I've been writing a couple of bluebooks with the aim of developing Clio's story between the first season of Changeling and the Carnevale oneshot that we plan to do at some point. They take place after the last session and in the weeks leading up to Carnevale. They'll focus on Clio's changing attitude towards Malvolio and an inner conflict about what she wants. There'll probably be at least one more story after this to bring us up to the oneshot.
RATED PG-13, gen, no warnings.
Clio stood with her arms stretched outwards as the seamstress ran a measuring tape around her ribcage. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen herself in such detail - she was clad only in underwear, surrounded by a set of mirrors that revealed almost every angle. When she had first stepped into the room, Clio had joked with herself that Malvolio must spend a lot of time here.
She had received a note from him at the Florian, when she arrived for a late-night shift. The envelope was embossed in cream and violet and held a small, pressed flower that she did not recognise.
I have rearranged your dress fitting with Madam Canvas, as promised. Tomorrow evening.
This practically archaic form of communication had been essential when she grew up in Venice, but it seemed strange to use it with the advent of technology. Such was Malvolio's gaudy use of old etiquette.
She arrived at the House of Spring to find Madam Canvas already waiting for her in the foyer. Clio had only met her once at most; she was a Wizened Artist, and she didn't speak much, except to instruct her to change position every few minutes. When the fitting was over and Clio was dressed, the seamstress handed her a book of fabric samples, inviting her to look through them as she packed away her things. The fabrics might have appeared perfectly normal - if expensive - to the human, naked eye; but otherwise they glowed almost with a seeming of their own. Glittering forest green brocade, like grass touched by dew. Red velvet that shimmered into blue and back again. Undulating pink silk.
"Pink? A little adventurous, no?" Malvolio's voice came from the doorway, and Clio glanced up to see his reflection. He was dressed in a pale cream suit with white shirt, and idly clutching a lit cigarette between his fingers. "I don't think I've ever seen you wear anything but black."
Clio's brow furrowed, though she did turn the page. Madam Canvas passed her by, indicating she would leave the samples behind for Clio to look at. Malvolio murmured a quiet grazie to her as she left the room, and took a seat next to Clio on the couch.
"Black goes with everything," Clio replied. It was true, she would often get teased by her colleagues if they spotted her out of work hours - she hardly owned anything colourful. There was necessity in her clothing choices - she could not spare much money for fashion, and so anything she bought had to match with what she already had. Beyond this, the insane scope of modern style for women somewhat confused her.
"Oh, Clio. Anyone would think you were one of those... gothic types." Malvolio's mouth curled in mocking distaste, and he took a drag on his cigarette. "Do you smoke?" When she gave an uncertain nod, he explained, "It's just tobacco." He drew the packet of cigarettes from his pocket and offered one, watching as she took it between her lips, before sparking it with a silver lighter.
He slid the sample book from her lap, flicking through. "You know, I didn't even expect you to come tonight."
"I asked you to arrange the fitting in the first place, didn't I?" She shrugged. "Though I was curious that you sent me a note, rather than call..."
Malvolio smiled. "I suppose I'm old-fashioned. There's no tangibility in a phone call. I'd only write letters if I had the time."
"I think you romanticise the idea too much," Clio laughed gently. "In fact, it surprises me you would choose to always send letters. They can be intercepted so easily."
He smirked. "Perhaps I like the risk." He extinguished his cigarette in a crystal ashtray on a nearby table, as though bored of it - it was only burned halfway. "No... I was concerned you may be regretting our tryst last week."
If Clio had felt anything in particular after their night together, she would not have described it as regret. This had almost surprised her, especially given her reason for allowing him to seduce her in the first place. When he had accompanied her to the aid of her motley the morning after, he was practically invaluable. Though she wasn't sure if he would want something in return for offering help.
"Why should I regret it?" She asked, holding her cigarette aloft as she exhaled smoke. "My memory is scarce, anyway..." The drug that Malvolio had given her had contributed to this. She was also unaccustomed to acknowledging sex after the act had occurred. She had never done so in Arcadia; she rarely saw the same client twice, and her Keepers didn't discuss anything with her - unless she displeased them.
He seemed quietly satisfied that her reaction was not a negative one. "That's a shame. As I recall, there was nothing I wouldn't choose to repeat." His voice was gentle, almost a whisper, and he leaned in close to speak as though they were in a crowded room. Clio caught the scent of roses and tobacco on his breath.
She was used to flattery from other Changelings, but much of it was based only on leering glances. Lecherous though he was, Malvolio conducted himself with better form. There was something else in his words, not just cold suggestion. It was odd, establishing a connection with a partner that went beyond flesh. Even the fact that they had spoken many times, and the fact that they were speaking now, was more than Clio would ever expect.
She shook herself mentally, tearing away from Malvolio's green eyes as she remembered the book - not the one he was holding, but the Book of Names - still with Stitches, where it was safely hidden. She knew that Malvolio had more than a passing interest in it. The thought of this stayed present in the back of her mind.
"Cosa c'è?" He asked.
Clio blinked. "Di niente." She reached into her bag, retrieving her phone from inside, and checked the time. "I have to go."
He pursed his lips. "I was hoping you'd stay for a drink, at least..."
"I'll be late," she explained, standing up and putting out the cigarette in the ashtray.
He also stood, facing her, a light smirk touching his mouth. "Then, be late..." His eyes gleamed jokingly - he already knew she wouldn't stay. So he laughed softly, and turned to lift Clio's jacket which was folded on one of the chairs. He gestured for her to turn around, and helped her into it graciously. "I'll walk you out."
The corridors were empty, but the House's foyer was now scattered with Changelings, sipping cocktails and sharing conversation. Malvolio received several nods of acknowledgement as he swept through the hall, but didn't pause - he led Clio to the main door, and stopped there as she buttoned her jacket.
"There's a party on Saturday," he said. "You'll come, won't you?"
"I might be working..."
"The Florian closes at midnight. We won't be starting until one." He spoke into her ear. "I'll be extremely disappointed if you're not there." His tone was warm a
nd sincere, like that of a cherished friend, but it also had a touch of authority and instruction. As he drew himself away, he planted a kiss on her cheek. Clio could have sworn she heard the whispers in the room rise in volume - notes of blistering gossip. She had never been a regular at Spring gatherings, so her presence was bound to be noticed and remarked upon.
She nodded, understanding, feeling the eyes of the guests boring into her back. "Ciao," she murmured, stepping towards the door as Malvolio held it open.
"Buona notte," He smiled, closing the door as she left.