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One Night In Kirkwall Makes A Hard Man Humble [Complete]

Celeste Monroe

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#21
Nicolette seemed more than a little impressed that Celeste was a Jenny, which was what the sailor had been hoping for. The mischievous and resourceful minstrel would make a good addition to the Jennies if she was interested. But that could wait; for now, she was a most willing accomplice on this caper, helping to relieve the unconscious Sterling of his clothing and quickly catching on to Celeste's idea of switching him with the straw man hanging outside the window.

“Oh, I think so,” she agreed with a delightfully wicked smile as she tugged the trousers down his legs. ”That mannequin could stand to be a little more anatomically correct.”

Celeste stripped off Orland's smalls and smirked. “A little more is right.” While not freakishly underendowed, Sterling was definitely on the less impressive side of things … a fact that would shortly be on display for all of Lowtown to see.

“How long until whatever you gave him wears off?” Nicolette asked her as she leaned out the window and began tugging the mannequin toward the window. “I can decorate him a little, if we have the time.”

“At least a couple of hours.” Celeste moved to assist, taking advantage of the proximity to steal a lingering kiss before she was out the window and shimmying along the beam to unwrap the rope. Below, the drunks and whores making their way along the street never looked up. Few people ever did unless given reason to … like a naked noble dangling overhead kicking and screaming.

She crawled back down the beam and clambered through the window behind the straw man, coiled rope in hand. “If we just let him be, he'd sleep until dawn, but I'm guessing that he'll come around fairly quickly once he's swinging in the breeze.” She propped the straw man in the corner for the moment and grinned. “So for now, decorate away,” she invited, settling in the chair to begin fashioning part of the rope into a harness.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#22
By process of elimination, Celeste took the task of stripping the man of his last scrap of clothing, and both women were left mildly unimpressed. Experience had long since taught Nicolette that size did not count for much when there was no technique behind it, but considering his behaviour of the last ten minutes, she doubted that the man had ever bothered to learn anything with the aim of satisfying his partner. Turning her attention from the unappealing sight, she focused on the next task of bringing in the dummy they were going to replace.

Celeste moved to help her, but kissed her slowly before she proceeded. The contact cleared the remaining wisps of doubt from Nicolette’s mind, and provided a moment of much-needed sweetness. She truly enjoyed Celeste’s company, even when doing things like this which were a little beyond her typical comfort zone. She had not taken risks so freely in quite a while, and when Celeste pulled away to wriggle her way along the beam, Nicolette only fretted a little about her lover slipping. Instead she took a moment to enjoy the view in a far more subtle manner than their target had done.

She need not have even worried a little. Celeste was in her element and returned nimbly along the beam as Nicolette dragged the mannequin through the window. “If we just let him be, he’d sleep until dawn, but I’m guessing that he’ll come around fairly quickly once he’s swinging in the breeze.” Celeste grinned. “So for now, decorate away.”

Nicolette returned the smile, and leaned out of the window once more to draw up one of the red hangings outside. That done, she returned to the mannequin and relieved it of a few of its wrappings, before carrying the pile of material and rope over to the still-slumbering man.

It was different doing this with somebody unconscious rather than awake and willing, but Nicolette was able to thread the rope around over his shoulders, under his arms and in a crossing pattern across his chest, over the line of his hips before tying off both ends around a thigh on each side. It would not carry his weight, but it would look impressive and the possible of the rope in relation to his backside would make him quite uncomfortable.

With that aspect done, she began shredding the sash, and tying neat, pretty bows into all the corners and cross-sections of the rope, until he was as festooned as a ribbon pole. That completed her ideas for the moment, and she looked over her shoulder at Celeste with a grin.

“Well, that should make even more of a sight for the crowd. Corff may even wish to keep him up as a permanent fixture. It would certainly be more of a talking point.” She indicated the knots. “These will not hold him long, when he is awake – the purpose is more mild restraint, rather than to be fought against, but I imagine once he is out there he will not wriggle nearly as much as he could.”

Once again, despite the flush of success, doubt touched Nicolette’s face. If she woke up after thinking she was in for a good night with two people, only to wake up naked, tied, and dangled from a beam, she would be beside herself with fear. She had no idea if he had deserved this. It was somewhat beyond the usual punishment for boorish behaviour.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#23
Nicolette pulled one of the banners in from the exterior and began tearing the material into narrow strips, augmenting the red with colors from cloth taken from the dummy … the one made of straw. By the time Celeste had finished her own project, Orland was trussed up in a complex arrangement of rope that was decorated in a riot of gay ribbons.

“Well, that should make even more of a sight for the crowd,” the minstrel said with a mischievous smile. “Corff may even wish to keep him up as a permanent fixture. It would certainly be more of a talking point. These will not hold him long,” she added of the ropes, "when he is awake – the purpose is more mild restraint, rather than to be fought against, but I imagine once he is out there he will not wriggle nearly as much as he could.”

She paused then, and Celeste could see the doubt showing on the pretty face. She leaned forward, placing her hand under Nico's chin, her thumb stroking along the line of her jaw. “When his sister angered him, he had one of her maids beaten in her stead,” she told the other woman quietly, holding her eyes. “And from what the girl said, and didn't say, that was far from the only time he did something like that. That child is trapped in that house, waiting for her father and brother to pick a husband that suits their preferences, not hers. I want her to see that he's not invincible. I want her to understand that she can choose a life besides the one they want to force on her, if she's brave.”

It was rare for Celeste to feel that passionately about something, rarer still for her to show it to anyone. She drew back, awkwardness flowing into the void for a moment before she dispelled it by getting back to business, tugging her own creation onto the unconscious man. This harness would bear his weight, though not without chafing in a few spots. “Can't hang him the way the other one was,” she explained as she worked. “Dangling upside down too long can kill a man, and while I wouldn't mourn, that would definitely bring the guards into it.” Tying the last knot, she added the final touch, tying his money pouch conspicuously around his neck. “He'll not have much luck interesting them when he's not missing so much as a copper.”

She stood, surveying their masterpiece with a critical eye. “Think we can get him out there ourselves?” she asked Nicolette. Sterling wasn't a small man, save in one department. “Dax and Bailey are downstairs.”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#24
Nicolette considered herself to be a somewhat carefree person most of the time. She did not have a home to run, had nobody to feed beside herself and Thibault, and if she did not like a situation she was in she could just leave without too much thought. But guilt and fear could rear their heads on occasion, and at the moment both showed clearly on her face. She was about to turn her face away when Celeste caught her chin, gently, her expression serious.

“When his sister angered him, he had one of her maids beaten in her stead.” Nicolette drew in a sharp, horrified breath. That alone would have assuaged her concerns over whether they were doing the right thing, but Celeste had more to add. “And from what the girl said, and didn't say, that was far from the only time he did something like that. That child is trapped in that house, waiting for her father and brother to pick a husband that suits their preferences, not hers. I want her to see that he's not invincible. I want her to understand that she can choose a life besides the one they want to force on her, if she's brave.”

Nicolette met Celeste’s gaze squarely, and saw something like the vulnerability in those arresting deep-green eyes that she had heard in the other woman’s voice earlier that evening, while talking about Daniel. She already enjoyed Celeste’s smile, her warm laugh, and her teasing suggestions, alongside the seeming capability she had to tackle any problem that came her way. The expression Nicolette saw now evoked a softer feeling, but before she could react to it, Celeste had pulled away and returned to her task. Nicolette just watched her deftly fastening the knots for a few moments before she moved a little closer.

“It would seem he is getting off a little lightly, then.” A wise choice, though, to avoid bringing his wrath down on their heads later. She crooked a smile at Celeste, hoping to show her that her mind was settled. “And not at all in the way he was hoping for.”

Celeste had wound a harness around him now, and Nicolette reached in to pluck a few trapped ribbons free, but kept herself from obstructing her. “Can’t hang him the way the other one was. Dangling upside down too long can kill a man, and while I wouldn't mourn, that would definitely bring the guards into it.” And while there was no doubt the man deserved to be made very uncomfortable indeed, Nicolette would prefer to avoid knowing she had inadvertently caused a man’s death. Celeste tied the coinpurse around the man’s neck. “He'll not have much luck interesting them when he's not missing so much as a copper.”

He was going to make quite a sight, once he was dangling out of the window. Lashed in rope and swaddled in ribbons, he had only a few flashes of skin showing, but enough to make it clear that he was unclothed beneath. And definitely enough for a few unflattering rumours to start following him around. “He would almost be fetching, if he were not awful. I think his new outfit suits him better than the one we removed.”

“Think we can get him out there ourselves? Dax and Bailey are downstairs.”

“I think we could possibly use the extra help. And I am sure they would not mind being involved in this,” she added. She already knew both of them reasonably well and they would see the humour in this even before they knew anything of the man currently snoring in his bonds. “I will fetch them.”

She stood to leave, but before she did, she bent to steal a long kiss – not out of a need for reassurance this time, but pure desire, before breaking away and shooting Celeste a teasing grin as she went out the door.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#25
Celeste didn't often let her deeper emotions past the cocky facade; hell, most of the time, it wasn't a facade. But the more time she spent with Adelaide, the more keenly she felt the girl's plight; she had proven an apt pupil in lockpicking, and enjoyed practicing the sleight of hand tricks, but though she tried not to complain about her situation, she had told Celeste about her dead brother Edwin, who was not dead after all. Barrett Orland had sent his eldest son off to die for displeasing him and ignored his letter pleading for help. What he might do to a rebellious daughter could be easily imagined. If the Wicked Grace weren't mastless, Celeste might have already invited the girl on board.

Nicolette was more than a pretty face and a sweet voice. There was a sensitivity to her that let her easily gauge the mood of her audience and select music to suit it. Those bewitching amber eyes watched Celeste steadily now, seeing the things that the sailor had not put into words, but she made no comment on it, allowing Celeste to busy herself with getting Sterling trussed up.

“It would seem he is getting off a little lightly, then,” she remarked gently, shifting a bit closer while still giving Celeste her space, humor touching her voice as she added, “And not at all in the way he was hoping for.” Her sly smile brought an answering grin to Celeste's face as she finished her task.

“He would almost be fetching, if he were not awful,” the minstrel remarked when she was done. “I think his new outfit suits him better than the one we removed.”

“Definitely more entertaining,” Celeste agreed. “I think the rest of Lowtown will approve.”

“I think we could possibly use the extra help,” Nicolette replied to Celeste's suggestion of bringing Dax and Bailey up to assist. “And I am sure they would not mind being involved in this.” Which was an understatement, to say the least. “I will fetch them.”

She rose, then leaned in for a slow kiss, the fires banked but dancing delightfully along Celeste's awareness, lingering after the door closed behind her. The sailor gave herself a moment longer to savor the feeling … and the promise behind it, then set about folding up Orland's clothes and laying them neatly on the table. When they brought him back inside, he'd not be able to say that as much as a sock was missing.

His dignity, well, there'd be no getting that back, but there were no laws against that.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#26
With Celeste’s kiss still warm on her lips, Nicolette scuttled down the stairs and found Dax and Bailey. The pair were playing cards and had a bottle of whisky on the table between them, but it had gone down more slowly than she might have expected. When they glanced at her, and both started to rise, Nicolette realised that they had both stayed on the alert even after she and Celeste had disappeared upstairs. Bailey was grinning, while Dax’s amusement was a little more reserved. Both of them reached her before she had even finished descending the stairs, and Bailey piped up as she started to lead them back to the room.

“Worn him out already? Told you, Dax. A man like that can’t take on one woman for long, let alone two of them. ‘Specially when they’ve got no interest in the first place.”

Dax simply eyed Nicolette for a moment, his shoulders relaxing a little after a brief observation. His assessment appeared to have only been to see if Nicolette was in any distress, although she would not have minded if his gaze had lingered a little longer. Celeste had put together a handsome crew and Dax was especially fetching – although he could not hold a candle to his captain, in Nicolette’s opinion. “Any trouble?”

“None that lasted, but we could use a little help.” Nicolette smirked over her shoulder. “He has come over all groggy and might need some help drying out.”

The men looked intrigued, and when Nicolette pushed the door open it was with a little flair so they got the best possible first view of the nobleman and his new accessories. Bailey didn’t even try to fight the snort of laughter that burst up and Dax started chuckling as well. Nicolette grinned with them; now her tensions over how they were treating the man had been assuaged, seeing him again wrapped up and be-ribboned was freshly amusing.

Celeste had made a neat pile of the man’s clothing in one corner. In a way, it was a shame they could not make use of the bedroom as they were here anyway, but even if Celeste did not avoid consorting with her crew, Nicolette would prefer to be as far away as possible from the scene of the crime when their victim woke up.

Bailey recovered himself and rubbed his hands together. “So, what’s the plan, captain?” He caught sight of the dummy sitting by the side of the room, and grinned. “Are we doing what I think we’re doing?”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#27
Nico opened the door with a flourish when she returned; Bailey and Dax were most appreciative of their artistry, the younger sailor all but dancing with glee as he took in the sight of the unconscious man.

“So, what’s the plan, captain?” he wanted to know, his grin becoming positively gleeful as he caught sight of the straw man leaning in the corner. “Are we doing what I think we’re doing?”

“Yup,” Celeste replied smugly, and Dax chuckled.

“Sweet,” was all that he said. He was a good steadying influence on Bailey, with an outwardly phlegmatic nature resulting from years of cooking up potions and grenades, where a jostle at the wrong time could spell disaster. He was as fond of mischief as the rest of the crew, however, and he could throw a punch nearly as hard as Gideon.

“Just need you two to get him out the window after I tie off.” Celeste scrambled out on the beam again, the free end of the rope between her teeth. She secured the end, then tested the knot briefly with her own weight before swinging back up. Maybe – just maybe – she was showing off … just a bit, though climbing out on a stationary board with no wind or waves to contend with hardly qualified.

“All right, easy,” she said in a low voice, moving back to the window and steadying Sterling's bulk as Bailey and Dax lowered him to the end of the rope, then released him. He swung in a slow arc, head lolling, but the harness she'd fashioned held him upright, and within a few seconds, he'd stopped swinging, twisting slightly from side to side, Nicolette's bows fluttering in the night breeze along with the Orland family jewels. Truly a sight to behold, he'd be one hell of a draw when he woke up. Maybe she should send Corff a bill for the customers who'd be coming his way.

“Perfect,” she murmured, looking down with satisfaction at the drunks teetering along, still oblivious to anything besides the filthy cobblestones beneath their boots. “Probably don't want to leave by the front door,” she suggested, backing up enough to allow Bailey, then Dax to crawl out along the beam, then up to the roof and over. Edging back toward the window, she held out her hand to Nicolette with a grin. “How are you on rooftops?” she invited.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#28
Dax's laughter was more restrained, but he seemed no less amused by this whole event than Bailey. Nicolette followed them over to the window as they held the nobleman's limp form between them, and watched Celeste again scramble up the beam with ease. Nicolette watched her avidly as she tied the knot and then lowered herself over to test the rope herself, swinging a little back and forth before climbing up again. She always appreciated a show of competence, and Celeste was more than competent at what she did. Plus, there was something quite thrilling about watching her swing over the heads of the oblivious crowds below. Hopefully they would remain oblivious for a few more minutes.

"All right, easy." The men carried the nobleman over to the window and fastened him tight to the rope. He swung out on the line, and despite herself Nicolette's breath caught for a second before it became clear that there was no chance of the rope slipping. He dangled in his harness, quite a sight even from this angle. From below, it would be something else.

"Perfect." Celeste glanced down. They had not been spotted yet. "Probably don't want to leave by the front door."

Bailey and Dax did not hesitate, climbing up to the beam and then scaling their way further up without hesitation. Celeste waited, and held out a hand for Nicolette. "How are you on rooftops?"

That grin was going to land Nicolette in trouble someday. She could not resist it, and at the moment she did not want to. She found being around Celeste exciting, and perhaps as an extension of that, she became less afraid. She caught Celeste's hand without a pause. "About as comfortable as I am on balconies." She grinned back, and started the climb - less gracefully than the sailors, but not clumsily, and there were plenty of handholds on the way up to the roof. It was not much different from climbing a tree, and just as they pulled themselves over the lip, a shriek of fear followed by an outraged yell rose from below.

Nicolette went back to the edge, peeping over it just far enough that she would not be spotted but could see what was going on. Already there were fingers pointing upwards, and a low roar that rolled upwards and became laughter. In his harness, the nobleman squirmed and yelled, and Nicolette pulled back before anybody could see her, smirking over her shoulder at Celeste. "Well, I would call that a thorough success."
 

Celeste Monroe

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#29
Nicolette took Celeste's hand without hesitation. "About as comfortable as I am on balconies,” she replied, climbing out the window and onto the beam with a smile that did something pleasant in the pit of Celeste's stomach. She climbed carefully, minding the skirt but not overly hampered by it, and Celeste followed, up and over the eaves, taking time to admire the view.

They'd left none too soon, as it turned out. Evidently, a rope wedgie was just as uncomfortable as it sounded, because muffled groans rose quickly to a terrified howl, then bellows of outrage from the scion of the House of Orland. The denizens of Lowtown reacted as Celeste had known they would. Laughter and jeers rose up from street level, and calls for eggs and overripe fruit sent folk scurrying off in search of ammunition.

Nicolette eased back to the edge, peering over at the growing chaos below. Celeste stayed back, content to listen. For the first time in a long time, something besides the results of a caper claimed her attention, and her gaze rested on the minstrel, drinking in the lithe grace of her movement, the delight that played across her face as she glanced back. "Well, I would call that a thorough success."

“Definitely,” Celeste agreed, though at the moment, Sterling Orland was running a distant second in her thoughts. She would not have been the woman that Daniel Monroe had fallen in love with if she didn't act on the impulse of that moment, drawing Nicolette back, away from the edge and kissing her the way she'd wanted to from the moment Orland had put his greasy hands on her.

“You are a marvel,” she said softly when they came up for air, the backs of her fingers brushing lightly along the line of the minstrel's jaw. “Sorry I didn't stop to let you in on the plan,” she apologized, adding with a sheepish smile, “sometimes I don't know myself until I'm in the middle of it.” She'd always relished improvising on the spot, but she hadn't even considered whether Nico might feel the same way. That the other woman had played along beautifully hadn't completely hidden the discomfort that she'd felt, and Celeste's smile faded a bit. “I wouldn't have let him hurt you.” Something dangerous kindled in her chest at the thought of it, and she quashed it with another kiss, filled with fire and hunger and a fierce exultation that she'd almost forgotten she could feel.

From below, Bailey's voice rang out. “Eggs! Got plenty of eggs right here!”

Then Dax. “I found some fish guts! Who wants some?”

Celeste chuckled. “Sounds like they've got things handled down there. Back to the ship, or did you have another idea?” Nico's first idea had gone swimmingly, and as long as the night ended with both of them naked, Celeste wasn't going to quibble about how they got there.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#30
Fingers wound around Nicolette’s, and she turned back as Celeste drew her away from the edge and into a kiss so searing that the nobleman was completely banished from her mind. She forgot his stare and the way he had barked orders at her. Celeste flooded her with the kiss until she could not even hear the sounds of the crowd below, and when they finally broke, Nicolette’s breathing was ragged as she stared into Celeste’s eyes.

“You are a marvel.”

If Celeste had chosen to whisper a torrent of filthy suggestions in Nicolette’s ear right then, it would not have made her blush. For some reason, the words she chose instead did, and Nicolette unthinkingly leaned into the gentle hand on her face, turning her head to kiss the captain’s fingers rather than hold the other woman’s gaze.

“Sorry I didn’t stop to let you in on the plan.” Celeste’s expression had turned apologetic, and Nicolette was able to look back at her again. “Sometimes I don’t know myself until I’m in the middle of it.”

“It was fun,” Nicolette admitted. It had gone beyond her comfort zone a few times, but knowing how thoroughly the man deserved what they had done to him helped considerably. As did the fact that he would be unlikely to remember either of them enough to chase them down. “The hard part was seeing him grabbing at you. I do not know how I might have managed had he been doing the same to me.”

Celeste’s smile dimmed. “I wouldn’t have let him hurt you.”

Nicolette wanted to bring that smile back – Celeste had clearly been enjoying herself a few moments ago, she did not want her good mood to die – but Celeste was ready to take care of that herself. Another kiss followed, even more intense than the first, and the hunger in it had Nicolette gasping against the other woman’s mouth. Need sung through her and even Bailey and Dax calling out their unappealing wares for the crowds below did little to silence it.

“Sounds like they’ve got things handled down there. Back to the ship, or did you have another idea?”

Nicolette glanced around. There were no other rooftops at their level with people on them, and this one, apart from a few long-abandoned crates, was clear. The moon shone off Celeste’s hair and the shadows on her face were held at bay by the flickers of torchlight from below. She smiled. “I may have one more.”

She kissed Celeste again, and stepped away, the daring of what she was about to do setting her heart thrumming. “I noticed you seemed to enjoy my dance almost as much as he did? Perhaps you would like to see it again, without him grabbing at you this time.”

She toed off her shoes and began as she had before, a slow sensuous movement, suggestions made by quick flickerings of fingers and feet. But for the man, she had not begun to unbind her dress as she did now, or let it slip over her shoulders, so slowly and down, falling to puddle on the rooftop as she continued the dance in the moonlight, eyes flashing invitation at Celeste.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#31
For a moment, Celeste thought she'd said the wrong thing. She wasn't even sure why she'd said it; it had just come out, and she felt an unfamiliar knot in her gut as the minstrel averted those incredible eyes, lips brushing lightly over the sailor's knuckles. But Nico said she'd enjoyed the prank, and she melted into the next kiss as eagerly as she had the one before, and Celeste's misgivings evaporated in the heat rising between them.

She was more than ready to leave this place behind and return to her bed on the Wicked Grace, but the gleam of promise in Nicolette's eyes kept her in place as the minstrel kissed her and stepped away.

“I noticed you seemed to enjoy my dance almost as much as he did?” she teased, slipping out of her shoes. “Perhaps you would like to see it again, without him grabbing at you this time.”

Of all the qualities that Celeste prized, the ability to surprise her ranked above nearly all others, and this woman just kept doing it. Gentle but daring. Kind, but possessed of a wicked sense of humor. And so very, very beautiful in the moonlight as she began to move, the subtle roll of her hips and undulation of her arms more erotic by far than the more blatant displays of the scantily clad dancers in the taverns of Llomerryn.

And speaking of scantily clad …

Celeste watched, a smile playing at her lips, as Nicolette loosed her dress, allowing it to slip down, over her swaying hips and off, the moon overhead casting her curves into an enticing play of light and shadow, and amber eyes gleaming with a playful challenge.

Her own clothes weren't so easily done away with, but she let the vest fall to the boards as she stepped forward, swaying to the rhythm that the other had established as the raucous sounds of the crowd and the curses of the Hanged Man faded to the edge of her awareness. She was nowhere as skilled as Nicolette, but she'd learned a fair amount on their stays in Rivain, and she wasn't about to just stand and watch.

Stepping close, leaving the barest distance between them, she leaned in to let their lips flicker together in the lightest of kisses before shifting adroitly behind, feeling her heart racing and every nerve wonderfully on edge. Still not quite touching, she shadowed her lover's movements, drawing the braid aside and brushing a kiss in the hollow beneath one ear, trailing down the slender column of her neck and along the curve of a shoulder, then back again. Hands came up, matching the cadence of the minstrel's gestures as fingertips ghosted over soft skin: out along each arm and back, down and over each hip, gliding along the curve of the thighs, then up, palms splaying along the flat plane of the belly as they swept upward, each cupping a breast and teasing it briefly before dipping down -

“Oi! C'mon up here and let's take a piss on 'is Lordship!”

Well, shit.

“Hide.” Celeste dipped to scoop up dress and vest with one hand, catching Nicolette's in the other and ducking behind a stack of crates just as three drunks scrambled over the edge, already fumbling at their pants. A naked woman on the roof of the Hanged Man might just be enough to remain in their pickled brains when the guards started asking questions. Frustration and mirth couldn't quite decide which one should have primacy, but one thing was certain:

Definitely not boring.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#32
Nicolette loved moments like these. She always performed well for an audience, even if it consisted of only one person, and especially if it was somebody she really liked. The warm evening air had been slightly offset by a cool breeze that brushed against her skin as it was revealed, and the tactile pleasure was only increased by the look on Celeste’s face as the captain dropped her vest and came over to join her.

Celeste mirrored her dance, kissing her just barely, before circling around. Even the feel of her hair being shifted aside made Nicolette shiver with pleasant anticipation, and then Celeste began to tease her. Every sway was followed by the trail of Celeste’s fingertips, leaving sparks in their wake, and it took a great deal of willpower not to turn around and drag the other woman to the floor. Part of the enjoyment was in the game, seeing who would break first, although Nicolette thought she might be on the losing side this time as Celeste’s hands moved down and she arched against her –

“Oi! C’mon up here and let’s take a piss on ‘is Lordship!”

Merde!

It could not have killed the mood faster had she been smacked around the head. Nicolette had no intention of getting caught unclothed by a group of drunken men, and she did not need Celeste’s direction to dive behind a stack of crates. Fortunately, Celeste was a little more forward thinking than she was and grabbed her dress before they sank into the shadows, huddled together in the small area of cover provided.

The drunks were laughing and wasted no time in carrying out their threat. Impressively, considering their inebriation, at least one of them managed to hit their target. A volley of curses rose from below, and not just from the noble by the sound of it. Nicolette was especially glad now that they had come up this way rather than going down into the street.

As the drunks were laughing, she felt safe enough to nudge Celeste and murmur. “Hopefully Dax and Bailey got out of range.”

The group of them – three – laughed again and tucked themselves away, then started turning back towards the trapdoor, when one of them tripped. “What the – why’s there shoes up here?”

Merde again. Hopefully they would not relieve themselves on those as well. There was a moment of confused muttering, and then one of the drunks tottered over to the edge again, holding Nicolette’s shoes in his hands, before taking aim. “Take that! And that, you stuck up prick!”

He had managed to hit his target at least once. Nicolette entertained no hope that she would be able to retrieve those later – in Lowtown, somebody would scoop up a decent pair of shoes almost immediately. At least she was not completely unused to walking around barefoot.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#33
Nicolette was quick on her feet, and they both made it to cover just before the trapdoor in the roof flew open with a noisy clatter and the three drunks stumbled out.

Celeste peered around the edge of the crates. The three of them were swaying side by side at the edge of the roof, and while she couldn't see what they were doing, Orland's bellows of outrage and the curses floating up from the crowds below would have made it an easy guess, even if they hadn't announced their intentions.

“Hopefully Dax and Bailey got out of range.” Nico seemed more amused than alarmed, and Celeste laughed softly, slipping an arm about the minstrel's waist.

“I'm betting they're the ones who suggested it,” she replied, turning her head and brushing her lips along the curve of the other woman's ear, a fingertip tracing light circles over her hip. Between the noise and the general level of drunkenness, there was little chance of drawing attention to themselves, and the idea of picking up where they'd left off had definite appeal -

“What the – why’s there shoes up here?”

Well, shit. She'd forgotten all about the shoes.

Tabling the other idea for the moment, Celeste readied herself to pop out and lead the three on a merry chase, giving Nico time to dress and make a getaway, but after taking the shoes to the edge and pelting Sterling with them, they staggered back to the trapdoor and down – one of them making the trip ass over elbows, judging from the racket, leaving it open in their wake.

Celeste rose cautiously, listening at the edge for a moment before easing the trap door closed and gesturing to Nicolette that it was safe to emerge. “Well, that was an unexpected bonus,” she said cheerfully, cocking her head as the ruckus from below changed character again: the gruff shouts of guards as they arrived, jeers and protests from a crowd unwilling to have the fun ended, and Sterling Orland trying to sound officious as he ordered the guards to “get me down from here at once!!”

“They'll likely be coming up here.” She quirked a grin as she held out the dress to Nicolette, taking time to admire the view before it was gone. “We'll get you some new shoes tomorrow."
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#34
Being naked in such an open space seemed to have increased the sensitivity of Nicolette’s skin. When Celeste wrapped an arm around her waist, the trail of her fingertips made her shiver as though she had caressed somewhere far more intimate. Nicolette barely heard the other woman’s words over the gentle press of lips against her ear, and the touch at her hip put the presence of the drunks to a distant corner of their mind. They had been quiet by necessity before – was this really so different? She was about to shift onto her side, opening herself to Celeste in invitation, when the drunks found her shoes and added them to the nobleman’s punishment.

Nicolette peeped out over the crates as she heard the last man descend. He might have caught sight of her briefly, but even as he paused she had ducked again, and after a confused mutter he was gone. They both waited for a moment, and then Celeste rose to shut the trapdoor. “Well, that was an unexpected bonus.”

Below, there was a cry of ‘make way!’ and the sounds of people scattering. The show was not quite over, but it was approaching its finale, and the pair of them needed to get away from the roof before the nobleman was in a position to send the guards their way. Celeste echoed that thought.

“They’ll likely be coming up here.” Celeste held Nicolette’s dress up, and Nicolette put it back on, any grumbling she might have made over having her latest idea interrupted put on hold in favour of sliding on the clothing slowly enough that Celeste could get a good look before she was decent again. She liked to think of herself as generous. “We’ll get you some new shoes tomorrow.”

Nicolette shrugged, more amused by the loss than anything else, a smile touching the corners of her mouth. “At least it is not the first time I have lost footwear unexpectedly. I once went swimming in what I thought was a secluded cove in Highever, and came out to find all my clothing had been taken. Luckily for me, it was a friend who was amusing themselves, so I did not have to run back to my lodgings in the dead of night and risk being arrested for indecency.” Leliana had not kept the ruse going long enough to be cruel, deliberately letting out a giggle at the point that Nicolette had started to get worried.

They started through the trapdoor. Nicolette was sad they had to leave the roof before they could follow through on some of the promise of the evening, but it was past time to leave, and as they were making their way along she heard the sound of running feet and darted into a bedroom with an open door, tugging Celeste with her. As the boots pounded past, she smiled at Celeste. “It is a shame that the water in Kirkwall is so polluted, or I would suggest finding a similar cove here.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#35
“At least it is not the first time I have lost footwear unexpectedly,” Nicolette told her with a smile. “I once went swimming in what I thought was a secluded cove in Highever, and came out to find all my clothing had been taken. Luckily for me, it was a friend who was amusing themselves, so I did not have to run back to my lodgings in the dead of night and risk being arrested for indecency.”

Celeste laughed at the tale. "Sounds like my kind of friend." The minstrel was taking the loss of her shoes in stride, but the sailor still intended to replace them the next day. The caper had been her idea, true enough, but it had been undertaken on Celeste's behalf, and the details had been of her devising. It had achieved its aim admirably, mind you; the melancholy mood had been completely banished, and somewhere in the Fade, Daniel Monroe was laughing his ass off. And he would no doubt approve thoroughly of his widow's lovely partner-in-mischief.

Once Nicolette was dressed once more, they descended through the trap door, but no sooner had their feet landed on the second floor than heavy boots sounded on the stairs. Nico tugged Celeste through an open door into a room that looked to have been recently abandoned – likely when the mayhem outside started up. They swung the door closed and listened together as the footsteps pounded past and ascended the ladder to the roof.

“It is a shame that the water in Kirkwall is so polluted, or I would suggest finding a similar cove here,” Nicolette mused with a smile.

“There are some up the Wounded Coast that aren't too bad,” Celeste replied, wrinkling her nose as she added, “Little cold right now for my liking, though.” It was rare for her to be this far south this late in the season. She quirked a grin at her companion. “Stick with us as far as Rivain, and I'll show you places that put anywhere in the south to shame. Coves with water so clear you can see straight to the bottom. Waterfalls tucked away in the jungle. Beaches of white sand that the sun warms … there are even a couple of beaches that are almost nothing but sea glass in every color you can imagine.”

Téo was particularly enamored of the latter, and she suspected that Nicolette would be delighted by them, as well. The notion of showing them to her and sharing the other delights of her favorite place in Thedas (apart from her own ship), tugged at something in the sailor's chest with unsettling insistence, and she turned her gaze away from the regard of those pretty amber eyes, telling herself that there was nothing wrong with enjoying good company. If Nicolette did happen to want to accompany them to Rivain, it would be a fun lark. And if she didn't, well, that would be her choice to make. No skin off Celeste's nose either way, right? Right.

“We'll go down one at a time." She cracked the door, peering out to confirm that the hall was clear. “I'll go first, stir up a bit of a ruckus to cover you. Meet me in the alley across the street.” She ducked out, slipping into shadow as she descended the stairs. Plenty of empty seats indicated that patrons had either been lured out by Sterling's caterwauling or driven out by the arrival of the guards, but there was no shortage of tables whose occupants had stayed put, either drinking or gambling. Celeste chose one of the latter, ghosting by it as the winner of a hand rose from his seat to rake in his takings. She dipped into a pocket, coming up with a pair of caltrops that she deposited in the temporarily vacant chair just before he dropped back into it.

He vacated it again almost immediately with a roar, one hand clapped to his ass. “You sorry sons a bitches!” he bellowed to his startled tablemates, and the fight got underway right after that, drawing the attention of pretty much everyone left in the common room and opening up a couple of routes for Nicolette. Celeste continued on her way, staying in the shadows as she wound through the edges of the crowd outside until she reached the alley. From its concealment, she watched the guardsmen trying to figure out how to get an increasingly frantic Sterling down while she waited for Nicolette to join her.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#36
There were apparently some less tainted areas around the Wounded Coast in which Nicolette could swim, but going out there to do so seemed like begging for trouble. Even if they found a section in which they would not immediately be swept out to be dashed against the rocks, numerous bandits, slavers, rogue qunari and other people Nicolette would rather avoid made the stretch of coast their home and could easily descend on unsuspecting victims at any moment.

Plus, as Celeste mentioned, it would be cold. She had a much better suggestion. “Stick with us as far as Rivain, and I'll show you places that put anywhere in the south to shame. Coves with water so clear you can see straight to the bottom. Waterfalls tucked away in the jungle. Beaches of white sand that the sun warms … there are even a couple of beaches that are almost nothing but sea glass in every color you can imagine.”

Nicolette had many occasions to enjoy her vivid imagination and she put it to use now. She had been to Rivain before but mostly remained in the cities, and the prospect of seeing the vivid green jungles and the sharp blue sea from a sandy beach appealed. The sea glass in particular caught her thoughts, and she saw a stretch of land lit up in a hundred different colours from the sun shining off the pebbles. She could almost hear the gentle clack of them moving against each other, shifted in and out on the tide. Her voice was soft with wonder when she responded. “I would love that.”

With more levity, she came back to herself and returned Celeste’s smile. “I used to enjoy swimming around the ships off the dock at Val Chevin. The water was relatively clear there, but it would be good to try it somewhere that I do not risk being sucked under or thrown against a hull.” Her smile turned cheeky. “Plus I imagine there would be some benefits to the water being completely clear, when you are swimming with companions.”

She doubted a single person on Celeste’s crew had an outfit to wear for swimming.

The guards had not come back past their door yet, and Celeste decided it was time for a diversion. “We’ll go down one at a time. I’ll go first, stir up a bit of a ruckus to cover you. Meet me in the alley across the street.”

Celeste slipped out. Nicolette counted twenty seconds, then followed out, just in time to see Celeste dropping something on a chair. Its occupant sat, jumped up again with a roar, and in moments a fight had broken out. Half the tavern gathered around to either join in or yell out bets, and Nicolette ducked through it out quickly out the other side. Corff was watching the fight with a long-suffering expression on his face, but he did spare her a wry look as she bolted out the door.

Outside was even more chaotic. It seemed as though half of Lowtown had run home to collect whatever might be rotting at the back of their larders and pelt the man. His previously pretty ribbons now hung soggily about him and his wet hair was hanging in his eyes. Nicolette did not spare the time for him to toss his head and clear his vision – she went straight for the alleyway, knocking into a few people and earning some curses but was quickly ignored as she freed herself from the bulk of the crowd.

Celeste was already there, watching the guardsmen in the upper window. “You appear satisfied,”Nicolette grinned. “With him, at least. I imagine they will eventually have to lash a rope around him and try to pull him up.” Which would take time, during which they would be long gone. “Or is there more I might do to satisfy you?" After all, she had not actually come up with much of the plan herself. She had simply pointed out a suitable target for Celeste.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#37
Nicolette made it through the crowd and across the street with only a few bumps and jostles, and she likely could have made the jaunt even before she'd put the dress back on; every set of eyes was turned upward.

“You appear satisfied,” she observed with a sly smile, her gaze flicking back to the scene outside the Hanged Man. “With him, at least. I imagine they will eventually have to lash a rope around him and try to pull him up.” The smile took a sensual turn. “Or is there more I might do to satisfy you?"

Celeste stepped closer, drawing her in for a kiss. “I think it's my turn to satisfy you.” She'd made a promise in the Hanged Man, and she intended to keep it. “Back at the ship, though.” She wanted no more interruptions. Stepping back, she turned and crouched, tipping her head in invitation. “Climb on?” Broken glass was only slightly less common on the streets of Lowtown than dirt, making bare feet a bad idea.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#38
Another kiss followed. Had the denizens of Lowtown been going about their usual business at this point, likely somebody would have spotted them and yelled approval, suggestions or general comments their way, but the crowd worked in their favour. Everybody was still focused on the hapless nobleman (who, judging by the grunts and yelling, was still swinging around in his harness while the guard tried and failed to get him down). Nicolette was happy to ignore the roars and jeers from the end of the alleyway in favour of sinking into the kiss, although it did seem better to break it off before it went any further than that.

She could do without further interruptions.

Celeste appeared to agree. “I think it’s my turn to satisfy you. Back, at the ship, though.”

Assuming she could still walk by the time they got there. Besides having a lot of boots to avoid once they left the alleyway, she would have to be careful to avoid walking on any broken glass or sharp stones. The worry did not detract too much from the ideas she had to put into play once they were back on the ship, and Celeste’s own inventiveness solved the problem. “Climb on.”

Nicolette did not hesitate. She wrapped her legs around Celeste’s waist, arms loose around her shoulders, giggling a little. She had not ridden somebody’s back since she was a child, and doing so made her a little giddy. Especially as she trusted Celeste not to let her fall. To encourage her, though, she nipped gently at the shell of Celeste’s ear before murmuring into it. “I am ready.”

She had not always had success in helping people forget their problems before. Outside of the brief distraction her music and stories could give, she had tried to console others only to have them lash out. That Celeste had apparently enjoyed every part of this evening was a relief, and as they made their way out of the crowd and started heading back towards the docks, Nicolette was happy.
 
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