"Christ," said Vere, and there was, right there and then, only one thing Chrysander wanted more than to go back to where he was staying and sleep.
Strictly speaking, there were two things, but by now, he'd almost learned not to think about that second thing.
He'd written the song for her because writing it for Niki would have meant something, and possibly (he realized afterwards) to stake some sort of claim. Spin hadn't had the guns of the Falconer installed for Chrysander, but he'd used them all the same and used them as well as could have been expected.
That Laura Brass had died was not his fault, although he blamed himself for it.
He didn't blame himself for those the guns had killed at his directions, although he'd clearly been responsible for their deaths.
When he'd asked Vere if she liked the song, she'd said 'no' and looked a little uncomfortable. He hadn't asked her why not, imagining he knew her well enough to be able to guess what she'd heard in it.
The song didn't quite match the one he'd heard in his head, even now.
Vere would probably kill him if he told her he wanted another take though, or at least try to, and he liked her too well to wish her dead. Besides, she was better at pushing buttons than any other tech he'd worked with. Occasionally, especially, his.
"You seem to be everywhere I go," Niki told him with a smile that seemed much easier than it was.
Chrysander knew - he'd spent entirely too much time trying to put into music not that smile itself, but what caused it.
"A small wonder you haven't yet grown tired of seeing my face, then." Said more lightly, it could have passed as a joke.
"It's good to know your career as a musician is going so well."
Had it come from Jhari, Chrysander thought he might have caught the nuances in that sentence, the carefully placed emphasis.
"I do my best."
"Yes," said Niki.
"This one's for the public again, then?" Vere asked, remembering, no doubt, the one song he'd had her help him record that hadn't been. Back then, it had seemed fitting to return to FourCorners to record it.
He'd taken almost as long to hone that one as close to perfection as was possible as he'd taken for this one. He liked to think Vere had heard the difference though.
"Probably," he said. He hadn't thought about it much. Once he'd first heard the song, nothing had seemed to be quite as important as recording it.
"Unattainable," she said. "Is that how you think of him?"
Chrysander remembered an earlier conversation, remembered being chilled by her understanding.
He wondered what he'd recorded his songs for, then, if not to be understood. (The key, he was not unaware, was that, of course, he'd meant for the song to be understood in a certain way, to influence people.)
She'd invited him for coffee. Invited him to come here, to the place where he'd first met Niki Falcon. He suspected she'd done it to make some sort of point, but he had not yet been able to discern that point. Perhaps he was simply too suspicious still.
Then again, he and Jhari had hardly ever been friends.
"Isn't he?" Only a hint of viciousness, yet it seemed enough to make her wince.
She was, he realized suddenly, alone.
How did you reach a man who could be anywhere?
Chrysander supposed he could simply wait for his path to cross Niki's again. He'd spent a lot of time waiting already; patience was a virtue he possessed in spades nowadays, although anyone he'd ever worked with would probably disagree. Niki Falcon wasn't work though. Never again.
"Did you like it?"
He hadn't recorded it for the public, but he thought the public would not dislike what the song was saying.
The Voice had never worked on Niki. Still, there was a certain inherent magic in songs themselves, Chrysander knew, something that lent words more power when they were sung than when they were merely spoken. There was a reason for Chrysander being a musician, after all.
Songs were able to move people, to make them go to war and to have them make their peace. Chrysander knew, because his songs had done those things, and others, even if most people were not aware of it. His songs were able to make people feel things they ordinarily would not admit to feeling, do things they ordinarily would not have the will or courage to do.
For the first few days after he'd put out the record, he felt strange. It took him two days to identify the sensation as stage-fright, and another day to admit to himself that was what was bothering him.
He could not remember the last time he had not been certain of his audience's reaction, or cared.
Twice, he booked passage to elsewhere, and twice he changed his mind at the last possible moment (or, actually, once too late to get a refund). Somehow, FourCorners felt like the right place.
In the second week, he did not start seeing people who looked like Niki everywhere. He'd almost expected to, so it was a relief to find that this once he'd been wrong. It was the kind of mistake he could afford to make.
"A love-song," Vere said.
"I thought I'd try something new."
She gave him a look that told him he was lucky she was too tired to give him a hard time about that.
In the third week, Chrysander decided he might be in danger of losing his mind if he stayed on FourCorners for another week. It appeared that somehow, at some point, he'd made friends here.
Their concern and patent disbelief of his assurances that he was fine got on his nerves as much as the wait did, by now. He couldn't make Niki magically appear (although he'd imagined it to happen more or less like that, three weeks ago) but he could go to a place where more people would leave him alone.
He booked passage quickly, making his choice after no more than a glance at the listings. He didn't bother checking the ship's destination - knowing its name, and knowing it had arrived in FourCorners close to a month ago was enough.