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Providence of the Broken [m]

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Offline Reigning King

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Nicholas Abbey lay awake in his humble bed and stared up at the ceiling.   His glasses were on his night table, along with the book he had been reading, left folded open after he had turned off the light.  Since he was a boy he had always slept with the windows open.  The cool evening air and the silvery light from the crescent moon were his friends in the late hours.  If he closed his eyes, he could imagine he was anywhere.  Tonight however, his usual tricks didn’t work.  Each time he closed his eyes, he went to the same place.  Unlike the sleepless nights that had come before, it wasn’t a scary place or a lonely place that haunted him.  Instead it was a good place.  The only place his mind could think of no matter how hard he tried. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been special,” she had said.  “Well, not to anyone who was good to me.”

“You’re special to me,” he told her and truly, he meant it. 

His hand lifted from his side of its own accord, fingers coming to his lips with a featherlight touch.  It was almost as if he was afraid to wipe away the taste of her kiss, the memory of her lips gently pressed to his.  Closing his eyes, Nicholas returned once again to that moment beneath the stars.  Nothing in his life had ever come sweetly or gently, not without a secret serrated edge.  But Miss Alice, she was different.  Tonight was different.  For the first time in what seemed like ages, Nicholas himself felt different. 

She had asked him to forget her gesture, with bashful breathy laughs and a shyly averted gaze.  He had lied and told her that he would, but he couldn’t.  More than that, he didn’t want to.  The Abbeyshire, his home, had always been naught but strangling vines and stabbing barbs for her youngest son.  Yet, on the rare occasion, Nicholas would find a rose among the thorns.  Those flowers he clung to.  He couldn’t help it, they were always so few and far between.  But Miss Alice, well he would be seeing Miss Alice on the morrow.   

Smiling to himself like a little boy, Nicholas turned on his humble bed, curling into the sheets.  He had been unwilling to surrender to sleep, refusing to be parted with this warm feeling in his chest.  Then again, the sooner he went to sleep, the sooner the morning would come.  Then, the sooner he could see Miss Alice again.  For Nicholas Abbey however, the sleeplessness of his nights had only just begun. 

The sharp knocking at the door alerted the young doctor at once.  Having already been awake he sat upright in his bed, pausing briefly, as everyone does upon being disturbed during a conventionally peaceful hour.  When the knocks came again, this time faster and louder, the young man pulled back the covers and rose from his bed.  Collecting his glasses and securing them onto his face before flicking on the light to save him from groping in the dark for his cane, Nicholas reached for the door as the knocks began for a third time.  Swinging open the door to his simple quarters, the woman on the other side swung a fist into the air before catching herself and casting her gaze downward. 

“Chairman Abbey, I’m sorry to disturb you like this,” her voice came, hushed and panicked. 

“Sister Beatrice, what are you…” Nicholas Abbey wasn’t given the chance to remark upon the fact that the Sister of the Church of Saint Christopher stood before him in naught but her nightdress and a cloak.  He was far too distracted by the sight of the familiar little girl at her side. 

“Helen?” He muttered, reeling to put together the pieces of the present circumstance.  “It’s the middle of the night, Sister.” Nicholas continued, turning his attention back to the pale-haired woman before him.  “Why have you pulled Helen from her bed?”

“I had a nightmare.” Helen Blue supplied quickly. 

“You had a nightmare?” The Chairman of the orphanage repeated, his gaze now turned to one of its children with a raised brow.

“Please don’t be upset with Sister Beatrice.” Helen began, her voice becoming frantic.  “I had a nightmare and I couldn’t sleep, so I begged Sister Beatrice to come see you.”  As she spoke, Nicholas Abbey lowered himself before her onto his good knee, his hand gripping the cane beside him tight.  He put his other hand upon her shoulder and gave the muscle a gentle, comforting squeeze. 

“I’m not upset with Sister Beatrice,” he explained calmly, which made the little girl before him exhale with relief.  “But, why did you want to see me?” He asked. 

“I just…” Pausing she flicked her gaze to the Sister at her side before looking back at the Chairman who crouched in front of her.  “I’m scared and I don’t feel safe when you aren’t around.”

There was a beat of silence, then two before Nicholas’ stern expression gave way to a soft smile.  With a pat upon her shoulder he told her, “alright.”

As he rose from his crouched position, Helen Blue stepped forward to wrap her arms around his middle. The lurch threw his balance but she clung to him tight enough to hold him up straight all on her own.  In a breathless, muffled voice she said, “thank you,” into his stomach.  The way she gasped after getting the words out made it sound like she might be crying. 

“Thank you, Chairman.” Sister Beatrice said, directing the gaze of the young man whose not-sleep she had disturbed back to her. 

“Yes, well let’s not make a habit out of this, alright?” He answered, having a hard time taking a scolding tone when a crying little girl held onto him as fiercely as he had held onto his cane when falling into the river hours ago.  “And we’ll have to speak tomorrow about this,” he added.

“Of course.” Sister Beatrice answered, nodding with humility as she backed away.  “Thank you, Chairman. Truly it is the One God’s work that you do.” The sentiment perplexed the young man who stood in the open doorway, caught in the middle of a situation he didn’t understand.  “Thank you,” she offered one last time before hurrying down the dark hallways of the hospital residence.

The One God’s work? He couldn’t help but wonder.  Over a nightmare? Such contemplations would have to wait until there were less pressing matters to attend to. 

“Alright, come on then.” He said to Helen Blue as he patted her back, ushering her inside his small, quaint apartments.  Nicholas Abbey guided the little girl to his bed and sat her upon the edge as he hobbled his way to the closet on the opposite wall.  She sat in silence as he pulled out the cot from where it was stored along with a few extra blankets to begin setting up an impromptu bed. 

“So,” he began in the quiet of the late hours.  “What was this nightmare you had?” He asked her.

“Well,” she started before stopping, biting at her lip and looking towards the wall.  “I was asleep, and then someone came into my room and pulled me from my bed…”

“Who?” Nicholas asked.  “Was it a monster?”

“Yeah,” she answered, albeit without much conviction.  “It was a monster.”

“And why did this monster pull you from your bed?” Nicholas inquired further as he pressed his weight against the cot to test it before pivoting on his good leg to reach for the spare sheets. 

“He was going to take me somewhere.” Helen replied in a quiet voice, her gaze having turned to the hands that fidgeted in her lap. 

“Where?” Nicholas asked carefully. 

“Somewhere I didn’t want to go.” She whispered. 

“Well,” the Chairman of the Abbeyshire orphanage began, finishing with the cot and lowering himself onto it so that he sat across from the small, scared girl before him.  “You’re safe now.  I’m going to be right here, so no one is going to be able to get to you without going through me first, alright?” His assurances brought a tiny wrinkle to her delicate brow and she lifted her gaze to meet his. 

“I thought I was sleeping there,” she mused quietly, pointing to the cot upon which the Chairman sat. 

“Oh no,” he began as he rose from his seated position, heaving himself up with the help of his cane.  “You’ve had a hard night, you get the big bed.” The blond haired man told her. 

“Really?” She asked, her previously shaken demeanor replaced with one of delighted surprise. 

“Really,” he affirmed as he stepped forward to pull back the sheets.  “Now, go on.  Get yourself tucked in.” She scooted herself beneath the plush covers, wiggling into the soft mattress as the Chairman lowered the covers over her and brought them up to her chin.  “Is that better?” He asked.  The little girl beneath him nodded against the sheets that cradled her face.  “You’re safe now, alright?  It was only a dream.”

She pulled a face at his words but the moment passed as quickly as it came as she settled in, uttering a soft, “goodnight, Doctor Abbey.”

“Goodnight, Helen Blue.” He whispered back. 


Almost done.  Any minute now he would be done shelving these stupid, non-sensical children’s books that the airhead doctor who haunted his every waking moment had ordered.  Just a few more, and they would be on the shelves.  The moment they were properly arranged in their neat, alphabetical lines he would be headed straight for the door.  He wouldn’t even bother to return the cart.  Let one of the other Hands do it, one of the fools who saw their new position as a gift and not a burden.  Dashielle carried more than enough weight for all of them on his shoulders. 

The instant that the last book had slid so tidy into place, Dashielle’s quick feet carried him past the stacks and straight for the door.  It was a miracle that he’d made it through the morning without the four-eyed idiot happening upon him and cornering him into some conversation or another about his thoughts and feelings or worst of all his non-existent dreams.  There was truly nothing worse than when the bastard took a sincere interest in him.  It would be so much easier if he could bring himself to hate the man as much as he hated the silver spoon with which he had been handed all that any one person could ever want from life. 

“Ah, Helen Oak,” came the all too familiar voice ringing out like a song and echoing into every corner of the room.  “How are you today?”

Shit.

At the sound of the Chairman’s voice, Dashielle slunk himself behind the nearest shelf.  He was quick, having dived low fast enough that the young doctor must have just missed the sight of the top of his head by a fraction of a second.  Frustration beyond comprehension consumed the handsome orderly as he reigned in his breathing and hid from the kindly doctor like prey from a wolf.  He had to get out of here.  He had to…

“Actually, it’s Helen Banana now, I think.” The little girl answered him matter-of-factly. 

“Helen Banana,” the Chairman repeated, testing the name upon his tongue.  “It does have a certain ring to it.”

“Yeah,” the little girl said quickly, rushing to play what the Hands had begun referring to as the name game with the man who had started the time consuming endeavor.  “And it’s really pretty, in the picture it has leaves that go like this,” she paused, likely making some obscure gesture with her hands and arms to illustrate her thoughts.  “And they come right out of the top.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever had a banana.” Doctor Abbey said back, easily carrying out a silly conversation with a silly little girl like the silly man that he was. 

“Me either.” Helen Banana said back.  “Can we get some?” She asked, hopeful. 

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Nicholas Abbey began, always finding an easy way to explain privilege to the underprivileged children in his care. “They only grow in a few places and those places are very far from here.  They’re very expensive.”

“Oh,” the little girl conceded, disappointment in her small voice.

“What about plantain?” He asked her. 

“Plantain is a pretty name, but Sister Eunice says I have to keep the Helen bit.” Helen Banana-Oak-Whatever explained stupidly in that confident way that children so often did. 

“No, a plantain is a kind of fruit.  It’s like a banana but not a banana.”

“So, it’s a banana?”

“No, it’s a plantain.”

“Like a kind of banana?”

“Well, not really, you see… oh — Dash!” The orderly had been attempting to slip past the Chairman as he discussed fruits with the little girl that had only been able to temporarily occupy his attention.  “There you are, I’ve been… what are you doing on the floor?”

“Oh, I — I thought I dropped something.” The brunette answered offhandedly as he rose to his full height, dragging a hand through his messy locks in anxiousness.  “Did you need something?”

“Yes, I’ve been looking for you.” As he spoke, Nicholas Abbey gestured towards the doors.  It was the universal indication that Dashielle had come to understand meant he wanted to speak beyond the prying ears of children.

Shit.

“I’ll be back in a bit, Helen Banana.” The Chairman said, excusing himself politely from the orphan he had been entertaining. 

“Helen Plantain.” She corrected with a small finger pointed in the air, as matter-of-fact as when she had done it the first time. 

“We’ll talk about it.” Nicholas added sweetly over his shoulder as he followed Dashielle so casually out of the very room he had been attempting to escape. 

Pulling his hands through his hair again, he let out a misplaced sigh followed by an involuntary nervous laugh before clearing his throat and crossing his arms.  Forcing himself to meet Doctor Nicholas Abbey’s gaze he shrugged in what he hoped appeared to be a nonchalant manner as he asked, “so what is it?”

“Have you seen Sister Beatrice?” The Chairman asked. 

Shit.

“Uh, no, not today, no.” He answered quickly.  Perhaps too quickly.  “Why do you ask?” He ventured cautiously. 

“I’ve been looking for her all day and I can’t seem to find her.” Chairman Abbey mused, shifting his weight beneath his cane and pushing his glasses up his nose.  “I had to ask Sister Penelope to lead study because she didn’t show up and she never misses lessons with the children.” There was concern furrowing his blond brow and in spite of himself, Dashielle couldn’t help the urge he felt to quell that pain of worry for the young man standing before him. 

“Well, maybe she’s busy at the Church.” He offered. 

“No, I already checked there.” Nicholas replied, easily batting aside the only excuse Dashielle had in his repertoire as if he hadn’t spent all morning trying to come up with a better one.  “I really need to speak with her,” he went on before lifting his thoughtful gaze to the orderly with whom he spoke.  Pausing, the concern on his face seemed to change not only shape, but also direction.  “Dash, are you okay?” He asked. 

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Dashielle said at once. 

“You’re sweating.” The Chairman pointed out.  “Are you feeling ill?” As he asked the question, he did as all doctors do, reaching out a back-turned hand to press against his forehead.  Dashielle managed to expertly dodge the gentle gesture, ducking out from under his extended arm.

“I’m fine,” he said again.  “I’m fine, I just… I just didn’t sleep well last night.”

“Me either.” Nicholas spoke out of the corner of his mouth with that friendly half-smile that so often tricked Dashielle into an hour spent sitting in shade talking too much about too much.  No, he was not going to ask Nicholas what had kept him up.  No, he was not going to bend a listening ear to the stupid man who had treated him as nothing short of an equal from the first.  He already knew enough.  He already knew too much. 

“I should uh, I’m just going to go rest for a while.” Dashielle stuttered, gesturing awkwardly down the hall towards his intended path of flight.

“Yes, of course.” The Chairman said, nodding and even bringing a kind smile to his face.  “If you see Sister Beatrice, will you let me know?” He asked.

“Sure…” Dashielle uttered, quiet and clipped. 

“I hope you feel better.” The young doctor added tenderly, patting a hand against the orderly’s strong arm.

“Thanks, Nick.” Dashielle offered in return as he watched the blond haired man turn from him and return to the little girl who sat in wait amongst the stacks, a book about trees open before her.  In all his months working at the orphanage and all his years living there, he had never flown so fast from the wretched place as he did now. 

Finding a secluded corner in the shade behind the Abbeyshire Orphanage, Dashielle pressed his hands against the weathered stone and took a moment to catch his breath and collect his thoughts.  The thoughts he collected, unfortunately, were the very thoughts he was struggling to keep himself from thinking of.  With a spin he pressed his back to the wall and slid down its length until he was sat in the dirt.  Lifting his knees and resting his head within his arms he willed away the guilt that ate through his stomach as it rolled.  Dashielle had never been good at lying, not even to himself. 

“Do you have any idea the lengths I had to go to keep my clients happy last night?” She had raged at him from within her red velvet rooms.  “When someone shows up with a very specific request we do our best to accommodate that request as quickly as possible,” as she had spoken she gestured with her hands, making the smoke rising from the end of her cigarette spread around the room. 

“A very young request.” Dashielle had corrected, unable to stopper his insolence even as a boy, even as a man, even knowing the repercussions. 

“Let me remind you how this works,” Lady Abbey had stepped towards him then, pinching her cigarette between her lips as she snatched and stretched out his arm, lifting his shirt sleeve.  “You are my eyes, and you were on the evening shift.” She had explained as she plucked her cigarette between her fingers once more, though still holding his arm with her other hand.  “We know the girl slipped away from the Handlers but we don’t know how she made it to the hospital residence, so let me ask you again…” Pulling the cigarette from her lips after a long drag, she held the burning end over the vulnerable flesh just below the crook of his elbow.  “Who else was there that night?” She had asked and when he had hesitated to answer, she hadn’t hesitated to press the burning cigarette into his arm. 

“Sister Beatrice!” He had cried out.   When she had let him go he flinched away from her, holding his arm to his chest.  “I saw Sister Beatrice there but look, she wouldn’t be stupid enough to…”

“Thank you, Dashielle.” Lady Lucretia Abbey had said quickly and sternly, gesturing to him with a dismissive hand.  “You can go, now.”

Sitting in the shade behind the orphanage, Dashielle turned over his arm and lifted the sleeve of his shirt to inspect the tender, pink burn.  It had already started to heal, as he had expected.  All the burns she had given him healed quicker and quicker over the years.  He had endured her and he had fooled himself into thinking it had made him stronger.  Yet, as he touched at the delicate flesh, he had never felt so weak.  As a lump caught in his throat he pressed down on the burn, digging in his nails and twisting in his own anguish.  He deserved it, after all.  He deserved worse. 

The thing that hurt the most, that twisted worse than his nails and burned worse than cigarettes, was that he actually liked Nick.  It would have been so much easier if Nicholas Abbey had been all, or even any, of the things that Dashielle tried to convince himself that he was.  Yet, he wasn’t.  Not even close.  That hurt worse and made it all so much harder than Dashielle had thought it would be. 

“Shit.” He muttered to himself. 

King Kade - Reigning from the North


Character limits kill my vibe...