...Anyway. Sigh. Also, major hate towards ff.net for not allowing parentheses in titles. Why can’t you just accommodate the whims of my crazy writing all the time. Why. ]:
Title: (can’t) catch that cat
Fandom: Black Cat
Length: 7,908 words, oneshot (oops.)
Character/Pairing: Rinslet-centric, Train/Rinslet, Eve, Sven,
Prompts: Written for 31_days, October 5, 2009: the cat learns a festival dance.
Warnings: Post-series, mangaverse (really, the anime’s dead to me, and the two never interacted in it anyway – and did I mention their characterization? And the stripped-down plot?).
Summary: He called his friend a kindred spirit, just like how Rinslet thinks of him. But she doesn’t compare at all. She knows.
(can’t) catch that cat
“Train. How are you?”
His voice is like his face – it can’t mask a single emotion. “Rins? Why the sudden call?”
“Oh, don’t be like that, Train. I’ll even treat you to dinner – ”
“Free dinner?! …no, wait, what are you getting me into this time? I refuse!”
“Hey, it’s no strings attached. You just have to hear me out when we’re done, all right?”
She can hear the reluctance. And the growl of an empty stomach. “…Well, I guess that can’t hurt…”
“In that case, meet me tomorrow, okay?”
“Fine. But you’d better not pull something on me, Rins!”
“Oh, trust me. It’ll be worth your while. Just dress nicely, won’t you?”
So maybe Rinslet hadn’t told him that the dinner itself would be the event. That a government official was carrying documents that no one should even know existed, that he’d be meeting with a secret contact here at this ritzy place, that she was going to discreetly monitor – well, spy on – their conversation, and slip away with the papers at the end.
That there’d be no way the guy wouldn’t notice, that there’d be troublesome bodyguards, and that having a little extra insurance wouldn’t be a bad thing, by any means.
“I’m never trusting you again!” Train seethes, running alongside her in the direction of her parked car.
“Hey, a little exercise after dinner never hurt anyone,” she protests, quickly sliding into the driver’s seat and revving up the engine. Train slams the passenger side door, still grumbling, and she slams on the gas pedal and they’re off.
For the most part, Rinslet ignores him. She knows it’s too easy to tempt him with food; he’ll be at her beck and call again, oh yes.
The fact that she has to lie or bribe him to get him here, though – that’s always the thing. It’s just a little…
Well, she won’t think about it tonight. She got the documents, she got to have dinner with him; really, it was a great success.
Because she finished her job, that is.
For as long as Rinslet can remember, she has never met anyone quite like herself. Sure, there’d be other women out there far more beautiful – she can accept that – or thieves quite better at thieving – well, she won’t let that one happen.
But she’s been the only one who…it’s hard to put into words. Is willing to do what it takes just to live the way she wants to. Is willing to do anything just to be free. Oh, she’s run into many who value their freedom above all else. Many of them are willing to kill in cold blood; many more are willing to slip a knife between your ribs in the dark.
The thing is, none of them had that crucial – spark. That quality that distinguishes, say, a work of art from a pricey painting, a glimmering jewel from a lump of glittery scrap, a story from a scrawl of words.
And then she meets Train, and she feels it. Almost a hello, stranger type of thing.
Maybe this is what they mean by ‘kindred spirit.’
“So what made you decide to be a thief, anyway?” he asks one day when he’s particularly grumpy and she supposes she should’ve brought him a whole box of donuts instead of one that’s just three-quarters full. (Hey, sometimes she eats, too.)
“What made you decide to be an assassin?” she hedges.
He bites his lip, and she knows it’s a question he won’t answer. “I’m just saying, nice little girls don’t exactly aspire to be cat thieves or whatever. …not like you’re nice, anyway,” he mutters as an afterthought.
Ignorance is bliss, and so Rinslet ignores him. For now. “Hey, I’m not just a ‘cat thief,’” she huffs.
“And I’m a sweeper,” he retorts.
The way he says it almost makes her shiver, but she settles for a “hmph” and a pout. “I won’t pay for your milk, then!”
“Hey, what?! You promised! That’s so cruel!”
“Why should I always treat you, anyway? Shouldn’t a gentleman be the one that treats the lady, not the other way around?”
“Hey, if you want a gentleman, go look for Sven! Besides, you’re no lady!”
Oh, he wouldn’t dare. “WHAT did you say?”
He finally sees the dangerous glint in her eyes. “W-well, I mean…”
A few minutes later, Sven and Eve come back with the lunch she ordered for everyone, and Train’s spirit is hovering somewhere above his very dazed, still-rattling head.
“Never insult a lady, don’t you know that by now?” Sven says with a sigh, setting plates on the table.
Rinslet merely smirks. Train doesn’t deign to respond – his spirit’s probably floating somewhere past the stratosphere by now.
A few months down the road, she calls Eve. “Hey, how are these guys treating you?” she asks.
“Everything’s good. …Mostly good.”
Rinslet laughs. “Train’s still a big rival, eh?”
Eve mutters something noncommittal-sounding. That’s her girl, Rinslet thinks amusedly.
“Well, how’d you like to spend a day or so without those two lugs? I’m in town right now, and I figured you could use some new clothes, get a breath of fresh air, have a good time? Just us two girls?”
There’s a pause. “I’d like that,” Eve says, and she sounds genuine.
“Great! I’ll pick you up real soon, okay?”
Half an hour later, she’s on their doorstep. Train’s lounging around outside, lazily drinking from the bottle of milk he always seems to have.
She’s inexplicably…happy to see him. Just a little.
“Hello, Train,” she says.
“Yo, Rins. I heard you’re taking the little princess out for a stroll,” he says, teeth curled up in a big, lazy cat grin.
“Yeah…if she spends too much time cooped up having to look after you guys, that definitely won’t be good for her. So we’re going to have a ladies’ day out!”
She knows exactly what he’s thinking – ha, you, a lady? – and a vein pops in her forehead. “What, Train?”
He opens his mouth, then closes it – then makes his little squinty face and laughs.
Seriously. She can’t believe that he’s the one who wields Hades, sometimes.
Eve appears in the doorway, and looks at the two of them with a blank expression. “Train. You’re an idiot.”
“How cruel, little princess! What’d I do to deserve that?”
“Come on, Eve,” Rinslet says haughtily, with a flick of her head. “Let’s leave this idiot be.”
“Hey!” He leans against the railing. “…Can you at least bring back something to eat?”
“Rins? Eve? …Please?”
After a few hours of trekking through various streets and stalls, Rinslet gratefully sinks into a café seat. “Phew, that was a good haul, wasn’t it?”
Eve smiles, then glances down at the menu.
The mere thought of food reminds her. “Ooh, that stupid, frustrating – ”
Evidently she’d muttered a lot louder than she’d thought, as Eve looks at her with that piercing look.
And then she gives her a little smiley smirk.
“Hey! No. It’s not like that.”
“I haven’t said anything,” Eve replies. “Yet.”
Rinslet assumes Train’s influence is what’s making her so cheeky. It has to be.
“It’s okay,” Eve says, as though what she really means is I don’t know what you can possibly see in him.
She narrows her eyes, but merely raises her hand to wave the waiter over. “An iced coffee, if you could.”
“Iced tea, please,” Eve intones.
After a few moments, the girl says, “I suppose I can see it, now.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I mean,” she muses, “You two are alike in many ways.”
Rinslet laughs derisively.
Kindred spirits, remember?
“It’s not necessarily bad.” Eve pauses. “Maybe if you win him over, he’ll go with you and stop partnering with Sven, and I’ll win.”
“…Hey, Eve, are you really only thinking about things like that?”
The girl smiles.
“How was it?” Train asks upon their return, like an eager puppy waiting for a treat.
She tosses him a bottle of milk – the store next to the café had some, and unlike him she’s a good person capable of generous acts. “Really peaceful, especially without you two around.”
But Train doesn’t hear a word. “You’re so nice, Rins! The best!”
She laughs to herself, and bets that once that bottle’s empty he’ll start changing his tune. If all his targets knew his weakness, he wouldn’t stand a chance.
“By the way,” she says offhandedly, “I’d be careful if I were you, or Eve’s going to take your place some day.”
“Ghwha?” he asks mid-gulp.
She just smiles, and walks into the house.
“You can’t just take everything you want,” her mother had forebodingly warned her one day – Rinslet had been this close to getting caught by the cops, and her parents had found out.
“I don’t,” she said with a pout. That had been for a job anyway – not like she could explain that to her mother.
“I mean it, Rinslet. And not just things like brooches and gems and data disks – yes, you didn’t think we knew? – there are some things that just don’t work that way.”
Right, she inwardly smirks. If it’s something tangible short of a building, she can lift it. If it’s information, she can sure as hell find it. What else is there?
“No such thing,” she says.
“One of these days, you’ll run into what I’m talking about. And I won’t be able to help you.”
“Yeah – I’ll be out in the world’s big cities, and you won’t be around,” Rinslet says, with an edge.
Her mother shrugs it off – she’s shrugged off much worse before – and turns back to the dishes.
Rinslet clenches her fist. Always being told what to do, what to think. Always being told, this is what your life will be.
No. She’ll prove them wrong. She can leave whenever she wants. Hey, she will. She’ll get out of this small, bumbling town, where everyone’s lives are planned out before they’re born. She’ll show them.
She’ll show them.
They’re at a small restaurant, her and Train, and they’re talking about something or another when a particularly striking woman walks in. Full curves, legs a mile and a half long, a skirt just a little too short to be tasteful, dark flowing hair – that kind of femme fatale.
Everyone looks. The men look. Some drop their forks mid-bite.
Rinslet rolls her eyes. Train, meanwhile, looks up – she can almost see his thought process: don’t know her, not a bounty, don’t care – and then looks back at Rinslet.
“…,” she says.
“You’re definitely an abnormal guy.” Emphasis on the guy part.
He makes one of his trademark faces.
The rest of the meal, he keeps his eyes on her and his food, and she keeps wondering – just wondering.
All Train has ever told her about Minatsuki Saya is that she was his friend, that he admired her carefree way of living. All she’d ever managed to infer – from Train’s demeanor or the fight in the tower with Creed – is that she helped Train become who he is today, and that Creed killed her for it.
She’s sure there’s more to the story – and believe her, she’s tried looking – but it’s the kind that only the characters involved would know. That or…
“Eve,” she begins to ask one day when the guys aren’t around, “Train told you and Sven about Saya before, right?”
She looks up, but doesn’t say anything. Her typically blank, neutral expression now verges on the unnerving, and Rinslet swallows.
Silence, except for the wall clock’s tick-tick-tick.
Eve casts her eyes downward. “Before we went to fight Creed. He…said that he could no longer say it didn’t concern us, any more.”
But it doesn’t concern her, does it.
The girl glances at her. “You probably know most of the story, but…I don’t know how to tell it.”
You should ask Train, yourself.
She sighs, with a weary sort of smile. “I’ve asked him, before. He won’t tell me a thing. He says he hates talking about the past.” And then, she thinks out loud, “Perhaps he doesn’t see me as one of his comrades…?”
“Oh, no, nothing. I was just curious, anyway. It’s no big deal.”
Eve’s voice is firm, yet soft. “It’s a story we can’t tell.”
Under her gaze, Rinslet feels like a thread quickly being unraveled. Since when has Eve matured this much? While being around those two, no less? They’re not exactly the greatest of examples to work with – Train especially. Oh, that frustrating…
She airily waves her hand all the same. “Well, I can’t help it if he won’t talk to me, but I’ll try.”
Eve holds her gaze for one second longer before looking back down at her book.
Rinslet wonders why she’s doing this to herself, why curiosity has always held such a lure over her.
“Yeah?” His eyebrows are raised, eyes wide and unguarded, hands lazily tucked into his pants pockets. “What’s up?”
She tries, but the words don’t come out.
He blinks at her.
“No, it’s nothing.”
“Huh. If you say so.”
“I mean, nothing I say will make you change your awful habits, so…”
“And just what habits are those?”
“Oh, you know. Eating your teammates out of house and home, drinking enough milk to drain a country’s dairy resources dry, not being appreciative when a nice, beautiful lady takes you out for a meal – ”
“You mean, a cruel woman who lures a poor, penniless guy out with free food and then takes advantage of him?”
(That’s right, she thinks. You wouldn’t have answered me, anyway.
So it’s better not to try.)
Rinslet has never had a problem with men. Bending them to her will is all too easy and requires no real effort. A pretty girl with curves just never fails to make them weak in the knees – and the wallet. While on guard duty, or when they’re trying to keep their lips sealed.
And thus, none of them are worth pursuing. None at all.
The only ones who aren’t so weak are the ones who reek of blood, the ones who live only to fight another day. Half the time, the ones who have no appreciation for life and freedom itself. There’s not much middle ground, maybe an idealistic kid who hasn’t seen the world or a hot-blooded idiot rushing off to die here and there.
Rinslet can’t say she’s a romantic who’d like to be swept off her feet, but one of these days, she’d like to find – something. Someone.
That sort of thing.
She emails him one day, again with the promise of free food and an interesting time. Usually there’d be a response by the end of the day, maybe the next if they were out on a job. But this time, three nights go by without a word.
Curious – and because she’s near the place anyway and has nothing better to do – she drives over to their hideout, knocks on the door.
Eve answers. “Rinslet?” she says.
“Eve!” She gives the girl a smothering hug. “You look cuter and cuter every day! How’s everything? Is Train still being difficult?”
“Yes,” she responds flatly.
“I heard that, little princess!” Rinslet hears from somewhere inside the house.
With raised eyebrows, she walks several rooms over and finds Train lying on the sofa, sans jacket and shirt – replaced with heavy bandages wrapped from his left shoulder to under the right of his ribcage.
He looks a bit surly. “You didn’t show up just to laugh at me, did you?”
“No, of course not. I was wondering what’d keep you from the offer of a free meal,” she manages, though she can’t keep from staring at the bandages. Is there really still an enemy out there who can seriously injure the Black Cat?
She shakes her head. He’s only human; things happen. Even if, well, he’s…far less likely to get hurt, maimed, or killed than other humans. Then something flashes through her mind – silver hair cruel laugh red blood missing arm Train oh god we’re falling please don’t die don’t die – and maybe the expression on her face is pure horror, because he’s looking up at her with those older eyes of his that are now tinged with worry –
“Hey, Rins. It’s just a few cat scratches, y’know?” He laughs a little. “Got a little careless. The bounty was only a five million one, too…”
“Oh, I definitely wasn’t worried about you,” she grits out. “The only thing that could kill you is probably – starvation, or something.”
He grins. “So will you still treat me to dinner?”
She resists the urge to smack him upside the head.
“Hey, come on, I’m injured here, you know? I need to eat to recover my energy!”
She gives him a look, and then turns to the doorway. “Sven!” she yells. “Train’s not happy with what you’re cooking for dinner!”
“What? I’m already cooking three times what I normally do for that idiot! Tell him he can find his own meal himself! I don’t care how injured he is!” she hears him holler back.
“Hey! I never said that! Rinslet, you – !”
Later, when dinner’s been cleared away and Train’s dozed off on the couch, she sits in the kitchen with Sven.
“Yeah, it was a pretty bad slip,” he says, setting two cups down on the table.
“But this is Train we’re talking about! He doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t slip.”
He’s the Black Cat, she doesn’t say; it’s too obvious.
Sven takes a long swig of coffee. “Did he ever tell you? Once, on a mission for Chronos, he got horribly injured. He didn’t know his target had a child with him.”
She smiles despite her grimace. “He would do that…”
“If Saya hadn’t found him and patched him up, he would have been in trouble,” he continues.
Rinslet’s not sure what sort of face she’s making, but Sven says, “He hasn’t told you?” and then stops.
Silence. Her coffee’s still warm.
“Did you really come by just because?” he asks.
She shrugs. “It’s not like I had anything better to do. I can’t put my new plan into motion without that guy’s help, so.”
Sven makes an ‘is that so’ kind of sound, the exact kind that she finds so infuriating because it insinuates that she’s really just plain wrong, or lying, or in denial about everything. Or all of the above.
Not that she’s getting annoyed over this. Because, no, it’s not like that. Well, it is, but –
“Well, whatever,” he says with a yawn. “It’s not my business. Just yours, and his.”
“Not even his,” she mutters around her mug.
Sven shakes his head with a small smile, and holds out the coffee pot.
They offer Rinslet a room for the night; she thanks them, but doesn’t promise that she’ll stay. So, like a compromise, she sits on the armchair and stares out the window. Train continues to sleep like the dead, albeit the moving dead.
She finds it pretty amusing, and doesn’t know why.
He mutters a little in his sleep, and she supposes it’s because he’s been banged up so badly and might be on who knows what kind of medication. Or he would be, if he was, you know, normal. Chances are he’s healing at a rate mere mortals could only dream of, without even taking a single aspirin.
She’s still pondering this when he starts groaning, when his words become audible – a jumble of things – “no stop no don’t die stop no no no” –
And he rolls clear off the couch with a heavy thud. His eyes snap open; he takes a deep breath.
She leaps over to him in two steps and kneels down. “Train?”
“Ugh. Who…no. Rinslet…?”
“Yeah. You okay? Shouldn’t have eaten so much for dinner, huh?” she tries to joke.
He grabs onto her shoulder for support; she can feel his body heat sear through her shirt, and reflexively puts her hand to his forehead. It’s drenched with sweat, and just as blazing hot. She’s close to worrying, and for his sake, that’d take a lot. “Here, I’ll help you back up.”
“No, it’s okay.” She feels sudden, sharp pressure on her shoulder, and winces while he slowly gets up. “Sorry,” he manages, sagging into the couch.
She shakes her head. “Here, I’ll go and get you a glass of – ”
“I don’t need it. It’s fine.”
“If you say so,” she says cautiously. His breathing’s less labored, and his pallor looks a little better. She supposes the shock has passed, more or less. “A nightmare, right?”
He gives her a little winced grin, as if to say, even the Black Cat gets those, y’know. “Yeah, it’s funny. Never was able to save them…”
She almost asks about it, but stops before the words come out. No, he’s half-injured and delirious and it’s not her place. It’s never her place. So she settles for sitting next to him, biting her lip while listening to his breathing even out.
(But still, she thinks, because she never can squelch her curiosity, Who? Who were they? Who?)
“I was too young to save my parents. And I was too late to save Saya.”
He says nothing. As though she hadn’t heard what she’d just heard. As though it was merely her imagination playing a few tricks.
Rinslet looks over again, and – he’s asleep. At least, his eyes are closed and he’s taking slow, steady breaths. She also knows he’s a hell of a good faker, and that if he doesn’t want to talk about it, he won’t, and he’ll do it by avoiding her like this.
She sighs. “Well, I’m not making you say anything, and you don’t have to open up to me. It’s not really my business, I know. I get it.”
His breathing doesn’t change. Her eyebrow twitches.
“I just…if you ever need to – oh, geez. Forget it. It’s fine.”
She pushes herself up off the couch and walks out of the room, lingers just out of sight past the threshold.
“Sorry,” she thinks she hears from the darkness behind her.
She scoffs. What good’s an apology? He has nothing to be sorry for, anyway.
Rinslet walks out of the house, closes the door behind her, and gets in her car. And drives. She rolls down the window; the air is nice and clean, out here.
She breathes in.
At least Sven won’t have to cook breakfast for her tomorrow. That should save him a little bit of trouble, she thinks. Even if that guy’ll eat fifteen times her share anyway.
No, tonight she’ll drive just a little farther away, enjoy the breeze, relish the freedom, the way she’s so free from – everything. Just tonight.
She doesn’t go back in the morning. He doesn’t call.
Sven sends her a message a week later, saying Train’s back on his feet, letting the implication hang where it does. She’s close to replying with something like that’s nice or good to know, and stops herself right there.
He still doesn’t call.
Rinslet has to admit, she’d never have been intrigued by Train if he’d shown any bit of interest in her when they met. It sounds petty, and foolish, and mean, but it’s true.
Hey, she has high standards. In this case, insurmountably high.
At first it was like a challenge – if she really tried, no guy she’d ever encountered could resist for long, so she’d surely get him to bend to her will. Sooner rather than later. Even if he was the former Number 13. But then, the more she got to know about him, the more intriguing he became, the more his jabs really started to prick at her, the more she got involved in his life.
Now, she’s in so far over her head that she doesn’t know how to get out.
She curses it sometimes. Like when he’s so disdainful to her that she can’t help but rage; when he shows little glimpses of his past self and she can’t look away; when he bounces back from the hard times and keeps grinning his stupid grin and she doesn’t understand, can only stand a distance away and marvel.
When they sort of have a serious disagreement that they usually never have, because with them nothing’s ever serious, nothing ever is, and when she’s now sitting on her couch at 2 a.m. with a glass of red wine to calm her nerves and she has no idea at all, absolutely no idea.
Curiosity ultimately killed the cat, she knows. It’s just – that cat’s supposed to be him. Not her. Not like this.
Just past 2 a.m., and she sits in the dark room and stares listlessly out the window.
It’s not until three months later that she contacts him again. She does it over the phone, this time – why, she doesn’t know. But the new heist data’s sitting on her computer and the phone’s in her hand and she’s suddenly dialing his number – it’s the second speed-dial – and he picks up before it rings twice.
“Hi, Train,” she says, for lack of anything better to say.
“Rinslet,” he says. She’s not sure what to make of the tone. “Hey, it’s been a while.” “Geez, I thought I was free of you.” “I thought you’d never call again.”
Oh, who is she kidding. Forget it. “I’ve…uh.” What is she, fifteen all over again? She bites her lip. “Interested in another business opportunity?”
There’s an almost unnoticeable pause. “Oh, you’ve got one of those again?”
“Of course. Why else would I be calling, now?”
She can almost hear his grin.
“Hey, you know I won’t be getting your hands dirty with my thievery. It’ll be worth your while, like it always is. And you know I’ll treat you to something extra.”
“…Well, tell me about it.”
She starts to outline the plan. While talking to him, she just – feels a strange sense of relief.
After they end the call, all she can think is, why hadn’t she called him sooner? What was she so afraid of?
Besides everything, really.
Contrary to her usual way of doing things, she insists on treating Train after the job, not before. “Once in a while, I go to fancy things just because,” she says while waving two fancy dinner invitations between her fingers. “It won’t be a buffet, but I guarantee you the food’ll be good.”
He scratches the back of his neck. “I dunno about fancy parties…can’t you just treat me somewhere a little plainer?”
She’s not going to tell him that she insisted on this because the invitations were free, a gift from one of her contacts. “Lobster. Steak. I’m sure there’ll be milk. You can have my share, too, you know.”
With that, she seals the deal. She picks out a silver dress that suits her well, and he arrives in a crisp dinner jacket, all black with no tie. And he isn’t being grumpy about it, like she’d have expected.
In the first hour of schmoozing, she mingles with who she needs to while Train barely refrains from eating all of the refreshments. And during dinner, she gives him most of her meal, just like she’d promised. It’s worth it to keep him from complaining and to keep him happy; she settles for the red wine, but not too much.
Contrary to what she promised him, there’s no milk. “Oh, just drink water or juice, it won’t kill you,” she says with a glare.
He relents, reluctantly.
During dessert – and no, she doesn’t let him steal her black forest cake – the lights above the tables dim, making the empty wooden area in the middle stand out. The string ensemble in the back begins to play. People begin to trickle out, and dance.
Train watches them, and she, him. The lights are playing across his face in a way that softens his features, makes his eyes stand out so starkly.
“Dance with me?” she asks.
He looks at her, surprised, amused, and bemused. “No.”
“Aw, Train,” and she clasps her hands under her chin, flutters her lashes just so, “You don’t want to dance with me?”
He gapes at her, glares, and after a moment, settles for saying, “I don’t dance.”
“I don’t dance much either. Oh, come on, we’re already here. The invitations were addressed to one of my aliases – a rich, upper-class, married one. And you already know that appearances are everything.”
He looks utterly astonished. The expression never ceases to amaze her. “Y… You never told me that!”
“Ah? You never asked, darling.” He makes a squawk of distress. She feels like the cat who swallowed the canary. “Oh, Train. One little dance. It can’t hurt. You can’t be that bad on your feet.”
“…It’s just moving around in circles, right?” He sounds slightly petulant. “I guess that’s nothing too hard.”
She’s sure her voice is fairly dripping by now, but she doesn’t care. “See?”
“And stop it with that ‘darling’ stuff,” he says with a glare, though it’s more of a hopeless parting shot than anything else.
She stands up, and offers him her hand – quite the reversal of how things should be, but with him, it is how it is.
He takes it, grasping the tips of her fingers with his own.
She thinks it’s kind of nice.
“I still don’t get what the big deal is,” Train says two songs later (she’d convinced him to stay on the dance floor, saying that people didn’t just stop after a single dance; he’d growled a little, but obeyed).
“You’re not one for slow songs, are you.” He’s more than adept at this – she has a feeling he could dance fluid circles around her and everyone else in the room, if he was challenged to. He’s the one steering, keeping perfectly in time with the beat, moving smoothly with the rhythm. She’s a little envious.
“Dancing to fast songs wouldn’t be any fun, either,” he counters, stepping back. “It’s still dancing.”
She matches his step. “The whole point is to make it look simple, effortless, when it really isn’t. That’s the challenge.” She makes a face at him. “Since you’ve already got that down…”
He merely grins at her; she reddens a little, and tells herself it’s because of the wine that they had twenty minutes ago. Yes.
She glances to the side at the glass windows, and the light of the city mingles with the room’s reflections. They’re pretty high up, the view’s pretty – and she suddenly remembers that this is the tower where Creed had taken her and fought Train and mentioned Saya’s name and –
Rinslet looks at his face. He’s looking off in the direction of the never-empty refreshments table, and she’s shaken back to reality.
(And still doesn’t say a word – )
“You know, Saya and I…we weren’t like that,” he says. “I told you before.”
She startles. There’s no way he could’ve known what she was thinking about. “What? I thought you didn’t like talking about the past.”
He shrugs, and her fingers slip and catch in the folds of his jacket sleeve. “It’s a part of me. Sometimes, I have to talk about it.”
The lights are whirling around them. She can’t quite make out the music.
“Without her, maybe I’d still be an assassin for Chronos. I mean – ” and his footing never slips – “She reminded me that there are other ways to live. And she reminded me of – just. We were sort of the same, a little bit. We were both stray cats.”
“Kindred spirits,” Rinslet murmurs.
His smile’s tinged with nostalgia. “Maybe. I’ll never forget her. She was…she’s my dearest friend, you know?”
She knows. She knows she’ll never be able to compare.
And then she remembers: ‘We weren’t like that.’ “So why did you say…”
He looks at her, and she knows he knows what she’s talking about. His eyes are too sharp for anything other than that. “Just because,” he says.
She swallows, and tightens her grip on his shoulder.
“But, geez,” and here his serious tone dissipates completely, “How long’s this song? We must’ve been dancing for ages by now.”
Now that he’s mentioned it, she’s pretty sure they’ve danced through more than just one or two more pieces – the mélange of dancers around them looks a little different from when she last checked. “Oh, you’re the legendary Black Cat. Surely you can hold out a bit longer.”
He makes a face, and she truly laughs.
The cellist vibratos a long, deep note, and the rest of the ensemble soon follows suit. Their last note ends in a unified crescendo, and the dinner party gives them little muted clips of applause.
Train moves as if to stop dancing, but Rinslet leans in a little. “You’re not…not enjoying yourself, right…?”
He gives a tiny sigh. “…I mean, I guess not. No.”
They’re standing still now, and she makes no effort to move, leans her head against his chest and feigns the need to catch her breath. It’s selfish of her, she knows, but he doesn’t protest. It’s kind of strange, but…if he’s being extra nice to her, she’s not complaining.
A new song begins. If he’s annoyed, he doesn’t show it.
Train twirls her in a slow arc by the tips of their fingers, and she forgets to keep breathing with the rhythm. “You’re not half bad,” he says, after twirling her back. “How many of these fancy things do you go to, anyway?”
“As many as I need to. Keeping a network of contacts is hard work. Besides,” and she winks at him, “Every lady should know how to dance.”
It’s served her well tonight, after all.
When Train calls his partner for a ride home, Sven tells him to find his own way back, as he and Eve are en route to catching a good bounty that’d just appeared (“We’ll handle it just fine by ourselves – you already promised to go out on that date, so be a good gentleman and escort her home – ” “WHAT? Are you abandoning me? Leaving me with…her?!” “…Train. I can hear you.”). And Rinslet’s fancy car is parked out back.
She’s about to flag down a taxi for Train, but he stops her and plucks the keys out of her hands. “Guess I’m driving, then, to be safe,” he says with a grin.
Oh, she supposes she was the one of the two who drank tonight. Right. But still – “You drive?”
“Then why have I only seen Sven drive your beat-up old car?”
“’Cause I like sleeping during car rides!” He gives her a thumbs-up.
“…Just keep your eyes on the road. And here, drop yourself off back home and I’ll get back on my own.”
“Hey,” she protests, “I’m not even tipsy.”
He mumbles something that suspiciously sounds like, “Sven would ration off my dinner if he ever finds out I didn’t drive you back,” and turns onto the main road.
Well, whatever. “But how are you going to get home?” she asks.
“I’ll just hop a cab from your place.” He shrugs. “Sven’ll have to foot the bill.”
They chat a bit about little things – the latest in Train’s and Eve’s rivalry (“…That little princess is intense…” “Well, I told you to be careful.”), Rinslet’s latest heist (“Wouldn’t you like to know?” “…”), the last bounty he caught (“He was worth 3 million! At this rate, we’ll definitely pay off our debts!” “…If you stop eating.”), what they’ve otherwise been up to for the past three months (“Nothing much.” “…Yeah.”).
“I was surprised you didn’t call for so long,” he says offhandedly.
“Me, too,” she murmurs, and wonders if he really doesn’t remember the words they didn’t exchange.
“You know, I hadn’t meant it to sound that way,” she begins, lamely. “The last time I dropped by.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Silence. She watches the other cars flash by in yellow and red blurs.
“…Eve sort of missed you. She was wondering where you were. And Sven wanted someone around who’d appreciate his cooking – at least, that’s what he said.” He scowls. “I do too appreciate it…”
She doesn’t miss the one omitted name. “Well, you must’ve been fine with it, right? Not having to get dragged out for my little business propositions and all that.”
Rinslet looks at him. The glimpses of light from the passerby cars don’t reveal anything, and his catlike eyes simply – are.
He breaks out into one of his ridiculous faces. “Well, I hadn’t gotten a free meal once in all those months!”
Her eyebrow twitches. “That’s it, huh.”
“Well, you know, food’s very important!” he continues, making a fist for extra emphasis.
She sighs, and looks out the window. (And unknown to her, misses the way he glances at her while she’s thinking, frustrating idiot – how is he always like that, the way he turns just in time so she doesn’t notice.)
“After the first month, we started to worry,” he throws out casually. “But we didn’t hear any reports of your capture, and the police scanners had nothing, and – ”
“I was just doing my own thing,” she hastily says. “Needed a bit of space from the world. You know I’d never take a really dangerous job without asking you guys for help.”
“Well, it was just.” He scratches the back of his head sheepishly. “Eve missed you, you know? You’re like her big sis or something, Rins.”
That’s a little touching, but – “I know, Train. You just said that five minutes ago.”
“It’s okay,” she murmurs, more to herself than anything else. She’s not going to make him say anything more, not if it’ll sound so forced.
The rest of the ride passes by in silence.
She must have dozed off or something, because Train’s voice suddenly sounds so fuzzy and something’s poking her repeatedly and none too gently in the shoulder. She rubs at her eyes – carefully; she’s not going to smudge her makeup, even when she’s half asleep. It’d be a pain to deal with later.
“Which apartment is it?” he asks.
“Building 35, apartment 804,” she mumbles automatically, closing her eyes again.
“Hey now, you can’t do that – ” and his voice is way too upbeat to use with a – well, a tired person – “We’re there already, and I need your key.”
“Oh, mnkay. Just…give me a moment.” Urgh. Too much fine wine after all, maybe.
“D’you need a hand?” He smirks at her.
That sharpens her glare. “Definitely not.” And with that, she gets up and out of the car, and closes the door with a slam.
He grins cheekily. She ignores him with a huff, and takes out her card key. The console beeps at them before the sliding glass doors open.
“Rich place, huh,” Train says with a low whistle as they go up the elevator.
“Some of us can actually afford to pay rent without incurring never-ending debt,” she says pointedly.
“Some of us make an honest living,” he replies, and she’s not going to touch that one – it would be kind of low, to bring his past up. Besides, at this point, he’s like a co-conspirator right alongside her. Definitely nothing honest about that.
The elevator dings, snapping her out of her reverie. She walks the five steps it takes to get to her doorway; he’s standing right behind her. She’s not sure what to make of it.
“You’ve been oddly…nice today, Train.” Admittedly, it’s been bugging her all night; she just wants to know why.
He shrugs. “Food tastes better when you’re in a good mood. And I didn’t want you to change your mind halfway and tell me you weren’t treating me any more.”
“I wouldn’t do that.”
He raises his eyebrows. “Oh yeah?”
“Fine! You weren’t being nice. I get it.” Feeling particularly mean and daring, she loops her arms around his neck, gives him a smile. “But thanks for the evening. I had a good time.”
He predictably jolts in the other direction – honestly, can a guy like him really be that bad around women? – but when she takes a step backwards to keep their balance, he topples her way and puts a hand out to steady himself, pushing her in the process.
Unfortunately, she’s still got her arms around him. Which means that she’s now stuck at an odd angle between him and the wall, and she can’t step back any more. And if she tries moving, she’ll fall – probably in an ungainly heap, at that, as she’s not expecting him to give her a hand.
“Do you always have to be so difficult?” she grumbles. “Hey, Train. Move.”
He’s looking at her point blank, completely unguarded for once. Fear, confusion, surprise, and something else – oh, who knows, this is Train –
His hand’s still splayed against the wall. He makes no effort to move. And only now does she realize the proximity – she can see every chapped line on his half-parted lips, feel his breathing a little too closely.
This isn’t funny. She hates jokes like this. Here he is, Train Heartnet, the Black Cat, the utterly impossible and completely puzzling dichotomy, the one guy who’s ignored every single one of her advances, currently keeping her pinned against a wall like she’s some – some stupid helpless heroine in a damn harlequin novel, and –
“I’m really bad with this kind of thing,” he says, ruefully. Rinslet shivers; she can practically feel his mouth form the words, as close as they are.
“Yeah, I can tell,” she replies dryly, though she can hear a faint tinge of something like hope in her voice. She mentally slaps herself for it.
Oh, to hell with it.
Rinslet kisses him. Nothing serious, just lipstick touching chapped skin – all she has to do is lean in just an extra inch more, close her eyes and pretend to wobble forward, pretend not to see the inevitable.
(After all, she’s never had a chance.)
And in that same second, all she wants to do is flee. Bad lapse in judgment, time to go, or something like that.
She lurches forward, or tries to, unlinks her hands from around his neck and pushes at his shoulders. Except it doesn’t work so well since she’s still off balance, and didn’t she just realize that a second ago, and this is going to hurt, and –
He grabs her by the wrist and takes a step back, and she falls against the dark fabric of his suit.
“Thanks,” she mutters, and tries to shove past him.
“Hey, now, you shouldn’t be doing that if you’re still unsteady on your feet,” he admonishes her, keeping a steady grip and ignoring her effort to break free. “Rins. Rinslet.”
“And whose fault would that be?” she growls.
She’ll admit it. She’s afraid to look up. She’s afraid that this is the end of the road for them. And she’s angry that she showed him her weak side, just like this. So easily. This is all just – he’s so frustrating. It’s always, always him.
(This was never the kind of girl she wanted to be, the kind of weak girl dependent on something so wholly out of her control, the kind without the freedom she’s worked for all her life – )
“I told you, I’m really bad at this.” He laughs nervously. “I just – Rinslet – ”
“Just be a gentleman and let go.”
“If you wanted a gentleman, you should’ve gone after Sven.”
She looks up. He looks…serious. Why isn’t he running away, freaking out, doing what he’d normally do?
He breaks into a grin that almost changes the mood. “Looks like you have good taste, Rins.”
“…I don’t get it.”
She sighs, but she’s still smiling. “I’m stupid, going after such an even bigger idiot like you.”
“Is being stupid really better than being an idiot?” he asks quizzically.
“Yes. Definitely. Especially if I’m comparing myself to you.”
“You have strange standards.”
“And you drink gallons of milk every day.”
“Oh, God,” she says, and then begins to laugh, until her shoulders can’t stop shaking and it’s all Train can do to keep her upright.
“Hey, hey, I’m not good at dealing with hysterical women!” he says, alarmed.
“And I’m not good at dealing with about-faces from ex-assassins who are so unbelievably afraid of women,” she chokes out.
“Hmph, I’d never be afraid of you.” He sticks his nose up in the air.
“Oh, you’ll change your tune soon.”
“Nothing, nothing.” She has to stop for a moment – she still doesn’t understand, the jump from oblivious and wary to serious moment to lackadaisical banter. And curiosity…well, she knows the cliché too well by now. “Why, Train?”
She frowns at him. “You’re an idiot.”
“You’ve said that already.” He sticks his tongue out at her. Really? She can’t tell if he’s being stupid or just avoiding the topic or –
Her temper’s about to flare dangerously again, but he seems to sense it, and laughs. “Well, now you’re definitely going to treat me all the time, right?”
“Oh, is that all I am, food allowance?” She pokes him in the chest, but leans her head against him and accepts it.
“More than that,” she almost thinks she hears, but when she looks up, he’s merely grinning the same old grin at her.
She mock-sighs. “Well, fine. Since the party didn’t have milk like I said it would, it’s on me tonight. I should have a few cartons in the fridge, if you want to come in.”
“Of course I do!”
“But,” she tries to be stern, “It’s just this once! Don’t expect special treatment all the time!”
He makes a sound of assent, while it’s obvious that all he’s thinking is free milk, free milk!
She sighs and unlocks the door; he makes a beeline for her kitchen, and she rolls her eyes.
But when she steps past the threshold, she can’t help but smile.
“You should move in with Rinslet and be her partner instead,” Eve tells Train the next day.
Rinslet turns red. Train looks like a thunderbolt’s struck him. Sven ignores them and continues to cook lunch.
“I think I win,” Eve flatly intones.
Uhhhh. That was. Yes. I hope I did them justice – writing around Train’s general asexuality was rather challenging, I have to admit. But he has to mature mentally at some point, so… 8D
And this was also longer than I’d intended. Oops.
Thanks to Rae for the faithful beta (despite, er, not initially remembering certain characters), and thanks for the read. Yay comments. :]