[Closed] Driest of Seasons

A high speed chase. An unexpected reunion. Just another Yaris in Vienda.

The capital city of Anaxas and the seat of the government.
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Rhys Valentin
Posts: 219
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:06 pm
Topics: 8
Location: Vienda
Race: Wick
: It's Inspector to you, thanks.
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Writer: Muse
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Mon Sep 09, 2019 5:07 pm

almost uptown
Late Afternoon of the 10th of Yaris, 2719
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Fucking Yaris. To say that Rhys Valentin hated the driest of seasons in Anaxas as an officer of the Seventen would have perhaps been the slightest of undrestatements—he despised it. He loathed it. After almost a decade of service, he knew that this season meant restless citizens, violence, and, like last year, the risk of riots.

Only this year—gods, this year!—he had to deal with it all from chroveback.

Only this year—gods, this year!—was that really the only thing that had changed?

Flies buzzed around the dark, lumbering beast whose rugged gait the Sergeant had gotten used to and sweat rolled down between his shoulder blades beneath the thick green layers of his uniform, four snaps sparkling in the sun, buttons and saddle polished to a mirror shine as a proper officer of the Anaxi Law. Everything on the outside looked as it should for Patrol Sergeant Valentin—and why shouldn't it? He still had his career. He still had his lovely wife. He still had his quaint little house—

In the Painted Ladies. With Charity having crawled back into her addiction instead of into his arms. With Captain Damen D'Arthe watching his every fucking move.

Perfect.

If you were a damn masochist.

Instead, Rhys felt like the weather, felt like he had when he'd been left broken on the cobblestones: bled dry. He was too stubborn to give up, too determined to stop fighting, but to say that he'd begun to question whether or not he had any hope of even a mediocre victory would have been stabbing a little too close to the heart. Not that anyone knew, of course, for the not-galdor wore it all so fucking well. Hid it behind an easy smile and sarcasm. Buried it deep in the hot, molten furnace of his chest, keeping it as fuel in the quiet darkness while Charity whispered in restless sleep in their bed.

No. Everything was just as well-shined as his shoes and as fucking falling apart as the quarter of the Dives he was quickly leaving behind.

Everything was just clocking great—

Rushing through the sweltering streets, gripping tightly to his musky, muscular mount as it scrambled over cobblestones, for a brief moment that fantastic life he'd sweetly been promised on Clock's Eve on his dilapidated little rooftop garden while the Mugrobi Worshipful Company of Pipefitters' Auxiliary Band playing a favorite tune on the gramophone from the deliciouslips of the petite blonde he loved enough to wear the scars of the price of their relationship forever on his face could be forgotten, could be gladly shoved roughly aside by the needful thrum of adrenaline, by the crushing weight of authority, and by the urgent need to catch the erseholes responsible for such a fucking welcome distraction. He hated the uniform, knowing all that he did, but he didn't hate the job.

Someone needed to take responsibility for the mess that was Anaxas.

That someone certainly wasn't Rhys Valentin—thank the clocking Circle, right? Exactly.

"Constable, take Apothecary Street! Cut 'em off. I'm going to circle 'round!" The tall blond shouted, risking the toss of an arm outward as an indication as he signaled to Navinia Greymoore.

"Got it! Oh—quick thinking, Val." She smirked at him appreciatively, his Investigative nickname easy on her lips apparently, even though she was panting and just as ready for a fight as he was. He could feel the sudden surge in the thick cloud of Static mona that made up her field before she shifted in her saddle. The woman didn't have time to balk at him, to question his judgment, and she didn't have the authority to argue despite having just released him from training as her recruit just a little over a season ago. Instead, the dark-haired galdor grunted and dug in her heels, twisting the reigns of her chrove and sending both of them skittering over cobblestones, claws and a low rumbling growl from her beast parting the already-cowering crowd further.

There'd been a disturbance, but it wasn't between a handful of tribal wicks and it wasn't started by the Resistance. Not this time. Either of those would have been favorable, honestly, because at least the Seventen would have some clear enemy to pin their shit on. This time, perhaps this time someone like his fucking joke of a Captain would call it all a disappointment: it just a few textile factory workers who'd set a fire and stolen one of the water carts from the Southeastern Volunteer Fire Department to take it on a godsbedamned joy ride.

What a joy everyone was having, too: they'd crashed through a handful of vendors in a little tsat-run marketplace in a cross street; they'd smashed a Seventen blockade, and here they were nearly to Uptown, tossing buckets and a few bottles of beer into shop windows, whooping and hollering.

They'd not had any chance of casting—too many damn bystanders out in this heat, too much motion—and the pair were desperate to get the advantage. The four men had stolen the fastest kensers in all of Anaxas and this was just bordering on the fucking ridiculous.

Backup would arrive eventually, right?

Fuck. As if they needed it.

He knew these streets. All of them. In the daylight. In the moonslight. He'd burned them into his memory and as he shoved a knee into his chrove and yanked to the left, his mount begrudgingly shifted its hulking weight toward a side alley. Rhys began to gather his field—no, his glamour—the not-galdor quite confident that this little narrow cut-through that was barely wide enough for the officer and his swiftly moving dangerous ride, shoulder scraping against a windowsill with a hiss, would dump him out alongside the water wagon with its pair of kenser who were already foaming at the mouth from the exertion, who were already overheated.

A brief respite of shadows, though the alley smelled of sewage and the Sergeant had to quickly duck to avoid a hanging by clothesline, cursing through grit teeth even as Perceptive mona crawled closer to him, obeying his will as if they didn't know the truth of things at all.

Sunlight burst into his vision as he exploded back onto the wider thoroughfare, and Rhys began to cast, Monite rolling off his tongue like it belonged there, like he had every right to say the words with such unbridled power. He didn't see his Constable yet, but the cart wooshed by, kensers squealing as his chrove's jaws immediately and instinctually snapped at them. One of the men on the cart was laughing, bucket held above his head in both hands and Rhys sat up in his saddle, narrowing his sharp blue eyes at the man and catching just a glimpse of returned attention.

It was all he needed, that slip of contact, the Perceptive sorcerer quickly directing the mona with confident authority, drifting into the human's unprotected, wildly open mind. He asked for a tug here, a twist there, suggesting that it would be far more exciting to toss that bucket at the hunched-over driver than it would be to throw at the Seventen's face. No, it wasn't quite part of his oath to encourage such harm done to citizens, but, well, there was only so much change in intention he was capable of at this breakneck pace in the middle of a chase. If he was going to put a stop to things, taking out the driver was an acceptable use of force.

The human hesitated, his mind working against his intentions, fingers curling into hot metal before he felt the whispers of monic suggestion fill him with the curiosity, playing a picture for his mind. Rhys was reaching the end of his spell, ears ringing with the concentration required while on a lumbering, salivating chrove, that familiar stomach-wrenching sensation of vertigo threatening him.

Gods, no—not now. Shit—no—

The man turned and shoved the large water bucket emblazoned with the Southeastern Volunteer Fire Department's seal on it right against the skull of the driver with a loud crack!

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his Constable emerge from the far end of Apothecary Street, and for a moment his vision blurred, Rhys forced to slump into his saddle and grip it for dear life as dizziness nearly knocked him over.

The driver fell over, pulling the reins, and the kensers reeled wildly, sending the water cart crashing toward a little flower stand parked next to some almost Uptown cafe, sending toward bystanders. Only a wheel crumpled, Navinia's quick spellwork shattering it into pieces and forcing what was left of the cart to grind against cobblestones, the wrenching fall snapping chains. The kensers continued their rampage in one direction while the cart growled to a stop in the middle of the road.

Across the bridge of the little canal over there?

Well. That was Uptown.

He hated dry season!

Rhys groaned, pushing through the runoff and shifting his knees to bring his chrove to a threatening stop over whoever was left conscious from the factory,

"Cease and desist!"
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word count: 1608

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Niccolette Ibutatu
Posts: 155
Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:41 pm
Topics: 17
Race: Galdor
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Writer: moralhazard
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Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:22 pm

Late Afternoon, 10th Yaris, 2719
Just Barely The Dives
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It was a hot day; the hottest of Yaris so far, with almost nothing in the way of clouds to shield the sun from beating down with vicious strength on the cobblestone streets of Vienda. Niccolette walked a slow path of her own devising through the city, a small, fashionable umbrella propped over one shoulder to shield her from the worst of the sun. The back of the umbrella was a riot of pale gold flowers and dark green vines, with loops of black lace at the edges.

The Bastian sighed, and twirled the handle gently, back and forth, watching the shadowy pattern it cast on the ground below. She could see the entirety of her own silhouette, outlined by the late afternoon sun. The worst of the afternoon heat had not yet broken; the city seemed to trap it all, to bounce it off the too-tall buildings up Uptown, the airships overhead, even the galdors bustling back and forth.

Niccolette felt that she, too, should be bustling; she had things to do, and yet, she stood a moment longer, letting the umbrella settle back against her shoulder. No, she thought; if she went back to the hotel, alone, now – it was too early still, and she was not ready to be alone.


“You seem much more like yourself, Nicco,” Niccolette had met Francoise in the Rochambeaux house earlier that afternoon for tea and biscuits. Her beloved classmate was just now starting to show, the soft, rounded curve of her stomach visible in the popular small-waisted fashions.

“I am feeling better,” Niccolette had promised. She had smiled too, her hands settled on her lap, small dark green gloves set off to the side, and held Francoise’s eyes for a long few moments. “There are good and bad days,” she exhaled, softly. “How was Cellas?” She smiled a little brighter.

“Lovely,” Francoise beamed. “And much cooler than Vienda!” She spread the fan out in her hand, turning it over, and smiled up at Niccolette. “It was so thoughtful of you to bring this. It’s lovely. Is it – Mugrobi?”

“Yes,” Niccolette said, perched gently still on the edge of her seat. She smoothed her hands over the dark golden silk of her gown, and smiled again. “I thought you would appreciate it, with the heat.”

“Yes,” Francoise grinned back. There was silence between them, then, stretching on for a few moments. “Nicco,” Francoise set the fan aside, and leaned forward slowly, setting her hand on Niccolette’s. “You don’t need to stay at a hotel. You’re welcome here any time.”

“I know,” Niccolette turned her hand over, clasping Francoise’s hand gently. She exhaled, slow and soft, then squeezed, and found the strength in her voice as well. “I know, darling, but – there are things I must do myself.”


Niccolette wandered a little further; she stood at the edge of the bridge that meandered out of Uptown, and stopped there. She thought, for a moment, of school; of vacations to Vienda, of daring one another to step a few feet into the Dives, of Francoise’s shrieking laughter when Niccolette had done it, her giggling calls for Niccolette to return.

And then, no longer a student, Niccolette made her way across the bridge. She closed the small umbrella and tucked it closed under her arm, sliding comfortably into a seat at a small café just across the bridge. She would, Niccolette decided, have some tea – tea, nothing stronger, even if she already felt half made of the stuff – and then she would decide what to do for the rest of the night. One moment at a time, the Bastian promised herself. One moment at a time.

The proprietor brought Niccolette a pot of tea and an ironed newspaper, an afternoon edition. Niccolette snapped it open, crisp and ironed to keep the ink from staining. She settled her gloves on the table next to her teacup, picked idly at a few bites of scone, and read, dark hair tumbling over her shoulder and down the bright gold fabric of her high-necked dress. A modern cut, the seamstress had called it; a high collar, up to the chin, but cut in a sharp, daring v beneath, with a plunging frothy neck of matching gold lace filling it. The waist cut in, sharply; in the original design, the sleeves had been wide and full, but Niccolette had changed that, for a sharp outwards plunge of fabric which gathered close again at her wrists, held closed with a little ivory button. The dress dropped straight at her hips, clinging close in layers of dark gold silk.

Niccolette, looking at herself in the mirror, had felt she looked very well indeed. Perhaps, still, a little too thin, even for galdori fashion, but – one moment at a time.

The Bastian turned the page of the paper laid out on the table, and began to read the next article.

A distant rumbling down the street caught her attention. Niccolette set the paper down, and glanced up, curiously. Next to her, the patrons of the small café also looked up, murmured voices echoing back and forth.

A galdor with an elaborate moustache rose, peering over the edges of his spectacles down the street. “Nothing to worry about, my dear,” he said, turning to the woman who had been seated next to him and nodding authoritatively.

The woman frowned, squinting at the corner. “But, darling, what’s – ” and then she screamed.

It was as if a signal had been set off; a massive water cart was careening down the street towards them all, pulled by two heaving, straining kensers. Passer-bys scattered on either side of the massive, out of control thing, chased by a straining Seventen on the back of an enormous chrove.

Oh, Niccolette thought, pleased. She had rather forgotten how much she liked Vienda. She folded her hands on the table, leaning forward, and watched, intently curious. A smile quirked her lips when one of the men turned and smashed a water bucket against the driver’s skull. Niccolette judged the weight of it with considerable authority, the placement of the crack. Quite likely, she thought, pleased, a concussion.

The woman was screaming; her husband – or so Niccolette supposed – was trying to pull her back out off the street, but she was clinging to her table in desperate fear. The cart jerked, wildly, hurtling towards them, and Niccolette snapped the syllable of a push spell, still seated.

A failure – a complete failure, but perhaps only because the cart had already come to an abrupt stop, a crumpled wheel depositing it messily against the cobblestones.

The driver of the cart tumbled to the ground, moaning piteously, his eyes fluttering. Yes, Niccolette thought, curiously, a concussion. The Seventen was bringing his chrove towards them, hovering menacingly. Had he noticed, Niccolette wondered, that there were four of the humans? His partner was still a good distance away. He had the chrove, she supposed. Niccolette eyed the creature again – flicked her gaze up, curiously, to the Seventen sitting on its back -

“FUCK TH' SEVENTEN!” One of the men roared, wobbling up to his feet. He made a very, very rude gesture at Rhys Valentin – Rhys Valentin! Niccolette would have known him even if another decade had passed, for all that he had some new scars – and two of the others scrambled up next to him. The leader was still lying at the feet of the chrove, moaning piteously, the pathetic sound punctured with the occasional whimper of fear at the creature’s close proximity to his head.

One of the other men – drunk, Niccolette thought, distastefully – scooped up a rock and hurled it at the Seventen and his chrove, whooping a challenge. The third, the one who had been quietest so far, pulled out a pistol.

The woman next to her was screaming now, pointing and shrieking.

Niccolette pressed her lips together, and settled her hands comfortably on her lap. The living conversationalist considered her options, carefully, and began to cast, her field flexing bright and etheric around her. An anesthesia spell, she thought, and would have smiled had she not been so busy with the monite. Hazy energy wavered in the air around her, and streamed out, sinking into the three men – and, for good measure, the fourth on the ground. She called on the mona to drain the energy from these men, to make them sleepy and unaware, to sink them deep into an exhausted slumber.

Niccolette watched, curiously, as the man with the pistol fumbled and dropped it – and as all three sank, slowly, gently, to the ground, joining their would be leader.

“The anesthesia shall not last long,” Niccolette said, casually, holding the upkeep of the spell in her mind as she spoke. She picked up her gloves and her umbrella, tucking it beneath her arm, and stepped out from the shade overhanging the cafe table. The gold ring on her left hand glittered, sparking sunlight as she moved. She stood on the street in the bright afternoon sun of a Yaris day, glittering golden against the cobblestones, and smiled at the ex-boyfriend she had last seen bloody and bruised at Brunnhold nearly a decade before. “Good afternoon, Rhys.”

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Rolls
Push spell: SidekickBOTToday at 2:48 PM
@moralhazard: 1d6 = (1) = 1
Failure or backlash? SidekickBOTToday at 2:48 PM
@moralhazard: 1d6 = (4) = 4
Anesthesia spell: SidekickBOTToday at 3:17 PM
@moralhazard: 1d6 = (6) = 6
word count: 1628
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Rhys Valentin
Posts: 219
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:06 pm
Topics: 8
Location: Vienda
Race: Wick
: It's Inspector to you, thanks.
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Writer: Muse
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Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:59 pm

almost uptown
Late Afternoon of the 10th of Yaris, 2719
Fuck the Seventen, indeed. Had Rhys been anywhere else but on chroveback in the greens being spit at, perhaps he wouldn't have disagreed. Fuck them all. He would have seconded that rude gesture right at the face of Captain Damen D'Arthe.

The Sergeant had taken in the scene—the screaming bystanders, the shocked galdori, the four passengers—and he was the first to shout,

"Firearm! Everyone get down!"

"On it!"

He was already in motion, leaping from the back of his chrove, when the rush of monic movement around him was felt. Someone was casting, and it wasn't Constable Greymoore's now-familiar signature. No, it was—someone—

It still felt familiar.

But the tall blond was too focused, the living mona that swirled and eddied through his own thick, Perceptive glamour making his nose tingle and leaving a strange aftertaste in his mouth, parched as he was from this chase already. He didn't look, didn't turn to see who the caster was—if it wasn't another Seventen, well, he'd fine them shortly. Obstruction of justice and casting against civilians would have sounded nice, but the truth was whoever had the presence of mind to assist instead of squeal like that godsbedamned woman over there had his respect. The three men were faltering, the Monite words for anesthesia filtering through his quick-moving mind even as Rhys roughly and efficiently body-checked the man with the pistol just as he fumbled it, dropping him to the ground with a sweep of his uniformed leg before he could even finish melting to the cobblestones. His boot kicked the flintlock, which wasn't even loaded or cocked, in the direction of his chrove,

"Gun, babe." He grunted almost affectionately. A clawed, thick-padded paw covered it like it was some osta toy tossed in its direction. Only more dangerously. Definitely more dangerously.

Navinia was there with enviable swiftness, though she was far more gentle in her confident movements while the clink of manacles ringing above the gasps of the crowd and the rumbling growl of the other chrove as the well-trained creature moved protectively closer to both officers. The dark-haired Constable looked up, scanning the crowd, and her steel-grey gaze came to rest on the dark haired woman, caprising her field and feeling the lingering living mona within it,

"Stay where you are, please." She nodded at her as if to make sure she knew she'd been noticed.

There was something about the voice that answered that caused the tall blond to snap his head up, knee pressing perhaps a little harder than necessary into the back of the bulky, smelly, sweaty drunk man beneath him, hands perhaps clasping the last pair of manacles too tightly (he heard the whine), and he blinked.

"That's Sergeant Rhys Valentin, Miss—Mrs.Niccolette—" He paused, panting, recognizing the petite Bastian there in the bright Yaris sun, shining like some hot burning brand. It'd been a long time, and the sight of her was so unexpected that he hesitated, feeling her last name against the back of his teeth before his tongue made the sounds, "—Ibutatu."

It had been a long, long time.

Hauling himself to his feet, he looked away from her to focus on his arrests, speaking quietly with his Constable even as he felt every drop of sweat that rolled down his spine, even as he felt his pulse pick up with a strangely different tempo than the one set by the adrenaline of a crazy chase through the Dives. He huffed hair from his face, most of it having come loose from how he'd tied it back at Headquarters, all those hours ago, and let his blue eyes look down at their four poor factory workers whose field day had finally come to a hot, hurtful end.

The pair read their captives their rights, arranged them carefully, Navinia already taking notes, Quantitative spells leaving her lips as she measured and recorded, as she studied the scene for prosecution, the air thrumming with the motion of mona following her commands.

Rhys bent to check on the driver he'd willingly harmed, aware that to everyone but himself, it could easily be mistaken for an accident, for part of the fall from the wagon, even if he knew the truth. There was no twinge of guilt there—these four were clearly willing to kill somebody in their heat-induced escapade—but he glanced up to his fellow officer and she nodded, writing more down even as his gaze strayed from her to Nicco again. He didn't mean to stare, chewing the inside of his cheek while Navinia picked up the firearm from beneath the deadly claws of his mount with a few key words,

"Services Division have been alerted and they're on their way. Let's just hope we don't get heat stroke while waiting." She smirked, leaning to whisper, "I'll let you handle the one that knows you, Val. Meanwhile, I'll question the witnesses, I suppose."

Rhys exhaled, shoulders relaxing, hands suddenly reaching up to smooth over the four snaps on his collar, the flap of his uniform coat, the baton at his belt, before he stepped toward the petite Bastian who looked just as lovely as she did a decade ago. He didn't smile, not fully, but instead his tongue pressed against the knot of scar tissue that split his lower lip down the middle, suddenly more self conscious than he'd been in a long damn time. Clearing his throat, his left hand reached for the notebook in his breast pocket, sharp blue gaze darting to the ring on his finger before darting to hers before settling finally on her smiling face,

"You do realize that casting outside of a formal duel, even against non-galdori, is a finable offense, Nic—Mrs. Ibutatu?" Gods, this was bizarre. Fuck, it was such odd timing. Rhys felt all sorts of strange things filter through his mind—memories, fantasies, regrets—but his still-thrumming heart ached enough already, burdened by the cold weight of the reality he lived day in and day out. Just like that, suddenly and out of context, he laughed, shaking his head as if to clear it.

He was writing, looking down for a moment, murmuring almost coyly, "That was damn fast thinking, but don't tell anyone that I'm standing here thanking you. Now, surely you're just visiting Vienda, Nicco—Niccolette. I bet you were swept off your feet to Thul'ka and never looked back years ago, am I right? I'm going to need to know where to send this fine, though—I wouldn't want to have to arrest you for evasion of justice."

Rhys could have asked. There were questions there smoldering against the roof of his mouth as if he'd swallowed coals. But he was working. This was work. Here he was in front of Nicco in a fucking Seventen uniform of all things!
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word count: 1226
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Niccolette Ibutatu
Posts: 155
Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:41 pm
Topics: 17
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Plot Notes: Plot Notes
Writer: moralhazard
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Mon Sep 09, 2019 10:34 pm

Late Afternoon, 10th Yaris, 2719
Just Barely The Dives
Niccolette watched, cheerfully impressed, at the swift teamwork between man and chrove, the way the beast had been trained well enough to cover the pistol with its paw. She had not had much experiences with chroves before; she was not so sure she wanted to make the acquaintance of the one that Rhys had been riding, for all that he seemed friendly enough with the thing.

There were few Seventen in the Rose, of course. At least, they seemed to know better than to bother those who were affiliated with Hawke. It was quite interesting to see them work up close, although Niccolette knew Rhys better than to expect that however he operated was traditional. She could feel the familiar perceptive mona of his field, stronger than it had been. She supposed her field was stronger too; she wondered how different it felt.

Whatever else, she kept her field crisp and indectal, utterly free of emotions, clear, without even the faintest color-shift – not even a welcome.

Niccolette smiled at the dark-haired constable and lifted her hands, delicately, palms facing the two of them. She did not make even the slightest attempt to move away, let alone to flee. She held, watching curiously as Rhys glanced up from handcuffing a man (he was quite good at it, the Bastian noticed. The manacles were just a bit tight, but she supposed that had its own advantages) to blink at her.

“Sergeant Rhys Valentin,” Niccolette repeated, obediently, looking up at the man he had become. She glanced around, then casually opened her umbrella, shielding herself from the sun, and tucked her gloves away in her reticule, leaving her slim hands bare. Her right hand crept to her side, wrapping against it for a moment – just a moment, Niccolette promised herself, a quick squeeze, and in the next she would do better. She held on for a long moment, digging her fingers into the dark gold fabric.

And then the moment had passed, and Niccolette exhaled, and lowered her hand from her side.

By the time Rhys turned to look at her again, Niccolette was standing, examining the nails of her right hand, every inch the picture of the casual, bored spectator. At the sound of his approach, she glanced up and raised her eyebrows, gently. Her kohl-rimmed eyes dropped to his hand, and Niccolette grinned up at him. There was pain, yes, but it was her own. There was always pain, now, and she had no choice but to live with it. It was not so much worse in this moment, than all the rest, not so much that she could not be happy for him.

Niccolette had known, of course, from reading about that clockstopping foolish trial of his, that Rhys Valentin had finally wed Charity D’Arthe. There was something pleasurable nonetheless of seeing the ring on his finger – no, it was not quite that. There was something pleasurable even of seeing him look at the ring on his own finger. Genuine pleasure, even if her own heart ached, and she could not help but grin.

Niccolette shrugged, casually, at the news of the fine. “My mistake,” she paused, “Sergeant Valentin,” Niccolette repeated the title, again, obligingly, although not without the faintest hint of wickedness in her voice. She adjusted the umbrella back slightly to see him a little better, then a little further still. Had he always been quite so tall? Niccolette eased the umbrella shut once more; it did not help, much, if she had to tilt it back so far to look at him that she was hardly covered by it any longer.

Niccolette felt the same familiar ache in her chest, the one that had beat steadily there since the beginning of the year. Swept off her feet to Thul Ka. Of course. She began to count the days, and then stopped herself; she knew the minutes. She did not need to think on it; she did not need to think on the glittering empty casket, the dark black dress, the –

Niccolette shrugged instead, again. None of it showed – not in her face, not in her field, in nothing but the sharp movement of her left hand, gripping the handle of the umbrella tightly. She had worked hard for it to be so. “Shall it take very long?” Niccolette asked, curiously. “I shall be in Vienda for some time, I think. Perhaps you can send it to the Hotel Belleverie.” She grinned; it was a small hotel, not one of Vienda’s most expensive, but with a well-deserved reputation for elegance and comfort. “They shall be terribly shocked, I think.”

“Or you may arrest me now, if you like? Not too tight,” Niccolette tucked the umbrella neatly beneath her arms, and extended small wrists out to Rhys with a little grin. “Congratulations,” she glanced down at his left hand, then back up at him, still holding her arms out, as casual as if they were meeting in a shop, or perhaps a bar.

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Rhys Valentin
Posts: 219
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:06 pm
Topics: 8
Location: Vienda
Race: Wick
: It's Inspector to you, thanks.
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
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Plot Notes: Plot Notes
Writer: Muse
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Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:46 am

almost uptown
Late Afternoon of the 10th of Yaris, 2719
Niccolette's grin was bright, but her field was an unreadable barrier, a living wall of invisible particles that Rhys' perceptive-laden glamour explored with all the unashamed curiosity of both an Inspector and an ex-lover, bordering on the impolite under the searing glare of an expression that he wasn't entirely fooled by. She meant the smile, she meant the way she purred his authoritative title here on the street, but he knew her face too well, even after all this time. Her knuckles had been white on that umbrella meant to be shade against the sun and her face was too perfectly poised: not disingenuous so much as well-practiced.

He wore something similar every damn day under the shadow of his Captain, under the shadow of Damen D'Arthe. He wore something similar at home, that loving veil of everything being fine, of optimism, of hope even when he didn't feel it, even when he wanted to burn every damn opiate in all of Vienda with the fiery pain that smoldered in the cavity of his chest. He wore it so well. Only he didn't make it look half as good.

Gods, why was it so hot?

Rhys shifted on his feet, shoulders tight, glancing up at where Nicolette was staying to break in with a smirk, "Writing the fine won't take long if you cooperate, Mrs. Ibutatu. The Belleverie is nice in Yaris with that Arova breeze—shocked? I—well. It wouldn't be the first time the proprietor harbored criminals, but I'll save you the boredom of a good cop story."

He chuckled. That grin.

Opening his mouth to make another comment, his blue eyes widened when wrists were shoved in his direction.

Not too tight.

Something in his stomach fluttered and it wasn't just amusement. Memories floated like ash through the heat of his too-busy mind. Pale eyelashes were heavy and if he hadn't already been a sweaty mess of an officer of Anaxi Law, he might have blushed. His tongue made some sorry attempt at whetting his lower lip instead and he glanced over his shoulder to make sure that his Constable wasn't at all watching this foolishness. Turning back, he made a very obvious show of patting himself down, pen suddenly between his teeth, pad of paper clenched against his uniformed chest for a moment.

"I'm afraid I'm fresh out of manacles, Nicco, what with arresting actual criminals and all. I wouldn't want to make a scene here with you. It wouldn't be professional, naturally, and—congratulations? Oh. Yes. I—of course it was in the papers, and—thank you." The tall blond made the connection, inhaling sharply, his smile becoming awkward and stupid all at once, still so very enraptured by a particular petite pianist. In enough love to endure all of the hard shit, every damn obstacle that kept trying to stop them, even after all this time. His exhale was slow, almost too heavy, and if there was a flash of hurt beneath the romantic gratitude, the young Valentin was desperate to make sure it went as unseen as possible,

"Took us long enough, you meant to say, right?" His voice wavered, but there was no regret in it. No one needed to see the truth, especially not Niccolette Ibutatu. Rhys was tucking his pen away, tearing the sheet of paper from the pad he carried and offering it to her. Her citation. Her fine. Her court clerk that would be expecting her payment in a week's time.

If his fingers brushed hers when she took it, it was a total accident.

Nothing more.

So much time had passed, and yet it was almost too easy to—

A motorized wagon arrived, loud and sputtering, marked clearly by the badge of the Services Division of the Seventen. Four more officers poured out of the cab and the back, immediately attending to the scene after making curt and communicative eye contact with both Sergeant Valentin and his Constable Greymoore. Navinia might have let her gaze linger in his direction, making sure he knew she saw those hands outstretch, that joke waiting to be told later.

Oh, gods.

He cleared his throat, dragging his attention away from the cleanup of the scene to arch an eyebrow with undisguised mischievousness at the petite Bastian, the dark-haired woman he once knew too well, choosing to make small talk. It was a riposte, unfair play this turnabout, but he couldn't help himself:

"Speaking of happy unions—how's that Mug husband of yours whose face I broke so you could get a first date?" Maybe his jaw clenched when he spoke of breaking, that part of his left eyebrow where the scar marked a once-cracked skull all the more obvious with the motion of well-defined cheek bones. Maybe he was just trying not to laugh at what he thought was a coy joke, as ignorant of her truths as she was of his,

"Back at the Belleverie with a few little Ibutatu children, I hope—oh—what? Too far? C'mon."
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Niccolette Ibutatu
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Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:37 am

Late Afternoon, 10th Yaris, 2719
Just Barely The Dives
NNiccolette was not, really, worried about the Belleverie; she has been staying there for any visits to Vienda outside the rainy season for the better part of five years. She thought that she would have said anything - anything at all - to prolong this sweet memory of a moment. To be Mrs. Ibutatu the wife, and not Mrs. Ibutatu the widow.

Because Rhys did not yet know. Swept off her feet to Thul Ka. Of course.

Niccolette felt Rhys’s still-familiar field caprising her own. She raised an eyebrow at the depth he went to - not so far as those days at Brunnhold, when it had been all exploration, intimacy that she, at least, had never known before. But still he caprised her much more thoroughly than one would a stranger, or even an old friend.

Niccolette loosened her grasp, gently, and reached back out, softening her iron control and letting the mona of their field mingle a little further. Rhys was every bit as flustered as she had hoped for by her provocation. Niccolette could taste the laughter on her tongue, but she could not summon it.

A few more moments, she begged. She was not sure who she spoke to, not anymore. The only thing she had ever wanted had been ripped from her, and if she had ever believed anyone was listening... that had been ripped away too. And yet she still asked.

“I am not an actual criminal?” Niccolette grinned, feeling an entirely different thrill of amusement. “I will be sure to let the Belleverie know.”

Niccolette’s smile softened at the stupid grin on Rhys’s face. “Naturally,” she agreed with Rhys that he had taken his time. Niccolette could appreciate the irony. “But I am glad you got there in the end, Rhys.” She lowered her wrists, reaching out again to take the little slip of paper from him, and tucked it away in her reticule.

Niccolette did not mind the fine; it was only money. It was a very different reckoning that she felt creeping up on her, slow and steady. Like the closing of a trap she had sprung; she could watch it descend in Rhys's shifting, in the way he looked around and then back at her.

Could she still turn and run? Could she find a way back?

Seeing it coming did not make it hurt any less. Niccolette stilled; the mona of her field withdrew, as gently as they had ever mingled, and that sense of iron, indectal control settled over her field once more, a crisp wall between them. A few more inches of space; a few more moments between her and the teeth.

“This was a mistake,” Niccolette whispered, more to herself than Rhys. She heard his sudden backpedaling - as if she would be angry, ten years later! Uzoji had never been angry; she had not understood then, but she knew now that he had provoked Rhys deliberately, that he had wanted a fight between them. That he had gambled to show her what he had meant to her. Rhys’s joke was not so wrong, and if she had seen him last year she would have laughed, properly.

Niccolette was trembling, now. She took a deep breath, closing her eyes until the hint of moisture receded.

“No,” Niccolette said, quietly. Was it her bravery? Had it always been hers? Had Uzoji taught it to her, or was it merely that he had seen it inside her, and that she had learned to see it inside herself as well?

The Bastian lifted her chin slightly and pushed forward into the jaws of the trap. She wondered dizzily if there would be blood; if it would stain the pretty fabric of her dark gold dress.

“Uzoji is gone,” Niccolette said. She had wanted to say it calmly; she had wanted to be able to face it. The heat of Vienda was all around her and it was burning her up. The jaws of the trap closed around her, and they bit deep; Niccolette was sure that there was blood dripping from her dress, even now welling up at her throat and spilling forth, soaking all that godsdamned lace.

Niccolette felt the tears coming, and turned her head away from Rhys, blinking them back. She felt one escape, sliding slowly from the inside corner of her eye, down along the curve of her nose. She felt it tumble over her lips and fall free. Niccolette took a deep breath, and pressed forward, a little further. “From this Intas.”

Niccolette could not bring herself to look back at Rhys. He was too tall not to see, in that Seventen uniform of his with four snaps; but if she held, if she kept her gaze focused off to the side, she did not have to see his face. It was better that way, wasn’t it?

Niccolette shuddered, and her right hand went back to her side, holding tight. Bleeding again, she thought miserably, tears leaking steadily from her eyes once more. In front of everyone. In front of Rhys.

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Rhys Valentin
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: It's Inspector to you, thanks.
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Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:09 pm

almost uptown
Late Afternoon of the 10th of Yaris, 2719
"Are you? Should I be investigating you further, Mrs. Ibutatu?" Clueless to the truth, the former Inspector couldn't help but tease her further, just a breath more, if only because of how strange the interaction was, how his stomach felt as if he was falling and his mind scrambled to maintain that aloof air of legal professionalism he was called to by duty of service.

She was glad.

It was a strange affirmation—was he glad? Was he, really? He swallowed and something bitter stung the edges of his tongue, burned the back of his dry throat as heat rippled off the sidewalk behind them, just out of reach of the shaded awning of the café. His ears were ringing, tinnitus from his use of magic growing louder above the swift beat of his pulse.

He'd pined for Charity even in Niccolette's company. She'd been a wicked distraction, a rebellious thrill. She'd been everything he didn't need right when he needed it most. So had a handful of other young women. So had Numbrey. So had his time as a Collie in Brunnhold. So had all of this until that night last year—until he met Charity again after almost a decade, high and in danger.

Not much had changed except her last name.

But she was trying—right?

She was.

He just felt as though he was trying harder.

And still failing.

He just felt like despite finally having everything he wanted, everything he and Charity had ever wanted, they'd never actually enjoy it more than what fleeting moments they already had, last year, before Vortas. On his birthday. Because it felt as though every day after that—

Well.

The quip about Uzoji was easy. It was quick, like a knife flash in the dark, and his grin was so coy, too coy for a Sergeant of the Seventen to give to a witness to a crime, to someone he was citing for a legal infraction.

Her reaction was not at all what he expected. That pleasant, curious merging of their more than merely familiar fields was abruptly cut off, a shift in her demeanor so sudden that Rhys wasn't sure if it was the tinnitus or the monic movement that made him dizzy. Her facial expression faltered. Her body language changed.

Rhys was not prepared.

"Gone? I can't—Intas. Shit. Nicco, I'm sorry. I didn't know—I was—" This was a mistake, indeed. There were tears, unwanted and probably hotter than the Yaris sun on her delicate Bastian face. He saw them. His guts lurched like someone had swept him toward the cobblestones with a kick, and he quickly shoved his pen and notebook into his coat with one hand, the other reaching for her arm without even a heartbeat of hesitation, fingers light, "—I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to—I just—"

He didn't need this shit. He didn't need to be so insensitive. He was an asshole. He didn't need this shit. He didn't need to be so sensitive. He was a sucker. He wasn't strong enough to deal with someone else's suffering right now, not when his own was—

He didn't. He shouldn't.

—it was just another stone, crushing his chest, breaking again what had already been so broken just a few months ago. His now free hand rose to his face, knuckles curling against his scarred lip, tucking beneath his nose, attempting to contain the spill of empathy that frayed the edges of his field, to contain the sudden panic that flared within his entire existence.

"—listen, let me walk you back to the hotel, alright? Let me, I don't know—clocking hell—just, hold on a moment. Hold this—somehow." There was another waver in his voice, such an obvious sign of weakness that he winced—he winced.

How did anyone hold their shit together? How did they really? Gods, if only he knew.

"Let me get things sorted. I will—think of something. Please." The tall blond whispered as if this whole conversation was a conspiracy, but his blue eyes darted toward Navinia, toward the other Seventen who would be processing the scene for at least an hour most likely. He looked back at the Bastian, at her tears, inhaling raggedly, all the asking in his expression left unsaid, and then slipped away. She probably wouldn't be there when he turned around again.

He'd made something wrong worse.

When did he ever make something better? When?

It was with no less hushed tones that he spoke with his Constable, that he waved a few fingers over his shoulder, not looking, not drawing attention to it all. She looked. The dark-haired Greymoore glancing at the young woman who Rhys seemed to know personally. A glance was also made toward his chrove. Arrangements were negotiated that most likely involved a season's worth of damn paperwork. He signed her notes. He signed the Services' personnel's notes. He shook a hand. He peered into the wagon, engine idling loudly, and smacked a palm on the hood.

Then he shifted back toward the café, fingers restless over the buttons of his dark green coat, over the seams. If Uzoji's widow had not fluttered away like a bird in the sweltering breeze, then he'd walk back toward her, more cautious than confident this time, more wary than playful.

"Where can I walk you to, Nicco? Let me buy you a drink or something. Let's just—go. Yeah?"
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Niccolette Ibutatu
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Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:38 pm

Late Afternoon, 10th Yaris, 2719
Just Barely The Dives
There was no easing into it, Niccolette thought, idly, listening to Rhys trip over his words with whatever of her attention she could spare for him. She kept her gaze fixed off to the side, and she pulled her arm away from him, firmly, when he reached for it. She turned slightly more, so that he was nothing but a faint sliver of green stretching up at the edges of her vision, capped with pale blond shining in the Vienda sun. A fresh wave of tears spilled down her face, and Niccolette’s breath heaved in her chest, and she shuddered.

Before and after, and the line between them was sharp enough to cut. Niccolette felt the tears trickling steadily down her cheeks, a little faster now, and eased her eyes shut. Rhys was still talking – apologizing a second time. He hadn’t meant to; he didn’t know. She knew. But she could not pretend, and she would not lie. Uzoji was gone.

Niccolette’s fingers dug into her side, and she shuddered again. There was no easing from before to after; there was no way to keep it from cutting. It hurt, every time she had to drag herself across that line. It hurt, every time she had to take someone else with her. His soul has moved on. He has returned to the cycle. He is gone. He is dead.

Dead.

Niccolette wanted to shout it sometimes. Dead! Dead – dead, dead, dead, dead. Dead. It did not matter to her if his soul was elsewhere; she could not care. She could not find it in herself to be joyous for those who would have him next; she hated them, with a depth of fury that licked like fire from her toes to her heart and up, filling her head and, sometimes, spilling from her mouth.

Niccolette glanced back at Rhys, at the offer to walk her back to the hotel, at his insistence that she hold on, that she wait. Please, he asked. Niccolette shrugged. Was it for her sake, she wondered, or his? Did he want to comfort her, or did he want to comfort himself, to say that he had done something? That he had made it better?

Niccolette knew that she should have walked away; she should have turned and gone the moment Rhys turned back to the other constable. She should have found another café, or just stayed quietly on the side, a bystander, and left once the action was done. She wasn’t ready for this, Niccolette thought, bitterly. She might never be ready for this, but, then – she didn’t have a choice, did she?

Niccolette straightened her back, and lifted her chin, and walked with slow, precise steps back to the little table in the shade of the café. The rest of the patrons were still buzzing and humming, and she caught a few sharp whispers aimed in her direction, but – at least, Niccolette thought, none of them contained the word widow. She sat back down in the chair where she had been before, and settled her umbrella back onto the table.

Niccolette set her reticule down as well, and fished a handkerchief out from it. She patted her face dry, finding the wet trails on her cheeks where the tears had slid, and tracing them back up to the wetness still spilling from her eyes. One moment at a time, she told herself. In the last, she had not behaved as she wished; no matter. She forgave herself for those moments, gathered the shattered pieces of her self, and found the next. The tears dried up, slowly, and Niccolette ran her fingers beneath her eyes, along the edges of them, checking to see if her eyeliner had smeared. There was only the faintest hint of black on her fingertips, and she wiped it on the edge of the handkerchief. She fished out a little compact, and studied her face as long as she could stand, dabbed at the handkerchief at the edge of her eye.

Then, hands shaking, she shut the compact and shoved the little mirror away, breathing hard. She folded the handkerchief, as slowly as it took, and put it away too, sitting and holding still. A moment, she told herself. One more moment. Her hands, slowly, stopped shaking.

Niccolette poured herself another cup of tea; it was tepid, now, but she sipped at it anyway. She could not bring herself to eat any more of the scone; it had never been particularly good, and it appealed even less now. Nor could she focus her gaze back on the newspaper; the words seemed to jump across the page. Once, she glanced up to check on Rhys, to see him busily scribbling on a piece of paper.

Niccolette took another sip of tea, another deep breath in, slow and steady, and out as well. She counted the beats of the breaths, finding the rhythm that fluttered from her to the mona, that soothed her field and straightened out her control. By the time Rhys returned, the only sign that she had been crying was the faint traces of redness in her eyes, the slight puffiness around them.

But there was no going back. Niccolette watched Rhys walk towards her, cautious this time. She could see the wariness in him. There was no going back. Before and after, Niccolette thought, and did her best not to think of airships bursting apart, of fire raining down on her, of the handprint on her side. No; she did not wish to be alone. Not yet.

Niccolette rose, carefully, and picked up her umbrella, tucking it beneath her arm, and settling her reticule back on her shoulder. “I shall accept a drink,” she said, looking up at Rhys, her face as calm and smooth as her field once more. She did not smile. “Perhaps you know a place?”

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Rhys Valentin
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: It's Inspector to you, thanks.
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Wed Sep 11, 2019 6:29 am

almost uptown
Late Afternoon of the 10th of Yaris, 2719
He had no right to touch her, to offer her that kind of physical comfort, and when Niccolette pulled away quickly, he remembered where he was, who was watching, and what he was wearing. Right. Damn. He couldn't help himself—his forms of self expression had always been overly physical, always been full of needful touch. It wasn't meant to be as flirtatious as it could have looked to strangers, however, regardless of his once-intimate familiarities. Instead, he was simply sincere and unable to be anyone but his rawest of selves in the bright light of Yaris and Niccolette's obviously searing, untimely loss.

Constable Greymoore had been less than thrilled with his persistence that his escort was necessary, that he really should walk her home after this whole incident, though he'd not been dishonest with the woman who'd been a recruit in Numbrey just as he'd been graduating. He'd even stayed on and led a few training maneuvers, top of his class and all that. They'd known each other a long time, he reminded her, and he'd known Mrs. Ibutatu longer. It was a strange request, but his partner took it in stride—or at least in favors owed.

It was enough.

It wasn't as though he'd told Navinia the whole of it: he simply wanted to walk a distraught friend home. Traumatized enough to cast? Or traumatized by something else? That part, that was his to know.

The tall blond had not expected the petite brunette to still be there. He knew her. He knew who she used to be, anyway, and had this all been a decade ago, she'd not have waited for him to wrap up the incident report when they were restless teenagers eager for distraction. He wouldn't have waited on his official erse back then, either, to be fair.

He shouldn't have come back to her, seated as she was again at the café, all signs of tears meticulously scrubbed from her person as if they'd never happened. Rhys knew better, but there was something about coincidence the not-galdor was never willing to entirely ignore. He'd walked away from suffering before, and he'd almost lost everything because of it.

This was different.

This was totally different.

"A drink, then. Gods, I just—"

He knew—

"I know a lot of places, Nicco, but I'm not dressed for the Dives. Neither are you." The Sergeant gestured to himself in a mockery of innocence, waiting dutifully for the Bastian to stand, chewing the inside of his cheek to keep from instinctually offering his arm as support. Instead, he tilted his head and hooked a thumb, preferring to act as though he had not asked after Uzoji and he had not watched his widow cry until they were at least a block away.

Until they had at least turned a corner into the shade of Uptown buildings and out of sight of his uniformed compatriots.

Rhys' entire body language shifted and changed once the pair had put distance between his legal employment and the woman who was so damned good at holding herself together. His hands moved to his coat, to unfasten buttons and to curl into the pale green shirt beneath it to untuck it from the sweaty tightness it'd formed against the small of his back. He said nothing for too long, however, mulling over his choice of words and how in some way, he felt guilt for not only bringing the Mugrobi man up, but for speaking to Niccolette in the first place. His glamour expanded, no longer dampened and full of his usual expressive nature, warm and swirling with all sorts of unspoken concerns, the Perceptive mona he was so familiar with almost doing the talking for him.

"I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sorry for being an ersehole about it, but I guess some things never change." The young Valentin attempted a bit of humor, thumb reaching to trace over his lower lip, to press against that thick knot of scar tissue while he glanced at street signs, cutting another one over between some white stone buildings, through an alley that would bring them to an intersection that had a few little trees and several nice shops. Sandwiched between a book store and a jeweler was a small pub known more for its rather selective choices.

At this hour? It was practically empty.

Still, perhaps she would have rather been alone. Perhaps she was only obliging him because it was, well, him. Because he'd asked. Not because she needed his empathy. Not because she desired his comfort. Not because even after all of this time, there were some people he wouldn't hesitate to care for should they need it, no matter how much he'd fucked up years ago. He'd gotten his second chance, after all. And a third, really.

He stopped in the alley before leading them out into the street, however, pausing as if relishing the shade and the quiet, turning to look at Niccolette with a suddenness to the motion of it all, his other thumb turned the band around that hugged his finger, fidgeting with the chosen Anaxi symbol of marital union, thoughts racing.

This was probably wrong, but what, honestly, had really gone right in his life in months? He could count those rights on one cursed hand. But he'd not lost. Not yet. Not ever if he had anything to do about it. Death, he'd foolishly thought he'd faced, but at the same time, he felt its hot breath at his neck and knew, he knew, the risks he and Charity chose to live, dancing on the edge of.

"I'm going to do this one thing—" He held up his hands as if approaching a dangerous animal, but his glamour was warm and violet, persistent in his heartfelt sincerities, "—here and nowhere else. Then, one drink. Alright? I'm on the godsbedamned clock after all."

Special Enforcement Sergeant Rhys Valentin, despite being sweaty from a Yaris street chase and despite his entire existence swirling with far too many feelings at once, gave good hugs. This one was swift, bordering on the clandestine all things considered, but it was not passionate or adulterous so much as it was genuine and heartfelt.

Firm.

Unasked for.

Perhaps unwanted.

But irresistibly given while his heart still raced in his chest nonetheless.

Then, just like the untamable creature he was beneath the green-dyed disguise, he slipped away, into the too hot street, cutting his roguish, totally unlawful normal figure toward the tiny little postage stamp of a dive bar, humming over his shoulder while he pretended his eyes stung because of the heat instead of any held in, pent up, totally unrelated tears,

"One fucking drink, Mrs. Ibutatu."

Rhys was, of course, the kind of man that waited to be followed. He was, of course, also the kind of man that held open doors, that waved two fingers at the wiry old man who was, in fact, a galdor behind the bar, and who pulled out chairs to seat his petite, dark-haired, Bastian guest before he even made a move to seat himself. Though, he did shrug off his Seventen coat first, slinging it over the back of the chair and making it look as though it were so very easy to sit down with his belt laden with various law enforcement-authorized accoutrements (it was not).

As soon as he sat, as soon as those boney elbows dug into the waxed wood, the not-galdor slumped. His shoulders sagged and he shoved his face into his calloused palms for several moments, reaching up to curl fingers into his mess of blond hair and making a muffled noise into them. Looking up again, well-carved chin supported by his hands, he glanced at the approaching waiter before letting his blue eyes settle on Niccolette with a mixture of nostalgia and concern,

"Well, shit."

He sighed the words, reluctantly sitting straighter, palms dropping to the table, swallowing words of comfort that just sounded like too much, that just sounded like a waste in the back of his own mind.

The young Valentin wasn't going to ask. He didn't need to ask. He didn't want to know the why or the how. Was that a favor to her? Or was that just his own selfishness? Couldn't it be both? He didn't think Nicco would want to tell him anyway. It wasn't any of his business. She wasn't in any state to go over the same details one more time—gods, as if she probably hadn't already, unspoken, while they walked. He was just weighed down by enough.

Too much.

"Pick your poison. It's on me." Rhys added, arching an eyebrow interrupted by a scar that disappeared into his hairline and tickled the edge of his eyelid, turning his attention to the middle-aged human offering them the most unknowing and innocent of smiles, awaiting their order in utter ignorance despite standing in the tidal weight of their combined fields.
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Niccolette Ibutatu
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Wed Sep 11, 2019 11:06 am

Late Afternoon, 10th Yaris, 2719
Back to Uptown
Niccolette glanced down at the mention of the Dives, studying the expensive, bright gold dress, then back up at Rhys, at his Seventen uniform. She wondered which of them was less suited for the Dives; she thought it would be a difficult competition. She shrugged, as if it was nothing to her in either case, and followed Rhys from the scene of the crime, all the way to a little corner of Uptown shade. She watched, quietly and without comment, as he made a quick (unsuccessful) effort to dismantle his Seventen uniform.

Rhys apologized again, twice: once for her loss, and once for being an ersehole about it. Something like a little smile flicker over Niccolette’s face, and she shrugged. When she spoke, it was soft and a little serious, but her arms stayed at her sides, her hands stayed open, and she kept the raw, ragged pain in her chest out of her voice. “There is nothing,” Niccolette said, quietly, “you, or anyone else, can do to make it worse.” She faltered ever so slightly on the last word, but only just, and she recovered herself by the soft s of its ending.

It was not quite an acceptance of his apology, but it wasn’t a refusal either. If Niccolette could not quite see the humor in it all - she did not think she could be blamed for this.

Some things did not change.

Niccolette followed Rhys through his shortcut, beneath sun dappled walls, through the late afternoon light, the Yaris sun still taunting and hot overhead. She did not put her umbrella up again, and once - only once - she paused in a little patch of sun and turned, lifting her face to the light, closing her eyes and letting it wash over her.

Only a moment, Niccolette promised herself, and she was walking again, close behind Rhys in moments, feeling his field around her, soft and anxious and more perceptive than Niccolette might have preferred, were she to choose. Warm, too, and a little slippery, and more than a little familiar. They slipped back into the shade, although there was little darkness anywhere to be found in Vienda at this hour, at least in terms of light.

Niccolette lifted her chin and watched Rhys approach, an edge of wariness in her gaze. She didn’t pull away this time, but she didn’t come towards him either, and her field held unyielding against his, no intimacy to be found.

Except -

When his arms wrapped around her, Niccolette shuddered. She did not hug back - but she pressed against him, and buried one, just one, quiet sob against the pale green shirt, her fingers digging into his front. A flicker of dark blue jolted through her field, a depth of sadness she couldn’t express in words and wouldn’t have tried to - but one that, for a moment, Rhys would feel rippling through his own field. Just a moment.

But there were no more tears when he pulled away, no more sobs, and Niccolette’s field smoothed back into crisp, bright competence once more even before the Bastian had finished straightening up, had tucked the offending hand against her side.

“One drink,” Niccolette agreed. She was not trying sobriety; she was not even trying not to drink alone. There would be wine later, alone in the quiet dark of her hotel room, when it was all too much to bear. She looked forward to it, but she had wanted to put it off to. To prove to herself she could? It did not bear too much thinking about.

Niccolette stepped past Rhys into the small bar, cool and dark in the heat of the day. Clean enough, though, this early in the day; her shoes did not stick to the floor. For a moment, looking at the blond pulling out her chair, Niccolette felt a soft rush of nostalgia, tingling in her stomach.

The Bastian sat, settling her umbrella and her purse, and folded her hands in her lap, her sharp field thick enough to be a shield in the air around her. She held straight and upright, and watched as Rhys crumbled across the table. He met her eyes, and cursed.

“Shit,” Niccolette agreed, and her face twitched at a smile. The straight line of her back yielded, ever so slightly, and she lifted her hands to the table, resting them against the wood, clasped together. She looked up at the human standing there to take their order, then back at Rhys.

Niccolette shrugged, accepting as promised, and looked up at the man once more. “Brunelleschi, if you have it,” the Bastian had noticed the surprising selection behind the bar, and did not hesitate to choose a rarer Bastian whiskey. “If not, Gioran,” Niccolette looked back at Rhys, and waited for him to finish ordering.

Once the human had gone, Niccolette let out a little sigh, and eased back a little further in her chair.

“Four snaps,” Niccolette said, glancing at the coat hanging over Rhys’s chair, and then back at the man opposite her, grown out of the boy who had once thrown stones of his own at the Seventen. She thought to ask, directly, but - instead, Niccolette grinned, finding it somewhere inside herself. “Is it terribly uncomfortable, to ride one of those chroves?”

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