In the amber light of the torches, the crowd dances half-madly in a drunken stupor, carried away by the beat of the music.
Beside him, Poppy bounces in her seat with all the other patrons, enamored by the laughter and merriment on display in front of them. She claps and giggles and taps her feet in time with the crowd and Mars is certain he’s never seen someone so happy. During one of the few lulls, she sighs wistfully and locks eyes with him before he can look away and pretend he hasn’t been watching her the whole night.
“Don’t you wish you could dance with them?” she asks.
In half a heartbeat, Mars imagines himself agreeing, then asking her to join him.
He would offer his hand and she would place hers in his and let him lead her into the crowd. The song would start slowly and neither of them would quite look in the other’s eyes as they place their hands on each other, soft grips and feather-light touches. They would sway gently and laugh away the awkwardness as the music picks up speed until she has to squeeze his bicep to keep up and he would try and fail to keep his heart from stuttering as he would squeeze back. Then she’d laugh in that breathy way she does when she blushes and looks away, but he would be bold and catch her gaze with his.
Then all would melt.
The lights, the music, the people, would all disappear until it’s just the two of them, dancing and holding each other, and all he sees of the world is the fire of her hair and the sky of her eyes, until they’re black with want, and he’s overwhelmed by the softness of her lips.
“Poppy,” he’d say, and she’d shiver.
But it’s not his voice that says it.
She turns to Sid, who sits on her other side.
“You do know you can go up and dance whenever you like?” he says, amusement and gentleness mix in his voice and face in a way that Mars has never been able to.
“I…” Poppy trails off and darts her eyes to the crowd, “…but I’m fey.”
Sid’s eyes harden at that and he leans in to her until even Mars holds his breath.
“If they say anythin’ I’ll pummel ‘em until they’re black and blue,” he says with a grin, then stands.
He offers his hand and she places hers in his and lets him lead her into the crowd.
Mars stays seated at the table, heart stuttering in all the wrong ways. He feels his eyes prick, his lungs tighten, and his stomach churn, and he tries to wash it all away with ale.
But the bitterness is overpowered with his own, his heart black with want.