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Secrets and Favors

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1 Secrets and Favors on Wed Feb 03, 2016 11:46 pm

Morning comes far too soon, Jean and Ljuba still sound asleep as I begin the slow and painful process of extricating myself from the tangle of Ljuba's limbs. I don't want to be awake - frankly, I'm not entirely sure I was ever asleep to begin with. Every time Ljuba had moved, my eyes had shot open, body tense and ready for her to panic at my proximity. And when she wasn't moving, I was busy worrying about the phone call awaiting me when the sun had risen to an acceptable height in the sky.

Unfortunately, it's reached that point, and I can't risk staying in bed any longer lest I be forced to dress in front of Jean's prying eyes. As it stands, I'm already paranoid as I struggle to pull my long sleeved shirt on over my head without having to lift my arms too high. When I finally manage it, I push gingerly at the raised bruise across my ribs - fluid under the skin. Not good. But breathing isn't all that difficult, so if there's a bleed, it's a slow one and it's not in the chest cavity. It should stop on its own soon... I hope. 

Sighing, I pull on my pants with a little more ease, my feet still bare as I pull the phone out of my jacket pocket and head to the door past Ljuba's bed. I wince a little when I start dialing Richard's number, the phone no longer muted after my excursion the night before as the buttons let out loud dial tones as I press them. I hesitate at the door, the sound of Ljuba's breathing having shifted a bit at the noise. She's awake... I think? But she isn't saying anything... I don't know if I'm grateful for that or not, my hesitation at the door becoming awkward before I realize there's a voice on the phone.

Unable to stand there any longer with Richard's voice on the other end of the line, I slip out the door and bring the phone to my ear as I walk down the hall to get out of earshot of the room. The way he greets me, it's as though nothing has gone amiss between us and I haven't spent the past six years steadfastly refusing to call him. Answer, yes, but never have I initiated the contact. Not since Milly died.

"I need a favor," I say evenly, no indication in my voice that I've heard the obscene niceties he'd initiated the conversation with. "And it's a big one."

I'm going to pay dearly for this one, I already know.


Over an hour passes before I return to the room. Jean and Ljuba have long since gotten out of bed, Ljuba having wandered down the hall at one point to use the bathroom and to look for me. My impulse at the time had been to hide, to keep her from seeing me on the phone as I had done countless times over the years. Instead, I remained seated on the bottom steps at the end of the hall, only holding a hand up to keep her from speaking when she came over to see what I was doing. 

It felt weird, reaching out to squeeze her hand gently, silently communicating that I would make the same strides she had to be more open and trusting. Particularly with Richard's soft voice in my ear, the hesitation in it filling me with dread before he'd sung out a loud, "Hello, Ljjjuuuba," to let me know he was aware of her presence. Somehow I'd given her away - a shift in my breathing, perhaps - but I'd refused to relay the message. I could tell from Lju's stiffening posture that she'd heard it well enough on her own.

She'd gone back to the room shortly after that... and I'm still not sure on her demeanor now that I've returned to the room. Jean is hovering near a dingy mirror over the dresser as he tries to brush his teeth using a glass of water, his expression widening as he notices my return.

"Bloody hell," he breathes, gesturing toward my face. "You look like shit."

"Thanks," I say dryly as I go to sit in the chair near Ljuba. "I'd say you don't, but, well..."

"Yeah," he frowns, turning his attention back to the mirror as he tries to smooth his hair. "I'm a damn mess these past few days. Can't wait to find a proper inn so I can have a good wash."

"Mm," I nod, rolling my eyes at his willful ignorance of the weak insult I'd aimed at him.

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2 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:00 am

Perched on the edge of my bed, I'm repacking my bag to accommodate what's left of Maja's guitar into the most guarded pocket, a mess of clothes and toiletries - hair brush, rags, and a tin of lip stain left over from my life before - sitting on the bed beside me as I reorganize the bag's contents. 

"You really do look awful," I frown as I look up at Marnin, refolding the small handkerchief that contained Maja's necklace before tucking it into the bottom of the bag. "Do you need anything for it before we try to find a car?"

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3 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:14 am

"Nah, I had a little bit of a wash in the bathroom," I say, shaking my head before I stop abruptly to wince at the sensation it had caused in my swollen eye. Touching it gingerly, I offer an awkward smile to Ljuba before shrugging. "Maybe something cold once we're on our way out. Hell, just walking around outside might do me just fine. I figure we can catch a ride with one of the caravans passing through, so we'll need to get to one of the main roads. And maybe pick up something for the pain on the way."

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4 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:21 am

I nod as I begin tucking the items back into the bag, glancing over at Jean for a moment before turning back to Marnin.

"I'll follow you, I guess. I don't know how to do anything you just said."

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5 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:33 am

"It's easy," I smile as I get up to go gather my own thing, eager to be on the way. "You just smile pretty and try to look as unthreatening as possible. Unless they look threatening. Then you puff up a bit, and move along because we don't want to ride with smugglers or something."

"We could just pay for a ride," Jean suggests with a frown.

"With what?" I ask, shaking my head at him. "You do realize your wallet was in the car when it was stolen, don't you?"

"Wha-? No, it wasn't-," he starts, his hand going to his pant pocket before the color drains from his face. "Oh, no, no, no!

I sigh heavily as the tall man begins tearing through his things in search of the wallet. He won't find it. I distinctly remember finding it, smouldering and empty, at the camp last night.

"We'll have to use our wits and our skills to get by from here," I say lightly. "Which means we'll be scavenging along the way and looking for any place we can that even remotely looks as though it might have someone with a guitar Ljuba can play for a few extra notes."

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