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Realistic or Modern More Than An Assignment


houseplant hoarder
Seeing Cian yawn too sparked a little bit of guilt to flare in Alannah's chest when she realised that she couldn't be the only one who was tired. Although she didn't know much about his previous jobs, she couldn't help but wonder if he was used to longer hours as she settled back into her seat to listen him disclose that he thought he knew someone who was a bigger workaholic than she was, right after her heart had stopped doing weird little flips at hearing him use her first name. Cian was absolutely right about her overtime statistics of course. In fact they would probably be at a more worrying level than they would impressive, but it did give her some comfort to know that she wasn't the only person in the world who worked way too hard.

"Damn, and there was me thinking I could add that achievement to my CV," she joked, pretending to swing a small fist as if to punctuate her disappointment. "If I don't beat the programmer by the time that you've finished work with me then I'll be disappointed. You'd best get used to these late nights McRannall, and hey, at least now I know it won't be too much of a shock to your system." There was soft laughter seeping into her last sentence however, to demonstrate that she was in no way being serious, before she gave a nod of her head when he yawned around the suggestion of a good sleep. Without thinking, Alannah took his outstretched hand to haul herself up, but found her fingers lingering for perhaps a fraction too long in his. His hand was considerably bigger and warmer than her own, and where their skin touched sent little sparks of electricity shooting up her wrist. In fact, it was this sensation that caused her to pull away in the end, seemingly slightly embarrassed about how much she had enjoyed that small point of contact.

"Oh you will, will you? So you're chauffeur as well as a bodyguard, huh? That's good to know." Alannah responded to Cian's wink with a grin and an elbow to his arm as she handed his hoodie back to him finally, albeit a little reluctantly. "Oh I have no doubt that we will. Escape routes and hiding places are the key to my heart, I can't wait." This time she gave a role of her eyes though before telling him she'd be right back once she had shut her computer down and retrieved her belongings. It didn't take her long at all to do so and when she reemerged with her own jacket back on her shoulders, she flicked off the lights and gestured for Cian to follow her to the elevator. When it opened, they both stepped in together.

"So, how are you getting home? I usually grab a cab when it's this late, we can share if you're going in the same direction?" It seemed a practical question to ask, but in reality, Alannah wasn't quite ready to say good night just yet.


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
She made him laugh, Cian had to lean his head back at her suggestion she would beat the programmer, thus forcing the two of them together on many late nights such as this. Truly it did not seem like a hardship at all.
"Sounds like a good plan." He told her. "I'll even get a ribbon printed and everything, you can staple it to your CV." His breath caught in his chest at the instant of their contact, tingles seemed to come to life over his skin at each point where they made contact. She lingered there a moment and his eyes flicked down to the sight of their joined hands just before she pulled away. Clearing his throat he went about collecting his things as she did the same. For a silly moment he thought of not touching anything with the hand that had held hers, so that he might still imagine the feel of her there; but that was quite ridiculous and he shook his head at himself as he slipped the hoodie over his arms.

They walked to the elevator together chatting a little more about the following day, before Alannah mentioned potentially sharing a ride. He smiled down at her and reached into his jean pockets to reveal the set of keys to his hatchback.
"I actually drove. Let me give you a lift." Cian pressed the button for the underground parking. "I'll even let you pick the music. It's a high honour so don't go playing anything but the finest music." The elevator continued on its decent until it reached the parking garage with a happy little ding. Cian gestured for Alannah to step out first and he had to really use all of his self control to not stare at the sway of her hips as she led the way out of the elevator.

Cian pressed the button to unlock the car, causing the lights in a car just down the lane to light up. They walked towards the car and as they drew close, Cian let his large legs eat up the pavement at a quicker pace than Alannah. He reached the passenger seat door first and opened it for her. At her quizzical look he inclined his head in a mock bow.
"First class service M'lady." He amped up his accent a little in an effort to make her smile. Once she was seated, he closed the door gently and moved around the hood to get to his own door. It always took a little doing to squeeze into the door frame, but thankfully once in the hatchback came with ample space for his legs and head. With a serious look he plucked up the AUX cord and handed it over to Alannah.

"Choose wisely, or no more music privilege's."


houseplant hoarder
His offer to give her a lift lit up something inside of her chest that Alannah couldn't quite describe. It was as though he'd taken a look into her mind and plucked out exactly the outcome that she had wanted when she'd asked her question, and then offered the promise of more time with him so casually that it was all she could do to smile up at him in response. There were multiple parts of her that was screaming at herself to refuse; this kind of closeness hadn't gifted them any favours the last time they were in a similar position, after all. But despite the battle that was raging between her mind and her heart, it was her heart that was yelling the loudest as she nodded her head and thanked Cian for the offer of a lift home. "Well if you're gifting me the position of honorary car DJ, how could I refuse?"

Their idle chatter continued all the way down to the car park, before Alannah stepped out of the elevator and made her way around to the passenger side of the car once Cian had opened it. Her hand had just reached out to the handle when he stepped in before her, his words paired with his accent causing her to burst out into laughter. "Nice touch," she nodded around her giggles. Giggles. Alannah hardly ever giggled. "I could get used to this treatment Mr McRannall, you ought to be careful." Pretending to thank her 'kind sir', she eventually clambered into his hatchback, pulling her seatbelt around herself and getting settled at the same time as he did. It was about at this point that Alannah glanced over at Cian to see how he had to squeeze through the door frame, her top teeth grazing her bottom lip to hold in another smile.

When he handed her the AUX cord though, she brought up a smile hand to pretend to wipe her brow. "Phew, okay. Feeling the pressure," she murmured as she popped it into the end of her phone and pulled up her Spotify. Her usual playlists appeared before her, showing a fairly eclectic mix of local artists, bigger names like Abba and Bowie, and then a whole host of Bollywood music that she accidentally nudged the play button on, only for the upbeat sounds that had permeated her childhood to flood through the car at full volume. "Oh shit, no wait, that wasn't my choice, that was an accident!" Alannah grappled with her phone to pause it again. "Ignore what you just heard, please," she laughed softly, shaking her head to hide her slight embarrassment as she scrolled through her playlists. In the end though she settled on Springsteen, Born to Run, of course. "This. This is my actual choice." Then finally she turned to Cian with her eyebrows raised and a somewhat hopeful expression on her face. "All positive thoughts, feedback and opinions are welcomed."


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
The unmistakable sounds of Bollywood music filled the space of the car and Cian looked pleasantly surprised at the introduction. Alannah flushed under the yellow garage lighting and Cian tucked his tongue into his cheek, vowing to get her to share some of that music later. Her true pick began and Cian nodded appreciatively.
"Excellent, you can keep your job. Though I want to hear some of that Bollywood music." He told her as he twisted the key in the ignition. The car rumbled to life and Cian went through the motions of navigating them out of the garage. His fingers tapped on the steering wheel and he snuck a glance at Alannah.

"When I was a kid I went through a British Rap phase. Tinie Tempah was my brother." Cian rubbed a fist over his heart at the memory. "I lost my mind when my aunt got me tickets to see him." He came to a stop at a red light and watched as a number of pedestrians wandered past. Most of them looking like haggard business men and women, with a few couples on dates interspersed. "Alright if I'm being honest, it wasn't a phase. I still love that man." His eyes slid away from the red light to peek at her once more.

"Why do you want me to ignore what sounded like an excellent Bollywood song? I need more of those in my life." He told her letting his eyes look pointedly at the phone she held in her hand. A honk came from behind them and Cian flushed as he realized the light had turned green. The car moved forward and Cian had to remind himself that they needed to get to Alannah's house in one piece. He brought them through the city, Cian was taking a bit of a backwards route to get to Alannah's house, he preferred to keep off the highway, and took them from high rise buildings past malls towards Alannah's apartment. They would be there soon, and despite taking the long way, Cian knew it would be all too soon before they arrived.


houseplant hoarder
It was a relief to hear that Cian approved of her choice, but perhaps not so much at his request to hear more Bollywood music. She thought at first he was teasing her and let Springsteen run his course as they started through the streets of the city, the streetlamps and lights from the buildings casting them into a warm orange glow. The route they took was seemingly different to the route that Alannah had come to know, but she guessed that finding a more backstreet way to her place was just another way of Cian keeping her safe and in realising so, she slunk back into her seat, peering over at him every once in a while to watch him drive. Not in a creepy way - Alannah just enjoyed marvelling at people with skills that she didn't have, even if that skill was as simple as driving a car.

"Tinie Tempah?" Alannah watched Cian place a fist over his heart and grinned, even more so at the mental image of a younger version of Cian going wild when he received the gig tickets as a present. "Okay, I know I'm dangerously at risk of losing my DJ status here but... brace yourself. I have never listened to Tinie Tempah." Alannah squeezed her eyes shut as she confessed, and then raised her hands up when she opened them to see Cian looking over at her with disapproval reflected in his features. "Look, here me out! We couldn't afford music players for us all in our household, so we had one to share between all of us. As the youngest, you can only imagine how many times I got to use it." Despite herself though, Alannah was still smiling fondly at the memory. "Hence why most of my music tastes are derived from either my grandparents, or my parents, with a little bit of my sister's tastes thrown in too. This also explains the Bollywood playlists."

The honking of a horn interrupted her before she could continue any further and she smirked at Cian as he rushed to set off at the green light he had missed.. At his request however, she turned to him once more with a raised eyebrow. "You want me to play the Bollywood song? Are you sure?" When he confirmed that he did, Alannah let out a sigh. "Alright. Alright." Then, she reached up to take the clip from out of her hair, letting her loose waves tumble around her shoulders and pausing to run her hands through it a couple of times. The clip she clipped to her blazer, as though she was preparing herself for something. "I'll pick a Bollywood song, on the condition that you pick a Tinie Tempah song next and show me exactly what your reaction was like when your saw him in concern for the first time."

Pressing play then, the sounds of a song called 'Radha' filled the car, starting out a little softer before the beat started to rise. Alannah felt her cheeks growing warm the more that she smiled, her shoulders starting to bop, mouth widening as she waited expectantly for Cian's reaction. "Good, huh? They played this at my cousin's wedding," she explained over the music. "Even my grandparents were up dancing for this one."


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
With each passing moment, Alannah rewarded Cian with little tidbits of information about her. The thought of her having to share music with the whole of her family seemed such a happy memory, one that he could certainly relate to. Even if she was lacking in her British rap. He gave her the look that her virgin ears deserved for a quick moment, forcing his brows together and his mouth into a stern line. He couldn't keep it together long as her hands came up in the air in defense, his school features breaking into a grin as she relented. He turned his attention back to the road and waited for the sounds of her childhood to fill the small space between them.

"I suppose that's fair." He allowed. "Let's hear it then." He urged with a grin. "I may have to tone it down on my recreation, I can't foam at the mouth on command..." Cian drew up short as Alannah paused for a moment, her hand lifting once more to let her hair free. Had Alannah been watching Cian she would have seen his fingers tighten around the wheel, his throat bobbing with a quiet swallow. He wondered what it would be like to run his own fingers through her hair, how much he would like to just that. Forcing the breath that he had been unconsciously holding out, Cian forced his thoughts away from that all too tempting image just as the music began. Next to him Alannah continued to sweetly torture him as her body began to move around the seat. Her shoulders moved up and down, and her head bounced to the beat.

It took a solid thirty seconds before the song managed to filter it's way through his thoughts, but when it did his fingers began to move on their own. The pads of his finger tips bouncing along the leather of the wheel as the tune and beat also entered his body. The two found their groove in the little impromptu car dance party.
"I think you have to make it a illegal to not dance to this song." He told her over the music. They had stopped at another red light and Cian lifted his hands from the wheel to preform a little seated shimmy. At the end of the song the two of them were both laughing as they drew nearer and nearer to Alannah's apartment.

"That's going in my likes. Please send it to me." Cian told her. "Alright, now for your first ever Tinie Tempah. What to pick?" Feeling loose and relaxed Cian stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Ah I know, Pass Out." Alannah bent her head and quickly typed in his song request. The first notes of the song began and Cian wiggled in his seat eagerly. "I remember I let out this high pitched noise when he started, some folks around me thought maybe it was feedback." Cian's dancing was a little more aggressive now as the Tinie's voice filled the car serenading them about parties that never ended. Cian's hands drummed against the wheel now as he pulled up in the loading zone of Alannah's building. He waited the extra minute to turn the car off so the song could end. His eyes were alight with the joy of a favourite song heard.

"It's definitely not the most mature song." He allowed, "but it's a guilty pleasure." He chuckled as he got out. He had wanted to open the door for Alannah, but she beat him to it. They stood out in the evening air together, grins on both their faces. "I suppose I'll see you tomorrow then?"


houseplant hoarder
Alannah hadn't known she needed to have an impromptu dance party in Cian's car, until she was having an impromptu dance party in Cian's car. When he started to get into the song too, she upped the ante, lifting her hand to wave about in the air. It wasn't often that she got to show this side of herself, the carefree bubbly side that all but disappeared in her place of work and only really came out during family occasions or outings with her friends. It was even rarer for her to find someone who could pull that side out of her within only a couple of days of knowing her. None of this properly filtered through into Alannah's consciousness until later on in the evening though, because as things stood currently, she was having way too much fun to think about anything other than enjoying the moment with Cian right beside her.

"It's good right?" Cian's shimmy was the perfect end to their little show, and saw Alannah clutching her stomach from laughing so much. "Alright, hang on let me just..." She pulled out her phone when he requested she send the track to him, all too eager to do so. "And... done. I expect you to know all of the lyrics by our second car journey tomorrow."

It was his turn to pick a song next when Alannah's had finally finished, and she let him do so without influence, giggling again when he added to the image of his excitement at the Tinie Tempah concert. "Oh, I wish I had known you back then. I can only imagine how unreal it would have been to sit next to you at that gig." When Pass Out started, her grin didn't fade once, especially when Cian began to get into it even more vigorously this time, his whole performance affording her a glimpse into what a younger version of himself may have looked like. The beat of the song was infectious and it wasn't long before she was joining in once more, finding a rhythm to nod her head to in time with his. In fact, so engrossed was she in her first Tinie experience that she hardly noticed when Cian swung the car into the car par of her apartment building, only realising when he finally pulled it to a stop and cut the engine. "Well that..." She let out breathlessly. "Was really something. Pass out, you said it was called? I think it's exactly the kind of song I need on my running playlist."

In the next instance, Cian was getting out of the car in an attempt to open Alannah's door for her, which she was quick to notice and beat him to. However, when they found themselves standing face to face in the warm glow of the street lamp that they were now stood under, her amusement began to fade, giving way to the quickening rate of her heartbeat. She wasn't sure what this felt like, but the moment they were now sharing certainly felt like something. It was like they were both waiting for the other to do something, or say something, like that doorstep moment in movies that was full of nerves and tension until somebody closed the distance. Before any of them could move however, a honking of a car horn on the road a few feet away from them pulled them back into reality and Alannah found herself smiling slightly, almost out of embarrassment. "Yeah," she said gently. "Yeah, I guess you will. Good night, Cian." Then finally, she gave him a little two fingered salute before turning and heading towards her building.


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
For a brief moment Cian wondered if Alannah had something more to tell him. There was such depth in those eyes of hers, he could almost see the gears turning as her mind jumped from one point to the next. It was interrupted by the abrupt noise of a car horn and Cian slipped out of the trance he'd been in. Alannah wished him farewell and Cian leaned against the hood of his car, watching until she stepped inside. Though she couldn't see it, he saluted her in return as she pressed the button for the elevator. When he climbed back into his own car Cian found the song Alannah had sent to him, putting the song on repeat Cian drove home.

Later, Cian found himself restless in bed, he'd tossed and turned so many times the thin sheets were twisted around his legs. With a strong arm draped over his forehead Cian looked up at the dark ceiling of his room and thought of the woman who had occupied most of his mind for the past few days. Unable to help himself he lifted his phone off the bedside table, with a few taps of his phone he pulled up the single message he had received from her. His fingers hovered over the keyboard and he wondered if she was still up. It was the damnedest thing, he had just spoken to her naught but a few hours ago, and here he was scheming on how to hear more of her thoughts and jokes. The phone slipped from his hand and landed squarely on his face with a dull thud. With a defeated sigh Cian shifted, but not before he heard the tell tale sign of a message being sent. Cian let out a short expletive, snatching the phone from his face and sitting up to peer at the damage.

From Cian- 11:57 PM
tkdjx mO

Groaning Cian dropped his head in his hands, the sheer embarrassment of the situation making him curl in on himself. Grabbing his pillow and hugging it tight to his chest for comfort, Cian slipped into a restless sleep.

The following morning Cian dared not look at his phone. Instead focusing on showering and his usual morning routine. He shaved away any rouge hairs that were too high on his cheeks or too low on his neck. He pulled on his company t-shirt and gave himself the once over in the mirror. Upon inspection Cian found himself wanting to look a little nicer for Alannah's opening. He found his old leather jacket from when he had a quarter life crisis and fancied the idea of riding motorcycles (It did not go well). Feeling better about his outward presentation Cian checked his watch and saw he had a little time before he had promised to pick up Alannah. Deciding she might like a coffee he grabbed what he needed and made the stop at a drive through. He ordered two coffees and made his way through the busy morning traffic towards Alannah's apartment once again.

When he arrived Cian parked the car and finally reached for his phone, ready to text Alannah that he was there.


houseplant hoarder
The feeling between Alannah and Cian, whatever it was, followed Alannah into the elevator and all the way up to her apartment. It was like her features wanted to stay fixed in a permanent smile, like butterflies were fluttering in her chest, their invisible wings knocking against her ribcage. She had been reluctant to leave his company and now that she had, she was already looking forward to re-joining it again the next morning. Her feelings were quite the contrast to what they had been when Cian had first started, given her outright push back against having a bodyguard at all. Now though, she couldn't quite imagine him not being by her side and she certainly couldn't imagine going to the library opening with anyone else. Although whether this feeling was purely professional or something more, was perhaps yet to be seen. Or at least it was until an hour or so later when Alannah also found herself sat up in bed, mind whirring after receiving a cryptic text message from the man himself.

She had also been looking at the message she had sent him in the car, her thumbs hovering over the keypad on her phone as she found herself trying to think of ways she could make contact. Could she thank him for the lift? Was it too late for that? She had just been about to internally scold herself for acting like a teenager when his text came through, her own heart leaping into overdrive. However, when she finally read the chain of letters, tkdjx mO, she found herself simultaneously frowning and giggling at the same time. "What the fuck?" The words left her quietly out of amusement, and she truly did consider sending a reply before she realised that it was now 12:30am and she was pondering a text message like she was thirteen years old again when actually, she should have been preparing for the very important speech she had to make in just a few hours time. It was this realisation in the end that forced her to put her phone down onto her bedside table, flick off her bedside lamp and faceplant her pillow in an attempt to get some semblance of sleep so she didn't resemble a zombie in a professional capacity the next morning.

Waking up at 6am was the norm for Alannah, who took herself out for an early run to set her up for the rest of the day, as was part of her usual routine. A shower later and she was standing in front of her mirror and attempting to pick an appropriate outfit for the day, while simultaneously probably paying too much mind to which Cian might like. In the end, she settled on a pair of pink cigarette trousers and a white shirt, hair scraped back into a high ponytail. She was just fastening a grip in place when her phone buzzed to let her know Cian was outside, and with a small exhale she finally grabbed her bag and headed out.

A quick scan of the car park alerted her to where he was waiting and as she wandered over to the car she failed to notice the black Mercedes with the blacked out windows sitting a few feet away. Opening the car door, Alannah was immediately hit with the familiar woodsy scents of pine and she took it in with a smile offered to her bodyguard, who she was now looking at from the passenger seat. "Good morning." Her eyes roamed his features briefly, taking in the leather jacket and feeling her cheeks warm slightly, which she quickly tried to disguise by twisting to fasten her seatbelt. "You're looking sharp McRannall, I was about to ask you if you're library opening ready but I don't think I need to." The expression on her features was mainly amusement but there was definitely a compliment buried in her statement too. "Before we do set off though, I have a question for you." Then, she dug around in her bag and pulled out her phone, giving him a little wave with it and trying not to bite her cheek slightly to stop herself from grinning. "What exactly were you doing at 11:57pm last night?"


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
"Good morning." Looking ever so pretty in pink, Cian watched as Alannah folded herself into the passenger seat of his car. He flushed, far more pleased than he expected to be at Alannah's compliment. A whole new slew of fireworks erupted into his belly. "T-thanks." He stumbled a little, realizing it was not often he was complimented on something like style. "You look really lovely too."

Needing something to do with his hands after that truthful compliment, he reached for the coffee that was Alannah's and was about to give it to her when she pulled out her phone and showed him the dreaded text message from last night. Cian winced a little but decided to take it in stride. He finished passing over the coffee and lifted his own to his lips, taking a sip of caffeine before answering. "Would you believe that it accidently sent last night as I was bravely fighting off an alien abduction?" He looked over at Alannah and after she quirked a brow at him he snorted. "I didn't think so." He turned to start the car, finding it easier to tell the truth while his hands were busy. "I was laying in bed and accidently dropped my phone on my face. I guess my nose had something more to tell you." Looking back on it now, Cian realized that he had been acting like a lovesick teenager, but now that she was around him again, it felt easier to own up to the truth. Well most of it at least, she still didn't need to know that he'd been agonizing over a million different text messages.

Cian once again slipped Alannah the AUX cord and they were off towards the library. Four songs later, Cian pulled them into the parking lot across from the library. He tucked them into the back corner and turned to face Alannah, his features more serious now as his mind switch over to body guarding mode.
"This will be our meeting spot if anything goes down." He twisted pulling up the lock for the back passenger seat behind them. "I usually leave this door open, the back windows are fully blacked out, so you can hide if you need." The two of them got out and Cian prepared the car as a potential hiding place, and they began their walk towards the library. "If we do hear any shots go off I want you to duck behind the closest thing you can, if there is nothing nearby, I'll make sure you can get behind me at the very least." Alannah pressed the button for the crosswalk and they waited for the the lights to change.

"Hey if this is at all too much let me know?" He thought back still to how recently she had indeed been shot at, a silly part of him wished he had been there, the idea of not being able to protect her seemed almost like a failure. "I'll do my best to keep the process short and sweet so we can get onto the fun stuff."


houseplant hoarder
Cian's returned compliment was met with a bashful smile as Alannah softly murmured her own thanks and took the coffee that was handed her way. "A lift into work and a coffee? I could get used to this y'know." And she meant that, she really, truly did.

His explanation about how she had ended up with the cryptic message nearly saw her spitting her coffee out on the windscreen in the next instance, and she brought her hand up in an attempt to try and hide the fact that she was almost choking with amusement. There was a teeny tiny part of Alannah that felt a little disappointed, in that Cian hadn't really meant to text her at all, but she guessed she could cope with that knowing when he'd dropped his phone on his face some kind of weird fate had picked her as the recipient of the incident. "I'm not sure if I prefer that or the alien abduction explanation. Either way, I'm pleased your phone chose me so we could have this very conversation." Flashing him another cheeky grin, she raised the coffee cup to her lips at about the same time as he handed her the AUX cord, with Alannah picking slightly more subdued tunes on this journey in an attempt to get herself into the mindset of the day ahead.

When they finally arrived and Cian pulled them into a parking spot, she hadn't been expecting him to explain what she would need to do, should there be an incident during their time at the library, which seemed silly considering that this was exactly what he was here to do. His words twisted something slightly uncomfortable in Alannah's gut though nevertheless - there had been so much going on that she hadn't realised this would be her first time out in front of an audience since the last time when she had almost been shot. What if the perpetrator tried it again? They hadn't been caught so it was now dawning on her that this was a very real possibility. As Cian was now explaining, he was there to protect her from this, but him telling her to duck behind him so that he could be in harms way instead, really didn't make her feel any better. In fact, it made her feel worse. If she were truly to be put in that situation, she wasn't sure she could choose her own life over Cian's, but she didn't let on to this fact. Instead, she nodded quietly, deep in thought while they wandered across the road, and only lifting her head when he asked her to let him know if it was too much.

"The fun stuff? I hope that's a promise." Her smile this time didn't quite meet her eyes though. "Sorry, no, I'm fine. It's just... Hearing all of this makes the danger seem more real somehow. I didn't realise this was the first time that I'd be back up on a stage since... since last time. It's good that we have a plan now though. Last time I just stood there like a sitting duck. Not my proudest moment."

When they finally rounded a corner, the city library loomed into view in front of them. There were already crowds of people gathered outside, and a stage with a large ribbon in between it and the front door set up. Alannah's eyes did a quick sweep of the vicinity before she spotted Stuart off to the side, speaking to some sound tech guys. Giving Cian's arm a nudge, she led him over to where her boss was standing, looking more than a little irate as usual. "Ah, Alannah. Good to see you. You too, Cian." He gave them a quick nod before launching into the itinerary for the day. "So, first things first is your speech, Alannah. Then--"
"Speech? Wait, what? What speech?" There was a shadow of mock horror that passed across her features, one that was mirrored tenfold in Stuart's before she broke out into a cackle.
"Just kidding. Yes, my speech, you were saying?"
Stuart looked suitably unimpressed as he shook his head. "Jesus, Alannah. So yes, as I was saying. Your speech will come first, then the ribbon cutting and then some photo ops inside the actual building. Sound good? We've got about... Ten minutes before you're up so, if you want to schmooze or get a coffee or whatever. Feel free."


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
He listened as she recounted the incident that had brought them together in the first place. Cian had a strong desire to wrap her up in his arms and give her a comforting squeeze. Instead he lightly bumped his arm into her shoulder. "The woman that I saw taking charge just hours after the incident was no sitting duck." He told her.

Cian had expected the crowd as they walked towards Stuart and the rest of the behind the scenes crew. The crowd seemed focused on the main stage and as far as Cian could tell there were no angry eyes pointed in their direction. Nevertheless he took up position between the crowd and Alannah. His hands slipped into the pockets of his leather jacket and he let his gaze roam over the surrounding city blocks. Next to the parking lot a high rise building stood, its glass gleaming in the morning sun. He spotted a few office lights on as the early birds tried to get in some work time before the inevitable meetings. His gaze traveled lower, and it didn't come as a surprise when he saw the West family name plastered to its signage. That family had their hands in everything.

His attention was brought back to earth when Alannah pretended to know nothing about the speech she was to give. Cian couldn't help the small snort that turned into a full laugh at Stuarts expression.
"She already tried that one on me." Cian said jovially, as Stuart chose to glaze over Alannah's attempts at light hearted comradery. He gave them the low down, and suggested they move along. Cian and Alannah departed from the Stuarts frazzled expression and Cian couldn't help but lean down to whisper. "In other words, get out of my way." He snorted again and shook his head. There was a table tucked away in the closed off staff area outside filled with all sorts of different coffee and pastry options, and they wandered towards it. "You're going to do great Alannah. Don't let anyone take away from what you've accomplished this day." He gave her two thumbs up and a cheeky smile. They passed the time, standing near the food, occasionally a member of the library's staff said hello, or staff from Alannah's team updated them with more information.

Cian was happy to stand back and let Alannah work, his smile growing warmer as an elderly woman thanked her profusely for holding to her promise to create new jobs. The ten minutes seemed to pass in a blink, and soon Stuart was ushering them towards the stage. Alannah held tightly to the speech she had prepared and Cian followed in her gait. The crowd began to cheer excitedly as Alannah walked up the stairs to the stage and towards the podium. Cian stood on the steps, leaning against the rung as his eyes scanned the crowd, looking for any sign of danger. The flashes of camera caught Alannah as she settled down her papers. As much as he wanted to, Cian would not allow himself to look at her and get lost, it was his job to protect her and he would make sure this day happened without a hitch.


houseplant hoarder
Alannah was pleased to hear that Cian was becoming fluent in Stuart already and she grinned at his muttered translation, falling into step with him again as he wandered to the caffeine and pastries table. Although she hadn't realised it until he said it, his words of encouragement were exactly what she had needed to hear in that moment, and the cheesy grin and the double thumbs up just about topped it off. "You're a dork," she laughed, shaking her head slightly. "But a sweet one. Thank you, Cian. I needed that."

As always with these kinds of events, ten minutes passed by in the blink of an eye and Alannah didn't get a chance to make a start on the pastry she had been eyeing up since they took up place by the snacks. Instead she was quickly thrown into her role by meeting and greeting members of the public, shaking hands, discussing her policies with a healthy dose of debate until Stuart finally came to find her with about as much grace as a dying swan. Alannah smiled as she started her way up the stairs, giving Cian once last glance before she began to count her footsteps, a silly kind of ritual she had grown accustomed to since the first time she had spoken to a crowd of people. It was nice to hear the cheers of support from the crowd, and this helped to take her mind off how currently out in the open she was, her hazel eyes briefly considering the tall building and the windows across from her.

Shuffling her papers on the podium, when the audience eventually quietened, Alannah took a breath. And began.

"Thank you all so much for the lovely welcome, it's a privilege to be here today to speak to you all, and open the brand new community library that is standing in wait behind us." Another round of applause sounded, one in which Alannah paused for and allowed herself to search out where Cian was standing. When she caught his eye, she felt her smile widen a little further for the briefest of moments, before she glanced back down at her speech once more. Any lingering nerves were quickly dissipated, just by seeing him standing there, his hands in the pockets of the leather jacket that suited him so well, his dark eyes shining in the sunlight.

"Of course, there are many people without whom the opening of what I hope will be a successful community space for adults and children alike, wouldn't have been possible..." Alannah delved into a list of thank yous next, waving her hand towards each person, or group of people in line with their acknowledgement. "But most of all, I wanted to say thank you to you, the public, for supporting my campaign, my policies and for making this happen. Not only will this library create more jobs for the people in this neighbourhood, but it will also provide access to free internet and computers, and of course, hundreds of wonderful stories for our children and their parents. And their grandparents, aunties, uncles..." Alannah's rolled her hand then to a communal mumble of laughter. "But perhaps most importantly, it will create a safe space for the community to come together, to share stories of their own and to reengage with the people around them. As you all know, community is as the heart of everything that we do and I can only hope that this is the first project of many that will allow us to begin to rebuild Kirkbridge as the place to live that we all know it to be. So without further ado... Let's open a library, shall we?"

There was a confidence about Alannah as she spoke, one that was always there but especially shone when she was in her element. She knew just when to pause at the right time, when to make things humorous, when to pull back and look at her notes, when to make eye contact. Her image was carefully curated from years of experience, but at the same time sometimes it felt like this was what she was born to do.

When the ribbon was finally cut and multiple pictures taken, she eventually headed back down the stairs where she met Cian, suddenly nervous all over again but this time for very different reasons. He hadn't seen her make a speech before and suddenly Alannah found that his opinion mattered to her, perhaps more than any. "So," she breathed as she came to a stop in front of him, tilting her head back slightly so she could see him. "How'd I do? I guess nobody took a shot at me this time so, it must have been better than my last speech."


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
Alannah prepared and Cian focused his gaze around the perimeter of the stage, occasionally his gaze caught the movement of a spectator moving through the crowd only to meet up with their own party a few short moments after. The crowd broke into another round of applause as Alannah opened up the speech. When she didn't resume as quickly as Cian expected her to, his gaze shifted and locked with hers. For one bright moment she was everything, were Cian an artist he would have loved to have captured the moment. The subtle widening of her smile, the spark in her eye that he recognized to be the Alannah he'd met in the pub, just simmering under the surface. He loved the bright contrast of her pink suit against the sensible grey of the libraries architecture, it was just so perfectly Alannah.

She looked away and he forced himself back to the task at hand. As Alannah's confident voice filtered out of the speakers and down into the crowd below he watched. His eyes lifted, looking for any suspicious sights from the neighbouring buildings, but there was nothing. Minutes trickled by and as Alannah explained the benefits of the cities newest infrastructure Cian grew more certain nothing would happen, certainly if something were going to happen it would have happened by now? Cian couldn't help the sweet rush of relief that filled him as Alannah wrapped up and began the ribbon cutting procedures.

As photos were taken Cian winced inwardly, wondering if Booker expected to see him within those photos. He wasn't sure he wanted to sit through another lecture, especially one on the topic of getting his workplaces brand out there. Truthfully Cian was grateful to not be in front of the camera. Alannah seemed so natural and easy as she shook hands and paused appropriately for each press member and their eager photos. Certainly Cian had an easy going nature to him, but for some inexplicable reason, anytime he had posed for school photos or been asked to smile for group photos; each picture had come out looking more cringey than the next. He'd been told not to overthink and just relax, but then he'd overthink about about not overthinking and well... it was a disaster.

Cian straightened out of his thoughts as Alannah approached him. She stopped half a meter away from him and looked up at him, a breathless question on her lips. Cian couldn't stop the proud grin and he reached out with his large hands and placed them on her shoulders. With a gentle pressure he guided her until her back was to him and they both looked up at the steady stream of people as they filtered into the now open doors of the library.
"I'd say you did amazing." Cian told her, his voice gruffer than normal. It took him a moment to realise his hands were still resting on her shoulders and he dropped them quickly, feeling the warmth of her still.
"Alannah!" Stuart's voice caught them both by surprise and they looked at him with twin dumbfounded expressions. "We need you in the kids section now. They're just corralling the little devils now. I'm off to the computer lab to do a bit of a tour." Stuart gave them a no nonsense nod before departing them with hasty steps. Cian's brow lifted as they watched after him.

"After you." Cian gestured with a hand before falling into step next to Alannah. They walked up the steps to the library and Cian took time to appreciate the modern sweeping architecture. Curved walls hosted numerous windows that filtered light onto the fully stocked shelves. Bright, happy neon signage indicated where one might find each section. It wasn't hard to find the kids section with its brightly coloured paints and glossy statues that invited children to imagine. Already children were making a mess of a large platform that had been filled to the brim with comfy pillows to nest in with a good book. A rather haggard looking woman did her best to encourage the children to settle and take their seats.

"We've got Miss. Heshmati coming to read us a story, let's use our listening ears everyone!" The woman tried, only to be ignored by the small hoard of kids. She lifted her hand to try another tactic but a pillow whizzing just a breath away from her face had her squeaking in surprise instead. Taking pity on the woman Cian stepped onto the platform. Naturally his size was quite impressive, even more so to a tiny child and so it came to no surprise when a few of the munchkins turned their eyes to him. Remembering a tip from his mother, who had joined in on many field trips during his childhood, Cian lifted a hand. His middle and ring finger touched his thumb while his pinky and pointer finger pointed up.
"Quiet Coyote." He told the nearest child whose attention he had captured. Immediately the child copied the hand gesture and made a twisting motion with their body to show anyone nearby their intended instructions. One by one each child adopted the gesture and turned their eyes to Cian. "Well then, that's better hey?" Cian smiled at the kids and folded his arms over his chest. "I don't see enough butts in cushions. Get on it hooligans." The sound of childish laughter filled the room as kids rushed to do just that. "All yours Ms. Heshmati." Cian told her, as he too found a pillow and settled into it.


houseplant hoarder
Cian's large hands were warm on her shoulders and when he guided her around so that her back was facing him, she couldn't help but smile as she looked back up at him over her shoulder. They were suddenly impossibly close and this realisation coupled with his confirmation that she had done well, sent a ripple of warmth through her chest, one that she was completely engrossed in until Stuart's abrupt tone interrupted them. Cian's hands dropped away and Alannah was left feeling the imprints of his fingers through her blazer, not quite registering her boss's words until the no nonsense nod. With a sheepish smile cast in her bodyguard's direction, she finally slipped past him and up the stairs into the library.

The building was impressive, there was no doubt about it. It was light and open without being clinical, there were comfy reading hideaways in every corner and shelves full to the brim with stories of all different kinds. No matter how many design briefs Alannah had signed off on, nothing could have quite prepared her for seeing this place in the flesh, a concrete and solid representation of all of the hard work she and her team had put in over the past few months. This was more than just a photo opportunity and a nice speech - the library was a permanent effect that she'd had upon the community and watching groups of people pass by excitedly chattering about books, or seeing two teenagers launch themselves into one of the snugs made her feel a little emotion. Or at least that was until they entered the kids' section to bet met with a pool of wriggling tinies.

Alannah herself was pretty good with kids, her family was huge and at various different events there was always at least four children in attendance. However, she gave a look of sympathy to the lady who was trying to call them into some kind of order and had been about to step forwards to make an attempt herself when unexpectedly, Cian got in there first. She watched him step onto the platform and make the signal, telling the nearest child the code words which suddenly seemed to spread through the small group like wildfire. As if captivated, the kids were looking up at him in awe in next to no time at all and at his order they jumped to it, squealing in delight over finding their individual spots on the multicoloured rug beneath them. Alannah was left looking at her bodyguard with a somewhat incredulous yet hugely impressed expression, the lady from earlier thanking him when he stepped down. As he passed Alannah by, she raised an eyebrow. "Quiet Coyote?" She was dying to ask him where he'd learned that, just as much as she so desperately wasn't trying to imagine what the handsome man in front of her would look like as a father. His huge form sat amongst the kids on a pillow, and several of them moved closer to him and it was as much as Alannah could do to not spontaneously combust on the spot. Seeing how good Cian was with kids was unearthing all sorts of feelings with her, which she now had to ignore in favour of reading a story. God help me.

"Thank you, Mr McRannall," Alannah took a steadying breath and smiled, before taking up her position on the seat in front of the group. "Alright, given that super cool display of using our listening ears, I think I'm going to let you all pick the story you want, how does that sound?" There was a small cheer to which Alannah grinned before she held up two books for the children to take a vote on, eventually winding up with The Gruffalo as their story of choice.

There were numerous flashes of cameras as she started to read, but neither she nor the children seemed to notice, so engrossed were they in the story after all of a minute. Like everything she did, Alannah threw herself into the challenge, changing her voice to match the characters, whispering odd sentences so that the children had to lean in to hear her. Occasionally she'd stop and then jumpstart again, making them all scream with laughter and by the end of it they were begging for another story. By the time she had made her way through a second book, Stuart had to practically drag her away so that she could visit the computer lab next, but that wasn't before some of the kids gathered around her once she had stood from her seat.

"Please Ms Heshmati, just one more?"
"I tell you what, once I've followed the grumpy man for a bit I might sneak back up here before I leave, how's that sound?"
"Ms Heshmati, is your job hard?"
"It can be, yeah. It's fun too though."
"I like your pink suit, Ms Heshmati!"
"Thank you, chick. I love your dress too. Are they strawberries on the bottom?"
"Ms Heshmati, is the big man your boyfriend?" It was this question however that made her pause, her cheeks growing a slightly subtle shade of pink. Her hazel eyes looked up at Cian and she opened her mouth but then closed it again, stumbling for exactly how to explain what Cian was to her, and wondering why the thought of answering yes to the question caused an explosion of butterflies to erupt in her stomach. With a soft chuckle, she shook her head slightly at her own sudden inability to be coherent. "Mr McRannall? I'll let you take that one."


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
She was a masterful storyteller, Alannah used tone and expression to draw the children in and well... Cian had to admit he too was hooked on the way she brought each story to life. Kids gravitated to her, their pillows inching closer and closer with each turn of the page. There was a strange mixture of emotion that fluttered through him at the sight of Alannah surrounded by kids. A sense of longing gripped him tightly by the heart strings, while the impending notion of Alannah's importance threatened to claw its way out of him. Truthfully Cian had never felt urges such as these before, it seemed almost impossible to label what the hell was going on in his mind. He wanted to protect her, uplift her, make her laugh. He wanted to see those fiery eyes light up every day for the rest of his life.

Too soon Alannah had to wrap up, much to his dismay as much as the kids. Alannah was plagued with questions as the kids were reluctant to let their storyteller go. Dutifully she answered each one, taking a step towards the end of the platform with each question asked. Cian stood as well, ready to follow his charge as she moved along to the next item on the itinerary. Wide eyes looked at him before a young boy turned and asked the question of their relationship. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised, were he that boys age he might want to know if the pretty storyteller was spoken for as well.

Cian enjoyed watching as the flush her cheeks sported matched the pink of her suit, a slow and easy smile spreading over his features. He took a step, navigating through the throng of children to take his place next to Alannah. Their arms brushed as Cian regarded the small boy who looked at him with soulful eyes. Unable to help himself he made a comically big yawn, and did the classic stretch and arm wrap around, his arm curling around Alannah's shoulders and drawing her close to him.
"No way." He told the boy, his tone entirely too playful to be taken seriously. "That's crazy talk my boy." The kids groaned at his non answer and Cian had to chuckle. Her scent filled his nostrils and Cian wanted to stay like that, with her tucked against him for as long as she would let him. Cian was grateful that the press had left around the second story, getting most of the footage they needed, and moving along to other parts of the library. Had they been around, he wouldn't have dared. "We'll be back." He promised them, and Cian's arm slipped away from her shoulders. He reached the edge of the platform before her and stepped down. Without thinking, Cian turned and offered his hand to Alannah to help her take the step down. Her grip was warm in his and he gave her hand a friendly squeeze before letting it go.

"Here I am thinking that the politician's life is the perfect life for you, but I could picture you in an elementary school library just as easy now." Cian told her as they navigated through the shelves and towards the computer lab and community spaces.
"Took you both long enough." Stuart said disapprovingly as they caught up with him just outside the lab. Despite Stuart's clear stress over the days proceedings it was clear to Cian that the man was proud of what they had accomplished. "The mayor is here." Stuart half whisper shouted to Alannha. "He showed up just a few minutes ago, he's most eager to shake your hand."


houseplant hoarder
She would recognise that lazy smile anywhere, and hazel eyes remained steady upon Cian’s moving form as he approached her through the throng of children. Alannah had no idea how he planned to answer, but pretending to yawn so he could wrap an arm around her shoulder was not it. If her cheeks weren’t pink before then they certainly were now, especially as her heart skittered, the smile remaining on her face nonetheless. In her own mind, Alanna could imagine looping her arm around Cian’s waist in return, her other hand coming up to rest against his chest as she leaned backwards to look up at him, while he bent down to— It was his final contradicting answer though that shook her out of this small vision eventually, and left her chuckling at the resulting reactions, already missing the warmth of his arm around her shoulder once it had slipped away. Thankfully, she didn’t have to wait long for the next point of contact though when he held his hand out to help her down from the platform. Gripping larger fingers with her own smaller ones, Alannah hopped back down onto the floor and returned the friendly squeeze, her thumb gently running along the top of Cian's hand. When they finally (and somewhat reluctantly) let go, she simply gave him a beaming smile, one that said I felt that too.

Once they managed to detach themselves from the small crowd of children, the two fell into step beside each other once more as they made for the computer lab. Cian's comment about picturing her in an elementary school made her chuckle, her arm brushing his as they walked. "That maybe so, but I figure I took the easy option out of those two choices. Their poor teacher looked run off her feet." Still smiling, Alannah continued. "We have a lot of kids in my family so I guess I'm kind of used to story time." Then she shrugged before turning to glance at Cian briefly, gently nudging his arm with her elbow. "But anyway, I'm not so sure about my career in teaching but yours on the other hand, quiet coyote. I don't think I've ever been so impressed by you before. You gotta tell me where that stroke of genius came from?" She was teasing him of course, Cian was constantly impressing Alannah.

When they finally arrived at the computer lab to a slightly flustered looking Stuart, the small brunette rolled her eyes at his greeting although her expression changed completely at his mention of the mayor. "The mayor is... here?" She whisper shouted back at him, eyes already beginning to sparkle. "He wasn't scheduled to come to this, did something change or...?"
"I don't know, Alannah. All I know is that here is here and he wants to meet you and... he is coming this way right now, prepare yourself." Stuart's face suddenly lit up into a slightly unnatural looking smile as he turned to greet an older looking gentleman with greying hair, flanked by who Alannah assumed was his security. "Ah, Mr Mayor. Thank you so much for joining us today. I have just the woman here I'd like you to meet. Mr Mayor, this is Alannah Heshmati. Alannah, Mr Mayor." Alannah smiled and held out her hand for him to take. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Likewise. So you are the woman behind the all of this, hm?"
"One of many men and women," Alannah corrected. "A lot of work went into this place behind the scenes, I couldn't possibly take credit for all of it. Some if though, I am responsible for, yes." Before the mayor could continue however, Alannah stepped aside slightly. "Oh, may I please introduce you to Cian McRannall as well? Cian is standing in as my temporary bodyguard." The mayor held out a hand to Cian, however he did not introduce his own security guard.

"Yes, I saw on the news the unfortunate incident at your last event, Ms Heshmati. I truly am relieved that it has not put you off such endeavours. I have to say, I am somewhat surprised that you have jumped back into things so quickly." Alannah couldn't help but frown slightly at this statement, but the mayor was quick to break out into a smile that didn't fully reach his eyes. "I mean no offense of course, each to their own. You must be very dedicated to your work." Slowly, Alannah nodded.
"Yes, Mr Mayor. I am."
"Good. Good. That's great to see." Another pause. "Well congratulations, Ms Heshmati. This really is a wonderful achievement that I am sure the community will continue to benefit from for many years to come."


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
"Oh you know." Cian told Alannah casually, doing his best not to let it show how much her words had effected him. The happy warmth that had settled through him seemed to grow tenfold as they walked towards the computer lab. He was about to tell her were he had gotten quiet coyote from but Stuarts presence and announcement stopped him. An unexpected mayoral visit, now that was something else. Cian's grin stayed in place as the two collogues whispered desperately about what to do when the mayor approached. Cian gave the the mayor an up and down look, taking in the well tailored suit that flattered the middle aged white man. While Stuart made introductions Cian sized up the security detail that accompanied the mayor. It came as no surprise to him that he was flanked by a man who looked like he came straight out of the movies. Dark sunglasses covered the mans eyes, and he wore a dark suit, so as not to outside his charge. Cian and the man exchanged brief nods before his attention was drawn back to the conversation as Alannah introduced him.

Moving forward Cian grasped the limp hand of the mayor, wincing inwardly at the weak handshake. "An absolute pleasure to meet you sir." The mayor spared him only a moments glance before turning back to Alannah. His words were just as weak as his handshake, and Cian's frown matched Alannah's as they took in the words of praise that felt so meaningless. Despite the weight of the awkward conversation both the Mayor and Stuart continued on.
"Ms. Heshmati is certainly ready to serve her community." Stuart told the man cheerily. "In fact she'll be at the charity gala this Friday. I believe you'll be in attendance as well?" Stuart asked in a sickly sweet saccharine voice. "We're most excited to support you and your latest initiative towards education." For a moment the mayors face screwed up at the mention of the gala, almost like the fact that he had such an event to go to was news to him. After a moment the mayor lifted his shoulder and placed a friendly hand on Stuart's shoulder, he let out a low rich chuckle of amusement.
"My wife sets those things up, you know how women are with their schedules and the like. She tells me where to go and I go." He laughed again. "Truly the only thing I want marked in my calendar these days is when I can play the nine hole at the country club. Speaking of which, I'm running late for my tee time." The mayor winked at Alannah and Cian struggled to understand why the man even bothered showing up. His questions were answered when the mayor snapped his fingers and a haggard looking photographer seemed to appear out of nowhere. Alannah was unceremoniously directed to clasp the mayors hand once more. She was barely given any time to prepare as the mayor snapped on his award winning smile and looked to the camera.

A few shots were taken and when the photographer stepped away the mayor tipped an invisible hat towards Alannah. "Great work Ms. Heshmati. I suppose I'll see you at what ever gala is happening on Friday." The man turned on his heel and just like that he was out the library door and off to the greens. There was a sort of stunned silence between the three of them, interrupted only by Stuart as he clapped his hands together.
"Ok, we've got another hour before we wrap up here Alannah. I'd mingle in the lab for a bit, but wander for the last half of the hour. Lots of hand shaking, lots of smiling. You're killing it." Stuart's final praise had him smiling warmly at his co-worker. "I'll catch up with you later." Stuart turned, his gaze growing a few degrees cooler as he regarded Cian. "Cian." Was his only word as farewell before he marched off.

Cian rubbed the back of his neck, watching after the hot and then cold man. He was about to speak when the door to the computer lab swung open and Alannah was invited in to speak to a few community members. The final hour seemed to drag on for Cian, he kept close to Alannah ensuring her safety. Truly though, he just wanted to sit down and chat with her, he waited patiently as Alannah wrapped up another conversation.


houseplant hoarder
Meeting the mayor was an experience that fell slightly short of what Alannah had been expecting. There was something odd about the way he spoke to her, a feeling which had plagued her about Preston after he'd left her office the last time she had seen him. It almost felt like there was hidden meaning behind his words, except for the praise which sounded like it had no feeling at all. Being congratulated by the mayor should have been a big deal, but Alannah's mind was now elsewhere as Stuart stepped in to try and navigate the slight awkwardness that had arisen somewhere during their conversation. If Alannah didn't know better, she may have thought she was losing her touch, but a quick glance at the straight line upon Cian's features was a good indicator that she wasn't the only one who was feeling a little off.

The two men continued their conversation, which had Alannah internally cringing at how someone in a position of such authority could know so little about what was going on around him. Him turning up here had been nothing more than a publicity stunt, which she supposed she was used to in some respects, but at least most of the people she dealt with were good at hiding their naivety towards the real world. Blinking when the photographer turned up, Alannah took that as her cue, trying to shrug off how she wasn't a fan of being winked at by older men as she plastered a false smile across her features. The mayor's hand was limp in her own and when the whole ordeal was finally over, she straightened out her fingers as if to shake off the feeling completely. "Thank you, Mr Mayor." She managed another smile when he tipped his imaginary hat. "I'll look forward to it." And avoid you for most of the night wherever possible. The thought nearly slipped out through gritted teeth but the brunette caught herself, and managed an exhale and a nod in response to Stuart's instruction. The genuine praise at least was appreciated, although she couldn't help but raise a brow at his farewell to her bodyguard. Turning to Cian, she asked, "So the donuts didn't work, huh?"

The next hour dragged for Alannah, too. She enjoyed speaking to community members, it was perhaps one of her favourite parts of the job. She smiled, shook hands as suggested but perhaps most importantly she made notes of what they thought of the library so far, of other things the community and the building itself might benefit from, and their thoughts on her other policies which some were keen to bring up. However, she couldn't quite shake off the conversation with the mayor and by the end of it all she was truly flagging as her mind struggled to keep up with how many thoughts were whizzing around it. Once she had said goodbye to the last remaining members of the public, some of her team and finally Stuart himself, Alannah looked tired, and she let out a yawn as she finally turned to Cian once more.

"I'm absolutely whacked," she sighed, using her hand to cover her mouth. "What a day." Despite her feelings though, she couldn't help but smile at Cian who had stood by her side through all of it. Her head tilted slightly to the side as she regarded him. "Did you maybe fancy... going somewhere with me? I feel like I need to decompress a bit before I go home and collapse into bed." This maybe wasn't her smartest suggestion after what had happened last time they did this, but Alannah's desire to chat with Cian now far outweighed the potential consequences. Plus, they'd be much more careful this time, right? "Or we could just go back to mine," she continued with a small shrug a few moments later. "I have tea. And biscuits. It can be my treat."


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
The was an air of weariness to Alannah that had Cian concerned. Truthfully he could relate to her, the constant demands of the day had been both exciting and mentally taxing. How Alannah was able to give each member of the community her undivided attention and care was a marvel to him. He wasn't sure if he could find the energy to approach and mingle with as many people as she did, especially with the confidence and grace Alannah seemed to perfected. She yawned and Cian had to stifle his own yawn in response to hers. They stood near the entrance of the library, surrounded by new books and late afternoon light.

"That sounds like a great idea. I could go for something..." His stomach rumbled and he realized the two of them had gone without lunch and it was already well on the way to dinner. At her suggestion that they visit her place he felt a warm flush move over the apples of his cheeks. "Let's do it. No pesky press to deal with there." An idea occurred to him then and as Alannah was about to take a step towards the lot he held up a finger asking her silently to wait. Digging out his phone Cian dialed the familiar number and raised the device to his ear.

"Hey dad." Cian said warmly. "I was just on my way home, was wondering if I could get two orders of the usual... Perfect. Thanks, see you in ten." He clicked to hang up and grinned down at Alannah. "How about tea and biscuits after supper?" They walked together, down the stairs of the library and out into the busy city. Together the two of them made their way to Cian's car and within a matter of moments they were off and away. It didn't take too long for Cian to pull up to their first destination, a cute little corner city ground floor pub that held numerous apartments over top of it. The outside was decorated with dark brick that had been spray painted and tagged by numerous locals that frequented the pub. A large wood sign held white lettering "The Finest Fiddle" with a little violin next to the text. Cian flipped on his hazard lights and whipped out his phone once more to text his dad.

Within moments a large man exited the red double doors that held signage for events and specials. He was bald with a beard much like Cian's, as he walked a cane tapped at his side helping move along his right leg as it dragged along the ground. In his other hand he held a large brown bag that was spattered in grease stains. The man waved away Cian's attempt to exit the car and leaned down on the open driver side window to peer in at the two occupants in the car.

"Well now, who've you got there son?" The man flashed Alannah a smile that was so clearly the same as his sons, his Irish accent was thicker than Cian's however.
"Dad, this is Alannah Heshmati. She works up at that fancy government building downtown. Ms. Heshmati this is Donovan McRannall, my Dad." Cian gestured between the two of them and then leaned back into his seat as his father thrust his hand in the car to shake Alannah's hand.
"A pleasure to meet you lass. I shant keep you, but I do hope you'll be stopping in sometime. We've got live music every Thursday. Quite the show when my wife's home." Donovan gave his sons shoulder a squeeze and passed through the bag. A rich aroma filled the car and Cian's mouth watered.
"Thanks dad. I'll see you Sunday after the game." Cian gave his dad a farewell wave before passing the bag to Alannah to hold as he started up the car and began to drive the two of them down the familiar path to Alannah's apartment. "Dad makes the best Yorkshire puddings. As well as his steak and potatoes, honestly everything is amazing there. He and mom were the ones who taught me quiet coyote." He told her in an afterthought. "They were there for all the school fieldtrips and sleep away camps and I tended to have very busy friends."


houseplant hoarder
"Great." Alannah was practically beaming by the time that Cian agreed to go back to her place, but she couldn't help but furrow her brow in confusion when he stopped her from making any tracks towards his car. A small, amused smirk graced her features, even more so when he greeted his dad on the other end of the line before ordering two of... 'the usual'. Once he had hung up, the small politician's eyebrows had raised expectantly, his question not quite delivering the explanation she had been waiting for. So instead, she let out a soft chuckle when they eventually started towards the carpark. "Alright then, Mr Mysterious. Tea and biscuits after supper."

There was a little flare up of nerves within Alannah's stomach as they set off, passing through the streets as the sun began to sink a little lower in the sky, casting the city into a warming orange haze. From what she had heard of his phone call, she assumed they would be making a stop to see Cian's dad, and she couldn't decide why that mattered to her so much. She was excited as much as she was slightly anxious, an odd sensation for Alannah who usually breezed through situations with not much anxiety at all. She guessed she was lucky like that, or just very good at burying her feelings. Not this time though, this time the very real notion that this meeting mattered had settled the feeling sternly in her stomach.

The tea time traffic was building, but Cian seemed to know all of the best routes and they were soon pulling up to The Finest Fiddle, which Alannah leaned over towards Cian slightly to look at through the window. The pub was charming, a juxtaposition against the flats that had been built above it. In fact, so engrossed was she in taking in the dark bricks and the red double doors that she missed her bodyguard sending a text, only bringing herself back into the present when those same double doors flung open to reveal a slightly hunched over, bald man with a beard, who looked like Cian might in quite a few years time walking towards them. She didn't have to ask to know that this was his dad and she immediately broke into a smile when his son wound down the window to greet them both. His thicker Irish accent was just the cherry on top.

"It's lovely to meet you too, Mr McRannall. And there was me thinking that Cian was about to introduce me to his younger brother." It was a cheesy greeting but one that Alannah's grin said that she knew as such and that's why she'd said it.
To this, Donovan chuckled as Alannah took his hand and gave it a squeeze. "See now, she's a keeper," he wagged his finger at Cian before telling her about the pub behind them. It sounded great. It really, truly did. "I would love to," Alannah responded with genuine excitement at the prospect before she was thanking him for whatever was in the bag and waving a goodbye when Cian pulled them away from the curb. "Mm, what is this?" She asked curiously, looking down at the greasy brown bag that was now in her lap and inhaling deeply. "It smells... divine." When he answered her though, her hazel eyes lit up. "Oh my god, Mr McRannall, you and your father are a dream, you hear me? An absolute dream! This is exactly what I need right now. Please break every speed limit so you can get us back home as soon as possible." The latter statement was peppered with a giggle before she twisted in her seat slightly to look at Cian properly. She had enjoyed watching him interact with his father; it felt as though he was letting her see a little bit more of him beyond his role to protect her. In fact, it had left Alannah wanting to know more. So much more.

"Ah, I see," she nodded wisely when he explained where his saying had come from earlier. "So am I correct in assuming that that little trick will work on you too? I'll bear that in mind next time you're misbehaving." Leaning over to prod him in the arm, Alannah burst into another grin then before looking back out of the window, musing around her thoughts.

"So, do your mum and dad run The Finest Fiddle, then? It looked like a really lovely place."


Everything's Shiny Cap'n
Donovan and Alannah chatted amiably and Cian felt his breath gently leaving his body in a relieved exhalation. He had not truly realized what it meant to him to see the two of them meet, it was even more meaningful when Alannah accepted the invitation to see the live music sometime. What a show they would put on for her, Cian mused as they pulled away from the curb and headed back into traffic. The city was alive and well in the tea time traffic, cars filtered through lights, occasionally beeping at one another when they didn't hit the gas fast enough. Cian filtered out the distracting noises sights, when it was just the two of them he didn't seem to mind the rest.

"...you and your father are a dream, you hear me? An absolute dream! This is exactly what I need right now. Please break every speed limit so you can get us back home as soon as possible." The glee in her voice had him feeling like he was on top of the world. At that moment the light turned green and he shot off, pressing his foot down on the gas a little harder than normal. The little hatchback's tires chirped as they took off. Cian was laughing as they peacefully came to a stop moment's later at the next red light.
"Sorry Chewie, I can't seem to punch it." Cian joked, normally he didn't let his nerd flag fly, but Alannah seemed to draw it out of him. The light turned once again and they continued on, Cian felt Alannah prod his arm and he gave her a sideways look.

"There is great power in the quiet coyote, use it wisely." He broke into a grin and turned his attention back to the road. With the pleasant distraction of Alannah, Cian failed to notice the black sedan three cars behind them. It had been tailing them since their departure from the library, having left from the underground parking from the West Tower. Instead Cian was more than happy to answer the question from the beautiful woman in his passenger seat. "Well mainly it's my dad, he's got a bunch of hired help of course. Mom helps out when she's in town, but right now she's on tour. My mom is the lead violinist for the Kirkbridge orchestra. They've been on tour for the past few weeks though. If she's to be believed this might be her last one before she retires... though she said that about the tour before this one too." Cian shrugged, while he missed his mother, it was abundantly clear she was doing the thing she loved the most and he could not fault her for that.

"What are your parents like?" Cian asked making the last turn before Alannah's building came into view. He navigated through the last bit of traffic before pulling into the underground parking. The black sedan with it's tinted windows paused only for a moment, its break lights glowing deep red in the evening light, before passing the parking lane and turning around the closest corner.


houseplant hoarder
The nerd flag certainly did not go unnoticed by Alannah, who knew the reference because she had her own nerd flag squirrelled away somewhere, and many different variations upon a theme. She chose not to comment this time though, mentally filing the knowledge for safe keeping and settling for listening to Cian speak more about his parents. To hearing that his mother was on tour Alannah's hands flew up to cup her cheeks, eyes shining with delight when he told her that she was the lead violinist in the city's orchestra. "Oh my god, no way! And you didn't choose one of her tracks as your car song yesterday? I am shocked, Mr McRannall." Despite her feigned outrage though, she was grinning so much her cheeks ached. "That's honestly so cool though, your mum is my hero. I can only hope that I land a gig one day that will see me touring well into retirement age."

When the question was turned back on her, at first she gave a wry smile and a small shrug as she looked out of the window at her apartment block coming into view ahead of them, completely oblivious to the black sedan, just as Cian was. "Oh you know... They're like... parents." She looked over at Cian and rolled her eyes when he looked back at her expectantly. "No, they're great, really. My dad is a worrier. I guess bringing up three daughters can do that to a guy." The brunette chuckled as her father's voice echoed through her thoughts. You see these grey hairs here on my head? You girls put them there. "My mum is much calmer. She's like the rock of our family, and I swear she can calm my dad down with a single touch. It's like magic. They're both very spirited though and... quite religious. They still actively practice but they gave my sisters and I the choice whether to continue when we were old enough." Speaking about her parents made her miss them - it had been a while since she'd paid them a visit and she made a mental note to pop in on them soon. It was easy to let work get carried away with itself but Alannah always tried to make time for her family. "They really are great though, I think you'd like them. They worked ridiculously hard to provide for us when they were younger and I honestly don't think I'd be where I am today without them."

A few minutes later and Cian was pulling into Alannah's underground car park, the two of them getting out of his car at the same time and making their way to the elevator. Alannah felt a little nervous about inviting him into her most private space, not many people were given the opportunity to see this very personal side of her and she found that she wanted Cian to like what he saw. It was for this reason that she fell a little quiet as they made their way out of the elevator and down the hallway, finally reaching a black door with a woven mat outside of it that Alannah's sister had made for her when she'd first moved into her own place. "Alright, here we are," she breathed, pushing the key into the lock and then opening it up so that she and Cian could step into her world.

The apartment was modern inside, and nicely furnished but had all the homely touches to make the place truly Alannah's. Her furniture was bright, with a velvet yellow sofa in the living area, shelves lining the walls with numerous books, plants and nicknacks placed along them and a television with a Nintendo games console attached to it. On the walls were various pieces of art and photographs of Alannah with family and friends, and there were touches of her culture spattered around the place. On the end of one shelf sat a Krishna ornament, and there were beads and incense on the other end, with all sorts of bits and bobs in between. On the coffee table in front of her television was an open packet of chocolate, on the sofa a crumpled blanket and a book that was left open on the page she had been reading, and it was this that she quickly moved towards first, looking slightly sheepish. "Sorry, it's a little messy," she murmured as she grabbed the chocolate and started towards the kitchen. The apartment was open plan so she could still see Cian from where she was now shoving the packet into a cupboard. "Come in though, make your self at home. I'll set us up with the food. Do you think we need plates?"
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Everything's Shiny Cap'n
"Uh... Alright Ms. Heshmati, should my mother ever hear word that I didn't pick her music as my favourite I will no longer live on this earthly plane." Cian winced at the thought of his fiery mother coming to such a realization. "Do me a solid and keep this between us?" He glanced at her and found he enjoyed the shit eating grin she wore. "I'm done for." He muttered. Hearing about her family made him chuckle, he liked the sound of a gaggle of daughters driving their father crazy. He wondered what Alannah was like as a kid, he could picture her as the sort of child to brush herself off and get right back to playing after a tumble.

"They sound like great people." Cian agreed when she suggested he might like them. The thought of visiting her family was certainly a two sided coin; desperately he wanted to discover all the parts that had come together to shape the woman she had become. There was something terrifying about meeting them as well, for some inexplicable reason Cian recognized that meeting Alannah's family was important.

When they arrived in the parking garage, Cian happily followed after Alannah as she led them up the elevator and up to her home. Cian's first impression of the cute little home was that this was a happy place. The bight yellows with pops of art and culture were so perfectly her. He chuckled as the politician quickly swept away a few of the hints of her nesting.
"Yeah I think plates is a good idea." Cian told her, pausing to peer at the games console. A few of game boxes were tucked in one of the open cubbies of her entertainment unit. He spotted a few he recognized as well as some that he was not familiar with. His gaze shifted to a few of the photos that were carefully placed on the shelves along with a few tchotchkes. (OOC: I don't want to say how many tries it took to spell that right.)

The clank of plates on the small rounded dining table had Cian turning away from Alannah's graduation photo sooner than he would have liked. Alannah was placing cutlery and he went over to help. Cian opened the bag, careful to avoid the staples that held it closed and began to pull out matching brown food containers. By the time the two of them had the containers open the smell of Yorkshire pudding and garlic mash filled their nostrils. Cian slid into the seat across from Alannah and offered to ladle some of the gravy and horseradish aioli over her pudding. He looked to her for when and he was pleased she didn't shy away from extra sauce.
"You've got a nice place. It's very you." He told her his usual wolfish grin firmly in place. He lifted his fork and knife and digging happily into the steak. He groaned in pure bliss at the first bite. "It never get's old. That first taste." Cian took his second bite and made another exaggerated noise. "Say, are you any good at those games over there?" Cian gestured with his fork over the Nintendo system and raised a brow. There was a bit of a challenge in the glint of his eye.


houseplant hoarder
There was something that felt intimate about having Cian in her own personal space. Alannah wanted to pay close attention to what he was looking at, to explain things if she felt silly about them, or to gage what he liked and what he didn't. In the end though, when she had finally carried the plates and cutlery to her two person dining table, she found that his compliment relaxed her and as always with Cian, she naturally fell into feeling very comfortable with having him around. The food looked and tasted divine and Alannah made several inappropriate noises throughout their meal, much to Cian's amusement, before she took him up on the challenging glint in his eye when he showed an interest in her Switch. "Sure, there's plenty. But are you sure you're ready for another ass-kicking?" She was of course referring to their air hockey extravaganza, but as it so happened on this occasion, Cian was much better than she was at Mario Kart. There were demands for rematches, several rematches actually, but in the end she had no choice but to admit defeat when they realised that it was nearing 10pm and they both had work the next day.

Something shifted between Cian and Alannah over the next couple of days and it seemed to stem from the fact that she had now met his father and he had seen her apartment. Those weren't two things that one work colleague could say they had often experienced about another work colleague. No, they were now moving much more swiftly into the realms of friendship - they'd hung out together outside of work several times, including travelling to and from and they spent their lunch hours together when Alannah didn't have plans. They got on like a house on fire and despite her initial insistence that she would hate having a bodyguard, more and more she was finding herself growing attached to having him around, both in a professional and an unprofessional capacity. Even if the latter was not yet admitted even to herself. And scared her. Quite a lot.

The day of the gala was when Alannah left the ribboned white box upon Cian's chair and left without saying goodbye. They had already organised that he would pick her up at 7pm to take her to the hotel where the gala was being held and she was too nervous to wait around to see his reaction to her gift. Neither of them had spoken about the night the press had caught them, but Alannah had not forgotten that her prize for winning their little tournament had been to pick a suit out for him. It seemed silly but she really wanted to for a few different reasons. The first was because she'd won and deserved her prize, of course. A close second came the reason of knowing Cian hated suits and wanting to find him something comfortable. The third however, was a little more personal. The third was because she wanted to buy him a gift, to say thank you and just... because. Alannah wasn't usually one to shy away from anything, but this felt different and so she had left a note on top of the box that read:

I figured it was time to cash in on my prize.
Thank you for this week - I hope it fits!
See you at 7 x

A few hours later and Alannah was dressed and ready to go, phone in her lap, tap footing as she waited for Cian's text to tell her he had arrived. She was a bundle of nerves and although she could pretend the gala had set her on edge, deep down she knew that wasn't the true reason. What if the suit hadn't fit? What if he hated it? She had picked out a dark grey number and a white shirt, one you could wear with or without a tie. She had thought the colour would suit Cian, and she had guessed he would appreciate the option not to have to button up his collar. Clearly, Alannah had put a lot of thought into her choice when she had visited the tailors one day on her lunch break, but now she could only focus on if Cian maybe thought it was weird? Or creepy? Or too much? It was finally his text that brought her out of her reverie though, and taking as deep breath a breath as she could muster she finally switched off the lights to her apartment and headed to the elevator. Once she had stepped out into the underground space and spotted the now very familiar hatchback she started towards it, trying not to wobble in her stupid heels and telling herself to breath. Upon approaching, she gave a little wave.

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