2007-09-14: Meanwhile...


Niki_icon.gif Desmond_icon.gif Jessica_icon.gif

Summary: Niki collides with Desmond and is haunted by ghosts of the past.

Date It Happened: September 14th, 2007


Casino Royale

Las Vegas, Nevada

As throngs of people wander from one section of the casino to the other, eager to get their gamble on, Niki Sanders sits at a slot machines at the very end of one of the numerous rows: she's part of the crowd who already started gambling. Tsk, tsk, Niki. However, there's not even a hint of enthusiasm in the blonde's eyes as she pulls the lever, nor is there the glazed over stare of someone engrossed in the game. She looks bored, distracted, uncomfortable about even being here; this is something to do, to stall, to pass time. Despite the ritzy surroundings, the woman's wardrobe is casual: a short denim skirt, boots, a black tanktop with buttons up the front. Her hair is loose, slightly untamed. After losing another game, she looks around the casino, seeming to make an attempt not to meet anyone's gaze.

If there's one place Desmond Cusick loves, it's Las Vegas. He gets to enjoy all the benefits and luxuries of being rich without having to deal with too much recognition. After all, Broadway is all the way across the country. Besides, the casinos in Vegas are something to be seen to be believed. Business trips always have a bit of pleasure mixed in. Unlike Niki, the actor is dressed in a sharp dark suit with an expensive silky red tie. He's on his way from the blackjack tables with some chips to cash in and a drink in one hand. Like Niki, however, he's not really meeting anyone's gaze — probably because he's focused on cell phone and the dialing of a number thereof. It stops abruptly when he catches a flash of blonde out of the corner of his eye while passing the woman's slot machine and he pauses mid-step. Well /hi/ there.

Unfortunately for Niki, her attempt at flying under the radar is doomed to failure. Freakin' hotness. Her attention is elsewhere when Desmond stops; her gaze is drifting over unfamiliar faces in the distance, around those blackjack tables. Leaving an empty cup meant for casino chips beside the slot machine, Niki slides off the stool and straight for Mr. Cusick with her head of blonde turned away. Oops?

It would seem that Niki is heading for a collision. Normally if a man is paying attention, he'd step out of the way, right? Sure. But not Desmond. For Desmond has a plan. Just a few moments before the hit, he smirks and turns his gaze away from Niki — wait, who? There's no one heading right for him — and returns it to his phone. Then, when she bumps into him, the actor takes the impact and jerks forward. That drink in his hand just happens to splash over his front as though it's the most natural thing in the world. Forget the shirt, forget the tie, forget the suit — he can buy new ones. Sacrifice for the art, man. There he stands soaked down the front and with a rather bewildered expression on his face.

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry," Niki is awkwardly jarred out of her own little world and suddenly in Desmond's. She did this once before, didn't she? Bumping into someone, spilling a drink, making that connection. In a casino, not far from this one. But this time, it wasn't on purpose; this time, the tables have turned and she's too preoccupied to even notice. A hand instinctively touches the stranger's suit, his tie, and then her palm leaves his chest and she swiftly backpedals out of his space with a couple of steps of her boot-heel. "I can— pay for your drink," the woman says, apologetic. "Stupid me, I wasn't watching…"

They're expensive clothes and, had this been a real accident and if Niki weren't a fox, Desmond would probably be rather pissed off. As it stands, he's quite pleasant about it, brushing a hand down the stain on his front and pulling his lips into an amused smile. "No, no, really, it's fine. I didn't like this tie anyway." The drink is definitely done for, though. A quick glance is shot toward the empty cup on the slot machine that Niki just left and then his gaze goes back to her. "Looks like you're not really in any position to be buying drinks. Let me buy you one instead."

Niki seems poised to protest and offer some kind of assistance with that tie, too (in the form of offering to buy a new one). Desmond's reassurances do their trick, to a point-she still looks awfully vexed over running into him like that, spilling his drink. She looks from the man to the empty cup she left behind and shakes her head, managing a small smile. "I didn't gamble away my fortune," she objects but damnit, she starts to concede. Glancing away from Desmond, Niki shakes her head again, this time at some inner thought and almost laughs. There's something mildly cynical about the sound. Fortune. Ome fortune. Stolen. From this very spot. When Niki clutches the strap of her black handbag, slowly nods to Desmond and says, "Yeah, why not. Just one," it's as if she's giving into some heavy weight.

It doesn't matter, Niki's cup is empty and she's a woman and therefore, she isn't allowed to buy her own drink. Duh. Desmond brushes off such conceding protests with a grin, and when she gives in, he turns to start heading to the bar. "You make it sound like I'm twisting your arm," he chuckles amiably. "I'm not encouraging you to give up a fight with alcoholism or anything, am I? I wouldn't want to be a bad influence." Oh yeah he would. Yeah he would.

Niki gives a small, wry laugh at that. "You're not some kinda psychic, are you?" She flicks a look up to Desmond, one brow slightly raised, as she starts to stroll along beside him toward the bar. It's a valid question; she doesn't sound entirely serious, but she could be, all things considered. … It is Las Vegas, after all. The woman shrugs, one-shouldered. "When in Vegas, right," she says, somewhat downtrodden.

14:37:59, 14:38:00, 14:38:01…

To someone's viewpoint, the sight of Niki and Desmond is bird's eye, in shades of greyish green, following their trek from the slot machines to the bar from screen to screen.

Completely unaware that he's being watched, Desmond lets out a soft laugh at that and pauses at the bar to wait for the bartender to next become available. "You never know, I might be," he remarks off-handedly, leaning an elbow on the bar's well-glossed top. His eyes roam, but he's careful to remain very tasteful. Naturally, his cursory investigation reveals something shiny on Niki's left hand, and his grin grows. "Where's your husband?" When the bartender appears, he takes his attention from the blonde for just a moment. "I'll have a vodka martini and some napkins, and this lovely lady will have whatever she likes."

Similarly unaware, Niki sinks into the seat beside Desmond, her elbows coming to rest on the bartop as well. Her posture leaves something to be considered; she's not here to impress anybody. The actor's question is met with a momentarily doe-eyed look which hardens in a matter of seconds. "Same," she tells the bartender before answering Desmond. "My husband is" She glances down, hair falling softly forward to obscure half of her face. The word she uses is spoken quietly, especially decisive: "Gone." Niki fold her hands over the purse on her lap instead of the bar. "I'm just here chasing ghosts." She smiles apologetically and gives her head a shake, dismissive, with a touch of embarrassment. "What brings you around here?"

Oh-ho, a vulnerable woman. Even better. Cards have to be played carefully here, though. Desmond knows that women dealing with loss can do crazy emotional things if pushed wrong, and that's never fun. His grin falls off his face, leaving a sympathetic frown in its wake. "I'm sorry," he intones quietly, and it sounds like he means it — but then again, he's also an actor. They're meant to do that. At that last question, he smiles just slightly. "Nothing so serious or painful, just business. Then again, I suppose business can be painful in some ways too." Almost as an afterthought, he extends a hand to be shaken. "I'm Desmond, by the way."

Niki has heard so many "I'm sorries" by this point that Desmond's sincere-seeming words nearly fall on deaf ears. She just goes through the motions, half-smiles without really meaning it, offers a hand to meet his with hers. "Niki." She looks across the bar, idly following the bartender's motions. It's hard to tell whether she's waiting impatiently for the drinks to arrive or wishing they wouldn't at all. Not an expert conversationalist today, she seems faraway.

Silence reigns for a little while until the drinks and napkins arrive. Desmond takes up a few of the latter and starts to pat his front dry, giving a grateful nod and smile to the bartender. "Well," he utters into the empty air, "if you like, I would be more than happy to buy you countless vodka martinis to drown your woes and offer you an ear if you wanted to unburden yourself." He drops the used napkins onto the bar and looks to Niki again. "Or if you prefer, I can buy you dinner and hopefully put a smile on that face."

Niki's vodka martini sits there untouched for a few moments. She touches the base of the glass with a neat fingernail and circles it halfway. "Hmn," she laughs in response to Desmond, just barely, and gives him a smile that's friendly enough, but evasive at the same time; she looks back to her drink. "Trust me, you don't wanna hear about it." Maybe her woes are too much to ramble on, or maybe she's onto his ploys. Hard to say. She lifts the martini glass to her lips and takes a sip. It's subtly savoured, but she looks more distressed than ever after the fact. Desmond has his work cut out for him. The Vegas woman studies the crystal clear contents of her glass, drawing her eyes back up to her companion after awhile. "You're not gonna get anywhere," she suddenly informs him, matter-of-factly, but gently, too, as if she's trying to let him down easily. "You know that, right?"

"If it'll make you feel better, sure I would," Desmond insists with that same grin. "Sometimes it helps to talk these things out." That last bit causes him to grin wider and laugh quietly, as though totally shocked she would suggest such a thing. "Oh come on," he scoffs lightly. "A guy can't buy drinks or dinner for a woman who spilled his drink on his shirt without wanting to get in her pants? What kind of world do we live in?" It's not accusing; it's amused, really. He's not really offended.

The all-seeing eye spies unobtrusively on the busy casino, unseen save for subtle, watchful lenses of well-positioned security cameras with their tiny lights - flashing with the telltale blink of recording. Always watching. They watch for cheats and frauds. It's not much of a stretch, then, that they track Niki and Desmond, is it?

In a small, dark room filled with closed-circuit televisions, a shadow passes by the screen showing a view from behind the main level bar, where Desmond silently laughs at Niki, where Niki shakes her head slowly and sets her drink down, looking into it, abashed, all in awkward monotone shades that make them both look strange and not quite real, like someone is watching actors on a television show. A chair swivels in the room of screens, reflected onto the pair on the screen. A door opens, closes, and the room is empty.

Niki smoothes her slightly unbrushed hair down in an idle movement of vague self-consciousness; she doesn't really seem to notice what she's doing. She toys with the delicate wedding ring on her finger, with a thumb, after her hand pulls down the blonde hair to the curling ends. "A pretty lousy one," she answers. She's distracted from her unintended companion again, which should come as no surprise. She looks away from him in the entirely opposite direction, parallel to the rows of slot machines, beyond them.

After taking a sip from his martini, Desmond smiles again. Yeah, he noticed that bit of self-consciousness and the fiddling with the wedding ring. Usually these are Signs. Still, no pressuring, no pushing. That's counterproductive. "It can be, but there are still some bright spots of joy in it." When she becomes distracted, he raises his head to follow her gaze, expecting to see someone or something out there. "Something wrong?"

Without answering, or even looking back at Desmond, Niki reaches for her drink and takes a sip. The woman's eyes narrow. She starts to squint, and just as soon as her eyes focus on something - someone? - in the crowd very specifically, her gaze becomes distant.

Swivel, spin. As she turns slowly back to face Desmond, she puts her drink back down and flattens her hands on the bar, on either side of the martini, straightening her back with an agile move, like a cat slowly waking up. Whatever she saw, it seems to have made her hold herself with a more confident carriage, but as the same time, she's suddenly more on edge. "Stand up," she tells Desmond - her voice a pitch lower, certainly more commanding, than before. She swiftly stands up, stepping right toward him with a hand going for his opposite arm, grasping it, as if to urge him off his seat if he's not fast enough.

Whoa, there. The changes in the blonde's demeanor are subtle, but certainly enough to get Desmond to stand, though he does watch her in a somewhat confused manner. Upon spotting a few suited men in the crowd — security? — he starts to get a cold feeling of dread. "What's going on?" he asks in a lowered voice. He doesn't want to get mixed up in this — certainly not with this face on — but he'd also rather avoid talking to security.

"I said I was chasing ghosts," the woman answers, though it's as if she's coolly quoting someone else rather than herself. "Some of 'em decided to show up." She slides in between the bar and Desmond - pretty damn close, all things considered - and lifts a shaped eyebrow at him in challenge. "You wanna help a girl out, right?" she purrs, as suddenly engaging as she is suddenly authoritative. The blonde holds onto both of Desmond's arms and starts to lead (or lure?) him backwards, along the bar, slyly away from the suited men who disappear in and out of the crowd. She's more or less using him as a human shield, but to an unknowing eye, it's hardly that. Two attractive people, a bar, drinks abandoned. It's easy math.

Honestly, Desmond should be turning her in, letting security do whatever it is they're trying to do — but the man lacks enough morals to prefer not getting mixed up in such a thing. Call it thinking with the wrong head. Hey, she's being alluring, and who's he to argue? With one last glance at the suited men, he follows without hesitation, smirking. "Just call me Mister Helpful." He's totally unaware that he's being used as a human shield, but oh well, nobody said he was perfect. "I could have a car here in a few minutes." Just in case she wanted one.

Here's to hoping that Desmond looks like any other guy in a suit from the back. They're a dime a dozen around here. So are hot blondes, for that matter, but she's a little harder to miss since she seems to be sought after. "I have a car," she murmurs. She just needs to get to it. Back, back, back; she casts glances behind her, to plan their backwards path, and chances looks around Desmond, at the men.

The nameless suited men weave through the crowd, searching. Do they spot their quarry? The answer seems to be no, not yet, but they're closing in.

Desmond's new acquaintance leads him around a nearby tall pillar, cream-coloured and elaborately grandiose - tries to pull him, in fact, behind it, next to a potted palm tree taller than the both of them. After eyeing the crowd around his shoulder once more, there's a decidedly mischievous and dark glimmer in her gaze when she looks back at him. Jessica brings a finger to her lips in a silent 'shh', moves it to Desmond's to do the same, and pushes up slightly on her heeled boots to draw him into a kiss. Thank you, Mister Helpful. The suited men whisk past.

You're welcome. He doesn't hear very well, but even Desmond strains his ears to make sure the men have passed by. Not that he's not enjoying that kiss, but even he knows when something is meant as a distraction. Which doesn't mean he's not going to take as much advantage of it as he can. It's not just a distraction. Once it breaks, he doesn't move too far away, but he does cast a subtle glance over his shoulder at the men. "I think you've lost your ghosts," he intones quietly. "Where's your car?"

It's not just a kiss - it has to be convincing, and boy, she plays her part well. As soon as it ends, she's immediately looking in the direction the men went, too, leaning back as she still grips Desmond's arms, trying to catch glimpses of the figures in the crowd. "I was never here," she says with quiet, breathy insistence, looking him in the eye sternly. Her grip on his arms tightens noticeably; just firmly.

"Of course not. This pillar is a wonderful kisser." Desmond gives a small wink and a smirk. "Should I walk you to your car?" Hell, forget the car, he'll walk her to wherever it is she's going. Which could be right to his hotel room if he has a say.

Wouldn't that be a distraction. However, Jessica takes one step back and lets go of her decoy — all Desmond gets is a wry smirk for his … trouble. Don't you wish. Evidently, that's a no. Without a word, she takes off at a brisk walk into the crowd, circling the pillar and heading back the way they came.

Because it was such trouble. Desmond doesn't follow. After she's gone, he leans up against the pillar to take a moment and reflect, watching the suited men with a smirk before he turns and walks off. He's got his own car to get to. After all, he needs to change. He smells like a vodka martini.

To Be Continued...

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