Thirteen

Ditto




Fall came crisp and cool over Dragon Valley in the months that followed Esmerelda moving in with Quinn. The war was still in its beginning phases, and showed no signs of ending anytime soon. This was fine as far as Quinn was concerned. 


In fact, it was the winning situation. Fate and Calypso could bleed themselves dry which would shut them up and sate their bloodlust for a good thirty years, give or take. The longer they went at each other the longer his own master wouldn’t need to worry about either of them thinking they could challenge him. 


The longer they went at each other, the longer Esmerelda would stay.
Not that he was attached. He didn’t get attached.
He just enjoyed her cooking and cleaning up around the house. 


And her singing.
And her ideas.
And her company in general.


Ok, so there were a lot of positive benefits to having a roommate in his house he had never considered before. The last “roommate” he had was very much a child who needed him as an authority figure. 


Quinn shook the last of the water from his shower out of his hair and let his eyes scan the horizon outside his window.
Yes, they had been lucky thus far with the war, but he knew that it was only a matter of time before trouble got stirred up - there were fourteen human gods in the Pantheon, after all. He grimaced; fifteen, he supposed, though he questioned the legitimacy of this new “God of Death” that rose to power in the last twenty years.


There was always a struggle for power during the first century of a god being replaced, but a new god rising? That had everyone sitting uneasily in their golden seats.
Even Quinn’s master had a wary eye on the newcomer.
Quinn didn’t really care that much, though; all the gods were bastards in his mind - his master was just the only one to tolerate Quinn telling it like it was.


The house gave entry to someone and he turned to look towards the door to his bedroom.
Mania coming to visit would only mean one thing: there’s a new job for him.
He’d gotten off easy these past few months that none of the jobs he’s had required him to be away from home for long periods of time. He’s never had to miss a nicely cooked dinner since Esmerelda moved in. He had hoped to keep it that way, but he knew it wasn’t meant to last. 


“QUINN!”
Mania sounded upset and Quinn smirked as he put on a shirt and stretched his shoulders before approaching the door.
No soon after he stepped outside his room was he bombarded. 


“Quinn?! There’s a WOMAN in your house! What’s going on?!” Mania had sped ahead of Esmerelda who was standing by the stairs, smirking as she leaned against the wall. 


Quinn rolled his eyes and shrugged at Esmerelda’s expression, which she immediately took as an explanation and she snorted slightly. Finally he pointed to Mania, his gaze still on Esmerelda’s amused eyes. “This is Mania Keeper, my master’s High Priestess.” 


“QUINN! You didn’t answer my question!” Mania was waving her hand in front of his face. 
Esmerelda broke out with a bit of a laugh and Quinn laughed with her before turning back to Mania with another eye-roll. “Yeah, yeah, I heard you. Nia, this is Ez-Esmerelda.”
“Yes, we’ve chatted.” Mania nodded, her eyes intensely on Quinn. “But what is she doing with permission to your house?” 


“She lives here.” Quinn shrugged; Mania was always far nosier than she needed to be. He had avoided telling her about Esmerelda with good reason; besides being nosy, she also had boasting streak when it came to being right.
Regardless, Mania’s mouth dropped open at the statement as she looked between him and Esmerelda. Her eyes lit up as she spoke. “LIVES here? Really? That’s… Wait!” She paused, her brow furrowing. “-what about that one girl? The Nightingale girl? The one on your cards?!”
“You told her that?” 


His eyes immediately darted for Esmerelda whose face filled with confusion and slight skepticism. Shit. He could only imagine what she was thinking about in that moment; he would need to think fast. He focused onto Esmerelda, “Mania works with these cards that can-” 


Mania immediately began talking over him. “Oh? Oh! You’re her? You’re her! I told you Quinn! I told you!” She gloated happily in place before squealing and latching onto Esmerelda. “I saw you in his future! I read these divination cards that let me see images of the future, and Quinn’s card suddenly started popping up with a nightingale ALL over it! And he never took me seriously, nope! I knew it was more than what you told me, Quinn!” 


Quinn immediately held up his hand. “She’s my roommate. She got shuffled into Calypso’s shit so I’m letting her stay someplace safe until it blows over. We’re just friends.”
Esmerelda nodded along with him before finally taking a breath. “You said you saw a… a nightingale on… a card?” 


Mania nodded, completely ignoring Quinn. “The cards are never straightforward you see, they’re blank and the images that appear on them are supposed to be symbolic of the future. People tend to have symbols that represent them, like someone could be a flower or a smirking man with a top hat or a-”
“A nightingale.” Esmerelda nodded. “That’s really interesting.” 


“It’s very selective about what it shows! I’m usually pretty good at getting information out of it though!” Mania grinned, tightening her hug on Esmerelda.
Quinn was trying to not grit his teeth, but at the very least Esmerelda didn’t seem upset with him. He sighed, “what is it that brings you here, Mania… well besides pestering me.” 


Mania scowled at him and Esmerelda laughed which caused Quinn to smile. He hoped he was portraying enough in his body language to express that he wouldn’t divulge her personal life to anyone. No, it likely wouldn’t be enough. He needed to clear the air. 
“I have a job for you, well had. I’d hate to mess something up for you all things considered, but I just can’t bring myself to ask Kefka to do it. I suppose I could ask Deliro but… he’s got zero contacts for what we need and-” Mania’s voice dragged him back into the present and he tried to not roll his eyes. 


“What do you need me to do, Nia?” His patience was running thin, and all he could think about was how he needed to straighten things out with Esmerelda before he could do anything else.
“I need you to get some information from the girls in Eravaeral’s Sanctuary, I’m a little concerned that there may be some who would take advantage of the chaos this war is bringing.” Mania had flipped like a switch suddenly, her serious voice was on as she delivered the information. “The girls there are usually the first aware of things regarding this… particular client.”
Quinn knew immediately. “Edric.” One of the Hale family - part of the Vampire Courts. The God of the Night had been awfully quiet.
Mania nodded. “The one and only.” 


Esmerelda was shifting her gaze between the two of them before she smirked. “Ah Edric, I knew him well.” She snorted slightly before slouching in her stance, doing her best to follow along despite having no knowledge on who this man would even be.
Quinn laughed a little as well before shaking his head. “He’s a follower of the God of the Night and he’s known for his frequenting of Eravaeral’s Temples-”
“AKA Brothels.” Mania cut in with an eye roll. 


Esmerelda’s face lit up as it clicked into place. “Oh!” She drew out the word with a laugh and nodded. “I got-chya.”
Quinn watched her eyes fill with devious thoughts and felt his gaze get stuck there.
“Quinn is usually the first to volunteer for this sort of mission.” Mania smirked and rolled her eyes. “The girls at the Temple use a special incense that makes the girls look closer to your ideal type, or whatever it is you’re feeling that day if you partake in it.” There was slight distaste in Mania’s tone, but Quinn wasn’t paying attention to her. “Some of the more powerful girls will use potions and their magic to shape-shift. They get really into it.”


Esmerelda had grinned wider and he was still stuck on her. He shook his head to clear his thoughts when she laughed. “Sounds like my kind of a drug. Is it just women, or are there guys there too? If so, maybe I should tag along.” Her bright eyes caught his again and he was pulled into them. “Maybe you need a wingman!”
He felt his grin growing. Esmerelda along for the ride with him? He never thought another woman would offer such a thing. “Oh hell yeah.” 


Mania laughed and it was enough to put a damper on Quinn’s mood. “Has it really been that long since you’ve gone, Quinn? There’s no men working at Eravaeral’s main temple because half of it is dedicated as a women’s shelter. Some of the other temples, definitely, but not that one.” She shifted and grinned at Esmerelda. “Not that it would stop you from being welcome there, of course! The girls don’t discriminate by gender.”
Quinn narrowed his eyes on Mania who only gave him a giggly shrug before they both turned back to Esmerelda, who actually seemed to be contemplating it. Finally she shook her head. “Eh, I don’t mind girls, but I’m feeling more like guys lately.” 


Quinn nodded, “I respect that.” He couldn't help but feel a little disappointed knowing he would miss her thoughts and reactions to the Temple.
Mania shrugged, “either way, here’s your notes, Quinn. You know the drill.” She snapped and handed him a note that appeared in her fingers. Her eye contact was direct, he knew the note was blank. Malice is moving. We need to know where and why. 


Quinn smirked at the voice that echoed in his head before he looked away with disinterest upon taking her ‘note.’ “Good thing I can read.” He shoved it into his pocket.
Mania rolled her eyes in response. “In the meantime, I hope to see you around more, Esmerelda! Quinn should bring you to the Madhouse soon! It’ll be so nice to have another girl around!”
Esmerelda’s face brightened with her smile. “Sounds like fun.” 


Mania had latched onto her immediately after that, crushing her in a hug and she snorted a laugh that made Quinn’s lips twitch upward into a smile. Her laugh was always so unusual - incredibly pleasant though. He often found most girls had laughs that grated after hearing them too much, yet he never tired of hers.
Mania gave him one last, slightly weary, look as she straightened herself. “Keep us posted.” 


“Yes ma’am.” He smirked and elicited one last eye roll from her before she vanished.
Esmerelda gasped slightly, her eyes wide. “Shit…”
Quinn would’ve laughed at her reaction if his mind had not still been churning on the conversation that just transpired. 


"Sounds like you’ve got a busy day.” Esmerelda had turned and started walking for the stairs as she talked to him. It wasn’t uncommon for them to carry conversations anywhere they were, but today it held him where he was with an indescribable feeling.
“Esmerelda.” He cleared his throat slightly to prevent it from tightening on him. This wasn’t that big of a deal. He just needed to clarify something. Now was not the time to be acting strangely. 


This caused her to turn suddenly, confusion furrowing her brow. “What’s up?”
He stepped forward, exhaling carefully. “I promise you, I would never divulge information you gave to me in confidence to anyone, and especially not someone like her.”
Esmerelda’s confused face scrunched slightly as she started to smile. “What? You didn’t though, and even if you did it’s no big deal.” 


“It is a big deal. I… I value this…” He gestured between the two of them for lack of better words. “I don’t want you to think that I don’t or that I cannot be trusted with your private information.”
He could’ve used the word ‘friendship,’ sure, but it didn’t quite… fit. This is why he avoided words and labels all together. People apply supposedly deep-meaning words to every little thing and suddenly nothing means anything anymore.


She had shook her head with her face unchanging. “It’s ok, slick. I get it. Don’t stress so much over it and go have fun. I’ll put your dinner in the fridge tonight and you can heat it up whenever you get back.” She gave him a wink and once again started heading for the stairs.
Quinn raked his fingers through his hair, feeling a weight come off his chest from the conversation. He turned to head back into his bedroom to grab his shoes when Esmerelda’s musical voice stopped him.
“Oh, and Quinn?”
He turned suddenly to look at her, and she smiled at him, resting her hand against the wall. 


“Ditto.”
He smiled back at her instantly. “I’ll see you tonight.”
She snorted. “Or tomorrow.” She waved him off and turned again shouting from the stairs. “Pick a good one, you hear?”
He laughed and called back to her. “Will do!”
Perhaps he already had.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Eravaeral’s Temple was quieter than usual, but it was a weekday, so in a way it was expected. It would make his job all the easier. He knocked on Valarie’s door, who had the great misfortune of being the girl chosen to entertain Edric the day prior.


Quinn certainly wasn’t going to push his luck with her; Edric always leaves a mark on the girls he sees. He almost killed one or two of them before and nearly got himself killed. The girls don’t tolerate mistreatment of their own, especially not by men like Edric.


Misogynistic, arrogant, and ugly to boot; from what Quinn knew, the girls usually drew straws over who got stuck with him. Valarie was the lucky loser this time, but she’d get the rest of the week off. Even despite this, she agreed to meet with him today.



He and Valarie had a history - brief, but still there. She put on a good show and her laugh was soft. This quickly put her several miles ahead of many other girls he had ever encountered before.


Up until recently, he would’ve considered her one of the best he’d ever been with; a lot of that was due to the lack of strings attached and the fact that her laugh didn’t unnerve him.
Now, though? He wasn’t sure why but the usual feelings he had when visiting Valarie just weren’t there.


She had squealed in her quiet way at seeing him, rushing to hug him. “Quinn! It’s been ages since I’ve seen you!” She looked up at him from her hug, her lower lip slightly pouting. “Here I thought you had forgotten about me…”


Quinn pushed a smile on. “Forget about you? You’re crazier than my boss.”
She giggled softly and released him, turning back into her room. “Darling I’m not really feeling very good today.” She plunked herself down on her bed, her pout still on.


“I heard you got stuck with Edric.”
“I did! Did you come all this way to rescue me, Quinn?” She collapsed back onto the bed and let out a long sigh. “He’s just a whole lot of awful!” Her soft voice dramatically danced over the words. “Rough, and not even the fun kind!” She sat up, giving him a look paired with a coy smile. “You’re the fun kind.”


“Are you trying to butter me up?” Quinn smirked. He knew it was all a part of the bargain. The girls made every person feel like the best they ever had. Even knowing this, though, he certainly didn’t mind the compliments. “If so, you should tell me something I don’t already know.” He moved and collapsed down into one of her chairs.


Valarie giggled again, and for the first time Quinn felt it draining at him. It wasn’t an obnoxious laugh, but it wasn’t pretty. At least, it wasn’t to him anymore. It seems Esmerelda had spoiled him of that, not that he was complaining. She swatted at the air in front of her playfully before her face returned to a pout. “What compliment could I possibly give you that you wouldn’t already know about yourself, darling?”


They were getting off topic, and Quinn needed to steer this back into what he needed; he leaned forward in the seat. “That I have the softest touch you’ve ever encountered.”
Her finger came to her pouting lips as she stared at the ceiling in contemplation. “Hm… I suppose I could give you that one. Especially after yesterday.” She huffed, her eyes drifting back to him. “I’m still sore!”


He forced himself to his feet, approaching the bed and the woman that sat atop it confidently. “Well then, maybe I should take a look at it?”
Normally he got into this charade they would play, but it was harder today. His head wasn’t in it, but he sincerely hoped it wasn’t obvious.


She rolled back on the bed with her pouting lower lip, her body contorting seductively. She nodded innocently. “He was so terrible, darling. I fear for my ribs.”
Quinn shook his head with disdain. “What gets into the heads of these aggressive people?” He finally sat himself down on the edge of her bed, eyeing her carefully.


Valarie harrumphed in response. “He claims he’s overworked. Just needs ‘a dumb whore or two’ to make up for all the infighting going on.” Her innocent look slowly turned into a knowing smirk before fading back into something sweeter. “Isn’t that just the most rude thing you’ve ever heard?”
Quinn nodded seriously along with her. “Rude and incorrect. Someone ought to teach him some proper manners.”


She draped her hand over her forehead dramatically. “You don’t think I’m dumb, do you darling?”
He shook his head slowly, closing his eyes as he did so. “No, no. Absolutely not, Val.”


He felt her shift until she was suddenly pressing her cheek into his shoulder, her hand moving slowly up his back until it rested by his neck. “Hm, you always know how to make me feel better, Quinn!”
“Did this monster say anything about what Malice is up to?” He chanced showing her his cards.
She puckered her lips, “so straight forward!” Her fingers walked across his shoulder before sliding down his arm. “Usually you wait until after we have fun before you start bringing up business. Sounds like you’ve had it rough, darling.”


Quinn let himself fall backwards onto the soft mattress, his weight sinking into the fabric. “This war has everyone uptight, Val.”
Valarie pulled herself off the bed and strutted over to the table by the chairs.


She gripped the edge of the incense until it ignited before shaking her fingers delicately and striking a pose. “Mhm, so I’ve heard. I’m so glad the Mistress doesn’t partake in such affairs. It would be terribly dreadful to have to fight anyone.” She paused, bringing her finger to her lips in thought once again. “Except maybe play-fighting.”


“You know you’ve got at least a hundred good men who’d come fighting for you.” He smirked as he glanced at her from the bed.
“Now you’re the one trying to butter me up.” She giggled, skipping her way back towards the bed. “Would you be among them, darling?”
Quinn chuckled. “You better believe it.” This wasn’t an alliance for nothing, strange as it may be, that’s for sure. “So what’ll it be today? Need someone taken care of or would you just like your usual payment?” It was always the deal they had, either he'd pay her gold for the information or sometimes she would have him rough up a few people on her behalf.


Of course, he would pay her for any other services they agreed to, but that was never tied to his work.
There was silence for a while as Valarie contemplated her answer. “Neither.”
This caused him to sit up a little bit, staring at her in confusion, the gentle smell of her incense starting to fill his nose. “Neither?”
“Yes, I’m feeling generous today!” She beamed. “Or rather, if you could just rub my back, I would love you forever!”


He was surprised by this, but not too much. She probably saw the writing on the wall if he was calling after Edric that things were going to go down. Knocking Edric down a rung was likely payment in itself, but he wasn’t about to put words in her mouth. He stood up and gestured for the bed. “As the lady wishes.”
She put on her best sultry smile as she crawled onto the bed and sprawled out. “Be gentle, darling, I’m still a little tender.”


“Of course, would you expect anything less from me?” He half teased as he started on her lower back.
She giggled with a slight gasp and shifted her head. “The Dark Lord Malice is dealing with some infighting, so he’s not going anywhere anytime soon that I’m aware of.” She purred as her eyes partially closed from the movements of his hands. “Yet that’s not the case for the Hale family according to Edric.”


He carefully danced around a tense portion of her muscles, knowing full well that any pain at this point might make her far less generous. “I see. That was why Mr. Edric was far less than kind to this lovely lady here?”
She peaked up at him with her innocent stare before nodding. “He just makes me so mad, and I don’t like being angry. People like that are too far wound up for any lady to help.”


He hummed in agreement before nearly stopping then as he took in a breath and caught a slight trace of mint in the air. Why did that feel so familiar? He shook his head to try and focus.
“The Hale family apparently feel they’ve been shorted since they were forced off their land.” Valarie moaned a soft sigh. “So I think they’re looking to take back a chunk of it while the Lady Fate is distracting everyone.”
Quinn shook his head, this time with disdain once more. “Surely they’re not that suicidal.” He moved up to her shoulders carefully.


“Hm? Is their land somewhere dangerous?” She asked innocently, and he could tell she was genuinely uncertain.
He smirked. “It’s a breath away from my Master’s territory.”
Valarie’s eyes widened then and he could see her processing this information in her mind - the real her that hid behind her mask of innocence. “What a foolish family.” She murmured.


Quinn chuckled. “Tell me about it.”
It wasn’t unusual, though it certainly wasn’t common, for them to have a break from their act. Usually the second Quinn entered her room he would don his mask and she would don hers, but there were rare moments they both took them off. It never seemed any less strange to him, though.
“Thank you.” She purred as she slowly moved to sit up. “That’s eons better than it was.” She giggled and he stood up to look out the window. “You really do have the magic touch, darling.”


Quinn smirked as he looked out the window at the late-afternoon sky. It was practically dinnertime back home; he wondered what Esmerelda was up to? Nothing had triggered any of his wards, but that doesn't necessarily mean she stayed in the house either.


He nearly jumped as he felt Valarie pressed against him, her hands running over his chest.
“Is there anything else you need to know, dearest?” She purred into his neck. “Your mind seems busy.”
“Does it?” He hummed slightly as he caught another trace of the mint, this time stronger. He turned towards the source of it, confused, as he broke away from Valarie and moved towards the incense holder. “Did you change your incense? I could’ve sworn it’s not smelled this way before.”


She giggled airily, “nope, same thing I use for everyone, darling. Has it really been so long, or…?”
Quinn turned to see why she stopped and felt his chest tighten suddenly. “V-Valarie?”
Valarie was giggling harder now, sending Quinn into a state of confusion internally.


Esmerelda.
She looked like Esmerelda faintly, and it was growing stronger the longer he stared.
“My, my, darling!” She squealed, approaching him with playful eyes. Esmerelda’s playful eyes. “Is this a first for you?” She ran her hands over his chest again and he shook off the initial surprise of it.


Esmerelda was a beautiful woman and he was around her all the time - this shouldn’t be that surprising for him. He’s spent the night with her before, too. Yet despite all of this knowledge, it still left him feeling like he had discovered something new and maybe even a little exciting.


He indulged in Valarie’s sultry look, what's a little fun, anyways? He was almost enticed to go for her lips, yet immediately changed his mind in favor of her neck. He had never been one for kissing before, and while Esmerelda was the exception, Valarie certainly was not. The neck was safe zone for him and most women seemed to enjoy it; well, Esmerelda certainly had.
It struck him then.


That was the smell of mint.
Esmerelda’s hair always smelled of mint. She said she made her own shampoos with mint leaves she would find as she moved. It was unmistakable. While Valarie, herself, didn’t smell of mint, the incense seemed to be doing that job all on its own. The only thing missing from this was the very thing that had grated on him since he arrived - the sound.


Valarie gasped at his movement and her moans were enough to pull him out of the fog he was in. She tugged on him, pulling him back for the bed and he followed her numbly, yet his mind was having trouble getting back into it.



“Ditto.”
He tugged himself free from Valarie’s gentle hold and she looked at him curiously. He cleared his throat somewhat awkwardly before shrugged. “I hate to cut this short, but I’m afraid I’m running late, Val.”


“Oh?” She looked at him with a knowing smirk as he turned and made for the door. “What are you late for, darling?”
Quinn opened the door and looked back slightly. “Dinner.”

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Esmerelda hummed as she sliced carefully through each of the vegetables on her cutting board. She brushed them over to the side and blew a lock of hair out of her face.


She was a little late starting her dinner, but it wasn’t like she would expect Quinn back for it. She likely wouldn’t see him back until well past morning if things went well for him.
A smirk pulled on her lips at the thought of it, yet it fell to something softer.


“It is a big deal. I… I value this…”
It was hard to say what the future would bring, but there was a piece of Esmerelda that wanted this war to go on indefinitely. It hadn’t really taken that long to get used to staying in one place, unlike what her mind had been convinced it would. She had ignored how much she had longed for something like this for far too long.
A home.




She looked at the familiar counters below her and was hit with a pang of emotions. Sure, it wasn’t hers-hers, but so long as Quinn felt the same as she did then in a way it could be hers too.
It was kind of strange to think of it that way - that Quinn was essentially everything she wanted in life. The knick-knacks on the walls, the cluttered house…


The person willing to stick it out through the storm.
She did value what they had, likely more than Quinn would ever know.
The sound of the door opening had Esmerelda standing up straighter, her brow furrowing as she was pulled from her thoughts. She gripped the knife in her hand as anxiety filled her; no one can get in unless Quinn lets them.  



“Quinn…?” She nervously turned her head before jumping at Quinn’s form in the doorway. “Shit, Quinn! You about gave me a heart-attack!” She laughed, shaking her head as she put the knife down and looked over at the vegetables. “Is it really that late, or did you just-”


She was turned by a hand on her waist with a sudden, gentle hand on her face before their lips connected. Her eyes widened momentarily before she returned the needy embrace. The longer they kissed the more heated it became as Quinn pressed her back into the counters behind her.



They broke from the kiss as Quinn breathed her name and pressed his lips to her neck.
“Shit…” she breathed, which only seemed to spur him on.
She never let herself play with this kind of fire before and she knew it was dangerous.


Yet there was something that comforted her underneath it all.
“I value this.”



Ditto.




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Playlist
"Into You" - Ariana Grande
"Let Me Love You" - DJ Snake
"No Promises" - The Cheat Code

2 comments:

  1. (Fanning self)
    I can't even be right now, my emotions, my ship, it sails, IT ALL SAILS

    Gosh I was a mess gushing over all the subtle details and of Quinn gushing silently and him thinking about her at the brothel AND A SUDDEN KISS AND
    (takes out bag) (breathes into it)
    ahhhhhhhh!!!!! YES FINALLY.
    Friends pshhh u two, thats not friendship THNK U VERY MUCH

    ReplyDelete
  2. Look at all that friendship there.
    Valarie sees the friendship. Gosh don't you just *love* friendship?
    I think Quinn loves friendship.
    Yes.
    Friendship.
    Anyways, this chapter was amazing! Val was so stunning, but Quinn's reactions were hilarious! It's like he automatically disliked her because of the fact she wasn't Ezzie.
    Then she was Ezzie and things got complicated yet he could already tell she wasn't the *real* Ezzie.
    that surprise kiss was adorable!

    ReplyDelete