Date: December 17th, 2009
Stephanie takes her rescuer (and his grumpy girlfriend) out to dinner to say thank you.
Wild Orchid Portuguese Restaurant
So about an hour ago, Stephanie's phone got a text message that was short, simple and to the point: it was the address to the Portugeuse restaraunt that Lena had mentioned at their meeting. The curtness of the message makes it likely that it was Lena who sent it, too. Plainly she isn't going to turn her nose up at the chance for free food but neither is she going to encourage the blonde and her obvious crush.
The Wild Orchid isn't much to look at on the outside, but inside it is a small and cozy space full of gleaming dark woods and polished glass. The tables and booths are small and intimate, and the walls are lined with framed prints of Old World merchant vessels. Lena and Tiago have already been shown to their table, which is in fact a booth in the corner near the kitchens. They're both seated on the same bench, leaving the other one for Stephanie; Lena insisted. Stripped of her cold weather gear, Lena appears to be wearing a simple black turtleneck sweater, her black knit gloves, and a red plastic headback is holding her hair back from her face as she studies the menu.
"I dunno what half this stuff is, Chi…what's bacalhau ah minhota? Did I say that right?"
Given the shortness of time, Stephanie hasn't had a whole lot of time to plan or prep. She wasn't sure what the restaurant was like, either. As a result, she's dressed a little bit more upper-end than the Wild Orchid might call for. She's in heels, a nice pair of slacks, and a nice silk blouse. The kind of garb you'd wear to a nice-but-not-black-tie restaurant. She gets there, parks, and in she goes. She takes a look around, after informing the hostess that she's here meeting friends, and gets shown over to the table. "Hi, you guys!" Bright and perky as ever, she moves to sit.
Tiago has yet to inform the brunette beside him that it will be he who foots the bill. You can tell because Lena isn't glaring daggers at him, and he's smiling in a bright, almost kindly sort of way. Idly, he looks over the menu, sipping from his long-necked beer before shooting his girlfriend a bright smile. "It's like…what's it called. It's fish, baby. Tastes good, trust me." With the assurance in place, he reaches over to slide his hand over her gloved ones, using it to drag her own finger over to another name on the menu. "I'm gettin' one o' those. Feijoada. It's fuckin' delicious, you can have some if'ya wanna try…"
His attention is then drawn over the the blonde who appears, almost just in time, and it is with a bright, amiable sort of smile that she is greeted. "Hey! Steff. C'mon, sit down. Y'got here alrigh'? I told Lena ta send you the good shortcuts an' all." Stephanie might as well be an old family friend, because that's how Tiago is treating her.
The mention of fish does pique Lena's interest, and she transfers her attention willingly enough from the item she'd been perusing to the one Tiago recommends. She isn't in a terrible mood, all things considered. But the evening is still young!
"Sure, that sounds…well, I dunno what it sounds like but if you say it's good…" That agreeable response is clipped short with Stephanie's arrival, the emotional tone of her expression not improved by Tiago's manner towards the blonde. Steff? They're on a nickname basis now?
She draws a breath and in a dazzling display of maturity forces a smile to greet the other girl. "Hey, glad you got here safe. The roads are shit out there…Chi was just translating the menu for me, everything's in Portugeuse."
Stephanie looks a little awkward at the mention of non-existent shortcuts. "Ummm…everything's okay, sure. I googled it, to make sure I found the right way. And yeah, I totally don't read any Portugeuse…haven't ever eaten it, either. So I'm gonna need someone to be the menu chooser for me." She beams back at Tiago. "I trust you. I'm a fan of sweet stuff, so anything with some sweetness to it is good."
Tiago is either blissfully oblivious or a brilliant actor, for he manages to play ignorant the the slight tension Lena holds inside. "Yeah, y'can trust me. I love this place - know the owners an' all. They're legit, man. Cook jus' like my mom used ta. Makes me feel like…y'know. Like we're back in Miami, babe." This is obviously specifically geared to the woman beside him, before he turns that sparkling grin over toward Stephanie. "I gotchya, girl. Jus'…y'like meat, right? Brazilian food is only good for peoples who like meat. We make the best barbeque in the world, like no lie. Anyway! So, how's you, yeah? Doin' well?"
Tiago can grin and use pet names all he likes. Lena is not appeased, particularly as Stephanie appears intent on glowing at the Brazilian. In fact, blue eyes meet green ones with the sort of grim intensity reserved for scenes of domestic violence. But that smile struggles gamely on when she looks back to the other girl. She's trying, bless her heart. "Meat or seafood. Dunno about sweet though, unless they got that rice pudding stuff…that shit is awesome," she confides, a muscle jumping in her jaw. An attempt is made to cover for it by reaching for her soda immediately after, gloved hand bringing the glass to her lips for a small swallow.
Afterwards, the glass is slowly returned to the table and she lifts her eyebrows at both of them. "You guys're awful friendly for folks who only met for like…what, five minutes?"
Stephanie smiles back. "Oh, sure. Meat is good. That sounds awesome. I like barbecue." She looks at the menu, as if knowing that it's "barbecue" will somehow make it magically readable. "Oh, we ran into each other yesterday!" Stephanie explains, while looking to Tiago, and then back to Lena. "I ended up in the same coffeeshop he was in." She explains. "It was weird coincidence, after spending the whole day looking and not finding, y'know?"
Tiago cranes his head to the side, and for a moment his grin flickers as he reads the /slight/ discontent radiating from the woman, but in the end he ends up shaking it away. She's fine, right? Yeah…yeah, sure. "Then y'gotta have it. Churrasco, tha's what it's called. Here, lemme show you." Despite all of the warning signs, despite the imminent danger of the situation, he scoots away from Lena for the moment in order to lean over the table and point out the name of the food item on Stephanie's own menu with a smile.
As he settles back in his booth comfortably, his eyes are drawn over to Lena once more. "Mhmm? Oh, yeah - right after I ducked outa home, yeah? While you were all makin' fun of me an' shit with Jade. She was there an'…it was kinda weird, but funny, huh? I guess that's life for ya. Fate, maybe, if you believe in that kinda shit."
Dot. Dot. Fucking dot.
"Oh, yeah? Ha. Funny how shit works out that way, huh?" Lena is watching, with some intensity, as Tiago leans over the table. He will never know how grateful he should be that the genetic lottery did not award her with laser eyes. Flirting is one thing, really it is. But this oh so chummy behavior, with lack of full disclosure until prompted? Unacceptable.
By the time fine Brazilian ass returns to bench, the brunette has scooted further into the corner. The move is disguised as a lazy lean, just Lena getting comfy. In reality, it allows her to better watch the both of them. "Don't you say I was making fun of you, Chi. Jade was but I stuck up for you. Where's the goddamn waiter?"
The blonde doesn't seem to see anything wrong with it. But then, pretty and blonde and oh-so-innocent, butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. She nods, looking over at the other two. "I'm really looking forward to this. I haven't had anything like this before. I hope the portions are big." With her metabolism, she can really pack it away.
It's all innocent, it really is. But, what with Lena's aggressive attitude putting a damper on things, he can't help but sober slightly. Pursing his lips, Tiago narrows his eyes at the woman speculatively, before looking away. "You was too - it's cool, though. I know you guys dun' mean it none. Anyway - I dunno where the waiter is. They're bein' lazy asses…how 'bout this, okay? Ima go up there an' order you guys somethin' special, an' you wont know what it is, so it's goin' ta be a surprise. Y'want somethin' ta drink, Steff? Soda or a beer or somethin'?" He offers, seeing the opportunity to escape the oppressive air and regroup. To Lena, he nods towards her drink. "You, ah, wanna refill or somethin' maybe, princessa?"
"Was not." The set of Lena's jaw hints that she is not backing away on that small detail. She was not mocking her boyfriend. Especially if Stephanie is listening; wouldn't want to give the blonde any ideas! "And I'm fine," she adds, curling her covered hand protectively around the glass. "You go on, Chi. Steff and I will chat while you're away."
The brunette tips another of those small, tight smiles at the other girl. Oh yes. They will chat. "They give you a lot of food, yeah. Like, seriously huge plates. But it's all healthy, you know?"
All in all, leaving Stephanie with Lena at the table might still be safer for the blonde…sending /Lena/ up to get the drinks might result in Stephanie's being spiked nine ways from Sunday. The blonde nods. "Sure, I'd love a soda. Pepsi, please!" Caffiene + sugar = win. She can't drink yet…well, at least not legally. "Thanks!"
Tiago offers the faintest shrug of his shoulders, darting the two woman one last hesitant look. After a moment of debating whether or not this is the smartest of moves, he expels a sigh and turns onto his heels with one final smile. "Cool. I'll be righ' back, okay? No havin' fun without me, or my feelin's will be all hurt." And with that, he heads over to the kitchen.
"Yeah, so. Remember how you got all red and uncomfortable when I figured you were maybe looking to hook up with my guy?" Lena wastes no time in broaching the subject. The instant Tiago is out of earshot, she leans forward and folds her arms on the table, fixing Stephanie with a look that is entirely lacking in smile. "I think you were fucking lying and I'd appreciate if you'd knock it off with the sunshine and kittens bullshit, okay? He's a good guy, and if you're trying to pretend to be all friends with him so you can get in his pants, I'm gonna have to hurt you."
Stephanie goes right back to the red and uncomfortable. She blinks a couple times. "I'm just…we're just doing dinner." Confused look. "He /is/ a nice guy, I know that. Why're you being so hostile?" Her tone is a little wounded. "I'm just trying to do something nice to pay him back."
Lena lifts one hand to gesture at her face, lips pulled back from her teeth in poor imitation of the beaming Stephanie was doing earlier at Tiago. "Yeah, whatever, I saw how you were looking at him. I mean, I totally understand if you were maybe getting your panties in a happy twist before you knew he had a girlfriend. But you could tone it back now, okay? Paying for dinner's nice enough, you don't have to go all sappy at him too. Not in front of me, that's fucking rude."
Stephanie looks like she might be finding a little bit of spine, at least. "Look…I already told you I wasn't trying to put the moves on him. He's your boyfriend, and I wouldn't mess with that. I'm just being friendly, that's all." Pause, and then she adds "Maybe he just prefers nice to bitchy." She might be a geek, but she's not a /total/ doormat.
If Tiago knew what kind of conversation was being held in his absence, the man would be at a crossroads, unable to decide between setting up a camera to catch the action or to break it up before the violence began. As it is, he can choose neither thanks to his ignorance. Eventually, after a period of chatting it up with his fellow immigrants, he ends up strolling back towards the table, a broad, amiable grin on his face and a Pepsi in hand. The atmosphere surrounding the two women manages to suck the smile right off of his face, though. "Ahem. Hey, girls…what's goin' on here?" He inquires, tone suspicious as he looks from one to the other. "Steff, I gotchya you're drink."
"If that's all it is, fine. I'm just saying, I've seen "nice" girls like you doing their thing before, with the sneaky business underneath the smiles, and it fucking sucks," Lena has time to say, showing remarkable restraint by not exploding at Stephanie's returning fire. Maybe she is growing up! Or maybe Tiago arrived just in time to interrupt any hair pulling. Then she's leaning back into the corner again, adopting a much less intense look. She even smiles (just a little, and crookedly) at the man. "Girl talk. Steff was wondering if I had any tampons."
Nothing's as likely to throw a man off the scent than mention of feminine hygiene products.
The blonde looks like she's about to rebut, and then Lena mentions tampons. In connection to her. In front of a boy. Cue instant beet red hue, blushing fiercely like all the blood from her body has decided to visit her face. Match point: Lena.
Had she said anything else, Tiago would have remained suspicious. Anything. But, indeed, the woman /has/ won. All thanks to that uncomfortable phenomenon known as the menstrual cycle. Automatically, the man blinks twice, and he shakes his head as if trying to remove the vile word from his head. "Uhh, nice, I guess…" He mumbles uncomfortably before sliding the drink in Stephanie's direction and eventually collapsing into the booth beside Lena. "That's…damn, you girls are always talkin' 'bout awkward shit like that, huh?"
Needless to say, this is a trick Lena uses often. And Tiago falls for it every. Single. Time.
Yeah, she's wily like that. Lena braces an elbow against the table and props her chin in cupped hand, smiling faintly at the pair of them. "Not our fault we got built the way we did," she says in the chummy tones of someone sharing a joke with a "sister of gender". The look she gives Stephanie is perhaps a little harder than necessary, for an inside joke, but overall she's pleased with the results of their little chat. "Except for the whole getting kicked in the balls thing, you guys got it easy."
Stephanie tries to rally, picking up her soda and sipping it until the blush is banished. "Thanks for getting the drinks, Tiago." She tries to regain some of her composure, and for that? Conversation! "So, how long have you guys been together?" Okay, so maybe it's not the best topic.
Tiago contorts his features into one of distaste. "Uh. Well, yeah, but it's you're fault for talkin' 'bout it all the damn time. An' hey, man. You dunno pain until you're taken out like that, okay? I know y'think it's funny an' all, but it really aint." Beat. "Unless it's happenin' to some other dude, then it's hilarious." This last addition brings a boyish grin to his face, bright and excited. "Huh? Oh, well…how long, huh, Lena?" He tosses her a curious look. "Actually…like, tagether tagether, not very long at all. Like…a month or two, maybe."
"Two months," Lena corrects, idly jiggling her straw in the half-empty glass of soda, making the ice dance. "Almost. We've been roommates since…what? April or May? Something like that. Been awhile, anyway." At least so far as street thugs are concerned. Theirs is not a world in which long-term is recognized as taking years to achieve. The question answered, she'll put one of her own out there. "So, what're you, Steff? Like a college student or something? Or you just rich and bored?"
Oh, thank god. Someone else has taken over the flow of the conversation. Even if it's Lena, Stephanie's glad for not having to bull her way through being social. "I'm a student at Columbia." She nods. "Still working on figuring out my major, though it'll probably be something to do with computers." She looks to the waiters. "Kinda slow, huh?"
"Yeah, for a while now. We was good, jus' friends an' all, an' we decided ta move up here from Florida." Tiago amends, smiling over to Lena and sipping away at his beer. As Stephanie reveals more of her person, his attention is drawn over to hers. "Kinda slow? Nah. I aint even graduated from high school - so you're doin' way better'n me, at least." But, then again, his preferred career choice doesn't exactly require education. "That's cool, though. Computers, huh? I cant do shit with them, only play games. I'm /good/ at those, at least." It's only after babbling that he realizes that she meant the waiters were slow. "Oh! Oh…righ'…ha. Yeah."
But speak of the devil, and he will arrive. With a thick, meaty stew, copious amounts of rice, and portions of meat on a spit, ready to have the most tender portions cut up for consumption.
"What, so you're a geek?" That earns a weak smile from Lena. It figures, that's all they seem to run into anymore these days. The matter of her own educational history will remain off the table. That's one area that she knows better than to get into a pissing contest over. "Yeah, if Chi ever found a job where all you had to do was play games, we'd be totally set…oh hey." The food arriving perks up her mood, somewhat. She straightens on the bench and squares her plate before her, reaching for the rice spoon. "You guys see that video that went out about a week ago? The one with that guy who owns the computer company, saying he's gonna be giving shit away for Christmas?"
Stephanie smiles at the waiter beatifically as he delivers her large quantities of meat (get your mind out of the gutter, people), and then nods back to Lena's tag for her. "Yeah, total geek. And there are games like that. Beta-testing, I mean. They're kind of few and far between, but they're out there. And then there's tournament play." A nod confirms the last. "Jaden Cain. He's…he's kinda like a modern Howard Hughes. Really rich and totally nutters."
"Oh…well, shit. I need ta get me one of 'em gigs, then. Beta-testin', that sounds sweet as hell!" With this said and done, Tiago grins, beaming at the sudden arrival of food. "Awesome!" He's already piling the food onto his plate by the time the new topic of conversation comes up, conversing with the waiters in rapid portuguese in hopes of grabbing the first pick and spooning himself liberal quantities of rice. After all, he's a growing boy, and growing boys must eat. "Who's this? Huh…well, that's easy 'nough ta say you're goin' ta give away shit. I aint goin' ta believe it till I get somethin' from that hack, whoever he is."
"I figured he was crazy if he's gonna go public with that kinda offer. I mean, every asshole from here to Hawaii is gonna be writing him. So I figured why not write him too, see what happens." There might be a hole in her logic but Lena doesn't care. The possibility of free stuff is a fine lure. The brunette gets her plate arranged as she likes, with a little of everything, and then begins to almost daintily pick at the meal. Who knew she could be tidy when not consuming junk food? "I asked him for money and a moped for Jade, 'cause she was bitching about taking the bus again. That's our other roommate."
Stephanie smiles. "So write him a letter and ask for a beta-testing job, Tiago. Betcha Evosoft has positions for them." She looks fairly relaxed, and starts heaping enough food for three Stephanies on her plate. "That sounds pretty cool. I hope he comes through for you." She looks to Tiago, as if that jarred a memory, and says "And dinner is on /me/." Since they'd disputed that the night before.
Tiago is in the middle of chewing his food when, all of a sudden, Stephanie brings up the topic of payment once again. He blinks, not once, but twice, before shaking his head vehemently. "Wha', no, no. I said I'd take care o' it. An' I will, Ima take care o' it. I'll pay, don't worry 'bout it. You dun owe me nothin', we're here as friends."
Lena's cheek is puffed out with a bite when she glances up at her boyfriend in open surprise. Wait, what? "Let her pay, Chi. She can afford it, she handed out at least sixty bucks just looking for you." And to drive home the point, she presses her foot down on the man's with just enough force to show that she means it. So there. Stephanie is tossed a glance and a faint smile, apparently winning back some cool points for the offer. "In America, it's okay for chicks to spend money on dudes," she finishes, after swallowing that bite. Then she sets her fork down and nudges at the man to clear him from the bench so she can stand up. "Gotta go!"
So much for manners. But Stephanie maybe should've expected that, given the tenor of their first meeting.
Stephanie seems ready to argue the point, too. "I owe you my life, practically. The least you can let me do is buy dinner. It's not like I can't afford it." She dropped a lot more than sixty looking for Tiago. And then Lena's making with the quick exit. "Is everything okay?" The question is really to them both.
Tiago glances over in Lena's direction as she first, makes her discomfort known by crushing his poor little toes and then literally climbs over him to make her escape. In the end, he is left confused - speechless even. "What the…what the fuck was that?" He calls out, brows arching in surprise before he's left licking his lips. The food, and Stephanie both earns a doleful kind of look. "Uhh…I dunno. But…I think I better go find out. Hey, listen, sorry 'bout all that, yeah? An' for…for whatever weirdness she mighta been…it's been a /real/ hard couple of weeks, like you don' even know. I'll be back, hopefully with her, yeah?" And with that, he clambers to his feet, looking to trek after the woman.