Can't Argue With Taste


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Can't Argue With Taste
Synopsis Coincidence (or perhaps fate) finds an eclectic group of people crossing paths in Roy Wilkins Park.
Date September 28, 2010

Roy Wilkins Park

Located off of Merrick and Baisley Boulevard, the Roy Wilkins Park is a plot covering just over fifty acres of land, with a number of features to entertain those from the very young to the very old. Boasting four outdoor tennis courts, a quarter mile jogging track that circles the rec center, and a wheelchair accessible basketball court, anyone visiting the massive park can find a reason to spend hours idling away their time. In addition to these features there is an indoor pool open all year round, and a number of baseball fields - two towards the northern area of the park with a smaller field towards the south end, in the Nautilus Playground, which is just south of a small pond.

For convenience of the park visitors, restrooms are located both in the playground and at the rec center. Pristine, with a relatively clean pond, the facility also hosts a summer day camp, a counseling center, and hosts a variety of community events. Along with the rec center and play areas, there is a jogging path and a series of picnic tables scattered throughout the park, complete with nearby barbecue grills for outdoor eating. Far more than an ordinary park or recreation center, the Roy Wilkins Park is a cultural landmark, home to the Black Spectrum Theatre, an acting troupe given to perform socially conscious drama. The most famous feature of the park, however, is the four acre vegetable garden that gives locals an opportunity to grow their own produce, which is often donated to charity.

By the time Wes Smedley makes it to Roy Wilkins Park, it's already at that point in the day where the barista at Starbucks gives you a funny look if you order a hot drink. It may be hot outside, but real morning coffee, even if your morning is offset by several hours, is hot coffee. Smedley sips from the iconic venti-sized cup, watching two dogs race away from him in pursuit of a fuzzy yellow tennis ball. For all his fifteen years, Carson keeps pretty good pace with Von as the not-so-small puppy tears across the autumn grass toward the toy. Then again, being a cow dog at heart, Carson is more interested in chasing Von than he is any ball.

The ball retrieved, Von speeds back across the field toward Smedley, his fluffy orange tail a flag behind him. He drops it at the man's feet and stands, mouth agape and panting, staring with wide-eyed anticipation for it to be thrown again. Carson isn't far behind, but he sits, his eyes closing slightly as he relishes the restful moment.

The leashes that are draped around Smedley's neck stray against the grass as he bends to pick up the ball with his thumb, middle, and forefinger so as to avoid the transfer of too much puppy-slobber. "Good boy," he praises, his voice moderately deep as he smiles down like a proud father. He lifts the ball and twiddles it, and Von sits, licking his lips before he goes back to panting. With a grin, Smedley hurls the ball down the field once again. Before the thing has even left his hand, the pup is off with the old dog on his heels.

Goddamn it. The bench that is serving as the dead drop between Nick and one of his supervising agents is occupied — by a tiny elderly Vietnamese woman who looks like she plans to take up residence, a bag full of bread crumbs for the birds next to her and a book on her lap that, judging by its thickness, has to be either War and Peace or Gone with the Wind. The woman has a fucking thermos full of coffee or tea that she pours out into the tiny plastic cup that serves also as a lid, and she takes tiny bird-like sips of it before setting it down, at least three minutes between each tiny miniscule sip. At this rate, it will take her an hour to drink one cup. And she has a thermos.

Nick has already circuited the park twice, and approaches the bench again. He certainly doesn't look like the typical jogger or runner, not in jeans and thick steel-toed boots, leather jacket and t-shirt. Fuck. He shakes his head and heads to one of the cart vendors, buying a soda and a bagel. He might as well eat while he waits, but pretty soon, he's going to have to give up the drop and come back later — it just doesn't make sense for him to sit around and wait.

"Okay, seriously. I think we can do this."

Niki Sanders stands under a tree, bent down with her hands toward the ground, fingers locked together. "You just need to run up and use my hands like a springboard, and up you go." She goes through the motions of dragging her hands upward like she's hefting a person's weight up and toward the high boughs of the tree.

Snagged on the bough of the tree in question is a red beret that matches the red scarf around Niki's neck. It isn't quite Messiah Red, for those keeping track at home. There's a fence around the trunk of the tree itself, preventing a person from simply climbing up into it without destroying the flowers or malleable wiring making up the decorative barrier. "That hat was a gift. I'm not leaving it in a tree." She claps her hands together and crouches again, standing at the ready with her brows up in askance toward her companion.

"Come on. It'll be easy. I'm Colossus and you're Wolverine."

She's been having a trying day so far, an accident gave her a massive bruise on her leg and ruined all of her groceries that she'd procured for the week. Now Delia Ryans is basically scrounging the sidewalks looking for spare change that hasn't been collected by hobos. How the mighty hath fallen. So far she's gotten a hold of almost a dollar sixty five, which is enough for a ten pack of ramen noodles and a few vegetables from a stand. Not a bad haul for a few hours of walking.

As the redhead strolls through the park, she catches sight of the loose puppy and a large smile spreads across her face. She recognizes that dog! "Von!" she yells, forgetting that it's deaf. Still, she runs over to intercept it as it races back toward Smedley. "Whoosha cudie puppy?! Huh?! Whoosha cutie?! Ish you!! Yuh huh!! Yuh huh!!" The older dog is greeted with a smaller smile and a wary glance. "Where's your mommy little guy? You find a friend?"

A little preoccupied with their personal hat-related drama, Monica has yet to look at the other people in the park too closely. Or the dogs. But she is looking up at that tree like it has just posed the most interesting question she's heard all day. Which is silly, because it's a tree.

Those last words from her cousin get a hearty laugh from the mimic and she starts to take a few steps backward. "Well, when you put it that way…" It may seem totally crazy, but Monica is perfectly willing to have herself launched into a tree by someone with super strength. The things you do for family. And indeed, she runs right for Niki, launch in five… four… three…

Von is a good puppy, Delia! Thank you for noticing! But rather than continue his errand to bring the ball back to Smedley, Von plops himself down for lovin's, and lets the ball drop from his mouth as he stares up at Delia with that happy puppy face. Carson barks, unsure of this new person, but he inches forward to sniff at her sleeve as she pets his companion.

But Carson's insecurity doesn't hold a candle to Smedley's when the woman approaches the dog in his care. He whistles - high and sharp - to get the older dog's attention, bringing Carson away from Delia and making him sit as he jogs toward them. He can hear Delia's questions just fine, so when he finally catches up to him he greets the young woman with a deep frown. "Can I help you?" he asks, clearly trying to be polite despite the tension that's evident in his voice. He glances away from Delia and the dogs then, looking to the Vietnamese woman, then the odd couple about to unleash shenanigans at the expense of a tree, then the man buying food from one of the cart vendors. No, the park is far from empty, and he'd very much like to avoid a scene.

Miss Le Le, the little Vietnamese woman, smiles at the dogs as her hand burrows into her bag of bread crumbs, flinging them out and scattering them in front of her so the pigeons come scrambling to peck at them. It's her bench, this much is clear, from the pigeon poop that spangles the sidewalk in front of the bench, where the birds apparently peck at bread crumbs and, well, shit on an every day basis.

Nick has to question the sanity of his supervisor yet again. First a cemetery, now this?

Knowing he can't stare at the ancient woman feeding flying rats without looking a bit strange, Nick lets his attention wander to the women near the tree, one brow ticking up above the sunglasses he wears with curiosity, and then the dogs' barking draws his attention, and he glances over to see the redhead from the bookstore. He snorts to himself as he chews his bagel. It's a bloody small world, after all — one day, that fact will quit surprising him.

Niki may not look like the comic book geek type, but it comes with the territory of raising a son who loves — loved them. Nights spent in bed with him cuddled up between her and her husband while they alternated reading the narratives in voices for each of the characters left her with a basic understanding of iconic characters and their signature moves.

This one is called a Speedball Special.

Niki matches Monica's stride, her hands coming under the rushing woman's foot where they need to be, and with a soft grunt to punctuate the effort, she sends Monica sailing upward to the limbs of the tree. She's careful not to put too much strength behind the boost/throw, lest she overshoot her target. She's quick to lift her head and follow Monica's trajectory. Let's hope this actually works! … Not that there's any doubt or anything.

Chewing on her lower lip, Delia scrambles to a stand quite quickly when she spies Smedley's deep frown. Glancing from the puppy to the man, she points with a sheepish expression to the dog and hangs her head in a guilty manner. "I… I recognized Miss Whitney's dog… I j— I just thought I'd say hello. She didn't seem to mind before." Looking around, Delia cranes her neck to try to find the woman that just might rescue her from the angry leash wearing cowboy.

Spotting Niki and Monica, she starts to say something when her eyes drift to the man with the bagel and soda. "Oh hey, uhm.. Look at that, there's uhm… the priest! I uhm.. over there. Confession! Good for the soul!!" With a wave to the young man, she begins to edge away from Smedley in order to scurry to the protection of Nick.

And it does work! Monica catches herself on a branch a bit above the hat in question, but close enough for her to hang off the branch by her knees and grab the hat. And she sits herself back up, too, proving that she's got one hell of a situp.

Getting down also doesn't seem to be a problem, although it is pretty high up there. She just… jumps. And where a less… dextrous person might land in a heap on the grass, Monica hits the ground in a roll and rolls right… up to her feet again. Tada!

Being out in the park wasn't something that Barbara Zimmerman got to do very often, much to dismay. Particularly after the last few months, a peaceful day at the park can be just something she cannot get enough of, and that's exactly what she's come seeking today.

Her sketchpad in her lap and bag sitting beside her, another smaller book and numerous pencils, pens, even a little small thing of watercolours sit strewn about, an open box of oil pastels sitting atop them all. The green one rests in her hand as she works on drawing the landscape she sees ahead of her, rather focus and undisturbed.

Undisturbed, at least, until she hears voices in the not too far distance, largely tuning them out - until there's a loud thud and the sound of something moving through the grass, prompting her to look back over her shoulder. Eyes settle on Monica, not too far back from where she sits, and then drift up to another woman further back, someone whom she recognises almost immediately.

"Niki?" She shouts back, lowering the sunglasses over her eyes so that she can get a clearer view. Hesitantly, she begins rising to her feet, eyes kept back as much as possible.

"Hold on there a minute," Smedley says, reaching his free hand to rest on Delia's shoulder to detain her. He glances from her to Nick, his eyes narrowing. He's seen the 'priest' before, even if he can't recall the context. But it's enough to peg him as not a priest. Smedley doesn't circulate with men of God - not as a rule, but as an occupational hazard. When he looks at Delia again, gray-blue eyes running over the features that make up her face, he curses his inability to keep up on news media that has more pictures. Friends of Peyton would be in the news, right? "How do you know Miz Whit'ney?" The name of Von's owner is cut in half with his accent, and he narrows his eyes down at Delia. He can't have Peyton's cohorts, be they socialites or terrorists, thinking he's a dog napper. That just wouldn't do.

But then there's a woman rolling through the grass, and Carson starts barking again. He knows that music, even if his owner is far from comparatively agile. Carson's barking sets Von off, though the pup's voice has an excited tenor while the old dog is more wary.

Priest? Never has there been a more ironic descriptor of Nick, and his eyes narrow behind the sunglasses. Still, Delia looks like she's trying get away, and the cowboy looks like he's trying to keep that from happening. Nick heaves a sigh as his conscience rather than his common sense wins the battle waging in his head.

Stepping forward, he moves toward the cowboy, dogs, and redhead, but glances at the other redhead who moves toward the dynamic duo, taking in everyone with cautious eyes.

"You okay, Red?" he asks the shop girl, nodding his chin at her and then the cowboy. "This guy buggin' you?"

Niki had been prepared to reach out and catch Monica, but she can recognise the way she tucks to roll on the grass and simply steps out of the way. "Well done!" she praises with a wide grin. "That was kind of fun, actually. I've never thrown a person without—"

Trying to kill them? Yeah, that.

Sheepishly, Niki takes back her hat and this time sets to procuring bobby pins - a must for any smart woman - from the pocket of her jeans so she can pin the beret to her hair so it can't get swept away again. She's interrupted by someone calling her name, turning sharply with suspicious eyes until the voice and then the face both register in her mind.

"Barbara!" Niki calls back with delight, offering a hand up in a wave. She then gestures toward her redheaded double, indicating that Monica should head that way with her as she approaches her sister. "Barbara, this is my cousin Monica Dawson. Monica, this is my sister Barbara." She doesn't say Simms or Zimmerman, since she isn't quite sure if she wants that much given away.

Delia squeaks as her shoulder is grabbed and she cowers like a beaten dog, "I didn't mean anything by it! I just wanted to say hello— I— Tell her I'm sorry, it won't happen again!" There's a tremble of panic in the redhead's voice as she tries again to step away. The older dog's agitated barking as well as the younger one's puts her on a bit of an edge.

When Nick walks over, she gives him a sheepish smile and nods her head, "Uhm… Hello… uhm… I was…" Looking down at the dog, she digs her hands into her pockets and furrows her eyebrows into a tight line. "I was just saying hello to a customer's dog and uhm… his dog walker." Her eyes dart toward all of the people in the park and she reaches one hand up to pull her hood over her head. The explanation to the priest should be enough for the dog walker.

Monica looks over as Niki's name is called, too, and she lifts her eyebrows. Well. "Hey there, nice to meetcha," she says, her voice just hinting at a New Orleans accent. Her smile is friendly and she even holds a hand out toward Barbara for a shake.

It seems to be Delia's reaction to all this that gets Monica's attention and that is when she notices the dog. Pey's dog. Right? "Hey, Nik… that's Peyton's dog isn't it? Is that guy… ya know… Peyton's dawg," she asks with a bit of a crooked smile, "Or someone we oughta give a hard time?"

"Simms," Barbara adds for Niki, taking Monica's hand and giving it a shake - surely not as firm as Niki's, but she's got far from a loose handshake. "Barbara Simms. A pleasure to meet you." Her sketch pad, the pastels far too easy to smudge at the moment, is held carefully in her other hand. "Cousin?" She repeats with a bit of happy surprise in her voice. "I guess that makes us cousins as well, Monica. All ways a pleasure to meet family, even in an extended sense."

A glance is given back over to Niki, moving between her and Monica. "It's nice to see you again," she asserts as she bends back down, placing her stuff back into her bag are carefully as she can manage. "I trust your up to no good?" She gives a sheepish grin back to them both, before looking over at Monica's ascertaion that the might need to give someone a hard time. "Friend of yours?"

"Walker?" Smedley repeats in a dumbfounded and slightly insluted tone before he can keep the word from falling out of his mouth. He takes his hand from Delia's shoulder and stands as straight as he can, which only serves to emphasize his height. Von looks from person to person, no longer panting but with that strange look of worry on his face. Smedley grumbles something as he bends to pick up the ball and hurl it across the park again. Von gleefully scampers after it, but Carson doesn't follow - he's too busy barking. But that too is stopped quickly by a sharp whistle from the westerner. Carson whines one, then lies down in the grass, giving his master a petulant and apologetic look.

Glowering down at Carson, Smedley takes a final sip from his cup of coffee before he crushes the paper in his hand. Better to take out frustration on a cup than on a dog (or a girl). "Look, I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong idea. It's just… I'm supposed to take care'uh Von, and…well…" Smedley's gaze moves from Delia to Nick and back again. "Guess I got jumpy." He scratches at his stubbled jaw with his free hand and sighs. "Sorry about that." The fact that Von is all he has left of Peyton, Peyton whose 2010 self could be dead in some other decade, remains unvoiced.

The younger man eyes Wes, perhaps recognizing him as well, before nodding at Delia. "All right. As long as there's no trouble," he says easily. One hand holding his can of Coke and the other his bagel, he certainly doesn't look threatening, and he looks a lot healthier than he did the last time Delia saw him. "I was in your shop the other day, saw your boss lady. Told her to say hi to you," he says.

Reaching up with the bagel-holding hand, he nudges his sunglasses off his face so his blue eyes can look into Delia's. "But I guess I can do that for myself now," he adds, glancing back at Wes and giving the other man a nod, his eyes narrowing just a touch as he gauges the other man's words. "Sorry I assumed the worst, man. No harm, no foul."

Niki's smile is bright and genuine. "My husband's cousin," she admits, "but I've claimed her." She nudges Monica gently and then follows her gaze to where Smedley and Nick stand with Delia. Her eyes narrow on Wes and she nods. "He's the guy living at the Redbird building, right? Yeah, we definitely need to give him a hard time."

Blonde sister leans to ginger sister. "You want to go check things out? It'll be a bonding experience." Niki smirks and begins to meander that way.

Tilting her head to the side at Smedley then toward Nick, Delia gives them both a rather easy smile. "I'm sorry for making you jumpy, I just wanted to say hello to Von. I uhm… I don't know Miss Whitney very well, I only met her once when I made a delivery. She signed an autograph for me." The admission of fangirling the celebutante has a little bit of a blush forming on the young woman's face.

It's still there, bright as can be when she turns to look at Nick and nods to him. "I uhm… I had to quit the shop for a different job." Or running from the law. "But… uhm… you look good. Better, anyway. But yeah, hi." She stammers to the 'priest' who really isn't a priest at all, she knows it, but it was an omen from her romance novel. Fiery haired beauty luring the papal student away from the church.

"Claimed, she says," Monica says with a mocking sigh and a fold of her arms. But it breaks with a smile as she gives Niki a nod. "Roger that," she adds to Niki with a snicker. And that's when she turns toward the Nick/Smed/Delia grouping.

Barbara gives a bit of a laugh at the two women, even stands back up straight, bag slung over her shoulder and her sketchpad back in hand. "Claimed?" She repeats the word, making it the third time it's been said now. "Well, then, I suppose next I have to worry if she's a good influence or not." It's said teasingly of course, and by now Monica surely noticed just a bit of a Canadian accent when the redhead speaks, the product of so many years spent up north.

Niki's suggestion of a bonding experience gets a much less hesitant smile form Barbara, giving a nod over to her sister. "I think that sounds like a great idea!" she beams, following after her blonde counterpart.

Smedley's smile in Delia's general direction is both polite and shy after he gives Nick another nod. He can understand - if the two men's roles were reversed, he probably would have done the same thing. The fuzzy streak of canine fury that is Von, which has long since reappeared, drops the tennis ball on Smedley's booted foot then, and he looks down at the eager, if slightly annoyed face. Chuckling, he bends to pick up the ball and offers it to Delia. "Why don't you throw it," he says rolling his shoulder slightly. "Damned pup's gonna tire me out if I keep at it much longer."

But out of the corner of his eye, he sees the trio of women approaching. He doesn't recognize any of them, which immediately sets him on edge. But he looks to Nick and frowns. "Old flings'uh yours, pal?" he asks, nodding toward the encroaching entourage of estrogen.

Nick takes a step back when the trio of women start moving in their direction like a stampede of wildebeests. "Me? Uh, no. I don't know any of 'em," he says, glancing back toward the bench where little Le Le continues to feed the flying plague carriers. He'll have to come back after dark, when no one will be around to notice. Only muggers and rapists and hapless Interpol spies would be caught in this park after dark.

He pulls his sunglasses back down over his eyes then tosses the third of bagel left in his hands to the red foxyish puppy. "I should, uh, maybe go," he says, brows twitching in a frown as he watches the trio of trouble headed their way.

When Niki approaches the gathering, she's quick to crouch down and usher the puppy to her, holding her hand out so he can catch her familiar scent. "Hey, Von," she greets him cheerfully, even though he can't hear it. "Are you out with Peyton's buddy?" She ruffles the dog's fur when he comes close enough to do so, and then casts a gaze up at Smedley. "I don't think we've been formally introduced." She offers a smile. "I'm Niki. You live up above…" She holds one finger pointed upward as if that would be enough to indicate that she means above Redbird Security. She doesn't introduce her companions. They can do that themselves if they want to.

The ball is gripped by Delia as she keeps her eyes on Nick. "I uhm… I guess I'll see you around then?" Her question is fairly shy as she tosses the ball around in her hand. The three women who approach are given a small smile of greeting before she winds up and hurls the ball in true fastball style into the field. Turning to glance at the three women again, she chews on her lower lip and then nods to the two men. "I uhm… I gotta go. Thanks for letting me throw the ball, and uhm… not.. tell Miss Whitney I said hello."

She pivots on her feet and races off in the opposite direction that Nick stepped toward. It's not the way she needs to go, but if she's lucky, she'll find a few stray dollars on the ground. Maybe she should practice her singing and start a career as a busker.

"Oh, I'm a great influence. Niki's the bad one," Monica says, teasing but not exactly lying, either. >.> And seeing Nick start to step away as they approach, she leans over to Niki to Stage whisper, "Think we scared him?"

But Smedley gets a smile, albeit a crooked one. "I'm Monica. Couldn't mistake this fuzzyball here," she nods in Von's direction, "And we thought we'd come over and see if you're being good to him."

To Barbara, "Von" sounds like a rather odd name for a puppy, prompting a raise of her eyebrow as she approaches behind Niki, hands in her jeans pockets. "Well, if she's the bad influence, maybe it's good to have you around!" Barbara laughs at Monica, nudging her with her elbow - if Niki's hope had been for the two to get along, it certainly seems like smooth sailing ahead. When Monica introduces herself, Barbara gives a nod of her own in Smedley's direction. "Barbara," she states succinctly, smiling.

It's a good toss, and Smedley chuckles in appreciation before nodding a farewell to Delia. Normally, he'd be more polite and actually say goodbye, but he's soon effectively surrounded by women. Three women. Women who know that Von belongs to Peyton. Women who know where he lives. Women who know he has a connection to Peyton.

According to Dude Law #37, Section 3, Paragraph 5, Wes Smedley has the right to freak out a little.

"Yeah," he says to Monica, his eyes narrowed and his tone as wary as Carson's stare. The older dog lies still in the grass, his ears perked at the women. He lets out a pathetic sort of sigh before he barks, low and quiet, so that it sounds like a wuff more than anything else. "Shush, you," Smedley says as he looks toward Carson. "It's a rough life bein' a dog, but you're gonna have to just cope." With a sigh that moves his shoulders, Smedley tucks his thumbs in his belt and looks between the trio. He could feed them the alias, but there's no telling what they already know from Peyton.

"S'pleasure," he says, giving Niki, Monica, and Barbara each a slight nod. "You know Peyton then?" he asks Niki. Then Von is streaking back, and Carson lifts his head to watch the tireless young dog deposit the ball at Smedley's feet.

Scratching the back of his neck a bit nervously, Nick watches the skittish redhead go, then looks at the three women again, eyes flicking from Barbara to Niki, and arching an appreciative brow above his sunglass frames. And Monica's hot too. Still, the foursome all know one another, and he's the fifth wheel, so he gives a smirk. "I don't scary that easily, girl, but I do gotta go," he says with a nod, reaching to toss his mostly full soda into a nearby trash can. He doesn't have to glance at the bench to know Le Le is still there, so he heads out of the park in a different direction. He'll have to return later. He'll go have a pint at whatever cheap bar he can find in honor of living to the ripe age of 23.

Niki pulls herself back up to stand, shooting a smirk to Monica's teasing of her, and the departing Nick. "I think we have that effect on men," she admits with a shrug of her shoulders. She then turns that smirk back on Wes, letting it soften into something less predatory. "Monica and I work with Peyton," she offers as explanation. "We're friends, too, of course."

Monica looks over at Nick, her smile widening for his reply, "So you say." Her own is teasing, of course. But when he heads off, she turns back to Smedley to ask, "Who was that? Er, I mean…" Right, the subject at hand. >.> "What Niki said." The wuff from the other dog gets her attention, though, and she crouches down to give Carson some gentle scritches.

"I'm afraid I don't know Peyton," Barbara replies to the question, eyes moving across the others with questioning glances as they make their way away from the newly formed collection of people. "I suppose I will soon, enough, though," Barbara says with a shrug and a smile. Seems like a reasonable enough assumption to her, given who she's with today. A hand runs back through her red hair, and she gives another shirt shrug.

When Nick turns to leave, Smedley lifts a hand in a still wave. But it soon rejoins it's brother, thumb tucked into his belt once more. 'Working' with Peyton can only mean one thing, and Smedley nods knowingly at Monica and Niki, letting his eyes settle on Barbara. Or rather, the left side of Barbara's jaw. "I hope so," he says, then clears his throat. "Name's Wes." And he can leave it at that. He lifts the hand not also gripping a dead coffee cup again, but rather than offer it to either of the ladies, he bends to throw the ball for Von again, then waves it back and forth. See? No one wants to touch a hand covered with puppy toy ball slobber. Do they? "Von's in good hands. No need t'worry." That's why they came over here. Right?

Not by a long shot. Smedley should be so lucky.

"Well, I can't speak for Barbie, but Monica and I are here to give you grief." Niki's nod is as though she is imparting some sage wisdom. It's just brutal honesty. She shrugs faux apologetically and links arms with Barbara. Sibling bonding at its best. "I'll be sure to introduce you to Peyton soon," she assures her sister. She's going to have to now. There's nothing to be done for it now that Monica knows the sisters have a connection, even if she's not aware of its significance. The word will travel.

Monica can only nod at those first words from Niki, her hands sliding into her back pockets. Nothing personal! Just their duty, you know, as Peyton's friends. To give him a hard time. "Yeah, I mean… watching her dog. That's serious, right?" She says to Niki, although this is clearly part of the hard time.

Barbara laughs and shakes her head as Niki links arms with her, grinning at her and Monica. "I am apparently along for the ride. Not that I mind. Nice to meet you, Wes." She shifts her posture , looking between the three of them and giving a nod. "So, you all work together, then?" She quirks an eyebrow at Niki, then Wes and Monica. She may have missed that detail, but it happens sometimes. Oh well!

He arches an eyebrow at Niki, his gray-blue gaze shifting from the blonde to the acrobatic woman at her side. He nods to Barbara then. "Yeah, we work together. Some of the time." He lifts his chin slightly as he surveys the women. Carson's eyes are slowly closing at Monica's attention, his tail lightly thumping the grass behind him. "Peyton's business partner and I go way back, so I got brought in as a contractor." He can say that, right? But as for Peyton and watching Von…

Smedley throws the ball one more time, but Von is noticeably slower as he lopes after it. Is the pup finally getting tired? "And I dunno," he says with a shrug and a frown that wrinkles his nose. "Maybe a little. Can't reckon for sure." Not that it would be any of their business, and if it was, it's not Wes's place to tell them.

"Watching the pet is always serious," Niki agrees with Monica. It is her duty as Peyton's friend to harass the man she may be kind of seeing. Not just to mortify him, but to mortify her. That is the way of things.

For a few precious moments, Niki feels almost normal. Like she might actually be able to put the things troubling her from her mind on a more regular basis. But it doesn't feel right to feel normal and it was only a matter of time before her smile would begin to fade. "You seem like a nice guy, Wes," she assures the man, teasing pretences aside. "You're good with Von, so that scores you some points." She winks at that. Even if her concerns are beginning to crop up in the back of her mind, she still gives the illusion that her mood is light.

"If that's the case, then, yeah, Barbara, I guess we all do work together." Monica looks over at Wes, nodding as Niki goes on. "Yeah, you seem nice enough. If a little skittish." For SOME reason. "How long have you been… uh… contracted."

Barbara gives a bit of a snicker and a nod, still smiling rather wide - she has worries, but unlike her sister, she's able to keep them largely out of mind for the moment. Then again, 18 years on the run has that effect. "Von is an odd name for a dog," she notes as she bends down and attempts to get the dogs attention, patting on her knees and motioning it over. "Though I guess you're the wrong person to ask about anything like that."

Smedley actually chuckles at the combination of the trio's comments, then shakes his head. "Poor boy's deaf as a post," he says, reaching down for the ball and ruffling the fuzzy dog's head before straightening. The ball is safe and secure in his hand, though, and Von, after a few moments, lies down in the grass to pant contentedly. "Named after the composers. Beethoven, I think. Von's not his full name." Clearly. See? He knows enough to know why Peyton gave the dog it's name.

Looking to Monica again, Smedley shrugs. "Maybe a month. Ain't done much yet - but I suppose that's a good thing in a way." And he's content to leave it at that. "How long you known Pey, then?" Since that's the commonality they have that's easier to discuss in public.

"I've known her… probably a little over a year now?" Niki responds, making a quick mental count of months and deciding something over twelve is close enough. Perhaps a little unconsciously, Niki gets a bit closer to Barbara, giving her arm a brief squeeze. A silent show of appreciation for the company. Recognition that this isn't her circle (yet).

"It's only been a few months for me. I just got back to the city in… June, I suppose. Wasn't too long before I was hired on. I hope you'll like it with us, Wes. I think it's a good bunch. You know, aside from a couple bad influences here and there," Monica adds the last with a crooked smile sent toward the other women.

Barbara just shrugs, glancing at the other two. "Haven't had the chance, like I said. I've only been in town a few months myself. I haven't had the chance to meet many people, unfortunately. Hopefully, that'll change soon. Truth be told, I need to stop being such a recluse. It's nice to sit around and draw all day, but…" The glance over to Niki that she offers almost seems like a subtle hint that they need to get out together more.

Smedley stoops again and sets the ball in the grass so he can pull a leash from where it's draped around his neck. He attaches one to Von, then calls Carson over with another (yet different) whistle so he can do the same for the older dog. "Well, I won't trouble you ladies any longer with my borin' small talk." He shakes the leads a bit as he rises, picking up the ball once again. "S'work to be done, after all." Even if it isn't for Redbird. Transferring the leads to the hand that holds the coffee cup, he lifts the one with the tennis ball held with curled middle, ring, and pinky fingers to touch the brim of a hat he isn't wearing. "You have a fine day now."

He gives the leads another shake, and the dogs rise to trot along beside (Carson) and before him (Von). At the first trash can he passes, he disposes of the coffee cup. Not many men his age walking dogs early in the afternoon wear their t-shirts tucked into their jeans, but then again, neither do many men in New York wear Wranglers as their brand of choice.

At least there isn't a Skol ring on the back pocket - just a well-worn pair of embroidered Ws.

"Hey now," Niki says in a tone of mock warning, "I am not a bad influence." She's thinking of her sister. The one that lives in her head. She catches her actual sister's look and nods her head. "I have to tell you all about my new roommate. You might even know him. Coffee tomorrow." Non-negotiable, clearly. "It was nice formally meeting you, Wes," she intones with a dip of her head to the proverbial tip of his hat.

When he turns his back to walk away, Niki's head tilts to the side slowly, appraising gaze on Wes Smedley's backside. That is a nice pair of Ws.

"Yeah, Barbara, you should come around more often. I need to get out more, too. I end up just working all the time." She does like her job, though! Monica blinks, though, and looks over at Niki, "You have a new roommate?"

It's only the goodbyes that get her attention back to Wes. "It was good too meet you, Wes. We'll be seeing you around, no doubt." No doubt. And she watches as the man walks away before she turns to look at the twins. "Can't argue with Peyton's taste." It is a nice pair of Ws.

"It was nice to meet you," Barbara replies with a hesitant smile and a nod, looking at Wes over the edge of her sunglasses. "Hopefully, we'll see each other again sometime soon." With that, her attention is drawn back to Niki. "Roommate?" Barbara echoes, sparing a moment to not-so-slyly watch Wes walk off before she returns her attention to the other two women. "You didn't mention that before…"

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