(1938-01-18) Master and Servant
Details for Master and Servant
Summary: Cassius and Rhyeline establish some boundaries.
Date: January 18, 1938
Location: Rhyeline's Flat

Rhyeline's Flat, London

A door with stained glass window panels reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's water lilies distinguishes this red-brick flat from the others on either side.

The mudroom opens onto a foyer with stairs leading to a second floor. A long hallway runs alongside the stairs through to the back door. The foyer opens to the right onto the parlor with an adjoining dining room. From the dining room, the kitchen hides tucked into the back of the house. Upstairs, a master bedroom and a guest bedroom allow for guests or even a flat mate. Outside behind the flat, surrounded by tall brick walls, sits a small garden.

The scent of an ever crackling fireplace intermingles with that of brewing coffee and the pure white roses in the bay window facing the street. Gentle lighting lends the flat a warm and cozy atmosphere.

It is quite late, but the end of the work week is here at last. It has been an hour since Rhyeline left Cassius' side, telling him that she wanted to make sure everything was ready. The flat is finally tidy and a little spread of coffee and cakes is waiting upon the low table in the parlor. The little gamine has changed from her elegant work clothes to something lighter- clingy and just a bit transparent, but still with a modest cut. She stands in the middle of her parlor, looking around to make sure that every last detail is perfect.

A light rapping on the door announces Cassius' presence. He has also changed from his work clothes, but she would hardly know if she hadn't already seen him today. Professional or casual, Cassius nearly always favours the same style.

The door opens with Rhyeline peeking up at him from behind it. Drawing it back she offers him a soft, shy smile and murmurs. "Hello, Cassius. Please. Come in." The furnishings are now well within her means to have purchased, however the flat looks too comfortable and settled for any of this to be very new. No doubt the expensive furnishings had been provided for her during her previous employment. As he steps inside, she closes the door and then moves to take his coat with silent deference.

Cassius slips out of his winter coat, letting her handle it as he steps further in to take a look around. "What a charming abode, Rhyeline. You keep a lovely home, if you don't mind my saying so." He turns on his heel to give her a charming smile, and a somewhat appraising look.

Hanging up his coat, she looks over her shoulder up at him. Under his appraising gaze, her cheeks pinken a bit more. "Thank you very much, Cassius. That is kind of you to say." Turning to him, she gestures to the parlor, inviting him to step into it. "While- while it isn't as beautiful as your home, it- it is cozy. Quiet. There are some who seem to thrive on being surrounded by others. They take energy from them. But- for me it takes a great deal of energy 'from' me to be around others. I need a place to hide. To rest."

Cassius follows her into the parlour, watching her for cues on where to sit. "I do understand. There are times when I require absolute solitude. It's what I use my meditation chamber for. You've seen it. The dome in the hedge maze. Berylwood…even when it's empty, it's never really empty. It's nice to get away. Not that I mind people in the house. I would rather like to fill it with more. Friends…family."

Rhyeline guides him to sit on the settee and after a moment of hesitation, she sits down next to him in the adjacent armchair. "I grew up in a silent home, except for my mother's voice. Sometimes my father's as well. Hogwarts and its noise was such a shock to me. I got used to it in time, but I always sought out the quiet, hidden places. This flat is my quiet hidden place." A soft smile touches her lips as she meets his eyes. "I think you understand, with your glass dome. You need a place to turn inwards, to still the waters of your heart, yes?"

Cassius nods deeply. "You understand, I see. Yes, that's an excellent way to put it. My life can be…turbulent. I think that without the ability to step away from it, even if only for a few hours, I might go quite mad." He chuckles, leans back on the settee and crossing one leg over the other.

Rhyeline grins up at him just a bit before she moves to pour herself a cup of coffee, and tea for him. Of course by now she knows how he takes his and so she requires no instruction, handing him a cup exactly as he likes it. "Without such a refuge, I feel that- that life would swallow me up. I would drown in the chaos and- and the pain."

Cassius takes the tea with a grateful dip of his head. "Thank you, Rhyeline. Yes, I understand. Well…as much as I can understand your pain. Are your latest treatments working well?"

Rhyeline lowers her gaze. "He has discovered its nature. But. He hasn't yet begun to test treatments." Resting back in her chair, she takes a slow, quiet sip of her coffee before peeking over at Cassius from over the brim.

Cassius lifts his eyebrow expectantly over a sip of tea. "It's nature? So he has identified the curse? Do tell. I should like to know what we are contending with."

"It- well- it seems to have taken a home in my heart. But- but more than that. It draws strength from me, staying alive. Such a spell needs power, otherwise it would fade." Once more, she lowers her gaze, sipping from her coffee before resting the cup in her lap.

Cassius furrows his brow in concern. "It's…feeding off of you? Is that what it does then? Like a parasite?"

"Seems like it," she murmurs with a nod, not meeting his gaze. "A parasite, living off the source that all dark magic draws power from. The darkness that dwells within each of us. Was meant for one with darkness far greater than mine. It seems to be why I haven't died yet when he would have."

Cassius's mouth purses grimly. "Mmmm…I see. So, your purity of spirit has saved you. A testament to your character, really." He takes a deep breath. "Rhyeline, given the unique nature of this, I should think that one or two Healers are not sufficient to be handling your case. This is the sort of thing that a team of researchers should be working on."

Rhyeline's cheeks grow warm at his mention of her purity of spirit. "There is. Healer O'Shea is not alone. He has asked his colleague Healer MacCurry." There is a slight pause. "And- I am not so pure. I crave dark things. The curse has a home in me. Wouldn't have if I were pure of spirit." Having confided in him with such unguarded honesty, a subtle vulnerability emerges in her dark gaze as she peeks up at him.

Cassius smirks. "There is no such thing as purity within the human heart. We all have darkness within us, some more than others. But…it is rare that we can admit it. I fear you have ensnared my curiosity now, Rhyeline."

Rhyeline bites her lower lip, her warm blush lingering. "You and I, we keep much hidden. But in our moments of silence, as the waters grow clear, we perceive what those who never pause never learn about themselves." Lowering her gaze, she looks to the cup of coffee in her hands and murmurs, "Annie said that- that under Healer O'Shea's light, my heart was both- both very bright, but- but also had darkness coiled around it like a snake, she said. Both dark and light at once. Am both at once."

Cassius's tone turns gravely serious. "Everyone is. That is our nature as human beings. Without darkness, we wouldn't even have free will. If we were to purge our darkness completely, we would crush desire, anger, grief…so many of the things that help us cope with the burden of higher intelligence."

"Yes. I know. But I have watched from the shadows for a long time and- and I don't think that- that most have as much- contrast as I do." Rhyeline's hands tighten just a bit around her cup of coffee, not finding it easy to share such things with him. But her dark gaze remains steady upon him, wanting to let him close despite how vulnerable it makes her feel.

"Tell me, Rhyeline." Cassius has seen into the depths of Rhyeline's mind, and knows some of the shadows she speaks of. But he wants to hear her say it. "What dark desires haunt you?"

Rhyeline now clings tight to the cup of coffee in her hands. Pressing back subtly against her chair, her head bows just a bit as she continues to watch him. She parts her lips, but soon closes them, remaining silent. Her cheeks burn with incarnadine warmth.

Cassius smiles softly. "I've embarrassed you. Forgive me, but it's easy to do. You know that you can always tell me that you'd rather not say. But after you mention something like that, you cannot blame me for being insatiably curious."

"Yes. I understand. And- and I want you to know me. Because I want to know you as well. You have shown me trust and- and I wish to do the same. But- but you see, it- I haven't shared this with anyone before. Never told someone who did not already perceive it. Not even my dear friend Annie knows such things of me."

Cassius tilts his head. "Perhaps I have perceived it. But I don't make it a point to examine another's behaviours and personality and then reveal it to them. Most find it rude, and a little disconcerting."

Rhyeline mirrors the tilt of his head, gazing up into his eyes, unwavering. "Am curious to know what you have perceived of me. Might be easier to share the truth if- if you are close." The little moth flutters closer to the fire.

"Fair enough." Cassius takes a sip of his tea, then sets it down as he uncrosses his legs to lean his elbows on his knees. "I have perceived that you actually crave the role of the servant. That you want a master, who will guide and protect you. Even fight for you. But that guidance is more than just a learning tool. It is a way for you to feel wanted. Even punishment shows that a master cares for his servant. The only thing that terrifies you is being pushed out. Abandoned. Anything is preferable to that." He lofts his brow. "Am I close?"

Rhyeline's eyes widen as he unveils secret after secret. Once he arches a brow, the gamine's brows furrow, as fear flickers in her dark gaze. "Are such things so easy to perceive?" she whispers.

Cassius shakes his head. "No, Rhyeline. But I am a master at perceiving them. It is just a matter of reading the signals people give, and then deduction. All my life, I've been able to read people. Learn what motivates people, what they desire, and you can have anything you want from them. Ironically, that isn't how I handled you. Oh, I know I could have had your service that night you first came to Berylwood for dinner, if I had wanted merely a servant. Am I wrong?" He smirks at her knowingly. "But in my assistant, I needed more than that. I needed a believer. Someone who could carry the torch if I fell, at least until another came to take my place."

Rhyeline seems to calm as she learns that his perceptions are not ones that just anyone could have. At the knowing smirk, she lowers her gaze and rests back in her armchair. "I understand. But no. You only perceive a part of my nature. I do crave such things. To be wanted so much that- that someone would hold so tight to me. But not from just anyone. You could not have taken me that night. I do not wish to be your pet. I want to matter to you more than that. I knew a long time ago that- that I never wanted to be one of the passing interests of a powerful man."

Cassius tut-tuts, shaking his head. "I never said 'pet,' my dear. I make an important distinction between a pet and a servant." But apparently he does have a definition for people as pets? "I could never see you as something as low as a pet. You are far too intelligent, and as I'm sure you've realized by now, I have great respect for intelligence."

Rhyeline flushes as she looks up at him once more. "I appreciate your words. And I know you hope for more from me. It is true that- that I crave dark things. Not games, real. To fill a void. But I also want more. I don't ever want to be a mere servant, or simply one of many. I want to matter. Though I am scared to speak up, I don't want to fade away either. I am still making sense of things. Hard to sort through things even when the waters grow still because- because I feel two things at once."

Cassius takes a moment to consider her words, shedding the mantle of the all-knowing one. "I believe I understand. Well, perhaps I can reassure you that you are not a 'mere' anything. It is why I was so particular about what I wanted from you. You are extraordinary, and I want extraordinary things from you. You and Alis are first among my servants, and I hesitate to even use that term. You are a part of my inner circle. My most trusted advisers, along with my sister."

Rhyeline bows her head in acceptance. "That is very kind of you to tell me. I am not like Alis either though" She lifts her gaze to meet his. "I will not be seen dancing in your shirts."

Cassius chuckles. "Alis is a free spirit, in that way. I don't expect you to be like her. Why would I want another Alis? You are unique, and I respect and adore you for it."

Rhyeline looks to her cup of coffee and nods. "Again, thank you. Am- am concerned that- that she may be distracted to keep a watchful eye. Had Ambassador Troy's guards been more watchful, I would not feel death so close always. I hope that she is never staring at you when she should be looking elsewhere, standing off to one side as I was."

Cassius shakes his head. "Don't you worry about that. I trust Alis with my life. It is in her nature to fiercely guard that which she cares for, like a lioness. But I do appreciate your concern. That said, I don't ever want you stepping the way of any curses for me. Unity will survive without me, so long as you see that it does."

"Would be far better in your hands than mine. I will never be a leader. I can do many things, but not that." Rhyeline tucks a strand of her loose, dark curls behind her ear before glancing up at him. "I have seen her protectiveness. She shows it when she sees me scared of the healers." Rhyeline makes a subtle pause in hesitation before she murmurs, "The night you were swimming with her, you knew I had approached. You have interest in a family with her?"

"Alis and I are very close. We have been since school days," Cassius explains. "Recently, we have strengthened that bond. I love her dearly, but it isn't exactly what I would call romance. She isn't especially interested in having children or being a wife. But we both feel that if it comes time that neither of us has found someone to make a life with, we would be compatible. Call it a pact, if you will."

Rhyeline tilts her head to the side, studying him with quiet curiosity. "Love but not romance? I have seen her in your shirts. But not romance? She said that- that she understood your pact included children, a family. You trust her with your life. You made such a pact, if you wish to take a wife, why not choose her?"

Cassius leans back in his seat, again crossing his legs. "Because my selection of a wife is more than a matter of love or intimacy. Alis is dear to me, but she isn't ideal wife material. I need a spouse who can care for the children. Someone who can focus on the home while I focus on work and the movement. I also need someone that will cast a positive light on what I am trying to achieve. I am a public figure now, and everything I do will reflect upon my work."

"Alis would need to leave your side to care for your children instead of you. But more than that- she lacks what you would wish to publicly present as your wife?" Rhyeline cants her head slightly to the other side as she peers up at him.

Cassius tilts his head back and forth. "Yes and no. I'm not ashamed of her, or I wouldn't have her by my side as my bodyguard, either. But she isn't exactly maternal. Admittedly, there would be one political benefit to taking her as a wife. Her family, though pure-blood, is rather poor. Marrying her would silence any accusations of class prejudice on my part. But it doesn't matter. I am looking to marry quite soon, and only if I fail for the next several years will Alis and I join in matrimony. It isn't very likely at all. We shall simply continue as dear friends and lovers."

Rhyeline nods. "I see. Though- I think that- that maternal instincts emerge with the creation of a child. Her protectiveness- it seems ideal. Having a child would change her, bring out the qualities you desire."

Cassius nods. "Quite possibly. I've considered that, as well. I could certainly do much worse than Alis, and in her I know I would have a loving wife that would understand…well, let's just call it my own dark desires, since we are being open about the subject."

"I understand. Such things you perceived of me because you recognized what I craved. But. I do not understand why you would seek another when you already seem to have what you want in Alis," murmurs Rhyeline quietly.

"As I said, my wedding is a political affair as much as a cementing of my future." Cassius speaks rather matter-of-factly about this clinical approach to marriage. "I am looking for a union that will not only provide me with the heirs I desire, and hopefully a happy household, but also benefit the cause itself. Whether that is by an alliance, or by the very fact of who I choose to marry."

"You are holding out in the hopes of greater political benefits. There are few women who will understand you love for Alis though. It is not something you will be able to hide. I wish you luck." Keeping her gaze lowered, she moves to pour herself a bit more coffee.

Cassius sighs softly. "If it must be hidden, it will be. I really don't expect to find a wife that will be accepting of my needs. That would be rare. But, I am a complicated man, and I don't expect anything to be simple."

Rhyeline meets his gaze. "You should take care. Choose a wife who can accept- truly accept that she is not what matters most to you. Take care that you do not have to hide such things from her. My father is a complicated man. His absences, they wore on my mother. At first their marriage had been one of many other factors besides love. But in time, things became too painful to her. She left. To you, such would be a disgrace, no?"

"I understand such risks, and that is one of many factors I must consider when choosing a wife." Cassius steeples his fingers in his lap. "If I cannot find a wife that will accept me for what I am, then I must find one that would never consider ending a marriage. Among many pure-blood families, for instance, such a thing is unthinkable."

"Unthinkable, yes. But such pain can warp someone. My mother is from an extremely well respected pure-blood family in France. It began to pain her when I was a small child, but it was not until my fifth year that she left. Secrets will not remain hidden forever, not with Alis, not in your home. And you cannot trust tradition to hold her. Only true acceptance or a lack of love for you will give you what you want." Rhyeline remains holding her cup of coffee in her lap, much as she holds his ledger when working. Her dark gaze remains steady and unwavering as she speaks.

"Perhaps. Nothing is absolute. But I do appreciate the counsel. Tell me then, Rhyeline. Do you know of any eligible women that would make me an ideal wife?" He reaches his long arm to pick up his tea again.

"Besides Alis, no. She knows your nature and has accepted it and she matters more to you than I think anyone else ever will. You underestimate the perceptiveness of the public. Though they might not know it consciously, truth affects far more than illusions."

Cassius chuckles. "Alis matters a great deal to me. Probably more than most ever well. But not all." For a moment he falls silent, and offers no further explanation. "I feel it only fair to tell you that I have considered your suitability as well." He sips his tea, watching and gauging her reaction.

Rhyeline tries to keep her features smooth, but having let him so close, she cannot quite manage to hide her reaction from him. At first she lowers her gaze, but then she quickly returns them to his features, not wanting to seem as if she is hiding anything. She cannot keep the flush from her features, nor the shock of powerful, conflicting emotions in her eyes, but above all, she seems pained. "I see. But. If I were to serve as your wife, I could no longer be your assistant."

Cassius inhales deeply, nodding. "A dilemma, I agree. But only an obstacle if marriage is something you would desire, and not an insurmountable one, I might add."

Rhyeline blinks and bites her lower lip. "What do you mean?"

Cassius softens his voice quite deliberately. "Only that, if marriage is even a consideration, the barriers facing us would not be impossible to overcome. Let us entertain the notion that we are married, and you are remaining at home to care for the children. I do intend to have children, after all. There is much you could do from Berylwood itself, especially in regard to the Unity Movement. I would likely need to take another assistant to help me at the Ministry, but that would be a more traditional employee. Not like what you are to me now."

Rhyeline watches him, transfixed, as he speaks. At last she lowers her gaze and nods slowly. "If I were free of my curse, I would be strong enough to have children. I could be a mother. But. I do not have the accepting nature you seek. And were you to tell me I mattered most to you, I do not think I could believe it."

"I do not measure the value of people in my life on some linear scale." Cassius draws an invisible line in the air to demonstrate. "Any woman I marry will matter to me just as much as Alis does. I am not looking for some broodmare. I want a partner." He sighs softly. "But you are correct about one thing. My wife will not be the person that matters most to me. That is simply not to be, and there is nothing I can do to change that. So, if this makes the notion unacceptable to you, let us put it behind us. No harm done."

Rhyeline's dark gaze fixed upon his. "I might understand if the games you play with others were truly just that, games, meaningless and empty, I might accept. But. You crave attention. Would not be satisfied with only one. Many matter to you, but you can only be in one place at a time. Whoever matters most to you will still be one of many." There is a sharp edge in her eyes that fades as quickly as it emerges. "I will serve as your assistant. But never touch me."

Cassius frowns, his tone hardening. "You should not order me so. I have given you no cause to think I would ever impose myself upon you like that. There is much you have yet to understand about me, Rhyeline. But understand this most of all. Those I call friend are inviolate. Should anyone touch you in a matter you do not desire, I'll have his hand served to me on platter."

Rhyeline lowers her gaze and murmurs. "Forgive me. I did not mean to imply that you would do such." She peeks up at him. "But you see, I already crave such. I want to matter to you. I want you to touch me. I have let you close. I have trusted you and- believed you when you treat me as if I matter to you. Makes me want more. But it hurts. I do not yet know my place with you, what it is, what it means. With Annie I know. With Melania I know, as with Alis. But not with you. I thought it might be the same as when I was serving Ambassador Troy in Berlin, but- this is something new and I am still learning."

Cassius relaxes his demeanor, taking on a more pensive posture. "I see. I admit, that is somewhat unexpected. I wish the situation were different, Rhyeline. I would like to be the man you want. But you know what I am. I am not an ideal husband. I am a force of power, if I say so frankly. With that comes certain character flaws, which I have accepted as a part of my makeup. But it does not make me incapable of love. If anything, I am a man of many loves, and I do not make strong distinctions between one kind of love and another. I am sorry that I have placed you in this awkward position."

"No. There is nothing to forgive. I should not have allowed this to happen. Should have been more cautious. I knew from the start you were a man of power and I have seen so many such as you- and their women." Rhyeline averts her eyes as they begin to glisten in the gentle light of her parlor. She parts her lips, about to say something more, but then she stops and remains silent.

"Mmmhm. It is common among men like me, it's true," Cassius admits with resignation. "Still, it saddens me that I have become a source of turmoil for you. I only hope that verbalizing these feelings might help you to cope with them." He glances to the door. "Perhaps I should go. I fear I've made you uncomfortable." He sets down his teacup and saucer to rise.

"No. Speaking of things has never helped me. Only stirs them up worse." Rhyeline sets down her coffee cup and rises. But before she leads him to the door, she stops and looks up at him. "Acceptance of flaws is weakness. Do not lie to yourself. You do not have an interest in becoming anything more than what you are and no one will matter enough to you for you to want to change." Then lowering her gaze, she turns to lead him to the door. "I hope you will forgive me and continue to be patient with me as I learn my place with you and accept it."

Cassius sighs. "Acceptance of flaws is realism, my dear. Don't think that I've never tried to change who I am. But I came to realize that to rail against one's most deeply ingrained flaws is to pursue perfection, and that is a path to madness. This is not a matter of trying to change an irritating habit or losing a few pounds of extra weight. This is a fundamental understanding of my own nature." He follows her to the door, collecting his coat and pulling it on. "There is a reason great men have vices, Rhyeline. It isn't because we are spoiled, or think ourselves better. It is because the universe demands balance, from the alignment of the stars and planets, down to the basic nature of a man. I am gifted with an overabundance of ambition, and the means to achieve my aims. That requires considerable passion, and a basic but powerful need to be in control, among other things. Without those, I could not be the man I am. It is as we discussed earlier. Everyone has light and darkness within them. I have much light to offer the world. But as I said…there must be a balance." He clasps his hands behind his back. "Now you see the real me, Rhyeline. Are you still my devoted assistant?"

Rhyeline's dark gaze remains fixed upon his. "Yes, of course, I am. I do not need to love you in order to serve as your devoted assistant. Though you are wrong. It is weakness. I struggle against my very nature and if I accepted my deeply ingrained flaws as you accept yours, I would never have spoken a word to you. But you speak of having power, of being in control. It is an illusion. You may crave to be loved by many, but as none of your women matter to you truly, you will not ever truly matter to them. "

The hard edge returns to Cassius' voice, and his gaze darkens. "You overstep your bounds, Rhyeline. I suggest that before you presume to tell me what I crave, or who matters to me, that you learn a great deal more about me. I am not one of these men you have known before. It will serve you well to remember that." He pulls his jacket closed, nodding curtly as he opens the door to go. "Good evening, Rhyeline."

Rhyeline parts her lips and half lifts a hand. But then she stops and lets it fall once more. "Good evening, Cassius," she says in a quiet tone, averting her gaze.

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