A few blocks away from the Step Conservatory.
This takes place immediately after The Woman Who Drinks With Valentine.
Ardette 's heels clop against the sidewalk. "You know, you really didn't have to walk me back, Valentine."
Frankie "What do you think of me, Miss Bombaerts? You think i'd leave one of my loveliest investments ta walk the daaangerouss streets alone?" he asks with a bit of a hop and a lot of a sparkle.
Ardette smirks and rolls her eyes. So, she's an 'investment.' He's not wrong, and she appreciates his honesty. "You insult me. I'm the bloody Choreographer. I can handle a dark alley."
Frankie glitters a bit brighter. "Well where'ssyer damn flashlight then?" he asks with thinly veiled eagerness, nearly dancing around Ardette.
Ardette slows her steps enough to let him jig around her comfortably; she knows when he gets in this mood, it's best to just let him dance. "I suppose it's right next to me," she scoffs, leaning away from the faintly glowing, effervescent trail he leaves in his wake.
Frankie nods, quite pleased. "Ssee that's it exactly isn't it? You underssstan' perfecly! God yer'a won'erful lady, ya know we should really dance when we get back to yer place, aright??" He can't wait for a response before he cracks up, turning in energetic circles around Ardette.
Frankie is the best flashlight.
Reginald, meanwhile, checks his phone for the time, as he has been every minute for the last half an hour or so. It's unusual that Ardette isn't at her studio, but he's certain she'll be back soon. This is pathetic, he's being so needy. Ah well, he's sure she must not mind or she would have told him to get lost by now. He decides to amuse himself by playing games on his phone.
Ardette's brows fly up and she stares at Frankie, watching him all but chaîné turn around her in giddy circles. When he makes another pass, she gently takes his arm and stops him before he falls into the gutter or something. Can't have a boss falling into her gutter. "When we get back to my place, I'm calling you a cab," she coos, as though negotiating with a child. "I need to make sure my loveliest investor," she gives his chest a little pat-pat, "makes it home in one piece, oui?"
Frankie allows his arm to be taken, and for a moment he moves to turn the motion into the begining of a dance - but thinks better of it. Gotta be respectable around Ms. Bombaerts, of course. "What'rya talkin about I'm perfectly fine Ma'dam~" he assures, not taking offense at the condescending tone that would earn most any other soul a nasty shock. "I wouldna leave ya hangiinn like that, you know I wouldn," he protests while continuing to cling to the offered arm.
Ardette blinks up at him, too bemused to even laugh. Oh, Valentine, the Mafia boss the Island has learned to not get angry, beaming at her with a boyish flush in his cheeks and letting her coddle him. Jesus Christ. "I know you wouldn't," she says, soothingly. "You're too much of a gentleman. Allez--" She sighs and loops her arm with his. "I'll even let you let me take your arm."
Frankie leaves a trail of light with every footstep, each one brighter than the last as the walk arm in arm. "Good. Absslutely perfect, I am so pleased we's reached'n un'erstandin," he nearly purrs with pleasure. "But look, you'n me, we shoul' really get ta tearin up ssome rugs- no I mean. Dance, I woulna dream'a harmin yer club- sstudio- ahaha-" he breaks off and looks at Ardette closely with sudden concern. He realizes he's making a fool of himself and manages to quiet himself.
Ardette dips her head and grins to herself in disbelief. She watches the sidewalk blur under their feet as they walk, matching strides, and congratulates herself on being able to spontaneously induce that sort of look of quiet panic on a man even as confident as Frankie Valentine, just by being herself. "You're too kind," she drawls warmly. "That's the golden rule, isn't it? You must respect your floor."
Frankie visibly relaxes when the woman shows no sign of disaproval or disdain. "Absolutely! Why, wthiout'a floor, what would'ya have?? Jus tables, 'n speakers, n'- god have'ya ever danced in rafterss, miss?? It'sa fucki- scuse me- It's simply the tops, ya see. 'S fantastic~" He can't help himself, this night has just been too lovely; Claud's good, Ardette's pleased... Frankie takes the held arm and manages a gracefull twist with Ardette that is almost a waltz, before stopping just as abruptly and continuing down the street.
Ardette yelps a little, and when she follows his twist, it's thanks to pure reflex. Her purse swings around with the momentum and whaps her in the back; the moment's gone as quickly as it began, and they're walking again. "No, I can't say I've 'ad the pleasure," she says breathlessly, glancing at him. The turn onto her street is in sight, and she breathes a little sigh of relief.
Reginald can hear footsteps approaching, but... that's definitely more than one set. Well, no matter, he's not as paranoid about being seen as he used to be, although perhaps he shouldn't be loitering as close to Ardette's studio as he is. After all, the last thing he wants is for people to start spreading silly rumours, so he'll wait just just off to the side, so he can just play dumb if he needs to.
Frankie continues his random bouts of dancing, though none quite as pushy as the twirl. By the time they've reached her building, they are practically followed by gold fireworks. "We'll haveta- you know the Nicholas Brothers?? A, I'll have to sshow you, you're gonna love it-?" He stops midstep. Probably just another square district vagrant, but the pulse is elevated, and Frankie is a paranoid man. "Sseems ya got company, madam," he mutters quietly to Ardette, quick to slide back to businesslike seriousness.
Ardette sees that familiar silhouette and stops in her tracks. Her neck prickles under the collar of her coat. God... damn it, Reginald, now, of all times! Looks like the Nicholas Brothers are going to have to wait. "How many times have I told you not to call me that," she mutters back to Frankie. She lets go of his arm and takes a step forward; she can see the reflection of Frankie's glittering vibe in Reginald's glasses. "Evening, Santiago," she says coolly. "How can I help you?"
Reginald tenses when he realizes that THAT is Frankie Valentine. What was he doing all the way out here with Ardette? Still, he has to remain calm, he can't lose his head over this, after all, perhaps Frankie was in good spirits this time? Actually, no, that idea didn't make him feel any more at ease. Still, speaking of needing to play dumb, "Ah... evening, Miss Bombaerts. Night out on the town, hm?" Please not with him, of all people.
Santiago. The light happiness in the air burns out in an instant, leaving the street blindingly dark, but Frankie speaks to Ardette as if the man isn't there. "Did yo wanna dance, Misss? We coul' always take'a raincheck, if you'd like, seein as I certainly owe ya more'n one meal."
Ardette's vision goes white at the edges in the sudden darkness, and her eyes flutter shut. She keeps her back to Frankie for a moment, eyes closed in place of where a wince would go; that is not what Santiago needs to hear right now. God damn it. She sighs and resets her expression to a peaceful smirk, before turning to Frankie. "Maybe some other time, Mr. Valentine. I think it's time that we both got home, hm?" She raises her eyebrows at him meaningfully; yes, it is that time, it is that time right now.
Reginald expected that sort of response from Frankie, but at least he didn't seem openly hostile or anything like that, still he frowns at the mention of dance. Hm, of course. "Oh, ah, don't mind me, I was just passing through. If you want to dance then I certainly won't stop you." He glowers at Frankie, despite his best efforts not to. "Valentine..."
Frankie continues to ignore Reginald, but each of the Bandito's words are echoed with a crack of Frankie's vibe. He just manages to let go of Ardette before he begins sparking. "Some other time. Of course. It's been lovely, and I thank y-" Reg calls him by name and a lash of electricty strikes inches from the other swinger. "Thank-k ya, miss-zzz."
Oh, no. Ooh, no, Valentine's sparking, this isn't good. Ardette starts when a bolt zig-zags towards Reginald and she immediately positions herself between the two men. She faces Frankie, palms forward, flexing her hands slightly, getting ready for... well, she doesn't know what, but he's sparking, so it's wise to be ready for something. "Calm down, Valentine, there's no problem, here," she says quietly. "It's just a Bandito." Oh, he's more than just a Bandito and they all know it. "Allez, do you need a cab?"
Reginald reminds himself that she needs to try and put up a good face as much as he does, if not more so. Still, even if it was just business, not knowing the full extent of what exactly went on this evening just makes him antsy. Having lightning shoot past you unprovoked wasn't helping matters. Who does Frankie think he is anyways? "Miss, don't waste your money or your time, I'm certain Valentine has the cred, anyways."
Frankie stares at them, the backstabbing traitor and the woman who seemed so wonderful just moments ago, siding with the bastard. So thats how it is. All a business front, and Frankie had fallen for the ruse. "I'm calm as fuck, miss," he hisses coldly. "An' I don' fuckin need a goddamn ride sso quit askin, Bombaerts-" He grits his teeth when the man speaks again. "I'll leave the cred fer next weeksspaymen' wit' the boyss. S'no need fer me't d'liver'it mseelf. Time'n money. You understand," he growls at Ardette accusingly. Sparks fly off but Frankie remains still.
Ardette shoots a glare over her shoulder - not helping, Santiago! - but then sparks fly past her cheek and she jerks backwards a bit. She stares up at Frankie, looking affronted, but then, for a sickening second, all she sees is a slurring drunk instead of a Mafia boss and her expression shuts down. "I understand perfectly," she says coldly, dropping her hands. Alright, Valentine, you want to spark at me? Spark away. "I'll come pick it up myself, then. A gesture of good will, ah?" She turns at the waist and glares at Santiago, but in the dim, her eyes are urgent. "Quoi, you want to stand 'ere and watch? There's nothing to see, 'ere." Go home, go anywhere, for the love of god, just go away.
Reginald snorts dismissively, not really sure how much of this is for show anymore, but he already has a sinking feeling in his gut from letting Frankie's presense get to him so much, "Fine. Enjoy your evening with Mr. Valentine." he reponds shortly, biting his tongue to keep himself from saying far too much and quickly turning to leave, not wanting to upset either of them worse than he already has. Perhaps Valentine would be more worth her time than he would anyways.
Frankie recoils from Ardette’s expression. His vibe goes dark, but fueled by defensive agitation, the street fills with it’s drone. “We’re done wit’ good will. I un’ersstan’ what this is, crystal clear, see. I won’t waste yer time an’ you wont waste mine. You don’t gotta put on some two-faced show fer me ta do business,” he snarls, but the words and the anger are all aimed at Reginald. Who keeps speaking, goddamn him. He tenses, but Ardette is still in the line of fire, with that horrid disapproving glare. A rumbling builds around Frankie, but the Mafioso refrains from actually attacking. “Keeps’whatever company ya like.” Frankie turns away from the two steppers.
'Enjoy your evening with Mr. Valentine,' well, thank you very bloody much for that, Santiago, that's exactly what this is, isn't it, an evening? Ardette resents Reginald's tone, but it's with no small amount of relief that she hears his footsteps fading. She still hasn't taken her eyes off of Frankie, the rumbling of his vibe filling her ears and making her blink rapidly. "I always have," she says. He's just drunk, she's telling herself. He's drunk, or she's spoiled him, or some combination of the two. He'll be back. He has to. She clears her throat, and wills her voice to be strong. "Thank you again for dinner, Mr. Valentine. I'll be seeing you."
Reginald can just vaguely hear what's going on behind him, torn between feelings of guilt and especially anger. Who does he think he is? He finds himself thinking over and over. There was mention of cred exchange, but what would Frankie need a choreographer for? Perhaps he just needs to sleep on this, there is no way he's in the mood for going to any of his usual haunts tonight.
Frankie nods to Ardette without looking back. "Ssure-" He pauses. "But I don' ssee why we'd need ta do ssometi'n' silly like that. You got my contact number. My boys'll manage the face t' face sshit from now on." No need for anymore pretenses. Frankie disappears down the street, and heavy storm clouds fill the sky when he leaves.
It's only after they both leave, only after she no longer has to hold up the weight of two proud men's egos, that she can finally succumb to her own. She takes a deep, shaky breath and just holds it, standing in the dark and the silence, flexing and relaxing her hands. Valentine's boys won't come anywhere near her without their master, god damn it. Valentine will see her again, god damn it. The night went too well, too bloody well--! She exhales harshly - the litter on the street rolls away from her in a perfect arc - and she rubs her temples. She needs to get inside, have a stiff drink, and get the echo of Frankie Valentine's sparks to leave her vision. And she needs to get her hands to stop shaking if she wants to unlock her door.