"I think she likes ya, Chione," Mr. Alby chuckled, stepping aside as Zaire laid a prompting hand on his shoulder.
"'ello, love," Zaire said, eyes drifting down over Brandy's body. He wasn't sure where she'd gotten such a gown, but it looked lovely on her, the cerulean satin complementing the red of her hair perfectly. "Didn't expect t'see ya here." In fact, it was just about the last place he'd expected to run into her.
His eyes went to Chione, then to Alby. "Grab a drink, aye?"
Chione's eyebrows lowered and she looked at him as if he'd sprouted a third eye. "Cap'n, I don't . . ."
"That's Brandy," Alby interrupted, throwing a knowing glance at his Captain.
"Oh," Chione's eyes went to Brandy again, this time looking her over with a half smirk on her face. "Aye, Cap'n."
Zaire waited until the two had drifted toward the nearest beer tent before tipping his head in the opposite direction. "How've ya been, Brandy-love?" he asked, wiping again at his hands in a fruitless attempt to clean away the last hints of blood stuck in the whorls of his fingerprints.
When the tattooed pirate identified Brandy so accurately, one eyebrow rose in surprise. She was Brandy, but how did this guy know who Brandy was? Zaire must have spoken about her, and she wondered what he must have said to put such a cute smirk on the Lady Pirate's face…
"No complaints," Brandy said, and realized her gaze had followed the enchanting woman in question. For most of their friendship, their final conversation aside, Brandy had always been evasive when asked about herself, and it seemed she had returned to that comfort zone - or, perhaps, she simply found her own questions much more pressing. "I've always heard that women were bad luck on ships…"
Zaire followed Brandy's gaze, watching Chione as she moved away with one last disapproving glance over her shoulder at her Captain. "Only bad luck Chione brings is t' our prizes." She was one of the fiercest fighters he'd ever met and teamed up with Mr. Alby, there was little the pair wouldn't be willing to do and then succeed at.
"My crew ain't buy into superstitions much," he answered. "They can't. Not with me as their cap'n."
Zaire's movement caught Brandy's attention and her eyes dropped to his hands, and her first thought was that the cloth was a bandage. "Are you bleeding?" she asked, curious and a bit concerned, before her mind caught up with her. There were also spatters of blood on his sleeves. "Ohh," no - someone else was bleeding, and that probably meant she wasn't supposed to ask about it. So instead, she followed the tip of Zaire's head and fell in step with him and echoed back the question she herself had barely answered. "How've you been?"
Zaire glanced down at his hands and the bloody handkerchief he was holding but his only answer was to shake his head. Brandy had witnessed him killing a vampire but that was hardly the same as what he'd just done between those two tents and he preferred to be far away from here before she heard any sort of rumors.
Slipping the handkerchief into the wide belt circling his waist, Zaire moved them both through the crowd with one hand on her lower back. They wouldn't go far from his men, just enough for the illusion of privacy. "Been just fine," he answered vaguely, casting a glance around the grounds for any sign that Lambert had been found yet but all was normal, thus far. "Busy. Sailed down around the Southern Point t'take a prize just a few weeks ago." Medicine, mostly. "Ain't got much time t'chat though," he admitted, exchanging a few coins for two flagons of ale at the next tent they reached.
Brandy smiled, pleased that Zaire knew what she preferred without asking - ale - even though everyone wearing dresses like her own were drinking fine wines. Brandy sure didn't mind wine, and could pair it nicely with any of her dishes, but it was the earthy umami of ale that she'd craved when she got up from that cushioned seat up over the arena.
"That's fine - I don't have a lot to say," Brandy responded after they cheered and she took a much heartier sip than most noble ladies would have attempted. Perhaps, her words were dismissive, implying that since their relationship had come to an end, pleasantries were all they had left. But when she lowered her drink and met his dark eyes, the words might not have been dismissive at all, but instead an echo of those he'd shared with her in a moment of vulnerability that found its way through lust, a moment that - maybe - Brandy still cherished and lingered on regularly. "Just that I missed ya, Z."
Brandy's words took Zaire by surprise and he found himself lowering his flagon to narrow his eyes at her over the rim. Months ago, when he'd said something similar - and far more innocently - she'd brushed him off and then ended things with a confusing explanation that she somehow expected him to tell Eloise about their relationship. And now this?
It was unfair, really, and he wasn't about to just admit that he'd also missed the time they'd spent together. Brandy was smart and she kept him on his toes with her quick wit - in short, she was fun and he'd missed more than that oh-so inviting warmth between her thighs. He'd missed her friendship.
"Oh no, Brandy-love," he said with a shake of his head. "Ain't 'ow this works." He leveled a pale finger in her direction, blood smeared along the back of it. "You were the one who walked out, not me."
"Because you got all prickly," Brandy responded in her defense, but stopped before saying more because between the narrowed eyes and pointed finger, only accented with the blood still coloring his pale skin, it seemed he wasn't far off from prickling it up all over again. She gestured vaguely at his body language and said, "See? Prickle!"
He wasn't wrong, though - she didn't know how this worked, not in Eventyr. She was an outsider and even if they'd been able to form a bond, culture clash was bound to catch up eventually between differing expectations and misunderstandings. It would have been fine if everything had stayed casual, but it had become apparent there were feelings as well. That made it a different ball game, and Brandy had a bad habit of preferring not to play if it meant not losing. With a resigned shrug, she said, "All I'm saying is that I'm glad to see you. Take it or leave it."
Well, she wasn't wrong; of course he was bound to get prickly when what he'd thought was a comfortable friendship had proved to be something else. Brandy had torn down the wall between Zaire's home life, where he was a loving father and husband, and his 'professional' life, where he murdered and stole - and, yes, had sex with other women - and it was going to take time to build that trust again. Because it was clear that she didn't understand the dynamic there, and even if he had time explain it to her right now, he wasn't sure he wanted to. It would mean showing her what lay beyond that wall and no one but his crew ever saw that.
So Zaire sighed into his ale, took another long pull, straightened his shoulders, and then let a bit of honesty soften his eyes. "Glad to see ya too, Brandy-love," he admitted, allowing fingertips to brush over her knuckles. The moment was cut short though - very short - when Alby was suddenly there grabbing his shoulder and hissing time t' go into his ear, and it was then that Zaire noticed the swell in the noise of the crowd. It wasn't the cheer for a well-ridden tilt but rather alarm and horror . . .
Turning back to Brandy, Zaire threw her a quick wink, "I'll see ya soon, love. And, ah, if anyone 'appens t' ask . . . I was never 'ere."
And with that, he and his two companions disappeared into the crowd.