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Scene Title Associates
Synopsis A conversation between associates starts with 'who are you', progresses to who has the better skill set, and ends in politics.
Date December 21, 2008

A Korean Restaurant, SoHo

SoHo isn't what it used to be, but that's hardly news. The streets are quiet as evening falls, orange streetlights painting the snow a color as profoundly unnatural as the relative stillness. But business continues, in a halting fashion, and there are a few places still open at this time, especially towards the southern end of the neighborhood. This includes a little Korean restaurant which was once locally famed for its food (never publicly known, though, because then locals would've had to share the restaurant with strangers), and now is not such an icon, but continues to keep up its quality. Its customers are few on this cold night, the dark-haired woman seated at one table standing out amongst the largely empty furniture; there are a couple other foolhardy souls tucked away in quiet corners, apparently having an unspoken agreement that farther away from each other is better.

This certainly isn't a neighborhood that Sonny Bianco would choose to venture to if he had any choice in the matter. But occasionally shrugging off the comforts of his rather luxurious life is a way of allowing himself a fancy car and expensive food when so many go without. As he often does when he goes out on Ferrymen duty, he's tried to dress down. That means a puffy winter jacket that's a few years old and a toque pushed over his bushy, curly hair. He's not really good at this cloak and dagger or secrecy stuff. He's a man who tries to be noticed. So he steps inwards and looks around, to see if anyone flags him down.

If he called it 'cloak-and-dagger' to her face, Grace would laugh at him. As it is, she just notices the clueless-looking guy standing in the doorway, the corners of her mouth twitching in sardonic amusement. The expression on his face, not to mention the too-curly hair sticking out around the bottom edge of the toque, leads her to automatically assign the label 'kid' — to someone older than she herself is. Grace lifts a hand and waves Sonny over. Dressed in an autumn-weight black jacket and a red blouse, she's adopted a sort of 'casual nice' look that fits the 'out to dinner' image well.

If she called him a kid, she wouldn't be the first one. Hell, Sonny'd consider it a compliment. In his business, youth is profit. And he's always been a babyface. Or rather, always made himself one, depending on how you look at it. He spots the hand-wave, then slips into the booth across from her. "Uh, hi. You're…Grace then? Sonny." He offers a hand that's gloved, then he quickly tugs it off.

"That'd be me," Grace confirms easily, in that rasping, broken voice that is the antithesis of her name — and probably exceptionally jarring to the man who specializes in making people pretty. She shakes the offered hand, and then gestures towards the menu on his side of the table. "Thanks for coming. I've been meaning to meet with you for a while now."

"My pleasure. Most of my clients have taken off to warmer or prettier places for the winter, so things are pretty quiet." Sonny tugs out the menu and has a look over it, then glances up to Grace. "So. Did you want to meet me for any specific reason, or just general curiosity?" He quirks a little grin that's meant to be charming.

"Call it a bit of both," Grace replies with a subtle smile of her own, glancing away a moment later as a waitress approaches their table. She orders a pot of tea, clearly not having been waiting long; an arched eyebrow cast in Sonny's direction as invitation for him to make any contrary drink request that he should want. When the girl moves on, Grace turns back to Sonny. "I like to know the people I might need to call upon, preferably before everything goes sideways."

"That's understandable. And on the same token, I like to know who's calling me. So I'm not walking into a trap." Sonny doesn't protest the tea order. He tugs off his hat and fingers through the curls. It's frizzy right now, and all over the place. "On one hand, I like to not know everyone, in…case the worst happens." Of course, he'd never purposefully give them up. But both of them know that there are Evolved out there who could take the information from him whether he wanted to give it up or not.

"That does pose a problem," Grace agrees. "But some risks can't be avoided entirely." She shrugs, one corner of her lips pulling back in a lopsided, wry smile. "We'll burn that bridge when it comes up. It's damn easy to scatter something as loose as our network, and I don't know all the fallbacks." The waitress returns, depositing a pot of tea and two of those small porcelain cups. Grace automatically picks the one up and fills both of the other, sliding one over to Sonny's side of the table. "Sugar?"

"Oh no. Not if this tea is anything like I'm used to." Sonny's a rich boy. He's got international tastes. The little mug is sipped from and he looks down to the menu. "Do you want to share a few dishes, or get our own? Unless we're not here to eat," one brow raises. "However, I'm starving."

The quiet laugh from the back of her throat is as harsh as a raven's caw, if rather more staccato. Grace gestures at the menus. "Whatever you like. I've been here a few times, and it's all quite good." One brow arches. "You made up your mind?"

"Korean…food isn't something I've had much of," Sonny grins in a way that suits his somewhat boyish demeandor. "Japanese, yes. Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese a little bit more of. But for some reason, not much Korean. But there's not much Asian food I don't like. So, your choice. I'm sure I'll be happy."

"Hah. Fair enough." Grace waves the waitress back over, placing the order for both of them and handing her the mnus they no longer need. Once she's moved on, Grace turns back, folding her hands on the edge of the table. "It also seems appropriate to remind you that the relationship goes both ways," the woman points out. "Should you — or your clinic — need something…" Sure, he's got money, but odds are their contacts reach farther afield, especially when supplies are as tight as they can get these days.

"Oh, if I was ever in a position to need something for my clinic, I've got clients with nearly unlimited resources who would make certain I was still around to give them their nosejobs." Sonny grins again, then sips the tea. He reaches for the pot to refill each of theirs. Tiny cups. "There is, though…" he clears his throat. "…the real possibility that someone might try to get to me. For my ability. Or to get to my father." He leaves it unsaid that he might need their help in that case.

Grace inclines her head as Sonny continues, the attitude of her response suggesting that that is a given. "That's what it's all for. Generally speaking. …And if we find out in time." There's always that caveat. She lifts the refilled cup in some semblance of a salute, or perhaps a toast; then she takes a drink.

Sonny lifts his cup as well. He seems shaken by even talking about his own kidnapping. He's known it was a possibility since he stepped forward and came 'out' as an Evolved. Sometimes those registration papers can be a death wish, especially as a Tier 1 with his name and picture on a website. "I'm…a little bit surprised…" he drops his voice. "…despite the rift between Phoenix and PARIAH, that I haven't been asked to hide anyone escaping…the raid."

Grace raises a brow as Sonny shifts the conversation subject; she also mutes her voice, though its very coarseness also acts against it carrying. "PARIAH went their own way," she replies with a disinterested shrug. "They're not associated with us." 'Us' being the Ferrymen at large. "Whatever solutions they had didn't include asking for our help."

"Not associated doesn't make them the enemy though, right?" Sonny's brows arch. "I don't pretend to understand all the politics. But I didn't think you'd…turn out one of your own. Even if it was…one of them." He bites the edge of his lip, then sips from the tea.

"Not associated means 'not associated'," Grace replies, a faint snort accompanying her subtle but very crooked smile. "They're not 'of us'. I don't know them and I wouldn't know where to find them." She takes a sip of her tea, and shrugs. "Odds are, if one did come our way, we'd never know they were PARIAH. And that's just as well."

Sonny shrugs, then holds up a hand. "All right, all right." He grins. "All I need to know is who my patient is and what I need to do. I just do what's asked of me. I get enough of politics in my day to day life. I don't need secret politics on top of it."

Grace chuckles in echo of the sentiment behind Sonny's grin. "You asked," she points out good-naturedly, though accepting absolutely none of the fault in this little matter. It's about this time the waitress returns with food, her presence met with a polite 'thank you' from Grace.

"Oh I know. It's not the first time my curiosity has gotten the better of me." Sonny grins across the table at her and pulls the chopsticks out of their protective sleeve. "So. What have we got here? No dog, I hope?"

At that query, Grace chuckles briefly. "It is an Americanized menu," she points out dryly. Picking up her own chopsticks, she points at each of the dishes in turn. "Bulgogi. The meat's beef. The orange stuff is kimchi. Mostly cabbage, I think. That one's just vegetables, and the last one's fish."

"Ah, sounds good to me," Sonny puts a little of each on his plate and gives each a taste. "Mm. This is very good kimchi." He sips the tea. "So. Well, can you actually tell me about yourself?" A beat, and a chuckle. "Suddenly I feel like I'm on a date." He grins at her as he leans over to push a bit of food into his mouth. For an Italian, he handles chopsticks well.

"Not a lot to tell," Grace replies with an easy shrug. She arranges her own plate from the dishes in the center of the table, and refills her cup of tea while she's at it. Blue eyes lift to Sonny at his quip, a hint of a grin curving her lips. "You make it sound like that's a bad thing." The woman takes a drink, before tossing one shoulder in yet another shrug. "I grew up in Denver. Got sick of school, didn't want to work fast-food my whole life, so I enlisted with the Air Force after graduating. Served eight years; my last posting was here, so when I didn't re-up, here's where I stayed." A hint of a smile. "More or less."

"Air Force? Really?" Sonny chews thoughtfully, then gives her a searching look. In a polite way. "I've never actually met a military woman." Not that many in the upper classes. "Cops, yes. Federal agents of all kinds, yes. But not military." He wipes his face with a napkin. "Sounds like there's more to tell about you than there is to tell you about me. Most people know my story anyway." He shrugs. It's not ego, just a statement of fact.

"Really," Grace affirms, in that sandstone dust-dry tone her voice pulls off so well. She eats as he speaks, then looks across the table at Sonny, head canted just a hair. "That might be true of most New York natives," she points out. "I just told you I wasn't one." So there, Mr. (not-so-)Famous.

Well, not just that. I mean…I'm registered. I use my ability to boost my career." Sonny shrugs and exchanges the chopsticks to his other hand so that his right's free to lift up the tea. "My dad's the mayor. I'm sure you knew that part at least. I'm in the registry. I use my power in my clinic. Pretty much exclusively. That's part of the reason I like helping you guys out. It means I actually get to use my medical skills now and again."

"Glad to help out." Grace also takes a drink of her tea, then points across the table at Sonny with her chopsticks. "That doesn't tell me much about you. But then," she admits, with a rather broad grin for her generally subtle expressions, "I suppose that's only fair."

Sonny mirrors the broad grin with one of his own. Pearly whites. Hollywood smile. "Well, I suppose I'm defined by those things. Mayor's son, especially. Close second being 'magic surgeon.'" He makes air quotes around that. "Other than that? I like good food, good wine. Snowboarding. Uh…ska music? I play the guitar, very, very poorly. Haven't had any time to give a good try at it. And if I was home more, I'd have a dog? How's that?"

A wave of her chopsticks over the plate indicates Sonny. "Hey, you've already got more skills than I do. I can shoot things, hold my own in a free-for-all, and fix computer code, even when the stupid person who calls themselves a programmer snarls the hell out of it. Can't write most of the damn things, mind. Well, I suppose if I really set my mind to it." Grace's lips quirk in a rueful smile. "Couldn't play an instrument if my life depended on it, and don't ever ask me to sing."

"Ah, but see, your skills involve actually protecting yourself. I can't even throw a decent punch," so Sonny's not -that- much of an egotist. He puts a little more of the kimchi and noodles onto his plate. "So you're a computer whiz too, then? I…can work email? Booking software if I need to?" He shakes his head. "Strange how I can run an MRI in a pinch. But don't ask me to install software."

"But — or didn't you notice? — those are almost my only skills," Grace points out, with a hint of a smile. That's not necessarily true, but she really doesn't think of everything else she knows as skills. Just… incidental knowledge. "I can do basic first aid, but an MRI's pretty much Greek to me." The young woman shakes her head, then. "Not hardly a whiz. I just fix things when they break."

"Still, more than me. The only thing I can fix are broken bones. And…sagging breasts. And jawlines. And other such superficial things." Sonny takes a bite and grins around a mouthful of food. "Sounds like we both need to live a little more."

"Nonsense. You went to medical school, didn't you?" Grace counters, that grin broadening just a bit. "Like you said, medical skills." She pauses to eat a bit more, then gives Sonny a dubious glance. "'Live' more? How would you define that?"

"I suppose volunteering for this is enough living," Sonny looks amused. "Depends I guess, on what you consider that to be. Does it mean a variety of things, or does it mean putting yourself in danger?" He shrugs. "I don't know. Just seems most people our age tend to be defined by our careers. Sure, I went to med school. Lots of people go to school."

"I suppose so," Grace replies. "You could say I'm defined by my last career," she continues, setting the chopsticks down in favor of tea. "This one… it's a job," she states with an indifferent shrug. "It does what I need it to. But then…" Her voice trails off, and she looks down into the half-full cup for a short time. "I swore an oath," Grace states simply. "I didn't realize until I came here how much that really mattered. But it does."

"What do you mean?" Sonny chews thoughtfully as he regards her. "What kind of oath?" He seems quite genuinely curious. A bit more food is eaten, then he politely pushes the plate aside.

Tilting her head, Grace looks across the table at Sonny with a crooked, closed smile. "The oath of enlistment," she replies. "To protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." The smile grows a little bit more wry. "I don't make many promises, and that one seems pretty well worth keeping."

"Oh," Sonny looks a bit sheepish. "Shows how much I know about the military, huh? I didn't even know soldiers took oaths like that." He refills his tea and grins across at her. "So, what's the verdict? Did meeting me make you feel better?"

"Every single one of us does," Grace affirms, rather upbeat in her tone. "Some take it more seriously than others," she concludes with a rueful smile. Which is replaced in short order by an inquiring expression. "Never said I felt poorly," Grace counters. "But I'm glad to have met you, yes."

"I'm glad too. I've felt fairly…disconnected. Which can be a good and a bad thing," Sonny shrugs. "I mean, I still feel like an outsider when I'm called in to help, but given my position I can't really commit like others can. There's too many people watching me." He glances over his shoulder as if expecting to find someone spying. That happens in the fancy places, but around here no one would care.

No one would care — even if there was anyone to care. The bare handful of customers in the restaurant all have their own concerns, and Sonny isn't one of them. "You don't need to," Grace points out. "Some people— " She gestures at herself. "— do live the cause. They're the core, they keep it running, but it's like any 'charity' organization. All the people who live halfway over the line connect us to the world out there, like donating money to whatever fund. We wouldn't be much without that."

No, of course not. But when you're used to high society types scrutinizing who your tie is made by, you kind of get used to people looking. Sonny lives a life disconnected from the real world in a lot of ways, even in a post-bomb city. He knows that on a logical level, which is why he doesn't have an alter ego for dealing with the Ferrymen. Not yet anyway. "Well. I am happy to help as much as I can. It's difficult sometimes. I've had to say no a time or two because there was no way for me to get away without looking suspicious. Or sometimes it comes when I'm in the middle of a proceedure," he frowns.

One of Grace's hand flicks in a throwing-away gesture. "You're not the only one. Far from it. It happens." You do what you can do, and that's the end of it. The woman's voice makes the statement decisive. "And you're not the only medic we can call upon, either," she points out.

"Oh yeah. I met the healer. That's…that's something. A few more like her develop powers and they'll put me out of work," Sonny grins wryly. "Or…not really. I'd just end up re-making faces full time." There's a bit of a sigh on the end of it. That doesn't seem like his ideal situation.

At that, Grace chuckles softly. "I didn't even mean her," she disagrees, shaking her head a bit. One brow arches at the sigh, and she regards him thoughtfully. "Why don't you go into something else, then?"

Sonny looks down at the table and raps his fingers lightly on the tabletop. "It's…not that simple. What I do reflects directly back on my father. A doctor is a good, respectable career. Even better when I provide a service to rich women who support his campaigns and have political pull." His smile is a little tight. "Besides. I'm a doctor. I don't know what else I'd be."

"Doctors do other things than remake faces," Grace points out, stating the obvious in a bone-dry voice. After a moment, the young woman snorts, and shakes her head, dark hair rustling back and forth. "Me, I wrote off my father a long time ago. Don't bloody well care how what I do reflects on anyone. I just do it."

"My…father is a good man. And his heart's in the right place. Believe me when I say that even though he might seem hard on the Evolved, it's not half as hard as the people pressuring him want him to be." Sonny fingers through his messy hair. "Doctors do. But I think there'd be some kind of uprising of socialites if I quit my work. I'm booked for the next three years."

Grace grins, the expression thin but not pale. "Hah. Serve them right." To the subject of politics, she shrugs. "Politicians do what they do." Which isn't to say Grace doesn't keep track of the debates, no matter how it sounds. "We just clean up their messes."

"This city could do much worse than Harry Bianco," there's something darkly serious in the way that Sonny says that. It's in contrast to his earlier lighthearted boyishness. He looks to one side, then back to her with a smile that's meant to envoke the earlier mood. "Well. Hate to eat and run, but I've got a holiday thing to attend to in a few hours."

"It could," Grace agrees, unperturbed by the change in tone. "Not to worry," she says as he continues, a hint of a smile pulling at her lips. "After all, it wasn't a date." She flicks one hand in a shooing motion. "Go on. Enjoy your shindig. I imagine we'll meet again sometime."

"I'm sure we will," and Sonny seems to mean that. He offers his hand to hers. "It wasn't a date, but it was pleasant company. It's always a relief to talk to someone when they don't need or want my services." It's fairly rare.

Grace accepts the offered hand, smiling faintly. "You're welcome."

December 21st: In the Foxhole
December 21st: In the Midst of Heaven
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