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Fair Play

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It was dangerous to go alone. Moreso than usual. But Zhavi didn't have anyone old or wise to hand her something to take along with her. What she had was her wits and a few layers of bruises to remind her that stupidity had a price.


The moon was almost full.


It had been raining, lately. The streets were glistening in the scant light that came from the sky. Clouds covered most of it, though the moon had found a hole through which to peek. Zhi avoided the puddles, hands in her pockets, and avoided the guttersnipes hanging out in doorways.


They made suggestions to her as she passed. She'd grin, and shrug, and keep walking.


Just another night, right? Just another walk through the darkness, fear on her tail. She'd fecked up her own take. She'd allowed herself to be watched. She hadn't noticed. That got runners killed.


She skipped over a thin trickle of brackish water on its way over the edge of the spire she was on, and smoothed her hands through her hair. Too much was on the line for her to feck another take. The city was always hungry for death. She'd come close. Close enough to do something about it.


For the first time in two years, five moons, and twenty suns, Zhavi Streetrunner had bathed.


It hadn't been one of her typical sluice-and-scoots. It wasn't even the lavender soap escapades that had marked her meetings with the Cap'n. She had scrubbed, for nigh on an hour, and rinsed several times in a proper bath. She'd bought and used dust for her lice. She'd been clean for the first time in a long time.


Then, carefully, she'd scented herself. Not with any feminine -- or even masculine -- perfume, but with the smell of the city. Her own body odor had been scoured away. All that was left was the city.


She'd dressed in muted colors, a blend of pale and dark. All of her clothing was tight to her body. The city belonged to her, and no one was going to take that away from her. Not Galine. Not Raz. Not Melkire. Not Xydane. Not Jager.


No one.


She slipped past another group of late night rapscallions, and ghosted up a wall. It was time to play fetch for Galine, time to finish up her gods-damned favor.


She wasn't going alone.


Jager was found, and Zhavi carefully tailed him until he was in a workable position. Until he was in the right spot for her to surprise him.


Turnabout was fair play, after all.


She dropped next to him, near silent, and if he wasn't fast enough she'd grab herself a fistful of his shirt and shove him up against the wall she'd dropped down from. Hard.

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Unlike her, this was actually a normalthing to do. Bathe. He may have grew up on the streets, and crawled through every gutter imaginable, but at the end of the day even if it were just a puddle of stagnate water, he'd still find the time to wipe the dirt from his face. That and he had a ship of his own, one with a tub in it, too! It was an expensive luxury, that was for sure.


Despite having his own ship and private cabin, he rarely spent his time on the ship. The less time spent on his only treasure, the less likely it was to be targeted; by anyone and everyone. So he'd visit his room at the inn often, if he needed things like sleep, food or even privacy. And when not in the tavern, he was exploring the city with a few new agenda's to attend to. People to meet, faces to remember, some to kiss- others to break. Whores, rivals, merchants, little by little he'd stretch his roots.


So to be taken by surprise like such, most would claim their heads were in the clouds, or they were taken by deep thought. Such a wasteful, and generic one might add, excuse. To put it simply, Zhavi was a ruttin' shadow among souls. She moved quick and she moved efficiently; too efficiently. She'd land beside him and take claim of his shirt, but not before he'd take claim of her throat. Held possessively, rather out of instinct or reaction, he'd glare with daggers of ire while his fight or flight instinct was held off by her familiarity. With the pistol left back on the ship, he'd not fill her with lead tonight.



Looking down at the runner, he'd grind his teeth in the most disgusted of scowls; touche, ye ruttin' scab. It wasn't often he was caught with his back to the wall. He'd beat her kidneys in later for it. 

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Maybe it was only because of that familiarity that Zhi's grin stayed in place. But it was a close one; she didn't like being grabbed by the throat. Not that anyone did. Unless it was -- but that was a whole other game, and not one she'd in mind. She was playing dangerous anyways by dropping in on him so suddenly, but she'd always played the odds like she had a death wish. Who knew, maybe she did.


For now, there was some small smug victory in her smile, aggression in her stance and body language.


"Fair winds, sweetin'." She let go of his shirt, reached up to pat his cheek.


Was she gloating? Oh yeah, she was gloating. There was a certain personal taunt in the way she stared up at him.


"We're huntin' t'night. Little huntin' delivery birds." She dropped her hand to the round message canister secured at her hip, kept stable by a second belt on her thigh. She was, for the first time in a long time, dressed like a runner who meant business, as opposed to her typical lackadaisical grunginess.


She still wanted a smoke like no one's business, though.


Still planned to reward herself with one, once all was done.

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His grip would linger for quite some time, and even when it lessened, it did so as if it were a dying man clinging to life; her life, at least. Inch by inch, his fingertips would drag down her neck, past her collarbone and eventually fall away from her body, but not before leaving a mark. Ruttin' scrag, she'd won this one and there was no dispute. Another place, another time, he'd get her back. 


"Grin fer as long as yeh can; next time I'll blacken those row o' teeth, too." He'd sneer as he push off the wall and swung around to her side. "Sight for sore eyes, aren't yeh? What'cher huntin'? A hot date?" He chuckles to himself before digging around inside his shirt. He'd withdraw a hand rolled smoke before patting his body down for the light. If she had it, he'd just destroy the cigarette tight then and there. 


To be duped AND needed for something so vital as a light? Yeah. Not happening.

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The grin suffered a dip in luminosity. "I like me teeth," she said, echo to another meeting another lifetime ago. "Already had th'hot date." That was her ever-so-sweet rejoinder -- not that he'd believe her.


Unaware of his nefarious schemes, she produced her battered steel and flint. Even going sober on the smokes for a record-breaking three days, she kept it on her. It was a talisman of some sort, in all likelihood. Zhavi might act tough, but she'd her share of touchstones and superstitions. She just never shared them. Ever.


"In an' out. Gang territory. Need help on th'lookout, an' th'breakin. Needs t'be smooth. Can't get caught."


It was the sort of trick a certain lalafell would have been her first choice at.


The certain lalafell was dead.




"Ye wi' me, or are ye gonna disappoint me? Like last time?"


What last time she was referring to, well, that was open for debate. Judging by the way her smile had gone nasty, she was trying to work her way back under his skin. Call it insecurity for the last time he'd, oh, scared the shit out of her. She was probably trying to reassure herself. Yeah. That was it.

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"Yeh didn't seem all that disappointed." He'd snort before snapping the cigarette in half. Oops. Didn't see the light there, Zhavi. He played it off as if this were the actual story. "'Sides, judgin' by the way you never came back, I'd assume all was well." These two were clearly not on the same page. "Quick in, quick out." Dastardly wink, "Sounds fine with me. I'd suggest we swing by the ship, first. Have a couple o' things that'll make this easier." 


He'd take one last glance at her before walking ahead of her. It wasn't that he found any part of her aesthetically pleasing or attractive, it was just that he'd never seen her like this before. Clean, and approachable. Drunken runners or not. "C'mon, can tell me details on the way."'

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Zhi tossed the steel-and-flint up, and caught it coming down. She rolled her eyes. "No fancy tricks off yer crew, this round. Ye remember how t'run wi'out 'em?" Another tact. Yup, that was how she rolled. If one angle didn't work, try another.


She'd start walking beside him, stretching her arms out behind her. The sneer she had pasted onto her face was, in most ways, hideous; it was recognizably her, as much as the kink in her tail. "Need t'lay down some . . .things. In th'right spot. T'be found in th'mornin' by certain . . . they don't matter. What does matter is that we'll be passin' through places where there'll be guards. More'n that, we'll be strollin' 'round th'personal rooms o' one o' Limsa's finest. He runs his own personal fleet o'drug runners an' mules. He wouldn't look too kindly on a couple o' scrags jes invitin' themselves in. Fancy?"


She looked up at him, full blown mischief replacing the ugly looks she'd been throwing his way. One way to get Zhavi off your back? Hand her a challenge. Bitches love challenges.

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"I might pay grunts like yeh t'do all my runnin', but it'll always be in my blood." Jab? You want to throw some jabs? "Might as well tuck in fer a clean set of cloth myself. As I said, let's swing by the ship, grab a few things. How far this play anyways?" He led her through the streets, once unfamiliar, now the back alley trace he'd taken almost every day just to get back to his room. How long had it been now, two months, going on three? Where did the time go?

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"Fine words." Parry. But she didn't need to cast doubt on him, didn't need to press him; they'd find out exactly how much he remembered real soon.


Zhi let him lead, checking his familiarity against what she knew. True, there were a few spots where she'd have taken other streets or alleys, but she was impressed with what he knew. So he hadn't been idle bouncing whores on his lap the whole time he'd been in town. Even so, she still hungered to see him flat on his ass. She wanted to humiliate him. Hungered for it.


"Least a bell from yer ship," she answered, after thinking about it. Limsa Lominsa wasn't an exceptionally sprawling city, but its spires and bridges made certain things. . .complicated. Fewer points of entry meant an easier time guarding against intruders, unless --


"We're gonna need t'swim on th'last stretch."


The reason for her clothing, revealed.

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He'd stop at the edge of anintersection, shoulders squared off. “We're.. swimming?” Blink. Blink. What in the hell was she playing at this time?“So there's no reason to even go toward the ship?” He'd shake his head before resuming his not-so-casual pace through the streets. It wasn't that he'd gotten to know each one with intricate detail, it was the landmarks that helped him get around. If the Aftcastle's spire was in the north, then he was closer to the docks on the east side; alternatively, if he was facing the sea, Limsa's entrance (or exit to some) was simply in the opposite direction. Navigating a ship and navigating some land weren't really all that different.



“Change o' plans. You lead.” He'd open his arms and dip out of the way, “'sides, Ladies first.”

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Zhi sighed. "We ain't swimmin' th' whole way, smartass." She gave her own gesture in the direction they'd been going. "Get whatever it is ye need. Jes th'last hop what needs swimmin'."


Ladies, indeed.

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"You might be swimmin' the whole way, you keep this shit up." It was a nasty slap, but the grin tacked on suggested it was just casual banter between the two. For anyone outside of this caustic relationship between business partner and rival, they'd have thought these two were nuts; they were but, on a different, less friendly level. "Anyways, this'll be quick. You like quick, yeah?" Snicker. 


He'd not even lead her onto the ship, he'd just ditch her at the docks long enough to swing up into his cabin, give some orders and finally, waltz on out like he were on to the next check mark on the list of chores. About the only thing different was a small satchel strapped around his waist hanging from the middle of his lower back. 


"This one o' yer gals job? Whatever her name was."

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"What, showin' how stupid ye are?" There was definitely grumbling in her voice, followed by a growl. "Nah, yer th'one what likes quick. I likes me somethin' good."


She very loudly did not answer that last question.


But she did take up the lead as if that was the natural order of things. She walked them out of the docks, taking a wide-flung route that toured them away from businesses and homes alike. They passed fishing vessels, day trawlers, and small passenger boats; the route took much longer, but it also kept them away from them what would watch their walk with interest. Their walk took them forty minutes, give or take, and then they were out of dock for the direction they now needed to travel in.


Zhi turned them towards the city. "We'll be up soon as we hit th'spire. Stay low. We'll be up, cross by th'big cables up top -- it's high -- then back down on th'side o' the far spire, an' then it'll be th' swim."


Her tone went grim. "Next one over, th'one we're crossin' to? Belongs t' Swygahtyn. He ain't a baron, but he's wicked close. Don't like folk walkin' 'round his territory wi'out his say so. Stay quiet, an' hang on me tail."

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Jager spoke only when he needed to and luckily, that wasn't necessary. Not for right now, at least. Following her through the city was a simple enough chore. It was easy to drown her out in the casual bustle of the city, docks and its inhabitants. For all he knew, she was just taking him on a little tour for a useless job. Goods needed to be moved? Switched? Stolen? He paid runners and crew alike to carry out this type of work. Did this mean he was lazy? You bet your sweet ass it meant he was lazy. Did this mean he'd lost his touch? Well, go ahead and ask him if he's lost his touch and see where exactly he places said touch. Flat. Skin-to-Skin. Blam! Right upside the back of your head. He'd do it, too. You better believe it! 


"Baron or not, he's just another unlucky sod gettin' stiffed at the end o' the day." Shrug. "We there yet?"

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"Ruttin' churl," was her return mutter, delivered with a grimace.


They touched land. Her eyes were sharp in the darkness, and she was looking back and forth, careful, before she moved them forward. Didn't mean she didn't catch whatever eyes might be watching, but nothing was going to be precisely perfect. She walked with the confidence of someone with business, not with the sort of sneaky hunch of someone with something to hide; as far as her body language was concerned, she had legitimate interest in the narrow alley between the two stone buildings right off the pier. Legitimate enough, at any rate.


Without a backward glance or another word, she started to climb. She moved steadily, pausing every little bit to take another look around. The climb progressed. Slow, yes, but also unimpeded. This was an hour when most activity was conducted inside, and those left out were often as disreputable and miserable as Zhi herself -- except when they weren't. Lookouts weren't uncommon. So long as said lookouts were seen before they saw anything, the run would go smoothly.


They hit the upper tier, and Zhi moved along the gentler slope of the uppermost edge of the spire to one of the short towers that rose parallel to it. Here were the cables that kept it secure against storms, connecting it both to the spire that birthed it and the nearest one to it -- the one they needed to climb over to.


But they weren't alone, up there.


The problem with being so high was that Zhi's main sense of detection, her nose, was all but useless; the air was typically moving, and changing directions. It was only by luck, and by sight, that she caught sight of another miqo'te crouched near one of the cables. She had no idea what the other person was doing, and she didn't care. She immediately flattened herself against the stone, looking behind her to locate Jager and gesture him both down and closer.


They hadn't been seen. Yet.


Once Jager got close enough to hear her whisper, she spoke. "Got anythin' t'take him down wi'? Quietly?"

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She'd not have long to whisper her message, for Jager was already flexing his fingers against the stone she was currently pressed against. A couple braids had come undone during the climb, and right now they whipped and stuck against a sweaty forehead. He seemed annoyed because of it, or was it Zhavi? Perhaps the lookout halting their climb? Hell, maybe he was battle with indigestion, who honestly knew anymore? The wall was smooth and there was little to no room for any spots to dig his toes in, let alone his fingers. His own were rough and calloused, worn from years of hard labor and pulling on ropes. It was amazing he still had any feeling in them anymore. 


Before long, he'd leave her behind, whether or not she could follow. Getting atop the spire was next to impossible, but somehow he'd managed to find the strength- and ledge- to climb to make this assassination a legitimate hope. Could he remove him? Sure, there were plenty of ways to take someone out of the picture, but to do so quietly, and in such a piss poor spot.. He was workin' some magic here. The further he shimmied along the ledge, the futher he'd leave Zhavi's line of sight. Eventually he'd hang several feet above the miquo'te with nothing but his weight and gravity's inevitable pull. The wind up here was strong, he swayed recklessly in it.

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Reconsidering a plan wasn't something Zhi did often, but watching Jager shimmy away. . .she slunk after him, grim and silent, and saw the way the wind battered him.


He could climb, but he wasn't as good at it as her. She could kill, but she wasn't as good at it as him. There was a problem in that, but it was too late to call him back. If she distracted him while he waited, bad things could happen.


The miqo'te wasn't looking up or down, but rather further out towards the ocean. It occurred to her, as Jager prepared to make his move, that this wasn't a lookout for someone protecting their territory, but someone waiting for a signal for something else entirely. Galine had always been a stickler for punctuality. Part of it was the show of respect to her, but part of it was that her plans were time-sensitive.


Galine knew the city's secrets as well as Zhi did. Maybe even better; she'd a network of runners at her beck and call. Chances were she knew -- or guessed -- the route Zhi would take in order to avoid being seen. She'd been extra pissy that Zhi was running a day or two behind trying to ensure the goods presently in hand made it through the Gate intact.


Zhi knew when she was supposed to ask questions, and when she wasn't supposed to. Galine thought to test her, did she? Thought to see if she'd make a mistake, and get herself killed in the process?


For a moment, even despite Jager's shaky position, Zhi was tempted to yell up at him, to deter him from making the strike. But she knew better. Even if this had been a partial set-up, there was exactly no guarantee the other miqo'te would participate in usurping Galine's plans. Hells, there was no guarantee Zhi would survive Galine's displeasure if she displeased the lalafell.


She waited, grim, and hoped he didn't drop the blaggart in such a way that the body rolled off and down. She'd be needing to look at it.

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