2009-10-21: En Garde



Date: October 21st, 2009


The newlyweds have an impromptu fencing session, after which Michael lavishes his wife with expensive gifts. Sort of.

"En Garde"

Michael and Aspen's Home

The sound of metal hitting metal fills the rather large room that's been converted to a training room, echoing throughout the hallway just outside of it. It seems to be random, but if one were to listen long enough, they would definitely pick up a pattern, and that pattern just so happens to be Michael Vessley hitting a large, fake dummy with a sword. He's practicing some fencing manuevers, something he hasn't done for a very long time and, at least for now, it's keeping him entertained.

Where his darling wife is, he does not know, and if he's frank with himself, he isn't exactly worried about it. Were she here, he would probably be the horrible victim of being thrown into a closet and locked, and he doesn't want that. Continuing to striek the practice dummy, he pauses after a few moments, leaning against the wall and taking a few drinks from a nearby water bottle.

Aspen has no qualms about showing off her varied talents; given her considerable amount of training, she's prepared with many tricks for many a situation. One of her favourite tricks? Sneaking up on the unaware. Sneaking up on Michael, in particular, rates high on her dysfunctional list of things that are entertaining.

Very quietly, the door opens a crack. Even more quietly, bare feet poke into the expansive room and she slips inside, an impish smirk on her lips (which are best suited to such wily expressions naturally). It's a risky venture, given that he's right there against the wall, but she slinks along it and slides one of the fencing foils from the rack. Aspen is not dressed for proper fencing, given that she's wearing a white skirt and a black bejewelled-and-sequined top that probably cost more than most of the training equipment in this room. Honing in on Michael like a cat after a mouse, she dons a rather perfect fencing pose behind him and aims to rest the tip of the fencing sword against his neck. "Dummies are for dummies."

The moment the cool sword touches his neck, Michael freezes, even though he can deduce who it is. He takes another slow sip from his water bottle, and then in one, fluid motion, he brings his own sword up and back down, stepping away and knocking hers down towards the ground, keeping the end of his own sword pressed against hers. "That must be why they gave me you for a wife," he says, and as soon as he says it, he frowns, looking down for a bit. Yeah. He just called himself a dummy. He knows. Shaking his head for a clear indication of 'let's not bring up how dumb what I just said was', he swipes at her sword again, the ring of metal filling the room.

"Think you can take me?" he says, taking a step back and assuming the proper stance. One hand reaches up to loosen another button on the long-sleeved, rather regular white dress shirt he wears, in order to give himself a bit more breathing room for an actual duel, which isn't the same as hitting a stationary dummy. Coupled with the loose fitting khakis and socks he's wearing, he isn't exactly decked out in the best garb for fencing.

But come on, how good can she really be?

"There are only two dummies in this room, and one of them has a head of stuffing," comes the Londoner's retort. "Is that a challenge I hear?" Aspen's expression, like her poise, hasn't budged; perfectly cool and still absolutely devious, she steps around Michael a few paces without taking her eyes (or sword) off of him, to give them room. She tilts her head to one side and pretends to consider. "…Mm. No. That's just the sound of your impending failure." With a quick twist of her wrist, her foil escapes Michael's and she hops back, light on her feet, only to come at him again.

"Not so much a challenge as a—" A flick of his wrist, and Michael swats away Aspen's attack, already mirroring her pacing as he circles around his partner. His eyes are only for her, his sword kept held out in front of him. "… as a an opportunity for you to back down." Swipe! Stepping in, Michael brings his fencing sword in from the side, aiming at her waist.

"Not a chance." Aspen is smug even as she steps to one side to avoid the near swipe at her waist, her movements airy and quick. In fact, the woman's movements are as exact as someone trained in the sport. "Where did you learn to fence?" She bounds forward lightly and thrusts at Michael's abdomen. "TSN?"

"No," Michael says, bringing his sword up and over to swat Aspen's away again. He just barely manages too— a inch more and she would have scored on him. "I had a friend in college who was on the team. I did some practicing with you— not nearly as much as you seem to have…but still." Bringing his own sword around, he mirrors her previous action, thrusting his weapon at Aspen's stomach, just above the navel.

An inch more and he would have jabbed her; but Aspen leaps back and parries with her weapon with a satisfying (or infuriating, depending on one's point of view) clink of metal on metal. One brow raises, although her focus doesn't waver. "Ah yes. College." She moves into a lightning fast series of thrusts with something of a vengeance. No reason. Honest.

"College," Michael repeats, unable to keep a smirk from appearing— a smirk that Aspen does a good job of wiping off of his face. Managing to parry all but the last two thrusts, they both connect, and Michael jumps back a bit, grabbing his side. "Ouch!" he exclaims, narrowing his eyes at her. Oh, is that how we're going to play it? Michael can get on board with this. In a retalitory swipe, he brings his sword up near her chest, and with perfect form, slices the top of her oh-so-expensive shirt, after which he assumes a perfect form for defense. "Maybe I was on the team," he says, a smirk on his lips, and a glint in his eye.

It may have been Aspen's arrogance that was her downfall. Smirking over connecting with the target that is Michael, she allows just a little too much time to pass. Her shirt pays for it. With a girlish shriek that she will probably never live down in this lifetime, she looks down. Quickly, she throws a forearm against her chest, but it's too late for the designer shirt. It's also too late for her to entirely hide the fact that she's wearing something unexpectedly pink under there.

"You're paying for that!" Aspen snaps haughtily. Ruining her fencing pose by clutching the sliced fabric, she nevertheless swipes at Michael with her fencing foil. She proceeds to walk straight toward him in some attempt to force him to the wall with the tip of her sword. "It was a one-of-a-kind!"

A few things happen all at once that really just make Michael's day. For one, that girly shriek Aspen just let him be witness to? Priceless. That's going to come up again at another time, he just knows it. (Mainly because he's going to bring it up.) For two, that which is unexpectedly pink, well, that's just more ammo for his arsenal isn't it? "Nice," he says, a tilt of his head in her direction, "pink really brings out your eyes."

The entire time he's talking, however, he is backing up, as Aspen has a rather menacing fencing sword pointed directly at him, and it's getting closer and closer. Backing up until he actually hits the wall, his own sword still held out in front of him to parry any incoming attacks she might send his way, he can't resist when he speaks next. "One-of-a-kind now, too, isn't it?"

Aspen doesn't send any attacks Michael's way, per se … but she does poke him in the chest with her weapon and stand back, holding it elegantly at arm's length. She forces the foil a little as if she may skewer him right here and now against the wall, but it bends flimsily instead. What may skewer Michael yet is the glare he's currently at the receiving end of. "As a matter of fact, it does bring out my eyes." So there. She tips her chin up. "It would only be gentlemanly of you to compensate what you've ruined. After all," Jab. She shoves the point the sword just a little harder. "I am your wife." Jab.

And thank goodness it does bend flimsily. Having a sword run through your chest is not exactly a fun thing— not that Michael himself knows from experience, but he can imagine well enough. A jab from her sword, and he winces slightly. "Oh, come on, it's just a shirt, Penny, even if you are my wife." Another hab. "Hey, that— stop that!" he says, bringing his sword up to knock hers away. "If you're not careful, I'll cut the other side, too!"
Aspen's keeps a grip on her sword as it's make useless by Michael. It's not just a shirt, it's designer— ! She doesn't voice this argument out loud, but it's in her eyes! Those bright, glaring eyes narrow on Michael, considering. By the looks of it, she's considering inventive ways to kill him with this weapon in her hand that don't involve skewering, but evidently, appearances are deceiving. She steps back in a huff, turning away to stalk off.

…But this is Aspen St. James we're talking about. Unwilling to concede defeat, she whirls about, stalks straight up to Michael, within mere inches, and proceeds to put her sword away. By attempting to shoving it down his pants. Close call. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have dinner to make. I hope you like Thai."

Yes! Michael won, and he so rarely gets to win with Aspen, this is a real treat. All but doing a little dance of VICTORY when she turns to stalk off, he halts all movement when she turns back around. Okay, so he hasn't won yet. Considering what does does (which is interjected by several cries of "WHOA!"), what has transpired could still conceivably be considered a victory, if you take into account that the little general escaped unharmed.

But, yet, he still doesn't want her to get the last word. Not this time. As he makes sure he has a clear exit path, double checking, even triple checking that he most certainly does, he brings up his sword one final time, slicing at her shirt from behind— a clatter of a fencing sword, and even Michael will admit it's a shame he won't get to see the whole show once the shirt inevitably drops, because he is gone.

The good part (i.e. the part that will seal his fate and surely bring death to him)? He's nowhere to be found after, either, and the car is gone.

Aspen spins around on a dime, gaping incredulously. As Michael is practically gone by the time her shirt hits the floor (she is going to kill him), she has the privacy to shriek her frustration at the empty room. The bra-clad Brit stalks out of the room, stomping in bare feet.

An Hour Later…

Thai food wasn't a lie. What was a lie was the implication that Aspen had any hand in making it. Cooking doesn't happen to be one of her many talents. In a lovely living room — richly decorated, but cozy, not too gigantic — she sits curled up on the couch with takeout in a box and a pair of chopsticks. (It's allowed in the living room because it's in a box.) She's wearing a teal-coloured cashmere sweater by now. Much like she poked at Michael during fencing, she stabs and glares at supper.

All over the house are pictures of Michael, Aspen, and family. One of them, right behind Aspen, in fact, involves a wedding gown and tux.

Aspen won't have to sit and have dinner by herself for much longer, as the tell-tale signs of a car pulling into the driveway filter in from outside. There's a slam of a car door, a few a moments after that, there's another slam. Any of the neighbors who would happen to be looking outside would see Michael carrying way too many bags for his own good— seems someone went and did some shopping.

Managing to get the door open by using a combination of holding a bag up wedged between his hip and the door and blindly groping for the doorknob, he pushes the door open, nearly stumbling inside, and he turns to face Aspen in the living room. He has a total of six bags, all of them from the same store with the exception of one, which he unceremoniously drops them to the ground. "I," he declares in a harassed voice, "am never… going shopping… by myself… for a woman… again." Dropping himself onto the couch opposite the side Aspen in on, he brings his hands up to his face, rubbing it vigorously with his palms. "Oh," he says suddenly, moving his hands away so he can look at the bags on the floor. "I'm never going into Victoria's Secret by myself again, either."

Aspen doesn't even look up — not until she hears the bags drop. Her eyes slide up, immediately skeptical. Skepticism turns into pure incredulity as she realizes Michael went shopping. Dark brows lift. The last step after skepticism is suspicion. "…You. You went shopping." Circumspectly, she swings her legs over the side of the couch and sets the takeout box neatly on the coffee table before pulling one of the bags closer. "You went shopping. For me. In an hour. … I'm scared to look." Honestly, she is — she eyes Michael warily instead of the contents of the shopping bag, but nevertheless reaches in.

"No— no," Michael says, immediately holding up a hand to correct her. "I didn't go shopping. I went to to Hell and back." Eyes falling on her takeout box of Thai, he grabs it, and with no qualms, really, helps himself to it. Hey, a husband has rights. As he eats, taking care not to talk with his food in his mouth, he explains. "I get there, right? I explain to them that I've accidentally cut my loving wife's favorite shirt. I describe what it is, and this woman, I swear, you think I had fed her pet turtle to a crocodile or something, the look on her face." Shaking his head, he takes a few more bites of food before continuing. "So then she proceeds to tell me that I'm going to have to buy… what I'm pretty sure amounts to fifty shirts in order to appease you. So she takes me around the store, I tell her your size, and she just starts throwing things at me. Shirts, skirts, dresses— in reality, I should have just bought the store, it probably would have been easier." He takes a deep breath, leaning into the couch, but he still isn't done. "Then, after all of that, and after I left Victoria's Secret (which, by the way, that stuff isn't very secretive if you know what I mean) I'm walking down the aisle… and right there. The shirt itself. So I bought that, too, that's in the different bag." Phew! Shaking his head at Aspen, he smirks. "If you say you don't like it, we're getting a divorce."

Throughout the lengthy explanation of Michael's adventures in Hell, Aspen's face is an uncharacteristically blank slate — blank save for surprise. It's been cleared of basically ever other sentiment. She almost glares when he steals her Thai, but she's too waylaid by his elaborate story and the many shopping bags to make a point of it. "…I don't understand you sometimes," she deduces finally, haughty as ever despite her astonishment. She plucks through the lingerie bag, a hint of something — is that pink? — appearing before she drops it and holds her hand out, expectant. "Well, you'd better let me see it. The shirt. Well? Come on then!"

"You don't understand me sometimes? What's that supposed to mean?" Michael says, head tilting slightly. That's better than him at least, because he doesn't understand her pretty much all the time. Whether she answers or not, he pushes himself off of the couch, slides onto his knees on the soft carpter of the living room toward the pile of bags, and extracts one from somewhere near the middle. Setting the bag on the coffee table, he reaches in and pulls out the shirt, which looks exactly like the one from before, minus the cuts, of course. "Please tell me this is it," he says, a hint of begging in his voice. He reallllly does not want to have to go back.

Aspen does not answer, but never you mind. She takes the shirt into her hands, holding it up at arm's length. She eyes it and eyes Michael in turn. She does this several times before setting the article of clothing, black and sparkling and all, neatly upon her knees. "…It is the right one." Squint. "Or at least a passable knockoff. So much for one-of-a-kind." She smirks at Michael. "That was a good bit of luck. You didn't actually…" Aspen tosses her head and abruptly changes the subject. "There's more food in the kitchen, you know. You don't have to steal mine." Husbandly rights her bottom.

"I didn't actually what?" Michael says, pushing himself up off of the floor and looking down at Aspen. He may let the fact Aspen didn't answer slide, but you don't get to start a sentence and then not finish it. That's an unwritten rule in the way of life, it is. As a hostage, he grabs her takeout box, making a big show of how he's gonna wolf it all down and leave none for her. "Tell me, my beautiful Penny, or the food gets it."

Aspen bristles at the name "Penny" for perhaps the billionth time. At Michael's show of taking her Thai hostage, she rolls her eyes, simply folding the prized shirt carefully back into the bag and ignoring his antics. "Oh, don't be more of an idiot. There's more in the kitchen. Like I said." She fusses with the bag for a moment before sitting up straight and prim. For a moment, she looks toward the kitchen, but sets aside any notions of making a run for it. "…All I meant was, it's not as if you had to go and get all that," she says curtly. "It's not as if— well, you know."

"You know, you get real, real cute when you react like that to the name 'Penny.' It's really the only reason I call you that," Michael says, setting her box of takeout down and retrieving his from the kitchen. Flopping down onto the couch, he opens the box, indicating that Aspen is free to take what he took from her, and begins to eat. "Sorry about your shirt," he says, flipping the television on (he is a man, after all.) "I didn't realize it was so… one-of-a-kind," he continues, unable to help the smirk on his lips. "We can just consider all the other stuff.. hm. A late wedding present."

Aspen glares at Michael, defensive and sullen and annoyed, which is quite likely the very "cute" face he's talking about. She remains prim and poised while he flops back to watch TV. "…It was almost worth the ruined shirt." She banishes her sulking, barely, in favour of a little grin and glimmer in her eye. "Fine." She pauses and, with her eyebrows raised, looks pointedly at him. "But I'm not getting you anything." She pauses once more before whisking to her feet, beginning to collect the bags and their many treasures.

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