[Cecily]Eight: "Confidantes"

June 25, 2189

       When the large winged shadow appeared over me, I instinctively reached for my gun and rolled to my feet.
       Well, that's what was supposed to happen. In reality, when I reached for the gun, the sharp movement strained the hardly-healed muscles in my side enough that I bit my lip to keep from saying something that wasn't very nice. I didn't even get near the standing part.
       The looming shadow resolved itself into Dragos, whose wings rustling uneasily. He settled down next to me as I dropped my hand into my lap and sucked at my now-bleeding lip.
       "How do you fare?" He queried solicitously, and I managed a polite smile around the pain. "As well as can be expected."
       He nodded, but his eyes searched over the crowd of dancers. "Have you seen Stark?"
       Aha. So this wasn't entirely a social call. I had some fair idea of what had passed between them during the last two days, more from what Stark hadn't told me than what she had. "I haven't seen her for a while, but she was looking for you, earlier."
       "She was?" He perked up, sounding pleased, and had I to swallow a laugh at the picture he presented. Then he looked away from the crowd to me, his gaze piercing. It's a damn good thing I don't intimidate easily. "You two are close, then? Confidantes?"
       "Ah..." How to answer that? "Being that we're the only two women in our group, we talk to each other about certain things. So I guess you could call us confidantes." That was stretching it, but I could make the case that she confided in me this afternoon, when she expressed her irritation with Grayson - not like it wasn't obvious.
       As if he'd read my mind, he said suddenly, "I have the impression she has been hurt, recently, by someone."
       I thought about that for a moment. "I wouldn't say hurt, really. More like insulted." Which, frankly, was a pretty fair assessment based on her reactions.
       Dragos seemed content with that explanation. He went back to watching the crowd. "Has she said anything about me?"
       His tone was casual, but I could detect that edge of hopefulness to it. Stark actually hadn't said all that much about him, other than the implication of their little fling. I certainly didn't want to tell the poor man that my impression of events was that she'd done it, at least in part, to get back at Grayson. So I dodged. "Well, now, if she's confided in me, then I can't really say."
       Maybe she had been hurt by whatever Grayson had put in that letter, but she doesn't strike me as the type to be affected like that when a guy blows her off. Irritated, yes. Insulted, definitely. But I don't see her going off to cry in her tea just because somebody's she's known for about a week decided he had to go find himself. I'd told her I thought she was being a bit hard on Grayson, but I'm not sure she took the point. That, or she just ignored it. But anyway, it falls in the realm of none of my damned business, though it did leave me, at the moment, in a somewhat awkward spot. I honestly didn't know what more to tell the poor man, so I left it at that.
       Dragos' frown almost hid the crestfallen look in his eyes, and I had to fight the impulse to give him a comforting pat on the shoulder.
       He asked if I needed anything, and when I shook my head, he took himself off into the colorful swirl of the crowd.
       I sat back and watched him walk away, musing over the conversation, and wondering if I'd handled it well. Given my track record on the love life front, I'm probably not the best source for romantic advice. Most of my romantic interests have been one of two types: the "I'll prove I'm a bigger bad-ass than she is" or the "I'll tame her and make a real woman out of her." Both are equally annoying, though the first tends to be more painful for the other party. In either case, things rarely last very long. Harry says its my own fault, that I gravitate to those types as an excuse not to commit to a real relationship. The last time he brought that up, after another of my spectacular break-ups, I had asked him to then define what constituted a "real relationship." H'de sputtered some popular psychobabble at me, but never actually answered the question. It was a hollow victory nonetheless.
       I thought then of Olivia. We'd gone through boot camp together, and served in the same cavalry unit for two years. We were eighteen, full of ourselves, and crazy for a chance to prove it. And we did. Some of my dumber youthful moments took place in her company, and were all the better for it. If I've ever had a best friend, she was it.
       We kept in touch a lot, those first ten years out, when I was trying to get Infernal Image off the ground, and she was off on some crazy existential quest. Then, one day I get this postcard. She'd fallen in love and was getting married.
       Everything changed then. The shared experiences that had made our friendship work so well weren't all shared any more. I could only listen and nod and smile as she went on about husband, kids and home. We still get together on our birthdays, go shopping, talk. But I can't quite share things with her the way I used to. I can't commiserate about a rebellious teen, or a workaholic spouse. And every Solstice, when her card arrives, stuffed with pictures of her three girls, and stories of the ups and downs of family life, I can only respond with some of the less gruesome tales of how I've spent my year, and the latest award received or paper published by my brother.
       I think what Olivia has is real. It's not perfect, or storybook, but its solid and happy and good. And it's not a life I think I could ever lead. Still, I envy her, sometimes. What I have is happy and solid and real too. It just happens to be lonely, occasionally.
       Harry claims it's fear of commitment, and he's half right. Love is crazy, mixed-up demon you can't shoot with a gun, or cut with a sword. And I guess I'm afraid of committing to something I can't face down in a good, clean fight.
       A horrible thought then struck me, that I was thus likely doomed to live out my days as a spinster, still living with my brother, and regaling anyone who came within earshot of my glory days as a demon slayer. I stared down into the cup of barley beer I'd managed to sneak while Harry wasn't looking, and decided perhaps I'd had enough party for the evening.