2008-02-06: Making Up Is Hard to Do


Kory_icon.gif Randall_icon.gif

and guest-starring Leslie_icon.gif

Summary: Randall almost gives the hell up, but not quite. Kory shows patience. Leslie shows more of his true colors.

Date It Happened: February 6, 2008

Making Up Is Hard to Do

The Secret Lair, East Village

It's a usual evening at the Lair. Kory's reading that book about serial killers again, and she has a pair of noise-cancelling headphones on. The "Represent!" video is playing on the bigscreen, on autoloop (which might explain the headphones if it's been doing that all day). The geeks are currently embroiled in a game of Kung Fu Samurai on Giant Robot Island. For a change, the one who goes by a different name every week is not in evidence…and the big bouquet of flowers he gave Kory has been replaced with — another big bouquet of flowers, with the same flowers in. She's given up trying to dissuade him from trying to cheer her up. It just makes him more determined. Beside the laptop is a cup of the pomegranate tea she's come to love — also thanks to the geek of many names.

Randall pauses at the entrance, looking in. Yes, she's in there, all right. It's a few days ahead of the promised deadline, he could push this off a little longer… but no, better not. Tugging at his collar, he steps inside, slowly approaching the counter.

The Lair's little 'customer!' notifier thing fires off with its little electronic 'ding-dong!' but Kory doesn't hear it, what with the headphones on. She turns another page in her book, eyes darting across the words. She glances up at the laptop to make sure the DVD of the video is still playing. It is. She goes back to reading.

Approaching more closely and spotting the headphones, Randall ducks over to the shelves, attention eventually lighting on a copy of Reign of the Supermen, which he carries over and sets down near the register. "Excuse me," he calls out, "could I get a price check on this?"

Kory glances at the comic, and yanks the headphones back off her ears. "Sure, that one's— " she looks up, smiling. But on seeing Randall's face, the smile freezes where it is. It isn't falling off, but it isn't as warm as it was a second before her eyes struck recognition on that face. " —cover price."

Randall is smiling as well, but it's faint; tired. "So I've been thinking," he continues, setting the comic aside, then looking for a place where he can safely lean some of his weight without breaking anything or knocking it over.

"I don't know, Kory," he continues, now letting his frustration boil up at full strength. "I mean, I'm past the instinctive 'oh my God you're putting yourself in danger' thing. I get that you can handle it, that you've been handling it… I just don't know if I can. And I have to do whatever would hurt you less, overall."

Kory sets the headphones down beside the laptop, and looks calmly at Randall. It's a brittle, forced sort of calm, though. The calm of someone who's bracing for something. "Why do you have to handle it? It's my …" she lowers her voice to a whisper, since there are rowdy geeks gaming in the back. "My ability. I've lived with it. Alone. For years. Do you think I have to have your support? I'd like it, but it's not absolutely vital."

Randall shakes his head. "No, it's not that— I'd support you anyway, but it's not that. Actually, it's just the opposite. Suppose I screw up… suppose I distract you at just the wrong time. I could get us both hurt… or worse."

For a moment, he considers weighing in on whether Dirk Dark and his DM screen would be any better, but thinks better of it. Instead, he reaches a single hand out toward the young woman behind the counter. "If you honestly think that won't happen, then I'll trust you. If not…" He trails off, still unable to voice the rest out loud, but the intent is obvious enough.

The Lair's door opens once again during Randall's quiet, hesitant confession of his fears. The geeks in the back are roaring with laughter because somebody just stole somebody's grandmother and put her in a mecha to fight Godzilla. Thus it is that the geek of many names sidles in quietly, and stops just beyond the door, staring. Randall is talking to Kory. To his Kore. His hand quietly clenches into a fist, and he starts toward the back, keeping a standee of Christian Bale as Batman between his face and anyone's eyes as he shamelessly eavesdrops.

"It doesn't work like that," Kory says, in a soft voice that has been wrung dry of anything resembling emotion. "Don't you think if it was that easy to hurt me in that state, you might've on the train? Or did that not occur to you in the heat of the moment?"

She takes his hand. "You don't trust us," she says. "If you did, this wouldn't be a question, would it? You wouldn't have to put it in my hands, would you?"

Behind Batman, Leslie (this week going by W4RL0Q) clenches his teeth jubilantly. It doesn't sound like Kory's buying what he's selling.

Oblivious of L33t Boy's entrance, Randall continues, answering the questions even if they might have been intended as rhetorical. "I wasn't trying to hurt you on the train," he murmurs, "but someone else might be. And… it's not that I don't trust us, I just don't know enough. I've weathered some danger myself, but it's all just been wrong place, wrong time. Someone gets trigger-happy in the tunnel… someone's ability slips out of control… but this, this getting involved directly? To me, that's all Here There Be Dragons."

"Great power, Randall. Great responsibility." Kory flings an arm toward the Spider-Man hanging upside-down from the ceiling. "Am I just supposed to sit by when what I do can help people? Save lives?" She shrugs. "If you'd scared my …'patient'…he could've lashed out at me. It's not like I could get trapped in there. All you have to do is ask to know what it's like for me. What the dangers are. I've been doing this for years." She's not pleading, this time. She's hopeful, she's scared, but she isn't letting him see how much he's hurting her just with this conversation.

"That's what I'm doing," says Randall, "I'm asking. Probably take me a while to really grasp the answers…" Closing his eyes, he thinks back a few years. "I lost touch with an old high school friend that way— used to talk all the time, even if a lot of it was abrasive. Couple years go by, we get to talking again and we run into one bad moment and she just up and dropped contact. Said I wasn't getting it, wasn't trying to get it. So… just remember that, okay? Whatever dumb thing I pull, I am trying."

"Okay," Kory says, in a whisper. She's an emotional creature, and hiding the emotions is not ordinary to her. So the hope she couldn't quite quash out is plain as day on her face. "Ask." She gets up from behind the counter. "But maybe, someplace quieter." Always the chance of being overheard here, after all, despite the video playing and the noisy game going on in back.

Randall nods. And, obeying an earlier impulse, sets down enough pocket money to cover the Superman issue; something about it smelled like Important. "I guess you should start at the beginning," he says to Kory, "closest match to what I'll have to—" It's at that point that he turns and comes face to face with the Batman display. How sharp are your hiding skills, Leslie?

It'd seem not too terribly sharp tonight. He catches and holds his breath as Randall turns, freezing in the spot, but the long duster coat W4RL0Q is wearing swishes to a stop nanoseconds after the man himself has quit moving. So while The Goddamn Batman is staring menacingly at Randall, and as motionless as a cardboard cutout? There's definitely somebody back there.

Randall pauses, blinks. Takes a couple steps to the left. Ah, /that/ guy. Well, this return confrontation was bound to happen sooner or later, so best just get it over with as well.

"Okay, look, I know you think I'm the bad guy— and you've got some reason to. Just know that I'm doing my best to do right by her… and you'll find somebody who's right for you, too. Just ease up a little." In Leslie's mind, where he already has found somebody who's right for him, this will no doubt come off as the worst barb possible.

Assuredly, and it does. Leslie glowers. "I don't think it. I know it. I've seen her cry when she thinks nobody's looking."

Kory snaps her mouth shut, mortified.

"I've seen her look at the door like a puppy waiting for master to come home." There's such vitriol in those words. That his Kore, his goddess, should be reduced to staring at the door like a cocker spaniel. "No matter what anyone says or does. How's she gonna get over you if you don't. Get. Lost?"

"Leslie," Kory says, with a small, quivering voice. "That's not fair. It's my life, and I decide if he gets another chance, all right?"

Leslie stares at her, horrified and enraged. She's still attached to that hair mop even after his attentions both mundane and technological?! "What?! The man tore your heart out and stomped all over it, left bloody smears on the blacktop at the Zoo, Kore! Why does he deserve another chance to do that to you?!" Though he's keeping his voice modulated to conversational tones, there's a bulging vein in his forehead, and the cords are standing out in his neck.

Randall clasps his hands behind his back, staring right into Leslie's eyes. "Oh yes, because you know better. You're still young enough to know everything, aren't you?" Actually, Leslie knows more about certain subjects - at least in general terms - than Randall has any idea about, but the larger point still stands. "I said you'd find somebody, but it won't happen until after you let go of that. Just let me work on letting go of my own hang-ups, would you?" And, without waiting for an answer, he continues on his way toward the exit. Neither of them have any real hope of mollifying Leslie in this state, but on top of everything else, the unspoken insistence on getting in the last word… mmm, no. No good will come of this.

Leslie takes a deep breath, and before he can expel any more bile at Randall and the betraying Kory, his group notices him and calls him over to join the next round of their card game. "Fine," he seethes. "Have it your way. Both of you. You'll learn better. Both of you. Before much longer," he murmurs, sotto voce, as he turns his back and stalks over to his group of friends. She's just overwhelmed and confused by her emotions. Randall dazzles her…somehow. She simply needs to be removed from his influence. She needs rescued from him, by W4RL0Q. And Randall? He needs to go down.

Kory looks at Randall, then at Leslie, and sighs, reaching for the half-forgotten cup of tea beside her laptop and swigging it back to finish it. "Professor, watch the shop for fifteen minutes? I'll be right back," she calls.

The portly man Lee mockingly refers to as 'Professor Neckbeard' looks up, grins at Kory, and nods. "Right you are, Kory."

Leslie turns, almost unwillingly, to get his eyes on her one more time; his lips twist into a dark, humorless, reasonless smile as he sees her finish her tea.

"Thanks. Okay…" Kory reaches for her jacket, swirls it overhead and drops it onto her arms as she follows Randall out the door.

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