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Shine

 
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Patrick
Precious Cinnamon Roll
Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm


Joined: 21 Oct 2014
Posts: 286
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Can Be Found: Stars End; Seaside
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2018 9:37 pm    Post subject: Shine Reply with quote

June 27, 2018

"My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." - John Green


My everything is on fire. Fifty yards to go. You can do it. I will my lungs to expand, but they scream in protest. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a familiar shape--of course I've got her memorized. It's not creepy, it's observant. Don't stop. Push through it, Patrick. Focus. Fifteen. Tunnel vision shows the Red Dragon's front porch closing in fast; I can hear the crunch of gravel beneath my sneakers as I transition from turf to walkway. I stretch my limbs as far as they'll go, pouring every ounce of power into the last few long, loping strides until I reach the steps where I all but collapse from exhaustion.

At first, the pain is all I can focus on. I'm bent over the steps, gasping like a dying fish with my heartbeat crashing like thunder in my ears and I just know it's the most unattractive sight in the universe. ****, I really hate running. Picking up smoking was the worst choice I've ever made. No, scratch that -- second worst. There's some part of my brain that insists I turn around to find Penny, but I'm a little too busy trying not to suffocate to do that.

Eventually, the link between my brain and body reconnects and I'm able to plant myself on one of the steps. Oh yeah. That's better. Well done. I use my shirt to wipe my face, attempting to look less sweaty and more appealing to the beautiful apparition heading my way.

Penny Escobar. Arguably the most delicious creature to walk the planet, but I'll admit I could be biased. Probably not. She sits so close to me that we're practically touching. Now, don't get me wrong -- I like it. I like the hell out of it. I just wasn't expecting it. It's always been a slow burn with her, we spark and warm up over the whole course of our interaction, always keeping a respectable distance between ourselves. A graze of a few fingers here, an incidental leg bumping there. It's never been so obvious. I can't catch my breath, and it's not because of the running this time.

Her hair is damp, pulled back in a low ponytail that suggests it's been pulled back in a rush and long forgotten about. My mind immediately takes me to a place I don't want to leave that involves my hands in her hair. I'm thinking about soap, but I can smell cookies and cream. Why is that?

"Working off a bunch of excess energy?" she asks. There's something different about her, only I can't put my finger on it. It's almost like she's buzzing. She sways as though she means to bump my shoulder, but doesn't. I think she's having trouble staying still, like a kid who's too hyped up on sugar to properly focus.

That's all right. She's in good company, because I can't focus either. After so many months of observing careful boundaries, my heart is incapable of staying in my chest. It's stuck somewhere in my throat. But I try to play it cool. The last thing I want to do is discourage her from... whatever this is. Because I like it. I shift a little so our legs are touching. I fight the urge to touch her skin through one of the tears in her jeans.

"More like paying for the bad choice of ignoring my alarm this morning when it went off." I chuckle. "I'm dying. It's hot out here. Should have gone for my run when it was fifteen degrees cooler." My breathing's still unsteady, but I manage to flash a quick smile when I remember all over again that she's single now. We talked about making moves. Maybe this was it. I try to rein myself in. "How's it goin'?"

"I mean you obviously had better things to do." She sounds amused. Her smirk is the hottest thing in the world. I want to know what's got her in such a mischievous mood. "I'm impressed by your stamina though, a part of me didn't want to do anything after this morning. But then, I don't know. I feel like I have so much energy too at the same time. Maybe it was all that sugar." Penny taps her chin thoughtfully, head tilting to one side. The action draws my attention to the slender column of her throat and the dark smudge of what I can only assume is food. Wait-- it's an oreo. She's so close, I can smell it. And honestly? I don't know what the hell she's talking about -- I'm blindsided by the urge to lick the chocolate off her skin. God, Patrick. Get a hold of yourself.

I say the first thing I can think of. "Don't tell me Sunglasses Guy beat me to the punch."

Penny barely manages to smother her giggle with her fist. I think I might die. She's too adorable. "I know, I was surprised by it too. But then there was something said about no rules saying you couldn't have dessert for breakfast, and I just couldn't argue with that logic."

Concentrate. She's speaking. Nope. Still thinking about the chocolate. She has to get rid of that so I can think straight. "You've got... um." Well done. You word so good, Patrick. Incapable of speech by this point, I resort to vague hand gestures as my mind is quickly overrun with fantasies that were sure to make me blush in three... two...

This time, she does sway over to bump me in the shoulder, looking a little sheepish as she lifts a hand to her neck. "Oh, really? Man it really got everywhere. Which I guess isn't really that much of a surprise considering..." She giggles while trying blindly to wipe her neck clean. "How'd you manage? Or did the run help?"

I'm almost positive she's talking to me again, but none of it's making any sense. All I want to do is kiss her until she's as senseless as me. I wonder if she knows what a lovely shape her mouth makes when she laughs. Listen. I know that the date is supposed to come before the kissing, but she's seriously making this whole 'be a gentleman' thing rather difficult. Her reply almost doesn't register with me, mostly because I can't make sense of it.

"How'd I manage what?" There's a warning bell going off somewhere in the back of my mind. This tickling, irritating demand for attention. It wanted me to find meaning in whatever it was Penny was talking about, but then that would mean... something I didn't want to accept. So I ignored the warning. Like ya do.

"To avoid getting sticky or not find random bits of oreo crushed into your skin. I mean, I probably haven't ever had that much fun in my whole life, but it stars and stones was it messy. Or maybe you have some still on you too?"

I'm pretty sure the world stops spinning. My heart stops beating, too, and it hurts. Is she saying what I think she's saying? It doesn't make any sense, but goddamnit the pieces that are falling into place are painting a certain picture. I really hate this. I might throw up.

She leans in as if to inspect me for evidence -- evidence I was positive she wouldn't find. Because whoever the hell she'd been ****ing around with, it wasn't me. This doesn't make sense. My head's starting to hurt, so I rear away from her. I stare at her, searching her face for a different answer. One that will help me erase the sense of betrayal creeping into the hollow space where my heart used to be. Now it's lost somewhere in the pit of my stomach.

Think. Think! Make sense of it, Patrick. She mentioned stamina. Excess energy. Dessert for breakfast... that has somehow ended up on her skin. I can't help it. A wounded expression flickers across my face.

"Good messy, fun messy. Not bad --"

Feeling dejected, I cut her off and finally just admit, "I... have no idea what you're talking about. Uhm." I trail off, wondering idly if escaping is an option that is open to me. I scratch the back of my head, thinking. "I haven't seen you since last week."

Now Penny looks as confused as I feel. A single blink gives way to a wide-eyed stare. I stare right back at her, a heated flush spreading across my skin. I can feel it covering my chest and throat and face. My heart's not just on my sleeve, it's everywhere. The embarrassment is almost too much to bear.

"What?" She shifts away from me, shaking her head. "No... You showed up to my place, this morning. With a blow up pool full of cookies and cream ice cream. Right?"

No. Not right. That wasn't me. I bite my lip and shake my head faintly, shoulders rising and falling in a helpless shrug. My gaze falls to the newly created space between us. Logic tried to remind me I was probably overreacting. But I'm not always logical. It doesn't matter that we aren't a couple, that she's perfectly free to have sex with anyone she wants. That doesn't help me not feel jealous. Insanely, outrageously, heartbreakingly jealous.

"Well ****," I say, somehow mustering the ability to affect steady bravado and a half-smile. "Not quite sure how I'll top a blow-up pool full of ice cream." I could kick myself for not making a move sooner.

"Ice cream in giant scoops the size of basketballs just like I had dreamed it..." Penny trails off, looking horrified. The figurative glow vanishes, and she blanches while pulling her knees up close to her chest, wrapping her arms around them.

My heart finds its way back into my chest, only to constrict painfully again, but this time it's out of pity. I know a thing or two about wanting to die in a hole from embarrassment, so seeing Penny in a similar state makes me feel terrible. You're still missing something important. A couple beats later, I ask tentatively, "You thought it was me?" Did I have a doppelgänger?! It's Rhydin. I guess anything's possible. Honestly, I should have thought of this possibility sooner. Penny wouldn't--she's just wouldn't.

"Well... yeah? I know it wasn't a glamour but....." The hint of her blush seems more vibrant due to the recent blanching, and it creeps up hotly over her cheeks. "I believed it was you. Just... a little more forward than you've been."

Goddamnit. I'd literally give anything in the world to bring back the glowing, deliriously happy person who'd shown up here twenty minutes earlier. The girl who was giggling with giddy excitement because she thought I had come up with this grand gesture. That had to count for something, right? This self-conscious version of Penny is breaking my heart.

I slide closer, erasing the distance she put between us and help myself to the kind of intimacy I've only dreamt about with her so far. My hand finds her knee and I try to catch her eyes with mine. "Does it bother you that I'm not forward?"

"No." Penny shakes her head, just barely loosening up as she repeats herself. "No, no not at all. I like when you're confident and sure of yourself. Which to me, is different than that. Being forward. Is that different than being bold you think? I don't know." She's rambling and not making any sense anymore. I can tell she's flustered. I want to scoop her into a hug and never let her go. "I don't know what I was trying to say," she admits.

So I do the next best thing and give her knee a light squeeze. I give myself leave to be bold and brush some of her damp hair over her shoulder. My fingertips trail across her back, nonsense patterns, until it comes to a respectable rest near the middle. "I'm not forward," I repeat, because it's something I want her to understand. That just because I haven't lured her into a pool of ice cream to do God knows what--probably sex, Patrick, don't be stupid--doesn't mean I don't want her. "I probably never will be. It's not my style."

"I know," she interjects, "And its --"

"But I am sure I'm pretty damn jealous someone other than me got to have dessert for breakfast with you this morning..." Nope. Sorry, Penny. I have to do this right now. I have to get it off my chest. If I don't, I'm gonna explode. I suck in a steady breath despite the nervous ball of tension growing in my chest. "...and that if I don't kiss you now, I'd be an idiot."

My stomach is doing flips. She doesn't pull away when I lift my hand to her chin, nor when I tip her face toward mind. Vaguely, I'm aware of her hand coming up to curl around my wrist. It's like she's holding me in place. Maybe she's wanted this as bad as I have. It's so perfect, I can't even describe it. Like everything I've gone through has been for a reason. Maybe I'm just imagining it, but she still tastes like ice cream and her lips are warm against mine, and I'm hungry. I don't want to stop. Her legs press more firmly against mine. If we weren't sitting on the stairs in plain sight of the whole world, I'd probably have pulled her into my lap and... and I don't even know what.

Our fingers tangle in an awkward attempt a hand-holding that ends with our hands resting on her knee again. We laugh as the kiss ends. Am I breathing? Is there oxygen in my lungs? It's like I'm floating, outside my body looking at myself where I'm huddled on the steps next to the most amazing girl in the world. It's too much. I might burst from happiness.

"Okay, but seriously, I don't think I can top an ice cream pool." Shameless, blessed levity to break up some of the (admittedly delicious) tension.

Penny laughs again, which makes me want to kiss her again. "No, and I don't know that you really should. I don't know that I could stomach ice cream in general for a while. It was a bit over the top." She's smiling again. It's not like before, but it's better than still being mortified. I'll take that. "Something smaller I think. Maybe not even fist sized."

I thought kissing her would make the jealousy go away, but it didn't. My brain is stupid like that. My skin crawls with the possibility that someone else has done more than kiss her. But I try to remind myself that her interest in me obviously isn't pretend. Whatever happened, it was me she'd been imagining. I let my hand brush over her back one last time, then force myself to rein it in.

"Maybe dinner first. Something savory to balance out all the sugar?" After a quick glance down at my attire, which is damp with sweat, I reconsider the instinct to take her out right this second. "I need a shower first. This isn't exactly dinner date attire."

"Yeah, I'd like that," she says. "But if you're asking me to dinner tonight, I'm going to have to reschedule. Mai's calling in a favor and we're going out of town. Just a day or two though." She straightens a little, legs extending to briefly stretch the muscles from her seated position. "Dinner when I get back though?"

"When you get back," I agree with a smile. "Text me when you're free and we'll go anywhere you want. By then your sweet tooth should be back and we can try a more low key celebration." I laugh, pushing up from my seated position to stand and offer out a hand to help her up. Mostly I just want another excuse to touch her.

"Anywhere I want huh?" She takes my hand, coming easily to her feet. But she hesitates, lingering close. There's hardly any space between us. I feel dizzy until I remember to breathe again. Air is good. Passing out would be embarrassing as hell. Then she asks, "This happened right?" As though she thought she might have been dreaming. I don't exactly blame her. Maybe she dreamed up whatever happened this morning, too. She lets go of my hand to pinch herself. "Ow, fff..Yeah okay. Real."

Why does she have to be so cute? I can't help but grin and push my luck. "I could always kiss you again to be positive."

Penny shakes out her arm a bit while backing away. "Ah, no see that makes me think it is a dream."

"Sounds like a nice dream to me," I admit, reaching out a hand as if to stop her from leaving. She winks at me and my heart stops. Her smile hurts to look at, but in the best of ways. Oh my God, Patrick. You're pathetic. Don't you dare follow after her like the puppy you are.

"I'll let you know when I get back in town," she promises.

"See you soon." I'm doomed. I'm not going to be able to think about anything but the taste of her lips on mine until I see her again.
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Patrick
Precious Cinnamon Roll
Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm


Joined: 21 Oct 2014
Posts: 286
See this user's pet
Can Be Found: Stars End; Seaside
10445.34 Silver Crowns

Items

PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

June 29, 2018

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


"Hey I was about to message you."

For one split second I'm a deer in the headlights. It was as if Penny had appeared out of thin air. I look up to find her facing me, walking backward toward the inn's porch. She's wearing my sunglasses. It's so endearing I can't help but feel a stab of fondness that turns my stomach over.

I'd just come back to the Red Dragon from the nearest bodega with everything I needed to fix the abomination that was my hair, which I'd currently hidden beneath an itchy, winter ski cap borrowed from the Inn's Lost & Found. Momentarily gripped with acute panic over having run into Penny of all people--right now--instead of an hour from now when my little problem was nothing more than a memory, I freeze for the length of a heartbeat, then resume a casual gait toward the porch (and Penny).

She stands there, smiling, almost as if she's been waiting for me. I swing the bag of evidence over my shoulder so she can't see through the plastic to what's inside.

"Hey! As luck would have it, now you don't have to."

Her eyes follow the path of the bag, then catch on my hat. It's like I'm acting out The Tell-Tale Heart in real time, somehow the bagged items make themselves known. She doesn't miss a thing. "Which is good," she says, "because I don't think this thing is working." Penny raises a hand to indicate her cell phone, backing toward the door as I continue to advance.

But the closer I get to her, the more I begin to panic again. I feel a lot like a fish out of water, awkward and unsure what to do once I get close enough to touch her. Am I supposed to kiss her again now that we've broken the ice? God knows I want to, but maybe I should wait until we actually go on a real date. Instead I ask, "How was your trip with Mai?"

"It was... eventful." The vague description is laced with a hint of exasperation and humor she doesn't immediately offer an explanation for, because her eyes are on my hat again. "Aren't you hot?"

Yes. God yes. But that is just the sort of question I am hoping to avoid. In an effort to sidestep the issue, I muster up the suave confidence of a man more charming than myself and say, "Why yes. Yes I am. How kind of you to notice."

Penny's laughter is quick and she shakes her head in amusement while opening up the door. As we head inside, she smirks at me from over her shoulder. "I like your hair, is why I was asking. And it's so warm that my clothes feel like I've been running in them."

My imagination goes skipping off in about a hundred different directions, making it difficult to focus on the here and now because I'm caught up in a fantasy involving much less clothing. I mentally chastise myself while climbing out of the metaphorical gutter, and take a moment to remind myself not to fall back into the deep end of my emotions. Getting too deep too fast is a recipe for disaster.

"Did you die a little when I had to cut it?" I look up as if to see my own hair, remembering the night I buzzed it all off before heading to Basic. "Because I did. I think my sister did, too."

"Hair grows back," Penny answers easily, shoulders rising and falling in a mild shrug. There's something about the way she says it to suggest she's put thought into the topic at some level. Reaching the bar, she lifts the messenger bag off her shoulder and sets it down on the the ground near a pair of bar stools. "But I did lament not getting a chance to toy with it sooner." A small thrill shoots through me in response and I actually take a moment to consider whipping the hat off right this second to offer myself up to be toyed with for the rest of eternity.

What I actually end up doing is far less exciting. "I'm, uh, having technical difficulties with my hair right now I'm afraid," I admit by way of an explanation.

The smile she wears gives way to mild confusion. "Technical diff-- oh, a bad hair day? We all have them. The downside to having wonderful full bodied hair with curls. I understand."

I make a noise that suggests I disagree. "Your hair is beautiful. Mine on the other hand..." I trail off suggestively, a little nervous, and have to inwardly psych myself up to rip off the proverbial band-aid. Despite that, it's a slow reveal, my tugging the ski cap off, unearthing a mop of shockingly bleach blond locks more suited for Boy Band's Lead Singer.

Penny's brown eyes, so lovely to look at, inch wider in surprise. Her mouth pops open in obvious shock and awe. It's hideous; I don't blame her one bit.

"I did not do this," I say defensively, though it's difficult to stave off the smile currently threatening to make an appearance. "I woke up this way. Pretty sure I woke up the guy in the next room as well with my loud 'what the ****' moment this morning when I saw it."

Her eyes dip down to my face, then up to my hair and back again a few times before her brain and mouth start working again. "That is... I mean... Are you..." Penny clears her throat and tries one more time. I have to chew on the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing at her reaction. "Is it a prank someone is playing on you?"

God, I wish. "I have no idea! I had a dream that I joined this band called TRASH. It was a cool dream until the girls attacked me with a makeover against my will. I don't remember how it ended, but this... this is what I woke up to." I rake my fingers through my hair several times and relish the sensation of blunt fingertips scratching the scalp. Probably not as nice a feeling as, say, if Penny had been doing it.

"It is an unexpected look." Her expression suggests she's still struggling with the stark contrast between what is and what was. "I -- wait you said you had a dream about this?" Her focus returns to my face, intent. "Because I've had a couple of surprising turns the past couple of days too, and they may have been related to a couple dreams I've had."

"Yeah." I look past her into the back bar mirror at the wild color of my hair in disbelief, an run a hand through it again. "Though I'd classify this as more of a nightmare than a dream." Okay, so that's dramatic. Sue me. I make a face at myself in the mirror before swinging my attention back onto Penny. "I mean, it wouldn't surprise me. Think about where we live. Weird **** happens all the time."

Penny nods, turning away from me to slip through the break in the bar. "Yeah, well there's a murky area where we think we want and dream about one thing and it gets twisted somehow. I was hungry on the trip with Mai, and later when we were fighting this bound spirit in the forest? I go to pull my ax out of my bag there, and it's a yard long baguette." She pauses, cracking open the cooler to look inside, "Want something?"

"Water, please." I drop my bag beside hers and belly up to the bar, trying to imagine her pulling a baguette mid-battle. Every scenario I conjure up is more humorous than the last, and I end up having to stifle a snicker. "So did you make the forest spirit a sandwich to achieve peace?"

"I distracted her with some dango and took a couple of pot shots while Mai took her sweet time sneaking up on her to throw out a charm." Penny fishes a pair of cold water bottles from the cooler and moves away from it quickly, eager to avoid a potential blow up. It's a shame she doesn't get along better with the modernized world of electronics.

For a moment, I allow myself to consider a possible future with her, one where our differences prove insurmountable. How is a guy like me, who depends on high tech electronics, supposed to build something with a woman who quite literally breaks technology when she's around it? Thankfully, she returns before I can work myself into a frenzy, and hands me one of the bottles while taking her seat on a stool.

"Thanks," I say. My brain short-circuits as what feels like a current passes through our fingers during the pass off.

"When my battle ax was more fit for garlic bread," Penny continues, "I went for my throwing hatchets, discovered them to be two dango skewers." I watch in sick fascination as she lifts the water bottle to the back of her neck. God, I hope I'm not leering. Don't be a dick, Patrick. Focus on the conversation.

"Man, I wish I could have seen that. Epic food fight." But honestly, the image doesn't hold a candle to watch I'm watching now.

"You'd want to see me in an actual fight?" She sounds surprised; straightening up a little as she moves the bottle along her shoulder and then down the length of her arm and my imagination goes wild again.

"Nnn, maybe." It's a difficult task, but I force myself to quit paying attention to the path of the water bottle and focus instead on the mental image of badass Wizard Penny kicking butt and taking names (and conveniently leaving out all the blood and guts to focus on just the glory.) "The idea of it, as I see it in my head, is attractive. All right?" I smirk, opening my water bottle while watching her obliquely.

"Is it?" The question is rhetorical in tone. She gives a bit of a laugh as she shakes her head. "I think that might be something that wouldn't live up to your expectations of me being a badass. Work is usually messy, and I don't mean from just insides becoming outsides, but the terrain, plans not working out, timing is imperfect, more panic and chaos with a bit of luck thrown in. Not so much grace." After another drink from the bottle, she sets it aside and tilts her head in my direction. "But at the same time, it would be foolish of me to deny you the imagery of me being Wonder Woman. So you're welcome to fantasize about that all you'd like."

My mouth falls open. Did she just... Being that I'm a guy, my mind of course plunges itself right back in the gutter. The Wonder Woman I'm familiar with wears considerably less than Penny. After an invitation like that, I'm certain I won't be able to imagine anything other than Penny fighting off baddies in skin tight armor while wielding a lasso. From there, I jumped right over to all the sexual implications that went along with lassos, including the part of the fantasy where I'm tied up and--

"Okay." I grin. "Fine by me." My shameless expression is belied by the sudden spray of heat and color across my face. "Speaking of scandalous fantasies..." The flush deepens and spreads. "I'm kind of curious to hear more about the pool, and the ice cream." Not to mention my stamina.

Penny scoffs and blushes, too. "What do you want to hear about that again for?" Breathless laughter flutters past her lips. She lifts a hand to hide the indecisive curl of her mouth, the shape caught somewhere between a smirk and a smile.

I plant an elbow on the bar top and my cheek on my fist while watching her. I feel starstruck just looking at her. "I don't know! You just seemed really... happy. Vibrant. Buoyant--that's a better word."

"I thought I had gotten laid and was seriously hopped up on sugar. Or at least I thought I was, but considering it was all just a very crazy dream..." Penny trails off with a bit of a shrug. "You can't tell me that you haven't had a crazy dream like that before." There's a brief pause. Then she holds a hand up, staving off reply. "I mean just in general. We have crazy dreams sometimes. You dreamed you were in a band? What did you play?"

I have to fight to keep my smile from stretching clear off my face, but I probably look like an idiot regardless. Do I care? No, I don't think so. Not right this second anyway. In fact, I'm pretty sure my face is still on fire. But she'd just given me the best answer ever! And it was flattering, too; a nice boost for my ailing self-confidence. It had yet to recover fully from the Shakespearean tragedy that was my first relationship. All the insecurity I'd experienced two days ago vanished when faced with the confirmation that she really did like me and wasn't afraid to admit it.

Since she's obviously flustered, gracefully I allow the topic pass without comment, and she visibly relaxes as I leap on her attempt to set the focus on my own dream. "I don't think I was playing any instruments. Just singing."

"You can carry a tune from what I've heard, that would be fitting."

"Pretty sure they made me wear eyeliner, too."

"Well, I'm not certain that eyeliner is your style, is it?" There's a glance up to my hair, as if to say she isn't quite sure the blond is my style either.

I shake my head. "Probably not. Though I'll admit eyeliner isn't the most ridiculous thing I've worn. I'm positive there's photographic evidence floating around out there of me at a party wearing someone's bra. I don't know whose." Grinning, I lift my cheek from my fist to take another drink of water.

"They're a goth, punk rock band or something, right?" Penny asks. "I think you've mentioned them before. Local."

"Goth punk rock sounds about right. Maybe toss in a pinch of grunge." Another sip. "My interests are wide and varying. Clearly."

"Seems similar to your interest in books." She twists on her stool to face me. "A few things actually now that I think of it. You seem interested and find appeal to a fair amount of variety in contrast with... well, your own style I guess. It seems simple. A few classics that are tried and true. Befitting."

I glance down at my attire and she isn't wrong. Not about any of it. "I don't know if this is really a style so much as... habit. Mal and I spent the majority of our incomes on food and stuff that helped us not, you know, die. Saving up what I get is so ingrained in my psyche that even now, when I have more money than I know what to do with, I don't think to spend it. Everything I own fits in one duffel bag and a box," I explain without shame.

"Mmm. Pretty much the same here. I moved with three trunks and that was it." She nods in understanding. I feel a swell of camaraderie for her ability to relate. "But you take great care of things you do spend your money on. Your shoes are not flashy, but you clean them regularly. And I don't necessarily mean what you're wearing now. But I have seen you dressed up, looking particularly sharp."

She's right, again. It's a nice feeling when you find someone who pays attention to the details. I do take great pride in caring for my possessions, few though they may be.

Penny reaches up, tugging her sunglasses free of her hair where she'd stashed them earlier when they came inside. She sets them on the counter significantly. "These are classic, right?"

As she draws my attention to the sunglasses, I twist in my seat to face her and set my foot on one of her bar stools rungs."I've had those for a few years. I think I won them in a game of pool." I smile with the memory. "Some poor schmuck was unfortunate enough to bet against me."

"Patrick Richie, were you being a pool shark?" She mimics my posture, extending one of her legs to rest a sandal on the run of my stool.

"Me? A pool shark?" I ask, affecting a scandalized tone and expression which lasts all of three seconds before it melts into a shameless confession. "Okay, yeah. I kind of am. It's amusing. I have to get my kicks somewhere."

"And charmed your way out of a potential beat down should any loser try to take it out on you?" Her smile is teasing at first, but softens with a flash of thoughtfulness which etches itself onto her face. "What is something that you're not good at? Something that is usually fun."

I chuckle softly, bumping my leg against hers idly. "Something I'm bad at? Uhh. Putt-putt golf. The green is uneven and there's moving parts that throw off my game."

"Then -- and this is presumptuous on my part -- I am asking you to go play putt putt with me sometime. Pool time can happen afterwards or something, but we can be on even ground on the uneven green." My eyes are drawn to the soft smile on her face and the humor in her tone warms me. "If you're interested in going on a date with me before Sunglasses Guy shows up again that is."

"Of course I'm interested! Sunglasses Guy is gonna have to get in line." Holy ****. I've got a date! Somehow, it's almost better than a kiss. Almost. My chest feels like it's about to burst, crowded by a surge of elation that made me ache. "It sounds like fun. I hope you still think it's fun after I smoke you." I feel the sharp curve of my smile take on more of a teasing edge.

Penny shakes her head, playfully dubious in response. "I don't know about that, you've already given me your tell. I may have a plan on how to exploit that and win the whole thing. And then the crowds will flock to me shouting 'Penny's so amazing! She is literally Wonder Woman.' "

That, of course, sparks another round of flushed cheeks. Not for the first time do I wonder if I'll ever stop blushing like an idiot around her. I hate how easy it is to push me to distraction! Leaning closer, I narrow my eyes playfully, and she laughs delightedly. "Two can play at that game. It's on."
"I have a natural affinity for earth magic, is what I had meant. But I can flirt enough to try and throw you off your game too."

"Ohhh magic? It's gonna be like that? All right, all right." Welp. She's successfully managed to spark my competitive nature. All hope is lost! I grin. "When would you like to go?"

"I don't have a job lined up at the moment," she says, considering. "So I'm pretty free for when you are actually. That almost seems surprising actually considering the way the last couple of weeks have been going for me."

A short laugh precedes a quick drink from my water bottle. "I'd say now, but I'm not sure I want you to be seen in public with me like this." I make a circular gesture to my head with one hand. "I have to fix this. That's where I went earlier." There isn't anything left to hide, so I might as well explain. A point to the bag I'd brought in with me. "I bought some hair dye that I need to figure out."

"Too forward to offer to help with that?" Before I can respond, she answers herself. "Mmm. Maybe so. I think the directions are usually pretty straight forward though. Maybe wipe your ears or your forehead with some Vaseline to help against staining."

Part of me wants to protest. It's not too forward to help with hair dye, is it? But then I really think about it and I'm struck with the vision of Penny leaning over my half naked self, her hands in my hair, both of us crammed together in the tiny ass bathroom of my hotel room. It's in this moment I realize I might not say no if something were to happen. So I close my mouth and nod, albeit with no small amount of disappointment.

"Maybe," I admit. "I'm sure I can figure it out. Tomorrow then? A real date, one I'm not going to cut short like an idiot." Sure, sure. I can smile about my epic **** up now.

"We have all kinds of time," she replies, referencing my desire to go this very second. "Tomorrow is good." She gives me a quick wink and a not-so-idle press of the outside of her knee against my leg. My stomach clenches. "Worth the wait for when the both of us are ready." Lifting her sandal from the rung on his stool, she lets her feet touch the ground and slides off her seat. "Hopefully it won't be face melting hot tomorrow."

I'll be honest. It requires real effort to move my leg so I'm no longer caging her within the space between our stools. Hell. I want to hang out with her forever. My mind runs away with ideas to keep her here with me, but deep down I know she's right--we have all the time in the world.

"Oh, before you go... Your phone. I remember you said it wasn't working."

"Yeah, it won't turn back--"

"Did you remember it has to charge?" It seems like the sort of thing she'd overlook, having avoided using electronics for so long.

"Oh?" Bingo. Judging by her expression, I've hit the nail on the head. "It's not a one time deal where you take out the battery then? Or have to get a jump-start?" Penny leans to collect her messenger bag, but lets it dangle to the ground while she picks up her phone.

I have to stifle a laugh, somehow refraining from telling her just how adorable I find her. I figure it will sound patronizing rather than the compliment I mean it to be. "Nope. The cord that came with it, in the box. Use that. It plugs into the bottom. You've got to charge it every couple days, depending on how much you use it. Then if you charge it, I can actually call you."

"Oh it's lasted pretty good then, because I don't remember ever charging it. Thanks." She drops her phone in her back and takes a step or two backward. "I'll have it charged soon enough then." Penny lifts the strap of her bag up and over her shoulder and gives me an upnod, her eyes on my hair. "Good luck with your makeover."

"Thanks," I say, sliding off my stool as well. The urge to follow her again is so strong I nearly laugh. Patience is a virtue with which I'm currently having trouble. "I'll... see you tomorrow then. Looking forward to it." Patrick Richie, you sound ridiculous.

"See ya," Penny replies. Her goodbyes are always quick things, and she spins an about face before heading for the exit. I'm not positive, but there seems to be an exaggeration of the sway of her hips meant solely for my benefit. I watch her go, recalling that terrible line: Hate to see you go, love to watch you leave.
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Patrick
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Adult Wyrm
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

July 01, 2018

"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible: the fear of failure." - Paulo Coelho


After a less than subtle request to meet up for a shared meal, I meet my sister at The Silver Spoon and find her sitting outside at a table overlooking the traffic winding its way slowly through the roundabout in Four Corners. There's a large umbrella over the table to keep her too-pale skin from burning, a drink close at hand, and a menu off to one side, held down by her phone to keep it from fluttering away in the summer breeze.

Just five minutes late, I drop into the chair opposite Mallory's on the other side of the table and settle in with a sigh, giving the cursed star in the sky a fleeting glare from under the protection of the umbrella canopy. It's hot as balls.

"Did you really have to pick a table outside?" I meant to say hello, but who even does that anymore? Reaching across the table, I yank the menu out from under her phone with a quick jerk of the hand, then melt back into a degenerate slouch while skimming the lunchtime options. All of it's more pricey than our normal fare, but we've both been working on treating ourselves to better options these days. Choosing to ignore the prices, I skip down to the breakfast section.

"You ****ing jerk," is Mallory's immediate reply as her phone thumps and settles from my pulling the menu, though her lips curl into an amused grin. "They're playing music inside. The kind of floaty pop they play in New Haven stores," she says, and heaves a melodramatic sigh as she props her chin on her hands. "The limeade's good," she offers, and I can feel her eyes on me which only encourages me to keep staring at the menu.

I can almost hear her ticking off a list in her head: Do I look healthy? Have I been sleeping? And other worries that have rightfully earned her the occasional taunt of 'yes, mother' in the past. I can sense there's something more to her scrutiny today, though. She knows something...probably about Penny, or she's heard it from someone else. How does anyone keep a secret in this town?! I pretend not to notice her interest.

"Is it?" I ask, eyeing her drink over the top of the menu. It does, in fact, look delicious. " Maybe I'll get one, too." I put the menu down after another full minute of unnecessary study. Now I'm just ****ing with her. "What're you getting?"

"French toast and strawberries," she says, sounding excited at the prospect. Can't say as I blame her. "I like being able to get fresh fruit and other things... I still hate preparing anything," she adds with a little curl of a smile, "but Eri's a better cook and I don't think she minds it as much."

A flame-haired genasi in a gold-threaded apron slides up to the table before I can answer. Mal orders quickly, and takes another slow sip of her drink while I order breakfast in turn: pancakes, eggs, and a side of extra crispy hashbrowns. My mouth is already watering at the prospect. As our server takes the menu and turns to leave, I fold my arms along the edge of the table and pick up the loose thread of our conversation. "I'm still thrilled with anything that doesn't come out of a box." I've had enough pasta over the years to last me a lifetime. Being destitute sucks. Changing the subject, I ask, "How's the shop?"

"Good! There was dueling at a bazaar in Cadentia last night, and I set up a market stall, made a few sales... I had company, too. Eri was behind the counter with me, and Penny came to visit," she says, dragging her left ring finger a couple of inches inward along the tabletop. That didn't take long at all. I figured she'd at least beat around the bush until our food arrived. "She got to see the Lyceum itself... kind of. I let her use the door as a shortcut home."

Now knowing exactly where this conversation is headed, I nod my head a few times and pluck a packet of sugar from the sugar bowl in the middle of the table. Ripping it open, I pour the vibrant purple crystals into my cupped palm. "That's cool," I reply breezily, affecting as obtuse a mein as I can muster. "I keep meaning to stop by myself, but I've been busy with RASG stuff. Finding a ship's proving more difficult than I imagined."

"Didn't get a chance to stop by the spaceport after mini-golf?" Mallory's tone is mild as she sips at her limeade. There's an incredibly dorky grin when she lowers it, though, so it doesn't really help at all.

Well ****. She knows more than I thought she did. I don't know why, but it bothers me a little. Had she and Penny been talking about me? It's less the fact that I might have come up in conversation and more that I wish I knew what had been said.

My brain scrambles to come up with a response, blanks out for half a second and then resumes as if there's been no interruption at all. Maybe I can just keep playing dumb and she'll take the hint. "Nope," I say. "The reputable sellers keep to regular business hours, so I just went back to my room at the inn to read." I lick my finger and press it into the mound of coarse crystals in my palm, then bring it up to my mouth as casual as can be. "I need to find an apartment, too."

Mallory watches me for a beat longer, continuing the grin, before she lets it go with a final declaration: "I'm happy for you. Really."

This is exactly what I'd been hoping to avoid. It's too premature to go saying **** like that. The server returns, saving me from having to respond. He brings Mallory another limeade, but she declines it and requests water instead. I claim the limeade for myself and busy my mouth with healthy swallow and discover it's spiked with gin. I send up a silent thank-you to the universe for having my back.

"A place here in town," Mallory asks, "or out in Stars End? I know there's hangars here too, but not as big... I guess it depends on what kind of ship you're looking at."

"Something small," I reply after another sip. "Trying to stick for a four man crew. The jobs I've been looking at don't require anything more than that. And as for a place to stay... I'm hoping to find something around here. I kind of hate being so far away." Especially now that things are just getting off the ground with Penny.

"So that'd be... a small freighter? Finished products, food and drink cargo...?" she hazards a guess.

"Cutter class, most likely."

Mallory nods. "And if you're interested, Eri and I both really liked our realtor. Julian. He's good about specific requests."

"Thanks. I'll give him a call."

We're talking like everything's normal, but now I feel like I'm the one being ****ed with. I need to know why she's happy for me--why the need to bring it up at all? It's not a big deal. Not yet. It can't be. If I let this become too important, I'll **** it up, I just know it. The very real possibility that this whole 'dating Penny' thing might not work out settles like a weighted stone in my gut. Another thought invades my mind, one that fills me with dread to the point that I'm fidgeting in my seat. Had she told Penny that she was happy for her? I pick at the sugar in my hand, imagining a dozen different scenarios in which Mallory accidentally says something that makes Penny run for the hills.

As the length of silence grows between us, I roll my eyes a little, disgusted with my tendency to overthink as usual, and pin her with a flat stare. I have to address it or I'll go crazy. "It was one date, Mal. Don't jump the gun." And two kisses so far, but who's counting? (I'm totally counting. There's a part of me that's jumping the gun, too, and I hate that I'm doing it.)

She sinks her chin into one hand, raising her eyebrows at me, grinning encouragingly. "Uh-huh. Did you ask her out?"

Maybe if I give her just enough to satisfy her curiosity, she'll quit being such a girl about it. "That's a tricky question. It has several answers." I lick my palm clean like a heathen, then wipe it dry against my thigh. "The date we went on last year? I asked her that time. And then I came back to find out she was friggin' married, so we danced around each other for a while. She asked if she should make a move. I said yes, when the whole marriage thing wasn't an issue anymore. So she ask me out this time around."

"Faerie magic is weird," Mallory sighs. "That's cute, though... and she went to the trouble of resolving that, turned around and asked you out? She must like you or something," she observes mildly, though her eyes are narrowed with mischief.

"Looks that way," I reply just as casually, avoiding her gaze in favor of downing another mouthful of my drink. I can't help but realize she's right. There have been so many opportunities for Penny to move on. I'm not the easiest person to pursue. Yet... here she is, still hanging around and wanting to spend time with me. A fluttering thrill ripples through me with the idea that maybe--just maybe--I might actually be enough for someone else. After a moment of consideration, I raise my glass toward Mal in silent request for a toast. "Here's hoping I don't **** this one up."

"Tch." There's only a little bit of mildly alcoholic ice water at the bottom of her cup, but she sloshes it as she lifts her glass. "Here's to doing what you dreamed of. Cheers, Trick."

We clink our glasses together and I snort. "I think my dreams need an adjustment." No one wants to entertain an eighteen year old's dreams of marriage and family. I'm not entirely positive how to go about pretending like I don't care about any of that anymore, but like hell am I going to ruin the start of something new by ever bringing it up.

I offer Mal a flicker of a smile before smothering it behind my glass.

She smiles back. "Yeah. Nice hair, by the way," she retorts, and drains the little bit of her drink that remains.
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