As the bartender turned to pour their drinks, Leta stared distantly through the hall, deep in thought. “He said Ren was once tortured for his Anti-Society information,” she said quietly, finally looking over to him. “What does that mean? He’s no longer being tortured now then — right — ?”
Fiearius didn’t answer. He didn’t know how to answer. He didn’t have the right words and even if he did, they wouldn’t comfort her. Fleetingly, he wished Cyrus or Corra would come to his rescue here and take care of this poor disheartened girl instead.
Fortunately, the bartender returned with two glasses, and for lack of anything else to do, Fiearius handed one to Leta and took a tellingly long sip of his own.
“But if they’re not hurting him,” Leta went on wonderingly, “Why keep him at all? Does he even know anything they need? Why would — Fiear, we have to get him out of there. We have to.” She spoke calmly, but Fiearius saw her fingertips shaking slightly when she reached to accept her glass. Sipping the whiskey slowly, she looked over to him again as if just remembering he was there.
“Thanks, by the way,” she sighed. “For the help.”
Fiearius fixed his eyes on the rim of his glass. “No problem,” he said absently. Comforting women over their lost loves was not his expertise, but with her other entourage nowhere in sight, someone had to ask, “You gonna be alright?”
Possibly it’d been a long time since anyone had asked her that, because she looked like she had no idea where to begin in answering. Behind them, the orchestra struck up a final tune as Casner stepped onto the main dias, clearly preparing for the spotlight.
“As long as I don’t have to hear that bastard speak anymore, yes,” said Leta finally, looking toward the stage and then away sharply. “Just need some air. And hey. Now the job’s done.” She forced casualness into her voice. “You’re free to join the party.”
And so he was. He stood beside her a moment longer, forcing a small, wry smirk, and then turned back toward the dance floor, but not without a sharp streak of guilt.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Across the hall, in the shadow of a pillar, Cyrus leaned against the wall, wondering why he was even there. He’d been a little panicked when, through his blurred vision (his glasses hadn’t fit over the mask and he had yet to find contacts strong enough to be effective), he saw a mysterious figure swoop in and seize Leta. He’d rushed forward through the crowd to help her when, squinting heavily, he got a better look at the man and halted in place.
Then, he was just plain annoyed. Even with fuzzy vision, he could recognize that stance. Fiearius. Always with the dramatic entrances. Begrudgingly, he’d returned to his place along the wall, crossed his arms over his chest and cursed his stupid brother once again.
If he’d just agreed to come along to begin with, maybe Cyrus could have stayed on the ship and gotten some work done on his new internal splicing power converter instead of just standing here, awkward and out of place and half-blind with this stupid mask on.
Cyrus had always hated dances …
Blanching at the horrible memory of his high school prom, there was suddenly an annoyed voice next to him to draw him out of his nightmare. “These people are ruining my plans.”
Cyrus jumped in surprise and looked over in the direction it had come from. And squinted. Corra put a hand on his shoulder apologetically and put a cold glass in his hand. “Got you a drink. You look bored.”
Cyrus lifted the drink to his lips and took a sip. He didn’t remark either way on her comment. “What plans?”
Corra sighed loudly and leaned up against the wall next to him. “You know,” she told him. “My plans to marry a fabulously rich man and make him buy me an armory and a stable and just do nothing but lounge around in our mansion and shoot guns and ride horses all day. Those plans.”
“Ah, right,” Cyrus muttered, surveying her blurry brown and black shape as best he could.
“But they’re ruining it,” she went on. “They’re so rude. I tried to order that drink for you and a guy told me I shouldn’t because women who drink heavily are vile. And then I asked another guy to dance and he asked if it bothered me that I had to look up at everyone. And then everyone laughed and another lady, do you know what she said?” Cyrus blinked at her innocently and shook his head. “She said ‘so what gym do you use? Oh, you don’t, do you?’” Corra growled and she crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not even gonna tell you what they said about my dress.”
Cyrus glanced down at his drink and took another slow sip, pondering. “I think you look lovely,” he said quietly.
Corra regarded him with what sort of looked like a pathetic, endearing smile. “That’s sweet, but not that encouraging since you can’t even see me,” she pointed out.
Cyrus shrugged, willing away the redness he could feel creeping up his neck to his face. Fortunately, Corra had already moved on. “It’s not like they’re so damn drop dead gorgeous or the pinnacle of high taste,” she remarked sourly. “I mean, look at her shoes.” She pointed blatantly at an indiscernible figure across the room. “Ugh.”
Cyrus tried for just a moment to see, but gave up. “Her shoes?” he repeated, keeping his face perfectly expressionless. “Look at her face.”
Corra frowned thoughtfully and looked up at him, confused. After a moment, his expression broke and he smiled mischievously. Finally, Corra laughed in understanding and patted him on the shoulder in appreciation. “Oh Cy-Cy. You’re funny,” she sighed, and then he could sense her attention returning back to the dance floor.
“They’re terrible, the lot of them,” she decreed. “Leta was right. Rich people are all terrible. Forget the horses and armories I guess, I can’t marry someone so damn awful.”
“That’s alright,” Cyrus replied thoughtfully. “There’ll always be an armory on the Dionysian for you.”
Corra looked up at him hopefully. “And a horse?” she prompted, her eyes wide and voice pleading.
Cyrus laughed. “You’ll have to ask the captain on that one.”
Sighing again, Corra slumped back against the wall and fell into silence as the music changed and the figures on the dance floor rearranged before them. As the new tune started to fill the air, Cyrus realized, with a strange sense of alarm, that he actually knew the steps to this one. It was followed with a sense of obligation. He had a beautiful woman standing beside him, one that had been turned down for a dance by these jerks. It was the perfect opportunity. He’d be a complete cowardly idiot not to take it.
“Oh I think Leta’s done talking to Casner,” Corra noted, peering through the shuffling crowds as Cyrus stewed in indecision. “I wonder how it went.”
It was now or never. If he waited any longer, the song would be over and he’d have missed his chance. He opened his mouth to ask–
“And of course your stupid brother has already got his hands all over some pretty girl in a tiny dress,” she went on, sounding positively bitter now as she nodded indicatively toward the dance floor, not that Cyrus wanted to see anyway. “That didn’t take long, did it?”
Cyrus faltered. Images of Fiearius hitting on stupid rich girls were not what he wanted in his head right now. But then again, it was also motivating. If goddamn Fiearius could do it…
“Hey,” he began, sounding more confident than he was. “Would you maybe wanna da–”
“God, Leta looks so sad.”
Cyrus stopped mid-question and glanced down at her. She wasn’t paying attention. She wasn’t even looking at him, but straight across the room at something he couldn’t see. She probably hadn’t even heard. He felt a flood of relief and then, at the same time, another flood of disappointment.
But it didn’t matter now. The song was probably nearly over anyway and if Leta did indeed look upset he couldn’t rightly suggest they ignore it for something as stupid and insignificant as a dance. They had a bigger responsibility than that, didn’t they?
“We should take her home then,” he suggested half-heartedly.
Corra looked up at him, surprised, as though she’d forgotten he was even there. “Yeah,” she agreed hurriedly, though made no motion to move. It was probably Cyrus’ imagination, no, it must have been, that she actually sounded a little disappointed herself when she added, “Yeah we should.”
An awkward silence sat stiffly between them, a silence Cyrus didn’t know how to fill. It was like they were trapped inside it. With an air of defeat, he stood against the wall a moment longer and drained the rest of the alcohol from his glass.