*in case it isn’t obvious, don’t read this until AFTER you finish reading THE BURNING WHITE*
“I thought you said this stuff was good,” Teia said. Her eyes were shielded against the sudden flashes of light of the pyroturges’ display, but she was clearly more concerned about the fires in her throat.
“I didn’t say that,” Kip said. “I said it’s the most expensive whiskey in the world.”
“It should be the same thing,” Tisis said, scowling at her own drink.
They’d pulled chairs out onto the balcony of the Prism’s floor to watch the fireworks to celebrate the end of the Lightbringer’s coronation party, wrapping up more than a week of such parties. It wasn’t the Prism’s and White’s floor anymore, though. Technically, now it was the Lightbringer’s floor. All of it.
Andross Guile wasn’t good at sharing.
Naturally, they weren’t supposed to be here. Not that that stopped any of the Mighty, or Karris, or Dazen, or Ironfist, or Gill Greyling from bringing out their own chairs and sharing a glass. It had either been magic or very clever planning that none of them were scheduled to be working right now.
“So… Ironfist…” Karris said. “I saw you chatting with Marissia. Seemed like there was a lot of smiling.”
He grunted, stone-faced.
“Something happening there?” she asked.
Finally, Ironfist sighed. He knew Karris too well to hope she’d give this up without him answering her. “She’s amazing, and she seems to like me well enough, but… no.”
“She not royal enough?” Kip asked, teasing. According to the agreements Ironfist had signed, he’d be surrendering his crown by the end of the month.
“Too… weird?” Karris asked, shooting a meaningful look toward Dazen.
Kip thought that was putting it mildly. His dad’s old room slave getting together with Ironfist? That was beyond weird.
Ironfist grunted again. “Eh, after all we’ve been through? Weird doesn’t faze me anymore. No, weird you can get over, and he and I already talked,” Ironfist said, gesturing to Dazen, who merely lifted his glass slightly. “Unfortunately… she and I both violate each other’s non-negotiables.”
Karris glanced at Dazen, then at Kip and Tisis, and Kip saw that strange look that appears sometimes on a woman’s face when she’s settling down happily and suddenly wants everyone else to settle down happily too. Dazen tried to wave her off, but Karris ignored him. “Really? How non-negotiable are we talking?” she asked.
Everyone else looked over, their conversations dying.
“Ow, son of a–!” Ferkudi suddenly said, after whacking his shin against his chair as he set it down. As everyone looked askance at him, he said, “What? What?”
Karris hadn’t moved her gaze from Ironfist, though, so he sighed again. “It was awkward, but… well, I had to be honest with her.”
“Honest is good… And…?”
“I told her that I didn’t think it would be appropriate for a man of my standing to get serious with a… well…”
Kip’s hand went to his mouth as he finished the sentence, with another man’s room slave. He saw the same horror in Karris’s face, but in hers it was fast turning to anger.
Ironfist pursed his lips, then said, “Well… with a pirate. And for her part, she is absolutely done with gorgeous men.” The big man tried to keep it deadpan, but a little grin sneaked through.
He was smitten. It was adorable.
They laughed, and cheered him, and drank, and made jokes at each other’s expense, and shared the latest news about Satrap Ruadhán Arthur’s victories at Green Haven and afterward, and mused about his future under Andross Guile, and their own. It felt normal. It felt good.
“You know, Kip,” Dazen said, as the decanter was running low. “I stole whiskey from my father’s stash once.” He sipped thoughtfully. “Mmm, so good… It did not end well for me.”
“Huh,” Kip said, swirling his second round in his glass. “Isn’t he gonna be surprised you didn’t learn your lesson?”
“Excuse me?” Dazen said, glass pausing halfway to his lips.
“Well, I couldn’t let him think it was the servants, could I? So I left him a note. I mean, you did.”
They all laughed–at Dazen. He shook his head, muttering, “I thought I was gonna like having a son, you little shit.”
Then, without notice, Rea Siluz was simply there, forearms resting on the balcony railing beside Kip and Dazen. She was dressed plainly, looking for all the world like a simple librarian.
“You want to join us?” Kip asked, gesturing to the decanter.
“Love to,” Rea said, “but I can’t. You know, stolen property.”
“Here’s to stolen property!” Big Leo said. He might have been a little tipsy.
“To stolen property!” they all said, raising their glasses.
“And to stolen moments together,” Dazen said, looking at each of them appreciatively.
“And to the friends stolen from us,” Kip said quietly.
“Hear hear,” they said.
“And to more stolen whiskey?” Winsen said, extending his empty cup.
“You’ve had enough!” Ben-hadad said. “There’s hardly a drop left!”
Winsen looked injured. “You guys, always believing the worst of me.” He pulled a new, full decanter from behind his back. “I didn’t leave a note,” he said, and started pouring.