Grimory stops beneath Alisbeth’s balcony and looks up, waiting for her to come back out. “Ali,” he calls quietly, thumbs behind his belt.
Alisbeth runs to the balcony and grins over the side. She closes the doors and jumps over the railing. “Wee!”
Grimory catches her with ease and pushes a finger to her lips. He sets her upright on her feet. “Gotta be quiet,” he reminds her. “So where to?”
“Right,” Alisbeth whispers. “Okay, so, how about the bank so I can get something to wear and hide my disguise?” She yanks her eyepatch over her head and goes for the bank, not waiting for his response.
The demon hunter gives an apathetic shrug and follows, doing his best to keep up.
Alisbeth grabs Grimory’s hand and drags him into her vault once the goblin moves out of the way. “Poke around if you like,” she says. “If you want some gold, take it. I won’t notice.” She rushes for the back of the room, tripping over the leg of a table piled high with gold. It cascades to the floor like a waterfall. She ignores it and keeps going.
Grimory glances about the room, mesmerized by the sparkling mass. “Yeah, I’m good. Thanks, though,” he laughs. “What do you plan on using all this for?”
Alisbeth strips and hangs her dirty, tattered bandit clothing beside a light blue gown of typical blood elf fashion. She turns to Grimory. “So, what should I wear? Choose one.” She shuffles through, holding out several to show him the gowns of every color.
Grimory rests his weight on a heel and leans back, an arm wrapped around his chest while the opposite elbow rests on it and he taps his goatee. “Show me the blue again? Hm. No. Purple. Yeah, definitely purple. Goes best with gold.”
Alisbeth pulls out a purple gown in nearly two pieces, held together by golden metal embellishments. “This one?” She holds it over her naked body.
Grimory nods slowly, a smirk crawling across his face. “The one you’re wearing already is obviously better, however.”
Alisbeth furrows her brow and moves the dress. She cracks a silly grin and laughs. “You want to feel it? Silky.” She runs her hand down her side and over the bump of her hip, completely ignoring covering the scar on her belly she’s usually so keen to hide beneath her palm.
Grimory crosses the distance between them. He runs a finger down the exact trail she’d traced with her hand. “Yes,” he responds, “incredibly.” His eyes flick to the scar and he leans back some to see it better. “Battle wound?”
Alisbeth bites her lip and hums as he touches her. Her lips turn down in a frown. She stares down at the floor. “No.” She shakes her head and backs away from him, covering her belly with the dress. “No.”
Grimory’s eyes widen slightly as the realization hits him. His face softens and he frowns, turning away from her. “I’m sorry. The purple one is fine, though. It’s a good color on you.”
Alisbeth shakes her head. “Don’t… Don’t be sorry. I’m sorry. I’m… I’m sorry.” She goes back to him and curls against his front. “I’m really sorry.”
Grimory blinks slowly down at her, not having expected such a reaction. He wraps his arms around her. “Nothing to be sorry for.” He brings a hand up to pet her hair. “Want to talk about it?”
Alisbeth shakes her head for a long time, then looks up at him with tears in her eyes. “I woke up feeling empty. I don’t remember this… I think I was already dead.” She wipes one of her cheeks. “Why can I talk to you so easily?”
Grimory wipes her other cheek with a thumb and shakes his head, frowning. “Ali, you don’t have to tell me. It’s okay.”
Alisbeth nods. “Okay. Because I don’t know. Okay? I just don’t know.” She pulls the dress from its hanger and pulls it up to her hips. “So, what do you want to do?”
“Whatever you want to do,” Grimory says down at her with a comforting smile, walking back toward the vault door.
Alisbeth chases after him, grabbing a pair of golden sandals as she goes. She pulls the top over her chest and holds it there. “Can you tie this?” she asks, turning her back to him.
“Absolutely.” Grimory ties the laces of her dress, ensuring they’re tight, but not suffocatingly so. Afterward he runs a palm up her back and pushes her hair over her shoulder.
Alisbeth furrows her brow. “You confuse me, Grim. You know that?” She turns to run her palm up the center of his chest. “Why are you so confusing?”
Grimory gives a small laugh. “That’s rather hypocritical. But dare I ask, what’s so confusing about me?”
“The way you act,” Alisbeth replies. “When we first met you didn’t care about anything except Alpo and drinking and fucking. Now you don’t seem to care about any of those things. What do you care about now?”
Grimory shrugs. “People change when you get to know them. Especially when they find someone to be themselves around.” He pets her head again. “So are we going, or…?”
Alisbeth’s brow lowers and her jaw squares. “Fine.”
Grimory blinks and takes her hand so she can’t walk away. “Do you not like it? I’ll be a huge asshole again, if that’s what you prefer.”
“Why’s is gotta be what I prefer?” She locks her vault and hands the key to the waiting goblin.
“Ever think of upgrading to a larger room?” the goblin asks as she sends the key away in a puff of smoke. “Getting cramped in there. Only twenty more gold per month. It’s our premier account for loyal patrons.”
Alisbeth shrugs. “Sure, why not?” She signs the contract that poofs into her face beside a quill. The contract rolls up and poofs away again.
“We’ll get everything switch over for you at no extra cost. Pleasure doing business with you!”
Alisbeth waves at the goblin, then purses her lips at Grimory. “My opinions don’t matter. Be you. Not some fake piece of shit. If this is you, fine. If you’re actually an asshole like you were before, fine. People should be genuine. Otherwise you’re selling me a lie.” She yanks the sandals onto her feet.
“I’m not selling you anything,” Grimory responds coolly as he waits for her to dress. “Like I said, I’m just more comfortable around you, now. Like you won’t judge me.”
Alisbeth crooks her mouth to the side as she thinks, her eyes narrowed as she scans him. “Then maybe you’d like to go somewhere to dance?” She asks as a challenge to test just how far he’ll go.
Grimory lifts his eyebrows and turns his head to give her a sideways stare. “Is that really what you wanna do? Or are you testing my resolve?”
Alisbeth smirks. “Wouldn’t you like to know. Come on!” She lifts her skirt and takes off out of the bank.
Grimory follows with a small sigh. “Not really dressed for dancing. Hope you don’t mind.”
Alisbeth laughs and turns to face him while continuing backward. “Why don’t we just go get you something nice and suitable for dancing?”
~ * ~
Koltira’s eyes settle on the white hair streaking from the bank. “Found her.” He leaps from the balcony, gritting his teeth in preparation for the pain the fall with incur.
Anarchaia looks up just in time to catch Koltira jump over the threshold, then leaps to her feet to cast a slowing spell on him, but is too late. She runs to the balcony. “Are you all right?!” Her gaze also catches the two fleeing the bank and she throws herself over as well, landing gently on her feet.
Koltira winces and nods. “I’m fine. I knew it would hurt when I did it.” He shoves through the crowd to the other two and stops to glare at Grimory.
Alisbeth backs into him and growls. “Watch where you’re going, pea-aaa!” She leaps backward away from Koltira, her eyes wide with shock. She calms herself and smiles brightly at him. “Hi Kolty! What are you doing here?”
Koltira folds his arms across his chest and tightens his fists beneath his biceps. “I’m not going to ask what the fuck you’re doing, or where you’re going, if you give Ana her token back without complaint.” He stares both of them in the eyes.
Anarchaia stops beside Koltira and rests a palm on his arm. “It’s okay, Koltira. I’m not upset about the token.” She turns to look at them, finding it hard to hide her annoyance. “Look. I don’t care if you want to run around the city and do fuck-all, but please just tell me first? Is that really so much to ask?”
“Dancing,” Grimory says with a matter-of-fact tone, also folding his arms.
Koltira narrows his eyes at the demon hunter. “Dancing…”
Alisbeth frowns, feeling truly remorseful. “You didn’t tell me I had to tell you.” She throws the token at Koltira and runs back into the bank.
Grimory watches Alisbeth go, then turns to give the other two a dirty look. He follows her, setting himself beside her when he catches up.
Anarchaia sighs, suddenly feeling regret. “Maybe I was too rude. I honestly didn’t want my token back.” She tents her fingers in front of herself, debating whether or not she should follow and clear the bad blood.
Koltira sets his hands on his hips. “If I know you, you’re thinking of chasing her because you’re nice and you can’t stand people hating you.” He holds out the token. “I’m not saying it’ll help, nor am I saying it won’t. It’s actually a toss-up. But it’s your choice.”
“You know me well, then.” Anarchaia takes the token and looks down at it in her palm for a moment. She sighs and places it in the pocket in her belt. “I’ll just have the guards keep an eye on her… Turn her into a squirrel if she tries to leave city limits.” She rubs at her face one more time and turns away from the bank. “I believe you owe me an archery lesson?”
Koltira laughs. “That I do. Come on.” He sets a hand between her shoulder blades and guides her to the range outside the Dalaran wall. The breeze tangles through his hair as the salt of the sea below rises up to sit bitter in his mouth and nose, resting on his skin like a perfume he cannot smell for the faintness of it.
When they arrive at the familiar location, Anarchaia pulls off her robes and sets them on the bench. The range warden reluctantly gives her arrows when she pays for them. “Maybe I’ll do better this time since I’ve only had one drink.” She pulls up her mask to smile before pulling an arrow from her quiver and nocking it.
“Do you need help with your stance?” Koltira asks, trying to hide the eagerness in his voice. Mmm, to get my hands on you again… Gods, I’m an asshole.
Anarchaia draws the string back and grins over at him as if reading his thoughts. “No such thing as too much assistance.”
He stands behind her and positions her slowly, as he’d done before. Taking his time running his hands along her body. “Fire,” Koltira says when she’s in the right stance.
Anarchaia’s smile softens from coy to pleased. Her fingers twitch as she looses the shaft. The arrow sails and lands itself on the edge of the bullseye. She hums in satisfaction. “You’re a good teacher.”
“It’s all in your stance,” he says against her mask. Reluctantly he backs away from her. “Al’ right, do it without my help, now. Can’t rely on my hands to always hold onto you.” Though if I could… He turns to loose a few arrows of his own, all three landing neatly in the bullseye.
To purposely screw up or to actually try… Anarchaia straightens her spine and nocks another arrow. She draws the string and inhales. After holding her breath for a moment, she slowly releases it while simultaneously loosing the arrow as well. The head lodges into the ring just outside the bullseye and she smiles again. “Not bad, I think.”
He smiles. “Very good. Looks like you don’t need my help anymore.” He sends another arrow flying, the head embedding in the cluster of three and knocking one loose to fall to the ground. He sighs in contentment. “It’s like I never set down my bow.”
Anarchaia’s stomach flutters and her grin widens. “I’ll get a bullseye before the night is over,” she promises, drawing another shot. “And a talent like yours really never dwindles. Just lies dormant until again called upon.” She looses and hits the outermost ring, then pouts.
Koltira frowns at the mage’s dismay. “You need to adjust for the wind.”
Anarchaia frowns somewhat. “I can’t feel the wind much. Which way is it blowing?”
Koltira steps behind the mage, setting his cheek to hers. He lingers a moment before pointing out the ribbon on a stick just past the dummies. “Its height will tell you how fast the wind is going. The angle will tell you the direction.” He lingers again, setting a hand on her hip.
Anarchaia tilts her head slightly to press closer to him. “Didn’t see that there. I suppose that’s why you’re the marksman and I’m the mage.” She titters and nocks another arrow but doesn’t move her head.
“Perhaps,” Koltira says. “For this wind, you’ll need to adjust toward it. The ribbon points left, you aim right.” He moves her shoulders into position and rights the rest of her posture with a smoothing palm, the tips of his fingers brush across her breast for only a moment. He pretends to not notice the contact.
Anarchaia jerks at the tickle and accidentally releases the arrow too soon. It flies over the ledge of the island and out of sight. She releases a snerk of a laugh. “I’m ticklish. That one doesn’t count.”
Koltira smacks his lips after the arrow and takes a step back. “Then let’s not lose another arrow. You know what to do. Hop to.” He waggles his index finger at her and then at the target.
Anarchaia feigns offense, putting her free hand over her chest. “So bossy!” she says, throwing her nose in the air and smiling while drawing back another arrow. “I never.” It lands neatly between the bullseye and the circle around it.
Koltira nocks an arrow and smiles down at the mage while pulling it back. “You’re getting closer.” He looses his arrow without taking his gaze from her; it sails through the air to cross shafts with hers and land in the bullseye.
Anarchaia gives a sigh of contentment and looses another arrow. The string twangs against her cheek and she drops the bow, crying out in pain and surprise. She rubs at the sore, raw spot and chuckles. “Oops.”
Koltira takes the mage’s chin and observes the wound. “We should put a salve on that before it gets worse.”
Anarchaia gives an embarrassed smile. “Salves and bandages don’t work. My body doesn’t heal on its own.” She brings a hand up to rest on his. “I’ll be okay. Just a scratch.”
Koltira removes his hand. “I think you should do something about it. But you are the expert. It’s your call.” He stands away from her to let fly more arrows into his own target dummy.
Anarchaia presses a finger to the spot and inhales sharply, then decides instead to pick the bow back up. “Did you always want to be a Farstrider?” she asks casually, getting the vibe he’s gotten bored of her. He was being romantic and you screwed it up. Again.
Koltira shrugs. “It’s not really about wanting to be, more like I’d always hunted with a bow and I enjoyed making my own bow and arrows… You should’ve seen the one I had when I died. I spent years working on it, carving it. Always a hit with the ladies, it was.”
Anarchaia chuckles. “Oh, I bet it was.”
He turns to observe her. “What about you? Did you always want to be a mage?”
She sends another arrow into the target without actually trying, not landing anywhere impressive. “I’ve always been…attuned to magic. It more chose me than the other way around. But I do love to study and read. Just seemed logical.”
Koltira chuckles. “Interests and hobbies guiding careers. Always nice when that happens.”
Anarchaia nods. “Though, I never expected to make it far as a mage. The opportunity to advance didn’t arise until…everything.” Her face softens at the memory of her parents, her house, the magnolias. “Sometimes I think about what could have been.”
He nods solemnly. “We all do. I think it’s in everyone’s nature to question the what if’s of life.” He looses three arrows, anger clouding his eyes. One lands in the head of the dummy, the other in the outer ring of the bullseye, and the last near the groin. “Everyone tells me not to dwell on it. But how can I not?”
Anarchaia nods as well and sighs, lowering her bow and sensing the anger in his movements and tone. “This was a bad topic. I’m sorry.”
Koltira shrugs. “No point avoiding the bad topics. It’s fine.”
Anarchaia shakes her head and sighs, leaning the bow against the stand containing the others. She bends down to sit in the cold grass and watch him. “Sorry I’m impossible to…talk with when I’m sober.” She gives a crooked smile. “Which is why I drink so often. Heh.”
He cocks an eyebrow down at her. “I find talking to you rather stimulating—drunk or sober. Really, I… Most subjects are fine to bring up. It was just that damned book last night. It…caught me off guard. I was actually hoping for answers…not to find out that I know more about the subject than anyone. Well, besides Alisbeth. If you can stop her from screaming and breaking everything in sight, you might get some answers for Khadgar to add to his next edition.” He shrugs and drops down into the grass beside her.
Anarchaia stretches her legs out and leans back on locked elbows. “That seems like it’d have a poor success chance,” she chuckles. “Though I’m certain Master would be thrilled, should I actually get something out of her.” She pauses and sobers. A short silence passes. “You really like talking to me?”
“Shouldn’t I?” He laughs. “Really, I do. You’re very well educated and also eager to learn. It’s refreshing having consistently intelligent conversations without the hassle of…” He clears his throat.
Anarchaia smiles and lowers her head. “I wasn’t fishing for compliments or anything. I just… People tell me I’m arrogant and annoying and a lot of other words beginning with ‘a’.” She turns back to him. “And I feel the same. Grim never has anything interesting to say.”
“Oh, yes. Words that begin with ‘a’. I know a few of those. Anarchaia, amazing, a-beautiful, a-smart…” He laughs and throws an arm around her neck to pull her closer. “Seriously, though, you’re fantastic company.”
Anarchaia chortles and covers her face to hide her blush, but presses her cheek to his cold steel cuirass. “You are, too. In most manners of speaking,” she responds into her palms. “I…” The topmost parts of her fingers twitch against her forehead. “I really like spending time with you. If I could have it my way, it’d be all the time.” Don’t say anything more than that.
“Most manners…pfft, I’m insulted.” He lets her sit up as he smiles, humor twinkling in his eye. “Well, this seemed to work wonders for your stress. Unfortunately, I do still need to run to Acherus, and I’d rather do it sooner than later. Let’s just hope I don’t get detained or asked to do anything more.”
“I didn’t mean it like that!” Chuckling, Anarchaia nods and brings her knees to her chest. “You gotta do what you gotta do. I have an extensive list of chores to do, as well…though, most have to wait until morning. So I’ll be around.” I’ll miss you, though.
“Maybe I can help you with those chores.” He pulls her into a quick hug, then stands to open a gate to Acherus. The man behind the counter clears his throat and Koltira smiles sheepishly, then hands the quiver and bow back to him. With a small wave to Anarchaia, he goes into the death gate.