Interlude: Loose Ends and Leftovers

Taro had his arm around Kailani's waist, and she was resting her head on his shoulder, the beaded curls of her hair trailing across his back. They looked companionable, cuddly, cozy. Like a couple.

Conrad's right hand was twitching, so he shoved it in his pocket, mirroring the gesture with his other hand for symmetry, and turned his back on the happy couple. The halls over here were empty. Acacia had headed back to her crew once he showed up, and, of all the places on and around the school to take a date on a dance night, the classroom hallways weren't really high on anyone's list.

Except morons who find themselves there after calming down their friend's date. He didn't want to think about Kailani that way but, if he was going to be honest with himself – and someone ought to be – that's what she was. Taro had managed that in his bone-crushingly direct manner, and Kai had gotten swept up in it. Conrad had to give his friend credit for that much. He was brighter, quicker, more charming, but Taro was direct.

He touched the pulped side of his face gingerly. Yeah. Direct. He could have dodged it. He didn't really know why he hadn't. He wasn't particularly a masochist - past incidents with Oralee and Ivette aside - but he'd stood there and let Mr. Punches-Through-Brick-Walls hit him. Maybe he was a moron.

He headed down the empty halls, choosing a route that wouldn't intersect with Taro and Kailani's path. Taro would protect her, but it still burned him a little to leave it to someone else. And, in the end, Taro would fuck up. He was too slow and too heavy-handed to deal with someone as brilliant as she was. And, if his luck held and he managed not to screw up too badly himself, eventually, he'd find her in his arms.

It was just that "eventually" seemed so damned far away.


Ayla and Vee had been talking to Agatha and Dysmas, with the occasional presence of Anatoliy, for most of the night. Ayla found their company easy-going and rather comforting, with none of the heavy-handed flirtation she'd feared. She wondered if it was the boy's clothes she was wearing, which were wonderfully freeing, or the fact that here at Addergoole, she wasn't anything special. Either way, it was nice to just be able to sit back and talk. And, as the night passed, she found herself relaxing; Dysmas and Anatoliy were cheerful and fun, and, while Agatha seemed a little prickly, it was probably just Ayla's nerves overreacting.

The night was nearly over, spent chatting, watching the couples form and split and reform and, in Shahin and That Guy's case, form and stick like Velcro, and joking lightly with the others, when a girl sauntered over to their table. Her hooded eyes glowed lightly violet under dusky make-up, her razor-cut bob was the color of new rust, and her orange-and-white cheongsam clung to an hourglass body. Ayla licked her lips, and then took a quick gulp of her soda to cover the reaction.

"Hey," she said, and it was only then that Ayla realized the girl was looking straight at her. "Wanna dance?"

"Wan.. oh!" Ayla grinned. "Sure." She jumped down from her stool, momentarily wondering if she'd be able to fake being the boy on the dance floor.

"I'm Ioanna," the girl said, placing her hand into Ayla's proffered palm. "What's your name?"

"Oh... Aelf."

Aelf? Well, it was almost not a lie. Ioanna giggled, but let it lie, and Ayla was silently relieved. Around here, no-one would call you on a strange name unless it was John or Mary, she supposed.

It turned out that yes, indeed, being the boy while dancing wasn't really that hard, and, Ioanna was a pleasant and warm companion who chatted a little about nothing and, after two dances, looked around the thinning dance floor and smiled warmly at Ayla. "It's thinning out," she pointed out. "Wanna go back to my place?"

"Oh! Ah..." She blushed, contemplating the smooth, delicious lines of Ioanna's neck. "I..."

"It's okay," the redhead smiled. "I know you're a girl. I could tell during that last dance. Wanna come back to my room? If you want, we can just sit around and talk."

She wasn't dressed to talk, but... why not? "I'd love to."


Anatoliy left Agatha and Dysmas at Aggie's room, and, hands in his pockets, walked idly through the halls. It was late – the three of them had closed the bar, as they had been doing for three years now – and there weren't many people to be seen anywhere. He passed a couple in an alcove, the girl's dress pulled up to reveal black silk panties, the guy's hands groping her hungrily, and a threesome down on the floor behind the stairs, but most people had headed back to their rooms by now, either solitary - like me - or in pairs, like he ought to be.

Aggie had offered. She usually did, out of some misplaced sense of charity. He always turned her down. She was poison, thoroughly toxic, and he wasn't that desperate yet. And she and Dysmas had their thing, whatever it was.

It had been a close call, this time, though, the first time she'd offered that it had even crossed his mind to say yes. How long had it been? Years. It felt like decades. And Melchior, with that pretty redhead –

- not that he'd had a chance, but it might have been fun to try –

- and there was Shiva, but he hadn't even bothered to try, with her. She liked her line long, but it didn't mean being in that line gave him any sort of a chance, and she was pretty distracted with Nikki this year.

It was enough to drive him to drink, which, of course he'd been doing all night. If he didn't manage to find a girl crazy enough to date him – and soon – even the black widow spiders were going to start to look good, to say nothing of the girl his best friend was dating.

He kicked the wall. No. Not her.

Then, pray tell, who?

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