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Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits

 
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Grace Low
Gypsy Queen
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 18 Jan 2016
Posts: 131
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 6:17 am    Post subject: Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits Reply with quote

A new client was scheduled at four. The day had been a busy one for Grace, with plenty of people she had known coming and going. Some were pleading with her that she would just 'do them a favor' and squeeze them in for Beltane. Maybe one or two asked her about Mark because the news was still new, but the question on the two of them didn't linger long because there wasn't something dramatic to share, to spark the fire of tongues and keep mouths going. The client up next was someone none of the other girls knew and said he was one of those 'out of towner' guys. And he was.

With Ian and Cole behind him like a shadow, Mac stepped in for the 4 pm appointment set for "Josh." He look off his hat and smiled at the young and pretty receptionist, who looked unnerved and yet flattered at his approach. When she nodded that Grace wold be ready she pointed him in the direction of her chair. Cole and Ian would have to take seats in the waiting room while he stepped up to her stylist's chair.

"I've been in need of a cut," was the way he said 'hello' when he stepped up to her. Mac had that burnt, oaky smell to him. More like wood and bourbon than fire, though the hint of something charred was not too far away.

Grace had been running around in a dead panic and it wasn't even Beltane yet. With more than a week to go, she already had a record number of appointments on the books. It was the kind of work she loved- elaborate color jobs mostly - people requesting her by name because her reputation had become known.

"This has to be a mistake," Grace said to one of the receptionists, earlier. "A simple cut at four? I'm booked back to back with color jobs. Can't he go to someone else?" The receptionist shook her head. "...We tried, Grace. He insisted. Said he'd pay extra but it had to be you." The little grey haired stylist blinked, and shrugged. "Okay, okay. I guess just.. show him to my station. Lemme go .. wash my hands. I'll be right back."

Her station was obvious in that it was wallpapered with vintage band posters and concert ticket stubs. What made it more obvious were the pictures that hung here and there -- one of the little stylist and her gigantic friend Quinn, each grinning ear to ear and covered in pie. One of a much younger Grace with a very famous gypsy boxer and his wife, all with their arms around one another. The third and most recent picture, one of she and a certain Gypsy King, a selfie taken by the king where the two of them are grinning and she's looking up at him with a particular kind of smile that marked Mark as Not A Friend.

Grace approached, her mind swarmed with hair related things, so it took her a second to connect the voice and the face. When she did, those wide green eyes got wider in recognition, surprise and concern mingling in her eyes. "Josh?" Josh... MacIntosh. The implication sunk home like a lead weight in the pit of her stomach. Oh my god. "...Uh." Swallowing, she tried to recover, to act casual. "What kind of haircut do you want?"

There. He had expected that look to be on her face when she saw him. Mac read it to be touched slightly with guilt but remaining mostly surprised. A guilt-trip, however, wasn't his style or even what he was after. He took a step toward her and said, with a quick clip of his voice, "Close." Then he retreated, sitting down in the chair with his faded, plaid fedora resting on his lap. His face was older and there was a new scar that made a faint interruption over his left brow. His hair was fine and brown and it had the sort of cut that said he, or someone close to him, was trimming it. Not bad, just with that home-grown feel to as opposed to being cleaned up and styled the way she'd cut hair, "This town is getting busy with the upcoming event. Do you plan to be there?"

The conversation stayed away from them. He spoke to her as if he'd seen her just yesterday. Grace was, perhaps, a person who could lend an ear for reason, "You know, for being gypsies the Barlows sure have lingered in this town a long while. Maybe it's time to pull those stakes up and see the road." The use of the word 'maybe' was said in such a way that it didn't feel much like a suggestion.

It was a mix of things that roiled together uneasily in her belly, a dozen or more thoughts colliding and ricocheting against one another like so many pinballs. She refused to flinch or show her discomfort, though, lifting her chin and squaring little shoulders resolutely. "When you say 'close', are we talking clippers, buzzcut, straight razor? or more like a traditional short style?" After he sat down, Grace turned away from the mirror, raising up on purple-Conversed toes to peer into the sitting area in the lobby. "I see th'mean one, who's the other guy?" She said, turning back to meet his gaze in the mirror, of Cole and Ian.

Her heart racing in her ears, Grace threw a quick glance over her station. Josh would recognize one of the pictures, of course, but the other two would assuredly "out" her proximity to all kinds of important people. Important for a gypsy in this particular town, in any case. Did he already know? Her hand brushed her hip, fingers straying towards her cellphone, but she abandoned it for now, didn't want to be too obvious, and she moved alongside him to collect whatever instruments she might need depending on what his answer was. At his 'suggestion', the girl shrugged. "Hey, I just got here in December. Hasn't been all that long to me. How's your Uncle doing?"

It was understood, early on, that Mac would jump on someone's flinch or hesitation. It was part of how a guy with an average stature had exacted his status in the community. He wasn't looking at her directly, but making eye contact with her reflection in the mirror. "Short style. Let's keep it close." A touch of acid at 'close' was in his voice. She asked about the two men waiting and Mac just smiled and said, "Long lost brothers, the two of them. They're just now learning how to get along after being separated for so many years. It's a tragic story." It was just the sort of non-answer he tended to give people. Then again, Grace already knew who they were, what they represented with only the names changing. Cole had survived him these few years, it seemed.

His eyes ticked away from the reflection of her standing behind him to the little way she decorated her station. The picture of Mason caught his attention a bit longer than the others, but that was incidental. It had been a long time since he had heard or seen anything of "Mason the Monster." His boxing career seemed to have ended and new names were forging their identities. Her mention of coming in December made his eyes lift back to her face, "My Uncle is minding a safe house along one of our routes these days. Been here a whole quarter already?" It just didn't sound like casual conversation despite the words they used.

The blood pounding in her ears, Grace swallowed, carefully pulling out the right set of shears for the job, and a comb. "Everything's a test with you," She said softly, with a shake of her head, her expression sad. "Anybody ever win 'em all?"

Laying the implements aside on the work tray, she reached into one of the side cabinets to pull out a cape. Fluttering it once with her fingers to shake it open, the girl draped it around his body, fastening it at the back of his neck. She lifted a spray bottle next, soaking down the hair. "So you did it, then. You're in charge." It wasn't so much a question as a confirmation. Her gaze lifted from the back of his head to the mirror, meeting his gaze. Her voice was soft, but even. "S'that why you came here today? To show me?"

"Not with me."
Whatever melancholy she had in her voice, her eyes, he ignored it. When people looked at him like that it made him think that he should be sad, that there was something worth being sad about. There was, but that wasn't what her eyes were looking for. He thought she pitied that he did the tests and not that no one passed them. The tests were perpetual, different in nature and at times, unexpected. In a way it bonded the family members together, they were all survivors of Mac's one thousand tests and on the good days, they reaped the benefits of getting it right.

"It was time for uncle to step down." He was still studying her as she moved, draping him with plastic like she meant to make the removal of his head more clean. At the point that their eyes met he gave a small shake of his head no, "I heard you were with the Barlows, and then I heard you were working in town. I thought either you could solve my little problem and give Mark a nudge to get out of town... or you could take the hint and pack up and leave before things get rough, like you tend to do anyway."

Catching the inside of her right cheek in her back teeth, Grace bit down hard, willing herself not to react to what, she knew, was another one of his little tests. Vivid green eyes taking on a harder glint, she lifted her brows at him skeptically before using a fingertip against that little knot at the back of his skull to tip his head down. Lifting her comb, her gaze refocused on his head as she went to work with her scissors, cleaning up the hair cut that wasn't terrible, actually, but lacked a professional finish. "What makes you think he'd even listen to me?" Answering him evenly. "Not a lot of call for the advice of hair stylists in such matters -- you never thought so."

"Because you know me."
His head bowed, his gaze was lifted to the mirror. To all the little pictures and decorations and such which were there. While getting hair cut it was nearly impossible no to stare at a stylist's station. "I thought you could make what I was about pretty clear, and that Mark would perhaps listen to you."
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Grace Low
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 6:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's a pause. The sound of other hairdressers laughing rang the air just before one of them clicked on the hair dryer, throwing a blanket of white noise into the background. His voice was strengthened to get over those bits of sound that blurred the air, "It seems you already have him on speed dial, so it shouldn't be difficult getting his attention about this." The picture at her station hadn't gone unnoticed but just the opposite-- spilling volumes of information. Men didn't look at anyone like that unless they wanted a girl or already had them. She was looking keen, too. Glowing laughs, the whole bit. This is only a test.

"Do I? I thought I did, once, but it's been awhile." The metallic swishing of her shears was a rhythmic, steady sound, one more hum in the swirl of noise at a busy salon. Grace worked quickly, methodically, with practiced precision. Tempting though it might have been to 'slip', her professional ethics forbade it. The haircut would be an excellent one; it was the only kind she was capable of giving.

Glancing past him to her station, her gaze rested a long moment on the picture of she and Mark. Whatever instinct she had to protect Mark by downplaying her relationship to him was overridden by the fact that the evidence was right there in front of Mac, plain as day. "We are...close, yes." She'd chosen that word to describe it on purpose, given the way Josh had used the same one earlier in the conversation.

Pressing her fingers to the crown of his skull then to lift his head again, her gaze slid to his in the mirror, lingering there a quiet moment before reverting to her work. "Don't suppose there's any chance I can talk you out of this?"

"It seems like a funny coincidence, doesn't it?"
He lifted his head up when he could, turning his head left and right because it sort of ached to keep it still and in that unusual position. "You left when maybe I would come to lead and then hoped in bed with a leader. Seems you have a thing for a certain type of man." It was hard to tell just how close they were being. If they were shaving things down beyond flesh and to where bones were or if they were just taking a little bit of hair off.

"I think, given the circumstance, that if one of us owed the other anything, including a nudge to the right person, it'd be you owing me. Kind of makes it easier to bury an axe if someone digs a hole for you to put it in."

Giving him a minute to stretch his neck, Grace took the opportunity to swivel the chair to the right, so she could work on the left side of his head when he was ready. For a second time, the urge to reach for her phone was almost overwhelming, and for the second time she refrained. Pulling it out right now could be disastrous, given the quickfire temper on the man before her.

Far more intelligent than her ex-husband, Josh wasn't the sort of blind beast Grace had come to fear. He was violent, but not pointlessly so; she knew instinctively even now that she wouldn't come to harm at his hands -- not here, not without the right provocation. He represented an interesting stepping stone between Henry and Mark, halfway out of the darkness but not quite into the light.

Still, the way he presented his argument, the suggestion that he and Mark were the same type of man, it brought a scowl to her face. "First of all," resuming her work when he was settled, she started at the bottom and worked her way up, gently tipping his head to the side with her fingers pressed at his temple. "You say that like it happened in three days. It's been two years."The fact that she hadn't dated anyone else between them was one she omitted out of self preservation.

"Second, you an' he are only alike in so far as people listen to th' both of you and you're both a lot smarter than people tend to give you credit for." Grace sighed, then, nudging his jaw lightly to bring his head back to center, working her way over the ear and along the temple. "You can be sure that we'll discuss it. I had no idea it was you or we'd have discussed it already. But I don't expect it to change his mind any."

"I'm not bringing up that thing from two years ago because I'm sore at you."
Was it true? Certainly there was wounded pride that someone had left him. That a woman had simply taken her things and hit the road. Well, it hadn't been exactly that clean cut. In retrospect there were little signs, little hints which he now understood to be the sort of gestures someone has right before they go. Yet Mac wasn't lying, or saying something hurtful just to hurt. The clarity of his gaze said as much-- he wasn't asking her back. Maybe he was twisting the knife a little. Grace had a conscience about her, the sort which could be twisted if she felt badly enough about something.

Ditching him at the point where the world changed? To Mac, there was no question it was guilt worthy.

"So we're just alike in large... personality-defining ways? People who are in control?" His head was centered and he could hear the sound of her metal sheers sharpening against each other as she clipped.

Too much twisting and someone was liable to bleed to death. To do nothing except start a fire. Mac looked at her, not turning his head. His eyebrows were both lifted up as he asked, "I'm not going to change mine, either. You really plan to stick around and see what happens next?" The last sentence wasn't snarky, it was more gentle than the rest as if he was advising her against being around when another hurtful situation presented itself. She could just go and never see it.

That thing. It was a dismissive way of describing what was, in fact, the second romantic relationship she'd ever had, one that carried some significance to her accordingly as it was the first after Henry. Grace let it pass though her lip curled, and she gave an abrupt twist to the chair to change sides.

As ever, the little dancer girl balanced, seemingly precariously, on one foot.

"I think y'just hit on the strongest difference between you, actually," replied the stylist, now working her way over the right side of his head. Her gaze stayed resolutely on her work, her breath shallow in her chest as her fingers flew at their task. "He leads. You control."

The tone of voice in his last question surprised Grace, her expression troubled, her brows furrowing. There was a storm brewing in those vibrant green eyes, glittering like the jagged shards of a crushed emerald in the salon's mirrors. He was concerned for her? The surprise that carried was outweighed by the implication of that concern. Even after two years, the little stylist could still read between his lines. Josh was saying he didn't want her killed; which meant he was planning on taking this to extremes. She swallowed roughly, her mouth dry. "Should I be specifically concerned?"

The chair jerked and he caught its meaning, but didn't say anything. Maybe because that was just the sort of reaction he was digging at her to get. Something that showed there was a crack, an impatience. A hurt. The mention of leading and control made him snort, his reaction a sharp gesture that hinted towards being coupled with words but never was. Mac didn't have to tell her who had the largest pack and that between the packs he had men with sharper teeth and claws from all that 'testing' she has disdain for.

Josh wanted more than her not getting killed. If Mark was his first problem, it was a problem that was going to have to go. Most people, he found, didn't worry so much about themselves as they did their loved ones. A mother could tolerate any suffering so long as it wasn't her child's. He thought her hands even paused with the question as she cut hair and played casual. Answering her felt like answering a rhetorical question, which he was loathe to do. He didn't have much patience for stupid questions. Maybe there was some softness for her which lingered and was possibly spent when he didn't just ignore what she said, but responded, "I wouldn't be digging up history to give you a courtesy call to skip town if it wasn't something to be concerned about."
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Grace Low
Gypsy Queen
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 7:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mac's face seemed to harden, he looked at the picture on her vanity, "The thing about people is sometimes they'll dig in and refuse to leave unless it costs them something important." His eyes returned to her, pointedly.

Mac might have had the bigger team, and his men night have had the sharper teeth, but success was measured in all kinds of ways. Which camp had people who genuinely loved and trusted one another, and which had men who slept with one eye open? Which treated its women as equals, and which like second class citizens good only for a handful of tasks? Working over the right ear to the temple, Grace was stone silent through his answer and for a short time afterwards, the only sound between them that same rapid metallic staccato of the scissors in her hand. When she could prolong it no further, the stylist rotated the chair to face her and nudged his knees apart with the edge of hers, stepping into the v she made there so she could finish the front. The manipulation afoot was staggering--he'd said all the right things, under guise of getting her to leave, that he had to know would make her stay. Grace met his gaze face to face for the first time, her voice quiet. "...so now, when you ultimately hold a gun to my head, you can do it with a clear conscience."

"Every time I hold a gun to someone's head it's with a clear conscience,"
his knees squeezed the side of her legs. Was he trying to put her off balance or just make her uncomfortable? Maybe it was from all the dance she took, or maybe it was just that she used her body to talk. Her rigid motions, her pauses and everything else already told him that she wasn't happy with the situation.

Maybe Mac didn't want her to leave. Maybe another bullet buried in the yard somewhere for her was just as good as not seeing her. Forgiveness wasn't one of his shining qualities, though it was impossible to say if he was just that hateful. He could just as easily waited from her to get off work and draw his gun. She knew he wore it as loyally as a wedding ring and that it would be on him, tucked in his back with the safety on. She had a set of scissors she could just as easily turn on them. Was this how they were going to really tell each other goodbye, the last time Josh and Grace ever really talked to each other?

When she stepped into his personal space, the atmosphere between them was charged. It was a thing she did without thinking a hundred times a day with a dozen different clients both familiar and foreign, but Mac wasn't just any other client. Like the breathless physical chemistry she felt with Mark or the reassuring security with Mason, this up close proximity to her ex lover had a direct and immediate impact on her mental state.

Their shared air thick with tension to begin with, the pressure his knees applied to her outer thighs brought on a tidal wave of memories half forgotten in the passage of time. Her expression carefully neutral, Grace made every effort not to show any overt sign that it affected her. In a move that felt bold despite its commonplace nature, the girl pressed a fingertip lightly to his chin to tip it down again as she dealt with the line of hair directly above his eyebrows. Her feather weight was transferred to one leg, the other tucked behind the first with her foot curled behind the opposite ankle. Narrowing her profile. He'd have to squeeze harder if he wanted her (physically) unbalanced.

Combing all of the hair that remained forward to check her work, Grace reflected on her predicament. The threat wasn't a veiled one by any stretch, but it maybe didn't spell immediate danger, either. He wouldn't send his goon squad after her -- at least, not to kill her-- because it wasn't his style. If he wanted her dead he'd do it himself, that much she knew. He wasn't going to be waiting for her in a dark alley, either -killing her now would serve no purpose. He'd said it himself just moments ago - people acted differently when something that mattered to them was at stake, and Mac now knew she was important to Mark. Damn. The realization brought her back to the two men waiting in the lobby, and her brows furrowed.

"I see," she said finally, what felt like years later though it had really only been a handful of minutes. Setting the comb and shears aside -- unarmed-- she tilted her head to meet his gaze with those wide, serious eyes, her hands lifting to push the hair back into place, to let it fall where she knew that it would. "So...am I actually going to get a chance to discuss this with him, or do I suddenly find myself with other plans this evening?"

He didn't squeeze harder, but he did loop his leg behind her's. That ankle had her other foot and then the blunt, less graceful weigh of the back of his right ankle against her. Mac was, beyond all other things, a student of faces. He realized early on that someone's face would say much, especially if they were inexperienced. It was those with a deadpan expression that one had to look after. No one was good at bluffing, faking, or covering up because it was some joyous past time. Usually it was born of need. Grace didn't have that need, but he did.

She was connecting the dots now, he could tell as it dawned on her face but, more importantly, by her reaction. That was good. If anything was worth cutting a throat for it was ignorance. He could work with people who didn't want to agree with him, but he couldn't train someone to use their head if it wasn't there. Grace, though, she didn't need to be trained. He already knew she had a head on her and there wasn't a need to spell this out. Beyond that, she knew what he was about and would need no convincing.True enough, she stated it all as it was and asked the most pertinent question.

"I suppose," Mac said, tilting his head to the side, "That I need to get something to eat. And that Ian could use a haircut in the next couple of days. I insist that you clip him as well as you did me. And then, afterwards, find yourself with plans that evening." Mac, either because of her past with him, or because he hoped her mouth was good enough to turn Barlow's mind, was not insisting that today be the day. Today was not the day but that didn't mean it wasn't coming.

The weight of his leg against hers threatened to buckle her knee, and given the weight differential it probably would have. Her fingers sliding out of his hair to catch herself on his shoulders, she studied him with those wide velvet eyes. The move had brought her that much closer to him, after all, forced her to brace herself against his body. Did he think she wouldn't?

Given a short reprieve, Grace disentangled herself, choosing not to speculate just what exactly he meant by clip him as well as you did me: no part of this conversation had been about what it appeared to be about, had it? Could he suddenly have been so literal? Unlikely. She glanced over her shoulder at the mysterious Ian, whom she could only see in profile, and then her eyes came back to Mac. She nodded once, waiting for him to either let her go or escalate.

"Ian's growing up, I expect it'll be good for him to see you," Mac said, climbing to his feet. She was still so close that both her feet were between his and his body close to her. She would be impossibly near him, or actually against him, when he stood like that. Mac's head tilted to the side as he looked at her, "So, what'll it be?"

The pause came long, seemingly infinite. Then he reached in his back pocket and amended his statement with, "For the haircut. What'll it be?" They were in the throws of double talk laced in casual, not-so-casual, conversation. His eyes weren't much to look at, but they had a way of looking at someone which had in several instances froze a man in his steps.

With him on his feet like that, Grace found herself chest to chest--well, chest to solar plexus-- with her ex. Lifting her chin to follow his gaze upwards, Grace ignored the doublespeak, her eyes fixed on his.

"For you? Thirty." answered Grace without blinking. Well, he'd agreed to pay extra to have her, no? A glimmer of a smile touched her lips then, her vivid green eyes glittering almost recklessly. "...Plus tip."

"That's fine. Blood money is still money."
He looked at her squarely when he said it and would not be the first to break away from their interaction. Either by gaze or body speak, Mac was locked in that place with her. Ever play chicken? It was best to never be the one that blinked. Better to die than go that route.

"So do we set up an appointment for Ian or do you think you'll find work somewhere else?" He reached into his back pocket to pull out his phone. He was making a good show of scheduling a date and time for it in his phone. Mac was... oaky bourbon and a good cigarette. He was also blood and suppressed tears. He was all those things she might vaguely remember. To him, she was still a little too snotty for her own good. She'd left because she was 'better than all that.' hadn't she?

Grace's brows arched curiously, a question in her anime-eyes. Blood money? Wasn't it her blood they were talking about exacting? The way he held her gaze was clearly another test, and so she straightened her spine and answered it unblinking. Grace was a tiny thing, and not well versed in the harsh ways of gypsy turf war, but she'd been through her share of nightmare scenarios. The girl was a survivor, bloody but unbowed.

"Better check with my schedulers up there. It seems I'm in pretty strong demand these days," the girl said softly, though her tone was pitched low out of discretion, not fear. She stared at him for the longest time, searching his face for some sign of the man she'd known underneath all that poison, the one some part of her had loved.

"I'm sure you can make room," he turned to pick his hat off of the chair, but didn't put it on. Mac did not seem appreciably different with a higher quality haircut. It didn't 'clean him up' or refine his edges. In some ways it made him look meaner because the haircut before implied that people were close enough to him to help take care of him. The question she was asking, the person she was searching for, was hard to pin down in a death-note gaze.

The closest she had come to something tender, something that wasn't a dog growling over a bone, was in that warning he'd given her moments ago. For a few seconds in there, it was legitimate and not a threat.

After the intensity of their exchange lessened, he reached back for his wallet and held out two bills that were pinched between the sides of his index and middle finger. "Not everyday you get tipped." His hand moved closer to her, the folded edge of the bills touching her shoulder. There would be no goodbye here that hinted towards kinder and more affectionate goodbyes of the past.

"They'll find a good spot for him," she agreed, taking the bills when they were offered and setting them aside on the work tray with her shears and comb, without looking away. Lifting her hands, then, it almost looked like Grace was reaching to hug him - or strangle him, one-- as her fingers reached for his throat.

She took a step closer again, penetrating that same safety bubble where the atmosphere doubled and the air felt like it had protein, sliding her hands gently along the back of his neck. Folding little fingers into the plasticky fabric of the hair dresser's cape, she separated the snaps with a quick pull, carefully pulling it loose from his shoulders in a quick sweep designed to prevent all the little hairs she'd cut off from escaping, cascading to the floor.

Folding the garment loosely in her hands, Grace stepped back again. "See you around, Josh."

His eyes followed her closely, carefully. Watching every little move she made with the precision of a hunter. Men like him waited for an excuse to strike. It seemed she might do it, that her hands might tighten or in a blink he'd feel the burn of her palm across his cheek. Neither happened. Her movements were always so calculated. Half of what she said was interpretive dance which he largely chose to ignore because he could.

The cape tears off of him and it feel like being pulled from a body bag. She stepped back and he kept the space closed by stepping forward, "See you soon, Grace." Then he turned, his shoulder knocking into her's. He gave his hat a spin and then set it on top of his head, approaching Ian and Cole. Wit one jerk of his hand he motioned them towards the door, looking over his shoulder in Grace's direction purposefully before stepping out a door which was held open for him.

It took every ounce of self restraint she had not to flinch when he stepped into her retreat, but Grace only just barely managed it. For a heady moment she thought he might do something--what, the girl couldn't have said; slap her? But instead he turned, knocking abruptly into her shoulder on his way to the exit.

You didn't have to be a big guy to dwarf Grace, and the collision forced her to sway on her feet. The interaction between them had drawn a couple of curious glances, one particularly solicitous co-worker even starting after Mac in her defense. Grace grabbed the girl's arm with a shake of her head, rubbing at her neck self consciously with the other hand. She watched until Mac and his team had exited the building, and then she pulled her cellphone out of her pocket at last.

Text to Mark: Can you come get me, please?
Text to Grace: I can be there in thirty. Everything okay?

Mark looked up from his phone to McKeller, One eye squeeze shut from the bright sun shining on his face. The man had gotten himself into a spot of trouble and was lookin' tah be dug out. Their conversation been goin' on fer the better half o' an hour. It was winding down and Grace were a good reason tah end the conversation without it seeming like it were a bigger deal din it was tah do sah.

Text to Mark: Not...really. Come as soon as you can, and make sure you're not being shadowed.
Text to Grace: Be there asap
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Grace Low
Gypsy Queen
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He couldn't get a parking spot right out front sah Grace wouldn't be seeing the Honda pull up through tha salon windows. Instead she'd see him jogging up to the front doors wearing a hunter green long sleeve shirt tha was bereft of any band name. His grey-blue jeans had a legitimate tear across tha left knee. When he opened the door a few of her coworkers smiled and nodded, remembering him from the time he took her to lunch. Grace having a visit from Mac and now Mark was certain to be the center of their gossip as soon as she was out of ear shot.

His breaths were drawing in and out of his throat quickly, but naht he were out of breath or nothin'. Jist that he'd jogged all dah way, made haste tah her station and din put on tha sorta smile which said both hello and I'm worried. "Hey, got here as quick as I could." He couldn't think o' anythin' else tah say, figuring this weren't something tah discuss right then and there. But he did touch both her elbows with his hands and tried tah measure her eyes tah see if all were well in them.

Pretty much from the moment she'd last texted Mark, Grace had been pacing. Replaying the conversation with Josh over and over in her mind: like a girl she analyzed and reanalyzed every sentence, every pause, every breath. Could she have handled it differently, better? Could she have said something else - done a better job of trying to convince him to give this gambit up? Was there something she could have offered him? As far as she could tell, Grace had done the best she could, but it was impossible not to second, third, fourth and even fifth-guess herself.

And then asking Mark to come here. The little stylist agonized over that one, scarcely daring to breathe until he arrived. What if Mac was still lurking somewhere outside? Or some of his men? What if they'd been using her as bait, knowing she would call Mark as soon as they were gone? Grace would never forgive herself if something happened to Mark because of her.

But that's exactly what's on the line, isn't it? Josh had tasked her with changing Mark's mind, or else. The implication of or else was as heavy as it was overt. Or else meant using her against Mark however he felt necessary.

Grace was, in short, worrying herself sick.

Relief surged through her little body when the Gypsy King appeared, his hands on her elbows. She could tell by the look on his face that he was worried already, and a hot spike of guilt surged through her belly accordingly. Not trusting herself not to make it worse just yet, the girl wrapped both arms tightly around his waist, pressing herself as close to him as she could. "Thank you. I'm so sorry but I .. I don't know what to do. C'mon..." Pulling away, she slipped her hands into his, tugging him towards the back rooms with a tip of her head in that direction.

Mark is the heartbeat of camp. When she hugged him in close like dat he was warm reminders of home. He was dah smell of a bonfire and the way tha earth was after a rain. He were a shirt dat was washed at the local laundry mat with the off-brand detergent that was kept in stock. He's fresh shaved sah there's that sorta manufactured orange smell that were almost entirely wore off by that hour in the day.

"Whut's happened?" Tried tah say it soft enough dat the sound of his voice wouldn't clue in her curious coworkers or excite tha situation more than it already were. His hand squeezed hers when their palms kissed and held her hand firmly. He thought mehbe dey would jist leave, but instead he was lead tah the back room. It were a little.. nerve wrecking. Jist cause she was actin' weird, and in his experience back rooms meant either verrah bad things or verrah good things. By her pallor and the look of her eyes, dis weren't a situation that promised tah be happy.

Once he walked in after her, his free hand moved behind him tah catch dah door knob and shut it. There was a slight raise o' his eyebrows in the wordless way of askin' her whut was wrong.

The girl wanted to go home - it wasn't that. But it wasn't a conversation she wanted to have in the car, and she couldn't fathom sitting in the car not talking about it all the way home. And she didn't want to take a chance on other folks from the camp overhearing any part of it -- always a risk in a Caravan like theirs-- before she'd had a chance to explain everything to Mark. There also lurked the specter of Mac and his boys hanging around somewhere out there to up the stakes, and she didn't want to take a chance on the gypsy king being blind-sided that way, either.

So the back room it was. Her distress was obvious enough that no one would follow them, or challenge the shutting of the door. For that, at least, Grace was grateful.

Her brows were drawn together, her full lips pursed in thought, her wide eyes a storm tossed tumultuous sea of greens. Where to start? How to explain? The girl took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Al....right. I, um. I guess I should start at the top. Do you remember when we met in December, an' you asked me about the other camps I'd been in?"

He was trying not tah look like his heart had become lead. Tha it was now impossibly heavy and could only end up on the ground by his feet. Mark didn't wanna hold his breath, but he were. He were thinking dat this was a story he kept hearing and he didn't wanna hear it anymore. It was surprising tah him how much it hurt tah watch her lips and tongue handle words. Nothin' evah came tah him which was good and started with 'do you remember...' It felt like dah sorta lead in tah explain something going wrong, somethin' dah had gone wrong.

In his history, dis was where she told him she got an old boyfriend come around and were needin' tah figure thin's out with him.

It was, jist then, about tha hardest thin' tah do, tah not look crestfallen or sucker-punched. But iffin thin's was gonna go that way, he'd at least walk outta tha back room with his pride.

Grace was searching his face now, looking for some sign that he remembered the conversation. It was there, but so was a certain hardening to his expression, the mask that descended when he was being Leader-Mark. She read it wrong, thinking he had already guessed what she was about to say -- it didn't occur to her that he would filter her words through his own worst case scenario, which started out the same as her story but ended up somewhere completely different.

Chewing on the inside of her cheek, Grace swallowed hard, forcing herself to go on. "...I told you I spent some time with the MacIntosh clan. That I dated one of 'em, even. But that they were a hardscrabble, ruthless bunch and their cutthroat lifestyle didn't suit me so I moved on."

The girl felt faint. Pressing her hand to her forehead, she squeezed her eyes shut for a long moment before she continued. "When you told us it was the MacIntosh clan threatenin' us, I thought Silas was still in charge. That's who ran the camp when I was there, an' I ...I never spoke to him. Didn't know him hardly at all, 'cept to say hello now and again when I couldn't avoid it." Her gaze lifted to Mark's then, clearly distressed, and she shook her head. "But Silas isn't in charge anymore, is he? That's not who you're dealin' with."

I dated one of 'em... I moved on. Mark nodded a few times when she spoke and was completely attentive tah each word she used. At first it felt as though this were gonna be that same story read aloud tah him dat other women befer her had said. The desk or counter area which was behind him he took a lean to, arms folded ovah his chest as he listened and waited. It felt like she was building up tah the punchline of a joke which wasn't gonna be funny at all but hurt like hell.

"Nah, Silas stopped bein' in charge... mehbe two year ago? Mehbe more?" Mark couldn't recall it, exactly. Time could feel weird when you moved around a lot and didn't always get the seasonal cues that a year had passed. Whut he did know was dat it happened a good bit befer they came tah Rhy'Din and mehbe even before Ko and Gwen had der little fall out which put Ko on the outs with her crew fer a bit. That seemed about two or more years ago.

"Dey still cut-throat. Mehbe even more than they was before. Mac made clear he gonna lead with his knuckles and bullets." Mark lifted his shoulders up in a small shrug that looked more defeated din indifferent. He tilted his head to the side, watching her look near dizzy with tha conflict o' it, "Sah yer old boyfriend come callin', need yer help and you gotta sort it?" He figured he'd lead intah whut he thought her words was building tah.

Grace fidgeted, her fingers curling and uncurling in the fabric of her shirt. Wadding it up and then smoothing it out only to wad it up again. She nodded once, and the defensive posture he'd taken made her that much more nervous. She swallowed, shaking one of her hands free to rub self consciously at the side of her neck. "Josh came to see me, yeah. Said he'd heard I was with the Barlows and wanted to warn me to leave." Brows furrowing more deeply, she frowned. "I suppose he actually meant that, too, at first. But then he saw that picture of us. And now he's "letting" me have a chance to talk you into backing down before he..." Grace shook her head again, looking away. "Don't back down, Mark. No matter what."

"Josh?"
Mark didn't know the guy by any name other than Mac. They had run in different camps and when Josh had taken up tha war path, he went with Mac. Maybe cause it sounded meaner or mehbe cause he wanted a new name fer the new identity he was growin' intah. But every time dat he were spoke of, it was Mac. Made one think mehbe o' the old wise guys. Mac the Knife or something.

"He saw dah picture o' us," and Mark was wondering if this weren't all the actions of a spurned ex lover dat come in all innocent and friend-like, with all the fake intention being tah warn her when it's really jist about seein if something is there to rekindle. And if there was? Flip her like she was some kinda spy, mehbe? Or at least get her jist to abandon ship or slip some secrets, among otha things, with her tongue. Except dat when he speak with her and see the photo he gets sour fer his chances and makes with an ideal threat. Mark knew his breathing were still small and shallow, like he was still waiting for dat tidal wave tah hit. Was she tellin' him naht tah back down while also sayin' she was packing a suitcase?

"You wanna stand dis ground tah, din?" One eyebrow arched as if tah prod her how certain she were about it. She sounded certain, and it were then that he pressed her for tha detail which seemed missing, "Where you gonna stand in all o' this?"

"Mac,"
amended the tiny dancer girl. "His name is Josh." The question, though expected, stung. Given everything going on and his history with women in particular, Grace couldn't blame her man for bracing himself like he was, but neither could she deny that his apparent lack of faith hurt. Swallowing roughly, Grace toyed with a tendril of steel grey, watching his face a long moment. Her deep green eyes were wide, and maybe a little incredulous, as she took a few hesitant steps towards him. "Mark," she said his name softly, tenderly. She stretched her hands out towards him, reaching for his. "I'm with you."
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Grace Low
Gypsy Queen
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Her hand stretched out towards him and he was surprised tha his first reaction was tah tighten his folded arms across his chest like armor. As if she had wounded him instead of doing whut he needed, which was tah reassure him. This conversation had naht just been the retelling of another story, it weren't the scary thing he figured, but everything inside of him was still braced for it tah be the same. In his mind he was already thinking about what he'd do, all actions which seemed tah be a cathartic self-destruction.

Then his hand shot out and gripped her forearm, giving her a quick tug sah that her body crashed intah his. He held her as tightly as he could. Held her like some hurricane was trying tah rip her away from him at jist that moment. His hands circle around tah opposing sides, gripping handfuls of her shirt. He pressed his cheek tah the top of her head before his face turned, kissin' her upon the crown and din just leavin' his lips there sah his nose was immersed in tha smell and locks o' her grey hair. The tight hold he got around her didn't ease, naht jist yet. He spoke with a stumble and tear in his voice, "I love yah and I got both my feet on tha ground fer dis."

For a heart stopping moment, the Gypsy King not only didn't react, his body language actually recoiled from her. Her breath sharp in her chest, Grace felt herself teetering on the brink, that life muscle squeezing awkwardly, painfully, threatening to rupture in her chest. Oh my God, he doesn't believe me, that was the thought through her mind just half a second before he yanked her into him, all but crushing her body against his. Tears of relief welling up and then spilling over, the girl buried her face in his chest, little fingers likewise gripping handfuls of that sage green shirt at the center of his lower back. "Oh my god," the girl breathed in a little whimper. "I'm so sorry."

"I'm sorrah."
He bowed his head low enough that he could kiss her on tha cheek. It were at that point that his arms finally relaxed and it was more like he was holding her instead of keeping a storm from carryin' her away. His chest grew with one great breath, took in and then dropped when he exhaled. After those calming breaths his hand had relaxed enough that he released her shirt and din reached up, running two or three times down her back, "I love yah and I been stupid about lettin' my worry about somethin' yah never done pollute meh."

Mark was still processing that Josh, this ex, was Mac. Later on it would sting and irritate him. He remembered how Tracey had mocked him with Molly, how making him feel inferior or outdone for her affections to twist a knife had been the point. Was this going to be round two, except with Mac? Right now, Mark just relaxed in the knowledge that Grace was still claiming his heart which he were hopin' she'd keep.

"I love you, Mark," came the fervent reply. "He just...he basically gave me a deadline and then informed me he plans to use me against you. Like.. like a **** forgone conclusion. I just...dammit I'm so sorry." Safe in his arms at last, the tears came freely, little fingers sliding up under his shirt to curl into the skin of his back, clingy. "I knew I should have told him I barely knew you, that the picture was just there cause everyone knows you're in charge. But I just...I couldn't lie about how I feel."

"I'm so ****' tired about hidin' thin's,"
his body pressed to hers and then pushed offa the counter so he pressed further intah her. His whole body turned tah redirect the way she was facing befer he pushed her back against the door. It was the roller coaster of his pulse, the damp feelin' of tears, clawing hands and messy, forced confessions that made him need her. He was stuck in a place that felt heady and disorienting, one hand catchin' tha side of her face to direct it up tah him sah he could kiss her properly. They both was salty, though he hadn't actually cried. He'd run a hot and then cold marathon with his heart, had gotten sweaty walkin' that precipice o' whut she would say once she started talking.

She agreed with him, and it showed in the way her little body was pressed needfully back into his, despite the variance between them. Her lips found his and her kiss was hungry, eager for reassurance of her own. Fingers lifting from his back to his chest, up to his shoulders and then his neck, the girl was positively desperate to reassure him that she was his.

It was apologies, reassurance and need tangled up in one another. He could tell his hands was shaking when he reached for tha front of her pants and undid them. At this pit he felt like the nuance of gettin' clothes off was sah bothersome that he was opting tah tug and shove and there weren't no careful unwrapping of her as he did it. He was shovin' her pants offa her hips and could hear the rustle o' some plastic in the back room when the air vent came on.

Unceremoniously undressed, Grace made no attempt to prevent his efforts, even opting at one point to assist him as little fingers hooked one of her belt loops, helping him to tug the denim fabric free of her body with a wiggle of her hips. Thus exposed, she tugged at his belt clumsily, trying to disengage the buckle with only limited success. A huff of frustration spilled from her mouth to his as she started tugging on it in earnest.

There were his smile when she got frustrated and for a moment, it brought a levity tah them which hadn't been there from the moment he walked in. With his left hand he helped disengage tha buckle, and then his hand backed off tah let her finish the job, mostly cause she pouted and he figured she was driven on principle now tah do that. While her hands worked, he kissed her on the neck. Outside der was the buzz o' workers and clients talking, the vibrating white noise o' hair dryers, and every now and din the lulling sounds o' the music played in the background. Even with all that, and dem bein' seen goin' back there, Mark weren't sure how quiet this could be. He wanted her and naht in any kinda quiet way, neither.

Later, when the urgency of the moment was passed and cooler heads prevailed, Grace would be at least a little amused that the one thing Mark feared most was the one thing that had never occurred to her. Going back to Josh, offering herself as some kind of cross between a sacrificial lamb and a consolation prize, the prospect simply never entered her mind. She was with Mark. She was in love with him, and that was that. Come what may, certain facts were inalienable.

The girl laughed a little when he took over unhooking the belt for her, her fingers moving to pull the shirt from his torso instead. The tiny stylist was mostly done with that when he let go of the belt, directing her to finish with the task of unhooking it, unbuttoning the waistband and pushing the zipper back. It wasn't smooth or calculated, need overwhelmed even the smallest of tasks.

Her shirt didn't have much longer tah live befer it was disappearin' right offa her. They hadn't been like dat with each other befer. There had been more ceremony, more flirtation. There had been tasting and touching and privacy which allowed for howling. Nothin' quick and wicked like they was now. Nobody coulda jist opened tha door, but the worry of being interrupted at any moment were there. Gah, he wanted tah hear her yell fer him and he wanted tah yell fer her.

When they was spent and panting like survivors of a sparring match, his body relaxed against the grip o' her legs around him and he kissed her, many times, feelin' loathe tah move or grab his clothes. His forehead pressed against her's and he spoke like he were sayin' a secret, "If you told me tah pack up and go, I woulda." That were a lot, coming from a stubborn young king.

"Why in the world would I tell you that?" The girl panted, sticky with sweat and flushed from exertion. Bent at awkward angles in the work space, it was really only just now that it occurred to her to be self conscious about it, to think about the fact that maybe the whole salon had heard. Well, a blush may have painted her features then, but it wasn't like she was sorry about it. Cementing the bond between herself and her king had been much too important to be all that concerned about it.

Her forehead pressed back against his, damp lashes fluttered once, her full, bruised lips seeking still more kisses. "I love you so much."

"You wouldn't. But I'd listen tah yah."
That were the point he was trying to make. She sought his mouth and would find dat there was more there for her. Lips and a tongue that needed tah know her. When their mouths broke from each other and she spoke his smile appeared and an ease returned tah his frame, "I dunno how I got yer heart, but I'm glad fer it." The intensity of his body's weight pressed to hers lessened. One o' his hands went tah the side of her face tah brush his fingertips and din the side o' his thumb tah her cheek, "I love you like... I'm a sixteen year-old idiot."

He wet his lips and din looked away, past tha door tah tha world which impatiently was wanting tah intrude. Then his blue eyes, which seemed busy with some kinda calculation, went back tah her face, "Come over tah my place tahnight?"

Grace realized, then, what it was Mark was really saying. He was saying that Mac wasn't wrong, that she had the power to persuade him to give up this fight. Temporarily floored by that revelation, the girl nuzzled into him affectionately when he spoke of feeling sixteen. "...Easy, baby," she said softly, kissing his temple almost reverently. "You got it by being you."

Peeling herself away from him was a chore the tiny dancer clearly wasn't all that excited about, but she nodded. "I'm goin' home with you," she commented, "...an' I don't figure being alone is a good idea right now." For either one of them, really.

When she told him tah be easy he smiled at her, and liked hearin' her say dat fer some reason. Something about it seemed carin' and genuine. His arms gave her a squeeze and then his arms lessened. Mark weren't wantin' tah let her go none, too, but lingering in dat back closet with der clothes at their feet was naht whut they could be doing fer too long. He heard someone in the salon let out a loud, sharp laugh which had a harsh crackle tah it like when birds imitate a person's laugh. He smiled a bit like it had been a joke said and din leaned back sah he could drop down and pull his boxers and pants back up.

He were smoothing out his underwear and sorting himself, his hands at the front clasps as he zipped up and buttoned. The metal buckle o' his belt clanged a bit and he took one step back sah she could have room tah move around, "Now? Yer boss gonna be all right with that?" Naht that what they did was boss-acceptable, Mark jist knew she loved dis job and it had been a helluva day. Still, he wanted her with him jist as much as she wanted to be there.
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Grace Low
Gypsy Queen
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


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Can Be Found: Hair or Dye Studios
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When he pulled away to redress, Grace stepped out of her pants altogether. Then she retrieved get shirt from where it had fallen, stuffing her arms into the thin fabric and pulling it back over her head. Shaking her hair free, she combed it with her fingers, trying to tame it back down into some semblance of order. At length she reached for her jeans, and with a playful smirk she impulsively plucked her underwear out of them, stuffing the flimsy material into one of his pockets for safekeeping before she put her pants back on. "I clocked out when I messaged you, love. I'm going with you."


He had his shirt back on by the time she were pullin' her pants back up. It was kinda awkward, being back there without the comforts of home. It was sexy and awkward, which was an odd kinda combination. Mark was used tah having tah share close quarters and expectin' whutevah he did and tha things which happened tah be a far cry from private. Still, this weren't nah campground and even though her coworkers was nice enough, they were not gypsies. But something about Grace and tha moment had made it all worth it and he weren't regretting a bit of it.

He shoulda felt more high strung and worried, but he was a bit drunk from bein' spent. Naht sah much that he stood idle. He leaned in tah kiss her a few more times, seein' tah it she were ready befer he opened tha door fer them tah step out.

Fully dressed once more, or as fully dressed as she was going to be, Grace fluffed her hair one more time, leaning into his kisses to return them enthusiastically. There was a smile on her face again, at last: one that had been missing since the moment she'd recognized Josh in the salon. She was still worried about things, of course, but a whole lot less so than before. Her most primary fear --losing Mark --had been allayed. Anything else, she could handle, because they would handle it together. Taking his hand, she stepped back into the salon with him.

Their fingers fold into one another like a clasp. She didn't have to tug him along, but he felt that since she worked here it would be better if she lead. Also, it jist seemed better if it were the woman leading the man out of a room. It seemed that had it been the other way that everyone would have seen her upset, heard the banging, and then seen him pulling her along by tha hand. Nah, he'd rather tha wisp of her smile and her one step ahead of him in this situation. It would explain more, and 'hit home' better than any verbal explanation.

Outside, there was a tense moment. Grace had been right. Perhaps this was all about getting her to call him. Getting the two of them in one known location fer being dispatched. Were they in the sights of some automated weapon, right now? Mark felt the tension and tried naht tah let it shake him, movin' as though there weren't a problem when, up until tha moment he sat in the driver's seat, he thought there were.

Apparently tahday were naht the day Mac intended him tah die.

Grace more or less held her breath as she smiled and said her goodbyes to the other stylists, introducing Mark here and there as necessary, as her boyfriend. If there was going to be talk, and of course there was, best that at least part of it be accurate in advance. The girl stopped at her station long enough to pick up her bag, throwing one more glance at the picture that had changed everything, but even now with everything that had happened or could still happen, she wasn't sorry to have displayed it. Proud to be with him no matter what it meant.

Exhaling when they reached the car, the little dancer basically collapsed into her seat, her profile almost entirely disappearing from the windows. It was one perk of being little, anyway -- she made a difficult target. Not so much the same for the gypsy king beside her, but if Mac had been going to make a move today, surely he'd have done it by now?

Reaching for his hand again pretty much the moment he had the car in gear, Grace was watching him, those wide green eyes intent on his face. "I was so scared," she admitted softly.

"I'm sorrah fer that," Mark didn't know whut it would be like tah face Mac one-on-one. Tha only time he saw him he got company with him tah look after him. But he imagined Mac didn't show up alone. Naht only was she dealing with someone like him, no doubt she were also outnumbered. And sure, they was in public and she got her coworkers and such, but that didn't make you any less dead when someone pulled a trigger. Mac had wanted tah make a point and he had. Mark jist weren't sure if it was entirely the one he intended.

Her hand was hugged by his periodically, like some thought kept circling to the forefront of his mind and makin' him want tah be sure her hand was still der with his, "I kinda feel like the idea o' something bad happening being tah surreal tah really wrap my mind around it sah I always keep thinking of other things. Jist bad thin's happening and I get... you know." Mark weren't gonna say tha word scared, even if his whole sentence implied it heavily.

Yeah, see. It wasn't Mac she was afraid of. Sure, he'd heavily implied some particularly ugly things -- seeing to Ian, and all-- but that wasn't what had nearly stopped her heart in terror. No, it was the look on Mark's face, that defensive, almost hostile posture he'd taken when she was first trying to explain. The way he'd asked her where she stood like he didn't know. Chewing on the inside of her right cheek again -- she'd chewed it bloody, a thing he'd probably been able to taste when he kissed her, Grace shook her head just a little. "No, baby. I mean, yeah, you're right. The idea that something bad might happen just got... a whole lot more real. I got this deadline and like... he basically said without sayin' that he was going to turn me over to one of his thugs," she said with a shudder, her lip curling at the memory. "But even that...that wasn't what I was so scared about."

"It weren't?"


For Mark, the Mac situation was kinda all consuming. Did he particularly like the idea dat Josh/Mac was her ex? Nah, but so far Mac weren't using that as ammunition against him like Tracey had. Mehbe he had a soft spot fer her and she was more than a pawn tah manipulate the situation. He didn't think about tha fact dat she saw him, despite his best efforts, and had known he got a change in demeanor at the conversation. Was still hard, he guessed, tah let some o' those thin's go. They came back up, like the taste of vomit, and lingered all bitter and acrid on his tongue.

Their folded hands was squeezed again like they made a heart from it, his occasionally tightening and loosening grip on her bein' a slow and random heartbeat.

"Nah." said Grace with a little shake of her head. "For a second or two there," she went on, answering the squeeze of his hand with one of her own, "...for a second there I was sure that I'd lost you." It made her emotional all over again, even just talking about it, her throat constricting painfully on the words. Swallowing hard, she drew a raspy breath, trying for another smile. "Nothing else mattered, next to that."

"Nah, yah won't lose meh unless you plan tah throw me away,"
he brought their folded hands tah his mouth sah he could kiss the back of hers. All the while his eyes remained trained on tha road as they took the familiar path back tah the campgrounds. Mark didn't realize that she'd thought that, but once she said it, he didn't realize she were also very right. He had nearly bristled and prepared himself fer what seemed a terrible and unavoidable outcome. How much longer would she be patient with his fear o' that?

Reassured, Grace flared her fingers gently against his mouth when he kissed her knuckles. "Well, m'not planning on throwing you away--ever--so I guess y'gonna have to just get used to me." Apparently she could be patient awhile yet. "I love being with you."

"I hope yah do. I dun plan tah leave you behind none."
There's his laugh, but it's a kinda nervous laugh. Tha sort someone expects on a prom date or something. A laugh that wants her to laugh, a laugh that loves her and hints, jist a tiny bit, at a lingering insecurity. Already he was starting to feel it lessen. Now dat the day was beginning to age, he felt foolish for having though what he did and starting on building a wall befer he knew.

Thy pulled up tah the campground. Some of the teenagers were showing off cartwheels by the bonfire while a few o' the adults would glance and yell at them fer being reckless near dah flames.

Grace laughed along with him. Not because the concept of being together was funny--just that his nervousness was. Arriving at the camp ground, the girl pulled her hand from his at last, climbing out of the passenger seat. Snagging her purse off the floor, she closed the door behind her, making her way around the hood of the car to rejoin his side. "Good. I don't wanna be left behind."

Something were lifted offa his shoulders once he was parked and climbing outta that Honda which seemed like every few days it wanted tah die. Mark liked cars that way. He liked them disposable, old, and inexpensive. There weren't much he was willing tah spend good money on. Clothes came from thrift stores and he lived in an RV which might be on the verge of calling for a replacement. Mehbe Mark jist had trouble lettin' things die and were the sort that didn't adopt a puppy but a thirteen year-old dog. Something had tah be said about that, he jist weren't sure what.

"You, left behind? Nahhh," he stepped around the car and linked his hand with hers, "I need tah know thin's about yah, still. Like whut yer favorite flower is and whut you like fer breakfast."

Grace thought about it, lacing her fingers into his. Squeezing gently, the little dancer shrugged. "I really like lilies," she answered him. "All kinds, but especially the ones that smell pretty. The pink and white ones." Basically plastering herself to his side, she considered her breakfast options with a shrug. "I dunno. I really do like pancakes?"

"You dunno whut you like fer breakfast best? It happens tah yah everyday!"
Tah Mark dat was jist odd, though there was probably plenty o' folks that felt the same as Grace. Besides, there was also plenty who jist didn't eat breakfast and moved straight intah lunch. There were an upnod from him at the bonfire and dat's when Mark discovered something powerful and wonderful-- when he was holdin' Grace's hand and they was walkin' as they were nahbody moved tah interrupt him. She was just some kinda forcefield dat they didn't wanna interrupt.

Grace just kinda. ..didn't really think about breakfast unless Mark was involved. Mostly she was a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit kind of girl; wouldn't go to much trouble on her own account. It wasn't that she wasn't friendly with the campfire attendants--she smiled and waved at everyone who looked her way-- but her focus was very much on Mark and apparently it showed. Cleaving close to his side, the girl waited to see which RV they were going to, her cheek pressed into his arm with both of her hands wrapped around one of his.

They went tah his. It were smaller and he got a room mate, but Voo wasn't the sort that imposed on him or anything. Usually she stayed in her room and if she heard him talkin' with folks or on the phone she usually didn't approach him. Mehbe she was in her room mehbe she was out, but his RV was quiet like they was the only ones there when he unlocked tha door and stepped in. His hand squeezed Grace's and he broke away from her tah get somethin' tah drink from the fridge. A bottle o' water, a second one offered tah her.

She followed him inside, and when he broke away from her at last, Grace drifted over to the table, the place she always seemed to gravitate to when she was in his camper. The dancer girl realized, suddenly, that she could probably count on one hand the number of times she'd been in his camper, and although there were good reasons for that it still felt a little strange. Taking the water bottle when it was offered, Grace tipped a faint smile up at him. "Thanks, love."

Grace accepted the water bottle but made no effort to open it, rolling it absently between her fingers instead. Those luminous green eyes were distant, pensive. When he took her hands and kissed her cheek, Grace blinked herself back to the present with a light shake of her head, tilting her face lightly into that kiss. "M'alright. Just...thinking about things."

He moved tah stand in front of her, his thumbs hookin' in tha belt loops of her pants which was past her hips and behind her. He could tell her thoughts was scattered about and truthfully, his were the same as well. It was at dat moment he was trying to be reassuring. Eyes went tah the crawlspace bed he had over the driver's seat and then back tah her, "How about we curl up, watch a movie and try tah get some sleep? Would dat be somethin' good fer yah?"

Moving into him when he slid his hands around her, Grace laid her head on his chest, breathing in the scent of him. Quietly, she nodded. "...Sure. That sounds good." The little stylist must have been distracted -- she wasn't even thinking about food much less suggesting it. Slipping her hands around his waist, she clung to him for a long moment even though they'd only just agreed to move.

They jist needed that small space tahgether. Tha one where they didn't say much cause dey already knew, but held ontah each other until they slipped off intah sleep. He kissed the top of her head and shut his eyes. Dey were like that fer a few minutes, cradled tah one another as the impact of what had happened, what coulda happened, subsided.

Finally his hands eased up off from around her and he kissed her atop dah head again. He slipped outta his shoes, his shirt and pants befer climbing up tah his crawlspace bed, his clothes ditched in the hamper strapped tah the wall with his pants leg hanging out of it. In a way dah small cave was reassuring, it felt like being in a safe, small space.

Grace bent to unlace her converse high tops once Mark started peeling off layers. She stepped out of her shoes and then crawled up after him before she followed suit since she wasn't wearing anything underneath her outer garments anymore. Once she was under the covers, the girl wiggled her way out of the jeans, pushed them to the bottom of the bed and then curled herself up tightly against his chest. Settling there, a long sigh escaped her, like a breath long held finally releasing. Softly, she spoke. "Whatcha wanna watch?"

His sheets were a brushed nickle color. When she circled up tah him he drew the sheet over them, making it like they was a tent when he did so. Her sigh came out and he smiled, reaching behind his head where a tablet was stuck in a strap of cloth. He folded the stand, letting it balance on his chest as he scrolled, "Naht real sure. You got any suggestions fer meh?"
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