8th of Achtus, 2718
UPTOWN | MIDDAY
If you ever loved me, you loved me in Vienda!
We walked along the boulevard at night,
Hand in hand we took in all the sights—
The time of year, the atmosphere and lights!
—You Loved Me in Vienda
Suspension didn't suit the not-galdor well. It had only been five days and Rhys was already so terribly restless. Anger had seeped through all the cracks in the currently inactive Seventen's carefully crafted exterior, poured in like some molten metal fresh from the fires of Mister Saunder's forge into the cavity of his chest, pooling there, searing away everything else. Sure, he'd hardly left the bedroom for a few days, hiding from the world asleep or tangled needfully in the pale embrace of his wife.
A fistful of days with his godsforsaken name as her own, and for what?
Her devious chroveshit of a father had slithered through their fingers, slipped out of reach, and proven his corruption in barely twenty minutes of a sorry-ersed, complete joke of a trial that only declared one truth: Damen had, indeed laid hands on his own daughter. At least he was now legally required to stay the fuck away, but at what price? Four godsbedamned concords and not even a day off. Meanwhile, for doing his clocking job—investigating his own, keeping the law—Rhys found himself suspended for two whole months.
It ate away at his resolve. It was bile in the back of his throat. It was frustration with every inhale. It was louder than his pulse. It was wrong.
Unable to sit still any longer, desperate for some sense of purpose, the tall blond had begged to slip away alone to think. Hoping to just let his mind attempt to wrestle through everything without the familiar walls of his apartment, without the delicious scents of dsoh, and without the distracting comforts of Charity. Out of uniform in daylight without some under cover operation going on felt odd, but the not-galdor made his way out into the chill of Achtus with a promise to return earlier rather than later.
Perhaps, had he been a better man, he would have simply taken his delicate pianist of a wife out for a walk together.
Perhaps, had he been a better man, he wouldn't have left home at all.
He didn't. He wasn't. Instead, gone for almost a whole house, Rhys had meandered Uptown, walking familiar streets that he'd memorized over the past eight clocking years, that he knew every side alley and shortcut through. He watched his breath come out in a thick cloud only to dissipate into the sunlight, mocking him with the ease in which it could disappear into nothingness when all of his burdens simply could not seem to go away. He resisted the temptation to wander into Seventen headquarters and pretend he wanted to take home paperwork just to see everyone, quite aware that his suspension included the distance he needed to keep away from another member of the Investigative Division of the Seventen, let alone his own little office and his own avalanche of a desk.
Instead, he poked his head in his squad's favorite getaway pub and stared at a foamy beer alone, quietly tucked into a corner, blue eyes trying to find meaning in the soft fluff. He didn't feel any more sure of himself, and he didn't discover any answers at the lukewarm bottom of the pint.
But it was something.
Back outside in the chill again, he wandered aimlessly, slowly making his way home and stopping to pick out flowers from a little cart run by the coldest looking little witch in all of Anaxas, her nose and cheeks red, bundled up so much that the blond Sergeant felt compelled to give her some coin and hope to send her home early. The flowers, she said, were all the way from Mugroba, preserved by the cold, beautiful and full of the colors of summer that felt so damn far away. Tucking them under his arm, he made his way home, thoughts quieter but no less angry, simmering over the trial and how much corruption writhed beneath the polished-snap surface of even his own organization. Well, only his because no one knew what he really was, thank Alioe. It had all been a horrible mockery of justice and he hated it.
As he turned the corner around the dsoh shop he lived above, he noticed that the little old proprietor, Jsara, wasn't behind the counter for the end of the lunch rush. Instead, one of her lanky young sons was doing his best to handle the crowd, and yet the boy seemed to know Rhys stared in through the window, reluctantly looking up and catching the tall not-galdor's gaze—
Time stopped and his breath caught in his chest, burning with a cold fire. Up the stairs, fumbling for keys to a door that was half open, letting the chill in, Rhys made it two steps into his own home,
"Are you—did—how did—no!"
Flowers crumpled to the floor in slow motion as they fell from his arms while they slid slack at his sides and his expression darkened, eyes scanning the scene while fury bubbled over from the cavity of his chest to rush through his veins like a wildfire of heat. Sharp blue gaze took in Charity in her state of undress and tearful terror, took in his osta, the knife, and the Hoxian woman whose amber gaze met his own.
His ears rang and the young Valentin found his body refused to obey the command of his heart to run to the delicate pianist who'd taken his shitty, half-bred joke of a last name and comfort her as he should have. He should have. But didn't.
All of Vita tilted on its access and for the first time, Rhys refused to hang on to what he knew was right:
"No. No!" Growled the tall blond, staring at his delicate pianist with a vacant, pained expression hiding the rage that churned and began to overflow within him. His mind went everywhere and nowhere at once, expanding with a rush of heat, contracting into a singular focus. He drew conclusions without being told, assuming that clocking piece of spitch had come back to finish what he'd started all those months ago in Roalis.
He knew it. He just knew it.
By the looks of things, the man had succeeded. The drug-pushing piece of trash had had his way with Mrs. Charity Valentin. His wife.
Instead of the words of love and concern that should have flowed with such ease from his lips, vehemence hissed out. Instead of the arms that should have gathered her up and stolen her away from the drafty kitchen, fingers curled into palms and palms stung.
He didn't need to be told, aware of the pressures the little circle of upper class drug pushes had been putting on her to do their bidding, aware that the trial had gone just the way everyone else had wanted, and aware that he wasn't shy about knowing what was happening, either. Whatever kind of victory dance this had been—
"BenjaminfuckingTolsby. Ah! Godsdamnit!" He kicked the flowers he'd dropped, hard, and sent petals and paper flying everywhere, narrowly missing smashing his boot into the low table in the sitting room, growling as his face twisted into pure rage, "I'm done with this mess. Done!"
His tone was almost accusatory, shouting at nothing, wavering on his feet as if his body couldn't decide whether it wanted to give up and crumple to the ground or whether it was about to launch him to Benea. It chose something in the middle, tensely channeling the all-consuming anger that ate away all of his common sense and left him some bright brande of misguided justice instead.
Without a second glance at the woman who needed him most in this moment, Rhys snapped.
"I'm going to clocking kill him!" His threat followed him, door slamming, boots booming back down the stairs, the not-galdor tossing himself back out into the alley, picking direction less by instinct and more by understanding of where the streets of Kingsway Market led off to. The theatre, perhaps? Somewhere public and relatively safe? Is that where bastards like Benjamin crawled away to?
He couldn't have gotten too far, that strung out toffin, sauntering and full of his own disgusting form of hubris. It wasn't as though the Seventen didn't know how to trail suspects, didn't already know the ersehat of a man who had once been their Brunnhold contemporary and who'd always been a sloppy, conceited piece of galdor richboy trash. Oh, the things Rhys wanted, out of uniform, suspended from his snaps.
Oh, the things the wick was surely capable of when freed from the confines of his legal duties—
He was about to find out.