Napoleon had always awoken early. He just couldn’t stand the feeling of wasting time on sleep. When he’d been on campaign, he would sometimes wake just after midnight to pour over his maps or wake his aides to send missives.
Now stuck, he still found himself waking early, wandering through the castle, often ending up in the Harmony Susuki’s study, where he could easily spend hours reading through the various war reports that had happened since his death.
Typically, one of the women would find him, chin propped on his hand, staring unblinkingly at the diagrams of battles long won.
However, for once he was interrupted by something far more interesting: raised voices outside of the door. Napoleon leaned back in the chair, looking over at the door.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Jerome? You don’t-“
“I have to do this, Mags. It won’t take a genius to put together that Julia’s source is me. Since Miller saw Aspen they’re definitely going to know we had something to do with this if I stick around.”
There was silence. Napoleon, cognizant of the creaking chair, stood up and padded over the door.
“We’ll miss you. Everyone,” Jones said quietly. The tall negro was facing away from Napoleon, but he could see Jenkins face. The young man ran a hand over his face and sighed.
“I’ll miss you too. Never thought I’d say that about a crumbling old castle.”
“Your position will be here if you ever want to come back,” Jones offered earnestly. Jenkins smiled slightly.
“It’s been good, Mags.” He turned and walked down the stairs, a small bag over his shoulder.
Napoleon leaned back, listening to Jones draw a rattling breath before stepping heavily away.
The castle had been wound tight since Aspen Strong returned with Robespierre. Everyone seemed to believe they were going to be caught out at any moment. The woman doctor had snapped at anyone coming too close but was mostly found in the temporary infirmary.
The attitude had carried over slightly and Napoleon found himself tensing at strange noises in the night, waking early to stare at the stone ceiling with bated breath. It didn’t help that the castle was dammed cold and prone to whispering as wind snuck through the walls.
Whatever had happened to Robespierre, (no one had bothered to inform him of what exactly occurred) Napoleon was highly motivated to make sure it didn’t happen to him.
But now they were losing a member of their security, leaving them even more vulnerable than before.
Napoleon wandered back to the chair and sat down. He hesitated for a moment and then began to type.
Richard woke to raised voices. He startled awake, sitting up and groping for his dagger before remembering where he was and what had happened.
He bothered to slip on a shirt before he hurried to pulled open the door. “What’s happening?” He snapped.
Leonardo, whose room was next to his, jumped in surprise. His hair was tangled and wild, eyes large and bruised looking. He’d apparently been arguing with Jerome Jenkins.
“None of your concern,” Leonardo snapped even as Jenkins said, “I’m leaving today, Richard.”
Richard looked between the two of them, taken aback. In the months he’d known Leonardo, he’d been unfailingly amiable, always polite and deferential. He cast a look over the tall Italian, bewildered.
“Leaving? Where too?” He asked Jenkins, keeping his eyes on Leonardo.
Jenkins pushed his way past Leonardo. “I’m taking a different position. I don’t know where yet. I was just explaining to Leo that I won’t be back.”
At this the Italian stiffened and muttered a profanity, before sweeping into his room and letting the oaken door slam behind him with a resounding thud that had Jenkins wincing.
Richard raised an eyebrow at the closed door, more concerned about Leonardo behavior than Jenkins sudden departure.
“Some of you are taking this better than others,” Jenkins remarked. Richard shrugged and offered his hand out for Jenkins to shake. He hadn’t known the young man well, but his good humor had been noted.
“Apparently. I wish you luck. At least you won’t have to remain cloistered here with us.” Richard shook his hand firmly. Jenkins smiled slightly.
“Yeah, I’ll miss this place though,” he said. “I’m sorry we didn’t speak more.”
Richard shrugged again and stepped back to let Jenkins walk past him. He cast one more look at the door next to his own, a new curiosity pricking at his mind.
Aspen set her drink down and looked at Jerome.
“How are holding up?” She asked. He took a sip of his saki.
“About as well as you,” he said raising an eyebrow. “Are you still having the nightmares?”
Aspen turned away and sighed. “Yeah.” She shrugged. “When is Julia getting back?”
“She said that Haruka ordered them all to be ready to leave the Bastille by twenty-four hundred. So sometime tomorrow morning.” Jerome smiled. “She said she might get some leave, so I can see her before she requests reassignment.”
Aspen stared at him intently. “And Haruka didn’t mention anything?”
Jerome bent closer. “No. She was just extra angry. But Miller didn’t seem bothered at all. I don’t think she said anything, Aspen.”
Aspen bit her lip. “Sure.” She took a sip of her IPA and cleared her throat. “Any idea yet where you’re going to get posted to?”
Jerome leaned back and draped his arm over the back of his chair. “Nah. I requested security again, so who knows, right?”
Aspen snorted and shook her head. “Well I bet it won’t be half as exciting as Middleham.” Jerome threw his head back and laughed. The patrons at the next table threw them dirty glares.
“You know, I bet you’re right!” He grinned widely.
Aspen smiled, looking at him. “I’m gonna miss working with you, Jerome. You will keep in touch, right? I can think of a couple of people who are going to want to know how you’re doing out there.” She trailed off meaningfully.
Jerome rubbed a hand over his face. “Yeah. I’m going to miss you guys too. Even your awful taste in music.”
Aspen gasped. “What? Come on, Blanche is modern master and you know it. In another thousand years they’ll be illegally resurrecting him.” She poked a finger into his chest emphatically.
He laughed again and then sighed. He met her eyes evenly. “You’ll look out for him, right? Uh we didn’t end on great terms, but Leonardo could do great in this century…” Jerome trailed off thoughtfully.
“He didn’t take, it’s-not-you-it’s-me very well?” She asked.
Jerome winced. “Frankly I don’t think he’s used to being turned down.” He took a drink of his saki, seeming to be deeply entrenched in his thoughts. “You know I think you and Robin are right?”
Aspen had recounted her trip to Rome and meeting with Robin to him. She swallowed, taking a sip of her beer to cover the nervous motion.
“How do you mean?”
Jerome met her eyes. “None of them have a healthy relationship with their mentalities, that’s gonna be obvious soon, I think. But the only way to get them over that is to talk about it to them, not pretend it didn’t happen. I think Magpie was more comfortable with the negatives of history when they didn’t have to live with them every day.”
Aspen grabbed Jerome’s arm, heart suddenly racing. “Jerome, Leonardo didn’t do anything to you, right?” She was horrified.
Jerome shook his head. “Do you think I would have kept going back if he had? Do you think I wouldn’t have told you or Mags? No, he didn’t. But that doesn’t mean he has an iron clad understanding of the concept of consent.” He leaned closer, hissing. “Did you know he was sleeping with his models when they were like sixteen?”
Aspen pulled a face. “What? I mean, that was like middle aged back then, right? You only lived to forty?” She trailed off uncertainly.
Jerome shrugged. “It nagged at me, personally. But this is what I mean. Yeah it was fine then, but there’s going to need to be a point where we teach them that it’s not the same, now.”
They both fell silent for a moment. The bartender caught her eye and she nodded, signaling to close out their tab. She was expected at Middleham soon.
Her comm buzzed and she sighed. Speak of the devil.
Aspen swiped the display on her forearm. “This is Aspen.”
“I think you’re going to want to come in soon,” Doctor Primavera Russo said. “Looks like Robespierre has turned a corner.”
Jerome waved a hand in her face and she gave him the thumbs up.
“That’s great to hear. Uh, why do you need me?” She slid off her stool and started fumbling with her jacket.
“He’s asking for the person who saved him. I think he wants to thank you. It’s literally all he’s been talking about,” Russo muttered and Aspen snorted. She gave Jerome a quick hug, kissing his cheek.
“Well tell him I’ll be right there and if he wants to thank me, he’s just going to have to keep conscious.”