RP:A Spectacular View

From HollowWiki

Part of the The Day I Tried To Live Arc

Summary: Khitti and Brand have their "first date".

The Theater, Cenril

The sun is already partially below the horizon as Brand makes his way through the Cenril streets, his large feline mount growling at bystanders and nearly bowling over more than a few loiterers who don’t make way quickly enough. He and the Tikifhlee are both thoroughly winded by the time they arrive outside the theater, but in Brand’s case it’s merely the panic that’s been coursing through his system. The whole way here the frak-I’m-late chant has been sounding in his head on rapid repeat. But he’s not, really: as he dismounts and scans his surroundings, there are still a few stubborn rays of light clinging to the split between ocean and sky. Before sundown, he said, and -technically- it’s not all the way down yet.

Khitti had the same sort of mantra going through her head as she finished up her chores at the restaurant. The sun was going down and she wasn’t quite done yet. Oh no. Please still be there. Please still be there. Don’t leave. That’s all she could think of as she ran through the streets from the middle of town towards the north. Thankfully, she could cut right down in between, past the Whaler’s Bar and the wishing well on Memorial Avenue. She’d arrive maybe ten minutes or so after Brand, just as winded as he was. Khitti was just about to greet him when she realized something most unfortunate--her hair was a mess and her dress was covered in all sorts of baking ingredients. “Damn it.” She was so sure she’d get out on time, but alas, it was not meant to be. With a heavy sigh and a flushed face from running, she’d approach the blonde, “Hi. Uh--whoa.” The cat was spied finally--how she managed to miss something so large is a wonder really--and her train of thought derails. “That, uh… That’s a -big- cat.” She blinked a few times, then shook her head, “Um. You couldn’t possibly do me a favor could you…? I know we just got here but…” Khitti gestured vaguely at her outfit. “I’m not exactly date-worthy right now, heh. Unless you’re fine with being seen with a total mess, I guess.” Once that was said, she’d at least start tending to her hair, combing her fingers through it to try to tame it before wrapping it up in the ribbon again.

Brand is wiping beads of sweat away with the cuff of his dress shirt when he spies her -- Khitti, in all her breathtaking glory. Well, she -would- be breathtaking, anyway, if he had any breath left to take. He’s just returned from jogging in and around the theater looking for her, running up and down the aisles, inquiring about her whereabouts with the ushers and the ticket counter and anyone else who would listen. Had she been another dream after all? Or maybe she’d already given up on him, thinking he’d stood her up? Nevermind that she’s a ‘total mess’ right now -- he’s just relieved all his worries have amounted to nothing. And mess or no, she still captivates him. “You look fine,” he says between gasps, hunching over his own knees. “Don’t worry about it. Haven’t been here long, myself. Certain captain-y things took longer than I’d thought they would.” By ‘captain-y things,’ Brand here means that he had about a hundred million questions from his crew to answer about her revival and his plans thereabouts, a very important letter to write, a nap to take, and an outfit to choose for the evening’s events. He’s settled on a shirt of cornflower blue under a dark navy vest, with matching pants and jacket. He’d tried five other outfits prior, and they all seemed too drab or too bright or too worn or too… something. Or maybe he’d just been nervous. And now he’s sweaty and nervous, sweating through the nicest outfit he owns, though Khitti at least wouldn’t remember that now. “I know a great little restaurant overlooking the sea from the cliffs,” he adds, “ ‘less you had somethin’ else in mind.”

Khitti couldn’t help but grin a little as he doubled over, trying to catch his breath. “You keep breathing like that and you’ll use up all the air.” That nervousness seemed to radiate from him and matched her own, but it didn’t seem to phase her. Instead, she tried to push both of their worries away, a brief glance of his form from top to bottom is given to the Captain, “You look amazing, Brand.” It was entirely sincere and she had this brief look envy--being coated in flour and powdered sugar and such isn’t really all that wonderful, you know, especially when you’re going on a date with a super gorgeous guy. There was another short pause, but she soon caught herself staring at him again and finally acknowledged his choice of eatery, “No, I’m sure it’s great.” Both hands reached down to dust off the short, lace-covered skirt of her dress again, only some of it budging. Ugh. Whatever. He didn’t seem too bothered by it, though it was hard to tell through all of that hyperventilating he was doing thanks to his jog. “I’m going to assume you rode in on that pretty kitty. If that’s to be the way we’re traveling, you’ll have to help me up there. I’m, uh, not quite sure if I know how to even ride an animal, feline or otherwise.” Which, of course, she did, but it’s not like she could remember that.

There’s a hitch in Brand’s breath as he eyes her from his hunched position. Such genuine compliments. Is this how they’d be playing it from now on? He already missed their usual play-fighting dynamic. “Yeah, well. I dunno anything about ‘amazing.’ I just woke up like this.” Cue smirk. That ego is not going anywhere, and you’re not helping, Khitti. “But yeah, the cat’s mine. C’mere, I’ll help you up.” He steps over to the Tikifhlee, and once she’s close enough, he takes her by the waist and hoists her right on up there like it’s nothing (it helps that she weighs so little). Not long afterward, he’s hopping up to sit ahead of her and spurring the Tikifhlee into a gallop. “Best you hold on tight,” he calls over his shoulder. This speed -might- be a little terrifying for a first time, ‘whoops.’

A smirk of her own appeared when his little joke was made. Okay, he’s cute -and- funny. The Khat would soon be atop the cat and when Brand joined her, her arms would wrap around his waist. Bracing herself, she clung to him tightly, even resting her head against his back to keep from moving too much. But, as they traveled on, she loosened her grip somewhat, righting herself a little so that she might look around. Most things were a blur, but every so often she caught sight of something new: a new shop here, an undiscovered house there. Just as often, Khitti would cast a side glance at Brand. The last remaining rays of light shone just enough to bring out the different highlights and lowlights in his hair; it reminded her of the hearthfire at the inn just after fresh logs are fed into it.

Khitti was staring again, and she’d soon realize it once more, that rosy tint returning to her face as butterflies lept around in her chest, angry to be released in the form of more compliments. But, they wouldn’t come, and the duration of the ride to the restaurant would be left in silence, her face hidden from him behind his back in just the right spot so he couldn’t turn to see her unless he -really- tried. This was entirely silly. She just met him today! Why is there butterflies?! Why is there feelings?! Why is there anything at all?! He’s just some guy. Just the only person to believe her about the mermaid. Just… Sigh.

Restaurant With A View, Cenril

Brand directs the Tikifhlee to stop as they near the restaurant, and shortly thereafter he’s helping Khitti down and leashing the giant feline to a nearby post. The restaurant looks rather like a run-down shack… but inside it looks like a ship, with stained wood walls, ceiling, and floor, with a large steering wheel overhead marking the transition from foyer to dining area. The windows stretch the full length and height of the furthest wall, allowing an excellent view of the wharf, beach, and ocean below. The waiter seats them at a corner table overlooking it all. Once he’s introduced himself and left to fetch drinks (the house cocktail of tea spiked with whiskey, thanks, and whatever suits the lady), Brand is searching the view a moment before directing Khitti’s gaze with a point of his index finger. “There she is. The Tranquility. Finest ship out there, just like I said.” Not that he’s biased or anything.

Khitti would take the same drink out of sheer laziness and curiosity as to what it might taste like--she didn’t have the luxury to buy herself any fancy alcoholic drinks right now, sadly. Her gaze would of course be averted and she squinted to see the ship; she didn’t have that vampiric sight anymore, you know. “Wow, really?” That was definitely a good reaction and not a ‘ew gross your boat sucks, Brand’. “Now I -have- to see it.” Her line of sight would linger on it for a bit longer before shifting to him again. Awkwardly, she’d clear her throat then look elsewhere, “So... “ Oh god. Don’t think of anything boring to say. “Where all have you been?” Was that an okay thing to ask? She really didn’t know. What exactly do you say to hot guys with big ships? Thankfully, their drinks showed up pretty quickly and she was quick to grab it up and take a few sips. There’d be a few moments of consideration, deliberating on whether or not she liked it. She did. This was evident by further drinking. As she waited for his answer, and patiently listened, Khitti would also start checking out the menu. More issues: she was absolutely starving and felt like she could eat a whole whale, but she also didn’t have the money to spend on everything that looked delicious (she was, of course, convinced that she’d pay for herself; not everyone goes the traditional route--at least that’s what she seemed to gather at the bakery).

Frak, why was Brand’s first thought of sailing the Tranquility through a giant portal that led to the Shadow Plane? “Errrrr.” That’s not a place, Brand. “All over Lithrydel’n even beyond. Where -haven’t- I been might be a shorter list.” The drinks arrive, and the Catalian takes a welcome sip of his as she does hers. He hadn’t really thought through this whole… having to introduce himself to her all over again thing. And now he’s eyeing her, wondering if he might not come to regret telling her they were strangers to one another. Certainly, he knew far more about her than she did about either of them, and that was likely to get him into some sort of predicament sooner or later. Oh well, too late now… “You really don’t remember anything from before the mermaid?” He knows the answer, but he feels compelled to ask anyway.

Khitti was excited to hear this list of his, but then the conversation shifted to her and that unfortunate amnesia of hers. “No.” She paused, scrunching up her nose a bit in dismay. “I mean, since I got here, I’ve been having dreams. It’s really stupid…” The redhead sighed, swirling her drink a bit to make the ice inside clink against the glass. “There’s a few people. I can’t ever make out their faces. Even their voices are distorted. It’s like I’m trapped in a fog. But, one of them… they’ve got the prettiest green eyes I’ve ever seen.” Like yours. But, it’s not yours apparently. Khitti stared at her drink as it swirled about, then shifted her gaze to him briefly before finally settling her attention on the window. “I feel like I’m at home with these people, but I don’t know where home is. I don’t know how long I’ve been gone and I don’t even know if anyone’s looking for me. -Someone’s- gotta be looking for me… right?” The question was more rhetorical than anything, but even after a week, it didn’t seem like there was a whole lot of hope. Or maybe she was just settling. Living by herself in a place she didn’t really know was okay, yeah? She had an alright job and a place to stay and she should be happy with that. And yet… she wasn’t. A large swig of that tea is gulped down, a few blinks given at herself, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to make things sad.” She stuck out her tongue at him, “This is why I was asking -you- questions.”

Okay, Brand. Word your response here -very carefully-. “I think… if someone were lookin’ for you, I would’ve heard somethin’ about you. You came out of my home’s waters, after all.” Below, lights from the ships were blinking into existence, more and more now that darkness was descending. Soon, the little pinpricks of light would be all they’d be able to see of the Tranquility. Onyx was down there somewhere, supervising the crew as they tucked Khitti’s things into storage -- just as a precaution. “It doesn’t have to be sad, though. At least, I don’t think so. If you can’t remember anything…” He leaned back in his chair and watched the woman over his drink. “You have to consider the possibility that maybe you got away from something it’s better you forgot. Maybe your mind -- or whoever wiped it clean -- is protectin’ you from something bad.”

Here was Brand’s Khitti, truly, as a darkness crept across her features and that pensive, brooding nature overcame her. He wouldn't understand. He -has- a home, clearly. She was not wholly convinced of the things he said and it showed. But… there was still that nagging feeling that he was right. No one would come for her. Not now, not in the weeks to come, and perhaps not even months from now. Part of her wanted to leave, and she even voiced it, “Maybe I should go. I--” but the waiter returned, ready to take their order. Khitti breathed a heavy sigh, the color returning to her cheeks somewhat. Fine. She'll stay. I guess.

The redhead struggled to find a suitable meal for herself--what did she even feel like eating? Maybe nothing now. Maybe she -should- go. It took her for what seemed like forever to decide--and perhaps even Brand chose before her by this time--until finally… ”Lobster.” Thankfully, it wasn’t overly expensive in these parts, so she’s heard, what with the whole city being a port town and all. Her menu was given back to the waiter and her tea tended to again, whatever was left of it. There’d be a long stretch of silence, unless Brand decided to fill it with something else--something that’s hopefully not as depressing as her homeless, friendless self--and should he not, she’d say at length, “Tell me about you.” Green would meet with green as she shifted her line of sight to him again, but it didn’t linger long.

Brand studies Khitti’s expressions as they give a glimpse of her thoughts, and only orders his usual fish n’ chips here once she has ordered, herself. (Lobster, really?) While he’s certainly heard her truncated attempt to make an exit, it seems she’s now thought better of it, and so he continues once the waiter has left. “I guess that’s not an easy thing to hear, sorry. It’s just that I’ve seen some dark things, pea--” he freezes on the syllable just a bit too long before continuing, “--eriodically that’ve turned me more’n a bit cynic.” There’s too much honesty in the statement, and so he too shuts himself up with another long draft of his drink until she makes her next query. Tell her about himself? What is there to know? “I… never know how to answer that question.” He half-smirks and half-shrugs, for a moment turning his whole body crooked. “I captain a ship, that much you know already. Before I came into that, I lived a while in Frostmaw or here or Kelay doin’ odd jobs. Helpin’ out the business folks, deliverin’ the occasional parcel, mercenary work… s’pose I’m capable of wearin’ a lot of hats and never really settled on one thing like most. Even with the ship it’s a lot of the same thing, only now I’m movin’ by sea and the scope of the jobs are bigger. But just as odd.” Like so many others, he’s elected to blather on about his career on a ‘first date’ rather than tread into waters too deep.

“Mercenary?” Of course that’s what she latched onto after all of that--and that bit about things not being easy to hear was evaded. Whatever bit of sour mood she had started to melt away as she eyed him again, “I’d say you don’t seem like type but you ride around the city on what could potentially be a battle cat.” A smirk of her own appeared finally, “You beat up a lot of people then?” ‘Beat up’ being a coy way to say ‘kill’, that is. She finished off her drink finally and set the glass aside, shifting her position a little so that she’s leaning back in her chair more, one leg is crossed over the other, and her arms crossed over her chest. “I guess I could also ask if you’re good at it, but uh… I s’pose you wouldn’t be sitting there talking to me right now.”

Brand cocks a brow. She almost sounds like she enjoys the idea…? “Well, usually they’re not even people, really.” That, uh, came out wrong. He’s not one of those cold-blooded dehumanizing killer types, pinky swear. “I mean, the last big thing was fightin’ a mass of zombies… before that, there was a dragon that had been eating people… and before that, it was a bunch of oversized bugs that were trying to take over the world. That sounds melodramatic, but I swear it isn’t.”

That raised eyebrow was definitely noticed and she only shrugged at it. “What? That’s like the first interesting thing I’ve heard all week. I can only take so much of little old ladies talking about their cats and the housewives of the rich and famous babbling about their twelve kids and their expensive horses and their jewelry and such. It gets old really fast.” She seems entirely entertained as he goes on about his recent adventures, that wide-eyed look of awe obvious with an approving grin to accompany it. “So… how do you go about it then? Weapons? Magic? Both? Or do you just charm everyone’s pants off of them and they die of shock?” That last one’s a joke, Brand. She might be back to flirting. It’s your fault.

Brand wrinkles his nose. (Here come the booplesnoot comparisons.) “We’ll go with ‘both,’ I guess, everything but the de-pantsing. What is it you’re plannin’ on performin’ tonight, exactly?” There’s no break between one sentence and the next, no hesitation as he pivots the discussion away from himself again. Explaining things to Khitti that she used to know is treading over too familiar ground, and while it may be terribly interesting to her, he’s simultaneously rendered bored and uneasy by any spotlight set on him. “The arts aren’t my thing, so I don’t know much about it. I’ve only been to that theater once before.” And technically, that was Dominic.

Khitti frowned as he shifted things back to her. You’re really not making this easy, Brand. She shook her head and shrugged again, that sullen look remaining firmly planted on her features, “Just a few songs that I wrote is all.” She paused briefly, “You don’t have to go, you know. If it’s ‘not your thing’, I’m not gonna force you to go to something you probably won’t enjoy.” Their food arrived finally and a few bites were stuffed into her face before she said finally, “Regardless, I have to leave soon. If I’m late, they’ll just shove the next act on.” It’s clear that she doesn’t want to talk about herself at all--what’s there to talk about even? She’s not some exciting adventurer. She just bakes things all day and barely makes enough money to survive. “If you’d rather, I can just meet you at this ship of yours.” Khitti didn’t say anything more after that, opting to listen to whatever he might say for the time being as she hurriedly ate her meal.

Brand drains the remainder of his drink. Ugh, he’d imagined this going differently, somehow. But then, they’d not exactly hit it off right away the first time, either. “Not what I meant. I can appreciate artistic talent, I’ve just got none of it myself.” He’s frowning at the bottom of his glass when the food arrives, and soon thereafter matching Khitti’s pace. “Wish you’d said there was a rush earlier. I could’ve put in a word here with the chef. I’ve been here enough they maybe would’ve put it on priority order for us.” He’s eating his fish and chips with both hands, but at least he’s remembering his manners enough today to wait between bites to speak. “We could’ve taken a bit more time that way.”

Khitti sighed as she finished prying the delicious lobster meat out of creature’s exoskeleton, “I didn’t really consider it, to be honest. I don’t exactly go on dates every day after work. Starting to wonder if me bringing it up was a mistake--not because of you, though. I guess I didn’t think you’d actually agree to it.” There was obvious unease emanating from her now, but she tried to ignore it; if he even acknowledged it verbally, she’d just chalk it up to a mild case of stage fright. Her plate was cleared with a speed that might suggest she was hungrier than she let on, but that was ignored too as she lifted her hand in a wave towards the waiter to lure him over to the table again. The right amount of gold for both of their meals was dug out of the pockets of her dress and handed off to him before Brand could even think about paying. She was the one that created this mess, so it was only right that she’d take care of it.

Oh, Khitti. Amnesia or no, one thing hasn’t changed: she’s still as frustratingly self-sacrificial as ever. Brand regards her payment in silence. Privately, he’s weighing his options: confront her? Pull aside the waiter? No, he decides, it shouldn’t prove too difficult to at some point slip some portion of the money spent back into her possession. “You didn’t have to do that,” is all he says, completing the last of his meal and rising from the table. “Guess it’ll have to be my treat next time.” That’s a smooth way of asking for a second date before the night grows too long. And hopefully that second one will go better than this one has so far. “Are you ready? Shall we get you to your show?”

Khitti slid from her chair and pushed it in, her mouth opening to give some self-deprecating retort in response to the money issue, but thought better of it. No point in making things worse. “Yes,” was said finally in answer to both of his questions. He wanted a second date with her? Why? He did say he’s a mercenary--maybe he’s going to try to kill her. Maybe that’s why she can’t remember anything. Maybe she saw something she wasn’t supposed to see. Khitti’s mind ran rampant as they exited the restaurant. She’d let him help her up again, because duh she’s a bit short, but really wouldn’t say much else. Much like Brand had been thinking earlier: this was not the way she thought it was going to go.

The Theater, Cenril

Brand allows Khitti to take the lead out of the restaurant and helps her once again onto the Tikifhlee. As they dash back for the theater, his mind is brooding on uncomfortable questions: with her memory gone, is there any point to having her back? Was it inevitable that he’d feel let down by her persona now, no matter what aspects persisted through her amnesia? It’s a hard realization that Khitti’s face and Khitti’s body and a few of Khitti’s old passions and personality traits does not a Khitti make. The woman he loves is not the woman clinging to his sides as they charge through the streets. She is not the woman he waves off to the backstage with a smile and a call to “break a leg! But not literally, please.” As her show begins and he pushes through the crowd to get a spot near the front and center of the stage, he realizes: he’s only looking at her ghost. And if her memories are never recovered, that might be all this woman ever is to him.

What was happening right now? Why was she so disappointed? Why did this date matter to her so much? Why did she feel like her heart was breaking? She didn’t know Brand at all. The redhead thought about all of this as she changed and the band warmed up on stage. The instruments sounded… oddly electric. Perhaps there was some sort of enchantment on them to make them seem so… modern? Khitti approached the microphone, similarly enchanted to help project her voice above the music being played. The first song began to play and it’d be an all too familiar one to Brand. ♪Hey. I'm feeling okay. It's good cause lately I been feeling so strange, like I’ve been re-arranged, changed. And these voices, the ones that I can hear in my head. Oh these fellas are telling me that I'd be better off dead. They're painting me -red-.♪

The memory of Brand and Khitti in that alternate life would flicker into being: Brand’s bleeding out, a hand held to his abdomen to keep the blood from flowing anymore than it had. Khitti was in control of one of those strange moving metal boxes, the car speeding down the road. “"I'm going to assume you don't want to go to a doctor,” she’d say out loud, though her concentration’s on the road. “No, no healers. That’s what she’d expect. She’d find me there, finish what she started,” he’d replied. “She?” Khitti was entirely puzzled about the things Brand was saying. It all seemed like nonsense. “Viera,” Brand breathed through clenched teeth. “Damned woman’s hunting me.” Khitti drove on in silence for some time, until that song reminded her; she knew where she’d take him. Some place crowded. Some place loud. A concert.

Khitti’s voice would tug at audience’s hearts, they’d feel her frustration in their very souls. The song was the very same that played on the radio during that drive. ♪And lately, it's been getting harder to sleep. These muscle spasms hit me so deep. And every single night I get cold, like I can't feel my hands or my toes. And no one told me which way to go. But I'm still here, so why don't you pour me another one, Kyle? Why can't I come down?♪ The lyrics poured from her mouth effortlessly, as if she truly did remember the parts of that dream he’d shown her. There was definitely more of Khitti there, in the darkness of her mind, hidden by the fog of the amnesia. It ached to get out, it was there resonating in her voice as the song reached its conclusion, but it all remained almost entirely locked away--her dreams was her subconscious’ only escape.

Brand has heard this song before, and yet he hasn’t. Why does it sound so damned familiar? It isn’t until the final verse that the answer hits him: he has seen it in a dream. Khitti was gone, kidnapped and sealed away in a dragon’s remote cave, and he had dreamed of them together in another reality. Dreams like it happened again after he and Dominic had retrieved her and looted the broken lapis necklace from the lair. And Brand sees something like it again now, with his waking vision -- a projection of the two of them in another lifetime. His double is holding a towel against the knife wound in his side, and her double is close, so very close, but caught by the riptide of a crowd and unable to find him. And then his double disintegrates into ashen specks. The last lyrics are fading and the last guitar strum lingers. Khitti stands alone on stage, staring down at him as the spotlight halo gives wings to her silhouette.

As Brand’s vision took hold, the song that played during that moment in his dream begins to play and Khitti becomes the harbinger of its words. ♪Black ocean, cold and dark, I am the hungry shark, fast and merciless. But the only girl that could talk to him just couldn't swim, tell me what's worse than this. And it echoes in the halls, they danced along the walls, the memories of your ghost. You are the one that I used to love and I'm still in love, but I've never loved you the most.♪ On she sang, until the song’s conclusion with more to follow afterwards--covers of the realm’s greatest bards, all sung in this strange, folk-rock sort of way.

“This will be the last time I play this song,” the redhead said to the audience as the band took a moment to recover and for Khitti to take a much needed break from singing. “Since I started here, I’ve sung it. I’ve let it fill this room and escape to the air beyond, in hopes it’d bring someone--anyone--that might be looking for me. It’s probably a little too soon to say, but… I think I’m going to stop looking. At least, if someone does find me, I’ll be pleasantly surprised, right?” As she worked the crowd, trying to keep them interested, the guitarists--both bass and lead--and the drummer are switched out for something more traditional--two violinists, a cellist, and a viola; a string quarte. These too would hold that same electric sound when played, their music projected, loud and strong.

Bows pressed to strings when the quartet was ready to play, their warm low tones harmonizing together, creating an ethereal feel to the room. The lights in the room would dim, a spotlight only on the redhead as she stood there, her mezzo-soprano singing voice filling the room again for the last time tonight, ♪Whenever I'm alone with you, you make me feel like I am home again. Whenever I'm alone, with you, you make me feel like I am whole again.♪ The verse was repeated again, before shifting to the chorus. The song as a whole felt somber; it was a love song, but one of longing and sorrow instead of the typical romance ballad--it was the one she’d written for Brand back in the dragon’s cave and played for him in House Dragana after the guild’s battle with the spiders. Khitti’s own voice echoed the gloominess of the song, her loneliness laid bare for all. ♪However far away, I will always love you. However long I stay, I will always love you. Whatever words I say, I will always love you. I will always love you.♪ Whatever feelings she’d felt in her dream were poured into it, mixing in with the hopelessness she’d felt since dinner.

Khitti stared down into the crowd and managed to find Brand somehow amongst everyone else. More deja vu. More sadness than she should really feel towards someone she literally just met that day. And all of a sudden, she realized she’d started crying--though not the blubbering, whining sort. So caught off guard by the tears that rolled down her face was she, that her singing faltered and altogether stopped. The quartet noticed Khitti’s silence, looking to her before looking amongst themselves. Still they played, however, continuing on with the song that had been shown to them, circling around and replaying the part that she had been on. The redheaded singer still could not compose herself just yet, instead choosing to wipe away some of the tears with a hand and stare at them in utter confusion, mouth slightly agape. “Pssssst! Red! Come on! What the hell’s the hold up?!” One of the guitarists from earlier was doing their best to get her attention through hissed whispers, to try to get her singing again.

Autumn’s chill only adds to his shuddering as Brand breathes in the night. Here outside the theater, the stars are clouding over; the only light provided is that of the lamps set evenly throughout the town. He can still make out the lamplighter aways down the path, his lantern swinging in cadence with his steps as they take him further, further away. No one else is about. No one is there to witness as Brand sinks against a chipping paint-caked wall and curls around the crumpled ball of his suit jacket. He didn’t see Khitti, and he has no strength to battle the bardic poltergeist that stands in her place, bringing memories too painful to revisit. He should take his leave entirely, he thinks, just go back to the Tranquility right now and pretend none of this happened.

Brand is preparing to swing himself onto his waiting Tikifhlee when he catches sight of an odd bulk poking out of one of the saddlebags. Opening it reveals Khitti’s sturdy violin case and a note attached, unsigned: “in case you ‘frak it up.’ ”

Onyx. But what does Onyx care about any of this?

Brand’s still puzzling over the meaning of it and what he ought to do about Khitti when he bumps his head against the glass theater doors. His heart is still in mourning, but apparently his feet have other ideas. Or maybe Khitti is a mighty whirlpool that inevitably steers him back toward her center whenever he forgets to fight the current.

“That would bloody figure,” Brand mutters, and the vortex pushes him inward.

The woman now known as ‘Red’ would bring herself back to the present and finish her song once the guitarist managed to pull her out of her thoughts. During this time, she noticed Brand was gone and… she wondered if she should even care. The time it took for him to compose himself and realize that he was going back into the theater, she was leaving; she’d gotten her gold for the night and had been heading towards the exit when she saw him. A wave of awkward hit her as she watched him approach and she tried to decide whether or not she had time to run away. If only there was a way for Brand to see the things that was going on in her head right now, he’d realize that it really was her, even if her personality was a little askew right now.

“Brand…” Khitti didn’t leave like she wanted to, instead choosing to face the problem head on as she moved to meet him. “I think we need to start over because everything tonight has been a mess and I’m thinking that it’s mostly been my fault.” She really doesn’t have any idea how right she is, to be honest. “Hi. My name is Khitti apparently, according to Mrs. Mallard, but I prefer Red. I like long walks on the beach and eating all the leftover cream cheese frosting for the carrot cake at work--please don’t tell my boss that. I also like reading, music and, uh, you,” was said as a hand outstretched towards the blonde with a rather shy grin. “I’m sorry if that’s a little creepy considering we just met, but I’m getting some crazy deja vu around you and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I would prefer it if you didn’t think I was weird, but I think it might be too late for that.”

Like a fish going upstream, Brand pushes through the exiting crowd. It seems unfathomable to him, but in the short time she’s been back from the dead she’s gathered enough attention that at least forty people have passed him by. And that fact presents a problem, he realizes as Khitti approaches him and speaks. Mrs. Mallard knows her real name. How many others know her face now or might know her by something other than ‘Red’? The thought pierces through the haze of his other troubles: what if it is already too late to prevent rumors of her reappearance from spreading? If the wrong person reminds her of what she’s done, or if he isn’t there to mitigate the damages, what then? Ghost or no, he won’t see her put through that a second time.

“Yeah,” Brand responds, drawing out the syllable. He’s clutching the violin case as he hatches a change of tactics, and Khitti’s hand is left to dangle. “Listen, I don’t think I got off on the right foot with you, either.” He looks around. They’re left alone in the lobby. The staff are within the auditorium or on the theater stage, cleaning and packing up set pieces. The crowd has dispersed; evidently, she’s not grabbed quite enough attention yet to have after-show groupies. It’s some small relief. “Truth is, I do know somethin’ of you. A lot of somethin’ -- we were together, before. Didn’t seem right to press the matter with your brain all fogged up, though. And I wasn’t sure what I ought to expect of a new you.” Exhale through the mouth, slow. His extremities are shaking as he holds the violin case out to her waiting hand. “This belongs to you. Bein’ that you seem to have retained some of your musical talent, I think you should have it back.”

Brand’s words were barely heard, though she still somehow managed to process them. He really -did- know her? And they had been together? Khitti probably should be angry, should be upset that he lied to her but… she wasn’t. “You’re…. not lying? And… I’m not crazy?” This past week or so had been so long--it’d felt like months rather than just days. It was agonizing not knowing who you were, to be a nobody, to know nothing but a name. And now… she -was- someone? Just like that? Her hand had still been dangling there a bit as she stared at him, tears welling up in her eyes. She… had a home? Khitti didn’t even think about whether or not she -could- go home again. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she was somebody to someone. The hand dropped finally and in the same motion she closed the gap between them. There’d be no taking of the violin case; he could either keep ahold of it or drop it, she didn’t care. Instead, she’d wrap her arms around his abdomen and cry. Khitti’d seen him shaking, and hadn’t fully registered it, but now that she felt it, she’d hug him all the more. At least, until he pushed her away. -If- he pushed her away.

Brand is crushed between the violin case and Khitti’s arms wrapped around him. Ow. Well, good thing she isn’t a vampire anymore, or there’d be a lot more strength than she conveys now. “Alright, alright,” he grumbles after a time. He does indeed push himself away, though his hands linger a moment after he’s finally thrust the case into her arms. If he’s taking this new path, he shouldn’t be -wholly- unwilling to show some kind of fondness, even if she’s not the Khitti she once was. “We should get you outta here. You’re still bein’ looked for, just not the way you thought. It’s only luck I found you first. The way your mind got wiped -- I’m afraid the old you made some enemies, Red. But it’s not somethin’ we should talk about here.” Time enough between here and the Tranquility to work out the details along the way.

Shouldn’t he be happy about this? About finding her and telling her the truth? The grumbling, however, said otherwise. “ ‘The old me’? Just because I don’t remember doesn’t mean I’m not probably still the same.” Khitti’d say nothing more though, eyeing the ground instead of him as he led her out of the theater. It didn’t even feel like he was giving her much of a chance. Now she knew even less of how she should think and feel and act, especially around him. For like two whole seconds it seemed like things were going to be fine and then nooope. Once they got on the tikifhlee, she’d open up the violin case and peer down at the instrument. This used to be hers? It’s so pretty.

‘Still the same.’ Khitti’s sentiment swims in Brand’s ears as they ride off for the Cenril wharf. Certainly, her personality seems more or less intact, if a bit more prone to cheer than she used to be. If he’s going to keep her that way… “Look,” he calls, pointing to the west as they descend from the cliffs and down towards the beach. To their right, the city of Cenril sleeps; the buildings jut into the sky in dark blues and greys, except where they are lit by the streetlamps or candles in the windows. The way he’s pointed, the path into the city trails upwards, so that multiple layers of the town seem to stack on top of each other until they fade into a point in the cloud-filled sky. The observation synchronizes perfectly with the first droplets of an evening shower. “One reason of many why I love this city: the views are spectacular.”

In truth, the view is the same as he’s always seen it, one city of a hundred like it in a hundred ports, more similar than they are different. Nothing has changed but the way he’s chosen to describe it to her. Likewise, nothing in him has changed except for what he’s chosen to show her of himself. And perhaps, within her, less has changed than he thinks.

Khitti’s nose would remain stuck in her violin case, olive-green eyes inspecting every inch of it, both hands there to make sure she neither broke nor dropped it as they sped along. The case would be shut promptly though as he pointed out the scenery as they passed by it, her line of sight following from his hand to the landscape to the west. Just as observant as she’s always been, the redhead took in every aspect of it or, at least, as much as she could as they passed by: every building, the collection of lamps and candles, the shadows from the flames as they leapt about along the sides of the buildings and the streets.

‘The views are spectacular’, he’d said. While she agreed with his thoughts with regards to the city itself, there was something else that she found far more ‘spectacular’, if that was even the right word for it. The mental image of the city would be filed away, and perhaps dwelled on more later as an idea crept up into her mind on what to do with that image. But, that too was also pushed aside as her attention shifted back towards the man that directed the giant feline towards his most prized possession, the Tranquility. The ‘view’ -was- spectacular, with his emerald green eyes and fiery blonde hair, and the way he always seemed to be brooding about -something. But, he was also confusing, frustrating, and worrisome. The confusion and frustration was likely due to the fact that he lied and was especially standoffish for someone who was supposed to have been her lover. She really wasn’t -that- different… was she? He really didn’t seem too pleased with her thus far, from her perspective anyway, and she wasn’t sure how to solve the problem. If he would just tell her something, -anything-, about the two of them then she’d know how to act and speak and try to resume things where they’d been.

Well, he was still here, at least. He was still with her, despite whatever reservations he had. So, she tried not to think about it and watched him instead. Love at first sight didn’t seem to be a thing that really existed--and if she could just remember how things were when they first met, then she’d surely know the truth--but she couldn’t deny that the view -was- spectacular and eventually vocalized it. “Yeah. It is.”