Someone had already fainted. Finn was close enough to see the colour and a blurry interpretation of her dress. But it was too far away to be included in the circle of unhelpful onlookers. A man called out in an accent of authority. “Move aside! I am a doctor.”
Moses must have been a doctor too, because the crowd parted like the Red Sea.
Finn was not a doctor. But he and the doctor did have work in common. They were both doing it. Just different sorts.
Someone hurried over to join him. A young man, maybe two year Finn’s junior, if not more. Tow-headed and a little skinny, wearing a big hat and scarf.
Most of the room was devoted to dancing or staring at the doctor and his patient. Finn looked about the immediate area, in search of the local attraction.
“Are you hiding from somebody?” he asked, after coming up empty.
The huddled figure took a step to the left. In accordance with, Finn realised, Finn’s own movement. “My parents, mostly.”
“Good luck with that. I had to expatriate to get away from mine.”
Still huddling a bit, his new acquaintance snorted. “I wish I could do that.”
“You wouldn’t if you knew the whole story.” Finn shuddered, hoping the gesture would be taken for exaggeration.
He’d expected some automatic pity or contradiction. But the young man just laughed nervously.
Then he dodged about so dramatically to the left that the only place to stand was between Finn and a long table.
Finn stared at him. “The last person who came that close to me wanted my wallet.”
“Sorry it’s just–let’s dance!”
He was being dragged onto the dance floor before he could even process what had happened. Fortunately, dancing came naturally to Finn. Even waltzes.
They got a few looks from older couples. It was enough to make Finn comment. “They really need to update the language of dance.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re dancing the lady’s bit. You aren’t a lady.”
“Should I be flattered that you noticed?”
“Certainly. But my point is, they should call it something else.”
People had begun to stare in earnest. Whisper was to polite a word to cover what else they were doing.
Finn sighed. “You’ve been found out.”
The prince stumbled over the next step. His elbow nearly knocked into another dancing pair, but he managed to rein it in. “I thought the hat would help.”
“It did with most of them.” Finn indicated the ballroom at large. “But you were just on stage ten minutes ago. Even the ugliest hat won’t disguise you for long.”
A big pink mountain loomed towards them. The man had obviously missed his calling as a Dashiell Hammett character. Finn drew Prince Matteus onto the sidelines where the kid could be safely collected.
On impulse, just before the giant arrived, Finn shook the prince’s hand. “Now ask me what I do for a living.”
“Do it. It’s what royalty does.”
The prince’s eyes lit up. “Of course. And what do you do?”
The giant was there, watching with disapproval as powerful as a grandmother’s. “Whatever I can do, your Highness,” Finn said, and ended the handshake.