"Ice-burg ahead!"

"Ice-burg ahead!"

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Fate caused paths to cross aboard the RMS Titanic on it's disastrous maiden voyage. What will the future hold for their lives? Love? Life? Or Death? (1x1 between Epimetheus and I)

789 readers have visited "Ice-burg ahead!" since Sirius Baren created it.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

https://www.roleplaygateway.com/roleplay/april-1912

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The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 2 authors

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raven Summers Character Portrait: Charlotte Whittaker

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There was a pleasant sort of flush to her cheeks as he said she was far too sweet to go to Africa. She managed a smile when he said she'd be eaten by lions, but there was something in his words that made her uneasy. It was as though she were staring the lion down now. She shook the ridiculous thought from her head. Stas had charmed her over all those years ago. He had to really work hard to bring her attention his way. Now was different. This Stas was successful and had a job. The quirk of his lips and then the sudden shift after his offer sent her heart fluttering. She was falling more quickly under his spell. It wasn't too hard and she shouldn't be blamed. He knew how to make himself irresistible. Charlotte was dying for adventure and it seemed adventure had been placed at her feet.

Her mother would raise Hell if she knew that Charlotte's rebellious side was surfacing quickly. Stas brought it out of her and she was quickly finding that she desired nothing more than to throw caution to the wind and see where she'd end up.

There was a quickening in her heart as he procured the nickname he had given to her so long ago. He was the only one to ever call her Lottie and it brought back a surge of memories that were very nearly ready to threaten her conscious mind and sweep her away in a bought of nostalgia.

She was shaken quickly from those memories as she realized what he was saying. Her face fell perceptively and she lowered her eyes as he was quickly excusing himself from her presence. Even though he had brushed off their past and told her there was no harm left, she felt as though the pain was there. Why else would he abandon her so quickly?

She felt quite ready to reprimand herself for the foolish thoughts that had swirled into her mind in a heated rush. Stas was right. They were different people now. She offered him a tight and polite smile as he rose to his feet. Her light mood had been soured and she turned her attention away from him as he paid the waiter-

He was speaking again and she had to quickly recover so she could hear what he said. His lips were quirking up in the familiar way she remembered--one of the ways he had whittled past her sense of propriety before--and was asking her to dinner. "Yes." The word came out breathless as she attempted to gather her wits. "I'm in room 2." This was quite a significant amount of information. The closer your number was to 1, the more money had been dropped to secure a room. Charlotte was invariably telling Stas just what kind of wealth was kept behind her dreamy airs. Charlotte didn't like to think about the small fortune her father had invested in the room and was even less likely to complain over the comforts. The first night had been spent enjoying the splendor of her room.

"I'll see you at 7." A dazzling smile crept onto her face. It was a smile she had forgotten she had possessed. It was the smile that had only ever been reserved for Stas.

She watched him disappear through the doorway before she turned back to the coffee she had hardly touched.

Stas was here and she struggled to wrap her mind around that fact. She sipped at her coffee only a short time before she grew restless. She wasn't hungry enough to eat as the gentle motion of the ship on the sea had caused her stomach a slight upset. She left first class dining and decided to explore the ship for the day.

She stuck mostly to the areas populated by first and some second class. She was an un-escorted woman and she was too cautious to wander around the less extravagant places.

The sea was beautiful. At this point they were surrounded on every side by ocean and she felt a stirring in her soul. This was beautiful. The deep blue of the ocean met the clear sky in a perfect line on the horizon. The two colors were so different and yet they complemented one another in a perfect fashion.

As the day crept on she found her mind wandering down the paths in her mind that led to a young Charlotte and a young Stas that often stood behind the bookcases in the back of the book shop.

Charlotte had retired to her room when the time was ticking down to when Stas would arrive to accompany her to dinner. She had rummaged through her clothes and felt silly that nothing seemed to be just right, when in fact she knew each gown would be more than suitable for a dinner with Stas.

Why was she trying to impress him? Why was she even entertaining these dangerous thoughts? It didn't matter that she was infatuated with him when she was younger, or that she felt drawn to him like a moth to a flame even now. She knew that even if Stas had worked to build his name or came into exceeding wealth it would never matter.

Her mother did not have a forgiving heart, nor did she forget. Anything Charlotte dared to think of would never be approved simply because Stas was not born into a higher caste of society. Sylvia held more than a grudge against the man who had nearly spoilt her daughter for a more suited man.

It wouldn't do good to get her heart or her head wrapped up in him all over again when she knew the outcome. However, it would be extremely rude to decline his invitation just as he would arrive to collect her.

She sighed and finally settled on a gown made of very light material. It was smooth against her skin and she admired the way it looked on her in the vanity mirror. It was a lovely peach color that made her skin look flawless. Even though it was extremely flattering on her person, Charlotte was unable to see it completely. She felt she looked average and no less outstanding than a wall flower.

Lottie.

The old nickname came unbidden into her mind and it flashed images in the forefront of her mind.

"My little Lottie," the words were whispered and she shivered as if he spoke them to her now. Once he had come through her defenses she had begun to see him in a way she had never seen any boy before. He was charming, sweet, and doting. She remembered when they would be whispering in the book store and how he was quite adept at managing to drive her into a corner like a cat with a mouse. He would trap her between his arms and against the bookcase. He spoke sweet nothings to her. He showered her in flattery.

There had been so many opportunities for him to steal a kiss but she had always dodged him with silly excuses "You can't kiss me today, I'm wearing purple...you can't kiss me today, it's a Tuesday...you can't kiss me today, I'm too short..." how ridiculous they all seemed now but he had humored her.

She remembered the rage that coursed through her body as if she had been struck by lightning and the energy was bouncing inside of her restlessly. She had never been so angry in her life or hated her birthright when she had been banished from ever seeing him again.

Then the hurt she felt when he never tried to see her. She had hated him a great long while when she was younger as she thought he had filled his fancy with her and moved on to another girl. When she discovered how deeply her mother had meddled it turned her wrath back upon her mother and turned her hurt into longing for the boy who made her feel alive.

It had been so long since she had dredged up these memories and emotions. Her fingers were twitching and a great sigh escaped her.

Stas would only bring grief into her life. She knew this. She owed it to have dinner with him but she could not let it go further than that. She could not handle heart break again. She had been close to falling in love with him as a wayward teen and now she had seen how well he had grown. Stas could capture her heart quickly if he set his mind to it and Charlotte didn't want that.

There was a precise knock upon her door and she jumped causing a few of her belongings to topple from the vanity. There was a small container of powder--her mother insisted she take and use it even though Charlotte abhorred the stuff as she thought it made her look like a ghost--that broke open and spilled everywhere. She looked down and realized that much of the powder covered the skirts of her dress and she frowned.

She bent down to clean it up when she remembered why it had spilled. She straightened and walked over to her door before shifting the latch so she could open the door.

Stas was standing there and she felt her breath catch in her throat. She was frozen for a moment before she came to her bearings and offered a simple smile. She quickly guarded herself in an attempt to resist his charisma.

"I'm so sorry, but there's been a bit of an accident." She glanced down at her white splotched dress and her face flushed in embarrassment. "I've managed to spill an entire container of powder and it seems to have traveled everywhere. I apologize for my state of appearance." She dropped her eyes feeling to awkward to look him in the eye.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Evan Tuck

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Ever since Evan had discovered Cecelia cheating on him he had struggled to reign in his temper. It was always at its worst when he was faced with a woman, especially if she was exhibiting any sort of behavior ill suited to their sex. This young woman was clearly showing a great deal of qualities that had brought the worst out in Evan. She lied, cheated, and stole. She struggled in his grip but it was futile.

"The left? Truly?" the sarcasm was laced in his tone. "You cheated and we both know it. I have a keen eye and I would not have missed the queen unless you tampered with the cards." He was struggling to keep his wild temper in check and not cause her unnecessary bodily harm. He was sorely tempted to rattle her until her brains fell out. He had bottled up a great deal that it was threatening to burst out of him in a very unpleasant fashion.

She had picked the right combination of words to severe the last bit of rational behavior that had kept him from going out of control. She dared to challenge his honor? The fury that entered his eyes was deadly. His grip tightened until his knuckles had gone white. He pulled her in close ready to let loose every thought and ill feeling he had kept inside that he wished he could've parted to Cecelia. He was frozen in place as a sharp pain was concentrated on his foot. He looked down and found she stomped his foot. It hurt but it wasn't unbearable. He was more in shock than anything else and it dazed him. She slipped from his slack grasp and had darted quickly into the crowd before he had finished processing what had happened.

He blinked for a moment before he took off after her. She was long gone at this point but he would not admit defeat. He weaved through small clusters of people and was moving as quickly as he could. It was a good solid ten minutes of dashing around before he finally stopped. That woman!

He decided that if he caught her again he would make her pay. He would find some way to bring justice to her. At least in that way some of the anguish that riddled his soul would be put to rest, at least he hoped that would be the outcome.

He was seething the rest of the day. He stalked around the great ship the majority of the day in hopes of stumbling across her. He had even gone down into the belly of the ship where the third class passengers were housed. He had no luck as they were packed tightly down there like sardines. Evan could only stand the stifling sensation so long before he retreated back to the upper decks. The cool sea air soothed him a little and he pulled a flask from his pocket. He moved to the rail and leaned against it as he took several swigs of the strong whiskey. It burned down his throat and in his belly. He liked the pain. It helped dull the pain left in his heart.

There were excited cheers and clapping a short distance down the deck. There was a small crowd of children gathered in a tight semi-circle. It was obvious where they belonged. Evan frowned and wondered where their parents were. What was so fascinating?

He took a deep swig of whiskey before popping the cap back on and returning it to his pocket. He walked the short distance to the children and froze.

They were all entranced by a young woman bending over with a deck of cards in her hands. She moved the cards through her hands in an expert fashion showing them several tricks and illusions. She glanced up and Evan felt all the rage and indignant anger from the morning boil back to the surface riding the hot whiskey he had put in his stomach.

"You!" the danger in his tone cause the children to scatter like birds and they darted in every direction. He pointed an accusatory finger at the woman and stalked over to her. He pinned her arms to her sides and drove her backwards until they were in a small alcove out of the way of most prying eyes. Even if she stomped on his foot she would have to force her way past him. She was trapped. He had caught her, though he was a bit surprised to have done so.

"You dare question my honor," his voice was low and threatening. There was a darkness in his eyes and he bore down upon her. He clenched her arms tightly in his hands, likely bruising her. "And yet you know you cheated me." There was very little space between them. She was a small thing and it didn't take much to tower over her. "You are going to pay for your insult and your crimes." His jaw was clenched tightly and he had a death glare trained upon her.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Charlotte Whittaker Character Portrait: Evan Tuck Character Portrait: Stas Kelevra Character Portrait: Syllia Kelevra

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                        Yes. That was a yes, wasn’t it? He wasn’t quite sure what he had been expected. That was the answer he’d wanted after all. Maybe a bit more hesitation? The Charlotte he knew from the past was all hesitation. He was surprised, after her, to learn how quickly other women and girls of her status fell to his charms. He had been expecting something more arduous, taxing— a longer chase. But he was warming their beds within the month. His record was just shy of three days. Quickest con he’d ever pulled with a sizeable gain. He’d treated Syl to a nice dinner that night.

                        And yet, the approval came remarkably quickly. Perhaps she was right; being at sea far from the confines of shores seemed to loosen one’s inhibitions. He certainly wasn’t going to complain. He’d seen her face fall then brighten with his invitation. He was already halfway to the end of his game. The coldness in him smiled, ignored the pang in his heart.

                        “Lovely,” he said, forcing an expression of pleased relief onto his face. His internal dialogue prompted him, reminding him like an actor reading from a script— Mr. Kensington does not have the same calculating nature as Stas Kelevra, Mr. Kensington is new money, worried he will never be enough for a woman he loves should she come from a higher status. Mr. Kensington does not read expressions like Stas Kelevra; he does not know what reply to expect before it comes, he does not plan a response tailored to what the person opposite him would like to hear. Mr. Kensington is intelligent, but not wicked and clever. Mr. Kensington is a fool.

                        He had processed the information about her room number quickly, hadn’t let it phase him. It was interesting information, but he’d always known she was very wealthy. Now he knew exactly how wealthy. Some sick part of him was curious about the proximity she might afford him to the tenants of Room 1. Who exactly was put up in there? An older man, surely, but maybe one with a deadbeat son, seeking a competent successor? Perhaps one with a much younger wife, idle and bored, seeking some enjoyment? He shook the thoughts from his mind. Pursuing two jobs at once in such close quarters was too much, even for him. And he had already decided to dedicate himself to this one.

                        “I’ll be seeing you then.” He offered one last smile, then headed off to the exit. He waved at a man and offered a quick greeting (one he was sure would wave back despite not knowing him, one who would assume they’d met and have been too embarrassed to express that he’d maybe forgotten about the young man), another subtle action meant to cement his identity and validity in Charlotte’s eyes. If he was going to do this, he was going to do it right.

                        Following that train of thought, he pondered how exactly he was going to procure a proper outfit for the night. He’d brought his best suits, of course, and nice suits they were, but ultimately, at the night of the night, they were just suits. He’d need a tux. A proper one, sleek with no wrinkles.

                        He was pleased to have the time to gather his wits. There was no acquaintance to meet, obviously, but the meeting with Charlotte had caught him off-guard, and even slightly off the ball was never a good place to be with a mark. Especially one he’d once had an emotional vulnerability to before.

                        He retired to his room (Syllia showed up some time later, and obviously in a foul mood. He avoided speaking too much to her, and only filled her in on the basics of his evening plans) where he drew up a plan of attack, both for finding himself the nice tuxedo he required and for the evening in general. Sometime around 5:30 (the perfect time for the wealthy to start milling about the bar area to chat before dinner), he changed into a simple, almost dirty, outfit. One that reflected his true status in society. He mussed his hair, found dirt to put under his fingernails and on his hands. And then he walked into a staff-only room on the ship and no one paid him a second glance. From there, he took a staff uniform off a rack, changed in the changing rooms. On the deck of the first class, he walked by a maid staff. He bumped into her, apologized profusely, offered a charming smile. While she was blushing, he slid a hand to her waist and lifted the master set of keys off of her. He wondered how long he had before she noticed. She was sweet though, and he made a mental note to return the keys if he bumped into her again so she wouldn’t find herself in too much trouble.

                        With the keys, he ducked into a suite some ways down, found a tuxedo hanging in the closet, and changed right in the room. He threw the staff uniform out the porter window. It was 6:30 by then, and he had plenty of time to wash off his hands and face and fix his hair in the borrowed bathroom before simply continuing down the hall some to the front door of the second suite. He waited the thirty seconds it took for his newly acquired watch to reach the seven mark before knocking.

                        She opened the door and Stas let his jaw slacken slightly, eyes traveling down slowly as if to take in her appearance, a smile, seemingly almost involuntary, lifting the corners of his lips as he did. He laughed when she mentioned the incident she’d had with powder, lightly but with good humor.

                        “Nonsense,” he said, tilting his head to look down at the offending marks on her dress. He paused, then looked up again to meet her eye. “I think it gives it character. You’ll be the loveliest woman there.”

                        Again, he smiled, widely this time, combined with a short huff of a breathy chuckle. “Just give it a bit of a shake if you’re worried. It’ll be hardly noticeable. People will be much too caught up in your eyes and charming conversation to give it a second glance, I can promise you.”

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                        The day had been... exciting, to say the least. Still, she was more than glad to be put all of the events that had occurred far behind her. If she was going to be on the ship for much more time, she’d have to keep an eye out for the man, be sure to avoid him. With any luck, she thought, he’d forget about her in a day or two and she’d never have to worry about seeing his mug ever again.

                        Truth be told, the whole harrowing experience was terribly frightening. She’d been terribly worried he’d hand her off the ship’s guards, that they’d keep her in holding until the end of the journey, that she’d rot in prison, or, Christ, that she’d never see her brother again.

                        She had nervous tendencies, it was true. Her mind raced in dangerous situations, and even though she always managed to squash the thoughts down, push them to the back of her mind until she found a solution, they always came back to haunt her when she was clear. Case in point, her hands was shaking like mad after she ran out onto the deck. It certainly didn’t help that she saw him chase her down. She spent a good couple of minutes darting from crowd to crowd, trying to avoid his gaze. Very nerve wracking. Just terrible.

                        When she was sure she was clear, she took the fastest route down to her cabin. She was surprised to see Stas, would have figured that he’d be casing out the top deck for good marks, but the events of the morning had dampened her mood, and she didn’t question him too much, not even when he told her of his evening dining plans.

                        Sometime after Stas slipped off to do god knows what, Syllia decided some nice air was in order. Help alleviate her mind and bring her back into good spirits again. She changed into a clean pressed shirt (not as stiff and starchy as the one Stas had forced on her that morning) but kept on the pants and, of course, her newsboy cap. It was ideal for her profession— concealed her face if needed, but never looked out of place. This time, she let her hair down. No need to conceal her gender. She wasn’t trying to pass off a member of the first class; she just needed to be easily forgettable.

                        Up on the deck of the ship, she spent some time simply watching the boat stir the water, keeping an eye on the horizon and letting the wind press against her face. After some time, she sat and pulled out her deck of cards to practice her counting. But a child, impressed with the fluid motion of her shuffling, approached and looked on with wide-eyed innocence. A grin sprung to her face as she demonstrated a simple trick for him. And then another. And another. Before long, there was a small crowd gathered around her, some second-class children but mostly poorer looking kids. Her heart ached for them. She was the same once, entranced and enchanting by the small illusions of cards and coins. The false magic provided a small escape. She did her best to entertain them.

                        “Is this your card?” she asked, for the second time. The child shook his head vigorously. Syllia feigned a frown. “Hmm,” she said, lifting a hand to stroke her chin. “Well, I don’t know what’s gone wrong then. Surely, it must be around here somewhere. Can’t have just gone off and disappeared could it have?” Again, she stroked her chin as the child squinted and looked down at the deck she held in her left hand. As he looked away, she took the card she had palmed much earlier and bit the edge of it as she brushed her hand over her mouth, leaving it hanging there. The bright grin on the child’s face as he looked up and saw his missing card hanging from Syllia’s mouth was priceless. She laughed as she pulled it away, but the general joy of the atmosphere was interrupted by a voice she (sadly) recognized. She jumped up from the crate she’d sat down on, ready to bolt along with the escaping children. But the boy she’d just shown the trick to had, in his fright, clung to her leg. She quickly shooed him away as gently as possible, but by the time he’d run off, it was already too late.

                        She found herself face to face with the man from earlier, caught in his bruising grip with a very small chance of escape. She winced for the second time that day, but this time it was in pain. His fingers dug into the soft flesh of her upper arms, which, lamentably, had always bruised incredibly easily. She’d be nursing the pain there for days.

                        “Come on,” she half groaned, half whined. “You can’t just let it go, mate, can ya?” She huffed and turned her chin up to return his glare, looking him square in the eye. “I didn’t cheat you nothing. It’s called sleight of hand, yeah? You heard of that before, have you? It’s not cheating. It’s a part of the game. Which, if you’ll recall, you agreed to play.” She lifted her forearm, using the minimal space between them to take the opportunity, despite her lack of much movement capability, to poke him hard as she could in the chest. “Cheating would have been if I’d switched out the queen entirely. But I didn’t. You never said I had to make it easy for you.”

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He was the snake charmer and she was the snake, though this time she had her wits gathered about her. She had already come to the decision to keep her distance from him as it was best for both of them, but it hadn't stopped her breath from hitching as the corners of his mouth quirked up and he laughed in good nature. She stared down at the white streaks before allowing herself a small chuckle. "Truth be told, I think I'd rather have it doused down my dress rather than pressed to my face."

His words were ever smooth and she felt the back of her neck prickle. Things seemed almost too smooth with him. She flushed at his words and looked away feeling embarrassed. "You are far too kind in your praise." She felt a bit uneasy but attributed it to the subtle lilt of the ship as it cut through the ocean waves. She did take his advice and shook out her skirts. Much of the powder was launched into the air though there were still faded streaks. She bent low and patted away at the silky material before feeling satisfied that it wasn't too noticeable.

"Is this better? Do I look more like a lady now?" a surprising tease sprang to her voice though one glance over her shoulder to the corner of the room where the vanity was, and the rest of the powder, caused her to emit a frustrated sigh.

It was now that she was able to size Stas up fully and she was almost taken aback with the man that stood before her. He was dressed in a high quality tux, his hair expertly combed, and his manner full of confidence with a sparkling smile. It was an odd thing to see him dressed so finely when she remembered his worn trousers, thin shirts, and almost too small suspenders well. If she could place the two side by side it would be difficult to believe they were the same man.

She felt the heat flood her cheeks as she realized she had been staring at him a bit too long and she shook her head. She was resolved to not let her heart run away with her and she tried to force it behind bars. It was difficult to lock away, but she managed before offering him a polite smile.

"Success looks good upon you." She meant it as a compliment but realized a bit too late that it might come off as a haughty or condescending comment. She lamented her lack of tact and shook her head feeling frustrated. Stas was calm and self-assured while Charlotte felt as though her head had been taken off. This blast from her past was doing all sorts of things to her mental state.

"Shall we be off to dinner?" she hurriedly spoke to try and shift the attention away from the discomfort she felt at her own words and waited for him to offer his arm to her.

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"How can it be cheating when you've never been around to catch us before? You've hardly been an attentive husband, and I feel it was only fair I found comfort where you lacked to offer it." Those painful words were burned into his ears, and as this young girl was excusing her behavior as nothing more than a sleight of hand, not cheating, he only felt his anger bubble dangerously beneath his skin.

He glowered down at her as she poked him in the chest and further managed to put the blame upon him for losing...much as Cecelia had done. This young woman was adept at pushing every wrong button. It took a great deal of self-restraint to not hit the woman no matter how much his hands were itching to.

"Than you failed to dispense the full rules of the game which makes you a liar." His voice was low as he kept her tight pressed against the metal wall. "So which are you, cheat, or liar? Either way this does not end well for you." She had eyes that were tempting to draw him in and he cursed himself for his weakness. Some of the sunlight to his back came over his shoulder and illuminated her face. She was pretty, and Evan despised her all the more for it.

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                        Her mannerisms and personality were much as he remembered, and it was with surprising ease that he adapted to being in a situation far from the old scenarios in which they used to meet.

                        Unbidden, several images from the past flashed in his mind— writing carefully crafted notes to leave between the pages of books he thought she’d pick up, grabbing her slim wrist to pull her into an aisle hidden between the rows of books. The work had been easy. And pleasant. Too pleasant. He pushed away the thoughts from years before, fighting the frown that threatened to come with an examination of the memories. He reminded himself, for the upteenth time since their meeting, that he was a different person than the naive child he had been then. Colder, harsher, and stronger, in both mind and body. He would not be making the same mistakes he had made then.

                        Powder billowed into the air, and he took a small step back to avoid taking any of it into his airways. It had happened once, and he could say with absolute certainty now that breathing in loose powder was very far from being on the top of his list of pleasurable things. Waving some of it away from his face with a quick movement of his hand, Stas took another glance down at the newly cleansed skirt and raised a brow, miming a look of mock mild awe.

                        “Not that there was any doubt before,” he said with a quick smile, “but if it’ll comfort you, yes. You look very becoming. Come on now, before we’re late.”

                        He held out his arm, slightly hooked so she might slip hers into his. Once they were well situated, he set off at a steady gait down the hall towards where he knew the dining section for the first class would be. An entire evening spent in Charlotte’s company seemed intimidating, to say the least. But while he was eager to arrive at the end of it, it’d be wasted time if he appeared in a rush. His goal was, he figured, to recreate the mysticism of their youth. She hadn’t loved him then, he knew, because she hadn’t known him. But she certainly had loved the idea of him. He was acting a different part now, a boy shaped into a man and weathered into success, but the concept was the same. Easy enough, he promised himself, it would be easy enough.

                        He laughed at her reaction to her own comment, and it was only half-acted. Charlotte’s mouth had always worked faster than her mind, and he recalled all the times she had seemed to overthink some remark she had made. He had found it endearing. One of many things.

                        “Thank you, though I do believe it would look good on anybody.” He turned his head to look down at her, an amused smirk gracing his features. “I must admit, I’m not quite used to such fanciful wear. I fancy myself a sensible sort, and—” he tugged with his free hand at the lapel of his jacket, “I find some facets of the lifestyle just a touch uncomfortable.” He frowned down at the suit he had on, as though he wasn’t quite used to wearing something like it, and even now that he was well within his means to, he preferred to remain true, somewhat, to his roots. It was a lie, of course, like much of what left his mouth. He was more than comfortable wearing fine fabrics. Preferred it, even. Who wouldn’t?

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                        “I am not a liar,” she hissed. She found herself ready to bite his arm or bring her knee up hard into the space between his legs for a chance at escape. And, since his snide comment, an opportunity to cause him any amount of pain. But she forced her hot head to cool. Making him angrier certainly wouldn’t help her. And there was no guarantee she’d be able to weasel her way past him even if she did manage to hurt him enough to make him let go of her. The temptation was there, tugging at her mind, but she ignored it best she could.

                        Her face was set in a scowl as she tried to choose her words carefully. Seconds later, his threat threw all rational thought out the window.

                        “Where do you get off, looking down your nose at me like that, huh? Right, yeah, I’m the cheat, I’m the liar, I’m the thief, that’s how it goes for you. Well, what is it you do then? Man like you, I bet all you do is help the rich get richer.”

                        She all but spat her words at him, what felt like years of resentment aimed at the upper classes bubbling up in her throat. ‘His wealthy clients,’ he had said, earlier that morning. She’d crossed paths with his sort before, she was sure. And she never once regretted picking their pockets. It was only fair, she figured. They stole from her and her sort, so she might as well try and take some back. She’d enlist a younger child off the streets to bump into the men, a distraction, used it as an excuse to split the gains with them. She was surprised to learn, once, how proud her kind her, how unwilling to accept small kindness. She couldn’t blame them; she was the same. If it was pride or paranoia, though, she wasn’t sure. A favor meant a lot in the grimy back alleys of London, and being in someone’s debt was the least favorable place to be.

                        “I steal from folks who can afford it, but your kind? You don’t. And then you look at us like we’re the vermin. S’like you’ve all never owned a looking glass in your life.”

                        She huffed, loudly, and bit down on her bottom lip. Fool. She broke the eye contact she’d maintained, looking off to side, half ashamed at her lack of forethought, half still a pot of boiling rage. “Doesn’t matter anyway. Even if you’d known I’d try to pull one over on you, you’d still have been just as lost, guaranteed.”

                        She’d already dug herself into a hole (perhaps pit— large, gaping cavern, maybe— was a better term), one more provocation would hardly have an impact.

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Charlotte enjoyed the feeling of the smooth material beneath her hand after she had accepted his arm. She could tell that the material was exceedingly fine and felt a bit of pride to know that Stas was able to come so far from the boy she had shared whispers with. She could easily relate to some of the discomforts that came with living in a more wealthy lifestyle. She felt a sudden kinship spark between them. The Stas from before would not have known the concerns of higher society, but it seemed that they now were quick to haunt his footsteps.

How many women now threw themselves at his feet over his new acclaim?

"I miss the suspenders," the words were quiet, almost as if she only meant to keep them private in her mind. When she realized she had vocalized them she resorted to laughing. "How silly of me." She waved it off but shook her head. There had been a raw and openness to him back then that was starkly absent. How much had he changed?

She paused as they had left the cabins of first class behind and were winding their way to the first class dining room. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. She could feel the temping pull to slip back into the girl that had been daring and rebellious. This time was different as her mother was not watching her like a hawk.

"Stas?" she murmured his name softly as they reached the bouncers that barred those lesser from entering the first class dining. "For tonight, could we dispense with our positions in society?" she chewed the corner of her lip nervously. She had already warned herself off from getting tangled up with him again; she knew no good would come from this. However, she couldn't resist. He brought this side out of her without any effort. "Tonight let's not be Mr. Kensington the Financer or Miss Whittaker the Heiress," she could feel her nerves starting to waver.

"Could we just be Stas and Lottie?" her voice grew weak on the question and her courage died. She felt the embarrassment sweep through her and felt ridiculous for putting the suggestion out there. What would he think of her?

She felt foolish for her idea. "Nevermind, what a frivolous thing to suggest. It's not as if we could ever be anyone other than who we there." While she tried to laugh off her suggeston, there was ano undercurrent of bitterness in her tone.

oOo


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Evan made a sound as she hotly refuted his accusation of being called a liar. She could deny it up and down the prow of the ship for all he cared and he would never take her word for it. She was like every other woman out there; cold and conniving.

He could see the wheels turning over in her head as she was calculating. It wasn't hard to figure out that she was weighing the odds of attempting bodily harm in order to run away. He would not let her pull that trick again. His body was tensed and ready. "My honor and credit is not being questioned now. I know where I stand, and I know where you stand. I am not the vagabond in this situation. There are other ways to make a living than cheating, lying, and stealing your way around the pockets of those who have toiled and sweat over their efforts."

Even though Evan's temper was on flaring dangerously it had evened out. "I am no thief, I am an arguer." He stated though he doubted she'd understand the meaning of his words.

His eyes flashed with barely bridled anger as she declared he'd still lose even if he knew about the hand tricks. "Very well, now that I know the kind of player you are," the words were heavily laced in insult, "we'll play again. This time it's the best two out of three." He finally released his tight hold on her arms. "I'll prove you aren't the big hotshot with cards you think that you are." The desire to knock this foolish girl down several pegs was mingled with the desire to trace her red lips with his fingertips.

He shook the notion from his head and gritted his teeth. He would not let this woman have control over him. He was the one in charge here.

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                        He waited to see the impact his statement would have, whether or not his read on her was accurate, and was not disappointed. There was a light in her eyes that told her he had said the right thing, showed her the right facet of this latest mask. Lottie had always been idealistic and a little naive in some sense. He recalled how shocked he had been when they were younger and it appeared his plan had begun to work. In a way, he’d never quite expected it to. It was a gamble; he poorer than a cobbler and she was a young heiress. Heiresses didn’t fall in love with lowly street thieves. Even from then on, the girls he’d conned weren’t interested in transcending class boundaries to fall in love with someone below them; they were only interested when he put on the face of a successful young gentleman. Lottie had been the only one to ever be interested in him as someone even remotely near who he actually was. But— no, she hadn’t been interested though, had she? She’d come to her sense eventually, realized it would never do for her to be with someone like him. Even now, he doubted she would have spared him a second glance had he not been the very picture of the rags to riches cliche. Now, the romanticization of his person came from the idea that he used to be poor. Had he met her dressed in the sort of clothes his sister often wore, he was sure Lottie would not be holding onto his arm then. He ignored the incomprehensible ache that realization seemed to create deep in his chest.

                        But then he heard the absent-minded mutter she spoke, and he couldn’t stop his eyes from widening in surprise. She missed the suspenders? He only barely managed to stop the breathy laugh that threatened to escape him. Had he pegged her wrong? No, he had only underestimated her. He’d been giving glimpses of the “past him,” the poor boy with an honest soul, but he hadn’t been giving enough. He’d been seeming too successful, to altered. How funny.

                        Teasingly, he said, “I do still wear them, you know. I don’t spend all my hours in suits.”

                        He was surprised to hear her speak some ways down the hall. She had seemed to be locked into a quiet contemplative moment, and he didn’t want to disrupt her. He listened silently, head tilted in interest, eyes focused on her face. He felt her lose her confidence halfway through getting the words out, the slowing speech, gaze flitting down to the floor.

                        He smiled gently, reaching out with his free hand to place it on her arm, still draped over his. “No,” said, with as much warmth as he could muster. “I think you’re very right. We are the people we are, inside our hearts, but we are also the faces we must parade before the public.” It was his turn to laugh, but it held no bitterness. Instead, he injected it with a sense of familiar amusement. “You know, I think I’d forgotten that myself.” He was reminding himself, in a sense. Even if he did succeed in his mission this time around, if she did fall in love with him, it would still mean nothing. Because she wouldn’t be falling in love with him at all. He needed to put more distance, emotionally, between him and the situation. It would do him no good to become wrapped up in her again.

                        As the bouncers they passed waved them on and they entered into the din of the dining hall, Stas leaned down, whispered into her ear. “Tonight, we can be who our hearts tell us to be. We’ll just be Stas and Lottie.”


                        ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━


                        Syllia couldn’t stop the scoff that left her lips at his stout refusal of her accusation. Somehow, it was even more frustrating to her that he hadn’t even gotten upset at her words. It was as though he genuinely believed she was nothing more than scum whose words had no merit at all. Her upper lip raised involuntarily into a sneer.

                        He didn’t look as though he’d ever had to sweat unwillingly a day in his life, and she almost laughed at the sheer audacity of him telling her she was taking the easy way out by stealing. As if she wanted to have spent her childhood years always half starving.

                        “An arguer or a fool?” she shot back quickly, the moment he had finished his sentence. It was nothing short of infuriating that he lorded over her as he did, sitting atop his high horse of pristine morals. His overbearing physical stature only exacerbated her frustration; the idea that she could push as hard as she liked against his chest and not make him move an inch was just humiliating.

                        She couldn’t conceal her shock at his request to play again— perhaps he truly was a fool. She shook her head softly in disbelief, an odd chuckle bubbling up in her throat. “Alright then,” she said, wincing as she rubbed her sore arm, but still smiling. “I sure as hell won’t stop you.”

                        Humming an upbeat little ditty, she pulled the deck of cards from her pocket and pulled out the queen of hearts and two other cards before replacing the deck. She didn’t even try to hide her wicked grin, one full of confidence, screaming ‘you’ve already lost.’

                        “Best two outta three,” she confirmed, then hauled a crate from behind her to act as an improvised table. She kneeled behind it and placed the cards face down, cracking her knuckles once before she began.

                        She started with a fake out. The memory of his loss that morning was fresh in his mind, no doubt, and she used that to her advantage, made it look like she was doing the same trick but then didn’t switch the cards at all. Her smirk only widened when he picked the wrong card, and she saw the anger in him bubble up again. The second time, she did a double false drop, teased him a little. Threw the cards without a trick, tossed them around, saying, “Look, I’ll make it easy for ya this time around, here’s the lady.” And she showed him the face of the queen and the two other cards then tossed them all down simply again. Or so it seemed. She avoided snickering when he picked the leftmost card, which was just a jack of spades. Couldn’t avoid raising an eyebrow in challenge at his clenched jaw.

                        Arrogantly (mistake), she said to him, “Consolation game?” and threw down the cards once more. She executed the sleight flawlessly, she was sure of it. And yet, when he went to flip over his pick, the card he revealed was the queen of hearts.

                        “Oh,” she said, eyes wide with shock. Then, she turned her gaze to him in interest, a mischievous smile lifting the corners of her mouth. “You seem to catch on fast. Was that a fluke or have you genuinely got a set of quick eyes on ya?”

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Charlotte felt her face color a bit as he assured her he still wore them. "No, I'm sure you don't." She still was trying to wrap her head around the fact that the lanky boy from her past had turned into a broad shouldered man beside her. His touch was warmth and sent a wave of reassurance through her. She was used to men turning aside her wishes if they did not coincide with their image of what a lady should desire. She had to remind herself that Stas was different. He had indulged her greatly as a young woman. She frowned. She had to stop those thoughts. As good as it was to see Stas, she knew he wasn't her Stas anymore.

She shivered involuntarily as he whispered in her ear. She offered him a smile and nodded feeling more comfortable now. They were seated shortly after that and she felt at ease in his presence. They ordered their food after wine had been served to them. She sipped her glass and peered over at him.

"Tell me Stas," she didn't allow her eyes to leave his face. "Is there anyone special in your life?" she wasn't sure what the purpose was behind her question. It had been too long since they had seen each other. She wanted to know if he had found himself a lady to court properly. She wouldn't be surprised. She hadn't cared he was a street kid, but she knew his success combined with his looks would bring him attention he wouldn't have received before. That fact was apparent from the lady two tables away who kept shooting what seemed to be flirtatious looks at him.

She felt her stomach twist sourly and managed a few darting glares to the presumptuous woman. She then had to remind herself that Stas wasn't hers, and she didn't need him to be hers. The door that led to that road had closed long before.

oOo


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Image Evan raised his brow when she called him a fool but he let it slide. He could see that she felt intimidated by him and he felt a sense of satisfaction over it. She was defiant and a challenge. He was angry with her for besting him earlier in the card game. He had to regain his footing by beating her at her own game. He knew she cheated but his pride forced him to face her again. He kept his eyes glued down on her as she shifted a crate between them and then pulled her cards out. Now that he paid attention to them he noticed they looked a bit old; the corners were frayed and the backs of the cards were a bit faded. He wondered briefly how long she had carried the cards cheating people out of their money.

Evan kept his eyes glued to the cards feeling more determination then ever to best her out of her card game. He scowled when he failed the first round and resisted the urge to kick the crate as he lost the round. He clenched his fists until his knuckles were white. She was quick. He only nodded when she offered a consolation game.

This time around Evan's eyes stayed on her hand more than the cards and he saw the flash of movement. For a moment he debated between the cards, but this time he knew exactly where his card was. He reached out and flipped the card over with the flick of his finger. It revealed the queen of hearts, his lady. A swell of excitement buoyed him up.

"It could be a flute, try it again." His anger was started to dissipate. His focus had turned from his bruised ego to the fact that he had caught her sleight in hand. "How often do you cheat people out of their valuables?" he asked more casually as she shuffled the cards again before starting a new trick.

Evan felt the thrill of the win as he uncovered his lady once more. "Can you show me how you do it?" he was curious and now was distracted from the wrath he felt against her. She was a cheeky and spunky girl and aside from besting him earlier he rather liked that spunk.

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                        Stas did not miss the shiver that shook Lottie’s body for just an instant after he’d spoken in her ear. His eyes crinkled at the corners, lips twitching into the slightest smile. It did not leave him until they were already well-situated at his table, try as he might to force it down.

                        At the table, they’d engaged in a bit more of small talk, and Stas was pleased with the way things were going thus far. A little down the ways, he caught the eye of a woman who’d been glancing his way. She giggled and looked down, clearly a little flustered, at the white cloth on the table. She wasn’t ugly by any means, and she certainly looked wealthy. Another time and place, and she might have made a good mark. But now, he had to make a good impression on the woman before him. He smiled kindly at the woman, then made a pointed effort to not look in her direction again.

                        He nearly choked on his wine when Lottie asked him if he had anyone in his life, though he hid it well. Coughing once before responding, he took the moment to think through his answer. “No, Lottie,” he said, eventually. “I don’t have anyone special. Just haven’t met anyone willing to find the person beneath all the suits and silk and glamour.” That much was true. There was little chance of finding someone to love when he spent all his time deceiving anyone who might’ve been able to care for him. But the gentle sadness he placed like a mask over his features was entirely fabricated. He didn’t lament the loss of feelings; they were nuisances, things that could only hinder him.

                        Quickly, he laughed, as if he was uncomfortable with the revelation of what appeared to be a hint of his soul laid bare. “At any rate,” he said, good humoredly, “I don’t suppose it would be very proper of me to be out tonight with you if I did.”

                        “What of you then, Lottie?” he asked, cautiously, after a small sip of wine. “Have you anyone in your life?” He arched an eyebrow, ignoring the inkling at the back of his mind that told him he was curious for reasons more than just a simple con. ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

                        She did not argue when he asked her to check again, more intrigued now than angry and spiteful. But as she shuffled the cards again, she let loose a small groan. “I do wish you wouldn’t call it cheating,” she said, only a hint of whining in her tone. “Gamblin’ is a two-man bid. Can’t take their money if they don’t offer it up first. I just use all the tools I’ve got at my disposal to win. You do the same in your line of work, I’m sure.”

                        Thieving was one thing, she wouldn’t deny those crimes. But that was a separate matter entirely; she stole to eat when she needed it. But gambling? Gambling was a pursuit of passion, a constant test of her skills and handiwork. Others might have considered what she did cheating, but she detested the idea. It was resourcefulness, that’s all. She had the skills, so why shouldn’t she use them?

                        “Well, I’ll be damned,” she uttered, mouth falling open slightly in surprise when he picked the right card the second time in a row. “Well done.” She had been extra careful in executing the trick that time, so either he was one lucky bastard, or he really did catch on fast. She certainly hadn’t been expecting to find someone gifted aboard this ship. “Took me two days to catch the trick, then another to figure it out for myself.” Granted, she had only been twelve at the time, but she was a different case, and it was still an impressive feat.

                        She hesitated at the idea of teaching him the trick, worried for an instant that he might use the knowledge against her in some way, still wanting to toss her in the ship’s holding cells. But his expression appeared significantly subdued, and she did want to remain in his good graces as much as possible. Shrugging, she said, “Alright,” and moved over to his side of the crate. Leaning in close at his side, she demonstrated her grip on the cards, one in one hand, two in the other.

                        “So, you’ve got the lady and one of the other cards in one hand, and that’s where the magic happens.” Turning her hand over, she flicked what appeared to be the bottom card down onto the table, but was really the top card. Picking the card up again, she said, “ What you’ve gotta do is keep the two cards separate using your two fingers, yeah?” She rotated her hand to show the split level of the cards. “And then, you use that split to manipulate which card you’re tossin’. Looks simple, but it’s not that easy to pull of smoothly. Once you’ve got it though—” She gripped all the cards in one hand, showing the face of the bottom card as she looked to be throwing it down each time, and all three times, the card that appeared was the queen, making it appear as though she was actually holding three queens.

                        “Then, you can do some real magic,” she said, with a wicked grin.

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Charlotte couldn't help the corners of her lips quirk up as he was obviously taken off guard by her question. She was curious. His response made her nod in agreement. He wouldn't have understood before the type of social pressure she had been under when they were younger. She felt he would now finally comprehend some of what she had gone through. He had been so different and it had been part of what drew her to him once he had worn her down. The sad and softened look on his face had her feel compassion towards him. She reached across the table and placed her hands over his for a moment. It was a gesture of comfort, nothing more.

She retrieved her hand as he laughed and gave a small smile. "No, I suppose that's true." Though in her mind all she allowed herself to think of this was a dinner between old friends.

His question was a natural response but it still had her feeling a bit hollow inside. "No, not since-" she paused. Not since you. She wanted to say but she kept it in her head. "No. There hasn't been anyone worth my time." She laughed dryly. "That isn't to say they've tried." She couldn't help the grim smile. She thought back to the men who had tried to court her, or rather, the ones who had tried to court her money. Stas hadn't been that way.

The evening passed to lighter topics and delicious food. Charlotte was surprised at how easy it was to slip back into old emotions and the memories they had shared together. Stas was charming, charismatic, and a true gentleman. She honestly enjoyed her time spent with him and didn't find it taxing. They reminisced over their shared moments--the good ones at least--and Charlotte hadn't realized how quickly time had slipped past them.

It was getting late and Charlotte knew their night together was coming to a close. He had offered his arm and walked her back to her room as propriety dictated. Once outside of her door she released his arm and gave him a golden smile.

"I had a lot of fun tonight, more than I thought I would." She spoke honestly. "I'm glad we bumped into each other. Thanks for a pleasant evening." As much as she had enjoyed seeing him again, she had closed that door in her past. She didn't expect this to go further or become anything more.

Charlotte stepped in lost and left a chaste and innocent kiss on his cheek. She could feel the prickle of stubble but it didn't bother her. She moved away and grinned again. "Thank you Stas, goodnight." She turned away and unlocked her room before entering. It was good to know she hadn't remembered him wrong.

oOo


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Image The woman's reasoning was sound and she was right. Evan used information to his advantage when it was offered up. He knew how to twist words out of context and help his client win even though if they shouldn't have won. She was right. He didn't say that though. He didn't say anything in response.

A sense of pride swelled in his chest as she acknowledged his quick eyes. She moved over to his side of the crate and offered up the cards. She situated them carefully in her hands putting them in specific places. She had done this at least a thousand times. She explained slowly and demonstrated with the cards so he could see how it worked. The cards seemed to dance in her hand. They did her bidding and Evan had to admit it was a bit mesmerizing. She was quick with her fingers. He wondered how much money she had swindled over the years through her fast reflexes.

He took the cards from her and was clumsy as he placed them in his hand. He tried to mimic how her fingers displayed and dropped the cards, but she had made it look too easy. After a few attempts his brow was furrowed in frustration and he finally tossed the cards down. His eyes were quick to catch the trick, but he could not make his fingers respond the way he knew they should.

"You're good." Those two simple words were high praise coming from him. Evan was a bitter man and it was a struggle to not only acknowledge other's accomplishments, but to say something. "I'll leave the cards to you." He straightened himself before tugging his vest down. He didn't want to get more frustrated than he already was. His original purpose for cornering her seemed insignificant now.

"Just try and keep your nose clean." He gave her a rather annoyed look. He was still tempted to turn her over to the ship's authority, but he decided to let it go. She didn't have to show him her trick. He figured they were even.

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Character Portrait: Charlotte Whittaker
Character Portrait: Evan Tuck
Character Portrait: Stas Kelevra
Character Portrait: Syllia Kelevra

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Character Portrait: Syllia Kelevra
Syllia Kelevra

There is always a fire striking somewhere beneath my skin.

Character Portrait: Stas Kelevra
Stas Kelevra

How many yous have you been? How many, lined up inside, each killing the last.

Character Portrait: Evan Tuck
Evan Tuck

Love is a demon that stalks your soul; it will eat you.

Character Portrait: Charlotte Whittaker
Charlotte Whittaker

Things will be different in America

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Character Portrait: Evan Tuck
Evan Tuck

Love is a demon that stalks your soul; it will eat you.

Character Portrait: Charlotte Whittaker
Charlotte Whittaker

Things will be different in America

Character Portrait: Syllia Kelevra
Syllia Kelevra

There is always a fire striking somewhere beneath my skin.

Character Portrait: Stas Kelevra
Stas Kelevra

How many yous have you been? How many, lined up inside, each killing the last.

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Character Portrait: Stas Kelevra
Stas Kelevra

How many yous have you been? How many, lined up inside, each killing the last.

Character Portrait: Evan Tuck
Evan Tuck

Love is a demon that stalks your soul; it will eat you.

Character Portrait: Charlotte Whittaker
Charlotte Whittaker

Things will be different in America

Character Portrait: Syllia Kelevra
Syllia Kelevra

There is always a fire striking somewhere beneath my skin.


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