2010-06-12: Here There Be Dragons



Date: June 12, 2010


A friendship veers into uncharted territory.

"Here There Be Dragons"

Au Naturale Market, Greenwich Village

I'd like to spend more time with you.

The words have been ringing in the back of Randall's mind all day, or at least whenever he let his thoughts wander for more than a few seconds. Pretty hard to misinterpret something that direct, especially with the couple of anvil-sized hints that came along with it… of course, she might change her mind for any of a hundred reasons, but neither of them can predict that, can they?

In a typical proto-relationship, 'more time' might mean dinner again, a movie— but this one is hardly typical. No, this place feels like the right place; if she wants to explore the traditional route afterward, there's still time enough for it. He wanders along the aisles as he waits, looking for anything that's changed since his last visit.

Carrie hadn't, really, expected to be asked out quite this quickly. She hadn't expected to be taken to dinner, hadn't expected him to be so interested so fast. In fact, when she was in high school… ugh. It makes her feel immature to even think it. But she tended not to be noticed. Then she tended to try not to be noticed, when she was camping on sofas and living on fast food. It was a game other people played, not Carrie Anne Slaughter. Not to say it never crossed her mind. Not to say she never wanted to play. Only that she couldn't. Her position had always been too fragile. Her life too ugly and complicated. Maybe things are looking up, she reasons. In any case, here she is, peering in the door like she dares not hope this is anything but a setup. But there Randall is. She comes in, gnawing on the cuticle of her thumbnail, and feeling underdressed. "Hey." She says when she's close enough.

Randall hadn't expected to become interested quite so soon, either— things get unpredictable when two awkward people meet. Usually it adds up and drives them apart… but occasionally it ends up drawing them together instead. He's too close to the situation himself to do much more than let it run its course and see what happens. "Hey," he echoes, lips quirking upward as he turns around. "Thought maybe you got stuck in traffic or something." Depending how she covered the distance from wherever to here - cab, subway - the basic idea is the same.

Carrie says, "Nah. The express was down for repairs so I had to take the local." She chuckles a little. "Listen to me. My first month on the subway and I'm already complaining about it. I rode my bike a lot where I came from. No subway. Not even much in the way of busses." She takes a seat across the table from Randall. "Are you okay? You seem kind of… uncomfortable."

It's a small table, one of only a few - the shop caters more to carry-out customers, with a corner near the newsstand where a handful of people can hang out longer - which leaves Randall's hands within easy distance as they come to rest on the table. "No, I'm fine, just… been thinking back. That girl I met a couple years back, the one who worked on plants? Used to work here. I haven't been back very often since we fell out of touch, but you had me thinking about it again." Among other things, but that thought was in there somewhere, at least.

Carrie eyes the hands on the table and bites her lip. One of those other things that had seemed like a good idea yesterday. Whether or not it still is, is a good question. But she finds some wind and throws caution at it, and reaches out to take Randall's hand with her own. "Were you and she close?"

Immediately, his fingers close on hers. Not squeezing, but the message is clear: yeah, he thinks it's a good idea, too. "We were just friends," Randall explains, "there was this other girl we knew that I'm pretty sure was her girlfriend. Or at least headed that direction."

Carrie says, "Ahh." Carrie says softly. "So how did you find out about her… other kink? The plant thing, I mean?" Always subterfuge with this one. Well. Most of the time, at least. "I mean. Beyond your knack for picking them up?""

Kink? Oh, nice euphemism there, Carrie. It's semi-logical after the previous comment, but… maybe that leather club rubbed off a little more than it seemed to at first. "Actually, she just came right out and showed a couple of us how it worked. She was pretty quick to trust people too, I guess— well, it was over at Enlightenment, so I guess she just figured anyone who went to a place like that was probably cool."

Carrie nods slowly. "I see." Carrie shakes her head and chuckles a little, shaking her head. "All this… is kind of funny. Here we are talking about this stuff in doublespeak, like it's a big conspiracy, like it's this huge secret. And I mean it's a big deal. Before I came here I thought I was the only one with that kink. But at the same time, I gotta wonder what normal people talk about on dates, you know?

Randall shakes his head. "You're asking me? Look around, is all I can think of— there'll be normal people somewhere." He gestures not to the other tables, but toward the door: there are more normal people out there than in here. "But the other thing is, we're still kind of getting caught up on the topic… so wait a little while, and then look at us. It'll happen whether we're trying or not." The train of thought is all nice and self-referential, which is why it runs out of new insights so quickly.

Carrie nods slowly. "Yeah." She sighs a little. "When I came here I was thinking I'd just go find a streetcorner and a lawn chair and make money as a faith healer, you know?" Carrie sighs. "I wish… I don't know. Do you ever wish you were normal?"

"Not really," he replies, after considering the question silently for a moment or two. "I mean, I'm not saying it'd be better or worse, but— it'd be so different that I can't really guess what it'd be like. What about you, would you ditch everything for something unknown?" At least he figures the same argument ought to apply to her, her 'weirdness' was ingrained about as early as his was.

Carrie looks at Randall's eyes for a moment, watching them move, watching them watch her. She thinks about it a long time. Or maybe those eyes are just distracting. "I used to. The last two years… in the hospital… I only wished I could have been normal. Wished I could… not believe. But you know what happened? I turned 18, and they started reviewing my case. When you turn 18 and you're in juvie psycho ward, you sometimes get out if they decide it was just a phase and you're like, sane again. But it all goes through court. So the judge got assigned and there were some hearings. And then I get this visit in the middle of the afternoon one day, and there's the judge, only he's not in his robes so I don't even know who he is. And he goes, "I know you still believe you can heal people. I hope you're right." And he basically checks me out of the hospital for the afternoon. Turns out his daughter was a soldier in Afghanistan, and came home paralyzed from the neck down. And she was like that woman in Million Dollar Baby, you know? "Don't make me live like this." And her dad was willing to do it, probably wind up in prison for it. But if I could help her, it'd save her and him, and he'd make sure the hearing went my way. I'd never fixed a broken neck before. There are a shitload of nerves in there and it took me until late at night to get it all done, and I was so tired I could barely stand up." Carrie smiles, wiping her eyes a little. "But she did. And you know what? It was worth it. It was worth all that time in the hospital, her and the guys I kept from dying on the street, and the guy whose cancer I finally got fixed. And no matter what happens to me down the road… I think it will have been worth it." Carrie wipes her eyes a little with her free hand. "So do I wish I was normal?" Carrie shrugs. "Sometimes. But not for very long. I just remember her face and his face and even your face now. And it's worth it.

After listening quietly - arching a brow as soon as 'paralyzed' comes up, he can pretty much guess where the story is headed from there - Randall nods, and now he does give Carrie's fingers a quick squeeze. "Well, I'm glad you're not, then. Who knows how many more of those there might be? And I'm glad the judge was willing to believe… well, I guess he didn't have anything to lose by trying, but still, most people wouldn't take a chance even then."

Something else is nagging at the back of his thoughts, now - prompted by another word she brought up in the course of her story - but he hasn't got a handle on it just yet. It'll probably come to him later.

Carrie fishes the orthopedic plate out of her shirt again. "This was one of hers. On bad days, when I haven't used it for a while, I start to doubt again. That's why I keep this with me." Carrie takes Randall's hand in both of hers. "Anyway… how was your day?"

"Hmm, that's a good idea too, considering. Keep reminders close." Yes, he's still got that rent discussion in mind. That business earlier about things going quickly? Even the one long-term girlfriend didn't ever get to that point— but that's a long story in itself.

"All right, I suppose," Randall continues, affecting a tone of resignation that he feels less than when he first walked in. "The work's really piled up, and I was getting stressed out over it until I realized— just because it's still there the next day doesn't mean it's there with me tonight, you know? I can see people getting themselves in real trouble because they forget how to let go of things like that."

Carrie nods. "Yeah, I can see how that'd happen. And then you go home and you're too tense to enjoy being home, and the cat doesn't want to be around you because you're twitchy." Carrie looks down, not meeting Randall's gaze. "And if you had a girlfriend there… that'd be rough for her, too.

"Are you a cat person? I forget if you mentioned--" but then Randall shakes his head. No, they did enough talking around that other subject, he's not going todo the same with this one. "Look, I— I'm pretty sure we're thinking along the same lines here. And I like it, but at the same time… there've been a couple girls where things looked good for a little bit, and then fell apart. And there was one girl where things looked good for months, and then fell apart slowly… But I can't help but think that this will be different." He shakes his head, tilting it forward a little to stare down at the table, at the clasped hands. "And now I'm just rambling, because you wouldn't know either." Not her fault, it just means they're heading toward a big unknown.

Carrie me nods. "Yeah, I like cats." she says softly. "And you're right, I wouldn't know. And that scares the heck out of me. It's like having a crush on someone, except this time… they know. And that's weird. But. Good weird. And I think at this point we're supposed to kiss or something. That's how it goes in the movies, you know?

Oh, that's irresistible.

"But not in here. This— is old history." Plus, people are working. And eating. "C'mon," says Randall, keeping hold of her hands as he stands up, "let's go find someplace new." The kissing part will work itself out before long— that's the easy part.

Carrie gets up to go with Randall, wondering at the shaky feeling in her hands and her chest and the weakness at her knees. "Yeah. Let's blow this popsicle stand." It will probably dawn on Carrie how unfortunate that choice of words is later. Maybe. For now, no. Her worldview is entirely too rosy to admit that anything bad, like her foot in her mouth, could ever happen.

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