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Trigger Happy Jack II

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101 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sat Mar 19, 2016 11:55 pm

"So you've only got brothers then?" I ask, unable to repress my grin now.

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102 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sat Mar 19, 2016 11:57 pm

"Yeap." I say brusquely, grinning broadly as I stretch my arms up towards the headboard before settling against the pillow to glance his way.

"So you're Looba, she a brainiac or a beauty queen?"

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103 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 12:01 am

"Hm, 'Bee?" I hum quietly, a faint smile coming to my lips at the thought of her - as I pointedly ignore the way she's pronounced her name. "She's both. Rare breed, I know. Drunks in bars won't even go near her, they're so intimidated by her brainy beauty."

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104 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 12:16 am

"Oh?" I laugh a bit at that, noting the change in his demeanor at the mention of the woman. "Not because she's consorting with Richard Braddock's husband?"

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105 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 12:21 am

"Where we stay, few know that name, and those who do either don't care or have made themselves an ally under the understanding that we share a common element," I respond with a shrug. "Really, though, I think people avoid 'Bee because she's strange. It just happens that I like strange."

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106 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 12:36 am

"Strange?" I smirk at the connotation around the word, "Like puts flowers in her hair and feeds the birds or strange like she yells at passersby because they touched her motte?"

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107 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 12:46 am

"Strange like she's been through a lot and it shows," I sigh as I pick at my nails in the dark. "People don't know how to act when someone is different. If they're brave, they'll at least try... otherwise, they just tend to ignore you. Too uncomfortable, trying to figure out how to act around someone who breaks the mould of expectation. If a bloke can't see or a girl can't talk, they don't know where to look or what to say."

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108 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 1:09 am

"She can't talk!?" I can't help but laugh at that, a hand falling over my face to stifle the sound. "You can't see, and she can't speak?! How do the two of you communicate? She just tap the walls in a pattern and hope you figure it out?"

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109 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 1:12 am

"She talks for me," I scoff, rolling my eyes at her reaction. "And she does this talking thing with her hands - signing, I think it's called. It's very hard to follow, not being able to see. But there are a few people she can communicate with like that. But for me, she just talks... she's actually getting better - starting to talk to other people. I don't really know how I feel about that."

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110 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 2:10 am

"Worried you won't get to be her special friend anymore?" I ask, cocking an eyebrow at nothing as I let my eyes shut. "You talk like you'll be seeing her again."

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111 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 8:11 am

I don't respond to that, a weight so heavy settling on my chest that I'm too afraid of the noise that might come out should I open my mouth. Instead, I swallow weakly, the lump in my throat threatening to cut off my breathing as I roll onto my other side, back facing the strange woman. Anguish is the only word to describe the way I feel right now, and any inclination I'd had to talk, to distract myself from the relative discomfort of my body, has vanished.

"Good night," I whisper after a moment, my voice faltering over the lump in my throat as I glance over my shoulder before settling my head back on the pillow, arms around my aching chest as I stare into the darkness in defeat.

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112 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 2:49 pm

And just like that, the man's shut down for the evening. I feel a tickle of what I can assume is guilt at prying, my drunkenness leaving me soft as I sigh heavily. 

"Good night," I respond quietly, twisting into the blankets as I tuck myself in for sleep. It's been a long day, and tomorrow promises to be longer.

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113 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 11:13 pm

****

I don't remember falling asleep, but when I do, I sleep the sleep of the dead, exhaustion blacking out any nightmares I may have had. Instead, I dream of nothing - my mind so blank, I don't even register when Ellie gets up for the day and leaves me to sleep. Even the steady knocking that comes sometime after noon fails to pierce my consciousness.

I don't register my name being called, or the quiet, confident footsteps that find their way into my room and right up to my bedside. I almost felt my hair rustle under soft fingertips, the faintest glimmer of Ljuba bubbling up in the back of my mind as I shift tiredly in my sleep. Waking up after that is pleasant, the soft press of lips at the corner of my mouth pulling me out of the depths as I slowly return the kiss on my return to consciousness.

It isn't until I let out a quiet groan, a stubborn refusal to waken, that I catch the scent of cologne and subtle undertones of leather and lambswool. Panic bites into the moment, my body going stiff as I catch the fight or flight response just in time to keep myself from scrabbling backwards to get away from the deceitfully soft presence hovering over me.

"Good morning, my dear," Richard smiles, pleased with the distress he's caused me as he drags a finger across the overgrowth of scruff on my jaw. "Or should I say, afternoon. You missed your five-thirty training this morning - and breakfast - but I thought I would be kind and allow you your rest."

Translation: I missed you at breakfast. But you'll regret that later. For now...

"I've arranged for one of the servants to give our guests a tour of the Estate this afternoon," he says, casually pulling the covers back so he can put a hand on my stomach, his touch venturing up my shirt as he drags his nails across the various abrasions there. "I thought we might join them. Get to know our allies a little better, show them our hospitality."

"Why?" I ask, regretting the question almost immediately as his expression falters ever so slightly. I don't know how to react when a smile forms on his lips, his thumb grazing over mine for a moment before he pats my shoulder and then gets to his feet.

"Oh, how I've missed this," he sighs wistfully as he goes to the closet to retrieve something for me to wear. "You've been away so long, I think you actually have convinced yourself that the rules no longer apply. It will be fun to remind you of them again. It's like getting a new toy - I get to break you all over again!"

"I haven't forgotten," I say quietly. "I was simply curious as to why you're so interested in investing such attention in a trade deal."

"Trade deals are important, Marnin," he scolds lightly. I'm already struggling to sit up so I can get to my feet for Richard to hold his options up in front of me. I don't know that any of my old clothes will fit - but that doesn't seem to be an issue. Despite my absence, it appears as though he's continued to stock new outfits for me as though I had never gone, their sizing adjusting with uncomfortable accuracy.

"Trade deals are what secure us to our neighbors," he goes on as he holds a suit up against my front, the itchy fabric making me cringe internally. "They're what make us seem like we give a shit about their trivial nonsense. We have to put on a good show, don't we?"

"Always," I respond with a flat sigh, Richard popping a few of the buttons off of the front of my shirt as he jerks it impatiently, apparently expecting me to have read his mind. I don't show any emotion to his impatience, instead moving to remove my sleep clothes so I can take the suit and get dressed. I feel exposed with him watching me in that hungry way - I'm almost certain my relief is evident when he speaks again.

"I could watch you all day," he sighs. "But sadly, I have one more thing to tend to and then I'll meet you outside. I believe they're in the garden already. And do something with your hair."

I roll my eyes the moment he's left. Shave is what he meant. But I won't. Ljuba likes it - she's never said as much, but I can tell. And I'm not quite ready to assimilate yet. I do, however, comb my hair and fix the wildness that's come over it in my sleep. After that, it's a simple lie to say that I misunderstood him. And frankly, my face is too sore to stand over the sink dragging a razor across the bruised and swollen skin anyway.

*

All the subtle defiance aside, I still find myself waiting by the door to the gardens rather than going out there on my own. Six years away and I still know what's expected of me - you will accompany me, never precede me, this gives the mistaken impression that we are equals, that you can act without my influence. You will never act without my influence. And so I wait, Richard's smile lighting in his eyes alone as he approaches and I open the door for him without a word and follow - always two steps behind him - out into the garden.

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114 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 11:27 pm

One of Braddock's men is rambling on about the various feats they've managed in maintaining their lavish gardens, the talk of plants and species and PH balances and soil leaving me absolutely bored when I glance back to see our gracious host and my bunk mate approaching. 

"I didn't peg you as the sort for flowers, Richard." I call with the faintest hint of teasing, my hands clasped behind me as I turn to face them. "Seems as though you've wholeheartedly embraced your pouf nature. To mislead your adversaries, I take it?"

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115 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 11:40 pm

"I find them poetic," Richard responds with a gracious smile, his fingers coming to caress the delicate petals of a rather rare and expensive flower beside him. "Each specimen in my garden has... unique qualities. Take this one for instance... much like you, my lady, it is beautiful to look at-," his flirtatious smile as he bends over to smell the atrocious thing brings a disapproving frown to my lips as I stand silently behind him. "They smell lovely - as I'm sure Marnin will agree."

I only offer a polite smile, feigning embarrassment as I drop my gaze away from the woman before Richard continues, his fingers curling around the blossom to crush it in his fist.

"And, most importantly," he smiles a little more unnervingly as he draws his hand up to blow the crushed pollen into the face of the servant he had ordered to entertain the woman and her brother in our absence. I can feel my heart constrict for the poor man as he chokes on the fragrant dust - my muscles twitching with the desire to help him. Instead, I pull out a handkerchief as Richard glances back at me expectantly for something to wipe his hand with.

"It can kill a man in thirty seconds flat."

And indeed - it does.

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116 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Sun Mar 20, 2016 11:54 pm

My jaw tightens as I take a step back as the man slumps to the ground, his limbs seizing as he hits. I dare not let my distaste for turn of events show on my face, only an eyebrow cocking as I glance back at my brother as his shoulders swell - his silhouette broadening behind me. 

"You may sway me towards gardening yet," I reply coolly, glancing down at the man as I take care to step over him and continue on my way through the extensive garden. "So do you think it wise, Mister Braddock, to toss out your servants like cannon fodder to impress your allies? Or spend your wealth on these flowers while there are people in your city starving in gutters?

"I only ask, you see -" I say, glancing towards them over my shoulder as I nod faintly for Wilson to join me as I walk, "because it's important to me that any funds we exchange with your city not be squandered on showboating. I've found that it's easier to rule with a velvet touch. Less uprisings, more loyalty. My brother may disagree, but-" I sigh again, glancing at Wilson as he grimaces and continues on ahead of me. "It's not my brother you're here to woo."

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117 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Mon Mar 21, 2016 12:28 am

"I understand our cities are very different from one another," Richard responds, clearly still too high on the life he's taken to be offended by the woman's questions. I, meanwhile, listen avidly to the woman as Richard tries only to offer his polite attention despite showing signs that only I could interpret as boredom with the questions of morality.

"Here in Orlais, our poverty stricken have the option of selling themselves into servitude," Richard explains, his hand coming up to gesture for another servant lingering inside the tall arched glass doorway. "You may question their willingness to do such a thing, given what you just witnessed, and rightly so. But the rules that govern the servants here are very simple, a child could follow them - and, in fact, many do. Much better than their adult counterparts, I daresay. They do not steal, they do not lie, they respect their betters, and they obey.

"In exchange, they are given a clean, warm place to sleep, three square meals a day, jobs that they can take pride in, and should they have families, they can negotiate that they be made as financially secure and comfortable as they are when they enter into their contracts or when it is revised every five years.

"The money we receive from our trade contracts makes such things possible," Richard says before glancing back at the now blue-lipped corpse blocking the main path through the garden. "When one of them breaks the rules, they are punished - sometimes harshly. But where one man's life ends, a new life is granted to one of those starving in the gutters. Poor Reese here had been stealing silver for the past six months. Allowances were made as it was brought to our attention that he was newlywed and expecting a child, and his contract was due to be revised. When it came time to revise it, however, he declined the offers made to include his wife and child as beneficiaries of his service to the Braddock House. And then he stole my late mother's vase."

No, he didn't, I want to argue. Mother never had any vases - certainly none Richard would keep. But I only take a deep breath as Richard sighs, his lips compressing into an over exaggeration of a frown as he shrugs sadly.

"What was the stipulation on his contract?" I ask the question with as much innocence as I can inject into my voice. It doesn't matter, though. Richard's disapproval that I've spoken out of turn bleeds through in the way he looks back at me witheringly.

"That his daughter enter into service when she comes of age," Richard says sternly. "Now, because of his pride, his wife may very well find herself in need of a contract - and sadly, children under the age of five are required to be taken to the nurseries when new mothers enter the House to serve. This ensures the children are cared for properly and that the mother does not become lax in her duties with worries for her child."

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118 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Mon Mar 21, 2016 12:37 am

"So you turn your homeless into slaves?" I remark without much care, my hands still clasped at my back as I walk down the path. "I've read in the history books - slavery tends not to end well for most involved.

"But, Orlais is your city - you could string your people from the street lights, for all I care." I shrug, my hands falling to my side as I turn back to snap towards Marnin. "Marnin - a whiskey." I say roughly, turning to face Richard only after I've looked Marnin over thoroughly. "Have you revised your proposal from yesterday? I would like to be back home before the seasons change."

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119 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:00 am

I stiffen a bit at her order - my head tilting imperceptibly toward Richard as I wait for his approval. He only seems to raise an eyebrow as he looks back at me, his lip twitching slightly as he waits to see how I will respond without any signal from him. It unnerves me. Many have given me orders in the past - Richard is always quick to approve or disapprove, either silently or verbally. Either way, he gives me a signal so I know what he wants of me. This, though... this means he doesn't care what her opinion is. Not really.

I bow slightly to acknowledge Ellie's order, my hands clasped behind my back until I turn on my heel to do as she's asked. My mind races as I try to figure out what his angle is. The servants scramble out of the way as I march past them on the way to the kitchen - many of them recognizing my mood on sight. The new ones in the kitchen are not so lucky.

"A whiskey, neat," I say curtly as I come up to one of the center islands in the kitchen.

"Get it yourself," one of the new boys snips back, my temper flaring the moment I've noticed the way he seems to appraise my bruised face before shutting me down as just another servant. The pan of potatoes in his hands clatters to the floor as I grab the front of his shirt and jerk him toward me over the island.

"Do I have to get Richard?" I ask lowly, one of the elder cooks coming up quickly to put her hand on my shoulder as well as the young boy's.

"Whiskey, neat," the older woman confirms, pulling my hand off of the boy's collar before shooing him along with an indirect warning of, "Right away, Master Braddock."

The boy scrambles, clearly fearful of the mistaken identity. I immediately feel bad for my behavior, and the cook knows it as she hovers at my side with a sad sort of frown on her face. Even blind, I can't bring myself to look at her directly... not even when she grabs my chin to turn my face so she can get a better look.

"I'm sad to see you," she sighs gently as she releases my face and then waddles her way over to the counter. My chest tightens as she does, the familiarity of the scene bringing a painful smile to my face as she stands up on her tippy toes to get into a tin on the top shelf over the counter. Fudge. She wraps it in a neat little handkerchief and tucks it into my hand as though it's some big secret, her work-wisened hand coming up to pat my cheek as she smiles sadly at me again. "You be nice to my staff, young man. We've enough grief to deal with from that brother of yours."

"Thank you," I sigh, tucking the handkerchief in my pocket before I offer a slight nod to the other cook as he comes scrambling up with the glass of whiskey. "A bit more, please," I ask, holding the glass out for him to fill further. Best to do it right the first time - I already know Ellie is the type to send me back if I get it wrong.

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120 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:10 am

The topic has moved on, his response just as evasive as it was this morning and just as it was last night. I'm starting to put more weight into Marnin's theory that we're not here for some trade agreement, but more for a spectacle to keep the foul man amused. Instead, he continues to ramble on about his flowers and this and that, and to be quite honest, I've stopped paying attention entirely by the time Marnin returns with my drink. 

"Thank you, love," I say absently, taking the glass from him as I turn on my heels to continue wandering through the gardens. My remark has entirely interrupted Richard, a fact - while unplanned - tickles me greatly. 

"Braddock, I don't care about your petunias. We have gardens at home, we hire people to tend them, and that's the extent of my care regarding their existence." I finally say, sighing boredly as I take a slow sip of the whiskey. "I'm glad you have your hobbies, but I'd be much gladder if I weren't subjected to them." I add with a faint smile.

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121 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:27 am

"Quite," Richard responds with a forced kind of smile. His eyebrow arches a bit as he puts a hand on the small of my back, his closeness meant to seem intimate, but the pressure he places on a very particular spot where a heavy rod had been broken over the base of my spine tells a far different story. "You're very aware of our lady's needs. Have I thanked you for your attentiveness?"

"You thanked me plenty by seeing that I was so close at hand to tend to her needs last night," I smile back, the pain only just straining my voice as I play up the scene and lean in to nuzzle at Richard's cheek - quite intentionally roughing my scruff against his cleanly shaven cheek. His fingers find my hip at that, his nails digging in as he presses his lips to my ear.

"If you fucked her..." he breathes quietly, and I grin before he can say anything further.

"Not in front of the guests," I hiss loud enough for anyone to hear. "Such things are only for my wettest dreams."

I know I'll be made to regret my words, but the stiffness in Richard's movements is worth every lashing - particularly when he turns toward Ellie, a polite smile on his lips that so heavily contradicts the hatred burning in his gaze.

"Shall we go for drinks then?!" he asks in feigned cheerfulness, his hands clapping together as he glances back at me, his gaze roaming up and down my body as though deciding what to do with it. "Yes. A drink sounds lovely."

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122 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:34 am

I watch their exchange with feigned curiosity, Wilson stepping up to begin whispering something in my ear before I wave him off. He's going to tell me he doesn't trust the man, something I've heard expressed from him a dozen times just this morning. It's just as their voices drop to a whisper that Wilson actually stops, his eyes narrowing before I roll my own towards him. 

"Drinks," I nod with a genuine smile, raising my glass towards them before I wave off towards the doors. "Of course. Drinks can lead to this ridiculous dinner you've planned, and the sooner we can come to terms and we will be out of your hair.

"And then, the sooner you can return to your garden, with your flowers and your bees." I wave absently towards the flowers as Wilson begins to lead the way back to the house.

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123 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:26 am

My lips thin with disapproval at the subtle mention of Ljuba, my hands wringing in front of me as I take a small step away from Richard. He notices, his gaze flickering to me as I go still and tilt my head toward him on anticipation. I assume he takes my distress as a reaction to my outburst and to Ellie's rudeness because he says nothing, offering only a twisted little smile as he nods at Ellie and the large man beside him.

I'm a little nervous as he leads us to the bar setup just off the garden, Richard pulling my arm to his so that he's guiding me in casual intimacy.

"Personally, if I were going to fuck either of our guests, it would have to be Wilson," he says after a moment of walking in silence. If Wilson tenses at that, I could only be described as snapping, my body becomes so tense. Richard only smiles as my blunted nails dig into his arm harshly.

"He is a rather large man, isn't he?" I smile. "I could see the appeal of having someone larger than a rail hovering over me."

"Mmm," Richard hums, my taunt falling flat as he continues to smile to himself. "That other brother of theirs, though... he might be more rough. Some fragile little things might not like that, but I have had some pretty fun thoughts about all that..."

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124 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:46 am

Whiskey in hand, I ignore Richard's oddly crude comments, glancing back only slightly before I make my way to the small sitting area. Relaxing back into one of the seats, I'm mildly taken aback by the open cigarette case that seems to appear out of nowhere, my back stiffening as I sit up to look back at the servant who's materialized behind me. 

Taking a cigarette, the boy lights it before I wave him off, my gaze following him with a mixture of disgust and curiosity. He can't be more than thirteen, at best.

"Wesley would nev-" Wilson starts, and I can tell from the set of his jaw his patience is wearing thin with Richard's remarks.

"Wilson," I hiss, "Perhaps you'd like to go tend to your men? I know how you hate exchanging these pleasantries. You're dismissed to go spend your time elsewhere."

Wilson only looks at me, sighing slightly before his attention turns to Richard and Marnin.

"Til dinner, then." He says, bowing his head slightly before he turns to head into the house. I wait until the doors have shut behind him to relax into my seat, looking at my cigarette as I inspect the foreign looking paper absently.

"You'll have to excuse dear Wilson," I say before ashing off to the side of the chair, looking at Richard with a polite smile, "He's not as accustomed to polite society. Not like your Marnin. I must say, I'm impressed at how well behaved he is. You must tell me your secrets - is it better to beat them yourself, or hire someone else to do it?"

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125 Re: Trigger Happy Jack II on Mon Mar 21, 2016 12:46 pm

"Your objections are noted - and even understood, though you may doubt the depth of my character," Richard responds as he places a gentle hand on mine. There is no hidden malice in the gesture, it is one of those rare, human touches that he gives me in response to my concern over Ellie's scornful sarcasm. "Despite what you - and indeed many others - may think, I do love Marnin very dearly. Sadly, you've had to witness us at a rather unfortunate point in our relationship. Marnin has much of my scorn, some if it quite undeserved, and I have much of his - that, however, is very much deserved and is something that pains me daily.

"You see, we lost someone very dear to us a few years back," Richard frowns, the genuine emotion in his voice easing my tension and pulling a pained look from me as I sit in silence beside him, my hand turning over under his to curl my fingers around his. "It was my fault. There is no denying that, and I fear Marnin has not yet found it in him to forgive me - nor do I believe he ever will. He shouldn't. I know I would not be so gracious if our roles were reversed. But I must try. I only wish I had Marnin's patience that I might handle these trying times with more civility, but sadly, I do not. My anger and my cruelty often get the best of me, and he doesn't deserve it."

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