I."I don't get why you're even doing this in the first place. Don't you still have three months' advance paid at the Rose?"
"And how do you think I come up with that kind of coin?" asked Isabela in a perfectly reasonable tone.
Hawke generally delighted in Isabela's rather haphazard nature. Then again, she wasn't usually on this end of it. She was suffering a sudden uncomfortable bout of sympathy for Aveline.
"No, Bela. I will not provide 'security' for your whores."
"You did it for Madame Lusine," pouted Isabela.
"I was a broke refugee at the time, and also she is a legitimate businesswoman. Sort of. If you squint hard enough."
"I will pay you. I did say that, right?"
"Bela. You were there when we dragged that chest out of the Deep Roads. My great-great-great grandchildren won't need money, you're not going to get anywhere offering it to me."
"I didn't say I'd pay you in money," said Isabela, hips dipping forward to press against Hawke's, fingers dancing under the hem of her shirt, the corners of her mouth smirking up.
Hawke crossed her arms and raised a smug eyebrow. "I don't need to work to get you into bed, Bela."
Isabela's own eyebrow, unfortunately, was equally smug. "And I don't need to pay to get you to chivalrously stand guard around vulnerable women in perilous neighborhoods and punt handsy losers into the night."
Hawke narrowed her eyes.
Isabela smiled patiently.
"Buggery," said Hawke.
II."You need to stop talking to the workers," snapped Isabela irritably.
Hawke just looked down at her with that insufferably innocent puzzled expression. Total bullshit. Hawke had never been innocent a day in her life. Isabela kept forgetting to ask Leandra how she'd managed to corrupt the woman in the womb.
"I can't exactly walk them home if I don't know where they live," said Hawke with offhanded cheer.
"You know that's not what I mean! Look, you're doing it right now! Cut that out!" she shouted at her girls, in what she'd intended to be her Captain Voice but which came out sounding disturbingly frazzled. Sheepish and mumbling, the small harem of women who'd gathered fawningly around Hawke dispersed along the street and back onto the prowl, slipping into the crowd to seek out interested parties.
Interested parties who actually intended to pay, rather, as opposed to the ones who were theoretically on the payroll, and were thus supposed to be loitering nearby with a broadsword in case of trouble.
"Bela, I never thought of you as a bad boss," said Hawke, affecting an absurd degree of scandalized horror. "Even Hubert lets our miners socialize with each other during breaks."
"You are not socializing, Hawke, you are being suave and charming!" accused Isabela.
"I'm very sorry?" said Hawke suavely, with a charming smile.
Isabela glared at her.
"I won't do it again?" said Hawke contritely, without the least hint of sincerity.
"Hawke, you are fired."
"If you fire me you'll have to stop paying me," said Hawke, dipping toward Isabela and sliding her hands along her hips, the scarred corner of her mouth quirking up as she came close enough to ghost her breath along Isabela's lips.
"Buggery," said Isabela.
III."It was a good run," said Hawke philosophically.
"Fun while it lasted," agreed Isabela.
Neither seemed particularly perturbed by the manacles on their wrists, but that was Hawke and Isabela for you. Aveline hadn't entirely given up trying to actually make them regret their actions, but she'd learned to celebrate the minor victory of temporarily disrupting their plans. It was all she generally got.
"You going to hire any of them to the manor?" added Isabela. "You did it to Lusine enough, only seems fair."
"You make it sound so sordid," said Hawke, thoughtfully scratching her ear like she didn't even feel the weight of the metal on her wrists (damn ox of a woman probably didn't, and no that wasn't hypocritical, she might be built like Hawke but at least she didn't show it off to every poxy pirate tart who tossed a smile at her). "I had a house to staff and some friends who wanted a career change. It's not like I went over there and seduced anyone away."
"Except that you did," said Isabela, as much approval and pride in her voice as contradiction. "In the most literal possible sense."
"I didn't lure Armand onto my staff with the promise of sex," said Hawke dryly, totally indifferent to the burly guardsmen marching her toward the jail cart.
"Captain Vallen! Captain Vallen!" shouted Guardsman Caleb, blessedly interrupting their goodnatured banter before Isabela could start expositing on her best friend's sex life within Aveline's hearing.
"Guardsman Caleb," said Aveline, with much more gratitude than she really should have let show. "Is something wrong at the Keep?"
He shifted uneasily. "No Captain. I mean, no Captain. It's just. This service permit is in order, Captain."
Isabela and Hawke perked up noticeably on the cart. Aveline narrowed her eyes dangerously at her guardsman. "There's a seventy gold fine and thirty days' confinement for panhandling or street commerce in Hightown. No permit that says otherwise can possibly be 'in order'," she said.
"Er. No Captain. It's very illegal Captain. It's just, the banking permit, Captain. Against seizures, Captain. That's, um. Entirely in order it seems. You, ah. We. Can't legally confiscate their profits, Captain."
There was a harmonic two-toned laugh of shameless delight from the wagon behind her, and the clink of metal manacles bumping in some kind of victory gesture.
Guardsman Caleb tried to stand at attention and cower out of Aveline's sight at the same time.
"Buggery," said Aveline.