on with his life and get away from the abusive relationship. Perhaps, Julian fancied, Niles would even go to him seeking comfort. He smiled at the thought, taking another sip of tea, enjoying his weekend reverie.
Of course, what if Niles was discharged for his absenteeism? What then? Maybe Niles would forget about him… Julian couldn’t stand that thought, and the delightful flavor of his sweet tea grew sour in his mouth. Getting to his feet, his shed his dressing gown and dressed quickly. He would visit Niles and make sure he was recovering from the initial shock of Dragomir’s arrest.
Dressed in one of his best outfits, Julian pulled up to Niles’s drive and headed for the door, knocking with the distinct flourish of excitement. A servant appeared at the door, looking worn and haggard, and regarded Julian briefly before opening the door, admitting him anxiously. The servant informed his that Niles was in terrible condition and that he should go to him immediately; Niles was in his room, and refusing company. The situation looked grim, and Julian thanked the servant hurriedly, before darting up the stairs, eager to be at Niles’s side. He reached Niles’s door and knocked with a sense of urgency; “Niles, it’s Julian. May I come in?” His diction was soft, but his voice betrayed his worry and anxiety. If Niles didn’t let him in, he’d go in anyway.
Niles barely heard the voice at the door, or the knocking; he was in his own world, lost, all alone. Ever since Dragomir had screamed at him, had looked so hatefully at him, he had not been able to move from his bed, where he lay now, curled up, smelling Dragomir faintly on the sheets. It was if his entire body was frozen, his mind was in slow motion; he heard nothing, he saw nothing. He felt broken and empty, and he saw no way to fix anything. Dragomir didn't want him anymore, and it didn't matter, anyway, because no matter what, he was going to be executed. Everything that Niles relied on, that he cared about, was being torn apart, and there was nothing he could do but be left exposed, vulnerable. He wished for the first time in a long time that he were dead.
When there was no answer, Julian tried the door. Had it been locked, he would have gotten a servant to give him a key, but it was open, and he pushed the door in slowly, peering into the room. “Niles?” he called gently, stepping inside and shutting the door behind him. Niles lay curled in a ball on his bed, unmoving. Julian rushed to his side, calling his name again and reached forward, touching his shoulder tenderly. “Are you all right?” Julian asked urgently, crawling onto the bed next to Niles and peering over him concernedly.
Niles realized that Julian was close to him suddenly, and started. He couldn't bring himself to sit, he couldn't bring himself to move, but he spoke. "No. It's all my fault. Now Dragomir hates me, and he's going to be executed." He looked up at Julian pathetically, and said matter-of-factly, "I want to die."
“What?” Julian gasped, scarcely believing what he heard. “Niles…” He breathed, taking Niles by the hand. “How could you…? Why would he hate you?” Julian didn’t think it was possible for anyone to hate Niles, and he couldn’t imagine what could have happened between him and Dragomir. “Oh Niles, what happened? Please, don’t say such things…”
"I didn't mean to," Niles explained flatly, laying his head back down against the painfully scented sheets, "I didn't mean it...but without thinking, I asked if he was guilty. I didn't mean it...but now he hates me." He sighed, breathing in the smell of the sheets as tears slowly came to his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. "If Dragomir doesn't love me...without Dragomir, I don't want to live."
“How could he hate you?” Julian voiced what he’d been thinking all along. How could Dragomir possibly hate Niles? He was so lucky to have Niles’s love after everything, how dare he just throw it away. Julian swallowed, pressing Niles’s hand between his own. “I’m…I’m sure he still loves you…” Julian said what he believed to be true, although a jealous part of him wanted to think that Dragomir was as cruel as he seemed. “You can’t give up just because of him, Niles. You just can’t…please…” Julian extracted his handkerchief and handed it to Niles.
Niles accepted the handkerchief more because it was pressed into his palm than because he wanted to, and did not use it. "What can I do? I'm sure he doesn't want to see me again...the way he looked at me, the things he said..." Niles hesitated to swallow; his throat was dry from crying. "And he's going to die, and there's nothing I can do about it..." Niles' tears began to come harder, and he choked, burying his face in the sheets. "I wish I was going to be executed too!"
After that statement, Julian could bear it no longer. “Niles!” he gasped, scooping Niles into his arms and burying his face in his hair. “Please, please don’t say that! Don’t think like that!” He looked up, as soon as he knew he wouldn’t cry, and looked into Niles’s eyes. “If-if you really feel that way, then wishing for your own death won’t change anything. Dragomir doesn’t hate you, and if you can find some way to prove that he’s innocent, then he’ll know that you don’t really think that he did it. But you just can’t give up!” Julian would do everything in his power to help Niles, no matter what it meant sacrificing. If he had to help Dragomir, he would do it. If he had to give up all hope of Niles ever being his, he would do it. He’d rather Niles be happy with someone else than miserable without Dragomir. “Please, let me help you,” he said softly.
Niles' eyes widened at Julian's words, and slowly, he looked up into Julian's eyes. "You're... right..." he said slowly, the words falling out of his mouth as if they were in another language. It was all true; he couldn't give up, he had to save Dragomir, had to set things right. He knew he could never live without Dragomir, and that what Julian had said was right, he had to be active, to do something, just as he had promised to do. Sitting up properly, he nodded resolutely, saying more solidly, "You're right. Sitting here won't help anything..." But still, he felt so small and useless. "But...you'll help me, right, Julian? I don't think I'll be able to do it without your help." He looked up at Julian pathetically, hoping that he would agree.
“Yes,” Julian said with a sad resolution. “I’ll do everything I can to help you.” He hesitated a moment, thinking back to the night of the mission. “I was there…with Dragomir…and he saved my life.” He bit his lip, hating to admit his debt to the loathsome creature he’d just vowed to help save, but feeling it was an important detail. “And in return, I think I might have been the one to get him arrested. I didn’t know enough of what was going on…so I told the Colonel. I’m so sorry…But I want to help you make it right.” He paused again, swallowing hard. There was no going back now. Niles was lost to him forever. “I know he’s not guilty, and I think I can prove it.”
A tiny smile broke onto Niles' lips, and his body felt flooded with warmth all of a sudden. He came back to life, throwing his arms around Julian gratefully. "Oh, Julian, thank you so much! I don't know what I'd do without you! Oh, thank you, thank you so much!" In his flow of emotion, he pecked Julian on the cheek, tears coming to his eyes with returned hope. "With your help, I know I can do it!"
Julian blushed an extravagant shade of crimson, and nodded dumbly, not trusting his voice to form a coherent reply. With that small kiss alone, Julian felt his entire endeavor for Niles and all that he was doing to help him was entirely worth it. Niles was lost to him forever in the romantic ways Julian had always fancied, but Julian could feel in his heart that making Niles happy and striving to be his closest friend was every bit as rewarding. Anything to make Niles happy. He’d been selfish to hope for Dragomir’s demise; really, he should have strived to please Niles all along. That would become his only goal. He’d make sure Dragomir never again hurt Niles and that the two of them were happy together. Julian would learn to derive his own contentment and satisfaction from Niles’s friendship and knowing that Niles was happy with someone else.
Alice glanced enviously down her nose, past the facade of a smile pasted carefully on her lips, at the large blue diamond that hung around the Queen's neck. She had found out only when she complimented it (it struck her as tacky, and thus she found herself obligated to make some remark) that it had been a gift from the General Commandant, who, the Queen felt, was "such a sweet man." Not only was Alice green with envy now over the definitely-not-tacky necklace, she was feeling especially cold towards Her Highness. But, as was the way with work, she wasn't allowed to show it; she had to keep this smile daintily balanced on her lips and nod politely at all the Queen's remarks, pretending to be interested. She, however, in all her competence, excelled at it; she even pleased the Queen by remembering small facts from her previous visits.
"It's such a shame your friend Lucette couldn't make it," she remarked daintily. "I do hope she's faring well?"
"Unfortunately not," Cecile replied, surprised that Alice had asked. Most people didn't take much notice to Lucette. As it was, Cecile was very worried, as Lucette was recovering from a stabbing that had been intended for her. Luckily, guards had been able to pull Lucette away at the last moment, and the knife had only cut her shoulder, but it had still cut deep, and Lucette, as a result, was suffering a fever from infection. Deciding on the right words, Cecile added, "She's feeling...unwell..."
"That is too bad," Alice remarked, feeling almost sympathetic. "I do hope she's feeling well soon. It would be a shame for her to miss May Day."
Cecile brightened. "The doctors say she should be mostly recovered by May."
Alice smiled. "How lovely! Don't you think it would be such a pretty idea to throw some sort of ball to celebrate her recovery?"
"That's a marvelous idea!" Cecile replied excitedly. "Alice, you're simply genius! I'll throw a spring ball for Lucette, and have it on May Day!"
Alice smirked inwardly. She was a genius, indeed.
Julian left Niles’s house with a new resolution and a new life outlook. Regardless of whether or not he could or couldn’t be with Niles, he would make sure Niles’s life was happy, and that meant making a few interventions with Dragomir. The first of which was, of course, getting the ruffian out of jail, and Julian felt that before he could fully commit to helping him, a few things had to be set straight. Julian made a direct course for military headquarters, parking his automobile as close to the detainment facility as would be tolerated. He headed inside, an air of determination about him, and stated his purpose to the guard, who informed him that he’d have to wait a few minutes for detainee to be brought out.
Julian waited for a long time, it seemed, longer than he had expected, and longer than the guard had implied. The door at last opened, and a different guard, flushed with anger, appeared and showed him into a room a few doors down a long and gloomy hallway. Dragomir sat inside, unmoving, with his eyes fixed on the floor and a gigantic bruise blooming on his face. It was apparently fresh, and Julian realized why it had taken so long and a different guard had come to get him.
Folding his arms, Julian approached the bars and looked on at Dragomir with contempt. “Dragomir,” he said harshly to get his attention. Dragomir looked up at him vaguely, regarding him with the unfeeling indifference of someone resigned to misery. “I’ve just been to see Niles.” At Niles’s name, a spark entered Dragomir’s eyes momentarily, but he looked away at the wall ashamedly, and quivered, slouching lower in his chair. “You really hurt him, you know,” Julian said scornfully, narrowing his eyes and raising his voice.
Dragomir swallowed hard and looked up at Julian, seeing him, it seemed, for the first time. “Is he all right?” Dragomir asked weakly, his voice hoarse and strained.
“Yes,” Julian said plainly. “But you have absolutely no right to take any comfort in that fact. It’s entirely your fault that he was in such a state, and if he wasn’t so in love with you, I’d be of the opinion that you deserve this sentence for hurting him the way you did.” Julian observed Dragomir hunch over further in his guilt and lower his eyes back to the floor, and he felt a sense of retribution in his knowledge that regardless of what he said to Dragomir, Dragomir himself was punishing himself even more severely. “But,” Julian continued at length, looking away from Dragomir’s wretched and self-loathing condition, “You mean everything to him, and even after what you said, he cares for you and wants to help you.”
Dragomir looked up at Julian, but did not lift his head. He couldn’t find the words to speak, and all he could feel was a profound sense of guilt, as though he felt he no longer deserved Niles’s efforts and affection.
“I…I want Niles to be happy…” Julian said softly, his tone having changed drastically, “And I know now that he’s happiest with you.” He made eye contact with Dragomir for the first time that visit, but looked away. Dragomir’s almost feral-looking countenance always gave him the chills. “I’m going to do everything I can to help Niles get you out.” He paused, imbuing his voice again with a little more strength. “In return, I expect your full cooperation and your most solemn oath to never again hurt Niles.” Julian was surprised by his own sternness, and could see in Dragomir’s eyes the genuineness of vow as he nodded gravely. “Good. I think Niles will come to see you again, which is much more than you deserve. Don’t ever hurt him again.” Julian turned abruptly and exited without another word. He was having trouble maintaining his composure, and the last thing he wanted to do was to break down in front of Dragomir. Julian thanked the guard on his way out and ran to his car, falling into his seat wretchedly and putting his hands over his eyes. He sat for a long time, gathering himself and repeating his resolution: Niles’s happiness was his new goal—his own would have to be forgone, as he knew now that it was unobtainable.
Corinne rested her head against her palms, sighing tiredly. The past week had been terrible. Not only was the work piling up while they worked on court martial, not only was one of her best officers currently in prison for a crime she was very certain he didn't commit, but now she was being asked to testify against him. She had stared at the paper placed before her, then put her head in her hands, depressed.
She didn't know what she was going to do. She was feeling extremely stressed; as of recent, because of the new officers in the office, she had been forced to stop her morning visits with Viorica until a later date, and she had been getting home later and later because of the endless piles of paperwork, especially since Christian had been on sick leave. She felt overworked and stressed beyond belief, and it didn't look like things were going to be getting better in the near future.
"Ms. Delancey." Corinne looked up when she heard he name and found Colonel Lawley.
"Lt. Colonel, please, sir," she replied almost testily. She would not put up with them discriminating against her.
"I'm sorry," he replied, the smile not leaving his face. "May I have a word with you, Lt. Colonel?"
"Yes, sir?" she asked tiredly, standing.
He sauntered around to meet her behind her desk. She came to the slow realization that no one else was in the office save for the officers Holtcombe, who appeared to be filling out paperwork together, completely ignoring she and the Colonel. Taking a deep breath, she looked him in the eye as he began to speak. "Lt. Colonel Delancey, you truly are a very talented...and very lovely woman. You captivate me, and I'd very much like the pleasure of spending more time with you. Might I have the honour of escorting you out for an evening in the near future?" He smiled in what Corinne guessed must have been a charming way, to other women, anyway.
"I'm very sorry, Colonel, but really, right now, I'm just too busy for social activity, and I want to focus on work for the most part...and I'm really not interested in a romantic relationship..." She felt tense about the whole thing, as he was her superior. "Maybe some time from now..."
The Colonel's eyes narrowed. "Perhaps you would be more inclined to acquiesce if I added that your Captain's life hangs in the balance? He's very likely to be executed, you know. But if you were to give me a favourable impression of him...maybe that could be changed."
Corinne was left speechless, not knowing what to do. Her breath caught in her throat. She had known that the Colonel was immoral, but not this bad. To buy time, she broke away, gathering her things quickly and heading for the door. "...Sir, I don't know..."
"Come now," the Colonel replied smoothly, following her. "I'm really a very generous person. Let me show you, I can assure you you'll be satisfied." Corinne had made it fully out into the hall now, and was very startled when the Colonel grabbed her by the wrist. "Sir--" but she was cut off when suddenly, the Colonel pulled her into his arms and kissed her full on the lips. She froze, her mind immediately blank. What was going on?
It had been Viorica’s fist miserable day back at work since her brother’s arrest, and she was having a horrible time focusing on her patients. She missed Corrine, and wanted desperately to see her, and though she understood that she was too busy with all the extra work and troubles with the new officers, now that Dragomir was in prison, Viorica was in need of comfort and tender reassurances. Additionally, Viorica needed to know what had happened. She had no real connection to the military itself besides her brother, Corinne, and her patients, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask the men she was treating what had gone on a few nights back during the last Berceuse Malheureuse raid, and she’d even been advised not to use her last name for the time being to avoid a negative association with a known criminal.
She had to know exactly what was going on, and above all, what would become of Dragomir. Viorica tried to visit him, but had learned that only people working under Colonel Lawley were permitted to “question the criminal,” and had set off immediately for the said Colonel’s office. Only at the desk did she learn that Lawley was the same Colonel she’d heard so many terrible things about, and her stomach churned with anxiousness at the prospect of meeting him. Then again, there was the slim possibility that Corrine would be there, and despite the grim circumstances, she felt reassured by chance.
Viorica heard voices in the hall ahead of her, and hurried forward around the corner. Perhaps the Colonel was on his way out of the office, and in that case, she had to catch him before he left. However, upon turning the corner, Viorica wished she’d never come at all. Corrine was there, alright—with the Colonel. The pit of her stomach dropped and she stopped dead in her tracks, taking only a few seconds to take in the sight.
No wonder Corrine had stopped seeing her; she’d found someone else—a man. Viorica swallowed hard, lowering her face in shame. She should have never come. She couldn’t bear to speak to the Colonel, not after what she’d seen, and though now even more than before she longed to see Dragomir, Viorica knew it was out of the question. Turning on her heels, she bolted full speed for the door and didn’t look back.
Corinne heard the loud footsteps racing away, and suddenly her senses returned to her. She shoved the Colonel away from her and turned just in time to see Viorica's back disappearing down the corridor. "Shit!" she proclaimed, cursing everything that had gone on, and herself for letting it happen. Turning back to the Colonel, she narrowed her eyes, her voice becoming almost shrill. "Fuck you, you bastard!" she screeched, rage and fear flaring up at the same time as she fought back the tears behind her eyes. "Fuck you!"
Taking off full speed, she raced down the hallway, trying to figure out which way Viorica had gone. She had to guess that Viorica had gone back towards the medical ward; she struggled against the slick floor in her horrid heeled ankle-boots. "Viorica!" she called out, her voice cracking. There was nothing more she could even think to say, besides to cry out the name desperately.
Viorica could hear Corrine calling after her, but she didn’t stop until she’d reached the medical ward. She didn’t know why Corrine should want to see her now, and Viorica felt that she would only hurt more to hear why she’d been cheated on now that she’d actually been witness to it. She hoped Corinne would give up pursuit once she locked herself in the doctor’s joint office, and she retreated to a small space between the patient record file and the wall, not wanting to be seen or found and hoping to simply be left alone.
"Viorica, please!" Corrine called out hoarsely, her pace slowing with exhaustion as she arrived at the medical office. The tears were freely flowing down her cheeks now, and her heart felt as if a rope of thorns had been tightened around it. Her life, it seemed, was all hanging in the balance, and she simply couldn't lose Viorica, as well. "Viorica, please, hear me out," she cried, finding the door locked and banging on it until her knuckles turned red and blood-blistered. Finally giving up, not knowing what else to do, she sunk to her knees, leaning against the door, crying helplessly.
"Viorica, please... What you saw...the Colonel forced me, he's been trying to blackmail me into seeing him! But I rejected him, and he forced me, and then you showed up, and there was nothing I could do..." She thrust her head into her hands, feeling crushed and absolutely devastated. "Please...I love you..."
Viorica listened wretchedly to Corrine’s efforts outside her door, but could not bring herself to open it. She was staring fixedly at the wall as Corrine spoke, chewing her lip viciously, and refusing to cry. She was hurt and angry, and she felt that nothing Corinne said or did could make up for what she’d done to shatter her trust.
Tears prickled at her eyes when she heard Corinne’s words, and she stood up slowly, backing against the wall, listening once again. Viorica refused to be tricked, and she didn’t want to hear any miserable excuses, but somehow, Corinne’s words reached her, and numbly, she gave in to the dull ache of her heart. Corinne’s voice sounded honest, and Viorica couldn’t stand to hear the anguish in her voice. Her last statement in particular struck a cord with Viorica, and she walked over to the door, hesitating briefly before unlocking it, opening it a sliver, and peering outside at Corinne, saying nothing.
Corinne didn't see Viorica open the door; her head was buried in her hands, tears streaming unhindered from her eyes. However, when she heard the creak of the hinges, she looked up abruptly, then stood, taking a few steps forward, looking to Viorica desperately. "Viorica, please..." she said weakly, looking pleadingly into her eyes. "I love you, I couldn't bear to lose you... everything that you saw...it wasn't my choice! That despicable man...he forced me... please, you have to believe me, I'm so sorry, but, please, Viorica..." She was beginning to feel lightheaded for crying, but she didn't care, she had to make Viorica believe her.
Viorica didn’t know what to think, but she couldn’t stand the sight of Corrine in so much pain. She swallowed and wiped at her eyes with her sleeve, taking step towards Corrine and slipping her hand into Corrine’s, looking up into her eyes cautiously. “I love you too…” Viorica said softly, for she truly still loved Corinne. “And you…don’t have to make up excuses if—if things are different…” She paused, not wanting to think about the possibilities. “But if…what you say is true…” Her face hardened and she looked up at Corrine with a little bit of her usual spunk showing in her eyes quite by accident. “I hope you slugged the bastard for touching you.”
Corinne squeezed Viorica's small hand tightly, looking pleadingly back into her eyes. "You can't believe that I'd ever choose a man over you? Viorica, you have to believe me, I've never, ever wanted anyone but you. I love you." Her stomach churned with the thought that Viorica couldn't trust her, but she knew that she had no choice but to earn the faith back. However, at Viorica's next statement, she chuckled shaking her head. "Unfortunately, no, I think that would have lost me my job...but I cussed him out good, if that's any consolation." She managed a weak smile, and pulled Viorica into a gentle embrace. "Please believe me, Viorica, I love you, and the sooner that bastard Colonel is out of my life, the better."
Viorica smiled slightly at the question, and was pleased to learn of the punishment Corinne had dealt the awful Colonel. “I believe you,” she said slowly, looking up into Corinne’s eyes. “Thank you for coming after me… I really wanted to see you, and then that…was just too much. I’m sorry I ran.” She looked down and pressed Corinne’s hand between her own. “But I really love you. I don’t know what I’d have done if you didn’t come after me. Thank you.”
Corinne shook her head, swallowing her tears and holding Viorica tightly, pressing a kiss to her forehead with relief. "Oh, I'm so glad... Viorica, I'm so sorry for everything, but please know that I love you so, so much more than anything else..." She pulled back slowly, looking Viorica in the eye. "I would chase after you until the ends of the world, if I had to. I couldn't live without you, Viorica."
“It means a lot to hear you say that.” Viorica hugged Corinne back and felt tears of relief wet her cheeks for the first time, at last allowing herself to emote. If something had really gone wrong, if Corinne had really left her, Viorica would have been devastated. She’d never felt so lost or alone as she had just a few moments before, but now in Corinne’s arms, she knew that everything was true and that she wouldn’t have to be alone again. “I don’t want to ever be apart, Corinne.” Viorica said resolutely, looking back at Corinne, blinking back her tears once again. “I love you so much, and I trust you. I won’t run away.”
"Thank you," Corinne said softly, moving a hand to Viorica's cheek and wiping away her tears. "I want to have you with me forever. I love you." Leaning in, she pressed a soft kiss to Viorica's cheek. For the first time in a long time, she felt as if things might be all right.
Niles wrung his hands as he waited for the guard to let him into the visiting room. He really didn't want to be here; he was terrified of how Dragomir would respond to seeing him again after he had so vehemently pushed him away, but Julian had practically forced him to come, telling him that everything would be all right. Of course Dragomir still loved him, Julian had said. Niles wasn't nearly as sure. Still, he had prepared his apology, gone over it in his head hundreds of times, in hopes to re-earn Dragomir's love.
Far too soon, the guard returned and unlocked the door for Niles, letting him know that he had half an hour. Niles nodded numbly, going over what he was to see one more time in his head, staring at his feet the whole time. He didn't dare looking up and meet Dragomir's eyes, so he took a deep breath, swallowed, and began to talk very rapidly and softly. "Dragomir, I know you didn't want to see me again, but I love you, and I'm so very very very sorry, and I never meant what I said, and it was stupid of me to even say it, and I wasn't thinking, and it's all my fault, so please, please, if you could forgive me..." he broke down into tears, struggling and choking on his words. “Be-because, Dragomir—I...I love you..." At his last words, he gathered the courage to glance up briefly, pathetically, into Dragomir's eyes before retreating his gaze hurriedly back to his own feet.
Dragomir didn’t know who to expect when his guard told him he had a visitor, and he didn’t know that he wanted to see anyone, either. Dragomir felt terrible for what he’d said to Niles, and when Julian appeared to talk to him, his guilt had grown to be a suffocating weight that prevented him from thinking of anything beyond Niles and the horrible things he’d said to him.
Numbly, Dragomir followed the guard out of his cell to the small room where he waited for his visitor, not lifting his eyes from the floor until the door opened slowly and none other than Niles appeared. Dragomir stood up immediately, ignoring everything else, and drank in each of Niles’s words, grateful at last to hear the sound of his voice. Dragomir moved towards the bars again, shaking as he understood the meaning of Niles’s words. Dragomir knew he had to make things right, but the way Niles was speaking, it made Dragomir feel as though he hand no right to seek Niles’s forgiveness at all. “Niles,” Dragomir choked out once he had finished. “God, Niles…” He slipped his arms through the bars again and prayed Niles would come a little closer; Dragomir longed to hold Niles and assure him of his love and above all, apologize. It felt like nothing he could say could make proper amends, but still, he had to try. “I’m so sorry…it wasn’t your fault. I-I can’t believe I hurt you. I just…I…” He bit his lip, unable to continue for all his self-loathing. “Please don’t apologize. There’s nothing for me to forgive…” Dragomir closed his eyes tightly, wishing he could change what had happened. “I love you,” he swallowed hard, “and I can’t bear to think that I’ve hurt you…Niles, I’m so sorry… I wanted to see you… I need you to forgive me…because I love you.”
When Niles heard Dragomir's words, his knees felt weak, and before he knew what he was doing, he was throwing himself at the bars, collapsing into Dragomir's arms and sliding his own through the narrow spaces. He latched onto Dragomir like his life depended on it; he never wanted to let go again, and his tears flowed freely, his sobs shaking his body. It felt like all the stress, all the worry was evaporating from his body; Dragomir still wanted him, Dragomir still loved him, and he felt as if he had a reason to live again.
When he could finally speak again, he looked up tearily into Dragomir's eyes. "Dragomir...Oh, I'm so glad. I love you so much, and if you still love me...Oh, I don't deserve it, but I couldn't live without you," he wept, smiling weakly through his tears. "I was so afraid...I'm so sorry, Dragomir, but I love you so much..."
“I could never stop loving you, Niles.” Dragomir breathed, squeezing Niles and never wanting to let go. He was so grateful to have Niles in his arms again, and carefully, he pulled Niles a little closer, before tilting his own head to place a soft kiss on Niles’s lips to show his love and gratitude. Pulling back slightly, he looked into Niles’s tear-filled eyes and felt the corners of his eyes grow wet as well. “Don’t be sorry…It was me… I should never have said such things to you… I can’t forgive myself…Niles… I love you so much…I was so worried that you wouldn’t come back…that I’d wouldn’t see you again before…” He shuddered at the thought and forced it from his mind, rejoicing in Niles’s presence and forgetting all else. “I love you.” He affirmed once again. “Please don’t ever doubt that.”
Niles nodded, his tears beginning to slow. "Th-thank you, Dragomir... I love you," he replied softly, finding more comfort than he could have imagined in Dragomir's eyes, and in those words. He rested his head against the bars, feeling the warmth of Dragomir's body just on the other side, almost within reach, and for a moment, things seemed all right. But then the meaning of one of Dragomir's previous statements began to sink in, and quickly, he looked back up at Dragomir again. "Don't talk like that! No matter what, Dragomir, we're going to get you out, we're going to prove you didn't do it. Julian's helping, and I know we can do it. Soon you'll be home again, and you'll be able to see me whenever you like, instead of these awful visiting hours, and everything will be just the way it was before. So don't talk like that!" He was surprised at his own fervor, but he had convinced himself that Dragomir was not going to die, and he needed Dragomir to believe, too.
Dragomir smiled a soft, sad smile, impressed by Niles’s adamancy. He hoped what Niles said was true, but spending so long in solitude had made it hard for him to imagine what it would be like to be released. His cell was a bleak place that had a tendency to repress all sense of hope; only now, with Niles in his arms, did he have even the faintest spark of optimism, but he held on to it dearly, and held Niles all the more closely. “I hope so…” he said weakly. “I know you’ll do everything you can.” He didn’t know if it would be enough, but he wanted to believe. “Thank you,” he breathed, “I love you…I don’t want to leave you…”
Niles looked pleadingly up into Dragomir's eyes. "You have to believe in me, Dragomir, you have to! We're going to get you out no matter what! You can't even think about anything else!" He could tell Dragomir had been considering his proposed execution, and Niles couldn't stand the thought. Grasping onto the steel bars, he rose up onto his toes and kissed Dragomir desperately, hoping to give him even a little more faith.
Dragomir kissed back, ignoring the tears that slid from his eyes. In this moment, he was happy; he was with Niles, and Niles was going to get him out. Dragomir could believe, he had to, and he couldn’t lose himself to the dismal misery of imprisonment. “I won’t,” Dragomir promised when they pulled apart. “I can’t think of anything but you, anyway…so I’ll wait until I’m released. I know you’ll find a way. I know we’ll be together again.” He smiled once more slightly to reassure both Niles and himself, as was grateful that in just the short reunion with Niles, he’d recovered some of himself.
Niles was extremely happy to see Dragomir smile, and couldn't help but smile back. "Yes, yes, we'll be together soon," he assured, wrapping his arms around Dragomir again. "No matter what it takes, we'll get you out." He knew it, he believed, and with that thought, he was able to relax into Dragomir's arms. Soon, everything would be all right.