Rating: PG-13 for violence, but work-safe
Genre/Fandom: Shadowrun-based fic for a game's character development.
Summary: Playing on stereotypes makes distraction easier.
Prompt: velvet, antique, despot
Disclaimer: This is all my own original work. The world and the character types and some of the words might not be, but y'know... that stuff.
Bells chimed through the sleek plastic device nestled deep in the slender woman's pointed ear. She didn't have to touch it to activate it, information scrolling across the interior of her dark sunglasses, telling her who was calling, and from where. “Jolly,” she muttered in a tone dark with sarcasm. “Not a good time, Ghostie my dear.” Her lips hardly moved at all when she spoke, but they did move. She had squeezed herself into a dim area of the pub where her movements would be less noticeable, but more than one chap had had that idea, so she found herself surrounded on all sides by people. Most likely they were just chummers out for a good time and not at all interested in what the lady at the end of the bar was doing, unless she seemed wanting for company. Most likely, not a single one of them would think anything strange about her talking to herself, or into her comm, except she wasn't talking about makeup or recipes or trideo sitcoms.
“Sorry, Wicky love, can't be helped,” chirped the digital version of a male voice. “Your little friend's gonna have some visitors in eighteen minutes and counting. Two ganger orcs, three humans and a fraggin' troll in a pear tree. Lots of semi-autos under their coats. Want backup?”
“Let me make a few more friends here, and we'll see if that's necessary.” She waved at the bartender for a refill, quickly downing the last of her pink synthohol drink in the suggestively-shaped glass. “Don't suppose there's enough cred for a round?” she muttered.
“How big a round are we talking about?”
“Like you don't have eyes and ears in here already. Honestly.”
His synthesized chuckle fluttered in her ear. “Transferring already. And I like that cute little pink velvet number you almost have on.”
“Straight from the soap trids to me.” She smiled coyly at the 'tender and pushed her drink toward him, leaning in to give him a better view of the long line of bare skin from her throat to her navel. She imagined she could feel his breath on her skin as he leaned in toward her with a credstick reader, his eye implant swiveling down to appreciate her assets.
“'Nother pink flamingo?” he asked, the rumble of his gravely voice inteligible despite the perky beat of the pre-Turn pop piped in through every available speaker, including the ones built into the body armor of the gangers convulsing on the dance floor.
“Oh, I always get those things,” she pouted with a flop of her heavily-manicured hand onto his artificial arm. Her violet eyes fixed on his face, waiting for the moment when he looked up far enough to see hers, but not expecting that to happen soon. “Isn't there anything more...” She sighed, walking two fingers up his forearm playfully as she pretended to search for the right words. “...more authentic that I can try? Price is no object.”
His eyes did finally search out hers as he processed her request, a small smile twisting a mouth rough with stubble and long years of dehydration and poor nutrition. “There might be something interesting in the back room, if you want to come take a look.”
Her eyes flashed, but she forced a quick smile and slid from her seat, fussing with the sweeping back of her dress while she stalled for time. It was a long walk around the bar, and as she bent to check an imaginary spot high on the thigh of her vintage-style stockings, she was already working through an idea.
“Oooh, he likes you,” Ghostie cooed in her ear. “And he is definitely a trid addict. I have a proggy ready to plug, so don't you worry about him wanting you in your meat suit. Let me call someone for a distraction just in case, though.”
“No, no, I got it handled. Keep your guy outside for now.”
“All right, but first bend over just a little more and turn to your left.”
“You didn't get a good enough look already?”
“Never good enough. Don't forget our wager, cookie.”
“As if you would let me. Now shh.” She straightened and smoothed her dress, her breasts barely contained in the artistic but precarious slivers of fabric arching up over her shoulders. Hooking her shiny handbag with a finger, she slinked past the gent who had bought her a drink when she first came in and shot him a cute, wide-eyed smile. As expected, the eye contact was all he was waiting for, and he grabbed her by the arm.
“Leaving so soon? I was hoping to have a moment or two to chat.” His gray hair fell across his forehead in a tidy row of little curls, and he had color-coordinated his clothes with it.
She drew in close to him to speak in a familiar and confidential manner, her eyes alight with excitement. “The bartender says he has something interesting to show me in the back!”
As expected, the man's face twisted into a frown of suspicion. “What did he say is back there?”
“Oh,” she faltered, her excitement dimming a little. “Well, he didn't say exactly, but I was telling him how my daddy collects antiques, and this being a vintage-type bar with all these old things about, I imagine there are some in the back they don't want to put out here with the general public.”
The man slid from his swiveling barstool, the cracked red vinyl creaking against old, pitted chrome. “Honey, I don't think he's going to show you the junk you think he is.”
“Well, why else would he invite me into the back? Honestly,” she said with a pout, flouncing the pleats of her dress so that the velvet panels swung around her shapely legs, flashing in the colored lights on the walls and ceiling. “I'm not naiive,” she protested, licking her lower lip so that it shone when she stuck it out petulantly.
“Sure you're not. You go right ahead, sweetness.” The sarcasm on his face made him look older and angry.
She brightened, laying a warm hand on his arm and squeezing it. “Will you be here when I come back in a few minutes? I never did thank you properly for that drink.”
His expression softened a little. “I might be.”
“Good. Maybe we could find a quiet little corner to get to know one another, hm?” She patted his arm and leaned in farther than was polite, until her mouth almost touched his ear. “I would very much like to get to know you.”
His hand slid up her arm to the back of her neck, hot and possessive. “Don't go back there.”
“I'll just be a moment.” She laughed breathily, already pulling away. “You're sweet. Don't move!” She wrenched herself away from the guy, seeing him hesitate out of the corner of her eye as she trotted the rest of the way down the length of the bar to the door barring entrance to anyone but employees.
“Ghostie, is he following me?”
“Like an orc after a plate of ribs,” he trilled in her ear. “Not that I blame him. View from the rear is delightful.”
“Good. Standby for download.” The door opened for her, the bartender waiting impatiently. His one organic eye following her as she passed by. She almost couldn't repress the shudder as she brushed past him, which was necessary as he didn't give her much room. He let the door shut itself, pushing her into the storage room rougher than was necessary. She kept her balance on her tall shoes, but barely.
“I only have time for a trid hookup,” he growled, pinning her against the wall. Her purse fell to the floor and the dirty wall behind her was rough on her bare back.
“O-okay, here, here,” she said quickly, pulling a link jack from her comm.
He reached for the jack, but before he could take it, his muscles froze and his eyes wandered as his mind went elsewhere. He slumped forward, and she caught him before he hit his head on the floor. She was stronger than she looked, the fabric of her dress creaking with the strain of lowering him to the floor face-down without breaking anything. After all, she didn't want to hurt the guy, just set the scene. She hopped down on the floor herself, wiggled her back on the concrete with a grimace, got up quickly and ripped one of the straps of her dress, pulled out two of the seven pins holding her sleek brown coil of hair up in a complicated knot so that it sagged to the side, then ran the flat of her hand across her mouth, smearing her makeup.
“Make with the damsel in distress, sugar, before your other guy breaks down the door.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She pulled a vial of artificial tears from her purse and doused both eyes liberally, squinting at the initial sting of the saline. “On my way.”
She burst from the employees-only door with one shoe dragging behind her foot by the ankle strap, hobbling at the height difference, and holding up her dress with both hands. She nearly knocked the guy out with the door, but managed to wedge her trailing shoe in the door before it locked shut, breathing heavily and summoning pretty, little-girl sobs of distress.
To his credit, for someone who had barely met her, the guy seemed genuinely outraged and concerned. He pried her face out of her hands, making shushing sounds as he briefly inspected her for damage. “I knew it. I knew it. Are you okay? Did he hurt you? You weren't back there for very long, but--”
“He tried to—to--” she wailed, grabbing the front of his pale suit coat and plastering her face against it while her fingers lightly searched for the telltale hard square. She hoped like hell it wasn't in his pants pockets, because she wasn't sure they could make it out of there together before the enforcement team arrived at the club, and certainly not unnoticed.
“Where is he? What happened? I'll witness your report if you want to--”
He would think about legalities. “My purse!” she cried, searching her arms as if she could actually have missed it dangling there. “I must have dropped it...” She looked back at the door and shuddered, shrinking back. Her eyes flitted up to him as if just now seeing him properly, and though she was pressed against the front of him ostensibly for comfort and safety, she let her dress slide downward enough to catch his attention.
It worked. He looked down at her as if she'd clouted him between the eyes, although it wasn't very far down, as she had the elves' extra height, and he wasn't that tall for a man. His protective arm tightened around her, and the concern in his eyes faded, instead glowing with a fierce attraction and possessiveness. She widened her light brown eyes, winsome, helpless, trusting, glistening with hot tears, and added a chin quiver. Before she could even brace herself, he had caught her up in a harsh kiss, breathing alcohol fumes up her nose and invading her mouth aggressively.
She struggled to turn the reflexive little noises of outrage and discomfort into something weak and feminine, but she didn't quite manage it. She endured it for a few seconds, her free hand sliding under his jacket and up his chest, wondering how badly she would screw up the run if she just clobbered him now and searched his very unconscious body, maybe throwing in a few kicks to the ribs, to boot. Instead, her inquisitive fingertips ran across a small, slender, square case.
Instead of simply enduring the kiss, she turned on the wilting-flower-cum-sex-kitten and reciprocated, pushing the case upward through the fabric with two fingers, masking the motion by sliding both hands up his chest on their way around his neck, where she pulled his head down to her and opened her mouth the way he wanted her to. Just like that, she had the little case in her clenched fist. Two weeks of reconnaissance, planning and arranging, and all she had to do was get out the door.
The mark's hands traveled lower down her back, and she had had quite enough. She wrenched herself free of his invasive tongue with a choked sob, ducking her head as if completely overwhelmed. “I – I can't,” she murmured. “Not here.”
“I know a place.” He slid his hand through the high slit on her thigh and grabbed a fistful of what lay underneath, and she jerked backward, biting back the obscene words on the tip of her tongue.
“My purse?” she managed to say meekly, without clocking him upside the head at all.
“I'll get it. Here, the door is caught on your shoe. Don't worry about that guy; I'll take care of him if he tries anything. What does it look like?” He swung the heavy door open and puffed out his chest, full of manly importance and self-righteousness.
“Pink,” she choked out, hugging herself. “Pink with beads.”
“You don't move,” he ordered, pointing directly at her, his finger only a few centimeters from her face. After a moment he remembered that he wasn't angry at her, and softened the harsh gesture by drawing it gently down the side of her face. “I'll be right back.”
She managed something in the neighborhood of an adoring smile, but it was weak at best. The moment the door closed behind him, she rolled her eyes so hard it hurt. Jamming her foot back into the ugly pink shoe, she lost no time making for the door, ignoring anyone who stared at her dishevelled state. Outside, a nondescript gray sedan pulled up just as she emerged from the side door, and the passenger door slid open. Though no one was inside to drive, she practically dove in and buckled the harness down tight as the door slid closed.
The car roared out of the parking lot, and she was glad it wasn't the type of establishment to warrant any valets or security on the outside of the building. Sinking back into the cold plastic seat, she popped open the little square case and slid the chipset it contained into the slot mounted to the dashboard. “There. Take it, get our money, and for the sake of all that is holy, get me the hell out of her before that jackass realizes I'm gone.”
A face flickered into focus on the screen in place of the driver's seat, where the car's stats normally displayed. Ghostwriter grinned at her from the monitor, his long, dark hair barely visible against the virtual reality programmed background. His pale face was handsome in a generic fashion, and his green eyes sparkled out from under the brim of his gray fedora, an old-fashioned press pass stuck in the hatband. “I'm impressed.”
“I'm glad,” she said tartly, looking at her reflection in the glass and trying to tidy up the smeared lipstick as best she could with only her fingers. “Because I am utterly sickened. Revolting behavior,” she grumbled, her British accent thicker than it normally was. As she groused, she pulled the remaining pins from her ruined hairdo, pulling down the thick coils and finger-combing through it. She took great pride in her hair, and it fell nearly to her waist in an unbroken chestnut waterfall. It was a bit of a liability in their line of work, as it was quite an identifier. “Who the bloody hell tries to take an attack victim to bed just minutes after her ordeal? Unbelievable.”
“I can believe it,” said Ghostwriter, his voice stuttering for half a second as the car swerved onto one of the bigger roads, sliding around slower traffic in a blatant display of control and showmanship. “He's a man, and you're...well, look at yourself.”
“No excuse,” she said, her pink-smeared lips pursed. “A kiss I could forgive, but not that slobber-fest he seemed to think passed for permission into my knickers. Oh, I wanted to smack that...that...words are actually failing me, I'm so pissed.”
“Ass? Imbicile? Mooncalf? Nutter? Manky little despot? Bugger? Ruttish, dog-hearted hedge-pig?”
She choked on a laugh, looking over at his rakish grin. “Where did you hear that one?”
“I've been reading up.”
“Nothing I've ever heard before. I question your sources, sir. Just because someone says it's English doesn't mean it actually is.”
“Oh, I'm pretty sure about this.”
Bells clanged in her ear, and she answered. “Hello, Leopold. How was your date?”
The other elf's voice was rich and even, and seductive if you listened too closely. “My appointment went very well, thank you. I thought I would check in and see if you needed me to swing by and make the pick-up.”
“No, thank you. Ghostie and I did just fine by our little selves. Info's in process as we speak, and I'm on my way back to the flat. Believe it or not, I didn't have to use a lick of mojo.” She sat a little straighter, pulling her hair over her chest modestly, and was suddenly aware of a strong desire to wash off the mark's fingers. She could still feel his hands on her bare skin, his eyes on her body, taste the film of alcohol and synthetic olives in her mouth. “Not that I didn't consider it,” she muttered.
There was a significant pause on the other end of the line, and she looked at Ghostwriter inquisitively. He did the same, arching an eyebrow. “Oh,” said Leopold after a moment. He quickly smoothed over his surprise, a smile in his voice. “Of course you did. I knew you could. See you back here in a few, Eastwick. Ghostie, don't drive too fast. There were a lot of patrols through the M-5 just a few minutes ago.”
“Leo, relax. This is what I do,” he reminded him, flashing his teeth.
“Just don't get distracted.”
Ghostwriter didn't respond immediately, twisting his mouth up in a mock pout. “I can't help it, I'm only a man.” He wiggled his eyebrows at Eastwick. “If you could see her, you'd understand.”
“You were a man,” Leopold said. “Now you're a ghost. Eastwick, we'll talk when you get here.”
“Right,” said Ghostwriter, his green eyes flat and shuttered. He shut down the channel without another word.
Eastwick watched the screen closely, but his image blinked out to be replaced by the standard vehicle readouts. She waited for him to say something, but there was only silence for the rest of the ride. When the car pulled up to the intersection where she was to get out so he could ditch the car far away from their flat, she sat there for a few seconds, chewing on a number of platitudes to comfort him. The only one that held any sort of sincerity still felt like she'd found it in a vending machine.
“He didn't mean it.” She got out of the car and it pulled away from the curb even before the door closed behind her. She exhaled noisily, hitching up her dress and ducking into the sketchy apartment building that was their safehouse. There would be words, and most of them would be hers.