At the Conservatory. Where else?
<Ardette>: Sorry I peaced out last night. After my internet hiccuped the second time I figured it was time for bed XD
<Reginald>: lol no worries, I figured as much
<Reginald>: Reginald feels like he dodged a bullet anyways
<Ardette>: The last response I have is mine, him wearing it well, honhon XD
Reginald doesn't want to discuss his wardrobe...
<Ardette>: Well sheesh, Reggie, you're the one that showed her The Coat
Reginald "Because it has knives in it. That's all."
Ardette "And do you have knives anywhere else?"
Reginald "Do you really want the answer to that."
Ardette just rests her chin on her linked fingers and looks at him.
Reginald appears to weigh his options for a moment or two. "Tch, fine." He shrugs his coat off and hands it to her. "You don't mind holding this for me, do you, love?"
Ardette scoffs - again with the 'love,' it sounds natural and benign and therefore wrong - but she takes his coat and carefully folds it over her arm. "Happily. Don't call me 'love.'"
Reginald smirks at her, "I'll try." He starts with the belt, pulling two knives from a small sheath in the back, then one more slender one from the front, just where the buckle is. "That's three more..." he mutters, mostly to himself.
Ardette rolls her eyes when he looks away, and she watches him curiously. Her eyebrows fly up, and she quickly looks away from his belt buckle. Eyes up, woman. "Three more-- Is there more than 'three more?'" she scoffs at him again.
Reginald points a finger at her, as it to say, you asked for it. He pulls both pant legs up enough to see that there were two more, though he doesn't pull them out. He also opens his shirt a little so he could reach in and pull out yet another two. "These aren't for throwing though, like most of the ones in the jacket."
Ardette leans a little to see them from behind her desk, and then falls back in her seat and holds her arms out in a grand shrug of what-the-fuck. "Is that all, M'sieur Cloak-and-Daggers?"
"No, these are just all the ones that actually look like knives," Reginald replies. "My, you're just not going to be happy until you've seen all my toys, aren't you?"
Ardette looks appalled by the thought... but he's not wrong. "I'm just trying to figure out how you're able to carry all of that and still be able to move. How do you dance!"
"I don't dance with the jacket on, for one, that's at least fifty pounds right there, and depending on the nature of the dance, they don't impede me much, though I might leave a few behind so my partner doesn't know that I'm carrying them." Reginald speaks at though this was the most natural thing in the world for a person to do.
Ardette looks down at his coat in her arms, running her hand along the leather. She can't fathom the idea that she's seen him walking around in this coat, a slender silhouette, and not known there was this much weaponry on him. It's absurd, now that she's holding it in her hands. "Do you always deceive your partners like that?"
Reginald frowns slightly, "I can't shoot lightning from my hands or set people on fire if someone decides they want to fight with me." He fidgets a little with one of the blades. "...besides, if I'm dancing with a partner, it's for pleasure, not for business. It's not my intent to deceive, but I understand how it could be seen that way."
Ardette keeps his coat folded on her lap and rests her cheek against her knuckles, just looking at him. She weighs these words in her mind, 'not my intent to deceive', with his ability to do exactly that with his illusions. "You really don't give your vibe enough credit, do you," she says, sounding somewhat mystified.
"It's good for distractions, if I need it," Reginald replies, not responding to her question quite in the way she wants. "...but I was never meant to be a fighter."
Ardette can totally tell, and she gives him a flat look. "Yes, hence the fifty-plus pounds of..." She gestures vaguely and looks him up and down. "...et cetera."
"I don't start fights with those. I finish them. If someone simply wants to throw down and start a dance off, fine, I love those, but... even with the new rules in place, people just want to fight, and I was a little ill-prepared before." Alright, so Reginald was good knives before, but that was for more unsavoury jobs. The kind that involved slitting someone's throat in a dark alley. Those weren't fights.
Ardette just holds her hands up - alright, alright, she gets it - and looks away. She doesn't rightfully know what to say, and she still has to get used to Reginald's sometimes startling honesty. But really, what is there to say? Ardette's known the ugly underbelly of the city since the day she busted out of the Research Pavilion.
Reginald feels like he should apologize, but what point would that serve. He sighs, deciding to sheath the knives he'd pulled out from earlier. "I don't expect you to believe me," he says quietly, assuming her silence has more to do with whether or not he was trustworthy. It's his own damn fault, anyways, he did anything Don Cornell asked him to, he shouldn't be surprised by his reputation.
Ardette curls a finger over her lips, looking deep in thought. "I think I do..." she muses. "...no. I do." Because he doesn't have to share these things with her, and even if, in the end, he's just dangling the carrot in front of her nose, the truth is still the truth. "When you said, you were never meant to be a fighter... What did you mean by that?"
Reginald isn't sure that's something he really wants to get into in great detail. Being the quiet, artsy, but apparently ugly kid growing up in Puerto Rico during the worst times his home country had seen in over decades wasn't something he cared to dwell on all over again. He'd seen so much violence, only to come to a new country and get himself knee deep in it anyways. "It's just never been what I wanted, is all."
Ardette believes him when she has very little reason to. Would she have believed him five years ago? Absolutely not. And maybe five years ago, his answer would have been different anyways. She sighs heavily, because why argue with reality? "What do you want me to say?" she says after a long moment, and she holds his coat out to him with a small smile.
"I don't know." This whole conversation seems to have exhausted Reginald, even though, technically, he did start it. He does take his coat back from Ardette, sliding it on again, the weight of it and its contents feeling oddly comfortable. "I really don't know..." he repeats, obviously deep in thought.
Ardette stands up and brushes down the fronts of her trousers, more to have something to do with her now-empty hands than anything else. "Well, when you decide, come back around and tell me. I'm curious to know."
"What's got you so curious about me these days? Disappointed I'm not living up to my bloodthirsty reputation or something?" Not that Reginald's not grateful to be treated with a little humanity, but it was just a little strange to him.
Ardette snerks at that and circles around her desk, trailing her fingers across the scuffed wood. Reginald is a unique microcosm of Step City, and she'd be lying if she said his story wasn't an interesting one, if not an especially happy one. "I suppose..." She crosses her arms. "...I'm not used to being wrong. Maybe I'm waiting to see if I'm wrong in this case."
"Wrong about what, pray tell?" Reginald asks cautiously. He didn't really talk about himself much, but around Ardette, he finds he can't help it. She was probably the only person he has real conversations, with full sentences and sentiments behind it, but he often feels like he's just ranting to her; Depositing a lifetime's worth of strife on the woman, and he didn't feel it was fair, but he kept doing it anyways.
Ardette shrugs, as though it's the simplest thing in the world. "You. My opinion of you. That 'fighter' comment. You're a..." She inhales and looks around her office, trying to find the words. "...different person, now that you've started treating me like one." And she says it plainly and without blame.
Reginald feels a twinge of excitement, though it's mingled with guilt, even though he could tell she wasn't trying to put him on the spot. "It's something I've meant to do a long time ago. Before all this happened," he admits, again, being honest, and not just shamelessly sucking up to her. "...but the more we talk, the more I feel human again. I appreciate that."
Ardette's brows twitch. A long time ago? Okay, that, she's not so sure she believes. If he were still Mafia, he wouldn't have changed, because he wouldn't have had to, and she'd still be another expendable Square. At least that's what she believes. "Careful," she warns, perching on the corner of her desk. "Feeling human means feeling everything that goes along with it. Good and bad. Do you appreciate that, too?"
Reginald nods slightly, "The bad already haunts me every night, Miss Bombaerts. It can't be worse than that." Subconsciously he crosses his arm across his stomach. That night in particular has been coming back to haunt him, but he's heard everyone's been having flashbacks of sorts lately, so maybe it wasn't just his own self-loathing coming into play. "It'll be nice to be human again instead of just some monster."
Ardette's gaze flits down to his arm and then immediately away. War vet. The language of gestures is always the same, even with a strange case like Santiago, and she recognizes this one instantly and knows better than to pry. Some strange impulse makes her want to reach out and pat his arm, but she doesn't want him to confuse understanding with pity, or cross that boundary yet. Always at arm's length. "Just... don't be a passive spectator to the transformation, oui?"
Reginald was about to ask her what she meant by that, but deep down he knew. He nods. "Of course. At the very least I'll try. I'm afraid I can't make any promises... I know how I can get. Especially now." He admits to himself he hasn't really made friends with any of his Bandito breatheren, so he still feels he has no place, that no matter what he does, he'll still be an outsider. It's difficult to not dwell on such thoughts, but he's already bothered Ardette enough. "I, uh, should probably go."
Ardette knows what it's like to be an outsider. But the difference is, she thrives in that grey area. She's good at being Other. Maybe that's why Reginald intrigued her so much; she just can't relate to that need to belong anywhere. "Want me to walk you out?" She realizes only after she says it that this is something that 'friends' do.
"If it's not too much trouble." Reginald zips up his coat, knowing that chill in the air was likely still present. "I don't mean to go on so much when I'm with you, Miss Bombaerts, so I do hope I'm not being too much of a bother to you."
Ardette gives him a flat look, to that unnecessary apology, or whatever-it-is. "Trust me, if you're really bothering me," she opens the door to her office and ushers him out, "You'll know."
Reginald figures that is true, Ardette was never one to beat around the bush. "I guess I just feel I'm doing things I told myself I wouldn't do, and it's... strange."
Ardette leads him through her familiar lobby, past the bulletin board with all its notices, and the pictures on the wall, (and the bookcase, and the crack in the plaster behind it from Cross' little visit). "Good strange or bad strange?" she scoffs.
"I don't know... mostly good I think," Reginald reasons. He certainly didn't feel bad confiding things to Ardette, other than the nagging feeling that he was being a pest. Especially when it's vibe things, even though today wasn't about vibe things.
If only Reginald knew how energizing their vibe talks were to her... As for the rest of it, when Ardette started letting herself believe him, their talks became quite enjoyable. Interesting. Educational. Possibly useful. And preferable to talking about herself. "And heckling me is which kind of strange?" she says with a smirk, standing at the front door.
"The fun kind," Reginald replies without hesitation, and practically grinning from ear to ear about it.
"Hah! I will..." Ardette winces iffily, "...strain to take that as a compliment." She opens the front door for him.
Reginald gently wraps an arm around her, giving her the very slightest motion of a hug, "Don't hurt yourself on my account," he teases before walking past her and heading on his way out.
Ardette's whole body stiffens, in part because of sheer surprise. Well, what the hell is this? In half a second the hug is over, but in that half a second she can feel the harmless press of the hilts of many blades through his coat against her ribs, and she can smell... pink lemonade? Jesus Christ. "Go to hell, Santiago," she drawls, leaning against the doorframe.
"I'll meet you there, Miss Bombaerts," Reginald calls back to her. How he managed to get away with that will be a mystery, but it was nice. She didn't break his arm, so he'll take what he can get.