By doubling and redoubling

This story was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth, as well as… well, my own frustration with my barrettes this morning.

**

“I don’t think it’s going to work,” Beth said, frowning at Lucy as she fussed with the barrettes.  She chewed her lip thoughtfully.  “Maybe if you used a pin to hold it or tied it at the base with a ribbon?”

“Then, what would be the point in wearing them at all?” Lucy said, taking out the barrette on the left side once again.  She shook her head and heaved a sigh.  “I’ll just have to keep trying until they’re both even and staying put.”

“Maybe put them lower,” Lyall suggested.  When the girl both looked at him, he shrugged.  “If they’re behind your ears, rather than above them, they’ll go in at a different angle.  Maybe they’ll be more secure at another angle.”

Lucy scowled and pulled out the left-hand barrette.  Her eyes brightened when it stayed exactly where she wanted.  Then, she pulled out the right-hand barrette and moved it so that they were even once again.

“That’s rather cute,” Beth said, nodding in approval.

“Yeah,” Lucy started.  Then, her expression darkened and she began fighting with the right-hand barrette.  “Now, this one’s slipping,” she complained.  She fought with it for a few moments and then smiled.

“That worked?” Beth said, blinking.

Lucy shook her head and then nodded.  “They both seem secure now,” she said.  Then, she grinned impishly.  “See, it just took a bit of effort and now I’ve got them.”  When Lyall cleared his throat, she added, “And a helpful suggestion from a friend.  Thanks, Lyall.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, grinning.

Beth shook her head.  “Where’d you learn about barrettes anyway?” she asked, frowning.  “It’s not as though you wear them.  Do you?”

Lyall frowned at her and then rolled his eyes.  “No,” he said, sounding annoyed.  “My hair’s not long enough for little barrettes.  I just… I’ve seen girls wear them, that’s all.”  He crossed his arms over his chest and glared.  “It’s called paying attention.”

“Don’t mind Beth, Lyall,” Lucy said, patting his shoulder.  “She’s not used to boys that pay any attention to her hair.  They’re usually looking at… something else.”  She waved suggestively at where the boys might look.  When Beth flushed, Lyall stifled a laugh.  “What?” Lucy said, grinning.  “It’s true!”

“But you don’t need to tell him that,” Beth said.

Like Strung Diamonds

This story was inspired by a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (diamond-strung) and a picture I found on DeviantArt (Diamond Strung by HouseofDoom).

**

Beth did not like spiders.  In her mind, nothing should have that many legs.  Nothing should move the way that spiders moved.  They were creepy in every way imaginable.

So, as she headed across the grounds towards her first class of the day, she was struck by the simple beauty of the webs that hung from the trees that lined the school grounds.

“The dew looks like tiny diamonds strung on wire,” she said, frowning at Lyall.  She shook her head.  “It’s odd that something so utterly creepy can make something so lovely.”

Lyall grinned and nodded.  “It’s how they catch their prey,” he said.  He waved at the web.  “Flies don’t see it and get stuck and then the spider creeps down and wraps them up, so they can eat them at their leisure.”

Beth scowled.  “Nice,” she said, shaking her head.  She shuddered and hurried off towards class.  “Now, all I can think is that they’re death traps.  That’s creepy, Lyall!”

“Beautiful, though,” he said, shrugging.  He stifled a laugh as she ran ahead of him.

Love Doesn’t require

“I don’t understand,” Bertram said, shaking his head slightly. His brows furrowed and he looked at Keenan. “Isn’t there some place where these rules are written down.”

“Written down?” Keenan asked, his tone one of incredulity. He shook his head. “It isn’t that hard, Bertram. If she runs away, she obviously wants you to chase her. So, you shouldn’t stand there, asking stupid questions! You should be running after her!”

Bertram released and explosive sigh. Then, he hurried after the upset woman he’d accidentally insulted.

“Written down?” Keenan repeated, looking over at Trenton.

Trenton just shrugged.

Nothing better than anticipation

Bertram couldn’t help a faint smile when he took Beth’s hand in his. He led her to the dance floor, then turned to face her. He gave her a little bow, as she curtseyed. Then, he led her in the dance. He’d dreamed of this moment since Keenan had mentioned that a group would be coming from Equisetia.

“I’ve missed you,” he said, his voice faint. “Have – have you been well?” It wasn’t what he’d meant to ask. He’d meant to ask if she had begun seeing someone.”

Beth nodded. “Busy,” she said. Her brows furrowed slightly. “I’ve missed you too, Bertram. There’s… there’s been talk of a group from Shynian Intelligence being assigned to the embassy in Equisetia.”

Blinking, Bertram shook his head. “I hadn’t heard,” he admitted. His brows furrowed. He wondered if he could convince Urban to let that team be his. He wondered if Beth would want that.

“Maybe – maybe you’ll be part of the team?” Beth said, tilting her head to one side.

Again, Bertram smiled. “Maybe I will,” he said. He would definitely ask.

Just Dance

Keenan frowned slightly at Bertram. “What are you doing?” he hissed into his partner’s ear.

Bertram flinched and whirled to face him. He adjusted his glasses. “That girl,” he said, tilting his head towards a lovely young woman that was speaking with a few of the other visiting dignitaries. “She works for the president of Equisetia.”

“Oh,” Keenan said, his eyes widening in recognition. “You used to work security for him, right? Is that…” he faltered trying to remember the name of the girl Bertram had been seeing before he was recalled to Shynia.

“It’s Beth,” Bertram breathed.

Keenan smiled and grabbed him by the arm. “Just dance with her,” he said. “Don’t be shy. Don’t apologize for things that aren’t your fault to begin with her. Just take the girl in your arms and give her a turn on the dance floor.”

Bertram sputtered protests, right up until he was standing in front of the girl in question. Then, he flushed and bowed. “M-Miss Sebohn,” he managed, “may I have this dance?”

Beth smiled. “It would be my pleasure,” she said, taking the hand he had extended to her.

Then, Keenan stepped back to admire his handiwork. He would play the matchmaker and move heaven and earth, if necessary, to get them together. They were too cute of a couple for any other eventuality.

Something he can’t explain…

Bertram frowned at the computer screen. What did he think of these claims of hallucinations? What could he say to that? Keenan was paranoid. Everyone knew that. Rory was traumatized by his ex-wife. They all knew that too. That left Chris…

He broke off the train of thought and glanced over his shoulder. Was that the door? “Beth?” he said, stepping away from the desk to peer into the corridor. He gasped and staggered back.

“Don’t think you can run, boyo,” the man said, following him into the room.

Bertram’s heart was hammering in his chest. All his senses said this man was there! He couldn’t just see him. He could hear him – smell him! The man who’d killed his brother! “Stay back,” Bertram rasped, grabbing his side arm.

He blinked and… the man was gone. Bertram blinked again and set the weapon down. Trembling, he stepped across the room. Nothing. Not a sound. He peered out of the room and held his breath when the knob turned. It opened and he sighed in relief.

“Bertram?” Beth said, blinking. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Bertram said, nodding. “I – I just have one thing to finish up. Then, I’ll come to bed.” Beth smiled at him and nodded. Bertram sighed and strode back to the computer. He typed three words. “We met tomorrow.” That was all he needed to say.

I am remembering you

Bertram felt his heart quicken its pace as he moved closer to the communications office. Part of him wanted to run into the office immediately, but he couldn’t – not yet at least. Instead, he followed the warden guiding them to the president’s office.

“Information Analyst Bertram Silverwebb, sir,” he said, as he opened the door and stepped to one side.

Bertram followed, but froze in the doorway. He stared, but not at the president. He blinked and, as he shook his head, a faint smile touched his lips. He focused his gaze on the president and bowed. “Forgive me, sir,” he said, glancing at Beth again. “I was just reminded – most forcefully – how lovely your deputy of communications is.”

“She seems to have that effect on men,” the president said, giving him a good-natured smile.

Beth flushed and dropped her gaze. Her superior snorted in amusement. “Not many men have that effect on her, however,” he said, his tone light and teasing.

The scent of her beauty draws me to her place

Bertram smiled faintly as he watched Beth at work. She would struggle to find just the right words. Her hair had fallen free of the pins and her glasses were slipping down her nose. To his eyes, she was beautiful.

He stepped into the room and set the small boquet down on the desk. “For you,” he said, his voice soft.

She looked up from her writing. Smiling, she plucked the card out of the flowers. Her smile grew as she read it to herself. She set the card aside and turned back to her work. Now, all the more beautiful, because the smile didn’t fade.

Is it a groove or a rut?

Rory watched from his vantage point across the green. Beth approached him cautiously. Occasionally, she would pause to look to the left or right. He could tell, even when she wasn’t looking out for trouble, she was listening for it.

For a moment, she disappeared from view. Rory’s brow furrowed. He waited for her to step back into view. That part of the green must have been lower than the rest. “Any moment,” he murmured.

He waited. Time ticked by and, still, Beth didn’t reappear. He bit his lip nervously. Where was she? Had someone been waiting in ambush for her? No, that didn’t make sense. But then, what was taking her so long to come up from the rut in the green?

“Rory,” a soft voice called.

He startled and spun around. Blinking, he realized who it was. “B-Beth?” he said, flushing. She’d come up behind him. How? He looked back over the green and squinted into the darkness. Now, he wondered. Had she disappeared into a small depression, as he’d thought, or had she dropped into a valley to come around behind him.

“So,” she said, “I guess someone needs to go back for a refresher course in surveillance.”