"Oh, Helen," Nikola said as he slipped into Helen's office, closing the door quietly behind himself. "I need to talk to you," and he locked the door.
Helen was buried at her desk under a small mountain of financial papers and shook her head as Nikola strutted across her room.
"Whatever it is, Nikola, I—"
"Oh, you're going to want to hear this," he interrupted. "It's about Ashley."
"Ashley?" she sighed and looked up.
"Yes. And Olivia."
Well, it wasn't quite what she was expecting when Nikola slithered into her office and locked the door behind him, but Helen knew by the tone in his voice and his swaying back and forth on his heels, with his hands clasped behind his back, whatever Nikola had to say next that it wasn't going to be good.
"They're lovely, your daughter and my great granddaughter."
With the frustration of her work and the frustration that is him, Nikola's smile was grating on her already though she tried to remain civil.
"Yes, they are," she agreed.
"Very lovely," he put more emphasis on that last word and Helen cocked her head.
"You're hinting something?"
"Oh, yes," Nikola said as he continued to sway on his heels.
"I'm not sure I'm going to like it, it involving my daughter and your great granddaughter."
"Oh, it's nothing bad. It's just, have you ever noticed how much time they spend together?"
Helen squinted her eyes.
"How well they get along and work together," he twirled around and walked back across the room. "How neither of them is dating anyone
Nikola threw himself down in a chair, crossed his legs and folded his hands over his lap. His eyes were glowing of a positively impish nature, and it was precisely that smarmy demeanor that made him the most annoying of The Five. (However, it was also that exact same look that made him near-impossible to resist.)
Dropping her head and shaking it once more, Helen took in a deep breath and exhaled. She couldn't believe she was about to humour him.
"Are you suggesting that my daughter and your great granddaughter are—"
"Oh, yes," he interrupted again, "a couple."
It's amazing how speaking with Nikola on occasion, he had the incredible ability to make you feel like your brain was melting: and not because he's a genius.
Preparing herself for a world of mental anguish and descent, Helen took another deep breath and exhaled, and folded her own hands over her desk and stared down her visitor.
"Not that there would be anything wrong if Ashley and Olivia were involved, but evidence? Is there any?"
"Already delivered," Nikola smiled.
"That is hardly evidence, Nikola," Helen glared.
"Think about it, Helen, think about it! Put effort into it! You were involved with James, you know how this works!"
Helen scowled and Nikola continued:
"Olivia and Ashley spend a lot of time together, at times even questionably staying in each other's room during the evenings; there are nights where either of them cannot be found in their own room, or even at all—where are they? They're always 'practicing' sparring—"
"Olivia is not the most adept to field work. Ashley is teaching her how to fight and they are practicing sparring. Henry—" "Shh, shh, let me finish, please!
"They're both the same age, have many similar interests; make up for the other's faults," Nikola was ticking off the circumstantial evidence on his fingers, "can practically finish each other's sentences; stand very close to each other; work very closely to the other
Ashley claims to like men but I haven't seen her with any since Olivia's arrival, and Olivia also claims to like men but believes herself to be mostly a-sexual—"
"Nikola, you were a-sexual."
"Yes, but I learned my lesson," he clapped his hands to his chest. "Olivia and Ashley spend a lot of time together. Just think about it, Helen, watch it. Watch them! In a few days you'll be right back here, under the same conclusion as me."
Nikola's words were like a worm in Helen's ears for the rest of the day, but she refused to acknowledge them. There would be nothing wrong with it if they were, but she shouldn't suspect Ashley of anything. It would be unfair. She was—is—a good, accepting mother. But if Ashley is, if she and Olivia are, why hasn't she come to her?
For the next three days Helen caught herself catching glimpses of Ashley and Olivia. It hadn't ever occurred to her, but they really do spend a lot of time together. Eating, talking, reading, listening to music, going out together; disappearing into the other's room, skirting away and hushing up their conversations when prying ears and eyes came around; giggling, hanging off of each other; and their sparring. Helen had never before actually watched it herself, as Henry and Kate sometimes joined in and along with Ashley gave reports on Olivia's progress, but the two did fight unusually close when Helen found the time to observe them.
Every time Helen caught herself thinking any of these thoughts, she'd stomp on the floor, turn out of the room, clench her teeth and curse Nikola for putting such obsessive, irrational thoughts into her mind.
With the sun setting outside on the fourth day, Nikola slithered his way back into Helen's office and the two began to talk.
Olivia was in the main reception room, alone and cozily curled up on the couch by the fire, catching up on the fiction inspired by her boss, great grandfather, and their cohorts, as well as the fiction inspired by the inspired-by-fiction when, thinking of the devil, Nikola slipped his way into the room and closed the door behind him, locking it.
Not moving her face, but her eyes, Olivia looked up at Nikola with a sense of revulsion. No good could ever come of him creeping into an empty room with you. He was always filled with, something bad. Something bad for you.
"My dear, Livie," he smiled and sat down in the chair in front of her and folded his hands in his lap. The urge to vomit or at least chuck books at him was rising.
"What do you want?" Olivia demanded.
"Oh, just to talk," and Nikola continued with that vampiric smile of his. "Helen's talking with Ashley right now, and I thought I would talk with you."
"About?" she asked with great hesitation.
"You know, when two people love each other," and he got up and moved around the coffee table, and fell down next to Olivia, "they like to be with each other."
Horror ran through Olivia's veins and her blood turned cold. Her jaw dropped at the thought of where this was going and the sound of his voice; the smile on his face was made a thousand times worse with the illumination of the fire and
was he was going to give her the talk?
"Look here, Nikola, ahum, I don't need thi–this chat," she stuttered, "M–my parents didn't even give me this chat. I–I'm smart
I'm, smart. I figured it out all on my own and I can learn things just fine from observing others and I don't need it, and it's a little late for it anyway."
Nikola laughed a bit. "Oh, Livie, I don't think you understand." With those sparkling, darkened eyes and that fire-illuminated smile, Olivia couldn't help but feel more panicked as Nikola scooted in closer and made to put his hand on her lap.
"Oh, my—oh my, gah—!" she screamed and threw herself off the couch, clutching her book to her chest, "I am—I am not having this conversation with you! Wh–wherever it's going!" And she made for the door.
Nikola pouted a bit. "I guess she's not ready to admit it."
Ashley was storming down the hall towards her room in a completely perplexed daze, talking aloud to herself about how her mother is now somehow crazy (and a more than a little late on the birds and bees speech—she should know this!), when she almost ran into Olivia at a corner, who was herself, presumably, running to her own room. "Sorry, sorry," the both mumbled.
"What's wrong with you?" Ashley asked, taking in the look of pure terror on Olivia's face.
"Nikola! He just tried to give me the talk, or something," she shuddered and held her book closer to her as she looked back down the hall.
"Weird," Ashley said, looking down the hall with Olivia, "My mom did, too."
Olivia looked back at Ashley, "He did say she was talking to you."
"Huh." said Ashley, straightening up.
"Yeah," Olivia agreed
"'Unless,' what?" Ashley demanded, tilting her head.
"You don't think they're involved, do you?"
"My mom and him?" Ashley sputtered. "No, no way. Absolutely not. No way."
"But think about it! He likes her, a lot, and you know she likes it, too. And, oh, don't give me that look! You know she likes it. You know she thinks he's fun and mischievous, and always a guessing game. What if they were?"
"No. No! Absolutely not!" Ashley insisted.
"But think about it, Ashley, just think about it. It makes sense. The talk. Maybe they're, coming out?"
"No. No way," Ashley persisted, "No, not him, no! My mom would never, no."
"You might have to call him dad."
"Oh, gah, no! No, stop it!"
"And I like you, but I really don't want to have to call you my great aunt. That's just too weird. Imagine explaining it to strangers!"
"Stop it, Livie, stop it," pleaded Ashley. "You and your weird imagination, stop it." Exasperated and panting at the terrible thought of her mother and Nikola, Ashley shook her head in hopes of ridding her brain of those horrible thoughts.
"Just think about," Olivia practically sang.
"No, I'm not thinking about it. I'm going to my room. Good night," and Ashley rushed down and out of the hall quickly.
Olivia stood looking down the hall for a little longer, even after Ashley was out of view, and pursed her lips. "She'll think about it. They always do."