|Location||The Sloppy Pony - Mutant Town|
|Summary||Valerie makes a new friend.|
| There used to be glass in the heavy old frame of the door, but now several boards serve to keep the vermin out -- or, do they? You made it in.
An old hitching post greets patrons along the wall by the door, right next to a broken old jukebox that's just for show. The room itself is narrow and long, with mismatched chairs crowded around a couple (literally, two) small tables and a few crates dispersed elsewhere to sit on, but mostly it's all dancefloor, baby. The bar itself must be original, because despite it's dilapidated condition it's actually fairly well-kitted. There's a couple beers on tap, even. A sink, with shoddy plumbing, but it's a sink, coupled with a fridge whose light is always flickering, but keeps bottles icy cold. Thanks to the kid behind the bar, the collection of poisons to pick from is growing, too.
There's a dartboard at the back, with darts available from the bar staff upon request, and tacks to pin up your choice of photograph to toss at. Right next to it is the door leading upstairs to the proprietor's office/living quarters, pockmarcked by stray dart-holes. The peeling paint and mold seeping through the ceiling are barely even noticeable in the dim light from the hanging, singular string bulbs around the place. Less so after a drink or three, so bottoms up!
| It is a summer day. The weather is warm and stormy.|
It's late afternoon, which means that it's still a bit earlier than peak hours and there's still room to sit. Richard is at the bar, looking mussed and a bit like he just came from a workout, except workouts don't usually leave you a little banged up. He's snorting a laugh as the bartender plops down a glass of ice and a towel in addition to his actual beer, and Richard drops several cubes into the fabric so that he can wrap it up and press it lightly to the bruised scrape blooming across his cheekbone.
Valerie, on the other hand, looks like she's prepping for what promises to be a truly excellent night out. She's already dressed for dancing in a kelly green sundress that might be sweet if it weren't so very short. Her hair is piled atop her head in an artful sloppiness that's built to withstand the downpour outside. She angles directly for the bar on entering, leaning forward to wave at the bartender as she shrugs out of the thigh-length rainjacket she wears in lieu of an umbrella. Only once she's draped it over her arm and ordered a rum and coke does she settle in enough to note Richard's presence (and his cheekbone), and she blinks over at him with a measure of surprise before her smile blooms quick and warm. "Nova," she says, her voice light and teasing. "You're looking a little worse for wear."
Richard startles just the slightest bit at the sound of his old moniker. He looks over at her, blinking a moment before he recognizes her. "Oh, hey." His gaze takes her in with a quick sweep. "Man, it must've gotten really bad right after I got here." He glances over her shoulder at the windows to see the forceful spattering of rain against them. He returns his attention to her. "Oh, this? I'm fine, just a little banged up."
"Hit me about halfway here," Valerie says, lifting a hand to test at the damp waves of her piled hair as she regards him with a grin. "Not a problem, though. I came prepared." She nods toward her raincoat, which she drapes over her knees as she settles herself atop a barstool. Her eyes linger on the bruise. "Run into a different sort of trouble?" she asks. Her smile slants wickedly suggestive. "Or was this one recreational?"
"Gosh, you make me sound all sorts of interesting and exciting," Richard says with another snorting laugh. "I don't think that's really Jeremy's scene." He pauses a moment. "Probably not mine, either. No, more like lucrative. A fight at 18th Street."
"Aren't you?" Valerie wonders with a flirtatious uptick of her brows and her smile. Her eyes echo his laughter as she leans an elbow into the bar. "No? Ah-- so you'll get a little beat up for money, but not for fun. Interesting line you draw there."
"I mean, a lot of the fights at 18th Street can be fun, but I'm not exactly getting hot and bothered from them," Richard says in a dry tone as he shifts the press of his makeshift ice pack against his cheek. "I mean, do all of /your/ hobbies?" He blinks, suddenly realizing exactly what he's asking, and amends, "Uh. Sorry. You don't need to answer that."
Valerie's smile stretches wider, and this time she laughs aloud, quiet and warm as she watches him. The close study of her gaze manages to be somehow suggestive in itself, even without an answer to fuel it. She's briefly distracted by the arrival of her drink, but she leaves it untouched at her elbow in favor of watching the shift of Richard's icepack against the bruise of his cheek. "Most of them," she admits freely. She shifts on her stool, and when she's resettled, she's angled just that much more toward Richard. "I mean. What's the point of doing something that doesn't get you going, a least a little? You know?"
"Well, I mean, I think there are different /kinds/ of enjoyment, and not all of them are -- that." Richard's getting a little babbly under such close attention. "Just because it's not that kind of fun doesn't mean it's not -- fun?" Face flushing the slightest bit in his awkwardness, he says, "I mean, I guess adrenaline is adrenaline?"
"Different kinds of hot and bothered," Valerie agrees. Her smile draws a little softer - a little smugger - at Richard's babbling, and she shifts again. The tilt of her lean gives him a truly excellent view of what little cleavage she has, all soft, pale skin and the suggestion of shadowed curves. "So what," she says, lifting a finger to brush feather-soft against his cheek in indication. "You're telling me going a few rounds doesn't make you want to -- go a few rounds? At all?" Her brows flick upward again, this time in disbelief as she hovers close.
"Um." Yes, this is the suave reaction to aggressive women that got him into Gamora's bed. Clearly. "Well, I mean, sure, um, like I said, adrenaline and all that. I guess that happens -- sometimes." He swallows.
Valerie leans back, withdrawing her hand as if she had never invaded Richard's personal space. She gives him just that much room to breathe, and no more. Her smile is quick with friendly, flirtatious teasing. "Sometimes," she echoes. She draws her drink toward her, tracing the rim with the delicate point of a finger. "I have to admit-- when /my/ adrenaline gets high..."
"Yeah, I'm, uh, kind of getting that impression." Richard's smile is a little tense. With some room to breath, he has brain enough to say, "I mean, you're really beautiful, and I'm sure it'd be a lot of fun, but I've got this boyfriend and also Rohan's kind of my best friend, and I know that whatever was going on there wasn't a /thing/, but -- you know."
"Oh, good," Valerie says, grinning over the lift of her drink to her lips. "Sometimes I'm too subtle for my own good." From the twinkle in her eye, it seems likely that this is a joke. She listens patiently through boyfriend, but her expression freezes almost comically at Rohan's name, and her fingers tighten in their grip around her glass. "Wait," she says after a beat and a deep breath. "Sorry. Back up."
"Um." Richard looks a little nervous at her freezing. "How -- far?"
"I'm a little confused," Valerie says. She unthaws slightly, though the slow curve of her smile clearly takes a touch more effort than earlier iterations. "About how the hell Rohan got into all this."
"Clearly on accident," Richard says, lowering his ice to the bar so he can rub at his eye a bit with his other hand. "You can make my rejection entirely about my boyfriend, if you want. Although I guess technically we're not -- uh. Nevermind. You can make it about that."
"Pretty sure I can't," Valerie says with an upward tick of her brows. Her smile holds a hint of amusement again as she watches the rub of his hand. "What with technically you're not."
"No, we're definitely boyfriends, we're just -- well, he's, um -- poly?" Richard says that as if he's not sure if she'll know what that means, which is kind of stupid. "I mean, it hasn't come up, but I'm still kind of like -- used to to the whole 'I'm dating someone so I'm not sleeping with other people' thing."
"Ah," Valerie breathes, and this time her smile holds a touch of sympathy as she watches Richard. "So he's poly, and you're not." She lifts her drink for another swallow, watching him consideringly over the rim, as if working something out.
"Well /this/ sure got personal," Richard says with a wry twist of his lips.
"Hey, /I/ was just angling to get you to dance with me," Valerie says, flashing a sudden grin as she lowers her drink. "And see where the night went. You're the one who started bringing other people into it."
"I just -- oh my God, I was just about to say that I didn't want to get your hopes up, which makes me sound like a /total/ jerk." Richard laughs a little helplessly despite himself. "I just mean you were -- you know, being pretty clear, and I wanted to -- also be clear?" Help.
"Oh my god," Valerie says, and lifts her drink again to finish it in one quick swallow. She stands, sliding off her bar stool with a little hop before she stretches a hand up toward Richard, wiggling. "That's it. Shut up, stop talking, come dance with me."
"Okay but I'm not--" YOU KNOW. Richard abandons his drink and his ice to reluctantly take her hand and allow himself to be tugged along. "You kind of remind me of an ex-girlfriend of mine," he jokes nervously.
"I'm going to take that as a compliment," Valerie says. She twists her fingers through his with firm assurance and not the slightest hint of hesitation, and once on the dance floor, she uses that point of touch to spin into him. Her other hand settles snug at his waist as she tilts her head back to look up (and up and up) at Richard. "Don't worry, sugar," she tells him with a smile that barely holds back a laugh. "I don't fuck people who don't want to fuck me. You're safe."
"That's reassuring," Richard replies dryly. He settles close but not /too/ close to her, and two things become apparent. One, he actually does know how to dance and is surprisingly (for someone who was being super awkward a second ago) comfortable on the dance floor in general. Two, he is being careful to keep the dancing friendly and, for lack of a better word, unintimate. "It was," he adds a bit belatedly. "A compliment. I guess. I mean, the comparison was mostly about being bossy about dancing, but she's cool."
Valerie doesn't push intimacy, but she does tend to dance a little closer than Richard might /prefer/. Still, her hands behave themselves, and her hips remain mostly in order. She grins up at him, eyes bright. "Cool I can handle. Hot, too, I hope?" Valerie fishes shamelessly as they settle into the music, which remains cheerfully upbeat.
"She was very hot," Richard says in an obedient tone. "I mean. She /is/ -- well, I mean, she's still beautiful, she's just older, but she was probably your age when we were dating--" Wow he is just. So bad at this. He offers a twirl for her instead, because he's better at that.
Valerie twists out and then back in. The move gives her moment to consider this puzzle, and when she crashes back into him, she's just a little bit closer, and her eyes are closed. "Oh," she says, blinking them open to tilt her head up at Richard again. "Shit. Weird."
Richard offers a somewhat helpless smile down to her. "Yeah, she's in her fifties now. It's definitely weird." He shrugs, though, and shifts his hands lightly on the most appropriate parts of her he can find. He's had more time to get used to it than she has. "So do you ever dance just to dance?" he asks her.
Valerie answers that with a laugh, her brows swept up as she studies him. "What, you mean without it being get-out-of-your-head therapy for the hot awkward guy at the bar, or without it being foreplay?"
"I meant the latter, but I totally contest the former!" Richard says.
"If I say no, does that mean you're still considering it?" Valerie wonders in quick, low teasing. Her hand, previously at his shoulder, settles instead at the curve of his neck, and her fingers brush light at the sensitive spot just behind his ear.
"N -- o," Richard insists, but he does twitch a little bit when she brushes her fingers behind his ear. "I'm just dancing. I dance just to dance! It's a thing people can do."
"Yes, Richard," Valerie says, and despite the amusement in her voice, she manages to wrap his name in warmth and-- well. Not affection. Not /that/. But there's attraction bright in her eyes and low in her voice. "I dance just to dance. I drink just to drink, I party just to party." Her finger brushes again, slow, light, purposeful. "Sometimes. And sometimes I don't."
Richard reaches for the hand at his neck to gently but firmly remove it. "I said no," he says in a lower voice. "I'm sure you wouldn't appreciate if I kept trying after you'd said as much."
Valerie lets Richard untwine her hand without argument, and she grins her apology as she puts a hair more distance between them. "Mmm," she says. "I'll be good. Promise."
The tenor of Richard's quiet snort is a bit skeptical, but he seems mostly appeased. His innate friendliness keeps him from abandoning her on the dance floor, and he settles into the rhythm of it. He's actually kind of a /fun/ dancer if you're not trying to grope him. Maybe she can still enjoy that.
Valerie can, indeed. In fact, with the prospect of something more so very firmly off the table, it turns out that Valerie is kind of a fun dancer, too. Once she picks up Richard's comfort level - and his skill - she pushes him a little, grinning through the music as sweat beads up on bare skin and the bar grows steadily more crowded.
It takes Richard a few minutes to really let his guard down again, but after that he starts really getting into it, twisting and twirling her around the cramped dance floor, eventually grinning right back at her as even he manages to work up a sweat. They probably even look a little impressive.
Eventually Valerie breaks, stepping back with a hand lifted to beg a moment. She has to step in close again to tell him, "I need a drink!" on a shout, lifted over music and a crowd that have both gotten louder since they left their place at the bar.
"I think our spot at the bar's probably gone," Richard yells back, glancing over to confirm his suspicions. They'll just have to make a space, and he starts off by stepping in front to try shouldering a path for her back to the bartender.
"That's why I picked the tall guy!" Valerie answers with a grin, trailing after him close enough to slip into the space he opens. Even with Richard's aid, it takes a bit to elbow a spot in at the bar, and once there, Valerie's 5'4" arm-waving does little good.
"You know," Richard tells her, "I'm starting to feel /real/ objectified here." But he still squeezes a space into the bar and lifts his arm to get the bartender's attention. "What do you want?"
"Are you?" Valerie twists a little in the close quarters to look up (up up still) at Richard with a grin and a waggle of her brows. "Good. I'd hate to think I was falling short." She punctuates this with a wink, then adds, "Rum and coke. And water!"
"Oh my God," Richard laughs. He manages to get the bartender's attention with the magic of superior height and orders two glasses of water and a rum and coke.
"Ah, so he /is/ having fun!" Valerie says in answer to Richard's laugh. She looks positively smug as their drinks arrive, and she turns to lean back into the bar, watching him with her water lifted to her lips for a swallow that drains half the glass in one go.
Richard gulps down his own water in a way that pretty much mirrors her. "I never said I wasn't having fun," he argues.
"True," Valerie allows. Her gaze lingers on the line of his throat as he swallows and the curve of his lips as he lowers the glass, then darts up to meet his with a quick smile. "Still, it does my ego good to see some proof of it after such a disappointing rejection."
"I'm pretty sure you'll have a line of guys--" He glances at her. "--or whoever waiting to say yes. I think you'll be able to make it through." Richard's smile is a bit weary, but only from all the dancing.
"Ah, but what good's a line of guys when the one you've set your heart on has cruelly rejected you?" Valerie retorts, lifting her brows in dramatic fashion. She abandons her water behind her, swapping it out for the alcohol, and she watches him over a sip as she leans back against the bar. After a beat she says, "You should ice that cheek again. It's starting to swell."
"I'm pretty sure it wasn't your heart you set on me," Richard retorts with dry humor. He sighs a bit, reaching to poke at his tender cheek. "Probably not much point by now." Still, he sets his sweating glass against it.
"Oh, come /on/!" Valerie objects, nudging a foot forward against his in protest. "You're killing me here. You don't get to innuendo at me unless you're reconsidering."
"I am not innuendo-ing, I am pointing out your /blatant lies/," Richard says, but he's close to cackling at this point.
"Figure of speech!" Valerie objects, but it comes with an easy grin as she watches him. "And you are /totally/ innuedoing. Don't be a liar, Nova. Nobody likes a liar."
Richard lifts his brows in an expression of utter innocence. "I can't imagine what you're talking about," he tells her. "My parents raised me to not lie and not curse, and I'm not doing either."
"Oh? What else did your parents raise you not to do?" Valerie wonders with exaggerated fascination, her glass lifted to her lips and her eyes wide above it.
"Oh my God," Richard says again, looking to the heavens for strength. "I feel like you could be /arrested/ for innuendo."
"They haven't passed a law against it yet," Valerie says, grinning at Rich. "C'mon, Nova. Tell me. Don't you break /any/ of your parents' rules?"
"I sure do," Richard says -- and nothing else. Except for this: "Why do you keep calling me that?"
"Oh, come /on/, you can't leave me hanging-- I will start guessing!" Valerie threatens, eyes gone wide again. She blinks at his question, briefly, then shrugs. "Sounds sexier than Richard," she says.
"/Ouch/." Richard sets a hand over his heart. Look how wounded. "I mean, you can call me Rich if you /really/ need an alternative."
"Okay, /Rich/," Valerie says. She speaks his name in a low purr, suggestive innuendo in that single word. Her smile curves in slow challenge. "So. Your parents. Were they the sort to have rules about drinking and riding in cars with girls?" Because that's what parents were like when Richie was a boy.
Richard just rolls her eyes at the purr at this point. "Drinking, yes. Sex, yes. I /could/ date, which probably would've included having a girl in my parents' car, but I didn't do much of it in high school; I was kind of a dork." WAS.
"Riding in cars with boys?" Valerie wonders with an uptick of her brows.
"I'm pretty sure /that/ particular thought didn't even occur to them," Richard says with a faint smile. "But it didn't occur to me at the time, either."
"No? Huh." Valerie twists her glass a little, letting the ice clank against the edges. "Bet the poly thing didn't occur to them, either." Her gaze is just a touch bit sharper here, watching for Richard's reaction.
"Honestly, I'm not sure they would've known what it was at the time," Richard admits, gaze sliding away from her. "I mean, I didn't. Like, I guess we knew about Mormons having multiple wives and everything, but that was kind of -- frowned upon."
"Damn," Valerie says. Her smile twists with a moment's sympathy, and after a beat, she nudges her foot forward against his again. "Change with the times, huh?"
"Are you asking /me/ to change with the times?" Richard asks, brow arching. "Cause I'm already changing, here. I've changed all over, man."
"I was remarking on your flexibility," Valerie returns, and impressively, there isn't an ounce of innuendo in it.
"Ah. Well, it only took me several years of moping around to date again," Richard replies with a thin smile.
"And you switched genders and went poly on the first try?" Valerie asks with a surprised lift of her brows. "You like to swing for the fences, don't you Nova?"
Richard exhales a slow breath. "I mean, not exactly. For the first, anyways. Before all the moping I fell in love with my best friend when we were stuck in an alternate universe together." His smile is tight. "And for the second, I fell in love with Jeremy before I knew anything about -- that."
Valerie exhales slowly, and there's an edge of sympathy in her gaze despite the quick sweep of her smile and the lightness of her voice as she says, "Well, sugar. If you ever decide to jump into /that/, you let me know, yeah?"
Richard looks on the edge of saying something contrary, but thinks better of it and instead says: "Sure. I'll give you a ring." His smile has softened a bit in response to her sympathy.
"There we go," Valerie says, pausing to finish her drink in a quick swallow. "A little balm for my bruised ego." She slides the glass to the bar behind her, then straightens in front of Richard. After a beat, she lifts a hand to brace against his shoulder and pushes up to brush a quick kiss to his cheek. If it drifts a little toward the corner of his mouth, well. "I'd better get going before you batter it again," she murmurs. "See what else the night holds."
Richard sets a hand on her shoulder as if to CONTROL HER if she gets too frisky, but his touch is light as she behaves herself. (Mostly.) "Good luck," he tells her solemnly. "Not that you'll need it."Valerie answers with a grin and a wink before she slips out past him with only the lightest brush of her fingers against his hip. She behaves herself. Mostly.