Cinco de Mayo


cooper_icon.gif marlowe3_icon.gif

Scene Title Cinco de Mayo
Synopsis A date, a brawl, and a taco stand crawl.
Date May 5, 2021

Arts and Entertainment District

Sheepshead Bay

Time: 7:37 PM EST

When compared to the bright blue, pink, and purple neons and sleek, greenified spaces of Yamagato Park, Sheepshead Bay could be judged as low-tech, low class, dirty, struggling, recovering America. But tonight, the spaces near the docks with their string lights and incandescent bulbs flickering with their yellow-hot wires prove that the nightlife of the neighborhood is as vibrant and colorful for the Mexican-rooted holiday as are the people choosing to celebrate it. Paper and fabric flags of red, white, and green flap and fly from every post and corner where locals have taken over a few blocks. Pop-up stalls for wares, taco carts, wherever there seems to be a potential market corner, there’s life and business abounding. Around the middle of the thoroughfare, a temporary stage for music and dancing has been occupied all day and into the evening with events and performers. Plastic lawn and foldout chairs set out in cordoned off areas allow some breathing room and places for people to sit and partake of the atmosphere or their chosen waxy boats and plates of food. The bars especially, already used to catering to the college crowd and rowdy dockworkers, are open and in full swing of the festivities.

It’s so very different from Yamagato Park. And that’s why Marlowe loves it.

Thomas Cooper has had to wait a few minutes past the time that the Yamagato Tech Director said she’d meet him at the open air bistro space at one end, but not much longer that as a new song has started up in the distance with its vibrant trumpets, strummed guitars, and ballad beats, then does a different sound enter with a percussive roll. Marlowe sits astride her Ventus motorcycle, clad in stylish black riding leathers accented in reflective golden strips, and a protective helmet, coming to a parking space streetside nearby. “Hey there,” she calls out to him with an easy lean, her teasing tone pretending to not recognize him at all, “can you tell a girl where the best taco stand in this block party is?”

He’s staring.

After a long drawn out - possibly uncomfortable - moment, Cooper squeezes his eyes shut and shakes his head like he’s trying to come back to his senses. But then he is giving her that bright boyish smile. “Hey… hi… uh…” He looks over his shoulder at the festivities furiously trying to think of how to answer.

“You know…” Thomas turns back and shrugs, “not a clue.”

There is another heart beat - several of them for him, its beating so hard and when did it get so hot? - before he suddenly says, “But hey! Uh…” Cooper is just completely tripping over himself verbally. “Mayyyybe you could help me find out? It’s an awful lot of tacos, I could… you know… ah… use a…. partner?” he asks motioning at the crowd beyond with a jerk of his thumb.

Cooper does a little shuffling dance. “Maybe some beer and a little salsa, too?”

A light laugh at Cooper's initial stumbling reply bubbles from the woman, muffled but sounding charmed. “You sound a little lost. But it’s okay!” Marlowe eases off her helmet and gives a little shake out of her hair, most of which is in a tightly wound bun but a few strays escape in the motion. "There's definitely going to be a lot of tacos even if we did miss Taco Tuesday by a day, and yes. Absolutely, we are going to go figure out this fiesta," she says, turning to store her helmet in the compartment behind the bike's seat. It doesn't look like it should fit, but somehow it does. And that's likely because she said it should be so in the design process.

Marlowe turns back to Cooper with a matching smile, approaching him and slipping her Awasu phone out of a zippered pocket in her jacket. A quick swipe and he finds her holding out the phone to snap a selfie together. "Smile, Thomas," she bids him, giving him a couple of seconds to decide his chosen expression - herself just a classic wink and grin - before taking the pic. Rapid fire text messaging has been something he's received, but he gets to see the process as Marlowe slings the photo and a short emoji riddled message to none other than Cooper’s own daughter, Ellen.

M. Terrell
Wed, May 5, at 7:38 pm

Check-in message sent, Marlowe slides her arm around Cooper’s and tilts her head towards the sounds of the crowd. “Let’s go, partner.”

When Marlowe moves in for a selfie, Cooper doesn’t need prompting as he leans in, batting his lashes, and using his hands in a sort of a ‘look how cute I am’ pose. His goofy grin returns when she moves to text it, though it softens some when he notices who. It warms his heart to see it, though he tries not to show it.

Ellen was his world and here Marlowe was acknowledging it.

The response that Marlowe gets is almost instant.

E. Cooper
Wed, May 5, at 7:38 pm

Not too long after that message, Cooper’s phone dings with his own message.

E. Cooper
Wed, May 5, at 7:40 pm
🤦 What did we talk about? Don’t mess this up, Dad!

He gives an amused chuff of laughter, but doesn’t answer her back. Instead he tucks his phone away and hugs Marlowe’s arm light against his side, before directing her towards the line of carts with their various offersing. “She helped me get dressed tonight, by the way” he notes with fondness. His outfit was simple, a nice button up and jeans, but they looked neat and clean. “Wouldn’t let me out the door until she approved my outfit.”

The choice of pose is perfect as it makes Marlowe's grin wider to see. "She asked if I had a preference," Marlowe says with a knowing smile of the collaboration, "and I said, surprise me. Or was it impress me? Either way, I consider both objectives satisfied."

Her walk alongside him isn't hurrying but an eased stroll, like the leisurely walks they had taken through the Yamagato Park greenscaped gardens. The difference between Marlowe then and now is palpable all at once. Her gaze swings to and fro in spectating of both people and decorations, and then back to Cooper every so often. It's in one of those glances to the man that he catches something that is fleeting, a tint of sadness, a pensive nostalgia. But, the expression is as ephemeral as the way the illuminations of the overhead string lights cast a rainbow against fluttering color paper banners, the glow playing on her hair and catching on silvery earrings.

Marlowe turns away again, distracted by a vendor hawking out his wares. Beside his table is a line of people waiting to order food, some of them perusing the crafted goods on the table, some of them shuffling along as the line crawls. "Maybe we should get in line," she suggests with a light wince at the sight of the queue.

Cooper’s answer to her suggestion is to simply steer her to the end of the line, where at least they can look over the crafters tables. There is no knowing if he saw the look, or maybe he - as usual - he misinterprets it, but… “You are.. exquisite,” He suddenly blurts out, unable to catch himself before the words are out. So instead he quickly deflects. “Ah… Ellen won’t admit it, but s-s-she idolizes you.” He finds his feet by turning the conversation quickly back to his favorite subject. “Says you are bucking the stereotypes of smart women and showing that you can be beautiful and smart.”

Giving her arm a light squeeze against his side Cooper adds, “I should thank you really. Ellen has thrown herself into her schooling again. Her grades are even improving.” He gives a huff of amusement, “Changed her degree to physics. I don’t understand half of what she tells me, but she is aiming to be a heliophysicist because of her ability.” There is so much pride in his voice.

Cooper spots lampwork beads on the table next to them and picks up a cord bracelet with a bright lampwork bead of the sun. “She’s had such a rough start in life, it’s nice to see her finally finding a path for herself.”

Like a horse to water, Marlowe follows where she's lead. Whatever she would have said, perhaps to point out something on the table that stands out amongst the baubles, falls away when he compliments her. The smile that grows rapidly brightens Marlowe's expression and she laughs. "Why thank you, Thomas, I'm glad my all efforts are appreciated," she sneaks in after his attempted recovery, her eyes regaining some of that sparkle. "That's such excellent news about Ellen. I'll say you don't need to worry too much about that one, though. She's got a good head and heart, though I'm sorry that she had a rough start." Marlowe gives the man's arm a return squeeze, expression softening with the warmth and love she sees in the man for his daughter. "My dad can also relate, I'm sure," she adds in more ruefully.

"'Ey man! You interested? C'mon, I'll give you a good deal, just seis dollars for that little piece, handcrafted, one of a kind, u-nique," interrupts the craft seller when he notices Cooper pick up the trinket. Though it might be hard sell to say it's unique in design, given the high number of alikes that abound not just at this booth but surely at other tables beyond, it's at least handmade. "That's what's great about these, works for everybody, yeah? Man, woman, person, anybody. Looks good even on you, man. You wanna try it on? You can try it on, see, you'll like it!" The seller turns his sharply smiling tact on Marlowe, seeing her holding back a laugh. "How 'bout you, gorgeous? Here, here, I got it all right here. What you like, 'ey? You like flowers? What's your favorite flower? Roses? Marigolds? Lilies? Daisies? I got a whole bouquet!" The seller gestures invitingly for them to look at the array of other bracelets with all manner of styles and designs.

While Marlowe arches her brows to look over the flowers, there's a short grumbling from the closest linemates, a trio of men whose impatience starts to vocalize. "Yo man, you in the tacos line or what?" one of them asks brusquely as he gets up much closer to Marlowe's other side.

"Hey man back off, ain't no line cutting here," the craft seller throws back in a sharp rejoinder before Marlowe turns to look at the man invading her personal space.

Cooper is seriously considering the little trinket in his hand. He even picks up a second, also yellow, this time the bead looks like a sunflower is inlaid into it. “I dunno about that, but I’ll give you 10 for both these,” he says rather confident of the deal.

Might not be the smartest buyer really, but he is trying.

The moment is ruined however when people get impatient. Oops. “Sec,” Cooper says to the trader, before he sets down the bracelets and hooks a protective arm around Marlowe's waist.

“Oh, hey man, we’re definitely in line for tacos,” Thomas says rather brightly with his boyish grin. “You see these though?” He motions to the table of trinkets, “Can't blame a guy for a little impulse buying for his lady while we wait for the line to move. I imagine that is why it’s here. To entice guys like me.” He keeps the attention on him while quietly and casually twisting to put himself between them and his date.

“Just gonna be a second, promise,” Cooper assures the rude gentleman, not showing a bit of offense or worry towards the other man’s impatience. Turning that smile to the seller he asks, “Deal?”

Marlowe barely starts to suck in a breath between clenched teeth as she bristles in the proximity of the Basic Bro, readying a verbal volley, but it's stopped by the sudden hook around her waist and gentle yet firm redirect. He nonetheless can feel the tight twitch of her torso, some resistance to the tug. Yet she says nothing.

Rude McBrosky levels a disdainful sneer at Cooper for the disarming fast talk, stance stiffening when the man maneuvers himself closer.

Two tense seconds of silence tick by as Cooper's deal to the craft table's keeper goes unanswered. "Ten for two, you got it man," answers the shopkeep quickly once he finds his wits. "Cash Only, yeah? No barter."

Behind Brosky, his two linemates step up and one of them lightly smacks the belligerent guy on the shoulder. "Yo, fuck this line, let's go find somethin' else and get a beer or something," says the friend with a weird look at Cooper and Marlowe. The friend's gaze lingers on the woman, as if trying to place her in memory and name. But there's no further confrontation as the three young men exit the line without any purchases made or punches thrown.

The seller is the first to sigh in relief, letting out a loose, slightly nervous chuckle. "Them college boys are a real bunch of assholes, eh? You're right though, I got this table right here because it's a good spot. Guys like you, they keep me in business." Even though it's the pair who got hassled, the seller doesn't apologize for his presence that might be slowing down the taco line. He hovers in wait for the exchange of payment for goods.

Marlowe also huffs a short release of the tension in her shoulders, still aware of the arm around her waist. "Guys like him, huh?" she echoes back at the seller, a smile creeping back at the edge of her lips.

The seller shrugs mock-innocently. Can't blame him, can you?

“Eh… they’re just at the age where they feel like they have to beat their chests at everyone,” Cooper says after he watches the guys go, just to make sure they weren’t going to pull something. Once the coast is clear, he releases his hold on Marlowe. “They’ll get over it once they get a few proper beat downs… or they’ll end up behind bars.” That was just a matter of fact.

A couple of fives are fished out of his pocket and offered to the seller with a reassuring smile. “You’re a smart businessman. I hope you sell a lot tonight,” Thomas offers in compliment, plucking up the two bracelets he’s bought. “Keep doing you, man,” he says brightly before pulling Marlow after him to catch up with the end of the line.

“Wooof, that was tense,” Thomas sighs out in relief, casting another glance where he last saw the brute squad go. Clearly, he had been more on edge than he had shown.

“Sorry about man-handling you like that back there without your permission.” The mild flush to Cooper’s face says he wasn’t completely sorry. “You’re a beautiful and competent badass, but figure we really want those tacos and I totally don’t want to fill out the paperwork when you kick their asses.”

Tucking one of the bracelets in his pocket, Thomas reaches for one of Marlowe’s wrists to slip it on, “Please accept this humble gift as an apology?”

Marlowe gives the craft seller a nodded thanks as well as the purchase is made, and their spot in line moves up further along where they're right behind by only a couple of spots to the front. "I remember being that age, and being around boys like that," she huffs lightly with regards to the bros, not excusing the behavior but not bearing any false illusions of innocence of that age either. "And it's okay," she adds forgivingly, "because you're right. I really do want…" She glances up as if to notice his flush, and his eyes.

The line scoots forward one more.

"Those tacos," Marlowe clears her throat quickly, her gaze dropping down to her hand as he takes it. The bracelet slid upon it earns an amused, warmed smile. "I humbly accept this beautiful gift. Thank you, Thomas." It might not exactly match with her riding leathers, but she's not worried about it. Marlowe turns her hand so that she can take his, just as they reach the head of the line.

"What'll it be?" asks the taco cart vendor, whose spread on the grill and fresh warming tortillas await. Marlowe takes the initiative to order for the both of them. The vendor gives her a look of surprise when she orders, not just at Cooper who he had expected to speak first, but when she orders in Spanish it takes the taco vendor a second to parse. "Ah, yeah okay," the man replies as he goes to build a plate of four street tacos. "Condiments over there," the man says as he hands Marlowe, who releases Cooper's hand for now, the plate of steaming tacos con pollo, con asada, y al carbon.

"Ten bucks," informs the vendor of the price for the tacos.

"Thanks. Oh. Thomas, could you?" Marlowe has her hands full, but angles her stance to indicate her hip pocket with her phone and wallet.



Please, excuse Cooper while his brain shudders to a stop and he looks like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.

Thomas stares at that pocket for a long moment, before ripping his eyes away from the sight of her hip tilted that way. Maybe he’s trying to decide the best course, but he also knows she’s waiting there for him to… to…

Marlowe can see the moment his brain clicks over like an old car and he’s fishing out his own wallet. There is that bright boyish smile again, maybe a bit more nervous and jittery, as Cooper’s thought process starts to pick up speed. “L-l-let me pay for it?” He flips open the wallet with his thumb and fishes out the bills to hand to the vendor. “I owe you forever, for what you’ve done for me.”

"The wallet? My pocket?" Marlowe exchanges glances with the taco cart guy, who unhelpfully shrugs as he looks back to Cooper in wait. When Cooper offers to pay for the tacos, Marlowe straightens up and smiles still, in spite of his nervousness leans over to give him a light bump with the very side of her hip that has her wallet. "Fine, you got this one," she says, amused, "but I'll get the next. You don't owe me anything, ok?"

While Cooper's handing over the billfold, Marlowe steps out of the line to stroll over to the condiments and toppings laid out on the nearby folding table. She's no stranger to the ingredients, but waits for Cooper to finish before considering what to put on the tacos. "How's your spice tolerance?" she asks curiously. "Are you one of those people who have the soapy cilantro gene? I had a friend in elementary school who did. Couldn't stand it. Or any spicy food, for that matter…" To hear her tell it, she finds that fate quite an unfortunate draw of the hereditary pool.

There is so much relief that Marlowe didn’t get upset that he wouldn’t reach into her pocket. Thomas’ neck flushes slightly at thought and the bump from said hip. In fact, he has to concentrate really hard on separating the bills he wants. Finally he manages to get the bills he wants and hands them over with a big sheepish grin.
Tucking his wallet away, Cooper holds up his other hand when the vendor moves to make change. “Hey man, keep the change.”

Of course, there is still the question of his heat tolerance. Cooper slides up beside her, “My dear lady, let me just say…” As he leans close to take on some of her burden, his boyish grin turns into a challenging one. “Bring. It. On.”

Marlowe blinks in genuine surprise at Cooper's boldness, but her smile broadens. "Oh really? Alright then, you're gettin' it tonight." The tacos get the works in toppings and both salsas applied before she lifts one to toast his. A little tortilla kiss, and then without hesitation, Marlowe chomps down.

Three Taco Stands Later

9:48 PM EST

Exhaling a very rough but satisfied breath into the evening air, Marlowe scans the open market space for an available place where they can take a breather. People are still enjoying the night activity, the food, the music. In a way, it's a good reminder of New York City as it was.

"Should we try over there?" she indicates with a nod in the direction of a bar whose seating area cordoned off by wooden shipping crates adorned with Mexican flags looks somewhat full. Still, they could probably slip in with only minimal waiting. "Let's get something to wash all this down," she gives her reason, "and maybe make some room." Marlowe laughs lightly, her hand giving her midsection a pat.

Cooper had long given into the idea that the burning sensation, that tingled his lips like a 5 alarm sunburn, would last forever.

This was just his life now.

Pale eyes are slightly reddened from all the spice-induced tears that have been shed… but more importantly… his sinuses have not been this clear since he won that chicken wing eating challenge when he was at the police academy.

He knew he’d regret these decisions come the morning, but at the moment Thomas was shouldering the burden like a heavy weight champ.

“I love that idea,” Cooper says, quietly relieved to have a moment's respite from the fires of hell. Taking Marlowe’s hand, he heads for the bar. “That last cart… I still need to process the idea that you got me to try pig’s stomach.” It hadn't been too horrible really. Chewy really. His stomach still gave a bubbling gurgle of protest at the thought of eating it.

The burning, heady sensation is a shared one as Marlowe has gamely kept pace and fared somewhat better. "That habanero sauce puts the idea right out of your mind. Though, I'm really surprised you put sooo much on there. I thought your lips were going to melt off!" she laughs with some sympathy.

They find there's not really a wait list at all, but a sign to 'Seat Yourself' and leaving it up to the populace to work out their arrangements while the servers simply handle coverage of sections. So when Cooper and Marlowe find an intimate table, they have a short bit of time to settle before a brunette woman makes it to them. "Hi there, I'm Rhonda, I'll be your server tonight. Can I get you started with any drinks?" Rhonda's eyeing Cooper's face with a slightly worried tilt of her head but no comments made.

Marlowe's the first to pipe up. "Couple of lagers please, Rhonda," she distracts from the redness that is the sight of the man's cheeks. Rhonda's nod acknowledges the order, then she casts another look at Cooper to see if he's going to add to the order. Otherwise, she's off to the bar.

"Whatever you like," Marlowe encourages Cooper, smiling encouragingly. "Do you have anything you want to try?" If it weren't abundantly clear before, it was that money wasn't such a concern for the woman at this moment.

“Modelo,” Cooper decides. “And something bready, maybe.” As the server starts to walk away he calls after her, “please!” He does have manners after all.

Turning back to his companion with a content smile, he picks up where they left off on their conversation. “That habanero seemed like a good idea at the time,” Cooper had used it to distract from the fact that what he was eating used to hold acid. Was it even going to digest? Or would it be like bubble gum and last 7 years in his stomach?

Guess he was going to find out.

Though he wonders if he should have gone with the reaper sauce. It probably would have dissolved that taco meat and - of course - his whole digestive system. He’d eaten a single reaper chip on a dare from Dirk and he had no desire to repeat that or the aftermath.

“This was a great idea for a date,” Cooper comments, looking out at the little street festival and its music. He was a people watcher, though he’d never admit it was a situational awareness thing. “I needed this,” he admits. After what he saw - that he can't talk about - in England, it was nice to feel so much positive energy.

The server nods without even jotting down the additions, and off she goes. Marlowe's gaze follows the other woman's path to the bar before turning back to Cooper, smiling once again. "No regrets, whatsoever?" she teases him lightly, though she shifts her eyes away to watch the same people. It feels like she's avoiding his eyes, though, as if not wanting to submit to the full honesty of them yet. "Guess we both needed it," she adds a little quieter. "I'm really glad you came back."

Marlowe looks down to the little sunflower beaded bracelet around her wrist and toys with it, spinning the painted glass design face over face, thinking. "It's like, we could all use some good times, you know?" Her eyes return to him, but this time in curious study. "I know you've been busy. But, have you given much thought to that offer from before? About the liaison position for Yamagato?"

When she looks back at Cooper, she finds those pale green eyes waiting for hers. Has he been staring? Maaaybe. One corner of his smile twitches up a little higher, his eyes turning thoughtful. “I hadn’t really,” he admits, “Not since we’ve started doing this,” he motions between the two of them, “I didn’t want something like that to potentially be a wall.”

Shifting to rest crossed arms on the table and leaning on them, Thomas’ grin turns softer, “Which is selfish. But when I ended up losing my leg, I wasn’t expecting to meet you, Marlowe, much less have a chance to really get to know you.” His eyes dip down, seemingly embarrassed to say that. “A guy like me doesn’t really get chances like that often. They fact, I haven’t deepthroated my own foot at this point is a miracle.”

At first, Marlowe considers being coy, which her tone nearly takes when replying, "And what is it we've started doing?" Her words and smile turn playful for a couple of lingering seconds. But just kidding. She knows what they're doing. But, his mention of the leg loss and the resulting meeting turn her expression back to thoughtful.

She opens her mouth to say something, feeling her hand lift from a nervous fidget of the bracelet to move toward his cheek, intent on lifting that embarrassed dip in his gaze. But the hand stops when his next words register. Marlowe chokes back a laugh, withdraws her hand to cover her mouth and stop the outburst wanting to escape. But her eyes. Her eyes twinkle with mirth to the point she has to press her lips tightly enough her shoulders quiver.

The look Cooper gives her is pure confusion, in fact, he looks down at himself as if trying to figure out what the laughter is about. Did he get hot sauce on his shirt… A quick inspection as she practically rolls with laughs. Oh look… he did.

The woman is saved by their server, Rhonda, who returns with their drinks out of the background. "Here ya go hons," she says, unaware of what she'd just interrupted and emptying the contents of her tray: two pints of lager, a basket of cheesey bread twists, and a bottle of Modelo for Cooper. "Anything else I can get you?" Rhonda asks.

Marlowe, cheeks flushed, shakes her head wildly and quickly reaches for the closer lager to take a large gulp. "Thanks, we're good," she answers the server a touch breathlessly.

Thomas looks up and gives a little shake of his head and goes back to the spot, scratching at it with a blunted nail.

Rhonda only shrugs and starts to move to the next table.

Marlowe leaves enough of a gap between Rhonda's departure to other service before shooting Cooper a rueful look that accuses lightly. "Thomas Cooper," she says sounding flustered, "you did not say deepthroat in casual conversation!" She's not offended, rather quite the opposite. Amused, Marlowe pushes his drink and bread sticks closer at him like chaff against the precision sidewinder of Freudian slips fired in her direction.

Thomas licks his thumb and scrubs at the offending site when he registers what Marlowe just said. All motion stops, except the slow lift of his head to look at her. He looks more than a little horrified at the slip. He hadn’t meant it like that! It wasn’t….

Oh #@*&%!

“I suddenly feel compelled to retract my previous statement,” Thomas says, managing not to choke on the words.

With that retraction, Marlowe is unable to contain her laughter. A bright, bubbly breakdown of giggles that lasts for several seconds before she can manage to compose herself enough to dab at mirthful tears with the paper napkin previously set under her glass. "Oh, you're too much," she starts, only to pause, think about what she said and groan before chortling into her drink. Marlowe closes her eyes tight, a happy wince, a desperate bid for self-control like an actor attempting to re-grasp the scene and not ruin the take again.

When she opens her eyes again, they're sparkling from the tears as she looks at him. "I'm going to go," she tells him, standing up from her stool and placing her hand on his, "and make sure I haven't just ran my mascara all over my face. Watch my drink?" She leans even closer, then, and tests out a quick, mostly innocent peck of her lips against his cheek before pulling away to turn and head for the ladies room.

Despite the horror he is feeling at his slip up, Cooper can’t help but smile at her laughter and relaxes. Mostly, as she gets up and then drops that kiss on his cheek. Again all ability at forming a sentence leaves him and he can only stare at her retreating form.

What just happened?

“But you look amazing,” Cooper finally says, breathless, when his brain decides to stop replaying that simple moment over and over in his head. By then, Marlowe was out of range to hear him. He was used to getting chided and reported to HR for those slips - freakin’ Linda - so this feeling was new.

With sudden determination, Thomas’ eyes turn to the glass in front of him, it would be the most protected drink in the history of all drinks. He sits and waits like a Lab playing guard dog. He watches it patiently, while internally vibrating with gitty joy and energy, sipping on his own drink.

Over the background noise of the bar and under the man's watch, the slowly effervescing lager does nothing, save to echo Marlowe's laugh with its own tiny lines of bubbles drifting up into the head. Seconds tick away, turning into a minute, maybe feeling longer as time stretches with the woman's presence lacking in the stool across. All around the seating area are the sights, sounds, smells of people in festive celebration.

So it isn't until there's movement in the agent's periphery that is closer than usual that his awareness clocks not one, but three shapes intruding at the table. "'Ey yo, you done here." It's not a question, but a statement. The young man from earlier in the line for the first taco stand and his buddies stand around Cooper, staring him down, sizing him up again.

One of the others, a tall brunette with square jaw and fairly athletic build, is quick to reach for the cheese breadsticks and snags a couple in his grabby fingers before there's time to stop. He passes one of the breadsticks to the other, the one who had leered at Marlowe a bit, in distribution. "Where'd your girl go? She dump you already?" laughs Rudy McBasic the First, "That why you're here drinkin'… wow, three beers?" How very convenient! One for each of them, even.

Fan-freakin’-tastic, Thomas thinks sarcastically.

Reaching out, Cooper cups his hand over Marlowe’s drink and draws it closer, even as a bright friendly smile breaks out on his face, “Hey, fellas! Good to see you again,” he offers jovially, even if he doesn’t feel very happy to see them. “Actually, sorry to say we’re still using this spot. The Lady will be back soon. But hey! I think I see a spot for you open over there.” He motions in the direction of the bar after setting his beer down. Where seats are being vacated, but will fill again quickly. “If not, I can recommend a great taco place… I know we inconvenienced you early, but over there that stand has the best pig stomach tacos you could ever ask for. Virtually, no wait.”

Could be a lie or not… who knows.

He doesn’t try to take the food or his beer away, those can be replaced, but Cooper is protecting Marlowe’s drink while he gives them a chance to make a better choice for themselves. He promised.

Of the three young men, Bobby Breadthief and Leering Larry are distracted with the glance from back towards the bar. Cooper's not wrong, his perceptiveness having spotted a group leaving for other activities. Rudy, however, isn't so quick to look because he's staring Cooper down still. The man leans even closer, emboldened by the abandoning of food and drinks to his buddies and by the alcohol that's in him already, made clear by the smell of it on his breath and body.

The mention of pig's stomach tacos only pulls a disgusted wrinkle of Rudy's nose and a sneering smile. "Fuckin' gross. You eat that shit?" he growls in Cooper's face. "Why don't you fuck right off and get lost, buddy, and you can get a refill over at the bar yourself," says Rudy. The belligerent boy makes a swipe for Marlowe's drink but his movement is clumsier than Cooper's reflex. Unfortunately, some of the lager spills back onto Cooper's shirt, more than a drop but less than the whole thing thanks to his protective cover.

“Yeah, well, biggest thing I learned in the war is that anything is palatable if you put enough hot sauce on it,” quips Thomas as his smile dulls ever so slightly at the edges, while he wipes at the alcohol on his shirt with a flick of his hand at the end of each swipe. “So yeah, I’m not ashamed to say I do ‘eat that shit.’”

It’s said just loud enough to identify himself as a Civil War vet. Many of them around him might be too.

Cooper studies the men before him, the smile fading a little more. “And, I am sorry guys, I have no plans on moving from this spot.” He keeps his attention on the one leaning over him and grabbing at the drink, but he is very aware of his buddies too. “Please, step back, because I’ve done my best to be nice and guide you young men on a path that doesn't end with you in the drink tank and me apologizing for ruining our date as I will get stuck writing police reports all night because of it.”

A brow arches up a little higher, his head shifting aside with a smirk, “Ya feel lucky, punk?” He asks, pulling out a badge, and slowly flipping it open in the guy’s line of sight. “Well, do you?”

The sight of the spilled beer on Cooper's shirt is enough to send Larry into a snort of mocking laughter, his attention having reverted back to the immediate area instead of at the bar. The laugh dies off as Cooper brings his badge to bear and with it, the bravado from Larry shrinks. "Uh shit, he's a cop," the young man grits out as he starts to vacate the seat previously occupied by Marlowe.

Bobby the tall brunette bread thief, however, spots the badge and seems unconvinced of the claim. His look over Cooper turns accusing, and Bobby steps around to nearly flank Cooper and box him in to the table Rudy wants vacated so badly. "That shield's totally fake," Bobby says with a grunt, "doesn't match the one my ma's got."

Hearing that, Rudy seems to absolutely feel like his luck has turned. Because in another moment, there's a double prong assault on Cooper. Bobby's quick fingers snag over Cooper's hand in contention for the 'fake' badge held up, and Rudy gives him a hard shove from the stool, spilling even more of the lager drink in the imbalance.

The sudden fracas causes heads to turn, gasps and yelps of alarm from bystanders.

Not expecting such defiance, Cooper’s badge is snatched away with almost no resistance. Crap. He needed that back, else he’d be in trouble. His smile is suddenly gone, lips pressed into a grim line.

“Dude! Seriously?! Not Co… ooool!”

His disappointed complaint is cut off by the shove of the other guy. Luckily, instinct keeps him upright by hooking a toe on the stool’s cross bar, so the douche doesn’t manage to push him off on his ass. There is still tragedy as the hard shove connects with his shoulder, sending the closely guarded bottle flying from his hand.

He can only catch a glimpse of its arch, before hearing the crash of glass, he needed to diffuse this before Marlowe came back. So Cooper attempts to use the momentum of being thrown back to try and give Rudy a swift kick to… whatever part he could find. What Thomas fails to consider is the fact there is a table leg between him and his attacker.

Instead of connecting with flesh and bone, the whole table jerks and bounces up to tip to one side with a clank of metal hitting metal, which is muffled somewhat by his jeans. Thomas is thankful he doesn’t have any real feeling in that leg, but he still winces in at the idea of it. The worst part was that the basket of breadsticks were now on the ground and the last beer had fallen to its side, spilling out its contents on the table while it lazily rolled to one side and drops off to the ground.

“Well, look what you did,” Cooper accuses, mourning the loss of bready, cheesy, and malty goodness, “now no one is getting beer and breadsticks.”

Bobby the now Badgethief hops away from the flailing limbs and flying food, backing up with a loud yelp of triumph and encouragement. "Get 'im!" he goads his alcohol-emboldened friend. He's focused on the brawl to the point that he doesn't notice a meaty arm that suddenly wraps around his own that's held up in a pumping fist, twisting it behind him. "Ow! Hey!" he shouts in surprise.

That arm belongs to Rhonda, who has come in like the cavalry and puts Bobby in an armlock, effectively disabling the taller brunette even though he looks the stronger of the two. "The fuck!" Bobby swears, pawing one-handed behind him trying to get Rhonda to release him, failing at grasping anything. Rhonda swings him roughly around and away from being able to see Cooper and Rudy, and she slams Bobby up against some of the seating area's wooden crate barrier. It looks compromising, but her hold is solid.

But Cooper doesn't have the time to notice nor scold much more than he has. Rudy's luck still means the intended kick has only jostled him slightly as the knocked table takes the brunt of a would be brutal kick. Rudy, however, is untrained in his attack. His punch is telegraphed easily to the SESA agent's more skilled eye. The wild swing misses, unbalancing the younger man. He falls into Cooper, a messy half-tackle that leaves him open to counter.

Larry, the third of the trio who had yet to take any action, turns to retreat from the fight as he doesn't want any part of it, but then finds his world turned topsy-turvy. A quick hand from the returning Marlowe snags the back of his shirt collar, twists, and she goes in low for a swift takedown. Larry hits the bar floor with a winded 'Oof!', choked by his twisted shirt and gasping for air. Marlowe holds him down, staring at Larry with a pair of golden eyes as the man's shirt crackles around him in bluish white energy. The material fuses to the floor, sticking him there.

"Thomas!?" Marlowe calls out in alarm.

Luck was not exactly favoring Cooper this evening, he just barely managed not to get knocked over backwards as the man half tackled him in the failed punch. Still it rocks the stool up on its back legs “WhoOoa!” Unsteady, Thomas managed to get the upper hand, but it was still a precarious perch.

Mistakes were being made aplenty, as Cooper decides at that moment to attempt an arm lock, in hopes he can cuff Rudy and deal with the others. It all goes down so cool in his head. However, the action of trying to grab the arm tips the stool back further on its back legs… and he and his assailant are headed for the ground.

In a moment of panic, Thomas tries to grab the front of the man's shirt. He manages to almost snag it, he feels the fabric start to bunch in his fist, but Rudy manages to get a foot under himself and it slips right through Cooper's fingers. There was nothing left between him and the quickly rising ground. When he hits the wind is knocked right out of him - Oof! - and his head bounces off the packed earth.


The end result is a properly dazed Cooper flat out on the ground and reaching up to the back of his head..

The crash of metal and broken glass all hit the same time as the pair fall. From his spot on the ground, Cooper's prone position doesn't much help him when the weight atop him wriggles to life. Rudy mashes a hand in Cooper's face in his attempt to roll off, himself also disoriented with the unplanned, uncoordinated tackle.

More shouts of alarm and movement can be seen from between Rudy's fingers before the young man is hauled up by stronger, beefier hands from security that has finally arrived to stop the fight. From the side, Cooper can see Rhonda deftly manhandling Bobby to hand over to another set of hands willing to restrain the troublemaking thief.

From around Rudy being taken away, Marlowe reappears with a concern writ all over. Her eyes are slowly returning to their original brown color from the shining gold they were seconds ago. "Thomas, are you ok? Don't move. There's glass everywhere." Her hand cups his where he's reached back to touch the forming bruise. Luckily, no cuts.

For several more seconds as Cooper can use to catch his breath, it's chaos swirling around. Marlowe's voice sounds demanding. Bystanders are backed away, but not prevented from gawking. Eventually, Marlowe's talking to Rhonda, who has come back with a small folded towel along with the badge taken back from Bobby. They stand over Cooper, exchange a couple more words, before Rhonda nods and heads away after surrendering the towel and wallet. Marlowe turns back and kneels back down beside him. "Think you're ok to sit up?" she asks softly.

Laying there amongst the chaos, Cooper doesn't really respond even when the hand is splayed across his face. He swears he catches whiffs of burnt flesh, blood, and other less pleasant things. With it comes a growing dull ache of his legs as if his nerves were starting to slowly wake up.

Just like that day…

As his mind attempts to spiral down the rabbit hole of past trauma, his chest feels like a tight band is wrapping around it making it hard to breath, but then…

Marlowe's hand touches his and quickly brings him back to reality with a snap. Cooper is still haunted by the lingering phantom smell of death, but he knows it’s all good.

Even thought he looks pale, Cooper breaks into that crooked smile just. “H-h-hey beautiful, I’m good. I'm good. All good,” he reassures with a shakey, yet confident voice. Finally, untangling himself from the stool, he sits up and immediately winces as pain pours in from the bump at the back of his skull.

Gingerly, touching the back of his head, Cooper glances over at Marlowe, out of the corner of his eyes. He tries not to show it, but he’s pretty damn embarrassed. Yet, despite that he can't help but chuckle as he admits, “This is not how I imagined this date going. You’re supposed to be the one swept off your feet.” Bringing the hand back around, he is pleased to not see any blood.

“Preferably, by me,” Thomas adds, with a little wag of brows.

Yeah, he’s just fine.

Somewhere behind them closer to the bar, loud protestations from the bullies can be heard as Rudy and Bobby argue with the security that has them restrained. Marlowe doesn't pay them mind, as her attention is full on Cooper. She can't help the laugh that accompanies his admission, and shakes her head. "You're incorrigible, Thomas Cooper," she says as she dabs the towel against his beer covered shirt. "Come on, I'll help you up."

The mechanical leg doesn't even have a scratch on it, no doubt, as this time when Cooper gets up he is actually able to, unlike in the memories that haunt at the back of that bruise.

As Marlowe helps him with a hand up, they're rejoined by Rhonda who comes over with another towel and an apologetic look. "Are you okay?" she also asks Cooper, looking him up and down, then at the shattered glass and discarded breadsticks strewn along. The waitress sighs, shaking her head. "Obviously, you won't be charged for all this," she feels obligated to say. "But, do you want to press charges against those boys? Otherwise…" There is a slightly pleading tone, as if Rhonda is hoping he won't make it worse than it already is.

Marlowe opens her mouth to answer, but there is a hesitation on her part as she looks back towards the three young men. One, Larry, is still stuck against the ground with the fibers of his shirt melded into the flooring. Like a fly caught in a web, he wriggles against the bonds and swears. "Yo! Help! Get me up! That fuckin', she's a mutant! That mutie bitch, she did something to me!" Unfortunately for Larry, his companions are under watch from a couple of heavy weight, mean faced bouncers along with a few good samaritans warding them off.

Lips purse tightly at the verbal assault. Marlowe's fingers crush the damp towel in her hand, and she looks away from the bar back out to the main thoroughfare and the colorful streams of paper banners and strung lights.

Once he is on his feet, Cooper gives Marlowe a reassuring smile and waves off her concern. Instead, he turns his attention to Rhonda. “Hey, I’m gonna help pay for this, an apology for getting caught up in a fight at your place of work,” Cooper offers good naturedly, despite the throbbing of his head.

As for the charges… When the shouts for help trickle through the crowd, Cooper turns toward the guy still on the ground. The good natured smile slides away and a shocked look is fired Marlowe’s way. He knew she had an ability, but not what. When she turns away, there is no real judgment in the pale eyes that settle on her back, only concern.

For all that Cooper was harassed by those young men, he took it like a champ and kept his temper. That was him… But those shouts leveled at Marlowe? That was different.

Lips thin into a rare show of anger that she thankfully doesn’t see. It only take a few steps before Cooper is able to kneel next to the stuck man. From where Larry lays he can see that one of Cooper’s legs isn’t made of flesh, as the pants he’s wearing ride up and he can hear the soft whirl of hydraulics. Larry isn’t addressed right away, while Cooper checks him over poking and prodding, ignoring for the moment that words filled with hate and vitriol are flying at Marlowe. Well, mostly, his jaw tightens as he keeps his desire to punch the guy in check.

A brief flicker of relief appears when Thomas finds that it is only the man’s clothes fused into the asphalt.

Satisfied, with his poking and prodding, Cooper leans a forearm on his robotic knee and looks the man in the eye. There is anger in those pale eyes. “I dunno, dude, looks to me that you simply got your ass kicked by a woman after verbally assaulting her and her date.” He reaches out and gives a tug to the fabric looking impressed. “Yeah, clear cut case of self-defense to me.”

Had she actually fused the guy into the asphalt, it would be a different story.

“I should be running you all in for harassment and assault on an off-duty officer and maybe tack on damage to private property too. But, you know what? I’m finding myself in a generous mood,” Cooper glares at the man, voice reasonable if heated. “And even despite the fact you’ve been spouting some rather naughty things at that lovely woman, I have a feeling that she’ll release you. Once that is done, we’re all going to go about our merry way. Bygone be bygones and all that jazz. You can drink till you puke and pass out… and I’ll get more pig stomach tacos.” Shifting his leg aside, he leans down further making sure to place a hand on the ground for balance. It allows Thomas to lower his voice and softly say just for Larry. “Oh… and If I catch wind that you are pressing charges on her? I’ll be sure counter charges are issued for you and your friends.” He sits back up, smiling a fake smile.

“We have a deal, Mu-cha-cha?”

Rhonda doesn't resist the offer to pay but huffs out a sigh, though whether it's because of relief or exasperation for the situation not to resolve, it's not clear. The waitress frowns at Larry's shouting, eyes widened in shock at the vulgarities as well.

A murmur of discontent ripples through the bystanders, but it's lost in the still playing background music of the bar. Several eyes and likely a few cellphone cameras follow Cooper as he strides to Larry's side.

"Hey, help me man, I can't move, I can't— The fuck!?" Larry writhes as he's poked and prodded, clearly having sustained no real physical damage. The blow to his ego, however, might not recover any time soon. The click-whirr of Cooper's leg and its shine under the lights do catch the younger man's senses. Following it up to Cooper's angry stare, Larry only gapes a bit like a fish out of water. The man's face screws into a grimace and jerks his head away as Cooper leans down. While Larry doesn't reply right away, he eventually motions acceptance with a jerky half-nod. "Just get me up," he grits out from clenched teeth, "And don't let her touch me." He doesn't look directly at Cooper, but it's because he's caught Marlowe's approach.

Marlowe takes the few steps to catch up to where she'd left Larry prone and restrained against the bar floor. "Thomas," she says quietly, a wary look sweeping out to the onlookers. "Let's go?" Her eyes flick down to Larry, then over to Rudy and Bobby who are both glaring at them from the end of the bar.

Bobby rubs at his shoulder where Rhonda had wrenched the arm around. Beside him, Rudy glowers darkly in displeasure that his buzz has very likely totally worn off.

"It's just his clothes. They can cut him out with scissors," suggests Marlowe wryly. It would mean Larry will perhaps be the one being leered at later, when he's shirtless and half-pantsed.

That acceptance earns Larry a tight lipped smile. Cooper gives a short nod of his head and says, please, “Good. Glad we could come to an agreement.” What doesn’t happen is Thomas moving to take Marlowe out of there. He wants too, but… While she encourages them to just leave, he doesn’t move. He looks up with an apologetic look and gives a small shake of his head.

Not yet.

“Is your ability touch?” Cooper asks her, quietly. While he isn’t angry at her, he is still struggling not to punch the guy, so she might get to see some of that lingering in his gaze. “What I mean is, can you free him without touching him?”

Marlowe meets the apologetic look with one of her own filled with a secondhand embarrassment of sorts. She's uncomfortable at all the eyes on them, hence the desire to retreat. Cooper's stillness, however, the quiet anger swirling around him is a new one. She's seen him focused and attentive. Never has she seen that look. Marlowe glances away from Cooper's gaze and down at Larry. Her lips curl in distaste.

"Yes," she answers for the first half of Cooper's queries. She rubs her thumb along her fingertips. "And…" The second half doesn't come in a vocalized version, but in Marlowe's turn to kneel on one knee beside Larry. She slowly reaches a hand out for him.

Larry, wide-eyed and teeth bared in an ugly, hideous smile of unhappiness, has no choice but to lay there. "I know who you are," he hisses warningly, "Don't you touch me."

Marlowe pauses, her hand hovering over Larry's shirt, frowns at his threat and with it looks annoyed in her stare down. "If you know, you know," she utters only loud enough that Larry and Cooper can hear it. Her hand moves down from Larry's shirt, closer to his waist. She touches the ground beside Larry's melded shirt.

Despite the man's flinch, he doesn't escape the suddenly sparking motes of energy that jump up from the touch point, traveling outwards and up and around the clothing. The shirt and pants start to move on their own accord as the molecules ripple as if liquid. Slowly but surely, over the course of nearly a minute, the fibers loosen and come apart. Like a gooey substance, the material sloughs off Larry as if shedding a second skin, and form into a gross looking colorful puddle on the bar floor.

Larry is left with only his footwear and the answer of the question everybody can plainly see: boxers or briefs? Briefs, in this case. The gasps and barks of involuntary laughter from onlookers breaks the spell of stillness cast upon Larry, and he scrambles away from Marlowe's golden eyed stare, away from her potential touch. Panic inlaid with spite spits from him as he swears, a parting shot, "You fuckin' mutie!" Larry skitters behind Rudy and Bobby without having to be told by the security guards. It doesn't stop the snickering from the crowd or the phones being held up to take incriminating photos.

Marlowe lifts her hand away from the floor and the sparks stop immediately. The fibrous puddle also stops dead, lying inert but in the weirdest looking solid shape of fibers blended together. She stands from it, looking back to Cooper with her eyes a pair of twin golden rings gradually darkening to their normal brown. Without another word, Marlowe reaches into her hip pocket to withdraw his wallet with the badge. She passes it back out to him, and a look askance to the exit. It's where she's headed, no matter what he needs to remain behind to do.

Unlike others around them, Cooper isn't laughing as he watches the fabric melt into a puddle. It was impressive as hell, but also mildly terrifying. In fact, his eyes widen and mouth hangs open as he watches, unable to tear his eyes off of it. When done, Cooper doesn’t feel sorry for the guy, he deserved it. But he was worried.

The high road he had hoped to take and the protections he had been building, was now in a weird fibrous puddle on the bar’s floor. He wasn’t sure he could protect her after that and that… worried him.

Cooper takes the wallet gingerly from her, trying to form words, but ends up just watching her leave the area. Admittedly, he was still in shock. It wasn't something he had been expecting, not from her, and it made him realize how much he didn’t know about her. His eyes fall to the wallet in his hand, brows lowering, not liking the feeling churning in his gut. He glances at Larry out of the corner of his eye, but there wasn't anything else to say to him either.

Not after that display. Anything Thomas could say would only be hollow words.

Feeling self-conscious and a bit defeated, Cooper climbs to his feet and fishes out a business card. It’s then offered to Rhonda, “Gimme a call and we’ll discuss compensation.” Not much more to say there either. There is a hesitation at leaving, taking a moment to note all the cameras held to record it all. Brass would no doubt get wind of the incident and that left a sinking feeling in his gut.

With a sigh of resignation through his nose, Cooper moves through the crowd to leave the bar and find Marlowe.

As Cooper leaves the bar, he can hear the protestations of the trio of young men as they argue with security. The music is pumped up louder, likely in an attempt to override the negative vibes that had fallen upon the establishment. The door shuts behind Cooper without any interruption from staff or customers.

It doesn't take him long to find Marlowe. She hasn't gone far, but she's put some distance between herself and the bar front and is found leaning against a shop front currently closed for the evening but lights still on likely as some staff is cleaning up. With her arms mostly crossed over her chest, she's not looking in his incoming direction but down at her phone in hand, which she scrolls her thumb along the screen and occasionally taps.

If she’s upset, Marlowe doesn’t seem to show it right away. That’s the beauty of social media as a distraction.

His approach is slow. Maybe he’s watching her or maybe he is just trying to think of what to say to her after that bit of awkwardness back at the bar. “Remind me not to piss you off,” Thomas says to try and ease some of the tension, but the humor fails to reach his voice.

“What happened back there?” Cooper asks, clearly concerned, once he’s close enough to speak softly. “There were… a lot of camera’s back there. It’ll probably be viral by morning.”

The phone scrolling stops upon his speaking, but she doesn't look up yet. It's clear the way she tenses, the line of her shoulders shifting imperceptibly, that she hadn't expected him, at least not for a while. But he's there, standing close enough that his softened, concerned voice cuts through the background noise. Marlowe sighs slowly, her head bowing in a degree of resignation to his verdict. "It's already started," she replies, also quiet. She locks the phone with a short tap and slips it away, turns and faces Cooper full on.

The gold in her eyes has faded already, leaving the normal warm brown of them to look up into his lighter hazel. "I'm sorry, Thomas. I shouldn't have let him get to me." The apology hangs in the air for a beat as she searches for more. "When I saw those guys, those bullies, going after you, I reacted." Lips thin. She breaks the long stare, looking down. "Poorly." Now empty hands come together, her fingers half intertwined. Her fingertips find the sunflower bead on the crafted bracelet on her wrist and turn the smooth glass over and over. "I've probably made so much trouble for you now." Brown eyes lift again, and wince. "And your head," she trails, her concern also peeking through.

“Pfft… It’s fine. I’ll be fine.” Cooper waves a hand at her worry, an attempt to ease her conscience, before letting it touch her shoulder reassuringly. “My exes always said I had a thick skull and not to mention I survived being almost ground zero of a bomb. A little fall isn’t going to take this guy out.” He carefully taps his skull, but still regrets it. He winces at the answering dull throb of pain that radiates through his head. One eye pinched closed against the mild ache, he looked back towards the bar, “Should probably get out of here though, doubt security will be able to hold those three knuckleheads long.”

Boldly, Cooper lets his hand fall to where he can try and take her hand in his, so he can draw her away from the bar. “I also don’t want you to sweat it about the videos, I’m not.” That’s a lie, really. ”I’ve got a HR Frequent Visits Punch Card. Just ten write-ups for a trip to the beach. Just needed one more incident.” His smile kicks over to one side, there was a reason he was still a field agent.

Though Marlowe starts to protest his initial dismissal, she stops at the mention of the bomb. It was the event that blew their paths together, as she's well aware. The reminder brings a spot of color to darken her cheeks, and the line of her lips twists to something yet still unhappy. Her gaze sharpens with even starker worry as he winces at the tap of his head. "Thomas…" She tries again to form her desired words, even as she is led away hand-in-hand, docile, if a touch hesitant in the pace. Marlowe shoots a quick glance back at the bar front, but already there are staff members cleaning up the debris of their encounter and people waiting to be seated in the area, the altercation all but forgotten in favor of fiesta.

"You need to get checked out," Marlowe manages as they walk. She can feel his hand over hers, and doesn't find it an unpleasant sensation. But she steps forward to stall him from their continued path, standing in front of him and looking him over. "At the very least, let me help get you cleaned up so you don't smell like that guy did. Stand still a moment." She brooks no argument with her tone.

Marlowe steps closer to him, closing the gap to a point where they're less than half an arm's length. She lifts her hand to place upon Cooper's beer-drenched shirt. The contact is light, but she places her whole palm against his chest. From there, the blue-white sparks of energy crackle to life from her spread fingers touching the staining liquid, coaxing the molecules forth from the fibers. Brown eyes peering at the stain flare with the color of molten gold as she focuses on her intended action. The beer comes out slowly, coating her hand instead like a glove, crawling seemingly of its own volition up towards the wrist while encircled with the swirling energies. The moment turns into nearly a minute of them standing together, before finally Marlowe lifts her hand away from the shirt and brings it down by her side. With a short flick of her wrist, she shakes off the wet onto the street. And like that, the beer and even the salsa stain are removed, leaving Cooper's shirt dry and spotless. And still completely intact, unlike Larry's clothing from earlier.

The energy dissipates, and so does the golden-eyed nature of Marlowe's gaze as she looks up at him. Evidently, Cooper's easy smile is catching. "Much better," she says quietly.

“My gawd, that’s amazing.” Cooper breathes out the words in quiet awe as her hand draws away from his shirt, only to replace it with his own so he could feel the results for himself. He’d been watching with widened eyes the whole time, especially after seeing the messy side of her ability. Of course, he was mostly worried she’d feel the rhythm of his heart beat faster under that light touch.

Giving an amazed chuckle, Thomas’ pale green eyes lift to find her much darker ones watching him. “Thank you,” he manages to say without stumbling over his words, though they come out a little stilted.

He seems uncertain and shifts from one foot to the other like he was trying to decide what to do or say next. Thomas knew what he wanted, gaze dropping briefly to her lips. Instead, his hand moves from where it had been examining Marlowe’s handiwork towards a lock of her hair in front of her face. However, mid-motion she can see him lose his courage and the movement is arrested. Instead it shifts to rub the back of his neck. “Ah… like I said we should…” He gives a nervous laugh and takes a step back, motioning behind him with a thumb over his shoulder, “go….”

Inwardly, Thomas is cringing at himself. Smooth move, dork.

He can see from the slight flush of her cheeks that the focused pull of her power wasn't without effort. But it isn't the only reason the color lingers on her face as she gazes right back at him. Marlowe's lips, as he looks to them briefly, go from easy smile to something a little more serious, parting in an anticipatory inhale. She's still as he moves his hand towards her.

If he had touched her, he might have known that her pulse was racing. But as he loses his nerve and steps back, she blinks and slides her gaze off his face and to where he points for the way back. Confusion flits across her expression, but soon follows understanding. "Okay," she agrees, the easing, casual smile returning. "Let's head back. But, first." But what? Marlowe leans in, reaching her hand to the one rubbing at his neck. The motion makes her step up where he had stepped back, bringing her closer. She takes hold of his raised hand, cups her fingers around his, and without hesitation kisses him.

There is a short intake of breath and stilling of his body, like Thomas might say something or pull away, but none of that happens and the moment is unspoiled as their lips meet. His body relaxes and headache is instantly forgotten in favor of something much better. She feels his free hand touch her hip, before it moves to wrap around her and pull her in close.

When the kiss finally breaks, the hand she touches moves to do what it had wanted to do before, pulling both their hands to where he can thread a length of curly hair behind her ear. Cooper lets out a low breathless chuckle, his smile nervous. He felt like a freakin’ teenager and he felt awkward about it. “I should get my ass kicked more often.”

Marlowe drapes the hand she releases from his on to Cooper's shoulder lightly, smiling as he pushes back a bit of her hair. She smiles easily, brown eyes shining as they look into his lighter gaze. The moment breaks as she shifts her weight back in a light lean away, the better to take his whole face in. "Absolutely not," her reply comes with a light chuckle and mock-sternness. "All things considered, I'd prefer you hale and hearty, Mister Cooper, and out of trouble."

She takes another step back then rotates to be at his side, sliding an arm around his at her waist. "Besides, the only trouble you're going to be in is in a few hours when the salsa peppers catch up," Marlowe notes teasingly, "And I think we better get back to some place more comfortable before that happens."

Marlowe tugs him along, leading the way back to where they'd met up. The motorcycle seat compartment slides open so she can take out the helmet she'd stored there, and she holds it out to him with expectation. "For your protection," she says, grinning crookedly.

Thomas’ own arm settles around her in answer to her gesture on the stroll back, allowing himself to find amusement in their nearly similar height and just the feel of her leaning into him. The difference from the start of the date is silently noted.

“Pretty sure the pepper’s are well ahead of you.” A hand rubs at his stomach and Cooper gives an exaggerated grimace at the mention of his impending doom. Though he has to stop to grab the helmet held out to him.

There is a look of curious confusion at the helmet now held gingerly in his hands. Any confidence gained from the kiss goes *poof* at the prospect of a ride with Marlowe. In fact, words flee him and and sputtered a bit unintelligently.

Giving up on expressing himself verbally, Cooper simply plops the helmet on his head. He is clearly okay with joining her on the bike and seeing where it takes them.

It's hard to say at first whether Marlowe's chuckle contains more teasing than sympathies for the current state of Cooper's digestive tract. Though words fail him at present, they don't for the woman as she quickly re-secures her hair and slides astride the bike. "Let me know if you need to stop anytime," Marlowe says genuinely, glancing over her shoulder back at him to ensure he's properly seated and giving him a crooked but true smile. A short touch to the start button, and the Ventus hums to life with a profusion of color and HUD display. Marlowe moves to grip the handles.

"And hang on tight."

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