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|Creators: Ellen Million (Writer)|
|Bai has to tell Ressa about the statement he's made...|
|Posted: 08/28/12 [No comments yet]
~ 1275 words.|
Bai returned to the dining hall with reluctant feet.
Ressa and Rai both startled as he entered, and for one fleeting moment, Bai thought he saw Rai blush; it was gone so quickly he couldn't be sure.
He explained what he'd done, before he could lose his nerve, and their reaction was everything he'd dreaded.
"How could you?" Ressa demanded.
"What were you thinking?" Rai asked scathingly.
"Why would you do that?"
"Have you lost your brain license?"
"That won't help anything!"
Bai tried to justify the move, doubting it even more now that the deed was done. He explained Urti's reasoning, and ended, lamely, "I just... didn't want to see you have to deal with an investigation. You've clearly been framed."
"The evidence wasn't that damning," Ressa said, shaking her head and rubbing at her eyes. "And the guild can afford good legates."
"I don't think much of Urti's advice," Rai agreed.
"And don't think for a moment that I'll give the same statement," Ressa said hotly. "I plan to take the entire, true story to the Monitors in the morning."
"I was just trying to protect you," Bai said pleadingly. He couldn't decide if Ressa's anger was worse than Rai's disappointment, or if his own growing certainty that he'd made entirely the wrong decision was worst of all.
"I don't need your protection," Ressa returned sharply, brown eyes narrowed. She stood, pushing her chair back. If she was still feeling sick or dizzy, she did a fine job of hiding it behind a determined expression. "I'm going home before this gets worse," she said. "Thank you for your... hospitality." Her voice gentled at the end; Bai didn't think it was meant sarcastically. He tried to find a way to insist on escorting her home without further muddying the situation. There was no way he could send her back out onto the early-morning streets without some protection.
"I'll see you to the cable-car station," Rai offered, as much to Bai as to Ressa.
She shot him a glance, clearly skeptical about the amount of protection a blind man could offer, but it settled Bai's mind. Rai was well-trained in personal protection, and could handle anything that came at them.
"Thank you," Ressa said politely, with only the slightest moment of hesitation. "I'd appreciate that."
Ressa used the tidy room before leaving, smoothing her hair back into a tight bun at the base of her neck and returning to the foyer looking much more put together and like her usual self.
"I didn't mean to... make things more complicated," Bai told her quietly, while helping her shrug into her long coat. He meant it, on so many levels.
She sighed and looked sadly back at him. "I know," she said softly. "I don't blame you for any of this."
As Bai watched his brother and Ressa walk out into the pre-dawn snow, he wondered if she should.
# # #
They walked in silence for most of a block, Ressa concentrating on peering through the gloom at the slushy street surface beneath feet that were less steady than she'd like. Though Rai had her elbow, she wondered at several points which one of them was actually leading the other; his cane made a rhythmic tap-swish through the melting snow and he walked lightly beside her.
"Your brother can be idiotic," she said at last. "I can't imagine why he would have given a statement like that."
Rai's voice was aggravatingly amused. "Urti gave him bad advice, and he listened to it, like usual. Also, he's in love with you."
Ressa did stumble then, and clench her hands into fists. "Don't be ridiculous," she hissed, but she knew it was without bite.
"How do you feel about him?" Rai prodded as she regained her balance.
"I'm very fond of your brother," Ressa said primly. "I like working for him very much. He is a great improvement over the last License Master."
"That isn't saying a lot," Rai said slyly. "So, you're very fond of him, then. Were you very fond of Yeff, too?"
Ressa gritted her teeth, wondering briefly if Bai had gotten all of the tact of the brothers. "I was," she said tightly. "And I will grieve his death." It wasn't a lie; Yeff's death felt pointless, and remembering that he was gone left an ache in her chest.
"So, not a strictly professional relationship?"
Ressa didn't realize that she had sped up her steps until she slipped again, and came to a complete stop this time, to turn to Rai, who looked blandly, sightlessly back. "What do you want me to say, Rai? Do you want me to confess that I feel more for your brother than I ought to? Are you looking for gray rags poetry about how my heart yearns for him and my nights are dark without him? I'm not that woman."
"He wouldn't love that woman," Rai agreed, and his words were weighted oddly.
"It doesn't matter how I feel," Ressa said more quietly. "We can't be together."
"He could quit his job," Rai suggested with deceptive mildness.
"I would never forgive him," Ressa said promptly. "He's done more good in a few years as License Master than anyone else would be capable of, and some of his better initiatives in progress would stall out in a tenthtick without his weight behind them. And don't think I would quit, either," she added with salt. "I love my job, and I'm not some dew-eyed maiden who thinks that 'true love' would weather that kind of sacrifice. Whatever might happen, isn't going to. It doesn't matter what either one of us thinks we want."
Ressa realized there were tears on her cheeks at the same time she realized that Rai was deliberately prodding her for exactly that reaction; she had to remind herself not to underestimate him because he was blind, and she felt a confused mixture of understanding and anger. She had just been dumped at his brother's doorstep reeking of dreamer's liquor and tangled in the murder of her ex-lover. She probably would be fishing for answers if she were in his shoes, too. Rai wouldn't be able to see the tears, and she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of knowing they were there by wiping them away, so she left them there, feeling her cheeks grow tight with salt as they dried. She continued walking, and Rai fell quietly into step beside her, his hand at her elbow just strong enough to keep the contact.
"I see why Bai speaks so highly of you," Rai said, as they arrived at the intersection with the elevated cablecar stop, and he sounded genuinely contrite. He stopped as the tip of his cane found the bottom of the steps. The rumble of the cables indicated that the car was still a block or two off, but coming.
"Thank you for seeing me to the cablecar," Ressa said tightly, not ready to forgive him. Though she could keep the tears from his faulty vision, she was not entirely sure she succeeded in keeping them from her voice. He released her elbow and she took two steps up at once before pausing and turning back.
"About... us," she said hesitantly.
"Not any of Bai's business," Rai said firmly.
Ressa nodded in relief before she remembered he wouldn't be able to see it. "It would only complicate things," she agreed. "Thank you."
"Things are definitely complicated enough already," Rai said wryly, turning away.
Ressa laughed without humor as she took the stairs up to wait for the oncoming cablecar. 'Complicated' seemed like a serious understatement.