Awkward 'Family' Reunion? - [M] Rating

When a classic job does not go the way you hoped it would.

The capital city of Anaxas and the seat of the government.
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Tom Cooke
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Location: Vienda, but also hell
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: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
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Tue Jul 02, 2019 5:45 pm

Woven Delights The Painted Ladies
during midnight on the 22nd of loshis, 2719
Tom had heard his host’s name many times; he heard it every day, just about, over and over, from sunup ’til sunset. He heard it more than he heard his own name. He couldn’t figure out why it was so strange, then, to hear it on Ava Weaver’s tongue. It was more than just the tightness of her throat, more than the way she’d stepped forward on her injured foot, stepped toward a flinty-eyed woman with a knife at the ready. It was the fact – a fact he’d only just realized – that he’d never heard her say that name before.

It didn’t even sound like a name. It sounded like a word that meant a million things, some of which he knew and most of which he didn’t. In public, on the lips of incumbents and incumbents’ wives and interns and secretaries, it meant one thing. When Ava spoke it, it was the word for a secret. Mr. Vauquelin was the bandage that covered an ulcer, but when she spoke his gods-given name, she unwound that bandage one syllable at a time. It festered, and it festered, and it festered in the air.

She didn’t define it out of context, though. Like only the most helpful of the old dictionaries in his study, she used it in a sentence.

It was everything Tom could do to keep his breath from catching audibly; he swallowed bile, but he knew it wasn’t his pain to feel. The wound she’d exposed was hers. Even still, he couldn’t keep the blood draining from his face, and he squeezed his eyes shut, as if there were something in the very air he couldn’t stand to look at. In the dark, his head spun. It’s not him, he heard, but this is Anatole’s face, his hands, his body lingered behind it. The rough, damp brick against his back grounded him, and he leaned his head against it, forcing himself to listen to her plead. He heard tears in the thickness of her voice. Who was she pleading for? Was it him? Why? Was it her? For what?

When he opened his eyes, Caina’d taken a step forward. He watched her meet Ava’s eye and saw something pass between them; he couldn’t put a name on it, and he only half-knew what it was. When Caina asked her who he was, her voice’d softened, like the rain after the breaking of a storm.

He wasn’t going to be a coward, standing there all helpless and blank and mung while Ava told her his name for him. Nothing could’ve made him burn hotter with shame; she’d done enough, gods damn it. She’d spilt her heart’s sap all over the alleyway already, spilt it till it ran cold and the bitterness of it hung in the air thick as smoke. She was knee-deep in it, soaked to the hem of her glossy silks and that frail, lacy nightgown, and the straight line of her back in the dark was the strongest and hardest thing he’d ever seen.

And he couldn’t let her speak for him. He just couldn’t.

He took a small half-step toward Caina, still carefully out of the other woman’s line of sight. He forced his posture straight; he was scared – piss-scared to be looked-at – but he looked her right in the eye, and his hands in the air weren’t trembling. Despite the tightness in his throat, his voice came out even and soft: it was the same voice he’d used to placate her when she was a boch. “I think you already know, nanabo,” he said, “but the how an’ the why’s complicated, an’ there ain’t time jus’ now. It’s askin’ a lot, but d’you reckon you can trust Tom Cooke one more time, for old times’ sake? When he tells you it’s him, an’ he wouldn’t hurt you, not for the world. Not wi’ somethin’ laoso like this.”

He blinked, swallowing thickly. He looked at her for a long time, large grey eyes wide in the dark.

“An’ if you can’t, d’you reckon you can trust Ms. Weaver, who’s been so good t’ the both of us?” With a raised hand, he gestured toward her – toward that dark braid, only slightly frayed. “She needs to get some weight off that foot, but I— It’d be better if you helped, ye chen? If you’re willin’, madam,” he addressed Ava suddenly. “You don’t need to be walkin’ on that wound in the Vienda mud, anyway.” He studied the back of her head, the set of her shoulders, wondering what it all meant.

Tom looked back at Caina when she lowered her knife and straightened. He lowered his arms himself, stiff, rolling his shoulders and wincing; he straightened the cuff of one sleeve almost delicately. He felt Caina’s eyes on him, met them with a furtive, pained glance of his own. Then he looked deeper into the shadows of the alleyway.

“There a back door, madam?” he asked, sounding gruff after all that.
Last edited by Tom Cooke on Sat Jul 13, 2019 12:26 am, edited 2 times in total. word count: 922

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Ava Weaver
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Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:53 pm

Past Midnight, 22nd Loshis, 2719
Outside Woven Delights, Painted Ladies
Ava finished speaking and stood, still and silent, hands together in front of her, one curled softly over the other. She didn’t say anymore; perhaps she couldn’t have, but she didn’t try, just waited, a strange echo of the same patience with which she’d watched Caina examine the fabrics she’d brought her just a few weeks ago. Ava didn’t think of that; she didn’t think of much of anything, her mind a careful, deliberate blank. She allowed herself to drift, to let go just a little, as if whoever-Ava-was existed only in some distant painless place, not here, not now. She could feel the throbbing ache of her foot, the soft wetness of tears on her cheeks, the dry painful scratching in her throat, even the raw exposed feelings of her skin and the nerves beneath, but those things didn’t bother her anymore, not there.

Caina had stepped closer.

For a moment, distant, Ava wondered with some part of her mind if this was it; if she had made a mistake, after all, and would die with Caina’s knife in her chest and Anatole’s name on her lips. The bitterness of it nearly choked her, and the feeling brought her back inside her skin, back to the shivering wet thing with a bleeding foot, all exposed.

Suddenly self-conscious, Ava pulled the robe tight around herself, covering up everything she could of the frail nightgown beneath. More tears spilled down her cheeks, although she didn’t sob, her breathing ragged but even enough. She could see in Caina’s eyes a softening, now, something that Ava thought might have been an understanding. That part of her that didn’t seem to be able to turn off anymore wondered just what had happened to Caina Rose, in the half a lifetime since they had last seen one another.

Caina asked the same question she had asked before, the same question Ava had demanded of him only two days ago: who was he? If not Anatole, then who was the man standing behind them? Ava blinked the last of her tears away, quiet. It wasn’t her secret to tell; no matter how angry she was with Tom Cooke right now, no matter how much she resented that he had brought this to her, drunk and helpless when he should have held on to his wits, Ava wouldn’t spill his blood alongside her own.

Ava might have wished she were unaware of Tom’s presence behind her. She had done her best to behave as if she were, as if Anatole’s ghost weren’t there even now, haunting her. She wasn’t; perhaps she could never be. Ava wasn’t sure if she saw a flicker of movement from the corner of her eye, distant, half-hidden beneath the heavy mass of her braid, or if she sensed it, but she knew the moment Tom stepped forward.

And this was Tom. Ava was glad when he revealed himself, although she wished with a desperate, tangible longing that he might have brought himself to do it just a few moments earlier. Then she let the thought go; hadn’t she learned by now that there was no sense in wishing for the past to change? There was nothing that could be done now.

Ava’s eyes flicked towards Tom when he addressed her, but she didn’t turn her head to look at him. She had moved once since clasping her hands together, only to pull the robe across her and hold it tight, to cover what she still could. Now, slowly, Ava let go of the silk, lowering her hands to the tie and readjusting the entire thing a little more fully, with something approximating her usual grace.

“Yes,” Ava said, quietly. “I don’t have the key with me, so you should – wait here.” She still couldn’t quite bring herself to turn towards Tom, or to do anything other than stillness with her face; it felt like any expression would shatter what little remained of her self-control into a thousand pieces. She looked at Caina as best as she could. “I would appreciate your help,” she told her. There was no stress on any of the words, no uneven emphasis on that your, but it still seemed to hang heavy in the stillness of the air.

Ava was just a little taller than Caina – still taller, she thought, with a sudden burst of something that made her come dangerously close to laughing – but Caina was all lean strength. It would be easy enough for her to support some of Ava’s weight, enough that Ava didn’t need to press the bloody wound on her foot against the ground with each step. The door to the front of the shop was still hanging open to the street, casting shadows inside and out.

Ava would stop after they entered, closing the front door and locking it to shut the chill night out. They would keep walking them, to the fabric-clad back room that Tom and Caina both knew, Ava stopping to fetch a handkerchief from her counter at the front of the door. Inside that first of her secret rooms, Ava would guide Caina to one of the hanging silks on the wall, indistinguishable from the rest. Ava stopped, holding for a moment, and looked sideways at Caina.

“Should I let him in?” Ava asked. There were tears in her eyes again, but a faint trace of something approaching humor in her voice, a wry little edge that quirked her lips up despite herself. If Caina said yes, however grudgingly she might say it, Ava would lift up the heavy hanging fabric and unlock a small door to the back alley, opening what – from Tom’s perspective – would look very much like a bit of solid wall draped in ivy.

Either way, after that Ava would make her way painfully to one of her lovely couches and sit, leaning forward to press the handkerchief to the sole of her foot.

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Caina Rose
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Wed Jul 03, 2019 5:02 pm

Woven Delights • Anaxas/Vienda
on the 22nd of Loshis, 2719 • past midnight
T here were a lot of things that Caina Rose wanted to do. She wanted to kill the galdor who had destroyed her family. She wanted to free humans from galdori rule. She wanted to go back in time and kill her mother before she’d ever laid a hand on her daughter. But right now…

Right now she just wanted to scream. She wanted to scream and cry, to pull at her hair and curl up in a ball and be held by her father. But he was dead. He was dead and she’d tried to replace him and now that one was dead and there was a golly here telling her- what? That Tom Cooke had died and taken over that body? That wasn’t possible. It wasn’t fucking possible! No matter how much she wished it was. But the way he spoke, the cadence of his voice… hell, even the way he moved was familiar, now that Caina knew what to look for. And as much as the damn golly might be lying, he was right about one thing. Ava was hurt. It took every damn ounce of professionalism she had to turn away. Without another word toward Tom, she went over and helped Ava to the front door of the shop, almost carrying her.

She let Ava lock the door, and quietly helped her to the backroom.

Caina watched as Ava went to the door, following close behind, but was surprised when the older girl spoke. She stood, shocked, for several moments before nodding, just a little. The fact that Ava would- even after Caina had held a knife to her- and she was still worried?! The small gesture made tears spring to her eyes, and Caina worried that she wouldn’t last the night at this rate.

Ava unlocked the door, Caina helped her to the couch. And she walked back to the door, hesitating one last time before opening it.

“Ms. Weaver, do you have any alcohol?”


No matter what Ava’s answer would be, Caina would open the door, step halfway out into the alley, and beckon Tom in before disappearing once more past the heavy curtain.
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Tom Cooke
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Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:03 pm

Woven Delights The Painted Ladies
during midnight on the 22nd of loshis, 2719
He was grateful when Caina lent her shoulder to Ava. He was grateful that Caina didn’t say anything back to him, grateful when neither of them looked at him on their way out. Grateful, watching them, to see how natural it looked – those slight, tired silhouettes meandering through the soft lamplight, the shorter supporting the taller, entangled in something like an embrace. He was grateful to be left alone, though it was a mixed sort of gratefulness.

In the quiet dark, all he could hear was the burble and tap-tap-tap of water in the gutters, the distant creak and hiss of carriage wheels on the uneven stones somewhere a few streets over. Tom slumped back against the brick, passing a hand over his brow.

With his eyes shut, the world tilted and turned, and he had to force the breath in and out of his lungs. Somebody’s heart thudded in his ears. He wondered why he’d done it yet again; even aside from the danger he’d been in, even aside from the hurt he’d caused Ms. Weaver, it didn’t feel good, this sick feeling, this labored pulse and parched throat and scattered thoughts. If it felt so bad, he wondered why he’d done it again. Maybe because it’d made him feel like himself. Cheap liquor and recklessness were something Anatole couldn’t take away from him, after all was said and done.

He pressed both hands against his face, damp and cold. Forcing himself to take a deep breath, he thanked the Circle – thanked Roa, a name that didn’t usually find its way to his tongue – that nothing worse’d happened tonight because of him. His eyes prickled with tears, and he wiped them away quickly, mastering himself. He pictured Ava again, wondering how she’d cut her foot. Because he’d been mung. Because he’d been so desperate to get back a sliver of what he used to be that he’d made himself weaker than he ever was.

Gods damn him, but he’d put a stop to this. He’d fought just about every kov in the Rose except himself, and he didn’t know how, but he’d do it. If only so Caina’d never have to smell the liquor on him again, no matter what she thought of him now, no matter what body he was in.

“Do better,” he muttered, “do better, do better.”

A little warm light trickled out into the alleyway, and Tom looked up suddenly, squinting through the mist. He hadn’t seen a door there, the old brick being so thick with ivy, but there it was; he smiled faintly, thinking about all the hanging fabric in Ava’s back room and the sheaf she’d disappeared behind when she’d gone upstairs. He wondered which bit of fabric’d concealed this secret door, and then – more admiringly – wondered how much of Woven Delights hid behind sheaves of gauzy silk and dizzyingly-patterned cotton.

In what light spilled over Caina’s face, he couldn’t read her expression, but he did see her beckon him. He hesitated but then relented, pushing himself up off the wall and moving carefully to follow her, fingertips brushing the damp, vine-clad brick as he fought to steady himself. He went inside after her, rustling through the heavy fabric and blinking in the sudden light.

Ms. Weaver was already sitting over on one of the couches, and Caina had moved away from the door. “Thank you,” he said, letting the cloth fall back into place behind him. “Thank you both.”

He paused, standing just to one side of where the door had been. Being honest, he wasn’t sure he was welcome to sit, and he wanted to keep Caina out of range of his field for as long as he could. He glanced up at her with a wan, apologetic smile, then glanced away. It was surreal to see her like this, with her sleek black hair and that sleek black get-up, like she was wrapped in shadows. She was as tall as him, now, too, he realized with a pang. Maybe taller.

“Can I do anythin’ to help?” he asked softly, bending to take off his muddy shoes with slow, fumbling hands.
Last edited by Tom Cooke on Sat Jul 13, 2019 12:25 am, edited 2 times in total. word count: 761
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Ava Weaver
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Thu Jul 04, 2019 12:57 am

Past Midnight, 22nd Loshis, 2719
Woven Delights, Painted Ladies
“N o,” Ava answered Caina’s question easily enough, watching the small strong figure across the room, outlined in black against the soft color of the wall hanging. “I’m sorry, dear,” Ava herself wasn’t sure if she was apologizing for the lack of alcohol or the whole night, and she didn’t try to figure it out for herself, didn’t say anything further, applying her attention to the cut on her foot. It wasn’t bleeding as badly, now, but bright red stained the white handkerchief all the same, mingled with dark streaks of dirt from the street outside.

On the way back towards the door, Ava had caught sight of what had done the damage: a shard of glass that had glinted in bloody in the streetlight’s glow. That was a relief, at least; better glass than metal. It cut deeper, yes, but fewer secret dangers lurked in its smoothness than would in jagged rusty edges.

She needed water, Ava thought tiredly. Hot water, first, to wash the wound. Carefully, she turned the foot with her hand, using the handkerchief to prod carefully at the edges of it, seeing what she could take in terms of the pain. She didn’t think it would need stitches, but in the end that would depend on the bleeding. Disinfectant, in any case, although the thought of the pain made Ava feel faintly ill. A cleaning with hot water, disinfectant, a bandage with some pressure against the wound, and she’d see what it was like in the morning. The idea of dealing with it in front of Caina and Tom made Ava feel worse than the thought of how much it would hurt.

For now, Ava thought dully, just pressure then.

“You’re welcome to sit,” she told Caina, soft and gentle, thinking she might need a reminder. She wouldn’t say it again; in truth, Ava wished she could stand too.

Ava was pressing the handkerchief more firmly into the wound when Tom entered, having folded up a little pad of it, and carefully tying two edges around her foot. She glanced up at him, then back down at her foot, hands steadier than they had any right to be. There were a thousand answers she wanted to give.

No. Haven’t you done enough already?

No, you guttered clock-stopper.

No, not unless you can turn back time.

No, you can’t, and if you could I wouldn’t ask you to.

I’m glad you’re all right, still – alive.

Ava finished tying the handkerchief, smoothing the tie against her foot, and straightened back up, perched on the couch with that same rod of iron straightening her spine, as elegant as if she always sat there in her peach silk robe late at night, studying a resistance assassin and a bad brother trapped in the body of a golly incumbent.

“Yes, you can,” Ava said quietly, hands settling together in her lap, looking evenly at Tom, heedless of the difficulty he was clearly having with his own shoes. “You can fetch Caina something to drink. There’s a shop open late a block down the street. The owner will be willing to sell to you if you greet him with ‘moon light your path,’ despite your…” a graceful hand lifted and fluttered vaguely at him, then settled back into her lap, and Ava left the rest unspoken.

What was he to Caina? The numbness was fading a little, and Ava felt the machinery of her mind beginning to come back to life, like gears she’d seen at a distance grinding slowly together. There was no way that Mr. Rose would have let Caina be friends with someone like Tom Cooke had been; Ava remembered him, a kind, friendly man who worked in the customs office down at the port. He had been friends with her Uncle, but Ava didn’t hold that against him. He had been protective of Caina too, so – what had she been doing with a tough?

And not just with, Ava thought. It was clear from what Tom had said, how he’d introduced himself, that they’d been more than acquaintances. Caina was someone who’d been important to him in life, and – well – Ava wasn’t sure how many of those there’d been. The man he loved most in the world, with green eyes, that had to be Ishma. Meggie and Clark Cooke. And – Caina Rose? A funny combination, though there was much of that Ava doubted she was meant to know.

And, Ava thought, less she would ask. It was too much to hope that there would be no more questions for her tonight; Caina had the right to ask how Ava had named her, and Ava wouldn’t blame her for doing so. She wasn’t sure whether she could face answering; she didn’t think she’d know until the question place. It meant opening up a place even darker and more secret than the one she’d already shown. There were those – in the Resistance and some beyond – who knew all about Anatole Vauquelin. There were almost none, anymore, who could connect her to the little girl she’d been in the Rose and the name she’d had then. Ava would have been glad to let it stay that way, but she had made her choices and she would face them. She doubted Caina would like that knowledge either; she doubted Caina would want to know that Ava remembered her as a sweet, shy little girl, and what that meant Ava could infer about the time since.

These thoughts and more swirled behind her quiet face, dark eyes wide and soft, the faint trace of tears already blinked away. In the soft light of the backroom, it would be easy enough for Caina and Tom both to see that she wore no make-up, not to sleep in – nothing but her own face, although no less controlled than usual, now. Her hands settled on her lap once more, her back straight, and Ava waited and watched.

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Caina Rose
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Thu Jul 04, 2019 9:43 pm

Woven Delights • Anaxas/Vienda
on the 22nd of Loshis, 2719 • Past Midnight/googlefont]

A s soon as Tom was out the door, and Caina was sure that he wouldn’t return, she laid her cloak on one of the couches, leaving her only in a loose fitting shirt and pants. A hand ran quickly through her dark hair, and then Caina turned her attention back to Ava.
“Where’s your first aid kit?”


Ava wasn’t stupid- it was easier to have another person look at your wounds, someone who could poke and prod without fear of pain. There was a moment as Ava answered where Caina stood still, but she was off as soon as she was given direction. There was a nervous energy in the air- like Caina had to move, like she was worried that if she stopped and sat, she’d break down.

Like a flash, Caina was back. She carried a first aid kit, a wet rag, and a glass of water. She knelt before Ava, placed the kit on the ground, the water on the table. And she reached forward, wrapping thin fingers around her ankle and pulling the injured foot close without much care, quickly before Ava could protest. She still hadn’t spoken a word, but she lifted the damp rag and removed the handkerchief, trying to be as gentle as possible while still working quickly.

It was painfully quiet for a time, Caina refused to make eye contact or speak. It wasn’t until she had readied the bottle of disinfectant, holding it above Ava’s wound, that she stopped.
“Who are you?”


It was a question asked too frequently tonight, and Caina hated herself a little bit, that she had to ask it again. But she lifted her head and looked Ava in the eyes, not bothering to hide her anger or her suspicion. She didn’t even hide her fear, what little of it there was.

“Who do you work for? Vauquelin?”
Her voice rose, just a little.
“How did you know-“
An unnecessary pause.
“How did you know that name?”


Nothing tonight had gone as planned. Here she was, essentially threatening a girl she’d previously almost been willing to call her friend, and there was a ghost out there buying her alcohol. If he even was who he claimed to be. Caina didn’t buy it, even though there was that small tiny part of her that she’d thought had died that night in Roalis. The childish part of her that still hoped.
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Ava Weaver
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Thu Jul 04, 2019 11:01 pm

Past Midnight, 22nd Loshis, 2719
Woven Delights, Painted Ladies
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”Behind that curtain,” Ava said quietly, gesturing to one of the panels of fabric hung on the wall. “There is a panel of four squares in the wall - press the one on the upper right, and it will swing open. There’s a bag inside with supplies, and clean water as well.” Not hot, but Ava thought it would be good enough, with the disinfectant.

Ava didn’t hesitate either; the bottom of the foot was an awkward and difficult place to clean and treat, and it wouldn’t be easy for her to stay off of it. Could she fake a sprained ankle, perhaps? Stumble on the steps outside the shop. It would be good enough cover, the sort of injury a woman in tight skirts had often enough.

Ava’s breath caught in her throat all the same when Caina grasped her foot and went to work. Caina was kneeling in front of her, but Ava felt very much at the assassin’s mercy. She thought Caina perhaps felt the same way about her, and the silence between them stretched stilted and awkward, tense and heavy behind Ava’s sharp breaths.

Who are you?

Caina held the bottle of disinfectant at Ava’s foot, but she lifted her gaze from the cut bloody sole to the older woman’s face, framed now by soft curling dark hair and a heavy braid over one shoulder. There were other questions, none so weighty.

Ava was quiet, her hands held together on her lap. Her back was as straight as ever, shoulders set wide, and if this was uncomfortable for her, no sign of it showed in her posture. Carefully, she unclasped her hands, and smoothed them against the pale peach silk over her thighs, looking down at them for a long moment.

“I am Ava Weaver,” Ava lifted her gaze back to Caina, meeting her eyes with no hesitation, no flicker, no twitch. “I know that name because once, a long time ago, I was a little girl named Nellie Tucker.”

Ava was doing her best; the best she could. Her gaze held Caina’s, her posture was straight and soft, not tense or threatening in any way. But her voice - her voice quivered on that name, caught on it. It wasn’t raw and angry and aching like Anatole Vauquelin had been. It was almost worst - soft and sad and sorry. Ava didn’t say it like her name; she said it like the name of a stranger.

It felt like a stranger’s name. Nellie Tucker. Ava had burned that name from her skin, cast it from her heart. She had had no choice, because she had needed to survive. Even Old Rose Harbor she had tried hard to leave behind, simpler times tainted by the knowledge of what she now knew. Talking of it to Tom - those faint cherished memories of Nellie’s - they were hers, and Ava knew that, but in a way they didn’t feel like it, anymore. She had spoken of flying in a basket over the street and she had remembered the joy of it in her heart. And yet -

Caina Rose.

Ava had liked her, odd little duck that she was. No, that wasn’t right, was it? Nellie had liked Caina, that sweet shy little girl with the too-big vocabulary who she had seen blossom more than once. And Nellie wasn’t Ava, not exactly, but - she had been, once. Those memories didn’t feel like hers anymore but it was her liking, still somewhere in her chest, a fondness for the little girls they had both been.

“Do you remember - her?” Ava’s voice caught again and she cleared her throat. “Me?” The word was very nearly a whisper. Something like a smile twitched at her lips, quivered and caught and died, and Ava looked away now. Her shoulders were trembling, and her hands weren’t so soft and gentle, gripping the silk fabric a little more tightly.

“We were neighbors in King’s Court once,” Ava continued softly. The we this time seemed easier than the me had been, although there was still audible strain in her voice. “You used to come to the house in Cantile too, to play with Flo.” Ava sighed a little, soft and sad.

“I don’t work for anyone you don’t know about,” Ava said quietly. Even alone in an empty house, just them, it wouldn’t do to get sloppy. “We have the same enemies. I won’t use that name again if you don’t want me to, believe me, I - I understand.”

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Caina Rose
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:44 pm

Woven Delights • Anaxas/Vienda
on the 22nd of Loshis, 2719 • Past Midnight
A va really was a lot more than she let on. A civvie would mistake her as a simple shopkeep, and anyone in the know would only think of her as an individual with access to a rat’s nest of secret tunnels under the city. But now Caina knew that Woven Delights was much more.

Apparently each curtain held some secret- the back door, the cabinets imbedded in the wall- Caina had an idle urge to rip the curtains down one by one and uncover their secrets. She’d always loved exploring as a child.

But this was Ava’s sacred place, and as much as Caina didn’t trust her right now, she still respected her.

Nellie Tucker… The name sounded familiar, but didn’t ring a bell. Like a character in a book that you read several years ago, but didn’t own anymore. And the way Ava said it.. so sad. Like there was an entire universe between her and the name that she had once, apparently, owned. But the name meant nothing, so Caina lowered her eyes back to the wound while she thought, and began to pour disinfectant on it, slowly but surely. And because she was turned away, she didn’t see the emotions flash across Ava’s face, or the almost smile. But she heard the way her voice caught, the emotion in her tone. A part of Caina wanted to be upset. How could she show her emotions so openly? But then again, Caina would likely react the same way if faced with… certain aspects of her past.

She listened as Ava continued, and didn’t react once. Only pausing when she mentioned another name. Flo. Caina recognized that one, even though it was someone that Caina hadn’t thought of in many years. She remembered… tumblers and cool sea wind, the taste of dough bits… Oh.

All of a sudden, Caina remembered. She remembered watching Flo’s older cousin make funny faces, and watching the soup, and seeing the wicks perform at the docks, and eating dough bits with them both. Everything about that evening. It was one of Caina’s happiest memories, and she’d forgotten all about it. How could that happen?

“I… remember,”
Caina replied quietly, after realizing that Ava had stopped talking. She refused to look up, carefully wrapping bandages around the ankle and working her way down to the foot.
“Flo told me that you ran away.”
Caina didn’t add the next part, that she’d caught Flo packing up to leave a couple nights later and had to beg her not to leave, to stay and not leave Caina all by herself with no one else. They’d drifted apart a few months after that, but Flo had stayed. That was what was important, that her friend was safe.
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word count: 545
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Ava Weaver
Posts: 72
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:17 am
Topics: 8
Race: Human
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
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Writer: moralhazard
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:12 pm

Past Midnight, 22nd Loshis, 2719
Woven Delights, Painted Ladies
T
he physical pain of the disinfectant came as an odd relief. It hurt – it hurt quite a bit, if Ava were to be truthful about it, as if Caina were pouring fire on her foot. But there was a clean simplicity to the pain, a way in which it drove out everything else. It was an honest, uncomplicated sort of hurt, much simpler than the tangled web of emotions caught up in Ava’s chest. Ava thought she understood Tom’s remembered affection for his scars a bit better in that moment.

Caina was silent for a long moment. Ava didn’t say anything else, didn’t add any more explanations, didn’t beg Caina to believe her. She knew there was a possibility the younger woman wouldn’t remember; Caina had been only a girl. Nellie had been only a girl, and Caina had been even younger. Ava wasn’t sure if she wanted Caina to remember her or not. It would be easier in some ways, if Caina didn’t remember her, but harder in other, more immediate ones.

Ava thought she heard something in Caina’s voice, something caught up in the word remember, but – it was only half a flicker. Ava looked down at her, watching the assassin’s surprisingly gentle hands wrapping a bandage around her ankle and foot. She said nothing at Caina’s mention of what Flo had said, her face controlled once more, not sure what to say, and not trusting her voice in the least.

It was a surprise. It shouldn’t have been, Ava knew with a bitterness that sat somewhere deep in her chest and refused to move, but it was. It made sense – of course he must have said something like that. Perhaps he had had some other story, her uncle, for people outside the family, but to Flo, to – the rest, he would have had to say she had run away. Had he produced a note? Said he’d seen her leave, maybe that he’d tried to stop her, maybe –

Ava’s breath caught and twisted in her chest, and she longed for a simpler pain once more. It took everything she had to smooth her breathing out after that soft hitch, her eyes fluttering shut, to keep her face smooth and even.

It made sense; it was what he would have had to say.

“Poor Flo,” Ava said, softly, after a long moment. There were answers she owed Caina, answers that Caina deserved after what Ava had unwittingly done to her – and it was, Ava knew now, much worse than she could possibly have known. All the same, they were her actions, and she would bear the responsibility for them with as much strength as she could. But there were other parts to the story, and those parts – Ava didn’t want to share them with Caina. They were hers; they were not hers alone, but they were best shared only with those who had also experienced them, or with those for whom the knowledge could be – useful.

And, in truth – Ava did feel sorry for Flo. They had been close, Nellie and Flo; Flo was the oldest of her little family, but not the best liked, and her mother, Nellie’s aunt, had always been difficult. Poor Flo; Ava wondered a little what had become of her, a soft, aching curiosity. She had left Flo behind with the rest, but none of it had been Flo’s fault, not in the slightest. She wondered if Flo blamed herself, if she thought that Nellie hadn’t loved her anymore –

Ava pressed her lips together, firmly, feeling as if the soft shell of her face might crack apart at any moment, might split right down the middle and reveal the pain underneath. Anger helped; anger at her uncle, anger at Tom, anger at – her. Not Caina – she couldn’t summon any anger towards the assassin, aware that she was even more blameless than Ava, tonight. A deep breath, and another, and Ava let herself feel that anger, let it comfort and soothe her, until her face was no longer in danger of losing its smoothness, and the heat behind her eyes was all but gone.

“What would you like to be called?” Ava asked again, quietly, once she could trust her voice not to shake. Names mattered; Ava knew that well. “Hatcher is a bit…” Ava smiled faintly, “… revealing.”

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Tom Cooke
Posts: 190
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 26
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
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Plot Notes: Plot Notes
Writer: Graf
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Sat Jul 13, 2019 12:26 am

Woven Delights The Painted Ladies
a little after midnight on the 22nd of loshis, 2719
The shopkeep’d been reserved, and irritable to’ve been roused, but Ava’s instructions hadn’t been for naught. The kov’s manner had changed; his speech’d loosened up, if only by a hair. Tom couldn’t be sure, but the way he talked, he reckoned he took him for a tsat. He wasn’t there long, though: he was back out into the rain in no time, headed back (a little reluctantly) toward Woven Delights. He was starting to sober up, and his head was aching, and the bobbing phosphor lamps weren’t quite so smeared as they’d been when he’d left the Blue Egret. Everything stood still, except, ’course, his own thoughts.

He’d done good, though. Hadn’t cried the whole way there, hadn’t cried inside, hadn’t cried on the way back, fumbling down the rain-slick street with a bottle cradled inside his coat like a babe. He’d done a lot of wondering instead: wondered what was going on back at the shop, wondered how Caina and Ava knew each other. (Knowing what he knew about Caina’s affiliations before he’d kicked the can, he wondered if he’d do best not to wonder.) Wondered, above all else, why Caina’d put that knife away. Everything else made sense. Everything except that.

When he came back, it was with some hesitation. Though he’d bundled it up, he could feel the chill of the glass against his side; it was cold outside, and it was wet, and he was aching from being on his feet. But as he huddled into the shadows of the narrow alleyway, felt along the damp brick and tangled ivy for the shape of a door, he could hear voices. Soft voices. They reached him garbled, murmuring along with the water in the gutters and the gentle patter of light rain. He took a deep breath, standing outside.

Whatever was happening in there, he didn’t want to intrude. Nevertheless, standing this close, he couldn’t help but hear snippets of words: …would you like to be called? came a gentle, steady voice he knew was Ava’s.

Swallowing his reluctance, he went back inside, brushing the silk out of his way and closing the door behind him with a soft click. With the assassin bandaging up Ms. Weaver’s foot, Tom still felt like he’d stepped into something intimate. Of course, nothing could be gleaned from Ava’s face. “Beggin’ your pardon, madam.” Inclining his head, he stepped brusquely out into the room.

His hands were cold-stiff, but he knew he’d fumble, so he was careful taking the bottle out of his coat. With his head down and his eyes on the hardwood – or flicking over the hanging silks, the scattered cushions – anywhere except for on Caina’s face – he brought it over to the table and set it down with a grunt. Then he paused, chewing the inside of his gum and staring at it. The bottle of Long Haul stared back, dark like the wine-dark sea, and the etching of the ship on the label pierced his heart with an arrow.

Drawing in a deep breath, he forced himself to look Caina Rose in the face. He couldn’t seem to break the deep, grim frown the cold had frozen into his expression; he reckoned there wasn’t a smile worth offering her, anyway. Didn’t matter. “Thought you’d, uh. Hope you still like it,” he said after a moment. “Keep you strong for the way home, hey?” That word felt thick and unwieldy on his tongue, and he felt a lump building up in his throat.

With a brisk nod, he turned, moving back for the door. He paused and glanced at Ava. There were a hell of a lot of things he could’ve said, being honest. He could’ve apologized, but even setting his own pride aside, apologies’d always seemed to Tom like they were more for the speaker than the recipient. He didn’t want to ask Ava Weaver’s forgiveness. Not still slushy with the drink, damp and awkward, halfway to crying like a godsdamn baby over Caina anyway. If he apologized now, it wouldn’t mean a damn thing.

You asked for somebody’s forgiveness by doing better.

“I ain’t goin’ to intrude. I’ll be out there,” he said, gesturing at the door, “if I’m needed.” Leaving, Tom didn’t hesitate. He slipped out quick as he’d come in, the fabric shifting back into place behind him as if it’d never been moved. Once outside, he let himself take a deep breath, slumping against the wall a few yards down the alleyway, far enough away he couldn’t make out any talking coming from inside. Rested his head back against the brick, shut his eyes a moment.

The imprint of that soft, warm-lit back room danced against the dark. He just about saw Caina, the blot of her clothing, the shadows of her hair and eyes. Caina from a different angle. He thought about Ish’s knife at her belt; the thought stung, so he pushed it out of his head. He didn’t rightly know what to think about, so he just listened to the drizzling rain.
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