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Belle, Boots, and Candlesticks

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Faris reached for a handful of the fabric strewn across on the bed. “Wha’ is thi’sh rot?”

Butz looked up from the depths of his backpack, then set to tying it closed again.

“Faris, we... look, we’re sneaking into a palace gala where everybody and their moogle is going to be looking for someone that stands out. They already suspect we’ll show. We need to be inconspicuous. You know, incognito.” Having finished his knots, Butz stood and brushed his hands on his trousers. “Remember? We talked about this last night?”

Faris remembered. Vaguely. Granted he had been babbling about it when she was least likely to be paying attention, but, as she remembered it, her intrepid partner in crime had said nothing about wearing women’s clothing, least of all a frilly evening gown.

The dress’s silk weave itched against her calloused palm and she jerked her hand back, brushing it off against the weathered leather of her coat. “I ain’t wearin’ a dress.”

“Faris-”

“Ain’t doin’ it.”

Butz rolled his eyes skyward, raising his arms in a sweeping, grandiose accompaniment to his oration. “O, captain, my captain-”

“Fastest way fer us t’get caught is if I be stumblin’ around in skirts.”

His arms dropped audibly against his sides.

“I’ll be wearing the dress,” with a flick of his wrist, he indicated himself first, and Faris in turn, “You take the duds.”

Faris choked on smoke as he leaned over the bed, collecting the gossamer blue fabric. “Ye can’t be serious.”

“Trust me, get dressed.” Gown draped over one arm, he caught her sour look. Smiling broadly, he threw his hands out and repeated, “Trust me.”

Skeptical, Faris watched as he disappeared into the adjoining room and, after he closed the door, she heard the door latch locked between them.

“Like there ever be a choice,” she muttered, lifting the surcoat to examine it at arms’ length.

Shucking her coat, she pulled off her shirt and trousers, redressing in record time. The fancy clothes were stiff and scratchy, having never been worn, and no doubt royals and noblemen liked it that way. Faris studied her reflection in the mirror hanging on the wall, stiff as the fabric she was clothed in, and decided she didn’t like being a nobleman any more than she liked being a royal princess.

Shaking off the less than pleasant memories that heralded, she set to pacing the room, waiting for Butz to finish his own preparations. She finally settled for staring out the window, admiring the rippled cascade of the sun, low over the ocean horizon, when the door behind her creaked open.

“What took ye so long?”

“Hand me that paint case over there, will you?” Faris glanced to where his hand pointed from the crack in the door, and grabbed the case from the bed. “Oh, and your scarf? Ah ah ah,” Butz jabbed a finger at her as she rounded the door. “No peeking!”

Exasperated, Faris shoved the makeup into his waiting hand. Untangling her scarf from her discarded pile of clothes, she handed him that, too. Once she had, the door between them slammed shut.

The sun set over the horizon, and she paced the room by wisplamp light. At length, she settled into the underplushed, faded armchair in the corner. By the time Butz threw open the door, she was chewing at her thumbnail, lost in thought.

“About bloody time,” she growled. Halfway to her feet, her jaw dropped, and she froze, leaning heavily on the armrest.

“How do I look?” Butz swept into the room; the skirt of the dress swirled around his legs as he spun about to show off his workmanship. “Hmm? Impressive?”

“I ain’t of a whole mind, whether I want t’ laugh or ask ye t’ dance.” Faris circled him once, studying him top to bottom. He smiled at her reaction - a cheeky, self-satisfied smirk, painted a deep, alluring burgundy red.

“Nuh-uh,” Butz’ clasped a gloved hand over her mouth, stifling her errant thought, “Smear my makeup before we have the Eye of Neptune, and you won’t be getting any for a whole month.”

Faris bit her lip, straightening her surcoat with a heavy shake of her head.

“Let’s get this farce over an’ done with. Lead on.”