She makes her way over to the bed then beyond it to a wooden chest, the bloody, jagged lines of her slashed dress on prominent display as she stoops to undo the latch. I wince a little as she lifts the lid, peering over her shoulder in interest.
"Do you think there's anything in there for me to wear?" I question, picking at the dirt-encrusted hem of my sleeve. "I could do with a change of clothes after all that's happened today."
"Perhaps." She says with a tilt of her head, reaching into the box with precise movements.
There's a flash of red and green, her hands carefully drawing out a bright scarlet dress identical to the one she's wearing in all but colour. And wear, I think, examining the garment closely.
Scarlet, spotless, the apron free of blood and grime. It looks unworn – a dress saved for a special occasion perhaps, or special guests? - the matching heels equally pristine and equally uncomfortable looking.
She makes to remove her apron and I realize she's going to change right here, right now, so I busy myself with gawking at the chest's contents, reaching in to sate my interest like a child in a dress-up box.
The deep, forest green stands out most so I reach for that first, dig through the fabric and uncover a googly eye.
Intrigued, I turn it over in my hands, pull it toward me and see a face staring back, the red mouth and white eyes of a large frog.
A frog? It's like a...
There's a zipper on the back of the neck, long sleeves in a lighter green that end in pronged, nobbly fingers. The body of the outfit looks loose fitting.
A frog mascot costume? What is this, some kind of old halloween costume, or maybe the mascot for a football team? I really can't see anyone in this castle wearing this thing. Or being a football fan, even.
I cast it aside, strangely fascinated with the weird things that seem to lurk in every corner of this place.
When I see what's under it, I swiftly change my mind.
Well now, this is... I-it's just... It's-
Poor taste. Really, really poor taste.
There are leather...
And a string bikini. And nothing else. Unless you count the cowboy hat and the accessories shoved inside it: gloves, necklace and a single feather earring, which I don't. I search under it to see where the other parts of the outfit have escaped to and feel cold metal against my fingertips.
I look down slowly.
A gun. There's a gun.
My pulse skyrockets. Judging by everything else I've found here it probably isn't a prop so - gently, gently - I cradle it in my hands like a newborn kitten, the end pointed away from my person as I lay it on the ground.
Not taking any chances, thank you very much.
Minor crisis averted, I soldier on, determined to get through the box even if it kills me.
I lay the confused swimwear on top of the mascot costume, the shiny black I can see underneath not giving me much hope.
Thigh high boots.
Black leather, thigh high, lace-up boots. And underneath them matching gloves, a bodysuit with a plunging neckline and a neatly coiled whip nestled in the corner.
There are other things too – a bloodied scrap of white cloth, an exact match of the outfit I'm wearing (which i snag and set aside. No matching boots though) but they're just background noise at this point.
Because I can't help wondering exactly who these belong to.
I look toward Daniella - thankfully changed but swaying and staring vacantly into space - and try not to think about it.
At least, not in detail.
There isn't really a subtle way to ask someone if they enjoy dressing like a dominatrix, after all.
And with Riccardo around, a little voice inside my mind says, you might not like the answer to that question.
I wince a little at the thought, but decide to ask her anyway.
"Um, Daniella?" She snaps to attention, eyes clearing. "Whose clothes are these? Are they... yours?"
She tilts her head a little, brow creasing.
"No. They belong to Riccardo."
No, no, no, no. Don't go there. Don't think about it-
An image barrels its way into my mind unbidden: Riccardo in the chaps and bikini, the gun pointed at my face as he laughs, the feather at his ear floating in the breeze. He strikes a pose, back arched and leg in the air – like the world's most terrifying playboy bunny – his voice manically cheerful as he says "Lend me your womb!"
Oh god, why.
I practically cringe out of my skin. Daniella's eyebrows rising into her hairline. After a second she realizes my problem.
"I... meant... that they are Riccardo's possessions." She says, slow and clear, like she's speaking to a child, "Not that he wears them. That honour was meant for you."
"Oh! Right! Well ok then. Good."
I say, a little too chipper, glad to permanently rid my brain of that image. Her eyes seem to widen with every word and I scrabble to explain myself.
Then think better of it.
"You know, some things just shouldn't be thought about. Ever."
I leave it at that but she thinks about it, cocking her head. After a moment a slow grin overtakes her lips.
"Did you imagine" She starts, moving to sit at the bed's edge so she can peer into the crate " him wearing that ridiculous frog costume."
For a second I umm and ah over telling her I did, but then decide to just tell the truth.
"No. But I wish I had."
A little (or a lot) of my disgust shows through as she wades through the box, pulling the cowgirl outfit's bikini top out by the strap, eying it with intense interest.
Something in my face must have given it away, because she blinks rapidly, a touch disbelieving.
"This?" She says, and I nod reluctantly.
"But he doesn't have breasts... although, it would be difficult to tell what undergarments he's wearing, given his usual attire."
Her words catch up to me and I feel as green as the frog costume.
Mental images, Daniella! Please!
"Ugh." I punch out, come to sit next to her on the bed. Lean against her a little bit.
"However..." She nods sharply towards the box, fishing out something white with a grey hood.
"These clothes do belong to him."
She holds the tunic at arms length as if it'll bite her, raising it briefly into the air before folding it back down into the box like a coiled snake.
"That's better." I say with relief, glad to see that it's a variation on his hooded tunic and not some sexy priest halloween costume.
Then i get up and double-check the space beneath to make sure it isn't a sexy priest costume.
Nothing. No garters or stockings or... anything else.
I sit down heavily with relief.
Daniella shuffles through the clothes silently at my side, and after a moment i lean over to see what else she's uncovered.
Large clothes - Debilitas' undoubtedly - lie beneath Riccardo's, as dirty as his other set but darker, the stitches haphazardly holding the arms together telling of countless attempts to repair them.
She doesn't seem interested in them though: Instead, she presses them to the side of the box and reaches for an outfit i'd found before - shiny black leather glinting in the lamp light.
I squirm a little, still valiantly trying not to think about how good she'd look in that plunging neckline. Fascinated despite myself, face red, i watch as she drags her fingers lovingly across the surface, down the delicate ribbing and criss-crossed lacing that keeps the front - hopefully - in place.
Then i notice her notice me watching, and she inhales a little sharply, drawing back her hand.
I consider for a moment telling her it's ok if she wants to keep the outfit (not because i'd like to see her in it or anything like that - the whip could prove useful if we have to fight Riccardo, that's all. Keep lying to yourself Fiona ) but she finds her words before any sound leaves my mouth.
"I must admit, i am a little... disappointed." She speaks quietly and with difficulty, as if the words are a secret not meant to be spoken.
"Disappointed?" A little confused, i watch her fingertips trace the intricate lacing down the sides of the outfit, "Why?"
The corner of her mouth ticks up. Not quite amused, but something close. She looks down at the box.
"I would have liked to see you don this outfit."
Her voice is a little smoky, eyes half-lidded and it makes my heart stutter.
I- Is she... Is she flirting with me?
...Wow. Ok. Alright then.
We're sitting on a bed unmade by our kiss the night before, side by side. Almost touching... it's either the best or worst time to do this and i can't decide which.
My face reddens - we're in danger, Riccardo could attack us, Debilitas and Hewie could come back at any moment, and i'm nowhere near ready for this... but her voice sends shivers down my spine. The thought of her fingers brushing my skin as lovingly as they do the dominatrix costume sends my head spinning and heat spiraling down and down...
Beet red and awkward, i decide it's now or never - sink or swim, as they say.
"You... you may still get that chance." It's meant to sound sultry - or at the very least confident - but the words sound embarrassingly self-conscious and i try not to melt into the carpet from shame.
Daniella doesn't seem to mind.
She just meets my eyes with a faint smile and a raised eyebrow.
I feel the warmth of her body as she leans heavily on me, arm coming to rest around my waist.
I can't help feeling a little overconfident as she shrinks the space between us, buzzing with delicious, wonderful tension.
"Well, you never know." I say as casually as i can manage, pressing back into her, "Maybe after we escape from here we'll find a much better costume. A...s-sexier" I choke a little on the word, "...one. Maybe a maid's costume...?"
"Maid's costumes are..." She fiddles with her apron, contemplating her next word, disbelieving and slightly contemptuous all at once,"Sexy?"
I look her up and down, loving the way the brilliant red makes her pale complexion glow, the bolero style jacket emphasizing her slim form.
"Yes." I say, a little breathless. "Yes, they are."