Logs:Playing with Fire
Playing with Fire
|Characters:||Gray and Roland|
|Summary:||Ro has a request to make.|
Delphine's Diner - Metairie
There's nothing fancy about Delphine's. Formica tables and lunch counter, vinyl booths and barstools, and red-and-white checkerboard tile -- all a little worn and torn -- give this little diner an all-American feel. The typical diner food staples make up most of the menu: burgers, fries, shakes, eggs, pancakes, meatloaf, and pie. There are a few other Louisiana favorites on the list, like gumbo and po boys. The food is simple but good with few surprises.
Roland's pickup truck -- a battered old baby blue Fort F-150 that looks like someone has actually taken a ballpeen hammer to different sections of its body -- pulls into Delphine's Diner at around twelve fifteen. He double-parks -- of course he double-parks -- in the nearly empty lot, hopping out onto the pavement with a soft thud. The bounty hunter is wearing a green Army fatigue jacket over a black wifebeater, a Caterpillar trucker cap, and a pair of parachute-fabric cargo pants. Reaching into the cupholder, he grabs a jingling, bulging, Crown Royal bag, dangling it loosely from his hand as he enters the Diner.
There are a few customers here and there, sad lonely hearts cases and drunken students, but the place is largely empty. Roland flicks the door-bell with his index finger as he enters, making certain that the jingle-jangle lasts a bit longer than necessary. He goes straight for the jukebox, unstringing the Crown Royal bag and beginning to slot in quarter after quarter. This is one of the perks of owning a strip club, it seems -- loose change accumulates. In the apartment, there are several mason jars full of quarters and dimes, and they keep growing -- here, finally, is a chance to burn through some of them.
Bob Seger -- of course, it's Bob Seger -- comes on the jukebox, crooning about turning the page. Satisfied with his lineup, and oh god how many songs did he just purchase, Roland turns and swaggers up to the counter. He reaches up with both hands to grasp his baseball cap and flip it forward off his head, sending it into the air before snagging it. And then, finally, he takes a seat, just as Bob sings "Well, you walk into a restaurant.. strung out from the road.."
Never let it be said that Roland doesn't have a sense of dramatic timing. "Hey, waitress? How 'bout some service here, huh?"
Nobody really wants the graveyard shift at a rundown diner. The 'crowd', if you can call it such, is comprised of either drunks, insomniacs, shifty looking travelers or.. asshole club owners, apparently. But the lack of appeal in the job is precisely why Gray has it, presumably. That and the shifts work around whatever other areas of employ she's enjoying this week. Does she need the money, really? Nah. But it gets her out of the apartment, meeting the sort of ne'er do wells it suits her to meet and hey, plenty of coffee. Dreamy. The blonde doesn't glance up initially at the sound of the bell, already busy pouring a refill for a heavy-set trucker at a distant window table. The guy barely looks awake, exhaustion rolling from him in waves by the slouch of his shoulders and hangdog features. But he musters a fractional nod of thanks for Gray and doesn't try to swat at her ass when she turns to walk away. Small mercies.
It's the ongoing clatter of coins going into that jukebox that eventually snares her attention. How many songs does one person need, jesus. And ohhhh look who it is. Because of course it is.
With a roll of her eyes as she drifts back behind the hitherto empty formica counter, setting the coffee pot back in place, the young woman shoves both hands in the front pockets of her apron, hooking her thumbs and sauntering over toward Ro. Ignoring his idle teasing snark - he better be teasing - she draws to a halt opposite him and offers a bland curve of her lips, as if they truly are just strangersl ships passing in the night, so to speak. "Sure, honey. And is this the part where I wipe down the counter and listen to your tale of woe before offerin' some sage advice? Because I think we're all outta the advice.. could I interest you in a sarcastic comment?"
All that being said, she does relent to a grin, dropping the pretense. "..you want a coffee?" Yes, she is in fact a decent waitress. Not that it's exactly a high pressure gig. "Slice'a pie? We've got cherry or key lime.."
Bob Seger flips over to The Eagles singing about a witchy woman. At least Roland appears to know what music is theme-appropriate for a diner of this sort. He sets his cap down very carefully, turning it so that the Caterpillar logo is facing Gray. And then takes his time answering, pulling a napkin from the dispenser and fastidiously wiping down the area in front of him, snagging a tiny dollop of ketchup that -- for all Gray knows -- the prick planted there specifically to irritate her. He balls it up casually, slides it across toward his newly-arrived waitress, and looks up with a bright smile. It's the smile that really puts a cherry on top of the cake -- innocent as the day is long, his baby blues wide and friendly. Not a sinful thought in his head. Yeah, right.
"I think I'm good on sage advice, actually, so no worries there. But coffee and a slice of pie would do really well. Actually, I came to talk to you about another thing." And, wonder of wonders, he seems suddenly serious. Roland leans forward, planting his elbows atop the bar as he considers Gray, his eyebrows arching upward. "I was thinking about your crew. Thinking maybe it was time I joined a crew." He seems -- well, not nervous. Roland doesn't get nervous. He seems cautious, as though afraid Gray will laugh him out of the establishment. Taking a breath, he goes on, "I sort of wanted to catch you when we weren't at home. So it didn't feel like I was doin' some boss-pressure shit. Or something." Because, you know, that would work on Gray.
He reaches into his jacket pocket, produces a pack of Marlboros, lays it on the counter across from Gray. Lays his Zippo on top. "How about you take an extended smoke break with me, and we discuss it?" Man knows the way to her heart, at least. His smile has a crooked, almost vulnerable quality to it. But he really knows how to ruin a moment as well: "And I'll just take that coffee to go, how about that?"
She hasn't waited for affirmation in regard to the coffee. Of course he wants coffee, there's too much blood in his caffeine system right now. Having wandered the short distance to the coffee pot while he's talking - and yes, she's listening - Gray calmly pours delicious beeeean water into a little ceramic cup; glancing back over a shoulder with a quirk of brow when his tone turns serious. "Oh yeah..?" Allowing him to elaborate, she passes by, setting down the coffee cup before him and continuing on her way to the fridge cabinet to retrieve a slice of pie. The diner is nothing fancy but damn.. the pastries that remain on display at this hour still look tasty AF.
The blonde's attention wanders briefly as one of her customers rises to leave, tossing a few bucks down to the tabletop. When they look her way she offers a bright smile, quite at odds with her occasionally caustic attitude. And the Oscar goes to... "Thanks. Come back soon!" The middle-aged woman nods, a wan smile offered in kind before heading for the door, and Gray's pale blue eyes glance to the newly abandoned spot by force of habit. "..with the rest of my tip.." she mutters, under her breath, as the bell jangles with the customer's exit. A soft sigh accompanies her arrival back in front of Ro, a slice of pie set down, as promised.
The revelation of his interest in her 'crew' does seem to catch the young woman by surprise, though she regains her metaphorical footing easily enough, bracing her hands on the counter's edge for a momentary lean. Is he nervous? Surely not. "I'd imagine if you were gonna try boss-pressure shit, it'd be to get me in the sack. And you haven't. Which, gold star for chivalry, by the way." A smirk tugs at her lips. "But are you sure you could handle takin' orders from me? Serious question, Ro. You don't strike me much as the 'take orders' type." What, and she herself is? Pfft. Yeah, she gets the irony. But that's not the issue here.
The offer of sweet, sweet nicotine is too tempting to refuse. Glancing down to the pack and the lighter placed atop, she tilts her head just slightly to call back to some unseen workmate in the kitchen behind her. "Frank.. takin' a break." She's not asking. And the simple grunt in response suggests her invisible friend isn't surprised. So. Freedom, if only for a little while. Snatching up the offering, immediately setting to drawing a smoke from the pack with her lips even as she's walking, she nods toward a back door in invitation. "There's an alley out back. C'mon. Just leave that here, nobody'll touch it." Rounding the end of the counter, she closes the hatch behind her, barring the way for any would-be pie liberators. Not that the remaining clientele appear to be interested in shenanigans. Most of them seem to be struggling with even looking alive, at this point.
Bumping the indicated door open with a hip, handing the Marlboros back toward Ro, the blonde steps out to, indeed, a section of fenced-off alleyway where the diner keeps its trashcans. It doesn't smell great.. but there's a brisk enough, chilly night breeze to keep the worst of the stench at bay.
Look, sometimes a man needs a jolt to keep himself awake on the long nights. Sometimes, a man needs more than a jolt. And sometimes, a man has become so conditioned by jolts that he no longer feels his pulse increase -- only feels the drop in his blood pressure as caffeine exits the system, finally giving his neurons a much-needed rest. But screw that. Roland exists in a constant state of hypercaffeination, so much so that it's become difficult to tell the difference between Serum withdrawal and forgetting to buy coffee on the way home from his latest job. It gets dark. So he watches her pour with the eagerness of a puppy sensing a treat. The pie -- while nice -- is a secondary consideration.
Glancing over at the departing customer, Roland sticks his tongue out at his back. He seems half-tempted to rise and go reclaim the rest of Gray's tip, perhaps in an excess of that chivalry she mentioned. Or perhaps the unfamiliar scenario, asking for a favor, is chafing. A man needs relief of some sort, and he isn't going to get his favorite type in a diner. He refrains from the impulse of reducing a man to meat-paste for the moment, instead diving into the pie, shoveling it down in five huuuuuuuge forkfuls. He lingers only on the crust, closing his eyes and relishing the texture. "Mmmm. You were right. This is dope AF."
But when Gray returns to business, some of Roland's cheerfulness submerges beneath a businesslike tone. He does her the courtesy of genuinely considering the question -- after all, thus far, their partnership has been working very well. Is it worth it, rattling the cage a bit? He grabs his coffee cup, takes a slow sip, cupping both hands around it as he gives it a good long think. Finally, he says, "Given that.. here in town.. there's you and there's me.. I don't think I need to worry about giving and taking orders. We'd still be a partnership, unless MDK business comes up, right? And then..." He shifts on his stool, meeting Gray's sky-pale eyes with his own, darker, blue. "I was Staff Sergeant Durant once, y'know. Before." Before what? "I can obey orders, if they come from someone I trust."
There is an implicit compliment there, and Roland doesn't bother spelling it out. He grins suddenly as Gray comes around the corner and snatches up his cigarettes. He leaves the remnants of his pie, but he does -- defiant to orders -- take his coffee with him. His gaze is down at Gray's hips, watching her walk with the same puppyish expression that always seems to come onto his face. "I really thought I wouldn't need to use boss-pressure to get you, honestly. I thought trapping you in my apartment would do it. Wear you down." He takes the cigarettes back as he steps past Gray into the alley, his other hand slipping down to try a pinch at her butt. "Not given up hope yet." A wink.
Stepping past her, into the garbage-ridden and chilled night, Roland lights up a cigarette. "So what do you say? Same arrangement, unless MDK biz comes up? And then I promise to be a good boy."
Letting the door swing closed behind them, swatting a hand idly at those fingertips near her ass and venturing out into the chill night air, Gray wanders over to an apparently preferred corner at the back wall of the tiny 'lot'.. one can tell by the scattered cigarette butts. It keeps her out of the worst of the breeze and mostly in the shadows, the only illumination out here offered by a feeble bug zapper over the door and the streetlights beyond the metal and chain link fence. Sparking the zippo to life, her features are briefly lit from below in fiery hues, lending some macabre drama to her gaze when it rises to regard her companion; more quietly contemplative as opposed to her usual mischief and snark. "That we know of, yeah.. there's you and me." She half corrects, half agrees with him, inhaling deeply for her first drag and snapping the lighter closed, offering it back toward him in an open palm. "Wouldn't hurt to have more an established foothold, I guess. Though.." Exhaling a silvery plume of smoke skyward, she rests her shoulders back against the grimy brickwork of the building, with little concern for her uniform. Hey, it's only food service, who cares about hygiene? You're lucky if you get your burger minus the spit in places like this.
"..it's not like we're all official and shit. But we do only take people of the right mindset. You know about it, ain't a secret. All the stuff about camraderie, helpin' your fellows out, that stuff. Bottom line, 'don't be a dick' is pretty much the motto. That said.." Those pale eyes lower to offer an unabashed down-up appraisal of the man before her. "..given that dad's a military man, as are most of the guys who sign up back home, that's definitely a point in your favor." Oh, so she really is giving this some thought. Maybe she has more layers than she cares to admit, behind that mouthy, devilish facade. "So. Before what, Staff Sergeant Durant?" Oh you bet your ass she caught that. It's not the first mention he's made, either. She just hasn't had the need to pry until now. Gray watches for his reaction, plucking her cigarette from her lips between the knuckles of her fore and middle finger. "And how did you start learning about the kinda weird shit we deal with?"
Are you sitting comfortably, children? It's backstory time.
Roland leans forward to take the Zippo back, fingertips grazing along Gray's palm in a deliberate tease. But when he grabs the lighter, he holds it up to display the military crest on the other side. Four stars, offset at different angles, around a skull embedded in a diamond. He lets Gray take a look before snapping his fist around it, clicking it open, taking a long drag to draw his cigarette to life. The lupine figure, all sinew and brash muscle, is quite uncharacteristically still as he listens to Gray. Either her own serious mien is contagious, or he is very aware of what he's asking for. He takes another drag on his cigarette, considering her, and pockets his Zippo. In another uncharacteristic move, Roland reaches to take Gray's tattooed hand -- entwining his fingers through hers, if she allows it.
"I was a Marine," he says quietly, absently chewing on the inside of his cheek. "Infantry, then MARSOC. Then I got tasked out to a different detail. Sort of CIA, sort of military. More independent. Supposedly, we were hunting down financiers, taking the head off Islamic Jihad's dragon, yanno? I mostly operated in Europe and Africa." The story is an uncomfortable one, that much is obvious. "That's how I got into this sort of work. Contract killing. But the weirdness..." His hand tightens in Gray's, fingers squeezing. "It was really obvious that the people I was killing weren't terrorist financiers. Some were leeches. Some were just people with abilities. But they weren't often rich fat men driving Lambos, you know?"
Another hesitation, a slow exhalation of smoke. He never looks away from Gray, keeping his tone low, his eyes fixed on hers. "Then one night, I'm in Berlin, in a hotel off the Platze. Five dudes come in. You know, black masks, all the shit I normally do. They black-bagged me. I dunno much about what happened after that, but... well. Things were done to me." He blows a smoke ring as he considers his words, his brow furrowing.
"Deadpool sort of shit. They made me into a superhero, then they.. they set me up with some money, and they just left me. CIA stopped taking my calls. Marines told me I was honorably discharged, set me up with a pension. There are other people like me. Call ourselves Lost Boys."
The blonde studies the details of the lighter obligingly, squinting at first in the half-dark, before her expression clears in understanding. Yeah, she recognises the symbol for what it is.. at least enough to warrant a simple nod. And then he's elaborating anyway. There's no argument at the twining of fingers - it still leaves her with one hand free to smoke and besides, not everyone enjoys telling other people their life story. Some people fall over themselves to ram it down your throat. But those with the truly interesting stuff to reminisce upon? They tend to be less forward. What does he know about Gray, for example, affiliations aside?
Anyway. She quiets to listen as he verbalises his occasionally hesitant response, her dark-lashed eyes remaining level upon his. There's even an answering squeeze of reassurance when he unthinkingly pressure her hand within his own. But she doesn't interrupt. Not when she'd asked for the info and when it's.. well, personal. Miracle of miracles, the girl knows when to just shut the fuck up.
Eventually, though, there's a lull as his arc seem to conclude in the present. As one would expect, obviously. "So you're.. what. A retired superhero?" It's not that she doesn't believe him. Honest. She's just seeking to lighten the mood a little, in the wake of all that doom and gloom. Taking another drag, she eyes Ro steadily, waiting until she's exhaled the breath before venturing anything further. "Hell, Ro.. you're arguably more qualified than I am to take charge of this shit. Not that I'm gonna let ya." There's a wolfish grin in the shadows, very Cheshire Cat. And, in keeping with the feline comparison, her curiosity prevails. "When you say they made you into a superhero.. you mean you've got some of those weird-ass abilities or.. what." She trails into a helpless shrug of her narrow shoulders. She's not exactly up to speed on governmental militaristic science fiction guinea pigging, yanno. "I mean, again, we don't expect our members to be anythin' more than a good shot. But it sure as fuck helps to fight fire with fire sometimes.."
Wait.. does that imply perhaps she isn't exactly what she seems, either?
Nevermind. We're talking about Roland, right now.
Roland withdraws his cigarette to flick a column of ash toward his boots as he concludes his story. The blond killer, usually so over-the-top when he isn't on a job, is subdued. Grave, perhaps even melancholy. He holds on to Gray's hand as though it were a lifeline, and perhaps, in a way, it is. How often has he told this story to someone who hasn't lived the same experience? Perhaps never, truth be told. Her silence in kind is appreciated -- when she begins to speak again, he gives her hand a light squeeze in answer. Her question does elicit one of his sharp smiles, however, and some of his usual bravado returns.
"Nothing really obvious. And to be honest, Fallon, sometimes I don't even know I can do a thing, or that a thing's been done to me. I'm a fuck-load stronger and tougher than I used to be, for instance. I can run five miles in twenty-four minutes." He lets that sit out for a minute -- near-Olympic speed, and he's sucking on a coffin-nail. "I can carry hundred pound kits for hours at a twelve-minute pace. I ain't bragging... I think they did more that I haven't even discovered yet." A pause. "I'm... I was really fucking deadly before they got their hands on me, but now? If they hadn't ruined my entire fucking life, I'd kiss them. You should see how long I can last in the sack. And I'm pretty sure they gave me a super-penis." Okay, so he can't be too upset, if he's back to quoting Deadpool.
When Gray mentions 'fighting fire with fire,' Roland's eyebrows climb up a bit. He releases her hand, albeit reluctantly, and smokes his cigarette down to the filter before tossing it off to one side. "Okay, darlin'. Now you know what's behind Door Number One. But I wanna look at Door Number Two." His smile meets hers, wolf to cat, and he drifts a step closer as he fishes out his pack of Marlboros, now decidedly in Gray's personal space. "You fight fire with fire?" He seems to have forgotten that this is, in some ways, his own job interview. Perhaps he just assumes, based on her last comment, that he is in.
At first, Gray is listening to this list with obvious intrigue, her eyes conveying only the faintest hint of incredulity.. and that's banished a moment later by that snort of amusement as Ro, ever reliable, lowers the tone back to the gutter. "What, you had a problem with that before did ya, Quick Draw?" she counters, her smirk returning as he extols his own prowess in the bedroom. Such an alpha male. Almost comically so. "I'll take your word for it.." she continues, with an undisguised drift downward of her gaze to just below his waistband. Hey, he brought it up. "..but you lemme know if you find hydraulics down there or somethin', cool?"
Chuckling low in her throat, the blonde shakes her head, likewise tossing the remnants of her smoke; a brief, soaring arc of ember and sparks against the night sky. The awareness of the former Marine moving closer, blithely and deliberately stepping into her personal space, rouses her attention back to his features. "Fight it? Mmm. Sometimes. Other times.."
Closing the distance further with a mere half-step, near enough that her attire brushes lightly against his, the candyfloss-colored waitress raises her jaw in order to maintain their locked gazes. The mingling scent of cigarette smoke and pastry is discernible. Odd combination. But more to the point.. she's now taking the initiative and is dangerously close. Murmuring, softer now, she finishes what she was saying. "..I prefer playin' with it."
Wait. Is she actually going to..?
Nope. One second she's there, pointedly flitting her blue eyes between his vibrant ones and the curve of his upper lip. The next? She's gone. Literally just snaps out of existence. And if that's not confusing enough, her husky voice is suddenly audible from behind him.. and a distance away, rather than the breathy words across his cheek a moment prior. "But mostly I kill things then get the fuck outta Dodge." A turn, even a glance, would reveal the blonde leaning against the wall, arms folded... on the far side of the chain link fence. A good dozen or so feet from him, with a hint of an amused smile playing about her lips as she waits for his reaction.
"I already had hydraulics. Don't you know how a dick works? There's all sorts of hydrodynamics at play." Roland seems genuinely enthused by this topic, but by now Gray knows him well enough to know that he's merely providing the comic relief. And maybe, maybe, not-so-humble-bragging as well. "See, blood vessels force all this blood down and make it hard, filling the interstitial tissue sort of like how a sponge works? It's fascinating. And the ejaculatory process makes me believe in intelligent design, no shit. Whatever aliens designed me were fucking geniuses!" He lights up his fresh cigarette, inhales slowly. "Only problem is, ever since I got a constant boner, my IQ has plummeted." Reaching down, eyes locking onto Gray's, he adjusts the crotch of his cargo pants.
Her chuckle seems to be a sign that his little narrative has been received with applause, and Roland watches as Gray's attention flits back to him. He's in close now, almost chest-to-chest when she takes her own step forward. Impulsively, his hand slips around tot he small of Gray's back as he leans forward, scenting the air. "You smell like my childhood," he whispers, mock-seductively.
In anticipation of whatever she is about to do, Roland begins to lower his head toward hers. And finds himself, quite suddenly, holding nothing but a freshly-lit cigarette. She's gone. And there is someone behind him; he can feel the presence before Gray even speaks, is turning and ducking, his hand flying to the small of his back, where Gun no doubt waits to be set free. Sees her leaning there, registers her words belatedly.
Roland begins to straighten, slowly, hand dropping away from his temperamental firearm. He hesitates a moment, then begins to clap. And not a slow golf-clap, eihter. Roland is literally hopping up and down with delight, smacking his palms together in a staccato imitation of a little girl at a pony show.
"So fucking cool! Do it again! Do it again!" And, more seriously, "...Can you take me, too?"
Thank God for the ability to quite literally duck out of certain conversations. And did he seriously just ask a Bottoms Up stripper if she knows how a dick works? Oh, there'd been a flicker of hesitation, blink and you'd miss it, with the light pressure of his hand at the small of her back, the temptation certainly there to remain. But that also has bad idea written alllll over it, right? Right? Yes, Gray. Bad idea. Baaaad, bad, bad.. mock-seductive her ass. She sees him leaning in.
But then, yes, she's gone. Just in the knick of time.
Laughing aloud at the reaction she elicits from her companion, the blonde pushes up from her nonchalant posture against the wall, eyeing him through the barrier of the chain link fence as she moves, unhurriedly, forward. "Sure, honey.." she replies, in precisely the tone she uses for her customers inside the diner; pleasant and ever so slightly weary. The novelty value has long since worn off, for her. But she'll indulge his request, patient as a mother with a particularly demanding (but fortunately cute) toddler. Raising a hand, the young woman snaps her fingers with an audible click.. and suddenly he's right in front of her. Well, almost. He's still on 'his' side of the fence. But right up against it, almost ten feet from where he was jumping up and down a second ago. It's pretty discombobulating for one not used to it.
Certain dances have to be played to the very last bars of the song, don't they? Roland may or may not believe that it is an inevitability, but he certainly thinks he's in with a chance, to steal a term from our fish-and-chips-eating friends across the sea. And so he probably did feel that hesitation -- optimistically -- before Gray vanished. Some things are just a good idea. Mayonaisse and ketchup, for instance -- brilliant. Other things, however, promise a grass-fire-intensity flareup, the sort of thing that leaves Californian towns smoldering. For the sake of New Orleans, maybe, Gray had to jump away. But it doesn't mean he has to let her escape entirely.
Her laughter brings a boyish grin from the man, so sullen a moment before. His ham-like enthusiasm is only partially feigned, though. He wants this. It's a safe bet that behind the barrier of his plastic smile and laughing eyes, he is considering the tactical applications. Insertion and exfiltration just became a damnsight easier.
He's still hopping when Gray teleports him.
Suddenly falling, right up against the chainlink fence, Roland has the opportunity to demonstrate exactly what he had been saying a moment before. Whatever has been done to him, it has imbued him with certain preternatural abilities. He lands soft from his hop, bending his knees to absorb the impact, and springs upward. He hits the fence halfway up, grabs at the top, and vaults over like an acrobat, cigarette spinning out of his mouth. Landing lithely, he straightens, brushing his palms lightly against Gray's hips."Oh, darlin'. This just got fun."