The Lost Archers – I

Later, he would recall how the sun had nearly set when she had walked into his office; her slender frame fraught with a sort of tension that echoed in the sharp noise her shoes made against his polished stone floor; as it did in the relentless way she clutched at her deceptively delicate bag, even as she closed the too-large door softly behind her.

And he waited, silently, for her to set the tone of their meeting.

She took a step forward, taking a moment to focus, in the relative gloom of the room, and he waited, patiently, for that familiar look of pain and desperation that always danced just beneath the surface of the mask she had painstakingly perfected, always crumbling fascinatingly under some sorrow that she could no longer tolerate. Only for him.

She never came to him any other way. Not anymore.

But, she did not look at him as she made her way in. And the cruelest, hardest part of him wanted to laugh as he remembered their last meeting. No… if he were being honest, he’d have to say that she hadn’t really looked at him since the day they had said that they were going to vote in the new Constitution, and he had chosen to leave their little syndicate..

It hadn’t even been a minute since she walked through his door, and his peace of mind was already in pieces, but this was no surprise; and though he hadn’t moved a muscle since he caught sight of her, his narrowed eyes followed her across the room,  until she stood in front of him, with only his large wooden desk in the way. And, in the cold harsh light of his sunless room, he wished that the ridiculous ring on her finger would stop distracting him from those dark eyes she had on, and then wished those damned eyes of hers would stop distracting him from the edges of the worn out, ornate dress that was wrapped around her; but he knew what he really wanted: to reach out and undo it. Her. Them.

He motioned for her to take a seat, she graciously accepted, and he waited.

No one can understand me the way you do…

Mido.., she began, hesitantly, and he started at the softness of her voice. Surely it hadn’t always been this frail…

But, the war.. It changes people. Sometimes it destroys them.

And maybe he had forgotten.

She still hadn’t looked him in the eye.

Sūtra?

She lifted her gaze then, to meet his, even as he savored the aftertaste of her name. And, for the tiniest moment, nothing had ever changed.

It’s Agni, Ban, she said, frowning slightly.

He looked about them, and allowed a small smirk upon his face, “And, who are you performing for now?

She took  a deep, calming, breath of air, even as he laughed and leaned back in his chair,So, what’s the plan? Storm out again? Maybe disappear for another few years?

He was still smiling at her, but his eyes were hard.

You know I wouldn’t be here if I had any other choice.

So you keep telling me.

I -‘, she stopped to glare at him, her hands clenched tightly at her sides.

Why don’t we get you something to drink?, he said, making his way to the bar.Maybe it’ll help us…”, he paused as he opened up a new bottle of Scotch, “talk.

She shook her head, and he watched her bare wrists as she pushed back at stray strands of her long dark hair, clearly frustrated.A bar inside your office?“, her eyes flashed dangerously,Real classy, Mido. Must help with the ladies.

You’re one to talk.

I’m not the alcoholic slut.

He chuckled, “It‘s funny you would say so, because that’s not the version of events I remember.

“Shut up“, she said, through clenched teeth.

Why don’t you make me, Princess? I’m sure you’ve learned another trick or two since we’ve last met.

You’re disgusting.

He laughed again, “And yet, here you are. Again.

I- Yes.

She looked away from him, then.. and he followed her gaze as it fell on her ostentatious ring.

Why?

He knew why.

You know why.

It’s always nicer to hear you say it.

It was her turn to laugh, now. But, he intensely disliked the new way her voice drowned into corners rather than bounced off of them, and he waited, silently, patiently, for the mask to crack.

But, she wasn’t looking at him again..

“…I need your help…”

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