Angelo sighed in satisfaction as he pulled the ice-cold mug away from his lips.
The group had decided to stay the night in Baccarat, and the Templar currently found himself seated at the bar of the extravagant tavern in the basement of the hotel. Hiro and Jessica had taken over watching Medea, as the quiet man was not much of a drinker himself, and Jessica said she'd rather not have a bunch of drunks for evening company.
Yangus and King Trode were clearly far-gone, and sat opposite each other at one of the wooden tables in the corner loudly arguing over a card game. Their spectacle had attracted quite the crowd, and it was rather comical to watch the two stumpy men drunkenly fight while the rag-tag band on stage played a campy tune.
Angelo had immediately made a bee-line for the bar and glued himself to a stool so he could sit back, relax, and watch the provocative show the bunny girls on stage were putting on. As he watched their short skirts twirl around their hips, he briefly wondered what Jessica would look like decked out in one of their skimpy outfits.
A bunny tail would be rather charming on her…
As if his thoughts summoned the sorceress herself, she suddenly appeared and slid onto the stool beside him. She propped her elbows on the bar and held her face in her hands. She offered no greeting as her mocha eyes skimmed the rows of barrels behind the bar. Angelo took another gulp of his ale and placed the mug down before propping his elbows on the bar as well, though his were pulled back behind him as his body stayed facing towards the stage.
His foot bounced along to the beat of the song, and his blue eyes remained trained on the bunny girls, just waiting for one of their skirts to climb up a little too high.
Angelo heard the bartender slap a mug down in front of his companion. He curiously averted his gaze from the show girls over to Jessica, who, to his surprise, guzzled half the ale in one go and immediately grimaced. He was a seasoned drinker who had a much higher tolerance, but even he would never drink at the quick rate she was going at. It was quite the amusing sight to watch her uncharacteristically down beer at a bar. Jessica paid Angelo no mind as she went back to chugging the rest of the drink and signaling to the equally shocked bartender for another round.
"Woah-ho, you might want to slow down a little. The night's still young."
Jessica shot Angelo a nasty glare, her hands reaching out to cup her refilled mug. This was the first time the Templar had seen the girl drink alcohol, so he honestly could not believe he was watching her swallow the harsh liquid with fervor. The furrow of her brow and the dejectedly quiet sighs between drinks signaled that she was clearly upset and was taking her frustrations out on the alcohol.
He dared to press for answers, "Was Hiro and his horse love's company too boring? Don't tell me you actually missed us noisy drunks?"
He shot her one of his playboy smirks, though the frown on her face showed him she wasn't amused. Angelo barely caught the wince when he mentioned their princess-turned-horse Medea, but he was not blind to the desires of the heart. For a while now he had been suspecting Jessica held feelings for their de-facto leader, and that was the real reason he assumed she had left to go keep watch with the dark haired man.
He knew Jessica had feelings for Hiro.
Angelo also knew Hiro desired Princess Medea.
Jessica was not dense to this fact either.
It pained Angelo to watch Jessica hide her feelings. It was only a matter of time before Medea was turned back into a human, and Jessica was not stupid. She understood what that meant, and how her pining would never be returned. Still, she kept Hiro's company and suppressed her feelings as she felt a good friend should do.
Her subtle movements and expressions that betrayed her heart went unnoticed by all; all except Angelo, who always kept a close eye on the sorceress.
While Jessica was perceptive to a lot of things, she did not know that Angelo desired her.
Or at least, if she did, she never showed any indication of knowing.
He wasn't sure when it happened, but Angelo knew he felt…something for her. It wasn't the same desire he felt while flirting with women at taverns or eyeing the bunny girls bouncing around on stage.
His feelings for Jessica were more guarded, more pure in nature than his usual attitude towards women.
Sure, she had the looks of a mature, sensual woman, but he never had the desire to approach her in the way he approached potential flings. He enjoyed looking at her body – what man wouldn't?
But he also enjoyed hearing her laugh. Watching her command her powerful magic in battle always made him turn his head in awe. He relished in the knowledge she displayed in conversations they had, and he always wanted to know more about her. Seeing her nose crinkle in disgust at Yangus' crude antics always brought a smile to his face, and seeing her eyes light up as she talked with Hiro made Angelo's heart clench.
His attention was always instinctively drawn to her, hoping to catch her looking back at him with the same wonder and gentleness he knew were reflected in his eyes when he watched her.
Yes…he had fallen hard for the girl indeed.
And just as Jessica had to hide her feelings from Hiro, Angelo had to suppress his own feelings for her.
The pain of knowing she loved another man dulled over time, but it remained ever present since they all traveled together on their quest. Angelo had learned to just deal with it – eventually they would either die or succeed in their mission and part ways. Even steeling himself to that fact, he still couldn't resist humoring his own heart by indulging in Jessica's presence when she allowed it, as he was doing now.
He could only assume she couldn't stand being near Hiro as he coddled his princess, and decided it would be better to bury her heartache in alcohol with the rest of the crew.
"Ugh, my hair is giving me a headache…"
Angelo glanced up to stare at her now flushed face which was contorted in discomfort. She pouted and leaned back before gingerly reaching up to undo the gold bands holding her pigtails back away from her face. Her long fiery hair spilled down over her shoulders and back in soft waves, and Angelo prayed to the gods Jessica didn't hear the small exhale of breath that escaped his lips at the lovely sight. She closed her eyes, ruffled her hair, and sighed in relief at the tension released from her head by loosening her locks.
Angelo reached for his ale again. His throat had suddenly gone dry.
"Maybe you're the wrong person to talk to about this but…" Her fingers drummed against the bar, and her cheeks puffed in embarrassment as she tried to get her next words out, "Have you ever been in love with someone who you know has no chance of ever seeing you the way you see them?"
Angelo sputtered as ale went down the wrong pipe at her bold question.
He sat up and turned to her fully, his mug clenched tightly in one hand while his other arm rested on the bar. He rested one of his boots on the rung on her bar stool and studied her. Jessica bashfully turned away from his intense attention, averting her gaze and withdrawing her hands to rest in her lap. She looked quite lovely perched delicately on the bar stool, and the rare sight of her loose, long hair shielding her face made Angelo's heart race.
Oh, if she only knew.
"I mean, I know you have been with a lot of women, so I thought you may have come across that problem at least once in your life…" She looked to the man a few years her senior with a curious yet hesitant expression, searching his eyes for an answer. A pretty pink blush rested on her cheeks - a mixture of her tipsy state and vulnerability from asking such a personal question of a companion.
Angelo felt the color drain from his face. Obviously his reputation as a womanizer was known by all, but for some reason he felt ashamed hearing Jessica point it out to him.
Surely she would never want to fall in love with a man as promiscuous as himself.
He would only soil her.
He licked his lips before replying, unsure of what to say exactly, "Well, everyone eventually finds a special someone…even men like me…" He awkwardly pushed his bangs away with a gloved hand, but Jessica continued to watch him with expecting eyes, pushing him to continue.
"There is one woman I've fancied above the rest…but it's like you said. I don't think she has never looked at me the same way I look at her…"
He felt heat rise to his cheeks at his confession, though Jessica's expression softened at his hopeless words.
Great, now the woman he loved pitied him for loving her.
Not that Jessica knew the woman he spoke of was the very same one sitting in front of him.
His stomach flip-flopped.
Angelo turned his body and attention back towards the bunny girls. He needed to look at anything else but her. Out of his peripheral vision he saw Jessica follow his gaze towards the girls on stage, then turn back to him.
"I understand that she has eyes for another though, and that's alright. She wouldn't be able to live a happy, fulfilling life by my side anyways. If things work out in her favor, she would be much better off with someone like him."
After a few moments of his words hanging in the air, her soft voice spoke up, genuine sorrow lacing her tone, "Angelo…I'm sorry. I understand what you mean, I have those same feelings. You try so hard just to hold their attention for a moment, but they always turn away to someone else. It's the worst knowing you'll just never be the person they love!"
She lifted her arms up in exasperation and let them fall back into her lap. She huffed out her frustration at their shared predicament.
Angelo felt sadness at her heartache coursing through him yet couldn't help but crack a small smile at her much more animated tipsy self. It was quite an experience seeing her loosen up and voice her bottled up feelings.
Even if those feelings stabbed at him because he knew they were directed towards another man.
Angelo shrugged, "It's just one of the hardships of life. It hurts, but it won't kill us. We'll eventually move on."
He didn't look to see her reaction and instead watched the bunny girls dance. The pleasure he got from watching them earlier had faded, and he now looked at them with narrowed eyes. His heart felt heavy in his chest at his own words, but he knew it to be true.
His feelings for Jessica would eventually fade, even though they currently stung so vividly in his body.
He heard Jessica mutter curses towards "stupid love" under her breath before resuming guzzling her ale.
"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalright everyone, it's now time to pick a lucky lady to be this evening's amateur buuuuuuuuuuunny girl!"
The music faded and the booming voice on the loudspeaker commanded attention from the room. Everyone whooped and hollered as the bunny girls excitedly huddled together on stage, their bright eyes scanning the audience searching for their newest recruit. Angelo and Jessica focused on the stage in wonder at what was happening. The announcer who stood at the front of the stage exaggeratedly put his hand up to his forehead to shield his eyes from the stage lights as he looked out in the crowd.
Angelo closed his eyes as a bright light suddenly appeared and blinded him. He heard the crowd roar with excitement as he put a hand over his eyes and cracked them open to see what was going on. He turned to Jessica who sat frozen in her chair, her brown eyes wide with confusion. Her slightly frizzy orange hair was shining from the light, bringing out the golden tint it naturally held.
She blinked slowly as she tried to process what was happening in her tipsy state.
The spotlight was shining directly on her.
"Aaaaaaaand there she is! Come on up here little lady!"
Realizing what was happening, Angelo leaned in close and tried to ignore the peachy scent of her light perfume, "You don't have to go, you know." He knew Jessica would never go up and dance among the scantily clad bunny girls. She always had been adamant about never wanting to purposely put herself in a position to be objectified like they were.
"Maybe…it would be fun?"
This caused the Templar to pull back and look at her.
Now snapped out of her initial shock of having been called out, she giggled softly over Angelo's confused expression. "I know I normally would never entertain the idea," she stood up from her stool and placed her mug down as the crowd cheered her on, "Maybe it's the alcohol hitting me or my broken heart talking or something but…they always look like they're having so much fun, don't they?"
She turned from Angelo to look with awe at the bunny girls on stage. They jumped up and down in joy and motioned for Jessica to join them. Their bright white smiles, flirty costumes, and pretty ponytail hairstyles were amplified by the stage lights and Jessica couldn't tear her eyes away.
She murmured to herself, her voice so quiet that Angelo had to strain to catch her words, "Wouldn't it be nice to just forget about Dhoulmagus… forget about Hiro…forget about all my muddled feelings, and just have a little fun like they do for once?"
He studied her profile as she stared ahead, her plump lips softly smiling as her eyes glittered.
Angelo felt his heart melt at the sight, and replied with a soft "Yeah, it would be."
Jessica didn't acknowledge that she heard him as she walked away from his side and towards the stage. The bunny girls squealed and ran to surround her as she made her way up the steps to join them.
Angelo couldn't help but chuckle as he saw King Trode and Yangus drunkenly trip over themselves as they made their way closer to the stage and hollered encouragements at Jessica. He took another long sip of his ale.
Despite the loud noises from the crowded tavern, Angelo could hear Jessica's soft laughter from across the room as the bunny girls surrounded her. They fussed over the sorceress, playing with her long hair and placing a pair of bunny ears atop her head. They spun her around and pinned a little bunny tail to the back of her skirt. The girls parted and dramatically "ta-dahed", showing off Jessica to the crowd, who in turn roared with applause at seeing another beautiful woman on stage sporting the trademark bunny accessories.
Jessica bowed her head and hid her face in her hands in embarrassment. Her long red hair followed the motion, tumbling down to veil her face. Her bubbly laughter at the whole spectacle showed off how much fun she was having despite the embarrassing attention she was getting. Angelo laughed with her.
It looks like he got to witness Jessica wearing a bunny tail today after all.
"Alright folks, now that our newest bunny girl is up here, it's time to teach her how to do the bunny hop!"
The music from earlier picked back up, and the bunny girls helped guide the clueless girl through the simple steps of their dance. Jessica wobbled slightly as the alcohol in her system took effect, but she was a quick learner and soon was bouncing around on stage like the best of them. The smile on her face never died down, and Angelo felt warmth bubble in his stomach at the sight of her joy. He began clapping along with the crowd to the music as the girls swished their skirts and bounced in formation.
He couldn't take his eyes off her as she stepped about, holding onto her long skirt and occasionally reaching up to push her hair out of her face as she danced. After a few minutes the song died down and the announcer called for a round of applause for Jessica for being a good sport. Jessica bowed, and thanked the bunny girls. They waved back at her before resuming their usual intricate, more provocative dance. Jessica left the stage and wobbled back towards Angelo who was still seated at the bar.
"Angelo, did you see that! I just danced with the bunny girls!" She giggled as she came to stop in front of him. "I can't believe I actually just did that...it was so much fun!" She beamed at him, and he couldn't help but smile back at her infectious energy.
"Yes, you definitely were something up there. Maybe next time you'll get to wear one of their costumes and do a sexier dance." He waggled his eyebrows at her, and he reveled in how quickly her face turned redder at his suggestive words.
Jessica snorted and reached forward to gently jab at his shoulder, but due to the alcohol in her system, she had put more energy than needed into the motion and fell right into his chest. His hands instinctively reached out to grab her hips as he leaned back in his stool, holding her as she slouched forward into his back hit the edge of the bar and her hands were clutching his coat.
Angelo's breath caught in his throat at the sudden close contact.
Jessica's own breath came out in ragged puffs against his neck, and she held herself rigid against him, her alcohol clouded brain realizing their close position.
Neither dared to move.
Angelo felt lightheaded, though he wasn't sure if it was from the alcohol finally hitting him or a mixture of the intoxicating scent of her peach perfume and the feeling of the heat of her body against his. He was thankful his face was in her hair and she couldn't see his expression. He tried in vain to ignore how nice her soft body felt against his. Angelo glanced down and caught sight of her bunny tail that was still pinned to her skirt above her rear where his hands rested dangerously close to as they held her hips.
He couldn't breathe.
"A-A-Angelo…" She squeaked from her position.
Her lips had softly grazed his neck as she spoke his name and he felt as if he was being struck by a thousand volts.
Her grip on his coat tightened as she shifted back away from him to stand up, and he reluctantly helped guide her away from his embrace. His gloved hands moved to hold her waist as she regained her balance and stood straight up. Ice blue eyes clashed with dark brown ones as they shared an embarrassed look, both of their faces flushed bright red at the unexpected intimate contact they just shared.
The band in the background changed tunes, and Angelo quickly withdrew his hands from her. They both averted their gaze while whispering soft apologies to the other in embarrassment.
Unbeknownst to them, Yangus and King Trode had witnessed the whole exchange. They sat with jaws agape, but quickly recovered. They scrambled to sort out betting coins as to who they expected to confess their love first. A new crowd was drawn to them, eager to join in on their betting shenanigans.
"I think I'm going to turn in for the night." Angelo's rough voice broke their awkward silence. Jessica mumbled in agreement and Angelo dug through his pouch to retrieve coins to pay the bartender. He paid for Jessica's drinks as well, despite her protesting that he did not need to.
"Hey, I'm just glad you had fun tonight and could let loose a bit. It was a joy to see this side of you." He said as he led her out of the tavern. He truly meant it, but she just scoffed at him.
As they padded upstairs toward their hotel rooms, Angelo softly grabbed her elbow to bring her attention to him. She turned, looking up at him with questioning eyes. "About earlier," he cleared his throat and he watched as her face flushed in memory of her personal outburst about her feelings, "Don't be too hard on yourself. You're an amazing woman, and any man would be lucky to have your attention." His ears grew hot as he spoke from the heart, and Jessica just stared up at him in fascination.
She was quite a sight with her flushed face, tired eyes, disheveled hair and clothes, and bunny accessories.
Angelo still found her lovely though, and hoped he would get to see this side of her again someday.
"That guy doesn't know what he's missing. Maybe if he had seen you drink beer like a champ and dance on stage with the bunny girls, he'd have a change of heart." He smirked as she laughed out loud.
She held a hand up to her mouth to stifle her giggles, "Oh yes, I'm sure seeing me let loose like a wild woman would have him fawning all over me in no time." They chuckled together, and Angelo finished escorting her to her room. He opened the door for her, and she took the handle from him as he turned to walk down the hallway and open the door to his own room.
His hand froze on his door handle and he slowly turned to see her standing halfway behind her door.
The Templar raised an eyebrow at her.
"Thank you…for everything, really. You're a good man, Angelo." With those words she offered him a weary smile before closing her door.
Angelo stared at her door, his heart thumping loudly in his chest.
After a few moments, he smiled to himself before whispering, "You're welcome, love."
The door clicked shut behind him.
A/N: I wrote this fic in record time it feels like! In my defense, work has been unusually slow so I have a lot of extra time to write! I can't help but write Angelo x Jessica, for some reason I love writing about these two! I promise I AM working on other fics that aren't DQ8 related haha
I think I mainly just wanted an excuse to fawn over Jessica and write about her with her hair down -shrugging emoji-