Interlude: In the Eye of the Storm

Behind the bar, Callista watched the pretty redhead naiad run from the room, and noted to herself to keep the girl’s drinks lighter in the future. A loss of inhibition wasn’t good, pleasant, or beneficial for everyone – although, come to think of it, screaming at the wolves surrounding her and running away wasn’t altogether the worst idea.

She jangled the O-rings against the metal of the cuffs on all six of her arms, enjoying the dissonant clattering. Yeah. Sometimes running away wasn’t such a bad idea; it was probably a good idea here in Addergoole far more often than it was indulged in.

Then again, here below, one could only run so far. Someone would catch the girl soon enough. Callista hoped, whoever it was, they were kind enough to give her a nicely-appointed cage.

Adrian watched Kailani run from the room with equal parts regret and satisfaction. If he hadn’t baited her self-appointed knights-protector quite so badly, they wouldn’t have provoked her into tears, and he really had been enjoying her company, not just for the pleasure of taking her away from that little schmuck Melchior, but for the way she moved in his arms, like holding a small bird in his hands, like swimming deep down in the ocean.

Well, it hadn’t been him she had run away from, now, had it? If he was lucky, she’d remember only the jealous way Conrad and Taro had been acting, and forget that he had been baiting them. If he was really lucky, the sweet little naïf wouldn’t even have noticed the baiting, would think he’d been jumping to her defense.

He licked his lips, indulging in the thought for a moment. She was more akin to him than either of them, anyway, though it would take her a while to realize that, the pretty little storm girl.

Conrad and Taro were looking at him with death in their expressions, looking for someone to blame. Prudently, he slipped a shadow around himself and vanished into a pocket of darkness.

“Och,” Mabina murmured, as, from their perch at the edge of the dance floor, she and Cassidy heard the emotional thunderclaps coming from their crewmates. “Oh, boys…” She shook her head, and caught Alisha’s eyes. “Behave.” The spoiled little Kept looked as if she were going to complain, but they had her number, and she settled, her sullen look fading into something more pleasant. “Good girl.”

She wasn’t more than a couple months from term, and the twins she was carrying weighed heavily on her; she drew on Cassidy’s strength and took his hand, letting him help her up from the chair; he scooped Kailani’s purse up from where she’d forgotten it and brought it along as they crossed the room.

The crowd parted in front of them, deferring to her pregnant bulk, leaving a clear path between them and the angry, seething mass of their crewmates. She shared a moment of silent consultation with Cassidy, and then began talking.

“Brilliant move,” she said dryly to Conrad. One hand still on the small of her back for support, Cassidy turned to Taro.

“You’ve got funny ideas about courting a girl, don’t you?”

The two of them answered at once, Conrad angrily hangdog, Taro defensive:

“You think I don’t know I fucked up?”

“Like you can say anything when you had it all handed to you!”

“Matters not at all,” Mabina says dismissively, and Cassidy shook his head warningly at Taro:

“Whatever my road was, it doesn’t mean I can’t see you making a mess of things. Now – "

“ – now, here’s your glass slipper,” Mabina finished, slipping the small purse from Cassidy’s hand into Conrad’s, as they challenged the both of them, together –

“- are you going to go after her, or no?”

The two of them stared at them for a heartbeat, then another. They looked at each other for a moment, a dangerously assessing look. Taro, reading something he didn’t like in Conrad’s expression, pulled back and punched his friend, sending him sprawling across the floor. With an almost apologetic look in Cassidy’s expression, he ran for the door, shoving his way through the crowd.

Conrad didn’t waste time worrying about his face, although Mabina winced for him, knowing how much damage Taro was capable of doing. He sprang to his feet, running for the other exit, bouncing between people like a pinball, dodging around and jumping over furniture.

Mabina squeezed her other half’s hand lightly, biting her lip. “Don’t let them fuck this up,” she murmured softly, hoping it wasn’t already too late.

Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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