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First Kiss
(2012-12-26 - 2012-12-27)
Fatigued from spending his holiday away from Shard Seeker business to volunteer for those in need with Hearts Intertwined, Ivo has a fortunate chance encounter with Maira, who has endured far worse than he. An impromptu holiday exchange of gifts becomes an unexpected night at the races, at which the fire magess demonstrates her excellent luck -- and Ivo has a little luck of his own.
Ivo Galvan Not all good deeds are done on the front lines.

While some of his fellow Shard Seekers joined the effort to stave off the tide of darkness spreading across the worlds, Ivo remained quietly in the Fluorgis area over the past few weeks, devoting himself to often unnoticed tasks. There are great forces at work amidst these newly fused realms, of which the knight-errant has some glimmer of understanding, but he is more cautious than his playful nature indicates. He admires and appreciates Reize's reckless spirit, and had faith that he and the girls would return safely from their journey, but his highest priority remains securing their group's objective: the capacity to seek world shards so that they might be restored to their former glory.

Now that Manhattan is lost, this may be more important than ever.

Tinkering with the prototype of the device and digging through new bureaucratic tangles to found their Clan officially has taken up more time than even Ivo had imagined, and at times he feels as though he runs more errands than Reize, though perhaps his leisurely and curious pace tends to make them take more time than they should. (At least he doesn't get lost every minute.) But whatever his concerns and reasons for shutting out the growing chaos, he is not so cold as to think that changing the fate of the displaced is beyond his power.

Today was spent in a holiday drive with Hearts Intertwined to assist those refugees who remain in Traverse Town, in need of food and shelter and as many volunteers as can be wrangled. By turns charming and stoic, jocular and soothing, Ivo, whether ladling out soup or organizing the camps, served as a welcome presence to many. By the time his break rolled around, he could barely obscure the physical and emotional fatigue.

Now, at last, he sits at a table in the WildKat Cafe, which by his appraising eye deserves its newfound popularity. He sips a mug of hot chocolate and reclines in his chair, smiling to himself with a slightly weary but satisfied expression, his pack by his chair.
Maira It hasn't been long since her kidnapping at the hands of Ember. She is nervous being out and about in Traverse Town on her own (besides Uist, of course). Maira hates that this place she's been calling home now no longer feels safe to her. That safety has been violated.

Hunger however, is stronger than her apprehension and drives out from VALKYRI headquarters and out into the open, walking quite quickly toward the cafe. Surely since the Heartless attack security has been increased around the Hearts Intertwined camp? Maira certainly hopes so. As soon as she'd gotten back she checked on the little girl who'd twisted her ankle--perhaps if not for her Maira wouldn't have been captured. Of course, Maira has no regrets in using Uist to get her to safety.

Maira shuffles inside the cafe wearing a blue and white stripped t-shirt and jeans, her arms crossed at the wrist in front of her, one hand rubbing the raw skin from the chains self-consciously.

When she takes a look around the cafe however, a familiar face presents itself! Her eyes widen and she freezes for a moment. How long has it been since she saw Ivo last? Where had he been!?

Highly conflicted, Maira crosses the room toward Ivo, gets real close, and promptly begins pummeling him (ineffectively) in the chest. "Where have you been!?"
Ivo Galvan Ivo exhales slowly, glad to rest himself for a moment, and reflects on what his friends must have been going through. Even after a day, he feels exhausted just being in the presence of such devastation. The worlds have become dark and hazardous; the creative and diverse life he loves is dimmed. But where there is despair, there is also hope, so long as one is not alone. Dwelling on his own ambivalence, thinking of those he cares for and hasn't seen in a while, he lifts his mug to his lips--


--and pauses, glancing sidelong out of the corner of his eye, as a familiar figure -- er, face, familiar face -- approaches swiftly. The corners of his lips upturn as he lowers his mug, blue eyes regaining a hint of their sparkle as his mouth opens to say something that'll get him invisi-choked, but his words die on his lips. Gazing up at her, something about Maira's expression silences the silver-tongued swordsman long enough for him to receive the beating he deserves, just in general.

"Whoa!" Too surprised to defend himself at first, and then just too chivalrous to, he raises his hands in a gesture of surrender even as she pounds at his sternum. "Did you miss me, or are you mad I came back?" He flashes her a grin as he eases himself from his seat, standing up as soon as she gets tired hitting him. "Well, I missed you, Maira. The desert nights are cold." When you don't have anyone to light you on fire. Even his playful tone is a little less teasing, though, and his grin subdues rather quickly.

"...I'm sorry," he says quietly. "It must have been difficult for you."

He doesn't know anything about what's happened to her, but he can assume that she was by Avira's side for the worst of it all, and he knows more accurate rumors than most.

"Why don't you sit with me for a while?" he offers gently. He's being a little nicer than usual. Well, it takes a lot for Ivo's serious side to be exposed. Even now, he shows a hint of a smile. "The hot chocolate here is quite good. Not too sweet, not too bitter."

Too many bitter tastes these days.
Maira Maira eventually tires of beating him up, and like a coin she flips, now hugging him. It is brief but tight. "I was worried! I didn't know if you were well or what had happened or....oh, so much has happened," she sighs heavily, detaching herself as she flushes with embarrassment. At the offer to sit she takes it, flopping down in the indicated chair. "Chocolate sounds good..." she says, looking at the table, trying to compose herself. She is certainly on edge. Maybe Ivo is just the thing she needs to lighten her heart.

Or maybe he'll make things more complicated!

Maira takes a deep breath. "I...I guess it has been hard. Harder for Avira. I...just got back too. Did you hear about the Heartless attack here? At the Hearts Intertwined camp? I was helping them their as a medic when they attacked. There was so many," she says, shaking her head.

She's not going to let the question go, no no. "So...really, where have you been? I see you' know...alright," she says, looking him over.
Ivo Galvan Ivo's composure cracks a little at the sudden hug, the knight-errant's eyebrows shooting up as his arms spread awkwardly, not quite sure what to do with themselves. Priel might make fun of him for leaving his family armor at home, but times like this make a man glad he isn't wearing a breastplate. He settles for placing a hand on the young woman's back and giving her a reassuring squeeze, but when she pulls away, flushed, he still just looks a little surprised, though his slight smile suggests the surprise wasn't unpleasant, whatever it was.

Ivo likes surprises. They can be all too rare.

Sitting down across from Maira, Ivo's features resume their seriousness. This is the man who engineers, who trains with the sword, who strategizes, who first discovered that playfulness could work to the advantage of his ideals. His arms cross as he listens, exhales quietly again. Avira may be his adversary, but he knew she was fond of Manhattan, whatever her connection to it. He wouldn't wish the loss of a world on anyone. "You've seen much in a short time," he murmurs softly. "Perhaps we were too complacent. The worlds are still falling."

The darkness, still hounding them, like the past creeping into the present.

"I've had to sell my body to make ends meet for the Shard Seekers," he explains, still with that same expression. "We're almost to the funds we need to legitimate ourselves as a clan. I just need one more client... what do you say, Maira?" He lets the question linger before he grins at last, eyes lighting up. "Actually, I've been doing the preliminary work on our Shard Seeker device. With a little luck and access to Fluorgis's Fire Crystal, there's a chance will be able to begin hunting the shards of lost worlds so as to restore them... including ones lost recently." He's spending less time teasing her than usual. Well, hopefully it will cheer her up a little, at least.

And, obviously, it amuses him.

"I was also hard at work," he adds, showing a smile again, "preparing a certain present for you. I suppose at this point it's more of a holiday gift, isn't it?"
Maira Maira rubs at her wrists again, pursing her lips. "Poor we've both lost our worlds..." she says quietly.

She looks up then, a certain hard determination in her eyes. "Maybe it isn't lost forever though. I think...I think we will find a way to get it back. Maybe we could even get my world back too," she says with a shrug. "There has to be a way."

When Ivo tries to tell Maira he was whoring himself for the Shard Seekers her jaw drops open. For just a moment, she thinks he is serious and grows very, very red.

Then, she lets out an exasperated sigh, smacks him lightly from across the table, and moves on.

"About Avira..., she was turned into some kind of...beast thing. She's got wings and is all wolf-like, and REALLY strong. It was an attempt to get her to turn to darkness...which was also the goal of Ember kidnapping me apparently. The Shadow Lords must really want her. I don't know why. She would never," she tells him, completely sure.

Right, maybe they should lighten the mood some. At the mention of a certain present, Maira perks up, her eyes regaining their sparkle in her excitement. "Oh! Oh oh oh! I have something for you too! Are we exchanging? I need to grab your present! right back! Don't move an inch!" she tells him, then leaps up and runs out the door.

A little while later, Maira is back, panting, and holding a small bundle wrapped in a familiar cloak. It's his, the one he leant her way back when they fought those plant monsters.

Maira deposits the bundle in his lap then takes her seat again, reaching up to try to re-arrange her hair. "Your cloak...but there's something else there..." she says, blushing some.

Inside, is what appears to be a knitted scarf, navy blue and white. It is well made from a soft, warm wool yarn.
Ivo Galvan Ivo's eyebrow twitches, but otherwise his expression does not change as Maira mentions in passing that Avira has lost her world. Manhattan? But Avira is a member of Clan Dagda, and makes her home in Rabanastre. Something doesn't add up here. Not that Ivo has any interest in that pesky stalker woman and wannabe rival, but maybe she's slightly more interesting than he gave her credit for. When he's not making fun of her, he'll have to figure out what exactly her deal is. Consider his curiosity piqued.

Even being smacked can't dissuade him. "You've become more aggressive," he notes, smiling all the wider after she swats him. "I like that." Careful what you wish for, Ivo.

Avira's a hideous beast? Who is suddenly very strong? Ivo opens his mouth, then shuts his mouth, then opens his mouth, and shuts his mouth, and manages not to say anything. Oh, so many jokes, /so many jokes/, and they're all such bad ideas. "You were even kidnapped in my absence," he remarks ruefully. "I missed an opportunity to earn my knight stripes." It's okay, Ivo. Everyone knows you're not a real knight anyway. Besides, there's no such thing as 'knight stripes'.

But at least something managed to cheer her up, even if it wasn't quite what he expected. "You got me... a present?" Ivo looks bemused again, just as he did when she hugged him. He's used to Maira shy and blushing or indignant and flustered, but she seems to be changing, and not just due to her traumatic experiences. He can't quite put his finger on what's going on, given how much he's missed. Part of it is that he's been getting the growing sense that teasing her isn't quite working as a way of keeping emotional distance anymore. But that happens when people become friends; this feels a little different.

Should he be cautious, or should he plunge in?

"Oh, there she is," he says with pleasure as he takes his cloak back. "Sometimes I regret allowing you to cover yourself. I hope you didn't wash it." Gross, Ivo. "Hm--?" But something falls out of its folds when he takes it up, and he blinks down at the scarf in his lap, taking it up and lifting it to the light. He's oddly blank-faced, which might be a little intimidating. In fact, he's processing this, slowly.

"Did you make this?" he asks, turning to the blushing young woman. "For me?" What is this? She keeps throwing him off his pace. It's not supposed to be like this. "It's... it's nice. You picked my favorite colors." Rather than put the cloak back on, he wraps the scarf about himself. It's quite fetching. "I didn't expect you to... Thanks a lot, Maira. I'll treasure it." He grins at last, a little lop-sidedly. His expression-- could that be--

"Ah, heh..."


In all his career of teasing young maidens, there have been a couple handmade gifts, but he managed to find clever and graceful ways to turn them down, all carefully managed to avoid getting too close to women he doesn't particularly care for, all posed to inflict as little heartbreak as possible, all aimed to allow him to glide through life and meet as many interesting people as he can. So it's not just that she made him a gift, which he didn't expect, or that it would be so suitable.

It's that he wants to keep it.

"Well, I didn't make this one myself, but the design was all mine," he says, reaching out for his pack a little too swiftly, changing the subject. "I promised you this a while ago, but the crafting took some time; I've been hanging onto it until I could get it to you." He glances back up above the table, and the mischievous light in his eyes has returned. "We did what we could with the fabric we had," he adds lightly, "and we worked hard, so you have to wear it for me once, even if you don't like it." Uh oh. /Uh oh./ He rises as he pulls the folded garment from the pack, and reveals--

"Behold, your fireproof dress!"

--an actually quite adorable and really not all that scandalous outfit. Ivo's grin is as wide as can be. The ultimate fake-out!! ...He'll neglect to mention the back-up blueprint he created in case there was less material.

"Just imagine the sacrifice I've made, giving you something that'll hide your nakedness from me forever. I was going to ask for a date in return," he says idly, "but I had no idea you were hard at work as well. I suppose we're already even."

Even as he jokes about it, he feels a little odd. Somehow, the thought of a date with Maira doesn't sound quite as-- playful as when he first envisioned it.
Maira At the comment about her getting more aggressive, Maira (of course) becomes flustered and a little indignant. "W-well..." she begins, but really, she has little in the way of an explanation. Time with Avira? Time beating up Heartless, defending worlds, and being kidnapped? Things have certainly changed. Plus, she finds that she is angry with him for having stayed away so long, whatever it was he was really doing.

Then he's getting ready to open his present. She doesn't even know what to make of the comment about washing the cloak, that's just too weird for her to even fathom, but Uist looks /very/ uncomfortable from his position across the room. He's giving them a little space. For now.

The young woman looks very nervous as he finds the scarf, his expression unreadable. Has she managed to genuinely shock him? Does he hate it? At his question on if she made it, she nods. As soon as he wraps it around his neck, she absolutely beams. "It looks great! I'm really glad you like it...really."

Then. THEN! Fireproof outfit! Uist is moving toward them now. He's waiting for this thing to be ridiculously scandalous, at which point he will throttle Ivo soundly.

What she pulls out though? Is absolutely adorable. Maira is floored. Uist's jaw drops. With wide, admiring eyes she runs her fingers over the fabric, with a cute skirt and--and matching boots! OMG!

Maira tears up a little. "It's...its lovely..." she stammers, hugging it against herself. Despite all the teasing of ulterior motives etc. this is likely one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for her.

"Huh..." Uist says. It's adorable. He guesses he'll wait on the throttling.

Oh, then Ivo asks for a date. Good! He didn't have to wait long! Cold, ghostly hands begin to wrap around Ivo's neck...

Maira looks up, startled. "A date? O-okay! Where will we go!?" she asks, excitement rising. "Oh! I should try this on!" she says, then begins to almost strip on the spot in her haste. "Oh, right," she says, then rushes into a back room.
Ivo Galvan Ivo is smiling widely at Maira's evident delight, and for once, there's no hint of playfulness or mirth in his eyes at her reaction. The young man is genuinely pleased to see her so happy. When she begins to get a little emotional, his expression softens, though his smile does not abate, and he averts his eyes momentarily to allow her to compose herself. At the end of the day, the point of all the fun is to lead up to moments like this. For a while, his relationship with the sweet young lady had revolved around her own eminent teasability and her assocation with Avira and VALKYRI, but -- with a satisfied cast to his gaze -- Ivo reflects that now, perhaps, the two of them really are friends.

It's a good feeling, after seeing so much suffering.

Maybe now they'll begin to understand each other a little better--

"What?" Ivo blinks, looking up, caught a little flat-footed in his reverie. "W-well, I was saying that I was /going/ to-- ghk--" But Maira's already caught up in the excitement, looking down at her outfit, looking away, looking back, and momentarily seeming as though she's going to take off her clothes right then and there. Ivo, meanwhile, trailing off in vague anticipation of her stripping, suddenly finds that he's having some trouble breathing again. He tries to say that the date thing was a joke, but some strange force is choking him!

If only you knew, Uist.

Coughing as Maira rushes away, the knight-errant looks up bleary-eyed, reaching out feebly into empty space; by the time he can breathe again, it is too late. He clears his throat, and settles down in his chair, gazing up at the ceiling contemplatively.

"Well," he murmurs to himself, "it's not like I mind."

He'd like to get a better handle on what's going on here, of course. Maira, of all people, shouldn't be throwing him off his game! He can't get a read on what she's thinking-- or what he's thinking, which bothers him. He likes surprises, of course -- all except for one kind.

"Trust," he continues softly, "is always a risk."

The kind where he lets someone down.

"A date with Maira, huh...?"

What does Maira like? Being naked, swimming, Ivo... oh wait, these are just things that Ivo likes Maira liking. Hmmm. Think, Galvan, you can do this.
Maira For once, Uist has actually helped Ivo out by choking him at just the right moment! Haha! Poor Uist. He seems to realize this and let Ivo go. Now, he's just watching the man, trying to get a read on him while Maira changes. Maira seems to think Ivo is worth the time, but Uist...he's still deciding he supposes. Not like Maira is going to listen anyway.

Maira returns then, wearing her new outfit and boots. She walks out shyly, not sure how she looks. There wasn't a mirror in the closet she'd stuffed herself into to change. So, she clears her throat to get Ivo's attention as she walks toward him. She doesn't say anything, but the question in her eyes is plain.
Ivo Galvan Part of the problem is that Ivo has a difficult time thinking of Maira, whose emotions he can often play like a lute, as an adult. He spends most of the time with the Shard Seekers, most of whom are young girls for which Ivo can feel at most a brotherly affection, even though he might tease them from time to time. Self-possession is for him the part of a grown woman, like that of Raiya or Morgan, or -- though he shudders to admit it -- Quistis and Priel. When he thinks of what she might enjoy, he ends up thinking about what Lily might enjoy. Kid stuff. Cute stuff, sure. But not date stuff.

Sighing quietly, Ivo takes a sip from his mug again, lowering it toward its saucer. He wants to take this seriously, but maybe he just can't take /her/--

A clatter and a slosh, as the mug half-slips from his grasp.

Ivo's stood up from his chair without intending to, in a few moments actually glancing down at his chair in brief and belated bemusement. First, however, he stares in silence for a few moments, looking her up and down maybe a little brazenly, and this time, it isn't even on purpose. He thought it would look adorable, but--

"You're stunning, Maira," he manages at last, sounding a bit at a loss, before smiling again. "Like a fairy of the flame. A beautiful hero, bringing hope and light to the people!" he exudes, exaggerating a bit if only to cover up his own momentary speechlessness. "I'd suggest you put on a mask and adopt an alter ego, but it'd be such a waste to hide your lovely face." There we go, flattery time.

"Uh, yeah... you look good." Realizing he's just running his mouth now, Ivo thinks fast. "If you're going to get so dressed up..." Aha! "Didn't Serendipity open recently? Why don't we go to the races? You love chocobos, don't you? Maybe we could take a look at them. I was curious, myself, but if I'm going to the races, I need a beautiful and elegant woman on my arm."

She... honestly looks the part.

Boy, that outfit is cute.
Maira Maira was unsure, but she can tell by the look in his eyes that the outfit is good. It fits her like a glove. While it wasn't really skimpy, it does fit her form very well--and that form is most certainly that of a woman, curves in all the right places.

Maira blushes, but she also grins. She probably could have done without the flattery. Indeed, his hesitation in ' look good' says more to her than all those fancy words. She laughs, shaking her head. "You get carried away Ivo...thanks though. Really, thank you. This is really amazing. I'd say we'd have to try out it's true purpose, but maybe somewhere a lot less flammable," she suggests.

Of course, she /is/ all dressed up, and she has been meaning to go to Serendipity. Chocobos seals the deal. "Ou! I'd LOVE to go to the races! Okay...okay let me just...let me run home for a moment and clean up and get some money so I can make bets!" she tells him, springing forward on impulse to wrap her arms around him again and give him an affectionate squeeze. "Be RIGHT back! Meet me outside!"
Ivo Galvan Is she...

Is she teasing him!?

"Me? Carried away? I'm always in control," Ivo protests, but there's a tinge of pink about his cheeks. The knight-errant runs a hand through his hair, perhaps to remind himself that he is cool and is the one who does the needling. But her laughter and enthusiasm can't help but bring a smile to his face, even if he looks a little humbler than usual. Somehow, Maira seems a lot more grown up than when he first met her. "My pleasure, Maira. If you want to test it, should I set your passions ablaze again?" In retrospect, that swimming incident was very entertaining, though at the time, he really did miss his eyebrows. Still, given their evolving friendship, it might be worth a second shot. Maybe her personality is catching up to that figure.

Speaking of which--

It's Ivo who ends up embraced this time. "Whoa--" In her new outfit, it looks for a moment like Ivo might be the one catching flame this time. He struggles to maintain a composed expression, but his ears redden, still trying to adjust to this new dynamic. "Sure... I can... I can do that." Wow.

That feels nice.

As Maira rushes out, all aflutter, Ivo takes a deep breath, and reaches up to cradle his face in his hand for a moment. "Hang in there, Ivo," he mumbles to himself. "Pull yourself together." He doesn't know what's going on here, but he's going to figure it out, and he won't be gotten the better of. He'll triumph!

...Once he figures out what the competition is.

* * *
% r From Traverse Town, travel to Serendipity is enviably swift. The splendor of the casino capitol, quite certainly gaudy and overwrought in places, is nevertheless quite breathtaking, with the sight of the stars above. Adjusting his new scarf, warming him comfortably in the evening, Ivo seems to have regained his poise, smiling down at the girl by his side. "Shall we go see the chocobos first?" he asks amiably, sounding content either way. "I'm curious about this 'Triple Triad' game people are talking about, but we can save that for later. Eventually, though, I'll need your help distracting my opponents with your good looks." You can't play cards without a beautiful woman leaning over you. It's in the rules somewhere.
Maira Has Maira changed, or is he just reaching a new level of her personality? Until fairly recently, most of their meetings had been brief, full of distractions, or involved fighting things. Then again, Maira has been through a lot recently, not all of it bad. She has friends, friends she knows care about her. It is giving her a measure of self-confidence.

At his mention of setting her passions ablaze, she still blushes and stammers, "H-hey, that were all--guh, come on lets go!" she says, then runs off expecting him to follow.

When they arrive at their destination, Maira cannot hide her child-like wonder at the place. It's so big, so glamorous! It is the type of place she never thought she'd actually be able to visit. After all, she's an orphan of the slums of Midgar. In her wildest dreams she had clothes that were not second hand and a meal every day.

"Oh..." she says, stopping near the entrance as they take it all in. Luckily, Ivo mentions chocobos and she's snaps out of it. "Yes! Let's go see the chocobos! I want to catch a race! Let's go see them and make our bets! Ehehe, I've never gambled before!" she says, bouncing a little before she grabs Ivo by the arm and begins to drag if he doesn't move quick enough for her taste.
Ivo Galvan At the sight of the awe on Maira's charming features, it occurs to Ivo that he doesn't know a lot about Maira's past, and most likely she knows little about his. Typically, the thought of his own past reminds him to keep his distance, lest he be driven to reveal what he would rather stay buried and undermine his efforts to remake himself. But it's impossible to be cautious or reserved beside such a spirited young woman. Ivo's languid gait, slow-paced so as to give his curious gaze time to roam, is forced to quicken as Maira seizes his arm, but he only smiles wider, good-humoredly taking longer strides to keep up with his date.

"We should examine the birds carefully before we make our choices," he remarks casually as they approach the circuit, the bustle of the crowd increasing, the chocobo circuit seemingly quite popular. Even as his tone remains relaxed, Ivo gently pulls Maira a little closer, just for her safety of course. "I have to admit, though, that I don't know what makes a good chocobo. Sheen of the feathers? Length of the legs? Color? ...There are a lot of colors, aren't they?" As they approach the holding pens, where the managers parade their birds before the competition, it does indeed seem that there's a veritable rainbow of options. "Do you have a lucky color? Red suits you," he suggests, glancing down at her dress. At least, it seems like he's looking at her dress. Maybe that conversation change was just an excuse to stare.

"I think I'll go by most eccentric name," he remarks, looking up at the roster.
Maira The crowd does thicken as they approach the chocobo area where all the birds are displayed before the race so people can make their bets. All are racers and thus in good condition. They're all fast. Hard to tell which will be the fastest. There is certainly luck involved.

Which is good.

Maira blinks up at Ivo for a moment as he pulls her a little closer, raising an eyebrow. Is he being protective? Or looking for an excuse? Or maybe both! Really? Either way she strangely doesn't mind.

"Well, I'll have to see them all, then I'll just pick one based on how....spirited it seems! I'll know, feel it out," she explains, then lets him go once spotting the birds. She moves through the stables, examining the birds and otherwise looking ridiculously happy. After a few minutes she settles on a plain yellow chocobo. "This one. I can tell by the look in her eyes. She wants to run. She smells like the wind," Maira says, dreamily. "I wish I could ride...must be so fun to go that fast," she muses before turning back toward Ivo. "When I was younger the orphanage had one chocobo, but I never got to ride it. We used it for work mostly, but I use to visit him and give him any spare greens we had. One year, things got really bad and they said they sold him....but I don't know...the soup the next couple of days..." she begins, then decides she doesn't want to finish that story.

"Right! I'm going to go place my bet!" she says, skipping off to the booky. She puts down almost all the munny she has. The booky grins, kind of slimy, and judges her with one look. It is going to be a profitable day for him, he knows it.
Ivo Galvan Ivo finds Maira's cheer infectious, and is more than content to indulge her as she peruses all the birds available. In the meantime, he keeps his appraising eye on the animals, even if the woman occasionally brushing against him is just a smidge distracting. Her dress, while more cute than alluring, does expose some of her back, and cut as he is, from the side he can see a little more skin than one might expect. Of course, that was part of the plan, but the flickering of his gaze suggests that the plan may be backfiring a little.

But her comment stirs him from his momentary distraction, Ivo looking up and his eyebrows lifting slightly. "Like the wind...?" That's not what he smells, surrounded by so many domesticated animals, but he smiles gently. "You've never ridden one before?" The beginning of the story causes him to blink once, his smile fading as he grows attentive, but the end of it-- oof, yikes. His expression reveals no hint of awkwardness, but inwardly he's reeling. Quick, Ivo, it's your duty as a man to save the date!

"Hey!" he calls out to her as she pulls away, lifting his hand. "We'll work together, and win enough money to get you your own chocobo! Then you can race it all you want, and she'll be the fastest they've ever seen!" He smiles, watching her skip away.

"And no one will eat it," he mutters under his breath.

Whatever drives Ivo to turn away from his past, he did not live an uncomfortable life as a member of minor nobility. Though not pampered, he never wanted for anything, either. That's a distance between them he'll want to navigate carefully. But what matters is that right now, Maira isn't in an orphanage, isn't lost or alone. What matters is that tonight, she can have and do whatever she wants.

He'll make sure of it.

The look the bookkeeper gives her gives Ivo another sour taste in his mouth, and frowning, he turns toward the birds again, eyes narrowing. Yeah, they'll work together, alright. Time to activate his special ability: Rumor Hunt.

'They say that Golden Plume hasn't fully recovered from its injury...'

'...I know that the Azure Arrow's a long shot, but...'

Picking out what sounds believable from what doesn't, keeping his eyes on the birds themselves to confirm his suspicions, Ivo settles on a strong-looking green and a swift-looking blue -- and then, as promised, based on the name, an unassuming red. Approaching to distribute a portion of his munny among them in a more calculated way. "Emerald Meteor and Azure Arrow," he says to the bookkeeper, "and..."

He glances over to Maira, with just the hint of a smile.

"...put this on First Kiss, for first place."

Come on, how could he resist with a name like that?

"You all set?" he asks his date nonchalantly. "If we go now, I'm sure we can get some good seats." He offers her his arm again, like he hasn't a care in the world. "I should be rooting for your chocobo in the name of gallantry," he adds idly, "but..."

His smile widens just a smidge.

"...I'll have to root for First Kiss."

He was basically planning that one for the last thirty seconds, yeah.
Maira Maira turns toward Ivo after placing her bet, blinking at his words. Working together sounds keen, but when he suggests that they use the winnings to buy her her own chocobo. "O-oh!" she begins. Obviously, the idea delights her. But it is a kind of excess that makes her feel guilty even thinking of it. "I don't know. I couldn't spend my money on that...when I win--" Sure if this, isn't she? "--I'll give some of the money to Hearts Intertwined to help find new homes for the refugees from Manhattan."

Then, Ivo makes his wagers. Who names a chocobo First Kiss!? Was there someone in the background just waiting to make things awkward and embarrassing?! She's glad that Uist actually stayed behind or there would be much more mysterious throttling.

Despite it being an absolutely /terrible/ and shameless joke, Maira blushes anyway. She takes his arm and allows herself to be lead to get a good seat for the race, which should be starting soon! They were just in time to make their bets. In transit, she wonders how much of Ivo's joke is to tease her, and if there is an actual, serious suggestion there.

Once inside, Maira rushes toward a good seat, sitting down and actually crossing her legs. She's eyeing a hot dog vender and reaching into her purse, only to remember she placed all her munny on the bet.

Eurus better win!

While they wait, Maira looks to Ivo. Perfect time for some conversation. That's what you're suppose to do on a date, right? "So! What did you do before the Shard Seekers? You guys haven't been a group all that long, have you?"
Ivo Galvan People name these chocobos the craziest things. Apparently one of them in the last race was called The Chococabra. If it had been in this race, Ivo might have been forced to bet on it instead. ...It came in last place, apparently, so perhaps that was for the best. Besides, this way, he got to make his /amazing/ joke.

"Some of it, perhaps, but not all," he responds, smiling down at her. "Don't forget to treat yourself well, Maira. You deserve to be happy, even if sometimes that means what seems like an excess. Like a nice dress," he remarks, voice warming playfully as he glances down again at her outfit. The way her wild hair flows down the skin of her back-- he shouldn't stare. It's just so /interesting/, though. Yes, that's what it is. "But then, I've always admired how you're able to keep your spirits high even in tough circumstances." Her emotions do fluctuate, but on the whole, she registers more cheerful than most. "I think being able to make the most of any situation is one of the best qualities a person can have." That sounds more like an honest admission of Ivo's own mentality than flattery.

Actually, Ivo himself isn't sure how much of his bet was a joke and how much was serious, but he's gotten caught up in Maira's own pace and at this point he's just not that worried about it. He was confused by the sudden shift at first, but now, well, he's just curious again. And-- well-- he likes this.

Whatever it is.

Catching Maira's hopeful look and then mournful glance down at her now-emptied purse, Ivo needs little cue to saunter over to the vendor and procure the both of them hot dogs, which he heaps liberally with toppings. Looks like there's no room for dieters by Ivo's side. He approaches with sparkling eyes, but this time, it doesn't seem to be a teasing light. "I've only had one of these before," he remarks, "but they were out of onions that time! I've been waiting to try the full garnish." He's... excited about the street food. "Sometimes, more even than the art and the culture, it's the /food/ that's the most interesting part about new worlds!" he says, a little more enthused than he usually gets, like any boy about his hobby.

Handing it over along with a generous supply of napkins, which may be necessary, Ivo sits down next to Maira and pauses with the hot dog halfway in his mouth, turning to raise an eyebrow. Bite, chew, chew, wipe mouth. "I met Reize and Lily right after my world was taken by the Heartless," he says, as there's no more diplomatic way to say it that he knows of. He doesn't sound particularly torn up about it; he's still smiling slightly, perhaps to keep the tone level. "Since we'd all lost our worlds, I thought that seeking the shards of worlds would be a good reason for us to stick together. More than anything, I wanted to keep an eye on those kids." His smile softens. "To be honest, for someone who loves novelty so much, my life has always revolved around my own little corner of the world. I used to be a governor, you know." He's grinning now. "It sounds grand, but it was just of a small part of our city. Cosmopolis had hundreds of governors. Biggest city in the world." That grin wavers slightly. "...The only city in the world," he then concedes.

"First it was my family, then it was my little slice of the city; anything more was icing on the cake. I kept my responsibilities close, and the rest of the world I could treat with wonder. Wonder is what I'm best at, really. And now there's so much more to wonder at -- too much, almost." His smile is back, at least. "So the Shard Seekers was my excuse to make a new family, and make sure those kids are okay. I think it turned out well enough. Not that we've found any shards yet."

"How did you end up with VALKYRI, anyway?" he segues. "You and Avira seem like good friends, but did that only happen after the fusion of the worlds, too?"
Maira This compliment about her spirits seems genuine. It is not steeped in flowery language or accompanied by the expectant look of amusement Ivo gets when he's teasing. Funny, that she's coming to recognize that look. Maira smiles shyly and looks down, nodding a little. "It's just hard...I've been where those people are. Pretty recently, really. I just--I just really want to help as much as I can. Then at least I can feel...feel a little better about--well, failing."

Her expressions are mercurial, her emotions so transparent. Her sadness, while present, moves to the background when she sees the offered hot dog. Good that he doesn't expect her to eat like a bird, because like any good person who has actually gone hungry before, Maira truly appreciates food. But what is even more enjoyable? Ivo looking excited!

Maira takes her hot dog and thanks him, chowing down as he discusses his views on food and culture. "Mmph! Yes! I agree! I love to try new food. It says a lot about people, don't you think? What they eat," she says with a nod. OM NOM NOM. No lady-like behavior here. She does fall quiet (as she inhales her hot dog) to listen to him speak though, her eyes wide with undisguised interest.

Gulp! Hot dog finished. That was about three bites. She reaches for napkins, but her eyes are on Ivo, following his story. When he tells her about his world falling to darkness, she looks sad and empathetic, then when he tells her he was a governor she looks quite shocked, etc. "Really?! But isn't that something that...well, much older people do? You're so young!" she replies to that particular part, but she allows him to continue. Her smile is soft as he reveals his nurturing instincts toward Reize and Lily, nodding gently. "Heh...that's great Ivo. It really is. I'm glad you all found each other...just like I found Avira and VALKYRI. Yes, we met after...I'd been living in Traverse for a year or so after my world fell, just sort of getting by. Heh, Uist was really the only friend I ever had before Avira, and he's--you know, not living. We just kind of got along and she welcomed me into the group she was forming and...well...I guess the rest is history? I would do anything for Avira," she replies with a bright smile.

"Oh!" she exclaims suddenly, standing and pointing. "Look! The race is starting!"

And indeed, it is. Azure Dart is getting an early lead, followed by the red Ivo bet on and a black chocobo whose name she doesn't remember.

Then First Kiss is surging ahead, passing them all. The announcer narrates over the radio; "First Kiss takes the lead! But what is this? Eurus is closing quickly! She's running like the wind!"

Maira leans forward in expectation, glancing toward Ivo. "I told you so," she whispers.
Ivo Galvan "And how they eat," Ivo replies as Maira promptly begins to devour her hot dog, unable to restrain his smile. No encouraging words are necessary to prevent his date from dwelling upon her perceived failures; good food is more than enough. Just as he grows accustomed to seeing her as an adult woman, some unladylike gesture delights him all over again. Generally his tastes in women incline toward the refined, but then, he now reflects, perhaps the best moments with a refined lady are those when she lets her hair down. And Maira's hair is, well, all over the place.

Whoa, she beats him! Well, he was talking, so it doesn't count. "I know, right?" he says, right after shoving the rest of his hot dog in his mouth. That was so good he didn't even get a chance to make a joke about sausages. Probably for the best. "Actually, where I come from, the most handsome man in the neighborhood becomes the governor, so..." He grins. "My predecessor passed away," he explains, "so I left school a little early to take over from him. I was able to finish my studies from afar, though. Certified engineer of magical technology from the Lukion Military Academy," he proclaims, patting himself on the chest. Sounds prestigious. "Not that much of what I learned seems to work outside my own world."

Nothing about Maira's story surprises him, except for the length of time she spent alone, much longer than most of those he's met. "I'm glad you've found the friends you deserve," he says gently. He'd say something nasty about Avira, but it's not as fun when it's not to her face. He's saving up all his jokes for when he gets to see her new ugly mug. "Um, by the way..."

The race begins, but Ivo, looking puzzled, is instinctively rubbing at his throat, visibly unsure why.

"...who /is/ this Uist, anyway?"

But there's no time for that now. Maira's fixated on the race itself, and Ivo, at first amused, soon finds himself leaning in too. "Yeah! Alright! Go, First Kiss!" In the end, luck overcomes even his best predictions. Always go with the names! He's into it, clenching his fists, but then Maira's chocobo is closing in. Close-- it's close.

"Yeah," he whispers back, "you did."

Azure Dart is pushing hard, but First Kiss and Eurus are neck-and-neck right in first, and all three cross the finish line in a blur. "It's a Sphere Finish!" the announcer exclaims. "We'll have to review the recording!" There's a stir in the crowd, and a tense silence follows. "In third, Azure Dart!"

"Good thing I only bet to place," Ivo murmurs, but he's still leaning in, expression intent. "But First Kiss... I bet to win." Ugh, was he saving that up too? Was he trying to win money, or just opportunities to hit on Maira?

"And in first place," the announcer calls, "is... Eurus! Against all odds! An incredible performance!"

Ivo laughs, shaking his head, leaning back in his seat. "Congratulations, Maira," he chuckles, grinning widely. "You're a natural at this. You sure you don't want a chocobo? I bet you'd raise a champ." So much for his heroic efforts. She made way more money than him that round. ...A lot, actually, most likely. Smirk about that, booky.

"Too bad about that first kiss, though," he adds, grin turning lopsided.
Maira Eurus won! She knew it! She knew she would win! Maira leaps up and gives a cheer, flailing like a muppet in her excitement. She doesn't even know how much munny she won. It's too much for her to even contemplate. She's no good with numbers. She just knows it is a lot. More than she has ever seen. Maybe she'll have enough to drop off a large sum to Hearts Intertwined AND buy a chocobo!

Maira turns her excitement on Ivo, who had at least won some munny too. Her somewhat lunatic grin grows thoughtful, softening, though there is a sparkle in her eyes that indicates she is mustering her courage.

For a moment she watches Ivo sidelong, looking up at him through her lashes as that statement, perhaps made in jest, stretches between them.

Then she turns toward him, stretches up on her tip-toes, and quickly presses her lips to his before she has a chance to over-think it. Her lips are warm, just like the rest of her.

She drops back down. "Yes, too bad," she replies, then turns and skips off to go collect her winnings.
Ivo Galvan Ivo just keeps laughing at Maira's antics. Seeing her so excited is victory enough for him. That grin of hers is so ridiculous he almost can't look at it without beginning to crack up. Reaching up to wipe a tear of mirth from the corner of his eye, Ivo finds when he looks back that her expression is beginning to change. Blinking, he does his best to process what might have happened. Is she worried that he's disappointed that his chocobo lost? Is she thinking about the others back at Hearts Intertwined again? Is there ketchup on his face? Oh, she's leaning in--

His own features soften as his blue eyes gaze down at her own. There's something about the way she looks up at him through her eyelashes that catches Ivo off-guard.

It's nothing compared to what she does next.

Warm, and soft, softer even than the body he held close to him when the pond's water brought them together. As she turns to skip away, Ivo remains unmoving, blankly staring at nothing. Then, at last, unthinkingly, he runs his tongue along his own lips to moisten them.

He can still taste her.

After what feels like an eternity, he blinks again, sighs, shakes his head in some mixture of awe and bewilderment, and follows behind, smile half-wry, half-dazed.

Probably should have anticipated that, upon reflection.

This scene contained 23 poses. The players who were present were: Ivo Galvan, Maira