The kitchen staff nodded and went back to work. Licorice lingered, as if disappointed, or uncertain if that included her. "Thank you for your help, Licorice." Smoke clasped the woman's hand. Licorice beamed up at her, black eyes bright. "If you need anything from me to let your supervisor know what you were doing, I'll be happy to oblige. I didn't realize how late I'd kept you."
"Oh, she's usually understanding. I'll tell her to see you if she has questions. You're calling it a day?"
"Yes, I'm going to hunt down some dinner." Smoke glanced to her and smiled. "Would you like to join me?"
Licorice's expression took on an odd cast, either intrigued or alarmed: human features are hard to read, with no ears or whiskers for cues. Then she grinned. "Sure! As long as I'm ordering from the menu and not on it."
Smoke grinned back. "Deal. Um. Do you think Blackwood would like to come? I don't want to requisition him in his off hours ..."
But Licorice's face lit. "I have no idea! Let's find out." She slipped her arm through Smoke's and led them to the main hall. "He's adorable, isn't he? Those wings! He's like Master Corydalis only not terrifying."
Smoke laughed. "Is Master Corydalis so bad? Blackwood spoke well of him."
"Oh, I don't mean he's bad, or cruel, or anything. He's just ... " Licorice gestured with her hands, as if to sketch a colossal figure. "Enormous. And important. And the kind of person who could get you doing something before you realized you'd been asked. You know. Terrifying."
Smoke had no idea. Licorice asked the guards in the main hall about Blackwood, but they didn't know. Undeterred, Licorice rummaged through the deserted receptionist's station for clues. "Oh, look, there's a note for you." She handed the sealed envelope to Smoke.
It was from Blackwood, and contained hotel reservations for Smoke, and a packet of meal vouchers. It also said that Master Corydalis wanted to see Smoke in the morning, at their earliest convenience. He'd also left his directions in case Smoke needed anything else. He had an apartment at the Courthall, on the far side of the park. "Swank!" Licorice remarked.
Smoke had some misgivings about disturbing Blackwood at home. But surely he would have told them to talk to the duty officer or somesuch if Blackwood had been bothered by the idea.
As luck would have it, they met him outside his building. His face lit when he saw them. "Smoke! I hope everything's gone all right? Is there any way I might be of assistance?"
"Well ... you could recommend somewhere to eat? And perhaps keep us company?" Smoke asked. "If you wanted, not as an obligation. It seems I've some meal vouchers now, but I don't know what the commissary's like. Or how good it is."
"It's pretty nice," Licorice said.
Blackwood did not contradict her, but his ears had perked at the invitation and then dipped at the mention of the vouchers. "It would be my pleasure to join your party, Smoke. I was on my way to The Quarry, it's a meats-variety place. But I've no strong preference."
"I've never been there!" Licorice tilted her head, intrigued. "My favorite place near Courthall is The Big Cheese. They don't just have cheese, though. I promise!"
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