breezeshadow: BRAIN PROBLEMS ICON (BrokenBrainGoldfish)
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“This seems… Odd.” Already her mug was getting tea stains, and there did not appear to be any soap in the kitchen. She went to refill the cup, only to remember she had tossed the leaves.

“Your behaviour at the moment certainly is.” Duff hid a yawn behind his hand, though she could see his eyebrows were lifted.

“Why would the Empire go after Rheanna now?” She should not have dumped out her tea leaves so hastily. Rose May perused the kitchen for a different type, pretending it had been her intention. “If she was born on our side of the river, then certainly the Empire would already know that. They would have gone after her years ago, not now.”

“You know how the Empire is, I’m sure. We cannot expect competence from them.” Duff put the trash bin aside, then motioned for her to follow.

They walked down the hallway slowly, perhaps because Rose May’s mind was more in the mood to run. Duff’s comment was accurate, and any other time she no doubt would promptly agree. Yet simple incompetence could not explain everything. If it was only Rheanna, or only Hafstra, or only Tadhg; yet it was all three.

“But what if,” she said the words softly, and Duff pushed a few millimeters closer to her, enough to hear better without prompting gasps from any socialites, “this is all somehow interconnected?”

“You do not strike me as a conspiracy lover.” It was hard to glean tone from whispers, yet Rose May could feel his skepticism. Her shoulders felt heavy.

“The government contacted me shortly after I was assigned Hafstra.”

A silent nod, and almost a hand on her back — within a few moments they were in Duff’s office, the door not only shut but locked, and he looked at her with a face chiseled from stone and eyes of fire. “Why did you not tell me this when it happened?”

“Truthfully? I mostly forgot about it. It was odd, but they did not contact me again despite promises to do so.” She could not shrug away Duff’s disapproval so easily as the Empire’s. Just behind his eyes, she could almost see another man — far more imbalanced, drunk off power, and far past mere anger.

“Again with their incompetence, of course.” Duff sat down across from her; instinctively she pushed her chair back, watching his hands. “What did they ask for?”

Her memory was playing tricks — she wanted to remember the meeting with the official at the coffeehouse, Mahli interrupting, and that damned letter. Instead, between it, she kept remembering the other man, with questions that no twelve-year-old could understand, and an intolerance for confusion. Yet she was not twelve, and she did understand Duff’s question, and she knew the answer, if she could just pluck it out of the river.

“Are you all right?” That question was different from her memory, and she realized she had been staring intently at Duff’s hands, squeezed back in her chair, ready to jump away. She looked up to find Duff, looking distinctly worried, not a soldier with more bravado than kindness.

“Sorry.” She rubbed her face, but it and her hands were equally sweaty. “You asked about the… Letter?”

“I asked what they asked for. Perhaps that involves a letter. Do you need anything? Fresh air, perhaps?”

Finally she looked over at Duff again. The soldier was gone, hiding back in her memories. Instead she saw her boss, looking surprisingly worried, a few moments away from standing up. She smiled softly at him, which did not help.

“No, I will be okay. It’s…” Nearly everyone who knew responded with sympathy. It took a certain lack of heart to blame a twelve-year-old child for beaten by soldiers. Yet even at that age, she hated to speak of it. As she grew older, she became no more comfortable with it. Eventually, someone would come along and state that she should be beyond the pain. “Everyone knows about Frenton. But do you know one story? A little girl beaten by soldiers, forcing the Empress to act?”

She had seen many people react to the story, yet Duff’s was perhaps most subtle. His eyes widened slightly, then he promptly became neutral, posture sagging, wrinkles returning to his face. He settled back into his chair, and removed his hands from the table.

“I did not quite grasp the story until later. High society prohibits such talk except in odd whispers or private rooms and times. I had not yet become cynical enough to shatter those norms.” He sighed. “I am sorry to hear that it was you. Sorrier still at the Empire’s inaction.”

“I got Father back. That was all I cared about. Father was crushed, but he is at peace, now.” Rose May sighed heavily; with it she forced along the soldier and her father’s broken heart. He was with Mother again, and she was certain they both knew peace again. “It was a letter, requiring an investigation of Hafstra’s status.”

Rose May had a pretty damn traumatic experience during the Frenton Rebellion, yet I never seem to touch upon it in AG. This is me attempting to -- I feel like Duff's at times intimidating, emotionless manner may be enough to set her off. Duff was likely in his twenties when shit went down, so he'd remember the story of the little girl, once it got around. And I would not be surprised if it was that story that gave him another push to abandon high-class society.

Feel free to comment and give me tips. I don't have PTSD myself so I'm writing based on what it feels like it would be, to me.

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