(1939-12-29) The Awful Truth
Details for The Awful Truth
Summary: Walking home, one cold, snowy evening, Rena encounters Charlie once more. He confronts her about the awful truth, and forces her to face the facts.
Date: 1939/12/29
Location: West Horizont Alley
Related: The Flyboy and the Thief

Sometimes, it's quite a bother to live in a situation where one cannot simply use the floo network from their own home. But, of course, Rena understands… She always understands - or tries to - no matter how bothersome or upsetting things get with her husband. However, tonight, the weather is cold, and there is a distinct bite in the snow-laden wind. January is nearing, and the winter has taken a turn.
Shivering slightly, the young redheaded woman keeps her arms folded before her, hugging her dark green overcoat to herself as she walks into the wind, slowly making her way home for the evening. Thank goodness for hat pins, otherwise, she would have lost her quaint little hat a long time since.

Charlie is leaning against a lamp post at the side of the street, looking awfully Mugglish in his dark wool coat, scarf, and fedora. There is not a robe, cloak, or pointy hat to be seen on his person. Even after so many years being a part of the wizarding world, he still finds the way wizards dress to be…well…silly. The downside, of course, is that he stands out like a sore thumb in a place like the Mysticked District. But today that's a good thing, as his intent is to be noticed by a particular redheaded Auror. As Rena approaches, he tugs his scarf down to reveal his trademark cocky smirk, and tips his head like a gentleman. "Hello, kitten."

Rena stops with a small jump. Up until now, her eyes have been downcast, for the most part, and focused on the ground before her as she walks. After all, the old paving stones are smooth and rounded with age, and a layer of snow and ice makes them somewhat treacherous.
"Charlie, what on earth…" she begins to say. An abrupt gust of wind blows past, smarting her eyes with a few stray snowflakes. She quickly blinks them back and recovers enough to look up once more. Closing the distance between them with a smile, Rena finishes her sentence: "You'll catch your death of cold 'anging about under lampposts on a night like this." As if the Wizarding world hasn't got a cure for almost every ill.

Charlie chuckles, taking a few slow, ambling steps up to greet her. "I'm used to it. New York gets pretty damn cold in winter." He moves into position to shield her from the worst of the wind with his own body. "So," he jumps right into the thick of it. "You and Birdie, huh? Guess that explains a lot."

The smile begins to fade from Rena's features. For what seems a long time, she looks up at Charlie before turning her gaze from him, and trying quite hard to mask her expression from his view. It's a bit of a struggle to find her voice, let alone any words to explain. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't 'ave been avoiding you. It's just that…" How can she even express the reason why she's tried to stay away? "You …you make it very 'ard for a girl to keep 'er head on 'er shoulders, you know." Here, she laughs weakly, trying to make light of it - and undoubtedly failing to do so.

Charlie chuckles mirthlessly, then gives a little sigh. "Here I was thinkin' I was the guy helping you keep your head on straight. Things got too crazy, you'd come to me. I thought I was the medicine, not the disease." He lifts his brow curiously, offering a soft smile. "So which is it, doll? Was I just a convenient distraction? I can handle it if that's the case. But I'd like to know."

The things going through Rena's muddled up mind are an unspeakable mess. Remembering time spent with Charlie is enough to make her unsteady on her feet for a moment, and it's all she can do to fight past the dizzy sensation. "Charlie, that makes me feel like… some cold-blooded, 'eartless monster when you put it that way. You saved me from going under when I was drowning." She says, finding her voice again. This time, though, it seems very small and weak.
"But, I thought that was the way you meant it to be - the way you felt - the way you wanted it to be." He can scarcely blame her for assuming as much, given their interactions.

"Wait, let me get this straight. You think I wanted to be forgotten as soon as the next handsome mug came along? After being credited as the man that saved your sanity?" Charlie sighs, sending out a puff of misty breath. "Who would want that?" He shakes his head, giving another empty chuckle. "I know I'm no Romeo, kitten. But I thought I deserved at least a little more than a vanishing act."

Now, Rena feels absolutely stricken. She can't stand the thought of people being unhappy. It's far worse when she is the source of the unhappiness and pain. That, in and of itself is utterly unbearable.
"Oh, Charlie," she says, stepping closer and laying her hand on his arm quite gently. "Charlie, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to 'urt you. Please believe me…" Her voice sounds more than a little strained and choked-up as she pleads. The tears glinting in her eyes aren't caused by the sharpness of the wind. The little woman is genuinely remorseful for the pain she has so clearly caused him.

Charlie reaches up to take her hand in his. "Hey, no tears, doll. I'm a big boy. I just wanna know the score, and…to look after you. A guy worries, y'know?" He gives her hand a squeeze, furrowing his brow. "So tell me more about this Birdie mug. What's the deal there?"

"Look after me?" Rena asks, after a small sniffle. Now she feels terrible. How could she have assumed he didn't really care about her at all? What kind of a callous monster has she become over the last few months? She could just kick herself, right about now.
"I-it isn't easy to explain…" Rena falters, stammering a little, as she tends to do at times. "He's been t-terribly kind to me. Always seems to know just what to say and do when I'm upset or in trouble. He wants the same things that I do." Here, a deep redness tinges her cheeks, and she drops her gaze away from Charlie's again. "Not that it matters, I suppose. Not with the mess I've made of everything in my life."

"He called you 'Miss Lee'," Charlie says flatly. He doesn't elaborate, believing the statement carries its own meaning quite clearly.

"He's a Muggle, Charlie." Rena explains, stating the obvious - but possibly sounding much quicker in her response than normal. "I couldn't introduce myself with a Japanese name like Odori over on their side… besides the Ministry doesn't allow someone like 'im to exist over there. It's just… better that I go by Lee."
The sharpness fades from her voice, and Rena's shoulders slump: "It wasn't 'is fault that 'e didn't know I was married at first. It was all mine." Again, she could just kick herself right now.

"That's my point, kitten. You don't want him to know you're married. I get it. It makes it easier. But it ain't exactly a fairy tale." Charlie sighs. "Look, I've always given to to you straight, haven't I? No reason to stop now. What you're doin' with this Faulkner guy? It's your husband all over again. Least that how it looks to me. You're rushin' into something, and makin' up a fantasy about how wonderful it is. But the day's gonna come that you'll realize it isn't what you made it out to be, and you're gonna be heartbroken again."

The colour in Rena's cheeks seems to slowly drain away, fading to a startling white. She listens in complete silence and stillness, scarcely seeming to breathe for a long while. She doesn't want to hear this. She doesn't want to believe it or see things Charlie's way. But, now that he's said it, she can't un-hear it or make it go away.
Tears well in her eyes, the kind that are burning hot with emotion, and smart terribly as they come on. "I… I won't believe it!" She says at length, fighting through a stifled sob. "'E knows everything and 'e loves me anyway." Turning away quickly, another sob stops her from running away.

Usually, when a dame starts getting upset, Charlie looks for an exit to cut and run. This just isn't part of his game. But damn it all if this broad doesn't have a way of making him want to save her from herself. "God dammit, Rena. Would you listen to yourself? You won't believe it? Ask yourself honestly, would you have believed your husband is the man he is before you married him? You're a sweet dame, but the rest of the world ain't so sweet. Don't think for one second that I like bein' the one to teach you that."

"I'm telling you he knows everything," Rena says again, turning back toward Charlie, tear-streaks and all. "There's nothing that man doesn't know about me." She explains, urgently. Clearly working just as hard to make the point to herself as well as to him; trying to make him understand that she's made herself an open book to Faulkner. "And 'e loves me in spite of it. 'E loves me because of it. Nothing 'as changed 'is mind, and there's nothing 'e doesn't accept about me…"
Coming close again, the small woman looks desperately up at Charlie through the glistening tears. She's really painted herself into a corner, this time, and that's a fact. "Charlie…" Words fail her, now. And she buries her face into her gloved hands.

"He knows everything, huh? He sure didn't seem to know about me." Charlie spreads his hands indicatively. "Look, I'm sure he's told you he loves you and you think you love him and everything seems great. But how much do you really know about him? Let me guess. He's honorable, brave, honest, kind, writes his dear old mother every day, and he's a perfect gentleman in every way. I got that about right?"

A bit red-faced, Rena raises her face from her hands. It's unladylike, but circumstances being what they are right now, she brushes the sniffle away from the tip of her nose with her glove. "He's a war hero. 'Is brother was an even bigger one - decorated and all - in the last war. His father and mother are good people, too, from what I 'ear. And 'e lives in a nice 'ouse in the small town where 'e teaches… or taught, before this war." She tries to explain all of this without sounding indignant, because she isn't really. "So yes, everything you said was right." She adds, just a bit more firmly with a sniff.

Charlie chuckles, nodding slowly. "Of course. He's perfect. He's everything a girl could hope for. Open your eyes, kitten. Nobody is like that. He's feeding you what you wanna hear. You know the most valuable lesson I ever learned growing up? Never trust anyone who doesn't have a dark side. Odds are, they're darker than most."

Charlie's words appear to have completely blindsided the young woman. Taken aback, her mouth snaps shut as all tears and words completely subside and slip into utter silence. All Rena seems to be able to do is take a step back and stare at Charlie. Her dark eyes are full of fear – disbelieving fear, and deep confusion. She doesn't know what to say. Where are the words? She doesn't know Faulkner's dark side. He must have one, though… mustn't he? The mere fact that she can't answer undoubtedly seems to speak volumes.

Charlie sighs, lowering his head and muttering, "Fuck." He looks back up at Rena, a deep crease formed in his brow. "I'm sorry. I wish I could see the world any other way." He gives a resigned shrug. "You probably hate me right now. Can't say I blame you."

It takes a moment, but Rena recovers her voice, and she speaks up softly: "I don't hate you. 'Ow could I?" She asks, still trying very hard to get her feet back on solid ground. "I just never thought about it…" She hesitates, closing her arms around herself as a sharp shiver passes through her small frame. Standing out here in the cold wind and the snow has begun to affect her badly.
"I'm s-sure you must think I'm the prize f-fool, though." Rena adds, lacking any hint of mirth in her tone. Chattering teeth don't help matters much. "And, I s-suppose I am." It's not like she ever had anyone to teach her things when she was growing up… not this sort of thing.

Charlie frowns and clucks his tongue. "Pure bunk." He steps nearer to Rena, opening his arms invitingly. "Who doesn't wanna meet their dream guy or girl? You've had a rough time of it. So you tried to make something better for yourself. But I think deep down you knew. Think maybe, just maybe, that's the real reason you stayed away from me? You knew I'd tell it like I saw it?"

Poor Rena. The thing she needs most right now is reassurance. She feels so completely and utterly lost at sea. It's the feeling one can only find in being left in a boat without oars in the middle of nowhere. And what's more, she can't swim.
Hesitating at first, the little redhead seems torn over whether she should come any closer. But, she wants so badly to just know the comfort of being held in another's arms. Still shivering, Rena does finally close the gap and bury her face against Charlie's coat with a sniff. The only answer she gives is a tiny nod of her head. Poor, crazy, mixed up kid.

Charlie lets his arms fall gently around her, one gloved hand petting her hair. "It's okay, doll. Everything's gonna be okay. Charlie's here." He rocks her slowly, like a parent soothing a child. "Now…when you say you told him everything…are you just talkin' about your marriage situation? Or…do you mean everything?"

The shivering slowly begins to subside, now that Charlie is holding her closely. At first, his question causes her whole body to tense up, and she draws a short little breath in. Then, her shoulders sag slightly, and she turns her face, rubbing her cheek against him. "I… I mean everything," She says in a tiny voice. "'E's a military man. 'E knows when to keep a secret a secret, come 'ell or high water."

Charlie exhales heavily. "Hooo, boy. There's somethin' you ain't considered, cupcake. He's a military man, which means his first loyalty is to king and country. If he ever gets a notion wizards are a threat to Muggles, it could be trouble. Especially if Mr. Grindelwald or Mr. Malfoy have their way, and Birdie can report it without soundin' crazy."

"But…b-but he wouldn't," Rena protests, tilting her head back and looking up at Charlie, now. The urgent look in her eyes shows that her belief is dead in earnest. She really does have faith in him and his word as an officer and a gentleman. "I told 'im that if anyone found out, the ministry would just send agents to wipe 'is memory. He wouldn't even miss me. I'd just cease to exist and 'e wouldn't know. Birdie understood, and that's the last thing in the world 'e wants. 'E would never ever do anything like that. I swear 'e wouldn't…" She really needs to learn to control the sound of desperation and worry in her tight voice.

"You think he'd choose you over the safety of his country?" Charlie winces apologetically. "I ain't saying you ain't worth it. But the man came out of retirement to rejoin the fight. Everything about him told me he's a patriot. You think if Grindelwald starts attacking Muggles, that he ain't gonna tell his superiors everything he knows?"

Rena didn't think of that… clearly, she didn't think at all when she told him. She only thought about her own selfish needs, and now, she may have possibly jeopardized the statute of secrecy beyond anyone's wildest imaginings.
Utterly horrified at the thought, she just stares up at Charlie, her lips parted slightly. For a long time, she doesn't draw a single breath. Not until a despondent: "Oh…no," slips out. What has she done? What can she do? Surely this is all wrong. She knows Birdie, she KNOWS he can be trusted. He would never betray her… except for his country.

Charlie takes Rena by the shoulders, looking into her eyes. "Hey, don't worry." He smiles encouragingly. "We can fix this. I'll ask around and see about getting someone to erase his memories. He'll be none the wiser, and you won't get into any trouble. Okay?"

If Rena was horrified before, the fear only grows in her eyes: "No!" She exclaims, thinly. "No, no, you can't do that! Don't you dare!" She can scarcely even hear her own voice in her head for the pounding in her ears. The ground feels unsteady, as if it were rocking beneath her feet, and the world is spinning. Suddenly raising her hands to either side of her head, she closes her eyes to shut out the spinning sensation: "You can't…you…"
Rather abruptly, the young woman's knees seem to give out beneath her, and her body slumps as she starts to sink to the ground.

"Hey, heyHEY!" Charlie reacts quickly to try to catch her before she crumpled completely. "Get a hold of yourself, Red! You're an Auror, for Chrissake," he grumbles, trying to hold her up in his arms. "You want to be betrayed? You want both of you to be at risk? Jesus, Red, you're sittin' on a time bomb. Pluggin' your ears doesn't make the ticking go away."

Being an Auror doesn't seem to have helped in this instance. Not in the least little bit.
Charlie's harsh words and strong arms manage to keep her from falling to the pavement, but only just. She feels sick - sick at the heart, more than anything else right now. Although she does feel quite sick in the head, as well. It's a terrible struggle just to force herself to open her eyes again: "I won't lose 'im," she says weakly. "I'd rather stop living if I 'ave to lose another person I love." Nobody really seems to know or understand the grief and strain she has been through during the last year. Now, everything just appears to be coming apart at the seams, and she can't stop the world from unraveling any longer.

Charlie again levels his gaze with hers. "Three months, Red. Three months ain't love. Especially not with Mister Perfect. This is exactly what I was talkin' about. You're doing it all over again. He ain't the Prince Charming you want him to be, and this ain't the fairy tale romance you're praying for. Just look at what he's done to you. You abandoned me. You broke the biggest damn law you can break. All for what? Some palooka you barely know who says he loves you."

For what seems a very long time, Rena stares into Charlie's eyes, petrified. She's scared of what lies ahead, and terrified of what lies behind. She's more than painted herself into a corner. She's standing on the last goddamn rock ledge over a pit of lava.
"I'll take the consequences of my actions if something 'appens." She says at length, and in a very small voice. "You swear to me you won't tell anyone of this." She then says in a much firmer tone. The dark look quickly melts away, and she pleads pathetically: "I'll do anything - just swear to me you won't tell. Swear to me you won't do anything that will 'ave 'im Obliviated."

"Who the hell am I gonna tell?" Charlie gestures wide in a shrug. "I'm not saying any of this to protect the Statute of Secrecy. It's you I'm worried about. I'm seein' what this guy's done to you, and I'll be honest, it pisses me off." Charlie sighs heavily, shaking his head at her. "I thought I was doing you some good. When we were together…I dunno, it seemed like you started to think you were worth somethin' again. Now flyboy comes along, and you're willing to screw up your entire life for his sake."

The panic subsides a little, and Rena's mind clears - if only slightly. "I… don't understand," she says shakily. Her legs are still weak from the strain, and her whole body is trembling. "A-are you jealous?" She asks uncertainly, feeling like she has nothing to lose at this point, knowing what a mess she's made of everything up to now.

"Jealous?" Charlie sighs, slowly lifting a hand to touch her cheek. "No. It ain't jealousy. Do I feel a little jilted? Well, sure. But it ain't that, either. You're my friend. I like you, kid. I liked that I seemed to be helping you get to a better place. I haven't done a lotta good in the world. But that felt good. So, yeah, watching this Birdie tear down everything I helped you build, that makes me wanna sock him right in the kisser."

"Charlie…" Rena says in a far gentler tone than she has used in a while. Looking up into his eyes, she lifts her own hands to softly rest on either side of his face. "I don't care what anyone else might think of you - even what you might think of yourself. I think you're wonderful." Weak though it may be, she manages a little smile in the lamp light. "And, I'm so sorry for making such a mess of everything. It's what I do best, seemingly."

Charlie clasps one hand over hers, and turns his face to kiss her palm. "Darlin', it's what we all do best. It's why we've gotta have friends, to keep us from screwing it up too badly." He stares down into Rena's eyes for a long, quiet moment. Perhaps a little too long, as impulse takes the stage and he begins to lean in toward her.

The poor woman has gone through such an emotional roller-coaster over the last few minutes, that her heart is still going a mile a minute, and her mind is spinning in place. How can anyone so genuinely sweet be so utterly mixed up and confused about everything she does? Weakened and worn as she is, her resistance and better judgment have long-since collapsed. Up on her toes, Rena closes the distance between them and places a warm, soft kiss on Charlie's lips. Is it overwhelming gratitude? Who knows. She doesn't even know where she is anymore, right now.

Charlie's arms curl around Rena, drawing her again into his embrace and lingering in the warmth of that kiss as snowflakes tumble down around them. When at last their lips part, he remains close, an inch away from another indiscretion. "Don't hide from me, kitten. Promise me."

"I… I promise, Charlie." Rena replies softly, and a little breathless. Only then do her eyes flutter open once more, and she looks over the man in a quiet, thoughtful way. Smiling a little, she observes once again: "You're going to catch your death of cold, standing under lampposts on a night like this." Just look at all the snow that has soaked into his coat, and now bigger flakes rest on the damp material.

Charlie casts aside all of the tension of the evening, putting on his devilish smile. "When I've got thoughts of the prettiest girl in London to keep me warm? Not a chance." He turns and offers his arm to her. "Come on. I'll walk you wherever you're headed."

Grateful for the kindness and gentleness in Charlie's attitude, now, Rena slips her arm through his and leans her head against him as she walks. She has to go home. It used to be such a happy thing for her… now it's a burden. She's been no angel; but, it also hasn't been entirely her fault.
"I know I'm not the prettiest girl in London," she says quietly. "But, you make me feel like I am when you say it. Thank you, Charlie." She murmurs as he walks her toward home.

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