It's hasn't been a month since the incident with Graham, and Claire already has Chane on the move. No, he's not rushing anything at all. That much Chane knows. The man doesn't seem like he does, but when it comes down to it, he keeps a close eye on his boundaries with people he's close to - or at least feels close to. And Chane falls into one of those categories.
One of them, she isn't entirely sure which one herself.
“I know a real great place to celebrate officially tyin' the knot, Chane. 'least in the future, y'know?” He nods to himself, hands stuffed into his jacket's pockets. “N' the people there, they're gonna love ya. Just not as much as me.”
Chane doesn't doubt him. At least, doesn't doubt the latter part. Even though she... doesn't entirely grasp this sort of love just yet. She's only known her father's 'affection'. Or what she told herself was his 'affection'. Deep down she knew herself to be a tool to her own father. He'd owned every aspect of her life. Even her voice. Just to keep vital secrets hidden.
Is isn't like that. Not just with Felix, but Nice, and Jacuzzi, and the rest of the gang. They show her nothing but kindness and patience. Natural, honest consideration towards her that Huey Laforet could never offer. Her loyalties aren't divided, no. if it came to it, she'd give her life for Huey. But the same goes for . Even... even one of Huey's factions would one day be the ones endangering them. They'd come first. And it's a comfort to her that they can't use her against Huey. Her death would mean little beyond losing a durable tool, but dead men tell no tales, so he'd rest assured his secrets died with her.
Carefully, she lifts her gaze from the cement, stealing a glance of Felix. His smile directs him more than his feet, bringing a spring to his step. Very few could recognise him as the Flying Pussyfoot's infamous 'Rail Tracer' or 'Vino', or God knew whatever other aliases he has up his sleeve. He seems just as ordinary a man as any other.
That goes for nearly everyone in the world, but standing next to him, Chane suspects the way he holds himself is more than enough to tip anyone off he's got a few screws loose – frankly speaking.
Usually Chane struggles with her own uncertainty – fear, towards this new way of life. This open world constantly widening and expanding right before her very eyes.
But right here, right now, she thinks she can pin Felix's utter self-assurance down as envy. That he's never second-guessed his place in the world – 'His World', according to his philosophy.
Her eyes return to the pavement, and then focus on Felix's proud gait. Hearing the power in every step he takes. She sticks her foot out, but just before Felix's makes contact, he skips over it, opening his arms up and his smiling widening at the sight of a blond-haired man standing outside a lavish restaurant.
“You sure took your sweet time, Claire.”
“Felix,” he corrects, “and I wanted to look good, Luck.”
“Uh huh.” Luck turns to Chane, extending his hand. “Luck Gandor. Heard a lot about ya, Chane.”
Instinct stops her from shaking his hand. Instead, she nods, and is the first one to enter the restaurant. Claire follows her, and Luck Gandor strides in at his own nonchalant pace. He and Claire exchange a few words. Mostly reminiscing on events Chane has no knowledge of. Nothing about the train. Claire mentions Graham, but only in tangent, and Luck casually comments on it without much else to say.
Were Chane around her former company, conversation this light would be nonexistent. But even when they all sit down in a cosy booth, the two keep up warm, friendly conversation. Claire always boasts about himself, but when he doesn't, he speaks fondly of the Gandors, his foster family. Yet, as eager as he said he was to introduce Chane to them, it seems only Luck is able to show up.
The man leans back, giving a friendly smile. “Keith n' Berga are busy, so you're stuck with just the two us.”
Claire looks up from the sleek menu offered by a server. “Two?” He looks around, but shrugs. “Where?”
“If ya listened you'd know.”
Listening isn't Claire's strong suit. God knows he works on it with Chane, she'll admit. But it is still his greatest weakness. To be fair, the lull of surrounding customers notwithstanding, all she hears is an elegant melody played on a piano. The pianist looks like she plays. Refined, graceful.
Luck leans in, slyness in his smile disappearing. He seems more… Sympathetic this way.
“I gotta be frank with you, I never thought I’d see the day he’d seriously pursue someone.”
Pursue is an understatement..
“But yanno. We haven’t gone a day he don’t mention you.”
To be expected. But…
Luck waves his hand and leans back. “Don’t worry, he’s got nothin' bad to say about you.”
Chane picks up the menu in front of her, hiding a slight grimace. That’s the problem.
He puts Chane on a pedestal. It'd be just her luck that the Gandors expect more from her than she could ever hope to offer.
“So, ya do like him, yeah?”
Chane blinks,resisting the urge to lower the menu. Luck asks a fair question, but there's a vulnerability to it Chane can't – won't acknowledge.
She's not like Claire. Chane’s understanding of ‘like’ may mean something different from Claire’s. Especially since his is 'love’. Not once has she questioned his sincerity, but even now, she has no doubt her perception of their relationship is a little… Conflicted. She enjoys his company, intense as he is, and would dislike it if they parted ways. She knows that much is true deep in her heart and mind.
She quickly jots a response down.
I do. I don’t want to lie to him or his family.
Luck laughs. “To tell ya the truth once ya get swept up in his pace there’s practically no escape, so it’s good to hear he finally found someone that can keep up with him.”
I still find many of his traits jarring. I don’t know what to do with him sometimes.
“Same goes for everyone who knows him. My advice: be straight with him. He’s phenomenally dense to others.”
He is, but he’s slower than I thought he’d be.
“Then you’re on to a good start. You’re probably one of few people he’ll listen to.”
I hope so. She knows so, but if she doesn’t put hope into this, she’s afraid she’ll lose this world Claire and Nice opened up to her.
I’m glad we ~~~~~
Her letters turn into a rush of squiggles thanks to loud, dissonant notes playing. Where the pianist and Claire are, Claire quickly recoils from the instrument, and, correct Chane if she's wrong, but she swears the pianist sits in just the right position to keep Claire from touching – harming any further melodies.
Claire looks away from her disapproving stare, and, probably by instinct by now, locks eyes with Chane.
His eyes brighten up immediately. “Chane, c'mere.”
She stands, but stops herself. She should at least excuse herself with a short nod to Luck.
Luck, on the other hand, shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it.” He waves his hand, shooing her in Claire's direction.
She worries and nods anyway.
Felix waves her over. “Chane, hey Chane!” He sure is the type to act so outwardly in the middle of a five star establishment.
Felix meets her midway and escorts her to the pianist. “Chane, you ever watch silent films as a kid?”
She really can't recall watching any films as a child. Or an adolescent. Certainly not as an adult. But she's heard plenty of music. On the piano, she recognises the title on sheet music: A Journey to the Sun. The music notes are recognisable. She can read music, even if she can't play any. It comes in handy.
Felix points at her eyes. “See? Told ya Kate. She's always talkin'.” He shrugs, as if resigned to his fate. “And I just can't get enough of her voice!”
“You won't be able to to hear as clearly if you keep speaking so loudly.” Kate's warning, although gentle, cut rights through Claire's enthusiasm.
Yet Claire’s eyes widen. A new light shines in his busy eyes. “Kate, you’re absolutely right.” He’s finally using his inside voice. He swings to Chane’s side. She notices his arm twitch, but he keeps it to himself. The gesture makes her lips twitch upward, but she controls her expression as always.
Claire either ignores it or doesn’t notice at all. Common Sense tells her it’s the former.
“Anyway, where was I?”
Kate shakes her head. “I wouldn’t know, Felix.” A delicate hand slides under the sheet music. She pulls out a small note card and hands it to Felix.
Claire skims over the note and smiles. “Well lookie here.”
“Keith says he’s sorry. He knows you’re supposed to be enjoying some time off.”
Claire shrugs. “Don’t when worry ‘bout it.” He flicks the note up his coat sleeve. “I’ll be done in less than half an hour. And that’s bein’ hard on myself.”
“Luck implores you avoid causing a ruckus.”
“Not a problem.” He walks to the back room, a certain 'air' to him.
Compared to Chane, he really enjoys his job. She admires that, really, but now it’s left her with not one, but two people she has no idea how to interact with.
She’s stiff as a board next to Kate. Not nervous. Simply at a loss.
Not that she has the chance to think of something. She hears a clamour of curses and clashes come from the back of the restaurant. A scrawny man stumbles out the kitchen doors with blood on his waiting habit.
There’s fear in his eyes, and it twists up his face. But… Anger mixes with fear. He’s a man with a thwarted plan. He stuffs his hand into deep trousers pockets, and Chane spies a metallic shine in his possession.
The second he rushes near the piano, Chane grips his wrist. Twists his arm. An autopilot reaction. The loud clamour his body makes slamming to the floor doesn’t phase her. She’s sure she felt a bone or two snap, and the wind’s knocked out of him.
A pistol clatters to the floor. Luck stands where it stops, having left his seat. He went undetected by Chane. She wishes she could blame it on being occupied with the man trying to escape, but that's no excuse. Her eyes don't leave Luck until he kicks the pistol away.
From behind, Claire pops up, and flashes a wide, blinding smile. It’s full of awe and pride. He pats her shoulder and crouched down next to the man. “Nice work!” He turns to the man. “Ain’t she great?”
Heaving for air, the man shrinks away from Claire. Any other time, Chane would tighten her grip. Maybe pin him down. But she glances at Claire, and she can tell she doesn’t have to.
She isn’t softening up. Every muscle in her body strains and argues with her conclusion. But the fact of the matter is that she isn’t alone.
So, she lets the man go. Watches him scramble up. And Claire stands shortly after. A normal person blinks and they’d miss Claire closing in on him. But Chane sees every movement he makes. Controlled. Experienced. Downright enjoying himself. It takes no time at all for him to apprehend his target. But it’s nothing supernatural. It certainly isn’t talent. It’s his own efforts and polished skill.
He slings an arm around the man’s shoulder. “Right then. You caused a lotta trouble on Gandor turf lately, haven’t'cha?”
The man shakes his head - or rather, his whole body.
“Oh?” Claire leans in like an old friend of the man. “You callin’ 'em a buncha liars?”
“I dunno the ins n' outs, don't need to.” Claire waves a dismissive hand, and wraps his arm tighter around the man. “Well now my friend. It appears you and I should take this conversation outside.”
Just outside the door, he pauses, looking back at Chane. “I’ll be back in no time, Chane.” He closes the door, man in haul.
Silence slowly gives way to bystanders trying to mind their own business.
Luck approaches Kate, sizing up the piano’s condition. He sighs, shooting Kate a sympathetic smile. “Ruined your show here, sorry 'bout tht.”
“It's not a problem. I'm used to it by now.” Kate waves off the apology, still smiling. Virtually unfazed. She's no hardened woman like Chane, but the strength in her eyes is no different. Just softer, more self-assured. Chane feels the slightest envy towards her light atmosphere, but another part tells her to learn a thing or two from the pianist in the future.
Luck takes her calm in stride. “Ya oughta get outta here 'fore anything else happens.”
Kate nods. “I'll take my leave then.” She smiles at Chane. “It was nice meeting you, Chane. Felix is a fortunate man.”
When she walks away, Chane feels an urgent need. She pulls out her notepad and pen, jotting down a single message for Kate.
Your music is wonderful.
It's not a thank you, but she hopes it conveys her gratitude all the same. Kate holds the note with great care and thanks Chane. With that, she leaves.
Chane intends on returning to her seat, but Luck puts a hand to her shoulder, without a care in the world, and shakes his head.
“Felix dragged ya into enough awkward conversation, you don’t gotta stay any longer if ya don’t want.”
Although she lingers, Chane hands Luck a final message.
Thank you for meeting me.
“Don’t mention it. Like it or not you’re part of the Gandors now.”
I’m glad I met Claire, and his family.
“On behalf of myself and the Gandors, I wish you two the best.”
“See ya 'round.”
Chane takes her leave, and to no one’s surprise, Claire stands just outside the door waiting for her. There’s not an ounce of blood on him - an improvement from the Rail Tracer’s debut. The body, Chane has no idea, but knowing Claire, it’s been properly disposed of.
“Nah, I’m sure the cops’ll find it eventually. Ain’t never been too hung up over the whole 'disposal’ thing. That’s more Luck and the others’ forte.” He starts walking, light in every step. “S'not like they have any hope of catchin’ me.”
It’s nothing for Chane to concern herself with. She walks by Claire’s side, mentally writing and erasing her next message. Nothing sounds right.
“So?” Inquisitive eyes focus on her. “How’d ya like 'em? I am kinda bummed ya didn’t get to meet Keith and Berga, but Luck and Kate are swell people, yeah?”
Chane jots something simple down.
Claire nods. “And?”
“There’s more you wanna say. I can tell.”
Well, he’s not wrong.
I feel like nothing was properly done.
Claire hums, reading over her message multiple times.
“Don't worry 'bout it.” He pats her shoulder. As usual, that self-assured smile takes over. “Believe me, action over words means a lot to the Gandors. You couldn't have done better even if ya tried. What better impression to make with us than showing off how easy it is to knock someone to the floor?”
Technically, Chane can't argue, but... that's not the point. She struggled enough to hold a semi-decent conversation with them. They were polite and patient, but, when it comes down to it, there's really not much she can mention about herself. Nothing she's proud of, anyway.
The resident mind-reader laughs. “Chane, someone would have to be dead to not know how incredible you are. That’s why I feel most alive next to ya.”
He’s a self-proclaimed romantic, but Chane only feels a rustle in her heart over how… cheesy he sounds. He’s sincere and honest and good to her, but still cheesy. That right there is an obstacle to overcome.
But it’s manageable.
She allows a faint smile, and to her benefit Claire says nothing of it. It gives her time to muster up the courage to say at least one more thing.
Telling Luck and Kate was easy. But that much honesty towards Claire feels... risky. Very risky. Not because of Claire himself, but... Chane knows the difference between telling absolute strangers something and being heartfelt towards someone you're close to – let alone fiance.
That word is really starting to sink in.
She purses her lip and glances at Claire, who focuses on the path straight ahead of them. Usually he's observant as ever, but he appears to be far too into his own little world to notice Chane jotting something down on the cardboard of her notepad.
Thank you for meeting me.