D is for Dances Down in that [Dystopic] Underground School

For Rix_Scaedu and Lilfluff‘s prompts.

First Dance, Year Nine.

Everyone seemed so into the dances here.

Back at home, Pania had not been all that big on the whole idea of school dances. Then again, back at home, there had been other things to do, other places to hang out. Here, down in Addergoole, there was the Arcade, and the dances, as far as she could tell.

So she asked a couple questions of older girls – the ones who seemed willing to talk to her, and who seemed like they’d neither tease her mercilessly for asking nor lie to her to see what she showed up in, and she bought a dress from the Store’s rather wide selection of pretty party dresses, and gave in and bought heels to match.

There. I’m not going to be the belle of the ball, but I won’t be the laughingstock, either.

First Dance, Year Eighteen.

Dances. Really.

Lælia’s mum had spoken fondly of such things, from her own days at her alma matter, but Lælia hadn’t reallyexpected them to still be going on.

For one thing, that had been Year One – very nearly two decades ago. For another, that had been Before The End. Lælia didn’t know if they still had dances in normal high schools. She didn’t really know if they still had high school in normal high schools.

All of her friends from Jr. High had moved away when things started getting messy – moved away, or, in more than one case, just vanished. In those cases, Lælia (and everyone else) tried to pretend they’d just moved, too, that Carrie and Leslie were in the same “I don’t know where but Dad says it’s safe” as Jennifer and Tyler.

All her friends had gone away. Lælia had gone to Addergoole.

First Dance, Year Nine.

“A dance?” The lovely man in the velvet tux bowed over Pania’s hand.

“I’d, ah, be honored.” She was pretty sure that was what she was supposed to say. “I’m Pania.”

“Ambrus. Pleased to meet you.” He had the most stunning eyes she had ever seen.

“Me, too.” Smooth. Pania tried not to look like a complete moron as she let the gorgeous guy lead her out onto the floor. “This is louder than I expected.”

“It does that.” He smiled, bowed, and set one hand gently on her waist. “You get used to it after a while.”

“People have been saying that a lot.”

“It is true about any number of things, here.” He stepped in so he was almost against her; he smelled of aftershave, very faintly, and something deep and male. “And it’s true.”

First Dance, Year Eighteen.

Lælia had found a dress at the Store – she’d found dozens, maybe hundreds of dresses at the Store, actually, but one she really liked – and shoes, and all those things her mother had told her you needed for a dance.

She was relieved – and surprised – to find out that her mother’s descriptions of these things had been spot-on. Fancy dresses, guys in tuxes (two girls in tuxes, one guy in a dress, one in a kilt), loud music (most of which Lælia recognized), and booze flowing like water.

“Where do they get all the stuff?” She hadn’t meant to ask it out loud, but, having said it, turned it to a handsome – nearly pretty – black-haired guy standing next to her at the bar.

He smiled, a brilliant thing that made the room brighter. “Magic.” He wiggled his fingers at her, and then turned it into an offer of a hand. “I’m Maleagant.”

“I’m Lælia. And if you tell me it’s magic, I’m willing to believe you.”

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