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Jacqueline It's perfectly safe for her to be in town again, thanks to a friend's generosity. But Jackie Wayne can't help but feel guilty about it: The money she gave to the taxmen wasn't her own, was collected by heavily-armed thugs, and is being used for Atom-knows-what aside from helping to sustain the town. Surely expenses haven't /doubled/ since the last collection period!
But as to what all this money is going for? The only thing forthcoming from City Hall is an oppressive silence, worse than the presence of the armed thugs in the streets shaking people down.
She's brooding on the matter at the Gold Digger, a piece of worn and dust-stained paper in front of her while she waits for her morning meal. An old pencil is held in her hand, and the paper itself is marred with crossed out phrases.
Kurokumo Mibojin      Some days, Kurokumo is out in the wastes, last night's adventures in scouring Raider Scum a satisfying success as she strolls into the saloon. Of course, the woman looks positiviely glowing, her back straight and a sedate look of contentment as she's finding herself quite famished for a change. The woman spots Jacqueline, expression breaking out into a broad smile as she saunters over to the table. "Thise seat taken?"
Jacqueline Jackie looks up, blinking in surprise. She must've been pretty caught up in her search for something to write. But she's not too preoccupied to answer.
Not that she gets the chance. "First ya gotta do the Truffle Shuffle!" comes a youngish, smart-alecky voice from the direction of the window next to Jackie's table, followed by an odd, click-click-clicking. Jackie snaps her mouth shut, blinking again, then looking towards the window. "Oh, not /again/..."
Kurokumo Mibojin      Deciding that Jacqueline is too distracted for her own good, Kurokumo takes the free chair for herself. "Again?" Her head turns, watching as the curious avian creature performs. She blinks, expression curious and delighted as it clucks in amusement. "Looks like you have a fan, Jackie."
Jacqueline "That's Whassup. He used to hang around my Mom's house cadging handouts from people who thought he was cute," Jackie explains. "But lately, he's decided that following me around is more fun, and he won't go home unless I give him a treat of some kind. He's been out there for about fifteen minutes now."
"Whassup! Whas-sup?" the mynah bird says, regarding Kurokumo with one coppery eye, then boldly hopping from his twig outside to the windowsill for a closer look.
Kurokumo Mibojin      "Hey, Wassup!" Unknown to Kurokumo, that might have been some comedic commentary during an age long lost. One of the robots comes closer, as to take the new guest's order. "Oh! Yeah, I could eat. Water to drink too, if you have it." Strange, Kurokumo came into a saloon and didn't order alcohol. As the mechanical being moves away, she turns her gaze back to the beautiful bird. "Guess he knows where all the fun is." She gives Jacqueline a conspiritorial wink.
Jacqueline "Party time!" Whassup contributes, ducking his head as if nodding sagely, still regarding Kurokumo. "Hey, Whassup?"
Jackie smiles faintly. "More like he knows where the food is. But sometimes he's good company," she admits, rather reluctantly. "I just can't go anyplace quietly if he's along. How are you, Miss Kurokumo? Is something up? When you came in, you looked like the cat that ate the canary..."
"Bad ol' puddy tat!" Whassup interjects, and Jackie stifles giggles. "And he's been watching the viewer over my shoulder again..."
Kurokumo Mibojin      Kurokumo gets that distant, dreamy look in her eyes, her teeth catching upon her bottom lip. Someone -has- gotten the canary, so to speak. "Oh, it's not nothing." Her mild tone and casual dismissal of the word 'nothing' suggests that there is a lot more than meets the eye. She taps her fingertips on the wooden table top, wondering if it's safe to convince the bird to come closer.
Jacqueline Jackie grins, seeing that look. "Oh, it has to be more than /nothing/, with you looking like that," she teases gently. "Come on, Miss Kurokumo, you know you can tell me."
Whassup, looking at those tapping fingers, turns his head to one-eye them with his other eye. After a long, thoughtful moment, he flaps over to the table, landing next to the fingers and taking one in his beak. He doesn't bite; he nibbles, ever so gently.
Kurokumo Mibojin      Kurokumo laughs quietly, knowing that loud noises can scare away skittish animals. She marvels as her finger is nibbled on. " husband is a very affectionate man." Of all of the character traits that he displays on a regular basis, that isn't one that most people get to see.
Jacqueline "You're married?" Jackie asks, not without some surprise in her voice, looking up from Whassup's display of affection. "I never knew... who is it?"
Kurokumo Mibojin      It does come as a surprise, since Kurokumo doesn't advertise it to the world. Especially for her, since men used to be the bane of her existence. Her food is delivered, the plate set down by the mechanical wait-staff. "Thank you." Off it goes, as the Asian woman turns back to her friend. "Ashur is my husband." Simple words, quietly yet confidently given. The fork is picked up, as Kurokumo is about to dig into her food.
Jacqueline "Oh, wow..." Jackie's look goes from anticipatory to thoughtful. Or maybe that's doubtful. Or just concerned. "But he's so..." Brutal? Big? Barbarous? She can't decide, and falls silent, giving her friend a troubled look. At least the wait-bot distracts her with food, her own order coming at the same time as Kumo's.
"Dearly beloved..." Whassup begins grandly, apparently not knowing the rest of the phrase. That bird can sound like so many people!
Kurokumo Mibojin      "I know, right?" Kurokumo's brown eyes are wide and alive, the spark of love illuminating from the core of her being. Or maybe it's an unhealthy obsession. "He just wades into a fire-fight and tears people apart. But he's actually very sensual and loving." There's a big part of Kurokumo's history that Jacqueline is missing, for her Asian friend to have that kind of outlook while cutting into her eggs. Her friend is still mildly oblivious to Jacqueline's reservations, eyeing the pretty bird as she eats.
Jacqueline "He does that, all right," Jackie agrees, shivering at the memory of the massive former Legionnaire doing exactly that. It was like watching a people-mower.
She gives Kurokumo a thoughtful look. "You once said something to me about being on the road for two years, but you never elaborated on that. I didn't want to pry at the time, but I never thought to ask you again. But could you? I'll understand if you'd rather not; I'm just curious," she says at last.
Kurokumo Mibojin      Kurokumo's chewing slows, the memories coming back to haunt her from her formative years. She swallows the eggs, her eyes falling to the table as she tries to elaborate. "I was...on the run. I was 13 at the time, and my settlement near Truth or Consequences was overrun by Raiders. My mother and I were taken and sold to the Pleasure Slavers. I..." Her throat is starting to seize up, the story still somewhat fresh and unshared. "My mother died, and I was bought at 16 to be married to a man named Black Spider. I managed to get away, and now I'm here after travelling with the Caravans for 2 years."
Jacqueline It's the short-short version, but it does explain a few things. Jackie's eyes widen, and she listens attentively to the short story. "Oh, wow..." she murmurs, reaching over to clasp Kurokumo's free hand supportively. "I can see why you didn't talk about it. I'm so sorry, Miss Kurokumo. I won't ask again," she says, dark eyes full of sympathy. "Now I know what you meant when you said I was lucky to still have a family. I'm glad you're here, where it's safe. Well, mostly safe. Safer."
Kurokumo Mibojin      Most talk about dire circumstances and lost loved ones usually causes folks to lose their appetite. Kurokumo's stomach growls at her, however, a fitful reminder of how hungry she really is. "Safe is something that's nice to think about. Really, I just aim for being happy at this point." A stark view in how the Doctor views the world, apparently.
Jacqueline "Happy is a good thing, in my experience," Jackie admits. "But so's safe. I know being friends with Mister Ashur would make /me/ feel safe, but I don't know if he's so keen on being friends with me. You're kinda lucky there," she says, managing a smile for her friend in spite of her concern.
Kurokumo Mibojin      The mentioning of feeling safe with Ashur causes Kurokumo to smile, knowing that the price one pays for being -that- kind of lucky isn't for everyone. "He's just rough around the edges. Don't be a Slaver, don't be a Raider, don't be active Legion, and don't threaten his family, and you'll do fine."
Jacqueline "I don't know his family," Jackie replies, frowning. "And considering how often I end up pointing a shotgun at people these days, I might threaten one of them without knowing it. I hope not, but..." She shrugs. "But not being a Slaver, Raider, or Legionnaire should be easy enough."
Whassup, having let go of Kurokumo's finger, looks between the two girls. A thoughtful click-click-clicking escapes him. "Take heart, little lady. I'll fix their wagon."
Kurokumo Mibojin      Easily enamored by the bird, Kurokumo chuckles as Jacqueline expresses her concerns. "I'm his family, Jackie. Not actual family members wandering out there in the Wastes, but the new life we have here in El Dorado." Her forearm released, the woman's own hand squeezes Jacqueline's in brief reassurance. "Just don't pull the zipper on the back of my pants while he's around, ok?" Kurokumo's voice is full of myrth in jabbing at her own wardrobe choices, her cheeks pinkening somewhat.
Jacqueline "Oh! Well, this just got a lot easier, then," Jackie says, brightening visibly. "I mean, I /like/ you. You're easy not to point a shotgun at. I think Whassup likes you, too. He's not this affectionate with everyone."
"You're my favorite deputy!" Whassup squawks, nuzzling Kurokumo's fingers with his bright orange beak.
That teasing, though, just makes Jackie grin in response. "But you wear such nice underwear!" she teases back. "Sometimes I just can't resist."
Kurokumo Mibojin      It's a good thing Kurokumo wasn't taking a drink from her glass of water. She turns a splotchy shade of red, her brown eyes darting nervously at the other patrons as she grins. "You've been -warned-, Jackie. You and your little bird too." She laughs, fingers stroking idly along Whassup's beak.
Jacqueline Jackie grins impishly as she chews and swallows the last of her breakfast, setting aside her fork and standing. "I am so warned... but I make no promise about when Mister Ashur /isn't/ around," she teases again, giving Kurokumo a quick hug. "Gotta run. I'm working on my motorcycle today. Just a while longer and it'll be fit to ride. I'll come see you soon," she promises, hurrying for the bar to pay.
For his part, Whassup is content to stay with Kurokumo while she eats. Just in case she feels generous... he's a hardworking bird, right? Besides, someone who strokes his beak that way has earned a friend for life. "Here's lookin' at you, kid."