|"Curiouser and Curiouser"|
|What: A dapper man who is more than he appears meets a punker chick who is more than she appears. Curiosity abounds on both sides.|
She's playing the odds. It may seem like she's playing the /wrong/ kind of odds, but--she had two horrid experiences in bars in Metropolis, one of the nicest cities on the bloody continent. Therefore, it stands to reason that she might have better luck in Gotham, one of the /worst/ cities on the continent. She normally avoids Gotham, but she just got off work a few hours ago, and wanted a beer, damn it. And not a lot of places would be open at dawn.
Tanya sits at the bar in what can, at /best/, be described as a "dive", her Dodge Tomahawk outside and her helmet on the seat next to her. Aside from her fingers, the only thing the leathers don't cover is her face, but that's enough. It usually is. She sips her beer and idly watches the television in the corner, ignoring the other patrons. All she wants is to relax and watch the news. Maybe, just maybe, the odds will be in her favor and nothing bad will happen. If Metropolis turned out to be a bad idea for her, maybe Gotham won't.
"One of these days, Bernie, we're going to have to meet someplace with less vomit on the tables." Two men busy themselves with a game of pool. Judging by the number of striped balls left on the table, one of them is winning quite handily. 'Bernie' lines up a shot, and sinks the only remaining solid ball aside from the 8. Therefore, it's the man in the tophat and tails who is losing. He looks about as out of place as one possibly could, but appears to be conversing quite amiably with a large man who never got the message that denim jackets with the sleeves cut off are no longer high fashion. But then again, neither are tophats.
"You always say there's vomit on the tables of anyplace doesn't sell those fruity drinks with the little umbrellas in them." Bernie sarcastically says as he reaches over for his Generic Whiskey on the Rocks. "One of these days, I'm going to get you to order a man's drink."
The crack of the cue ball with the commentary gets Tanya's attention, and she turns her head to look at the men half-behind her and across the room. Hmm, Pool. And--hmm, one of them seems to be a century out of date with fashion. Not that she can really speak, herself, considering the sorts of outfits /she/ usually wears, but it's definitely eye-catching. And marks him as definitely not a rube. Someone that attention-getting wouldn't, well, let themselves be attention-getting, fashion-wise, in that manner if they were a moron. Maybe there's hope for this bar, yet.
Grabbing her helmet, she turns around and slides off the bar stool, casually walking over toward the billiard table. As she goes, she sizes the game up. Most of the stripes left for the gothic gentleman, only the Eight ball left for the 'Eighties throwback. She smells a con in the works--and she's not above a good con, when the mark's right. "Next round's on me if the fella in the tails loses," she says friendly enough, setting her helmet down on an empty table top nearby, keeping her beer in-hand. "Got'a go with the underdog, y'know?"
Bernie can't help but snort. Fortunately, he hadn't actually taken a sip of his drink yet. "Ha! You're on. Shade hasn't won a game against me in... how long has it been since you broke me out of prison? 2004, right?" As he lines up his shot, Shade corrects "You've got me confused with your other dapper friend. I leave prison breaks to the amateurs." Bernie looks confused for a second, but then turns back toward the woman. "He's right. Stumpy Joe's the one did the actual breaking me out part. Shade just sipped on his tea and made fun of the guards' moustaches."
"Will you please hush, Bernie? I'm about to save this woman the shame of ordering you a... Pabst Blue Ribbon or whatever it is that you chase your whiskey with." Shade gives the woman the briefest of appraisals over his square-lensed purple shades and then pulls back his pool cue, and shoots the cue ball right into a corner pocket. Bernie erupts with laughter.
No comments on her looks, no mutterings of "damned muties" or some similar--Tanya's going to have to come here more often. She has to smile at the interaction of the two, though doesn't seem to give a huge crap about the possibility of the sleeveless man being broken out of jail--though, that's primarily from her being intelligent enough to know what city she's in. At least a third of the citizens are jailbirds who've been broken out, and she damned well knows it. She knows better than to say anything against it, especially when the odds aren't in her favor of walking out in one piece--and she'll be damned if she leaves her Tomahawk behind.
When the man scratches the cue ball, Tanya clucks her tongue and shakes her head. "Hey, game ain't over yet," she tells laughing boy. "You've still got to make your Eight ball, and if /you/ scratch, he wins by default." She gives the man a good-natured wink, there, then pulls out a chair and spins it around, to sit on it backward. It's really not to look "cool" or anything; motorcycle leathers make it hard to sit in a chair "properly". She takes a not-dainty sip of her beer, then sets the bottle on the table. Budweiser, for the record. About as blue collar as it gets.
Bernie seems far from worried. He tosses back the rest of his whiskey, and then slams the glass down on the barstool he's been using as a table. Apparently he's not in the mood to take any chances, because he spends a good thirty seconds chalking up the end of his cue.
Meanwhile, Shade uses the lull in action to strike up a conversation. He walks around the pool table, both to remove his potential obstruction from the playing surface and to get a bit closer to his mysterious cheerleader. The lack of a drink in his hand is just one more difference between him and the majority of the bar's patrons. All several of them, anyway. "Very sinister choice of brews, young lady. Do you know what happens to the Budweiser Clydesdales when they've grown too old to be in commercials?" His delivery is deadpan, his eyebrows arched almost to points above his fancy glasses. His voice is cold, with a significant rasp to it, as though he had just inhaled a whole lot of smoke before speaking. Given the semi-toxic atmosphere in the bar, it's not all that unlikely that he did.
There's some definite amusement in the way Laughing Boy--for that's how Tanya thinks of him now--takes his time with his shot. He's smart to do so, of course, but it's still amusing. When the man in tails walks around the pool table, she watches him approach, retrieving her beer as she does so. His comment earns a grin, and she lifts her bottle in something of a salute. "Mmm, you can taste the horse flesh, too," she quips, then takes another draught.
She doesn't comment on his choice of dress; who's she to talk, really? She thought a pink scarf with her leathers was a good idea, and didn't care what anyone else thought. She does, though, obviously notice the man. He's about as hard to miss as she is, really. Stretching out her foot, she nudges another chair out, saying, "Take a load off; looks like Laughing Boy there will be a while. And you can tell me what other beer trivia you know, while you're at it. How they pick the beer-horses from the glue-horses, for example."
"Glue horses have much thicker hooves, for starters." The Shade takes the proffered chair, flicking his coat tails behind him like a concert pianist as he sits down. He folds one leg over the other, his body postured in such a way that he has an equally decent view of both Bernie and the leather fetishist.
Bernie finally finishes preparing, and easily sinks the shot. "Heh. Good luck affording something Shade will drink. You might be in luck though, I don't think they serve Caviartinis here. Heh heh." Bernie waves at the barkeeper, who has of course seen the entire game. "Another double. This interesting specimen here's paying."
The Shade smiles quietly, looking at the pool table for several seconds after the winning shot has been made. "You are truly an artist Bernie. Perhaps you ought to give up this life of petty crookery and attempt to play snooker professionally?"
Raising her bottle, Tanya looks over her shoulder at the bartender, signaling with a swirl of her beer that she is indeed ordering a round for the three of them. "It's not every man who can drink a cocktail while looking dapper," she replies to Laughing Boy. "The thing about drinking is what your drink says about you. A bottle of beer says you just want to relax, that you've worked your ass off. A cocktail says you're refined, and ordering it in a bar like this says you're comfortable with yourself enough to have a good time without giving up that refined class. I think we can safely see what a double whiskey says." That's said with a grin and a friendly lift of her brows; she really has no idea what a double of whiskey would "say" about Laughing Boy, but that's part of the joke, really, and she isn't actually trying to hide that fact. That's also part of the joke. Friendly ribbing without being genuinely mean-spirited about it all.
"It says I wanna get drunk, is what." The drink is served up pretty quickly, and Bernie shuffles over to the bar to get it. While at the bar, he begins talking to the Only Other Woman in the bar. Although there are only two women, that's not a terrible ratio when one considers just how few people are actually interested in drinking in basement bars.
"Don't let the hat fool you, my dear. My alleged refinement is largely a matter of vicious rumor and conjecture." Shade unfolds his legs, and shifts the angle of his chair just slightly, to allow for easier conversation. "I'm actually more of an absinthe drinker, but Bernie is convinced that absinthe is both prohibitively expensive and non-alcoholic. I don't correct him when he's wrong, it's how we remain such good friends." Shade turns his head to look at the bar, casting his eyes over the selection of bottles. "It's positively scandalous that such a delightful drink is illegal in this country." Nearly every syllable he enunciates makes his English heritage obvious.
Aww, well, at least Laughing boy will hopefully get a shot at some nookie or something. Tanya certainly wouldn't begrudge two adults whatever they want out of companionship started in a bar. When the dapper fellow turns a bit, she gives him her attention again. "That may be, but if so, it's a rumor of the most widespread variety, and not so much conjecture as the result of abductive reasoning," she says with a smile, inclining her head a little. "For those who actually pay attention to such things, anyway. As for absinthe, didn't they make a version without that one chemical in it? I forget what it is, now, but I could have sworn some brewers came up with a way to make the stuff without it. That said, I've heard that it's not as good. I confess to not having the chance to taste either, so I can't compare. But to prove I'm not a total plebeian, while I can't recall the ingredient that made it the most toxic, I know it came from Switzerland in the late Eighteenth Century, where it was marketed as a medicinal elixir." The smile widens, there; she pays enough attention to history to remember such things, at least the interesting bits. She might look like someone with the vocabulary of an eight-year-old and a mentality to match, but--books and covers, and all.
"Ah yes... the medicinal elixir times. When anything with cocaine or opium in it was considered fit for new mothers. Those were the days..." Shade looks away a bit wistfully, but whether his wistfulness is genuine or not is anyone's guess. "Give it a few decades, and we'll be putting drugs back in our soft drinks. Of that I am quite confident. But absinthe was never as bad as people think, it simply had the misfortune to be consumed primarily by unstable persons." Shade looks at the young woman a bit more searchingly now, but much of what his eyes do is obscured by his shades. Still, it's clear that he is at least moderately more impressed with her than he was a few minutes ago. "I'll have to send you a bottle of the good stuff. I know a distillery in Belgium."
"I think quantity also had something to do with it," says Tanya, arching a brow and pursing her lips in thought. "Didn't you have to, like, drink a whole bottle of the stuff to really get--wormwood!" She snaps her fingers as the memory hits. "That's what it was. I think you had to down a whole bottle of the stuff at once before the wormwood got to you, and pretty much only the unstable would do such a thing." She lifts her bottle again in something of a mock salute.
It's nice to find someone who knows enough about history to have an interesting conversation on the topic, and in a dive bar, of all the places. That one she chalks up to his friend's influence, though. "But if you really want to send me a bottle, that'd be much appreciated." She unzips a pocket over her heart and pulls out a business card. "And if you have a car you need fixing, you can send both to the same place." That's said with a grin as she slides the card across the table before zipping up the pocket again. "Mack and Co. Automotive Repair" it says, then lists the phone number, address, all that. It lists her name as "Tanya Li", and below that, "Restoration Specialist."
For a couple of seconds, Shade looks at the card. Having satisfied his curiosity, he places it in one of the pockets on his vest. "It will be there sooner than you think, Miss Li. Unfortunately, I don't ever use a car." He nods in the direction of the bar. "But Bernie has been known to steal one on occasion, if you keep buying him drinks I'm sure he'll send you a few clients. Just don't buy him too many, or he might offer you the guest room in his trailer." Shade's expression softens a bit, and he allows himself a brief chuckle. "I must say, I'm a bit surprised you work on automobiles. Judging from your leathers and that helmet over there..." Shade points in the helmet's general direction. "... you've as much use for cars as I have."
"I like how they--fit together, I guess," says Tanya, shrugging one shoulder. "They're easy to deal with; there's a problem, you can trace it to the source, and fix or replace as necessary. And older cars don't have electronics shoved into every corner, so you don't have to worry about computer programming. I like cars, in general, but--my bike was kind of a gift, really." She grins, there. "Besides, at the end of the day, sometimes it's nice to be able to whip through traffic and see if my modifications can hold up." A beat, and she cants her head to one side a bit. "Something I don't think Laughing Boy back there would really appreciate. Trailers--aren't really my thing, after all."
"Bernie doesn't seem to mind them. Personally, I need a garden and enough room for all of my books. Despite my love of cleanliness, I find as I get older that some things simply must be kept, even if one has to have a few additions put into one's house." Shade looks like the kind of person who would have a room filled with jars of spiders, so there's no telling how many additions he must have needed to put in over the years. "You seem more like a... loft above the garage type. Small kitchen. Empty beer bottles. With an old leather sofa, no doubt." He smiles wickedly. "How close did I get?"
Arching a brow, Tanya studies the man in turns as she listens to him. She's both amused and thoughtful as he describes her likely living situation. When he's done, she chuckles softly then takes another not-small sip of her beer. Yes, she's kind of nursing the thing. She also has to drive home, and on a motorcycle that feels like it's going faster than the speed of light. "Actually--you're somewhat close, on a few details anyway," she says, grinning again at the man. "Loft apartment, but not over a garage; small kitchen; no empty beer bottles; the sofa is upholstered, but not with leather, though I think it's been around for a while." She lifts her free hand to wag it in that "kind'a/sort'a" motion, saying, "All in all, not too bad. I've got something of a book collection myself, though I do have titles besides automotive manuals and the like. Working through 'Sins of the Fathers' by Susan Howatch, at the moment."
She rubs just beneath her nose, taking the bare beat to study him in turn. "What about you, then, hmm? You've a large house, though you admitted that much so it doesn't count; but I'm guessing with old furniture--and I don't mean made only a few decades ago. Probably have a faux-Victorian thing going on, huh? Bookshelves all over the place, but not all filled with books. Some mementos, some pictures maybe, certainly some decorative items that mean something personal to you but wouldn't seem like much but knick-knacks to visitors--if you even have visitors. I get the feeling you do most of your socializing outside the home." Turn about is fair play, really.
"You're right in every particular, except for one." Shade reaches into his pocket and pulls out an oddly shaped pocket pipe. He twists the stem around, and tamps down the tobacco in the bowl with his finger. Highly aware that he has left an idea unfinished, he glances at Tanya from the corner of his eye. "There's absolutely nothing 'faux' about any of my Victorian era furniture." He flicks the head of a match with his finger, and once the sulphur has burned off he places it above the bowl and begins puffing. Thick, fragrant smoke begins to seep out. Suddenly, he turns his head towards Tanya. "Oh, you don't mind if I smoke, do you?"
"If I minded smoke, I wouldn't be /here/," Tanya says light-heartedly, tapping the table for emphasis. "And that pipe tobacco smells a hell of a lot better than than what most of the people around here use. Marlboros have a really harsh scent to them, so something sweet and woody? Yeah, I'll take that." Between the two, anyway, though she's obviously not much of a smoker, herself. At least she's not the kind to really care what /other/ people do. "So, anyway, where the heck do you /get/ real Victorian-era furniture? I mean, I don't think it's quite my fashion style, but I've seen listings on eBay--thousands of dollars for /one/ armchair. I nearly fainted when I saw what a full dining table went for." That's said with a smile, then she brings the beer to her lips for a final sip.
As he puffs on his pipe, Shade's eyebrows knit for a few seconds. Then his expression relaxes as he takes his mouth off the pipe stem. "I've had them for quite some time. They weren't quite as valuable when I bought them." It's a casual, matter of fact explanation. It's also the truth, in a way. But the crinkling that occurs in the corners of Shade's eyes make it obvious that there is more to the story. "You might have noticed, I've something of an interest in antiques." He gestures with one hand to indicate the pipe that he's smoking. "I found this one in an old curiosity shop in London. I think it's out of business now. I haven't been to London in years."
Studying him for a few moments, Tanya sets her empty bottle on the table and reaches for the second one without looking. Which--leads to a moment of blind groping, but what the heck. At least she doesn't knock the thing over, though it's a close call. Lifting the bottle, she tips it a little to point i at him, saying, "Okay, with all the innuendo going on--let me guess, you're some kind of mutant that lives forever, right? I mean, if you are, that's fine; it's not like /I'm/ going to get all Friends of Humanity on you or anything." Another grin, and she points to her eyes. No irises, no pupils, just endless neon pink where most people have "whites". She does, of course, ponder whether to tell the man that she can see the threads of magic swirling around and through him, the magic that's intriguingly hard to decipher--but she's also curious what he'll say.
Another smile spreads across Shade's face. "I find it far more satisfying to give hints than explanations. A sense of mystery is by far the largest part of my appeal. Let's just put it this way: I'm much older than I look." Slowly he stands up and collects an old cane that is propped up against the pool table. He clearly doesn't need it for anything other than furthering his affectation, but he holds it with a far more familiar ease than one would if it were merely a costume prop. "Clearly, you subscribe to a different school of thought, but subtlety is only learned with age, I suppose." Lifting a finger up, he pulls down his glasses to reveal solid black inky eyeballs. "Bernie! I'm heading out. Don't get too drunk and forget where the shipment is being delivered." He gives the tattooed girl a smile. "And you I shall be seeing sooner rather than later. I owe you a bottle of absinthe, after all." And with that, he seemingly dissipates into a stream of black smoke. And then he is gone.
There's that amusement again in Tanya's face. It's not amusement found at the man's expense, of course; found, rather, at how different he is, and not just for the obvious. "I'll be looking forward to seeing you soon, then," she says as he leaves, lifting a hand--and her eyebrows lift when he dissipates into smoke. Okay, that's one trick she's /got/ to learn. She takes a sip of her beer, watching where he disappeared for a moment longer, then murmurs, "Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser," as she straights in the chair once more and leans on its back.