|Location||Malarkey Billiards - Harlem - NYC|
|Summary||Two Russians meet in a bar.|
There are Russian neighborhoods and Russian bars, and there are bars that are sometimes Russian when the Russians damn well feel like making them that way. The billiards hall Maxim is currently brooding in falls more towards the latter, with a small posse of moderately dangerous types playing pool and drinking in between going outside to smoke on the sidewalk and mock passers-by. He is not one who mocks, though. He is one who stands at the bar, looming, with a shot of vodka in front of him that he doesn't seem to be drinking while he watches the rest of the occupants do their thing. There is a generous allowance of empty space around him. Maybe they're scared off by the small black tattoos on his hands or the larger ones on his forearms, bared by his black t-shirt (which is doing its level best to not bust open, poor thing). Or maybe it's just that he's 6'9" and vaguely glowering at the world.
Who knows why Karina Artyomovna Zarubin has stooped to join them this evening. There was a text message inviting her from one of the gathered Russian men, likely some risque if not rude jokes about the woman that they wouldn't make in front of her. Certainly, when the woman steps into the bar, there's a moment of silent appreciation. There's something that is its own type of dangerous in the young woman, nothing physically intimidating and yet-- in the dark, wild curls and ice blue eyes, it's there. In the way designer jeans cling to long legs and the cream colored, linen tank is almost see through, it's there. And then there's noise again, catcalls and encouragement from a group over at a table that sees the young woman moving that way. Yet, her attention is caught by the man who stands at the bar alone, lingering on him even as she slips an arm around one of the Russian men for a quick hug and a murmured question in his ear. It must be about Maxim, since the other man looks towards him as he answers.
Of course he notices. You don't survive in prison, in the underworld of Moscow, if you don't pay attention -- and Max pays attention. He notes the woman and her arrival, the pause of breath that follows her entrance as half (at least) of the men in the room stop inhaling. He notes, too, the other man looking at him. What exactly he makes of all of this is somewhat harder to determine, because he doesn't smile or beckon or otherwise acknowledge them. What Maxim does is to pull a modest folded packet of cash from his pocket, peel off a bill, and leave it folded neatly on the bar next to his shot glass. When the bartender notices, the big man nods to the glass, then flicks his gaze to the bar beside it. Without words, another glass appears beside him and is filled up with clear liquid -- from a bottle near the top shelf.
There's bright interest reflected in Karina's bright eyes as they brush over Maxim, her lips curving into a smile that holds something of a promise. And yet, whether it's purposeful or not, that warmth of attention that she gives him fades quickly as she is distracted by the man there. She looks away towards the other Russian with a quick laugh, smiling at him now and reaching to ruffle her fingers through the man's curls. "Go, Andrei. It is your shot and if you miss, I don't know that I want you to blame me," she says louder now, for the benefit of those gathered at the table, and pushes Andrei gently away before she steps back, away; drawing just some space between herself and the group as they play.
Maxim doesn't turn much, but just enough, and when Karina ruffles Andrei's hair he reaches over and nudges the second shot of vodka further away from him. Just a few inches. But with the motion, it's clear enough that the drink is not meant for him. That done, he goes back to his regular scanning of the bar. A young couple -- not Russian -- near the front of the hall, occasionally glancing back towards the rowdier men. A scruffy young guy coming back in from the street, black leather coat, tobacco smoke clinging to him like perfume. When his gaze lands on Karina, it pauses, giving her at least three more seconds of attention than he gives anyone else, before moving on.
Karina doesn't miss the nudge of the shot, and with the men half-distracted by the competition of pool once again, her gaze slides back to Maxim. And the laughter is now caught in the look she gives him, her smile holding a hint of a challenge in the corner of her lips. Yet, as his gaze moves on, a soft, inaudible exhale of breath signals her defeat before she begins crossing the bar with every confidence in her step, barely even noticing anyone else as she hitches herself against the bar next to the man who dominates it. "Karina," she offers lowly, sliding a look up Maxim now that the height disparity makes her.
"So you were what they were waiting for. Much is explained." Mother Russia lies heavily in Maxim's accented English, and when he folds his arms there is the faintest creaking of strained cotton from his biceps. It's probably not audible over the bar's music. "That is for you." He nods to the shot, looking down at her, before rumbling, "I am Maxim." Mak-seem, of course, not the way the English speakers say it.
"If they were waiting for me, they might be waiting a long time," is Karina's humored response, only lightly teasing of the young men there as she leans forward to take that offered shot with a smile of thanks. It is only when the glass is pressed lightly against her lips that she questions in a murmur, "So, Maxim, what are you doing here?" This bar, America, with Russians--. None of them are implicitly stated but there is quite the weight of expectation in the way she watches him.
He thinks about the question. There's an almost uncomfortably long pause between her words and his answer, but Maxim makes no effort to fill it with fidgeting or equivocation. He thinks. Then he answers. "I like the nuts." He points one long finger, tattooed, toward the bowl of bar nuts near Karina's elbow. They're just nuts, probably, except that there seems to be a higher than usual percentage of walnuts in the mix. "And I have no fight tonight. Sergei said he was coming here with friends, so. I come." He reaches past her to nudge the bowl of nuts in her direction, then asks politely, "Why are you here?" For all that he watches her closely, he's not leering -- though there's a degree of looking down her dress that's purely unavoidable due to angles.
Karina doesn't seem to mind whatever view he gets; In fact, she tilts back her head, revealing the long, unobstructed line of her throat and chest as she takes that shot. It is returned to the bar before she answers with the soft warmth of Russian buried in the way she teases, "Do you want the real reason, or should I tell you something about coming with friends?" Her gaze, then, drops specifically to those tattoos, studying them with a sharpness that speaks to at least some knowledge of what they mean.
For the initiated or the savvy, the tattoos tell a story. Maxim's story, at least the one on his skin, speaks of violence. The thieves' cross marks him as a thief, three dots mark his sentence as three years. The skull and crossbones speaks to murder. But he's watching her eyes when she does it, and sees the way she looks at them. "Tell me whatever you like, Karinka. The truth is rarely in our words." He keeps his hand out, fingers extended, so she can look at them as long as she wants.
It's the skull and crossbones that gets more attention than others, or maybe it only appears that way since Karina reaches to brush her own finger against the ink slowly. "I find Sergei and Andrei and their friends useful, in their own way. Especially when they're drunk and relaxed, and aren't always watching what they tell someone to impress them," she replies rather frankly, lifting her gaze back to Maxim under the dark fan of lashes to take him in again. "But you. You're new."
Maxim snorts softly and corrects, "I am new /here/. There is difference." He surveys the bar again almost out of habit, checking on the laughing other men. The young couple left. Probably a good call on their part. "Boys who cannot control themselves will always remain boys." He tosses back his shot of vodka without flinching, setting the empty glass on the bar top carefully. "You have strange hobby, Karinka." The diminutive is not really appropriate for such a brief meeting, but the way he drops it, it's almost like he's -- well. Not exactly /trying/ to provoke her. But slightly amused that she might be provoked? Maybe. He does not smile, his lips steady, but the skin around his eyes tightens. Just a touch.
"And do you think you could control yourself, Max?" is a suggestive murmur on the part of the woman, a challenge and a tease all the same as Karina lifts her fingers away from Maxim's to press against her lips instead as she studies him. There's no seeming provocation for the diminutive, only warm amusement, but when she speaks it, it comes with the invisible, inaudible compulsion that curls so invitingly against his thoughts to listen, "~Don't call me that, medvezhonok.~"
"I think control is not optional for some of us, koshka." Maxim answers, and he doesn't call her Karinka again. There is a grim note to his statement, and his hand, resting on the bar, curls downward for just a moment. There are small dents in the wood where his fingertips pressed. Whether or not she thinks being called a cat is any better is up to her.
A laugh slips past Karina's lips as an answer, and she leans forward to lift those fingertips against Maxim's shoulder as she murmurs, "I know that; believe me, I do. Yet, it's something we all crave, isn't it?" There's a certain shamelessness in the way she brushes against him as her fingers curl against muscle, to let her murmur closer, "I could let you have total control of me for a few minutes, for a few hours, if you could pay enough."
Maxim looks down at her fingertips against his shoulder, so small in comparison. And then he smiles, a small and crooked thing, barely a flicker of it before his customary stony expression returns. "You are a very charming woman, koshka. Too much so for simple man like me, I think." He shifts his weight, hip canted against the bar before he looks back at Andrei and Sergei and their friends. One crows about a good shot. Another glances towards Maxim and Karina at the bar, though he doesn't seem inclined to interrupt. The big man straightens up and pulls out another few bills, setting them on the bar to cover his drinks. "I could fight for a week and not make enough to be worth you, I think."
"But one day--. Don't you want to try?" challenges Karina in what could almost be an invitation, lingering close to him for only a moment longer as she twines fingers against the simple black fabric of his shirt. But then she draws back with a smile, dismissive, as she glances back towards the group at the table just in time to catch that look. "Welcome to New York, Maxim. Don't let Sergei and his friends hold you back from making the most of your time here. It'd be a waste if you were stuck in their pit fights when there's much more opportunity to be found for someone like you."
"Your advice, koshka, is duly noted." Max answers levelly -- and she isn't the only one that can be dismissive, because despite the twining fingers and the invitation, the stony expression doesn't budge. He always waits until she's fully done before speaking, though. Maybe it makes him sound slow. Maybe he /is/ slow. It's not like giants are typically known for their sparkly intellect. He holds up his left hand, though, the index finger up. There's a tatto around it, a simple dot in a circle. "Do you know what this one means?" It means, 'In life, count only on yourself'. Orphans, loners, lost souls - the self-reliant.
Maxim is not Kazik to read Karina's thoughts, so she only appears quietly interested, bright blue eyes flicking over the tattoo before they lift again to the Russian. "No, I don't know that one," she admits easily, unabashed at not recognizing the tattoo that she doesn't often see. "What does it mean?"
"It means I learned your lesson long ago." Max puts his hand down and glances to the other Russians one last time. "The dark one there, he won ten thousand at a poker game with the Chinese tonight. Have a good evening, Karina." He tips his chin, a sort of professional nod, and turns to go.
"I'll take that as a no, then, you don't want to try," is offered with a quick, warm laugh to Maxim's back when he turns away. Karina doesn't move to go, not to the indicated man nor to return to the group of men, but rather she remains at the bar to watch him leave as she settles into a comfortable spot.Maxim glances back when he gets to the door, almost like he can't /not/ look back. But he doesn't answer her, not directly; he just smiles again, that faint flicker of expression.