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The sign at the door says All Ages Sundays: Monsterhearts / Queen Liliuokalani and the Warriors
You pay your covers and show ID. You and Reggie get a green wristband, and Tandy gets a red one. The space isn't too full, so it's easy to spot Echo and her friend Lili sitting at a table near the stage. Echo waves, standing up so she's ready to give you and Tandy big hugs when you get to her.
"You both met Lili last year when she visited over Spring Break, right? She's my room mate. Her bandmates are around here somewhere."
Lili unfolds from her chair and gives you and Tandy hugs as well. "Hey, guys! Thanks for coming." There's a slight pause as Echo waits for you to introduce Reggie.
I'm all smiles when I come in and hug Echo and Lili. I angle my body towards Reggie and introduce her, "Echo, Lili, this is Reggie Cooper. Reggie's my closest friend from TSol. Also, she's a really awesome person IRL."
Tandy snorts at your introduction. "Don't let him fool you, Echo. Reggie is Trey-Trey's girlfriend, whether he knows it or not."
Reggie just takes your hand and says, "It's nice to meet you both. I'm really looking forward to hearing your band, Lili, and I love the name!"
You all sit. "Liliuokalani is actually my full name, Reggie. I'm part Hawai'ian, was born there. We have fun, the band and me, I hope you'll enjoy it."
A waitress stops by to take your orders. Tandy orders a mint-lime agua fresca. I'm assuming beer for you and Reggie?
Have Echo and Tandy always been friends, Trev? Or was there an awkward phase in there somewhere?
All the little moments of catching up finish, and there's still a little time before the first band starts. What topic of conversation do you bring up?
I don't correct Tandy's assertion that Reggie's my girlfriend, but hey, I was keeping it cool until she had a chance to tell "Roberto" and her family. But it isn't like Echo and Lili will tell anyone, so it's alright with me.
Echo and Tandy hated each other, over Stuart. It was grade school. Plus, Stuart had a thing for Miss Flowers. Who was totally hot. And fully developed. I couldn't blame the kid.
Well, I get mixed up in a TSol convo with Tandy and Reggie. We started talking about the "high thane's lover" quest, and then one thing led to another and Reggie's telling her story about the "horse riding backward" glitch. I think it's hilarious. I think Tandy digs it, too. Echo's lost, though, which sort of sucks. But hey, beer.
At some point, Echo gives Lili a look. "Trev's been talking about video games since I was in Kindergarten. Once you get past that, he's actually pretty cool."
After the backwards-horse story, Reggie asks Lili about her band. "What kind of music do you play?"
Echo sighs. "Are you ready for the speech?" But she smiles.
Lili sticks her tongue out at Echo. "So, Louie Armstrong apparently said a thing once. 'If it sounds good, it is good.' As far as we're concerned, the world is post-genre. We've got, what, a few thousand years worth of music at our fingertips? Anything new is really just combining what's old in new ways. We pick and choose wherever we want, swing, R&B, hip-hop, doowop, whatever, and put it together. Not just covers, styles. Jorge even uses a Rudy Vallee megaphone for one number." She winds down, a little hesitant at having talked so much.
I perk up at Lili's speech. She hadn't thrown this one at me before. "Oh wow, Lili, that's great. Like a DJ remixing, except, across the span of music, and will instruments. What else do you play in there?" I give Echo a look, making sure this interest is kosher with her.
"Don't want to let you too far behind the curtain, Trev. But, post-post-modern-hipster alert, there's a ukulele or two involved." The opening band, "Monsterhearts," is starting to filter out onto the stage. "Gotta go meet the band in the greenroom. If you can call it a room. Clap hard!" She stands and heads through a door marked "Authorized Personnel Only."
While Monsterhearts is getting set up, all electronics and laptops, Echo gives you and Reggie a look. "So, spill it, what's the story behind the story here? Tandy, back me up. Inquiring minds want to know!"
I hold up my hands like I'm giving up. "Alright, alright. The deal is, I've known Reggie through the game for like, forever. We've been through thick and thin in TSol, spent hours and hours together, separated by the outside world. She came down here to check out Mars Hill, and we met for the first time." I look over at Reggie. Fuck it. This is my sister. I look back at Echo, "It was everything I'd hoped. And more. Reggie's amazing. And we're trying to keep from freaking people out who don't, you know, get it. That I know Reggie, and she knows me. That we didn't just meet. And I love her for who she is, and it isn't some out of the blue thing." I look at Echo now, waiting, hoping she'll trust me, not think I'm being stupid.
Echo looks thoughtful, then turns to Reggie with a mischievous grin. "Reggie? In the game, do you play an elf?"
Reggie lets out a surprised laugh. "I do, Echo." She squeezes your thigh under the table. "Your brother has a thing for pointy ears. I keep waiting for him to accidentally call me 'Spock'."
"Spock?" I look at her, a bemused smile on my face. "I mean, really? Galadriel, maybe. Perhaps Titania. And hey, on a stretch at maybe a Comic Con, I could deal with crossplay Nightcrawler.... but Spock?" I mockingly glare at her. "That is so wrong."
"It's all friends and family here, Trev. You don't have to be so worried that your secret's out. Reggie, it's nice to meet you. I do have to admit that it is weird, though. Trev's always been much more comfortable mixing the real world and the virtual one than I am. I guess I should officially welcome you to the family?"
The band starts to play. Well, "band". They introduce themselves as "Monsterhearts, an improvisatory live electronic ambient horrorshow collective experience." They're a bunch of skinny guys dressed identically in tight black jeans and turtlenecks. It's not really very good, this collective experience. After a few minutes, Echo and Tandy head to the bathroom, and Reggie looks at you.
"Trev, this band really makes me want a cigarette. Because, you know, I have to go outside to smoke one. You want to join me? Outside, that is, not for a cigarette."
"I can go for a smoke , sure." I answer, taking her hand as we walk outside. Or wherever.
You and Reggie head outside. With the door closed behind you, Monsterhearts fades to something like a cross between the soundtrack for a shaky hand-cam horror movie and one of those chiptune bands you liked when you were eight years old. Reggie laughs. "I wonder what Louie Armstrong would make of that?" She moves away from the door, pulls out a cigarette, and lights up. "I'm not normally judgemental. I try to embrace new experiences. But, wow."
Oh shit, right. That wasn't code for making out or maybe a little somethin=somethin. Ah well. I stand near her, look out into the night, "Monsterhearts sucks. I have a feeling Lili will be pretty good, though. Echo talks her up enough." I look over at her for a second, like I've got something I'm curious about. "How good's your gay-dar?"
"Pretty good? Why?"
I shrug, "I dunno. Lili's parents are, well, girls. Echo's really into her. I guess... I'm looking for a second opinion?"
"Really? It's cool that she's got two Moms, but I don't read her and Echo that way. I've been wrong before, though. Do you really want me to speculate on your little sister's sex life?" She does a Groucho Marx eyebrow waggle. "Because I will. It seems like all the women in your life are pretty hot."
I chuckle, and her Groucho impression is really great. "Alright, let's make this clear. You may lust after anyone who isn't blood related to me." I pause, then add, "Okay, maybe I don't want your answer on Echo's sex life. I mean, it's not a problem if she's gay. I'm just... like I said, curious."
"Speaking of sex lives..." She flips the cigarette butt into the gutter and reaches into her purse for a mint, pops it into her mouth. "How much longer do you think Monsterhearts is doing their horrorshow collective experience, and what do you want to do until they're done?"
For the tiniest moment, I wonder if I want to kiss her right after she smoked. Tiny. "They'll probably wail for another forty five minutes to give Lili a chance to start her band's set at midnight." I look up at the stars, "We could talk shop.... we coulllld head a block down and dance for a while. Or we could find somewhere private and get high as a kite." I do my Groucho eyebrows for her.
"I was more thinking about a blow job in an alley. Pot just makes my fingers and toes tingly for a while, and then I get sleepy. Sorry."
I put on a mock frown, "Fine, fine, fine. I guess it means more pot for me, which is good." The frown evaporates, and I sigh, "So, blow job in the alley is a decent backup plan."
"Why, Trevian, what a wonderful idea!" You find an out-of-the-way spot, and Reggie fulfils her promise, with interest. Once you're done, she pops in another mint. "Echo and Tandy will be talking about us. Should we go back in?"
Hot damn, this woman is amazing. I just held onto the back of her head and let her do whatever she liked. Looking down at my girl as she pops in that mint all casual, it's really sexy. I have a big old grin on my face when she mentions Echo and Tandy. "Sure, let's go back. I don't mind if they talk, though. Not at all."
Reggie swipes a corner of her mouth. "Of course you don't! Let's go back in. Monsterhearts should be close to done torturing cats by now."
Echo definitely gives you a smug look when you rejoin her at the table. Tandy just looks speculative.
"I think they're just about done. Should be Echo's friend's band soon. So, did you have fun out there?"
"Sure. It's a nice night out." I reply, trying to keep it cool. I realize that I don't qant Echo to think Reggie is just some girl I have sex with. "Reggie here is really athletic. She jogs, and don't ask me how I know this, but she's taken martial arts, too. Krav Maga."
"I just started a capoeira class. It's really fun, but challenging." She laughs. "I'm still falling a lot."
Monsterhearts finishes up with a counterpoint of multiple samples of the Wilhelm scream, tweaked and twisted and layered over each other, followed by a recording of a child singing the alphabet song. Without acknowledging the smattering of unenthusiastic applause, they pack up their gear and leave the stage in silence.
As members of The Warriors start filtering on to the stage with their instruments and equipment, Tandy signals the waitress for another round. "How was your thing today, Trev? The meeting or whatever?"
"Capoeira? Wow, does mom know?" I laugh with Echo, but she can tell I think it's interesting. I think we have a cousin who does it. Pretty sure. "Why capoeira? Lots of martial arts out there. Is it the dancing?" Echo's a really great dancer. I don't brag about her enough, but she's got talent. She can dance in a troupe, she's danced in a bunch, but she always stands out. It's fantastic.
I'm happy to see Monsterhearts leave. They suck, Reggie's right. Now I have the alphabet song in my head. Ugh.
To Tandy, I answer, "It was pretty heavy. Lots of stuff going down with them. And us. Kind of overwhelmed right now." I take a drink of my fourth beer. Wait, fifth? Look over at Reggie to check in. She totally blew me ten minutes ago!
Reggie catches your look and raises an eyebrow slightly like she knows what you're thinking. She addresses Tandy, though. "Heavy is right, and some if it might spill over on you and Jake. Maybe you, too, Echo. Seems like Trev's the front-runner in the quest right now, and they think we're going to start getting some pretty serious media attention."
The house sound system is broadband wireless, so there's not too much plugging in before the band looks ready to start. A guy with a cello starts plucking his instrument like an upright bass, and soon the guitarist is plinking along with some lazy chords. The moan of a clarinet joins, from a digital multi-wind instrument that looks like something out of a sci-fi band. You hear Lili before she walks onto the stage, a hum that weaves almost subliminally into the growing fabric of the accompaniment.
She enters then, in a flowing flower-print skirt with a short white denim jacket hanging open over a fringed crop top that leaves the defined lines of her midriff showing. She leaves off humming and starts singing in a pure soprano that somehow manages to work in concert with the raunchy sound of the band.
After the trainwreck that was Monsterhearts, you can feel the crowd leaning forward into this old, old sound. There's nothing flashy going on here, just honest music making, and you can tell by the first chorus that Lili owns this audience.
The song ends with more humming on the last chorus, accompanied by just the guitar and the occasional punctuation of a lick from the clarinet. Silence for a long moment, then enthusiastic applause all 'round. Reggie squeezes your hand. "This... is what I needed."
I can't help but move a little to the music. When I see Reggie's into it, I pull her up out of her seat, and give Echo and Tandy a nod. We're hitting the dance floor! If there's nobody on the dance floor, we'll make them jealous! This is great. Live music, good times, the best girlfriend ever.
A few more songs. An original that's definitely danceable and really showcases all the instrumentalists. A stripped-down cover of an old J-Pop song that Tandy recognizes as Momoe Yamaguchi's "Cosmos" (more suitable for swaying than outright dancing, but that's cool too, right?). Lili says, "Thanks! I'm Queen Lili'uokalani, and these are the Warriors!" She introduces the members of the band, then points out "My roomie, Echo," thanking her for her support.
They continue playing, crossing decades and genres. Mostly covers, but the occasional original tune that provides a quirky combination of styles that you wouldn't have previously imagined. During a cover of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" that has been so artfully arranged by the band that it seems like it was written for this mostly-acoustic ensemble, Lili jumps off the low stage and dances around the floor. She's absolutely free, twirling with abandon, and engaging with many of the dancers. You and Reggie get some attention, Echo is swept into a five second pas de deux, then Lili makes her way back to the stage to finish the song.
Touched a bit by sweat, her hair a little wild, Lili addresses the audience again. "We're going to take a break now, but I have one song I'd like to give you before then. I used to sing this with my Mom, Alani, back when I was little, and my other Mom, Min, says it's one of the reasons the two of them got together. I don't know about that, but, well here it is." She reaches down for a ukulele case, opens it up, and takes out a uke and a tattered fabric flower that might once have been a hibiscus. The flower she tucks behind her ear. After checking the ukulele's tuning, she begins strumming, then sings out in a clear, high soprano, "Ooh"-ing a familiar tune. The lyrics start: "Somewhere over the rainbow..." The strums and chords are simple, she doesn't add anything that doesn't need to be there.
No one is dancing. Everyone just stays where they were, unwilling or maybe even unable to break the moment. You glance at Reggie and see tears streaming down her cheeks to touch the blissfully turned-up corners of her mouth.
I stand there, with Echo, Tandy and Reggie, listening to Lili while we all stand on the dance floor. My hand creeps into Reggie's grasp, her emotions color my own. I mist up a bit, impressed by Lili's talent. Her moms sound really great. This is. It's special.
Jake's really missing out. I wish he were here, with or without Margie, just here to experience this. I lean over and give Reggie a peck on her wet left cheek.
The band members have been filtering out to the green room while Lili plays, unnoticed by the crowd. As she finishes with a reprise of that haunting "Ooh," sketching out the chorus over the ukulele, she starts to walk off herself, and by the time the sound man fades her out, she's through the door. There's no applause when the song ends, just a sort of low sigh coming out of a hundred throats.
Trev, among your little foursome, who is it that speaks first, and what do they say?
Tandy opened her mouth to speak, but it was Echo that spoke first. Echo said to us all, "Isn't she the best? Her voice is magic, Trevvy, you know? Not like your games, real magic."
I chuckle at her, "You're right, Echo. She's got a great voice, great charisma, too." I squeeze Reggie's hand. "You alright?" Checking in with her. How's Tandy? She's pretty emotional, most of the time.
"Holy. Shit." Although she hasn't quite cried, you can see that her eyes are bright with unshed tears.
Reggie worms in under your arm, snuggling close. "Yeah, magic. That whole set was... y'know? But that? I don't even..."
You reclaim your table. The band members are filtering out now, the five of them in ones and twos finding faces in the crowd that they know. Lili makes her way toward you, smiling at the compliments she receives on the way, but maintaining her trajectory. She flops into a chair with a tired smile. "Great crowd, yeah?" She looks at all four of you in turn. "Hey, I know it's Sunday night, but I'm going to be so keyed up after the show, I really need to do something. Any ideas?"
Your phone buzzes.
Hey, Margie's off. Still going there?
Tandy's not much of a party girl and Reggie and Echo don't know the area, so I know it's up to me to answer that question. "If you want to dance, there's a club down the street. Plays electronica and pop, but it's a great place to shake your booty. Or, we can all head back to Tandy and my apartment, hang out, shoot the shit, that kind of thing." I figure option one is the most appealing, but I don't want to shoehorn them.
Keyed up? That's a phrase Jessi uses when she means "horny". Probably just a Jessi thing, though. I hope. This girl's maybe underage, and I've got Reggie. I don't want her trying to hook up with some rando local and Echo getting upset. Because she totally would. Gay or not gay, she doesn't like to be left alone when she goes out with friends.
To: Jake Lili has one more set. Get your ass over here! Margie will love it, dude. You might, too.
"I'll happily do either, but I think it might be fun to just hang out, yeah? Especially if you don't have strong moral objections to letting a 19-year-old have a glass of wine or two? We can decide after." She takes a sip from her bottle of water.
From: Jake otw
The break's about twenty minutes. Jake and Margie should get here just as the second set starts, if they left when he texted. The five of you chat about anything and everything, but Lili is naturally the hub of the conversational wheel, since she's the night's "star".
You've got more data for your sample set now, Trev. Since you seem interested in what the relationship is between Echo and Lili, underneath the roomie thing, why don't you give me a roll? Likeable seems appropriate, under the circumstances, and I'll give you a Bonus Die (Roll 4, Keep 3) because Echo is your sister, after all.
Static difficulty of 11.
I'm totally trying to figure this out. From observations, nothing too nosy.
(Rolled: 4d6. Rolls: 4, 6, 4, 5. Total: 19)
That's a solid, solid hit. Fifteen, baby.
That is a solid hit!
So, tell me, what is the relationship between Echo and Lili like? Roomies, besties, a couple, a college phase?
Once you tell me that, I'll give you some extra bit of knowledge to fill out the picture.
Shit. they're a couple. For Echo, I think it's a college phase. I think. Not sure about Lili, though.
So, it turns out they're a couple. It's one of those things you can't unsee once you see it. The little gestures, the almost-touches, the looks. Lili wouldn't mind being open, and they probably are open about it, on campus. You can tell Echo really wants to tell you, but despite the fact that she knows you'd be cool with it she's hesitant.
You two are pretty tight, right, Trev? Why would she be worried about telling you about her love life?
She's dated guys before, never had trouble telling me about it. Not nitty gritty details, but enough. I think maybe she's worried because of what happened to me when I was a junior. There was this guy named Stevie. He lived across the street from us, moved in when I started high school, we were in the same grade. We were buddies, but one night my junior year, we were high on some California "redwood", that's what they called it. I was about to doze off when he just started kissing me. It took me a minute or so to figure out this was really happening, and I stopped him. Okay, I punched him in the throat, but really, I was kind of freaking out a little.
It got ugly pretty fast. He was upset that I'd "led him on", and I felt betrayed by what I thought was a solid friendship. I think she thought it was a gay thing, which maybe a little bit was? More the shock value than anything. I feel bad that I punched him, but the guy didn't stop until I did.
I wish I had it to do over again. At least the lead up part, so maybe I could have let him down gently or something.
I wait for Lili to head back up towards the stage, then I scoot closer to Echo. I put a friendly arm around her and let the noise of the bar camouflage our conversation. I lean into her ear and say with a genuinely friendly, brotherly tone, "Hey, Lili is really awesome. I think it's great that you two are close. Are you, like, dating? Because if you are, that's totally cool."
Your sister smiles, leans in to say, "Yes, she's great. Yes, we're dating! I'm glad you're cool with it, I knew you would be, but... Anyway, Lili was a little sad about 'hiding'. Reggie is awesome, by the way."
Just as the band and Lili trickle out to the stage, Jake and Margie come through the door, shaking off water. They make their way to the table once you wave. "Man, it's raining like a sumbitch out there. Just came in all of a sudden. We're living in the future, right? Seems like we should be able to predict the weather, right?"
I pat Echo's arm, glad to see she trusts me when I say it's cool. It is. She compliments Reggie and I reply, "I'm glad you agree. She's not going anywhere for a while."
When Jake and Margie come in, I hug them both, wet or not, grab some extra chairs. "If robots were allowed to do it, you wouldn't have Miss Erin Andrews to gawk at on the evening news, bro!" I punch his arm lightly, then return to my seat by Reggie. As the music starts up, I lean in to tell Reggie, "I called it. They're totally dating. And roomies, which confirms more about her sex life that I want to know, but there you go."
"Dude, Erin Andrews was a long time ago, right?" He gives Margie a look, like "What can you do?"
The second set is as awesome as the first. After a few original songs, Lili comes down to sit with you while The Warriors show off their stuff. They are tight, across styles from a muscular cover of "Green Onions" to an original, jazzy piece that's intricate and multilayered like an update of Dave Brubeck. When Lili rejoins, she picks up a guitar and does another solo piece, a cover of a song you've never heard, "Waiting For My Real Life to Begin."
All too soon, the set's over, and Lili's back at the table. "Wow, that was fun. So, what's the vote? I vote for hangouts at y'all's apartment, but I can be persuaded."
It becomes clear that you and Lili are the foci of this ellipse of decision-making. Everyone else keeps trying to defer to the two of you. What'll it be?
Now that Jake's here and he looks good with it, or deferring to me, I answer, "Let's go back to our place, yeah? Some wine and fun for friends and lovers!" I give them all my winningest of smiles and see about getting this show up and on the road to home.
You manage to herd the cats in a surprisingly short period of time. Lili explains that The Warriors all have places to crash, and they're pros at loading the van, so they tell her to go ahead and take off after a few minutes of mutual congratulation on a good show.
Between your hooptie, with Tandy at the wheel, and Jake's (with Echo driving), you get all seven of you back to gather snugly in the living room of the apartment. Having already talked with you, Echo doesn't worry about making a "big reveal" to the rest of the group. She and Lili are sitting together on the floor, close, and very obviously together.
In fact, Tandy's the only "odd man out" in this crowd. As you break out the wine, why don't you tell me how she usually reacts in that situation?
Normally, Tandy would wallflower, pull an "I'm tired" routine and head to bed. She'll be polite about it, but really, it's not something she enjoys, being the "odd man out" like this.
It's nice, seeing Echo happy. Lili's good for her. they're cute together, all touchy feely. I make sure Jake and Margie feel welcome and included, but I'm really interested in Lili telling us more about herself, and Reggie talking, too.
Wine all 'round. The cheap-but-not-nasty stuff from Trader Joe's, but after the stress of the day and the amazing, unexpected night, it tastes like vintage Burgundy. Reggie's just sipping, since you do have an interview scheduled mid-afternoon tomorrow.
Tandy's still in it for now, bantering back and forth, but you see her eyeing her bedroom door. Jake and Margie are still finding each other's rhythms. Sometimes she laughs a little too soon at a joke, or he gives her a surprised look when she mentions something that seems mundane enough.
Tandy asks about Lili's moms.
"Yeah. They got together when I was eight. According to Mama, which is Mina, not my biological Mom, which is Alani... okay, it's complicated... anyway, according to Mama, I was 'so damned cute' I 'made her ovaries hurt.' Whatever. Anyway, they got married in New York five years ago, and if the law passes in South Cackalacky, it'll be official in Charleston next year. They're awesome, by the way. Completely."
Echo seems to enjoy hearing this, like it's a familiar story that makes her smile.
I raise my beer in a toast, "To marriage based on love and partnership, not based on gender." I figure everyone will drink to that.
I lean into Reggie as things hit a lull, ask her quietly, "Long drive to the hotel. You wanna sleep over, punkin?" I give her my most alluring of grins to encourage her. What's she think of Lili and Margie, I wonder.
ADULT CONTENT BELOW
Everyone responds heartily to your toast. All of you have had GLBT friends since high school, and with rare exceptions like the thing with you and Stevie, it's just life for you.
When you mention sleeping over, Reggie's first response is a whispered "Punkin is not an acceptable pet name. Sleeping over is acceptable. Might need to focus on the sleeping, though, it's been an up-and-down sorta day."
Tandy does excuse herself about fifteen minutes in, and everyone pretends not to know why. She's not pouting or outwardly uncomfortable, just not in her element with three couples and no Plus One.
Not long after, Margie suggests that you play "Never Have I Ever..." Jake makes a face, you know he doesn't like drinking games in general. 'Sullies the purity of the act of imbibing alcohol,' he's said. Echo seems to agree with Jake on the point, if not the particulars. Reggie mutters something about 'Freshman year' and shakes her head. Lili seems willing to go either way.
None of the "No" votes seems definitive, they can be swayed. And once again, it seems to be ol' Trevian who has the deciding vote here. Up to you. What do you do?
I file away that punkin was a fail and resolve to think of other pet names later.
On the question of never have I ever. I raise my beer and loudly proclaim, "Never.... have I ever... had sex with more than one person at the same time!" Then I look around, peering to see who might drink after that.
Jake drinks immediately, which is a surprise to you, since you'd think a best friend would share a milestone like that. Margie takes a sip right after, not looking to see what other people do. Lili's hands remain firmly in her lap, as do Reggie's.
Echo, though... Echo pauses a second and then grabs her wineglass, takes a sip. Her look is somewhere between defiant and embarrassed. "Senior trip. What happens in Myrtle, stays in Myrtle."
Reggie's to your left, so she's next on the docket. "Never have I ever... watched porn with someone else." Everyone in the room drinks, except for Reggie. And maybe you. Do you drink, Trev?
I have to drink. I laugh, pointing over at Jake. "Jake knows. Because I watched porn with Jake and three other guys, including Stevie, of course. It was a sophomore year thing. Geoffrey brought in an ancient Blue Ray, we had some wine Calvin stole and we made jokes about watching it, until Geoffrey put it in the player. We made jokes for a while, but then the actual sex started and things got really quiet. You remember that, Jake? It was the first time I'd watched porn. I'd seen some nude pics and read tons of stuff online, but lucky me, that was the first." It was confusing and arousing, but I'm not going to say that part out loud.
When it's my turn, I declare one that will crack me and Jake up, "Never have I ever... had anal sex, giving or receiving. " I don't drink. I'm betting Reggie does.
Jake does laugh. "Nuclear option so soon, bro?" He, Margie and Reggie drink. Everyone's chuckling, the wine and beer sufficient to keep embarrassment at bay.
The torch gets passed to Lili. "Never have I ever..." She chews her lip thoughtfully, then gives Echo a sly sidelong look. "Had dates with two different people on the same day." Echo smacks her playfully, then drinks. Jake drinks. Margie and Reggie don't.
I mentally note that I should ask Reggie if she likes it or if it's just gross. I didn't drink, of course. I chuckle at Jake's "nuclear option" comment, that's so him.
And no, I didn't have dates with two different people on the same day. I did sleep with Reggie the other day, then end up playing around with Jessi, which feels like it should count. So I drink.
"Never have I ever had sex in front of other people." I grin widely at that one. If Echo drinks, I might get sick.
Margie raises her hand. She's the only one. According to the rules, that means she has to give details. She laughs.
"Okay, okay. It wasn't like an audience or anything, but... Back when I was your age (whippersnappers!), I took a road trip to Graceland with my boyfriend at the time and my best friend and her boyfriend. We didn't leave as early as we wanted to, but we drove straight through, twelve hours, and got to our motel in Memphis at around 10 o'clock. We were sharing a room to save money, so we were sitting around drinking rum and cokes, just waiting for the road buzz to wear off so we could get some sleep."
She takes a sip of her wine. "Jennifer and Stewart wound up passing out first, and Lewis had been teasing me in the car for hours, so we started fooling around, trying to be quiet. We got on the bed, right on top of the covers, but the springs squeaked, so we went back down to the floor. We're both working so hard to be quiet, it was kind of exciting, you know? I'm on top, and just before I hit the moment I open my eyes and see Jenni and Stew watching us, playing with each other. What could I do? I finished, and Lewis right after." Margie clears her throat. "So, yeah, I love Graceland. Have any of you been?"
I wasn't going to laugh until she mentioned Graceland, but that's like permission, right? I look over at Reggie, remembering she said no fooling around tonight. It's getting more and more steamy as these stories happen.
"Never have I ever..." I begin, grinning, "Taken someone's virginity." I don't drink on this one, of course. All my girls "traded up", heh heh.
Echo looks at you with a hint of defiance, then drinks. Jake drinks (you already know that story). Margie drinks with a nostalgic smile.
Reggie smiles and says, "Okay, one more round for me, then it's time for me to turn into a punkin. We have a thing tomorrow, and it's been a long day."
"Trev, Jake, do you mind if we crash on the sofa tonight? I'll text Mom so she knows. Just don't want to go home smelling like a winery, in case they're still up."
So, who winds up giving the last "Never have I ever..." and what is it?
"Echo, of course you and Lili can crash on the sofa together. That's cool." My tone is not pervy, I'm trying to tell her it's okay to be with her or whatever.
The last one is from Echo. She declared, "Never have I ever used a sex toy on someone."
I drink. Of course.
Lili laughs as Echo drinks at her own "Never have I ever," followed pretty much immediately by everyone else in the room. Jake and Margie go to his room, and after a hug from Echo and Lili for you both, you and Reggie do the same.
Reggie's a little drunk. Neither of you has been speed-drinking, but it's been a long enough night of consumption that you have a good little buzz going. "I have decided. That we have time. For sleep and. Hanky-panky." She strips in that matter-of-fact way she has and flops onto the bed, waiting for you.
I lock the door, strip as well, then climb up between her legs. I put my hands under her ass and pull her up slightly to my face, then I ravish her. I want to give her as much pleasure as her drunk little head can handle. I'm returning the favor really. I'm a little tipsy, too, so some of my techniques are maybe a bit sloppy, but the intention is pure.
Man, she smells so good, especially when she's aroused. At one point, when her fingers are in my hair, holding me as she rides a little O, I wait for her to calm down, and in the moments when she's overly sensitive, I come up for air. "So, Reggie..." I ask as I roll a condom on, wipe my mouth clean, then crawl up on top of her. I support myself on my arms, looking down at her, "Remembering my rule about no blood relations, who in the room earlier were you most attracted to?" I wait for her answer before I reach down and guide myself inside her.
"Same as you, lover. Same as you. Lili. After the way she sang? And her sexy little belly button peeking out at us? Don't you wish a little she was here with us now?"
She pushes up so you're all the way inside her, reaches around to tickle your balls from behind. "Don't you wish a little those were her fingernails?"
I close my eyes and enjoy the feeling of her nails. God, she has such a light touch. "I'd never steal sissy's girl." I roll my stomach muscles as I push deep inside her, hoping to rub her in just the right place. "And I like your nails. They're perfect." I bend down and kiss her for a little, just enjoying the coupling of our bodies, how her lean muscles feel against me. "I thought you'd want Tandy. Since you already taken some virginity, wouldn't she be a treat?" I kiss her again, then pull back and watch her as I continue to slowly move in and out.
Reggie's breath matches your strokes. "Trev, it's fun, pretending, but you are what I really want." Her fingers dig into your back, urging you deeper. In a whisper so low you can barely hear it, "Never have I ever... been so happy."
All the games fall away. The playful talk, the devil on my shoulder that secretly wants to see Reggie with another girl. My still not quenched desire for Tandy. All of it just seems so silly compared to Reggie. Right here, right now, the real Reggie. Loving me.
I follow her urging and push deeper, harder. I won't last long, but I know it's okay. I know I can enjoy this, it isn't a contest. We're making love. Such a short time to fall so fast and so hard.
"Reggie Cooper, I love you." I grind, toes on the edge of the bed, pushing. I want to give her all the pleasure I'm feeling. "You're what I want, too. No game tops you." I kiss her again, and soon, I feel that tickle, the swelling of sensations of an impending climax. This is my girl. My elf.
Your climax hits and Reggie clutches at you as she feels it start. A few seconds later, as you're still moving against her, she matches you. It's not earthshaking for either of you, but it is sweet, and once you clean up, you snuggle together in the bed like a matched set of measuring spoons, asleep in minutes.
When you wake up late in the morning, all the guests except Reggie are gone. Echo and Lili cabbed back to your folks' place when they woke up, and Jake explains that Margie left after a quick breakfast. He's got a slightly glazed look, in a good way. Clearly something happened last night that blew his mind.
As for Reggie, there's something different this morning, after everything that happened yesterday. She's never seemed uncomfortable with you, even that first moment at the airport, but now she seems to have some sort of psychic connection. As you make breakfast together, she reads your look to know where the pancake mix is in the kitchen and takes half the bacon out of the pan just when it's the way you like it. (Hers is crispy to the point of almost-burnt.)
"I head back to Lansing tomorrow. Don't know how long it's going to take, babe, but my heart will be here the whole time. Hey! Once everything's set, do you want to fly out, drive back with me?"
Reggie's mood is infectious, and I'm feeling like a million bucks. I compliment her bacon, and the pancakes are delish. I kinda like her looking all domesticated.
As she's cooking, I lean over to chat with Jake. "Hey man, you alright? Margie rock your world last night? Take a trip... to Graceland?" Okay, that callback makes me chuckle.
When Reggie suggests flying up, I almost say no out of reflex, thinking of the prices. But then, I remember the stipend. Oh man, I actually have a little money. I nod, "That sounds good, but give me a date to fly up so I can get on Priceline right away, cool?" Road trip with Reggie sounds fun.
"Man, I can't even tell you. You wouldn't believe me." He rubs his temples tiredly, but he's got a goofy grin. "Apparently talking about it makes her crazy."
When you talk about Reggie's plan, she looks thoughtful.
"So, I bet M-T will help with the move, at least the logistics. It's in their interests to get me here as soon as possible, right? So, let's say anytime from a week from now to ten days?"
A week sounds like forever right now. "Okay. That works. I'll shoot for a week, see how insane prices are. If you need more time, then I'll help you pack or something. Or just distract you mercilessly." I take a bit bite of pancakes and grin.
After a moment, I look back over at Jake, "I will always believe you, man. What never ever did you two act out last night? C'mon! Inquiring minds wanna know!"
"Dude. Seriously. It was epic, from what I remember, but I think I may have repressed some of it. It may take hypnotherapy to bring it all back. Which would probably be worth it."
Reggie laughs out loud. "Leave the poor man alone, Trev. He's clearly traumatized."
Jake gives Reggie a grateful punch in the shoulder and retires back to his room with a glass of orange juice. He's walking a little funny.
"So, I guess it's time to think about getting ready for this interview?"
As he's limping back to his room, I promise, "Maybe I'll waterboard it out of you, bro." I wonder if he's received anal now? heh heh
To Reggie, "I thought we were already ready?" I'm mostly serious. But she's right, we should shower and clean up, so I'll finish my food and get to that.
You get showered and dressed, drive back to the studio in plenty of time to chill a bit before the interview. Tonya explains that it should be a softball, this was set up specifically to be a sort of "soft open" for your media presence. And it is. You and Reggie come through with flying colors, no "gotcha" questions, no slips about strategy or specifics of what you've accomplished so far. Nothing about your personal relationship.
After, Tonya and Oliver pop a bottle of champagne to share with you and "the team." The good stuff. One glass each, and Reggie whispers in your ear that she'd really like to spend this last night before she heads back to Michigan with you. Alone.
You head back to the Carolina Inn, and she packs up everything but what she's wearing tomorrow before you go to bed. It's a long, sweet night, and when you take her to the plane in the morning, you're both tired and happy and sad and wistful. She gives you a long kiss goodbye before she goes through security, all the scanners blinking and winking and taking her out of your sight before she walks away.
And for the first time since last Tuesday night, you know you're not seeing Reggie tomorrow.
What do you do?
I watch her leave, and there's a little empty space where the comfort of having her around was moments before. I consider picking up a shift. I should probably hit TSol, or maybe PoA. But first, I want to chat with Jessi.
To: Jessi: Hey girl, want get some breakfast? My treat. Want to catch up with you, got something I want to share, too. Trev
From: Jessi Sure. I'm up. Mary Sue's in 30?
Mary Sue's is a diner that opened within the last few years, but holds to all the traditions of Southern Breakfast with a passion. You're about fifteen minutes away, once you get going.
You arrive first, already have a booth and one of those little pots of coffee, and have reacquainted yourself with your waitress Charlize. Jessi enters in tight workout pants and a zip-up sweatshirt, looks around, and finds you. She sits down and pours herself a cup of coffee. She's obviously already on guard, expecting something, but she does order ham biscuits and a side of eggs, over medium.
Yeah, she gets to the point. I munch on the banana I bought, swallow it, considering how to break this. "I met a girl. I mean, met her face-to-face. We've been friends for over a year, but when I saw her. Well, everything fell into place for me. I think I'm in love with her." Well, that's out. Felt weird saying it.
I look at her, my sorta fuck-buddy Jessi, continue, "I know me and you aren't dating or anything, but we've been close. I just... I wanted you to know about it, not hear about it. You know? And I'm sorry to spring it on you. It's been a crazy few days." Now I wait to see if she freaks out.
Jessi's expression doesn't change, still that guarded look that seems alien on her normally open face. "I know, Trev. I knew when I saw you that night at Top of the Hill, drunk as I was. Even if you didn't, yet." She pokes the one of her eggs and dips a biscuit in the barely-runny yolk. Takes a bite. Chews and swallows. It's somehow clear that she's not done speaking yet, though. "You're a good guy, Trev. A little bit of a dipshit sometimes, and even though it's me saying this, you probably smoke too much weed. But you're a good guy, and you deserve good stuff. Your video game girl seems to be good stuff, from the few times I've heard you talk about her." Another bite of ham biscuit. "I'll miss hanging with you, Trev, but I am for sure not good stuff."
Wow, that makes me feel awful. "Jessi, that's bullshit. You're totally good stuff." I reach over the table, take her hand. "We've been friends since you came to Little Dipper. It doesn't mean we can't hang out. Plus, Reggie hates weed. So I'll have to stick by you for that." I offer a lame smile, but it feels wrong.
I hold up a hand, "Okay, I don't want you to feel like a consolation prize. It's just, I never thought we were, you know, dating material. Did you? I... damn, Jessi. I didn't want to hurt you. I'm sorry." Did she really want something serious? That kinda stinks. She's a hell of a girl, I really dig hanging out with her.
"No, we were never really dating material Trev. We were pretty hot fucking and getting high material, and really good at bullshitting about movies and music and stupid customer stories. I never thought it was more than that, really. But you do get used to things, right? To having someone to call when you're feeling empty and maybe pot and sex and bullshit might fill the hole a little bit." She pushes aside the rest of her breakfast, takes a long drink of coffee. "I'll see you at work, Trev, when you don't give away your shifts. It'll be cool."
"Hey, we can still bullshit and smoke weed, Jessi." I tell her. "I mean, shit, I want to keep doing that. I really like hanging out. I just need to give Reggie a real shot. So, can we stay friends, or would you rather I stay away?" I give her puppy dog eyes, because I do like hanging out with her and she is my pot hookup, too.
Tell you what, Trev. I can see this going either way, so why don't we roll. Seems like Likeable is what got us into this situation, so I'd like to see something else, which means a metaphorical use of Tinkerer. I'll even give you a bonus die for your Flaw, Waffler, since this is kind of all about wanting to have your cake and eat it, too.
So, you'll roll four d6 and keep the top three. Jessi's going to roll three dice for her "Pretty Broken Thing" Trait. Seem fair?
You win, you define how things are going forward, at least for the near term. Jessi wins, and she does.
(Rolled: 3d6. Rolls: 4, 3, 3. Total: 10)
(Rolled: 4d6. Rolls: 6, 5, 5, 3. Total: 19)
That's a 16! hahahaha, wonderful!
Jessi's a little lonely, and also a bit worried about Stalker-boy, so she accepts my offer of BS and pot. Also, she's got some sekrit plans, at least, she has the formation of them. But she's not going to be open about them. She's smart and sneaky when she needs to be.
So, Reggie's in Michigan and you've had "the talk" with Jessi, which went rather better than you expected, in the end.
You've got a shift Thursday night and one on Saturday. How do they go? Any customer problems? Do you hang out with Jessi after?
How much time do you spend in TSol? PoA? Is Jace with you for much of that? Oh, you do find another significant lead. Which game is it in? What piece of geek media from Eve's formational years gets the nod, this time?
Reggie warns you that it's going to be cold in Lansing, so you should pack a winter coat.
Does Jake ever open up about what he and Margie did after "Never have I ever..."? If so, how drunk was he, and what did he fess up to?
The shifts go pretty great. I've been oddly antsy at the house. The puff piece went live and I've been getting lots of pings and private messages on TSol and all the social networks. A few memes popped up of me saying stuff I never said, but Tonya and her team handled it.
One of the couples recognized me. Although I think Jessi told them, it was a prank. Never given an autograph before. Weird. Not much of a tip, but they wished me well on "the quest".
I don't want to go too far without my elf, so I end up logging most of my hours on TSol Arena. I hoped to unlock the ulta-mega combo. It's really friggin' impossible, so I macro-ed half of it, finally unlocked it. Gave me a passcode to TSol. S'posed to unlock "the realm of Olympians". That sounds promising, but again, want to wait for Jace. I did a bit of research on Eve, turns out she's big into Greek mythology.
Jake didn't get totally trashed, but he was tipsy after a night out with Margie. Turns out that the two of them ended up doing it in his room, but then she opened the door without telling him, and he didn't notice until he looked out and saw Lili, and Echo, watching them. That's why he didn't tell me at first, he thought I'd be pissed. I was a a little pissed. But I got over it.
And yeah, Margie totally stuck her finger up his ass. Which made me laugh my ass off.