A/N: Okay, okay, I know I said "Oh I will have no time until next week!" Well, I really won't this upcoming week, but you all can thank The Virgo Priestess and VampWolf92 for this unexpected update. I read Vamp's comment this morning and laughed a little and then Virgo actually made me fully laugh out loud. I love that I'm able to get the idea of "RUN CLOPIN RUN" in your heads. :) Thank you for the reviews, guys, and, as a present, a longer chapter here.
"I thought I told you that I could handle them on my own," Riya snapped at Clopin. To most, this scene was humorous. Not only because Riya was a woman, a demotion in itself sometimes, but her height wasn't one to brag about. The top of her head reached just under his chin. Granted, Clopin was a very tall, stick-like individual, but it was a humorous sight either way.
Tilting his head and putting on the innocent look of a child, Clopin replied, "I was only stopping him from running from the Court. Besides, you were so preoccupied with the other two-"
"I don't need to be told how to do my job, and I don't need you wrangling the kids that I'm watching," Riya interrupted, her fists balling up at her sides.
Clopin held up his hands in surrender. "Very well, but may I at least offer some advice?"
Riya leaned back, a different and much more calming position than her previous lunging forward one. "Fine," she replied cautiously. Her eyes narrowed a little as she said this, making sure Clopin knew that she wasn't very open to his advice.
Clopin smiled calmly at her and then adverted his eyes from her as he looked over at the three boys, already fighting with each other. He noticed Riya look over at the boys as well and flinch, obviously stopping herself from running over as she waited for Clopin to speak. "I grew up with five siblings. One brother is close to my age and the other is much younger than us. If there is one thing I know about brothers, primarily when they're young, is that they'll fight," he explained, motioning to the two eldest brothers tumbling over each other with Erec wanting to challenge the victor.
"You should let them fight sometimes. As long as it doesn't get too out of hand, they're fine. Those three specifically are really hyper and love a challenge or competition," Clopin concluded. He looked back over to Riya, who remained silent for a little bit before nodding once. She quietly muttered a thank you and returned to watching the boys.
Surprising to Riya, Clopin's advice had worked, and the boys were growing to like her by the end of the day. She stayed out of their way for the most part. She gave them boundaries, but they weren't going to argue so long as they could fight each other. By the end of the day, the three were exhausted and, although they put up a small fight, soon gave up and fell asleep in their tent.
With her payment soon put into her coin purse, Riya returned to her tent. Anand found her on her way back to her tent and offered to walk her back. After all, even with some great and kind gypsies in the Court, there were some who would rob or kill in the Court. Granted, they would rather not do this to their own "kind" because they all feared the noose that Clopin was more than happy to give them.
Riya walked alongside Anand with gratitude. She would have been fine except most of the Court was dark and, although she didn't have a fear of the dark, Riya did fear the fact that anyone could hide in shadows. Only a small section of the Court remained lit for those with different sleep schedules. Clopin and Camille were among those people that night. It was their luck that they would run into Riya and Anand on their way to guard duty.
Typically, Clopin and Camille weren't two people to fear, but they were in the guard uniform. Meaning, they were dressed head to toe as walking skeletons. Both Riya and Anand jumped at seeing the walking dead right in front of them and Riya let out a little squeak as she hid behind Anand. Camille giggled and Clopin grinned like a madman as they both removed their masks, Anand's sword ready to kill them both. "Relax, they're only costumes," Camille laughed.
Embarrassed by his actions, especially towards an authority figure, Anand put his sword away with a sheepish smile. "Sorry. You guys are pretty scary," Anand explained as Riya moved to his side.
Clopin bowed. "Merci, monsieur. We try our best to look terrifying." He straightened up again and looked over to Riya. "How are Erec, Sebastian, and Jacques doing?"
"Fine," she replied shortly, not wanting to admit how well his advice had worked.
The gypsy king smiled at the reply and excused himself and Camille. They left for the catacombs, fixing their masks into place again. Anand turned and looked at Riya. "Who are Erec, Sebastian, and Jacques?" he asked.
"I'll explain once we get back to my tent," she laughed. They reached Riya's tent and spent a large portion of the night comparing each other's new lives in the Court. Anand had taken a job as a furniture maker. He described all of the people he had met that day and what they did in the Court. Riya then described the three boys, their parents, Camille, the women she talked to that morning, and she finally added Clopin as an afterthought.
Anand seem to want to approach the topic of Clopin. "So, what do you think of him?"
"He needs to mind his own business," Riya replied with a frown.
Anand laughed, "I thought you just said his advice worked. Did I hear you wrong?"
Riya sighed. "His advice worked, but he should still learn to mind his own. I mean, I don't need someone telling me how to do my job. I don't go up into Paris and tell him how to do… whatever he does."
He smiled at her. "I heard that he sings and does puppet shows for the children of Paris. Maybe he was in his place in telling you how to handle the kids." After seeing Riya's clearly upset look, Anand quickly scrambled for words. "Well, what I mean is, he has to work with children every day and probably has for many years. You, on the other hand, only had a taste of motherhood and didn't really get a chance to experience it."
Anand slowly got quieter and quieter with every word, seeing his friend's face fall. As he went to open his mouth again to apologize or comfort her, Riya stopped him. "It's fine, Anand," she said with a strangely quiet voice. There was a moment of tense silence. It was tense for Anand, anyway. Riya seemed to have lost focus. "I think I need to get some sleep," she finally concluded after the pause.
Nervously getting up, Anand bent down to Riya and gave her a quick hug and a kiss on the forehead before leaving. Blowing out the candle in her tent, Riya walked over to her bed. Lying down on top of the blankets, Riya just stared at the ceiling, realizing that her family was truly gone for the first time and also realizing she wouldn't be sleeping that night.
Clopin returned from his night of guarding the Court. Exhausted, he followed Camille into the Court and, fortunately for him, he was able to at least function a little while Camille was ready to topple over. Clopin smiled as he saw Riya just come out from her tent. The smile fell as he noticed how she looked nearly as dead as Camille. "Riya," he called gently, stopping near her while Camille continued forward to her own tent.
Riya didn't even look up from fastening her tent shut. Clopin smiled a little. "Aw, c'mon, not even an angry little comment? The least you could say is good morning," he kidded lightly. Riya looked up from her work of fastening her tent. Her eyes held none of the anger that they held the day before. Instead, she looked at the verge of tears. Her lips didn't tremble and she didn't actually shed tears, but those eyes that revealed complete helplessness showed Clopin that she wasn't ready to exchange witty remarks right now.
Clopin's small smile fell and he watched her continue to fasten the tent. "You know, I could watch the kids for you today if you'd like. I have the day off," he explained. A little voice inside him, perhaps his puppet's, told him that he needed sleep and scolded him for offering his time.
Riya shook her head, her eyes still on the now closed tent. "No. I have to watch them," she replied monotonously.
Clopin frowned a little. "Please? I'll give you the payment. I know you hate others doing your job, but-"
"It's not that. It's personal, okay?" she muttered through clenched teeth. Clopin only nodded and backed off. If he were less tired, he might fight with her, but he was tired right then, and he didn't want to push Riya into tears. Pulling the covers over his head, Clopin fell asleep with a small nagging guilt in his head that he should have watched the kids.
"Why should you have watched them? It's not your job. Besides, I don't see you rushing to cover for me and give me all of the money when I'm tired," Camille countered. Clopin sighed. He had hoped Camille would have helped him rationalize this thought, but instead she was saying he shouldn't feel the way he did.
"I know. That's what I don't get. Maybe it's just because she looked so helpless. You should have seen her, Cam, it was like I just-" Clopin paused in his rambling to bring a hand to his face. "Camille, I'm an idiot."
Camille leaned back on the pillows surrounding her floor. "I'm sure you are, but would you like to extend on that thought?"
"She probably had some nightmare or something about her husband. I was like that after my parents. I couldn't sleep for days," he explained. Camille nodded with a look that just spelled out, 'Wow, genius, and you just thought of this now?' Clopin narrowed his eyes at her. "Don't give me that look. You didn't think of it either."
Camille shrugged. "True, but I didn't see her. You did." She then laughed as Clopin threw a pillow at her head.
Riya took a different route back to her tent than before, trying to avoid anyone she knew on the way back. She spent the whole day in a fog, only able to think of the kids as her own baby. When she didn't think of her baby, she thought of her husband's pale, peaceful face. She paused in her steps as she thought of him again. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to hold back the tears. If she could just make it back to her tent- "Riya?"-… Damn.
Riya refused to open her eyes. She couldn't yet. If she did, she would collapse right then and there. "Riya?" She now bit her lip and dipped her head. To know that there might be some comfort right there and that she could just have someone to talk to was enough to make the pain in her throat worse. Opening her eyes with a great deal of hesitation, she looked up into Clopin's black eyes.
With a small huff of a sigh, Clopin quickly put his arm over her shoulders. "Come on, let's get you inside." He soon brought her into his tent, which was only a few tents away. Clopin released her shoulders and Riya sat down on the pillows on the ground. After seeing Riya was in a stunned silence, Clopin turned to fasten his tent shut. There was a noise behind him and he turned around quickly, only to realize that it was Riya releasing a choked sob. Clopin fastened the tent at a record speed and sat down next to her as she whined softly, tears now coming down her face.
Riya began to sob as Clopin pulled her closer to him. Nearly an hour had passed until Riya realized that Clopin was rubbing her arm and it was beginning to get numb. Her sobs quieting now, she moved her shoulder away from his touch. Clopin's hand rested to his side immediately, which wasn't exactly Riya's intention. Now only feeling very out of it, Riya rested her head on Clopin's shoulder even more and soon felt his hand return, now to her back. "You okay," he asked quietly after a few minutes. Most would move away to ask this question, but Clopin seemed comfortable with staying where they were.
Riya was quiet for a while until she finally replied, "I'm sorry."
She began to pull back, but Clopin hardly budged. "Don't be," he said firmly, looking into her eyes. "I know what it feels like to lose someone you love. It's really difficult, but you'll get through it," he said with a gentle smile.
Riya smiled a little smile back and now pulled away completely. She was looking at the pillow she sat on and began to trace the pattern on it. Clopin watched her do so, waiting for her to speak. When she didn't after several minutes, he stood up quietly and lit a candle on his desk before returning back to his original place next to her. As he sat back down, he found her attention had returned to him. "How do you forget?" she asked quietly.
The way she asked that question was very eerie to Clopin and he could feel his hair stand on end. He gave her a look of confusion. "Forget what?"
Riya thought through her own question carefully and replied, "How do you forget their face? I mean, not their alive one, but-" She stopped herself, getting frustrated with how her mind wasn't making sense.
Clopin placed his hand on her knee and she looked up in surprise. "I'm not sure if you ever can," he admitted, looking a little in pain as he said this. "I think it's just trying to remain focused on what's happening right now and not what happened then. After all, I don't think your husband or child would want you to remember them as they were when you found them," he explained.
Riya looked down at the pillow again. "Yeah. I guess you're right," she muttered quietly.
After a brief silence, Clopin removed his hand from her knee and stood up. Walking over to the chair at his desk, he looked over at her. "You may stay as long as you want and do as you wish. Well, I take that back. You can do as you wish as long as your wish isn't to drink any of those bottles," he clarified, pointing to a few bottles located between his desk and his bed. "Other than that, though, everything is fair game." With a final smile, Clopin turned around in his chair to work on a new puppet.
A/N: Will this changed their relationship? Hm... I dunno. Anyway, I tried to make this chapter very accurate with the stages of grief. Ex: Anger- yelling at Clopin Bargaining- Probably thinking of the "what if"s throughout the night and thus no sleep Depression-... See: what JUST happened. :P Anyway, I hope you guys are enjoying this story and, like I said before, I will be very busy this week and my Transformers story needs and update soon.
REVIEW! As proved above, it will get me working. :)
Another thank you to Vamp and Virgo! You guys rock!