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Bridge Over Troubled Water

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The morning sun is warm on Beverley’s face, but the heat of the summer has yet to come despite the clear blue sky, so it’s still early enough to sit outside for an hour or two without having to seek a shade somewhere. There aren’t too many people up yet — just the occasional jogger and early walkers that seek the quiet of Richmond Park.

She’s sitting at the edge of one of the small bridges, her feet dangling in the air as her river flows below. Even without touching the water she can feel the current, the soothing coolness of it, the occasional fish passing under the bridge. It’s calming, a moment of quiet after all the stress of dealing with her mother and Tyburn, who had been less than pleased with the stir she had caused in Rushpool (though she suspected that her mother had been secretly pleased by her standing her ground).

A faint tremor runs through the wood of the bridge signalling approaching footsteps, though the sounds of them are drowned in the quiet purling of the river. They come to a stop next to her and she looks up to find the Nightingale standing beside her, wearing just a light blue shirt — the standard suit jacket forgone as his only acknowledgement to the summer warmth — and a polite smile on his face.

“Is this seat taken?” he asks.

She takes a moment to consider the question. It’s hard to judge the Nightingale’s objective just by his polite expression and question. She hasn’t seen him ever since she left with Peter and Not-Nicole for London while he stayed behind to smooth over things with the local police department, so she has really no clue as to what brings him here. But contrary to the norm he is here without Peter and without his staff and, what is even more extraordinary to her, he came to a river goddess at her own river — where she was her most powerful. And for someone who has been involved in river politics for such a long time there is no way that this is a coincidence.

He is regarding her quietly, waiting patiently for her answer. She’s sure that if she were to deny his request he would just nod graciously and walk away without ever bothering her about it. But, despite her usual reasonable reservation towards people who aren’t family, she can’t find a reason why she should do so. Peter trusts him, and she finds herself thinking that maybe she can imitate a fraction of that trust.

And damn her if she isn’t curious as to why he’s here.

“Go ahead,” she says, demonstratively scooting over a bit.

The Nightingale sits down next to her, apparently unbothered by the dirt stains on his black trousers. He looks over the river for a few moments of quiet and Beverley wonders if wizards can feel a fraction of the energy that hums through it.

“I came to thank you,” the Nightingale finally says, and she’s a bit taken aback by it.

“You already did,” she says without thinking about it. It was true after all. She still remembers it vividly; the rush of magic and time, the heat of the burning coal and Peter at her side and then they had both fallen out of the portal and back into the woods, landing in an ungracious heap of tangled limbs, smearing dirt all over her then changed-back clothes. They were still struggling to get back on their feet when the Nightingale had come running. Peter had been too busy extracting his foot from a blackberry bush, but she had looked up and seen the naked relief on his face before his mask had slid back into place and after checking to make sure that they both uninjured he’d bundled them off in the Jag. It was only later, after she had seen Peter to bed (where he had immediately fallen asleep) and Nightingale had given the clear to the police, that he had turned back to her and quietly said, “Thank you for bringing him back,” his voice raw with gratitude, before he had hurried off to take a closer look at Not-Nicole.

“I wanted to express my thanks more for the whole affair, as such,” the Nightingale says. Beverley looks at him with rightful confusion. “For you helping Peter,” he finally elaborates.

“He needed help solving that case,” Beverley responds. “And I wanted to help him save those kids.”

“I believe you helped him in more ways than just that,” the Nightingale says. “And for this, I owe you.”

For a moment she is stunned, then she catches herself again. “I helped him as a friend,” she says. “Not as a political move to get anyone indebted.”

The Nightingale smiles at that.

“I know. Yet I am not here to express my thanks as The Nightingale — simply as someone to whom Peter’s wellbeing is very dear. And within the limits of my power and responsibilities, if you should ever have the need, I wish to repay the kindness you have shown him.”

“Okay,” Beverley finally says, and the Nightingale nods. There’s a moment of silence, just filled by nature’s sound around them.

“You sent me there with that in mind, didn’t you?” Beverley asks and the Nightingale turns to look at her. “You were betting on that, weren’t you?”

The Nightingale’s lips quirk. “I wouldn’t call it betting, but… I had indeed been hoping that you might help him in ways I could not.”

He looks back over the river. “He’s still not what I’d call well — such wounds don’t heal that easily and with all that might come, it will certainly make things even more difficult — but he’s on the path to getting better.”

With a rustling of fabric, the Nightingale gets up, tries in vain to dust off the dirt on his trousers, then gives up with a sigh and turns to face Beverley.

“Peter is very lucky to have a friend like you,” Nightingale says with a smile.

He turns, but Beverley’s voice stops him from leaving.

“And he’s very lucky to have a friend like you,” she says.

The Nightingale turns around, surprise on his face, before he manages something that’s still not quite a smile.

“I doubt that he’d use that term,” he says and leaves the bridge.

“Maybe you’re wrong about that,” she says, but there’s no one there to hear it besides the river.