One-shot written back in the heyday of IRC RPGs (at least among the crew I ran with). I jumped pretty far ahead of the RP, actually, and decided to embarrass my character and her future love interest. Naked is always good. Right. >_> Sid and Biggs are Aspect's intellectual property, and Emka is mine.

Interlude #2: The Bath

Emka sat up slowly, unaware until that moment that she had nodded off. She looked around the room sharply, lost as to where she was. It was -- sumptuous -- to say the least. At least compared to home, sweet home.. She paused, standing up. Sid's place. He'd brought her here after.. Taura's place.. after.. She stared unsteadily at the far wall.

Her wounds had been minimal, but Sid had nevertheless insisted she stay away from her own home for a few days. For safety's sake. Bullshit. She put a hand to her head, grimacing. He'd left her alone since she'd got there, except to introduce her to Biggs -- and bring her food. She hadn't eaten much of it.

Staying locked up inside her room, however, was beginning to tell on her massive resistance to boredom. That, and I'm beginning to reek.

A brief memory surfaced -- that had been happening a lot lately -- a memory of when she was a child. She had locked herself in her room then, too. Her mother had told her father that she'd get bored and hungry soon enough. She probably saved me from a whipping, there.. And she'd been right. In under an hour, little Emilia (there was a years-unused name) was down at the supper table, sullenly eating the evening meal. She walked toward the door. Time to face the music.

Her visor was gone. It had fallen in the sand when they'd first come for her. For all she knew, it was still there. She felt vulnerable without it. Not that it mattered, since Beowulf was scrap anyway. Emka felt a small noise rise in her throat at the thought of her Gear. Not that he'd been such great company anyway.

She pushed the door open and walked out, looking blankly up and down the long hallway. "Great.." He's filthy, stinking rich.. of COURSE he lives in a huge mansion.. And you've been here before anyway, dipshit. That, however, didn't mean she knew her way around.

She slipped out into the hall, padding down toward the stronger light source. I didn't know it was this late in the day. Shit, this place is huge.. She had just padded into a large, foyer-like area. The ceiling arched high overhead, allowing for a string of light fixtures to dangle perilously low over the room.

"Miss Emka!" called out a surprised-sounding voice, and she spun, startled from her tourist-like reverie, to see a man near his eighties, white-haired and dressed in a black suit.

Biggs, she identified the voice, attempting to ease her tensed shoulders. "Yeah." She tried not to sound terribly defensive about it.

The other smiled. "We weren't expecting you out for a few days yet." Truthfully, the man said to himself, we weren't expecting you out at all.

Emka shrugged, putting one hand up to brush her hair out of her face and attempting to look nonchalant. "I ... I wanted to take a bath." She forced a sardonic smile. "I'm starting to smell."

I'm sure the young master wouldn't say that, Biggs thought, but he smiled back. "That can be arranged."

"Okay.." Emka paused, uncomfortable. "Where's the water? I can usually get the job done with about two gallons --" She broke off at the incredulous stare he gave her.

"You'll use the bath, of course!" Biggs said severely.

Emka blinked. "Oh.. yeah.. of course." Shit. Way to make yourself look stupid in front of the locals. She hated that. She didn't know exactly why it bothered her so much at this point. They already think I can't take care of myself. "So where is it?" she asked, breaking the silence.

"Follow me," Biggs smiled, turning and walking back down the hallway. The wheels in his mind were turning at a breakneck pace, but he had no desire to alarm their lovely visitor.

It was near my room? Emka thought blankly. Great, now I'll really look -- Her thoughts ground to a halt as they walked straight past her quarters and kept going, down to the narrower -- and darker -- end of the hallway. They paused in front of a side door (after several more minutes of walking), and Biggs gestured to it, smiling again.

"This is the changing room --"

Changing room!?

"-- where you can set aside your clothes before you take your bath."

Why would I want to do that...?

"The baths are in there." He gestured quickly at the door at the very end of the hall. "There is a door leading to them from the changing room.." He paused as if thinking something over. "But I believe it's been damaged. I apologize for the inconvenience. If that is all ..." He arched an eyebrow at her, and she nodded, looking slightly confused.

The idea of taking her clothes off in one room and bathing in another was frankly alarming to her -- especially if she had to take a side trip through the hallway. Guess I'll just take a towel.

The butler gave a satisfied smile and marched back down the hallway, leaving the pink-haired young woman to her own devices. When he was far enough gone, Emka turned and walked into the bathroom. She couldn't shake the nagging feeling that she'd just allowed herself to be set up.

She didn't give the idea very much consideration as she stripped down, reluctantly casting her flight suit aside and snatching a comfortable-sized towel from the wall. As she wrapped herself up in it, she paused. Why was she still here? Why was she here at all? She stared silently into the mirror on the far wall. Alleycat surely would have taken her in.. She'd have been safe there. Perfectly safe. And she could have earned her keep there to make up for it, and -- repaired Beowulf..

A pang of sorrow (an unfamiliar emotion) touched her as she realized she hadn't even missed her companion very much. It's not like he was such great company, she repeated to herself. But he'd been her only company for four years. He was just a robot. Her mind twisted around that, the figure in the mirror staring impassively back at her. It's not like you were such great company, either, she thought at it sourly and turned away.

Why, as a matter of fact, hadn't Sid shipped her off to the smugglers immediately? She shook her head and walked out the door, one hand holding the towel in place. It didn't make any sense. She pushed the thought away, making toward the bath. It was going to be interesting, she was wagering. She hadn't had a proper bath in years. She paused, hand on the handle. Actually, I wonder if I've ever had one. She shrugged and pushed the door open.

It took her a few moments to take in the scope of the place. It, too, had a high, vaulted ceiling, along with what seemed like miles of tile and blazes of light -- the place was the center of the sun, compared with the hallway. And right in the center of it all was a large, in-floor bathtub. A jacuzzi!? It took her another moment to notice that said jacuzzi was already occupied.

In the time all that observation had taken her, Sid had spun around with a splash and was staring at her with the same blank astonishment that she was staring at him. In the time it took them both to realize their mutual states of undress, Emka's face had turned a hot shade of red, and she had stumbled backward, thrusting the door shut with a slam.

She spun sharply, bolting back down the hallway to her quarters, which her feet somehow unerringly took her too. Upon reaching them, she ran inside and slammed the door behind her, leaning back against it and sinking to the floor, outrage, embarrassment, and sheer humiliation warring within her mind.

It was only after she had sorted out that she'd gotten the better part of the bargain and she'd probably never be able to look him in the eye after this that she realized her clothes were still in the changing room.

For a few minutes after Emka's frantic exit, all Sid's mind could register was a dazed and unspecific: Gee, she's pretty..

It was only after he had sunk back into the water and given the whole thing some thought that it occurred to him what exactly had happened. He stared very slowly at the ceiling and uttered a single loud and condemning word.