Staccato

Friday, 12/20/2250 – by Nicole Adams. 

Adrian’s heart was still pounding, his sight dizzy, and he hardly knew how his legs hadn’t given out from under him. Maybe it was because the plan, the work, and the effort put into making sure everything went just right, had been worth it in the end. He’d sung, done his best to ignore the hundreds of eyes staring at him by focusing just on Rhea. He had shown more courage than he’d really thought he’d had as he pulled her into a dance. Now he had her by the hand, drawing her from the atrium and the crowd watching them go.

She had to have known, or at least suspected. He had seen the confusion and surprise in her eyes at the first note of the song, blaring above the noise of the crowd of students, the sharp blue fixing on him, her mind instantly working to identify him past the hair dye, the ornate mask, the colored contacts, and the dark clothes he’d donned. And, under suggestion from Aelita to make the ploy harder to see past in a second, he had changed the pitch of his voice to one deeper.

Rhea followed willingly enough, the man’s large hand enveloping hers and guiding her along. He didn’t look back, quiet for the moment, but she was eyeing him, and though she knew who he was she too kept quiet. She knew and wanted it to be him, but everything she’d come to know about Adrian had told her that him doing something like this wasn’t likely- and she didn’t want to speak his name, only to be disappointed. She knew of at least one student who would be able to pull off such a trick.

So she remained quiet as the man led her down the hall, pausing beside one room and opening the door, looking inside and grateful that it was empty. Rhea needed no tug to follow as he stepped inside, letting the door swing shut behind them. Then Adrian pulled his hand away and turned, and Rhea lifted her head to blink into the amber eyes looking back at her. The last verse of the song, which had trailed off as he’d taken her hand to lead her there, sung again as he faced the woman.

His hands rose at the end of the song, circling behind his head to pull free the sash that held the mask up, holding the ends tightly as he lowered it, revealing the face Rhea had been hoping for. It felt like a victory after all, when she smiled brightly at him. He gave a hesitant grin in return, only briefly breaking the gaze to set the mask on a table, his mind scrambling for something to say to fill the silence. “Surprise?” he half-asked, turning to meet her eyes once more.

“Very,” Rhea answered, stepping closer. “That was beautiful, Adrian- how long have you been planning that?”

A predictable flush reddened his face as he replied. “Uh, a few weeks. It was Aelita’s idea, though; she is apparently quite invested in the idea of you and I getting… becoming a couple.”

“As if I hadn’t noticed,” Rhea replied with a smile and a roll of her eyes.

“Yeah,” Adrian responded a touch self-consciously, lifting a hand once more and removing the contacts that he’d put on in place of his glasses, which he slipped on once both contacts were out. “It was a secret- as much as it could be, until tonight.”

“It was a secret, and well kept,” Rhea agreed. No need to tell him that she had been all but certain that it was him and his reveal had only removed that last shred of doubt.  Lifting a hand, she brushed her fingers through the dyed strands of his hair, twirling them in her hand, and silence fell between them. Not awkward, as most were, but comforting; her body leaned forward against him and his arms slipped around her body.

Adrian was hardly able to believe his luck, that it had actually worked. He gazed down at the woman, amber eyes meeting blue, and Rhea was shifting upward to the tips of her toes, the hand toying with his hair lifting higher to curl around his neck and he was lowering his head to meet her halfway- her breaths ghosting across his face.

And then the door opened, an annoyed voice rapping out as the nurse stepped into the room, flicking the light on and leveling a glare at the two of them. “I swear to God, whoever’s in here is getting detention for a week- Oh, it’s you, Rhea. Who the fuck…? Adrian? What the hell did you do to your hair?”

“Damn it, Ourani…” Rhea began, shooting a cool glance at the blue-haired woman, but she was cut off by another question, surprise coloring the tone.

“Wait, wait! Were you two about to kiss? Hot damn, Adrian, you roguish rake! I didn’t know you had it in you!” The nursed grinned broadly and leaned against the door, oblivious to her unwelcome presence and pleased that she was witnessing firsthand the fact that maybe the two weren’t so blind- and that they might be making progress on their relationship. “Well, don’t let me stop you!”

Except there was no question about going on and Rhea could practically feel Adrian retreating back into his shell; his hands dropped to his sides and he was straightening, his eyes flicking away from Rhea. She regained her balance, steady on her feet and turning fully toward Ourani, her gaze snapping with annoyance. “Do you mind?” she demanded. “We didn’t come here to be gawked at and since you can’t take a subtle hint…”

Mouth falling open as Rhea snapped at her, Ourani cut in again. “Well, excuse me for doing my job; I thought it was a couple of students coming in here, and anyway you can’t blame me for the fact that you’re trying to get with a guy who acts like he’s the equivalent of a teenager and can’t even kiss you with someone watching!”

“Just because he’s not like you-” Rhea began, taking a step forward, but Adrian was brushing past, a brief glance at her as he made his way from the room; he’d known that somehow this would go wrong, and it was. All he wanted was to get away and he slipped past Ourani as Rhea paused, blue eyes watching him go and feeling utter frustration; they’d almost had it.

He nearly ran into Aelita as he exited the room, her expectant eyes and bright smile fading at the look on his face. She glanced toward the nurse and the Defense Professor glowering at each other, and then back to Adrian as he turned to head down the hall.

“Are you serious?” she nearly screamed, her voice pitched high and loaded with annoyance. “Only you two would mess this up… where are you going!” She spun to face Rhea as Adrian gave no reply, instead fleeing down the corridor in a quick walk. “Go after him! I didn’t put all this effort into this to see you mess up, honestly, you two are ridiculous, how bull-headed and blind are you-?”

“All of you just need to mind your own business,” Rhea snapped, a heated glance directed toward both Ourani and Aelita, but she was moving just the same, leaving the meddlesome two behind and going after the man who had just turned a corner. There was little surprise in that the direction he was going led to the library- a side door she hadn’t even known about, instead to his home. She followed, rounding the corner as the door to the library clicked shut; there was no sound of a lock, which she was glad for, and within a moment she was inside the large room and turning the lock herself, to keep anyone else out.

Rhea paused as two students appeared from around a bookshelf, hand in hand, heading for the doors she’d just locked with Adrian behind them, eyes flashing gold. He broke off as he spotted her, staying quiet as she turned to unlock the doors again, and then calling after the two as they slipped out.

“And you both are getting detention; if you make me find you, it’ll be worse. Bright and early in the Headmaster’s office, got it?” He received mumbled agreements from the two as they darted off, and as the doors closed once more, Rhea locked them again. Turning her back to them, she leaned against the door and glanced toward the librarian, giving him a brief smile. “You okay?”

Adrian shrugged, but returned the smile. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry about…” Trailing off as Rhea held up a hand, lapsing into silence and watching as she approached him.

“That wasn’t your fault. We should have come here in the first place and then we wouldn’t have been interrupted.” Reaching forward, her hand taking his, she guided him to the stairs leading to the second floor of the library. Adrian didn’t protest, still a bit confused as to why she had followed him here in the first place, after having been caught by the nurse, and he was about to ask when Rhea spoke again, still gripping his hand as she led him toward a couch nestled against the wall, far out of sight of anyone who might enter. “It’s quiet here, isn’t it? Peaceful. I can see how it would appeal to you.”

Nodding in agreement, the question he’d meant to ask vanished in the statement. “Yes, and that’s why I like it. No screaming kids, no worrying about lesson plans or classes, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but this is what I enjoy, where the worst I have to deal with is late books and kids trying to view sites they shouldn’t. It’s easy and I like watching those who do come for books find what they’re looking for, or something else that they can get into.”

“You’re such a bookworm,” Rhea teased, settling onto the couch and urging him to sit beside her.

Adrian grimaced, his eyes flicking back to her. “Please- don’t call me that. I don’t like it.”

Willingly, Rhea agreed. She wasn’t sure why, but she wouldn’t push the issue if it made Adrian uncomfortable. She watched as the librarian took a minute to turn to the fireplace nearby, quickly starting a fire up to keep them warm and to add the cozy benefit of the crackling of logs. Then he settled on the couch beside the woman, half tensed for a moment as she leaned against him, before relaxing bit by bit, one hand twitching before he finally threw his customary caution and hesitation to the wind and wrapped an arm around her. He was rewarded by the woman’s smile; maybe this night wasn’t so bad after all.

They talked for a while longer, keeping it light, talking about certain aspects of their childhoods, things they liked to do and things they hoped to do. Neither of them had had pets growing up, but they discussed the merits of cats to dogs- Adrian couldn’t help a laugh as Rhea expressed her distaste for guinea pigs and their confusing popularity as pets. They had both gotten jobs almost right out of school, though Rhea was much more closed off about her own- explaining that it was confidential and she was forbidden by law to discuss it. She could tell it piqued Adrian’s curiosity, but the man only gave a nod and asked no more about it.

Eventually the long day caught up to them both; wrapped up in the warmth of the fire and the comfort of each other’s company, sleep crept up to claim the two. Rhea first, drifting off as Adrian was explaining how he and Aelita had come up with the idea of him singing to her, how the girl had been utterly caught up in the plan. Talking, until he realized Rhea was asleep, and then halting in his chatter. He shifted a bit to get more comfortable and leaned his head against the back of the couch, fading into sleep himself in just a short time.


 

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