[Co-Author: Kris][ShadowxTenrai] Shadow and Tenrai become each other's unlikely companion. Things get interesting.
Shadow kicked the stallion's sides, and it snorted, then galloped down the hill into the town. He stopped the horse in front of the town's tavern, tethering the stallion, and slipping through the doors, his entrance causing a brief silence as everyone turned to see who had come into the room, then quickly regained its volume as he took a seat at the bar.
Instead of the usual male barkeeper residing at that particular town's tavern, one of several barmaids seemed to be standing behind the bar. Presently, she had her back to the room, seeing as she seemed to be fiddling with one of the taps for the tavern's ale. As she bustled back and forth, her starched and lacy white skirt swayed from side to side, puffed away from her hips by layers of fabric. Over her bottom was tied a large red bow, and on her head was a ridiculously frilly white hat of sorts, embellished with several smaller red ribbons. Her hair seemed to be tucked up under her barmaid's hat, although several silver strands had come loose.
Upon hearing Shadow seating himself, the barmaid turned, a bright smile already in place upon a smooth, youthful face- for the customer's benefit, doubtless. From the front, a clean white ribbon with frilly lace trim was visible, its ties the same color as the red ribbons the maid wore. Truly, everything to the barmaid's appearance was perfect… Until one got to the part of a serving-girl that was every tavern-goers' favorite attraction- the BREASTS. The maid was a curiously flat-chested barmaid.
"May I help you?" 'she' asked Shadow politely, in tones that were politely JUST short of clipped. The nice way of saying that there would be NO man-handling occurring in the tavern, at least not while 'she' had anything to do with it.
Shadow looked at the barmaid with what seemed to be oddly colored eyes, pushing a few stray strands of black hair out of his face. "Do you have something non-alcoholic and doesn't taste like horse piss?" he asked quietly, once again brushing the stubborn strands of hair out of his face, causing the hood to fall back. The light revealed what was so strange about his eyes. Instead of rounded pupils, they were slitted, like a cat's, and vivid blue. And his gaze, rather than drifting downward, stayed on the 'young woman's' face.
Upon being confronted with Shadow's request, Tenrai- the 'young woman' in question- paused, putting a hand on one hip and allowing the corner of 'her' mouth to twitch upwards. "A special request, hmm?" was murmured in a low voice, the twitching to Tenrai's lips threatening to elicit an actual smile, however small one might turn out to be. "I'll see what I can do." Again, Tenrai paused, before allowing the faintest of smiles to grace 'her' lips for only the briefest of moments- and then she'd turned away, bustling over to the kitchen in a parody of the way the other barmaids moved. After a minute, Tenrai returned from the kitchen bearing a mug, which 'she' placed before Shadow. Inside was cider, although it was spiced, not hard.
Shadow sipped at the liquid, and nodded. "Thank you... How much do I owe you?" He set the mug on the counter, leaning one elbow on it, the other thumb hooked in his belt next to his money pouch.
"Copper penny," Tenrai murmured, tone rather disinterested for one who supposedly lived off of what tavern patrons spent. 'She' leaned 'her' back against the bar, continuing to eye Shadow out of the corner of 'her' eye. The catlike eyes were curious indeed, but that wasn't to say they weren't... Pretty. Like gemstones. They were... Pretty. Meaning there really couldn't be any harm in... In the same neutral, disinterested voice, back still mostly turned- "You have lovely eyes." 'She' paused just a moment, just long enough for Shadow to absorb the words, before continuing as if 'she' hadn't yet spoken, this time in a drawl that indicated, if anything, even less interest than before. "So. What's a full-grown man like yourself doing frequenting a tavern and not sampling the local ale? Alcohol not to your taste?"
"Thank you. And no, I don't drink. Only wine. And very rarely even that." He dug a copper penny out of his pouch, setting it on the counter and picking up his mug, sipping at it again, eyes scanning the tavern crowd for a moment before resting once again on Tenrai.
"Really?" Tenrai wondered aloud, business at the tavern presently slow enough to enable 'her' to make small talk with the customers. "For what it's worth, I don't tend to drink, either. Alcohol only serves to cloud one's judgment. I don't need that." 'Her' piece said, Tenrai turned back around, now smiling for real, albeit a bit wanly. 'She' leaned forward, slipping the copper penny for the cider off the bar and into a pocket nestled among the lengths of lace and frills of 'her' dress, before planting an elbow on the bar top, cocking 'her' head to the side, and settling into place, intent on watching the new visitor quietly.
Shadow offered a small smile of his own, then turned towards the bar, sipping the drink, eyes straight ahead at the wall opposite the bar. "If you don't mind me asking... What's with the dress? A bit done up for a barmaid, aren't you?" He glanced over, a teasing smirk on his face.
Strangely enough, Tenrai didn't appear to be exceptionally put off by being 'found out'- rather than taking offense or trying to deny that 'she' was anything other than female, Tenrai just shrugged his shoulders, pushing back from the bar and reaching up to brush long, slender fingers against the fabric of his little barmaid's hat. Finding the red ribbon ties, he pulled the frilly thing from his head, holding it in one hand as if it were a dead bird, or some other such unsavory creature. With his other hand, he ran fingers through silvery hair- which turned out to be chin-length; shorter than most girls', but longer than most guys'. "The real question," Tenrai began, in perfectly even, measured tones, "is what's up with these hats? They're flat-out gods-awful, and real barmaids wear them. But you don't see me complaining. Anyway... You mean to say you don't like the dress? It's not flattering?" Sapphire eyes blinked innocently, reinforcing what sounded like genuine disappointment in Tenrai's voice- as if the dress had actually been manufactured by the boy, and made to look not decent, but GOOD.
"Oh, no... I never said anything of the sort..." Shadow examined Tenrai's face, blinking a few times as he realized that 'she' was actually a 'he'. "I just meant that it was... a bit much. All the frills and bows.... Even if you were a woman," He added the last part in an undertone, taking a long drink of the cider. Shadow chuckled. "But I must agree about the hat..."
"You're rather a smooth talker yourself," Tenrai simply commented, after pausing a moment to consider what Shadow had said. "After all, I rather doubt you came in here in the first place with the intention of sipping cider and mastering the subtleties of fashion critique. And you're right- frills and lace aren't really my thing. But see... That's what all the other girls were wearing. And if you want to fit in..." Tenrai trailed off purposefully, leaving the rest of the sentence unsaid.
Shadow leaned back slightly on the stool, letting the comment about fitting in go without response. "Well, I'd rather have some kind of conversation than the usual stop for a rest. I'm not much of one people look to for fashion advice... I'm actually more looking for information, though. You might be able to help me there." He looked at Tenrai, eyebrows raised, one hand absently tugging on a strand of his bangs. "I'm looking for a man... about average height, red hair, pretty well built. A lot of the people I've talked to described him as stocky or bulky... You seen anyone of the sort around lately?"
"I'm afraid I haven't," Tenrai admitted, offering a smile as well, as if to prove that what he was saying was the truth. "Although... I suppose in fairness I should probably point out that I'm really not the best person to ask. I haven't been in town all that long myself. Mind if I ask why you're looking for this fellow, hmm?"
Shadow's gaze drifted away, eyes narrowing lazily. "Official reasons. I've been paid to find him."
'And kill him....' A voice said gleefully in the back of his head, making his lip twitch slightly into a scowl.
'Be quiet, Wraith...' "Well, that must mean he passed through here during the day and didn't get food or drink here. He would have been through in the last few days, so if you didn't see him, I doubt he stopped anywhere in town." Shadow reached up to the brooch pinning his cape together, and took it out, pulling the cloak off his shoulders and draping it across his lap, pulling the tie loose on his mid-back hair, letting it fall free before gathering it up and tying it again. "Well, in that case, I'd better find a place to sleep..." he muttered, half to himself, sloshing the last of the cider in the bottom of the cup before tipping the cup up, finishing the drink.
Tenrai watched quietly as Shadow removed his cloak and untied his hair, hardly noticing the subtle twitching of his own slender fingers as he coolly eyed Shadow's long hair. He hadn't commented on Shadow's talk of "business;" as far as Tenrai was concerned, that was just babble- it didn't concern him after all, did it? Then Shadow had asked about lodging... Which was something Tenrai really should have been able to help with. "It's really too bad that the town's too small to have a proper inn in addition to a tavern..." Tenrai murmured, as if he hadn't yet thought over the implication of his words. Even as he spoke, he reached out a hand to pluck away Shadow's now-empty mug. To himself, Tenrai wondered if Shadow had understood his comment about not being in town long to mean that he had no intention of settling down there- he intended to work, yes, but not to settle, no. "Finding somewhere where you can rest is bound to be a problem."
"Well, I'm sure you've been around town long enough to know where there's a place to stay?" Shadow glanced at Tenrai, propping his elbows on the bar, lacing his fingers together, and resting his chin on them.
Tenrai's eyes flicked up to Shadow's face, as he briefly studied the other young man, a slight smile already gracing his lips. "Actually, now that you mention it, I probably could pull a couple strings for you, and get you lodging for the night... Might take a little effort, but there's no harm in trying. Sound good?"
"I would appreciate that. Thank you." He paused, and then smiled slightly. "Why, pray tell, are you helping me, anyway?"
Tenrai had turned slightly to the side, enabling him to glance back over his shoulder at Shadow, a curious little smile in place for the other man's benefit. "What, and force a lady to reveal her secrets? But truly, it's no problem. I'll help you because I can, and because it's right." ...And because you have lovely, lovely hair... Hush, you. "Why- should I have a reason to be helping you?" Despite the connotation of the last words, Tenrai's tone was still light, his curious smile having faded a bit, back to his usual wan smile. Turning away, Tenrai moved over to the kitchen door, glancing back at Shadow and gesturing for him to follow. After all, he did have a favor or two to call in...
Shadow followed him, gathering his cloak under one arm. "Well, if you wanted to get into my pants, for one..."
'Which you wouldn't mind.'
'Shuttup. I don't want to have to tell you again, Wraith...'
'Or what? You'll make my outfit clash?'
'You're one to talk. You'd do anything human in appearance on two legs.' "I don't mind your helping, for whatever reason though." Shadow chuckled, sticking his hands in his pants pockets.
Tenrai blinked a few times in rapid succession, suddenly feeling awfully transparent, and finding that he couldn't quite guess why. He really had been telling the truth... Almost entirely... Because there was that lovely hair, which did look dreadfully silky... But if one offered to help out a guy who seemed to be in a hurry to get to someplace- or someone- there obviously wouldn't be much of a chance to do said guy's hair now would there?
"Right," Tenrai murmured, not liking feeling unbalanced, and not knowing what sort of reaction was to be expected from him. "C'mon, we're going to see the barkeep." With that said, Tenrai breezed through the kitchen door, leaving Shadow to catch it for himself- after all, Tenrai was the 'lady.' Inside the kitchen- which was cramped, overheated, and full of smells that mixed together in very interesting ways- was a large, red-faced man who stood kneading dough at a large wooden table by a cook stove already stuffed with loaves. Smiling his small smile, Tenrai gestured towards the barkeep-cum-chef.
Shadow ducked into the kitchen, catching the door just before it smacked him, feeling rather out of place considering he wasn't an employee here. He squished up against a counter as another - actually female - barmaid went through the doors, shooting a glance at him as if to say 'you don't belong here'. Shadow shifted his weight, and bit his bottom lip, looking at the floor for a moment, before turning his gaze to the man Tenrai had offered was the barkeep.
"I thought you might've liked to ask him yourself," Tenrai murmured to Shadow, the faintest traces of amusement coloring his voice. That said, he first caught the barkeeper's attention, then the barkeeper's arm, drawing the man away from the table in order to speak with them. "Excuse me," Tenrai said- continuing to murmur, but obviously pitching his voice so as to be heard- the barkeeper didn't seem to have any difficulty, at the least. "I know you're busy, Roberts, but my friend here just got into town and he needs a place to stay- d'you think you could help him out? I know it's a lot to ask... But you do sort of owe me, hmm?" Question asked, Tenrai smiled his best 'charming barmaid' smile.
Pulled away from his dough, the barkeeper- Roberts- looked up at Tenrai once, recognized him- or 'her'- and passed him by, before his eyes landed on Shadow, and caught. "I know I do," the man rumbled, in response to the comment about him 'owing' Tenrai a favor, "but I really don't have anywhere to put him- making 'special arrangements' for you was hard enough, after all..." The barkeep trailed off, his eyes drifting back over to Shadow, as if asking him to at least prove that he was worthy of Tenrai's attempt at getting him free lodging.
Shadow nodded his head once in Roberts' direction, straightening up under the man's scrutiny. "I don't mind where you put me, as long as there's a bed, or something similar to it," he offered quietly.
"That's the problem," Roberts said shortly. "There really wouldn't be anywhere TO put you. All of my girls sleep in one room - a dorm, of sorts - and I'm sorry, but I doubt you could pay me enough to trust you holed up in there with my servers. Other than that... There's my room, the storage room, and the- well, there WAS 'the closet'- as all the serving wenches aptly dubbed it. Now it's Tenrai's room. Not much of a selection, you see." Roberts shrugged his shoulders at that, dusting flour from his hands as well. Tenrai, on the other hand, had the good grace to look at least a bit embarrassed- he was currently staying in the one room that would have otherwise been available, after all.
Shadow nodded, and offered a small smile. "Well, I'm sure I can find somewhere else, then." He bowed his head, and turned to leave the kitchen, pausing at the door to the main area of the tavern to turn around, eyes resting on Tenrai. "And thank you for trying to help me out. I really do appreciate it."
"Oh no you don't!" Tenrai called after Shadow, this time truly speaking before thinking. Pouting and looking perhaps the girliest he had that entire evening, Tenrai slipped over to the kitchen door, catching Shadow by the wrist and yanking him forward a step, back into the kitchen and towards Tenrai. "I promised that I'd help you find somewhere to stay. I did give you my word, and I will find you lodging. Come on."
That said, Tenrai proceeded to walk across the kitchen, head held high, Shadow's wrist still encircled by his own long fingers. Stopping at another door, Tenrai paused to open it and slip through, leading Shadow into a short and surprisingly cool [at least after the kitchen] hallway. Where they stood, there was a door to their right at one end of the hall that would doubtlessly open back onto the main room of the tavern, with another at the left end of the hall that should open onto the outdoors. Across the hall were two more doors- one for the barmaids dormitory, another for 'Tenrai's Closet.' On their side of the hall, just past the kitchen, was the staircase to the barkeep's own room. More slowly than before, as if he were losing momentum, Tenrai walked toward the left end of the hall- towards his own room, and towards the outside. Realizing he still had his fingers wrapped around Shadow's wrist, Tenrai released the man, and paused.
"I guess you could always leave," was one of his nonchalant suggestions, as Tenrai gestured towards the door. "Or I could share. Roberts would've given you this room anyway, if I hadn't been here first."
Shadow stumbled after Tenrai's quick pace, but didn't try to reclaim his wrist at all, until Tenrai released it. "Well, I don't mind sharing, if you don't," Shadow said quietly. "And to tell you the truth, Roberts wouldn't have to worry if he had put me in the women's' dormitory..." He smiled slightly, and then looked away, cheeks turning a light shade of pink.
Tenrai didn't allow himself to skip a beat with Shadow's replying; as soon as the words 'I don't mind' had exited the other man's lips, he brightened noticeably without even realizing it. "Then it's settled," Tenrai declared, happening to completely ignore everything else Shadow said- and thereby possibly avoiding any embarrassment on his part; as far as Shadow was concerned, he had already embarrassed himself. "After all, I wouldn't've asked if I minded. I guess you should come on in... although it's a bit cramped, just to warn you..." With those last words, Tenrai pulled open the door. It was already dark outside, so even though there was one high window set in the only wall facing the outdoors, no light filtered through into the shadowy-dark room. With this in mind, Tenrai fumbled around to the right of the door for a moment, coming up with a lamp, which he promptly lit. Setting it back on the chest of drawers it had been resting on, Tenrai left the room illuminated. It was a tiny little space, with hardly room for the single chest of drawers on the right and the pallet on the left. Being himself, Tenrai might have asked Roberts for an extra pallet... But the space between the pallet and chest of drawers wasn't quite wide enough to walk down, let alone to put a pallet down on.
Shadow glanced in the room, and raised an eyebrow, a half smile forming on his lips. "We're both supposed to sleep in there?"
"I never did say it was glamorous..." Tenrai murmured, sounding utterly innocent, hands quietly fisted into his lacy barmaid's apron. "I just said that it was lodging... After all, I've been making do." The last was said with awful cheerfulness, as Tenrai gestured towards the room, seeming to be silently saying 'take it or leave it.'
"Well, since you're determined to find me someplace to sleep, I may as well stay for the night, hmm?" He looked back into the room, and held out a hand. "Ladies first..." he said, smirking slightly.
Tenrai raised an eyebrow at the comment, but didn't lose a beat- if anything, he looked more flattered than offended. Tenrai slipped past Shadow and through the door, catching the outstretched hand as he went and pulling Shadow into the little room behind him. "Ever the gentleman?" Tenrai murmured, but he said nothing more.
Shadow smirked, and brought Tenrai's hand up to his mouth, kissing it lightly before releasing it. "Oh, not always."
Tenrai smiled what was becoming his usual smile, a soft little thing that captured the corners of his lips and spread to light his sapphire eyes gently, allowing Shadow to take his hand, coloring ever so slightly with the kiss, and withdrawing it slowly upon Shadow's release of his hand. Still smiling, Tenrai leaned across Shadow, tilting his head and kissing Shadow's cheek. "Perhaps," he murmured, as he dropped to the pallet on the floor, starchy white dress puffing up around him, before settling down gently. "But I've yet to see you act as anything but."
Shadow straightened up, feeling his face redden slightly. He got a hold of himself before Tenrai could notice, and settled down against the chest of drawers. "So, is there anything I can use for a pillow or should I make do?" He laced his hands behind his head, leaning his head on them.
Tenrai cast a surreptitious glance in the direction of his chest of drawers, before pointing out that "Well... What you see is what I have. So unless you see anything you can use... You will have to make do." With this, he flashed Shadow an apologetic look, fidgeting a bit before allowing himself to stretch out on the pallet against the wall across from Shadow, lying on one side with his back to the wall.
Shadow leaned towards Tenrai, smirking a little, and in one quick movement, had snatched Tenrai's own pillow. "You said if I saw anything I could use..." he said, arms wrapped tightly around the pillow.
'Oh, honestly. Stop, already.'
'Oh, be quiet, you.' He smiled softly at Tenrai, but did not give up the pillow.
Tenrai blinked once, realized that he was now without a pillow, and propped himself up on one elbow, enabling himself to better pout at Shadow. "I suppose I did," Tenrai murmured, maintaining his pout, voice colored with false hurt despite the levity with which Tenrai spoke. "Now I'll need a new pillow..." This time, as Tenrai trailed off, he seemed to make it obvious that he expected Shadow to DO something about his pillow-less state.
Shadow matched his pout, and then shrugged. "We could always share..." He had to try hard not to smile, and was fighting a losing battle, as most of the smile managed to come out anyway. He tossed the pillow back at Tenrai. "I wouldn't really take your pillow."
"You give up too easily," Tenrai pointed out, just a bit gleefully. When Shadow had tossed the pillow, he'd reached out to catch it, and was now tucking it victoriously under his head. "I thought you were trying to prove that you weren't just a nice guy all the time?" Tenrai continued, now sounding a bit amused. "Although... Now I almost have to let you share, don't I? C'mon- go ahead."
"I didn't say I wasn't a nice guy. Just not always a gentleman..." Shadow sprawled out as best he could on the floor, propping his elbow up and putting his chin in his hand. "After all, would a gentleman do this?" He leaned over, kissing Tenrai on the lips softly.
With the light kiss, Tenrai wasn't given much time to act or react, but he did lick his lips slowly after, his eyelids having gone a bit droopy and half-lidded. Typical small smile sliding back in place upon his lips, he gazed contentedly over at Shadow for a few minutes, feeling calm and warm inside after the kiss. Thoughtfully- and truthfully- he did bother to reply: "I don't know... But I rather don't think I care."
Shadow smiled, and sat up slightly, removing his belt and setting it aside, laying back down, resting his head on his arm. "I think I've proven my point..." he chuckled, and rolled slightly over, so his back was flat on the floor, arms behind his head. "What exactly is someone like you doing in a place like this anyway?"
"Someone like me?" Tenrai echoed, tone of voice colored by curiosity. "What exactly do you mean by that? Because... I dunno. How should I answer?" Tenrai gave a slight shake to his head, before shrugging whatever it was off, and returning to watching Shadow from his sideways vantage point. Then, just a bit nervously- "But... Do you mind...? I usually don't wear the apron this long, I just hadn't gotten a chance to change yet..."
Shadow sat up, and raised his eyebrows before he realized what Tenrai was saying. "Oh... I can go out into the hall, if you want...?"
"No, it's-" Tenrai began, hardly waiting for Shadow to finish speaking before cutting in with continual nervousness. As he spoke, he was already rolling back upright, peeling the lacy apron away from his body, unfastening the large red bow, and leaving only the white dress in place. "...Rude, is all. I might ignore you..." Tenrai shrugged, sitting back on his heels, and fiddling with the hem of the skirt after setting the apron off to the side. "I'm not that easily embarrassed, you know. I'm not a real girl- and you didn't answer my question."
"Question? Ah... Well, you don't really strike me as the sort to settle for a life like this, I suppose is all." Shadow was looking at the floor just in front of him, quiet for a moment, then he chuckled nervously. "My name is Shadow, by the way..."
"Kind of forgot about the pleasantries, didn't I?" Tenrai mused, somehow not seeming to be too bothered by the prospect. "I think you probably overheard my name from Roberts, but it's Tenrai." -a warm smile- "And 'settle'?" -an amused shake of the head- "I did mention before that I hadn't been here all that long myself. I don't settle. Period. This is just where I am at the present."
"Just because you haven't been here for long doesn't mean you won't stay here," Shadow pointed out, pulling one knee up to his chest, draping his arms loosely around it. "I have a home on the coast, even if I'm a wanderer by nature."
"So therefore the reverse is true of me, obviously. I haven't a permanent home, and regardless I may decide to stay here? No offense, but just as I doubtlessly know little about you, you've proven to know little about me- or rather, my background. So don't judge it- at best you'll be wrong, at worse you'll be hurt." Tenrai's tone was mellow despite his words seeming to be words of warning, and he reached over towards Shadow as he spoke, twining his fingers in a bit of the man's black hair.
Shadow remained silent for a moment, forming a response in his mind. "I wasn't judging you, Tenrai. I was stating an example," he said just as calmly, feeling the tie in his hair loosen as Tenrai played with the strands.
Tenrai continued to quietly play with Shadow's hair for a few minutes more, not having any particularly insightful comments to make in response to what Shadow had said to him- and not seeing much of a reason to speak otherwise. Scooting over a bit, Tenrai adjusted himself, sitting up straight so as to play with Shadow's hair and gaze down at the young man's face- he did still have pretty eyes, after all.
"What are you doing, then?" Tenrai murmured a bit sleepily. "Why am I bothering getting myself mixed up with whatever it is?"
Shadow's eyes met Tenrai's gaze, and he felt his hair fall completely free of the tie. "I suppose I'm saying I like you," he said offhandedly. "And as for the second question... I don't think I can answer that for you, now can I?" A small smile came to his face.
Tenrai made as if to pout, before finding himself smiling again- the same soft smile he'd felt tugging at his lips all too often throughout the evening. "I guess you can't," he half-whispered, in response to the last. His tone of voice was mild, before shifting to sound a bit more amused. "And I suppose I'm flattered. Even if I don't see how that has anything to do with why I'd find myself in a place like this." The last morphed from merely sounding amused to sounding teasing, as Tenrai purposefully evaded directly answering Shadow's confession of sorts.
Shadow couldn't help but laugh. "Well, I guess it doesn't have anything to do with it. I am still curious as to how you ended up here." He looked curiously up at Tenrai, a small smile on his own face.
"Oh, that?" Tenrai asked, a bit offhandishly. "I... Travel a lot, is all. And if you're going to be traveling, you have to have some way to support yourself, right? Personally... I think we're very different. But we're still rather alike, hmm?" Tenrai smiled back, still thinking over Shadow's 'confession'- and still thinking that Shadow really was quite the gentleman. He wondered why Shadow didn't seem to mind having his confession sidestepped- or the cross-dressing, if one were to bring that back up as well.
"I suppose we are rather alike, aren't we..." Shadow went quiet, gazing at the ceiling for a moment, unable to think of anything else to say at the moment, twisting a few strands of his hair between his fingers, eyes closing halfway in a thoughtful expression.
"Sleepy?" Tenrai murmured curiously, as he watched Shadow play with his own hair, looking either pensive or tired. "It is getting rather late, I suppose..."
"Hmm?" Shadow glanced up, snapping out of his thoughts. "Oh... Yes, I guess it is... I was just thinking. I'm actually not really that tired..." he laughed quietly, letting the hair drop from his grip, resting that hand across his chest.
"What do you mean?" Tenrai breathed out the words, before coloring slightly; he'd immediately taken it for granted that Shadow would mean one thing by his words, and was chagrined because even with Shadow's little 'confession,' it wouldn't do to draw conclusions such as the ones Tenrai was reaching so easily. Shadow had merely meant he wasn't tired, nothing more. "Oh... Never mind."
Shadow raised an eyebrow at Tenrai, flicking a few stubborn strands of hair out of his face. "What was that?"
"Oh... Nothing. Just... Nothing," Tenrai mumbled, wondering to himself what Shadow's reaction to a straightforward answer might have been. After Tenrai had insisted on multiple occasions that Shadow was such a gentleman, to think something like that of him? ...Maybe Shadow would be flattered. Who knew.
Shadow looked back at the ceiling, unable to stop himself from yawning slightly. "Well, since we seem to have run out of conversation topics, I think I might go ahead and go to sleep. Good night, Tenrai..." He said quietly, closing his eyes.
Tenrai followed Shadow's eyes as the other young man stared up at the ceiling, finding himself unable to help feeling a bit disappointed. He himself wasn't all that tired despite the late hour, and wouldn't have minded speaking with Shadow a while longer. Still, apparently he hadn't been making the best conversation, so perhaps he was more exhausted than he thought. That in mind, he replied softly, "Alright, Shadow. Sleep well." Reaching down by the foot of the pallet, Tenrai fetched a light blanket, before finally removing the encumbering barmaid's skirt and tossing it down past the pallet's end. Stretching back out and tossing the blanket over the both of them, Tenrai squirmed a bit, trying to get comfortable, and allowed his own eyes to drift shut.
Shadow let a small smile cross his face as he felt the blanket fall across him, opening his eyes just enough to glance over at Tenrai, before closing them again, drifting into sleep.
Morning approached, the gray light of false dawn already streaming gently in through the one high window the room possessed, and already Tenrai was rousing from his sleep. As a 'barmaid' of course, he had to be up early, but the hour was still ungodly. Blinking open sapphire eyes, Tenrai prepared to sit up as usual and get into his barmaid's outfit... Before realizing that the room was a few degrees warmer than usual, thanks to the additional body heat provided by an extra young man stretched out beside Tenrai. An extra young man that Tenrai had, up until that point, been leaning into on the pallet, one arm thrown casually over the man, across his middle. Shaking his head, Tenrai wondered if it had been foolishness that had urged him to find Shadow lodging with him- but even so, Shadow was there, which meant a change in the usual plans.
Instead of getting up and getting into his dress, Tenrai carefully lifted himself away from Shadow, and stepped over him to the chest of drawers instead. Pulling out the bottom drawer, Tenrai withdrew a different outfit, dressing quickly. After donning loose black leggings, black leather boots, a tight black undershirt that began beneath the armpits, relying on some sort of elasticity to hold it in place, and a strange silver over-shirt with uneven sleeves- the left cut off at the middle of Tenrai's upper arm, while the right hung down so far that it covered his hand, and then some- Tenrai slipped only about fifty or sixty thin silver bangles onto his bare left forearm. Closing the now-empty drawer, Tenrai sat himself back down beside Shadow, electing to wait and watch the other young man sleep, rather than choosing to rouse him.
Shadow's forehead crinkled slightly in sleep as Tenrai removed himself from his position draped across Shadow, but his expression softened again, and he turned his head the opposite direction, a light frown turning just the corners of his lips down. A few minutes later his eyes fluttered open, confusion crossing his face for a moment before he remembered where he was, sitting up and turning towards Tenrai, rubbing his eyes sleepily. "Good morning..." he managed through a yawn.
"Good morning," Tenrai replied- rather cheerfully, but in his usual smooth voice. "I take it you'll be wanting to leave at some point this morning, if there's really somewhere you have to be... Or at the very least, you'll be getting dressed now, hmm?" Tenrai's tone of voice was light; Shadow had said the night before that he was looking for someone, and there was no way he'd find them sticking around a backwater town like the one they were in, but he did find himself wishing that, at least after Shadow's little 'confession,' he'd follow it up in some manner.
Shadow glanced down, brushing off his shirt. "All I've been doing is riding for the last few days... These clothes are gonna reek of horse, but what point is there in changing, really? Besides, I don't have a change of clothes with me," he said, reaching over to grab his belt and sword, laying the sheath across his lap. "And yes, I should be going after the man... But I'd hate to come back through town only to find you've moved on..." He smirked at Tenrai, winking mischievously. He found himself looking over Tenrai's change of wardrobe. "And I think the outfit is far better suiting to you, by the way."
"Really?" Tenrai asked, smiling and sounding genuinely pleased before coloring slightly and fiddling with the bangles on his arm in a happily embarrassed fashion. "Why are you looking for this guy, anyway?" Tenrai asked after a short stint of silence, recovering without too much difficulty from the dose of flattery. "If you don't mind me asking, that is- I doubt it's any of my business. It's just... You make it sound like something required, not something you actually want to do. And I wonder why you'd put up with finding this fellow, if that's the case."
"If I told you, I'd have to kill you..." Shadow said mysteriously, and then smiled in a sad sort of way. "Actually, I'm an assassin... But I don't exactly like what I do. I'm just exceptionally good at it. And it makes me a decent pay, so I stick with it." He retrieved the tie for his hair off the floor, tying his hair again, gaze resting on the sword in his lap.
"You shouldn't worry so much about pay," Tenrai blurted out, after hardly a pause, before looking back down at his own lap, knowing he probably shouldn't have spoken so swiftly. "I mean... You honestly don't believe that, even in a backwater place like this, I couldn't get better work? No... It's just... This way, I'm actually happier. I have control over my own life, and I like it that way. But an assassin, hmm? Doubt that's common knowledge. Meaning you've shared a secret- would you like personal information in return, or are you just being nice? After all, if you really do like me, you'd probably like to know more about me than that I have a crappy job and a penchant for pretty clothes."
Shadow smiled genuinely, scooting against the chest of drawers, "I would like to learn more about you... Whatever you feel like telling me." He rested his chin on one knee, looking over at Tenrai.
"I'm flattered," Tenrai murmured, the corner of his lips curving upwards in a decidedly quirky smile. "Because it probably would be nice... To explain for no reason more than because I wanted to. You're an assassin by profession. I'm not a barmaid, thank the gods- I'm a mage. A mage-student still, sort of... Intermediate level, but better than most. Journeyman. Thing of it is... These days, so few people have the talent and dedication for magic. And those who do make too many demands on people, asking for all sorts of unreasonable things in exchange for the completion of even small magical tasks... I just don't like it. I don't want to give anyone the chance to think that I'm like those people- so I don't live my life like those people. As a journeyman mage, I'm a traveler not just by nature, but by profession as well- only I don't travel as a mage. I travel as a wanderer, take work as I get it- usually in places like this, only there are far nicer taverns and inns in the larger cities- and... All in all, it's not a bad life. I'm plenty young yet, and still making progress with my magic studies. When I'm a master, and not just a journeyman... Perhaps then I'll stop charade-ing as a barmaid and become a proper mage. But that's no fun."
For the most part, Tenrai's tone had been serious- up through the last. Then he'd become just slightly mischievous, grinning happily as he spoke. "Anyway, the best part is, I can always leave at any time, and most anyone is happy to house me, so long as they have room. It really is nice..."
Shadow sighed softly. "I can imagine that. I have connections, through the Assassin's Guild, but usually not in small towns like this. So occasionally I have to fend for myself. The guild takes care of us though..." he went quiet, looking out the high window for a moment. "Well... Are you going to be here for much longer?"
"I probably would have stayed here for at least a bit longer, had you not come through..." Tenrai admitted thoughtfully. "But now... I'd have to admit that you've made me at least a bit restless. Backwater towns are anything but exciting, and it sure would be nice to stretch my wings for a change, so to speak..." As Tenrai trailed off, his tone shifted from his usual bland one to a noticeably more wistful one.
"Are you saying you want to come with me?" Shadow said, unable to keep the somewhat hopeful tone out of his voice. He stood up, buckling the belt around his waist, draping his cloak over one shoulder, leaning nonchalantly against the wall.
"Well, I am saying that if I were to come with you, I would be gifted with a free bodyguard... Who could refuse? After all, I'm traveling as if I weren't a mage, and if I don't use my magic, how ever would I defend myself?" Tenrai grinned with that, the light in his eyes and the tone to his voice a clear indicator to the fact that he was teasing. "And even better- Roberts would have his closet back! It most definitely sounds like we have a plan worked out. But what about the details, hmm?"
"Details?" Shadow was grinning broadly by the end of Tenrai's explanation, and crossed his arms across his chest. "What kind of details do you have in mind?"
Tenrai blinked, wondering if he'd missed a less-than-innocent sounding alternative meaning to his words, before shrugging it off. "Well, I don't know about you, but I don't know too many assassins who tote around magelings for company- or rather, who keep any sort of constant company while on 'business,' so to speak. Surely at least the thought that there might be problems with this arrangement has occurred to you?"
"Sure it did. But we'll work something out, I'm sure." Shadow said offhandedly.
'You don't think anything through, do you Shadow?'
'What's it matter to you Wraith? You don't think much through yourself....' "Well, if you're going to come along, you'd better come along..." He glanced out the window again, and turned to leave the room. "I've got to be getting on my way, after all..."
"You make me feel like some sort of stray animal, you know," Tenrai said, although his voice was still rather cheerful. He took a moment to open the top drawer of a chest of drawers, withdrawing a bag which appeared to already be packed and slinging the thing over his shoulders. "Still, I guess I can put up with it... For you, that is." That said, Tenrai followed Shadow to the door to the room.
He chuckled, and re-clasped the brooch onto the cloak, now draped properly around his shoulders, slipping through the kitchen and into the main room of the tavern. "So does the mageling barmaid have a mode of transportation, or will he be riding with me?"
"No, the 'mageling barmaid' tends to travel on foot, actually, seeing as it tends to be easiest in the long run. So yes, I suppose I'll now be riding with you, since I'll be traveling with you. Planning on waiting long enough for breakfast, or are you not hungry?" The last was a complete and sudden change of topic, but Tenrai didn't make a big deal of it. He continued to follow Shadow, amused enough by the way Shadow had taken to speaking.
"I usually don't eat. If you need to, go ahead and grab something you can eat in the saddle..." Shadow glanced back at Tenrai. "I'm going to go check on my horse, so grab something now if you want to." He slipped through the front doors of the tavern, approaching the large black stallion with a smile on his face. He untied the horse's tether, scratching the horse's nose affectionately. The stallion snorted slightly, nibbling at Shadow's cloak as he led the horse to the front of the tavern.
Tenrai just shrugged, watching Shadow slip out of the tavern in much the way he'd slipped in the night before, before heading back to the kitchen to give his regards to Roberts and grab something for the road. That mission completed, Tenrai found himself exiting the tavern's front door just as Shadow was leading his horse there to meet him. Smiling, Tenrai walked out the door and over to Shadow and the stallion.
Shadow turned to face Tenrai as he exited the tavern, smiling at Tenrai. "This is obviously my horse... His name's Noir. Are you ready to go then? Here, give me your bag." He held out a hand, the other on the stallion's bridle.
Tenrai paused almost imperceptibly when asked to hand over the bag he carried, although after the initial hesitation, he did pass the bag to Shadow without a word. Apparently, he was rather overprotective of the thing- or something. Waiting a moment for Shadow to do with the bag as he would, Tenrai idly fiddled with the silver bangles on his left arm.
Shadow attached the bag to the saddle hiding a small smile at Tenrai's attachment to the object, and climbed onto the horse, holding his hand out to help Tenrai up. "It's just as well you wore pants, you know..." he said offhandedly.
Tenrai took Shadow's hand as it was offered, doing his honest best to hide the fact that he really did need all the help he was given in mounting- riding was not something Tenrai was particularly skilled at. Still... "Hmm?" Tenrai murmured, sounding just vaguely curious as to what Shadow had meant by his words. He paused, as if considering, then continued, sounding mildly amused. "You know... You're probably right."
Shadow grinned. "I'd hate to have to see you try to ride sidesaddle with two people in the saddle." Noir snorted as the extra weight was added to the saddle, and glanced back with one large round brown eye. Shadow smiled down at the horse affectionately, and then kicked his sides gently. "Hold on. Noir doesn't do things halfway." The horse snorted as if to affirm the statement, and then started at a quick trot down the road.