It was fun for me to write, because I love taking characters who are usually confident and competen, and putting them in situations where they feel less sure of themselves.
This was also written on the fly, due to RL pressures, so please forgive if there are any typos.
Raven hadn’t had first-date nerves in a long time. Ever, really—one of the few advantages of having been so unpopular in high school. He had skipped awkward adolescent dating, and by the time he lost his virginity, shortly before his twentieth birthday to a mage in her early twenties, he was well-placed enough in William’s favor that any of William’s followers would have considered him a catch, even if he hadn’t finally filled out his gawky frame and grown into the nose he had inherited, along with a familial history of dark magic, from his father.
It seemed ridiculous to be nervous about a dinner date with a woman who had been his apprentice, a woman with whom with whom he’d shared a previous intimate relationship.
Only that was the problem. So much shared history. So much of it bad. So much of that his fault.
What were they going to talk about, anyway? The normal first date small talk was out. He knew what she did for a living, what her favorite color was, her favorite music. (Guardian International Investigations, all the colors in the sunset, and eclectic, respectively.) Hello, dear, and how was your day? Too domestic. Sorry again about your cousin’s death, but William would have killed him anyway, and me as well, had I not slit his throat and fed on his death?
This whole thing was a bad idea. How had he talked himself into it in the first place?
Oh, yes. Because Cassandra was the only woman he had ever loved. The only one that he could imagine wanting in his life for as long as he could persuade her to stay.
It was time to leave. Too late to back out now. He may have been a dark mage until recently, but he had never been less than a gentleman.
He teleported to a sidewalk in front of an elegant little French restaurant in the uptown shopping district not too far from his house. Close enough, in fact, that he might have walked, had he not procrastinated until the very last minute.
As soon as he entered Robert the maître d greeted him. “Mr. Ravenscroft, welcome. I have your usual table waiting. The reservation was for two. Will someone be joining you?” The man’s subtle European accent might be false, but if so he used it so consistently and so well that Raven could not be sure.
“Yes. A young woman. Black hair, green eyes.”
Robert’s polite smile widened with genuine warmth. “Ah, yes. The brave and lovely Guardian of the news stories, yes?”
“Yes,” Raven agreed hiding his wince. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to his life being laid out in print for all the world to see.
At least this time it wasn’t the tabloids.
Cassandra had always been as lackadaisical about promptness, as much as he was habitually punctual. No reason to fret that she wasn’t here yet. Even if she’d come to her senses, she would tell him so, not just stand him up. She was neither cruel nor cowardly.
“Would you like to order the wine while you wait?” Robert suggested.
Raven hesitated. While he’d never been sexist enough to order dinner for any date, he had often enjoyed introducing Cassandra to new vintages and varietals. But that was three years ago. Would she still appreciate the gesture, or would she feel that he was treating her like an apprentice, disrespecting the experienced she had gained?
Gods, if he kept second-guessing everything, he might as well give up now. He glanced at the wine list. “A bottle of the 2005 Argyle Brut, please.”
Cassandra liked sparkling wine and was an advocate of the shop-local movement, and Argyle Brut could give French champagne a run for its money.
Cassandra arrived before the wine did. He stood, pulled out her chair for her, helped her off with her jacket. By her smile, she still seemed to enjoy the small courtesies. So far, so good. The waiter cane with the wine and filled their glasses, which spared Raven for a few moments. Perusal and discussion of the menu took a few more minutes only—neither of them were the type to dither and debate with themselves endlessly over meal choices.
“So,” he said after she laid her folded menu on top of his on the side of the table.
“So,” she repeated, with a smile for his nervousness.
A fond smile, not a mocking one, and yet he tensed up further. With the spy game over, did they have anything to talk about? Were they both fools to think that anything could be built on top of the rubble of a relationship that had had deception as its very foundation?
“So how was your day?” He cringed as soon as the words left his mouth.
She shrugged. “The usual.”
The waiter came to take their orders. Which bought some more time, but meant that there would be no escape for an hour or so.
“Oh, there was the one thing that happened,” Cassandra said after the waiter had left.
“Oh?” Thank the gods, something.
“We had this guy up from the local Guardians,” she said. “Interdepartmental cooperation and all that. “Was going on and on about my analysis of the time of crime based on the fading of the magical signatures had to be wrong because his instructor at the Academy said. . .blah, blah, blah.”
He hid his smile behind the champagne glass. Cass never reacted well to being told that she was wrong.To be fair, she seldom was.
“So I explained to him about the influence of ambient magic, such as you find in craft lands or in a laboratory that’s been used for years for magical work.” She paused to sip at her wine. “This is good,” she commented, and turned the bottle to read the label.
“You were saying?” he prompted.
“Oh, the jerk,” she said. “He implied that I couldn’t possibly know more about forensic magic than he did. Made a snide remark about ‘women’s intuition’ and heavily implied that I was only there because of affirmative action.”
He didn’t call her Firecat for nothing. He could almost feel sorry the man. . .if he didn’t so richly deserve everything he got.
Cassandra’s eyes sparkled. “So I told him that I hadn’t been aware that affirmative action extended to hiring blithering idiots, but his presence proved me wrong.”
She loved her new job; he hoped she hadn’t just blown it.
“He made some comment about PMS and threatened to tell my boss. So I showed him the way to Sherlock’s office.”
“So what did he say? Your boss?”
Cassandra grinned. “Cave-boy apparently wasn’t aware that Sherlock was just a nickname, and my boss’s given name is Abigail Andrews. He practically fell over his feet trying to backpedal. Unsuccessfully, I might add.”
Their food came, and they talked the rest of the evening about the fading of magical signatures and the tracing of teleport trails, until Robert regretfully told them he would have to lock up soon. Raven only then realized that the restaurant had officially closed an hour ago.
He walked her to the sidewalk, his whole being buzzing with her presence. Too early, by far, to ask if she would like to come back with him for a nightcap. But she tilted her face up to him as they fed their farewell, and the kiss they shared promised a future he could almost let himself believe in.
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