"Dandy! To me, now!" a strong voice of one of the thieves guild masters spread through the corridor. It didn't sound too good. It even reached the common room, where some youngsters played a card game.
"Oh, it seems our friend is in trouble... again..." said the oldest one. Still chewing on a toothpick he grabbed an empty beer can and threw it into one of the dark corners.
"Get up fool, boss wants to see you!" another one of the youngsters shouted while laying out some cards on the table. Something started to scrape in the corner followed by a loud smash.
"What an idiot! Why the hell does he go to sleep on the top bunk if he always falls while waking up?"
Eventually someone slowly emerged from the shadows. At first sight he looked rather young, but a closer look revealed that it's just because he was short.
"Seriously, go see the boss, or we'll all gonna get it" said the toothpick guy.
The short youngster didn't reply, he just stretched and yawned. He combed his hair with his hand and adjusted suspenders before leaving the room. At the end of this gloomy corridor there was a door, if it wasn't for a doorknob and a metal number "1" it could be easily missed since it was the same colour as surrounding walls. The boy knocked on the door. "Enter" he heard from within and he turned the knob. As he entered he noticed a familiar silhouette.
Although being of average height, the boss was extremely square-built and bulk. His short and already thinning hair made him look even more like a jock. He was, however, hellishly intelligent and temperamental. That's why his room had to be sound proof, so that it wouldn't bother anyone else in the tenement while he gave hell to one of his underlings. And as the boy entered the room he felt the boss' pissed off look on him.
"Dandy! Mind telling me what the hell is this supposed to mean?" shouted the boss angrily.
"But wha-?" asked the youngster backing up a bit.
"What? You were given an extra easy job! Pickpocket a few wallets! But no, it had to end with a police chasing you around!" bosses voice could easily drown out a rock concert.
"But they didn't catch me so it's ok, right ?" the boy tried to explain himself as he already backed up to the door.
"That's not the point! You're supposed to stay out of sight! And you dimwit stopped midway to look at the loot you've got! In broad daylight!" although the boss calmed down a little the boy was still overwhelmed by his voice.
"I just wanted to know how much cash I got there... I'll be more careful next time..."
"For now there won't be a next time..." his voice sounded almost normal this time.
"Huh ? But why ?"
"You'll be training technique and approach for the next two weeks. Because, although your skills are... average, those two aspects of our work... well... you just suck at them. If this doesn't change, you may be able to handle cleaning floors... maybe" he sat down behind his desk, grabbed smouldering cigar and inhaled with it. "Look, your posture makes you a good material for a pickpocket,, a full scale thief even, but you don't plan ahead. I don't know where the hell were you when they were giving out common sense... but I'm sure as hell that it wasn't a queue for height" he laughed robustly. The boy just smiled lightly. That's how every talk with the boss ends. After leaving the room he sighed heavily. All in all, the boss was right. The youngster was almost 15 years old already and was still making rookie mistakes. Maybe he'd really be better at cleaning this place.
He walked down the corridor thinking about his sad existence, when suddenly he heard his mates whistling. There was some commotion outside. He looked through the closest window. He noticed a group of people in the courtyard. He recognized everyone but one person. Suddenly all the bustle made sense. It was a teenage girl, a kind of girl that men his age dream about. That figure, hair, everything. Dandy couldn't stop starring at her. She was phenomenal. She was telling something to the other people gathered there although she looked kind of bored. A moment later she looked up and their eyes met. The boy hid quickly. He felt as if he was hit with a shovel on the head. Was he shot by an Amour? No. It couldn't be... could it?
The next day, before the brake of dawn, the boy was sitting on the emergency staircase near the thieves' district border. He gathered all the padlocks he could find in his room and slowly tried to figure them out. He was aware of the fact that he'll never excel in strategic thinking, but if he manages to improve his technique the boss will just assign him to one of the groups and everything will be fine. Besides he was still thinking about that girl from yesterday. She was just... dreamy...
"I wonder what her name is anyway" he thought.
As he was trying to work out one of the padlocks he heard footsteps and shouting. He knew what that meant. Someone screwed up a job. He quickly jumped down and took a peek around the corner. Three people were running from a bruiser. Two of them were the boy's friends, but the third person... wait... it was her! The phenomenal girl! The two guys will most likely be alright, but her... she was new here... And seeing how the guys were panicking, Dandy was sure they won't help her. 'During escape it's every man for himself' – it's one of the unwritten rules of the thieves guild. Suddenly one of the guys dropped a smoke ball.
"Great!" thought Dandy.
He waited behind the corner, and when the girl was close enough, he caught her hand and pushed her through the door he opened a moment ago. He hid himself in a spot where a window to a laundry room used to be. The bruiser that was giving chase didn't notice them and continued to run after the other two guys. The boy sighed with relief, left his hiding spot and went to check up on the girl. She was just dusting off her clothes, when suddenly she looked at Dandy and smiled gently. For a moment there he thought he'll faint.
"I told them it's a bad time for a break in, as the owner is sure to come back any moment and they just said it's an old wives' tale. Is everyone like that in your guild ?" Asked the girl while fixing her hair.
"Huh ? Nah, it's just that there aren't many women in our guild so they just have to get used to you. It'll pass, I'm sure about it" damn it, he knew his voice sounded as if he was daydreaming.
"Yeah ? And what would you do?" she asked in a tone that usually pisses men off. But this short guy was somehow... different.
"I... would listen to your instinct... after all my strategic approach is uh... not so good..." answered the boy, scratching his head and smiling apologetically. After all why should she care.
"Seriously ? Interesting, as usual I'm the best at planning..."
The boy laughed nervously after those words.
"Well then I should practice my thieving skills and..." but the girl interrupted him by covering his mouth. He gave her a questioning look when suddenly he heard someone's heavy footsteps and grumbling.
"Bah she must be here somewhere..."
Fortunately it didn't cross the bruisers mind to check the door to the tenement since they were locked for ages. He spent a moment looking around the alley and finally left. Thank God for his stupidity!
"Incredible! How on earth did you know he was coming? Even I didn't hear him and I supposedly have very good hearing..." whispered Dandy, when she finally let go of him (although he wouldn't mind if she held him like that longer).
"I felt something was wrong... That's how my instinct works..." replied the girl with a note of pride in her voice.
"Such a gift... and they just ignored it ?" he couldn't understand how's that even possible.
"It's always been like this. And probably always will. First of all, they don't believe in my ability and just try to pass a move on me. Then they're afraid. And finally they get pissed off because a girl is better at planning ahead then they are." Her voice felt colder that moment.
"I would never do that!" he almost shouted out that sentence.
"Really? We'll see some day... Well I've got to go. Nevertheless, I still have some loot from the store" as she said those words she took out an expensive looking necklace out of her pocket.
"Well I'll see you around then... oh and what's your name anyway ?"
"They call me Beauty... and you boy?" amazingly when she said 'boy' it didn't sound like mockery.
"D...Dandy..." he replied nearly whispering.
"Good to know... Well, see ya Dandy" she winked at him and rushed out of this run-down building.
He sat heavily on the nearby stairs. This probably was the best moment of his life. He found his muse... inspiration... She had that something he was looking for... She was an ideal. He has to do everything in his power to get closer to her! There is a lot of competition, and he doesn't have any special skills or abilities, he isn't even that good looking. But he won't give up! There's just no way!
After he cooled off after a moment he left the hideout and went back up the emergency staircase to work on his padlocks. If he's able to learn a better technique he may be able to do it. It was his best chance.
Beauty was sitting by the window, starring at the street lights turning on. She was a bit bored. Resting her head on her hand she looked into the distance. Two guys that were on a job with her got chewed up pretty bad, she was lucky enough to avoid it all since she was new here. That and she did bring a "souvenir" from the shop. It was obvious she could forget about working with them ever again. They didn't trust her at all, and they didn't want a girl, especially as beautiful as her, to be better thief than they were. Oh the male pride... she might have to switch to another guild again because of it. However...
An image of the short guy from before flashed through her mind. What was his name again? Oh, that's right, Dandy. He seemed nice enough. She was aware he was charmed by her looks, it was always that way, but she believed it wasn't just about her looks this time. That's what her intuition was telling her, and it was never wrong.
"Hey... hey..." she suddenly heard someone's voice.
She looked around the courtyard to find where it was coming from.
"Up here!" the playful voice was louder this time.
She looked up and noticed the short guy on the roof just a mater away. He seemed to have a few scratches here and there, apparently it wasn't easy for him to get up there. Despite that he was still smiling sincerely.
"It took me a long time to find out in which building you're living. Even got smacked with a broom by some girl... but I finally managed to find you Beauty..." again it seemed as if he was looking at a goddess.
"Really? And why were you looking for me?"
He blushed heavily.
"Well um... you see... I was thinking, maybe... maybe we could work together?" he said it all so quietly that the girl barely heard him.
"Well well... the problem is I work only with the best... and only with gentlemen..." she replied jokingly, however Dandy didn't notice that and took it seriously.
He got lost in thought for a second there.
"Would it be enough if I had great skills?"
"What about being a gentleman?"
"I'll try to become one too!"
"All right then, let it be as you ask" as she replied a faint smile appeared on her face.
"So to commemorate this moment, here..." he leaned over the railing holding it with one hand. In the other hand he was holding a...
"Hmm? What's that?"
"Can't you tell? It's a flower..."
"I know it's a flower, but what kind of flower?"
"It's a daisy... you know right? They grow on meadows and lawns. Unfortunately I can't afford a normal bouquet..." he sounded and looked apologetic saying those words.
Beauty took a good look at the little flower. No wonder she didn't know anything about this one. She was never outside of town, and never particularly paid attention to trivial things like that. She took the gift from him.
"I'll keep it as a proof of your promise. We'll see if you can accomplish it..."
He loved her calm voice and could listen to it over and over again. Suddenly someone knocked at the girl's door. Dandy was only able to make out few words coming from behind the door. "Intruder" and "catch". He knew it was about him.
"You'd better go. Our landlady is a real hag."
"Yeah I know something about it. Goodbye Beauty. I'll see you soon. And when I become the best, we'll work together." He gazed at her with those dreamy eyes for a few more moments and finally climbed back up to the roof like a monkey to disappear.
Beauty slowly went to open the doors and calmly explain she didn't see anyone. After closing the door she looked at the gift again. A small inconspicuous flower. Just like the runt. Somehow, however, he had his unique charm. The one she had never seen before. Who knows, maybe he'll be able to keep his promise. For this to happen, she has to give him time. Stay for a while longer. Can she do it? It is worth a try...
Three years have passed since the day he made that promise. Those were long and hard years for Dandy. Every day he worked on dozens of padlocks, trained his agility, sneaking around... When finally he realized he's really good at those things. What's more, he had the best timed runs from all the youngsters in the guild. Aside from that he read a lot of books about proper etiquette, how to treat ladies – and generally how to become a gentleman. His planning however... well he still kind of sucked at it. He tried hard to improve it, really hard. This, however, wasn't his thing. Well but he didn't make a promise about that.
When you hit eighteen in the guild, you get a chance to work alone (later than in most other guilds but this way the guild masters avoided problems with sentences for juvenile delinquents). Dandy waited outside the boss's office for his turn to come. He sighed heavily. He didn't grow an inch through those years. He wasn't able to see Beauty much, and mostly only from afar. She was very busy and appeared to get along with everyone rather well. What if he won't be able to work with her in the end ? After all Beauty didn't promise him anything...
His thoughts were stopped when he was asked to go inside. Boss seemed to be in a good mood today.
"Well, Dandy, you can finally take solo jobs ay? Opening Rubric's safe in 43 seconds... with a previous record of 2 minutes! I think that even if you're not the best yet, you'll get there eventually. But then there's the problem with your planning ahead... Let me give you a piece of advice. If you don't want to screw up, get a partner... someone smart. Otherwise you'll just wither away in some second-rate prison..." after those words he handed the boy a piece of paper.
An official guild seal of approval. Without this stealing inside of guilds territory was punished with death. Dandy just nodded and quickly ran outside.
Now he just had to find Beauty. Show her that he managed to keep his promise. He snuck into the tenement and went directly to the roof. He looked through the familiar window but... the room was empty! There was nothing left there, not even the furniture. He quickly left the roof and headed down. He had to calm down, maybe she just switched rooms? Asking at the reception revealed that she moved out two weeks ago and didn't leave any address.
Resigned he left the building. He strolled down the street watching the evening turn into night.
He heard a familiar voice as he was passing one of the alleys. He turned around. Beauty was leaning against the wall.
"Somehow I knew you'd be coming this way."
"Hello Beauty" he bowed down as he said that.
Learning to become a gentleman was worth it. Even when surprised he still knew how to act.
"Well well, what fine manners... and how's your technique?"
Dandy noticed her beautiful smile.
"I've been deemed the best among the younger members. Unfortunately, I can't compare with the older specialists..." he admitted with undisguised shame.
"I see. Don't worry however, I'm not interested in older people... now then, come with me..."
"I'm sorry, where to?" he asked politely.
"To our apartment, where else? I know your planning hasn't improved a bit. Therefore I decided to get us a place to live... But don't get the wrong idea, just saying" even with the slightly sinister look she was still everything he dreamt about.
He went after her, although he felt as if he was swimming through air. They arrived at their destination eventually.
"Our place is on the top floor. The roof belongs to us as well thanks to that you can keep the practice junk there. I know you still need it."
"Yes, of course..." he replied shortly.
Beauty shook her head. He still didn't get over her. But maybe that's for the best. When they walked inside she showed him his part of the apartment and told him about all the rules. He didn't object even once.
"Now be kind enough and go shopping. Here's the list. I know it's late but..."
"Of course Beauty, I'll get right on that!" he rushed out and closed the doors behind him.
She sat down comfortably in the armchair. It was well worth to wait. To sometimes act like a fool just so the hopeless men would accept her. Now she can finally rest.
After lighting a cigarette, she picked up a romance book she didn't finish before. She took out the bookmark. It was a dried out and laminated flower. Beauty wondered if she isn't too sentimental, but in the end she just shrugged and returned to her book. After all, everyone has a weak spot for something.