There it was; this little, lighthearted chuckle. No one would ever have the guts to chuckle at her like this and expect to get away with all their bones still unbroken, especially not while calling her...cute. It was an embarrassment, an insult, and...!
...She felt the hot, flushed feeling return to her face, coloring her cheeks a rosy pink. Damn him. Maybe she could play that off as seasickness or exhaustion...
"...Cute?" she grumbled, treating him to another glare.
He just nodded at her. "Mhm."
"Do you remember what I just did to that sea monster? No one calls me cute, Chuckles," she said severely, "but...I'll...just come along for the sake of discussing the job and getting some clothes. So long as you don't say anything else that makes me feel like a five-year old."
"Chuckles...?" Rain grinned. He leaned toward her slightly, with his hands on his waist and whispered, "I still think you look cute, Hard-Boiled."
Rain swore that after he leaned away, he saw her face go red, possibly from anger. He imagined steam coming out of her ears. She might be really angry now, Rain thought, is she really going to leave? The Grim Angel glanced at her for a moment. He shook his head and shrugged at the same time with that small smile on his face.
"But if you don't like looking like that, then we'd better get you a new suit. One to your liking; I'm buying, so it's okay."
New shoes. Rain turned and began to walk away, shoving his hands in his pockets, half-expecting her to follow. The second half expected her to walk by his side.
Cadenza followed a few paces behind him, trying desperately to regain her composure. She told herself she was only following him for the job and because he was paying, but...part of her mind wondered if that was the whole truth.
...Don't think like that. He's an idiot, and he makes you feel embarrassed, and now he's going to start calling you "Hard-Boiled". So cut off that train of thought right now.
Instead, she tried focusing on the quiet sound of her wet feet padding along the hall, her painted toenails catching the light and gleaming red. Red. She wondered if her face was still a little reddish...
"I'll...pay you back later," she found herself saying suddenly, "when we get off this ship and I can get to my wallet, I'll pay you back for the clothes. I don't want to start off this job owing you something...assuming you hire me at all."
She'd almost slipped there a little--she wanted to believe he would help her, but...that was silly. He had no reason to. He would only hire her if she would prove a useful business associate to him--that's how things worked.
Rain smiled at this and looked over his shoulder at her. They were still walking, getting odd glances from the random passer-by. He was barefoot and she looked like a girl in her dad's clothes who just got dipped in the ocean and pulled back out again.
"You don't have to worry about that," he assured her as they entered their way to the shopping area of the cruise ship, "Here we are."
"You can go pick out what you like," he grinned again, this time, only because he felt as if it was Jessica he was addressing and not Cadenza, because she was quiet, probably preferring to look on silently rather than roar.
"This looks like a nice store..." Rain waltzed in, not paying any attention to the stuttering worker who had tried to raise an objection to his bare feet.
He just kept on smiling, ignoring the protesting salesclerks and marching right in. She followed a bit more quietly behind him, shooting glares at anyone who tried to object to her entering. Water dripped from her long, damp tresses onto the floor.
"You don't have to worry about that," he had told her about the job. Had she really come off as worried? He could see that? Well, she figured it probably was just another in a long list of surprises she could expect from him. Mask her thoughts as much as she'd like, he appeared to be able to read her anyway. She...wasn't sure what to do about that.
Her first instinct was to go and find the most expensive dresses in the entire store, just to spite him and his wallet. But her heart just wasn't in it. He was too nice, in a charming, gentlemanly sort of way. As much as she hated to admit it, she actually found that she didn't want to take advantage of that kindness.
So she just selected a few nice, simple items of clothing, found some boots that fit her, and came to the front of the store, giving one more determined search through the contents she had moved into her pockets when she had changed clothes. There was the watch from the Dome, and her ticket, but no money. Damn, she thought.
Rain was already walking up with his new shoes, and she really was going to have to ask him to pay.
They were sneakers. Black and white ones. His feet weren’t that big—he looked down and wiggled his toes just to make sure—but all the formal shoes were casually smaller: too small for him. He did spot one pair, but it was a few sizes too big…he didn’t want to wear a clown’s shoes.
As soon as he had paid for them, he slipped them on over a black pair of socks (which he had bought with the shoes), and tied the laces neatly and tightly. They were comfortable: different from the shoes he was used to wearing all the time. Other than that, it was quite amusing too; against the smooth flooring, the sole of the sneakers squeaked if he rubbed it at the right pressure.
Rain walked over to Cadenza, who seemed to have finished her browsing. She was holding up a few nice pieces of clothing in her arms.
“Here, let me.” He swiftly grabbed them up, not even waiting for her to give him permission. Rain put the pieces of clothing gently on the countertop.
“This is why I told you ‘keep the change’.” he grinned. The cashier only offered a small smile back and began checking the price tags on the clothes. He nodded and began piling the clothes into bags. Rain moved away and toward the exit, leaving Cadenza waiting for her bags.
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.
“Stop that.” An employee protested against the annoyance. Rain only smiled at him and began walking normally again, but as soon as he reached the exit…
OoC: Mwehehehe... *has a small plan, which might let us see a certain person be angry for once, and which she can explain on AIM later* >:3
She took her bags from the counter, and began looking for the one the boots were in, trying not to wince at every squeak of Rain's shoes.
Don't let him know it bothers you, he'll just keep doing it more, she told herself, setting the bags on the ground. Still, the way it was bothering the salesclerks was a little funny...
Cadenza found the new pair of boots wrapped up next to the pants she'd picked, and was slipping them on, glaring at Rain's sneakers when the little girl bumped into her and nearly fell over. She caught the child's hand just quick enough to pull her back up, and noticed the tears in the girl's brown eyes when they were back at eye-level again, Cadenza still kneeling with one foot bare.
"S-sorry..." the little girl muttered, wiping her face with the sleeve of her pink blouse.
The gypsy gave the girl a gentle smile in return, patting her lightly on the shoulder. "It's all right, I shouldn't have been kneeling down in the middle of the floor like that. But...could you tell me, what's wrong? I don't think that little accident is all that has you frowning like that, menina..."
"Well, I...I lost my mommy...I was just with her when that m-monster attacked... but when I woke up after that...I... I didn't know where she was..."
Squeak, squeak, squeak.
Rain was coming a little closer. Cadenza glanced up at him for a moment, wondering if he'd heard what the girl had just said.
"You...last saw her during the monster attack, you said?" she asked, turning back to the child.
She nodded, her auburn curls bobbing up and down with the motion.
...Sh**. This isn't good. Was her mom someone I failed to catch in that net? Or is she just lying hurt somewhere else on the ship?
"All right, tell you what... we'll help you find her, okay?"
At the word "we", the girl looked from Cadenza to Rain, who'd come a little closer. The gypsy hadn't even realized she'd included him in that until she saw the girl's eyes move from her to him, and wanted to curse under her breath.
I did say "we", didn't I? Well... we still have to discuss the details of the job, and he seemed like he wanted to help this girl too, that's all...
To end what felt like an awkward silence probably only to her, she added, "I know how you're feeling right now... I've been there, in a way... so I'll work really hard to find her, you have my word. But first, can you tell us what she looks like, so we'll know her when we see her?"
The girl wiped the last of the tears from her eyes and took a breath, trying to compose her voice so it wasn't so shaky. "Y-y...yes, I can. She's tall... not like him," she glanced at Rain, "but still tall for a lady... and...and she's pretty, and she has brown short hair like me and green eyes. She... she had on a green dress, I think, before... I don't really remember now..."
"...That's okay, that's plenty to go on for now."
"Um... t-thanks, too, for helping... I didn't know who to ask, all the sailor men are busy trying to fix the ship, so..."
Cadenza slipped on her other boot and stood up, giving the girl another smile. "Don't worry about that. We're glad to help you."
And at those last words, she looked over at Rain, as if asking "right?"
“Right.” he responded softly to the gypsy. Rain turned to the little girl and gently patted her head, smiling reassuringly, “We’ll find your mom. What’s your name, Auburn?” In the few seconds that they had laid eyes on each other, Rain had already pulled a nickname out of a hat, simply by looking at the colour of her hair.
The little girl looked at him, slightly puzzled, before she sputtered out “Tiff…Tiffany.”
Much better than ‘Auburn’, he thought.
Tiffany bent her head down a little.
“Chin up,” Rain said, gently lifting the little girl’s chin, “You can't help us find your mom if you’re looking at the floor.”
She nodded slightly. Before she could say anything, Rain had lifted her up and put her to sit on his shoulders. “Now you can point out your mom if you see her,” he grinned.
He began making his way out of the store, squeaking all the way there. For a moment, he glanced at Cadenza and flashed a small smile.
OoC: Postin' so soon because I don't know when I'll be able to again this week. ^^;;
She felt her cheeks take on a touch of soft pink. Something about his smile... every time... she couldn't help reacting to it. Part of her wished she could stop it--it was embarrassing to show how easily he could make her stir.
Was...was that at me? Is he for real...? Back on deck, he was swift and deadly, just chopping up that monster like I was, and now...
The woman looked at Tiffany riding atop Rain's shoulders ahead of her, the girl giggling a little as she held gently onto his hair.
...now it's all kindness and nicknames. Tiffany seems to have warmed up to him quickly too... she's just laughing at those squeaks of his and trusting him to carry her. Can he... really be just that nice?
She followed after them, the light thud of her boots punctuating every squeak of a sneaker, and creating a sort of rhythm. Her thoughts were racing.
"Tiffany...I have a few questions, okay?" she finally spoke up.
The girl glanced over her shoulder, waiting for the gypsy to go on.
Cadenza hurried up a little so that she was more even in pace with the girl and Rain. She noticed that she was keeping her eyes fixed on Tiffany, or on her own feet walking on the polished floor. "Well, first, do you remember where your cabin is? Your mom might have returned there when she realized you were missing."
Tiffany frowned a little, thinking back. "It's on the lower deck, but... I looked there first, and... and I didn't see her..."
...That's not a good sign. Her mother was either too hurt to make it back then, or... come on, don't let the kid see that you're worried. It won't help her.
"...Then, can you tell me her name? That will help us if we need to ask anyone else if they've seen or heard anything of her."
"Mommy's name is Cindy Miller...do... do you think anyone's seen her?"
There was hope in her voice there. It was something that had always eluded Cadenza herself, but... she couldn't stand to shatter it for this innocent child. She gave her another gentle, reassuring smile.
"I don't know... but it's a big ship. There's a good chance someone might have. Until then... giving your cabin another look couldn't hurt... your mom could have returned there since you last looked. And at least it gives us someplace to start."
After her small line of questioning, Rain grinned at the tanned woman, and in the best British accent he could muster, he said softly “Good show, Sherlock.” He didn’t mean anything bad by it; he began to instruct Tiffany to call him ‘Watson’ rather than ‘Rainy’, while she still sat on his shoulders.
It probably looked like he wasn’t concerned and that he only cared about having fun. But the truth was that he would rather see the girl smile than cry, and it would help the task of looking for her mother a little bit easier.
Rain turned to give Cadenza another grin before mouthing the word ‘softie’ and wrinkling his nose a little. He turned around quickly enough not to see her reaction, “Let’s go, Ms. Holmes.”
OoC: Much, much luff for the Sherlock Holmes mention. <33 And the "Red" mentioned here is Tracey, in case that's not clear. You're getting one of my jumbled-up posts thought up before bedtime here. ^^;;
Cadenza had to remind herself not to stare. It was almost as hard as ignoring that whisper.
...Ms. Holmes? Who am I, Red?
"...Don't call me something like that until we've found Tiffany's mom."
At least that sounded less like her--she'd jump at the chance to be called Sherlock. But still, this is her sort of approach... maybe those impressions Johnny used to do of her have rubbed off on me a little.
She was about to say that was the most worrying thought that she'd had all day... but when she thought back over the day's many events, maybe deciding that so easily was a bit hasty. There had been a lot of thoughts that had crossed her mind that had worried her, in all different ways...
For some reason or another, she found herself looking back up at Rain. With some effort, she averted her eyes, and focused instead on her hands as they continued towards Tiffany's cabin. It had been some time since she hadn't worn gloves... she'd forgotten how bandaged up her knuckles always were.
...Would a "softie" have hands like this? That grinning idiot. He thinks he can say whatever he wants just because he has a nice smile. That works fine for cheering Tiffany up, but...
The woman had to stop herself--she'd realized her thoughts were tangling themselves up in a confused knot.
He's just a stupid vampire, he's just a stupid bloody vampire...
She tried again to concentrate on the problem at hand. It was hard when Tiffany was laughing.
"Er... are we getting close to your cabin?" she asked.
Before her question, Rain had caught her looking down at her hands, at the bandages around her knuckles. Immediately he thought that she might have been injured during the fight with the monster. But if that really was the case, would she have mentioned it? So far, the only things he got from her were the facts that she was a powerful person, and that she had this hard shell…probably protecting something far softer on the inside.
That was what he thought, anyway.
“You’re an unexpectedly caring lady, Miss ‘denza,” he said without looking at her, with a hint of seriousness in his voice, “that was all I meant. And you don’t have to have soft hands to have a caring heart.”
Before she could respond, the little girl on his shoulders blurted out, “We’re here!” She wriggled her body, signifying that she wanted to be let down. Before she knew it, she was on the ground, and Rain was getting ready to open the door: reaching out his hand and putting it on the knob.
The door creaked open when he nudged it. Door’s open…
The cabin was in complete disarray. Clothes and bed-sheets were strewn everywhere, scratches all along the walls. And there was this thick presence, like an invisible mist with a familiar scent that Rain was able to pick up.
He exhaled; he didn’t think that he’d find one on board, at least, not after a monster attack of that caliber.
“You’re an unexpectedly caring lady, Miss ‘denza,” he had said, “that was all I meant. And you don’t have to have soft hands to have a caring heart.”
Cadenza found she was thankful gypsy magic wasn't controlled by emotions... because there was no telling what sort of embarrassing thing might have happened then. What sort of spell would confusion be? Or... any of the other things she was starting to feel?
He's just playing around with you...
She followed Rain and Tiffany into the room, trying to shake her head to clear her thoughts. The room looked like a crime scene--there were fractures along the walls, and stains too, upon closer inspection. A dresser was broken, and clothes were everywhere, but this was not the side of the ship where the monster attack had taken place, so that offered no explanation. ...What could have happened here?
The gypsy strode up to one of the stained walls, tracing her fingers over the fractured plaster. It seemed like there had been a struggle here... but the stains weren't the color of blood. There was just this greenish tint, but her magic wasn't reacting to it...
Over by the door, Tiffany stepped out for a moment to find the cause of the footsteps she heard in the hall.
Cadenza just barely heard the girl's voice say, "Mommy?" before she realized where she was and hurried towards the door in alarm.
OoC: Hard...to write...with noisy construction guys here. @___@
He watched Cadenza hurry out the doorway to retrieve the girl. She had just left their sides for a few moments…probably heard or saw something in the hall. That wasn’t odd in the slightest. There were tons of people on this ship; one could have passed by, looking similar in some ways to Tiffany’s mother. Tiff noticed and moved outside to see if it was really her. Simple conclusion, right?
The door was wide open, if anyone had passed by, the stink alone would have alerted them, then after that they’d most likely move into the room to find out how it got this way. No one would miss the large scratch over the bed which was covered in this green…thing. It had the viscosity of blood…but it was green. It didn’t smell like blood either. It smelled like cooked rotten eggs.
That doesn’t sound too good… he cringed slightly.
He turned away from it and moved to where Cadenza had gone, out into the hall, looking for the girl. It was only a few moments, but they weren’t back inside the cabin yet. Cause for concern? Maybe.
Expect the worst--expect the worst, because then you'll be prepared for anything and you can only be pleasantly surprised if things turn out better.
Cadenza didn't trust a single person that could have been walking by on this ship. There was no way to tell who or what had left behind that scene in that room... but as far as she was concerned, everyone was suspect. She couldn't sense anything with magic, so there was no telling what sort of thing she had to keep an eye out for...
She just knew there was nothing safe about the girl following after strangers by herself. Certainly not on this ship.
"...Signorina Tiffany?" the woman called out, stepping closer to the end of the hall where the footsteps had trailed off. Her voice echoed faintly throughout the silent hall. "It's not safe to wander off..."
There was a little sneezing noise, and then the girl's silhouette appeared on the wall opposite the corner. She came around, quietly, shuffling her feet and wiping at her face as she looked up at Rain and Cadenza.
"...I...I thought I saw my mommy, but it wasn't her..."
“...I...I thought I saw my mommy, but it wasn't her...”
“Ah…” was all he could have mustered for the time being. Rain glanced at Cadenza for a second. She was looking at Tiffany, too. He wondered if she had noticed anything strange about the little girl. Tiffany’s eyes seemed so…‘less full of life’ than it had before. Maybe because of the disappointment of not finding her mother anywhere near the cabin? That was a possibility… but something about the way she looked at the two adults irritated him. The stare was sort of blank, but not particularly lifeless. Like a dead stare, but…not dead. Almost dead, maybe.
Rain bent down a little, putting his hands on his knees and smiling at the little girl. “Don’t worry,” he said softly. A smile spread across her face in response. With ease, he picked the girl up and placed her once more on his shoulders.
…She’s lighter than before now… Something’s not right.
Cadenza's mouth had almost opened in a gasp when she'd noticed it, but had quickly been quieted when Tiffany reappeared, and well, now... she was questioning what she had seen.
Everyone has a "shade"--an exact lookalike of him or herself, like a sort of ghost in the realm of shadows. That is what makes up their shadow here. But Tiffany, just now... that silhouette wasn't the right shape. It was the right size, but... it looked off. Like it was something else.
...Does that mean I can't even trust this girl anymore? What's really going on?
The woman glanced at, who was at least supposedly, Tiffany on Rain's shoulders. The girl was smiling again, tugging on the man's hair, and acting more or less as she had before. But wasn't that to be expected? If this wasn't Tiffany, then... shouldn't whoever this was at least be able to copy her behavior as they had her appearance? How the girl acted then didn't serve as much of a hint--it could be real, or a trick. It was best not to place too much stock in it.
"Tiffany... who did you see back there?" Cadenza asked, trying to smile disarmingly. She wasn't expecting a truthful answer here, but anything about the way this girl answered might help. What potential lies were given would show what kind of story whoever this was wanted them to believe.
"It was just a sailor... I was going to ask him if he had seen my mommy, but he just hurried off and said he was busy..."
"Ah... I'm sorry, maybe the sailors will be of more help later when they don't have as much to do."
The girl nodded, but there seemed to be something else on her mind. "Um..." she said, fidgeting with her hands, "do you think... maybe... we could check the stage for my mommy? She really liked the plays here, and...m-maybe she thought I would go there to look for her."
“Alright,” Rain responded softly, “we’ll go look for your mom over by the stage, then.” Tiffany tugged at his dark hair gently, holding on to it so she won’t fall backwards. He took a step forward, shrugging his shoulders the tiniest bit. The little girl was definitely lighter than before; as if she had lost a few pounds just by walking a few feet. As the three made their way toward the small auditorium, Rain thought this over.
It might’ve been an odd suggestion that the girl made; why would her mother be around the stage at a time like this? She couldn’t find Tiffany at the cabin and she went to look for her there…?
“Do you like the plays there, Tiff?”
“N-not really…” she frowned, “Mommy…didn’t like it when I said they were b-boring…”
Rain glanced over at Cadenza a few times, waiting for the moment that she would look at him. A few times, she had her eyes fixed on the floor, or straight ahead; her mind was seemingly somewhere else at those times..
It was before they reached the doors to the place when she finally looked at him. In that moment, he looked at her and moved his lips, mouthing the words ‘Something’s wrong’.
"...I know," she mouthed back. Honestly, she wasn't surprised that Rain had noticed something was off too--he might have even been suspicious of it before she had. She couldn't really know. But it was at least to their advantage that they both knew something was up before they went into the auditorium and found whatever the reason this "Tiffany" was leading them there.
If her mind wasn't trying so hard to stay focused on what was coming, she might have wondered why she felt so secure in knowing that Rain was there to back her up, and vice versa.
A mom and a daughter separated... something always comes in between to wrench things apart, doesn't it? Heh... I can't let that happen to the girl... the real one, wherever she is. I can only hope her dad is just waiting for them back at their home, but... if he isn't, if her mom is all she has, I can at least make sure she can hang onto that...
Cadenza followed Rain and Tiffany through the door, her step a little more cautious than her usual. Even still, the little patting noises of boots against maple wood echoed throughout the room as they entered, bouncing back from the dark recesses of the high ceilings, and the empty expanses of chairs to the right and left. Ahead, beyond the rows and rows of seating, there was a small, raised stage, and behind it, a large green curtain that shrouded the back portion of the room in shadow.
As soon as Tiffany spotted it, she started to squirm around like a restless little animal and pointed. "Check there!" she cried. "M-mommy might be back there!"
“Uh huh! Uh huh!” She still kept her arm up and her finger pointing outward, toward that portion of the auditorium that most people don’t get to see; the place where performers sit back and try to cure their case of jitters before the show.
Rain glanced at Cadenza. She knew, but it was so obvious now.
When they made their way into the back; the place covered and crawling with shadows, an audible hiss and a familiar stench clung to the thick air. It wasn’t the same as the smell in the room; however, it was ‘heavier’. The whole room now felt hot; it almost felt claustrophobic.
Rain narrowed his eyes at the shadows, before taking the little girl (who was now abnormally quiet; she didn’t act frightened or anything) from his shoulders and setting her down.
He glared once more into the darkness, “You can take her back, now.”