Addergoole
Interlude

It was just a dance. He'd been to his share of those, both at Addergoole and before, stood in the shadows or strutted through the crowd. He never failed to achieve the reactions he desired; here at Addergoole, at least, he'd never failed to snag the targets he wanted. And yet still...

It was just a dance, a tawdry, clumsy mating ritual put on for the benefit of the hunted more than the hunters. It was just a framework for everyone to show off their pretty plumage, all the masks dropped and the older cohorts revealed in their inhuman finery, the new students trying desperately to still seem exciting, interesting, pretty, against the alien backdrop; just a game of I'll-show-you-mine. And yet still...

He spent more time in front of the mirror than was his wont, combing his hair twice and then a third time, making sure his jacket and shirt fell open just right to display the slightest hint of the markings that trailed from his shoulders down across his chest and back, the merest suggestion of the fine black-and-sienna scrollwork that the Change had given him. It was just another dance, but still...

He frowned at his reflection, at a face genetics and the Change had determined would be beardless and fine-boned. He ran his fingers through his hair - again - and checked his head-to-toe black for lint or fuzz. Stalling. It was just a stupid dance...

Every piece was in place, and he strode down the lushly-carpeted hallways to the meeting hall as if he owned them. He knew he was gathering his share of looks, and knew without a trace of arrogance that his beauty garnered him most of those looks. But would it be enough? "It should be easy," Regine had said, but there was some quality about this one that made him nervous, the way she held herself so completely within, never showing anything she didn't choose to show. He'd gotten through that shell with Regine; could he do it with Shahin? He stepped into the hall, his eyes searching the growing crowd...

Emrys stepped into the meeting hall, his eyes raking the hall for some sight of Shahin, although he he knew he shouldn't. He should let her come to him – and she would, if the way she'd looked at him across the dining hall yesterday was any indication. But was it? He'd expected her to act like any other pretty little poseur when he grabbed her collar – but, then again, he hadn't really expected to kiss her, either. It had just seemed like the thing to do, with her wiggling against his grip... and now it seemed like the proper thing to do again. Was she even here? He looked around the room again, his eyes catching dark hair and pale skin at the other doorway...

Across the hall, in the other doorway, someone stepped forward. Dark hair, pale skin, black clothing, and a slim body.. for a moment, Ambrus's breath caught in his throat, before he brain caught up with his eyes. Not her.

Not her. Emrys glared across the hall. Ambrus, the Director's pet, dressed to the nines and off leash tonight. Just fucking wonderful.

Just wonderful. Emrys glowered across the meeting hall at him – no surprise, he already knew the kid hated him and everything he stood for, but still, as always, a little off-putting, to feel the heat of his hatred like a blast furnace.

Then, like a cool breeze, practically arctic, a single hand on his shoulder, so chill for a moment he thought it was Regine, but the lace opera gloves weren't an affectation his Mistress had ever indulged in, and the skin showing under the black lace was paler, pearls in moonlight rather than gold in sunlight.

“Pardon me,” she said, her voice a politely contained explosion.

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