RP:Bad Things Happen in Basements
Part of the Seven Dwarves All Around Me Arc
This is a Rogue's Guild RP.
Summary: Although Eleanor had laid out her feelings for the pirate recently*, Leo knew they still had some healing to do, and when she tried to kiss him, he'd told her, "Not yet," before disappearing into the night. A week after the almost-kiss at her safe house, the pirate tracks the spellrogue to the basement of her cabaret, where they fight, kiss-for-reals, and plot a murder. Old habits die hard, but if the Fox and the Hound can overcome the shared pain of their complicated history, The Oracle won't know what hit her.
The Basement of The Office, Cenril
Within this subterranean room, various pungent smells vie for the chance to assault one's senses, albeit the sources of most of these can only be speculated on. Two of the walls are mostly obstructed by stacks of wooden crates, each presumably stuffed with surplus supplies for the exotic cabaret dominating the first floor of the converted theater, while a third wall bears the weight of the stairs. Near the base of the stairs are two large casks of finely aged scotch, typically reserved for VIP guests of the club. In the center of the room is a simple round table, undoubtedly matching one of the booths from the main floor, and it is surrounded by four chairs. A deck of playing cards has been left behind on its pockmarked surface, resting in the swaying yellow light of a singular lantern hanging from the ceiling’s sturdy support beams. Opposite the stairs, a blood-red curtain is suspended from the ceiling, concealing the sleeping pen of an exotic pet. The pen itself is essentially a metal cage with a series of foreign runes etched into the bars—to keep the unsuspecting person out rather than to keep the creature in. In addition to the stairs leading up to the first floor, there appears to be a door carefully hidden behind some of the crates along the western wall. The door is warded with more runes matching those on the pen, along with a symbol burned into the wood—four black birds, wingtips touching as they fly in opposite directions. Perhaps a matching artifact will open this door.
The basement hadn't changed much since Leo last walked its floor; in fact, the only notable difference was a trapdoor half-hidden in the floorboards. It was from below that El arrived in the room, the smell of wet tunnels and a heady, sickly-sweet aroma clung to her as she moved out of the narrow hole and closed the lid. Below even that, the smell of her was intimately mixed in with the metallic scent of raw magic. Around her face, she had wrapped a black scarf, and she pulled it down now, her crimson lips drawing in a faint frown. In addition to the scarf, she wore a form-fitting long-sleeve black blouse tucked into tight black pants, tall black heeled boots coming up to her knees. The usual, working-after-dark get-up, complete with the shadow-laced disguise, although it was nothing more than an inert pendant tucked into her shirt. Her hair was left down for the most part, featuring a couple of braids starting at her left temple, each ending in a tiny hematite bead. As she moved around the table and chairs, she kicked out one of the latter and dropped into it with a sigh. From the pen against the basement's northern wall, a rumbling yawn could be heard, but the feline within did not otherwise rouse. El rummaged through one of the small pockets in her pants, pulling out her pack of smokes, and quickly lit one, dropping the back on the table as she took a deep drag. Exhaling the herby smoke helped to overwhelm a bit of the scent from before, but not by much.
Leoxander wasn’t far from the chair she, seemingly weary, slumped into. As aware as Eleanor was of her surroundings, Leo’s scent was not quite as overpowering as it had been before he’d showered in the townhouse. His clothing was moderately clean, matted leather trousers belted and cinched by a worn skull buckle, a fitted black tee shirt somewhat tight on his tattooed biceps but loose on his ribby middle. Not to mention he had a lot of experience camouflaging in the shadows, only the tapetum lucidum reflection his eyes visible in the dull lantern light like a torch-lit predator blended into the forest. Tuna hadn’t given his position away, yet, and he’d tracked her to the basement, aware when that familiar, metallic tinged smell became most distinct, moments before she arrived through the trap door. It might just be the sharp snap of a hinged metal lid ringing out that would bring attention to him, that dented firestarter ready as she reached for her smokes, even though Leo knew she’d likely light it herself, it was a good enough hint he was prepared to bum another off her. He’d already robbed a bottle from upstairs, whether freely offered by a worker who might recognize him or snuck from a shelf or counter during a convenient distraction, and it waited on the card table barely touched with two tumblers handy, not yet filled. “Rough day?” His guttural tone offered the question quietly, and if she wasn’t already stationed at the table perhaps she’d be lured in as he lifted the whiskey bottle to pour her a dose of comfort.
Eleanor hadn't had the chance to notice Leo before he practically materialized at her side, nor had she even noticed the tumblers or the bottle. As such, as he struck up that firestarter before she was able to cup her own hands around the stick's end, the smoke nearly fell from her lips, and she was standing in an instant. "Th' buck are ye doin' haur, Leo?" she hissed at him. However, whatever expression took hold of her face in that moment of weary surprise soon shifted into wary intrigue. Her gaze swept over him, taking in the offer of a drink, and she arched a brow. "Aye," she told him honestly, settling back down into the chair, the full weight of the day on her shoulders. As he'd had the chance to light her cigarette a moment before, she took a second now to drag from it. Her pack remained untouched from its spot on the table, inviting Leo to take one for himself. Letting out a smokey exhale, she reached across the table to pull her glass closer. Fingers tightening around it, she regarded Leo with a hooded stare. A beat later, though, her gaze dropped, and she pinched the smoke in one hand, lifting the glass with the other to sample its contents, letting it burn her throat on the way down. Before she spoke again, El edged another glance toward him, this one more sidelong than the previous. "Ah didnae hink Ah'd see ye again sae suin."
Leoxander almost appeared to laugh, his chest jumping slightly as a chuff was exhaled through his nose. He poured himself a glass, set the bottle down, then leaned forward to stretch an arm across the table, grabbing her pack of rolled cigarettes. Only one taken, for now, he slid it back on the scarred wood surface and leaned back in his chair to light it before he snipped the lid shut and set it down beside the tumbler of whiskey. An ashtray was likely in reach or ready, even if he’d brought it along from upstairs, and that, too, skated across the bumpy surface with a tame push in her direction. “Came to pet the cat.” A blatant lie. Tuna had never had a problem with him, possibly even liked him, but he’d never shown much affection, more irritation, every time the large beast rubbed against him. Not only that, but the runes would have probably prevented him from doing such, lest some idiot who might manage to wander so far get brave enough to lose a hand. There were those words again in reply, but this time, they weren’t laced with uncertainty on a sigh of breath, but offered plainly as an option. “I can go.” He guessed that wouldn’t end up being the result. In all honesty, though never openly admitted, he hadn’t planned to see her so soon, either. But he seemed pretty comfortable in that chair, the taste of that blended herb rolling across his tongue and into his lungs in a wave of smoke before he exhaled it into the air.
El's gaze narrowed, and she let it travel past Leo toward the pen and back again. "Mhm." Her kohl-rimmed eyes lingered on him, though, and for a moment, she regretted saying anything, finding it difficult to traverse the distance between them. Even with that being the case, she was finding it equally difficult to keep her feelings hidden from her features. As a result, she focused on her smoke again, taking another deep drag and letting the silence swell, pregnant and heavy. El hated it like this, but she had already made herself as clear to him as she knew how to, and their last encounter had left the woman both enervated and … for the first time in years, maybe a little hopeful. To her, they were both bad things, things that could tear her down, break her. The woman dared another glance across the table toward Leo. Rather than saying what was on her mind, however, she skirted around it per usual, referring back to the drowsy tiger. "Hud a guid wee reunion, did ye noo?"
Leoxander could feel the chill on her shoulder, in a manner of speaking. It was strange that ending their last encounter she was asking him to wait, clutching his wrist, and now, making good on his promise, she could barely look at him, but he understood why. The tension was as thick as the smoke in the air, and he was quiet for a moment, another drag taken and released to add to both. “She got lazy.” Well, technically he recalled the tiger to be pretty comfortable relaxing in the club or her office in the past, but it was always distressing to see an animal in a cage, no matter how content and safe Tuna might be. Hypocritical of him, too, considering Dal’ken was in a similar lockdown, but Leo had also seen enough jail cells in his lifetime. He tried to change the subject with a subtle tilt of the head toward the branded door, and a burnt design created but not inked upon his skin soon enough. Like a page missing from a book. “Keepin’ busy?” He wasn’t going to pry too deep, but he could also be gesturing toward the new door in the floor she had initially entered from. Finishing off that smoke to the nub, he stabbed it out with a reach to the glass tray, and wet his throat with a full three or four shots of whiskey from his claimed glass.
El arched her brow but was staring at her whisky again. "Och aye, mebbe," she drawled carefully, "but Ah dae hink she'd still beat ye in a barnie." Finally, the beginnings of a smirk settled into the corner of her mouth before she tipped back the whisky herself. For a moment after, she held the glass still aloft, seaglass stare shifting toward the pirate to follow his gaze. "Sae whit if Ah am?" Her tone was still guarded, but there was a tendril of honest curiosity behind the words. However, she followed up with a wry, "It sure beats th' piss it ay wonderin' whether ur nae yoo'll shaw up," punctuating the remark by finishing off the cigarette and crushing into the same ashtray. Despite, or maybe in spite of, her best efforts to remain aloof around Leo, it was taking a lot of self-control, and bits of her feelings were bubbling over, staining her words with bitterness. Pursing her lips as if to silence herself against further retort, she exhaled through her nose before taking the last swallow of whisky and setting the glass on the table. This time when she stood, it was slowly, as if she was still weighed down by whatever plagued her before his arrival; or since. With a noncommittal indication toward the burn marked door in particular, she added a quiet, "Is 'at wa yoo're really haur?"
Leoxander knew there was a lot to mend, but those walls barely cracked were definitely repaired to shield her again. He sagged back in his chair, not ready to stand and attempt to approach, idly turning the cropped glass in a circle between his fingers, gaze detaching from her. Just in time for her to make that statement that should have been crushed the moment he was discovered in the room. Women. But again, he couldn’t find more than a stitch to blame her with. “I’m here, ain’t I?” He shot back a little aggressively, brow furrowed and the top of his nose a bit ridged, by then. He couldn’t respond to her last question, because even now he was hesitant, or uncertain of the exact answer. She didn’t expect him, she was chiding him for an outcome that existed in the past, and he gave a hard look toward the stairs where his only exit truly was. If he could somehow manage passed the magic and locks securing headquarters, he hadn’t tried, yet. The bottle was grabbed up roughly, and he only filled the tumbler half way, taking it back and tensing in preparation to stand.
Eleanor's gaze sliced toward Leo, the gem in her crown glinting in the candlelight as she fixed him with a stubborn glare. "Aye, an' yoo've nae yet told me wa." She wasn't stupid, she knew things were … Well, to call it complicated was putting it nicely, and didn't quite do it justice, either. There were so many damn emotions muddying up her thoughts, her nostrils flared with an unsteady exhale. The table stood between them, at least, preventing her from demanding an answer with more than just her words again, and she folded her arms, fingers tapping a tattoo against either bicep in a mixture of frustration and self-defense. Frustrated because … she had told him last time, just how she felt, and she was greeted with more excuses, more promises. Even though he had shown up in defiance of her doubts, she still didn't know what to make of him; either way, she stood her ground, narrowed green eyes daring the pirate to make a move.
Leoxander took that dare, moving around the table and toward her. He had nothing in hold, not much to say at first, but stood there for a moment before spreading his arms out at either side with his hands about at his belt line. “Go on.” He said, flatly, finding her glare and holding it firmly with a more calm look of his own. “Hit me. Just, take your shot. Is that what it’s gonna take to be in yer eyeshot without feelin’ poison darts, El?” He offered himself up plainly like a training dummy, not quite prepared for what she might do, but willing to make the sacrifice for the cause. “What other gaddamn reason would I be here?” He was clearly in clouded spirits now, for what this interaction had come to, and the lines started to crinkle at the bridge of his nose, between brows. “You think I fuggin’ care what’s behind that door?” He remained in that pose, whether she took up on that brief show of submission or not. Not a flinch to be found, unlike when he recoiled from the loud, sharp noises that rang in sensitive ears.
Eleanor felt the tension build up in every part of her as Leo moved around the table. Each step he took wound her tighter and tighter, and just as much as she had challenged him, he had done the same. And the closer he grew, the sharper her eyes became, until they were narrow slits of barely suppressed—well, whatever the heck it was she was feeling. Her chest was pounding, and her head began to spin. The next seconds became a blur, however, as she instinctively lashed out. Before she could stop herself, her right hand flew out to connect with his left cheek, open-fisted. But whether she had struck true or not, two years of pain had abruptly boiled over, and the expression she gave Leo the very next heartbeat openly showed her caught in a combination of regret and sorrow, bereaved over his departure from her life and the whirlwind she found herself in every time he returned. Cursing under her breath for letting him get to her, she immediately moved to withdraw by any means necessary.
Leoxander was no stranger to taking a hit, but the contact cracked in his ears while the contact that forcefully jarred his face to one side, his gaze downward a moment while lycanthrope blood heated with a quickened heartbeat, and moved to repair some damage. There still might be a faint bruise hidden beneath his unshaven facial hair, but it would be worth keeping. This time, it was his turn to catch her wrist, which he did so a bit roughly, jerking her arm to try to bring her back to him. “That’s it? You get lazy, too?” Yeah, he was egging her on, hounding her, so to speak. “I know a Fox can bite harder than that.” He clutched onto that left wrist, even if she tried to yank it free.
Eleanor ; There was only one person who could get under her skin, one person in the whole damn world. Not even The Oracle possessed the wherewithal to elicit such a response in the Fox as she was about to give the Hound. Her eyes flashed at him, a quick flutter of bioluminescent light from their pale depths, and a flush spread from her cheeks, across her throat. "Ye pure want tae ken what Ah'm made ay, do ye, loove?" The words practically dripped with venom, and she added a sly, "Ye ance tauld me tae fear yer beest, ye sure ye want tae unleash mine?" As if testing him, she yanked on her wrist, but as he gripped it, she released a derisive scoff. "Fine," she spat. Drawing on the energy pooled up in her, she began to let it seep out of her, out through her pores, slithering down her neck in beads of perspiration. It flowed through her veins, filling them with arcane rivers that she channeled up through her right arm, to meet where his fingers curled tighter around her. The air in the room grew heavier as she held back from trying prying his fingers off her with a blast of power, and as she met his stare, even the gem in her brow seemed alight with tension. "If ye ken what's best fur ye, loove," she told him, her husky voice nearly purring at him, "yoo'll lit gang reit noo."
Leoxander grit his teeth, but he held her stare in a challenging look. “That ain’t what you want…” His words were surprisingly subdued, despite the stinging red handmark starting to swell to life on one side of his face. Leo knew what he was getting into when the gem on her diadem began to glow, or at least flicker with her eyes in the process. That hand on her wrist mimicked her actions from nights before, and risked trying to draw her in closer to him, ignoring the warning that tensed his body and screamed in his mind. “And if I went with what’s ‘best’, I wouldn’t be here, now. But then, what kinda rogues would we be?” This said as he slouched forward, nearer the frustrated expression on her face. She’d have the time to react, but he intended to tilt his head enough to avoid the clash of his large nose to hers as he attempted to kiss her lips.
El dipped her chin slightly, a scoff tumbling off her full lips. Rolling her jaw, she was sorely tempted to spit something further into the tension boiling between them. But despite her better judgment, or again, in spite of it, the second he moved further into her space, every thought fled her mind. A strangled noise welled up in her throat, and as a shiver raced up her spine, she quickly lifted her chin again to meet his lips in return. As if a sheet of ice shattered over her, the rivulets of magic suddenly dropped from her, dispersed the moment she melted into Leo. As opposed to her brain, bursting with the things she couldn't say beneath the poisonous barbs, her other hand knew what to do, and it reached for his shirt, his jacket, anything to pull him even closer to deepen the long-needed kiss.
His own, free arm moved almost simultaneously to hers, around her body to arch her spine and pull her ribs into his. He finally heeded her demand to set her clutched wrist free, scooping it under her shoulder to clutch her even tighter against a body heat beyond healthy—burning. The kiss intensified, of course, a rough, almost painful press of his mouth seeking to part her lips to finally taste her, again. Recent whiskey and herb mixed into the taste, his nose now crushed against the inside of her cheekbone and overgrown strands of hair brushing her crown, as he sought to hold onto that dangerous flight a moment more.
Eleanor offered nothing even close to resistance now, bruised lips parting to welcome in that adventurous tongue. As their kiss deepened, a low moan rolled up in her chest, and with her other hand now free, it met its partner in a journey up and around Leo's shoulders. Just in time, too, for as she felt pulled closer, the heat rolling off the werewolf was scalding, and her knees threatened to buckle. It felt too good, had been too long. She didn't it want to end. But it had to, she had to breathe, but he had managed to suck all the air right out of her. Her right hand was tangled up in his hair at the back of his neck, and she curled her fingers into it as if to steady herself. And in a way, it did, allowing her to pull her mouth away just enough that her breath fanned across the pirate's lips. "Damn ye, Leo," Eleanor exhaled. She still held onto him, though, finding it increasingly more impossible to further separate herself from his embrace.
Leoxander didn’t forfeit any of his hold, tension in his body keeping her close even as she tried to lean back. Though he broke the kiss when she caught a handful of his hair, he kept his face close, noses nearly touching and his heated, panted breath brushing her abused lips and scratched complexion around them. “Already cursing me, an’ I ain’t hardly touched you.” His low voice growled out words that sounded more amused than angry, albeit breathless. Bowing his head, he didn’t attempt to silence her just yet, but his nose then skimmed her throat as he took in a deep breath of her scent around her collarbone, that curve where throat met shoulder, and the wolf in him temporarily flashed the thought of a tempting bite onto the female in a harsh showing of domination. Leo managed to dismiss it, but his grip on the back of her cloak tightened, that handful of fabric probably pulling her hood back if it hadn’t already slipped off.
Eleanor knew of Dal'ken, and what he was capable of, but it hadn't occurred to the spellrogue that she'd somehow nearly lured him out. Instead, she focused on Leo's voice and how it was sending shivers down her spine. She leaned into him, a breathy chuckle falling on her full lips as they hid a smirk. "Och aye," she began slyly, her head tilting back to bare her throat and further enable the hood to puddle around her shoulders. "Ye say 'at as if Ah ever stopped, loove." El's fingers curled tighter around leather and hair, but there was no fight in her, at least not the kind that would put a sour end to this moment. Leo incited something in her, made her head spin with millions of questions best answered without words, and that was why she was cursing him now.
Leoxander undoubtedly had not only a hungry wolf but the unthought out suggestion of a starved libido screaming in his mind on where to take that moment, particularly as she exposed more of her throat in what Dal’ken would read as a sign of submission. At least he took a new full minute there, recommitting her scent to memory and brushing the tip of his large nose up and down the line that followed the vein in her jugular. Unfortunately for that wilder side, and perhaps Eleanor for the moment, his humanity held the reins, for now. “I need a job.” He unexpectedly whispered that as perhaps the worst shocking upset of a heated moment in their history. But that’s just how Leo was raised, trained in life, to make certain he survived before he allowed himself a moment to think beyond that goal. He didn’t loosen his grip, much, but lifted his head in order to see her eyes, her features, and whatever reaction she was entitled to. If she met his stare, be it through a glare or otherwise, she would see that he struggled with that balance between need and greed. All in all, she was still a Boss in a field in which he had an unspoken degree in. Beyond that, maybe he still had just enough caution not yet thrown to the wind that made him think it better for some slow steps, to avoid another deep plunge for them both.
She might as well have not even had bones in her legs for the way that little movement along her throat was making all kinds of synapses in her brain light up like fireworks. It was no wonder though that as he withdrew, she felt practically shoved over a ledge. The air wooshed out of her lungs, and she followed it up with a low growl. "Och, fur buck's sake, Leo—" Her jaw set in a stubborn line, and it took her two shuddering breaths not to smack him again, although, with the way her hands curled tighter into his clothing and hair, it was clear she was on the precipice of doing something regretful either way. Another heartbeat later, and she had to pull herself away. "Th' lest time—" she began, unable to even complete the recollection of the past jobs she's tried to lure him into. Dropping her grip of Leo, she moved to shove off from him, but even if she hadn't managed that (she hadn't really tried all that hard, let's be real), she was crossing her arms and fixing him with the ice-cold glare he was worried about. "Ah cannae just—" It wasn't that easy; it was one thing to kiss him in half-shadowed safe houses and half-lit basements, another thing to put her actual trust in him to finish a job. It was lucky for Leo, though, that he'd sought to kiss her before asking for work, and she took in a deep breath. "Fine." The word was quiet but careful, delivered almost flatly while she considered his features, committing them to memory in case this proved to be like last time. "... Whit kin' ay job."
Leoxander had a moment when his good conscience chimed in—a voice he’d only heard a rare few times, before. It was about this time he willfully released his victim as he became aware… this might be considered using her. But emotion strapped on armor for the battle, fighting back that his actions before had not been any means of manipulation. He finally straightened up better, seemingly snapping out of a trace her scent had put him under as she cursed and broke free. “—The last time, what?” He attempted to interrupt, registered by her or not, he also caught her ping-pong retort that struck back. He only answered with a hard stare until he felt and heard Eleanor give in. His weight settled back on the edge of the poker table not far behind him. “Not one of your amateur, bull-...” Leo stopped himself. He had no room to be picky, and had to treat her like an employer, because of this. “Whatever you need done, Fox. You just have the second step or employment ready for me.” Indicating it would not take him long, whatever challenge she set.
Eleanor released a long, measured breath, her fingers rapping against a bicep. "Och aye," she spat, trying not to be offended at Leo's initial suggestion. Her usually sun-blessed features were washed out in the pale light of the basement, but nevertheless, a flush stretched up her throat and made its home deep in her cheeks. "Reit, weel, Ah wouldnae want tae make ye dae anythin' ye deem as beneath ye." She let her acerbic tone settle in the narrow space between them; even as he'd released her, she still had yet to actually withdraw more than a handspan from him. And, even that was only because she'd leaned back on her own weight to regard him carefully. "Alrecht," the spellrogue began, a certain slyness slipping back into her husky voice. "Ah micht hae tois jobs fur ye, wolf." She quite purposefully did not pull up his former rogue name, but there was also something playful about the way she had, in fact, used the other nickname she had had for him, once upon a time. "If ye can handle them."
Leoxander tongued the inside of his cheek as though finding harsh words there that he wanted to say, shoving them aside to avoid making things more complicated than they already were. His mouth was open just enough to show those canine teeth that were slightly longer and sharper than the rest in the straight row—more than a human’s should be. A flat stare was all that he offered at first, one that might come across more intimidating than he intended with the reflection of that dim lighting. Heavily inked arms exposed from the short sleeve of a fitted shirt were crossed over his chest, below the tarnished silver chain that hung from the lycanthrope’s neck, a representation of his stubborn denial to a weakness that sometimes left red welts among the tattooed web on the side of his throat, even after all that time. Leo started to relax that strict pose to reach back for the bottle on the table, though Eleanor earned herself a stern double-take for her last sentence, glare held on her briefly as he took an aggressive swig that caused a few drops of firewater to travel down the terrain of unshaven scruff that blended down to his Adam's apple. He then held the bottle out to her, the significance equal to a handshake, but not without an important question. “What you got an’ what’s it pay?”
Eleanor didn't shy away from the looks Leo gave her, meeting each one with as much stubbornness and quiet challenge as she was sure to receive from him. Lifting her chin a few degrees, she finally uncrossed her own arms and took the proffered bottle, loosely gripping its neck as she considered her reply. After a moment, the spellrogue continued with an equivocal, "Weel, fur at least one ay th' jobs, Ah'm sure a wee payback will be worth mair than whit th' client can pay." It was then that she took her own swig of the drink, swallowing it as nonchalantly as if it'd been grog. Following it up with a sidelong glance, she added, "Ah was thinkin' ay headin' back intae th' caves …" El studied him as she took another swallow of the drink and passed it back toward Leo. "Come back wi' a couple ay Drow ears, wi' ur without th' heids still attached. Ah ken ay someone willin' tae pay 500 gauld pieces fur each one." She rolled her shoulders, dismissing the amount as being nominal, and added, "If that's nae enough fur ye, weel, thaur is one other thin' ye coods dae fur me."
Leoxander’s expression darkened at the mention of the caves, and for as closely as she was watching him, she would probably witness the flash of unease in his eyes and the slight knot to crease between his brows. He also rolled a shoulder back with an audible crack as if to shrug the worry away, but it did nothing to ease the tight, twisted feeling in his stomach. There were a lot of memories in his life he couldn’t recall, but then there were others he just couldn’t forget, and his own screams and growls echoed in his mind with the phantom sensation of webs sticking to skin and poison coursing through his blood, resulting in a hard swallow that caused the lump in his throat to roll, a vague, hoarse crack breaking into the first low spoken words of his reply. “That ain’t much. You know their reasons?” Typically they didn’t make it their business to pry into the details of who or why—leave that to the lawful. Drow had always had a foul reputation despite that Leo had known a few that didn’t live up to the hype. He finally stood up and absently paced over to the cage where the tiger could be pretending to sleep, or truly napping, but it was an excuse to look away from Eleanor while she gave any details she might. A bold, perhaps foolish attempt to test the reaction of her inscribed, magical runes made as he tentatively reached out to touch one of the corner bars.
Eleanor had anticipated Leo's reaction, which was why she had approached the topic delicately, at least, as delicate as the rogue could maneuver. It was both easier for her, and more amusing, to be coy and distant, however, and it was a tactic she usually saved for others in her life. Guild members, other rogues … but not Leo, insomuch as could be credited, he was the only one she saw as an equal. She moved carefully through the words, her accent curling around them in a way that readily revealed the honesty of her answers. "Nae in th' sense 'at th' client has tauld me herself, but a body diz haur things." Beat. "Somethin' tae dae wi' th' body called Gevurah … Although 'at coods jist be hearsay." The spellrogue lifted her brows as much to bring emphasis to her words as to display her intrigue while Leoxander moved away toward the cage. El had never really made it a point to explain herself to most people, or the reasons specific runes had found themselves into the bars, but she also knew there'd been no need to. As the pirate approached the tiger, Tuna chuffed at him and pulled herself to her feet. Rubbing a massive shoulder against the bars of her cage, she was likely within touching distance of Leo. Furthermore, the runes didn't seem to react to him at all; whether that was intended or not, El had begun to preoccupy herself with what remained in the bottle if possible, and if not, had definitely started up a new smoke, keeping her celadons cast down toward the scarred tabletop.
Leoxander hadn’t ever offered Tuna much attention, no more effort than it might have taken to nudge the large beast off when she tried to get close enough for a rub or lean, but this time he touched the back of his fingers of his bandaged hand across the striped fur that rolled between the bars of the cage, reminding himself of what the texture felt like. He also seemed to be avoiding eye contact with her for a time, but after a moment of silence turned back to the table to study her form in the dull basement lighting. ‘I’ll keep it in mind. What else you got?” Having heard the mention of other work, and curious on why she trailed off the way she did, he turned a chair around in order to rest his arms on the top of the back and slouched forward, giving her his full attention. He might have picked up the bottle in reach only to find it empty, or nearly there, with a shaken slosh of the half sip that remained before he set it down, disappointed. But he hadn’t paid for it, anyhow.
Tuna continued chuffing at Leo, the low rumbling sound similar to a deep, throaty purr, but it faded away as the pirate withdrew, and it was at that moment the spellrogue's pale sea glass eyes shifted sidelong back toward him. She took a moment to study his features as he settled into his chair; meanwhile, she didn't take a seat of her own, instead preferring to lean a hip against the table's edge. Taking a drag of the cigarette, she savored the plant matter burning in her lungs before exhaling the plumes through her nose. Before she commented on the other job she was toying around with sharing with him, she grunted at him. And with a jerk of her chin toward a stack of crates filled with various liquors, she mumbled something awfully close to, "Help yourself," only it might have been partly incomprehensible around the stick pinched between her lips and her thick accent. At length, she pulled it from her mouth and exhaled another normal lungful of smoke past full lips. "Here's th' thin', loove," Eleanor began, her tone betraying her hesitance. "Thes other job—it's gonnae pay a lot mair, but it's gonnae expect a lot mair ay ye too." She pushed her lips together in a thoughtful moue before adding quietly, "If ye can fin' a way to pull it aff … Ah'll pay ye twenty-fife thoosain gauld."
Leoxander’s interest was caught by the bait of that pretty number. Although he had a lot of practice perfecting his poker face, his fingers curled into his bicep for blunt nails to scratch across the faded ink of a serpent and thorn vine coiled tattoo. He kept his head down in his slouched position but through the unkempt tawny strands of his hair, blue eyes were fixed upon the leader of rogues. His credibility wasn’t exactly high on the rank of ‘dependable’ as of late, so he could understand that much of her hesitance, but through her tone and the value of the risk, he could assume it came with some complications. “Gonna take it that it ain’t as simple as hackin’ a few darkie’s ears.” Muttering those apathetic words, he’d not yet forfeit his seat for a new bottle, but he did scout the table to see if she’d left her pack of smokes in reach.
Eleanor clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth and nodded. "Och aye, thes particular target … wulnae be easy tae kill," she replied, her tone still dropped a degree. It was almost as if she were afraid the target could eavesdrop on her even in this quiet, half-lit basement whose walls were inscribed with half a dozen protective wards. Edging her gaze around the room a beat, it then swung back down toward Leo as he took the smokes up from their place on the table's surface where they'd been abandoned again. Eleanor dropped her eyes to study her cigarette, swallowed, and took another inhale of herbal blend, mulling over her next words as they weighed on her. After exhaling away from them along her shoulder, the expression she lowered to Leo was about as serious as the woman ever looked. "Hear me when Ah say thes isnae somethin' Ah brin' tae ye lightly, Leo," the spellrogue murmured. It wasn't just because of the trust they were still learning to nurture between them again, but also for the gravity of what she was embarking upon. Lacing her words with the conviction she hoped to convey, even as the words themselves made her uneasy in the reality they suggested, Eleanor told him, "Ah want ye tae help me kill Th' Oracle."
Leoxander shifted in a lean to collect the firestarter from his pocket, bandages catching on his shirt enough to reveal not only a thick blade wound scar that curved from side to lower back, but a glimpse one of two dark steel knives harnessed in sheath to his body. He tugged the fitted black cotton back down toward his hip and snapped the metal lid open to light yet another cigarette, then left it closed on the table for now. It was held between his lips, a pull of smoke taken as he reached to drag the glass ashtray closer, toward her on the end of the table since she was probably due for it. About to exhale that drag, her words caught his smoke laced breath in his lungs and he pinched the thin paper to take it from his lips, a few seconds of stunned silence passing before he finally let loose a stream that faded and swirled faintly where the light caught. Now he truly understood her reluctance to share the target, and even Leo gave a glance toward the stairwell to check with wolf sharp hearing and a sensitive nose if there might be any vague sound, scent or trace of another. Then again, the Oracle had enough ability to camouflage all of that better than either rogue could ever aspire to. A glance back to her and he drawled out the only ‘F’ word appropriate for the situation. He glanced away toward the dark corner piled with crates of booze just for another place to look as that held breath left him and sagged his shoulders. Blue eyes looked almost touched with empathy but quickly hardened as he focused back upon her. “Have you lost yer g’damned mind?”
Eleanor's attention was caught by the lift of cotton, and her gaze dropped toward the pirate's hip, half-obscured by shadow and half by the back of the chair. Whatever she did discern, however, she didn't comment on—for now. Lifting a hooded stare back up to meet his blue with her guarded green, at first, all she could do was shrug at him. "Mebbe," she drawled out, a wry smirk ghosting her crimson lips. Despite the hard work her lipstick had been put through earlier that night, they were still flawless. "But it's gonnae tak' a whole lot ay crazy tae make it happen, one way or another." Unfolding her arms, she reached over to flick ash into the tray. Once she'd returned her eyes to the wolf again from her spot leaning against the table, she slurred with a tone that was entirely on point for her code name, "Ye think yoo're up fur it?"
Leoxander took the time to take another toke of the herb blend, his eyes a bit glazed from the dose they’d gone through in a smoke-filled basement. He studied what was left and rolled it in his thumbprint and forefinger, ashing what was burnt up in the tray before he spoke with those vapors amidst the exhale of breath. “You know a lot more than I do when it comes to that witch hunt, El. Gonna have to get what I can from you, or you might as well measure me for the box right now. An’ it’s gonna take more than one ‘er two of us to pull it off.” Now he needed more liquor, for sure, and set the half of what was left of his cigarette in the tray edge before he stood to retrieve one, this time searching out the sweetness of a dark rum. It had been a while since he’d had his dessert, but he’d settle for a spiced whiskey if either could be found.
Eleanor tried to subdue a smirk, but it still somehow managed to settle into at least one corner of her mouth. Despite the appearance of her self-satisfied mien, El lowered her chin into a grave nod, and her next words seemed almost at odds with it. "Och aye, Leo," the woman began, still erring on the side of caution. "Ah'd loove to tell ye all th' details but Ah cannae—nae yet, at least." Her head listed to the side, though, and she regarded the wolf as he moved to search through the various crates stacked in the spacious basement. There was pretty much anything one could want here, although it wasn't the most organized use of the space, hinting at it being more of an afterthought to have the surplus. After all, she and Hudson had initially bought the club to launder their money through, with little regard to its other forms of income. Helping herself to another drag of her cigarette, she let the smoke plume out of her mouth in wispy snakes before offering up a bit more in terms of an explanation. "It wulnae be any wee undertakin', 'at is somethin' we can agree oan. An' … we'll definitely need help, but … Ah dornt troost anyain else tae ken whit it is we're daein' … Thes—thes—stays atween ye an' me."
Leoxander motioned with a hand swatting in her direction, while the fingers of his right curled around another. “Yeah, I get it. But I already know it’s worth finding some sad fool in the city not part of… this.” He gave that branded door a gesture with the same hand as he stood. “Than to send someone worth their pinch and lead the trail our way.” ‘Our’. He’d said our, naturally, like it was already a familiar partnership, again. Heading back toward the table, he corked the bottle, but picked up the smoke to finish it off before it became a waste. “Worst to happen, we lose a tool. Luck on our side, it brings back some info. Gotta find some sucker that thinks it’s all for kicks and sh*t.” Stubbing out the end of his smoke with barely a nub left, he finally indulged in the opened bottle.
Eleanor allowed that smirk to spread across her full lips, and her gaze sharpened on Leo. "Aye …" she remarked with a noncommittal shrug. "There's plenty ay fools aroond Lithrydel, micht tak' a few afore we fin' th' reit weakness, th' reit …" She struggled to find the word in Common, then delicately proceeded with, "Vulnerability," and let her smirk shift a shade darker. "But …" As her voice trailed off, she took a moment to study Leo's features, her own expression betraying long-spun calculations and machinations, gears whirling behind her celadon eyes. "Ah'd loch tae draw it out as lang as possible … plantin' seeds ay doobt in 'er prescient wee min' … Ance we hae figured out hoo tae exploit 'at, Ah will need yer help finishin' th' huir aff ance an' fur all." Finishing off her herb as well, she crushed the butt in the ashtray with force indicative of her intentions with her former mentor. "She cannae see us comin', Leo," she warned him quietly, gaze sidelong as she lifted it back to his face. "If she diz, we're done fur. Everythin' Ah've worked fur, she'll tak'. Everythin' we've worked fur—gone up in reek. If she finds out whit we're plannin' … she will burn thes city tae th' groun' until she gits tae me." It was a sobering thought, but there was something almost Machiavellian in the crooked grin she offered her partner-in-crime(-again?). "An' 'at—'at is why Ah need yer help."
Leoxander nodded along, mostly the last of her words. “Yeah, I get that.” He stated, watching the table surface for a long moment before he looked her way. “Gonna take time if we’re gonna do it right.” That was about as sure of an acceptance as she’d get at this point, agreeing with her even if he’d not obviously accepted his role as a crow, yet. He fell quiet again long enough to consider her words whether they were laced with worry or not. “She’s not gonna hurt you.” He heard himself say that statement and he had to use that poker face, again. Why had he said that? Right then was that ideal moment to indulge in that bottle.
Eleanor murmured softly in agreement, crossing her arms once more. "Aye, mebbe," the spellrogue considered aloud, "but ye dinnae ken 'er loch me, Leo … ye dinnae ken whit she's capable ay …" Whatever insidious overtures their conversation might have taken, El still had to think about all sides of this, every angle; if she knew … The woman found herself swiping her tongue along her lower lip as if remembering the taste of him, and she drew in a slow, tense breath. A defined edge slipped into her tone as she added, "Fa else saw ye at th' parade, loove?" Apart from Lita, of course. " … Ur since?" She didn't want or need specifics about Leo's life—it wasn't really her place to ask either, but there was an air of caution and protectiveness in the room tonight, going both ways. "Fa knows ye ur … back?" Eleanor struggled with the word; she struggled with the very concept that Leo was, in fact, back. As she allowed him a moment to reply, it became her turn to sample whatever drink Leo had pilfered from the crates, and she plucked the bottle from his hands, using it in much the same defensive way he had.
Leo took a few hard swallows of liquor, finally starting to feel the alcohol tilting the scales against his tolerance, with some of the tension in his shoulders starting to relax despite the seriousness of their conversation. He offered a slight shrug of them, turning his head to look over his shoulder but not directly her way. “A few cats crawling on the roof. Looked like Kumoroh’s kind. Don’ even know if you know who that is…” His gaze fell to study the label of whatever flavor his search in the dark had landed him with, his soot-stained thumbnail picking at the corner idly. “Doubt anyone else could give a shit if they saw me there. I ain’t exactly been on the maps as a threat. Maybe yer witch even thinks me long gone. An’ if not I know I could at least get an alibi with Ace.” Or ‘Jackal’, among rogues. His bandaged left hand rubbed against the back of his neck as he sat up in the backward chair a bit, putting space between his chest and the wood with a tilt of his skull in such a way that it caused another loud crack in the enclosed basement space.
Eleanor frowned, considering Leo's comments about the felines. "Yeah, they saw me tay but ... Ah've nae seen them hangin' aroond her sae ... Ah cannae say if they'll be a problem." Yet. She chewed on her next thoughts a moment before adding, "She watches th' loft ... that's—" why she couldn't just take him there, before. El released a sigh, twisting away from Leo and the edge of the table to circle around it and sink into a chair. Half-facing the pirate whose features she couldn't seem to get enough of, she slid her gaze sidelong toward him, or rather, the profile of him, the way muscles ran along the bone, twisted through ink and scar. She wondered to herself how many were new, or old and just forgotten with time. But rather than let herself dwell on that too long, she sighed again and reached for the pack of smokes once more. Packing it against the butt of her other palm, the spellrogue distractedly prepped the stick, and her eyes had softened out of focus somewhere just past the other rogue's shoulder. Something seemed to coil up inside of her, and she returned her attention to Leo properly, pulling her hands and the smoke into her lap. "If th' money's nae enough," she began, hating herself for the opportunity she was giving him; the exit strategy, if the pirate wanted to wash his hands of whatever treasonous plot she was brewing up. "If—if th' stakes ur tay high, now is th' time tae walk awa', loove."
The gears in Leoxander’s mind were grinding, turning, definitely rusty from the time that had passed but still working. His hand continued to rub at the tension in his neck a moment longer, before his hand found his unshaven jaw to scratch against that scruff while glazed eyes came into focus again and met her glacial green stare. Inked knuckles curled to hold his cheek with an elbow to the table and for actual minutes, he just looked at her, almost into her. That slight, familiar crease etched between his brows to lace his expression with a note of danger or frustration, and maybe a hint of concern for her. The money. Leo could tell himself over and over that was the reason he was willing to take such a risk. Mutant spiders and their psychopathic worshippers were likely nothing compared to what the Oracle could do to a mind, or at least that was what he’d gathered in all their time working the underground market and dark bounties. Eleanor was the target, and in that stretch of silence he imagined her suffering, breaking, far worse than he had fractured her. His jaw tightened under his fisted hand, one eye squinted for the push of his rested cheekbone. He finally answered in a way that had a double meaning, not only to her offer to walk away from the task and the prize, or a certain, slow death, but also a reassurance if she read so far into it and could find the means to trust him, again. “I ain’t goin’ anywhere, Fox.” And he continued to stare, taking in every tiny detail, from the braided rows of hair, to the lines of age started around her eyes, that ever-present gem in her brow, the fine hairs that curled at the edge of her cheek, the prominence of her nose, the dark curve of her brows… the fullness of solemnly pressed lips.
Eleanor had toiled over the years to master the flawless facade, but the way Leo was able to see right through it had her chest tightening, an all-too-familiar feeling twisting in her stomach as well. It didn't matter if it was two days or two years. He still rendered her speechless, and her expression underwent a series of uncertain changes. She swallowed, pulling her shadowed gaze away and fixed it instead on the cigarette. But as she lifted it to her crimson lips once more, there was a subtle tremor to her hand, and she had to purse her lips to keep the stick in place. It was all she could do not to curse, to curse the way he got into her head. El struggled a time or two to get the blue spark summoned in her cupped hands, but when she failed a third time too, she yanked the cigarette away from her mouth and abruptly stood up. "Gods be damned, Leo." The words rolled out of her in a frustrated whisper, and she faced away from the pirate, trying to collect her thoughts. Despite her attempts, however, they remained a whirlwind.
He only followed her with his eyes at first, his position seemingly bored if it wasn’t for the intensity of his eyes and the tension in even his slouched posture. A few long seconds after her curse to the gods, he lifted his head and dropped his hand to collapse one arm on the other, weight shifted to his forearm to stand from the backward chair. The pirate helped himself to one last drink from the bottle, set it down, and seemed torn in his next decision as he looked from the spellrogue, to the caged tiger, to the stairs, and back again. No, he wasn’t going to abandon her but maybe a little distance wouldn’t hurt. Besides that, he needed to start collecting whatever information he could about the creature that was a threat to Eleanor’s existence, and the office space might be a better room to start, rather than that heady, smoke-filled basement where the smell of booze and herb was almost as intoxicating as their consumption of it. So, as that start of nerves began to twist his stomach unnaturally tight, he of course turned to find some space, not yet trusting himself to not be alone in those moments. She would have the opportunity to say something before he began climbing those steps.
Eleanor felt a fiery burn to her skin, feeling his eyes on her, and she took a moment to close her eyes. Trying to steel herself, she exhaled a shaking breath, before she turned toward him. "Leo." She all but crushed the pack of smokes in her left hand, but no other words came forth at first. The tension roiled up inside her, the familiar buzz between her temples, and she found herself saying, "Ah need tae teel ye somethin'..." Beat. "An' … yoo're nae gonnae loch it, but … Ah cannae keep frae ye, nae if … whatever—" El swallowed, already regretting the words before she'd even spoken them. "If whatever thes is." She paused again, her words spanning through the layers that were their relationship, professional and personal. "... is meant tae wark."
If there was a railing to those basement stairs his hand stopped on it, gripping tightly. Either way, his knuckles would slightly whiten for the clenching of his fingers. He had slowed to pause at the sound of his name, but said nothing, giving her the time to speak words that he knew didn’t come easily. Then at last he turned his head to look back her way. He took a breath. “What makes you think I’d change?” A loaded question. He could be asking her if she thought to change his ways, or possibly, if his feelings toward her were any different. Truth: they always found a way to drive each other up a f— wall. But what sort of partnership would it be if they didn’t? The stairs remained ahead. An exit in reach, but he turned at the base of the stairs to face her.
Eleanor's brow knit, but she took a half-step toward him, then another. "Change whit?" She shook her head, her lips curling into something faintly wry. "Tha's nae whit…" Even though she still held the cigarette, unlit, she raked her hand through the flaxen curls not bound in plaiting and tucked the cigarette behind her ear. "Damnit, Leo," she huffed, trying to catch his gaze, her own full of guilt. Her cheeks were a blotchy mixture of color and paleness, even in the wan light. Before she could lose her nerve, she continued somewhat delicately, "Yoo're nae th' only a body Ah've ... endangered … is whit Ah'm tryin' tae teel ye." She hadn't known how else to tell him, and now she stood there, heart pounding in her chest, and feeling very much like she should sink back into the shadows.
Leoxander studied her a few moments longer. There were a lot of questions rolling around in his head and only an answer that could mean a few things. Others endangered, but in her employment, or otherwise. In the end, he managed to realize he’d paused too long on the stairs, and took her words with him as he ascended the stairs to the club room above, a vague slice of light spilling from the door that he didn’t push closed all the way. He needed some time, now, to process everything that had happened thus far, but she’d find him in her office or parked in a bar seat, when and if she followed.
Continued in Nothing Fecks With My Baby.