Tis what season? (Attn:Bao)
Claire smiled at the reflection in the mirror. Today she was looking more like herself, although Jacqueline had taught her the appeal of modern clothing for many occasions. The long empire waisted regency dress was a gauzy red chiffon over an inner more opaque satin layer. The trim was a beautiful gold brocade along the bust line and around the little caplet sleeves. Her blond hair was smoothed straight, curling inward to frame her face. She had a red velvet santa hat to top off the festive affair. Her white wool long overcoat and brown fur muff were laid out on a nearby chair.
She had her list. Claire looked to make sure she had everyone on it that she needed a present for, other than Bao. He was coming with her so she would have to acquire his present at a later date.
There were a couple of large canvas bags and a little fold out luggage trolley that she had ready to take with them as well. It would save them having to carry home a load of plastic bags and the canvas totes would keep unfortunate accidents from happening. They were both strong enough to carry anything that they might find but unwieldy items were still awkward whether you had the strength of an immortal or not.
There was a quiet knock her on her door and Claire hurried to answer it. She hoped that Bao had his list ready but ,from his puzzled tone when she had asked, he did not seem overly certain why she wanted him to accompany her on a shopping trip. His work seemed to have him particularly busy and a touch more stressed than usual. Claire wasn't entirely sure that he was aware that the holiday season was upon them. Thankfully he seemed willing to get out of his office and humor her shopping request.
((OOC: The beginning of this thread takes place in Claire's apartment at the Manor. Hopefully everything looks okay. Bao's puzzlement per his writer's thoughts on the shopping subject. ))
But he'd managed to set that aside for the night. Although he was a little worried about being seen with Claire. As he was fairly certain Ms. Cooper didn't know anything about Claire, Bao did not want to bring her to light. Bad enough Pakpao might be mixed up in this.
Although he had done his best to dress down, that still meant he was in a lead gray two button Armani suit. He had attempted to lighten the mood some what with a slate blue sweater under the jacket and the same color tie. He was certain it looked good, but he also wouldn't have been caught in the office wearing something so... casual.
A little uncertain as to what one needed to go shopping, after all for anything other than his wardrobe or art Bao more often than not sent an assistant, he knocked hesitantly at Claire's door. He felt rather awkward appearing empty handed. That nagging feeling of awkwardness was given second place as Claire answered.
"Good evening. You look beautiful."
She did too, he thought the read was a rather daring color but yet she managed to pull it off with a bit of innocence, freshness. It was lovely. Although he was puzzled by the hat. Had he missed a major fashion trend?
Her eyes swept over his more casual attire in a quick glance but her small smile suggested that she appreciated what she saw. "You look rather dashing yourself.â€ Claire paused and considered him again, pressing a finger thoughtfully to her lips. "Blue is rather fetching on you but not exactly the colours of the season.â€
Disappearing into a nearby closet, she pulled down a box neatly that was neatly labeled like all of its companions in the entryway storage space. Claire looked down inside and picked out one of the folded items and then replaced the box on the shelf.
"Here you go.â€ She smiled and placed the deep blue tapestry Santa hat with white fur trim carefully on Bao's head. It had originally been made for Sorin but he had a last minute change of attire for the Christmas party so she saved it for some other occasion because it was too lovely to abandon. The intricate brocade work was in a shade ever so slightly darker than the base fabric, giving the hat more texture than pattern, especially from farther away. The tail was long enough to drap over one shoulder and the lining and ball were both of real fur, making it both luxurious and functional for the season. Only the best would do for Sorin and Claire felt much the same was true for Bao; though perhaps he would be more appreciative of her efforts.
"Much more festive.â€ Claire gave him a tender kiss on the cheek.
Turning to pick up her list, the bags and the trolley, she glanced back his way. "I hope you can help me pick out gifts for Mara, Amir and Jin. You know them better than I do. Perhaps something for their new home? Did you bring a list?â€ Claire gently took his hand and led him out the door.
"I have co-workers on my list and some special people at the shelter who really give their time helping. I think I want to get something for Dr. Murphy too.â€ Claire murmured absently. "He has had a rough time recently...â€
"Anyone special you would like to start with?â€
He quietly closed the door behind him and pondered her comment. Blue seemed like a very appropriate winder color to him, this shade at any rate. Having no idea what Claire was up to he simply allowed her to add the hat to his outfit. Anyone else he would have suspected they were making fun of him, and perhaps Claire was too but it felt more playful and gentle when she did it. He just looked quizzically up at the hat, letting it rest there for a second before plucking it from his head for to examine it more closely.
Fur had quite gone out of fashion but he had learned how to recognize quality and this qualified. The fabric was quite fine and the blue was a bit more stately and dignified that the red hat she had on. Satisfied that even if it was a joke it was done in good taste, Bao replaced the hat making sure the tail fell over his shoulder rather than down his back.
"It is quite lovely and it does match. Thank you."
He smiled at the soft kiss on his cheek and offered a courtly kiss to her hand to show his appreciation.
Slowly, the clues had added up, gifts, funny hats and the subtle decorations in the lobby of his office. Dear lord it was Christmas. Although he was quite aware of the date the season had quite slipped his mind. He frowned rather darkly at having been caught without a list, Bao loved listed and this was a perfect occasion for one. It was too late now, he'd just have to share Claire's for other than Mara, Amir and Jin the only two he'd really consider would be Claire herself, Pakpao, and perhaps his other children; although it wasn't really his habit. He'd check with his assistant or the firm's receptionist to ensure that the staff all received something appropriate.
"I'm rather afraid the time of year has slipped my notice and I'm rather unprepared. But we shall manage I'm sure."
Stalling for time he asked after this other doctor.
"A rough time? Do you work with them often?"
Typically Bao would have automatically assumed that Dr. Murphy was a man. It was a conscious effort not to assign a gender.
Perhaps, Claire might have some insight regarding Pakpao. While they had talked about many things Bao had not brought up his daughter and the mess he'd made of her turning. He wasn't proud of it after all. He, however, reasoned he might ask for help without giving the whole story.
"Between the two of us I'm sure we can find some complimentary gifts for the trio, but perhaps you might be able to assist me with Pakpao. I have no idea where to start with her."
It seemed the holiday season had snuck up on her handsome lawyer. Claire reached out and gave his arm a sympathetic squeeze. It was probably easy to miss as a busy successful business man. She could understand; her own schedule grew more hectic with the season but working in a hospital and a women's shelter made it very difficult to miss the coming of Christmas.
"We can make a list really quick if you like?" Claire turned to Bao and looked back at her door. Paper and a pen was easy to obtain. Or, she reached into her pocket and produced her phone. They could make a list on either of their phones she was certain. Bao likely had a state of the art device that did just about everything. Perhaps he could even talk to it like one of the commercials she saw. Her own was fairly new, perhaps she could talk to it as well but she had never tried. Claire thought she would feel very silly talking to a tiny box as if it could understand her so that was an experiment she would have to perform later, in the privacy of her own home.
"Doctor Murphy is another doctor at the hospital. He was in a fire at work not too long ago; saved a child's life. I believe he was having nightmares..." Because he fell asleep in a way only a sleep deprived deep sleeping vampire could manage. After the first fire and the falling unconscious at work, she grew curious, and more than a little concerned; she looked more closely into the daring rescue that Rowan had attempted not long before the passing out incident. He had been on his way home from work and the building had been not far from it. The EMT's and one or two bystanders who worked at the hospital recognized Rowan and word had spread more quickly amongst the staff by word of mouth than the nightly news. Then there were more children that died or almost died in fires and finally a man tried to kill Rowan and a child in the hospital. The beginning and the end of the tale was almost common knowledge amongst the entire staff. The rest of it she pieced together by looking into the children involved and hospital records. Not everyone would have access to them but as a doctor she was able to look into the files and find out that all the children were patients that had been treated by Rowan. It seemed too big a coincidence to be random so she guessed that someone was targeting Rowan and those he cared about personally. Claire couldn't imagine why such a selfless well liked individual would be the target of such twisted actions but she knew that sometimes there was no understanding the evil inside someone's heart. To go through such a traumatic event would have given anyone nightmares. He deserved a little holiday cheer and she hoped that Christian was taking good care of him.
Bao mentioned a name and asked if she could help him with a present. "Who is this person? A friend, a secretary? A colleague?" Who the person was and how close they were to Bao would determine the nature of the gift in her opinion. You didn't get your secretary sexy lingerie and you didn't get your wife a nice desk set at least not without harassment charges pressed or banishment from your residence.
"I had one of the drivers pull an SUV around." Claire was not specific on which one of the vehicles; she knew very little about them. She had just called the garage and requested a vehicle with adequate space for their shopping needs. "So I think you can get her anything up to the size of a small pony."
((OOC: Couldn't resist the mention of the pony ))
"Thank you my dear. I happen to have an app for that though."
He, in fact, had two different list making apps, each for different circumstances one of which synchronized with his calendar. Technology had only further enabled his OCD and it met with his ardent approval, except perhaps when it was used for things like Angry Birds or other time wasters.
Bao frowned. He had heard about the fire at the hospital but he hadn't realized the scope of the situation. Even without knowing the man he found Dr. Murphy's actions rather gallant. It was a weakness that Bao tried very hard to keep hidden but he did have a soft spot for children and hated to see them in danger. It probably stemmed from the loss of his son and was most clearly seen in his providing for Pakpao's children. Soft spot or not though, he couldn't say with certainty he would have done the same. He would have had to weight the pros and cons.
"Ah, my office manager. Perhaps I should do something special for her."
He added her name to his short list.
"No. Pakpao is none of those she is my youngest child. She is who I play chess with and I've been teaching her martial arts as well. She is showing a significant improvement."
Bao said with some pride. She was a peculiar animal, Pakpao, but he was impressed she'd continued with those lessons even though she still didn't much care for them. At least she saw the value and pressed on.
The idea of giving her a pony, or anything that large made Bao laugh, after a fashion. It was a quick sound, quiet, and very subtle. His smile was just as fast, but it was there. He offered Claire his arm so they could find this SUV she had requested.
"I think she might be a bit old for a pony, but if we find one you fancy something might be arranged."
He then explained who Pakpao was and Claire listened with interest. His youngest child had been mentioned once or twice but not by name. He did mention meeting with her from time to time but little more. Now he mentioned chess and martial arts.
Smiling Claire considered. "Well, with those hobbies, I suppose we could get her a chess board or perhaps I could make her up a nice first aid kit.â€ Of course Bao's child was a vampire and in no need of first aid no matter how rough the training was likely to get.
She chuckled at the idea of getting a pony for Christmas and shrugged demurely. "I do enjoy horseback riding...but perhaps I am told old for a pony as well."
"What does she do for a living? Any hobbies of note?â€ Claire asked as they made their way toward the front of the Manor.
Outside there was a dark grey SUV waiting out front. The driver looked at her questioningly until she nodded toward the back door. He then turned and opened the door for her, stepping aside to allow her to get in. Bao could sit up front if he wished or walk around to sit beside her in the back seat. Personally, she hoped that he chose the second option but she was entirely used to sitting in the back seat and staring out at the passing landscape.
"To The Strip, please.â€ Claire stated their intended destination once they were all inside the vehicle.
Bao said with a touch of chagrin and irony. Bao was a good chess player, having hundreds of years of practice and the chance to play with some excellent players, masters and grand masters; but she could mop the floor with him and did on a regular basis.
"She might like a first aid kit, with neon band aids.â€
He smiled, in as much as he ever smiled, just a fleeting expression a moment when his expression wasn't as neutral, as guarded. For Bao it was positively cheerful.
Quietly he made note that Claire liked to horseback ride. Slowly but surly he was learning her likes and dislikes, they were important to him. When they were able to spend time together he wanted it to be enjoyable. Horseback ridding wasn't high on his list, he wasn't terribly good at it and didn't overly enjoy the activity but if the staff could find him a quiet and steady enough mount he would be happy to ride out with her.
"Perhaps we should find you a more suitable mount.â€
The only hint he gave that the comment was less than innocent was quietly sliding his arm around Claire's waist. They were moving slowly, occasionally Bao wondered if it was too slowly, but that didn't mean he found Claire less than extremely desirable.
"She is a rather clever computer sort, rather notable in those circles and has a peculiar fascination with jigsaw puzzles and what seems to be a family interest in astronomy.â€
If Bao didn't know better he'd say that Amir's children, and apparently grand children, were genetically predisposed to star gazing. .
Bao never even considered sitting up front. Not only did one not sit with the driver, he would much prefer to be near Claire. He quickly walked around the SUV and let himself in the back. The driver waited for him to get settled and then started off to The Strip.
"Maybe we can find Amir, Mara and Jin a nice bit of art. Something they will feel obligated to display anytime we come over.â€
When he suggested they find her a different mount Claire blinked and regarded him closely, not entirely certain he wasn't still speaking of ponies. Then his arm slid around her waist and he looked at her. She could not say what was different about that look than the one he had given her a moment before but it -was- different and it was obvious exactly what kind of mount he was referring to. She blushed a delicate shade of pink and tilted her head onto his shoulder. "Indeed. Riding is an invigorating experience that I am looking forward to sharing with you.â€
As they continued on, the conversation turned to more mundane matters and the reason for their outing. Bao said that he didn't want to encourage his daughter's chess exploits which suggested that she was quite talented. For her part, Claire no longer considered chess very entertaining. When it first began to become popular she watched and played, studying and remembering the moves of the better players. After many years there was much chess knowledge stuffed into her memory. She had not seen much new and interesting, almost everything could be related back to a strategy she had picked up from somewhere. Sometimes an eidetic memory was something of problem. She figured that watching Bao and Pakpao would be interesting. Watching Bao was always pleasurable and it sounded as though his daughter was a true talent at chess strategy.
She did not know much about computer programing but she did enjoy puzzles. Claire tilted her head thoughtfully and considered. When Bao joined her in the car, she smiled and wrapped her hands around his arm and scooted closer. "Hmm, I am not very knowledgeable about what the gifted computer people want but as a doctor I think they all need better chairs, perhaps a variable footrest and eye strain glasses.â€
Those ideas might be practical but they might not be very fun to get or to give. "There is this toy place on The Strip that had puzzles of Nachton. As I recall, they had one on display that was five feet long. They had some that were even longer but I have to say it looked rather impressive when finished.â€ Puzzles were an exercise of observation to her, practice of her ability to register details and place them in order, but despite that she found putting them together to be rather soothing. No doubt it was something of the same for his daughter. Claire imagined that working with the intangible all day would make putting together something you could touch and hold to be very peaceful.
Bao's suggestion for Jin, Mara and Amir was absolutely perfect despite it being delivered with some mischief. Claire nodded and smiled. "I believe that is a wonderful idea. If we were truly heartless then we would find something incredibly hideous.â€ She sighed softly. "But I could not bear the thought of giving anyone terrible artwork much less friends.â€ No doubt Bao would have the same qualms, especially with members of his own family. The corners of her mouth twitched up. "But nothing says that we couldn't buy the packaging from something tacky and then place something far better inside.â€ She would enjoy the subtle joke and if Bao approved then it was likely something that would be taken well by his family. "Perhaps dogs playing poker? Or is that too expected?â€
His only response to the statement was to softly brush some of her hair back. It was quite soft to the touch and had a pleasing scent. Claire seemed so much softer than he, finer, more delicate. But looks were certainly deceiving.
It was something of a surprise when Claire moved closer, but a welcome one. With surprising ease he folded his hands over her arms in a rather protective manner.
"That might be a challenge even for her. You will have to show me this."
Although, truth be told he was much more pleased with Clair's nearness than her suggestion, even though it was an excellent idea.
"I will probably never hear the end of it, but it will be worth it."
It was an odd quirk of Pakpao's. It seemed the more she complained the happier she really was. He blamed himself for that really. If he'd brought her up proper she'd not be nearly so conflicted. With any luck they could still fix that quirk of hers.
Bao actually cringed at the idea of giving some one bad art. It was one of his true loves and to use it as a weapon or make people suffer with it was rather painful. The idea of the bait and switch was entertaining, but Amir knew him far to well to ever be taken in by that. He would know something was up. Still, it was just a game.
"I think a sad clown on velvet might be more appropriate. I wish someone was doing a kitsch revival showing of them right now."
He squeezed her arm gently, not caring if they ever got to the strip, the back of the SUV was dark and its own little world even with the driver up front.
"What else do we need to tackle on your list?"
He had to have a plan of attack of he would be restless and off kilter all night.
Her laughter echoed in the confines of the car but she could not help but laugh at the thought of giving their friends a clown picture on velvet. "I like the idea." These were his family so Claire felt it only right to take the blame, especially since the idea of choosing a bad piece of art to use as a joke had been her idea. "We can say I picked it out if you think they will not be happy with our sense of humor. They do not know my taste in art; it could horrible." She smiled and squeezed his arm conspiratorially.
Bao asked her about her list and she considered. "I have some children to pick up toys for. Some friends that need specific things." Claire knew that some needed things like stoves, washers and other family staples but those couldn't be carried very easily and they were gifts that some would be too proud to want to take. However a small plug in burner was cheaper and more portable. For some of the women that she helped that would be better given their circumstances. "I would like to visit a locksmith and the sporting goods store." Nothing says have a merry Christmas like a new deadbolt to keep your deadbeat soon to be ex-husband out of the house.
"I also need to get something for Akahana but I have not found the perfect thing yet." Claire turned to Bao. "So this personal assistant. Do you know what hobbies or interests she has?"
There were going to be consequences no matter what Bao found for Pakpao, it was just how she was. But he would rather she grumble for something being too difficult. It crossed his mind that perhaps he should introduce Claire and Pakpao, but the idea was quickly dismissed. Both relationships were rather new and progressing a bit slowly. It would be best to give them some time.
Those thoughts were pushed aside in favor of the much more appealing prospect of Claire's laughter. His own laugh probably sounded rusty with disuse but hers was musical and appealing.
"I doubt that your taste could ever be horrible, but perhaps we should have a back up gift available to remove some of the ill will we might garner."
Bao raised his eyebrows at her list. That was interesting. Of course, Claire engaged with humanity more than he did and on a more intimate level. He wasn't sure what the appropriate comment was to her list. While had no no particular interest in these women he did at least make an attempt to engage.
"Certainly. And you will let me know if there is anything I can assist with. Why a sporting goods store though?"
It seemed odd to him.
Bao didn't know Akahana very well and could not offer much to that search but was struck with an inspiration.
"Mara makes some lovely glass creations. I've seen them in a boutique here in Nachton and I believe that the proceeds are donated a charity. If we see them perhaps they will inspire you."
He frowned at the question, trying to remember. When one kept their relationships professional in the extreme it was hard to know anything personal. He'd spent a great deal of time with Alison and she was exceptional at her job, he'd even fed from her occasionally, without her knowledge of course, but he wasn't sure what she did beyond work. Finally it came to him.
"I believe she does something with pottery and she has twin girls who are in their school orchestra clarinet I think."
She smiled at his comment demonstrating his faith in her taste. They had been to the museum on their first date so he had at least some basic idea of what she enjoyed. Claire thought that it generally ran slightly above velvet clown paintings but this was too much fun to pass up. "We could tell them that we found a nice picture of royalty. Something to add a little class to their new place." There was a mischievous tilt to her smile. "I wonder if we can find a velvet picture of the king of rock and roll on short notice." They could add a nice Elvis jello mold as a secondary gift.
"A backup plan is probably wise." Claire thought they could place a better painting beneath the less classy piece of 'art' and give them both but perhaps he meant a backup plan for giving art in general, just in case their actual choice was something that the trio did not want to hang up in their house. "What else would you like to get them?"
They were almost at the strip of shops. The car was slowing down and merging with the line of traffic pulling into the area that allowed you to drop people off.
"For a bat." Claire frowned slightly. "One of the women is having a hard time getting away from her ex-boyfriend. I do not think a gun is an appropriate gift but a nice bat placed by the door would probably make her feel safer."
Bao mentioned that Mara made some glass sculptures and Claire smiled, squeezing his arm affectionately. "That might be perfect." Especially if they could find a little glass fox. Akahana would probably love it. Maybe she could find a tiger and a stoat to go with the fox to remind it that it had family here.
Claire knew that Akahana had been on assignment for years now and that tended to take its toll on a person. She probably felt a little lost and out of sorts after playing a role for so long. After a while the person you are pretending to be becomes more real than your own self and it takes a while to find yourself again. She knew from first hand experience though she had not had a long term mission in a while.
The driver stopped the car and came around to open her door. Claire stepped out and went around to the sidewalk to join Bao.
"Ah, perfect." She pointed to a game store across the street. "That would be the place with the puzzle."
"Perhaps we will need to find a gallery I don't frequent for these things."
He mused aloud. There were something he didn't want his usual brokers to know he had purchased, not even in jest. A number of these dealers took themselves far too seriously and he did not wish to damage his reputation with them.
"I think for Mara, perhaps some jewelry? Something silver perhaps."
Not that she wasn't capable of taking care of herself and not that Jin and Amir wouldn't defend her to the death but Bao cared for his sister as well and would offer her a token of protection. Just a small something so that she would remember she also had him, just in a different more brotherly way. The idea was enough that perhaps he would do the same for Claire as well, although she may or may not understand why he'd picked silver.
Bao frowned. Violence against women had been a problem as long as he'd been alive and well before that. There wasn't really much he could do, say or offer in that regard.
"I think a cricket bat might be an improvement on baseball. Baseball bats are too easy to grab and pull out of her hands."
Cricket bats also had the advantage of being able to be swung flat or used like a blunt ax. He just wasn't sure if they were easily accessible in America or if they were a specialty item. They would have to find out.
As the car stopped Bao exited first and held the door and offered his hand to Claire to help her down. Once she had alighted, after an unnecessary straightening of her Santa hat, he offered his arm and opened the door to the shop for them.
"Then let us see what I can get in trouble for."
Bao was ever practical though and his advice on a cricket bat instead of a baseball bat was quite useful. "We can certainly see what they have." A large sports store had the best chance but perhaps they would have the good fortune of finding something on the strip that specialized in what they were looking for.
Claire laughed at Bao's declaration for the beginning of their journey; he seemed up to the challenge of seasonal shopping. A very brave man indeed. She hugged him tight for a long moment and gave him a tender kiss. Yes, right there on the sidewalk.
Then she led them into the small toy shop. This particular place specialized mostly in board games and puzzles. The name of the store described it well: Quality Time. They had categories for cooperative games and competitive, large parties and solitary activities. Quality time could be spent in many different ways after all.
The large puzzle of Nachton was hard to miss. It took up one long wall behind the counter. To be honest, she was very tempted by it herself and always had been. Perhaps her memory made puzzles less of a challenge for her but they provided her with a quiet comfort much like her needlework.
"So how much trouble would you like to get into?" Claire pointed out the different sizes of the giant puzzles that ranged from an almost normal three feet to something enormous.
She ran her fingers over the finished and functional 3d grandfather clock puzzle that rose up from the middle of a display with boxed 3d puzzles of all sorts. "Look we can reconstruct Egypt." Claire smiled wryly at the various boxes that held a pyramid, the sphinx and the statue of Ramses.
Perhaps this mean that she thought they should move faster? Bao would have to ponder this, he was so terribly out of practice with relationships. He was no saint, he did not go for centuries at a time being celibate but as far as relationships went, his most lasting was with Amir and that certainly wasn't at all comparable. So Bao, slightly confused, allowed himself to be lead into the shop and would ponder deeper meanings later.
The puzzle selection was rather astounding. Bao found he was suitable impressed by the range. They even had a number of puzzles that were reprints of classic works of art, not that he was surprised by this, just faintly pleased. Having never been invited to her home Bao had no idea of the decor or what scale would be appropriate.
"Perhaps just a little bit of trouble. I think the small one might be best."
He could get her something else as well. It was an odd balancing act with Pakpao, he wanted to express fondness, not a bribe.
The rest of the large 3d puzzles covered everything from the sublime to the ridiculous.
"With or without curses?"
He deadpanned at her slight teasing. Leaning forward Bao read the box a bit.
"Just as I thought, 'Sand not included'. A decidedly inferior product."
She laughed when he came over and appeared to ask her very seriously about whether or not they would be reconstructing Egypt with or without curses. "Oh, definitely with. It wouldn't be the same otherwise." He then looked down and remarked about the sand not being included. Claire giggled again and gave him a quick hug. She loved his dry intelligent humor and the kind heart that he masked behind that straight face.
Claire looked around at the rest of the shop. There were some wooden puzzles that showed the wood grain and it was the shapes that made the design. Those were quite simple to put together but they were lovely to display. One side of the puzzle section had the brain teasers and novelty puzzles.
Moving on to the board games, she turned back to Bao. "Know anyone who needs any of these?" Some of the titles and descriptions were truly surprising and not very child friendly. One game was called Loaded Questions and the back suggested that you might not know your friends as well as you thought you did. The Order member in her was very tempted by the game. It might be an entertaining past time to play with some of their clan mates.
Bao studied that bamboo forest and though Pakpao might enjoy it. Two puzzles, one traditional and one less so should be acceptable. At least it showed that he was taking note of her interests. He might still find something else, something more personal. If he didn't find anything else, he wouldn't fret through.
It was good one of them was more demonstrative otherwise neither of them would know the other was interested. Bao enjoyed the rather musical sounds of Claire's giggle. It was both soothing and exciting. Bao wanted to please her and enjoyed making Claire laugh, it encouraged his quite attempts at humor.
He felt the smooth polished wood of some of the puzzles. They were quite pretty but not exactly what he was looking for. The brain teasers could be interesting but he didn't think that anyone he knew would enjoy them terribly. The board games he rather dismissed, he couldn't imagine Amir playing Monopoly or anything similar.
"No. I think perhaps the puzzles is all I need here. Should we find the cricket bat?"
Truthfully he was just looking for an opportunity to walk with Claire. He had not terrible objection to the cold and although he'd quite over looked the season and the decorations, Bao had noted that lights and other festive touches had been added to The Strip and it would undoubtedly make for a lovely atmosphere.
"Unless of course you have missed something?"
Claire took one last look at the game and then moved on to some of the more child friendly games. She did her best to find some that looked interesting to play for both the kids and the adults. Then she gathered a couple of the more simple to explain games like jenga that the younger kids could play, or at least attempt to play.
Quickly purchasing those, she placed her purchases in a bag and then took Bao's arm as they headed back outside into the chilly December air. Claire sighed happily and looked around for the next placed that would hold something they were interested in getting.
Walking along, she enjoyed the people scurrying here and there with their presents, the drifts of snow still left around the buildings, and the Christmas decorations in the shops and along the street.
"You know what would be perfect?â€ Claire asked and then moved off to the side so that she could stop and look around without causing a traffic jam. Sure enough she found what she was looking for; the rumor was there was one on every corner. Pointing across the street to the Starbucks, she smiled. "I think our walk could use some hot chocolate before we have so many bags we can't juggle them and a cup at the same time.â€
She made her way toward the green building and then stood in the line that was several people deep but moving quickly. With the chill in the air, it was no surprise that this place was more popular than ever. Claire ordered her hot chocolate and then moved out of the way while they waited for drinks to be made.
"I think I saw I jewelry store a little further down.â€ She turned and commented to Bao. "Did you want a ring, bracelets or earrings for Mara?â€ Perhaps there was some other accessory but she was pretty sure that silver headbands were fairly rare. A tiara perhaps? Claire thought that Mara would like quite nice in a princess tiara but perhaps that was not the best thing for Bao to give her, unless there was a history of humor between them. It wouldn't be very practical; how often could you wear a tiara? "Maybe some silver cuffs bracelets?â€ The cuffs and bangles seemed fairly popular at the moment and hopefully they could find some that wouldn't be very loose, unlike some of the chain bracelets, and therefore not dangle. "Maybe we could find some with deep blue lapis to match the necklace she often wears.â€
Only a minor inflection in Bao's voice, certainly nothing in his expression, indicated that he was playing with her.
Being rather out of touch with children, he hadn't dealt with any since Pakpao's children and even they he had little to do with, Bao only watched Claire select some games. He did offer to carry them, at least as far as the registrar.
Bao was rather relieved that there was no canned music playing from outdoor speakers, that would certainly spoil the mood. Music was art and bad music was quite offensive to him. He doubted he could tolerate clichÃ© renditions of songs about reindeer and snowmen.
"It isn't perfect already?"
He asked, again with that mild, faint teasing inflection implying that he was hurt she didn't think she found his company perfect. But the idea of a hot drink was not unappealing. Bao couldn't bring himself to order any chocolate and instead opted for a coffee. In the interest of the season he did pick something that purported to be eggnog flavored though.
"I don't think a necklace or a ring."
Mara had one necklace that she seemed to wear often, it very probably meant something to her and so he wouldn't compete with that. A ring had other connotations, connotations a brother shouldn't imply.
"You have rather keen observational skills and a very quick mind for this."
Of course she'd have to given her order, a spy who forgot things was hardly valuable but still Bao was rather impressed.
"I think perhaps a bracelet if we find one that is agreeable."
Their orders came up and Bao collected and paid for both. It might have been Claire's idea but he was hardly going to let her pay for her own drink. As he held it Bao found the warmth was quite welcome and much more satisfying than wearing gloves.
Again arm in arm they started down the strip finding the small jewelry store not far along as promised. He opened the door for Claire. It seemed that this small shop had been largely overlooked by the shoppers, it wasn't overly crowded. Still, it must do a good trade to hold such a desirable location.
When she headed across the street with her idea of getting hot chocolate to make the night even more perfect, Bao teased that she should have thought the event already perfect. Claire laughed and hugged him as they hurried toward the Starbucks door. "It is perfect, like being with you always is, Mon Cheri. The hot chocolate simply makes it more perfect." She knew that he was teasing and she loved this side of Bao. It was special and he was wonderful; more people should know him the way that she did... just perhaps not so well and definitely not as well as she would like. She was a giving person but Claire didn't think she would want to share him in that way.
They discussed the jewelry store and what to get Mara while they waited for their drinks. Bao decided against a necklace, most likely because he had seen Mara wearing one special one far more often than not, and against the ring for more obvious reasons. The cuffs sounded good to him and she hoped they could find what they were looking for. Bao complimented her observational skills and her thinking. Claire smiled shyly and shrugged. "It is what they pay me for." Except that the Order didn't exactly pay her a salary.
They took their drinks and left for the other store. She was pleased that it was calmer in the small store. She hoped they were still doing good business for the season but right now they might appreciate a sales person's undivided attention.
Sure enough they were greeted immediately. A cheerful voice called out to them. "Hi, Can I help you find anything?" Claire followed the sound to a young woman with platinum blond hair with candy cane red stripes in it and a green Christmas hat. The rest of her attire was a nice skirt and blouse that wouldn't have raised an eyebrow except that it matched the green hat in colour. All the girl needed was a pair of elf ears.
"Ah, yes, do you mind if we look around first? Where might we find bracelets?" The woman shrugged and said that they were in various places.
"Do you have something specific that you are looking for? They are interspersed in with the different collections. Some of the newest I made are over in this collection." She pointed to the case right in front. "It has some bangles, a few cuffs and some of those charm style bracelets with big chunky beads and other bits."
Claire turned to Bao so that he could explain what he would like to buy. It seems they were looking at not just a saleswoman but the creator and owner of the store. They might have gotten lucky and found a nice place that would have unique jewelry which would be perfect for their very unique loved ones.