Do Not Kill Anyone (Attn Claire)
At least the weather was pleasant. That was about the only positive thing Bao could say. This was ridiculous, he had -no- reason to be nervous. It had been hell enough asking Claire out, he had felt awkward and tongue tied. Worst of all was the lingering feeling that she might reject him. Which was, he told himself, either unthinkable and yet rather terrifying.
She had, thankfully, said yes which had left him half sputtering out a proposal. They would meet and the Arch and see how the evening played out. He'd arrived early, to ensure the curator had not found away around his commands and was gone. Avoiding him seemed to be one command she wanted to obey for she was no where to be found. Bao was mildly disgusted with the she wolf, but he'd rather be disgusted than deal with any unplanned meetings.
With the curator gone though he had nothing else to think about than Claire's arrival and the fact that he hadn't been on a 'date' for several centuries. It took a great deal of effort not to pace. Somehow Bao managed to stand calmly, a single red rose in his hand and wait. He knew it was wrong to meet here instead of arriving together, but he had known how else to do this and had rationalized it by needing to ensure the she wolf was gone.
Absently Bao straightened his tie and glanced down to ensure his shoes had a mirror shine. He also ran through his mental check list for the millionth time. He did have tickets to the special show, he did have a car to pick them up when they were through, he did have a good bottle of wine chilling, he did have a telescope set up in his favorite dark part of the gardens, the only thing he couldn't quite plan on was Claire and what she might want to do. That thought both excited and worried him.
If only she would get here so he could stop thinking about these things.
Taking the ends of her dress in hand, Claire carefully ascended the steps to meet him. She had almost given up hope that he would ever ask her out and had begun to think that perhaps she was wrong in believing that there was some interest between them. Normally she was a very good observer and quite talented at picking out the hidden meaning behind body language but she could be wrong. It was easy to misinterpret something to make it what you wanted it to be instead of what it was. Bao was also not the most expressive of people. She thought he was charming though,honest and good. He was a gentleman and those were so hard to find.
She was willing to take the time to get to know him, however long that took. It was not like she had a shortage of it.
Reaching the step below his, Claire favored him with a smile and a deep curtsey.
"Bonsoir, Monsieur. You are looking very handsome this evening."
((OOC: Dress isThis ))
Finally, although he hadn't been waiting long, she arrived. Bao wasn't certain what the sensation was when he saw her alight from the car. It was certainly not something he was used to. Although he also recognized he was nervous.
Not certain of protocol he waited for Claire to come up the stairs to him before giving an awkward half bow and offering her the rose. He was quite pleased to note that he'd chosen well and the red would show up well against the light colored dress. The gold was quite alluring in the lights of the museum.
He swallowed self consciously as he realized he also noticed how nicely she filled out the deceptively modest neck line.
"I thank you for the compliment but I'm afraid you would eclipse me without even trying."
It was a sincere compliment, even if it did sound a bit wooden. Odd how much easier it was to be charming and personable when it was strictly business.
At his compliment, she smiled and ducked her head. He never failed to be charming. Claire leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on the side of Bao's cheek before sliding her arm through his.
"You flatter me." She was no beauty, tall, far too tall, and willowy with less curves than most women wanted. Sorin once told her that her eyes were beautiful, if an uninspiring shade of brown, and that she should look up more. Claire wondered how many centuries ago that had been. She had long since stopped speaking to people's shoes, well, mostly anyway. Her hair might have been considered beautiful, also brown, but Jacqueline had seen fit to cut almost all of it off and dye it blond. It would not fool her pursuers but Claire supposed that it would make her a little less easy to find. She had stopped going to the women's shelter and that made her sad. In time the Order would catch this man and then she could return to her routine.
"So is there an artist that you are particularly excited to see amongst this exhibit?"
While it was only a simply kiss on the cheek Bao found his mouth go dry. It was rather disturbing, he though himself long since immune to such things. Perhaps he was more deeply affected than he thought. Undoubtedly Amir would find this all highly amusing.
"I save my flattery for juries and accountants."
A little flattery could go a long way with people who spent most of their life locked away with nothing more than numbers and spreadsheets. But neither of those were exactly on his mind. He wasn't exactly sure what was, it was odd, as if his mind had stopped working. It might have paid to get some more advice. His two sources, however, were both difficult.
Thank god Claire took the imitative and his arm. That Bao understood and could respond to almost automatically. He simply began leading Claire inside.
Even if he hadn't had a rather intimate relationship with the curator Bao would have had a very solid familiarity with the Arch. He simply could not be kept away from a museum of this caliber.
"I am rather looking forward to FranÃ§ois GÃ©rard. I've been told the curator has managed to secure four particularly fine pieces. One of which I've not had the privilege of seeing in person."
Cupid and Psyche, Portrait of the Empress JosÃ©phine, Corinne au Cap MisÃ©ne and Theresa of Avila. Wolf of not, she knew her trade and had excellent taste.
Cautiously Bao attempted a smile, he wasn't sure how well it went.
"You will forgive me if I go on a bit. I'm rather an interested in art. Is there something you are looking forward to?"
Nodding her head, she remembered seeing several of those paintings by her countryman, some when they had been newer. Sorin had been a lover of art in general and the Romantic Era had been one of his favorite phases for its beauty and more hopeful, almost fantastical outlook on life. They had spent a great deal of time in Europe during that age.
"I am looking forward to seeing some of the American painters myself. Emanuel Gottlieb has some fine works here that I would like to see portraying early American history. But I was pleased to see that there was a large selection of paintings by Edward Hicks here. He seems to be passed up quite often during this time period since his subject matter and style was different from many others of the age." She would almost think that the new curator was also a vampire much like the last one had been to remember to include those not commonly remembered from the time. It was an enlightened choice, whatever the case.
They headed through the large doors into the lobby area. It was beautifully decorated, elegant but tasteful as was the rest of the museum; that much had clearly not changed. There was a large desk that curved around so that multiple people could fit behind it. Velvet ropes barred the entrance save for a narrow walkway which brought you past the staff member waiting to take tickets and answer questions. She was alone for the moment but it was obvious that more pathways could be opened if necessary.
"Perhaps we will have the museum almost to ourselves."
((OOC: Let me know if the description is okay. ))
It was more than slightly gratifying to find she also had an interest in the arts and had done some research into the exhibit. Based on his conversation with his wayward daughter Bao had almost reconsidered the Arch as a destination. Apparently it was not precisely 'romantic'. However, Claire did not seem to have any objection to it. Without thinking he placed a hand over hers.
"Yes the curator is quite broadminded. It is quite gratifying to see such a through approach to this style including the Americans as well as both the schools of line and color as well."
Part of Bao would like to introduce Claire to the curator, certainly if Claire was interested in art she would enjoy such a discussion. The risk, however, was far too great. Beyond which he didn't wish for Claire to affiliate with such a creature. They were unpredictable at best and that one was difficult to say the least.
He passed their tickets and took them through the velvet ropes gratified to see that her observation of being nearly alone was apparently quite true.
"A private showing could be quite gratifying."
The exhibit was not set up chronologically or even based on country of origin. It perplexed Boa slightly he didn't understand exactly what his pet had been attempting here. It would become clear to him as he and Claire made their way though the show that it had been organized to show case the contrast of the style and give the viewer a well rounded picture of Romanticism; color versus style, sketch versus finish.
The exhibit did start with Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom, as he was a touch atypical of the movement it was an unorthodox start. Somehow Bao got the impression she'd done that deliberately and it was a message directed at him.
"He does make excellent use of light."
Usually he would say more, but he was feeling slightly shy, cautious not wishing to appear pompous or arrogant.
"Do you know this curator?" He talked of the person as being broad minded and he was a lover of art. Claire wondered if he was a patron of the museum like her Creator had been.
As they passed on into the museum and looked around, Bao agreed that it appeared to be mostly empty at the moment. His statement caused her to favor him with a coy smile, wondering whether he meant more behind the words or not. He was not a member of her Order so perhaps she should not look for hidden meanings in everything he said. However, Bao was a lawyer which meant words were his swords and no doubt he could wield them very well.
"I find most things done in a more intimate setting to be more gratifying." Claire paused and then added. "It seems more special, perhaps even more memorable when you are not simply a face in the crowd." Which she was quite often; that was the role she played the best.
They were both standing in front of Hick's "Peaceable Kingdom". She nodded at Bao's comment concerning the light. "Oui, I think so. I like the cute little faces on the animals." That probably was not very discerning of her and did not speak volumes about the picture itself but it was true. They looked sweet and happy. "Especially the cow. I wish the people were closer. At first glance I would not have said for certain that they were having a peaceful meeting. I wonder why he chose to put the animals in the foreground." She looked to Bao to see if he had an explanation or opinion on the matter.
"I had the pleasure of meeting her at a fund raiser. She does have the unfortunate habit of working mostly days and can be hard to catch.â€
Hard to catch, hard to manage, and in general hard to deal with. Ordinarily Bao might have focused on this and become slightly with drawn and frustrated, but having Claire with him was a very effective distraction. Of the two women she was far more pleasing to contemplate.
He raised an eyebrow but managed to give it a playful teasing feel. It would be rather pleasant to be in a more intimate setting. Casually he lifted one of Claire's hands and softly kissed the back of it.
Studying the painting he considered the question. It wasn't something he'd particularly considered before. He had to consider what he knew of the artist.
"I should suspect it has something to do with being a minister. Perhaps providing a more Eden like feel to the painting. The lion laying down with the lamb and such.â€
Leaning in he studied the painting a bit more closely and found a flaw with his own logic.
"Of course, if that were the case, why include the men to begin with? I do apologize I am not as familiar with his work and history as I might be."
She smiled at Bao, a small flush of pleasure creeping up to her face at his gentle kiss. Claire firmly reminded herself that she was over a thousand years old and should not be blushing like a school girl. The reminder did not seem to be helping her any at all.
Nodding at her companion's observation, Claire said. "Yes, I would say so. Perhaps he was making use of that lesson to point out that peace was possible for the creatures in the bible verses and that man was a part of those creatures. The familiar part in the foreground and the added point further away?" She was not at all sure; it was simply a guess. She shrugged at her date and smiled helplessly, unless the painter was one of their own kind then he was long dead and it would be difficult to discern his reasons.
Walking forward to the next painting, Claire looked back at Bao. "What do you think of this one?"
((OOC: I have no idea what they are looking at next so he can feel free to decide and have an opinion on it. ))
"So long as every one remembers their place, predator and prey and those that need to be kept in the dark are... I suppose we all can."
He had no objections to working with humans, they were useful, clever and resilient. They were not, however, equals and should not be allowed to act as if they were.
Considering the men in the background Bao made a thoughtful noise.
"They appear to be natives and colonists as well, I'd say a social-political message as well. Or perhaps it was because man was created on the sixth day. Either way I believe you are quite right."
For Bao it was a fun intellectual exercise determining the artists meaning. How they used color and line to draw your eye and tell the story.
Refusing to notice that he had not relinquished Claire's arm the progressed to the next paining. Christ Asleep During A Tempest by Eugene Delacroix. The artist here had concentrated more on sketch and style than Hicks had. It was a wonderful contrast.
"Quite dramatic. He does give a sense of place and time quite well."
He paused, weighing his words not sure if they were appropriate.
"But I do wonder that he was not rowing or otherwise pulling his weight to begin with."
It was humor, well Bao's attempt at it. Some times it didn't go as well as he would like.
She mused over the painting in front of them and considered the potential political and theological message that it made "Perhaps he was simply suggesting that animals are often smarter than mankind." In any form. Claire shrugged. "Of course one might take it to mean that lions would lay down with sheep before 'civilization' managed to maintain any sort of peace." Perhaps she was growing cynical in her old age but harmony was a far more fantastical notion than going to the moon had been. Of course people had thought that dream to be impossible so perhaps there was a slim glimmer of hope for peace.
Agreeing with a nod, Claire looked up at the new painting. "It has a rich balance of colour that draws your eye around to each member of the boat in the center and beyond that you notice the torrent they find themselves in."
Bao's words caused her to laugh. Though not loud, the sound echoed in the large sparsely furnished room, breaking the solemn silence around them. Claire reached up with her free hand to cover her mouth, still smiling at his observation, her eyes sparkling with more laughter soundlessly expressed. "It does appear that way. I must confess." She spoke quietly. "And this poor man on the front bow appears to be sea sick, clutching the prow and wishing he had not drunk nearly so much wine the night before...or had drunk enough to still be passed out."
((OOC: There was more she was going to say but I am not sure that wasn't my own rant instead of her's so I took it out for now, perhaps it will make it into the next post. ))
Bao agreed. Rather disappointed with himself that he sounded so... dispassionate, like a teacher. He didn't want to be distant or cold. He wanted to engage Claire. To be blunt, he wanted her to like him. Bao, however, wasn't entirely sure how to do that.
His date seemed to have something of an answer. Her laugh was engaging and lively. It warmed him that he had been the cause. Occasionally Pakpao would laugh at him, or with he was never quite sure, it did not inspire the same feeling. Bao grinned, for a change the expression almost reached his eyes it was just a faint shadow of amusement but it was something.
"I think, perhaps, this outing was less divine than one might think at first glance."
He looked at Claire and realized he should not just be discussing the art. The paintings would be there later. He should be learning of the woman on his arm.
"Have you much experience with the sea? Or is it with the drinking? You speak of clutching to the prow with some authority."
There had been some effort involved but he managed to make it sound teasing, not quite playful but at least light hearted. It was something of an invitation for her to tell him anything she'd like.
"Oui, I think so too, yes." She looked at the men in the picture, frantic except for the haloed figure in the middle who was sleeping soundly. "Perhaps he is the, how is it said...designated driver? But, alas they could not wake him up. It is obvious that he is such a sound sleeper"
She glanced at her companion and smiled slyly. "I think perhaps I have experience in both but I am not sure I should admit to the latter. It has been...a long time for that." Claire looked fondly at the waves in the painting. "As to the other, I have much experience with the sea. My place of birth is a small island not far off the coast of France." She could not drive but she could sail with the best of them. "We have many rocks, some lighthouses, some sheep. That is about the sum of it." She missed home sometimes and seeing the ocean always made her think of it. Claire went back to France regularly and visited Lampaul whenever she could fit it into the trip.
Turning to Bao, Claire squeezed his arm gently, pulling closer with a smile. "And what of you, Good Sir? Do you know more of sailing or sinking into the bottle like that poor sea sick fellow there?" She did not know much about Bao's past at all. He seemed like a private man and she did not want to pry. Her Order was rather well known for being nosy, as a rule, and she didn't want Bao to feel like one of her mission objectives. She wanted him to feel comfortable talking to her. Claire found that she liked his smile very much and she wanted to see more of it.
Now that he listened closely Bao could hear similarities in both Claire and the curator's accent. Of course, he surmised that both had traveled quite a bit and so neither accent was pure but some of the sound and the cadence was notably similar.
"I thought that all sailors were skilled at imbibing. I shall have to find another way to take advantage of you."
Ah that was a touch more forward than he had intended, but done was done. He also couldn't help but wonder if Claire might enjoy going sailing. He would be nothing more than rudimentary help on a boat but it might be fun. Perhaps this dating thing got easier as you went.
He swallowed slightly nervously as she pulled him closer. It was impossible not to be aware of her softness and warmth. It took a second for him to focus on the question.
"Neither really. My life has been rather landlocked most of my life. Even in Vietnam I preferred the law to the water. I have only sailed to travel. Undoubtedly I would have been pitched over board by the force of the storm even with a designated driver."
Casually Bao moved them along to the next painting, not even truly aware of what the next one was. He also at a sudden loss for words, not quite certain what to say or do next.
"How does one go for an island of sheep and lighthouses to here? It seems like quite a leap."
She laughed as Bao apparently came to the same conclusion. Claire raised her eyebrows and turned toward him. "I am sorry to have foiled your plans. Might I suggest an alternative?" Smiling, she leaned over and gently kissed his cheek. "You are a master of words and I have no doubt that your charm will warm my heart and sweep me off my feet." The confession was far truer than she ever expected to admit. Bao's gentle concern for her in the past and his impeccable chivalry had already managed to slide him beyond most of her protective walls. He was sincere and that honesty made his words far more disarming than any glib flirtatiousness ever would have managed. She knew not to trust easy flattery and flowery declarations of affection. Bao though had a way with words and managed to speak them with the perfect balance of truth and compliment that left her touched and blushing.
"Non, Never!" She declared at the thought of him being tossed overboard at the first sign of trouble. "You would be too precious a cargo." At least on any ship she 'captained'.
Looking up at the next painting, Claire shrugged. "One goes where one's Creator goes." She smiled." I was a Lord's daughter, even though our lands were small. So I was familiar with courts before becoming the daughter of an...Elder." She had almost said Emperor but that was something that Sorin only occasionally cared to speak about. There were times when he remembered Rome with fondness and pride and other times when he did not care to be associated with it at all. "He took what little I knew and made something greater out of the art of listening." They had worked well together; Claire had been Sorin's perfect compliment. Quiet and apparently shy, she went unnoticed while he commanded the attention of many. He danced in the spotlight and she stalked the shadows and at the end of the night they would share information and compare their impressions. Her memory served her well there, watching the people who watched her Creator. Sorin would make pointed remarks with a seemingly careless tongue knowing that she would catch and remember the reaction, or lack of it, that his words provoked. "So...not quite such a leap. Instead of sheep we have a people blindly led by the media so it is not so much different."
"I think, madam, you might be wasted in your present profession. You could tongue tie any man with words like that."
He was hopeful, they seemed to be 'hitting it off'. Which, wasn't surprising. Bao reconsidered, perhaps it was a bit surprising. While he found Claire charming, especially when she blushed like that, he recognized that his own personality was something that took getting used to. It was rather unexpected that Claire had not been put off right away. Of course, one didn't meet during a snowball fight just every day and that may have helped things.
His eyebrows rose slightly in surprise at her declaration. While he didn't blush, Bao did softly squeeze Claire's arm in pleasure and thanks.
"Then I shall feel quite safe sailing with you, should you chose to imbibe or not."
Knowing who Claire's maker was and how strongly she felt about him Bao listened quite intently not wanting to miss anything. It must have been somewhat agreeable, certainly better than the life he had given his only daughter, as Claire appeared to remember it with a touch of fondness.
With a quite sly smile Bao raised just one eyebrow.
"While I find it rather hard to imagine you were completely over looked in such circles, it is not hard to conceive of you as a shepherdess in the shadows leading the unwary in the 'right' direction. It is a challenging and delicate art."
Rather impressive as well. It raised Claire further in Bao's estimation.
"Perhaps I should try a shepherdess for Halloween this year." She glanced at him with a smile. "But I think that you are far more dangerous than the mild mannered lawyer armed with a briefcase and a fountain pen. I suspect there is more wolf than sheep to you." Bao always appeared so very calm but one rarely achieved such composure without having a deep sense of self. He had an easy confidence about him that suggested he was capable of dealing with whatever situation might arise. The only time she had seem his composure slip even the slightest was when his Creator was near death, and that was certainly understandable. "Hmm, perhaps I shall have to find someone else to be a little lamb." Maybe Akahana would consent to the costume; the owner of an escort service might find some amusing irony in such a request.
"Tell me." Claire tapped him lightly on one lapel. "How long did it take you to master that poker face you do so well? Was that a skill you learned 'before' or 'after'?" Bao would certainly know what time frame she was referring to without her needing to spell it out.
Claire looked up at the painting in front of them and wondered if it was a dark humored soul that placed Turner's "Peace Burial at Sea" next to the one of Jesus sleeping so blissfully calm during the tempest. It did make a stark and interesting contrast as well as a few unexpected similarities. For instance, despite it showing the last moment's of a war ship being bombarded during a battle, the sea is depicted as calm and the colours were muted almost peaceful blend of blues, greys and browns compared to the vivid storm tossed waves of the other image.
She gestured toward the picture. "I like how the ship has the same colour tones as the water. It makes it almost seem to be one with it already." The blue sky was different, brighter. It seemed separate like it was the land of the living and definitely a world apart from the watery grave that would soon embrace the ship.
Bao blinked. Was it approaching Halloween? It was indeed. While Bao knew the date he did tend to forget holidays. They simply didn't matter. Regardless, a faint crinkle at the corner of his eyes indicated a smile.
"Complete with a crook, a cloak and golden curls? I should be happy to be part of your flock.â€
Chuckling softly at the idea that he was more wolf than sheep Bao inclined his head slightly to accept the compliment, for it was a compliment.
"I think that my roll is closer to that of the sheep dog. I do what I can to keep mine safe from the predators. Of course enough of mine are predictors that it does make the metaphor slightly less than perfect.â€
They moved to another seascape, this one deceptively peaceful. He remembered this painting and the criticisms that had surrounded it at the time, mostly that it lacked finishing. Time, however, seemed to have deemed it acceptable. And, Bao, had to admit it had a number of redeeming qualities. It was an interesting bridge between the romantics and the impressionists.
"Ah... yes. I would say 'before'. It has always served me well. Although, I think that it might leave me a bit distanced from others.â€
Which wasn't always a bad thing. Occasionally though it made things a bit difficult. It might, in fact, be part of the initial problems with his youngest offspring.
"I appreciate how he conveyed so much motion with such a limited color pallet. It really is remarkable.â€
She was surprised and touched that Bao would be willing to be a sheep for her if necessary. His own idea was much better suited to his personality; she had to admit. "A most noble duty. Sometimes even the hunters need someone watching after them." Because there were other hunters out there as well. Bao kept them safe from the larger, and to her mind more dangerous, group of hunters, the humans. His work kept suspicion off of them and in this ever changing world of technology and communication such aid was crucial. If the humans ever found out about them...well Claire shuddered to imagine that day.
Listening to the answer to her question, she nodded. It was no surprise that he had been very similar in life. Claire released his arm and wrapped her own around his waist, holding him closer. Leaning down, she spoke quietly. "We will just have to see about remedying that."
At least on a small scale, say a scale of one. She did not want to change Bao; she just wanted to get to know him and perhaps be a part of his world.
While he appreciated the desire for authenticity and Claire's natural modesty he didn't wish to hide more of her. In many ways she was more visually intriguing than the art. There was both a calmness and a depth that few artists could reliably capture. It would be a shame to obscure that with yards of fabric.
He said quietly and though it was only two words they were flawlessly accented. It was hard not to appreciate that Claire saw the long view and understood that though often tedious his work had value. It was far far too easy to over look what he, and other members of the Rose did, as paper work, just shuffling things from here to there for no reason.
Bao felt Claire's arm slide about his waist and was more than a little gratified. That slightly forward gesture was quite tempting. If not for the fact that they were in public, Bao would have pulled Claire closer yet and very likely kissed her.
"It is not healthy to always be distant, from every one. I think that it should be remedied. Although, I shouldn't like to dishonor you with some of my ideas along those lines... at least not in public.â€
He clarified his intentions slightly lest she mistake his hesitancy for indifferent, for Bao was anything but indifferent on this point.