Thursday, December 22, 2011

Left Out

Dinner turned out well. The forest spider, despite being some kind of alien spider, actually tasted good. It was somewhat like crab in Alex’s estimation. The servers brought out several more small courses and his reaction to them was... varied. Nothing was bad, but some of it wasn't something he'd go out of his way to have again in the future.

Alex did not fuss about anything, as he had promised. He had been concerned that he wasn’t going to be comfortable being served in a formal setting but it didn’t faze him at all. That actually did make him worry a little bit, as though acceptance of a lavish treatment would make him a bad person. He was pretty sure that it didn’t, but the concern lingered in his mind.

Once dinner was over it was time to mill around having drinks and chatting. That was how it went, apparently. No dessert, just alcohol. That was kind of a let down. Alex had been hoping for some sort of interesting dessert. Even though it felt childish to him, he still considered it the best part of dinner.

So he stood, nearly a head taller than everyone in the room, nursed his wine and pretended that his translator had broken. This went more smoothly than he expected, though part of that was Carbon tightening up what he was saying when she translated for him.

Then Eleya came to ‘borrow’ Carbon. There were important discussions to be had involving her and the Colonel that Alex did not need to be part of. If he was not aware of Eleya’s interest in having him eavesdrop on everyone, he would have conjured any number of theories as to why his presence wasn’t needed. But he and Carbon knew what she wanted and didn’t protest.

It sort of reminded him of a dance he had gone to in middle school, where everyone split up by gender and congregated on opposite sides of the gym. Here it was just him tucked away between two tapestries, unable to miss the curious glances as the crowd shifted and moved. Alex was very good at saying translator broken and learning Tsla slowly on the rare occurrence when someone stopped to talk to him. While his immersion translator could feed him fully formed sentences in Tsla, he thought it unwise to pretend to have a conversational knowledge of of the language.

He was learning a lot, at least... but he wasn’t sure how much of it was going to be useful.

Sergeant Zenshen sidled up to him, a smirk on her face and a little bit tipsy. “You appear as uncomfortable as I feel. Where has your love gone?”

Alex hitched a thumb over his shoulder towards a side passage behind the tapestry he stood next to. “Some sort of meeting with Eleya. Didn’t need me to go along.”

She chuckled. “The Empress took Lhenan also. I believe I know what they are discussing while leaving us here in our discomfort.”

He perked up, curious as to what was actually going on. “Oh yeah? What’s that?”

She shuffled a step closer, almost shoulder to shoulder with him. “It is unusual to have an important action without a royal at the front. It shouldn’t be a problem, but there will be questions and complaints. It’s best to be ahead of them.”

“Huh.” If that was true, it did explain the looks being exchanged at the table. “That’s good to know.”

“It is.” The Sergeant sipped her wine, eyeing the room with caution. “They are all quite polite... but I think there is more going on behind their eyes.”

“This group? Really? There’s no way politicians would ever have ulterior motives.” Alex laid the sarcasm on heavily, assuming that politics were always politics no matter who was doing them.

Zenshen snickered. “Every intention as pure as the morning sun, I am sure.”

“Of course.”

They stood there for a solid thirty seconds, watching the conversations going on in the room. While he was sure he could ask her just about anything because of his station, he was still remarkably uncomfortable doing so. 

Alex fortified himself with some more wine and managed to force out the question that was on his mind. “Did you wink at me earlier?”


“How did you mean that?”

“I think I like you.” She swirled the wine in her glass, brow creased in contemplation before she continued. “I don’t like a lot of Humans... Perhaps ten of the hundreds I have now met. As Colonel Lehnan trusts Princess Sorenson’s judgement of you, I trust his judgement of her. I also think that you’re not an asshole, as far as I can tell. That is good. As your people say, I’ve got your back.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that. I would say I feel the same way. You seem trustworthy, I guess.” That wasn’t what he was expecting, but it made him happy. “I really wasn’t sure what to make of it, you know. A wink can mean a lot of things for Humans.”

“It is the same with the Tslao.” She finished off her wine, frowning into the empty glass.

“Noted. I don’t know how many people here are on my side... Other than Carbon and maybe Eleya, when I’m convenient. I know I’ve got a few enemies around as well. ”

“Yes, the stabbing. That sounded very unpleasant.”

“It was.” Alex finished his wine off as well. “It’s just been a hell of a year.”


  1. You should really write up a "I'm not gone, just taking hiatus because of moving and new baby." post for your fans. I know if I wasn't, you know, your wife, I'd be wondering where the hell you went and what's going on, etc. ;o)

  2. Dude, I haven't read this since 2011! And yet I still remember Alex being Alien Catnip.