RP PotHN: Babbles and Bubbles [1x1]


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It’d taken Alys longer than anticipated to finish her errands in the gloomy city of Leimor. There’d been much to do, and although she’d made time to meet her friend in the bathhouse, the fae felt an undeniable sense of urgency. Late afternoon was fast approaching, eating away at her precious time. The dress and mask were perfect, earrings and bangles set aside, but there was still the matter of her hair and the cosmetics - the final details needed to play a convincing role. To pretend she wasn’t a pirate attending an aristocratic masquerade ball.

Of course, there were other reasons for wanting to look good. One particular reason seemed to plague her thoughts, driving her closer to insanity - obviously, there was pressure to give the harpy dress justice. Obviously.

It wasn’t until she sat in the common area of the bathhouse, waiting for her friend, enveloped in luxurious scents and sipping her chamomile tea, that she finally felt her body relax. Slightly.
Chasing Sky had been pointless. Stupid, even, given the distraction. and his affinity for crowds. Granted, it was one they shared, but at that moment in time, it truly did not help them in the slightest. They'd done their best to follow, but it was a pointless exercise after a few minutes. Juniper was frustrated, but knew the second he was out of sight, the pursuit was over.

Instead, since they were already in town, and given Alys had Ronan to help her with the blind woman, they turned their attention to their errands instead.

Following in the footsteps of those like them, the changeling stepped into an empty alleyway, and someone else exited a few minutes later, when the crowd was different enough that no one would notice the switch. This other woman set off into town, the story of a minor noble and a vaguely fae look about her.

With her story set, and the money to back it up from their recent adventures, she set out for the next hour or so, buying the clothes and accessories they would need for that nights party. She returned to near the ship, where, in a secluded corner, she returned to Juniper, and stowed their new apparel away beneath their bed, to be undisturbed until they returned that night.

And so, they found theirself at the bathhouse, in incredible need of its services. The last few weeks had worn on them, and time spent relaxing was exactly what they needed. They entered, and their eyes found Alys quickly, the blonde of her hair and blue of her wings a stark contrast to the drab greys of Leimor. "Alys! Sorry, took longer than I meant to. How did things turn out on the ship?"
Finally - though it was a somewhat bittersweet arrival. Alys smiled at the sight of her friend, and then a second later, felt herself grimace in response to their question. The dull ache in her shoulder had been a constant reminder of the disaster that’d occurred on the ship earlier that day, an ache that would likely remain for a couple days. She’d noticed the bruising as well, and silently thanked the gods that her dress had sleeves to keep the fresh colouring hidden.

“Awful. I’ll tell you inside,” she murmured, linking her arm through Juniper’s and leading them to the front counter.

Once they’d paid and entered the empty change room, Alys began to explain what had happened. “- so Ronan is in the brig, the blind woman got free, and I’m assuming you lost Sky?” Her tone wasn’t accusatory; once he’d gotten off the ship, the odds of catching him were near impossible.
Not long after arriving, they were squirreled away by Alys, to the changing rooms. Juniper could feel the anticipation of the smells, the comfort of the warm water, the feeling of being clean rising in their chest, a flutter and an impatience that they'd grown intimately familiar with over the last few days.

At least, they thought it was anticipation.

The changeling listened in silence as Alys recounted everything that had happened following their leaving the ship to pursue Sky. A frown followed, both upon seeing the bruise on the fae's arm, and hearing how the encounter had ended. "Unfortunately, yeah. Didn't know the bastard could run like that, but I guess the extra height helped. Long legs," they said with a shrug, working the rings out of their hair. It was good to take them out now, since they wouldn't be wearing them tonight.

They sat as they worked the rings out, crossing their legs and looking over to their companion. "We'll just have to be careful. He doesn't seem like too much, but granted I hardly know him. It'll be fine, next time I won't let him run off." They took a moment, to consider Sky. He was like them. Maybe it wouldn't be the worst to talk, but... well, that wasn't going to be an easy conversation. Especially not after they'd chased him.

"What do you make of the ball tonight?"
“He was in unknown territory and outnumbered. If he has a crew…” A crew possibly consisting of a blind woman with a sword hidden inside her walking cane, or perhaps far, far worse. Either way, it wasn’t a good thing that Sky managed to get on board. Alys had managed to spread the word to those on board, but with a large portion of the crew in town, she was depending on others to remain vigilant. She didn’t particularly enjoy depending or trusting other people, but at the very least, she had Juniper and Caleb involved.

Once she’d completely undressed and wrapped herself in a robe, Alys waited for Juniper to finish removing their accessories. Arms crossed against her chest, huddled within the warmth and comfort of the soft material, the fae sat on an opposing bench.

“I don’t know much. After I told the Captain about our little problem, he told me that a rich local is hosting. If she’s desperate enough to throw up fliers about it and allow just about anyone off the street to come, I’m betting she’s either lonely or insane. Or it’s a trap. Either way, it could be worth the risk. Get some new rings. Or a fancy fucking goblet, you know, for your drinking habits.”
Juniper let out a slight chuckle. "Right, for the whole barrel I'll be drinking." It was a stupid lie, which is why it worked. As far as they could think, Sky didn't have access to anyone who would give anything up about any of them, with Ronan being locked away in the brig. That meant it should be just as easy to catch him in the future, hopefully.

"Seems like a silly trap, anyways. Everyone's been buzzing about it, even locals. The girl I got my stuff from was lamenting about how she didn't get to go- had to work and all that." They set their rings to the side, ones from their hands included, and quickly followed Alys' lead, tucking the jewelry and their glasses away inside their clothes, to hide and protect them.

With a towel secured, the changeling motioned for Alys to follow. "My bets on lonely. Don't think rich folk get along well enough to have friends. Besides, she has to brag somehow. Makes it easy for us to take stuff, especially if we're careful. I won't be shocked if Nessa walks out with the deed to the place." They grinned, then lapsed into a silence.

A question hung in their throat for a minute. It was a dumb question, but they asked anyways, rationalizing it away. "So... fliers said something about dates. Have you- well, I figure you and Caleb will go, yeah?" They were very careful to keep their eyes away from Alys.
Oh, is that what the fliers had said? Alys wouldn't have known, she hadn't seen a flier, but rather forced Caleb to agree to take her.

Gods, now that she thought about it, had she actually done that?

Juniper's next question was awfully bold though, and certainly unexpected. Alys glanced towards her friend, who seemed to be looking elsewhere, prior to responding. "You figure.... that him and I will go together," she repeated, raising an eyebrow.

But she continued on with her business, dropping the robe around her ankles and slowly wading into the deep tub. "And what makes you say that? Because we work closely together now?" As Captain and quartermaster, rather than quartermaster and any other crewmate.
Juniper followed suit, slipping into the water easily, letting the heat wash over them. It was always different from their own, somehow much more relaxing and comfortable.

"Well, no. Partly, I guess. You two have been spending a lot of time together," they said with a shrug, slinking down a bit further into the water. Why was their heart beating so fast? Why did they feel embarrassed, that they'd noticed? A half-remembered image of the two of them, embracing in the ice lands, when the pair of fae and Nessa had fought one of the constructs. Not long before they'd managed to destroy the other one. Had that happened? They were far off, it was hard to remember...

"The morning we arrived in the ice lands, I saw you come out of his cabin. Didn't see you that night, and I missed you at the party, too. You know as well as any of us how Caleb is, I just figured..." The anxiety flared again, and they took a second to reconsider. "I was just curious, I guess. You seem the type he'd ask."

Gods, this was stupid.
Well shit. That morning had been chaotic - for more than one reason. She’d hoped that the ice sculptures would be enough to distract the crew from noticing as she left a room she had no business being in, but apparently not. Granted, if only Juniper, of the whole crew saw her, that wasn’t so terrible, now was it? Right?

Alys sank down further until the water covered her shoulders. It felt amazing, but did little to distract her thoughts as she tried figure out a way to explain this all away. Even her basket of soaps and scrubs lay forgotten at the edge of the tub, if only for the moment.

“Well, if you want to know, I asked him,” the fae finally said, leaning her head back to rest against the edge of the pool, seemingly unbothered. “In the alley, Sky wouldn’t leave me alone. So I figured it’d be better to go with someone. And I wouldn’t mind making him a little jealous either.”
Gods this was stupid.

Almost immediately, their heart calmed, which would usually be a good thing. This time though, it froze in place, then sank down from their throat to their stomach, where it turned into an ice cold ball of embarrassment and regret. Already low in the water, Juniper sank lower, much like their heart, until their mouth was hardly above water, their hair splayed out along the surface around their head.


Gods, they wanted to get up and run. It'd be easy, once they got around a corner they could be gone, a lot like Sky had done. Maybe it was less unbearable, because it was to get at Sky, or maybe that made it worse because they could have done that. It didn't matter at this point. In that moment, Juniper realized they'd need to apologize to Beck, if they ever got the chance.

"I- uh, I'm sure that'll work. D'you even think he'll be there?" Their voice was a bit quieter now, a little more aimless. Easier to keep talking about other things, than to think about it. Easier not to tell anyone.
It’d worked. An inkling of the truth, vague enough to allow Juniper to jump to their own conclusions. And redirect the conversation away from her fateful night in Caleb’s room. Granted, both stories together led to a compromising assumption. Without her confirmation though, that’s all it would ever be.

“You saw how quick he was to get on the Nox. Everyone in town is talking about this ball - you said so yourself. He’ll be there.” She was sure of it.

“What about you? You’re going, right?”
From their near-submerged seat, Juniper shrugged. They'd been so excited earlier, they'd already gotten a mask, an outfit, they'd been looking forward to it since they heard of it. Now, though, it didn't feel all that appealing. Talking to people, dancing... no, now they wanted to sulk again. Maybe there'd be people to talk to on the ship.

"Dunno. It- seems like a lot. Haven't been to anything formal in a while, I-" won't be able to dance, it'll be too hard to get my mind off this, was it worth it to even act like they wanted to do anything? "I just, dunno. Don't feel well, right now. Might go see Emer and rest."

Gods, they needed a drink.
The lack of enthusiasm and overall shift in mood caused the fae to sit up straight and glance towards Juniper with her brows furrowed. They’d been so talkative just a minute ago, seemingly fine. What had changed so quickly?

“Are you alright?” Concern took ahold of Alys as she looked over her friend’s face for any sign of illness. They were a bit flushed - an expected reaction to the heat of the water, but not pale nor sickly. “Might just be the sudden temperature change. Here, I’ll save you a trip.” She rose from the tub, water dripping down her body, to reach for the half-empty tea cup she’d been sipping on earlier.

“Have some. It’s chamomile with honey,” she murmured, settling back in and offering the drink to Juniper. Chamomile helped with nerves, but she seemed to recall it helping with digestion, and plenty other things too. “And don’t make me force feed you. I promise it's not poison," Alys teased, the corners of her lips lifting up into a playful smile.
Alys either couldn't tell, or was lying. Unfortunately, both were equally possible, and Juniper wasn't sure which they'd prefer. What they would prefer is that they'd never asked, or cared, but they'd already crossed that bridge. They couldn't even muster up a false agreement with the fae's reason for their sudden change in mood. Going from a chill to warmth was a blessing, and something they'd done all their life. It wouldn't do something like this.

The changeling stared a moment at the offered cup, eyes flicking to Alys' face and back a few times, before they slowly reached out, water falling away from their arm. "I..." would almost prefer the poison at this rate. "Thank you," they said, offering a much weaker smile in response. The sorceress took the meagerest of sips, before setting the tea aside. It was delicious, and infuriating.

Maybe it'd be easier to tell her everything and let her scream at them or tell them off or laugh at them, just to get it over with so they could move on. Or maybe that would be the worst possible thing, and make them really want to leave the ship again, be alone again.

"I just- don't know that a masquerade is for me, I guess. Don't really... I don't know." It was a weak lie, one they couldn't even commit to. What had they become.
What a goddamn pitiful sip. And excuse; one that contradicted their previous claim of feeling ill. “So you don’t want to go because you aren’t sure if a masquerade is for you?” Alys repeated, raising an eyebrow questioningly. “Have you ever been then?”
Truth be told, Juniper never had been to one. The entire idea seemed so tempting, so appealing to them though, given what they were, and yet, no matter how they thought of it, they couldn't bring theirself to commit to going. Slowly, though, they were starting to reason away the worst of it. She'd asked Caleb, so what? They were both fae, they both... were pirates.

So the reasoning bit wasn't as strong as they had hoped. Regardless, the worst shock had worn away. Rather than devastated, they were more just upset, and tired. A twinge of regret for broaching the subject was mixed in, but that was going to hang in the air for quite a lot longer than the rest of it.

"No, I haven't," they half mumbled, burying the fact that every day was a masquerade depending on who you were. Someone like sky, or theirself. Maybe she knew that already, though. "Maybe... I don't know. Doesn't seem worth it, to go alone, though."
A bewildered scoff left her lips, paired with an eye roll that left little to the imagination. Clearly, the thought was absurd. Of course, she had a date, and even if she hadn't forced Caleb to take her, it wouldn't have stopped her from attending (and likely finding another date, but that was besides the point).

"That's bullshit, and you know it. But if it's really bothering you, we'll just have to find you a date. It won't be hard, anyone would be lucky to go with you," Alys offered, her eyes watching her friend intently.

Then, perhaps a little more firmly, she continued. "Juniper, you have to go. I still owe you a dance from before, remember? Please, go." The fae smiled sweetly, and leaned forward, the water gently lapping at her collarbones, travelling across the opposite side of the bath.
The changeling frowned, eyes dropping to the water in front of them. Anyone wasn't the point, and even then, it's not like there were many options. Juniper knew that a lot of the crew were desperate for... companionship, especially if it was coming from someone from the women's bunks, but something was... missing from that. There was a reason they'd left Connell, back in Allegria, why they'd never gone to a brothel, or entertained any advances they'd received throughout the years.

Something always just felt wrong, almost impersonal about the whole thing. Sure, part of it was the fact that they were a changeling, and they were hardly honest about who they were, but something was always wrong about it. They heard Alys move, and looked up.

Gods damn it. Did she know? That damn tone, that smile, it was infuriating. Juniper's heart started to slam against their chest, and they shifted uncomfortably under Alys' gaze. "I-" Dammit, the dance was tempting, and Alys wanted them there, but...

They leaned back, closing their eyes, fighting back a frankly confusing surge of emotion. With a heavy sigh, they agreed. "Fine. I'll- try to be there." Their enthusiasm was still clearly lacking, but... it was hard to say no, to some people.
Awkward silence filled the air, causing the fae to finally look away, down at the swirling water. She'd gotten Juniper to agree, albeit somewhat begrudgingly, but something was very clearly wrong. Perhaps they really were ill, and Alys had mistakenly dismissed the claim they'd made earlier in the conversation. Or, it was something else entirely.

Had she done or said something wrong? She'd only answered the questions that'd been asked of her, so perhaps it was something she'd done earlier? In the Ice Lands? Over the last couple of days?

Her own mood began to sour at the lack of clarity, but rather than letting it consume her, Alys forced a small smile onto her face and reached for the delectable soaps and scrubs. She had a ball to get ready for, as well as the prospect of dancing and chivalry and sparkling riches, just ripe for the taking.