Description: After their respective Rumble Battles, Zach invites Honoka over to his home for a special dinner. Nothing fancy, except... everything that's way more fancy than it ought to be. And yet... something's still not -right-.
Zach Glenn was having a week. Or two. Losing fights. Having an officer of the law illegally use his power to make things more than a little dangerous above and beyond his job. His girlfriend having a similarly rough time of things. Something was in order.
Zach had made a phone call to Honoka Kawamoto, and made some arrangements. And then spent the day making sure every inch of the old samurai mansion was spic-and-span. And making sure that the chef that was hired for him made the salmon just right, grilled and light on the spices. And making sure Takehiro had business elsewhere for the evening. And...
Well, you get the picture.
A car arrives at the circus to pick Honoka up. The driver, who is definitely a foreigner, shows Honoka to the car after confirming that he is in fact here to drive her out to Zach's place. The identification names him one 'Derrick Kincaid,' and the man looks like he's known some trouble in his life.
"Really, now..." asks Honoka, leaning in close to get a better look at the 'Torchlight Securities' ID badge that this Mr Kincaid is wearing. "So do you -know- Zach, or is this a purely a car-for-hire arrangement?"
With a wince, Honoka decides to lean back in her seat. The wounds she'd accumulated in her battle with Maki have been addressed as well as they're going to be for the night, but the numerous bruises do tend to limit the free rein of motion the juggler is accustomed to enjoying. She shifts her arms to a more comfortable position -- and silently hopes that the bandages don't take away too much from the look of her dark silk dress, patterned with a stylized dahlia motif. "I don't mean to be rude, of course, but it's more that you don't look like you're from around here, per se."
She leaves unsaid that Zach hasn't demonstrated himself to be the most, er, trusting of folks. Especially lately.
"I work with him, though it would not be inaccurate to say that I work /for/ him," Derrick says easily enough. "I'm in town on a training rotation. He asked me to pick you up and bring him to his house, and I owed him a favor." He cracks a grin. "He seemed a bit anxious when he asked. He's the definition of unflappable when he's on the job," he comments with amusement. Derrick's driving is cautious as he navigates the streets.
"I think he's looking forward to having you over," he says as he parks the car in front of what is clearly an old samurai mansion. Kincaid climbs out, and opens the car door for Honoka, going so far as to offer a hand to assist her in climbing out.
"Mmm, I see..." Honoka brushes her bangs out of her eyes, her first two fingers lingering on the spot around her right temple. The HitBit headband she'd worn earlier in the day has left its own little impression upon her skin that still hasn't gone away -- she's very grateful to have that thing off of her.
"Ah... I suppose it -has- been a while since we've actually gotten to spend some time together," she comments, allowing a faint blush to spill across her cheeks. She looks down at the small purse in her lap, distractedly, until the car pulls to a stop in front of the samurai mansion.
Part of Honoka does shrink backwards. The samurai style -- and moreso the notion of what it represents -- instills some sense of trepidation in her.
Once Kincaid opens the car door, she relaxes; following good social graces acts an autopilot through her mild bout of anxiety. Accepting the hand offered her, she looks around...
Instantly, the anxiety returns. Honoka turns towards the sound -- a bamboo fixture, the kind that rocks from time to time to scare off deer, seems to have been the source of her fear this time.
Honoka gives a nervous laugh. "Oh, is that all that was..." she states with a sigh of relief.
"So... do you prefer Derrick, or Kinkeido-san?" she asks, hoping to regain control of herself. Something... doesn't -feel- right.
Derrick notes the reaction to the deer scare, but does an excellent job of keeping it off of his face. "Yeah," he agrees, "That thing is wierd." His accent is faint, and British. "I'll answer to either, Miss," he says in answer to the question. "Whichever you are more comfortable with, please feel free to use."
He holds the door open for Honoka, the typical gentleman. A view inside the house reveals that it's clean and well kept. The furniture has more of an American bent than a Japanese one, though. "If you'll follow me, I'll take you to the lounge. Glenn's waiting for you," he says as he glances at his wristwatch, "Dinner should be ready shortly."
Kincaid is clearly a fighting man, but he seems to be going out of his way to try and make Honoka feel more comfortable with the situation. He does not know what the samurai represent to Honoka, knows nothing more than the fact that Zach likes her a lot. This seems to be good enough for the man.
Honoka has been in these sorts of mansions before. The style of architecture never fails to remind her of her youth. And the bad things she encountered during those times. But the puppetmaster has to suck it up during business meetings, and all things considered, there's certainly -worse- places to be.
However, lurking in the back of her mind is the paranoid sensation that this is a trap. Zach is psychic -- this is clear. And she knows that his family is psychic. So if this... Derrick Kincaid works for Zach, then it stands to reason that he works with Zach's family.
Coupled with being on the inside of what could be considered a veritable -fortress- compared to her living conditions, there's more than a little unease wafting from Honoka as she follows along behind Derrick. It's not -his- fault she's been quieter here than on the entire car ride. Honest!
Smiling at the recognition of her mood, she concludes, "... I'm going with 'Derrick,' then. You seem like someone I'd like to be on a first-name basis with." She prefers seeing men with smiles on their faces. It's harder to fake than a neutral expression, after all.
Honoka glances around at the furniture, nodding with appraisal. "... It smells like dinner is almost ready. Have you eaten already, Derrick?" She has a feeling she knows the answer to this, but there's no harm in asking.
"I ate on the way to pick you up, Miss Kawamoto," Derrick answers smoothly as he leads Honoka into... not quite a dining room. It's more of a lounge, really. There's a bar, several large televisions, and what appears to be a fully stocked bar. A wide table is centered on several couches in what might be a nod and might be a refusal of traditional Japanese dining arrangements.
Zach is standing, looking and all but radiating a certain nervous tension that Honoka may not have seen in Zach since perhaps that first date. His smile is easy enough, however. He's missed her in the short absence.
"Here you are, sir," Derrick says, nodding to Zach. He's got a faint grin as well. Young love is always fun to watch, in his eyes. "If you'll excuse me, sir, I need to get packed for my flight." Zach nods. "Thank you, Derrick," he says sincerely before turning to Honoka.
There is a course of appetizers laid out. "Hi," Zach says expectantly, "Can I... Can I get you anything to drink?"
Honoka smiles, because, yes, that was the expected response. He's a thoughtful man, that Derrick.
She seems a bit overwhelmed by the televisions, and the complete bar. This is... well beyond the means she would allow herself to display. Extravagant, possibly even excessive. And yet -- it seems perfectly at home for some other gentlemen whose homes she's been visiting on business these past few weeks.
Her boyfriend's tension does not escape notice. And yet, her face does not betray her -- though that may be because it's still a little swollen from her fight with Maki. She nods quietly, offering a brief and polite Western-style curtsy to the driver. She gives a stiff bow afterwards, as Japanese tradition expects, but he might not. "Thank you for leading the way, Derrick. It was a pleasure meeting you. Have a safe trip," she comments, completely on autopilot.
And only then, as Derrick steps away, does she close the distance to Zach. Her attention lingers briefly on the spread of appetizers: sushi of assorted fishes front and center, with a curious appetizer platter that resembles crackers, but... isn't. Inverting a pair of chopsticks, she places a few selections onto a small plate, and seats herself next to Zach, bumping him lightly and quite intentionally with her hip.
She's chosen a fragrance which he's enjoyed in the past -- it should be quite obvious as she looks up at him. The question on her mind should be obvious -- why so nervous?
But she didn't drive herself here.
"Perhaps some oolong tea," she states, after some deliberation. And then, selecting a piece of sushi, she raises it not to her own mouth -- but to Zach's.
Zach is about to start with some tea-getting when he is faced with a mouthful of sushi. He blushes a bit, then takes the whole bite. Just small enough that it fills his mouth but not so large as to force Honoka to watch him chew. He grins around the mouthful, his heart racing a bit partly from the situation but also from the proximity to Honoka.
"I..." Zach says quietly after swallowing the food, and reaching for the tea. He had some ready, it would seem. He glances around the room. "It's still kind of new to me too," he admits. "I wasn't..." Zach frowns, puts together a small plate of his own, and offers Honoka a mouthful of sushi. "It still feels like it's a bit much." he says quietly. "I wasn't sure what you'd think of it."
The Ainu woman hasn't seen Zach this -nervous- in a while, though she's perfectly okay with accepting the lead in the dance of social graces. It's plain to see the effect she's having on him, even without the advance notice provided by a certain subordinate of his.
Like his heart, hers is pumping a bit more blood than usual, though that may be due to the anxiety. Honoka is good at masking her emotions in general, but this is one she can't just smile her way through. Besides -- he's able to pick up on said emotions in ways many others cannot. But... her response will have to wait until she's done enjoying the delicacy presented to her. Unlike Zach -- she takes her time savoring the treat.
Besides, it gives him time to speak his mind.
"It will take some getting used to," she responds diplomatically, once finished with her morsel. "So that's why -I'm- on pins and needles," admits the juggler, with a sly smile creeping across her face.
"You live here, so what's your excuse?"
"Well," Zach says after a moment of thinking about it, "When I was growing up, we lived in a small, two story house. Just enough bedrooms for everyone to have some privacy. Lived in the dorms when I was in college, and those were one room apartments that we shared with someone else. With community bathrooms. Then the Corps, and those were either large rooms we shared with other people or small places to ourselves. My first assignment? Your trailer is fairly spacious by comparison." Zach waves a hand, taking in all of this. "Takehiro lives here, he's got a small storage room that he uses as a workshop. We have guests, but that's been all business until tonight. It's way more room than I am really used to." He shrugs. "I think this place was built for a family with staff that lived here. It's... kind of empty. Which is good, because it's quiet," Zach taps his temple with his forefinger to illustrate what he means by that. "But it's... a lot more than I am used to."
Honoka spaces herself apart from Zach, so that she can look him in the eye when he speaks. She is, after all, a fairly attentive listener, going through all the motions and so forth. She samples another piece of sushi from her own plate, after a moment, taking quiet note -- Takehiro, that's the cousin she's met before. "He's moved quite far from his last home, then."
But the conversation really isn't about her, right now, it's about him. The former Marine has clearly justified why he -should- feel at ease here. But, yet, he feels anxious. "Is it... guilt? In that, you own this space, and no one else can? Or is it unease, at an unfamiliar space?"
She falls silent, taking another moment to enjoy another piece of sushi. She leaves a third option conspicuously absent: the possibility that it's -Honoka- that's got him anxious.
"Or is it something else entirely...?"
Dinner arrives as Zach is thinking about the question. Salmon, grilled and lightly spiced, is laid out on the table, and two glasses of red wine are poured to go with it. The chef is clearly a local, and just here to make meals on occassion.
Zach waits for Honoka to start eating. "A little of the last two," he finally admits. "Work's been... difficult," he finally says. "And the only person I could have gone to for advice was Grampig, so I have to muddle through it."
Honoka bows her head in thanks to the chef, pleased that the man -does- seem to be a local. As much as she likes foreigners, it's good to know that Zach is at least -trying- to get used to the local culture.
She reaches for a glass, and raises it to Zach in a traditional toast. "Kampai." And then takes a very light sip -- the young performer has never wanted to imbibe -too- much of the devil's water.
Though, as he resumes his story, he might note that Honoka isn't so far away that she would give the impression of abandoning Zach -- far from it. In fact, she slips closer, slipping her stockinged foot behind his ankle, not unlike a snake beginning its climb up a tree trunk. It's a familiar gesture, and not an uncomfortable one.
A veil of darkness falls over her emotions, as she draws the pieces together. "... Let me guess, then. It's something to do with Agent Little...?"
Zach toasts, and takes a deeper sip. He's not had a whole lot of wine before. His leg doesn't pull away from Honoka's, but kind of nudges into the movement. He frowns when Daniel's name comes up.
"Pretty much everything," he admits with a slight growl. "What'd he say about me this time?"
Honoka's foot stops moving -- in fact, she pretty much freezes when she's asked the question. The psychic beside her should be able to note that she's undergoing a small emotional shift -- as if she's trying to figure out exactly what to say. Or perhaps it's... embarassment?
And then, she just doesn't end up saying anything, taking another sip of her wine. It's much less confusing to her, now, as she tries to figure out exactly what to say. She savors the taste for a moment, closing her eyes... and then sets the glass back onto the table.
"Nothing, really," is the statement of someone who has a lot more than nothing to share. She reaches for a fork and knife, quietly sawing off a small piece of salmon, and delicately placing it into her mouth.
Her emotional state is a bit too clouded to get an accurate gauge, really -- but if one were to hazard a guess, 'frustrated' would probably encapsulate it.
Zach sets his glass down, frowning slightly at Honoka. "Let me guess," he says evenly. He accused my whole family of fraud, maybe alluded that we were a bunch of racists." Zach takes a deep breath, shoving the anger down. "He's..." Zach considers for a moment. "He came after me about Holy Name. Apparently he's... involved with Tessitore." That's about as polite as he can put it. He starts cutting into his own salmon.
"Yes," he says. "Torchlight is owned by my family. The company specializes in cases that would be considered unusual. Interpol says they... we are a bunch of frauds because the party line is that there is no such thing as monsters. Most of my family only knows that the company exists, and that they are a private security company."
"And I got into mortal combat with someone who does not exist that he is 'in lust with' according to his own words," Zach says. "So he might be inclined to put some pressure on me by threatening my family."
Zach jams his fork into his fish perhaps a little harder than is necessary. "I'm getting tired of people trying to do that, and I'm this close," Zach pinches the air in front of him, "To using him to set a precendent as to why that's a bad idea."
If it were visible to the naked eye, Honoka's anxiety would be practically clouding the room by this point. She's irritated, and she's very clearly biting her tongue about -something-, and for Zach to continue telling her all these things...
No. No. At one point she looks towards the opposite wall, resolving to herself: No. Let him talk. She -wanted- him to be the one talking, after all. She draws in her breath, recenters herself... and listens to the frustrated admissions of her boyfriend.
She is a good listener, she reminds herself, while sawing into the flesh of a fish which was swimming around mere hours before.
Popping the morsel into her mouth, she savors what she can of the delicacy while allowing him to speak his peace. It's delicious, though perhaps she isn't in quite the same mood to enjoy it as she was earlier.
She avails herself of the brief lull in Zach's words. "... Tessitore, that's... the spider one, then." It's more for her own recollection than anything else -- repeating the statement, that she can piece together the diatribe she was just heard.
A mirthless smile flits across her face for the moment. "Yes. I do remember 'fraud' coming up."
A trembling sound is heard -- the sound of a fork clanging against a ceramic plate.
After a moment, the sound stops.
Honoka sets her plate on the table, lest her frustration grow any more tangible.
"That would explain the questions. The roundabout manner of his questioning. The constant... teasing out of innocent and simple answers."
"That's her," Zach confirms. He takes a deep breath, also feeling the need to find his center again. He sets his fork down, and turns to face Honoka squarely. He is still nervous. Still frustrated. But right now, more than any of that, Zach is concerned.
"Is..." No. Wrong word. "Are you okay," Zach asks. He may not be an outstanding listener, but he's pretty good at noticing things, and Honoka's clearly worked up about something.
Honoka realizes that Zach isn't looking away -- that he's looking right at her now.
She sighs, cradling her face in her hands as she looks towards the floor.
"He asked us questions. About... about the arson. About darkstalkers. And he emphasized -fraud-. It... I've been interrogated before, Zach. You know -- you were there. When that kid..."
She closes her eyes. Presses her lips together firmly.
"I hate to see you like this, Zach. You two were so close. I don't... I don't want to break this... I can tell you're upset at him, but... This ..."
Her fingers clasp together tightly.
Her mind shuts out all access.
Impenetrable, like a fortress. Wonder who she learned that from.
Zach watches Honoka for a long moment. He waits, wanting to see if she'll talk some more, but... nope. He knows this form of mental lockdown. Didn't really teach it to her, but she's had plenty of time to see it in action. Zach frowns, and sighs.
"I'm sorry," he says, before turning back to his own plate. "This was not what I had in mind when I invited you over," he says before cutting his own salmon into more managable bites.
Honoka keeps her head down. Her bangs tremble, their shimmery surface giving the truth to the tremors of the shadowed hands beneath.
Her response comes quickly -- not quite a snap, but just a simple, unadorned statement. "I know, Zach."
She sighs. She pauses, thinks for a moment.
For now, her voice remains level... "It's... it's a popular tactic, you know, like 'good cop', 'bad cop?' I've dealt with investigators, like, a -lot-, Zach... this is just another tactic they use. You want someone to admit something? You ask them about finances, you ask them about how their day's going, you ask them about -food-."
Honoka trembles more strongly now, raising her voice. "-- and then you slip in some question about -where were you- and -why the hell weren't you doing your goddamn job-."
Honoka draws in her breath, sitting up. And then she rocks back, sinking into the couch cushions. Her head angles up to the ceiling, but she doesn't open her eyes. Calmer, she continues... "Then you send everyone else out of the room. Get the suspect -alone-. Ask questions about darkstalkers, maybe /casually/ drop the threat of fraud. Then you namecheck a boyfriend. Try to slip your arm around a shoulder. Let them -believe- you -actually give a shit about them-. That he's -okay- with all this."
She's getting the order wrong. It hardly matters. She exhales, her face swollen from the earlier fight beginning to grow red with anger.
"Then," she hisses, "you tell a sad story. And then you convince them that it's all going to be okay. And maybe it will be ... because you already got us to admit to criminal negligence, in setting this -fire-..."
Honoka grits her teeth, practically rasping out the last statement. "This fire we had -nothing- to do with, Zach!!"
The tears bead up at the corners of her eyes, no matter how tightly she tries to keep them shut.
Zach takes a deep breath, holds it, and counts to five. He slides closer to Honoka. Not quite touching; too soon on the heels of what she is telling him. But close enough that if she wants to lean on Zach, she is more than welcome to. Zach reaches for his cup, takes another long sip. He is silent for a moment, but Honoka knows Zach well enough to know that he's running options (but not necessarily outcomes) through his mind.
Then he sets his knife and fork down, and looks at Honoka. "I would like to help you," he says. The whole thing sounds... oddly formal, but the emotion underneath is anything but. "What would you like for me to do?" There's something... incredibly heartfelt but strangely ritualistic about the cadence and tone of his voice as he asks what would otherwise be an honest question.
Family tradition, maybe? Something else entirely? Hard to say, but it's not hard to know that Zach means to help. Wants to help. But only in the way that she /wants/ him to help.
Honoka doesn't respond for a good long while. Maybe five seconds. Maybe thirty. Her skin is fiery hot, slick with beads of perspiration.
Somehow, the fog passes. The defenses draw down.
"I'm not done, Zach. I need to get this out." She opens her eyes, blinking tears away for a few moments.
"Let me tell you what I don't want. Let's -not- talk about Agent Daniel I'm-So-Fucking-Perfect Little, or how he's bumping uglies with a spider chick. Let's -not- talk about how shitty he made me feel, how -vulnerable- he made me. And while we're at it, let's -not- talk about the crazed psychopath yakuza who want to burn our circus down. Let's -not- talk about a bunch of stupid ninja clans that want to make you, me, and all our friends into barely-living pincushions." She's fired up in ways that Zach has likely never seen before. Frustrated, as a word, doesn't really cut it. She's mad at the world, and unable to -do- anything about it, save... acknowledge it.
And move on.
She closes her mouth, and her eyes. And exhales, letting all that wash out of her system.
And then she leans against Zach, slipping herself underneath his arm. "I want to forget all that. And enjoy this dinner you went to such trouble to make for me. Because if this level of -stupid- keeps happening, we might not have this any more. Lightning Spangles? You know they replaced her with some dipsh-- some little kid, right?"
She laughs mirthlessly, drawing Zach's arm tightly about her.
The performer exhales once more. And her skin... is still warm to the touch, but no longer fire-engine red.
"So you tell me. What do I want? And what do -you- want?"
Or have made for her, one supposes. Zach pulls Honoka in closer. He's not sure what he was expecting when he asked the question, other than that he meant to do whatever it was she asked of him. She wants him to set this all aside for the evening, to enjoy this moment.
Hell. That's not much at all to ask. Zach can do that.
"I can do that," he says. "I have to admit, I stopped paying attention to it after that one press release. I felt that it was needlessly cruel to air everything out like that. They threw that woman under the bus in the worst way possible. Enough about that, though," he says as gently takes Honoka's chin with one hand, bringing her face to look up at his.
"As for what I want," he murmurs, "Well..." Zach leans in for a kiss.
It's easier to look past the battle wounds from the earlier battle, now that the Ainu performer's eyes are finally clear of their burdens. She's not upset -- definitely not at Zach. She's never been to this house before, and with all that's been going on... well, she halfway expects to be attacked. Right now.
Her legs stretch out along the couch cushions; her hips rest comfortably upon Zach's right thigh. She allows herself to be cradled in Zach's arms. She closes her eyes, and lets the man drive.
Log created on 19:30:10 02/05/2016 by Honoka, and last modified on 11:53:10 02/06/2016.