Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
The night sky was starless when Cyrin and Clarity stepped out onto the roof, with only Aphirah's two moons to illuminate it. The cold wind had confined the other apartment residents to their homes, and even though there was a fire pit that would have kept it from tearing the heat from his bones, Cyrin went over to the railing instead. Clarity followed him, sipping her champagne as if it were just hot chocolate to keep her warm, and they both leaned against it in a slightly reckless fashion. Cyrin’s senses were tingling again, and he wasn’t sure if he was still recovering from his Hollow or not, but it seemed like he was picking up more magic.
“It feels like there’s Rationale up here,” he said, scanning the deck for a possible sign of it.
Clarity snorted. “You’re saying that exactly like ‘Seems like someone’s been smoking’.”
“That’s a more normal thing to happen on roofs.”
Clarity shook her head. “I would know it if there was any, because I’d be getting sick over the side of this roof. My Hollow’s not around.” She reached into a pocket of her jacket, a white one that Cyrin knew she’d bought because it looked a lot like a warmer version of a lab coat, and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “Speaking of smoking, someone’s about to be doing that. Want one?”
Cyrin couldn’t tell if she was joking or not, until she held the pack out a little further. “I’m done with that,” they said, speaking gently but with just enough firmness to be clear that she wouldn’t change their mind.
Clarity flicked a tiny Flare spell in her hand into a spark and lit a cigarette. “It was more fun when we both did it,” she said, lifting it to her mouth and blowing out a plume of smoke. “Too bad.”
Cyrin felt their uneasiness beginning to show on their face, and they hid it with a quick sip from their glass. “So,” they said, improvising a new conversation topic. “Are you going to do anything with your unpredictable magic bomb?”
“I’ll make some more and change the Chant this time,” Clarity said. She quickly spun up a demonstration of what spell she wanted, a weaving Cyrin didn’t see very much. “I hardly know how to use it outside of sealing oaths, which is all anyone ever uses it for. Spells respond to intent a lot, and I have no idea what I’m doing yet in this part of the experimenting.” She closed her hand over the spell, extinguishing its glow as she tucked it into a pocket for later, and Cyrin blinked at the sudden loss of light. “Magic can be a bit of a bitch because it can tell when you’re lost.”
“Just let me know if you need somewhere to go because you burned your place down.”
Clarity grinned, swirling the contents of her glass. “It’s always surprising that it hasn’t happened yet.”
They both leaned over the edge, staring down the steep drop past the railing, Cyrin’s breath and Clarity’s smoke clouding the view. Cars and people raced by below, and Crystal City seemed restless even at this hour, shifting like a kaleidoscope of blurred and moving lights. It felt somewhat like the Permafrost’s Fall again, with Banes drifting below and him high in the air. As if she’d read his mind, Clarity glanced in his direction again.
“How did seeing it go?” she asked.
Cyrin flexed his fingers that were gripping the railing. “It was impressive,” he admitted. “They called it a well of magic, and before I wasn’t sure if it really was, because people tend to exaggerate the stories of what they think is lost forever. But I felt like I had dived into an ocean of pure magic.”
Clarity nodded thoughtfully. “I wish I could have seen it,” she said, but the wistfulness of her words was layered with a more resigned note of what they both knew. She’d never come along on any job Cyrin and Mireya had done. “And Storm City?”
“Apart from the museum and the airport, we didn’t spend much time there.”
She gave him a sideways glance. “Did you see your family?” When he didn’t answer, she nodded knowingly. “Are they still mad?”
Cyrin averted his gaze, as if that would hide whatever look was on his face right now. “Last I’ve heard,” he said, and he had to stop himself from adding, But I haven’t heard much lately.
They felt Clarity’s hand on their shoulder again, firmer than the soft brush from earlier. “I read a few things about them yesterday,” she said, her words light and yet somehow also heavier than the weight of her hand. “Do you ever do that?”
“Not on purpose.” Cyrin had never clicked on any of their articles, whether it was gossip or regular news, unless they looked significant enough. They would scan the headlines when they came across them, always with a feeling of guilty curiosity, but they couldn’t bring themself to read them. The tabloids shouldn’t be the only place they ever heard from family.
“Well, your sister’s released a new celebrity perfume.”
“I’m assuming you mean Allison?”
“No, it’s actually Camilla this time.”
Cyrin raised his eyebrows. “I guess I’m very out of touch with how her path to fame has been going.”
“And your brother’s just bought some fancy property in Spark City,” Clarity continued. “It’s your older brother, I mean, the one who’s a jerk—”
“Casper,” Cyrin said dryly.
“I should have remembered his name just by the way you always say it.” Clarity snorted laughingly. “Anyway, looks like his investment into that satellite is paying off. That’s all I’ve got from them.”
Magnus wasn’t old enough to have entered the spotlight yet— which Cyrin was glad for, because the press’ attention was a nightmare— but he wished there had been something about him that he could have asked Clarity for. His chest burned a little as his heart clenched, and he took another sip of his drink so he could focus on that burn instead.
“Everything new concerning magic seems to be about space these days,” Clarity said as she blew more smoke into the cold air, clearly not done thinking about the satellite. “I can’t mention anything new that I’ve found out in my work without someone responding with the latest theory about how comets, stars, or whatever is related to magic.”
“Those ‘latest’ theories are actually very old,” Cyrin pointed out. “They just didn’t come from the minds of Aphirans.”
Clarity looked at them strangely. “Very funny,” she drawled, though they hadn’t been trying to be. “Don’t get me wrong, I like the theories. But I care a lot more about what we can do with magic than where it came from.”
Cyrin was about to ask her a question regarding whether she thought they were true or not, but their thoughts were interrupted by Mireya’s voice.
“Look who fucking decided to show up uninvited!”
The two of them turned around to see Mireya shoving someone out of the elevator, her face twisted with disgust and anger. Her glass of champagne was already half-empty— or rather, it had half left of what they’d filled it with, making it three-quarters empty. Casper had always insisted a champagne flute should be filled halfway— “or else you’ll lose the aromas”— and now they had to live with his voice in their head giving instructions every time they poured a glass. Cyrin’s gaze focused on Sparrow’s face first, then his jacket, both of which were wet and dripping with something. They quickly made the connection.
“I was invited, actually,” Sparrow replied, which earned him another push from Mireya. She must have given him a little shock as well, because he stumbled away from her, and the elevator light flickered. “What, are you jealous?”
Cyrin set their glass on the railing behind them, while their other hand drifted down towards the grip of the Concealed knife on their belt, and they slowly wrapped their fingers around it. Sparrow wasn’t much of a threat in combat, but he hired people to do the fighting for him, and if he hadn’t come alone…
“Easy, Cyrin, please,” Sparrow said, in a pacifying tone that was dripping with amusement. “You only clench your fists at your sides when you’re reaching for that knife or dissociating, and I hope you’re not doing the latter, because I need you right now. Let go of it.”
Cyrin tightened his jaw and pressed his lips together, but he removed his grip from the knife.
“Hello, Julian,” Clarity said evenly, putting out her cigarette on the railing. “Now, will you talk to these two? Someone’s got to make them see some sense and I can’t seem to do it.”