Description: Tairyu and Mint settle in for a quiet night of watching baseball, uncovering some personal truths along the way.
It's perhaps not long after Corporal Panesh's fight with Juliet Pope -- but long enough that the medics have cleared her for not being stuck in a hospital bed somewhere.
And with that particular fight having brought the pugilist to Southtown, a certain businessman slash Yakuza is all too happy to take advantage of her presence while she's still around, too. One might expect Tairyu to want to take her to some big, glamorous date since they only really get to meet each other occasionally thanks to logistical difficulties, but... between him dealing with an obscene amount of work between both his legitimate businesses and the Aizawa-gumi responsibilities and Mint herself possibly being worn out from her match, the prospect of keeping things low-key ended up being rather appealing.
And indeed, this leads to Katashi bringing Minal to the familiar office on the top floor of the building that houses the two now-famous clubs in the heart of Southtown... with a generous bounty of takeout from a nearby Mos Burger. It might seem an odd place to bring her -- but then, she might have gathered last time that he's not spending a whole lot of time in whatever place he actually calls 'home' lately, either. At least the office is much cleaner this time around. Maybe he doesn't want to give her a *too* bad of an impression.
"How do you feel about baseball?" He asks after locking the door to the office behind the two of them, taking to shedding his black suit jacket off and hanging it on a coat rack near the door. It's the most casual he gets to be most of the time.
"There's a game in Tokyo getting broadcast in a few minutes, I'm pretty sure."
Minal is... still wearing a jersey with her own logo on it -- just not the same one she was wearing in the fight with Juliet. Bloodstains can be a bit of a downer, after all. She's also changed into her bright new tangerine-colored hands, as she's no longer ashamed to show off her hand handiwork to others!
As she slips inside, kicking off her shoes like a good Japanese houseguest should, she makes a point of standing up on a nearby chair to give her sweetie a little peck on the cheek. If she could reach him -without- standing on something, of course, she would have.
"That sounds great, Katashi! I'd love to!" She hops down cheerfully afterwards, setting her bag on the table and starting to sort out the various orders.
"Man. It -has- been a while though. And I don't know -any- of the teams here, so who are we rooting for?" She gingerly pulls one of her Fresh Burgers out of the bag, licking her lips with enthusiasm.
"... Oh, hey, where were you at in the stands? I couldn't find you on the monitor."
While Tairyu might otherwise be dubious about the rather quick acquisition of a chair to be used as a stepladder, the cheeksmooch is happily appreciated, and responsed quickly to with a brief squeeze of an arm around the marine's waist before she's allowed to be hopped down from the 'pedestal'.
"Mmm, I mean, Southtown Stars are my team, obviously, but they're not playing on this one," her host explains then, while he moves on to set aside the blanket and pillow left over on the couch from some night or another he clearly spent sleeping on it (again), followed by the recovery of the remote for the big screen hung on the wall opposite from it.
"But the boys from Tokyo are playing against the team from Osaka, so... you know, gotta have some solidarity for the Kanto-Kansai rivalry and all."
While Tairyu usually makes a point of keeping himself very firm and formal in most company, with Minal he does seem to feel comfortable in letting himself relax visibly -- and it shows quickly just in how he lets himself all but *flop* down onto the expensive sofa, with one arm draping itself along the top of the armrest.
"VIP booth," he offers in quick, easy answer to her, lips tugging into something resembling more of a wry smile. "Turns out being the host for the season comes with quite a few benefits. ... You know, beyond all the business deals it's attracting for the Restoration Project."
"Southtown Stars! That's such a cool name!" Mint may have seen posters around here and there, but never really put it together with 'sports team' or 'baseball team' in specific. While she watches Tairyu fuss with the couch arrangements, she sets about tearing open the wrapper to her burger. "So Kanto and Kansai, those are like... parts of the country?" Taking a bite from her sandwich, she looks curiously back at Tairyu as he makes himself at home -- and then carries her burger with her to the couch. The way she sees it, if there's a problem with her eating on the expensive furniture, it's kinda on Tairyu to let her know at this point.
She doesn't figure he'll mind if she just plops down next to him, letting his arm be her headrest. Though she does mutter 'ow' under her breath, considering the earlier fight.
"Oh man, that's gotta be sweet. What all's in a VIP booth? Like... better drinks? Waiters who aren't spaced out and half blitzed? It's gotta be better than the nosebleed seats."
"Different regions, yeah," Tairyu confirms for her, apparently not at all put off by the need to explain the geography of his country to his american girlfriend. "I mean, I might talk smack, but Osaka is a pretty nice place to visit. I'd take you sometime, but I have a feeling the head of a Southtown family going there on vacation might create some... akward waves with the local colors.
As it turns out, Tairyu does not seem to mind her eating potentially-messy takeout on the couch. For that matter, as she moves to sit down, he sneaks his arm down from the backrest, just low enough he can wrap the muscular limb along her and encourage her further against his larger form with a light tug.
"Oh, you know... big comfy seats, big monitors... and yeah, the waiters. And *leg room*."
With the both of them seated, the height difference between the two is much, much more manageable, and the japanese man takes the opportunity to tip his head down and sneak a quick peck against Minal's temple. "Hmmm. I can probably get you into one of those, too, if you wanted to go watch a fight in one of those big arenas."
"Oh, I see. It's kinda like how Metro's in New England, but that doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to people outside of, like, the northeast coast." Mint seems pleased with that explanation, at any rate. She raises a finger, as if she were sharing secret intel. "Did you know, like, in the US, the 'South' is like... the whole south-east portion of the country? And the Midwest is like -way- further to the east of center."
Her US Geography lesson is thankfully short-lived. And she has more important matters to consider, like the comfortable seating, and the loving boyfriend next to her. Loosing a playful snicker, she nods. "Oh, that'd be fun, yeah! I'd love it if we could watch someone else get their screws knocked loose instead of having do to it all ourselves!" Laughing, she takes another bite of her burger.
She continues after chewing a bit more of her burger. She might be a little uncouth at times, but not talk-with-her-mouth-full rude. "I mean, like... man. Do you have a VIP booth at the Stars stadium? ... =is= there a Stars stadium? It's been forever since I've had peanuts and crackerjacks..."
"... Hold on, wouldn't 'the south' cover the whole southern portion instead of just one corner?" Asks Tairyu with a confused narrowing of his eyes. "Is there... some weird cultural thing I'm missing here?"
But as for a baseball stadium and potential vip seating there? Tairyu scratches at his cheek - now actually shaved - with one finger, sheepishly. "I mean... There's a stadium outside of town, but I haven't thought to check on *that* yet. I've been caught up on so many things I barely managed to cut away time for watching your fight."
Perhaps realizing how that *could* end up sounding like, he makes the point of slipping his arm a bit lower along her, to where it can wrap around her waist and give an affectionate squeeze, as if trying to provide further assurance to reinforce his low murmur of, "I'm really glad you're here right now, by the way."
"Well, yeah, that's why it's so confusing to people who didn't grow up in the States!" She laughs, resting her burger-holding hands in her lap for a moment as she considers. "The South is everywhere from, like, Texas east, and from like Virginia and Tennessee south. It's because that's what was -traditionally- called the south, and everything from Texas west is just called 'West' or 'Southwest, ' depending on who you want to tick off the most." She snickers, leaning more upon her boyfriend.
If there's something Tairyu -could- have been hinting at by discussing other uses of Yakuza time, Mint either doesn't catch on, or isn't feeling like pursuing the finer points at this moment. To be fair, she's just... feeling much like Tairyu is: happy to be here. And she flashes him a sunny smile.
"Well, yeah, I'm glad too! You're my anchor now." She frees a hand to clamp down upon his, squeezing snugly. And as the plastic squeaks, a thought occurs to her.
"What'd you think of the new tangerine color, by the way?" She holds up one hand by way of demonstration. "Used the same CAD model basically, just a different press. I figured, as long as I'm not doing some dog-and-pony show for the brass, I don't have to pretend to be normal any more, right?"
"I... see..." The topic of the intricacies in American geography and the cultural naming conventions associated there may or may not be getting too odd for Tairyu.
Thankfully, the corporal finds a way to distract him away from it quickly. The verbal respones alone draws out one of the Yakuza boss' rare, genuinely warm smiles, and he's quick to meet the hold of her hand by turning his own just so that he can entwine his fingers betwixt hers. "Yeah?" He breathes out, in a near-whisper, mirroring the squeeze to her hand... though easing up pretty quickly, perhaps brought conscious about the plasticy nature of her fingers again. Not because he's put off by it, mind you, but rather because even in spite of whatever assurances Minal may have given him, a small part of his mind is still worried about accidentally damaging the prosthetics. "I..."
He doesn't quite get anything else out right then, no. His eyes actually end up wandering away from her, for a few seconds, though he's still smiling throughout. "Aw, man... I feel like I should be saying something really cool in response to that..." Oh. She actually managed to get him feeling all bashful for once.
"Just... I'm really happy with you." Another light squeeze to her hand.
And speaking of her hands! His head tilts slightly to one side while she holds one up for study, and lets out a thoughtful sound. "I'm... probably not understanding that technical term at all," he admits. "But..." His smile turns a bit to the playful side, as his emerald gaze turns from her hand to her own hazel eyes. "I think it's cute."
Minal may have been a little... concerned when Tairyu had fallen silent, but she's quick to look down at the flesh-and-blood fingers intertwining with hers. Not -everything- needs to be clear-cut and defined verbally, after all. And when he gives his explanation, Mint breaks into a round of soft laughter. "Haha, that makes the cut. It's not like we're being graded on how badass we are 24-7." She pauses for a moment, before interjecting with another brief snicker, "I'd give you a twelve out of ten, y'know, but who's counting?"
Though, when the discussion turns to her hands, and how she has to make appearances for her bosses, Mint gives a nervous laugh as she realizes she'd just delved right into acrostic hell. "Haha, thanks! I... I don't know what I hoped to accomplish with the infodump there, but like..." She pouts for one brief instant before noting, "It's just that for military ceremonies I still have to 'fit in' and look 'normal,' but I didn't see a point for wearing them when I'm out of dress uniform. Y'know?"
It's hard to properly do air quotes with a burger in one hand, but she manages.
She looks down. "And tangerine is like... well, it felt like a fun color that hadn't been done to death." She smiles back at Tairyu, acknowledging that he might not have anywhere -near- as much to say about the topic as she clearly does -- and just rocks her head sideways so she can meet his gaze. A self-conscious smile -- a look shared as she gazes back into his emerald eyes.
"... Yeah. I'm really happy to be here with you, Katashi."
And then she settles slightly, resting her head on his chest and upper arm, content to watch television without expounding on any grand revelations... for now...?!
If Mint breaking into laughter over his brief moment of bashfulness makes Tairyu self-conscious, he... at least makes the effort of not letting it show too much. "Well..." His smile remains sheepish with the scoring - no matter how serious or not it might be - at least. "I'll take it."
The smiles does fade some when she pouts, and the arm around her gives an affectionate squeeze while he assures her, "I get it. I mean... it's not that I have an exact point of reference, but I at least think I understand what you mean."
Her leaning in is welcomed all too happily, too -- with both arms coiling about her, and just relishing in the chance to hold her close like that, with one hand sneaking upwards along her back until he can brush his fingers through the hair at the back of her head.
"You can be anything you want to be with me, Minal," he whispers, while they're all cuddled up like that. "I hope you know that."
Minal wasn't trying to -discourage- Tairyu from speaking about his feelings, but encourage them. If anything, the soft chuckles may have been a sign that the Marine might not know how to voice her own thoughts when she's stuck either...
"... yeah." Minal seems comfortable with the idea of being comforted about her decision. "Well, I'm glad you like them, " she notes, regarding the new color of hands.
She gives off a pleasant sound as Tairyu brushes the hair on the back of her head, leaning into the gesture somewhat. Really, she -is- happy to just be here, with Tairyu, pleasantly enjoying the company. And she might not always have something appropriately snarky to say -- not always.
And sometimes she just blurts out the first thing that comes to mind.
"Even if I want to be a tuned-up drag race car?"
She asks, with a good-natured grin.
But really... she doesn't have a followup. There's television on -- and she's content to just be -quiet- for once, without someone looking back at her in expectation of her being the best, the brightest, the most insightful wit in the room. She's happy to just... -be-. Eating a burger, as she does. Squeezing Tairyu's hand, as she does.
"... I'm a little upset at her parents."
And blurting out thoughts as they work their way to the surface.
As she does.
"... Juliet, you know," she adds, for clarification. "The Boxing Angel. Her dad. God, he's terrible, Katashi."
The response Minal comes up with does have the exact effect she probably expected it to have. Tairyu's eyes narrow as they turn to peer down at her for a few long seconds.
"...Yes, even that," he ultimately says, evne if it comes with a roll of his eyes and a teasing ruffle of his hand along her hair. "You absolute dork."
It's part of why he likes her so much though, even if he doesn't vocally admit to it.
Just as much as he enjoys being able to just... be silent with her every now and then, too. Just relish in each other's company by way of... doing nothing, together.
But then comes that tiny bombshell.
"Hrm?" His head lifts up again, slightly, to give him a slightly better angle to look down at his girlfriend from, one dark brow quirking up slightly. "Pope? His promotion and arrangement of the fight in that arena ended up bringing a lot of money through to the Project, but..."
If there's one thing Minal would have learned by now, is that even though Tairyu has come to quite a bit of affluence through both legitimate and illegitimate sides of the coin that is his profession, money has never really been so much a primary interest for him as a means to an end. And as has been the case recently, the particular end has been the reconstruction of Southtown.
So when she would bring something like this up now, she would also know that the concern that builds up now, reflected in the deepening frown on his features, is one that is easily pushing aside the monetary matters in favor of the more human element.
"What did he do?"
It's a simple question. But thanks to the way Minal worded her worries, and the tone of voice she held, he speaks it with the kind of weight that suggests readiness to bring down hell upon the man their conversation has shifted to, depending on her answer.
Mint -is- happy to just sit. And as Tairyu digests the thoughts, her artificial thumbs knead at the texture of the rapidly-disappearing burger's bun.
She lets out a small sigh. "Just that... I dunno. I can't -prove- anything, and I can't really tell if they're just -pushing- her too hard or they actively want to see her fail, but..."
The burger squishes a bit. Lettuce and mayo bulge, on the verge of popping out and yet staying put for now.
"It really seems like, to her dad, this is all about raw profit." She glances up at Tairyu, falling a bit more neutral than her usual jokey self. "He wrote me a letter, y'know. And rather than upselling her it was like he was kinda takin' a dump on her. Spent most of the letter just talking about profit pitches."
She looks back at her burger. She mitigates the threat posed to the fancy sofa with a quick nibble.
"And like, she's -learning-, right? But he seems, like, super upset when she goes limp before a punch she can't avoid. Like, fuck =strategy=, he's ticked it's not -photogenic- or some bullshit."
"Profit pitches... Photogenic..."
Tairyu lets the thoughts put into his head by Mint swirl around for a good moment, with an apparent focus on those two very particular words he'd repeated.
His frown deepens briefly, before he leans back agains the backrest of the sofa more fully with a sigh, inadvertantly pulling MInal right along with him.
"Way back in the day, my old man used to run underground fighting rings," Katashi murmurs out, in what might be a bit of an unexpected offering of insight into Yakuza operations, former as they may be. "Stopped them a while before I swore up, though. The field was too oversaturated to be worth it, and... well. Everyone who wanted their fighting fix could get them legitimately, anyhow, unless they were death matches. Old man wasn't too keen on that kind of shit, though. Still... learned some things from both there and all the gambling operations he ran even after."
Eyes wander briefly to the tv screen broadcasting the baseball match, but right now, it's just more background noise than anything else.
"Did you know it actually requires a really skillful fighter for throwing matches in betting scams?"
The Yakuza doesn't really give her a lot of time to answer that, just enough to mull it over for a little bit.
"It's easy to put up an obvious loser up against someone strong and bet in favor of the strong guy, sure, but... bookies are going to mark the odds up where any bets for the strong guy aren't going to bring up much of a profit at all, right? SO it's not really too worth it. But on the flipside, having a strong fighter throw the match against someone obviously weak is going to end up drawing a lot of scrutiny. No one's going to believe a heavyweight boxer is going to be one-hit KO'd by some featherweight newbie on the first round of a match without some fuckery going on behind the scenes."
With his other hand still held high along Minal's form, Katashi's fingers find themselves subconsciously brushing through her hair still, playing idly with locks of hair while he speaks.
"So you have to put on a show. Make it believable. Get a fighter who you're able to build up as strong on their own right, put them against someone who's slated to be weaker but not *too much*. Enough that most people are going to put their money on the fighter in your corner. And when the fight actually happens, you have your fighter put up a good fight -- enough to put the weaker guy on the ropes, but not enough to overwhelm them. And steadily give them more ground, make it look like the underdog is getting just enough of a burst to even the ground -- make a big whole show of the match for everyone watching... all the way up until the point when your guy takes the fall, and actually makes it look believable... not by some limp-ass amateurish blow, but some punch that looks really strong to the audience, even if your fighter could normally avoid it... but instead makes it look like there was no way they could. In the end it's all one-sided theater for the sake of putting a ton of money into your pocket because you bet on the guy your guy was fighting."
With all that having been said, Katashi lets out a heavy sigh, pursing his lips and letting silence reign for a few seconds -- both to recenter himself and to let Minal digest that particular insight on gambling and scams.
"Sounds to me like old man Pope doesn't want his daughter to win -- but not lose easily either."
Mint falls back into the pit of comfort with Tairyu, offering a small snicker at the realization of what's actually happening. If Tairyu looks over at her he'd see a pleasant smile on her face -- mostly because she's getting story time, and she genuinely likes the sound of Tairyu's voice. And partly because she's got baseball to watch on the screen, which -- considering the teams she's not familiar with -- is a bit of a new experience for her.
"Mm?" She responds attentively as Tairyu asks his question about fighters and their skill. She... understands the general concept of throwing a fight, sure, but she gives Tairyu an attentive look all the same. "Yeah, make it too obvious, and everyone can see the ruse."
Still -- Tairyu has her attention no matter what is on the television, and Mint is right there being a good listener, going 'Uh-huh?' when needed, frowning at some points, shaking her head in others -- and taking small bites to eradicate what's left of her burger when appropriate!
And when he falls silent, Mint too remains quiet, looking back to the screen -- though she's not really -watching- so much as -thinking-.
"Yeah, he wants... to make it look convincing. He was really upset when he even so much -thought- about me throwing the fight -- because I'm pretty sure he's betting against his daughter for now. Doin' what you say, buildin' up a good pattern. People who are up to no good usually project that onto other people an' all."
She grimaces, balling up what's left of her burger wrapper. And despite how comfy she just was, she rocks forward, catapulting herself back to her feet. She walks over to grab her drink (the french fries having vanished on the trip over, somehow!. "Want anything while I'm up?" *sip*
"Did he, now." The further information makes Tairyu wrinkle his nose in obvious distaste -- but it does seem to seal the deal on his suspicions. "It's almost certainly the case, then."
While she's still there in the embrace of his arm, he peeks down at her, thoughtfully. "You seem invested in her troubles," he observes. "Do you want me to put feelers out into the gambling circles? I'm sure he would have put a bet in through a proxy to avoid drawing suspicion, but my boys might be able to dig up something, anyway."
When it does become abundantly clear that she's about to relinquish her seating in favor of going to recover her drink, he does let his arm uncoil from her so as to give her the freedom of movement needed.
And when that offer comes? He can't help but take the opportunity to be the cheeky one, for once.
The answer's given with a mischievous smile and a purposefully-obvious, shameless wandering of his gaze along the marine's form.
"I could do with some of the twelve-year Yamazaki in the cabinet back there, though, if it's not any trouble."
"I -am- invested in her troubles," she stresses. She peers back at him, animated with her own peculiar sort of passion. "She's such a good girl, Katashi! She's a great boxer, she's got that same dogged determination you said you liked seeing in me, she's -short- like me, and..."
She turns away, closing her eyes, turning the phrase over in her head first. "... and she said she really looks up to me, like... like a -role model- and such." Her cheeks darken, if only for the emotional import brought on by the memory. "I mean, like... it's sweet! And I wanna help her grow into the person she wants to be, because it really feels like she's trapped between a rock and her dumb parents, and I'm not sure if they're like... trying to -hurt- her dumb, or just plain stupid."
She sighs, frustrated. And that's when she gets up.
"Ha, ha," she comments, cheeks flushing hot for another brief moment. And with lowered eyebrows and lowered tone, she clarifies: "In a little while, geez."
But then she hunts for the twelve-year Yamazaki, as bidden. There is... some trouble, but she finds it, and then hunts down the small drinking cups to go with it.
"... Listen, I ... I know it puts you in a tough spot since all eyes are on you." Her hazel eyes turn to Tairyu, as she offers him a concerned look. "I don't... I don't have any -doubt- he's betting against her, but like, I also don't want her out of the league. She -likes- boxing. It's the one way she gets to be free. And if her dumb dad gets the boot then she loses that, and I don't think that's good either."
She blinks, looking down at the cups, and then the bottle. "Were you gonna drink it from the bottle? I don't mind pouring..."
"I do understand that," Tairyu clarifies, over her concerns. "The thing is... From what you tell me of Juliet, she seems the type to want to put her all into the fights regardless of what her piece of shit dad wants... but on the flipside, *he* sounds like the kind of asshole who wouldn't let her get away with that. As much I am the type who likes to solve problems head-on, too, this... is not a problem that can be just punched away."
The Yakuza boss shifts subtly there on the couch, propping his elbow to the top of the backrest so he can lean his cheek against the knuckles of his hand.
"The way I gather it, she needs two things, for her to get what she wants. The first is some kind of leverage or pressure on her parents that will let her seperate from them. And the second is something or someone that will help her stand on her own after the fact."
His eyes close for a few seconds as he takes a long, deliberate inhale of air through his nostrils, before opening his eyes to focus on Minal again.
"If you rather I keep myself in the backseat for this one, I can and will respect that, too. But I'm just saying... I can help with *at least* one of those. Possibly with both... at least to the extent that I can leverage my contacts with the League organizers to make sure she will still have a place there. So in turn, if you want it, I will give you all the help and resources you ask for. Besides, I'm..."
Pursing his lips, he shakes his head briefly.
"...I *am* diametrically opposed to what Pope is doing, on principle, you know? Even more so if she's getting abused for the sake of it."
And when it comes down to it, he *is* glad to see Minal so invested in this, and for all the reasons she's taken a shine to the 'Boxing Angel'. Proud, even. Not many people would go out of their way to help someone in that kind of situation.
As for the Yamazaki, though? Tairyu lifts both his brows up, with a brief flicker of an amused smile.
"I'm pretty sure we would be insulting some deity of liqour somewhere if we drank expensive whiskey straight from the bottle," he assures with a low hint of a laugh rumbling behind his words. "C'mere, you have a cup for yourself too, right? I do feel like I should be the one pouring, though, being the host and all..."
"Yeah... that fits," comments Minal, agreeing whole-heartedly with Tairyu's assessment. "She would, and he would. Much as I'd -like- to punch his lights out, that's either battery or manslaughter, and I'm don't think I'm ready to become a yakuza -just- yet, sweetie."
She blinks at the term of endearment that popped out, assessing its flavor and reaction... and then moves right along to the next topic afterward.
"... I... I don't know, yet, Katashi, it's just... there's so many ways it can go wrong. It feels like meddling, and yet, I'm..." Tangerine-colored hands flail for purchase on an ineffable target. "It's new to me, like, I've never felt more -wrong- about just letting her go back to that asshole. And yet, legally, -morally-, being with two people who call themselves Dad and Mom is still tons better than -not- being with two people who call themselves Dad and Mom, y'know?" She frowns, shaking her head. "I just..."
She just focuses on the drink for now. And she smiles a bit more, at the less weighty topic. "Well, I'm up now, and /I/ offered, so you're at least letting me pour your cup." She sticks out the tip of her tongue as she uncorks the bottle without much of a second thought. (Advantage: bionic hands)
She pours Tairyu's cup readily, then sets the bottle down in case he wants to return the favor. "I just wanna be in the clear with information before we take any action, y'know? So if you wanna... keep eyes open, sure, I think that'd be best for now. If there's funny business, we just go to the po..."
She catches herself before saying what she would have said, the syllables hanging on the end of her lips. Paling slightly, she coughs into a bionic hand. "... we go -deal- with it then. However appropriate, yeah?"
The term of endearmeant might surprise Tairyu a little, judging from the quirk of his brows -- but the small smile that comes after shows he sure doesn't mind it.
"Well, if you ever decide on it, I'm sure you would be great at it, honey," he can't help but offer in counter to her a few seconds after, with a slightly playful smile.
He falls into some solemn silence while she voices her concerns further about Juliet's situation, his eyes falling away from her to the cup she's pouring whiskey into for him.
But then, there's something he has to get off his chest, too. "...I'm an orphan, Minal," he says, without any hesitation, while reaching for the bottle she set aside with one hand, and the second cup with the other. "I don't share parents with my little sister, either. And Old Man Aizawa was just someone who decided to look after two orphans."
He lets those words linger in the air for a few seconds, the soundspace filled instead by the faint sounds of the expensive liqour flowing from the bottle into the cup.
"...Family isn't just about blood, or about what reads on your legal papers. Family is something much more. And whatever Old Man Pope is, he's... certainly not that, for her."
THe filled out cup is held out to Minal, and when she would reach over, he may make the point of bringing his fingers brushing against her flesh and blood ones, as his eyes lock on to hers.
"Sometimes it might be wrong to meddle. But that feeling you have in your heart... It can't be entirely wrong either. THe one truth you have is that you have the desire to help someone you see in trouble. The next step you have is to figure out what you should do about that. What your own sense of what's right demands of you."
Having said that, he does give a vaguely amused look at her over the near-slippage of the p-word. He doesn't call her out on her on it, at least.
"...Sure," he offers instead, in answer, with a slow nod of his head, while holding his cup out towards her, for a quick tap to the rim of hers. "Just remember, I'll help in any way I can if you ask for me, alright?"
Minal smirks in reply to Tairyu's quickly-offered rejoinder. Minal 'Honey' Panesh responds, "Nice. Real smooth."
The next response of his, though, has Minal stepping back away from the table. Not just the admission of his lack of parents -- but the realization that the Old Man Aizawa was... not his actual dad. Meaning none of this... -club- would have been his if not for his adoption.
Stunned into silence, she can do little else but follow the suggestions given to her by ritual -- reaching out to the hands. And feeling Tairyu's pulse pressing against hers. She might have spilled her words, stated her mind -- but it's only to set the record clear on what she's willing to do for Juliet. And hearing Tairyu's intent?
It's enough to bring tears to the Marine's eyes.
"I... I get that, Katashi."
She lowers her chin, but keeps her eyes raised to his.
"And I'm gonna -give- her my support."
Bionic hands wrap tightly about the whiskey-filled cup.
"I've already decided that. And I will, yeah."
She offers a hopeful smile.
She looks down at her hands -- at Tairyu's firm hands resting upon them. Her voice cracks, ever so slightly. "A toast, then?"
Her eyes lift up. And with a borderline-goofy smile, she suggests, "To the good man Old Man Aizawa raised."
Seeing the tears welling up in Minal's eyes, Tairyu's expression falls some, even in the face of the smile that fights it's way through it all on the marine.
It gets even worse when he hears her voice cracking even as she suggets a toast.
Slowly, he sets his cup down and aside.
"This one's not about me."
Slowly, he shuffles over closer to the small pugilist, never breaking eye contact with her. "Come here?" He offers, with both arms reaching out for her. And if she allows it, he'll pull her into a tight embrace, with one hand drawing up to cup the side of her face affectionally, and his head tipping in to press his forehead against hers.
"I knew you were a good person, Minal."
The Yakuza's eyes close slowly, while his brow rubs to hers.
"From the very moment I first laid eyes on you."
The words a barely audible whisper, but welling up straight from the man's heart.
"And I know you will do what's right. Few people in this world get to say they've even tried. So put all your heart into it."
Mint sets her jaw.
The tears aren't something she -wanted- to show, just a product of... being caught up in the moment of thinking about Juliet, and then thinking about how Tairyu's take on the situation would be fundamentally different from hers.
But that doesn't matter. It's that he sees her -- and her reaction. And this is what he does -- he takes the toast offered for -him-, and turns it right back around.
The need to de-fang a real, honest emotion.
Of course she follows the instruction, of course she sets the cup down and walks over to him. And of course she keeps eye contact, even if it's getting hard to see him.
There's a lot to let out, right now.
It's a good, long cry.
All those tears are accepted, too, by him.
He maintains that hold that sees his forehead against hers for a good moment, but eventually, there's a shift. A straightening up of his body, a hand brushing up to the back of her head to gently guide her to resting her head agains the broad expanse of his chest... or even press her face against it to let her tears soak up against his shirt, if she so wishes.
There's no words given now, not for a while. For now, as long as he is concerned, she needs this moment. And he, in turn, gives her as long as she needs within the shielding circle of his strong arms, against the supporting post of his firm chest. As long as she needs, to let out as much as she needs, while the hand upon her head slowly draws over it in soothing, petting motions, fingers brushing through dark hair.
Content just to be there for her, right now.
A bionic hand flattens against Tairyu's chest. A handhold, a support -- some way to make sense of the unbridled emotions wracking through her at the moment, a needed stability as if the arms wrapping about her would even -let- her fall.
Mint cries for what seems like an eternity, finally imprisoned with her emotions long enough to start to make -sense- of them. And yet, she's still fighting to some degree -- wrestling with the clearly stated admission from her boyfriend. From the one person who sees her as she -wants- to be seen.
"Rude..." she sobs, balling her tangerine hand into a fist, and thumping him ineffectually.
Her family was so fragile, back then. Living hand to mouth. All five of them, suffering on the streets. If any one of them lost their will, had a -moment,- it would impact them all. The depression would cripple their ability to work, to get through the day.
"Wreckin' my self image... You're s'posed to let me be an invincible badass... "
Each of the Panesh family would learn to bury their true feelings between a facade of stoicism, just for the sole goal of making it through as a family together. Things got better -- but old habits die hard.
Minal looses a self-effacing laugh, wiping her eyes with her forearm. "How -dare- you... telling me things like that." A light scoff, delivered with a tear-stained smile.
But then she wraps her arms about his middle. No longer fighting -- just pressing her damp cheek against his shirt, her ear just sliiiightly below his heart, damn her height and lack thereof.
"I mean... Thank you. I... I guess I needed that, Katashi."
She looks up, hazel clarity pushing through the overflowing pools. And when she can look him in the eyes, the rest of the bluster just disappears.
"Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I mean, it's... you get me, Katashi. I love you."
Tairyu himself may not be familiar with the exact circumstances behind Mint's upbringing -- though he certainly would understand them, between the period in his life he was left fully orphaned before Aizawa taking him in, and the obscene societal discrepancy found within parts of Southtown.many don't even want to acknowledge exist.
But what he can certainly recognize and understand in this very instant, is the issue of the self-image he has inadvertantly brought up with Minal. The wall forced to be built up for the sake of holding up others around it. It's the kind of wall that has to be built up often in his line of work, too, though for entirely different reasons. It's a strange balance between the societal expectations of being true to oneself and taking responsiblity... and the need to not appear weak upon one's peers.
But at least now, here, just between the two of them, there's no need to maintain that kind of balance.
"For what it's worth..."
The Yakuza's arm tightens around her waist.
"I don't think being truthful to yourself..."
When she looks up, she finds him smiling down at her, without any hesitation, without any of the usual stoic hangups restraining the warmth.
"Makes you any less so."
And then comes the words of genuine gratitude... and right after, the dangerous l-word. The one so often hesitated on being uttered out, for any number of reasons. Even more so by people like Minal and Katashi themselves, perhaps. For the Yakuza embracing her, too, is, in spite of everything, not great at expressing his emotions.
But much like he's given her the chance to be true to herself with him, should he not also be able to allow himself to be true, with her?
The smile on his lips spreads ever so-slightly.
Moisture gathers at the corner of one eye, and his back slowly arches to lean his head closer in.
"I love you too, Minal."
THe shift is akward thanks to the height difference, but his brow eventually finds it's way pressing against her forehead, nuzzling affectionally.
"My light in the dark."
"Well, sure, but it's so -boring-." She manages another self-effacing smile, in spite of herself.
Because really, blurting things out is probably Mint's one true talent. It's not until a moment after the L-word spills out that her cheeks burn a bright red. These are things that are difficult for many people to say, and yet... well. It's hard for her to -not- notice the effect that her words have upon Tairyu.
She holds herself together enough to press up against his forehead, to keep her grip on his waist snug. No longer is the grin just shallow or goofy -- but a smile that radiates all over, from head to heart to toes.
She stays that way... for a long, blissful moment. Where the rest of the world just... might as well not even be there.
And when that moment passes?
She'll take a deep breath.
And squeeze him again.
Leaning in to savor his scent, to bask in his warmth.
After a good long while, though, the blurting catches up with her. "Jeez, Katashi. See if I ever toast -you- again." She scoffs once more, giving the yakuza another heartfelt squeeze. "To us, then?"
As akward as it may have felt to work up to saying it... it's obvious enough, just from the way Tairyu holds her now, the way his own smile radiates warmth right back against her, he certainly doesn't hold any regrets on having said it.
For this is the flame he is glad to kindle and brighten up.
Nothing else seems to really even need to be said. The silence itself is comfortable, and everything to be said comes instead in those small little physical cues between their two bodies.
...At least until Minal finally speaks up again. It breaks the silence on his own part, too, first with a quiet snort and then a low whisper of, "I guess that's the thing... I'm not so good at celebrating myself, either."
Leaning back enough, now, that he can at least look down to her, smiling at her with his emerald eyes just as much as his lips.
"But sure, yeah. To us."
Log created on 20:22:41 04/30/2021 by Mint, and last modified on 15:17:37 05/02/2021.