Chapter 9 (Pia's POV)

Max's handwriting was as surely minimal as his presence when he was only portraying himself. And in this case the words he had chosen to pen were just as much so.

"Don't worry." Signed one Mister Max.

The bare envelope had been slipped under the crack of my door some two days ago now. I knew it was his hand, since the letters bore him out down to the last. I could almost feel his essence radiating from the words. It was surely his note, but the meaning was less clear.

I had a habit of often doing exactly the opposite of what I was told, and this time was no exception. The day I'd received the note I'd waited in his garden until sundown, where my suspicions were confirmed. He was not at home. Just where he had gone however, I had no idea. If he had taken off alone for the sake of the case I would be furious, but it was unlikely. Max was mostly a creature of habit, and he always made a point of including me, even if it was accompanied by complaint. Add to that the fact that all our cases were running dry, and I assumed his leave was of a more personal nature.

After the afternoon with Joachim, I hadn't heard even a word from him, until the note anyway. It seemed that events between us were taking a turn Max wasn't prepared to trifle with. If I knew him at all, he was away to center himself back into his stone like disposition, for fear any crack of emotion might be threatening to break through.

I brought the cup of lukewarm tea to my lips, but despite how I tried to sweeten it, everything had a way of tasting bitter to me. Was I so confusing and distressing to him that he took to flight? I wasn't sure what could ever come of a relationship built on such a model. But then, our relationship was never one I'd consider rational.

So to put matters lightly I was not in the mood for the loud banging on my door that jarred me from my thoughts, nor the round face I saw staring back at me when I opened it.

"Mr. Woodridge…?" I said in almost an annoyed disbelief, as I wearily held the door open only a crack.

"Quite…" He huffed for breath as he wiped at his brow. "I must speak with your associate Mister Max, it is of utmost important! But I've been unable to locate him whatsoever!"

"Likewise…" I mumbled under my breath before opening the door wider. I didn't trust the man, but I wasn't in the least afraid of him. "I'm afraid my associate is consumed with a more pressing personal task at the moment." Then I reveled in my next words. "You'll have to address your concerns to me."

Woodridge's face reddened as he hesitantly shifted his weight from one leg to the other. Then relenting he looked up at me with desperate eyes. "Might I come in then, this must be discussed in private?"

I frowned at him before opening the door and stepping aside. He was the very last man I wished to see in my present mood, but this was my occupation nonetheless. Gesturing him toward the empty chair across from mine, he sat and tried to gather his breath.

Leaning into my hand I raised an eyebrow finally at him. "What can I do for you, or rather why do you suddenly come crawling back for our assistance?"

He stiffened with annoyance, but quickly kept it in check. In fact, his face went pale as if he'd just remembered that his life was very much on the line.

"The police are making no headway, and I'm running out of time…" He swallowed sharply, clearly afraid. I sat up a little more attentively.

"Perhaps you should start at the beginning, Mr. Woodridge?" I suggested.

He nodded before looking up at me. "Don't have a taste of scotch do you?" He said with all the nervousness of a frightened animal.

I shook my head. "No, though I hazard to assure alcohol will do little to resolve this mess of yours."

His brow wrinkled in worry before he looked up at me. "I was just a middle man, just a banker. I was only doing my duty to hold valuable articles securely. That woman said it would only be for a very short time!"

"What woman?" I said trying to overlook his disrespect as always. "The violinist, Gardlin?"

"Yes!" He said sopping at his brow again. "Her violin was to be sold to a rather unscrupulous character in a most subtle business arrangement."

I stopped to look at him, as I tried to piece his words together. "By chance would you be referring to a black market deal?"

He hesitated before biting his lip like a school boy. "Yes!" He finally barked.

I frowned at him disapprovingly. "At what point did you assume you were an innocent party in this? And why were you brazen enough to drag Max and I into this deceptive fraud?"

His eyes bulged in his own defense. "You were a Solutioneer, and I desperately needed a solution!"

"Why," I began boldly. "Do you think I won't simply turn you into the police? And I take it Mr. Riggs is taking the blame for your crimes as well?"

He looked down. "Don't bother, I'm already a wanted man, and after our meeting here I'll disappear out the door, and your report to the police will do little good. And as for Riggs… Yes I planted the coat, but only to guide the police to the true culprit! The eyewitness reports were true, Riggs was seen leaving with the violin that night! And I for one believe his character is such to have done it!"

"I'm not so fond of your character either." I said crossing my arms. "But tell me, who is after you? Your underworld contacts?"

He bit his lip again. "Gardlin has already gone missing, and I'll surely be next!" He sounded like a coward, but with even greater desperation he looked up at me. "But it's not just my life! If the violin is not recovered I fear for Ms. Gardlin. I'm afraid her contact is not one to be trifled with, Madame Pia… We all will either end up rightly in a prison cell, or dead, and I'd rather the former. That's why I've come to you. Turn me into the police once the violin is recovered if you must, but if it isn't recovered…"

"I get the picture…" I said grimly. "But," I added. "Why would this violin be worthy of a black market dealer in the first place?"

"I don't know." He said, and seemed sincere, all that I know is I've gotten caught up in something I gravely regret."

"So I see… But tell me, what more do we have to go on? The case had run dry."

He fumbled with his fingers nervously. "A report was made that Gardlin was spotted with a group of men at the harbor warehouse. It was from two days ago, but it might still have some merit…"

I closed my eyes as I tried to mentally digest everything he'd said. What a perfectly fine time for Mister Max to disappear into absurdity. But whatever the case, I didn't have time to wait for him when Ms. Gardlin, and even Woodridge's life was on the line. So I opened my eyes.

"Alright, I'll do what I can."

His face twisted into a mixture of emotions. On the one hand I could see he was pained to have his fate rest in a woman's hands, but on the other he was relieved to have anyone on his side. As he said he would, he disappeared out the door, and what I assumed to be into nervous hiding. Which left me alone with my swirling thoughts. With Max nowhere to me found, I needed help, but Ari was a family man now, and I wasn't about to endanger him in any of this. So instead my thoughts turned toward another man, one as young and unattached as Max.

One Tomi Brandt.

He was a firemen by trade and thoroughly used to risking his life to see justice done. As a childhood friend of Max I knew little of him personally, other than he could be trusted and he was likewise foolish enough to have attempted to befriend Mister Max. He'd been among the party that assisted Max in rescuing his parents all those years ago. So with a push of my bicycle I made my way down the lonely road leading to the firehouse.

The road ran alongside a pond and grassy hills, which made pedaling no easy task, but I was not as frail as society so often claimed. When I arrived I wiped the sweat slick hair from my face and boldly walked into the station. The men were lounging aimlessly between rounds of cards. The group looked up, and all six sets of eyes widened at my presence. Yes, just the same as all six stood at once, clamoring to render me assistance in some way. It was a somewhat humorous scene that seemed to confirm that all were as equally unattached as Tomi.

Calls of ma'am and miss were echoing in sync and fighting to be heard one over the other, but it was Tomi that broke through the crowd having recognized me. He stepped forward before glancing back with a smile that deflated the hopes of the rest. "Don't wait up for me, boys." He said with a certain carefree playfulness.

Following me outside, it was only then that he began to address why I was here.

"How's Eyes?" He asked using that old pet name Max would always wrinkle his nose at.

I took a deep breath. "As difficult as always, I'm afraid."

Tomi smiled with a knowing look behind his gaze. "That's Eyes alright, but you always seemed to have a way with him Pia."

I wanted to laugh scornfully at that, but I saved it and went straight to business.

"Tomi, I need a favor in Max's absence."

"And just where has he gone?" He asked, now with a slight frown.

I sighed, amazed at how difficult Max could make things even from afar. "I'm afraid I don't know, however I was told not to worry before he left, so I think it was more a personal leave of absence."

Tomi's face seemed to lighten. "Oh so you had a quarrel? Well, I wouldn't worry, he'll cool down in a day or so. He never could manage without you it seemed."

I swallowed a little awkwardly, part of me flustered, and another part just wishing Max was here to be told as much. But I shook both notions away as I went on. "I'm not sure it's as simple as that, but something very pressing has come up, and I could use some help."

Tomi removed his cap and held it politely to his chest. "Whatever you need."

I had a feeling he might regret that open ended statement by the time I was finished explaining just what it was that I needed. But then Tomi was no stranger to the dangers Max often seemed to court.

When I finished Tomi's face was low in thought, before he sighed. "I don't understand why Eyes risks you so."

I felt my brow wrinkle. "Just what do you mean?"

Tomi waved away my apparent annoyance. "Didn't mean to offend, I know how smart and capable you are, but… I'm just a man of old fashioned principal I suppose." That much was plain to see, but unlike Mr. Woodridge's female prejudice, Tomi simply seemed concerned. Growing up the eldest son seemed to make him the ideal example of taking the lead and protecting others. Even as independent as I was, the concern wasn't without some appeal. It certainly felt in stark contrast to how Max treated me.

But in either case, now wasn't the time to lose any of my courage. "We're associates, and this is my line of work as much as his."

Tomi nodded, but still seemed a bit perplexed. "Yes, I know that's true. And," He said with a sigh. "It isn't my place to tell you how to fulfill your duties. But be sure, I'll be there to look after you, this sounds awfully dangerous."

"Thank you Tomi." I said with a confirming nod, glad he wasn't going to push his thoughts on the matter farther.

He smiled, and it was a look that seemed both cheerful and reassuring. "I owe Eyes at least that much, Pia."

Tomi was, and had always seemed to be a person guided by strong principals and motives. But I saw behind his eyes something even more. And I rightly assumed that Max really was a good friend to him. It made me wonder if Max conveyed his emotions more openly to others besides myself? Or were we all simply trying to see past the front he always portrayed? Whatever the case I couldn't help but wonder again just where in the world he was? Or perhaps more, why I couldn't seem to shake his face from my mind?

"Don't worry", he'd said.

Well, just as always, I was determined not to listen to him in the least…

That evening found Tomi and I playing a farce that usually would have starred Max. But as it was, there was surely no other reason for a young lady to be at a waterside after dark. So it was that I was portraying a very enamored woman, and Tomi was by his nature a perfect fit for a dashing suiter.

Walking along the waterside I pulled the coat he'd given me tighter around my shoulders. The night chill was setting in and the streetlamps were all flickering by now. I didn't wish my reputation to be any more spoiled by the gossip of prying eyes, but Tomi seemed to radiate a sense of noble protection. Such that he seemed more a gentleman than the high society members mother had often tried to arrange me with. As such I found it all the more remarkable that my mind could never seem to leave the tall and mysterious, the kurt and ill mannered, Mister Max.

Just where was he, and what was he up to?

Happily, as his best friend of sorts, Tomi's attention seemed equally as placed on the missing Solutioneer. Tomi and I's mutual business understanding certainly made things much easier, but as always seemed to be the case, both with my father and others, Tomi seemed to think that understanding led deeper. That it led to a certain personal understanding between Max and I. Something that seemed as plain and obvious as could be to onlookers. So in a way, things still felt rather uncomfortable, not for some lack on Tomi's part, but rather because he seemed to be escorting his best friend's betrothed through a potentially dangerous situation.

For that reason I shifted uncomfortably, and as the warehouses that were our destination loomed ahead of us I decided to take the lead. It made our farce seem far fetched at best now, but no one was around. It was simply years of Max's theatrical propaganda that had trained me like a terrier of habit.

"Quiet now…" I whispered to Tomi as I made a sharp left turn and disappeared into an alleyway between warehouses. Pressing my back to the cold wall I glanced around, gathering my surroundings. Tomi ducked in next to me with a disapproving frown, but he remained silent. I never thought I'd admit it, but Tomi's heightened sense of chivalry was proving to be a bit of a nuisance. Of course Max never had any such regard so would put me to work on our cases the same as any man. I used to resent that, but I was beginning to think it might have been why Max and I worked so well together from a practical business sense.

In either case, I was not here as a lady, I was the assistant to the Solutioneer, and I was hired by a legitimate client. This was my profession and much was at stake. The lives of one violinist and a rather irritating banker, to be precise. And with just so much at stake a part of me wanted to be cross with Max for choosing now to disappear. But at the same time I savored the thought of finally proving myself to him.

The alleyway was cold and drafty, with an old newspaper blowing past us as we crept along. And I couldn't really say what it was that I was searching for. It could be that this lead was as cold and distant as Max himself, but I knew I had to see it through until the end. So signaling Tomi with a gesture of my fingers we grew nearer to the end of the alley. I stopped to listen for a moment before slowly peeking out from around the corner. The harbor was as dead and lifeless as could be however.

Or at least so it seemed at first.

Besides the lapping waves against the pier, there wasn't so much as a whisper from anything or anyone. The city was asleep and unconcerned with us. The streetlamps flickering and burning away aimlessly in the darkness. Or at least all but one was. There in the slight distance was a single lamp that wasn't lit. In fact, as I blinked and refocused my eyes I doubted if there even was a streetlamp there at all. But then I felt it, the cold glare of a set of eyes peering out at us from the darkness. It was a chilling feeling, like being alone and utterly terrified. As if we had walked into the lair of a stalking beast.

But now was no time for fear or doubts. So bolstering my courage and cleverness I stepped forward into plain view, pulling Tomi by the hand with me.

"I don't care what my parents dare to think of us!" I shouted in just loud enough a voice for it to carry, but not so loud as to truly draw attention from anyone that wasn't already looking.

I frowned, finding my inner motivation for my performance far easier than I'd ever expected. "Marry me tonight or not at all! I won't waste my entire life forever waiting for you!"

Tomi however was a far worse actor than Mister Max, who would have fallen into character at once, and so Tomi simply regarded me with confusion the likes of which wouldn't have moved even a mouse sitting in the audience. I rolled my eyes to myself, wondering if he would be more of a hindrance than help, after all? But with the cold glare even more surely peering out at us, I knew I had to perform enough for the both of us.

"Really?" I said highly offended and yet bleeding hurt into my voice all the while. "Are you so indecisive even now?" I felt my lips quiver as I let my real fear at last show on my face, only now under the guise of a broken heart. -

"Pia…?" He whispered slowly, still at a loss, and I thought it was as nice a touch as he was capable of displaying.

So blinking back fake tears I drew my hand back and came just short of slapping him. I was the scorned betrothed Max's mother had portrayed in the play "The Tale of Departure."

So just as I watched her do, I let my slap fall just short and instead reach his face in a soft touch, before I pulled him into a thoroughly bittersweet kiss. The last parting gesture of a crumbling future that now would never be. Part of me wondered if it would be enough to convince whoever was lurking in the darkness. Another part of me wondered how long it would take to explain this to Tomi later. And still the greatest part of myself wondered why images of Max's face were flickering through my mind while I was in essence kissing his best friend?

So I pulled away and balled my fists at my sides. Repeating the lines exactly as I'd heard them years ago.

"Then go! Flee back to your kingdom of indecision! I won't be here waiting on you when your ambitions finally crumble!" I pointed my finger at him accusingly, as my hand trembled with emotion. Tomi for his part looked as though I'd finally lost my mind, which made it very apparent that he had no idea how Max and I ran our agency. Which just meant the very next thing out of his mouth would probably betray everything I'd just done. So I darted past him and back into the alleyway.

"Wait, Pia!?" He shouted as he followed after me, just as I hoped he would.

I didn't stop running until we were far away from the harbor, and thoroughly off stage, as it were.

Only then did I let Tomi catch up to me, his face more bewildered than imaginable.

"Pia...I...what…? But Max and-"

I held up my hand. "Firstly, who I choose to kiss has nothing to do with Max Starling. Secondly, we were being watched."

He blinked. "You mean…?"

"Yes," I clarified. "I was attempting to give us an alibi. I apologize that it had to be as dramatic as it was. But unfortunately, in this closed minded society, a man and woman simply being business associates isn't usually very believable. It was better if they thought us simple lovers, that would be no threat to them surely."

Tomi relaxed before nodding and running a hand through his disheveled hair. "Well, I'm relieved, but…" Then he frowned. "But really you and Eyes aren't…?"

I frowned right back at him before I cast my eyes downward. "No, we are not. Our relationship is as mutually business related as our own, Tomi."

Tomi took a deep breath before smiling a little. "Well, I don't begin to fully understand this line of work, Pia. It's indirect and confusing, and I'm not a detective or Soutioneer as Max calls it. But I do know a thing or two about Eyes, and I don't believe that he views you as just an associate." He cringed a little in embarrassment. "That's why I was so taken with surprise back there, I...didn't want to be in the way somehow..." He held his hands up defensively, and his voice felt sincere.

"Max has been a good friend to me, and I intend to be loyal to that, Pia."

Suddenly I felt supremely embarrassed. Granted in our many times of disguise, I'd never once kissed Max, in fact would never have even thought of it, but still… We had such an understanding, such a sense of it all being an act that I thought almost nothing of continuing that pretense with Tomi when pressured by circumstances. But now I was beginning to feel just how awkwardly it would be with anyone other than Max and his indifferent ways.

Flushing I frowned tighter. "I'm very sorry Tomi, I can assure you I had no intention other than to provide us a reason for being where we were, when we were. It's…" I fumbled to explain Max's peculiar ways, the ways I'd also apparently adopted as my own. "It's an act, it's always an act…"

Tomi's face softened as if he suddenly understood. His face was kind, I appreciated that at least. "Is that what you think, what he always tells you?"

I glanced up at him hesitantly. "What do you mean? Max is an actor, and in a way so am I. It's how we manage through our cases. It's what is required for our work."

"Yes, apparently so…" Tomi said somewhat awkwardly, no doubt thinking he'd learned that the hard way. "But," he went on to say. "That doesn't mean that Eyes...that Max is simply an actor and nothing more. That everything he'd ever said or done is just a lie. He, he's difficult yes, different even, but…" Tomi grinned with a look of certainty.

"He cares a great deal for you, Pia. That much I know for sure."

My face felt frozen, even as it was burning with embarrassment. Where along the lines had such a pressing case gotten shifted to us? Regardless, I knew more was at stake. Or at least I was desperate to change the subject back to anything other than where it was.

"We need to regroup, to figure something out, lives are at stake..." I said matter of factly, as if scolding him for daring to talk about anything else at a time like this. But in truth my tone held no authority or firmness. Instead it was almost a whimper. A whimper that suddenly made me far more vulnerable than I ever dare wanted to be. Maybe it was then that I realized I, just like Max, enjoyed a degree of hiding as well.

But Tomi's face was both firm and kind, like the sort of older brother I'd always wished I'd had, instead of the one I did have. Who'd spent more time laughing at me and coaxing out my headstrong defensiveness than my true feelings on anything. Growing up I never thought it was safe enough, emotionally speaking, to be vulnerable. The bullies too numerous, and the expectations too high. Society and my own mother wanted me to be something I knew I never could achieve, and my own heart wanted to twist in two all on it's own.

Always waltzing between some sort of feminine vulnerability, and a courageous independence no one seemed to be able to make sense of. Never fully able to embrace either and be truly satisfied. Always courting some sort of impossible balance that made the other children laugh, and mother hang her head in worry. Father said I was more like him than his sons, and I liked it that way. Loved it that way. But it didn't mean… Didn't mean I scorned the thought of being cared for. Of someone wanting to protect me to some degree.

So maybe it was for all those reasons that I fit so well with a man that didn't seem to have any idea of what preconceived expectations the world had for him or others. He simply was, and accepted me for how I was as well. In fact, he used it to his advantage, and never held me back from reaching my full potential. He thought I was capable, and he let me go. Let me be just as headstrong as I thought I had to be in order to feel safe. And yet...he was always wordlessly, non-judgmentally, there.

And when I thought of our last conversation, of how he'd said he didn't want me to be with someone like Roland. Was he in his own way trying to protect me? Had he always been…?

"Tomi...I…" I mumbled out as my walls slowly started to crumble like brittle aged defenses.

But anything I was going to say faded out as we heard footsteps getting nearer to us. Rounding the corner of the alley we were taking shelter in, a tall figure loomed. Tomi stepped protectively in front of me, as my heart sunk. Had we been followed…? But with another step the lamplight caught the mysterious stranger and his murky gaze glowed against the night.

"Eyes…?" Tomi was the first to say, as I fought to fit the pieces together.

Max nodded before stepping closer and looking wordlessly over at me. But before I could ask where he'd been he spoke first. It was a simple but thoroughly telling statement that made me wish to vanish from existence itself.

"Your performance was…." he hesitated as a strange look flickered across his face briefly. "Even more skilled than my mother's."

I simply stood there silently for a moment as everything slowly started to fit together inside my mind. He had been that figure in the lamplight back at the harbor. Which meant he had indeed somehow been investigating without me. Though why he would, or where he'd gotten the lead I couldn't begin to guess. In fact, at the moment I felt far too much to even worry about the more practical side of things. So instead I simply attempted a self-assured face.

"Why thank you all the same, Mister Max."

Tomi threw an arm around his shoulders in a friendly carefree manner as he laughed. "I have to say Eyes, if I'd known how you go about your investigations before, I might have been even more willing to help." He said with all the teasing of an annoying sibling.

I flushed, and an indescribable shadow crept across Max's face as he kept silent.

"Though," Tomi went on, as he slapped Max's back, before clamping a hand on his shoulder. "I'd say it's getting quite late, so if you don't mind, we can all discuss this matter of violins in the morning at first light."

Tomi led the way back to my apartment, while keeping a respectful distance from Max and I, in case we wanted to say something without his overhearing. However, we both had no intention of saying anything to the other. And once we arrived at the door of my boarding house Tomi took it upon himself to wish me goodnight before waiting for Max at the far end of the street. I wasn't sure what it was he expected from Max, but I was certain it wouldn't be anything but more of the same.

However, I'd have been careless and unaware if I'd failed to acknowledge that nothing about his bearing seemed typical. Firstly, I wondered why he'd thought of investigating without me, and lastly… Lastly I wondered why an air of guilt was lingering inside my heart like thick fog. It had only been an act, even Max recognized that at once, and even if it hadn't been… What claim to me did Max dare to have?

All those thoughts and feelings were swirling around inside my head and heart like gnats around day old fruit left uncovered in the marketplace. Which is why his next words were all the more startling. "I suppose I owe you an explanation as to why I excluded you?"

I opened my mouth before simply closing it again and nodding.

But instead of providing one, he bowed to me, with one arm across his chest and the other flared out to the side. He was the man, the prince from the play, he was playing the part correctly that Tomi had been completely baffled by.

"I'm sorry…" He whispered with no little passion and remorse in his voice, just as he always did when in character. This was the line the character his father played was supposed to say just before the near slap that would become the kiss that marked the end of two star crossed lovers. Part of me wondered if he was baiting me, inviting me to kiss him just as dramatically as I had Tomi. But being Mister Max I knew better than to assume any such thing.

Still be even acting again with him felt… Well, let's say I'd missed him and all his irritating ways far more than I'd realized. So daring him, I pulled back my hand for the supposed slap and just as I had with Tomi I stopped short, only this time I…simply let my hand fall to my side as I smiled a little bittersweetly at him.

Then poking a finger in his chest I frown playfully. "You should know better than to tempt me to slap you, after all," I said daringly. "You always said I was never disciplined enough to be true to any script."

"It's true…" He whispered, now Mister Max again. "Though," he glanced toward Tomi who was trying to whistle and seem uninterested. "It would appear you are somewhat...inconsistent in that regard."

I simply stared at him for a few long moments as I tried to gather the best words to say. Somewhere between playfulness and boldness. "Green," I finally settled on. "Is a poor choice of color to accent your already dreadfully murky eyes, Max."

He narrowed his gaze, before turning to face Tomi and walk away; a slightly miffed look still on his face when he saw his friend. But I found a grin spreading from ear to ear in my case. A look I couldn't seem to hold back. Somehow, even without meaning to, I'd managed to best Mister Max, and he was utterly bewildered and annoyed by it. Once Max met up with Tomi, the latter threw a wave and parting smile over his shoulder at me. Something that made Max's eyes dart back toward him and then me, before stuffing his hands in his coat pockets like a pouting child.

The grin on my face transformed into a smirk as I watched them disappear into the night. Once inside I closed the door behind me, taking a deep breath as if to collect myself from the night's affairs. Inside the foyer of the boarding house was Mrs. Fletcher, sitting at a window knitting by moonlight; fueled by wellmeaned nosiness.

She smiled at me, revealing creases worn from a lifetime, but in her eyes she still seemed like a young school girl giddy to hear a love story. "Which one are you thinking of accepting, Miss Pia?"

I simply blinked at her for a moment as I realized she'd most likely been observing from the window the whole time.

I swallowed sharply, but my good mood wasn't quickly overpowered by embarrassment, so I spoke ever so boldly.

"One is like a brother and the other…" but somewhere in between associate and friend my voice trailed off, not able to finish the thought.

She winked at me. "Good, then that makes the choice quite easy. Obvious even!"


As I slipped into bed that night it was that single word that kept haunting me.


Perhaps...perhaps somehow...someway...she was, they all were…


Or was it just…just…

That was the incomplete sentence that finally delivered me mercifully to sleep. To a state of unconsciousness, where I could, at least for a blissful time, escape from any and all questions that still remained unanswered…

To a place where we simply were… Where it was quite alright to be just whatever it was that we pleased to be. To be a cold but somehow caring Solutioneer, and his boldly independent, yet painfully vulnerable assistant. Where we could be free without definition, and always together.

Like some disjointed yet ever fitting harmony. Like violins and pocket watches, like glass and silver. Like…

I bolted awake suddenly. The subject of my dreams filling me with an instinctive feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Disjointed yet ever fitting harmony…" I whispered into the darkness. Before I slowly lifted my hands and moved them together until my fingers interlocked.

How was it that seemingly separate things are anything but? How is it that seemingly uncomplimentary things could need each other so desperately?

I wasn't entirely sure, but something told me the answer was either sheer-nonsense, or...