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Scene Title Platitudes
Synopsis Aaron, as it turns out, can be a real jackass when he's cranky.
Date July 28, 2009

The Serenity Lounge

The Serenity Lounge. An ordinarily quiet spot, the lounge is home to an upper-middle class crowd, a few low-key celebrities, and the odd college student. It's not that there's a requirement of money, as there is plenty to be had there that is inexpensive. But dress, on the other hand, must be formal to the extent of being classy. That is why, in a fairly uncharacteristic move, Aaron Michaels approaches the Lounge in suit and tie, one of the few he owns.

The venue is normally quiet, but as his eyes settle upon the sign out front on his approach, he realizes his quest may be for nothing — this night, at any rate. Heidi Thomas. The name doesn't ring the bells it should, if only because Aaron is now flustered. It's fairly hard to demonstrate one's talent when the piano is otherwise occupied. And it would be, he realizes, because Heidi is a Jazz singer and pianist. Nevertheless, he shows up at the door and gets himself into the place anyway, getting a cup of tea from the bar and settling into one outlying table that is presently unoccupied. At least the music's good. Soft, and something he can get lost in.

Having sought a night of entertainment in the Lower East Side and ending up with two scraped knees and two skinned palms, Peyton Whitney had to go home and change — it was on the way that she saw a poster for the up and coming singer Heidi Thomas at The Serenity. That, at least, was good news and gave Peyton a purpose for the evening.

At home, she changed into a black cocktail dress that somehow split the difference evenly between sweet and sassy, added a pair of four-inch satin heels, and pinned her hair up — she's been favoring the Audrey Hepburn look of late, as it plays up her dark hair and eyes and lean lines.

She makes her way into the club, heading to one of the small tables, eyes skimming for anyone she knows … or, equally important, knows of.

It's been nearly five years since Aaron last played before an audience larger than what would fit in Old Lucy's — since the Lightbringers. Nevertheless, even his profile hasn't changed much. His hair has, but while it's been short for some time, he's started to grow it out. Whether that was for style or simply because he has no desire to get it cut is anyone's guess. He sips at his tea, leaning back in his chair. Yup, no chance of playing the piano tonight, at least, not until Heidi's done with it, and from what he recalls from his brief glance at the sign, that would be closing time.

Peyton tilts her head to survey the boy… well, man… at the next table. He's watching the stage, so it's safe enough. He looks familiar, but she can't quite match the face to a memory. She sips the very green liquid in the martini glass thoughtfully, before turning her dark eyes to the stage, watching the woman on the stage. Peyton's posture is artful nonchalance… one hand lazily draped over her table, the other holding her martini glass at an angle that doesn't obscure any one's view of her face. Her legs are crossed, and one shoe silently taps out in the air the rhythm of the song being performed.

There is only a half-glance and a vague look of recollection on Aaron's face as he gives the new table occupant a once-over. His eyes return the stage while gears in his head turn over, processing what he saw until it comes up with something. A less-than-savoury memory springs to mind, mixed with the wonderful melodies of Heidi Thomas. 'Oh God, not you,' springs to his mind, but it's mostly an overexaggeration, and he's far too nice to say it aloud. Instead, he comments aloud, his eyes still affixed on the stage, "I think I've seen you somewhere."

Her head tilts and she turns to face him, leaning her chin on her hand. "You look familiar, too," she admits, smiling. After all, he's a handsome enough man, and if he looks familiar, he has to be Someone, doesn't he? She smiles and gives a nod to the stage. "She's really good, isn't she? I have some of her songs on my iPod." She takes a sip of the unnaturally colored drink. "Wait… Aaron Michaels!" she proclaims, a smile lighting up her face as she comes up with the name. Apparently the memory she has isn't as distasteful as his. She offers her hand. "Peyton Whitney."

"Peyton Whitney," Aaron says. Not that he ever thinks he got her name way back when, but he definitely remembers her now. "You've got me right," he says, finally turning to look at her. "So, what brings you to the Serenity Lounge this … wonderful evening." And he says 'wonderful' with as little sarcasm as he can manage. He takes a sip of his tea, eyeing her once more.

"Well. Presumably Heidi Thomas, right?" Peyton says with a raise of her brows and a smile. She's a little more world-weary around the eyes than the naive little party girl she had been a few years ago. Now she's a jaded little party girl. "You? You still playing? You were very good. You sort of disappeared from the scene after a while." She sounds sincere, and her eyes are curious.

"Oh, right," Aaron says, with a bit of a chuckle. About all he can manage these days, and his response to her compliment is tainted with one of many reasons for his recently declining mood. "Didn't help that my entire band got incinerated," he says, and what follows is not meant to be nearly as callous as it sounds, but is instead a slipped-out observation, "Not that you look particularly light-hearted yourself." Of course, because he can see people's pain. He's like half-Dementor, half-anti-Dementor. He sees people's pain and eliminates it for them so they don't have to worry about it for a while. He lets out a sigh, "I'm sorry, that was rude of me."

Aaron sets his tea down. The romantic lighting of the lounge isn't very good, but anyone who knows pain can see it in his eyes. "No, I … well, I do play, but I haven't touched one of our old songs since … Well, you can imagine."

Her brows rise up and hide in her bangs when he uses the word 'incinerated,' her cherry-red mouth opening as if to protest before he tosses out his assessment of her own mood. She'd protest that fact — what good is a down-hearted party girl, after all — but then he's talking about his music, his pain. She frowns. She isn't sure if she console him or be angry, and the sudden change in music to a sad, lamenting song doesn't help. "Sorry to hear that," she says quietly, looking away.

Yeah, she's not so chipper now, is she? Aaron sighs again. He just ruined someone's evening. Go him. He takes a drink from his tea during the whole awkward silence, pondering if he should try to break it or not, hesitating with the fear of doing more damage than he already has. Truth be told, he almost didn't hear the sad lamenting song, but now as he starts listening again, he begins to relax. Thus far, the night is going nothing like he planned.

Peyton stares at the stage for a moment, before sneaking a glance out of the corner of her eyes. She turns again to face him. "My parents died in the explosion, too, by the way," she says, suddenly. There's almost a defiant look on her face, as if daring him to make a sarcastic comment about that. Or use the word incinerated again.

"Yeah," Aaron says, "It sucks, doesn't it?" He manages to not say how he was going to get the band back together, that he was going to get things in motion to propose to Annie, the other singer in the band the very day, how she'd have been in the Village with him at the time of the explosion if he hadn't let her stay home. Abigail would tell him it wasn't his fault, would probably literally beat that into him. She had been sick and needed to rest, anyway. But no, he still blames himself.

He doesn't say incinerated again. Instead, he shares what he's been doing. "I've been playing classic rock at Old Lucy's in Greenwich Village, but I miss what I used to do. Not too many venues for it these days, I'm afraid."

She simply nods at the rhetorical question. If he can discern the emotions, there's a lot of guilt that floods with her own memories of that day, but she simply turns to look at Heidi again, and picks up her glass. She downs the rest of the lime-green fluid in one swallow. "Old Lucy's? Never been there, but good music's hard to find. I might have to look it up. What nights you play there?" She turns back, and her dark eyes sparkle a bit more in the dim light than they had a moment before. It's the glint of tears that will not fall.

Aaron cannot discern emotions, but he can certainly take wild stabs based entirely upon how much pain he sees in a person. There are so few causes of the really deep pain that eats at the very core of a person. And he too has tears that won't fall. It's just one of those things with depressed people. He drinks more of his tea, yearning for alcohol but staying away from it for Abigail's sake. God knows what she'd do to him if she thought he was drinking again. Somehow he doesn't think Old Lucy's is the sort of place Peyton would hang out in, but he doesn't say anything about that, even if a smirk does play upon his lips for a half-second. "It varies, but I'll be there tomorrow night and Friday for sure."

She catches the smirk and a dark look crosses her face for just a moment. Just an instant, and then she's all smiles and big eyes again. "Old Lucy's in Greenwich. Believe it or not, I've been to Greenwich Village, Aaron," she says, a slight edge of annoyance in her own voice. "Maybe I'll see you there." There are nights, such as this one, when her celebrity friends are busy, and there's nothing important to go to, where a small bar without any glitter will do. It's rare, but it happens.

Believe it or not, some people would ask where Old Lucy's was. Not that he says that, despite her apparently patronizing tone. Aaron nods after another sip of tea, "Maybe you will." Clearly, these two are going to get along swimmingly.

She frowns and turns back to the stage. She's not used to such apathy. Or is it antipathy? She can't even tell, and that bothers her all the more. She sighs and lifts a hand as a waiter is going by. "A Gold Dust?" she says with a smile and big eyes when the waiter leans over her table. "And whatever he's having." She nods to Aaron, then looks back to the stage.

"Club soda with lime juice, please," Aaron says, though he can't help but wonder why this almost complete stranger is buying him a drink. "Well," he says, "You know I'm a musician. What exactly is it that you do to occupy your time?" Perhaps it's the wrong wording to ask what she does for a living, so he can't help but clarify, "What do you do for a living?"

Well, at least his drink won't cost a lot. She tilts her head and narrows her eyes as she continues to smile, the tilt of her head a "touche" sort of gesture. "I oversee my parents' estate?" The waiter heads off to the bar to go get their drinks. "Actually, a CPA does that, to be honest." Well, at least she's honest. If a slacker.

"Oh, well aren't you lucky?" Aaron says before he takes a drink of his tea. "I also work at a grocery store — part-time musician doesn't pay the bills. I vowed when I started NYU to never work retail again, but it just didn't stick. Tuition debt's a bitch." He's gotten all callous again. "At least you're honest about it, though. I'm sure plenty of people would make something up."

Her eyes flick to the exit. She's clearly thinking of leaving, but she ordered drinks. And there's alcohol in hers. She waits, and the server's back with her cocktail. "I try not to be a hypocrite," she says evenly, lifting her drink and sipping it gratefully. "There are plenty of people who would be happy to make what I get a year as an income, you know. Why work if I don't have to? Maybe some day I'll find something I want to do, but until then… whatever."

She's lucky. Alcohol is off limits to Aaron, and he can already feel a headache angrily gnawing at his temples. "Yeah, I'm one of them." He only barely manages to not say anything beyond that, lest he come across as a total and utter jack-ass. "Hell, I'm sure I'd be happy with a tenth of what you make, but I'm just not lucky enough for that, I guess." His eyes don't touch the exit. As much as he probably should leave before he makes more of an ass out of himself, the music is soothing. Which, of course, begs the question of how he'd behave in its absence.

"A tenth…? I don't think I get as much as you think I do a year," Peyton says coolly. She takes another sip of the strong drink. "I'm not rolling in dough. Am I lucky? Sure, in that I had parents who were successful and made sure they had their affairs in order. Am I lucky they died and left it all to me? Sure. That's some sort of luck. Not sure I'd call it good."

"I'm not greedy," Aaron replies. Anything would help the debt he has, that's for sure. "I never said good, I said lucky. Our insurance company never quite got to me. They went bankrupt." As he says the last word, his mug is set down just a little too forcefully, its contents sloshing about, some over the lip. His tea, consequently, dribbles slightly down the side of the mug. "Always be grateful for what you have." Which clearly doesn't apply to him.

"Thanks for the platitudes," Peyton says, reaching into her clutch to find some cash and tossing it on her table. "I'll have to remember that one." She stands in a rustle of silk and attitude. "Good luck with your career, Mr. Michaels." Apparently they're not on a first name basis.

It was something he had avoided saying earlier, when she said she hadn't found something she wanted to do and after he realized who Peyton was and remembered the girl at the party — the follower, the clone of so many 'popular' people before her. So desperately she tried to fit in without actually knowing who she was. It's not quite a snarl as Aaron says it, but it would probably shock anyone and everyone that knows him, "Good luck finding meaning in life, Miss Whitney. I'll give you a hint: It doesn't involve pretending to be somebody."

The only rejoinder is the view of her back and the clicking of those lovely high heels on the floor as she makes her exit.

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