Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
Cyrin hadn’t wanted to go to the Arcade the next few days. He'd known Sparrow wouldn’t be done with him, and he didn’t want to run into him again. He worried that Sparrow might just appear at his doorstep if he wasn’t anywhere to be found at the Arcade, though, and that fear was what drove him out of his apartment and to the terrace of the Fortune one night.
He wasn’t even remotely surprised when he saw Sparrow heading his way while he was smoking by the railing. Cyrin didn’t try to leave, not even when Sparrow stood right beside him, and instead gave him the driest glare he could.
“Had any luck with finding jobs?” Sparrow asked, like he knew the answer already. He didn’t even need to sound mocking.
Sparrow let out a surprised laugh. “You find it hard to believe, I know, but this is for your benefit, Cyrin. I’m trying to help you because I know you’re desperate.”
“I’m not desperate,” Cyrin lied, blowing out a plume of smoke into the air. “I would just like to get rich fast.”
Sparrow shook his head pityingly. “I know you’re smart enough to know no one gets rich fast in the Arcade. I wouldn’t have my eye on you if you weren’t. You need this job for something, and I’m trying to get you to take it.”
“If I am desperate, then you’re trying to take advantage of me,” Cyrin snapped. “Aren’t you? You don’t seem to be asking anyone else to do it, even though I’m not a great pick, and you’re relentless in trying to change my mind. This is for your benefit. Don’t try to fucking fool me.”
They turned around, facing away from Sparrow, and they went back to smoking. If they had to, they could stay silent for the rest of the night until he left. Cyrin waited for the rebuttal to come, but it never did.
“I see,” Sparrow said after a long moment. His tone had changed dramatically in a way Cyrin hadn’t heard yet. His voice was suddenly grim, his words slow. He paused. “I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have let you have the choice to begin with.”
They heard him walk away, the sound of mechanical footsteps fading behind them. Cyrin let out a deep breath, letting the cigarette in their hand smoke for a few moments. Briefly, they wondered if this meant they’d won.
That hope was dashed when they turned around and saw the stuffed whale on the ground, right where Sparrow had been standing.
Cyrin felt the air rush from his lungs in a panic as he dropped to his knees to pick it up, hurriedly snuffing out his cigarette on the railing. He recognized it immediately. The stuffed animal was just like the one Magnus had, a small orca with beaded eyes. Just like it. There was no doubt in his mind that the design was exactly the same as his brother’s.
Magnus had gotten it dirty with jam once, he recalled desperately. If this one didn’t have that mark, it wasn’t his. He flipped it over, and his heart sank when he found the red stain on the white of the orca’s belly.
How did Sparrow get this?
Or rather, how did Sparrow know to get this?
With shaking hands, Cyrin set the whale in his lap. He recognized a threat when he saw it. How Sparrow had figured out who he was and gained access to his family, he had no idea, but it didn’t matter. Autumn wasn’t the only one on the line anymore. Magnus was too. Maybe even his entire family, if Sparrow was feeling particularly spiteful.
Cyrin couldn’t recall how long he’d stayed there, kneeling on the terrace, clutching that orca. What he did remember was that the next morning, he’d found Sparrow himself and given him the only answer he would accept.
Cyrin blinked, coming back to reality when the elevator of Clarity’s apartment dinged and came to a stop. He apparently hadn't stopped thinking about his conversation with Shane after he'd left. He shook his head vigorously, as if to clear it.
Taking the elevator up to see Clarity was a strange feeling, because Cyrin couldn’t remember the last time they’d entered the apartment that way, but they’d had to leave Kaja and Kasumi in the lobby and using their jetpack would probably raise a few questions. It was also much longer and slower than he was used to. They wouldn’t have minded the same acceleration as their jetpack in an elevator, but it wasn’t implemented. Safety regulations or something like that— such a shame.
They could hear the sound of buzzing behind Clarity’s door when they stepped into the hallway, which was a sign that she was at work on her latest spell synthesis. Cyrin had always found the sound hard to bear, which made them glad they’d been born a regular Minor Mage instead of an Alchemist or Artificer. It was a noise like the hum of a broken speaker but with the intensity of power tools, and it always made their head buzz painfully too. They knocked on the door, and the sound immediately stopped.
“Come back with a warrant,” Clarity called from inside.
He’d forgotten to let her know he was stopping by, hadn’t he? He’d forgotten to take his meds this morning, which was probably going to result in him forgetting a lot more things. “It’s Cyrin.”
A pause. “No way, you’re not.”
“I couldn’t use the jetpack,” Cyrin explained. “I thought you’d appreciate me knocking for once, anyway?”
He heard footsteps, and Clarity opened the door, looking him over. “It sounded like you,” she remarked. “I had reason to doubt it if you were entering this way, though. Did it break?”
“No, I left it at our clients’ hotel. I’d probably have died if it failed.”
“I’m pretty sure you’d find a way to survive that, honestly.” Clarity stepped aside, letting them through before she closed the door. Cyrin glanced at the coffee table that she used for a workspace whenever she did her research from home, but they didn’t see whatever spell she’d been working on. She’d probably tucked it in her MagicBox to keep the unfinished synthesis from deteriorating. “So, you took the job?”
Cyrin nodded. “We’re leaving for Storm City later today. Our clients are coming along with us.”
Clarity didn’t say anything for a few moments as she moved away from the door. “It seemed like you didn’t want to talk to me until you got there?”
“I didn’t say that. I’m still upset, yeah, but—” Cyrin shook their head. “I don’t feel like giving you the silent treatment for a few days. Besides, I could use a favor for the heist. It’s—”
“The least I could do,” Clarity interrupted.
Cyrin smiled slightly. “That’s not really what I was thinking. It’s for setting a trap for the Banes with Acid magic. It’d make things a lot safer, but it’s going to take a lot of magic, and I don’t have enough right now.”
Clarity pursed her lips thoughtfully. “I don’t think I’m able to give you all you need, but I can do something to help. Do you want me to weave you a Tremor spell? It’ll increase the range of your trap, and although it still won’t feel great to use it, the most unpleasant part of a Hollow is always in weaving it.”
Cyrin considered it for a few moments. He still had a backup plan of getting magic if this didn’t work, which was what Kasumi and Kaja were downstairs for. Although he hadn’t been planning to use any Tremor, Clarity was right that it would make the trap more effective. “Sure.”
“I’ll be right back, then. I’m going to make it on the other side of the apartment.”
Clarity left the room, and Cyrin leaned against the kitchen counter while he waited. The “other side of the apartment” wasn’t all that far, as that seemed to mean the most distant corner of Clarity’s bedroom, and he could almost see her from where he was. It certainly didn’t feel very distant when he felt that sick feeling again in his chest, spreading into a shudder in his hands. He winced and wrapped his fingers around the edge of the countertop to steady himself.
He knew Clarity was done when the sensation got more severe and he saw her heading towards him again, the spell in her open hand. Cyrin tucked it in his MagicBox the moment she handed it to him and snapped the lid shut quickly. The instant the spell was sealed away, the feeling disappeared. “Thank you.”
“I hope it saves you some trouble,” Clarity said. “Try to stay safe.”
“I will,” Cyrin promised. “What are you working on today, by the way?”
Her lips curled into a small smile. “It’s a surprise.”
“A surprise, as in you’re trying to get something patented and can’t show anyone yet?”
“A surprise,” she repeated, and before they could ask anything else, she laughed and placed a hand on their shoulder in a sort of embrace, her fingertips almost brushing their neck. “I’ll call you in Storm City.”
“We’ll see you in a couple days after that, too.” Cyrin wasn’t really sure what to do except smile and step back after a few moments, though they knew they could have done something else— it had been a while since they’d done anything different. They were relieved to have things figured out between them, but it had left an awkward space where familiar habits that hadn’t completely worn off had been. “Safe wandering.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to leave through the window?” Clarity joked.
“I’ll pass this time,” Cyrin said with a laugh. “I’m missing some equipment.”
“Fine, I guess you can use the elevator.” Clarity rolled her eyes teasingly as she opened the door for them. “Now go forth, get your artifact, and annoy some aristocrats.”