Stepping On Stage
By Emily Spahn
Description: A year before the events of Pierside, Ian Rathsly tries to get a date.
Ian tucked the thin paper package under one arm and held his umbrella carefully against the pouring rain as he knocked on the stage door of the Golden Balloon. It wouldn’t do to look bedraggled for this.
The door was off of a dirty alley behind the club, but there was a small crowd of well dressed young men milling around it, some with umbrellas and a few holding their hats low and coats tight against the weather. He assumed they were there for the same reason he was, and he felt a pang of guilt that he was likely to be far more successful with far more ease.
A very large and unpleasant-looking man opened the door. “What do you want?”
“I’d like to see The Angel,” Ian said.
“You and every other guy out there. Don’t waste my time.” The man started to close the door.
Ian nodded. “Very well. Just tell her that Ian Rathsly wanted to speak to her.”
The door closed. Ian rolled his eyes and silently counted to three.
The door burst open, and a different man stepped out. He was smaller and much more nervous than the first. He looked around, and as his eyes landed on Ian, they lit with recognition. “Mr. Rathsly? I’m so sorry. Please, step inside. I’ve sent someone to let The Angel know you’re here.”
“Thank you.” Ian smiled and shook his head as he stepped into an unadorned hallways with concrete floors. “I’m afraid she’s not expecting me, we’ve only spoken briefly.”
“I’m sure she has a moment,” the man said quickly. Then he nodded to the wet umbrella Ian was shaking off. “May I take your things?”
“Certainly.” Ian handed over his hat, coat, and umbrella, but when the man reached for the package he simply explained, “This is for The Angel.”
The man smiled and nodded, scurrying off with the other items.
Ian smoothed his slicked blonde hair and adjusted his tie. He frowned, considering the conversation that was likely taking place in The Angel’s dressing room right now. Someone -- possibly the stage manager, maybe even the owner -- was in a state similar to the man who let him in, and explaining to the singer that she was going to see Ian Rathsly, whether she liked it or not.
She certainly wouldn’t be pleased. At least, he hoped she wouldn’t. And he hoped the package he held would go some way to undoing the damage. If not, this was most likely a wasted trip.
After a few minutes the nervous man returned and led Ian down the hallway.
"Just as a warning, The Angel has been rehearsing all day, so she may be… touchy. I'm sure she doesn't mean anything by it, of course. She appreciates all of our patrons here."
"I'll keep that in mind." Ian nodded to the man as they stopped in front of a door.
The man knocked, and an annoyed voice from inside called. "Come in." He opened the door and motioned Ian inside.
Ian stepped into the room, taking a moment to gather his bearings. The walls were lined with mirrors with gilded frames, making it hard to judge the size at first. There were chairs with rich upholstery in red, gold, and white scattered around the edges of the room and to one side was a small bar cabinet of dark wood. The only sign it was a dressing room was a vanity towards the back under one mirror.
In the center of the room, in a large red velvet chair, sat The Angel, her blonde hair falling over her shoulders and framing her face. She wore a blue silk dress that matched her eyes, but that just accentuated the icy glare she was giving him as he stood in the doorway.
“What are you doing here?” she snapped.
Ian smiled. “I’m sorry if it’s not a good time. I was hoping to get a chance to talk to you. We spoke for a few moments the other day, after your set, but--”
“I walked away from you,” she cut in, her glare unchanging. She raised an eyebrow and added, “Because I was done talking to you.”
“Well.” Ian frowned. “I’m sorry, I must have misread the situation. I’ll see myself out.” He started out the door, then noticed the package he was holding. “I suppose I may as well give you this anyway…”
He turned around and walked over to The Angel, handed her the package, and turned to leave.
“What is this?” There was a short pause, and she gave a laugh. “I get hundred dollar necklaces three times a week from men who want to meet me, and the richest boy in the city brings me a record. Are you stupid?”
Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the amused smirk on her face. At least she wasn’t glaring anymore.
He met the smirk with a calm smile. “I heard it was a good recording. Before you finished talking to me, you said you like the opera.” He shrugged. “I hope you enjoy it. I won’t waste any more of your time.”
He wasn’t entirely sure why he paused in the doorway, but he heard her ask, “Why do you want to talk to me?”
Ian turned around and raised his eyebrows. “I was hoping to ask for a date.”
“Why?” The Angel regarded him with one perfect eyebrow raised.
Looking her in the eye, he answered, “Because you’re beautiful, and talented, and you seemed intelligent, and you didn’t show any particular interest when I introduced myself.”
The smirk returned to her perfect lips. “You really are stupid. You look for women who aren’t interested in you?”
He smirked back. “I look for women who aren’t interested in Ian Rathsly. I find they’re much more likely to be interested in me.”
With a contemptuous chuckle, The Angel rolled her eyes. “And you’re special, aren’t you? So much more than your name.”
Ian crossed his arms and leaned against the doorframe. "I’m much less special than my name. Unfortunately, people tend to find out my name first, so it’s hard to compete."
She looked at the record, turning it over to read the back. After a moment she gave a reluctant nod and set it to the side of her chair, looking at Ian. "So who are you?"
He gave what he hoped was a charming smile. "Just an aide at City Hall, with plans to run for the City Council. I like unique art, overwrought books, and terribly expensive wine. I hate the City Council, people who laugh when they don’t understand a joke, and being compared to my father.”
He hoped she might ask why we wanted to be on the City Council if he hated it, giving him a chance to explain his distaste for the state of politics. It was one of the things he felt set him apart from the other rich young men he'd gone to school with. But The Angel cocked her head to the side and raised her eyebrows.
"Why don’t you like being compared to your father? Can’t live up to him?”
“I have no interest in living up to him. We’re very different men.” Ian tried to keep the disdain from his voice. It very nearly worked.
“Havard Rathsly is the richest man on the coast." The Angel studied him carefully with cold eyes. She pulled out a cigarette, and Ian stepped into the room to light it for her. "A lot of people would say that’s not a bad man to be like.”
“A lot of people don’t know him," Ian said, putting his lighter away.
“Sit down." She nodded to one of the chairs by the wall, and Ian pulled it over towards her and took a seat. "Would you like something to drink?”
“I wouldn’t mind. Anything on hand is fine. So you know my father?” Ian said.
The Angel stood up and walked over to the bar, returning with two glasses of red wine. Ian took a sip. It was what the club was offering as the house wine, not terribly special.
“I’ve seen him in the audience, and I’ve read about him in the papers,” The Angel said as she sat down with her glass and took a sip. “He’s a dangerous man.”
Ian was surprised to hear it stated so plainly by someone outside the family. “I’m afraid I can’t say much about that.”
“Can’t or won’t?” she asked, looking at him with a smirk. Her blue eyes seemed to catch him, and he stared into them several moments too long for a casual first meeting. Yet, he didn’t feel embarrassed. There was something inviting him to linger.
“All he lives for is power,” Ian said, glancing away as he considered his father. “He’s ruthless at maintaining control of the City Council, at the expense of his constituents and anyone who gets in his way. I had to step in to stop him from abusing my mother, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he does the same things to his mistresses. And the only time he remembers I exist is if I get in his way, at which point he thinks I'm an idiot."
She raised her eyebrows in surprise.
Ian shook his head clear. “I’m sorry. I don’t usually talk about these things with people I’ve just met.” He smiled at The Angel. “I suppose you’re special.”
“I am special.” She grinned, her blue eyes sparkling. “You didn't even mention the death of the last Elevatus.”
“I was too young to remember that, I don't really know how he was involved. He obviously didn’t kill Dietrich, but he does have his things in his personal collection. I'm sure he was pleased to be rid of people with powers he could never match.“
She relaxed back into her chair, still smiling. “So you’re going to run for City Council to get in Havard’s way?”
Ian nodded. This wasn’t going exactly as he’d planned, but she did seem interested, and he liked women who kept him on his toes. “That’s my plan. Of course, Father isn’t the only problem. The council is more or less entirely made up of men who would happily take his place, with all that entails. If I’m any good at this, I’d love to be a thorn in their sides, as well.”
“That sounds like fun.” She took a sip of wine without taking her eyes off of him. The way she smiled made Ian feel like they were sharing a secret.
“I suppose it might, if you’re not the one who has to deal with those men.” Looking at her again, studying her perfect features, he asked, “So, what about you? Who are you when you’re not The Angel?”
The Angel smiled. “I’m a beautiful, talented, intelligent woman who’s not interested in Ian Rathsly. But I think I’m interested in you. And I’m always The Angel.”
“Oh, come now, it’s obviously a stage name.” Ian smirked.
“Of course it is. I’m always on stage.” She motioned a hand at the ornately decorated dressing room.
He chuckled and took a sip of his wine. “I’m afraid no one gave me the script, so I’ll be winging it.”
“I’ll feed you your lines,” she said with a wink that made his heart skip a beat. “Now’s the part where you ask me on a date.”
Ian grinned and leaned forward. “Very well, Miss The Angel. I understand you like music.”
“Angel is fine. And I love good music,” she corrected. “I’ll let you take me to hear some on Tuesday night.”
“That would be generous of you,” he said with a nod.
“I’ll think of some way for you to repay me.” The Angel gave a smirk, and with a flick of her wrist she swirled the red wine in her glass.