Pas de Deux for Two Merrymakers


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Scene Title Pas de Deux for Two Merrymakers
Synopsis Elliot proves to Rue that he's full of surprises.
Date February 28, 2021

Elliot’s directions this evening have been delivered en route, Left here or Next right coming mid conversation, giving Rue little time to guess the destination. “This looks a good place to park,” he says as they come upon a parking lot bustling with other people. These people are also dressed for an evening on the town. Not black tie, but fancy nonetheless.

Sheepshead Bay

Suspiciously Active Parking Lot

February 28th, 2021

6:45 PM

“You are so lucky I’m not an anxious driver,” Rue tells her beau as she shifts her Jeep into park. A brow is lifted at the sight of all the people milling about, and their manner of dress. “What’s all this?” she asks curiously, even as she’s releasing the clip on her seatbelt. She’s grateful she prefers to dress up a bit to go out anyway. Being as how it’s as close to her birthday as they’re going to get for the next three years, she wouldn’t have treated this as a tee-shirt-and-jeans occasion anyway.

Tonight she decided on a short sleeved dress of gold sequins with black accents — a tie knotted in an off-center bow around her waist — and a hem that falls to mid-thigh. A pair of black leather over-the-knee boots completes the outfit. It along with her gold and black smoky make-up is too much for a bar or a stroll in the park, but Rue’s never let being too much stop her from wearing what she wants. “What have you tricked me into?” She turns in her seat, elbow resting on the back of it, chin resting on the backs of her knuckles, waiting.

“That is a very good question,” Elliot says as he unbuckles himself. He’s dressed in a black suit, though his shirt and tie are decidedly not of the black-tie event variety, bright blue and white respectively. He gets out of the vehicle, looking around as though he might obtain some clue as to what they’re doing here.

“Do you think it’s a carnival of some kind?” he guesses, as though he were not the facilitator of this mystery. “Or a petting zoo? Oh man, is it a pony? I’m so excited!”

Rue slips her phone into the pocket of her dress, checking to make sure her wallet with her ID and cash is firmly attached before she gathers up her coat to drape over her arm. She rounds the front of the vehicle after she hits the lock button on her fob. The lights flash once, highlighting the paleness of her legs between the darker colors of her dress and her boots with the brief illumination.

A sidelong glance is cast Elliot’s way once they’ve met in the middle. “If it was a petting zoo or a pony ride you wanted,” the words are delivered in a low murmur, “we could have stayed home.” There’s a knife-sharp grin flickered in his direction too.

“You know how much I hate walking into an ambush,” Rue sighs dramatically, shifting the drape of her coat so she can reach out to take his hand. “Always been a little easier with you on my six, though.” That’s a genuine sentiment, a statement of fact. But she grasps his hand a little tighter suddenly and pulls him in toward her side. “No lagging behind to watch my six,” she warns him.

For all her put on vexation, Rue is pleased to be set up for a surprise. Excited to find out what it could be. The sparkle in her eyes when she gives one last glance in his direction telegraphs that giddiness as she determines the flow of pedestrian traffic and merges the pair of them into it seamlessly.

“Ms Lancaster,” Elliot says, scandalized. He’s smiling brightly as he guides Rue to their destination, hand in hand. “Plenty of time for six-watching later,” he assures her.

They enter a gentle yet steady stream of pedestrians on the sidewalk, all chatting quietly in the cold night air. To keep any stray whispers for spoiling the surprise in the next few seconds, Elliot supplies chattering of his own. “Okay, don’t be mad,” he says, keeping his eyes ahead as he speaks to her in confidence, “I signed us up for a team hot dog eating competition. I know, I know, but Wright was supposed to be my wingman on this one and she had to bail last second. I really think we have a shot of getting into the nationals though. I believe in us.”

Dark lashes are bat. Who, me? She is the very picture of innocence. Just look at these dimples!

The moment he says don’t be mad, she knows she isn’t about to be. Elliot’s more the type to acknowledge she will be mad, and they can go from there. That does not mean she was prepared for his explanation. Rue is caught off-guard just as much as he hoped she might be, laughing hard enough that his mission is accomplished. She’s definitely not picking up any stray whispers at the moment.

“Well,” she begins between incredulous little giggles, “if it’s hot dogs we’re eating, I hope it’s the Hebrew Nationals.” Rue laughs into her hand, both pleased with her stupid joke and disgusted with herself for it. “The white tie makes sense now. It’s a cleverly disguised napkin. Brilliant set-up, Hitch.”

Elliot laughs honestly at Rue’s joke. “Brilliant,” he says. “I didn’t see it coming. And you’re right, this is my best napkin. Breaking out the fine china for tonight.” He squeezes her hand as he redirects them around the corner of a building onto a larger street.

He seems ready to carry on in silence, but stops short. He uses Rue’s momentum to spin her toward him, free hand sliding beneath her jacket to her back. “Happy birthday, by the way,” he says. “I figured we could get in a birthday kiss before the show.”

The momentum trick is one she knows well. If she wanted to fight against that pull, to counter, she could. But being captured by Elliot is precisely where Rue wants to be in this moment, and so she spins effortlessly toward him, like it’s simply the steps in a dance they’ve rehearsed together countless times.

“Oh.” He can tell from the very first syllable that she’s about to tease him again. “I suppose I can be magnanimous enough to give gifts out on my birthday.” With her boots, there’s no need to lean up to the kiss, just into it. The one bestowed is sweet and lingering. Chaste enough to allow bypassers to say aww instead of throw side eye. She can save those kisses for when they’re back home. Or in the dark, depending upon where he’s taking her.

“You do spoil me,” Elliot says. Distraction complete, nobody is standing between them and their destination. Elliot hums in satisfaction before nudging Rue enough to reach around to a door handle and pull it open. “And here we are,” he says.

A susurrus of polite conversation spills out onto the street along with warm yellow light. Just inside the door is a folding table manned by a ticket taker, and a sign on an easel opposite the table.

Walker Community Theatre and School of Dance Presents:

Swan Lake

Rue gasps.

“It’s Swan Lake.” One earbud has been slung over her shoulder while the other is tucked into her ear. In her hands is an old brick of an iPod. “I salvaged this from back home. My parents still had it in my old room, so I snagged it before I came back here. These things were practically indestructible. Plugged it in and it still charged. All my music on it.”

Rue smiles shyly up from where she sits with her back against a crumbling wall. “My old ballet music calms me down. I can go through all the steps in my mind, from memory. My body still remembers the moves.” Gently, she rocks forward in time with the music in her ear, though her shoulders stay mostly against the pockmarked sheetrock. “I always wanted to dance this one. This piece in particular.”

Blue eyes lose some of their usually keen focus as she indulges in a moment of losing herself to the music. “Odile’s coda.” The name of the piece. “The black swan, Odile, beguiles the prince and takes him for herself. It isn’t even that she wants him, she just needs him to be compromised.”

Does she need to draw the parallels between that and what she does?

“You remembered.” They don’t need to be linked for Elliot to know that Rue is suddenly overwhelmed by this simple act of his, this choice of gift to her. It’s evident to him in the way she freezes in place for a moment, but immediately begins to relax again, instead of staying on high alert as she usually does when presented with something unexpected.

Taking a step back to grasp tightly to her composure, she watches the ticket exchange. When Elliot turns back to her, she throws her arms around him in a tight hug. “You jerk. I hate you.” In which the emphasized words are actually antonyms for her feelings on the matter.

Elliot doesn't hide a small yet self-satisfied smile as he watches Rue's reaction unfold. He sighs during the hug, though he returns it firmly. “I mean,” he says, “If you’re not into this, the hotdog eating competition is just another block down the road. It’s your birthday, I don’t want to make this whole night about what I want to do.”

He smiles at the ticket taker, accepting two printed programs as he heads into the auditorium, Rue’s hand in his.

A firm kiss is planted on Elliot’s cheek before she lets him go so they can hold hands again, squeezing once as they make their way inside.

Once they grab their seats, she starts flipping through the program, speculating on the choreography and giving the highest overview she can of the various popular styles and her opinions on them (spoiler: they’re all great to her for one reason or another), wondering what the costumes will look like, commenting on the inclusion of this arrangement or that…

If he wanted to see her sparked to life, then Elliot chose well. It’s only once the lights go down that Rue finally hushes. It begins with her cozied up to him, leaning against his arm and her head nearly on his shoulder. Before long, she’s sitting up straighter and leaning forward, captivated. Even when she eases back again, she’s still transfixed by the movement on the stage.

The swans maidens dancing around the lake. Odette meeting Siegfried. Rothbart’s terrible plot to ruin the Swan Queen’s chance at breaking the spell over her. Odile’s execution of it. The acceptance of her fate and Odette’s escape from it — her tragic end.

When it’s over, she’s wiping tears from her face as surreptitiously as she can before the lights come up. Rue turns and rests her forehead against the side of his so she can murmur in his ear. “Thank you.” If this is the last birthday she ever gets to spend with Elliot, then this will have been a good one.

Elliot listens to Rue’s commentary with rapt attention. He’s fully engrossed, building memories with purpose. It’s not entirely necessary, he’s sure—assuming the link survives the voyage—Wright will keep him up to date on Rue’s goings on. But getting to see her be joyful in the here and now is worth a hundred long-distance calls through an intermediary.

He pays attention to and honestly appreciates the performance. His eyes are focused there, but he keeps his peripheral senses of Rue and her reactions just as close in his mind. He’s happy to lean into her in those last moments before other theatre goers begin shuffling and applauding. “You’re very welcome,” he says quietly. “I’m glad I got to see this with you.” He imagines it would have been a lesser experience without her body language describing the emotional arcs of the story.

“I’m glad you wanted to see this with me.” For the entire length of the performance, she managed to be the most herself he’s seen in some time. There’s those times where he catches sight of her in their shared yard through the window or moving around the kitchen, sitting in the living room before she realizes he’s awake. Even at her most relaxed, there’s often a sense to Rue that she’s performing. Sure, there’s raw honesty in her emotional breakdowns, but it isn’t like this. In this, there was no self-consciousness. She blocked out the world, narrowed her focus, and simply let herself be.

He’s seen that while she’s staring down the scope of her rifle, too.

Rue is content to let the other members of the audience filter out ahead of them in favor of lingering in her seat a little longer with Elliot, letting her own memories form from this outing. Closing her eyes, she wills herself to catalogue the scent of his soap and cologne, the warmth of the braid of their fingers, the tempo of his breath. It’s not from a place of melancholy that she’s inspired to say to him, “I wish we could spend evenings like this together all the time.”

“I’m happy to spend as many of them like this as you’ll let me,” Elliot says, giving her enlaced fingers a squeeze in his own. “Time allowing. Not trying to speak for your entire nightlife. Happy to appear where you need me.” He never presses for a schedule, making room and understanding whenever an invitation for company conflicts with Rue’s time spent with someone else.

“I’m just happy to see you happy,” he says. “Happy to contribute to your happiness.” He pulls away from her only enough to access the inside of his jacket, pulling out an envelope. It’s not a letter, the shape not much larger than a paper check. He presses his finger and thumb against it to unfold it, showing a pressed club card within.

“If you ever get the urge to dance,” he continues, “You can practice here.” He sets the envelope in her hand, not much more than a gift card for drop-in classes and studio access for a few months. “I do love to watch you move.”

“It’s nice to be happy,” Rue admits. “You’re… a big part of that.” Not just for this outing, but in all the little ways he encourages her and supports her. Not the least of which in giving her a place of her own to live. “We should go out more often.” Nights in are nice, but this is something different. And their opportunities to spend them together are a finite resource. There’s no date set yet, but eventually… Well, that’s a later problem.

When he pulls out the envelope, Rue’s brow creases, curious and slightly confused as to what he could have for her in a package like that. When he presents her with the gift, however, she gasps, eyes glued to the card for a moment before looking back to Elliot, as if waiting for him to say he’s just kidding.

But of course he isn’t. Confusion gives way to another wave of overwhelming emotion. She’s touched, elated. “I always have the urge to dance,” Rue tells him with a breath of slightly disbelieving laughter. “I’m not self-conscious about it,” she insists of her typical form of stretching and cardio exercise, “but I just kind of expect that everyone finds it a bit weird.”

There’s no reach for him to announce her intent, just the lean forward and the kiss as an expression of her gratitude. “I’m starting to get the impression that you like weird,” she teases. “Or at least my weird.”

Elliot seems prepared for the kiss, and smiles in a sneaky way when Rue pulls back. The night is all going to plan thus far. “Dancing doesn’t make you weird,” he says, “Though you’re right in that I enjoy a bit of weirdness now and then.” His eyes flicker over the crowd momentarily as he judges the speed they could get out of the building while everyone is in a rush to be the first into traffic.

“And I’m glad you’re happy,” he says. “You’re the one putting in the work though, don’t give me too much credit. I’m glad to be the support where you need it.” He supposes the crowd has thinned out enough that he can make a leisurely saunter toward the exit without running into clumps of attendees. Standing, he offers a hand to Rue.

“I’d love to go out more. You can pick an activity for next time even if you think that I’d think it’s weird. Which reminds me,” he pauses, an eyebrow quirking upward. “I’ve got one more present for you today. It’s utterly indecent, shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company, and you get to spend the entire ride home deciding what it is.”

The hand is taken and Rue comes to her feet. A quick pat down makes sure she’s assembled her affects prior to their merging into the flow of pedestrian traffic. “Don’t be so quick to wave off credit, either.” That piece delivered, she doesn’t intend to push anything further than that.

It’s clear she’s already brainstorming the moment Elliot says she gets to pick the next activity. Twice over, apparently. Where only one of his brows comes up, both of hers do in response. “I what?” Rue asks with a bubble of laughter that’s just as giddy as it is nervous.

Elliot's look becomes slightly more devious before he elaborates, but dissolves quickly into a more conspiratorial smile. "It wouldn't be fair if your next birthday present was catered to my perception of what you'd find," he pauses to nod at an elderly couple pressing a bit too close, "Inappropriate to speak of in a crowd. But you're familiar with the lay of the land, which is my apartment, and the general options for housing a variety of leisure activities."

They pass into the vestibule and Elliot nods in thanks to the staff. "Is there perhaps something you'd like to do, or like done to you, that I could sayafter the factwas my planned birthday gift all along? I trust your judgement in these matters. Long bath, back massage, naked Lazer Tag, you name it and I'll say it was my idea."

It’s naked Lazer Tag that breaks through the tension of her embarrassment finally, allowing Rue the space to laugh. A hand comes up to cover her mouth, but it doesn’t do much to stifle the noise. She swats his shoulder without any real force behind it, shaking her head. “I can’t believe how casual you can be sometimes.” Except that she can, because she’s been this person before. Just usually in a lower voice and with her playing the role of instigator. Elliot has caught her off guard by turning the tables on her. It’s not unpleasant.

“Okay, I get that you covered the whole surprise thing with this.” She waves a hand toward the venue as they exit. “But I like surprises. Never feel like you’re gonna screw up by giving me the wrong thing. Just so long as it’s not a dick in a box or something.” She grimaces, and also receives a look from a woman unironically wearing a string of pearls like they make her an alpha female. Rue flashes her a look like back. Fight me.

“Unless it comes with a vegan leather harness,” she adds after a moment of consideration. “That’d be okay.” Rue scrunches up her face in an expression of playful mischief, dropping a kiss on Elliot’s cheek. “How about you let me soak in your tub,” her garden apartment doesn’t have one, which suits her just fine most of the time, “with a couple of glasses of wine, and we can see where the night takes us from there?”

“Simple, elegant, luxurious,” Elliot ticks off. “Sounds like a perfect way to spend an evening. We’ll need to rob a winery first.” He squeezes her hand as they stroll into the night, flinching against a sudden burst of cold air. The chatter outside is louder as people no longer feel the need for the polite quiet of a performance.

Having not seen each other for several years before last fall, it can be surprising to notice how different Elliot is now. In the blur of the war and change with Wolfhound, he’d always been reserved. He’d come out of his shell a bit during the time, but even then he’d have naked lasertag as a mischievous glance before ever saying it outloud. Attempts to coax it out of him would be met with an embarrassed smile and a polite shake of his head. He left the boisterous, slightly-too-loud and inappropriate commentary to Wright.

He walks in happy silence for a moment before wondering aloud. “So does the box wear the vegan leather harness, or the dick?” He barks out a laugh before adding, “That works on more levels than I had originally anticipated for a throw-away joke. Don’t mind my filth.”

She was reserved once, too. Polite, even. Respectful. Proper titles and surnames for everyone. Their CO had once been Mister Epstein to her, before they’d cut the bodies of civilians down from trees, and she’d begged him to shoot her dead, rather than leave her to drown. She didn’t really hit her stride until she started learning how to switch things off. How to shove feelings into shoeboxes, label, categorize them, and put them into mothballs, never to be addressed again except with enough whiskey to drown them.

Maybe they just cut themselves off from their parts in different ways. Although Rue seems to have grown into the person she pretended to be, more or less.

For better or worse.

She startles herself laughing at the way Elliot is unintentionally way funnier than he originally set out to be with that comment of his. “Oh, baby,” she sighs between fits of giggles, “I never mind your filth.” That kind of question demands an answer, and it cannot be ignored. “But the box, obviously.”

There’s an eagerness that has her pace moving quickly, though not unreasonably so. After all, this time she knows which way she’s headed, which allows her greater confidence. As they round the corner that deposits them just outside the parking lot, she grabs his coat to drag him along with her as she pulls them both into a lean against the brick. No one’s pinning anyone in place here, they’re just getting out of anyone’s way. She has a very serious question to ask him. “You wanna feel me up in the back of my Jeep like we’re a couple of teenagers?”

Okay, so that wasn’t serious at all.


Elliot meets Rue's mischievous gaze with one of utter sincerity, holding her arms to ensure she understands the gravity of what he's about to say. "Rue, you know god damn well that there's nothing I would love more than to paw at you with my numb, ice-cold hands in the back of your uninsulated Jeep on a windy February night in a well-lit parking lot. Let's do this."

“Oh,” Rue telegraphs through her laughter relief that her outrageous notion has been accepted, “fantastic.” She leans in for a brief kiss, one with enough heat that maybe their hands might not be so cold after all. “You’re absolutely primal, you know that?” Her nose brushes against his, managing to be soft and affectionate, yet provocative. “I fuckin’ love you.”

Taking him by his tie, Rue steps away from the wall and back toward the parking lot. “C’mon,” she purrs. “Let’s go home.”

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