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One of Reginald 's visits turns into an impromptu demonstration of vibe and other things.

(Mree apologizes for any butchering of the Spanish language.)


Initial Setting:

Starts outside of the Conservatory

Timeline:

Preceded by ---

Followed by ---



Edit

<Ardette>: I want to know how he didn't get killed.

<Reginald>: probably got lucky with his vibe more than anything.

<Ardette>: I mean when he got booted

<Ardette>: Unless that's what you're referring to, too

<Reginald>: yup lol

<Reginald>: I'll have to work out with Chee for details, but I think he just got lucky

<Ardette>: Remember that, Reggie.

<Ardette>: You're LUCKY.

<Ardette>: You should be grateful XD

Reginald is aware.

<Reginald>: because, yeahhhh, the Mafia is pretty clear on cheaters being put down. 

<Ardette>: Hence her 'give yourself some credit' comment

<Ardette>: Like, come on, man, you should be dead right now, silver lining, let's go

<Reginald>: it'll be a while before he can look at it that way

<Ardette>: Understandable.

<Ardette>: Ardette is available to tell him to get over his damn self as many times as he needs

Ardette c:



Reginald Oh goodie.



Ardette You're welcome.



Reginald You're just asking me to break out the pet names again.



Ardette I'm sorry-- Pet "names?" Plural?



Reginald "Yes, plural. You think I'd let you get off easily by just calling you 'kitten'?"



Ardette "Eugh, enjoy eating alone, I've lost my appetite." 



Reginald laughs, "You're adorable when you're being dramatic."



Ardette glowers at him. "I'm not being dramatic, I think I might actually be ill."



Reginald pops a piece of gum into his mouth, "Oh, come off it, Miss Bombaerts, you know I don't mean anything by it."



Ardette rolls her eyes and taps the pack of cigarettes in her hands. "On the subject of names," she says. "Yours."



Reginald "Mnn? You aren't going to call me 'babyface' again are you?"



Ardette shoots him a look. "No, I mean your surname. Santiago. That's Spanish, no?"



Reginald thinks that's a rather unusual question, but he'll bite, "Yes, it is. Why?"



Ardette hums and cocks her head. "Habla español?"



Reginald chuckles, having not heard his native tongue in a long time, "Sí, pero estoy fuera de práctica."

(Yes, but I'm out of practice)



Ardette raises her eyebrows, looking quietly delighted. "Ah, bueno! Ya somos dos."

(Ah, good! That makes two of us)



Reginald seems equally delighted, but he's doing just as much of a show to hide it. "Yo no sabía que se podía hablar español. ¿Dónde aprendiste?". He's a little disappointed that he's developed such an English accent, but that will happen.

(I didn't know you spoke Spanish. How did you learn?)



Ardette tips her head with an iffy shrug. "Yo... estudié idiomas antes de la isla," she admits. It's hard not to link her sounds in the French way, so she speaks slowly, measured.... "Y estudié las personas... después de la isla."

(I... studied languages before the island, and I studied people... after the island)



Reginald can tell she has a bit of an accent, herself, but he can't place where from. "Yo no hablo español mucho más. No muchas personas lo hablan aquí. Mi acento es probablemente terrible." He can finally speak English without an accent, but now he can't do the same in reverse. Typical, he supposed.

(I don't speak Spanish much anymore. Not many people speak it here. My accent is probably terrible.)



"Oh, they're around. You just have to find them," she says in English. She taps a cigarette out of the pack and gestures to him with it. "And your accent sounds fine to me. But..." she lifts a shoulder, as though to say, what do I know? and puts the stick between her lips.



Reginald laughs, not minding the shift back to English, "Oh, I'm sure if my parents heard me, they'd probably give me a good beating for letting it get so bad. Your accent intrigues me though. That wasn't just an English accent."



Ardette gets her lighter out of her coat pocket and considers the feeling of casually mentioning Mainland family. The feeling is strange. "You're right. It wasn't. Oh--" Before she lights her cig, she glances at him. "Do you mind?" He gave her 60 seconds of Spanish practice, she'll give him the courtesy of asking, first.



"No, no, that's fine." Reginald replies, figuring he can probably manage alright. "So what else can you speak?"



Ardette lights her cig and takes a long, happy drag; there was nothing quite like a warm smoke on a cold day. "Euh..." She frowns, turning her head to sigh out a stream of smoke. "Functionally or fluently?"



"Doesn't matter. I just speak English and Spanish, so I'm just curious. Not many people here can even speak English let alone multiple languages." Not to make fun of the people here, but the island... was special, and not just by way of its culture.



Ardette snorts. It's the truth; when a third of the population lives in what's essentially still a slum, they find whatever way they can to be comfortable, and for a lot of them, that means not compromising their mother tongue. "Well, my native language is French. German and Flemish came with the territory." She says it dismissively. Even so long ago, so far away, her country's identity crisis is a source of many an eye-roll. "English, obviously. My Italian is rusty; it's been a while since I've found someone who can speak it." 



Reginald can't even place where such a variety of languages would mix like that, though she did say she studied it. "Really? If it's not too personal, where were you from originally?" It couldn't be that personal. It wasn't like they could ever go back to where ever it was they came from.



Ardette stalls, taking another drag. Again, she's thinking about home from Before the Island, and it feels strange, like shoes that don't fit quite right. "Belgium. Euh, my father worked for the European Union." Yes, a Square woman from a neutral country. Appropriate. "Switzerland got all the money. We got all the politics," she drawls, giving him a wry smirk. Also appropriate.



"Ahh, I see. I was never too familiar with European politics, it was kind of hard to keep up with." That certainly explains the mish mash of different languages. That seemed to happen in that area.



Ardette laughs and looks at him in friendly disbelief. "The politicians can't even keep up with it." She shakes her head and taps a length of ash from her cig. "Well, none of that matters, now, anyways."



"No, it doesn't, and thank goodness. There wasn't anything for me in Puerto Rico, and even with everything that's happened, I'd rather deal with the politics here than back there." If anything, he liked the simplicity of the politics here. Everything that was ugly was right out in the open where you could see it. Step City did have some pretty stupid rules, though.



Ardette peers at him, smirking a little behind her cigarette. "Even now?"



"Even now. As surprising as that might seem. I at least still have a chance of having a comfortable life here." Comfortable, even with the vibe fights and ridiculous gang wars, that is.



Ardette just nods slowly, pondering this. That's probably the most optimistic about his status she's heard him be. Maybe the strangers are doing him some good. She holds the smoke in her lungs, enjoying the warmth, and then sighs it out. "Comfortable life." She tips her head to him and her lips twitch. "Tiny couch." 



Reginald snorts, "My couch suits me just fine." Okay, so it was a little short. A lot short. Maybe it did creak a little too angrily if he ever needed to shift his weight on it. He clears his throat slightly, "Er... I'm sure I'll get a bed sometime soon. Even if it's just a mattress."



"A mattress is all you need," Ardette says sagely, because she's clearly the expert, here. "It's an investment. You won't regret it."



"One day. I'll have to figure out where I'm going to put it." Perhaps that gives too much away about just how small his place is, but he did have a lot of books and bookshelves that tended to clutter up the walking space.



Ardette has to wonder how mattresses ever became a valid subject between them. It's ridiculous, and she hums, sounding content. She drops her cigarette to the ground and crushes it under her toe. "Oh, you'll be fine."



"If you think so," Reginald replies, the scent of that pink lemonade gum lingering around him. "Now, I'm not so bold as to ask where you live, but is it nice? At the least do you have a decent amount of space?"



Ardette sends the cigarette butt into the sewer drain with a little flick of her foot. Immediately, as though checking the security of a concealed weapon, her mind drifts up to her factory apartment just feet above their heads. "Who's asking?" she says, furrowing her brows.



"I am. I'm just curious." Reginald chuckles, "I don't have a boss to answer to anymore, Miss Bombaerts, you don't need to worry. I'm not going to suddenly turn on you like a rabid dog or something." They probably seemed like hollow words, but he wasn't ready to drop the issue.



Ardette isn't thinking about any boss knowing where she slept; she's still leery of Reginald's amazing disappearing act. "I'm... comfortable. I have room for a mattress." And that's an understatement, with her building's footprint, made even more sprawling with her distinct lack of stuff.



"That's more than what I've got. One of these days I'd like to try and find a larger space, but I guess if it's just me and a few illusions occupying a space, then there's probably not too much point. It has been much easier to hide in a small space." He's rambling a little, but he feels comfortable around Ardette. He always tended to talk more in those instances.



Ardtte hugs her coat tighter around her and leans back against the wall. She could go inside in the warmth and end this conversation but she chooses not to. She couldn't relate to him, space or otherwise; there's a difference between actively hiding and being socially invisible. But something in her mind perks up... "Wait. Illusions? So, you are an illusionist."



Reginald grins at her, "I am, and I trust you to keep this to yourself. I don't tell just anyone, you know." It almost felt like entrapment in a way, but he genuinely did feel like if anyone could be trusted with what his vibe actually did, it was Ardette.



Ardette narrows her eyes at him, not unkindly, and then smirks. Well, well, well, now she's getting somewhere. "'Anything you want it to be.'"



"Anything," he replies proudly. He was always proud of his vibe and how well he'd trained himself to use it, but the very nature of it meant that he couldn't talk too freely of it. The last thing he needed was someone finding ways around it, and exploiting it. He wonders if Ardette really understands the weight of letting her know this information.



Ardette lets out a "huh!" and crosses her arms, nodding to herself with a small smile. She hasn't come across many true illusionists over the course of her career. She had a hunch about Reginald, with his stupid Cross trick, and his disappearing act, but hearing it from the source is strangely gratifying. "I have questions," she says, giving him a sly look. 



"What sort of questions?" Reginald asks, looking very pleased about how everything is going thus far. She's reacting a lot better than he thought she would to this whole thing.



Ardette opens her studio's front door and jerks her head towards inside. "Inside sorts of questions." Talking about vibe deserves privacy, and talking at length deserves warmth.



Reginald doesn't say a word as he enters her studio. This was going to get interesting indeed, but he was more than open to get into this conversation. He never gets a chance to get into these sorts of talks with anyone, and it was going to be great.



Ardette strides to her office with barely a glance down the hall; the tappers renting out Studio C today are long-time customers who have earned her trust and don't need constant surveillance. When Reginald enters the office, she sends the door shut behind him with a sweep of her arm. "So," she huffs, shrugging her coat off and draping it over her chair. "An illusionist. That makes a lot of sense, actually..."



"Oh? How so? Were you spying on me, Miss Bombaerts." His tone is playful, so he's obviously just teasing her. He slips his own coat off, though he just carries it for the moment.



Ardette wags a finger next to her face, thinking, even pacing a little. Talking about vibe seems to give her a unique sort of energy, one that doesn't care about expressing itself, and doesn't seem to care about Reginald's history, either. "Your battles were always so clean. I mean, fundamentally so, if you really looked at them, textbook-perfect parries. It takes a bit more effort and imagination to include finite details like physical flaws in a projection." She stops and plants her hands on her desk, leaning forward. "Are they projections?" she asks, raising an eyebrow, in a correct-me-if-I'm-wrong sort of way.



Reginald is trying to contain his excitement, he's never been able to talk in depth about it before, "Sometimes. Using projections is a little taxing, but if I'm still able to generate vibe by dancing, it's not so bad. Sometimes I will mess with their perception about where I am, or how fast I'm going. Make them think the world is going slower than what it is. There's hundreds of things I could do."



Ardette blinks at him. And then, when the implications of that hit her, she shakes her head, waving a hand. "Wait, wait, wait... There are projections, bending light to make illusions, like, euh... mirages," she gestures on one hand, and on the other hand, "And then there's actually altering perception. You're telling me you can do both?"



"Well, it's difficult to explain. I suppose it's a little closer to the latter, but it only affects sight in the way a true illusion does. I can't make or disguise sound or anything like that." What would really help is a demonstration, but did he dare to ask? "With your permission I can show you a few things."



Ardette tilts her head and studies him, drumming her nails against the desk. What he's giving her right now is ammunition, should she choose to use it. But the thought doesn't even cross her mind. Right now, her interest in him is purely academic. Her eyes flit down to his coat, still draped over his arm. "Do you need more space?"



Reginald is almost delicate about folding his coat and settling it on the other office chair, "Not right now I don't, I still have a lot of energy built up from a practice session." Still, he rolls his shoulders, loosening himself up a little. "Something simple to start, I think..." he mutters, snapping his fingers. Instantly, it appears as though his entire forearm is engulfed in fire. Simple enough for him, he reasons.



If Ardette is surprised by the sight, the only thing that betrays her is a blink. She grunts, just watching the flap and roar of flames as they cast their light on her face and reflect in her eyes. But-- no, there was something off, and that was exactly it. There was no flap, no roar. The completly unnatural quiet of the fire as it licks over his skin and curves around his forearm like water is almost its own sensation. "May I?" she asks, rounding the desk to stand next to him.



"Of course," Reginald replies all too smoothly, holding his arm out to her. He's enjoying this all too much, studying her reactions and drinking in her curiousity as if it were praise.



Ardette holds her hand over the flames, and for a moment they curl around her fingers happily, but the second she enjoys the lack of pain or burn, the illusion starts to go patchy. She hums in interest. The only way she can describe it is like the white splotches you see in your vision before passing out, except instead of white, they're patches of clarity, where fire should be, but isn't. Or maybe it's where fire shouldn't be, but is? She cradles Reginald's forearm in both hands, and the second she touches him, the illusion disappears. "Aah," she smiles knowingly. 



"And now you know why I can't tell anyone about my vibe." Reginald replies. "It's the one flaw I can't overcome, yet. If I even can overcome it." He's tried, oh god has he ever tried. Something about that sudden physical contact is enough to break the spell, so to speak. It didn't help in this case that Ardette's hands were cold, it was a bit of a shock. "...and your hands are freezing cold, my dear."



Ardette gives Reginald an unappreciative smile. "Hmmoui, like the rest of me." She drops her hands away and takes a few steps backwards, arms crossed. "So, physical contact dissolves the illusion." She frowns thoughtfully, looking at his arm, perfectly flame-free. "But even if you could control that, you still can't make your illusions solid. If you could have kept those flames going with my hand still on you, by the time I realize you're not actually on fire, the illusion is gone anyways. My perception trumps yours."



Reginald can't argue with that logic, though his makes a chiding 'tch' at her comment about her demeanor. "It's probably why it works the way it does. Even if you know it's an illusion, if you're only looking at it, I can still affect your mind to an extent, but the touch dispells it instantly." He toys with his vibe a little more, shifting from fire, to lightning, to water, and back again. "But... if I can get deep enough inside someone's head, I can make their mind fill in gaps like sound and even touch. The brain is a complicated thing like that, but I usually don't have time to get in that deeply."



Ardette leans her hip against her desk and watches him shift illusions. It's quite beautiful to see, in their silence. Reginald makes an excellent point. The brain can supply all of these sensations in startling clarity, like an olfactory memory of a meal you had as a child, or something as elusive as deja vu. This is why illusionists have always fascinated her. "Or emotion," she supplies. "Show somebody their dead lover and their mind will fling the door wide open for you."



"Ah yes, believe me, having to do that... it's not pretty, but desperate times call for desperate measures sometimes," Reginald says, deciding he should stop playing with his vibe. "But... it's what I have, I use it to its full extent when I can."



"Well, you're creative, I'll give you that," Ardette scoffs. And observant. He has to be, to be able to reproduce those kinds of images. She wonders what he might come up with if he showed her an illusion of his own invention. She's silent for a moment, and the muffled sound of music and tap dancing waft in from the far studio. Her eyes fall once again to his forearm, and then down to his ring. "This is incredibly personal information, Santiago. Why are you telling me this?"



"Because I don't trust anyone else enough to have this sort of information," Reginald replies. "And if there's anyone I can trust to put me down when I need to be put down... it's you." It took a lot of nerve to even think about mentioning it at all, and to say it aloud and open up such a glaring vulnerability is probably wreckless, but Ardette didn't seem the type to take advantage.



Ardette looks up and meets his eyes with mild surprise. This really shouldn't shock her, this strange brand of intimacy. If clients don't see her as a drill sergeant, or a guru, they see her as a holding cell for their doubts, their quiet victories in the studio, their guilt... But Reginald isn't a client, is he? If you're looking for a confessional in me, don't. "It's not my job to put anyone down. Please don't make it."



"I didn't make it this far to let myself get to that point, but... things have changed. Maybe I need the change too," he chuckles, "Don't think this means I expect you to help me, or bail me out of trouble, or anything of the like. You're not my babysitter. I just thought that exposing such a glaring vulnerability just... might give you a chance to see me as something other than a cutthroat Bandito, and remind myself that in the end I am just a man. Not a superman."



Ardette presses the backs of her fingers to her lips and just studies him for a long moment. She thinks, somewhat cruelly, that this is what he's been after all along, after all. The paint-jobs, the food, his company, his honesty - to any right-minded pessimist, he's seeking to buy redemption. But this time, she has reason to believe that this little monologue was actually for her benefit, not his. It's kind. It's kind of uncomfortable. She smiles, genuinely, to let him know, yes, I hear you... but then she wags a finger at him. "You rehearsed that, didn't you?" 



Reginald lets out an embarrassed sounding laugh. "Once or twice. I know I tend to not sound sincere. Or maybe too sincere and it makes people... edgy."



Ardette laughs too, and it clears the air. "Well, it's hard to keep up with you."



"I can understand why. I'm not completely ignorant of peoples' perception of me, after all." Actually there was one other reason why people were edgy around him, and that had more to do with the numerous blades he carried on his person. Should he mention that too? His hesitance is pretty clear, not even thinking to mask it.



Ardette's gaze seems to fall to the same gravity as his, and she looks at his coat. His hesitation is palpable, and she waits politely, letting him grapple with it for a few seconds. "...I won't ask if you'd rather not answer."



"I suppose if I'm being honest..." Reginald picks up his coat and opens it up so that Ardette could see the inside. Rows and rows of knives and daggers of every size imaginable. "...because this would be more for your safety than mine."



Now, this surprises her. Ardette stares, and her hand flops somewhat lifelessly from her mouth to rest against her collarbone. As she beholds Reginald's secret arsenal, her first thought, rather childishly, is that his coat must be heavy. She scans every row, the handles of every blade, the sheer variety, and raises an inquisitive finger. "Is this a threat?" she says conversationally, to his coat. "I honestly can't tell, in this case."



Reginald is quick to fold it back up again, leaving it on the chair again. "Absolutely not, but if I'm carrying a literal knife rack on my person at all times, then you should know that it's there." He sighs, he couldn't blame her for thinking that. "I don't use them much, but I can't be too careful. My vibe can look fancy, but it does nothing to protect me."



Ardette snaps out of it when he closes up his coat again. "Yes! Well," she says briskly, "You seem to have that covered." She looks back at his coat, draped over her chair, looking benign and unassuming. "Extremely covered." 



"Sorry," Reginald replies, not knowing what else to say. He didn't even tell her about the other three he was still carrying, and he figures that would probably be for the best. For a brief moment he regrets showing her, but again, it was at least something he wasn't hiding... as much.



Ardette jerks her head, a hasty, half a "no," because he shouldn't be sorry. She honestly doesn't know what to say. You any good with those? It's a stupid question and she knows it; of course he is. Want to see my gun? No, this wouldn't be a game of oneupsmanship, showing off their toys, not when they both knew she could fold him like a card table if she needed to. Thank you is appropriate, but she doesn't want to spook him. Instead, she pushes off from her desk and smirks. "Do you want to show me something really impressive?"



"Something impressive? Well, you'll have to be a little open minded about it, of course. I know that you know it's an illusion, but if you let your mind accept it, you won't get those... flickers or distortions." He looks around the office, deciding that this room might be a little bit too small for what he had in mind. "Could we use one of your studios? I have a couple of ideas, but I don't want to break it too easy by having too many things or walls to bump into."



Ardette realizes that her challenge is every much a test for herself as it is for Reginald. She's the classic skeptic; could she let her mind accept one of his lies? For the sake of learning, she decides that she's willing to try. "Allez," she says, and she opens the door behind Reginald, the one that leads from her office straight into Studio A. "I dare you to fill this room."



Reginald looks around the room again, admiring it. He really did like this studio. Pausing to slip his shoes off, remembering the last time, he makes he way to the middle of the studio. It was obvious he was planning something, or at the very least he was trying to organize his thoughts. Finally he beckons for her to come join him. "I think I've got just the thing."



Ardette arches an eyebrow, but likewise nudges off her shoes and walks forward to join him. It's strange, seeing Reginald in this room with dusty urban daylight spilling in from the high windows instead of having the black of nighttime outside. He looks like a legitimate guest. Ardette lifts a hand toward the observation window and makes a pinching gesture with her fingers; the curtains swing shut. "The floor is yours."



Reginald raises an eyebrow at that motion, having not ever seen her use anything resembling vibe before. Maybe he's mistaken, but he won't comment on it, not now. This would be simple enough, he just needed to allow himself to concentrate, just as he did at home. The effect starts slowly enough, a patch of grass seeming to sprout from where he stood, and spread across the floor. The slowness is deliberate, he wants her to really take it in bits at a time. As the grass slowly overtakes the floor, small insects like butterflies are noticeable. The colours are far more vibrant where Reginald is looking, but it will come. "You can almost smell it can't you? Surely you remember the scent of the parks and fields."



Ardette stops were she's standing and huffs, watching the grass spread. She doesn't want to come too close, or enter the scene of his illusion just yet, for fear that she'll dissolve it. But she doesn't have a choice in the matter when a butterfly flutters around her ankles and, on pure be-gone-bug reflex, she flicks it away with her foot. "I feel like I shouldn't watch this," she laughs hesitantly. "I know what's supposed to be there."



Reginald chuckles, "Don't think about what you know is supposed to be there, think about what's in front of you right now. Really look at the shades of green for what they are... think of a pleasant memory if it helps." This was easy for him to cave into his own illusions, to an extent, just because he lived in his own head so much. He would never use his vibe in this way against an enemy, they would never fall for it... but for a friend... maybe this would work. "...but if closing your eyes for a moment to reflect helps, then you may do so." The grass seemed to flourish where Reginald was standing, though he was still holding it back a little. To get the depth he wanted, he needed her to accept it.



Ardette studies the grass mingling at his feet. Oh, he's good; each blade of grass is twitching by the hand of some unknown breeze, has a light side and a dark side, even appears to be crushed under his shoes where he's standing. It looks like grass, alright... But it doesn't feel like grass, it doesn't evoke the tactile memory of walking through grass barefoot... The illusion starts to flicker. "Alright," she huffs, putting her hands on her hips. She closes her eyes. "Don't try anything funny." Come on, she can do this. She's the goddamned Choreographer, the vibe enhancer, isn't she? She can do this. This isn't suspending disbelief, this is... encouraging creative skill, yes.



"I wouldn't dare." he replies cheerfully, allowing himself to get a little lost in his own illusion. This was so much easier to do at home, it was such a complicated creature of a vibe, and even he didn't understand it fully. His creations grew more, covering the floor entirely, and stretching far beyond the barrier of the wall, larger plants, shrubs, and flowers even started to sprout. He was thinking of a scene in a book he'd read, fields as far as the eye could see, and wanted to see just how much he could paint this picture with his vibe, even with Ardette there. Admittedly he's having more trouble than he thought he would, but he'd never say that.



Ardette takes a deep breath, and tries to distance her mind from the studio. The silence is both a help and a hindrance; she's only too familiar with the white noise of her own building, but eventually it fades out for the sake of this little thought experiment. She longs for someplace green. And she remembers that sense of longing, growing up in a city of politics and car exhaust and old stones, and remembers watching the ordered flicker of tall pines blur outside of their car window as they drove through the Ardennes. She longs for that grass, that cool, humid air, that dappled sunlight, and she lets herself. 



Reginald is almost just as grateful for the silence. It was difficult to quiet the nagging feeling of self doubt. After all, it was one thing to create an illusion for yourself, and another to expect someone else to buy into it when they know you are, if you will, delusional. Still, he enjoyed the scene he was creating, the sea of grass and plants and flowers seemed to stretch for miles under a blue sky. Everything he wanted to see was there for him, so much that he, himself, could swear that he could hear wind through the grass, though how long the effect would last for Ardette remained to be seen. He sighs, feeling content as he always did when he made such things.



Ardette raises an eyebrow and tilts her head in the direction of that sigh, her eyes still closed. "Well? Is it safe to look?" she says impatiently, as though he's preparing some grand surprise for her. 



"If you wish..." Reginald replies, though admittedly, he's not sure what to expect. It made it easy to build this illusion, but he didn't know how long it would stay standing. At least the environment around them looked nothing like her beloved studio so maybe, just maybe, she might not break the illusion too quickly.



Ardette dips her chin, seeming to deliberate. But she's telling herself, Bombaerts, whatever's around you right now, you wanted to see, you wanted to see this, you want this... She opens her eyes. For a moment she's speechless, staring at an impossible horizon of blue and green. Looking around, Ardette beholds the pure breadth of her environment, now. The lighting is different, white and warm, and the room - no, field, this is a field - is not so much silent as simply... quiet. "Alright, Santiago," she nods, doing a slow circle on the spot. "I am impressed."



Reginald seems to not be as stiff as he was before, as if every muscle gave its own sigh of relief. "It is something, isn't it?" Not to sound too much like he's bragging or anything. "I could lose myself for days in places like this..." And he could, were it not for all of his strict habits.



Ardette doesn't want to look at him; she fears that seeing another figure will dissolve the illusion too soon, and looking at its projector... well, all bets would be off. You can't watch a movie and the projector at the same time. She indulges in a few more moments of enjoying the sight, how novel and welcome it is, this particular combination of colors and textures she hasn't rightfully seen in years. Ardette raises both hands, pointing. "This is an illusion," she says firmly, as though testing the room. "This is an illusion, but I accept it. Can we agree on that? Yes or no."



Reginald smiles to himself, though she cannot see, "Ah, that's the best part of the game, isn't it?" Mind you for a moment, the was some distortion, and things grew hazy for a split second, but it still kept most of its shape intact. "Like drinking in a scene from the most expensive film production... you know it's not real, your mind tells you there's no way for this to exist... but you want it to. You want to be immersed so the impossible doesn't matter."



"Alright. So, that's a yes, then." Ardette knows this is an illusion, but she wants to see it. So, in the end, what's the difference between truly believing something, and wanting to believe it badly enough? She sees a patch of lavender in the far corner and smiles, walking towards it. It reminds her of the lavender fields back home; the illusion evokes a memory which reinforces the illusion. Very clever. Ardette wants to reach out and touch the flowers, but she knows she can't, lest she risk dissolving the illusion, so she tries to recall the scent of lavender, its particular bite and bloom. She watches a bumblebee buzz from flower to flower, and her smile wilts. She can't for the life of her remember what lavender smells like. The illusion starts to go hazy again, and she throws out a hand in Reginald's direction. "Hold it. Try to hold it."



Reginald takes in a deep breath and tries to concentrate. This was indefinitely more difficult with another person around, but this was precisely why he sticks to simple things like being invisible or making copies if he ever needed to fight someone. Not that this was a fight, far from it, but that same weariness was starting to settle in, like when you're trying to solve an impossible riddle or puzzle or catch yourself staring at a computer screen for too long.



Ardette glances in his direction; when she looks back at the lavender patch, the bee is gone. She slowly backs away to join Reginald in the center of the room again. "Hold it... hold it..." The illusion is losing its depth and dimension; she can see the corners of the studio, even the parallel line of her barres, but it's as though someone's thrown a watercolor painting over it. "Hold it, and..." She flicks his sleeve.



Reginald startles, not expecting her to suddenly touch him like that. It was enough though, the landscape fades and the much more familiar studio space comes into view. He takes a moment to give his head a shake, as if to assure his mind that yes, it's time to take a break. "Ah... well... now you see why I'm not one for fighting with my vibe. That's much easier to do when I'm on my own."



The edges of her vision yellow out at the sudden change in color palette, and Ardette blinks it away until she's back in a familiar world of grey floors and white walls. "Well, going all transcendantalisme on your opponent wouldn't be very useful. Neither is filling a space this big. But still..." She puts her hands on her hips and nods, looking at their reflections in the mirror. "...very impressive."



"Precisely, no point. I don't think my vibe was ever meant to fight with." Not to say that he didn't but he was sneakier about it. It really felt good to hear someone praise what he could do, especially for something he enjoys doing as opposed to getting praise for sticking a knife in someone's neck. He isn't sure how to handle it. "Glad you think so, Miss Bombaerts. It certainly has been making my... sudden departure from the Mafia easier to manage."



Ardette watches him out of the corner of her eye. "That's a very diplomatic way of putting it," she remarks. "But... good." She thinks surviving his sudden departure from the Mafia has done Reginald some favors. They're having this conversation, for one thing.



Reginald looks over his shoulder at her for a moment before smirking, "I probably sound like I've gone completely soft, don't I? So many years under the Don's thumb, following every order, no matter the cost... and then, all at once it's gone." Just like his colourful illusions, he reasons, and now he's had too much time to think, and too much time on his own to dwell on everything.



Ardette crosses her arms and smirks back at him. "Not completely." But then she sighs. She chooses her words carefully, as she always does when talking about faction leaders. "The Don is... not always a merciful god. Quite frankly, Santiago, you ought to be dead. But here you are." She shakes her head, looking at him with a surprisingly open expression, by Bombaerts standards. "I would think that to be incredibly liberating."



"I should be, yes," he mutters. "It's a wonder she didn't try to find me and finish the job, but... perhaps I was granted some mercy just by virtue of having a vibe so 'harmless'." Not that he escaped completely unscathed from that encounter... or didn't still feel the bitter sting of betrayal, but he's had too much time already to feel sorry for himself. "It could have been much worse. I can still dance, and that's the main thing."



"Exactly," she says firmly. When Santiago first came out of hiding in his green standards and elbowed his way into Ardette's day-to-day, she thought he was incredibly selfish for thinking he could suddenly address her after years of open scorn at worst, blatant disregard at best. Socializing with Squares was a last resort. But his fall from grace has humbled him, and frankly, she thinks it's a good look on him. "And there's a city full of people who tell themselves the same thing, every day, just to get by."



"I suppose I never really realized it before." Reginald runs his fingers through his hair, a nervous gesture, to say the least. "I'm not used to hiding in shadows and avoiding people I called 'friend' not that long ago, but I suppose so many have worse things to contend with."



"Well, if you're looking for sympathy," Ardette drawls, walking back towards her office. She looks over her shoulder at him and shakes her head. "You're not going to find it in Grey."



"Believe me, I know. I don't blame them." Considering how he's treated them, and how many of them he's either scammed out of cred or property and god knows what else, it's a wonder they put up with his presense at all. "That's why I wasn't terribly offended when you looked at me the same way the others did."



Don't blame them? Ardette furrows her brows, thinking as she slips her shoes back on. Reginald had a strange way of separating her from the rest of her fellow Squares. She was made apart from 'them.' She was 'other' somehow. Maybe that's how he reconciled this strange relationship they had. There was still enough Mafia in him that made him hate to have to stoop. "Quoi, did you think I didn't mean it?"



"It's not that..." Reginald replies, following her. How could he even explain this without sounding like an utter idiot. Simply, he couldn't. "It's complicated."



"It isn't," Ardette says immediately, almost jumping on his words. She shrugs. "I'm a Square. It takes an open-minded stepper to be alright with that."



Reginald sighs softly, pausing to step into his shoes again. "I suppose you're right." It sounded hesitant, but this was all still very new territory.



Ardette makes a bit of a bold move and picks up his coat for him. She wants to feel its weight, its movement, how restrictive it might be with all that metal he's packing. It's markedly bulky and segmented under that soft leather, and, as she correctly assumed, it's damned heavy. "You've been saying that a lot lately," she remarks, holding his coat out for him.



"It's a lot to adjust to a different perspective." he replies, relieving Ardette of the weight of his coat, "A lot of these things that might seem obvious to you are not as obvious to me. Comes from being spoonfed one point of view."



"Well, if you ever need to see another point of view, you know where to find us." Yes, us, the great and downtrodden Grey that Ardette stubbornly insists on being a part of.



"Well, I'm here aren't I? I'm trying..." He doesn't know how well he's doing, since sometimes things slip and he'll say something that he would have in the Mafia. Thankfully no one's trying getting into a fight over it, that's one handy thing about having a bad reputation.



"It shows," Ardette says simply, holding open her office door for him. The true test will be if he can muscle through the initial aches and pains of exercising his sense of morality. Baby steps, Santiago. Baby steps.



Reginald nods, though he stops just short of exiting her office, "I do thank you for the opportunity for me to be open about my vibe. I've never shown anyone what... you've just witnessed today."



Ardette raises her eyebrows and closes the door a bit, hand still on the doorknob. Some privacy for some honesty. "Well, thank you for sharing with me." She lowers her voice. "It's not every day that I get to see a true illusionist at work."



Reginald grins almost sheepishly, "Well, if you ever care to see more, I could use the practice. Maybe something smaller next time though, that took a lot out of me."



Ardette smirks up at him and steps out of her office, walking him to the front door. "You know, you don't have to accept every challenge I give you. Someone might think you're trying to prove something."



"We can't have that, can we?" Reginald replies, smirking at her all too smugly. "Next time I'll try and not make it too obvious that I'm trying to impress you. Ah, speaking of that, if I'm correct, I might be due for another dinner with you." He quickly adds, "...but not a date."



But not a date, by god, the boy learns! Ardette hums. "In that case, I might be free next Tuesday, and I might not let you in if you bring as much food as last time, and I definitely will hurt you if you come disguised as Cross." She gives him a bright, sardonic little smile and opens the front door for him.



"Hmm, not Cross... should I bother with a disguise at all, or should I pick someone else?" He's really more concerned with what he should bring this next time. He knows someone with a really good pizza vibe, but he's not sure that he should be bringing oily food over.



"Just use your imagination!" Ardette says, and with a grand, sweeping gesture, she ushers him out the front door, because hurry up, man, it's goddamned freezing outside.



"Alright, alright, I'll think of someone," Reginald says, hurrying his way out. "Nos veremos de nuevo pronto, Gatita," he calls back at her before making his way back home.

(See you again soon, Kitten.)



When the meaning hits her, Ardette makes a strange choking sound in her throat and stops the door right before it closes, to lean out into the cold afternoon. "Vete al infierno!" she shouts at his back, and goes back inside with a huff.

(Go to hell!)



Reginald is certain his laugher echoes all the way back to the studio.

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