Author Topic: Next to Normal  (Read 376 times)

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Offline suneater

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Next to Normal
« on: April 22, 2019, 01:01:03 AM »
"Quiet night."

The observation intruded on Luke's silent rumination. He glanced over to the vampire in the driver's seat and nodded agreement.

Had it really been weeks in this new routine? Working with Jake's retainers one or two or three at a time to patrol the districts that the Ventrue was responsible for had drawn Luke out of his subterranean bolthole, and kept him out. Something about the nightly exercises resonated with him in a way that he didn't fully grasp. He enjoyed canvassing the streets of the city, sometimes on foot, more often in nondescript cars from his benefactor's considerable motor pool. He enjoyed analyzing the traits and skills of whomever he was working with for the evening and figuring out the best way to employ them in defense of Jake's interests. He enjoyed the thrill that accompanied incidents, as he called them, situations where they did not merely observe but intervened. Most of them were resolved easily enough, but a few had been dangerous- the run in with the spider-thing that had been draining humans and animals of blood, and the ambush by the squad of presumed Project Twilight operatives just the week before.

He also enjoyed the camaraderie, which came as something of a surprise. He'd spent his self-imposed period of isolation classifying Jake's subjects as little more than monstrous flunkies- interchangeable parts in the machine that was draining the city dry. Working with them had forced him to reconsider his perspective. Yes, they were monsters- mostly vampires, but there were a few others in the mix- they were also people. Shockingly normal people, actually, aside from the whole drinking blood thing. They had (un)lives- family both chosen and by blood, hobbies, favorite TV shows and books and podcasts, insecurities, quirks, ticks, love lives... Holy hell did they have love lives.

Luke had adopted a fairly strict non-fraternization policy after the Riley incident. He knew he was rationalizing when he explained that it would complicate things while he was working with them in a semi-supervisory capacity. It was true, of course, but ultimately he was afraid. His desire had gotten the best of him. Whatever Project Twilight had put inside him had an easier time taking the driver's seat when his groin-mounted brain got involved. He'd avoided Riley at first, then apologized. He was still avoiding Jake. It was easy to compartmentalize now that their relationship had become professional. He was training the Black Prince's security force. When they interacted, that was what it was about. He got the feeling that Jake had something in the works, though. There had been a question unasked on the Ventrue's full lips for the past week or so.

"Yeah. Not a bad thing." He shrugged, drumming the fingers of his gloved right hand on his thigh. The woman driving rolled her eyes at him. Kyasha. She was clanless, young, a would-be warrior-poet, still coming into her supernatural abilities. He'd been learning about vampires too. The different types, the scope of their abilities, their weird, intricate society. Some of it felt a little deja vu, but a lot of it was new to him.

"You're no fun," she teased. Poking fun at Luke's stick-in-the-mud routine was something of a running joke among the patrol crew. Xavier, his favorite among them, had let slip that they had set up a pool for who would be the first to get him to participate in a variety of social activities, from karaoke to sex, and that the kitty was approaching mid-four-digits territory.

"Look at that," he fired back. "You really are getting more observant." They seemed to enjoy his deadpan sarcasm, and sure enough, Kyasha let out a deep laugh. "Let's call it a night," he added after a few seconds.

She adopted a shocked expression. "Fifteen whole minutes early?!"

"... well it will take about twenty to get back to the garage, and it's not like we'll have our eyes closed on the way."

Kyasha snorted and took the next right.

They drove in silence for a few minutes. Luke permitted a modicum of small talk, but since he'd started working with them, some of his seriousness about patrolling had started to rub off on them. They really were getting better, more organized. There were three other teams out on this shift, and he'd stopped being worried about them fucking around on the job.

As they passed through a posh neighborhood, Luke felt himself getting a little stir-crazy. Their progress through the city was slowed by nightlife traffic and pedestrians, and while they crawled down the street he decided he didn't want to be in the car anymore.

"Hey... let me out here."

Kyasha cocked a brow. "Something up?"

He shook his head. "Just want to walk the rest of the way. Clear my head."

That earned him another snort. "Gonna need more than a walk for that, boss man. Your head? You'd better neti pot with a fucking river."

He smiled wryly. "Nice job tonight. Let's do this again next week."

"... and the week after that, and the week after that, and the week after-"

He pulled the door open and slipped out into the night, offering a final left handed-wave through the window before stepping onto the sidewalk and strolling merging into the foot traffic. It was a young crowd, dressed for a night on the town. Restaurants, clubs, trendy little bars - this area had it all, interspersed among the high rises that had driven rents to oxygen-deprived altitudes. He pushed his hands into the pockets of his jacket. It was deep blue, lightweight but weather proof, with long cuffs and shoulder lapels. Beneath it he wore a simple black v-neck tee and a pair of "active denim" black jeans with boots. He was a little under-dressed for the area, but good looks and a weaponized body went a long way, he'd discovered.

He ambled along for a while, taking in the scenery. He wondered what it would be like to participate in the nightly quest for entertainment and meaning in the glittering city. He knew that the people surrounding him probably weren't paying him any attention at all, but he imagined, briefly, that those who did simply considered him one of their own - running fifteen minutes late to plans with friends he hadn't seen in weeks despite living in the same zip code, or sobering up a bit before the next bar, or heading to yet another date garnered from some app.

Why couldn't he be one of them? What was stopping him from wandering into a drinking establishment and hitting on someone, or getting hit on, or just people-watching and then calling it a night?

Nothing. Nothing was stopping him. At least, nothing he wasn't the sole arbiter of.

He scanned the facades with more intent. His gaze landed across the street, a quarter of the way down the block. At first it just looked like the entrance to an apartment, which was conspicuous in its own right given the look of the rest of the block, but there was a name carved into the door- An Tsí- and what seemed to be some curated vegetation. It wasn't necessarily a bar, but his curiosity was piqued. He gauged the flow of traffic and then jay-walked across the street at a brisk jog. Less than a minute after he'd made the decision to pretend to be normal for an evening, he was mounting the stairs, pushing open the surprisingly-heavy door, and stepping inside.

Offline ChordTerias

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2019, 08:37:14 AM »
Rohan was pacing.

Theo LOATHED it when Rohan paced. "You stamping your hooves isn't going to make me pour any faster, Ro." Theo's muttering was kept low, so the patrons sitting feet from them wouldn't hear their words over the din of the conversations in the bar.

"The place is packed, Theo, and you're pacing like we're back in an empty bar in Kansas." Rohan loaded up the drinks  as Theo finished them, the pair displaying their boundless maturity by shooting raspberries to one another. They gave a quick rinse to their jigger, shaker, and strainer before giving the bar a cursory scan. Rohan was right, Theo may have underestimated the crowd that'd be able to pack into a scene this small. Speakeasy or not, maybe they should reach out to Shane and see if hiring a part-time bartender fits with the books.

The unmistakable sound of the front door yielding prompted Theo to give a languid stretch. "Welcome! Sit anywhere you like, stand anywhere you don't!" Theo called out, dumping a bucket of ice into a nearby container. Maybe... maybe we work on greetings until one sticks.

The mountain of a man that entered the front door was a delightful test for Theo. His face said that he wasn't too much older than the days of Everclear and Natty Light, but his physique said whiskey neat. There was something behind his eyes and the way they searched the crowd that suggested that tonight might be the night for something new. Once his sight scanned towards Theo, they motioned towards the stranger with two fingers, beckoning him towards the bar as they began preparing a drink.

Offline suneater

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2019, 12:52:29 PM »
Luke had come to a hard stop just beyond the threshold of the bar proper. His hazel eyes scanned the packed room, moving from east to west in a deliberate, practiced fashion. There were half a dozen dates in progress, interspersed among more general social gatherings. Nobody looked to be carrying any concealed weapons, and the body language largely fit the hectic-but-austere vibe of the place. He was just about to turn around and find somewhere a little less crowded, like say, his room back in the Rabbit Warren, when the bartender shouted a greeting at him that was just confusing enough to give him pause. He blinked once as he parsed the words, and by then, they were signaling him forward.

"Why the hell not?" he murmured to himself. He did his best to cross the room naturally, like he was someone who arrived stag in a speak-easy all the time. Never mind that he literally couldn't remember the last time he'd ordered a drink at a bar. He must have, at some point, but he didn't have the clearance for those experiences. Jake had put their memory sessions on hold after the devastating effects of the last one, claiming he was going to enlist some aid before trying again. His murky past hadn't intruded on him since that night, which was something of a mixed blessing, considering how debilitating it tended to be when his life before the past few months resurfaced.

There was only one empty stool, so he didn't have much of a choice where he'd be sitting. Thankfully, it was at one of the edges of the bar, which meant one less person he'd have to sit next to. His idea, roughly, of how this would all play out was as follows: he would order a nice scotch, neat, and then sip at it while watching other people interact, awash in the thrum of conversation. He would eventually finish said drink, settle up, and head home. Baby-steps. Needing to walk before running, and all that. If he could survive this simple societal act, he could build from there. After all, if a bunch of fucking vampires could basically be regular people, why couldn't he?

He gave the bar itself and the staff a more thorough appraisal en route. He'd thought, at first, that the foliage was ornamental, but as he drew near he could actually smell the mix of herbs and fruit. Botany wasn't exactly his forte, but it seemed impressive to him, and a little unusual. The bartender was striking. The electric violet hair definitely caught the eye, somewhat at odds with the more traditional "uniform" of button-up and suspenders, and they were pretty, but it was... more about attitude. Luke wondered if he would ever feel anything so much as it seemed like this person felt everything. He found it a little hard to meet their gaze. He didn't belong here, in this place, masquerading as someone among so many joyous people.

He was already at the bar, though. He shrugged out of his jacket and eased onto the stool, draping the light plastic over his thighs. He looked around the counter-top for a menu, since that a.) gave him something to do with his eyes that didn't involve other people and b.) would provide some very reasonable context for his inevitable interaction with anyone. Not finding one, he turned his attention on the panoply of bottles instead.

He'd already taken inventory of the person sitting to his left during his initial reconnaissance. An Asian guy, probably a college student, skinny-cute and clearly into fashion. He was talking animatedly with the skinny-pretty woman to his left about what Luke assumed was a television show. Something about dragons and thrones. It didn't make an iota of sense to him, and they hadn't paid him any mind, so he tuned it out and finally looked up at the bartender.

Offline ChordTerias

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2019, 12:33:44 PM »
Despite being the room being full to the last seat, the crowd lacked the rowdy aura that are common in packed bars. Additionally -- similarly curious -- there were never more people than there are seats. As the barback closed one tab and sends a table on their way, another entered just as he has time to wipe the table down and refill supplies. Theo smiled as Luke approached.

"Been here every night since our opening last week," Theo said, rolling their shoulders as they stretch. "It's nice to be around someone who has a lower energy, so I hope you don't mind if I gravitate over here for a while." They put their finishing touches on the glass in front of them, and placed it in front of him.

"Tried out something different. This is probably new to you, but first drink is on the house, so no harm, right?" Their grin contained no small amount of mischief, but they had poured themselves the same mixture. "Curious to see how you'll find it, so tell me honestly!"

It was a subtle metamorphosis, but a change nevertheless. Where the high energy grin and upbeat bounce in their step had been, was now a relaxed lean and a sigh of relief. "I'm Theo, they/them. Welcome to my bar." Their smile was softer than before, closing their eyes gently as they raise their drink to clink glasses.

Offline suneater

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2019, 01:21:23 PM »
Luke blinked slowly. Had they just called him low-energy? Was it an insult? He didn't feel particularly low-energy. He was more like potential energy- a wound spring, a raised blade, a bullet in a chamber. The grin and the easy (if odd) manner made him think that it wasn't meant to be offensive. That was just the impostor syndrome talking. No, they wanted to be around him, apparently. Luke wasn't sure if he should be more grateful or more suspicious.

He cocked an eyebrow at the presumptuousness of the process. No menu, and he hadn't even ordered. Was it some kind of gimmick? It made sense that the first drink was free, in that case. Otherwise what would they do if someone hated it? It was an interesting business model, to say the least.

He watched with undisguised curiosity as Theo worked, fixing the drink and then pouring it out for both of them. They couldn't possibly do this every time, could they? He glanced around the bar, counting heads. Nope, no way. That many drinks might even kill him. The thing was, he wasn't getting any deceit off of them. He tended to have a good idea of when he was being lied to, or manipulated, and the bartender wasn't setting off his alarms on either count.

He spared a look toward the drink that had been set before him, then looked up at the introduction. He blinked again, and it took a few long seconds for him to realize that Theo had offered their pronouns afterward. At first he'd thought it was a surname- Thaythem, or the like. He wasn't particularly experienced with gender diversity, or if he was, he didn't remember it. There was a trans guy on the patrol crew, though, and Luke had learned just enough from him to sort out what they actually meant.

He lifted his glass. "Luke. He and, uh, him. Thanks." He managed a terse smile as he met their eyes and went in for the clink. "Cheers," he offered, before bringing the glass toward his mouth. He gave it a closer look, and then a sniff, and then finally took a tentative sip.

Offline ChordTerias

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2019, 11:48:37 AM »
Theo saw the wheels turning in the man's head throughout the process with no small measure of amusement. They hadn't meant to confuse him, but Theo did enjoy the kinda goofy cuteness about him as he recognized their introduction. You know... it's kinda like one of those gentle giant dogs. Yeah, he looks like he could tear through a tree with his bare hands, but the smile makes you want to pet him behind the ears.

Probably a bad idea.

Maybe if he likes me enough someday, I'll see how he responds to ruffling his hair.
They look to size of his hands compared to theirs as he raises the shot to meet theirs for cheers. ... maybe with a LOT of forewarning and very little surprise.

Good job, Theo,
they thought to themselves. Setting more achievable goals. Ten points!

They cup the glass in both hands, bring it to their nose to sniff it. The ginger beer gave the drink a sharp scent that almost masked the spice hidden inside. The vodka and lime made this drink technically a moscow mule, but Theo was interested to see how their twist on it would play out.

"Cheers!" They echoed along with Luke, as they turned the glass upwards, taking a deliberate drink.

Hot!

Theo had noticed two suspicious peppers growing from the vine two days ago. Rohan, being the brave, foolish man that he was, immediately ate one upon inspection. The resulting coughing fit and scrambling for the dairy behind the bar had sent Theo nearly rolling off their stool -- but it has also inspired them to try dehydrating it and using its flakes as a spice.

Theo downed the first gulp, placing the glass back on the bar -- tears in their eyes from both the spice and their laughter. "Ooer," they said between chuckles, "I knew that roasting the pepper would bring out some heat, but that was a bit more than expected." They took the glass back into their hand, shrugging. "Can't say I hated it, though." They looked to Luke, grin slightly sheepish as they gauge his reaction, hoping their gambit paid off and he felt a bit more welcome.

Offline suneater

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2019, 12:19:20 PM »
That first sip was deceptive. He mostly got sugar, albeit with the grainy heat of ginger and a sharp tinge of citrus. Whatever it was, it was new to him, and he could easily claim that it was the best drink he'd ever had that he could remember. He went in for a more earnest mouthful, and that was when his taste-buds caught up with the most esoteric element of the concoction.

Luke's lips pressed together as his tongue began to burn. And then continued to burn. He blinked rapidly, and only then realized that his eyes had begun to water. He was a little distracted by the inferno in his mouth, so he only caught parts of what Theo was saying, but really there was only one word that mattered: pepper.

He'd already swallowed, and the heat had gone down his throat in a torrent. The aftermath was equal parts scratchy and ticklish. A look of determination settled into place on his handsome features before of three seconds before he gave in and lifted his gloved fist and coughed into it. His face was a little flushed as he regarded Theo, reaching up with his bare hand to wipe at his eyes.

"Wow." His voice grated a little, rattling in his seared throat just a little. It was more normal as he continued. "What do you call something like that?"

He settled his hand around the glass; he'd decided that sipping was the optimal strategy, and indulged in more of them sporadically as the conversation persisted. He had to admit, it was interesting, and pretty enjoyable now that he understood the danger. The combination of flavors really worked. Letting a few drops of it pool on his tongue for a few seconds actually felt good, bringing the experience beyond mere taste.

He was doing it. He was having a drink, in a bar, chatting with a bartender. No one was trying to kill him. No one was even paying him any attention, Theo aside, and he found he didn't really mind it. They seemed pretty invested in his experience, and he appreciated that. He couldn't help but wonder if they could sense the comfort beneath his stoic facade and were going the extra mile. If so... well, he wasn't much for special treatment, but it was certainly doing the trick.

"I don't hate it either, for the record." He punctuated with another controlled sip. "It's sort of growing on me." His smile had grown less terse, and indeed, he seemed a little more comfortable. He leaned forward some, holding the glass in both hands with his elbows resting on the counter.

Offline ChordTerias

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2019, 12:17:32 PM »
Theo coughed as they chuckled. "A great question! It's the first real experiment I've been able to make since coming to the city. So why don't we call it..." They raised the glass to their lips, having another drink. They sucked on their teeth, before snapping. "The Metro Mule! Sounds fitting, I'll have to make it a regular."

They leaned to the side, regarding the man before them. "So, Mr. Luke, what would be your ideal story for the night? Looking for a fitting damsel (or gentleman, if you're so inclined) to take back to your quarters? Drinking to demolish some stress? Treating yourself?" Genuine interest sparkled in their eyes, a smile resting easy on their lips. 

As the pair spoke, Theo had their garnishments and liquor on hand. Rohan would drop napkins with strange letters on them, and Theo would whip up a quick drink and place them -- barely registering their presence. The drinks slowed down, and they were able to multitask at least this much with ease.

Rohan, who usually teased and chided Theo, was strangely quiet. This did not go unnoticed by Theo. More than once, a subtle stammer accompanied their urgings of Theo to hurry. Most notably, once, when Rohan was turning the corner of the bar and he happened to meet eyes with Luke, he stumbled over the subtle step down from the bar and not-so-subtly hurried away with his ears burning red.

Oh? Theo thought to themselves. What have we here?

Offline suneater

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2019, 01:01:30 PM »
"Sounds like a transit authority mascot to me." A faint grin limned his lips. "But this is your gig." He shrugged his broad shoulders, a gesture meant to cover both the activity and geography of the bar.

He was in the midst of another sip when the next question came, and he ended up choking for a few seconds. Nothing a self-conscious fit of coughing couldn't solve. He used the distraction of his obvious discomfort to actually consider his response. He hadn't had any specific designs other than proving that he could disguise himself as someone who just went to bars for an evening. That wasn't exactly a line of conversation he wanted to go down. He almost did. Something about Theo made honesty a pretty appealing option, but they didn't deserve to be subjected to the existential weirdness that was Luke's every waking minute, and most of his non-waking ones as well.

His throat burned savagely. Just drinking the Metro Mule was more capsaicin than he tended to prefer; coughing it up was basically agony. "Water?" he pleaded, his voice ragged, raw.

After a cooling sip, and then a few purgative gulps, he eyed Theo. "Gentlemen, for the record, but no. I just started a new job. Things are going pretty well. Let's call it a celebration?"

He hadn't failed to notice Rohan bustling about, and while he didn't understand the dynamic between the two of them, there was obviously something more at play than the bond of mere co-workers. They worked as well together as any team, communicating in ways that didn't even look like communication. He'd been a little preoccupied with Theo and not paid too much attention to their counterpart, but there was a weird little instant where their gaze's intersected. Luke had to wonder, at first, if the solid little fellow was wearing make-up. His eyelashes were so long, so full, that he almost had to have done something to them. What was that stuff called?

"Mascara. Just a little. Hold still, and look up." It was so uncomfortable, having something poking near his eyes, flicking against the lashes. A man was looming over him, as much as someone so slender could loom. His own face was made up in a panoply of jewel-tones, a remarkable facsimile of a masquerade mask that might be found at Mardi Gras. He felt annoyance and affection in equal parts and did his best to comply. The sooner it was over, the better.

"We're going to be late," the man murmured, his focus split between chiding and finishing Luke's make-up. "There. Done. Look."

He turned to look into the mirror behind him. His face was kohl-white, black lips, black eye liner, some kind of goth punk effect. His features were younger, even through the make-up. He was clad in a leather jacket studded with spikes. The man stood behind him in a glittering tuxedo jacket. He rested his hand on Luke's shoulder and smiled pertly at their shared reflection. "See how pretty? Now let's goooooooo..."


If Theo was paying attention, they might have noticed Luke's eyes glaze over. It only lasted for a few seconds, but in that span he lost hold of his drink and slumped to the left. The glass thunked against the bar, spreading the few mouthfuls left in it across the surface. The man next to him had seen Luke teeter and had the presence of mind to brace himself. To his credit, he managed to keep Luke's bulk from bearing him down.

Alertness flooded his hazel eyes and he blinked rapidly, wincing at the sudden whining ache that had gestated in his brain just behind where his nose met his forehead. He grabbed the counter and steadied himself, mumbling an apology to the patron. He shifted upright once more, and when his gaze found Theo, he had to squeeze his eyes shut. He wanted to cry, or rather, he needed to cry and really didn't want to.

"Sorry, I just... got a little dizzy." His eyes opened, but he was staring down at the mess he'd made. He was only able to pay so much attention to his surroundings. The memory that had been dislodged was still there, still present, too vivid. Who was that man? He'd meant something to Luke, at one point, if the way he'd felt in that scene from his past could be trusted. He'd felt a little childish, too, and that feeling was shared between both past and present. He wanted to leave, but he couldn't muster enough will to do anything but stare at the small pool of liquid he'd created.

Offline ChordTerias

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2019, 01:42:39 PM »
"Transit authority!" They slapped the bar, calling out to Rohan who involuntarily jumped. "ROHAN! We should call that gnarly shot the Transit Authority!" Luke seemed to choke at that and Theo grinned, handing him a water at his request.

Gentlemen, he says. Theo nudged Rohan as he passed by again, earning a barely audible, "oh my god shut up." His voice dropped lower, needing supernatural hearing to hear over the other patrons. "What the hell is wrong with me?" Were the bar not a shade darker, the flush of Rohan's first blush would be evident. "Oh my god, the human world is worse than you said, what is happening?"

Theo, of course, did not shut up.

"Did you hear that, Rohan?" Theo raised their voice dramatically. "We're celebrating! New job! You should join us for a shot." As they turned their attention back to Luke, he was slipping to the side. Their hand reached out in shock, wanting to help stabilize the giant man. Luckily, the man beside him helped and offered a gracious smile. Theo shot him a thumbs up and poured him a complementary shot. Theo turned to ask Rohan for his towel, but he was no longer behind them. Where did...

Theo turned around once more and there he was. Rohan was on the other side of the bar behind Luke, clearing his throat to get his attention. He was close enough for Luke to hear, but not within his personal space so as not to appear threatening. "I'll wipe that up." His voice was low, but filled with something that Theo had not witnessed since the two of them were young. Their Bond allowed Theo to feel something new, as well. Something stirring within Rohan's chest, hiding behind his concern. Theo caught his eye and gave a pointed stare, and the magic that had been building up behind his words simmered out. He gave a small nod to them, understanding and a small amount of embarrassment reflecting in his eyes.

Theo scanned the crowd, looking for alarm. Theo doubt that he had been careless enough to shadow-step in such a way that someone without magic could witness, but it was clear to them that this area was filled with much more magic than they originally believed.

Offline suneater

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2019, 10:05:17 AM »
Luke was slow to turn and regard Rohan. It wasn't until he actually spoke that Luke registered his presence. He'd been more preoccupied with the dental drill that had found its way into his gray matter. His handsome features were just a little paler than they had been a moment before and etched with decidedly more pain. He managed a weak nod and shifted in his seat, leaning to his left so that Rohan would have access to the spill. "Thanks," he said, following almost immediately with "Sorry."

The too-vivid memory was still there, almost as if it had been burned into the air. It was hard to focus. Hard to think. Had he been unencumbered by his past and the physical hurt it brought with it, he might have been perturbed by how quickly Rohan had made it around the bar, but his sense of time in general felt skewed. Dizziness seemed to threaten to pull him down from the stool, so he leaned forward on the counter, grounding himself.

He offered Rohan an almost-shy, definitely-apologetic smile. He seemed completely unaware of the rivulet of blood that crept from his left nostril down to his lip until the two were connected. He worked his lips at the change in sensation, then blinked at the sudden salty, coppery taste in his mouth. "Oh shit," he mumbled, pressing his left hand to his upper lip and fumbling for a napkin. His gaze darted between Theo and Rohan, trying to track whether or not they had noticed.

Offline ChordTerias

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2019, 01:36:56 PM »
Theo began to reach for a napkin, scoffing and waving her hand to Luke as if it was nothing, and nosebleeds were commonplace in the bar. They weren't. But Theo had seen so much weirder this week, that a little nosebleed barely registered.

Before Theo could grab one, Rohan reached towards Luke with a handkerchief in his hand, as if to wipe away the blood. He stopped, realizing how close his hand was to the stranger's face. He could feel the man's breath on his hand. The pair stared at one another. Rohan blinked.

When Luke didn't back away, he slowly continued forward, pressing his handkerchief and wiping the remnants of blood away. His movements were precise, taking great care to make sure he got it all. After gently dabbing at Luke's lips, staring at them intently, an intrusive thought took hold of his hands. He ran his bare finger across Luke's lower lip. He subconsciously bit his own. Soft.

He blinked again, realizing what he had done. His eyes met Luke's for a moment, before quickly retreating to the floor. Embarrassment crept up his neck in the form of flushed red splotches of color as he mumble-stuttered out, "Kgo-t it, all done."

Theo's jaw was slack. The pair of girls who were sitting next to Luke, who had previously been eyeing him with interest, were blushing. One of their straws had dropped from their mouth to the floor, and the other's hand had subconsciously raised to her chest. The man -- still leaning away from Luke's imposing form -- was obviously looking to Theo for an escape, but was disregarded entirely.

"Rohan, oh my god get a room." Theo, feigning a scandalized tone, had a huge grin overtake their features. Okay, no, that definitely was the weirdest thing they had seen all week. They couldn't wait to close the bar and grill Rohan. Maybe I'll kick everyone else out now. Totally worth it.

"I am... so sorry, I need to go get some air." Rohan hid his face and began to make his way to the door. He heard Theo's tone shift to worry as his head began to buzz and he couldn't hear anything else. He made the mistake of turning back, seeing Luke and Theo looking after his hasty retreat, before blushing again and heading for the alley beside the bar.

He pressed his back against the cold brick exterior, craning his head to the sky.

"What the FUCK was that?" He whispered to the stars up above, the burn in his chest and on his face not subsiding nearly as quickly as he would like.

Offline suneater

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2019, 11:11:47 AM »
Luke weathered the somewhat embarrassing wiping. He had no actual memories of being cleaned up by his mother, but the infantilzation felt distinctly familiar and he was aware enough of the trope to guess where that familiarity lay. He had been just about to mumble another awkward thanks when Rohan's hand returned. Luke's eyebrows lifted, and then he felt the pad of Rohan's finger trace the flesh of his lower lip.

Nerves were funny things. Luke was pretty sure that his lips didn't have any connection to his lower back, but the touch brought a slight shiver through his form that started there anyway. The feel of Rohan's strange caress lingered on his lip for an extra second, almost electric, and by the time Luke's brain made it back into gear Rohan was already staring at the floor.

Luke's brow knit as he regarded the man. Maybe it was the result of sheer bafflement, but the insidious pain that had been creeping through his skull was nowhere to be found. Clarity brought with it the realization that the spectacle had an audience. Luke's gaze flicked first to Theo, then to the patrons, then back to Rohan.

He winced at Theo's ribbing. It was almost like he could tell exactly the effect it would have on Rohan, and sure enough, the smaller man had spluttered another apology and taken off. He blinked after him, then turned to regard Theo with a thoughtful frown. Okay, maybe his brain wasn't quite in gear yet, because he still hadn't really processed what had happened. Maybe the unexpected, nonsensical nature of the chain of events made that impossible.

"He gonna be okay?" The words came out quiet, measured, and concerned. There seemed to be something significant buried in this randomness. "Should I...?" He canted his head slightly in the direction Rohan had vanished.

Offline ChordTerias

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2019, 01:13:35 AM »
Rohan is… mad at me.

Rohan.

Is mad.

At me.


Theo tossed the thought around her head a couple times, trying to make head or tails of it. It is the weirdest sensation -- feeling someone else’s anger at you.

Hm. Not just anger. Confusion. Humiliation. That last one definitely is new for him, Theo realized, so he is probably suffocating right now. Theo wanted to be there for him, to go comfort him, and explain that it is normal -- NATURAL -- to feel this from time to time. But they knew if they were the one to comfort him, it would only cause more harm than good. God, I wish Lisa-Joe were here, I think she’d gladly help. She’d be…

“Should I…?”

The voice disrupted Theo’s thoughts. Perfect! Theo sized up Luke, trying to see what was so special about him to trigger this metamorphosis for Rohan. I really need to find a way to identify supers, Theo thought to themselves. Regardless, the man seemed to have a genuine desire to help.

Theo nodded, “He’s in the alley around the left corner, probably near the bench.” They rubbed their chin, and their voice dropped low. “I’m not telling you what to do,” they hoped the sincerity of their words were evident, “but if you’re wanting to help him, touch comforts him.” They put an arm around the shoulders of one of the patrons who was a bit taken by surprise, evidently unaware of the conversation that was taking place between the two.

Theo turned back to pouring drinks and serving, eyeing Luke as he decided what to do.

Interesting.

Offline suneater

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Re: Next to Normal
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2019, 11:15:35 PM »
This was just getting weirder and weirder. Luke wondered briefly if there had been something more potent than alcohol in his drink. There was a surreal quality to the evening that made it feel like he'd stumbled down some sort of rabbit hole. Otherworldly. That was the word he was looking for. Theo's inscrutable mien, Rohan's bizarre behavior. The way Theo described Rohan's location struck him as odd. Sure, they might just have known his habits- maybe this was a common occurrence? But the rational explanation didn't feel right to him. His first instinct was that Theo knew exactly where Rohan was somehow.

Despite his misgivings, he didn't feel any compunction to leave. His gut wasn't giving him danger, it was giving him weird. It almost felt like a dream. Now that he thought about it, that was exactly it. There was a disjointed, fabricated element to the evening that completely eluded any sense of disbelief, just like a dream.

He listened to Theo's advice, and it did nothing to dispel his new theory. They spoke as if there was nothing unusual at all about the situation, which was absurd. What sort of business would encourage a patron who had just been touched by one of their employees to go comfort the very employee who had done the touching?

"Right," he said, somewhat cavalier as he rose to his feet and moved toward the door. "Touch." He shook his head slowly as he stepped into the cool night air. He glanced around, spotting the alley in question, and sure enough, there was Rohan tucked up against the wall of the establishment.

"Hey." Luke didn't want to take him by surprise. After he'd announced himself, he walked slowly toward the other man. "You alright?" He stopped several feet away. Theo's recommendation for comforting him still hung in his mind, but he wanted to get a better sense of Rohan before buying into it.