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From the depths of Nemo and an old Victorian house with a dead furnace, I send forth this episode, and hope that you enjoy it.

Wide Awake in Wonder City

Angelica grabbed her black leather car coat from the closet, and followed the last office staff and patients out of the clinic, making sure the door shut and locked behind her. She walked quickly, because the night was brisk and the neighborhood wasn't great. Well, no neighborhood was great any more. This was why she was wearing her low office heels, which were easy to run in if she had to, and her favorite loose black skirt for ease of motion. As she went, she subtly raised the light level of the entire block she was traversing, especially when there were a lot of doorways and alleys. It wasn't a neighborhood where she expected to meet the men in black, but it never paid to be lazy, since the men in black weren't the only hazards.

She reached her destination, a little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant, and found Kit Castaneda, in faded blue jeans and a clean blue buttondown shirt, lounging on the one uncomfortable straight chair that constituted their waiting area. He sprang up when she came in the door.

"Hi, you!" he said cheerily, and kissed her on the cheek.

"'Hi, you'?" she said, mock-archly, kissing his sandpapery cheek. "Is that any way to apologize after last time?"

Kit rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry."

Angelica smiled at the bored waitress who came forward with a couple of menus. "Two, please."

The waitress handed her the menus and gestured at the nearly-empty restaurant. "Wherever you want."

They didn't even consult -- both of them headed for the corner booth where both seats had a good view of the front of the restaurant and there were no immediately neighboring tables. Angelica watched Kit sprawl into his chair from under her lashes, and had to wonder if the man ever sat up straight.

She set her menu down, already knowing what she wanted. Kit was almost hiding behind his, giving it the closest scrutiny she'd ever seen someone devote to food selection. "The pho is the best I've found in town," she said.

"What's the biggest bang for the buck?" he said, still studying the menu.

Probably you, she thought, contemplating him, but said, "The shrimp bowl."

"Excellent!" he said, closing the menu with the air of a man who'd come to terms with his probable execution. "Can I get a beer?"

She shook her head. "They lost their license a couple months ago because of something stupid, and you know how hard it is to get a license nowadays."

He sighed and nodded. She thought about noting that she had two six-packs in her fridge at home, but decided to wait until she was a little more certain about inviting him back at all.

"So," she said, folding her hands under her chin. "Any good poker games tonight?"

He had the grace to look abashed again. "Nooo. But it was a really good poker game."

"Anyone coming after you with baseball bats tonight?" she inquired sweetly, wondering again why she had agreed to go on another date with this man.

"I don't think so," he said cheerily.

The waitress arrived and took their orders. He did, in fact, order the shrimp bowl.

"Why were they after you anyway?" she said after the waitress left them with a large teapot and two very small teacups.

"Oh, you know," he said dismissively, examining his teacup gravely, then filling hers before his own. "Things. Stuff."

"Money?" she said, taking a sip of tea.

He grinned that bright, devastating grin and said, "And things."

She smiled back, and thought about how she'd seen him bumming cigarettes off those same guys a couple days later, laughing and joking and apparently best buds, even while he was sporting a shiner and a cut across his forehead that must've bled like a bitch.

"I've been dying to ask you a question," she said finally.

"Shoot!" he said, adding sugar to his tea.

She leaned forward a bit and said, "Is Castaneda really your last name?"

"Nope!" he said, swigging down the tea.

"Then why use it?" she said.

"It was funny at the time," he said, pouring himself more tea. "And once it was on my fake ID, it was too much trouble to change."

Angelica scanned the room reflexively before replying, "It's not that I disapprove personally, but you might want to be careful about saying things like 'fake ID' aloud. Nowadays."

Kit grinned and snapped his napkin open like a magician about to do a trick. "All ID is fake ID. You can't cram a whole person onto a little plastic card, you know?"

Their food arrived just then, and they both applied themselves to it. Angelica, however, seemed to have more leisure for studying her companion than he for her. He dug into his food like he was starving, his long calloused fingers as steady and determined in their grip on his chopsticks as the chopsticks' grip on the shrimp and noodles. His black hair was loose around his shoulders and one lock kept stubbornly trying to fall into his pho.

After he'd gone through about half his bowl, he finally looked up at Angelica and seemed startled by her gaze. He grinned around his chopsticks and said, "So after dinner, what would you like to do?"

She put down her cup of tea and said, "I was leaving that up to you. You asked me out, after all."

He slurped up an enormous mouthful of noodles and said, "I know where were could get a beer, but it's kind of a hike."

"Let's see if we want dessert before we decide," she replied, putting off the point of no return. A hike, at night, these days, did not thrill her.

"I always want dessert," he said, and he managed to imply both a touch of innuendo and the cheerful greed of a seven-year-old, and she wasn't sure how he managed that.

They ordered dessert. She played with her food, putting off the moment when she had to have The Talk. Kit kept up a stream of conversational storytelling even while consuming his little balls of mochi ice cream whole. There was something about a road trip, and a helicopter, and a motel room full of snakes, Angelica recalled later, though at the time, she was mostly paying attention to his warm brown eyes, the tiny lines around his mouth and eyes, and the glimpse of the hollow of his throat she could see above where his shirt was buttoned.

Finally, the ice cream was gone and he was paying the bill -- something he insisted on and she hadn't fought at all, given that she'd ended up with the bill the last two times. She took a deep breath, wondering whether she was insane or not, and said, "So, I've got some beer back at my place."

He grinned. "Sounds good to me."

"I, uh, kind of feel like we should talk before we go, though," she said. "There are some things you should know." Before we're in a private place that's been soundproofed and you decide you don't like what you find.

He looked up from counting out the tip from his change. "Like what?"

She started with the easy thing. "Well, I'm para."

"Oh," he said, finally just dropping a five next to his plate. "So'm I. Is that something people have talks about here?"

"Yeah," she said, thinking about the boyfriend before last who'd had a herd of cows over finding her para reg card in her wallet. "But there's something else that most people want to know..."

He held up one hand. "Do you actually believe that, with the way people talk around here, I haven't heard a dozen or more stories about you?"

She shut her mouth. "Um, well, I suppose," she said, for lack of anything more intelligent.

Kit smiled -- a real smile, not his usual default grin -- and said, "Most people I know have reinvented themselves. Hell, I've lost count of how many times I've done it. I don't much care who you were. I'm interested in you, right now, as you are."

Angelica was impressed. He'd possibly just given her the most graceful reception she'd ever gotten from someone who wasn't "in the family." Or was he? She'd ask later. She had just one more thing to find out. "And you don't have some kind of fetish?" she said. "Because I've got a lot of experience with that too."

The smile went to the usual grin. "Oh, naw, I buried all those in the desert and couldn't find 'em when I went back."

She stared at him, perplexed. "What?"

Kit laughed. "Never mind, dumb joke. No. I don't. Your call, hon -- bar or your place?"

She stood up, sliding into her coat and grabbing her purse. "My place. Let's go before the not-curfew kicks in."

They went out and hurried through the streets. She continued to boost the light level as they went. Somewhere along the walk, he took her hand. His grip was firm and strangely comforting. She hadn't felt so safe with anyone in a very long time, despite all that she knew about him and didn't know about him. There was also a part of her that vaguely resented the fact that, because she was a woman walking hand-in-hand with a man, the cop they passed only gave them two looks, instead of the long, hard, interrogating stare she was used to when she was out alone too late. (And she was sure that if they'd been white, they wouldn't have gotten even the first look.)

She unlocked her door with one hand on the doorknob so her biosensor security could read her fingerprints. The keyed deadbolt unlocked, and then the rest of the deadbolts unlocked in response to her touch. Kit eyed the doorjamb as they passed through the door. "That's some serious security there," he said.

Angelica wondered for a moment if she could go through with getting beers and chit-chatting and so forth, but impulsively decided that she couldn't. She grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pushed him against the steel-clad fire door. "Can't be too careful," she said as she did what she'd wanted to do all evening: leaned in and kissed that sarcastic mouth.

"I'm a fan of caution sometimes," he murmured some moments later. "So you just let me know where the Do Not Cross tape lines are, okay?"











Date: 2013-02-09 08:35 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Ooh. I love the ending lines there. Great storytelling as always.

Date: 2013-02-10 03:57 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thank you!

Date: 2013-02-10 03:55 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
.....Kit is HOTT. Yes.

Date: 2013-02-10 03:57 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Excellent!

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