It felt like there were reporters everywhere. Ziotea and Rodion had ditched the ballroom as soon as they could get away with doing so, and still the press hounded them. They were mostly focused on Rodion, asking where Madrys was, what he was working on now, and a hundred other questions. At first the young man tried to answer them, but there were so many. His tone never changed, but his chest grew tight. He didn't want to be talking. Couldn't they just leave him alone?
At his side Ziotea glowered at the various people that intruded on their personal space, like scavengers crowding around a fresh corpse. The way they acted was similar, like they all wanted a piece of Rodion for themselves. She tried to ignore it -- this was T'sarae, after all. Rodion was a genius engineer; it made sense that they'd want to know more about him. Her dislike of the press had no bearing if he wanted to talk to them, and for a time it seemed like he didn't mind. So Ziotea kept her breathing steady, her grip on her spear merely firm instead of tight, and tried to think of other things. She watched Rodion, saw the slow creep of tension into his stance, heard the stress that edged his voice. Should she step in?
She had just decided that enough was enough when Rodion felt for her free hand and tugged gently at her index finger. The old signal meant that they should get out of there, that it wasn't safe. Ziotea couldn't have agreed more. She stepped in front of her companion, gently pushing him behind her. She wasn't so gentle with the reporter that tried to shove forward after Rodion, pulling her hand free and planting it on his chest. It took no effort at all to knock the man off-balance. The questions turned to focus on her, but she barely heard them. Instead of addressing any of them individually, she released a gentle burst of force, enough to stagger all the reporters back.
"Enough!" she snapped, eyes flashing. Silence fell in their part of the garden, and Ziotea felt the uncertainty of those she faced. The fear. Even here they'd heard some of the stories, it seemed. Whatever. She'd use what she had. "Get the hell out of our faces before I make you."
The reporters scattered like blown papers, even the boldest deciding they'd rather be elsewhere when Ziotea fixed them with a cold glare. Once they'd gone, she breathed a sigh of relief, and turned to Rodion. He was smiling down at her, blue eyes warm, and a little thrill ran through her. "There. That's taken care of." She returned his smile, taking his hand again and squeezing it. I am here. They stayed like that for a long moment before Ziotea felt her cheeks growing warm and sought something to say. "Would you like to dance, Rodion?" she asked. He nodded, and she set her spear aside, then stepped close. They didn't do anything fancy, just a simple sidestep back and forth, but it was still wonderful.