Claudia: *phone ringing* Pick up, pick up damn you…
Baelian: *picks up phone* Claudia.
Claudia: Good morning Baelian.
Baelian: Hey sunshine. How’d you sleep?
Claudia: I didn’t. There is a lot to do, I guess. How about you, my heart?
Baelian: The usual. I try not to sleep.
Claudia: *awkward pause* So…to what do I owe the pleasure?
Baelian: You called me Lyra. I thought you’d know.
Claudia: Don’t make me guess. You mentioned Steiner?
Baelian: I did *sigh* He’s out of control. He has kill contracts set up for all of us – which is to be expected, I don’t trust him either. But he’s slaughtering children out there on his playground, Lyra…I don’t presume to judge others, all things considered, but his methods and results no longer align with ours.
Claudia: Children?…my God *pause* Why are you telling me this? As much as Niki was convinced of it, I am not Steiner’s mistress, I can’t…what do I do?
Baelian: Children and women and refugees. Alina’s entire rehabilitation program has been wiped out – she thinks it might have been him, I’m not convinced, but the intel I’m getting is not looking good regardless. He’s going off the deep end…*sigh* I’m telling you because he has a thing for you, he’s already threatened to kill anyone who harms you, and I don’t need to remind you what happened with Nikolai…
Claudia: *sounding distressed* I can’t help, Baelian…we’ve seen what happens when I help. I’m not like you, I know that now…I am like Niki…we are destructive…I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Where would we begin? God…those poor souls.
Baelian: You have to help. We need to figure out what the fuck is going on, and whether or not he can be brought back. You and I both know what’s it’s like to fall into the deep end. If he can’t be redeemed, if we can’t make sure that what he’s doing isn’t the crazed behaviour of a despot…then we have to cut him loose Claudia. And I think you know what that means in our world.
Claudia: *pause* Yes. Yes, you are right. I suppose there’s no way I can make it worse…*bitter laugh* Is he coming back to visit you soon? Perhaps I can evaluate him?
Baelian: I don’t know. He’s been invited to the Christmas gathering, I assume he’ll come. He hates me, but he at least tolerates everyone else *pause* He’s our friend, which means fuck all considering we treat them worse than our enemies sometimes, but I need to know he can’t be redeemed before I…make that call. I mean it’s my fault he’s here, I have to fix this. And I need you to help me.
Claudia: So, I will assess his mental state at Christmas. How do we slow him till then? *pause* I occasionally send him packages of whiskey and cigars to keep his men happy….could we track them? Or taint the whiskey…or…I don’t know…
Baelian: Both? *laugh* I don’t fucking know…maybe we can offer you to him in exchange for some downtime in a facility…*pause* I’m kidding.
Claudia: I’m not even dignifying that with an answer *pause* Let’s think on it. And discuss it over lunch soon. *pause* How is Alina?
Baelian: She’s ok, she’s adjusting. This Africa thing has hit her hard and she’s clinging…not that I’m complaining, I spent my childhood trying to make her love me…*laughs* We’re all just trying to learn to live in this world, I guess. We weren’t raised for life outside, you know, with people and choices.
Claudia: You are lucky to have her, and she you. We weren’t raised for life outside, but you two were raised for each other…so I guess that is some sort of silver lining. *pause and chuckle* And I have a junkie to torture…so things are good for me too…
Baelian: *silence on the other end for a long moment* About the kid…
Claudia: *pause* Jacob’s child?
Baelian: *longer pause* No, Jasper. Jacob has a kid now?
Claudia: Oh! Ha…yes. Apparently so. Sorry, I have a lot on my plate right now so Jacob’s kid is on my mind…Jasper. Right. What about him?
Baelian: Where the fuck did this kid come from?
Claudia: Who knows. I got notification about him a while back…anyway…Jasper.
Baelian: Anyway nothing. Have you cross checked the kids ‘s DNA with our resources? I can get Scarlett on it in 24 hours if you have samples. We’ve got blood work from everyone since our parents generation…
Claudia: *tapping* Hmm…I doubt it will turn up much, but I suppose it’d be a good start. I assume the mother was a peasant, otherwise why wouldn’t father have insisted on a marriage? It seems like Jacob was trying to keep the kid away from the family.
Baelian: Yes well. Whatever it’s origin, better to know than not know…*pause* That is, if you want to know. It’s your blood, after all. *longer pause* It’s your choice.
Claudia: Of course I do….Thank you. *pause* So….Jasper?
Baelian: *sigh* Yeah. He’s insufferable.
Claudia: *laughs* This is not a new opinion of yours…
Baelian: No. It’s different now. I think…*hesitates* There’s quite a lot of Niki in there now.
Claudia: Oh. *deep breath* Right.
Baelian: I just wanted you to know before…before he smacks you in the face with his esteemed existence…
Claudia: …it’s hard enough with you. And you don’t seem to have changed much at all. *pause* Should I stay away?
Baelian: *bitter laugh* I don’t think you can, to be honest.
Claudia: *softly* No. I suppose not.
Baelian: Just…be careful with him. I’m not sure how far he’ll go, with things. *pause* Don’t let him hurt anyone, Lyra. He won’t understand.
Claudia: I’ll keep them safe. Promise *pause* How are you? I mean….really.
Baelian: I don’t even know how to begin answering that question.
Claudia: *gently* An incomplete, or abstract answer is fine. *pause* Telling me to fuck off is also valid.
Baelian: *silence* It hurts.
Claudia: Oh, my heart. *hesitation* Tell me.
Baelian: *shuffling* I can’t do this. It’s fine. It’s all fine. Just…*pause* They don’t want me here. They want him. And that hurts.
Claudia: They don’t want him, Baelian…they want what they perceived him to be. They never watched him pull apart a human body and inhale the smell of iron. It’s fun and games to romanticise it…but very few people will actually enjoy such things. He didn’t love them. You love them. They need us filtered *pause* Even I missed you at times…and Jasper *pause* Not really Belladonna…
Baelian: *snort* Yes, well. That’s all well and good but that’s not what I mean, Lyra. I mean that they miss what he allowed THEM to be. He’s a Katorga, like Alexei…he let them run wild and told them that there was nothing wrong with them. I’m a Black…and all I do is make them feel guilty for existing. Even you. Especially you. We are what we are…but I think we should be better. I think we need to be fixed…*pause* Hedonism and self indulgence always wins Claudia. It’s why my father won and Jerald lost.
Claudia: You can’t bring me in to this, Niki…I never expected to have someone…like that. It’s different. I love him, all of him, you included, and I know you can’t return the favour…*hesitates* We hold a lot of weight in the world…we need to be good people…
Baelian: We killed people, Claudia. People that didn’t deserve to die. We killed them because they annoyed us.
Claudia: I am a terrible person Baelian- is that news to anyone? I try to be useful and have people like me, and not use what I know against anyone, but that is not what people need. And that is all I am to your family. Needed. So forgive me if I miss something Niki gave me that I wanted for even a moment. I want to belong. But I don’t. So a reformed monster is all I can be.
Baelian: *sigh and long silence* One day, you’re going to give up the fucking pity party ghost on this ‘I’m just needed’ bullshit, and on that day I’m going to crawl out of my grave and do a dance…*another pause* When you’re finished trying to make everything I say about you, you will remember that you asked me how I was and I answered. I’m sorry it wasn’t what you wanted to hear…but there it is. I’m tired and I’m sad. I’m sad that I’m trying to be a good person and they want a monster. I’m tired that every time I point out that we should be aspiring to be better people I get the pity party shit and defensiveness from everyone. I don’t give a fuck what he gave you. It was wrong. What we did was wrong and I’m as much to blame as you. I’m not judging you or accusing you, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s anything other than what it is…because otherwise we’re no better than THEM.
Claudia: *tense pause* You’re right, I’m sorry. I’ve been a bit out of sorts and consequently defensive at the collective ‘we’ that you used. I did ask to know…and I want to. And I do agree that we should aim higher…we have such influence over the world…if we go down, we will take a lot of people with us. I am just…hurting, Is all. And very moody of late…and I didn’t mean it to affect you or this conversation.
Baelian: Claudia…is there anything we need to talk about? I’m worried about you.
Claudia: What? Oh…no. I am fine. Tired…lonely, perhaps. Niki was always around…Opium spends a lot of time out…did you speak with her yet?
Baelian: We’re in negotiations. I’ve given her a choice and she’s going to have to make it now.
Claudia: Can I ask?
Baelian: Of course. I asked if she wanted to stay with you or if she wanted me to seduce you into letting her come back to me. I want her to be happy.S omeone has to be.
Claudia: *amused* Seduce me? Don’t you think you could just…ask?
Baelian: And where’s the fun in that?
Claudia: *sighs* Maybe you could seduce me anyway…I could use the endorphins. Between the Seven Serpents and Lucas’ damn fucking spiders….*frustrated noise*
Baelian: *laughs* Claudia Monére did you just proposition me?
Claudia: Don’t you remember our first time? I have been dragging you to the bedroom for a long, long while. It’s the only way to get you to focus! *laughs* But no…you have people who need more immediate attention. You have been away a long time.
Baelian: *pause* I remember.
Claudia: *flustered* Oh…I wasn’t trying to…I mean…*falls quiet* God this is awkward.
Baelian: *laughs* I’m sorry. You’d think being the sex toy of the family I’d be used to it, but I still have trouble understanding it, you know? They told me very clearly I was ugly and unlovable, so I don’t quite understand all you women sometimes. It’s just…weird. I think you’re all ill or something.
Claudia: I just…like being close to you. We don’t even have to do anything. I just…God…it’s so stupid, but you feel real.
Baelian: Soon. *pause* I just need…I need to sort this out in my head. But soon, I promise.
Claudia: I don’t need looking after, or pity sex…pity anything…it was just….voicing, I dunno, something? An invitation? I don’t know.
Baelian: I know. I’m sorry this is so awkward. I’m not helping make it better. I’m sorry I can’t be…like him. Whatever it is you need, I’m sorry I can’t be that thing.
Claudia: Just…don’t do me any favours. If you do anything, make it self motivated…pity and platitudes hurt more than silence.
Baelian: Yeah but aren’t you just going to wonder if it was pity regardless now?
Claudia: …well I am NOW.
Baelian: Okay. I’m gonna hang up before I say anything else stupid.
Claudia: I think that’s a good idea…it will get easier…but things need to settle. Give it a few months.
Baelian: Yeah *pause* Let me know what you want to do about the baby.
Claudia: He is 16 or something, Baelian…but I will send you his sample tomorrow.
Baelian: Oh! Fuck. Well at least we know it didn’t happen at Funday then. *laugh* Ok. I’ll keep you posted.
Claudia: *pause* Thank you. Have a good day, mon Coeur.
Baelian: You too. I’ll see you soon. Punch Luxx for me.
Claudia: *laughs* I will. I love you…er…I mean….*click*
Baelian: …goodbye sugarplum.
Written by Natalie Ristovski and R.Quin.
All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016. Natalie Ristovski.