A sort-of sequel to "The Tiara Debate". Can you count all the pairings?


Early In the Morning

The sign on her door said "Do Not Disturb", but clearly there were idiots in the vicinity.

She successfully ignored the banging for a few more bars, but by her favorite formata, the Talon sentry had forced his way inside.

Over her tune, she called, "What the fuck are you doing in here?"

The Talon gulped. He had heard several rumors of what happened to those who dared interfere with Ravess' musical solos, and some of them were good, some of them were bad, and some of them were just…nasty. "One of the Sky Knights has been captured. One of the Storm Hawks, actually. The blonde one with…the…crossbow?" He finished weakly as Ravess ended her piece and put down her instrument.

"Finn. You mean Finn."

The Talon shrugged. It wasn't his job to know apples from oranges, let alone blondes from redheads.

"Very good," The archery mistress turned to him, smiling in a way his fellow Talons had warned him about. "You did well to tell me."

She brushed past him, stern and regal once more. Before he could sigh in relief, she turned back to him.

"Come back later, and maybe I'll have a treat for you…" The smile took on poison. "…Once I'm finished with our guest."

The Talon stared after her long after she was gone.

"Dammit," He muttered. "Lucky bastard."


All the corridors and halls and paths and ways and trails in Cyclonia, and he had picked the one Ravess was using.

It wasn't good. His room was the complete opposite end of the citadel, he was flushed and windswept, and it was much too early in the morning for him for the excuse of an "early morning flight" to be believable. When she began grinning the way she did, he steeled himself for the worst.

"Why, good morning, esteemed fellow warrior," Ravess purred. "And what might the Dark Ace be doing so early in the morning? I always took you for a late sleeper."

"Morning flight," He said, holding her gaze steady. Why was it so easy now, now that the one he really wanted to challenge with his gaze was miles and miles behind him?

"At this time of morning? Such energy for someone your age."

"My age?" He said lightly, hoping the complete and utter hatred roiling in his gut wasn't too evident.

"Indeed. Your age."

You had to catch Dark Ace pretty early in the morning to show him up with something he couldn't snap back at with some catchy phrase or other.

It was pretty early in the morning. He decided to move along.

"And yet you remain so capable at your age!" Ravess continued to his retreating back. "Early morning flights. Amazing combat skills." A little softer, "The libido of a fifteen year old."

He whirled around. "Shouldn't you be molesting a guard or something?"

"Oh, better," Ravess bared her metaphorical fangs. "You've only just returned, so you can't have heard of our wonderful success this morning."

His hope leaped. "Aerrow?"

"In your dreams."

He tried not to look guilty. "Piper, then. Master Cyclonis has been…aiming for her."

The smile shrank. "And you've been so jealous, haven't you."

"Why, haven't you?" He quipped, and was rewarded with an ugly look.

"Finn," Ravess said coldly. "We've caught Finn."

"Oh," Dark Ace didn't bother to mask his disappointment. "Is that all?"

The snakey smile returned. "Oh, yes. That's all I need."

Dark Ace shuddered, and felt no less manly for it.

"Of course," He said quickly, "That will draw the rest of the Storm Hawks, and-"

"And then brave Aerrow will come rushing to his rescue, right into your clutches, yes," Ravess said. "A worthy plan, eh?"

"I was referring to Piper rushing into Master Cyclonis' clutches," Dark Ace said stiffly. "Naturally."

"I'm sure you were," Ravess sneered. She turned to go on her way. "Now, if you'll excuse me-"

"You have to go live one of your wildest fantasies?" Dark Ace finished, with all the good humor of a vampire pointing out the escape routes to his victim.

Ravess shrugged fluidly. "Well, everyone else is doing it." When she had traveled far enough for Dark Ace to very nearly escape, she added, "Do tell dear Starling I said hello. And that we really ought to get together again sometime."

She didn't turn to reveal her triumph, or to watch Dark Ace storming off, seething in a jealous rage.