"God made love crazy so he wouldn't feel so alone."
--Alice Cooper, "Millie & Billie"
It was getting dark quickly as they left the stableyard, and Luke offered to escort her back to her room. On the way there, he said, "I... really enjoyed the time we spent together, Quinn. I hope we can do the same in the future."
"I... I'd like that." She stared at the floor.
She had enjoyed the evening immensely,despite the almost-disaster. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt that comfortable, and yet that nervous around someone...
Earlier that evening...
Eventually, the street bent into the Grand Plaza, at which stood a large fountain decorated with slyphs, sprites, dolphins, and the like, all in marble. Dominating the square was a large statue of Oberon.
Luke began fishing in his pockets. "Got any coins? You can make a wish, you know."
"I think so," and she pulled a couple of coppery coins from a pocket, handing one to Luke. One side said 'one cent', the other had an etched image of Earth. She took a few steps closer, and closed her eyes for a moment before she neatly flipped the coin into the water.
Luke regarded the coin curiously, and pulled an Earth Quarter from his pocket. He closed his eyes a moment, and then tossed the coin in before turning back to regard Quinn. "So, what did you wish for?"
"Doesn't telling jinx the wish?" She glances sideways at him with a mischevous smile. She didn't realy want to tell him that part of her wish had involved him.
He grinned. "Maybe... though it's also possible that by telling, it can be fulfilled more quickly. Just something to think about.
"So, to the mercantile district?" Luke adroitly changed the subject.
"All right," and she followed him off that way. "So, what was your wish, then?"
"Well, mine was pretty broad. I wish for a bit of stability, at least one moment where I can have a drink with a friend and not have to worry about the universe crumbling around me. I wished for good things for my son, and his friends. I wished that my cousins... find happiness here." He trailed off, and quickly added, "Unlike my time here previously."
Quinn matched his stride, silent for a moment. "I wished for quiet too," she started quietly, "for peace..." She kicked at a stone, sending it skittering off across the road. "I wanted so much to have some time with Dad, when he's not locked up in battle plans, or being whisked off to Rebma... And I guess I wish that he *wants* to spend that time with me, as well." She shakes her head. "It's stupid, really."
Luke frowned at the edge of sadness in her words. "What makes you think he doesn't want to spend time with you? Really now, you're the most pleasant person I know."
She reddened involuntarilty at the compliment. "Mostly insecure paranoia, I guess. I've just spent so much time wondering if he was even alive, and now he's gone off to Rebma for God knows how long..." She shrugged. "I just don't want to be in his way or anything."
Luke laughed. "You know, Moire probably wanted to get him back down there to..." He stopped, realizing what he was about to say and who he was going to say it to. "...renew aqcuantences, of course. I mean, why else would he go? Certainly not 'cause of Darien. Anyways, I think you're taking this awfully... wrong-ly. You could always ask when he's returning, or hell, just go down there." Luke stopped in front of a leatherworker's home.
She knew saying that, without telling him that in in fact probably *was* very much because of Darien, made her look like a foolish child, but she given her word, and she'd let herself look like a blithering idiot before she broke that. Still, it felt good to tell it to someone. The whole situation with Corwin had been eating at her since they'd returned, and she just had no idea how to approach her father on the subject of what he had ever thought of a wayward daughter showing up on his doorstep.
"You're probably right," she looked somewhat embarrased now. "I'm just not sure... Oh, nevermind."
Luke looked at some leatherbound journals. When she finished stumbling over her attempt at an explanantion, he laughed. "Girls."
She flushed a slightly deeper red. "What?"
"Girls. Can't ever decide on a course of action."
She got the distinct feeling he was intentionally goading her on and looked away from him, becoming studiously interested in another storefront. "Really? And charging headlong into another universe doesn't qualify as decisive?" Her embarrasement and a bit of irritation, were quite obvious in her voice.
"Well, no..." Luke turned back to see her looking away. "Hey now... I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it." He manuevered around in front of her so he could look at her. "Really. I thought I'd goad you into go seeing your dad, but it backfired. Really, I didn't mean to insult you." He looked rather guilty.
She refused to look up at him for a moment, but the guilty edge to his voice got her attention, and she did look up, cheeks still reddened, but concern and her own guilt in her eyes. "Oh, Luke, you didn't. It's... the subject of my family has always been the one thing that's had the ability to turn my well-founded common sense into emotional idiocy." She holds out a hand. "Truce?"
Luke shook your hand, not applying much pressure. "Truce," he said, softly as he looked off in the other directions, but what she could tell of his expression was that he seemed, suddenly, furiously angry, trying to hold it in.
A sudden flare of panic, that she had somehow said the wrong thing, sent her heart into her throat. "Luke? What's wrong..." She sounded very concerned, now.
He turned around with a fantastically plastic smile. "Nothing at all. Is there anything in particular you'd like to look for here?" She crossed her arms, the panic shifting to irritation at his obvious falsehood. "I really hate it when people blatantly lie to me, Luke..."
He sighed. "Sorry. I just... didn't want to screw up tonight. It's childish, I know."
"What's childish?" She wasn't quite sure where this was going.
"The fact that I feel like I'm 15 when... I'm around you." And Luke blushed.
A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, and on an impulse inspired by his obvious discomfiture, she said, "Would it help any if I told you that I'm almost never sure what to say around you? That I'm utterly terrified I'm going to make a fool of myself?"
He chuckled and inspected a leather satchel on the table. "I... have had similar feelings," he replied, seemingly interested in the stitching of the satchel.
Quinn suddenly flushed red again, as she realized what she had just revealed to him. "I can't believe I just told you that..."
But Luke just looked at her and smiled. "I'm glad you did."
She glanced up at him. "Really?"
Luke nodded, still smiling. "It's reassuring to know... I'm not the only one who feels like that." Suddenly self-conscious, he investigated some more trinkets.
Quinn got the feeling she was seeing a side of Luke not many others had, and that brings the normal bright smile back to her face, and she chuckled.
"Ah. Yes. Well." He inspected some more merchandise, trying not to smile. "See anything that you like?"
She shrugged slightly, having not been paying all that much attention to the window shopping. "By the way," she said suddenly. "Were you the one who left the rose on my bed?" She said it quickly, as if she'd been trying to get up the nerve to ask, and didn't want to let the opportunity pass.
Luke's smile faded. "Rose...?"
"Well, as I was saying earlier about making a fool of myself..." Quinn looked like she wants to crawl into a small corner somewhere. "Now I've gone and done it, haven't I?" She sighed. "Damn it, I'm no good at this sort of thing." A slight edge of embarrased despair creeps into her voice. She just wasn't cut out for this type of social interaction, she decided.
Luke looked down at his feet, and looked up again, chuckling. "Well hell, Quinn, you shouldn't feel embarrassed because lots of people are leaving you gifts. What do you think of this journal?" he asked, pushing the book into her hands.
She examined it, mostly because she was too embarrased to look at Luke. "You must think I'm a complete idiot," she sighed again. "I am way out of practice at this whole date... thing." She finally said, looked chagrined.
That got a genuine laugh out of Luke. "You and me both. I mean, my social interactions of this kind were not quite so civilized." He looked at her. "It's okay, really."
She glanced up at him, smiling slightly. "The last time I went out on a date, I was fifteen," she admitted quietly.
He chuckled. "My mother actually had me betrothed at that age. But I'd have none of that. Then, of course, dating in Shadow is easy when you can find anyone you want."
Quinn laughed slightly, deciding not to ask why he was here with her if he could find anything he wanted in Shadow. "I was a tomboy from day one. Most guys tended to avoid me like the plague."
"Well, if it means anything, I've always liked them better than the princesses who get waited on hand and foot." He chuckled.
She blushed slightly again, the small paranoid part of her mind wondering if he really meant that. "Hey, I just had an idea. Would you be interested in a short Shadow jaunt? If you're not, it's no problem," she added quickly.
"Sure thing," said Luke, tossing the journal back at the vendor. "Some other time, friend," he commented to the guy and turning back to Quinn, he smiled. "Where to?"
She flashed him a whimsical smile. "I have a gardening project I need to check up on," she said cryptically.
Luke raised a brow. "Lead on, MacDuff."
She urged her horse forward, and with some subtle shifts, brought them out on the other side of the continent. It was just past dusk, and the area was lightly wooded, and ahead could be seen the open expanse where the land drops off to the ocean below.
Back inland, about two miles, the lights of a city could be seen.
Quinn dismounted, and waiting for Luke, walked toward the edge of the cliffs. Gesturing back toward the city, she said, "Gangi-on-the-Cliffs, where I spent the first 18 years of my life."
Luke soaked in the atmosphere here. "So, is there any truth that environment is responsible for upbringing?" He grinned.
She laughed. "And just what is that supposed to mean?"
"Well, let me think." He walked around, gesturing dramatically. "Well, with these cliffs, I'd think a young tomboy would grow up with little fear of dangerous situations. While of course, these and the surrounding countryside would inspire a deep sense of adventure. And the church, in that town, would probably mold a young girl into a caring, beautiful woman." He grinned rakishly. "Anywhere near the mark?"
The sudden flush of pink to her cheeks was just barely visible in the fading light. "Well, all except for that last one, I guess."
"You are too modest, cousin." Luke smiled.
Quinn stuck her tounge out at him, walking closer to the edge of the cliff. "All that time I spent in Jaggonath, and onthe road looking for Damien, this view is what I missed most."
"Careful," said Luke, who neared where she stand. He looked down, and started taking a few steps back.
A sly, mischevous smile creeping across her face, she took a step closer, so her toes of her boots were right at the edge.
"Um, Quinn, I'm sure you're familar with these parts but could you please back away a bit?" Luke had put a good three feet between him and the cliffside.
Laughing a bit, she turned (still standing on the edge), then walked back over to Luke. "I used to drive Damien nuts doing that," she smiled impishly.
"Seems you have a talent for drving men crazy. Or getting them to fall great heights." He wrinkled his nose, smiling.
Blushing *again*, she sent a mock punch his direction.
He chuckled, and nimbly dodged the punch. Unfortunately, he dodged in the direction of the cliff face, teetering by one foot.
"Luke!" she yelped, grabbing him by the waist to yank him back away from the edge. His eyes wide, he grabbed her wrist, putting her in danger of going over as well as he tries desperately to regain his balance.
Digging in her heels, she threw her weight backwards. Simultaneously, Luke heaved himself back toward her with whatever momentum he could muster, and they both tumbled to the ground up top the cliff. Luke had landed atop and above her, his nose very close to hers.
Quinn's eyes were wide, and she was trembling slightly, as much from the almost-disaster as from her current position. "You all right?" she asked quietly, making no move to get up, not that she could, anyway.
He breathed in and out a few times. "Yeah... you?"
She nodded, arms still locked about his waist from when she had grabbed him. "I am so sorry..."
"Um.. that's okay. I'll just have to remember that it's better to be hit than to dodge over the edge of a precipice." Luke had balanced himself so that he wasn't laying on her with all his weight, but he didn't seem to have moved much away from her, either.
"I wasn't really going to hit you..."
He chuckled. "I know. Pure reflex, I guess." His hand moved up to trace one of the scars crossing her face. "How...?"
She trembled slightly as his finger traced along her jaw. "It... it happened a few years ago," she started, very quietly. "I was in a place where the fae is extraordinarily strong and reactive. My fear got the better of me, and the currents manifested it. A demonling... tried to rip my throat out."
He nodded. "I have found that you can make them go away, if you wanted..." He turned his head to the other side of her face, to look there, then looked back into her eyes, strangely quiet. His head dipped a bit closer.
"Maybe," she whispered, and as he looked back into her eyes, suddenly quiet, she asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing...," he whispered back, moving closer, eyes closing...
But his eyes flashed open again, and he rolled over away from her, muttering obscenities, as he pulled out his Trumps.
Quinn sat up as he rolled away, and waited to see what's happening. Luke flipped through his Trumps, glancing back at her. "Damn Trump call."
"Who?" A slight smile tugged at her mouth at Luke obvious annoyance.
"My half-brother. I knew he'd want to do this now." Luke sighed.
Quinn looked puzzled. "Do what?"
"Go home to Mommy." He looked irked. Finally, stopping on a Trump of Simon, he concentrated. "Go ahead..." he said to the card.
Quinn sighed, trying to hide her disappointment, and waited until Luke was finished talking to Simon. She flopped back on the grass, pillowing her head on her hands.
Luke had a short conversation. It was funny, cause she could tell he was trying to get Simon off the line as soon as possible. She did overhear him talk about "Jasra" a bit, and that he'd meet up with Simon back in Amber.
He flopped down next to her and sighed. "Sorry bout that."
"S'okay." She fell silent again, not sure what to say next.
As did Luke. After a few moments, he sat up. "Well, are you ready to move on back to Amber? Or maybe you'd rather check this Shadow out again."
Another faint look of disappointment crossed her face when Luke mentioned leaving. She shrugged. "Probably go back to Amber for the moment. I'm not quite ready to confront the Patriarch about my unsceduled leave."
Luke brought the horses over as she scrambled to her feet. "I'm sorry, Quinn." Then he chuckled. "But hell, first dates are always supposed ot have wacky stories accompanying them. That is, if I can call it a date." He looked at her and smiled. "Maybe someday I can tell people about the time I went on a date and almost got thrown off a cliff."
She swung into her saddle with the ease of long practice, rolling her eyes at the comment. "And I wonder why no one ever asks me out."
Luke grinned. "Maybe I should tell everyone how fun it is." And he spurred his horse, which took off with Luke, laughing, away.
"Why you!" And she urged her dapple grey after him.
Luke began hellriding, but it was easy to stay with him. She slowly came closer and closer to him as the features around begin to conform to Arden. About two lengths back, she burst through the fringes of Arden into the pastures and farmlands outside of City Amber.
Luke took up the trail that would keep the chase from going through the city streets. By the time she pulled abreast with him, the stables could be seen about a quarter mile away.
She looked quite tempted to shove him off his horse, but refrained, instead just riding quietly next to him.
Luke looked back, smiling, and urged his horse forward of hers by a head.
Quinn sighed, and without warning spurred the grey ahead. The sudden burst of speed caught Luke off guard, and he couldn't recover in time to beat her to the stableyard. He pulled rein next to her, looking like something between shock, admiration, and defeat. "I'd... never been beaten before." He smiled a bit foolishly at her.
Not sure if he throught this was a good or bad thing, she just grinned. "And I've never almost knocked someone off a cliff before, so I guess it's a day for firsts."
Regaining his composure, he chuckled. "I suppose."
So two embarrassed young folk made there way up to the second floor. At Quinn's door, Luke looked at her. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, about dinner. Thank you... for your, uh, company."
She smiled, suddenly shy. "Sure. And thank you, for... well... everything."
He bowed. "Twas my pleasure," he says, taking her hand in his, and bringing it to his lips.
For the umpteenth time that evening, her cheeks reddened, and he chuckled.
"Good night, Quinn," said Luke, and with a smile, he headed down the hall, looking back a couple of times before rounding the corner.
"Good night..." she trailed off, and watched until he disappeared around the corner. She leaned back against her door for a moment, sighing, before going inside.
Expanded in "Cliffhanger"