Who: Brandy and Zaire
When: March 11, 872 RoK - 11pm
Where: Captain's Quarters, Siren's Song
Brandy shot awake, pushing herself up off the mattress, gasping for air in a panic, until she felt arms - safe and warm - enfold her. Shuddering, it took a long moment for her own arms, shaking, to return the hug, delayed as it was for her to realize it was comforting.
Slowly, pieces came together. The movement beneath her meant she was on a ship. A pirate ship: the Siren's Song. Zaire's ship, that had stalled in King's City's port while the captain had retrieved her from the Silver Tankard tavern. She had only been alive when he got there because there had been a knight, one who seemed determined to make no more than a fleeting appearance in her memory, who had fought off the zombies with her peripheral help…
Making their way to the port had been all adrenaline. Being cleared for bites all medical; treatment for other injuries unnecessary, as Brandy did not have them. Despite several terrifying encounters where Brandy had, rather creatively, fought of her attackers, none had gotten her, but her brain as yet wasn't sure of that fact.
The tremble in Brandy's body was clear, and she whispered, tensely, "Am I okay?" Just as quickly as her hands moved over Zaire's firm form, searching for the imperfections that she couldn't handle, but also couldn't ignore. "Are you, Z…?"
"Aye, Brandy-love," Zaire soothed, pulling her down into his arms. "We're both safe now." They all were, miraculously, since somehow his crew had managed to come through the entire ordeal without any casualties, though Jahid had been bitten and was currently under careful observation until he came through the fever. Even Killick had gotten out of the city, though not on his father's ship and not alone.
Who was the noblewoman with the baby? It had been the thought that had dominated the pirate's mind since he'd laid down and, combined with Brandy's fitful sleep, meant that the pirate hadn't slept for more than a few moments at a time.
He'd immediately jumped to the conclusion that the child was Killick's; that his son had gotten tangled up with some Southern born noble and planted his seed there in her belly. And there was a part of Zaire that was proud and another that was hurt that Killick hadn't mentioned a son or daughter when they'd seen each other only a few days prior. But then, when had either given the other a chance to share news like that?
The bed was narrow, not really meant for more than one person in it, but that just made it easier to pull Brandy's trembling body tight against him so Zaire could press a kiss to her forehead and rub a comforting hand up and down her back. "Ain't nothin'll 'appen to ya 'ere," he assured her in a whisper. "As soon as we're able, we'll getcha t'land an' find ya a fairy circle to bring ya 'ome again."
Brandy nodded, but it was almost all an automatic response because she barely heard the words themselves. She didn't need to, though, because she knew she was safe there, with him, and it wasn't an intellectual matter but a physical, perhaps even chemical one. Adrenaline had kept her alive, but now it made her feel starved for the others. Even in the dim light, Brandy could see the spatter of blood on her clothes - zombie blood - and it seemed to upset her because in a clumsy rush, she pulled the fabric away from her skin and whispered quiet, desperate pleas for Zaire to help her…
She couldn't calm her breathing, not really, until she'd rested for a few thousand rapid heartbeats with her bare skin against his, when the calming comfort of oxytocin caught up with her. Brandy asked for a drink for her dry throat and barely acknowledged what the liquid was that the captain offered her, and only then did Brandy start to feel like herself again.
"The crew, are they…?" Brandy asked, and accepted Zaire's vague assurance they were okay. If there had been a loss, she would have seen it - the captain was a true father to his crew, and he couldn't have lied to her. "The city, though? The city was fucked." Brandy bit her lip and blew out a breath she wasn't trying to hold. "King's City is… DC, and it got fucked. What does that mean?"
Zaire sighed, eyes going to the ceiling above his bunk, absently watching the candlelight flicker in familiar patterns across the flowers carved into the wood there. He didn't care about the King's City, not really; not in the way he would care about the Island or even any of the cities in the West, but the loss of so many lives was a tragedy.
He didn't want to tell her how far reaching the consequences could be, though. He didn't want to tell her about the threat of disease, how the zombies could spread from the city and ravage the countryside, because there was a selfish part of him that was afraid he'd lose her forever. She could leave Eventyr, go back to her New York, and why would she come back after this?
But he had to tell her something.
"All depends, love," he answered, and there was a shrug in his voice, if not his shoulders. "We 'ave outbreaks in the West but never in such a large city, not for centuries." He paused, considering what could be the next steps, then continued, "Help'll be called in, from t'other Duchies. Means less soldiers and guards, means more crime with resources stretched thin." Just the sort of situation that a man like him could exploit. "News'll come in dribs an' drabs. Next we make port, we'll 'ear rumors, I'm sure."
"It's going to be fine," Brandy said, more to herself than to her partner. Hearing the words helped. Brandy's biggest worry, of course, was that the zombies would multiply until they had a total apocalypse on their hands, but Zaire didn't seem worried about that and it made sense.
"At home, we have lots of movies about zombie outbreaks," her favorite was Train to Busan, but that was effectively ruined now, wasn't it? "But in every story, the first outbreak is always the only one. The infection spreads quickly, and then it's too late. That won't happen in Eventyr. A lot of people knew what to do..."
Including, notably, the pirate who had fought through the horde to come find her, even though he had a perfect escape route away from the danger. Gratefully, she hugged Zaire closer, pecked a kiss on the first bit of skin she could reach, just below his collarbone...
And then, maybe a little hysterical, Brandy found herself laughing. "That's the first thing that came to mind? Fewer guards?" Eyes alight with amusement, Brandy's fingers ran through the rough texture of his beard and shaky laughter gave way to an authentic smirk as she teased, "You practically have dollar signs in your eyes."
Zaire found himself smiling, amused at how she'd picked up on that little detail and noting how it seemed to chase some of her anxiety away. "Dollar signs?" he repeated, then remembered her mentioning that currency in her world was made of paper rather than coin. Just like she'd explained what 'movies' were.
"Less guards may be good for us, lass, but ain't for most," he admitted, a bit reluctantly. "Means travel will be more dangerous, towns'll see more violence." He trailed off, not wanting to go into detail and inadvertently convince her that returning to Eventyr wasn't a good idea, but the thought had a stab of guilt following close after. If he truly cared about her, wouldn't he want to know she was safe, even if it meant not seeing her again?
"Brandy-love," he said, the amusement fading and leaving his face grave and his eyes serious. He reached up and pushed her hair back, thumb scrubbing lightly over a spot of blood on the side of her neck. "I ain't gonna lie t'ya. It could get dangerous 'ere now . . ." And it wasn't as if he could take her to the Island, even if he knew she'd be safe; not even he could juggle the sort of situation that would arise from having his wife and mistress in such close proximity to each other.
Brandy picked up quickly on Zaire's hesitation, his caution, and it sobered her, wiping the humor from her face, shallow and short-lived as it had been. She was quiet for a long moment, trying just to listen, to read him, and her hand caught his, pressing his palm against her throat and covering his hand with her own for a moment before she kissed the inside of his wrist.
"You think I should go home?" Brandy inferred, question direct but her tone low and inquiring. He had saved her life, and she was rather inclined to respect his opinion on how not to squander the favor. It was the obvious solution - go home, wait it out. Watch Netflix and go to brunch and make videos and try not to wonder whether the realm had been overtaken with the undead, or who was declared king, or what the pirate crew who were starting to feel like family were up to in the chaos of it all. Because it was equally likely they were suffering as prospering…
Brandy propped her weight up on an elbow, and a thoughtful finger traced down Zaire's face. "I'm not one of your crew," by that, Brandy seemed to say that she wasn't sure what value she really had to him. She knew he cared for her - he had shown that well enough, but he had said explicitly that he didn't love her, and it wasn't like she was much help on the ship. Sure, she could cook, but she found pirates ate mostly for utility. Brandy sighed, frowned. "If you think it's best, I'll go." She would miss him, though, desperately, and the thought contorted her face with sorrow...
Zaire could see the wheels turning as Brandy wrestled with his words, easily picking up his meaning though it was clear she didn't like it. "It ain't that I want ya t'go," he quickly clarified, mirroring her movements by pushing himself up onto an elbow, as well. "I want ya t'be safe, love."
He sighed again, eyes sweeping around the room as he considered their options. "I can keep ya 'ere. On the ship," he mused. "But I can't bring ya 'ome with me . . ." Not to the Island, but he could bring her West . . .
Though it almost sounded as if she didn't want to leave and, if that were the case, then who was he to force her? "Would ye stay?" he asked, after a beat of contemplative silence. Because if she wanted to stay, then he needed to find a safe place for her, but if she didn't then the entire conundrum was moot. "In Eventyr, I mean. Do you want to stay 'ere?"
Brandy's expression morphed as easily with her thoughts as his words - considering, about staying on the ship, but incredulous about the "home." He wanted her to be safe, and to that she nodded respectfully, but it was a complicated situation and sooner than later, he was opening the question up to her perspective.
"Stay?" Brandy could only shrug. "No - not stay." Her instinct was to joke, and she did, "I mean, aside from Netflix and indoor plumbing," she hadn't expected the jokes to land, but the humor in her expression cooled quicker than usual anyway, "I have my fans, my friends, my dad at home. I'm not going to disappear off the face of the planet." Which was obvious, but the hyperbole did highlight a point. She'd been missing calls - a lot of them, from family and work - lately. "But I am spending a lot more time in Eventyr than I thought I would. It can be dangerous, but it's exciting, too." Her pale palm smoothed down Zaire's arm, and her eyes followed it. "And when I move back and forth, it gets harder to find you."
Zaire's eyes had drifted as she spoke, a frown forming along the dappled skin between his eyebrows. No matter how much they'd discussed it, the pirate didn't fully understand Brandy's life in New York and the things that seemed so important to her. Wanting to see her friends and father though, well, that was something that he could understand. Family was important and that was precisely why his stayed safe on the Island - except for Killick, of course . . .
His eyes settled back on her face though, when she mentioned that it was hard to find him. "Fairy circles," he muttered, shaking his head. He didn't have a good solution for how difficult it could be to find him; he couldn't sit still, waiting for her to reappear and, being aboard the Song most of the time, meant that a fairy circle could drop her closer to where he was at any given moment - only to have him bypass that bit of land completely.
"But . . . will ya come back, love?" Despite how exciting she found his world, he was still worried that once she got home, her good sense would kick in and she wouldn't come back. And he still wasn't sure that would be the worst thing. He touched her face, thumb carressing over her cheekbone, "Is this t'last time I'll see ya?"
The sort of frustrated confusion that crossed Zaire's face betrayed with the idea of fairy circles brought instead an amused smirk from Brandy - she knew that her heart always pulled her in Zaire's direction, but when she couldn't find him? Those were fun adventures, too. Sometimes, she got what she wanted; sometimes, she got something else entirely. Once, she'd ended up at a tournament in King's City, totally confused as to why until the pirate had shown up dripping with suspicion…
"I'll come back," Brandy assured, with a nod. It wasn't a wise decision, by any means, and frankly she did not understand the mechanics of it, but she felt it. And where she and Zaire had maintained similar postures thus far with words, their assurance prompted her to move on top of him, her legs astride his. They felt close and secure. Her hands cupped his face, gently and affectionately, as her nose rubbed against his, and she smiled. "I'm not a smart gal, Z. But I know what I want... What I need… I won't be away for long."
Zaire let a smile drift across his features, his hands coming to rest on Brandy's waist as she climbed atop him and promised she'd come back. It was both what he wanted to hear and exactly what he didn't and even the mild stroking of his ego couldn't quite shake away the worries that settled into his gut.
Sliding his hands up her back, Zaire held Brandy close, instinctively knowing that to get through this night she'd need the physical contact - and a distraction. "Can't resist me, aye love?" he asked, adding a self satisfied smirk for good measure. The worries would still be there come daybreak, but knowing Brandy was safe at his side at least until they docked at Lake City in a few days made it all a bit more bearable.