|Summary||First day in the life of a mercenary.|
A marketplace, somewhere in India. It is loud, and hot, and dizzying. There is a cacophony of a thousand voices, all haggling and gossiping and chattering (in a few different languages, if anyone is paying attention), the air is heavy with the scents of saffron and spice and fresh fruit, and colour dazzles the eye in displays of bright cloth. There are also, if someone is paying attention, a number of interesting elements in the crowd; some people carrying weapons of all forms, clad in military-issue clothing, and more than a few obvious mutations, but they, too, are half-lost in the wonder of the market. It is a place to drink in, be dazzled in, and the perfect place for someone unwitting to get in over their head.
Rohan is not unwitting. He is busy contemplating a display of mangoes. Because mangoes are fascinating.
Ciel looks at home in the market, relatively speaking. Her pale skin stands out, as do her light eyes, but she stands with a cocky confidence that makes the pistol at her hip seem like more than decoration and gives the impression that she's been here before. Nevermind that she hasn't; she's seen plenty of the world, in plenty of smells and colors and tastes, and India is no different. Her hair, long and dark, is caught up in a knot at the base of her neck, and her eyes squint narrow against the sun as she studies the crowd. When they finally find Rohan, they settle there for a long moment, sizing him up before she approaches.
"Hey," she says. "Are you him?"
Rohan, on first glance, could pass for a local, all dark and sunbrowned. He does, too, however, wear a pistol casually at his hip. He straightens up as he is approached, dark eyebrows skittering up, and gives her a long look up and down before he asks, tone light with amusement, "And who am I supposed to be this time, love?" The local impression is ruined as soon as he opens his mouth. He speaks English like an Englishman--albeit one from more northern regions, accent all rough around the edges.
"Ainsworth," Ciel answers, jerking her chin upward a bit in response to that look up and down. Her own accent is a bit hard to place. It's mostly American, but on occasion something else slips through. Her eyes dip down to the pistol at his hip, just a little pointed. "They said you could-- ah. Show me the ropes." The lilt of her words laces them with amusement, a private joke. Maybe he's funny. Maybe it's her.
"Ah," says Rohan wisely. "So you're the new girl." He looks her up and down once more, and adds, "That was the obvious answer. I did come up with several alternative ones, starting with the one where you were a secret millionaire coming to rescue me from a life of mercenary drudge." He gestures to her, beckoning her aside, and adds in a murmur, "The rope stand's around the corner."
"I'm the new girl," Ciel agrees, lifting her arms wide to indicate the general awesomeness that is her presence. She tilts her head, giving Rohan a dry look in answer before she says, "Mercenary drudge, huh? You really know how to sell the job.
Rohan's mouth twitches around the corners, and he replies, dry, "It's one of my strengths. I very nearly went into advertising. I'm still not sure why that career didn't work out. For some reason they didn't like the tagline: 'Buy our shit--it's absolute rubbish.'"
Ciel looks briefly amused at that despite herself. The corners of her lips twitch, just a touch, though the look she gives Rohan remains Sahara dry. "Show me what's not rubbish, then," she suggests, jerking her chin up and out to indicate the spread of the market.
"That sounds like a dare," murmurs Rohan. "I could possibly find you something that is. What's your poison? Drink, food, silk saris, scantily dancers of either sex? Oh, and do you have an actual name? I could call you 'New Girl' if you like. It shortens to 'Newgi.'"
"Dear lord," Ciel says, and on her lips it sounds as much prayer as curse. Her eyes roll heavenward to punctuate it, then drag back down to Rohan. She regards him with a sort of tired patience
"Ciel," echoes Rohan, rolling the name around his mouth thoughtfully, like a sip of wine he is tasting. It seems to meet his approval. Or, at least, he doesn't spit it back out. "It's Rohan, by the way," he says. "Although if you make any 'Gondor calls for aid' jokes I will find the most unpleasant place I can think of and leave you there."
"Any what?" Ciel says blankly, like someone who has never read Tolkien. The shame. She gives him a faint smirk, a tiny think that changes the shape of her mouth and the tilt of her eyes into something somehow both smug and attractive. "I imagine I could find my way out. But I'll keep it in mind.
That blankness only earns a hitch of Rohan's eyebrows. He begins to move, wandering the rows of stalls with no apparent purpose, crooking a finger at her to beckon her to follow. "Keep an eye out," he murmurs. "It's not dangerous here--most of the time. You wear a gun, someone might want to check you know how to use it."
Ciel follows after that crooked finger with a whispering smile, weaving her way through the rows with her step paced to keep her close behind him. "Fortunately," she answers, "I know how to use it."
"Good," replies Rohan. "I'd assumed they wouldn't have hired you if you didn't, but, you know." He shrugs gracefully and glances over his shoulder, letting his eyes dip briefly, "Sometimes other factors influence the hiring process."
"Mutation?" Ciel presumes, lifting her brows in answer to the dip of his eyes in blunt answer. "Is that why they hired you?
Rohan hesitates. The line of his back tenses, just a little. "And here I thought it was for my wit and charm," he says, voice light. "But--yes."
Ciel notes that tension, and the tilt of her gaze goes swiftly curious. "That bothers you," she observes, open and blunt. "Why?
Rohan pauses for a moment, and arches an eyebrow again. "Because I worked very hard on my pistol," he says, with a short laugh. "And I'd rather be valued for something I worked for."
"You don't work for your mutation?" Ciel answers, her dubious disbelief evident in both expression and tone. The look she slants toward Rohan is nothing short of judgmental as she meets his gaze. "What do you do?" There is no shyness or hesitance in the question; she speaks as one apparently use to trading mutation shop-talk.
It is not a question that, perhaps, Rohan is comfortable with; his dark gaze slides away from hers. He laughs when he answers, however. "I'm a telepath--a very minor, very limited one. I know some think that's a dirty word, but seriously. Very limited. I'm not able to make you do a chicken impression in your underwear or anything."
Ciel watches this slide away with narrowed eyes. "I've known telepaths," she says. "Ones who can do a lot more than make you cluck. You shield, then? Or are you just pretending you don't know everything about me?"
Rohan laughs again, white teeth flashing in a bright smile. "I don't know anything about you," he assures her. "Other than the fact you're named for the sky and are kinda cute. See? Very limited."
"Well, you're certainly not using it to up your charm," Ciel answers, giving him a sidelong look that's tinged just slightly around the edges with humor. Her gaze lingers on the width of that white smile for a moment before she looks forward again. "Sounds like you're not a fan."
Rohan puts a hand to his heart. "I am deeply wounded you don't appreciate my charm," he informs her. He's moving again, lightly, winding through the stalls. The scent of spices and meat and fried dough grows heavier on the air. "I'm a fan of being treated like a human being. Terribly unreasonable of me, I know."
"I didn't say that," Ciel answers, and the smile she tilts him this time is tight and warm, as if she's got secrets locked behind it. She watches him sidelong through several steps. "They don't treat you as human here?
"Sometimes," Rohan replies. "That is, when they're not jumping to conclusions that I'm already rifling through their mind." It could be a pointed comment, but his voice is light, and he tosses Ciel a quick wink. That said, he drifts close to the food stalls, and begins to pick up food here and there he starts pressing on Ciel with no consideration for what she can carry. Something that looks like potato croquettes, doused in chutney. Triangles of filled fried dough. Something that looks very much like a grilled sandwich, stuff with unusual ingredients.
"Being treated as a telepath doesn't count as human?" Ciel wonders in the face of his wink. She collects what he hands her in her arms, piling them high without arugment.
Rohan waves a bit of fried chicken, smelling faintly of the mint chutney lingering on it, under her nose, and wonders, "Do you ask everyone you meet if they are reading your mind?"
"Just the ones who tell me they can, usually," Ciel answers wrinkling her nose as she tilts back from the wave of chicken. She pauses, then finally asks, "What're we doing, exactly?
"My mum," says Rohan solemnly, "says never to start anything on an empty stomach."
"Oh, well," Ciel answers, her voice lightening toward the edge of a laugh. "Can't argue with that. So you're feeding me? And then what?
"First food," insists Rohan. "Then I will show you the ropes. How to get around here. Our base, our weaponry, our current missions. You know, the boring bits. Then probably more food, a drink, and possibly scantily clad dancers if we can find them."Ciel glances toward him again, sideways, green eyes bright in their study of him. "Sounds like a day," she says eventually, keeping step with him as they go. A first day in the life of a mercenary.