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Latest revision as of 06:50, 7 November 2016

Crashing the Con
Date Posted 2016/11/06
Location Salem Center Comic-Con
Participants Jeremy, Richard
Summary They don't really crash the convention. They just visit.
 
Jerjeremy.jpg Ririchard.JPG
It's not a large convention, which in ways makes it more surreal than some large conventions can be. Instead of throngs of swarming crowds mobbing the hotel, little knots of people in costume or in aggressively nerdy T-shirts occasionally form in the lobby on their way to the conference rooms and hotel rooms converted to panel rooms, but otherwise the hotel continues in its usual business. A couple of people in suits give a pair of Klingon women in full battle armor complete with peace-bonded bat'leths a wide berth, but the Klingons are more interested in drinking their Starbucks than in making war on humanity.

Unlike Halloween, this is not an environment for free-flying mutant flags, although it is occasionally difficult to tell the difference between a really aggressive piece of costuming and/or monster makeup and somebody's real body. Th/e dealer's room is set up in a couple of adjoining banquet rooms whose doors are held open with doorstops. "Pretty sure that guy at the D.C. Universe booth has a real tail," Jeremy asides to Richard, moving at a slow and easygoing pace as he peruses a booth set up by none other than the Wee Book Inn in Greenwich Village, because why not. He seems very pleased by the idea. Mutants with jobs, working in comics! Maybe? He admits after a beat, "Or else a serious robot props budget budget." Way less cool.

"Or both," Richard suggests. "Uh -- somehow." He's been fairly bright and interested as they've moved throughout the convention. A little less sprightly than Jeremy, perhaps, but there's no less warmth to his smile. He strides at any easy lope, and seems fairly adept at sidestepping the various groups on the show floor. He's looking very retro (and hot) in his Han Solo outfit, and he's probably gotten a few glances the way hot cosplayers tend to do.

Jeremy is pulling off Luke Skywalker with similar panache that he did on Halloween -- that is to say, probably more enthusiasm than outright /panache/, but he's definitely in an environment where people appreciate it. He makes frequent but undemanding physical contact with Rich as he maneuvers through the floor, poking at action figures he shouldn't buy and eyeballing paper books he has no room for. "When I first started doing this con it was even smaller, and I think it's aged with me. There are a lot more space age decals on walkers than there were however many years ago that was."

"Do you need a walker?" Richard asks sympathetically. It's not very touchy in new public places, and this is no exception; he doesn't shy away from Jeremy's light touches, though. "We can get it all fancy and nerdy for you." He runs his fingers over a few paperbacks, eyeing the titles closely.

"How does it feel to date a man so old that you think he needs a cane?" Jeremy clucks his tongue at Richard. He pauses at the edge of the booth, and watches him caress the spine of a paperback. He grins a little crookedly and asks, "Finding anything you like?"

"Oh, you know. I endure." Richard pulls back his hand a little self-consciously at Jeremy's question. "No," he says. "I mean. Nothing I /need/. Um."

"I don't think you'll find anything on the hierarchy of needs in a dealer's room," Jeremy says with a laugh on his breath, his hand falling to rest on Richard's back.

"I have a /lot/ of books," Richard says a touch defensively.

"That's why I started to go out with you," Jeremy tells him. He kisses his cheek and then turns to drift on to the next booth, browsing T-shirts. "What T-shirt should I buy?" He doesn't start with 'should I buy a T-shirt.'

"Because of the /books/?" Richard says with a disbelieving shirt, glancing over at him. He trails after him, considering t-shirts. "Whichever one's nerdiest," he decides.

"Which one's that?" Jeremy spreads his hand over the veritable buffet of nerdiness before them. He smiles a little wider. "Remember that first time you brought me back to your apartment full of books?" he asks lightly. "And went to your knees? I might not have immediately known it but I'm sure that was the moment I was doomed."

[Sun, Nov 06 @ 05:12 PM] Kade has set a party! XFS is on the case to retrieve a valuable piece of missing property (hotdog cart)! Come help and make some cash (or just gawk). '+hop 1' to play job-ness.

"Sounds more like you started going out with me for the blowjobs," Richard says in a lower, wryer voice. He flips through the t-shirts on display, lingering on one with a particularly groan-worthy joke about noble gasses. A possibility.

"So what did you start going out with me for?" Jeremy asks with a particularly cheerful leer. He picks up a shirt and holds it up to his chest, looking down at it contemplatively. It looks a lot like his Xavier's shirts, except it's for Miskatonic University instead.

"Oh, definitely the blowjobs," Richard says with a very impressive poker face.

"I don't think I'm going to find that on a T-shirt." Jeremy puts Miskatonic University back, and then picks up a black one that says 'geek dad' on it in bright green text. "Well, this one's accurate, but it lacks a certain something. Where's the punchline?"

"Jeremy," Richard says, setting a gentle hand on his shoulder and looking into his face. "That /is/ the punchline."

"What?" Jeremy looks down at the shirt and then looks up at Richard. "It's just facts."

Richard leans over to press a kiss to Jeremy's hair before he turns back to flip through more t-shirts. Okay, honey.

Jeremy eventually leaves off his rooting through potential worn nerd jokes as an alarm pings visually at the corner of his vision, through his Eyes. "Oop, time to head to the thing," he says, reaching to tug Rich away from the smorgasbord of nerdery that is the dealer's room. "They're in the upstairs conference room."

"Oh," Richard says, suddenly a bit nervous, albeit subtly. He sticks a bit closer to Jeremy than before, perhaps, as they start making their way through the show floor towards the elevator. He opens his mouth as if to ask something, then shuts it again.

Jeremy punches the controls on the elevator as they reach it, and then settles his weight back on his heels as they weight for the car, clasping Richard's hand in a warm twine of his fingers. The doors open to admit them, and he waits for a couple in wide-winged fairy costumes to drift past them before he steps inside. "Yeah?" he asks, as he punches in the correct floor.

"No, it's nothing," Richard says, ducking his head. "I'm just being dumb. You know. Wanting your friends to like me." He scuffs at the back of his hair while his other hand twines tightly with Jeremy's.

"They will," Jeremy assures him with a wide, warm smile. He leans in to brush a kiss to the corner of his mouth, even as the elevator drags to a stop and dings their arrival. He's terrible about being publicly demonstrative.

Richard does duck his head a bit at that, somewhere between nervous and embarrassed. He's kind of quiet on the ride up in the elevator, too. Aaaaaaaaah.

Jeremy leads Richard down the hallway to the conference room. The doorway sign is displaying across its LCD screen the same flyer with its silly poem on it that Jeremy read to Richard back when this plan was first formed; the doors are cracked, so Jeremy shoulders inward.

They are greeted by a short, stout, dark-haired woman whose corset is allowing her prominently displayed bosom to perform remarkably table-like feats. She is also wearing elf ears and the remainder of a kind of generic fantasy costume that seems like it's probably just an excuse for the corset. "Come on in, folks! Get yourself some pizza! Beer's in the cooler! Oh, hey, I know you," she says, and then flings her arms wide and swarms up to Jeremy in a hug.

"Hey, stranger," Jeremy says with an easy laugh. "Laura, this is Rich. Rich, Laura-- ooh, no, don't grope him, honey."

This last because Laura has moved on from hugging Jeremy so that she can attack and hug Richard next.

"It's called a hug, loser!" Laura announces.

"Oh, okay." This is happening. Richard is pretty good with hugs, at least; it's a normal thing that happens. Hugs! Okay. He'll hug Laura, he'll just be a little shy about it. "Hi," he says. "Nice to meet you, Laura."

"I always wanted to hug a scoundrel," Laura says with a cheerfully lascivious grin.

"Yeah, you and everybody else," Jeremy says. He angles himself as a gentle sort of bulwark between Laura and Richard, and gets a particularly skeptical eyebrow look for his troubles. "Rich is my boyfriend and this is all kinda new to him, so please don't tackle him to the floor, okay?"

"10-4," Laura says. She points at the coolers across the room. "Beer's over there. Pizza's already here, but Mike and Tsuro went to get more breadsticks and sauce. If they don't get sidetracked arguing about zero gee sex again, there will be plenty of food! I'm on door duty but Corey brought his anime collection so we might put on some cracky Japanese shit in a bit. Say hi to my wife for me."

"Please not the weird octopus thing again," Jeremy says, and claims Richard's hand firmly as he draws him further into the room.

It mostly looks like a room with people in it, not as hopped up as a party but still with a warm, convivial energy. There are a few small knots around small conference tables. Jeremy's vague aim is apparently for an older, plump grey-haired lady with hair full of glittery ribbons, wearing a T-shirt with an Ent on it, who is sitting on the table next to the cooler full of beer. "Tilda!" he says. "I remember when you used to dye your hair silver! Regretting it now? Laura said to say hi, which is weird because she's right over there. This is my boyfriend Rich. Rich, this is Tilda."

"I also answer to gay granny," Tilda says gravely, waggling her beer bottle as she swings her foot where she sits on the table.

Richard's gaze is quick and assessing, and to Jeremy it might even hold some shades of a man who's done a lot of quick assessments after throwing himself into the thick of battle. Worldmind might be remembering things for him. "Hi, Tilda," he says, but his smile definitely warms for her suggested nickname. He offers his hand, which is probably all sorts of adorably quaint in this company. "It's really nice to meet you. Uh -- thanks for having me."

Tilda sets her beer down and leans forward to shake Richard's hand. "You are fucking adorable, young man," she tells him.

"He is," Jeremy says with a laugh, collecting a couple of beers from the cooler. "Laura is threatening us with Corey's anime."

"That is not my department," Tilda says firmly. She smiles at Richard, releasing his hand and reaching for her beer again. "Corey has been my wife's boyfriend for twelve years but it has been agreed for ten that I don't have to watch that shit."

A couple of men -- both old, one completely bald and Chinese-looking and the other like a shaggy-haired short white guy with a beer belly wearing a really obscure engineering joke on his shirt -- come in pushing a cart full of even more pizza, breadsticks, and soda bottles. One of them is shouting about "You're just putting too much emphasis on the time period the stuff was created in when you do that. You have this idea that science fiction requires this visionary ethos and all it requires is fiction with a scientific component--"

"Shut up and push, you old fart! I'm diabetic, I'm not waiting around for your thesis--"

A few other men get up from their table, laughing together as they go to help distribute these spoils. A couple of them are clearly introducing themselves, and one of them is definitely just there to steal cheesebread without saying anything. Laura intercepts him.

"Not really my aim, but thanks, I guess." Richard's smile is a bit tight, a bit -- trying not to be overwhelmed. His attention shifts rather quickly to talk of WHAT DEFINES SCIENCE-FICTION, but he bites back his immediate opinion, because he doesn't even know these people.

"Star Wars isn't science fiction, you warbling buffoon," is where the argument is leading now, but the man making this pronouncement is the only one still arguing, because his partner has stuffed his mouth full of pizza and waves his hand irritably.

"Where's Mike's kids? Are they old enough for the con proper or are they doing the kiddie program?" Jeremy asks Tilda.

"Nah," Tilda says, "the oldest is off at school now, Wallace, not coming to cons with her bitchy old man anymore."

"Jeez." Jeremy makes a complaining noise, and then puts his hand to Richard's back, running his knuckles in a long stroke down his spine. "You're right," he tells him, "I'm getting old. You want to get pizza, or are you good with beer? We can probably take a chair at one of the tables and let people circulate to us if this is a bit, uh, much."

Behind him, a couple of the younger crowd are starting to gesture very animatedly and one of them has a foam boffer weapon strapped to her back that could make this get interesting.

"Okay, Star Wars is /definitely/ science fiction," is Richard's /immediate/ response to this idea. "Space opera is a /subset/ of a sci-fi--" He quiets a bit as Jeremy runs his knuckles down his back. "Um," he says quieter, just to his boyfriend now. "Sorry."

The Chinese bald guy orients on Richard when he makes this argument, and he seems to light up with real joy at a new target joining the fray. Taking one of the bags of breadsticks in hand, he swarms over to them, his former argument partner trailing in his wait like a tugboat as he chews. "Star Wars is science fantasy! There's no science in Star Wars, it's just a fantasy epic set in outer space. I don't have a problem with science fantasy, I think it's great, but Roddenberry was interested in science, /Lucas/ didn't even know what a parsec was--"

"Tsuro, you should say hello to the nice man in the Millenium Falcon before you pick a fight," says Mike once he manages to clear his mouth of his swallow. He takes the bag of breadsticks out of Tsuro's hand and offers them to Rich, saying, "Hey, Wallace. I can't believe you dressed up. You haven't dressed up in years, I thought you were allergic to effort."

"I love effort," Jeremy protests. "I'm just usually too busy and ashamed. Hey guys. Please don't eat my boyfriend."

Mike gives Richard a searching look, like he's trying to figure out what on Earth he's doing with Jeremy, and says, "Huh."

"And Asimov doesn't bear any resemblance to Roddenberry, but they're both sci-fi," Richard says, immediately jumping back into the argument. "Sci-fi is just a setting, it doesn't have thematic rules. Aliens is still sci-fi." Does anyone still remember Aliens in 2046? "Oh, uh. Hi."

"They don't have to resemble each other," argues Tsuro, waving one of the breadsticks in the air. "I mean, Star Wars is literally space magic. There's no science in it! Being in space doesn't make it science. Asimov and Roddenberry don't share much, but their work at least borrows from real, actual science, at least how it was understood according to the eras they wrote--"

"Fucking nerds," says Mike, and shoves the rest of his piece of pizza in his mouth. "Which one is Aliens?"

"Maybe we should just let them have fun," Jeremy says with his eyebrows up, smile wide on his lips. He keeps his hand on Richard's back, though -- more as a support than anything like a claim.

"Being in space /does/ make it /sci-fi/," Richard argues back. "It's /setting/. It's fiction based in futuristic settings." (Or a long time ago.) He looks vaguely pained when Mike asks about Aliens. "It's -- man, come on, it's Sigourney Weaver. James Cameron, 1986. Xenomorphs?" WAS HE THE ONLY ONE ALIVE IN THE 80S.

Mike scratches at the side of his face and looks at Jeremy.

Jeremy says, "You know, Ripley," in his memory prompting way.

Mike nods and goes, "Ahh, right. It's been awhile since I did classics. Film Studies over here gives me a headache." But -- yes, Richard was probably one of the only people in the room alive in the 80s.

"Science fiction isn't a setting, it's a genre. I mean, are you arguing that it's not science fiction if it's /not/ in space? The scientific element is what's important," insists Tsuro. "Magic means it's not science fiction. Jedi aren't science! Mike, back me up here."

"You haven't even asked the guy's name yet," Mike complains. "I can't take you out in public if you're going to act like this."

Tsuro looks offended. "We're at /con/."

"No, man, squares and rectangles: you don't have to be in space to be sci-fi, but if you're in space you definitely /are/ sci-fi." Richard crosses his arms over his chest, which is probably a great sign as far as him getting along with people.

"Aw hell. You boys need more beers?" Without waiting for an answer, Mike abandons Tsuro's side to greet Tilda and raid the cooler. He'll probably be back to run more interference.

"Even if there's a wizard?" Tsuro asks skeptically. His body language is still excited and expansive. He does not read warning signs. He is the kind of nerd who lacks social intelligence. He's just charging onward. "What if there's a unicorn? Still sci-fi?"

Since Richard's body language closes off, Jeremy sidesteps to embarrass him in public just a little bit by wrapping his arms in a loose fold around his stomach, leaning into the Han Solo jacket he's wearing. He's warm and solid and aggressively cuddly behind him.

"Yes," Richard decides, perhaps out of pure stubbornness than anything else. "Even if there's a wizard and a unicorn. Star Wars is still going to be a space opera, which is a sub/genre/ of science fiction." He should probably have a beer.

"Then we are clearly at cross purposes, Mr. Solo," says Tsuro, because he doesn't know Richard's name and he's gone to high dudgeon. "Because I think once the magical elements overwhelm scientific reality, we are no longer in science fiction, but somewhere else. It doesn't have to be /good/ science -- in fact, most of it is aggressively bad science, especially as you approach the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond. But it does have to at least try to be science."

"If you want to give him a heart attack, you can say midichlorians to him," Jeremy murmurs against Richard's ear, possibly in an attempt to break the tension.

Mike is ambling back over with beer bottles in his hands, but he's taking his time because he's talking to a few people as he goes.

"Yes, all those spaceship dogfights definitely run on magic," Richard says, barely restraining from rolling his eyes. "Listen, you can think what you want, but that doesn't make it /correct/." Oh my God Richard go drink your beer.

"You aren't right just because you declare yourself right, man," Tsuro says, with a big, eye crinkling smile. "The text makes no attempt to explain anything! It's taken as read! The central fixture is space magic. Space magic! Wizards!"

Jeremy says, because this is the kind of nerd that HE is: "I'm just watching, here, but is there a particular reason it matters whether Star Wars is space fantasy or science fiction? I mean, we're all on the page of Star Wars being awesome, right?"

Mike turns up with the beer bottles to hand them out. Jeremy takes both his and Richard's, and then very deliberately puts Richard's into his hand.

The beer is distracting. Thank God. Richard looks down at the bottle like he's surprised it found its way to his hand. "Right. Star Wars is awesome. I will definitely agree with that." He looks back up with a tight, apologetic smile.

"So, this is Mike and Tsuro," Jeremy says with his arm looped around Richard's waist. He smiles at him. "Tsuro teaches at Brooklyn College. Mike works for some aerospace ... aeronautics ... what do you do again, Mike?"

"I make engineers complain a lot," Mike says. He takes a pull from his beer.

"Guys, this is Rich. He gets real hot about Star Wars." Jeremy grins as he lifts his beer bottle to his mouth. "And he's new to all this, so I'm protecting him from your wandering hands."

Tsuro looks startled and then is immediately defensive, "What? Just because I like a man who has passion about his opinions. I wasn't hitting on him!"

"Hi." Richard lifts a hand. It's honestly a super straight guy kind of wave. "I'm Rich. Yes, I like Star Wars." He takes a long pull from his beer; Jeremy can probably feel the nervous tension in his shoulders. "Nice to meet both of you."

"Nice meeting you too. Sorry about my boyfriend," Mike says. He swats Tsuro on the ass, and earns a startled noise for his trouble.

"Sorry," Tsuro has the grace to say. "I know I can be a bit much. Mike's partner Samhain has a cool stand in the dealer's room with a lot of Star Wars merch if you like holoposters. I don't like posters that aren't made out of paper because I'm old, but you should check it out. Do you study film? Anybody who knows Cameron these days has to study film."

Jeremy tries to cram as much sturdy reassurance into the wrap of his arm around Richard's waist as he can. "Rich has a good brain for details," he says, because he thinks it's funny. "Corey's apparently going to inflict anime on the room. I see a bunch of people I don't know here. Who d'you think should we meet?"

"Uh." Oh, that question. "Well, I did study film for a few years before I dropped out of college," Richard says. "But no, I don't do it as a profession. I, uh--" How to say this. "I mostly -- do odd jobs." He glances at Jeremy.

"He works for me over at X-Factor," Jeremy agrees.

"Well, that sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen," says Mike.

"Nah, nah, we're cool. We're cool, right?" Jeremy grins up at Richard. "Anyway, nobody would believe half the shit in our courtship so, really, we're safe from lawyers."

Tsuro runs his fingers over his bald head as he looks randomly around the room. "There's a few newbies over there you could say hi to," he says. "I haven't talked to most of them. I always feel really bad for the people who show up and don't know who to talk to but I can be a bit much and Mike's an asshat. Wallace...?"

Jeremy throws back his head and laughs. "Oh, right, my being nice superpower."

"I don't know if sexual harassment laws cover contractors?" Richard says, smile a bit crooked. "Anyways, I think he'd be in bigger danger from all the people constantly trying to punch my face in." Hah hah violence is funny when it's totally normalized in your life. "Jeremy is definitely the nicest person I know," he adds in generalized support of Jeremy's aptitude for socializing.

"Huh," Mike says, puzzling visibly at them again. He slaps Tsuro on the butt and says, "Come on, let's leave them to do that and get ourselves some pizza."

"You already had a piece," Tsuro says, and the two of them go off together, bickering.

"You doing okay?" Jeremy asks as they move off, running his knuckles down Richard's spine again.

"Yeah," Richard says on the breath of an exhale. "Yeah, I'm good. He was totally wrong about Star Wars, though." Okay let's go meet other people??

Jeremy tips his head up to brush a kiss against Richard's cheek. "I love you," he says, which is not a traditional response to Star Wars arguments. He takes Richard's hand and tugs him lightly along as he heads for one of the tables in the corner, sipping at his beer as he goes. "Hey," he says to the young woman sitting there, dressed in a punky leather and band T-shirt getup with a cool Bajoran earring on and around one ear. "I haven't seen you at one of these before, hi. I'm Jeremy, and this is my boyfriend Rich."

"Hi," she says, a little wary and nervous as her gaze flickers between the two of them. "Um, I'm Keri." She hesitates for a beat as Jeremy as pulling up a chair and then blurts, "Look, sorry, but I'm a lesbian and that's kind of -- I mean, I'm not saying--"

Jeremy smiles disarmingly and says, "No worries, we're not hitting on you. Just saying hi. Want us to scram?"

"I'm /definitely/ not hitting on you," Richard confirms, then immediately seems to realize how that might sound. "Uh. Not that you're not -- um -- you know, worth hitting on. I'm just way to awkward and nervous right now."

"Wow, are you sure you're not hitting on me, because I think you just spoke to my soul," Keri says, and pins the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger as she emits a particularly undignified little snort. "Hi, I am also really awkward and nervous."

"Hi," Jeremy says. "That's funny, I thought you were Keri."

Keri looks at him.

Jeremy smiles his best dad joke smile, and then adds, "Little overwhelmed? You been to con before, or...?"

"He's a dad," Richard tries to explain.

Keri laughs despite herself and slouches back in her seat. "I've been to cons before, just not, you know." She gestures.

"Sure, yeah. Also a lot of the people here are way older than you, and that's weird." Jeremy sits down in the seat he claimed and hooks his arms against the table. "This is Rich's first time too. He's not poly, but I am, and he puts up with me." He is free about sharing these personal details. He didn't ask for permission first.

Keri smiles a little. "I'm ... not sure," she confesses, returning detail for detail. Running her hand over the back of her neck, she sighs. "My last girlfriend wanted to have an open relationship but then it turned out she just wanted to be the one to sleep around, which sucked? But I know not everyone who does this is like that. 'Swhy I came here. Maybe figure out stuff?"

Richard spreads his hands a little like, what are you gonna do. These are the kinds of words that come out of Jeremy's mouth. He sits down next to him. "What he said, I guess. Uh. I can say that Jeremy is super nice and said that this group helped him figure himself out when he was young, so." Maybe helpful?

"It did," Jeremy agrees with a low laugh. "Maybe just being in a room with people for whom it wasn't weird or scary." Jeremy tilts in his seat, his lean open towards Richard for all that he does not quite touch.

Keri smiles a little ruefully. "Thanks," she says. "I guess I wasn't actually doing much sitting here in the corner, but. You know. People."

"People," Richard agrees. "I'm not the most awkward person I know, but Jeremy's legitimately /extroverted/, and I just can't keep up with him sometimes."

"Yes. I leech off the energy of others, and grow stronger." Jeremy grins in a wide flash of humor, and then leans forward. "Want me to find a cute girl and bring her back here? What's your type?"

"Oh God," says Keri, legitimately appalled, and puts her face in her hands.

"Okay, okay, I won't." Jeremy lifts his hands. "How about I leave you two for a minute and go pick up pizza for everyone, and maybe coincidentally I'll pied piper some people back over here to our corner? But in small numbers."

Richard pinches at the bridge of his nose a little, but doesn't argue with Jeremy's idea. "He means well," he tells Keri with a lopsided smile. "And he takes direction well if you want him to do something else."

"I-- that's fine," Keri says a little weakly.

Jeremy gives a big thumbs up and then leaps up, trotting off to go fetch food.

Keri leans forward, folding her arms against the table, and rests her cheek against the pillow of her folded arms as she looks up at Richard. "Oof," she says.

"He's very enthusiastic," Richard tells her, somewhere between explanatory and apologetic. "Honestly, I'm totally spooked being here. I'm not poly, and most of my life I thought I was straight, and -- you know." He shrugs a little helplessly.

Keri looks up at Richard across the gap in generations. "You thought you were straight?" She looks after Jeremy, who is negotiating for shares of pizza, and looks back at him. She smiles a little crooked smile, and says, "I've never been into dudes. I mean, I've only had a few girlfriends. Shari was the first one who wanted to see other people and then--" She wiggles her fingers. "I don't know. I kind of wanted to meet some people to get the whole taste out of my mouth. I like to think I'm open, you know, and not just naive?" She shrugs and then drops her arms again. "So what was it like figuring it out?" she asks him. "I mean, that's a super personal question, sorry."

"Well, I mean, I'm bi? So it's not like I was reluctantly dating girls. I was still into the women I was dating." Richard takes a quick pull of his beer. "Oh, jeez. Uh. Let's just say that a girl I was -- casually seeing on a non-exclusive basis convinced me I was actually in love with my best friend." He smiles a bit tightly.

Keri gives Richard a look of absolute fascination, edged with a hint of wistfulness. "That sounds really romantic," she says. "I wish I was in love with my best friend. My best friend would be a great person to date."

Across the room, Jeremy is animatedly talking to some cosplayers and gesturing with a breadstick like it's a magic wand. He'll be along shortly.

"Yeah, I -- guess it was romantic?" Are threesomes romantic? "It -- wasn't Jeremy, though. It was several years ago." Richard scrubs at the back of his head a little.

"Sure," Keri says, smiling a little more wryly. "Well, it's less romantic if it's not forever but still pretty romantic." She draws a long breath through her nose, and then says, "I appreciate you guys coming over, I guess, since I was just kind of wallflowering or whatever."

"I think Jeremy wanted to distract me before I threw down over sci-fi genre definitions," Richard admits in a lower voice.

Keri laughs. "Were you going to?" she asks. Fixing the dangles of her earring, she asks, "How do you feel about urban fantasy versus contemporary fantasy versus paranormal romance?"

"So, this is Harry and Ginny Potter-Weasley," Jeremy says, as he comes over, carrying a pizza box with a couple of people in his wake -- the cosplayers he has abducted looking like a nerdy professorial Harry Potter and an Auror Ginny in a pretty badass black duster and very dramatic red wig -- "also known as Jim and Vicki Lewis, and they have a really weird sounding German card game with them about space pirates, and I have a pizza."

Ginny-who-is-apparently-Vicki says, "It's awesome. You run blockades, and there's like three different evil empires you can escape or try to infiltrate and I think you can take over one of them but I haven't figured out how to do it without blowing up. Hi!"

Much more shyly, Harry-who-is-Jim wiggles his fingers in a little wave, and then holds up a shiny black game box.

"That is a whole other area I don't have /nearly/ as much expertise in--" Their super cool and not at all nerdy conversation is interrupted by Jeremy's return. "Hi, Vicky. Jim. I'm Rich." He offers a little wave of his own. "Cool, I like pirates. And card games."

"I thought it would be easier to meet people if we brought something to do," Jim explains hesitantly. "And it's a cool game."

Vicki swoops into a seat with a flare of her coat. "Hi!" she says again. "Vicki. Your boyfriend? No, your boyfriend." She fingerguns Rich. No, really. "--He said you guys would be up for some company but not in the dirty way."

Jeremy reclaims his chair next to Richard and sets the pizza on the table. "Let's eat first. Keri, Rich, Jim, Vic. Everybody having a good con so far?"

Keri looks like she is on the verge of laughter and shoots a look to Rich as though for help. They're best friends now, right? "Can I read the rules?" she asks. Jim slides the box to her as Jeremy props open the pizza box.

"I'm -- his boyfriend." Richard points at Jeremy. His. He belongs to the fluffy blond nerd. "But yes, we're the non-dirty corner right now. This is the awkward newcomer corner." So -- welcome. He reaches for a slice of pizza.

"Cool," Vicki says, taking a piece of pizza too. "Jim's my husband. He's Canadian, so we can escape if we ever need to."

"Not really how that works," Jim says with a faint smile. He folds his hands in his lap. "It's nice to meet you. We moved to New York last month and we're just meeting people."

Vicki nods with her mouth full and says, "Figured other poly couples would be a good way to start. We don't swap, though, we just add. Just FYI."

"We don't swap either," Jeremy assures her easily. "Rich has never been with a poly person before. We're just getting to know the pitfalls here."

"You get used to it," Jim says with a faint smile as he reaches up to adjust his Harry Potter glasses. "Or, well, I did."

Keri is intently reading the instructions. "So you have like ... three different hands? For crew, and ship upgrades, and booty? This is complicated," she says. "Can I name my ship? I want to name my ship. Lollipop. I want to name my ship Lollipop."

"Really?" Richard's focus makes a beeline for Jim. Hi, Jim. "Were you -- sorry, can I ask? Is it too personal to ask? Like, were you not poly before, or--" LOOK HE'S FLOUNDERING A BIT WITH THIS.

"No, no, sorry, we're good," Jim says with a faint, awkward smile. "Vicki is, and I'm mostly a little confused."

Jeremy beams, eating his pizza and drinking his beer. "So you guys have worked it out?" he says. "How long have you been together?"

"We got married three years ago. You know -- Jim's sort of plausibly deniable poly," Vicki says, reaching up to ruffle fingers through her husband's tousled hair. He apparently comes by the Harry mop naturally, and it probably spawned the rest of their costumes. "We get a third sometimes, and I date around, or just fool around a little bit, and he mostly stays home and reads."

"--Well, I do read a lot. I'm a game designer, so I spend a lot of time on the computer." Jim smiles a little wider, and looks down at the cards. "My company's actually working on doing a licensed holo version of this where you can design your ship captain avatar and play it on a Local Eyes interface, which is ... a conversation for a different panel room and not about my sex life--"

"Or is it!" crows Vicki, and cackles.

"No, I mean, it isn't," Jim says earnestly, in case their new friends are taking this seriously.

"But can I design the Lollipop?" asks Keri, looking up from the rules again as she eats her folded over pizza slice.

"That -- actually does sound pretty awesome, the thing with the game, but--" Richard keeps hedging over his questions, and it reads clearly on his face. Even with how open Jim and Vicki are being. At least he's relaxing. In other ways. "That's -- I don't know, reassuring to know? That you guys figured out something that works for you. I've -- still got a lot of cultural conditioning going on in my head, but even without that I don't know if I'd want to date outside myself."

Jim grins a little. "Man, dating sucks," he says. "The whole point of marrying this girl -- besides the fact that I love her -- is that I could stop and never have to do it again ever."

"Dating's fun!" Vicki objects. She shoves the rest of her piece of pizza in her mouth and swings her arm around Jim's neck. What she says next sounds a lot like, "Mffmmf mmmphm, mmhfm mgng!"

Keri laughs and scruffs her hand through her hair. "Well, that's-- a way of looking at it, or two," she says.

Jeremy leaves a piece of crust on his paper plate so that he can scoot his chair a little closer to Richard's and gently bump his shoulder with his lean, settling against him rather than drawing away. For once in his life he doesn't say anything, but his smile is slight, and warm, and it lingers, as he glances sidelong at him.

"It's -- been a while since I dated like a normal person anyways." Richard's smile goes a little tight, a little distant, and then he moves on. "But -- hey, we should play your crazy space pirate game. Clearly Keri will be an expert by now."

"I am an expert," Keri agrees, sliding the box toward the middle of the table. "Let's go."

"So, space piracy," Jeremy says lightly. "Sounds aspirational, huh, Rich?"

"It looks more complicated than it is once you get going. It'll be easier if we do a practice hand, and I'll explain as you go. Vicki, you wanna deal?" Jim glances at his wife.

Vicki says, "Yay!" and dusts pizza from her hands as she sits up, reaching for the game.

"Yes," Richard says with a straight face. "Very aspirational." He will probably be preternaturally good at this game. Because all of his space expertise. And he will probably end up asking people more awkward questions about their sex lives, but. New friends??

New friends!!

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