Craven Lorne paced in the field. He had been walking for hours, it seemed, trying to clear his head and sort out the plethora of thoughts that pushed their way back in. He had, he had thought, resigned himself to the idea that Voss favoured Minty over him. He had even gone so far as to do everything in his power to help Voss win her and to assure his friend that she would, eventually, see sense.
But he couldn't do it anymore. The simple truth was that Craven Lorne was in love with Voss and it was no longer in his power to deny his feelings or do anything else that would jeopardize them.
And anyway, Craven reasoned, Voss deserved better than some stuck-up rabbit girl who barely gave either one of them the time of day.
Craven was, he had decided, going to tell Voss all of this, just as soon as he could find him. He felt dizzy, sick to his stomach, feverish, even, at the idea. But there was another emotion too, a feeling of calm and complacency, which came with the knowledge that he was about to lay himself bare. And a small part of him, a very small part of him, could almost smile and believe that Voss would return his feelings.
Voss, either fortunately or unfortunately, could not be found. Craven Lorne checked all of his usual haunts, the factories, the starlight club, Sunday afternoon, all to no avail. Every time Craven searched somewhere in vain, he was pure ambivalence: crushing disappointment and soaring relief. Eventually, he found himself in the field, staring at the large shade tree they had so often shared a bottle of wine under – and almost allowing himself to enjoy the breeze.
Craven stayed in the field for a long time, caught between thinking of how he would tell Voss about his feelings and wondering if he should. He looked around a the pale blue sky and green grass and the soft, dusty, tan path that ran over the field and asked himself, more than once, what he was hoping to achieve. After what seemed like an eternity and may have been a moment, Craven Lorne decided to return home. There was nothing, he realized, for him here.
Craven walked to the edge of the field, toward the forest. He told himself that it was a nice day for a stroll, that the fresh air would do him good. He told himself anything he could think of to bolster his spirits.
It was morning, warm and sunshiny. Soft yellow light filtered through the trees and glinted off the wallow gnats that were flying in lazy circles near to the ground. And there was something else, the feeling that nearby, somewhere, was a stream or a spring. Craven couldn't hear it, but he could feel it. If it had been any other day, if Craven had been there for any other reason, he might have actually enjoyed himself, or been impressed by the pleasantness of the day. As it was, the only reason he was able to force himself to keep walking, was that if he stood still, he would start to think too much.
Craven Lorne hadn't been walking in the forest very long when he found Voss. And Voss, as Craven suddenly realized he had been expecting all along, was not alone.
Craven's body had turned away before his brain could fully comprehend what he had seen. In the moment that he turned, he could see everything, imagine every sickening detail. Voss was on top of her, wearing nothing but his mask and she—She was still in her dress, lying on her front, motionless, making the most of each of Voss's thrusts and silent through his grunts and moans.
Craven was sure she had looked right at him, taunting him with her big, blue
Craven was disgusted, horrified, mortified. He couldn't believe that he had even let himself hope that Voss might return his feelings and he was astounded by the fact that Minty had been playing games with Voss this whole time, toying with his delicate heart then using his tenderness to her advantage. And though Craven didn't realize it himself, he was infuriated with Voss for falling into Minty's trap – and for not seeing what had been right in front of him all along.
Craven Lorne decided to confront them both, to make them share the pain that they had caused him. He fought with himself to muster the courage, took a deep breath and tried to turn.
There was a light, bright white, that lit up the trees in front of Craven and nearly made him blind. It was just a flash and he was barely able to register it before he was knocked down from behind by a strong surge of air.
Craven Lorne pried his face out of the impression it had left in the earth and almost began to brush the evergreen needles from his face and clothes before he remembered everything that had happened to bring him to where he was. He scrambled to his feet, turned and hurried to where Voss lay.
Voss was lying on his back, completely still, in a circle of flattened grass, bathed in moonlight, exposed and bleeding dust. Minty, that horrible fiend of a rabbit, had run away and left him there. Craven wanted to weep when he saw the state that Voss was in. When he examined him more closely, Craven found that Voss had been severely burned in several places on his body, most especially over his once-perfect lips, which were now melted and malformed.
He was barely conscious and murmuring slightly, but not saying anything coherent.
There was no doubt in Craven Lorne's mind that the explosion was caused by Minty. She had too much Dust, more than was natural, and she clearly had no idea how to control it. She and Voss should never have gotten so near each other; that much Dust in one place could only lead to bad things. And she, the coward, had left Craven to deal with the consequences of her own inadequacies.
Craven helped Voss to his feet, and when Voss's clothes couldn't be found, offered him his own. Slowly, with Craven Lorne standing in for a crutch, they made it somewhere they could talk. But they didn't talk, not properly, not ever again.