They all finished their goodbyes, and Karin pulled Chris away as Marius and Priska made their way out of the club, following a good portion of the crowd but not all of it. It didn’t take long to get back to the lot where they had all parked, and Marius opened the door for Priska as he felt any gentleman should. Once seated, he started the car and was pulling out when he decided he’d let her ruminate for long enough.
“Well?” Marius asked.
“You were right,” Priska said with a sigh, leaning her head back against the rest. “I don’t know how it’s possible, but you are very much right. She has the Song.”
Marius allowed himself a mental victory dance. “I suppose the next question is, does it matter?”
“Very much so,” Priska answered immediately. “Aside from the fact that she needs to be trained to avoid doing something foolish, it would be foolish to ignore this gift.”
Pausing at a red light, Marius looked at Priska, confused. “Gift? What do you mean by gift?”
Priska shook her head. “Nevermind that, I’m speaking of possibilities that it’s too premature to explore.”
Staring at her for another moment, Marius could see that she wasn’t going to let him pursue that line of questioning and so let it go for the moment. The light changed, and he pulled forward, thinking for a moment.
“You should go to Janus.”
Marius nearly rear-ended the car in front of him as he lost his motor skills for a moment in the shock. “Janus? Are you serious?”
Priska said nothing, but arched a brow at Marius.
He sighed. “Very well. Though I can’t imagine what good it will do.”
“It could do a great deal of good,” Priska returned, her tone a bit acidic. “And if you were more interested in what your brethren were trying to do about our problems you would understand why.”
Marius winced. “I am interested! I just don’t know what I could possibly contribute, so I tend to stay away from the politics of it all.”
“Well, perhaps if you were involved more in what they’re trying to accomplish you would be more aware of how you could help.”
Sighing again, Marius ran a hand through his hair and felt like a child being rebuked by his mother. “Yes, mor.”
“The political arena is quickly becoming the only battleground we have left, min kære,” Priska said more softly. “Our work with the Shepherds is important, but it’s not enough.”
Nodding again, Marius had nothing else he could say. Turning a corner, he pulled up to the curb of the high rise Priska lived in. Shifting into park, they waited a moment while the doorman came forward to open her door and help her out.
“Call Janus,” Priska said before she left the car, “and keep an eye on this girl. She has potential that could help us all.”
Priska smirked. “And knock that off.”
Laughing, Marius waited until she was in the building before pulling away and heading towards First Hill. It took him a moment to find parking near the restaurant, during which he passed a car which he was reasonably certain was Chris’s. After a circuit around the block, he lucked out and pulled up behind someone pulling away from a spot on the street. In another five minutes, he was walking through the door and describing the party he sought to the petite woman dressed in black at the hostess station.
“Tempura bacon,” Chris asked incredulously as Marius was coming up behind him.
“No, really, it’s amazing,” Rilla replied animatedly. She looked energized and relaxed, comfortable in a way Marius hadn’t yet seen her.
Setting down the menu, Chris looked at her skeptically. “It sounds like a heart attack on a plate.”
Marilla fixed him with a withering look. “Get over yourself, you scrawny bastard. Try it. It’s bacon. All men love bacon.”
Laughing, Marius came around the table and pulled out a chair to sit down. “Is there dissension in the ranks so soon?”
Giggling, Karin nodded. “We agreed to try a sampling of the happy hour menu, but we’re having some problems agreeing on what that sampling should include.”
“We, in this case, is a short word referring to the large blond killjoy,” Rilla interjected, and Chris threw up his hands.
“God, fine, order the bacon!”
Looking properly smug, Rilla picked up her drink and sipped delicately from it while Karin giggled again. Shaking his head, Marius flagged down the waiter and ordered a Gimlet, then let his companions piece together a long and convoluted order that included half of the appetizer menu. The order was placed, the drinks were brought out, and for a moment peace returned to the table.
“So what’s in a Gimlet anyway,” Rilla asked after a moment, head canted to the side and looking at Marius almost shyly.
“Gin, lime juice, and a little soda.”
Shuddering, Rilla made the most expressive face. “That sounds disgustingly awful.”
Chris snorted. “That’s just because everything you drink is painfully girly.”
“Girly drinks are better than burning out your tastebuds on pure alcohol,” Karin said with a grin. “You’re drinking Scotch, and that’s all you’ll taste for the rest of the night.”
Drawing himself up, Chris picked up his drink. “I’ll have you know I have a highly refined palate.”
“I don’t need to hear you discuss the merits of your tongue, Chris,” Rilla countered, and both Karin and Marius couldn’t help laughing.
Sighing dramatically, Chris sipped his drink in defeat while the first round of food came out. The tempura bacon proved to be excellent, and Rilla had the grace not to say to Chris that she’d told him so. The sushi and sashimi were of excellent quality, and Marius expressed his gratitude at having been brought there.
Rilla looked at him carefully as they ate, Marius smiled a little, setting down his chopsticks to return her stare with a questioning one. She looked suitably embarrassed, having been caught, and bit her lower lip in a rather fetching manner as she clearly mulled over something.
“Marius,” Rilla said at last, “may I ask you a question?”
Nodding, Marius picked up his drink. “You may. I don’t promise that I will answer it.”
Rilla’s eyebrows flew up in surprise at that. Spending so much time around actors as she did, she was likely used to people waiting for an opportunity to gush about themselves.
“Well, fair enough,” she said after a moment. “Why don’t you ever take your gloves off?”
Setting the drink down carefully, Marius looked up at Rilla and smiled politely but apologetically. “I’m afraid I’m not comfortable answering that question.”
Eyes growing wide, Rilla turned pink. “Oh, I just asked something horribly indelicate, didn’t I? I’m sorry, I thought it was an affectation or something and was hoping to hear the story behind it.”
Still smiling, Marius shook his head. “No, it’s all right. I’m impressed that you noticed, you’d be surprised how many people don’t. However, I’d really rather not talk about it.”
Mortified, Rilla nodded, and turned her attention to her drink. Small talk continued for a bit after that, though Rilla was notably quieter. Marius mentally cursed her perceptiveness and his inability to answer her. As the first round of appetizers were being switched out for the second, Rilla smiled her stage smile and excused herself to the bathroom. Karin, either sensing her friend’s continued distress or obeying the unspoken code that all women were to go to the bathroom in groups, followed.
“You know, I always wondered about the glove thing,” Chris commented as they walked away.
Marius sighed. “I still don’t want to talk about it.”
“It’s cool, man. I wasn’t going to push, I was just more pointing out that I’d noticed but chose not to say anything.”
Smirking, Marius picked up his drink again. “Fair. So how are you doing?”
“Hm? Oh, you mean with Karin.” Chris thought about it, and smiled. “Don’t tell anyone this, but I think I actually like her. As in, more than one or two nights like her.”
“Good,” Marius replied, perhaps a little terse. “She seems a very lovely woman, and deserves to be considered for something more than one night.”
Nodding, Chris picked up his own drink. “All right, your turn. What’s going on with you and Rilla?”
“Oh, right. Nerissa. Her real name is Marilla, though she seems to favor Rilla. Don’t change the subject,” Chris asserted. “You were so insistent about seeing her again, I thought you were interested. However, you show up with the Bavarian Bombshell and you haven’t been terribly engaging.”
“The Bava- oh, you mean Priska,” Marius exclaimed, then laughed. “Wow, what a thought. No, there’s nothing between Priska and I, she really just wanted to come because I’d been talking about Rilla’s last performance.” Marius considered for a moment, and stopped laughing entirely. “I hadn’t thought about what kind of impression that would make. Though, honestly, I don’t know what I want from Rilla. I’m fixated on her from a musical standpoint, but I suppose there’s more to it than that.”
“Dude, after tonight, you’d have to be dead not to,” Chris stated and swirled his drink. “You may want to figure it out. Or maybe take a stab at getting to know the not-on-stage her a little better.”