Description: Chun-Li visits Rose in Genoa and the two experienced fighters test their fortitude against a bag full of French wine. They inevitably succumb, but a pleasantly drunk evening eating cafe food and talking about rude metal witches still counts as a win, right?
4:35 PM LOCAL TIME
"STELLAM ET LUNA" - Rose's tasteful domicile.
Rose steps out of the open space that used to be the garage and is now a sheltered area for fighting practice and a domed prelude to the room where she does professional readings. Rose is wearing her chic red dress and blue bodystocking combination, and is carrying a purse from Gucci. She may have intended to go clubbing early, or simply to do some late shopping.
As she steps out, she blinks once as she says, "Aha," and gazes upon the form of Officer Chun-Li Xiang, formerly of Interpol. And the heavy brown bag she has brought with her, with its promising forest of green glass bottles. Rose steps closer. "I knew this would happen," she murmurs, "but I did not know that they would conflate them together like this."
Rose puts her hands on Chun-li's shoulders momentarily, gazing at her eyes. "I had plans," Rose says - by way of preamble - "But they are part of a false vision, which I now reject. Please, come up stairs. You are so generous."
6:29 PM LOCAL TIME
Rose squints into the empty reaches of bottle #3. Rose is now just in the body stocking as she says, with a certain sort of dry and far more accented certainty, "Perhaps we should enjoy a little something to comfort us before we move on, hm?" She rises up from the couch with an arrogant motion of the hips -
Almost topples onto the coffee table - catches herself with an arbitrary burst of sparkling light - and saunters with the practice of someone who has walked in heels the majority of her life towards the refrigerator. "Let's see... hm... I don't feel like cooking... do you like cheese? I have some left over, I think -"
She opens a cabinet and sees a distinct lack of cheese, complete with dotted outline, and Rose's memory fills in the little winking face of I-No.
"I don't," Rose says in dismay. "I wonder if I can get it delivered."
4:35 PM LOCAL TIME
'Some' is not an internationally agreed upon measurement of wine, so Chun-Li took some liberties in filling Rose's request. She's wearing a navy blouse with white flowers interspersed across it, black, boot-cut denim, and dark brown boots on the other side of the fortune-teller's door. The bag bulges and clatters when Rose's advance prompts a faintly surprised foot-to-foot shift, then the Officer adjusts her grip and grins. "Technically, you cheated a little," she reminds.
"Or are direct invitations part of the fortune-teller's toolkit, now?"
Relief flickers within as she takes her most recent invitation and crosses the threshold. It /could've/ been a request for a gift to be dropped off along with passing sentiments and small talk. It /still/ could be; the wine, certainly, was an insurance policy meant to nudge potential ambivalence in a friendlier direction. It was easy enough to feel close and connected in the Soul-infused afterglow of saving each other's lives, but 'come see me if you're in Genoa in a week or two' is an invitation that borders on hypothetical.
/Whatever/ it is - Rose would be an eccentric read even if Chun-Li's introduction to the woman /didn't/ involve massive amounts of drugs - it means that Chun-Li won't have to spend at least /some/ of tonight alone, dwelling on the place where they first met.
WINE:30 RIESLING TIME
"where," Chun-Li replies in a deeply awestruck whisper, "is the future? i would just /ask/ it, but-- did-- did i scare it away...?"
Slowly, ever so gently, her index finger approaches the swirling crystal occupying one of the psychic's shelves, mere inches from her nose; it took a solid couple minutes of staring to find the gall. The instant she prods, she jerks her hand away with a sharply held breath and eyes wide with alarm.
After a beat, she exhales and alarm becomes bubbling laughter. As she turns to report her findings to Rose, she's greeted by arbitrary sparkles fit for momentary, totally intentional lounging. Brown brows arch, bemused and amused as she tracks the fortune-teller towards the kitchen and the laughter trails off.
Did she break the future? She really hopes she didn't break the future.
"Rose," she utters when presented with another question of dire importance, powerful enough to distract her from the ones between her ears. "I /love/ cheese." She takes a wavy step after the other woman, but-- aah, she's already on top of the cheese situation, and it's her house, which makes her the expert.
So Officer Xiang strolls towards the vacant couch instead, falling leisurely upon its cushions--
-- and catching herself with a foot against the coffee table and a hand poised against the arm rest. More laughter sounds after a wide-eyed moment as she hauls herself up into slouching against the back cushion.
"You can get /anything/ delivered," she assures after a little while. "Probably!" she appends, a beat later. "I've never been to Genoa, but: probably!"
"Thank you for inviting me," she then says, not for the first time.
"Oh, of course," Rose says on her way upstairs. "You are most welcome. But some things you expect and others you EXPECT, if you understand me."
"Ah," Rose says from the kitchen. "You found the crystal wherein I have trapped the future itself, to be tamped into a shape that pleases I, Rose, mistress of the daaaark!" This is accompanied by a ringing, hearty laugh that shares the varietal of the 'wealthy Japanese woman' and 'the rural peasant.'
"Oh please, every time you say that you make me blush," Rose says, waving a hand at hte air. "If I am going to call for an order I am going to get something far more industrious than a mere slice of cheese, because I am starving. Have you been eating well after your own sojourn in the pit of despond? I have to say that that was the worst thing, other than the psychic terror, the firearms shooting me repeatedly, all of the death and suffering - I was ugh, SO enormously hungry, as if I would never be full again, afterwards."
Rose sniffs a little. "I'm going to turn into one of these new wave Saturday Night Fight girls," she says, before picking up the phone and making a phone call. There is an elaborate conversation in somewhat slangy Italian afterwards, which Rose joins into by gesticulating in the air and walking around again, circling round Chun-Li's flop posture on the couch and then gesturing as if to say: Put your feet up, lady!
Around circle #3 she reaches 'ciao, ciao' and hangs up, letting out an enormous breath afterwards. "I don't even remember what I ordered," she says. "But you passed the place on the way up, I think, a nice little cafe. They are open late and I thought, why not call them, you know?" At this point Rose seats herself on the back of the couch.
"Tell me if I guessed your favorites right."
After this Rose turns her head to look down. "Before we open the fourth bottle," she says, "how HAVE you been doing? I've been getting the occasional peculiar visitor, though I have to say that you aren't among them. Not least for bringing enough bottles to say 'the fourth.'" Her voice lowers, confidentially. "Most don't even bring ONE."
Chun-Li reads that gesture loud and clear.
"It doesn't even /matter/ what you ordered," she quietly assures while swinging her legs around to drape over the arm rest. Kicking indolently over the edge, she lays back on the cushions and peers upwards. "I will eat the /hell/ out of it."
Rose's directive prompts some chuckling, but compared to a little bit ago... it's subdued. Having her favorite foods guessed is novel; so, too, is having them again after an extended interval on the Shadaloo Diet of soylent and water. She never actually answered the question about how she was eating, because Rose helpfully filled in the space with a quick trip down memory lane followed by Soul-assisted food ordering.
At least they're three bottles in. Three bottles in means she gets 'subdued' rather than 'grim' when their mutual vacation enters the atmosphere.
"I got invited to do a match at that fucking. Trainyard, again. And there was-- oh, yeah."
Lidded eyes open fully. Bitterness and shame flower within, at first, but they're ultimately short-lived.
"You don't /know/ about the... ... it /sucks/. There is a trainyard in Sunshine City, and it's old, and definitely probably cursed, and it fuckin' sucks, and I keep having to /go/ there, and it's... where Shadaloo was moving stuff before... /before/," she quietly rattles off. Rose may have seen her interrogate, then lose to Duke Burkoff there in a title match a few months ago. The chill spreading through her spirit at that dour note won't last long either, deep as it runs.
"So I'm there, I'm dressed up like... I mean, I showed my abs off a little, so it could've been worse? But I'm in the ring," she murmurs, "and this /rocker witch/ comes in outta fucking... /nowhere/, and she's supposed to be my /opponent/. She had color-changing eyes, Rose."
Chun-Li sits up and locks her gaze firmly to Rose's. Nothing - not the Shadaloo Diet, not her abiding love for cheese, nor even her gelato tier list(SS: Nutella; Cherry; Stracciatella. S: Lemon; Amaretto; Mixed Berry. A: Everything but Licorice. Licorice Tier: Licorice) - has ever been as important as this.
"She was a /newbie/, with /weird powers/, and /fucked up, color-changing eyes/," she whispers.
Then, she flops to her back.
"Then she started playing her guitar, and a bunch of amps appeared, and this-- thing, this giant, horrible /thing/ rises up outta the trainyard, and..."
A triumphant sense of satisfaction begins crowding out those dull and gloomy emotions.
"And I /killed/ it, Rose." A light, boozy smile spreads. "It-- it beat the /shit/ outta me, but I /killed/ it, and that /witch/... she said if I /hadn't/ killed it, right then, it woulda... I dunno, it woulda gotten /bigger/, /more/ monstrous. Said it'd been, just. Feeding on me? On my emotions, there..."
There's still some room for frustration despite the sunnier turn, which may or may not seem a touch out of place, until:
"Said a lotta stuff about my ass, too," Chun-Li murmurs as a wince hits the smile, "but I think she was trying to help? She-- took me to a hospital, after, anyway." A slight pause. "She hit on me again, after she did it, but it was a nice gesture."
Another, lengthier pause through lingering annoyance. The smile grows a bit self-conscious.
"She was kinda hot," the officer confesses, "but it was a lot to process." A brisk sigh punctuates this thought, then she props herself up on her elbows and peers curiously towards the psychic.
"How've YOU been? How /dare/ your visitors not bring wine, you're-- you're /Rose/, you're like a celebrity. You have a BELT! Have you been okay?" The concern shining in her eyes /mostly/ stems from their shared durance, but it's at least a /little/ bit about the wine, too.
Rose looks down towards Chun-li and smiles a secret smile. Then she leans forwards at a carefully balanced cantilever angle to snare the bottle of white from France - Rose does not even read the label at this point. She watches Chun-Li as she strokes at the neck of the bottle with her thumb, and whether through some fell psionic sorcery or simply being able to handle things of this shape, the cork slowly emerges, rising from the lip of the bottle as if it sought to declare itself to the world, proud, bold, heroic and intact.
(It's Soul Power. This is a petty trick. It means Rose doesn't have to keep corkscrews around, which has, she knows, saved Alma's life at least once - perhaps twice.)
As the cork slides forwards Rose listens.
And when she hears of the witch, her eyes widen in understanding. It's a practical ! over her head, and she doesn't interrupt the story but it is clear that she could. After the rest, Rose muses, "Well, she never summoned her giant monster for me, but be that as it may, I know JUST the woman! You know, she came here, too? I was laying on the couch myself, because I was still rather drastic, but she spoke rather fluently and enticingly, didn't she?"
Rose pops the cork and raises up her glass, pouring it half full as she says, "She called me a 'milf,' you know; I had to look for that one. Do you suppose that she meant personally? Then again, I ask a silly question. Of course she did." The bottle is held out for Chun-Li to take or simply to present her glass to be filled.
"They said in the ancient days that to take wine unmixed was to invite madness," Rose muses, "but then, what did they know?"
After this she takes a deep breath and lets it out, turning her head upwards. Looking at the ceiling, she says, "The belt... Oh, my God, I do still have that thing. You know, I expect that's what those phone messages are about. I must seem a dreadful mess, don't I!" This comes with another one of those huge ladylike laughs, Rose spreading her arms at nobody in particular and then quaffing out of the glass.
Quaffing is like drinking but you spill a little.
"The belt, I have a story about that belt... that Scotswoman with the succubus thing going on, she's rather something else. If she's a criminal you should ask me and I'll help you apprehend her, because, and I mean no offense, she might well pull some treachery on you."
Rose's head tilts forwards then as she says, "You know, she was encouraging me - I-no, I mean, the guitar witch with the boots, to make contact with you. I think she's got a grudge against - well; I'll say 'someone against whom we both stand' because I am NOT going to give him yet another bloody two hours of my life right now, not when I saw him die in Outworld."
Rose quaffs again. Yeah this time it did get spilly. Rose touches the stained spot and purses her lips in dismay.
"So I am unclear," she continues. "She was trying to help you... with the emotional challenges of your imprisonment? Or was it more trying to help your backside? Normally, you see, I would not ask, but she DID call me a 'milf.'" Rose uses the term as if it is exotic and foreign, and to be fair, to her, it kind of is.
Rose then adds, "And a tangential aside, Chun-li, just a small thing: Matters internal to, oh, Metro City, these are not your, hm, your jurisdiction, yes? I've never been quite clear."
It's Soul Power 101. Chun-Li's propped on her elbows, dropping her gaze after pressing Rose for updates, and her eyes hardly get anywhere before being arrested by a floating cork.
It's a level 0 cantrip. She was too preoccupied with the cursed trainyard, a dead monster, and-- I-No-- to make much of Rose's bottle-stroking. She listens, gently nods along - knits her brow and murmurs, "You DO?" - at the right moments, but there is a cork dangling in the air and a bottle opened with the gentlest of touches.
And it's *~won~*~der~*~ful~*
"She was /suuuuper/ forward," Ms. Xiang agrees, distracted. "An' a little mean," she quietly adds after a nose-wrinkling beat. "Like a personal trainer, but a really-- what!" She called Rose a /what/?!
It's enough to - finally - tear wheel-wide eyes away from the cork. A quiet, "I meeeeaaan..." trails after Rose's (silly) question as the fortune-teller draws the conclusion herself. "I-- guess that's how she does 'nice'," she tacks on afterwards.
Rose extends the bottle, and-- her glass is-- somewhere else, somewhere she isn't. Maybe-- no, Rose could /definitely/ get it for her, but she's already been such a gracious host...! It's a moment of internal turmoil - do i be kind of maybe rude one way or do i be that the other way - that might outwardly suggest a deep interest in ancient proverbs. Her reach for the bottle afterwards is tentative... then Rose laughs. It was a little strange, the first time Chun-Li heard it. This may be because she came to Genoa associating Rose with her dynamic, unique fighting style; floating around while doped to the gills in Fredericks of Shadaloo's finest; and spooky, mysterious refinement, none of which left much room for rich, booming laughter.
Now? It's as much a part of Rose as floating scarves and immaculate hair are, and more than enough to banish self-conscious thoughts. Soon enough, she's tugging the bottle to herself and breaking from her own bubbling laughter only for as long as it takes to drink from the source. She /might/ know what quaffing is-- /might/, if pressed on the right day-- but she /definitely/ knows how to /do/ it.
"Treachery??" she gasps while lowering the bottle. Her free hand comes up to swipe dribbling wine from the corners of her mouth. Questions burn on the tip of her tongue - it's somewhere above 'cheese' but below 'gelato' and 'fucked up, color-changing eyes' on the importance scale - but Rose is already flowing elsewhere, and they come from fascination more than concern, besides.
Brown brows sharply rise when encouragement is mentioned. The witch-- I-No-- /did/ seem rather familiar with her, but ongoing interest would explain it easily: she isn't a hard woman to research at all. Before she can consider this revelation much further, Rose colors it burgundy by delicately stepping around a another, substantially less dead monster.
Chun-Li doesn't spill a drop this time. Her eyes flit towards the stained spot when she's done, then she tops Rose's glass off.
"I turned my badge in," she quietly says. "Normally, yes, kind of, basically, but right now, no, not really. I... just... thought that maybe it'd be best if I took a break from-- /having/ to chase people."
Returning to her back, she keeps the bottle balanced on her stomach and lightly held between her hands. "Anyway, Miss-- /I-No/-- I dunno if she /knew/ about-- I mean, did you /tell/ her I was..." The woman's lips thoughtfully purse. Her forehead scrunches. The night at the trainyard plays back, hypersaturated and a touch distorted by Not Quite Enough Reisling.
"Think... it was more like the monster just, like, /happened/ to be a big fuckin' ball of negative me-emotions, and she wanted me to kill it. ... probably?"
"Like," she quietly wonders after turning it over a little while longer, "d'you think trying to get me into a shower with her's her way of doing therapy?" A slight pause. "Probably, right?"
Another, markedly more self-conscious pause as the lines in her forehead deepen.
"She was /really/ hot, Rose," the ~officer quietly grouses. "And she kept acting like she /knew/ me-- did she sound like she knew me? /ugh/." One of her hands leaves the bottle and covers her face, muffling a low groan. Once it slides free and hits the floor, she murmurs, "I-- at least need to /thank/ her, but-- I mean-- Gen... Gen had a point," which he made coldly and directly while they were still in the ruins of the lab: she isn't ready to face That Man(not That one, the other one, with That Hat), and playing at chasing him will only get her killed or worse.
"I need to be better, if I'm gonna fuck with-- him. And, just, /way/ smarter about it. Did she seem /smart/? When she was flagrantly hitting on you or whatever? Like, I know YOU'RE smart, you're a MIND witch."
Rose seems to focus on this I-No business, murmuring, "A personal trainer..." Perhaps she needs one of those. As she fills the glass for Chun-Li, the details perhaps vanish in a fuzz of warm feelings and good memories. Rose herself steps round the rest of the way of the couch, before plopping down in the immediately adjacent couch, her head near Chun-Li's.
Chun is on the slightly shorter leather couch, Rose on the longer. Perhaps this is her privilege as the mistress of the house, perhaps it's just random chance. Either way, it forms, seen from above or a bit to the side, a big L.
"Oh," Rose says softly. She turns her head to look towards Chun-li directly, saying, "I can tell it was hard for you." Her hand slides over, moving at a lateral angle to rest on the bicep of the now-ex-policewoman's arm. At which point Rose shifts herself a little, saying as she does, "This isn't as social as I thought it would be when we're being lazy old women, is it..."
She takes a deep breath and lets it out before saying with a laugh, "Oh, let me tell you about the three times I met her, then! Once was in Outworld but that hardly counts; she was rather distracted at the time, as I imagine we all were. I mean, I arrived at that place naked and had monks hand me a functionable dress. I think they were monks." Rose sips her wine, also renewed. "Something like that." She touches at the wine spot on her decolletage again, before considers.
"The second time she accosted me in Venezia while I was warming up a new deck and enjoying a late supper. She was very obscene and I found that refreshing. She seemed pleased by..." Rose raises her hand, looking at the fingers against the ceiling lamp. "Well..." Her fingers curl loosely, "besides that. Then she came to visit me after I got back from Mexico and I was too destroyed, but..."
"She's a very *stimulating* woman, isn't she?"
"But no," Rose says, "I don't believe we discussed you, though I had mentioned you, of course, when I was explaining to her why I was a mass of bruises." Rose sips her wine then.
"I don't know if she is smart or if she is wise or if she has some other point of access," Rose says then, and there is a sense of effort here, as if she is trying to push past the wine to make a pronouncement. Which is apparently within her power, but it takes work, effort. "Her eyes change color and she dresses like a whore, but in a good way. Someone like that is difficult to explain, and even my cards cannot easily capture her. They see her as a figure who is there, now, but not as a... thread, you know?"
Rose sips her wine. "It happens at times; it might be a habit of mind. It could mean she will die soon. But it caught my eye. And my eye stayed."
After this, she muses.
"Let us leave aside the question of strength for now," Rose says, "because I think that if we focus upon it we would become defined by weaknesses, so-seen. Instead I want to ask you."
Rose's tone stays grave ish as she looks towards Chun-li. "She drew these emotions out of you, and you beat them. They were defeated; I assume dispelled, certainly weakened. She did this with some art or science of hers, and -"
Now Rose slides upwards in a fluid and bouncing motion to lean halfway towards Chun, at an opposite angle, looking down at her eyes again. Her lips quirk up into a vaguely catlike smile. "Now you're here talking about how she wants to take you into the showers and how hot she was, hmm~? Are you asking me to give you advice, or are you hoping for lessons!"
The wine glass has been inverted. The wine isn't spilling, though it is sparkling faintly. Rose, noticing this, shifts herself upwards and takes a sip, the Soul Power within the glittering white wine fading as she does. Is that... safe?
Chun-Li's boldly claimed bottle is raised and tilted towards Rose in wordless appreciation after the show of sympathy. It's only a sabbatical, but taking a sabbatical from the thing she's spent years training for and /doing/ in her father's name was a difficult decision indeed. It was what she /needed/, just to get a little space from a summer of failures; it still felt painfully like giving up and handing the monsters of the world another victory.
At least they're close, now. She offers a small, thankful smile for the sympathy and gently protests, "'m a lazy /young/ woman, /thank/ you," before rolling her head towards the fortune-teller a little for story time.
Outworld and its possible monks bring Chun-Li's dangling arm up and back to reach for a couch cushion-- no-- no, that's Rose's /hair/-- there! Shoulder.
She's only just offering a sympathetic squeeze when the second encounter prompts her to blurt, "And that /wasn't/ when you found out about milfs, right?" just to keep the timeline straight. "That was..."
Chun-Li swings her arm out in search of her new friend's curling fingers. Rose's question conjures a brief grin while she tries to capture the fortune-teller's hand in a firm and lingering grasp. It's tough for her to get a good read on where their shared torment sits with Rose, now, but she knows that her /own/ wounds are still healing; whether Rose's are or not, the once and future officer wants to make it plain that she doesn't have to recover alone.
She hangs on while the sloshy pronouncement bubbles forth, pursing her lips and lightly nodding here or there. All of it, including(especially) the stuff about card capturing and threads makes absolute and utter sense, for now, when she doesn't have to worry too deeply about recalling or properly processing any of it. The core message - 'the witch is strange and unique' - will linger regardless.
"Yeah," Chun-Li eventually murmurs with a wrinkling nose, "she's pretty good at eye-catching."
Speaking of eyes: Rose's tell her, as she meets them, that a serious query - or insight? - is coming. She releases the fortune-teller and tries to draw herself towards something approaching neutral to best receive it. The seeress rises, leans, and fixes violet eyes to hers.
A smile appears--
wait, why is she
The flush that's dominated her complexion since somewhere between the end of bottle #1 and the beginning of #2 grows a touch brighter. Wide eyes fly away for a beat, towards a crystal swirling with the future.
"/I/," she begins in a lightly reinforced voice once her eyes are back on Rose's, "was telling a /story/ about what I've been /up to/ recently, and that story /happened/ to include a /really hot witch/, and..." And her protest, such as it is, just peters out because Rose is over there drinking sparkling(/literally, it is sparkling with psychic power/) wine that was just suspended upside down, like it's the most natural thing in the world. Which, for her, it just might be.
"... probably a little of both," she decides after a quiet beat. After another: "And, like, a phone number, maybe," is lowly appended. "An 'at', something-- like. It's weird, the personal interest... it's fuckin' /weird/, and I gotta know more."
The glass Rose graciously filled is still-- elsewhere, so she takes another swig from the bottle before offering it up to the seeress.
"Are you-- is this you /offering/ advice?" she wonders with an arching brow. She manages some playful lightness when she adds: "Lessons?" and shows a lopsided smile.
"No," Rose confirms. "She did not call me a milf in another world. Only in this one." She takes another sip of her wine as she watches Chun-li closely, watching that blush spread across the complexion, the pursing of the lips, the faint hint of what Rose reads as huffing. She then says, raising her eyebrows, "She gave you her phone number!"
"We should compare," she says. "Did she write it in lipstick for you? Show off she is."
After this, she takes a deep brow as she sits upright, and reaches over to rest her fingertips on the line of Chun's jaw, guiding her to lok towards her. "If you are asking me, dear, for lessons in the art of love, then I am afraid that I must say -"
t o n g g g g g
That is the sound of the Tibetan singing bowl which is struck from a scenic little alcove near the entranceway.
"Ah, dinner's here!" Rose says, close enough for her wine-scented breath to wash silkily over Chun-li's face. Then she is up, and she is towards the door, AND
The takeout containers are spread around, since neither of them are sober enough to get out dishes. Rose did cut up some fruit for dessert, or at least had some available and was willing to get it back out. "Anyway," she says, raising up the piece of melon, "you rest your thumb here, and you make a sort of rubbing motion along the top here - see, how I'm getting the seeds and everything off? But that's towards the end."
She bites into the melon slice then. "If you meant to ask me for advice of a more social, dating sort of nature, I have to confess that I don't have the slightest idea beyond letting yourself say 'yes'." After this, she swallows.
"Phew... I know I ate dessert but I want more of the zuppa here," she says, leaning forwards. "So kind of Bucellati to bring an extra half-liter... isn't he a nice young man?"
After a moment, Rose says, "... Forgive me, where were we?"
"Ah!" Rose continues, pointing her spoon at Chun: "Now I remember. Yes. She encouraged me to, quote, get together a team. I do not think she meant for King of Fighters. Do you want to join, or are you eager to keep her to yourself?" Then Rose eats her soup, watching as she does: it is hard to tell if the :3 face has returned, given that the container is in the way.
There is a misunderstanding.
Chun-Li's eyebrows shoot up at the exclamation-- the question about lipstick. There's hardly any time to comment on either -- a clipped, "No, she--" is as close as she gets -- before gentle fingers guide her towards Rose's eyes. A brow arches and her crooked smile begins to take on a sly cast, until--
-- maybe the nicest, most confusing 'no' she's ever--
Chun-Li's favorites, relative to the cafe's menu: chicken scallopini w/ extra lemon; roasted peppers with balsamic and goat cheese; linguine with white wine and shrimp.
The final tally: "Holy shit, you /are/ good," in an astonished murmur. So, 3/3.
After favorite foods are shared by women with more reason than ever to appreciate them, after Rose graciously cuts, or retrieves, or summons wholecloth from raw Soul Power dessert, there's--
Really, it's hard to call it a misunderstanding -- she literally asked for a lesson! Rose is being a very gracious host right now! -- but Chun-Li still winds up squinting quite intently at the melon through most of the psychic's tutelage. 'How did I get /here/, exactly' rolls beneath otherwise (relatively) focused thoughts.
"Well I asked the right person, at least, kinda," she eventually acknowledges, murmuring while glancing up at a seeded thumb with a small smile. She briefly turns her own out for inspection, then it's on to-- dating advice? There's a curious squint as she nibbles and considers what a psychic might have to say about dating, and she only barely deflates when it turns out to be simpler than expected and harder than it sounds.
As good advice often is.
There's pasta and chicken and peppers to spare, but Chun-Li just picks at dessert while Rose grabs soup and prompts enthusiastic nods for Bucallati; he really /is/ nice, whoever he is. Where were they? She stops just short of biting into a strawberry and wrinkles her brow. She starts to answer, stops--
The former-ish officer grins through burning cheeks. Her eyes only briefly fall from-- whatever's hidden behind that zuppa.
"Yeah, I'm... I'm in. You'n whoever else you'd bring in... I trust you to, like, have my back, and I'll have /your/ back, and maybe we don't end up back in the middle of something fucked up again, because we're /together/. /And/ there's a witch." A beat. "Whose number I do not have," she adds, quieter, "in lipstick or otherwise. And who, like-- I-- I mean, I barely /know/ her, and /you/... ..."
Another beat or two as a turn towards serious contemplation becomes a curious squint-- which eventually falls away as the grin returns.
"... wow, you are a /dangerously/ playful drunk, Rose," she eventually observes in a low voice. She takes a bite of strawberry before adding, "It's really cute-- and /weird/. And... well, /wonderful/, honestly? After-- well, considering..." She doesn't have to mention the place, really; a boon of sorts, even if it still crosses her mind.
Instead, she promises, "We're gonna fuck Shadaloo /up/," after trailing. The thought keeps her grin from flagging much. A slight pause, exactly long enough to construct a future Gen-lecture.
"But, like, /intelligently/. With tactics'n shit."
Rose reaches for a piece of colored cloth - not her notorious scarf - to dab her lips, carefully. This is disrupting her lipstick but she apparently didn't go very hard on it. One might fairly ask: Was she in fact just wearing makeup around the house? The answer is, in the immortal words of the poet laureate, Rufus: Duh.
"You promise this very quickly," Rose says, and her head tilts forwards. She leans forth as she sets down the soup container, balancing herself precariously and pointing her spoon, not quite at Chun-Li's face but certainly at her 'her'. "And -- hah! Thank you, I try; really, I'm just excited, you know? You're a very exciting person in a lot of ways. I suppose you're able to hold it in a bit more when you haven't had HOW many bottles are we up to now? But be that as it may, BE that as it MAY, they said in the ancient days 'in vino veritas,' and in English that's 'in wine, there is truth.' I imagine you have a similar aphorism out East...?"
Rose is in a slightly impossible position. She scoots one leg underneath herself and puts her free hand on the coffee table, which obligingly supports her as she leans further forwards. This is not the most favorable position Gravity ever had, although as she continues, it does have some visual appeal.
"You oppose something which is greater than a mere crime syndicate," Rose says. "You know, I am aware, of the mysteries of the energy of this world. You may think it prideful of me, but the depths in which THAT MAN, in all of his force and his cunning and his evil, have plumbed - he has reached these heights and I fear that he has only begun to make his essay in these matters. What is worse is that there are others who will see him, seek him, ape him in various forms, even if you should righteously separate his head from his neck."
Rose taps the spoon on her lower lip. "The Persians said matters of grave decision must be made after discussion twice. Once while drunk, once while sober." Rose's lips crack and she says with sudden mirth, dispelling the earlier gravity, "We have certainly gotten halfway there!" She leans forwards then suddenly, even closer, pressing her forehead against Chun-Li's. Her skin is warm.
"So let's put that down," Rose says, "because I do not want to talk to you about fighting right now. God alone knows how much we have to do it. If Shadaloo smashes through the wall we will deal with it then. You're better at it than them. Now."
Rose raises one immaculately manicured fingertip.
"I am going to go and get my little black book," Rose says.
"In it I have the number that that woman, I-No, gave me. She has probably cancelled it by now and she will probably mysteriously call you back after you leave a plaintive voicemail. If she should pick up, I have one requirement, Chun-Li! One sincere request. Tell her," Rose says, and here she lets herself sway backwards with the slow inevitability of a ship of the line back in the days of sail: "That you seduced it out of me, and that I have been thoroughly defiled, a widow before my time, by your cruel actions."
She's kidding, right?
She's making that face again! The ambiguous one!
"I hate them, Rose," is the only explanation Chun-Li can offer for her haste. A cold, hard truth driven into what's otherwise a bright and lively demeanor; steel syllables forged and honed well past what's needed to drain the joy from a pleasant evening.
"I hate /Him/, so. /Much/."
And she /does/. It's a hatred that's evolved beyond the point of consuming her every waking moment, the kind that lies hidden as it quietly informs her thoughts... until it /can't/ be. Until it's /called/, dredged up by little more than the wrong thought or reassuring words.
She hates Him, and them, but He's not here, and she's neither there nor theirs. Fruit and wine lie within easy reach of her lounging. Inches away, the incredibly flexible woman they never should've let her meet strikes an impossible pose while dispensing wisdom. Cold-burning flames gradually dim as she looks, listens-- reminds herself that she's somewhere real and good--
"'After wine blurts truthful speech'," she softly offers in her native tongue, following a bracing exhale. With hate shoved back in its furnace - for now, anyway - she manages to echo Rose's burst of mirth with a muted smile of her own. "/We/ oppose something greater than a crime syndicate..."
Oh-- she /is/ warm. Chun-Li's persistent flush makes it little harder to notice, but she notices.
"No more missing kids," she promises as her smile grows a bit, "or fighters... whatever He's /trying/ to do, fuck him, it's /failing/." But now's not really the best time to talk about fighting anyway, is it? Nevermind the tale of the Witch and the monster, fight stories surely made up a healthy percentage of tonight's conversation, especially while the ice was still being broken. There'll always be time for fighting; /always/.
How many more times will she get to lay back on a sofa and gratefully stroke a beautiful, buoyant Italian enigma's cheek after an evening of long overdue companionship? To answer wine-soaked requests with bright, shaky laughter and arching eyebrows?
Enough to figure out just what that face - that /face/, that baffling, beguiling //face// - means? It's hard to say; she's neither a psychic nor a soothsayer.
"Deal," she murmurs while flicking her half-eaten strawberry to the platter and drawing up from the couch as Rose sways back. Her newly freed hand reaches for the fortuneteller's other cheek as she continues, "... but I dunno if I'd be okay with /lying/ to a new ally, Rose," and draws nearer still.
"Might not be an officer right now, but a woman's still gotta have a code...~"
Rose might or might not have been kidding; Chun-Li definitely isn't as she deliberately closes, looking to claim a light kiss. Life is too short to wrestle with ambiguity; a life fueled by hatred for an inhuman dictator, even shorter.
Rose can hear the capital letter in Chun-Li's voice and her heart as well, and she wonders at it. Is it what 'that man' wants, to be Him, not merely him? It is something that, she thinks, would have given her pause, made her frown, made her say something grave in warning, ominous certainly, perhaps indescribable. A scold, in other words.
Yet, Rose thinks, where did that ever go? Did it ever work? What warnings were ever heeded? Did I -
The thought trails into nothing. Odd, she thinks, and she breathes out.
And as she does she leans backwards into the couch and gazes ahead into oddly gentle eyes, saying as she does, "Is that so? Well."
A claim comes, and Rose doesn't get in the way. It is brief, brushing, and afterwards she lets herself indulge in a lingering sigh. She settles back with a slow subtle creak of the body of the couch, the furniture unused to all of these shenanigans atop of it.
"I suppose I should offer some token resistance," Rose says.
"Oh no," she breathes. "Help. - I surrender."
"So, there is the number," Rose says. "See? She left her glasses, even. You might as well call now; someone like that, she won't respect time zones..."
"While you're doing that, I'll cook some eggs. You know... I don't think I've been up at this hour in years..."
Chun-Li wouldn't have been at that lab if she was any good at heeding warnings. This has not been lost on her in the weeks since; nor was Rose's suggestion that That Man-- that /monster/ has ambitions deeper and darker than she can imagine.
But warnings are probably best saved for that second grave discussion, all in all.
"I'll tell her you tried reaaaally hard," Chun-Li promises, a teasing whisper mixing with subtle creaking and careful shifting. "For your pride."
Later. Chun-Li'll tell the Witch later, when it's time to talk about fighting again-- when there's no claim to press or surrender to accept for honor's sake.
"Thanks," Chun-Li replies, "but I should /probably/ pick up a little, first. I /have/ been up at this hour; the least I can do is put my valuable experience to good use."
The number is carefully studied, memorized, then set aside for the moment. Briskly, she moves to catch Rose in a tight hug before it's time for cooking and cleaning.
She's silent for a while, but powerful squeezing and radiating gratitude say plenty:
'Thank you for a wonderful evening.'
'Thank you for being a bright spot in a dark world.'
'I'm glad that we know each other, despite the way we met.'
Log created on 19:42:15 12/05/2018 by Chun-Li, and last modified on 11:28:15 12/23/2018.