When the beer arrived, Haraklez did as well, sliding in to sit beside Werfas. Her veil was almost translucent and Kyrus found himself watching the half-shadow of her upper lip, even as he scrambled to put his own veil on, though he hadn’t finished eating.
“What do you need, lady?” He struggled to keep the annoyance out of his voice. I want to finish eating my dinner, frilly, he thought resentfully.
“I don’t need anything, I came to say hello to a couple of my classmates. Don’t stop eating for my sake. Brakayus’s cooking is too good, especially this time of year. No one can make old mutton taste like young lamb like he can.” She pulled her veil off and Kyrus realized she had brought cup and bowl with her, to sit with them.
“Are you doing this to annoy me?” he said quietly.
She put her tine down and looked at him. “No, Kyrus. You know that we eat together, men and women, and I thought you needed all the friends you could get while you were here. And no. My father didn’t put me up to this. I can occasionally think for myself. Anything else?”
Kyrus could feel himself flushing, even though it didn’t show. He found himself looking over her head at a whorl in the rock, down at the white ceramic bowls, at his half-empty glass, anywhere but at her. Moa yelled “Praise the Dark!” from his perch before tossing his water-cup over.
“Ah, no. My apologies, H-Haraklez.” He barely stumbled on her name, managing to pick up his glass and draining the rest of it. He pulled his veil off again and refused to look up from his bowl, though he could almost feel Werfas trying not to laugh.
“Good. You know, when I started, the Zon tapped me for extra classes for a while too.”
He looked up, startled. “Really?” He’d thought that she was so good that she’d never need extra help.
“Really. If you have the extra classes it can get a bit weird if you’re in them long enough. I was only in for six months.”
“Weird? Oh.” Kyrus shoved a couple of beans around the bottom of his bowl, looking down again. As if I needed any more strangeness. He didn’t really mind that she’d shoved in. She was right. He needed as many friends as possible here – as many as were willing to be his friends.
“As if our ways aren’t bizarre enough to our own personal Bee Eater,” Werfas broke in.
“Yeah, Mutton face,” she retorted and they traded a few more insults back and forth with the comfortable familiarity of old friends while Kyrus finished his bowl, glad to be on the edge of it.
For the first time in years he actually relaxed somewhat, feeling comfortable enough with the two at his table, as long as he didn’t think of one of them as female at all. He finished his beer and put his veil back on, feeling the comforting press of the cloth over his lips. Moa stretched and flapped before shrieking and then letting loose a string of Lainz curses that had Kyrus glancing quickly over at Haraklez to see if she were offended. She wasn’t paying attention.
Brakayus himself came out of the kitchen and hit the iron bar that served as his bell. “Everyone tapped to do dishes had best come now. We’re closing early, snow’s getting bad. Everyone use the storm lines when you leave.”
Kyrus stood up. “I’m on dishes tonight. I’ll see you later, Haraklez.”
“And I’ll whip your butt tomorrow in class,” Werfas grinned.
The youths at the next table didn’t stir, but sat, waiting, while most everyone else filed out to get their coats and make their way home along the snow-lines strung from house to house to tunnel. If the weather got very bad you never wanted to lose your grip on those, especially at night. Ilaxindal had explained that people had frozen to death an arm’s length away from safety.
Kyrus nodded to Brakayus as he went into the back, rolling up his sleeves as he went. In one way it was a good thing he didn’t know what it was to be a noble because most nobles he knew of were averse to work, especially work seen as menial. If there was one thing he knew how to do it was work. The old man had taught him many things but the most important thing was how valuable any kind of honest work was. And how rare a willing pair of hands was. Someone working sullen could make any job a misery.
By being in among the first to clean up, Kyrus could actually choose to either wash or dry and since he found washing somewhat soothing – especially since he didn’t have to carry the wash water -- he settled at the basins dug out of the wall.
The first time, he’d found the chore immensely easier than he’d expected since they had more of the hot water pipes, opened at the simple turn of a hand wheel, and a basin that could be emptied of dirty water by opening a drain below. Since most of Lainz life seemed to be hauling either rocks or water he was enchanted with how easy this was.
It also let him listen. He could keep his mouth shut and even the gossip about people he didn’t know improved his Milari, and he quite liked the singing, though he didn’t try to join in. His voice had broken a while ago and hadn’t yet settled into one range though he thought he might be a baritone when he did.