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Missing Girls & Speakeasies

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A sweet smokey haze filled the basement room as soft yellow globs of light sat ensconced into the stone walls. The laughter of patrons and the swishing sound of beaded skirts filled the space in time with the jazz music coming from the stage at the back. The woman singing, a tiefling with black horns and a red dress, held the mic as she swayed with the music, glancing every now and then to the half-orc next to her. The half-orc was crouched over a piano, awkwardly sat there as his fingers moved nimbly across the ivory keys. In a corner near the stage, an eleven woman with her hair cut in a sharp bob and glasses surveyed the dancing crowd as she took notes in a worn leather notebook.

She moved through the crowd towards the bar where a red-headed human woman was chatting with the patrons brightly. The red-head had a splash of freckles across her face and her multicolored shirt had its sleeves pushed up as she served drink after drink. Moving past the bar, the eleven woman weaved her way through the tables, past the brown half-elf man who was laughing loudly while chatting with some of the wealthier seeming patrons. The man had a flashy eye patch over one eye and his white hair was styled back without a strand out of place. The elven woman took a seat next to a goblin man who seemed intent on making himself as unnoticeable as possible. The goblin had a hat low over his eyes and his tie was loosened as he held a glass of whiskey in his hand.

“Riz,” the elven woman said, leaning back and crossing her legs.

“Adaine, to what do I owe the pleasure?” the goblin answered.

“Just greeting our favorite patron,” she said with a smile, waving at the red-head at the bar to refill Riz’s glass.

“Seems like Fabian already has that covered,” he snorted, eyes flicking towards the half-elven man still charming the wealthy patrons.

“You know you will always be our favorite,” Adaine responded as the red-head came by and replaced his glass.

“Hiya Riz, how are you doing?” the red-head asked.

“Same as any other day, Kristen,” Riz responded and took a swig from the glass. “Got a new interesting case though.”

“Do share,” Kristen said, taking a seat and leaning forward with eagerness. Adaine didn’t move, but stayed quiet to listen to whatever new case Riz had. Riz was the closest any of them at the speakeasy got to liking law enforcement and his stories were always interesting.

“Well, I don’t know much yet. This woman came to me and told me that all her friends had gone missing. I started to look into it and apparently there’s been a string of disappearances--”

“My parents mentioned it! They told me to be extra careful wandering around at night,” Kristen interrupted.

“Why you still talk to those people, I will never understand,” Adaine interjected with a roll of her eyes.

“We don’t all hate our parents, right Riz?” she shot back, sticking her tongue out.

“I only have my mom, remember?” he said with a dry chuckle. “Anyway, I asked around and no one has any idea who is taking them. Have you guys heard anything?”
“Fig or Fabian might know something,” Adaine said as the singer let out one last soulful note before catching Adaine’s eye and thanking the patrons. The tiefling made her way to the back as Adaine stood up to join Fabian in appeasing their flashy guests.

“Riz, long time no see,” the tiefling took Adaine’s now empty seat, waving at a few people looking their way. Riz pulled his hat lower as his eyes flitted around the dim lit bar.

“Fig, do you know anything about a bunch of women going missing?” Kristen asked before Riz could open his mouth, her eyes shining with egear interest.

“Missing girls?” Fig frowned, her attention now fully on the goblin. “No, but I can ask around. Do you have any specific names?”
Riz slid a piece of paper towards Fig who slipped it into her decolletage and she stood up, calling to a few rowdy patrons who hoot and hollered. Kristen left Riz a few moments later to go back to her job. The half-orc pianist filled one of the empty seats as Riz made it to the bottom of the glass.

“Hey Grogug,” Riz said with a toothy half smile. The half-orc returned the smile and let out a sigh, leaning back in the chair.

“I hear you got a new case,” Grogug said, closing his eyes as the sound of Fabian’s laughter and Fig’s loud voice washed over them. “Kristen mentioned it, something about missing girls.”

“Yeah, I asked Fig if she knew anything about it. Hopefully that turns up something,” Riz said, running a finger around the rim of the glass. The two men didn’t say much to each other as they watched the patrons mill around. Riz’s eyes flitted between watching Adaine and Fabian, fingers tapping rapidly against the wooden table. Gurgag waved over to Fig and her gaggle of admires, preferring to let her take the limelight. Adaine was talking with a few potential suppliers, speaking to them in a low voice as her pencil tapped against the side of the table.

Lately their shipments of alcohol hadn’t been as frequent or as reliable as before. The city of Solace seemed to be enforcing its prohibition laws more strictly than it had before. Thankfully, Fabian had access to his late father’s wide net of less than savory connections and Adaine was more than willing to hammer out the numbers if it meant a continuous reliable supply. They both knew that the way to keep the wealthy patrons to be coming back was free-flowing alcohol.
“Listen, I can give you 150 for the whole casket, not anymore,” Adaine said to the half-orc in a brown trench coat.

“Are you trying to run me out of business?” he growled back, slamming his fist onto the table. His “friends” leaned away, but Adaine stayed still, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose.

“I would say I am being more than generous, Harold,” she replied icely. “You are over-charging for your half-decent elven wine. You’re just diluting the good stuff and mixing it with a shit wine.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. This is good stuff, prime elven wine,” Harold snapped back.

“130.”

“200.”

“140.”

“180.”

“150.”

“Fine.”

“Wonderful. Great doing business with you, Harold. Pleasure as always,” Adaine said, holding out her hand, a triumphant sheen in her blue eyes. “Come see me later for your payment.”

Harold shook her hand with a grunt and she stood up. Adaine went to where Fig was entertaining her fanclub, red beaded skirt hiked up as she danced an erratic jig. Spotting Adaine, Fig slowed down taking a swig from the wide champagne glass and gave her a wide grin.

“Get up there and sing a few more songs. I think we are going to be winding down early tonight,” Adaine said quietly, placing a hand on her shoulder. Fig made no outward indication of having heard her but turned to the gaggle and downed the rest of the golden liquid.

“How about some songs? Nothing beats live music,” she said loudly. Adaine moved on and went to the bar where Kristen was drying glasses. Her blue eyes moved once more over the crowd catching Riz’s eye and he quickly looked away settling on Fabian.

“Now listen to me, Dayne,” Fabian said, a hand on the shoulder of a blonde well-dressed man. “When are you and Penelope getting married? You two have been together since you’ve been coming here. I’m sure she’s been dropping plenty of hints.”

“Fabian, you are too much,” a pretty brunette with a fancy beaded headband giggled, pushing a loose curl behind her ear. “You know how Dayne is. Nothing is ever serious for him.”

“Darling, I resent that assumption,” Dayne laughed, clinking the wide lipped champagne glass against her’s.

“What about you Fabian? When are you going to settle down?” a dwarven woman covered with a long string of pearls and elaborately beaded dress asked.
“Oh you know me, no woman can satisfy me,” Fabian responded with a wink and the whole table broke out in laughter.

Fig stepped up to the stage and Grogug joined her on the piano, a glass resting on the piano top.

“Now, a few songs for our lovers,” Fig said into the mic, and murmured something to Grogug. A slow, melodic jazz tune began and Fig began to sing. The dancers coupled up and slowed as they held each other, swaying in time. Fabian said good-bye to the table and joined Adaine by the bar.

“How did it go with Harold?” he asked, his usual charming smile dropping for a moment. He motioned at Kristen to serve him a drink.

“I got him down to 150. I can’t believe we have to resorte to his tasteless wine,” Adaine said, scribbling away in the ledger. “None of your contacts know what’s going on with the supply chain?”

“They are just mentioning a few attacks, something about men with hoods. No one really knows since no one seems to come out alive,” Fabian replied as Kristen handed him a glass of rum. “Maybe we should employ the services of our dear friend, Riz.”

“With what money?” Adaine snorted, closing the ledger with a snap. “Our normal suppliers are dangerously unreliable, having to pay more people is not helping the bottom line.”

Fabian ran a hand through his hair and looked out at the slowly thinning crowd. Groups of sleepy party goers and drunk couples slowly left the bar as Fig helped wind down the crowd. Riz was quietly watching Adaine and Fabian interact, enjoying the good music.

His mind wandered to the early days of the speakeasy where the whole group was much younger and much more hopeful. Fabian had been eager to continue his father’s legacy in his own way and had picked the hidden basement as the spot for his speakeasy. Adaine had started as someone who just wanted to get away from under her family’s high expectations and took well to handling the more administrative things. Both Fabian and Adaine used their connections with the wealthy and elite to spread the word about the speakeasy giving the place almost instant success upon opening. Fig and Grogug had been poached from an unpopular cabaret, their musical talents put on much better display here. Riz often wondered if anything happened between them, but Fig had assured him that Grogug was too young to be her type. Kristen had stumbled across the speakeasy when trying to convert the partons to the way of Helio and sobriety. She had come by several nights and despite being thrown out a couple of times, she was useful in a squeeze and eventually Fabian had decided to put her behind the bar. Fig had also taken a shine to Kristen and the two now shared a modest apartment where Fig could better extersert what she called her “corrupting influence.”

As the last stragglers made their way out, Riz stood up and ambled over to the bar to join Fabian and Adaine, squeezing himself into the stool between them.

“I’m just saying, Fabian, the sooner we find out what is going on the better--”

“Is something wrong?” Riz asked and Adaine waved a dismissive hand with a frown.

“Just some problems with the supply chain,” she replied.

“I can look into it,” he offered. “Wouldn’t cost you anything.”

“I couldn’t ask that of you,” she said with that familiar gentle smile. Riz shrugged and hopped onto a stool, placing his glass on the bar.

“God I thought they’d never fucking leave,” Fig sighed, pulling out a cigarette from the silver case she kept by the bar and lighting it. “I swear they stay later every time.”

“Hey Kristen, could I get a water please?” Grogug asked, taking a seat next to Riz.

“Hey boss,” the booming voice of a half-orc came down the stairs followed by a set of heavy footsteps. “I think that’s everyone.”

“Thank you Ragh, come join us!” Fabian said waving the large man over. “Kristen, a round of my finest dwarvish whiskey, please!”

“So Riz,” Kristen began as she served the drinks. “What else can you tell us about this case? Whose this woman?”

As soon as the drinks were served, everyone murmured ‘cheers’ and took a glub.

“Well, I don’t know what else to tell you.The woman who came to see me was named Zelda Donovan. But, I think this disappearance might be connected to Samantha,my old secretary,” Riz said, rubbing his chin. “I got that note telling me she quit, but she was never like that. Always asked for things face-to-face… apparently she was friends with one of the girls that went missing. It’s all connected somehow, just not sure... I’ll figure it out.”

“Try not to spiral too hard,” Adiane said gently, swishing the whiskey around in her glass, giving him a look of concern.

“I’ll be fine. Always am,” he replied, downing the rest of the whiskey.

“Of course you will be, the Ball,” Fabian said, slapping Riz on the back.

“It was one time, let it die Fabian. I was drunk,” Riz grumbled back, the edges of his lips curling into a smile.

“It was multiple times,” Kristen pipped in. “Maybe you just like being held by big strong men. Fabian does have very nice arms.”

“Why thank you, Kristen,” Fabian said with a wink and she returned it. “Do you think I have nice arms, the Ball?”

“I refuse to answer that question,” he responded, the tips of his pointy ears turning a slightly darker shade of green. Adaine snorted and exchanged a look with Fig, who hid her own grin.

“You’re no fun,” Fabian teased, bumping Riz with his elbow. “But if in your investigations you can find out why my shipments keep going missing that would be much appreciated.”

“Just let Ragh and me check it out,” Fig said, hoisting herself to sit on the bar. “Me and the big guy can handle it, right?”

“Ah… sure,” Ragh shrugged. The tiefling grinned at the rest of them, tossing her head back and downing the rest of her glass.

“When’s the next shipment?”

“Sunday night. 1AM on the docks,” Fabian and Adaine answered at the same time. Fig and Kristen let out a snort, while Riz squirmed between them and cast a look at Grogug.

“If you insist on going take Grogug and Ragh,” Adaine said, not looking up from her scribbling.

“What if he hurts his hand? Who's gonna play the piano for me then?” Fig shot back, picking Grogug’s hand by the wrist and waving it around.

“Kristen can patch him up.”

Adaine looked up and stared at Fig. After a moment, Fig shrugged and let go of Grogug’s hand, hoping off the bar.

“Fine. I’m going home in that case,” she said moving towards the back and waving slowly. “Come on, Kristen.”

“I’ll meet you out back,” the redhead called back, picking up the empty glasses. “Is it really safe for her to go? She’s reckless.”

“Ragh and Grogug will be with her,” Adaine said motioning to the two half-orcs now deep in conversation with Fabian. “You can use you Ωr magic if things get too bad. Good thing we close on Monday.”

She closed the notebook with a sigh and rubbed the bridge of her nose, pushing her glasses up to her forehead. Kristen placed a placating hand on Adaine’s arm before following Fig to the back.

“I can help clean up,” Grogug said, nodding to Ragh to help him.

“Thanks guys,” Adaine said, readjusting her glasses to their usual place and walked to the back office. Riz and Fabian trailed behind her, glancing at each other. Riz felt awkward and small around Fabian despite being friends for several years. The feeling was only exacerbated when he suddenly decided to take notice of the way Fabian combed his hair, his strong jawline, and-- he shook his head furiously.

“You alright?” Fabian asked, placing a large hand on Riz’s shoulder.

“Yeah, just thinking about the case,” he muttered and entered the back office.

The office was small but cozy with a wall of bookcases and a painting that swung open to reveal a safe with several runic inscriptions. A desk stood in the middle, crowded with papers, and a comfortable leather chair sat behind it. The light was even dimmer in here than in the bar, with a solitary green shade lamp on the desk. Adaine was muttering to herself as she waved her hand over the safe undoing the spells.

“Adaine, anything interesting tonight?” Fabian asked, pouring himself a drink from the stand in the corner.

“Not beyond the usual. Those friends of yours were back again,” she said, not quite paying attention.

“The girl is an Everpetal, right?” Riz said, taking the ashtray off the pile of papers and placing it on an empty space of the desk. He pulled out a crumbled pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket and lit one, letting out a smokey exhale. “I think one of the missing girls mentioned something about an Everpetal. Do you mind if I bring my client by tomorrow?”

“Of course,” Fabian said, taking a seat and swishing the rum around in the crystal glass. “Do you need us to prepare anything especially?”

“No, I just want to talk somewhere where we won’t be overheard,” Riz responded, leaning against the desk. Adaine finished putting away her ledger, the notebook, and the money away in the safe and turned to look at the pair of men. Riz watched as she ran a hand through her short hair, noticing the dark circles under her eyes.

“How long has the shipment been an issue?” he asked suddenly and Fabian let out a sigh. Adaine’s mouth twisted and snapped the picture shut, leaning against the wall.

“A few weeks now. At first Fabian just thought it was a kink in the system. Sometimes that happens,” she began, crossing her arms and staring at a point on the floor.

“Usually when politicians are trying to gain votes they crack down on us,” Fabian added bitterly. “But it made no sense. It’s not election season and they usually know to leave us alone.”

“Hey Fabian,” Grogug peered his head through the door. “Everything’s been cleaned up, Ragh and I are going to head home.”

“Goodnight Grogug,” Fabian said with a short nod of acknowledgement as Adiane and Riz gave him a short wave.

“Get home safe,” Adaine added.

“So you have no idea?” Riz said when the door closed with a soft click.

“None at all. Let’s see if Sunday turns up anything,” she replied. “We should close up. No use spinning our wheels on something we don’t have any information on.”

Fabian finished his glass and stood up and collected their coats from the closet as Riz and Adaine left the office. She paused at the doorway, locking the door with a key and then waving her hands over it as runic symbols glowed momentarily. She took her coat from Fabian, letting him put it on her, and fluffing the worn fur collar. Riz watched the interaction, hands shoved deep into his trouser pockets as he rocked back on his heels.

“Come on, darling,” Fabian said with a gentle arm around Adaine’s shoulders. She glanced over her shoulder at Riz, who looked away. The trio exited to the street and Adaine broke off with a quick goodbye before hailing a motorcar and heading home.

“You’re not going with Adaine tonight?” Fabian questioned as he and Riz walked down the street.

“Haven’t in awhile,” he responded, eyes flitting this way and that. “We just kind of stopped… we are better friends than whatever we were.”

“Can I offer you a ride home?” Fabian said pausing by a low red motorcar with its hood down.

“If it saves me money, I won’t say no,” Riz said cracking a smile and climbing into the passenger seat. Fabian grinned and soon the pair were driving down the gloomy streets together. Fabian glanced every now and then at Riz. For some reason, the goblin in the worn brown jacket and patched up fedora was the most interesting person he had talked to all evening. Riz smelled vaguely like cedar and smoke and Fabian had to resist the urge to lean in to get a better wiff. He was so distracted and almost drove right past Riz’s apartment complex.

“Thanks for the ride, Fabian,” Riz said with a tired smile and got out of the car.

“Anytime. See you tomorrow night, the Ball,” Fabian said with a wink and sped off into the night.

Chapter Text

Fig and Kristen walked arm in arm down the street. Fig’s long brown hair was stuffed into a round stiff felt hat, her blouse tucked messily into the high waist of her black trousers, as a pair of pointy leather shoes clicked against the sidewalk. Kristen had her hair pulled back with stiff waves, her own hat set at a jaunty angle as the low waist pale green dress moved with every step, a stiff striped coat over the dress, and a beaded bag clutched in her free hand. Fig was chatting happily about something one of her admirers had told her last night as Kristen listened, eyes lingering on a boy, no more than 15, that stood on an overturned crate. The boy’s pants were patched and the cuffs of his shirt frayed. Next to him was a large poster proclaiming: “The End is Nigh. Join Helio” as he attempted to hand out flyers to the apathetic city dwellers.

“Whatcha looking at?” Fig asked following Kristen’s gaze and let out a snort of distaste. “Having a kid do that. That’s cruel.”

“I used to do that. I got spat on a couple of times,” Kristen murmured, holding her purse a little tighter. “Don’t miss it.”

“As you shouldn’t. You’re with us now,” Fig said cheerily, bumping her friend playfully and leading her around the corner towards the speakeasy. They headed down a narrow alley and spotted the familiar red door, and knocking the code were let in by Ragh.

“Good afternoon, Ragh,” Kristen said, going down the dim staircase.

“Mornin’ Kristen. Get home alright?” he asked, locking the door once more and following the pair downstairs.

“About as good as I can with this one practicing at all hours,” she responded with a laugh.

“Don’t pretend you don’t love my music,” Fig shot back, nudging her friend and almost causing Kristen to stumble down the last few steps. “I have the voice of an angel, many would kill for pipes like mine!”

“You’re no angel,” Kristen shot back, slipping off her coat and draping it over the bar. Fig let out a snort and made her way to the stage where Grogug was warming up, shrugging off her own coat and tossing it on the table. Kristen began to organize the different glasses and take inventory. Saturday and Friday were always big money maker days for the speakeasy, but it meant that the Saturday crowd usually cleared the bar of whatever was left over from Friday. Kristen frowned as she looked down at the bottles and counted them again.

“That’s not gonna be enough,” she muttered and headed to the back to see there were anymore bottles in storage. As she began to rummage through the crates, she pushed some straw back and saw something glint in the light. But before she could investigate further, the sound of commotion came from the main hall and she rushed out to see what was happening.

Riz was standing there, arguing with Adaine as a woman sat in a chair, folded in on herself and a pair of goat hooves peeking out from under her faded purple coat. Fig and Grogug stood to the side, Fig had her arms crossed and seemed ready to spring into action should the need arise. Grogug was simply fidgeting as he kept glancing at the stranger. Fabian came storming out of the office and murmured something to Riz and Adaine who quickly stopped their arguing.

“What’s going on?” Kristen asked, taking a few steps closer.

“Riz is treating this place like a shelter,” Adaine snapped, motioning towards the woman who shrank even more. “If she has people coming after her, why would you bring her here?”

“Because this place is safe. And it’s only temporary,” Riz argued, puffing his chest as he tried to increase his stature. “You’re not even open yet. Just keep an eye on her while I do some investigating.”

Grogug approached the woman and began to talk to her in a low voice before standing up and making his way to the bar. Kristen met Grogug at the bar and began to clean glasses as he puttered around making the stranger a glass of water.

“Do you think Adaine will let Riz keep her here?” she whispered to Grogug.

“I don’t know, but she is super scared,” he responded and went back to the woman with the glass of water.

“Thank you,” the stranger said, accepting the glass and chugging the water before starting to nibble on the edge of the glass, her dark hair falling over her face.

“I’m Grogug Thistlespring,” he said as Adaine and Riz continued to bicker quietly. “What’s your name?”

 

“Zelda Donavan,” she responded, pausing her nibbling and glancing up at him. “Mr. Gukgak said he’d help me find my friend. I didn’t think they’d come after me.”

“One of your friends went missing right?” Grogug asked gently and Zelda nodded. “Riz is good at what he does, he’ll find your friends. You picked the right guy to find them, he’s like a bloodhound.”

“Really?” Zelda said with a weak smile, putting down the glass. She pushed her hair out of her face and Grogug turned slightly deeper green. “I really don’t want to inconvenience anyone. I didn’t mean to cause conflict with Mr. Gukgak and… his girl?”

“Adaine? And Riz?” Grogug stammered, glancing between the two and let out a laugh. Zelda frowned and went back to looking at the glass. “Oh, I didn’t mean to-I mean… I can see-but they aren’t--at least I don’t think so… I didn’t mean to laugh.”

“It’s alright,” she said, her frown replaced with an awkward smile. “They just remind me of my parents. They always argue and then--ahem--make up right afterwards.”

“What? Oh--oh!” Grogug’s face deepened color even further. “Ahem, I see.”

“Ms. Donovan,” Riz said, coughing and touching Zelda’s shoulder. “My friend said you can stay here till I get back. You’re in good hands, stay close to Grogug and he’ll look after you.”

Zelda nodded and glanced at Adaine who was at the bar deep in a discussion with Kristen, tapping her pencil against the wooden bar. Grogug gave Zelda a smile and stood up, motioning with his hand to follow her and she did as he made his way back to the piano. Fig sat near the stage, legs crossed and foot jiggling as she scribbled down lyrics for a possible new song. Fabian had stopped Riz on his way and was muttering something in hushed tones before patting him on the back and letting Ragh show Riz back upstairs.

“Let’s get moving, Grogug,” Fig said, springing to her feet and snapping the small notebook shut. She took to the stage, tapping a steady rhythm out with her shoe. Grogug excused himself from Zelda and took his usual seat at the piano. Soon the two were playing a plucky tune, Fig moving from one side of the stage to the other, stopping every now and then to ask Grogug to replay a certain measure.

“Everything alright?” Fabian asked, joining Adaine and Kristen. “Do we have enough for tonight?”

“We should be,” Kristen said, glancing once more behind the bar. Adaine pursed her lips and Fabian placed a hand on the space between her shoulders and neck. Kristen raised an eyebrow but said nothing, turning away to wipe down the counter.

“Let’s just start to get ready for tonight,” Adaine siad, shaking Fabian’s hand off. She waved Ragh over and told him to start organizing the table and chairs while she and Kristen swept the space. Fabian retreated to the office and took a seat in the chair. With a sigh, he lifted the eye patch and began to rub the scar. Whenever he became stressed, which was often these days, it ached. His good eye glanced at the drinks table, but he decided against it.

The hours passed quickly as they prepared the speakeasy for that night’s guests. At one point Fig went backstage to change and emerged in a balck dress. The dark dress was accented with a gold river-like pattern and the skirt had added fullness with several layers of sheer loose black cloth to give the appearance that the wearer had not shape. The back of the dress was longer than the front, just barely touching the floor as Fig walked back on stage and situated the microphone. Grogug, on the other hand, had exchanged his simple brown trousers and sweater vest for a more formal black and white suit with a black bowtie that he never seemed to be able to wear straight.

Adaine wandered between the tables, centering the low table lights and ensuring the dark green tablecloths were even. Her mage hand lifted a lamp as she straightened the tablecloth and gave a satisfied nod with her onceover. Fabian emerged from the office, eye patch back in its normal spot.

“Ragh, start letting people in,” he called and went to lean on the bar.

Adaine glanced at Zelda who hadn’t moved from her position near the stage, staring at Grogug all the while. She approached the woman and took the empty seat.

“Do you want anything? Water?” Adaine asked, attempting to make up for her hostile behaviour towards Zelda earlier that day. She noticed that the glass Grogug had given Zelda now had a few sizable chunks missing.

“Um… some water would be nice,” Zelda replied, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. Adaine gave her a forced smile and stood up as the first guests began to trickle in. Fig and Grogug began playing at once, filling the space with light and festive music.

“Some water for Ms. Donvan if you please, Kristen,” Adaine said and Kristen nodded, moving quickly. “When is Riz planning to come collect her?

The question was more directed to herself than to anyone else as Adaine took the glass, shaking her head slightly, and handed it to Zelda who was still watching Grogug and his crooked bowtie, play in rapt interest. Her ears pricked as she heard Fabian’s booming voice over the din and she glanced at the newly arrived guests. Her jaw clenched and the feeling of barely contained rage bubbled up within her as met the icy blue eyes of Aelwyn Abernant. Her sister gave her a smile as she switched her attention back onto Fabian. Adaine’s eyes shifted to the rest of her group and noticed it was the same couple as last night; Dayne Blayde and Penelope Everpetal. Not sparing the couple too much thought she went back to attempting conversation with the very distracted Zelda.

“Aelwyn, what a surprise,” Fabian said, quickly masking his disgust with friendly surprise. “Dayne, Penelope, lovely to see you both again. What can we get started for you tonight?”

“Champagne, the usual,” Dayne began.

“We are celebrating that my father has just received a promotion,” Aelwyn cut in, giving Fabian a cursor glance before giving him one of those arrogant smiles that used to make him crazy. He didn’t return the smile.

“Congratulations, champagne it is then!” Fabian said, clapping a hand on Dayne’s shoulder as the two ladies moved to find an empty table. He turned around to Kristen who was already pouring the glasses and he glanced around for Adaine, checking to see if she had noticed their guests. Adaine’s eyes were aflame as her hands were clenched into fists at her side as she watched the party take its seat near the stage.

“So Aelwyn,” Fabian said, taking the empty seat next to her. “What brings you here? You never come by.”

“Oh, I missed coming by and Father’s promotion is as good as any to celebrate,” she replied, placing a perfectly manicured hand on his arm. He resisted the urge to yank his arm away and kept his smile in place. Kristen came by and placed down the wide rimmed glasses and a metal bucket with the champagne sticking out of it.

“Anyway, I missed seeing you, Fabian,” Aelwyn purred, leaning in closer. Fabian let her and angled his head so his lips were right next to her ear.

“You should have stayed away. Adaine does want you here and neither do I,” he whispered and pulled away with a smile. She let out a chuckle and glanced once more at Adaine, who was watching the table from her seat next to the enraptured Zelda.

“Why would I start listening to my little sister now?” she said in a loud enough voice to carry over to Adaine.

“You have a little sister?” Penelope gasped, leaning towards Fabian and Aelwyn with the egear interest of a woman who had nothing else to do but gossip. “You never said, Aelwyn. How come I’ve never met her?”

“Oh Penelope you must keep it a secret. She ran off a few years back, turned her back on all of us,” Aelwyn said, dropping the corners of her mouth and placing a hand on her chest. “Mother has never recovered. But maybe it was for the best. She always did fail to meet our parents standards.”

Adaine stood up suddenly and her chair clattered to the floor. Her chest rose and fell rapidly as Aelwyn shot her a satisfied grin.

“Excuse me a moment, I think my associate wants to speak with me,” Fabian said quickly, as several patrons stared at Adaine with bored curiosity. Fig snapped twice and Grogug picked up the pace as she broke out into a higher tempo song and couples began to dance.

“That fucking bitch,” Adaine hissed as Fabain took her by the arm and led her to the back office. He snapped the door closed and wheeled around to face her. “Fabain, what the fuck is my sister doing here?”

“I don’t know,” Fabian said, rubbing his scar. “But you can’t just knock a chair over because of what she said. You know it’s not true.”

“Get her out of here,” she growled, stepping closer to Fabian and pointing towards the door. “Figure out a way to do it quietly or I’ll get Ragh to throw her out.”

“Don’t be dramatic, Adaine,” he said, taking her hand and lowering it. “Stay here till you calm down. I don’t want her here anymore than you do, but we need her friend’s business.”

“Why don’t I believe that? A year ago you seemed all too eager to shove your tongue down her throat,” Adaine snorted, snatching her hand away and crossing her arms.

“I was stupid and anyway, you were busy with Zanye--”

“Don’t bring him into this.”

Adaine and Fabian stared at each other, the air thick with tension. He looked away first and headed back out to the speakeasy. Puasing in front of the closed door he let out a breathe and hitched a smile on his face before making his way back to Aelwyn’s table. Looking around, he noticed Dayne and Kristen were both missing.

When Fabian had pulled Adiane away, Kristen had been behind the bar, mixing an Old Fashioned for the half elf and orc duo by the door. As she watched the crowd, rubbing a lemon peel around the rim of glass, she noticed a blonde lanky figure slinking its way towards the back. She kept an eye on the figure as she placed the glasses in front of the half elf and orc. Curiosity got the better of her and she followed Dayne to the back.

“You’re not supposed to be back here,” she said loudly, rounding the corner to see Dayne hunched over a crate, sifting through bits of straw. Kristen moved quickly towards him and pulled him back with a sharp jerk.

“Who the--”

“What the hell are you doing going through our supplies?” she snapped, gripping his collar and pushing him against the wall. She glanced down at his hand and saw a crystal clutched in his hand.

“Shoulda kept your nose outta of it,” Dayne said with a smirk. Kristen opened her mouth to say something, but suddenly the world went black and she crumbled to the ground.

Chapter Text

Fabian stood by the bar, observing the crowd, and listened to Fig’s gravely voice sing a sweet tune. His eyes kept landing on Aelwyn who was running a finger around her glass as she watched Fabian. Her red lips were curled into the knowing smile he knew so well. Aelwyn always seemed to know everything and was inclined to reveal even less as her thin fingers wrapped around whoever was her newest source of entertainment.

He looked away and stared at a corner as the memories of their brief fling flooded his mind. She had been so charming and enticing at first. Fabian remembered when he first saw her, it was the first night of the speakeasy, before Adaine had left her family house for good. Aelwyn had appeared in a pink silk dress with a low cut back and a delightful multi layered skirt that swished around her knees everytime she moved. Like always, she was the center of attention and Fabian found himself drawn to her despite knowing the strained relationship with her younger sister. By the end of the night, he had found himself wrapped in cream silk sheets and his nose filled with the scent of dried roses that seemed to follow Aelwyn wherever she went. A few weeks into their dalliance and things grew sour as Fabian realized Aelwyn had a taste for excess. More than once, they had gone out to dinner and he had gone home alone while Aelwyn had been whisked off by someone who she considered more deserving of her time. The final straw had been when she had attempted to charm her way into his business. Aelwyn had convinced one of Fabian’s regular suppliers of elven wine to sell exclusively to a different speakeasy telling the supplier it was a joint venture between Fabian and herself.

Fabian remembered the argument they had had which ended with him storming off as she simply stood there, glass in hand and that annoying look of passive calm on her beautiful cold features. He shook his head, looking down at his wristwatch, and he glanced once more around the bar as Adian emerged for the office. She still looked irritated but seemed less likely to strangle her sister in front of everyone.

“Where the fuck is Kristen?” she asked Fabian in a low dangerous voice, stalking towards him. He held his hands up and shrugged. Adaine scowled as if to insinuate that this was his fault. “Fine, I’ll find her. Make sure people still have something to drink.”

Adaine glanced once more at her sister who gave her the slightest of nods before focusing her attention back onto Dayne and Penelope. Dayne pulled something from his pocket. Whatever he had in his hand caught the light for a moment before Penelope clamped a hand over it and looked around nervously. Thinking nothing of it, Adaine checked the bathrooms and green room before finally heading to the storage room.

“Kristen!” she yelped, falling to the floor to turn over Kristen. “Please be okay, oh my god--”

Adaine pushed Kristen’s hair out of her face, cradling the redhead in her arms. Kristen let out a small groan, shifting slightly and slowly moved her hand to touch her head.

“What…” Kristen mumbled, her eyes fluttering open. Adaine helped her sit up, propping her against one of the crates.

“Wait here. I’ll get you some ice and water,” the elven woman said quickly before standing up and leaving Kristen alone.

“I’m bleeding,” she muttered, pulling her hand away to reveal wet red fingertips. “It freaking hurts.”

Adaine rushed back out and Fabian’s eyes widened.

“Adaine, you’re covered in blood,” he said quickly, pulling her behind the bar to hide her bloody skirt from the patrons. He caught Fig’s eye who was watching the stage and moved his finger in a circle to tell her to wrap it up.

“It’s Kristen’s,” Adaine replied, taking a towel and a glass of water.

At the moment, Riz walked down the stairs, brown fedora low over his eyes. He began to make his way towards his normal table when he noticed that Zelda was being spoken to by Penelope Everpetal. Following the direction of Zelda’s gaze, he took note of the furtive glances Fig and Gurgug were exchanging with Fig nodding towards the bar. Riz glanced just in time to see a bloodied Adaine run towards the back.

Fabina headed towards the stage and Fig stepped aside to let him have the mic.

“Hello ladies and gents,” he said with that wide charming smile of his. “Unfortunately, we will be closing early tonight. If you will please exit the way you came in.”

Sounds of protest erupted and Fig began to shoo people towards the staircase. Zelda made to stand up but Riz was by her side and placed a hand on her shoulder to keep her seated.

“Nice to see you again, Fabian,” Aelwyn called, pulling on her white coat, the high fur collar tickling her cheekbone as she batted her eyelashes and looped her arm with Dayne’s. Penelope took Dayne’s other arm and the trio joined the exiting partygoers. Fabian waited for everyone to leave before going towards the back.

“Fabian, what’s going on? We never close early,” Fig questioned, following him. When they entered the storage room she let out a shout of disbelief and joined Adaine on the floor next to Kristen. “Who the fuck did this? I’m going to cut their limbs off.”

“I don’t know. Someone was back here and then suddenly it all went black,” Kristen groaned as Adaine did her best to clean up the blood. Kristen let out a hiss as Adaine touched the wound.

“Let me,” Fig said, holding her hands over Kristen’s head and murmuring a few words. Kristen blinked, a bit of color returning to her face. “Better?”

“Yeah, thanks Fig,” Kristen said with a weak smile, placing a hand on Fig’s leg and giving it a squeeze. Adaine picked up the bloody towel and left the pair in the storage room. Upon exiting she glanced down at her own dress. The once light blue fabric was now spotted with brownish red splotches and her hands were stained with Kristen’s blood.

“Adaine, are you alright?” Riz asked, pulling himself away from Zelda and Grogug. “You’re covered in blood.”

“Huh? Yeah. I’m fine. It’s Kristen, she’s been hurt,” Adaine muttered, scrubbing her hands under the cold water. Riz hovered by Adaine, flexing his hand as he kept moving his arm to touch her and then letting it drop once more by his side. Ragh came lumbering down the stairs, scratching the back of his head.

“Hey boss, is everything alright?” he asked, looking around with concern.

“Kristen was attacked. I need you to walk Kristen and Fig home,” Fabian said, lighting a cigarette at one of the empty tables. “Better safe than sorry.”

“Yeah, of course,” Ragh responded. “Is she okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” Kristen said, emerging from the back with a bandage around her head. Fig had changed out of her dress and back into her pants, an arm around Kristen’s shoulders. “I just need to sleep this off and I’ll be right as rain.”

“If you remember anything, let me know,” Riz said and she nodded, giving him a grateful smile before being escorted out by Ragh and Fig. “Ms. Donavan, I don’t feel safe letting you be home by yourself.”

“She can stay with me for the night,” Grogug piped up, his cheeks a deep green. Zelda looked up, her own face turning a shade of pink. “I mean--I don’t--I share with Ragh---two of us watching her… it would be--it would be safe, I mean. I wouldn’t try anything--of course, I could never-- but you know us…”

“Point taken, Grogug,” Riz said, holding a hand up with a smile. “Ms. Donavan, is that alright with you?”

“Me? Yes. I don’t mind,” Zelda said quickly, glancing between Riz and Grogug.

“Call me if anything happens,” Riz said as Grogug went back to change before taking Zelda to the apartment he and Ragh shared. The pair left and walked down the darkened street. Zelda pulled her faded purple coat closer around her, hooves clicking against the sidewalk. Grogug’s already lanky figure was elongated by his light brown overcoat, the newsboy cap set at an awkward angle over his dark floppy hair. Despite his height, Grogug always walked slightly hunched over, shoulders drawn inwards as if being buffeted by some invisible wind. The streets were mostly empty as the pair traveled from pool of yellow lamplight to the next.

“You know,” Zelda began, holding her hands tightly. “You’re really good at the piano. I really liked watching you play.”

“Oh, ah--thanks, thank you,” Grogug chuckled, rubbing the back of his head. “I’m glad you liked it. Most people come to see Fig--not that I mind. I don’t really like being at the center of attention.”

The pair fell back into comfortable silence as Grogug thought back to when he and Fig had started playing. It had begun as a total fluke. Grogug had been dragged to a party and somehow landed in front of the piano. Fig was leaning up against the piano, cigarette between her fingers. Her hair had been held in place by a glittering headband with feathers sticking out of it and she wore a dress that looked like she had been bathed in gold.

“Come on, big guy. Play us something,” she had said with a wink. Grogug had obliged, believing if he played he would be able to leave sooner. After the first song, the partygoers asked for another, filling his glass as payment. They had sung several more songs until Grogug had insisted that he was tired and went to go collect his coat. Standing in the entrance as he put on his coat Fig had come up to him, extracting herself from the crowd of people, swaying slightly as she stopped in front of him and held out a hand.

“Figueroth Faeth, but everyone calls me Fig.”

“Grogug Thistlespring,” he replied shaking her hand and leaving. “Goodnight, Ms. Faeth.”

Fig had turned up at the docks where Grogug was working the next day. She kept coming back everyday until Gorgug agreed to be her pianist and the rest was history.

“Is Fig your… sweetheart?” Zelda asked, interrupting Grogug’s reminiscing.

“Fig? No!” he replied a little too quickly and gave a cough. “I mean, no. She prefers older men.”

He stopped in front of an apartment building. It wasn’t a particularly nice looking building, but it wasn’t shabby and the windows glowed with warm orange light. Grogug fished out his keys and led Zelda up to the fourth floor, letting her into his apartment. Ragh was already back and looked up in surprise, montioning between Grogug and Zelda, grinning.

“It’s not like that, Ragh,” Grogug said, turning a deep shade of green. Ragh shrugged and went back to flipping through a magazine.

The apartment was cozy and small. The main room served as the living room and kitchen, the walls were crowded with posters of boxers, musicals, theater, and other live performances. The couch was a threadbare small red two seater with a large knitted blanket thrown over it. A small coffee table stood in front of the couch, facing one of two doors with a small radio and a vase of skinny looking daisies on top. The kitchen was little more than a stove, a fridge, a sink, and a single counter. The sink was cluttered with dishes and a pan sat cold on the stove. The two doors lead to the cramped bathroom and the bedroom that both Ragh and Grogug shared. The bedroom had two twin beds, pressed against opposite sides of the wall. Ragh’s bed was caved slightly in the middle, a poster of a boxer right next to it. The other bed had its sheets and blankets hastily thrown in some semblance of order and a battered brown leather suitcase poked out underneath. On the table between the beds stood a singular lamp with a faded lampshade.

“Ah, sorry for the mess,” Grogug said, moving towards the sink and starting to clean the dishes. “Take a seat. Ragh, move so she has room.”

“Right, sorry,” Ragh said distractedly, absorbed in the pages of the sports magazine.

Zelda took a seat, still wearing her coat, staying close to the edge of the sofa, her large brown eyes looked around the apartment. Her eyes lingered on the eclectic collection of posters, a small smile appearing on her face as Grogug was rambling a string of apologies while he tried to rustle up some dinner. Normally, he and Ragh would simply get dinner on the way home or eat at the speakeasy, but tonight they had left in such a rush that he had forgotten. Fortunately there were some slabs of bacon and eggs as well as a beer in the fridge.

“Do you want one?” Grogug said, holding out the brown bottle and she nodded. He opened it with his teeth and handed it to her, humming as he cooked the eggs and bacon. Zelda turned pink, staring at Grogug’s back as she held the bottle in both her hands.

“So why are you here?” Ragh asked, not looking up from the magazine.

“Me?” Zelda said, jumping slightly. “Um, Mr. Gukgak thought it would be safe if I didn’t go home and Grogug--Mr. Thistlespring, offered to house me for now.”

 

“Sounds like Grogug,” Ragh said with a laugh and Grogug gave the pair a quizzical look as he placed the plates on the coffee table, sitting cross legged on the floor. Zelda took off her coat, revealing a very pretty pale orange striped dress with a blue ribbon tied under the collar and picked up her own plate.

The three spent a pleasant evening chatting and eating their fried eggs, bacon, and beer. At one point, someone switched the radio on and three joined together in singing along. They danced around the small living room, bumping and colliding with each other in a fit of giggles. At one point, Grogug was spinning Zelda around and fully lifted her off the ground, holding her tight in his arms until he stumbled and they fell on the couch in a mass of limbs.

“Now that’s very cute,” Ragh said, stopping his own dancing to look at the pair. They both blushed and let out a string of profuse apologies, detaching themselves.

“We should get to sleep,” Grogug mumbled, standing up and straightening his sweater vest. Zelda nodded. “You can take my bed for tonight. I can take the couch, you don’t mind if Ragh sleeps in the same room as you, do you?”

“I can sleep on the couch, I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you,” Zelda said quickly, standing up as well. “I don’t mind. I’ve slept in weird places, the couch is actually really comfortable. It’s the perfect size for me. Really I don’t mind, Grogug.”

When she said his name, Grogug felt his face go warm. He looked away for a moment and simply nodded while Ragh filled the silence with helping to situate Zelda. Eventually the three of them were in their separate beds for the night. Zelda was given the living room and slept in the slip underneath her dress, the knitted blanket pulled up to her chin as she breathed slowly. Ragh was asleep almost at once, snoring away in a matter of minutes. Only Grogug stayed awake, listening to the syncopated rhythms of Zelda’s and Ragh’s breathing. He was acutely aware of the apartment’s guest and he felt restless. Turning over and staring at the wall, Grogug finally managed to go to sleep.

Chapter Text

Kristen woke the next morning with a splitting headache and rolled over with a groan, the morning sun streaming through the lace curtains. Rubbing her face, she sat up and touched the slightly unrevealed bandage. Detangling herself from the sheets, Kristen went to the mirror and unwrapped the cloth. Her hand touched the now scabbed wound on the back of her head and she took a deep breath before muttering a little prayer. There was a brief flash of light and her hand felt warm, but she pulled it back the wound was no longer there and the headache had gone.

“Praise Helio,” she said, somewhat dejected, and left the bedroom, wrapping a robe tighter around herself. The apartment was a hive activity as the other women in the share house busied themselves in getting ready for work. She pressed herself against the wall as a half-orc speed passed her with her hair half done and sealed herself into the bathroom. Eventually, Kristen made her way to the kitchen, looking around to scrounge some breakfast.

“Good morning, Maggie,” Kristen said to the halfling maid who was bustling around the kitchen. “Is there any coffee left?”

“On the stove, Miss Applebees,” the maid responded with a smile, setting toast and some jam on a tray and leaving through the swinging double doors to the dining room. Kristen found herself a coffee cup, delicately placing it on the paired plate before filling it with the dark steaming liquid. The cup had a gold rim around the white porcelain, a popular design for the year. She took a grateful sip and headed back to her room to wake up Fig.

Fig and she shared a room in a shared apartment with other women. The idea was to help the women stay away from the temptations from the big city and stay safe together. While there was safety at the shared house, the temptations still made their way in. The apartment had four rooms for the renters, one for the servant Maggie Lowe, a kitchen, a dining room, and a small parlor to receive guests. Across from the parlor was the matron’s room. The matron was a dragonborn woman who often kept to herself, preferring to read in her room rather than socialize with her renters. As long as they didn’t make too much noise, she left them to their own devices. For the four rooms, there were two bathrooms and each room housed two girls. Fig had had the room to herself but offered Kristen the spare bed when she had left her parents.

“Fig, get up,” Kristen said, nudging the shapeless mass of blankets with hand. “Don’t you have your little mission with Grogug and Ragh tonight?”

“Five more minutes,” the blankets mumbled, shifting slightly. Kristen shook her head and placed the coffee cup on the vanity before launching herself on top of the pile.

“Wake up, Fig,” Kristen teased, trying to tickle Fig through the layers of blankets. Fig fought back, yelping as she swatted Kristen’s hands. Eventually, the redhead backed off with a triumphant smile as the tiefling sat up with a disgruntled look on her face.

“You really couldn’t have let me have five more minutes?” Fig asked, running a hand through her hair, trying to flatten its messy state.

“It’s already 10:30,” Kristen replied, finishing the rest of her coffee and taking off her robe. She took a seat in front of the mirror and began to brush her hair, watching Fig from the mirror. Carefully she began her morning ritual of laying her hair into soft waves as she pinned the rest of her loose curls at her jaw. At home she would have been muttering in prayer as she did this, praising Helio with every pin she put in. But now she stayed silent, unsure whether she even still believed in the almighty Helio.

“I’m going to shower,” Fig grumbled, grabbing her robe from the floor.

“Orma is in there,” Kristen replied in reference to the half-orc woman who had passed her before.

“Well, pray to Helio that the other one is open,” her roommate responded and Kristen’s mouth pressed into a thin line as Fig closed the door behind her with a sharp snap. Kristen let out a sigh and shifted through her dresser for something suitable to wear. Her side of the room was neatly put together, a habit from her time in the church.

“Cleanliness is close to godliness,” she murmured, looking at Fig’s disarray of clothes and blankets. Looking in the mirror she shook her head, the phrase had come out involuntarily. Kristen had left her family almost a year ago by this point, but old habits die hard and she was still adjusting to mundane life. Something came out involuntary and while she tried to be more like Fig, she was still her.

“Fuck Helio,” she said in a slightly louder voice, glaring at her freckled reflection. Straightening her back, she chose a pale green blouse with a simple floral pattern and a pair of yellow wide-legged trousers.

Fig wandered in, still yawning, but her hair was now slightly less of a mess. She tossed her robe onto the bed, kicking her discarded clothes and opening up the drawers of her vanity. Fig slipped on her bralette and underwear before putting on her usual uniform of black wide-leg trousers, a cream shirt, and a short red tie that ended just above the waistband of the pants. Pulling the strips of fabric that curled her hair overnight, she piled her hair into a mass of curls.

“Is there any coffee left?” Fig said, leaning on the shared vanity and carefully outlining her lips in red.

“Ask Maggie,” Kristen responded, finishing buttoning her shirt. A sudden knock came and Kristen opened the door.

“A call for Ms. Faeth,” Maggie said, looking around Kristen for Fig.

“Coming, who is calling?” Fig asked, finishing her makeup and joining Kristen at the door.

“Some woman named Adaine Abernantrnant,” Maggie responded and Fig cast Kristen a look as she followed Maggie down the hall.

“Hello, Fig talking,” she said, picking up the receiver.

“You still want to watch the shipment?” Adaine asked without so much as a hello.

“Are Grogug and Ragh still going to babysit?”

“Think of them as backup,” Adaine responded.

“Fine. When and where?” Fig asked, inspecting her nails.

“Docks at midnight. The transaction won’t occur till 1 AM but I want you there early,” Adaine responded. “The boys will meet you there.”

“Sounds good. I’ll call you once it's done,” Fig said and hung up the phone. These weren’t the kind of conversations that needed a goodbye.

“What did Adaine want?” Kristen asked as Fig reentered the room.

“I’m on the job tonight,” she answered and flopped down on her bed. “Guess I won’t be singing tonight.”

“The place will be absolutely desolate without you,” Kristen teased, shrugging on her coat and putting a cloche at a jaunty angle on her head. “Stay safe, Fig.”

“You know me, Kristen. Safety is my middle name!” Fig replied, waving a hand airily, already half asleep. Kristen shook her head and left the room. Unlike Fig, tonight she did have to work.

A few hours later, Fig awoke and turned over to look at the clock on the bedside table. She jumped to her feet, letting out a string of curses and hurriedly putting on her cloche. She rushed out the door, earning a bark of reprimand from the housemother, and flagged a taxi.

“The docks, please. And step on it, darling,” Fig said to the cabbie, leaning into the leather cushions and fanning herself with a gloved hand.

The automobile sped away, swerving through traffic as he did step on it. Fig adjusted her clothes, straightening her tie and pushing her hair back under her hat, fixing the details of her makeup in the compact she kept with her. The cab skidded to a halt at the darkening docks.

“Thank you. Keep the change,” Fig said with a wink, handing the cabbie a wad of cash and taking off towards the dock. Her kitten heels clicked against the wood and she pulled a small gun from her pocket. She ran towards the two large figures leaning against the wall of one of the warehouses.

“Sorry I’m late boys,” she said, jogging up to Grogug and Ragh.

Fig looked out over the docks. The sun was setting over the water, turning everything a burnt orange with tinges of purple. The docks were mostly empty, most of the workers had gone for the day. She looked down the long wooden pier, observing all the crates that had been piled up.

“Cigarette?” Fig asked, trading her gun for a silver case and pulling out the long skinny white cigarette.

“I’ll take one,” Ragh said, pulling one from the case and lighting both his and Fig’s.

The trio stood there, smoking their cigarettes and watching the sunset. At one point, Grogug pulled out sandwiches and a flask which he shared with the other two. Fig filled the silence with happily chatting about whatever new song she was working on and replacing them with tales from all the parties she had been to.

“Showtime,” Grogug said, lifting his hat slightly and casting a glance down the docks as a small boat pulled up. The ship was being manned by a wood elf and half-orc, several crates clinking softly behind them in the ebb of the water.

“Let’s do this boys,” Fig said, pocketing the cigarette case and placing a hand on the gun in her pocket. Further down the dock, another boat was pulling up.

“We’re here to pick up for Fabian,” Grogug said as Ragh and Fig hung back. Fig kept an eye on the nearby boat. There were two hooded figures sitting in the boat, unmoving.

“Hey gentlemen,” Fig said, taking her eyes away from the figures and approaching the smugglers. “Care to tell me why shipments have been so… erratic?”

“You know as much as we do, sister,” the wood elf said, unloading one of the cases. “We send people out and then they don’t come back.”

“Well, hopefully, nothing happens tonight,” Grogug murmured, taking the crate from the elf and handing it to Ragh. A sudden scuffle from the neighboring ship made them all look. A few hooded men were coming out of one of the warehouses, dragging a wriggling figure between the two of them.

“Let me go!” the figure screeched, managing a good kick before more of the hooded figure grabbed her. As they neared the boat, a smaller creature emerged and something glinted in the darkness before a bang went off.

“We are out of here,” the smugglers said, starting to push off the dock.

“At least unload the rest of the cargo--”

Fig was cut short as shots rang out towards them. The three of them ducked and Fig went towards the gunfire, pistol clutched in hand.

“Fig! Where are you---”

“Dammit Fig!”

Grogug and Ragh followed after her, their own guns equipped. As they approached, they realized the smaller figure was Riz with his arquebus out, taking shots at the figures holding the squirming figure.

“Hello Riz, need some help?” Fig said, straightening up and hitting one of the attackers in the leg. Riz didn’t respond as he took aim and got another in the back, sending him sprawling. Even in the semi-darkness, Fig realized the men weren’t wearing hoods, they had burlap sacks over their heads.

“Weird choice of costume, boys,” Fig yelled and Riz glared at her.

“Fig, what the hell were you thinking?” Grogug snapped, joining Fig in shooting at the figures. The men holding to the figure were slowly dropping and stumbling as they became more riddled with bullets.

“Care to tell me why you’re here?” Riz said through clenched teeth.

“Was here for a shipment, stayed for the gunfight,” Fig responded with a grin as the figure managed to separate themselves and start running down the docks. There was a flash of gold as they realized the figure was a dwarven woman who was now hightailing it away. Riz stopped his shooting to run after her. Fig stayed, still going shooting after the men, scrambling to get in the boat. A few more fell, landing face down with a sickening crunch.

“Fig, we should go,” Ragh said, stopping to reload his gun. “This isn’t our fight.”

“You’re no fun. They were shooting at Riz,” Fig replied, still shooting. One of them twisted around and threw something, flying over their heads and crashing through the warehouse windows. “Missed!”

“That’s not the point--” Grogug began.

Then the warehouse behind them exploded. The three of them fell forwards as the shock of the explosion rippled across the docks. Flames leaped out of the window, catching on the dry wood of the docks as it quickly spread all around them. The figures ran away from the burning wreckage, climbing into their boat and leaving their fallen comrades behind. The boat disappeared into the nighttime fog.

Riz turned at the sound, throwing his arm up against the wave of heat. He squinted through the flames as he tried to see his friends. He saw them sprawled on the ground, unmoving. Glancing behind him, Ostensia Wallace was bolting away from the fire and the burlap men.

“Ah… shit,” Riz sighed and bolted towards the fire.

Chapter Text

Riz ran towards the fire, reaching Ragh first. He shook the half-orc, receiving a groan of dispute and he hurried to Fig. Gorgug was stirring, slowly raising himself up on his elbows and coughing with the smoke. Riz rolled over Fig who had blood coming down the side of her face and tried to lift her but their height difference made him buckle slightly as he dragged her away from the fire.

“Ragh,” Gorgug coughed, crawling towards the other half-orc. Ragh began to cough, eyes watering as struggled to his feet. Gorgug and Ragh leaned on each other as the group stumbled away from the raging fire. In the distance, there was the sound of cop cars and firetrucks.

“Follow me, I brought my car,” Riz said, half dragging Fig towards his automobile. They reached the car and he put Fig into the backseat, Ragh and Gorgug getting on either side of her, holding her up. Riz climbed into the driver’s seat and sped off into the night. He drove in between the other cars, making his way to the Bad Kids speakeasy. Adaine was not going to be happy, but they needed somewhere safe and Kristen could heal the worst of it if they got there quickly. He went around the back of the building and skidded to a halt. Ragh and Gorgug jumped out, opening the back door. Ragh held Fig in his arms, her arm limply flopping with his every step. Riz scambered after the two larger men, sneaking into the main speakeasy. He spotted Adaine, whose eyes went wide at the sight of his stained shirt and followed him to the back room.

“You can’t keep coming here every time you need a safe place,” she hissed, running a hand through her hair. “One of these days, trouble is going to follow you and my business is going to hurt.”

“Will you shut up and just follow me?” Riz snapped and Adaine blanched, but went to the back room quietly.

“What the hell happened to you?” she asked, taking in Ragh, Gorgug, and an unconscious Fig.

“She is losing blood,” Gorgug said, trying to clean Fig’s head wound. “Is Kristen here?”

“Yes. I’ll go get her,” Adaine sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. Before leaving, she turned to Riz, pointing a finger at him. “You. You better have a good explanation as to why my friend is bleeding out on my storeroom floor.”

Riz said nothing and just scowled. Ragh was running a hand through his short cropped hair, covered in ash. He took a seat on a nearby crate, his leg jiggling as he watched Gorgug take care of Fig. There was a slight ringing in Ragh’s ears and his body ached, he could feel the tiny cuts on his back from the broken glass. Rolling back his shoulders, Ragh winced and had the nasty feeling it was dislocated at best, broken at worst. He noticed that Gorgug’s hands were badly cut and the hair on the back of his head was singed.

“Is she going to be okay?” Ragh asked.

“Let’s see what Kristen thinks,” Gorgug replied shortly, his voice coming out gravely.

Adaine walked back in with Kristen, shooting a look at Riz who glared back. Kristen sat next to Fig, holding her hands over the wound and murmuring. Her hands glowed momentarily and the color began to slowly return to Fig’s face.

“Riz, care to explain what the fuck happened here?” Adaine said in a dangerously quiet voice, her hands balled at her side.

“I was chasing after suspects, they kidnapped someone I was watching. I went after them, some guys with burlap sacks on their heads--”

“Did you say burlap sacks?” Kristen interrupted, looking up from Fig.

“Yes, burlap. Then the shooting started and Fig ran over. The person I was protecting was running away, and then there was an explosion,” Riz continued. “I let her go and went to go help these three. I drove them here because I knew Kristen was going to be able to help Fig.”

“What about the cargo?” Adaine asked Ragh, pinching her nose and letting out a sigh.

“I think it got caught in the fire,” he responded, dropping his gaze.

“Oh joy,” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up. “Ragh, Gorgug, go home, get cleaned up. Kristen, get Fig to a hospital or take her home, whatever it is, just take care of her. Riz, get out of here, I don’t want to see you right now.”

“Riz, those men… I think I know who they were,” Kristen said quietly and all eyes snapped to her. “Back in the Church, there was this group--the Harvestmen. I went to their camp once, they kept us up for hours praying… saying it aloud it sounds a bit cultish.”

“Just a little Kristen,” Riz laughed dryly. Adaine said nothing, her arms crossed as she gave him a look that could curdle milk.

“Come by the apartment tomorrow and I can tell you more,” Kristen said quickly, helping Fig to her feet. Ragh and Gorgug followed her out.

“Adaine,” Riz began, adjusting his hat. “It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t want Fig to get hurt. You can’t blame me for what happened.” With that he turned and left. Adaine’s face crumpled and she sat on a crate, putting her face in her hands.

Her breathing was ragged as she remembered that only the night before it had been Kristen bleeding out on the storeroom floor. It no longer smelled of sawdust and wood, instead the air was stained with a metallic scent that made Adaine’s stomach lurch. Her hands shook as slowly stood up and made her way back to the main hall.

Unseen servants played the instruments as the Sunday crowded, much more passive than the Saturday or Friday crowd, sat talking in hushed voices. She went behind the bar and poured herself a stiff drink. Fabian saw her from across the room and raised an eyebrow, but she shook her head and plastered a smile on her face.

The rest of the night was uneventful and the pair closed the speakeasy without too much trouble. Adaine used her mage hand to expedite the process, a drink in one hand as she wandered between the tables.

“You alright?” Fabian asked, pulling out a cigarette and waving at the drink in her hand.

“Apparently there was an explosion at the docks. Fig was knocked unconscious, Ragh and Gorgug seem to have also been injured. The shipment is gone and Riz, of all people, was there,” Adaine said with a harsh laugh, a wild smile on her face as she ran a hand through her hair.

“Is Riz safe?” Fabian asked quickly, trying not to look too worried.

“Don’t worry, Fabian, Riz is fine,” she replied, her face twisting as she downed the rest of her drink. “He is always fine. Goddammit.”

Fabian said nothing. Adaine put away the glass and left without another word, swaying slightly. He watched her make her way up the stairs, staying in the empty and dim lit bar.

Chapter Text

Adaine awoke the next morning with a splitting headache. She rolled over and an unseen servant passed through her room, opening the curtains and placing a breakfast tray on the bedside table. Peeling her eyes open, she fumbled for the glass of orange juice and chugged it one gulp.

Adaine knew she had been unfair to Riz last night. He was right, it wasn’t his fault. She couldn’t help it. Every time something happened and Riz was involved she couldn’t help but think of what happened a year prior. Adaine and Zane Darkshadow had joined Riz on a job. It was supposed to be simple, in and out with no risk. The three of them had snuck into the office and Riz was busy rifling through the cabinet, Adaine was acting as look out, and Zane was trying to crack the safe. Then there was gunfire and the three of them were running out of the office. Expect they didn’t all make it out. Zane had gotten shot and had bled out before they could make it to the hospital, right in Adaine’s arms. That had been six months ago and Adaine still hadn’t quite gotten over it.

Adaine squared her shoulders and shook the memory from her head. Taking the Bloody Mary on the breakfast tray, she downed it and the throbbing in her head slowed. Slowly she emerged from her bed and padded down the hall to the bathroom. Unlike Gorgug, Ragh, Kristen, and Fig, Adaine had an apartment to herself. It was a spacious apartment with three bedrooms, a foyer, small library, dining room, a parlor, and a kitchen. The apartment had been one of the last things her parents had bought her and she enjoyed having the large space to herself. The only company she had was her servant, Riley, who was gone for the weekend.

By the time she reached the bathroom, the bath was already drawn. Adaine stripped out of last night’s clothes, leaving them on a heap on the floor, and sliding into the warm soapy water with a happy sigh. She decided that after breakfast she would call Riz and apologize.

On the other side of the city, Kristen was still trying to make sure Fig didn’t experience any lasting damage. She had stayed awake the whole night making sure Fig’s breath was steady and her head wound wasn’t too deep. Around nine in the morning, Maggie knocked on the door and told her Riz was waiting in the sitting room.

“Tell him I’ll be there in a minute. Could you put out some coffee for us please?” Kristen responded, standing from Fig’s bed.

“Right away, Ms. Applebees,” Maggie said with a curt nod, leaving them both to their room.

Praise Helio that Maggie doesn’t ask questions, Kristen thought, changing out of last night’s clothes and into something clean. Running a quick brush through her hair, she went to the sitting room and saw Riz sat there, feet dangling off the edge of the couch, sipping coffee.

“Good morning, Riz,” Kristen said cheerily, pouring herself a cup as well, dropping several sugar cubes into the steaming liquid.

“‘Morning, Kristen,” Riz mumbled. “How is Fig doing?”

“She is… stable. Are you okay? Adaine was a bit out of line last night,” she responded, taking a seat next to him.

“It’s alright, I’m sure she’ll call later. What can you tell me about these Harvestmen?” he asked, putting down the coffee and pulling out his notebook. Kristen let out a sigh and put down her own coffee before launching into what she knew about them. After a few hours where Riz asked her questions about the specifics, the coffee was gone and Kristen’s voice felt hoarse.

“Thank you Kristen,” Riz said finally, snapping his notebook closed. “I really appreciate this.”

“Yeah, of course. If you have any questions let me know,” she responded, standing up and showing him to the door.

Once outside, Riz climbed back into the automobile and lit a cigarette. He didn’t often smoke, but he kept a pack in the glove compartment for long days. He had barely slept since last night, the image of Adaine’s face of rage and Fig’s unconscious body in Ragh’s arms playing over and over. Riz knew why Adaine had reacted the way she did, but it still hurt every time. He drove automatically, his mind occupied with all the information Kristen had just told her and last night's events. It was all connected, somehow but he couldn’t figure out how. He slowed to a stop in front of a dingy office building in the more industrial part of the city and stepped out.

Riz’s office also doubled as his apartment. Behind the frosted pane of glass of the front door was a solid oak desk, a wall of filing cabinets, and a row of dirty windows. There was a door off to the right that led to nothing better than a studio with a mattress, a small kitchen and a radio. The radio was tuned to police broadcasts rather than music more often than not. A cup of stale coffee sat between a pad of paper and the telephone on the desk.

As soon as he walked through the door, the telephone rang and he scrambled to pick it up.

“Ms. Abernant on the line for you,” said the operator and Riz told her to connect them.

“Good morning, Riz,” Adaine’s cool voice came through the speaker.

“Adaine.”

“About last night, I’m sorry. I was stressed and I shouldn’t have snapped at you,” she began letting out a shaky exhale. “It was just the night before it had been Kristen, and then the boys and Fig…”

“I know, Adaine, I know,” Riz said soothingly, placing his cap on the desk.

“I was too harsh,” she murmured. “Do you want to come over for lunch? Riley is gone, but I can rustle something up for us. We can discuss the case…”

“Yeah. Yeah. That’d be nice. I’ll head over,” Riz said softly, glancing out the window and leaning against the desk.

“See you soon, Riz,” she said and hung up with a soft click. He put the phone back on the desk and rubbed his face, downing the stale coffee.

“That was a mistake,” he grimaced, shuddering at the bitterness. After a moment he picked up the phone and asked the operator to connect him with Kristen and Fig’s apartment.

“Hello?” the soft voice of Maggie came through the phone.

“Ah, hello. This is Mr. Gukgak, I was wondering if Kristen was around,” Riz replied, putting on his most serious voice.

“A moment, please,” Maggie said and the line went dead before Kristen’s cheery voice came through, crackling, the speaker.

“Hey Riz, do you have more questions?” she asked.

“Ah, actually I’m going to Adaine’s for lunch, do you think Fig and you can meet me there?” he asked.

“Sure thing. Adaine’s place is always nice to go to,” Kristen said cheerily. Riz murmured a good bye and hung up, summoning Gorgug and Fabian to Adaine’s apartment as well. Then he took off towards Adaine, leaving his car and preferring to walk.

Chapter Text

Adaine was busy flitting around the kitchen making one of the few meals she knew as the unseen servants moved around her, setting the table in the dining room. She hummed to herself as soft music played from the record player. Before long the intercom buzzed and she wiped her hands, pressing the button.

“Hey Adaine, Riz told us to come over!” Kristen’s voice cracked over the speaker and Adaine suppressed a scowl.

“Got it. Come on up, I’m making lunch,” Adaine replied, pressing a button and giving a sigh. “You couldn’t give me a heads up, Riz? Every time.”

She waved her hand and the unseen servants began to put out several more places on the table and she increased the quantity of food she was making. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang and Adaine flicked her wrist, letting Kristen and Fig in.

“Adaine?” Kristen called, taking off her hat and coat and hanging it up in the closet.

“In the kitchen,” Adaine called back.

Kristen looked around the entranceway. No matter how many times she came over, she was always blown away by the sheer size and extravagance on Adaine’s apartment. The door to the dining room was thrown open as delicate cream plates floated past them, gold rimmed coffee cups being placed gently on the long wooden table. A large vase bursting with fresh flowers was on a table in front of the mirror in the foyer and, as Kristen craned her neck to glance into the library, floor to ceiling bookcases were bursting with volumes of all kinds.

Her and Fig walked through the hallway, towards the back of the apartment. Pushing the swinging door and narrowly avoiding being hit in the head with a dish, Kristen saw Adaine over the stove, stirring something in a pot.

“Hello Adaine,” Fig said, hugging Adaine from behind and resting her chin on the eleven woman’s shoulder. Fig’s hat was hiding the bandage, her hair loosely braided down her back, and her face was still a little devoid of color.

“How are you feeling?” Adaine asked, touching Fig’s cheek with her hand, still focused on stirring.

“Like shit. Turns out being exploded is not fun,” Fig jokes.

“Do you know what Riz wants to talk about?” Kristen asked, taking a seat at the table in the middle of the kitchen. “He came by the morning to ask about the Harvestmen.”

“Probably about the case. I didn’t realize he would be inviting everyone over,” Adaine murmured, taking a sip and pouring the stew into a large silver tureen. As she placed the lid, her fingers rubbed the stag and her eyes seemed to be vacant.

“Did you sleep well?” Kristen asked and Fig frowned.

“I slept fine,” Adaine said, straightening her back and shaking her head. Whatever she had been thinking about was gone now and the tureen floated away towards the dining room. Before Kristen could press, the bell rang and Fabian,Gorgug, and Riz appeared soon after.

“Thank you for advance notice about the extra guests,” Adaine said coolly as the party moved towards the dining room, raising an eyebrow at Riz.

“It was a bit last minute,” Riz said with a shrug, rolling his sleeves. “More heads are better than one.”

Adaine said nothing and Fabian settled next to Riz. Fabian looked perhaps the most put together out of any of them. His hair was slicked up and a black silk eye patch resting across his bad eye. He wore a perfectly pressed white shirt paired with gold cufflinks that had eyes inlaid and an elaborate embroidered vest. The vest featured a motif of waves that seemed to move slightly under the light, shifting and morphing into different shades of blue and green.

Next to him, Riz was obviously worse for wear. His sleeves were pushed up to his elbows and his short hair was tussled, tie slightly askew. Sitting next to Riz was Kristen who looked just as exhausted as Riz. Her red hair was falling out of its curls, two steps away becoming a frizzy mass, and her nails were bitten down. Across from Kristen was Gorgug who had several small bandages over his arms and a few on his face. Unlike Kristen and Riz, he looked somewhat well-rested. His dark eyes flitted around the table, going between Adaine and Riz, then back to Fig, then back to Adaine and Riz.

Fig was leaning into the chair as she chatted happily, filling the tense silence with forced conversation. She still had her hat one, sleeves rolled all the way down, and occasionally she would wince when laughing. Adaine, while dressed in her usual finery, was playing with the handle of the coffee cup and there dark purple circles under her eyes and her skin sallow.

“Let’s eat before the food gets cold,” Kristen said as the group settled into their seats. A hum of agreement rippled through them and they began to heap cuts of ham and warm rolls onto their plates. Coffee flowed freely and the stew was spooned into bowls until the tureen was empty. They ate in contemplative silence, enjoying the comfort of a warm meal and good coffee. Riz was the first to break the silence.

“We need to talk about last night,” he said.

“Yes, we should. Adaine, you really didn’t need to snap at Riz like that,” Kristen said, looking down the table at her. Adaine bristled but said nothing and dropped her gaze to her plate.

“She’s already apologized,” Riz said quickly and Fabian raised an eyebrow.

“What happened?” Fig asked, through a mouthful of bread. An uncomfortable silence settled once more over the table. Fig had been unconscious during the conversation and Fabian had been in the bar.

“I said some things that I shouldn’t have. I was too harsh,” Adaine admitted in a soft voice.

“That doesn’t matter now--”

“What did you say, Adaine?” Fabian asked, cutting Riz off. Riz’s eyes snapped to Fabian who was looking at Adaine. She took a deep breath and met his gaze.

“I blamed him for what happened to Fig.”

“He wasn’t to blame,” Fabian snapped back.

“I know that.”

“Then why--”

“Because of what happened to Zane,” Adaine said sharply, her thin chest raising and falling rapidly.

“That wasn’t his fault either,” Fabian responded, his hand balled into a fist under the table. “You can’t blame him for everything. He is not your scapegoat.”

“Fabian, don’t talk to me about blame. You have no right,” she hissed, sitting very still. “Just because you like Riz doesn’t mean he is some infallible creature.”

Fabian turned red and Adaine clapped a hand to her mouth. Riz was staring open mouth at Fabian.

“I fucking knew it!” Fig exclaimed, grinning as she pointed at Fabian. “I knew you liked him. Gorgug, you owe me ten.”

“I can’t believe Fig was right,” Krisen said, bursting into laughter.

“Fabian, oh God. It just slipped out--” Adaine began, but Fabian stood up and the chair clattered to the floor. “I’m sorry. Don’t go, please.”

“Fabian,” Riz said and grabbed Fabian’s arm before he could leave, his pointy ears turning a dark green. “It’s fine. I’m flattered. We should talk about this… later.”

“Right,” he coughed, straightening his vest and returning to his seat.

“Thank Helio I no longer have to listen to Fabian talk about it anymore. Every time he gets drunk he always goes on about how great and amazing Riz is,” Kristen teased, nudging Riz, who gave her a weak, embarrassed smile. The tension in the room had eased, awkward smiles finding themselves on everyone’s face.

“Can we go back to talking about the case?” Riz mumbled, stirring his stew and looking at Adaine who bit her lip and shrugged an apology.

“Do you know who those people at the dock were?” Gorgug asked, tearing the roll and dipping it into the stew.

“I think they were Harvestmen. Kristen, care to explain who they are?”

Kristen sighed, and leaned back in her chair, drumming her fingers on the table. She ran a hand through her hair and it became loose, falling around her neck. Fig watched Kristen carefully, she didn’t know everything Kristen had been through but what she had told Fig had been painful.

“They’re a… sect from the Church of Helio. It’s a bunch of zealots who want to see all non-humans out of Solace, they believe that one day Helio will come down and wipe out all non-believers. They had a summer camp that I used to go to,” Kristen paused, taking a shuddering breath and sipping her coffee. “We stayed in these cabins, about ten or twelve of us, and they’d wake us up at like six am for morning prayer. They wouldn’t give us breakfast till ten and it was only if they felt we prayed hard enough. It was just like that for several days, just praying and barely eating or sleeping. Anyway, I still talk to some of them since leaving. My parents have convinced everyone I moved out so I could better preach and get people to join.”

“What’s with the sacks?” Gorgug asked and Kristen hunched slightly, squeezing her eyes shut.

“It’s their thing. Hence the Harvestmen, they’ve got to live up to it,” she murmured. “From what Riz told me, it seems like they think these girls have something to do with the Church.”

Chapter Text

Once more an uneasy silence fell over the table.

“Is Zelda going to be okay?” Gorgug asked quietly, his hand shaking slightly as he held his fork. He looked up, his eyes wide and mouth set in a tight thin line.

“If she stays with you and Ragh, she should be,” Riz answered, his own face stony. “But I have a feeling none of us will be safe. The Harvestmen know you guys now.”

“I’ll put extra security around the speakeasy,” Fabian said, finishing his coffee with a sigh.

“Kristen. I need you to do something for me,” Riz said and fidgeted in his seat slightly. “I need you to get me into a Harvestmen meeting.”

“Riz!” Fig exclaimed, slamming her hands down on the table and jumping to her feet. “You can’t ask her to do that! Not after all she’s done to get away! Were you not listening when she was telling us about them? And you want her to go back?”

“Fig,” Kristen said, taking a deep shuddering breath and placing a hand on Fig’s. “It’s fine. I’ll do it. But you owe me, Riz.”

“Thank you, Kristen,” he replied, relief flooding his eyes and giving her an apologetic smile.

“I’m doing it for the girls going missing. You need to find them,” she said, standing up and smoothing her skirt. “I’m tired, Fig. Can we go home?”

“Yeah, let’s go,” Fig said. The pair left, the teifling’s arm thrown over Kristen’s shoulder, their heads bowed together in murmured conversation.

“I should go check on Zelda,” Gorgug said, following them out. The front door soon closed with a distant click. Then there were three. Riz kept shifting uncomfortably and casting nervous glances at Fabian who was studiously refilling his cup. Adaine glanced between them and frowned, crossing her arms.

“I know when I’m not wanted. Enjoy the coffee,” Adaine sighed, standing up and flicking her wrist. The plates lifted themselves off the table and trailed after as she left for the kitchen. She paused at the door and glanced back at Fabian. “I’m sorry about outing your crush. I didn’t mean for it to come out.”

“It’s fine, I shouldn’t have brought up Zane,” Fabian replied with a half smile and waved his hand lazily, leaning back in his chair. She gave a curt nod and left the two alone.

“So, you like me?” Riz said quietly, his lip quirking slightly, looking at Fabian from the corner of his eye.

“Yes. For a while,” Fabian said, rubbing the back of his neck and pointedly not looking at him. “You’re very capable and smart. I have a lot of admiration for you and somehow that morphed into… well, you know.”

“Were you ever going to tell me?”

“No.”

“The feeling is mutual,” Riz said. Now it was his turn to avoid Fabain’s gaze.

“I guess I should thank Adaine for outing me,” Fabian said, barking out a laugh. “So what now?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been with anyone in a long time,” Riz admitted, looking up at Fabian.

The half elf quirked his brow with his usual smirk and an arm over the back of the chair. Riz gulped the lump that had formed in his throat. Why did Fabian always have to look effortlessly cool? The universe seemed to just favor some people.

“Already thinking about being with me, Mr. Gukgak?” he teased.

“You know I have no interest in sex, Fabian,” Riz retorted, turning a deep emerald shade of green.

“But you have an interest in me.”

“Yes.”

“Good,” Fabian said, leaning forward and placing a gentle hand on Riz’s cheek.

Fabian’s eyes flicked downwards and Riz gave the smallest of nods. He leaned in and pressed his lips against Riz’s, slowly angling his head to deepen the kiss. Riz’s thin wiry hand came to rest on the nape of Fabian’s neck, pulling him closer. The arms of the chairs cut into their chests and Riz moved to sit on Fabian’s lap, fingers slowly tangling themselves in the soft blonde strands. Fabian’s hands moved down his body, resting on Riz’s waist.

Riz was the first to pull away, his face flush and breathing labored. Fabian was grinning, his hair tousled and cheeks ruddy.

“Why didn’t we do that sooner?” he asked.

“We’ve both been idiots,” Riz murmured, climbing off of Fabian and straightening his tweed vest.

“Remind me to thank Adaine,” he joked, watching Riz smooth his short cropped black hair. “Are you coming by tomorrow?”

“Probably. Maybe. We’ll see,” Riz said, attempting to seem nonchalant and Fabain had to stop himself from smiling. “I’ll see you around, Seacaster.”

Riz left the dining room and Fabian went to find Adaine.