Sidestep Socialization


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Scene Title Sidestep Socialization
Synopsis Ace and Elliot sojourn to Rossignol following their meeting with Gideon.
Date February 19, 2021


That live music touted as the thing to see at Rossignol is already rolling by the time Ace and Elliot arrive there. The lights are lowering for the evening, and there's patrons filling in with the falling of the sun outside. The thrum of the bassline sets a tension in the air that suits Ace well, chords walking between keys while the chanteuse at the piano plays the accompaniment that supports the song murmured into the hanging microphone before her.

She paints her fingers with a close precision
He starts to notice empty bottles of gin
And takes a moment to assess the sin she’s paid for

His eyes rest on the stage— on her for only a moment. Satisfaction is a fleeting flicker in his expression before he gestures a hand for them to head to the bar.

"If you don't drink," Ace says over his shoulder to Elliot, eyes turning to complete a glance his head doesn't entirely follow through for. "What do you take? Any particular flavor profile? I'm not someone who believes that just because you're sober means you shouldn't have any fun."

Unlike at the d'Sarthe offices, he wears a smile after saying as much knowing as it is meaning to be friendly.

Elliot’s eyes catch on the night’s central performer, though not for long enough to accidentally attract direct eye contact. Well, he thinks, If it isn’t the mysterious Lady O. That explains that. “My tastes would be best described as adventurous,” he replies, pulling himself away to follow Ace to the bar.

A lonely speaker in a conversation
Her words are swimming through his ears again
There’s nothing wrong with just a taste of what you’ve paid for

“Traditionally I’ll make it up as I go along, constructing a flavor profile from anything interesting that catches my eye in the market. I’ve been cooking longer than I’ve been crafting alcohol-free drinks, but it’s a new passion of mine.” While it’s true that alcohol consumption can have weird effects on in-network equilibrioception, it’s mostly been a boon to have something Wright can enjoy in social gatherings where alcohol is otherwise present. Where she can share Elliot’s perspective without feeling the effects of alcohol in his system, and craving it in her own.

Adventurous? Ace's brow lifts at such a description, thoughtful as they near the bar. "I can't promise anything unexpected for the moment, but my interest is piqued." There's the curve in his voice to indicate as much as well, one eyebrow still arched by the time the bartender notices them on approach. Before he's even taken a seat, he says across the bar, "I'll have my sour, and our friend here will have a soft White Lady."

The bartender flicks an opaque glance to Elliot before nodding and slipping off down the bar for ingredients.

Say what you mean, tell me I’m right
And let the sun rain down on me
Give me a sign, I wanna believe

Unfastening his suit jacket with one hand before coming to a seat on the barstool, Ace settles in with a sigh of relaxation. His work week's at an end— sort of. Or he's at least one step closer to it. "How adventurous is adventurous, I wonder?" he asks Elliot, turning to give him his full attention while he listens.

“Depends on the adventure, I suppose. As far as flavor goes, I’ll try anything as long as it’s not chicken alfredo,” Elliot replies. He chuckles quietly to himself as he takes a seat of his own. “As for other pursuits, I’m not the type to turn down an experience that intrigues me.”

His eyes flicker around the room as he speaks, performing a head count and checking for likely security out of habit. He turns back to look over Ace as well. “How about you?” he asks, “You seem like a man of refined tastes.”

Whoa oh, oh, oh, oh, Mona Lisa
You’re guaranteed to run this town
Whoa, oh, Mona Lisa
I’d pay to see you frown

At Elliot's joke, Ace's brow lifts in a genuine gesture of amusement, finding the comment to be the right side of charming. He leans an elbow on the bartop, grinning lopsidedly. "You aren't, are you," he says of Elliot's adventurous streak. "It's how you ended up back with Wolfhound, I imagine."

Even the way he casts an eye across the bar is endearing in its own way. He's not a fool— just someone with something personal on the line he's willing to risk, apparently, everything for.

And if Ace is lucky, he'll get the privilege of knowing just what that is.

She senses somethin’, call it desperation
Another dollar, another day
And if she had the proper words to say, she would tell him
But she’d have nothin’ left to sell him

"Oh, I wouldn't go that far," Ace replies, far too mildly to be truly modest. "Perhaps critical in taste, and particular in interest. I take a shine to things unique, if nothing else. There's nothing like a breath of fresh air to break up the monotony of…"

With a faint laugh, he casts the hand on his leg up and out in a loose gesture at everything. Or maybe perhaps, just here.

"I find myself curious at how you entered into such a change in careers, though, I must admit." Ace looks back to Elliot without real pressure behind it, the give and take of conversation seemingly in play rather than a concerted dig for information. "Though I'm sure my own resume, were anyone to write it, should look a bit odd. From the Army to all this is quite a career jump of its own."

“It’s easy enough to track once the Ferry is added to the mix,” Elliot says, leaning back against the bar casually. “Logistics is just as useful for moving people as goods, and Ms. Miller had a foot in both worlds. There was a niche to fill. Wolfhound was the natural outcome to that series of opportunities.” The war. He gestures with his hands, You know how it was.

Say what you mean, tell me I’m right
And let the sun rain down on me
Give me a sign, honey, I
I wanna believe

As the music plays Elliot lets himself experience it without vigilance for only the barest of moments, though he keeps his posture indicating comfortable rest. “Back to Wolfhound is more of the same, other than accounting for potential future restriction of creature comforts. I do enjoy the ability to enact change with the surgical precision of a tac team. And creature comforts.” The last added on as the obvious with a shrug.

It’s not nearly so simple, but this seems like the time to chalk his personal goals up to inhibition. The selfish, care-free adventurer is easy to trap, easy to plan for. People who take that bait are themselves easy to maneuver. He checks the security outside the building and relaxes with a bit more earnestness. Still enough time to put on this show for Ace and get home to discuss tactics with Wright.

“So what does one do to break the monotony of,” he gestures vaguely, “All this wearying carnal delight?”

Ferry is a fascinating bit of information that does plenty to color in the spaces between. It's the sort of mark on your resume one only gets by being public about their involvement, and Ace can appreciate how that particular brand of information hadn't shown up on his search.

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, Mona Lisa!
You’re guaranteed to run this town
Whoa, Mona Lisa
I’d pay to see you frown

Sympathetically, Ace provides, "After defecting, there was a resistance group I partnered with briefly. Several jobs, each a new experience…" After dithering a moment, he submits, "Sounds like a similar experience."

If in reverse, with one leaving military work for the private sector, and the other entering into paramilitary work.

He lifts his head when the bartender returns with two frothed glasses, turning his elbow out to draw closer the tumbler of whiskey sour while a more elegant glass of white lady is placed on a napkin before Elliot. "Soft, as requested," he confirms.

Mona Lisa
Let me out
Pleased to please ya

Non-alcoholic, that'd imply. Lemon juice, sweet syrup, and egg white pair with… elderflower cordial and a hint of grapefruit juice. It certainly lacks the bite of gin and liqueur, but the tang of citrus mixed with the other more delicate flavors is still a worthwhile contrast of taste.

Ace sighs as he lifts his drink, confessing to a pastime of "Hunting." in a droll tone. He sips off the top of his glass, licking away the foam with a smack of lips to deal with the sour taste. "It's not quite the same as running with a tac team, but there's good land for it west of here. Across the Pennsylvania border, not the Jersey one."

"Anything more exciting and unordained than that, and I might run the risk of losing my own creature comforts here," he explains with a wry twist of his mouth.

Mona Lisa!
Let me in!

Wright backs out as Elliot tastes the drink, letting it sit in his mouth for a moment to let it roll over his tongue. He can taste the blank area where gin should have bridged the gap, the elderflower having to do the legwork. It misses some of the refreshing qualities of juniper, but overall it’s a pleasant profile. He raises his glass with an appreciative nod to Ace and the bartender before setting the glass down. A mocktail isn’t much more than a reminder of what’s missing from the glass.

He clears his palette, rubbing his tongue over the roof of his mouth before nudging Wright to return. In the background he begins idly building a flavor with elderflower as a base, something he can toy with later in the kitchen.

Say what you mean, tell me I’m right
And let the sun rain down me
Give me a sign, I want to believe!

“I was in the keystone state for a spell back in the day. Did some hunting of my own,” he lies. An oversimplification, really, as Wright took down the beast. “Wild boar has the most unique tang to it. Not gamey, though when I paired it with the available local flora the sausage tasted, unfortunately, like how one would assume perfume tastes.” Not pleasant, chemicals and oil. The flavor is fresh in his mind, the analogy merely for Ace to puzzle out.

“Venison was always more predictable, though Rocky Mountain ram was possibly my favorite.” He quirks his head up as something occurs to him. “I’m not sure why the locals called it Rocky Mountain ram, being too far east.” That one had taken far more exertion, and arrows, to bring to a stop than he’d been prepared for, archery improficiency notwithstanding.

Look at them, the both of them lying, each with their own shade of half-truths. Ace tilts his head to the delicate description ascribed to the taste of something unpleasant. He flashes half a smile in sympathy.

Whoa, Mona Lisa!
You’re guaranteed to run this town
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, Mona Lisa
I’d pay to see you frown

"So well-versed," he commends with an overtone of affection. "Though variety does make the practice better bearable. The way you talk about it, though— was this more a wartime pastime?" If hunting to eat could be called a pastime. "Or is that just your adventuring spirit showing?"

“War,” he says, though he’s still smiling comfortably for a conversation about survival. “Definitely not as relaxing as it could have been, considering the stakes were high. Hell of a lot of protein.” The topic has Wright reminiscing, and Elliot remembers with her. Gregory loved hunting, almost as much as he loved being disappointed in Wright. Like most of the memories from those years, it sours quickly. They divert their attention elsewhere.

“I haven’t sport hunted with a few minor exceptions in the younger years,” he says, cribbing more from Wright’s memories. “And that was always more of a chore than an adventure. But these days I can appreciate the sensory aspect of the end product at least, divorced from the stressors of survival.” Which is also only partly true. Even his sense memories are tangled up with life’s various traumas. A scent can provide a sudden and vivid recollection of a battlefield as often it can a childhood library.

Most of Ace's reaction is hidden away under the side of his glass as he takes a drink, confined to the shift of light in his eyes— and in this dim, who can really read that well. It's easy enough to see his gaze has wandered to the stage again, at least momentarily. Maybe it's a time he's familiar with.

Say what you mean!
Tell me I’m right!
And let the sun rain down on me!

"It sounds like we might be slightly alike in not getting what others hope we would out of the experience, then," he confides with a flit of his light eyes back to Elliot. Ace lets that linger for only a moment.

There are better things to talk about, anyway.

"Myself, I love a good drama," he demures. "The theatre and the tension of backstage, putting on a good performance as well as seeing one put on… I find that much more marvelous a time." Setting his drink back on the side of the bar, he chuckles. "The loss of Broadway before I ever got to see much on it stings my heart. The theatre community starting up over in the college district… there's some heart, there, but it doesn't touch that same calibre."

There's not a yet appended, but an air of one all the same. He can hope.

Give me a sign!
I want to believe!

Any feeling of being unsettled by Ace enjoying the wrong part of hunting is carefully concealed. He turns from Ace with a wry, knowing smile at the corner of his mouth, eyes weaving through the performers.

“That sounds like a job for sponsors more than anything,” Elliot says. “The hustle and bustle of a live performance does sound like a challenge. Everything in the right place at the right time. I haven’t seen a performance in ages. I’ll have to see if anything there piques my interest.” He isn’t one to seek out the theatre arts himself, but he has a suspicion that Rue would love a night on Broadway.

"There's a community theatre out there putting on a charming little rendition of As You Like It currently," Ace recommends with ease. He crosses his legs to become more comfortable in his seat. "There was a performance of Hadestown I saw when back in KC for the holidays that was quality. They've rebuilt plenty out there, and what wasn't touched at all by the war is astonishing for a city of its size. Nothing like how things were here in New York…"

"Although," he allows. "A place like Kansas City, Missouri wasn't ever really on the forefront of social topics in the way New York ever has been. Some might even say that still holds true today." Idle thought spoken, Ace smirches his tongue off the inside of his cheek. "Ah, well."

"You know, I do look forward to seeing how this all plays out, though," he confides to Elliot without looking back at him. It's not explicit, but the air of the comment has changed and maybe too so has the topic in silence. "I'm rooting for you."

There's nothing wrong with just a taste of what you've paid for…

Elliot’s recent foray to KC was very brief, and in a working capacity, so he has little to offer on its various merits. Delivering another one of the PISEC escapees to the government doesn’t seem like a good conversation piece in the current context.

“I appreciate that,” he says with a warm smile that looks far more genuine than it feels. I’m rooting for you is a far cry from I’m on your side. “Hopefully it transpires without anything too dramatic happening.” He could of course be referring to whatever nebulous favor he’s offered Gideon in exchange for the meeting. Mostly he’d just be embarrassed if he had to be extracted by Wolfhound.

"Oh, on the contrary," Ace muses to Elliot in a quieter voice than before. "It'd be so wonderful were there plenty of it." His head tilts back even as it lolls thoughtfully in his direction. "I know precisely the man d'Sarthe has in mind for you to exercise your skills upon— and while I agree I hope nothing befalls you in the field— I cannot wait for what answers you have to bring back."

His fingertips drum idly against the side of his drink, engaged plainly in his conversation rather than the tune which soon will be wrapping. "I should warn you, though— your target is a keen player. He'll be alert to the shifting of waters around him, so I do hope you'll take care in keeping your distance while still being close enough to hear whatever there is to be heard." Ace's eyes half-lid in thought, head righting. He demures quietly, "But like I said, may we all hope you'll bring back something exciting indeed."

As the decay of the final note of the song is drowned out by the smattering of applause, the woman at the piano smiles and expresses her gratitude in a murmur to the microphone she’d just been singing to. With a nod of her head, she excuses herself from the stage and someone else takes her place on the keys.

The blonde descends the steps to the house floor and makes her way to the bar where Ace and Elliot sit, though she grabs a seat the end marked with a Reserved placard. Her place. A chilled lemon drop martini is set in front of her almost as soon as she settles into her seat. “Merci beaucoup." When she lifts her glass, her blue eyes alight to Ace, a silent toast to him, or at least acknowledgement. A tacit question of whether she ought to sweep in to his little discussion with a face she finds more than familiar.

Unless and until she receives a signal, O is perfectly happy to enjoy her libations and bask in the glow of a job well done.

Elliot applauds the performance politely, though he did enjoy it. Best not to seem too invested in the performer. When she makes her way to the bar he plays it safe, replying to Ace with a wave of his hand to interrupt his eyeline before their eyes might make contact. If there’s any chance she didn’t out him to Ace, and therefore Gideon d’Sarthe, he’ll keep their past interactions to himself.

He laughs companionably as part of this performance. “In that case,” he says, “I’ll shoot for intriguing but not confrontational. It never works out well when a target is too discerning with their privacy. The excitement should always follow at an anticipated time and place.” He turns further from Odessa to scoop his glass back up from the bar, facing the stage again before taking a second sip.

Ace meets the look Ourania lifts to him with a slight upward lift of his chin. Before it can be interpreted as invitation, however cool, he lifts his glass in a return sign of acknowledgement to her and lets his gaze flint back with perceived interest to Elliot, instead.

No, he'd prefer those two to stay apart.

"Depending," he says quietly. "On the amount of information provided about your target, I could feed you some supplemental facts you might find useful." He lifts his brow briefly, lightly, after making the offer. He'd do this out of the kindness of his own heart, surely. "Something that might help tip the scales in your favor, should you find them lacking weight where it's most needed."

He drinks again from his glass, the taste sampled and swirled before swallowing, thoughtful on the secretive offer made nearly in susurrus. The look fades with signs of a smile, a slant of his eyes back toward the stage set with its new dressing.

"But I'm sure I've taken up enough of your time for one evening. You said you had a ride waiting for you, did you not?"

“Did I?” Elliot asks playfully, setting his drink back on the bartop. He leaves the coy response as is, Ace can make of it what he will. Wright is outside waiting, though they’ll take different routes to their eventual ride home.

He adjusts his posture as one does when making it known they intend to stand. “I’d certainly appreciate any tips you can give me. Going in blind is the sort of gamble only losers take.” His posture makes it clear that he isn’t one of those lesser folk. He intends to go into this operation with enough intel to walk him through all but the most unforeseen outcomes.

“I appreciate the drink, and your time. I assume you value it, so I will as well.” He stands, buttoning his jacket, putting his hand where it should go in the event Ace is the type to shake hands. Easily redirected to a pocket should Elliot not need to sully himself so.

There's that shift in tone again— one Elliot had tried with him before when Ace was more intent on keeping him at arm's length. His eyes half-lid in catlike contemplation of that something heard rather than seen, wondering at it.

And now he was going again, right after that hint of a moment. Shame.

He turns back when Elliot makes more obvious his movements toward leaving, chin lifting just slightly before settling neutral again at the observation Ace values his time. No harm in denying that, and appreciating it not being, apparently, wasted. "Infringe on it anytime, Mr. Hitchens. You have my interest, and so far, you've proven you won't waste it. I trust that any reaching out you do will have ample reason behind it."

Ace only looks up to Elliot out of the top of his eyes when the other man stands, no hand offered. Either because this goes beyond a moment of mere business or over a dislike for unnecessary touch is truly a toss-up. "Until then," he offers as his farewell.

“Enjoy your evening,” Elliot says with a smile. He nods in parting, heading for the front door. It feels odd to be in this position again upon leaving.

“Christ fuck,” Wright says into a cold cellphone as she makes her way down the sidewalk. They don’t have keywords for this. “I can not get a read on this guy. Was that flirting? Were you flirting?”

Elliot just chuckles. He raises his burner to his ear after a perfunctory tap of activity. “Hi, I’d like to place an order for pickup,” he says, earning him a snort from Wright, though neither of them are on an active call.

“Fallout,” Wright replies.


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