Dafydd walked into Constance's Response Centre, checking to make sure Steve wasn't there. He wasn't, but then again, he rarely was. Who was there was Constance, seated at the console with a newspaper. Dafydd walked over and touched her on the shoulder. "Connie?"
Constance folded the paper over with a rustle and turned in her chair. "Ah, Dafydd. I was just reading about you."
Dafydd blinked and glanced at the blank screen of the console. Looking back at the paper, he said uncertainly, "... in that?"
Constance nodded. "It was quite fascinating. Let's see..." To Dafydd's horror, she opened the paper to a double-page spread, featuring quite a large picture of him. "'Dafydd Illian (DOGA) is HQ's luckiest male', it says. 'Not only is he partnered with the exotic Selene Windflower, he also gets to go on missions with some of the PPC's greatest Assassins'. That's followed by two exclamation marks," she added.
Dafydd winced. "This? Is so not my fault."
Constance didn't even acknowledge his response. "It goes on to explain at great length how you go out of your way to talk to various women – Vemi is featured quite prominently – and they have an entire section on us. Apparently, 'Daffy seems to be spending most of his time with Constant Sims, a dark-haired babe from the DMS. Can this be the start of a long-term relationship, or is she just the next in a long line of conquests for this sociable pyro?'." She put the paper down and glared up at Dafydd. "I'm even willing to ignore the fact that they got my name wrong – again – but this is beyond stupid. What have you been saying to these people?"
"Me?" Dafydd looked shocked, mostly because he was. "You think I like being the subject of gossip for half of HQ? I mean, I didn't know why people were giving me all these looks until now, but..."
Constance glanced down at the tabloid again. "'Oh, they're nice enough,'" she quoted, "'but you know how it is, you need to move on to the next quickly.' Do you deny saying that?"
Dafydd stared. "No, I said that," he said slowly. "It was at that party a couple of weeks back, you remember? The one with all the different types of chocolate on the table? Someone asked me why I was moving along so quickly, and didn't I like any of them? So I said..."
Constance raised an eyebrow. "So basically, you're saying they've taken things you said out of context, combined them with mad speculations about Upstairs' policies, and constructed a story out of nothing?"
Dafydd considered this. "Well... yes," he decided. "That's about right."
Constance nodded thoughtfully. "I see. And what about this?" she asked, turning back to the third page of the paper. Dafydd stared at the full-colour photograph printed there.
"That... isn't me," he said at last, trying to get the disturbing image out of his mind. Constance raised her other eyebrow to match the first.
"It certainly looks like you," she said. "It's not like you have a particularly average face."
"No, I mean, that's my head, obviously, but it's not a photo of me." He shook his head. "Connie, you've seen my chest. Could I ever look like that? In a million yeni?"
Constance considered, then leaned over and poked his stomach. "No, not really," she admitted. "But it's still funny to think about."
Dafydd rolled his eyes. "Constance, you delight in torturing me, I swear," he murmured. Constance put on a frantic expression and hushed him.
"Shh! Don't say that! They'll start reporting that we have secret BDSM sessions in here!"
Dafydd laughed and sat down on her lap, draping an arm around her shoulders to balance himself. "Well, we can't be having with that," he said. "We'll have to be very, very quiet."
Constance's only reply was a giggle.