Another day, another visit from your friendly neighborhood Bandito. (Incomplete)
<Reginald>: Man, I was hoping someone actually commented with that, but I don't see it on the page XD
<Ardette>: Nope, neither do I, must be a screenshot XD
<Reginald>: it's still funny to me.
<Reginald>: he probably is still wearing green, just not in a place that obvious
<Ardette>: Yeah, like he's still wearing that ring, too >:U
<Reginald>: lol, he never takes it off. sentimental value and all that
Reginald "Don't give me that look."
Ardette "What look, this is my face."
Reginald "No, that look is a little different from the usual one, something is displeasing you."
Ardette "Do I not always look like that? Hm, I'm losing my touch."
Reginald "Mn, the difference is very subtle, you probably don't realize you're doing it."
Ardette "You're just a rapt student to my face, aren't you?"
Reginald "People in general, not just you, Bombaerts. That being said, I do get more practice with you, so it's technically not an untrue statement."
Ardette peers at him for a second... and then simply grunts. "Huh."
Reginald laughs, just one or two notes of soft laughter, but it was funny. "So what was with that look? Something was bothering you."
Ardette leans away from him a bit, as though repelled by the suggestion. "Nothing's bothering me."
"You're not a terribly good liar," Reginald remarks, half-smirking down at her.
Ardette glares at him. "Alright, now you're bothering me."
"Oh, I know that," Reginald replies, cheekily. "Since you'd rather not talk about it, maybe we could talk a little about you then?"
Ardette scoffs out a laugh and walks out of her office. "Aheh-- no."
Reginald "Ha, ha, I figured as much. That's fine, I respect your privacy."
Ardette pokes her head back in to simper at him. "And I thank you," she sighs dramatically, before going back to where she left her spray bottle of vinegar and a rag.
Reginald follows her around anyways, despite his previous statement. "You're lucky I only come bother you when it's quiet."
Ardette spritzes the first observation window in the hallway and starts wiping it down, focused on the task at hand and not him. "I'm lucky you respect my reputation as much as you respect my privacy."
Reginald clears his throat slightly, "Yes, your reputation..." He doesn't want to mention that Cross made a point of telling him that he wasn't after his 'lady friend', but that was a conversation he didn't want to have right now. "I do try my best."
Ardette glances at him as she works. "So, it's not luck, then." She hums and turns back to the window. "That's nice. I don't believe in luck anyways."
"Luck wouldn't be enough, if I'm involved. I suppose I don't really believe in that sort of thing either, but... I don't know, sometimes it seems like some form of luck is involved for some of the things that go on in this city," Reginald says. Surviving a run-in with Don Bonita and Frankie Valentine was certainly luck.
Ardette snorts softly, because talking about this city and its inhabitants having any sort of luck is a stupid conversation to her. "Oh, are you referring to 'dumb luck?' There's another word for that; it's called a fluke."
"Ah, that would be the kind I mean." Reginald never really liked the word 'fluke' though, but that was a silly conversation to get started on. "Given any more thought to dance lessons?" Since he was already pestering her, he may as well go full on.
Ardette has her favorite answer to this question of his ready. "I think about lessons every day," she says, walking down the hall to the next observation window.
"And you know I meant with me," Reginald replies, with practiced politeness, still following her like a lost dog.
Ardette sighs, sounding bored, and spritzes down the next window. "Classical ballet, contemporary ballet, pas de deux, contemporary, modern, jazz," she says in one breath. "Pick one you hate the least."
"Ah, so many options..." More than what Reginald thought she'd give him, honestly. In fact, she caved a little too easily this time around. "Are you up to something Bombaerts? That was too easy."
Ardette blinks a few times, then deflates with a little scoff. She drapes her arm over the window ledge and puts a hand on her hips. "Did I say I was going to teach you anything? I'm just giving you the impossible challenge of picking a style that I offer."
"And then what? Will you teach me?" Reginald already knows what he'll pick, since he already had some experience with it before he got completely sidetracked by swing.
"Unlikely," Ardette says, focusing her efforts on working out a particularly stubborn smudge on the glass.
"Then what point would there be in telling you which I 'hate the least'? As you so put it." She really was convinced that Reginald hated ballet. He doesn't hate ballet, it just didn't work out for him as a dancer.
Ardette rises up on her toes to get in the top corners of the window. She catches his eye in the reflection. "Humor me."
Reginald paces a little behind her, making a show of weighing his options, "Well, without getting too much into the 'why's' and 'why nots' of it, I could see myself doing jazz again."
Ardette doesn't stop her cleaning, but watches Reginald's reflection as it disappears and reappears in the window pane. He could see himself doing jazz 'again'? "...Without getting into the whys and why nots, you said?" she says, as though testing him.
Reginald takes a moment to think about it, before shrugging, "Well, it depends... I suppose. Depends on how much of a personal thing it ends up being."
Ardette watches him for a moment more, and then shrugs too. "I'm not going to make you say anything you don't want to." He has a habit of just... talking it out of himself on his own.
Reginald laughs, "You always say that, but I know you have questions. I mostly said that so you wouldn't go on about how much I supposedly dislike ballet. Which I don't."
Ardette finishes the second window and turns around to face him, looking up at him with politely raised eyebrows. "I'm sorry, did I say that?"
"Not this time, but you imply it. Ever since I said I'd do anything except ballet, you seemed to take it rather personally." Perhaps Reginald shouldn't have worded it like that, but too late now.
Ardette scoffs and side-steps around him. "I don't take it personally," she says, walking further down the hall to the last observation window, bringing them deeper into the building. "The only person implying that is you."
Reginald continues to follow. How she hasn't had enough of him following her around was a mystery, "Mn, perhaps are you just disappointed? I seem to recall you were very eager to compliment my posture."
Ardette gives him an exasperated look over her shoulder. Don't flatter yourself, Santiago. "Having good posture is like having a good handshake. It's universally appreciated. Stop reading into things."
"Ah, but you were very specific, Bombaerts." Reginald grins at her, knowing full well how much of a pest he's being right now.
Ardette spritzes at the third window with perhaps a bit more vigor than necessary. "'Port de bras' is a universal concept, too. Ballet was just kind enough to give it a name."
"This is true, but still, I did say that I could still indulge you in private if that's something you might be interested in." Considering how their last few meet ups have gone, maybe Reginald shouldn't be suggesting such things, but it was innocent enough. It was just such a lovely compliment.
Ardette wipes down the third window in wide sweeps. She is interested, if only for the educational value, but she'll never admit that. "I don't indulge," she says haughtily, putting a sarcastic flourish on the word. It's a lie and they both know it. She smokes, she drinks, she occasionally lets a Bandito buy her dinner. Bah, technicalities.
"Mnhmm..." Reginald replies shortly, letting her know, in no uncertain terms, that he knows she's telling a very unconvincing fib. "We could not call it an indulgement?"
Ardette turns at the waist to glare at him with a flat smirk. She just looks at him for a moment, before spraying a harmless puff of vapor at him and continuing down the hall.
Reginald wrinkles his nose slightly, closing his eyes so he could try and get some of the stray droplets off his glasses. It didn't stop him from following her anyways, he could still hear her, even if he couldn't see where he was going. "I take it that's a no. Pity, it would be fun."
Ardette does a little turn on the spot as she walks, to look at him. "Oh, but I don't have fun, either!" she says lightly, scoffing in amusement when she sees him walking with his eyes closed. She walks into the dressing room at the end of the hall. Let him run into the wall, then.
"Maybe you should start? How hard could it--" Reginald's cut short and he does, indeed, walk into the wall. Unfortunately, he also ends up dropping his glasses, causing him to curse under his breath. This could have been planned out a lot better, he thinks to himself, as he crouches to try and feel around for them. He makes a point to not ask for help, he had some pride left.
Ardette hears the thud! and whips around, looking wide-eyed and delighted. Well, if she doesn't have fun, she's certainly having fun now. "Santiago?" She walks back out only to find him crouched down low, his groping hands missing his glasses by inches. "Oh, Santiago," she snickers sympathetically.
"Ah, there you are, I... uh, lost track of you." Okay, Reginald wasn't going to spend five minutes in front of her trying to find his glasses, so he allows himself to take a quick look, just enough to see the bit of black against what seemed like a searing white floor. He's quick to grab at them and put them back on again, though he still squints a little, "You did that on purpose, Bombaerts. I'd scold you for it but it's such a surprise... that I really don't even know how to respond to that."
Ardette snickers some more and presses the back of her hand to her lips, trying not to grin, or at least trying to hide it. She leans against the doorframe and smiles down at him. "Did I tell you to walk around with your eyes closed? I don't think so."
"I suppose you didn't, but you did spray me in the face with that vinegar solution, so that's already evidence enough of your inner cruelty." Reginald's response is very tongue-in-cheek, and he seems to be just as amused as she is by the whole situation.
"Hmmoui, that's me," Ardette coos, jutting her chin out at him. "Cruel and unusual." She flicks the light off in the hallway for him, and goes back into the lit dressing room. "And vinegar is good for glass! Didn't you know?" she calls out from inside.
"And to think, I want to dance with you. I'm afraid to even ask what do you do for a warm up." Reginald stays in the hall for a little while, just to enjoy the darkness. "And I do know that, thank you very much."
Ardette gets to work on the big mirror in the dressing room. "Oh, nothing you would enjoy, I'm sure," she says breezily, enjoying their conversation and the companionable distance. How long does he plan to sit out there?
"No, indulge me, I'm curious now," Reginald calls back to her. He's hesitant to follow her into the dressing room right away, the darkness comforting and he's had years to get paranoid about every exposure to light, no matter how brief.
Ardette smirks to herself in the mirror; always with the indulging, this one. "Mais... ballet, of course." Your favorite. "Stretching, a barre, some center work... dancing barefoot on broken glass, you know. The usual."
"Mn, sounds about right," Reginald replies with a chuckle. "It is odd that the walking on broken glass probably intimidates me the least?" Convinced he should be fine, he finally does follow Ardette into the dressing room.
Ardette nods to his reflection in hello, as she scrubs away at a mark: a tiny, downward pointing arrow of the UG drawn on her mirror with lipstick. Charming. "You're the one who said it, not me," she remarks. Yes, you can't do ballet, we know.
Reginald hasn't actually been in the dressing room before, so he couldn't help but to give it a good look over. "Did I just give you ideas? Perhaps I should know when to be quiet, you'll be getting out the whips and chains next."
Ardette stops and stares at him incredulously in the mirror, before barking out a single laugh. She shakes her head and sprays the mirror again. "Yes, you'd like that, wouldn't you," she grumbles.
Reginald shudders. "Ugh, please. I'm far too 'straight edge' to be into that sort of thing for fun. I'd be begging for mercy the before you even got them out."
Ardette straightens up, gesturing vaguely with the rag. "Just--" She shuts her eyes and winces in disbelief. "How did we get on this subject again?"
"I do believe I asked how you torture your dance students. Which, by the way, I'm still not sure if I'm being considered for such a position or not. If it's about the money, I can pay you.." Reginald has a hunch money was not the issue. She's probably said something to that effect too at some point, but he was probably distracted.
Ardette finishes wiping down the mirror and shakes the rag out. "Trust me, I'm aware." She sighs and turns around, leaning back against the counter under the mirror. "Santiago, you've enjoyed my studio when it's empty, probably more than anyone else. And I know you come by at odd hours for my sake... but have you ever actually come by when it's filled with other steppers?"
Reginald shifts his weight back and forth from one foot to the other, the topic making him feel uncomfortable. "Er, no, I haven't. I'd be lying if I wasn't a little worried about not only your good name but... my reception with the other steppers."
"Exactly," Ardette says, dipping her chin. "If someday I decide it's not too great a personal risk to accept your money... that--" She ticks a finger at him, at his worry. "Is something you're going to have to contend with yourself. They can smell fear."
Reginald knows that she is correct in that regard. His confidence has been completely shot since his leave of the Mafia, and it shows, even through his bravado. Still, he's fixated on another part of the conversation, "So it's too much personal risk for you, right now?" He understood, to an extent, but he's never been a Square, and would never truly get the delicate balance of neutrality. "I mean, I know what you're saying, the rest... I'll have to work on in my own time."
Ardette crosses her arms tight around her middle and nods, looking down at her shoes. Lately, it's been getting easier to forget that Santiago isn't shy about the ugly jobs, and that he wears an exoskeleton of leather and knives every day, and that he's a marked man for Cheating. Realizing this, that it's easy to forget, is unsettling in itself. "To answer your question... I don't know. And until I know..." She sighs and shrugs her shoulders. "The answer is no. I can't risk it."
"Well, I knew getting into it that it would be an uphill climb." Reginald tries to not sound too dejected. After all, he already knew this would end up being her answer. "I suppose it'll just have to keep to private visits for a while longer, hm?"
Ardette nods. "For now, yes." For a little while longer, or forever, who knew? It's quiet back here, this deep into the building, far away from the street. In that silence, the thought is able to congeal in her mind, something she hasn't said to him yet. "Thank you for respecting the, euh... uniqueness of my position. I mean that."
Reginald gives her a soft, comforting smile, "I won't lie and say I understand it completely... but the last thing I want to do is ruin everything you've worked so hard for, Ardette. Especially not after you've accepted me, even after everything that's happened." Yes, Miss Bombaerts, first name. On purpose.
Ardette raises an eyebrow and uncrosses her arms a bit. So few people use her first name that hearing it is enough to give Santiago her undivided attention. She holds her arms out, presenting her studio to him, her baby, wearing that serene smile. "I'm Switzerland," she says. "I'm neutral. What business do I have to pass judgment on you?" It's a rhetorical question, but not without meaning; I can do this for you because I'm a Square, Santiago. She's still trying to make him see its virtues.
Reginald almost wishes she didn't smile at him like that so much. It makes him think about so many things. If taking lessons from her is a very strict No due to risk, then he can imagine what else would be considered too high risk as well. She's too kind to him, far too kind. "I wish I... could join you, I would give anything to..." No, not now. It's a little late to show remorse for what's already been done. He's made his bed, he must lie in it. "...thank you, for everything." Though he means it as two seperate statements, he doesn't realize it could be construed as one long train of thought.
Ardette just shakes her head slowly, so slowly that it's more like trying to study him, as though seeing him from a different angle or two will help. And she can see him pretty damn well, right now. "Don't thank me." Because if she's given him anything, it's nothing he asked of her. "This doesn't absolve you of anything... You're still just a person." For better or for worse, and he probably needs to hear that.
"I know, but you..." How could Reginald put it, in a way that wouldn't sound too ridiculously dramatic? "You're the first person since everything that actually treated me like just a person. It was just so... unexpected, especially considering how I treated you when I was still Mafia."
Ardette nods and looks down, wringing the rag in her hands, focusing on the pressure of it as she wraps it around her knuckles. She doesn't like thinking about how he was in the Mafia, because it's uncomfortable, and it's unnecessary. "I won't lie, Santiago. It was... satisfying--" To say the least. "--to watch you fall from your pedestal. It's been satisfying watching you struggle in the aftermath." Like watching a dancer sweat and suffer before they finally get it right; there's no use taking pity on them when you'll be congratulating them eventually. "I suppose that's all the punishment I think you need."
"Well, I also appreciate you not kicking me while I was down." Reginald has a sneaking suspicion there were a lot of squares who were happy to see him fall as well, but their sense of enjoyment of it was probably a lot different from Ardette's. Probably.
Ardette shrugs and rolls her eyes away, as though saying, all in a day's work: "Oh, just 'keeping you in your place.'"
Reginald chuckles, "I did even say that too, didn't I?" He's not at all surprised that Ardette approves of him more as a Bandito than as a member of the Mafia... but then she didn't know all that he was up to when he wasn't hanging around her studio. There was being honest, and there was being too honest.
"You did." Ardette grabs her spray bottle and pushes off from the counter. "I told you, I'm not going to be your judge and jury for Cheating with a big C, or... just generally being a shady character," she says, sauntering towards him. She comes right up to him and shakes the nozzle of the spray bottle at him as one might wield a gun. She lowers her voice, and gives him a look that dares him to think she's joking: "But I will have no mercy on you if you wrong me. Got it?" And that's the... other thing she hasn't yet said to him.
"It wasn't--" No, Reginald wasn't going to get defensive over the whole 'cheating' thing again, if it did weigh a little heavily on him to simply hear the word. Before he could even move onto another train of thought, Ardette's right there, brandishing that spray bottle like a weapon. "I... respect that too. I genuinely hope it never comes to that." But at the same time, he can't make any promises that he wouldn't. Just that if he ever did, it wouldn't be on purpose, and that was just as bad.
Ardette looks him up and down, with none of the sass or playfulness from before. "That makes two of us," she drawls, and apparently satisfied, she flicks the light off in the dressing room and walks back down the hall. She does genuinely hope it never comes to that. But she's just as aware as him that it might.
Reginald at least knows that she must mean that. Why else would she keep letting him come back, and possibly tarnish her reputation just by being seen with him? He feels like he needs to lighten the mood a little after that rather honest talk. "So, out of curiousity, what sort of dance do you do outside of what you teach?"
Ardette sets her supplies down on the bench in the lobby, the same bench where they took their dinner together. She throws an incredulous look his way. "Wow, that change of subject was so abrupt I almost heard a tear."
Reginald shrugs slightly, smiling pleasantly at her, "I just... figured after that talk that we should talk about something a little more fun is all. Unless you want to talk vibe instead."
Ardette looks amused. Well, she was right about him; Reginald Santiago is definitely a talker. She sinks into one hip and crosses her arms. "Who says I dance anything else?"
"No one, I'm merely curious." Especially curious because she might like dancing something Reginald knows how to dance too. She could probably figure out that's why he's asking in the first place, but he just really wanted to get off the topic of the Mafia, and the possibility of whether or not he could completely ruin their entire relationship just by the nature of him being an ex-Mafia dog.
"Well..." Oh, mais, Ardette doesn't know where to begin with that. "I do try to educate myself, you know, to be able to have some credibility in each faction..." She's taught herself to be able to handle herself in any club, to earn the respect - or at least not any negative attention - from their bosses.
"You actually know UG dances?" Reginald can't picture it, personally, but it didn't help that he tends to view a lot of their dances as very unrefined. "I mean, you can dance their styles?"
Ardette huffs out a quiet laugh at that. He talks about the UG like it's another planet, like they speak some impossible language. Well, this shouldn't be too surprising, coming from Santiago. "Modern? Contemporary? Hell, even the Latin dances have some clout with the UG. It's not all hip hop and house, you know."
"I... uh, I didn't know that, actually." Well, Reginald felt a little dumb for saying that, but he meant it. Most of the steppers he's danced against were mostly some degree of breakdancer or street dancer. The latin dancing, however, was not a surprise. That was one he knew to be true.
Ardette gives him a flat look reading, yes, that much is obvious. "You don't have to represent the majority to fit in. You just have to look like you belong there."
"Ah, that's a good point." Perhaps why that's why Reginald's having as many problems as he is right now, he doesn't really look or act like he belongs anywhere. "...do you swing at all, then?"
Ardette knew he was going to ask that. "Badly," she says in a tone that tells him she has no desire to improve. "Classical ballet goes a long way with the Mafia, if that's what you're asking. So does the waltz." And so does the tango, but she won't be the one to bring that up.
"Waltzes can be fun from time to time, but I think I prefer the foxtrot..." Reginald says, though mostly to himself. "Well, ballroom in general is fun, but sometimes it just doesn't go quick enough for me."
Ardette narrows her eyes at him, not unkindly. "A 'need for speed?' Oh, you're one of those," she says slyly, wagging a finger at him as she walks back into her office.
"I'm Latino, it's in our blood. It's why swing appealed to me so much. Constant movement, ah, then the constant vibe, the things I can do with it when it's at its peak, it's like nothing else." Reginald's getting sentimental about it again, it takes him a moment to realize she's escaped into her office again. Naturally he follows, how could he not.
Ardette smiles to herself; she knows that tone in his voice, when he talks about dance and vibe, and it's endearing. "I have to admit, I'm still a little surprised you found swing, in the end. I would have pegged you as a salsa man, or merengue, or something."
"Mn, I do know how to salsa, and I know how to rumba. I can't really explain why swing appealed to me so much, but once I tried it, I just got completely hooked," Reginald says. "There was a pretty good community for it too, at the time. It helped a lot."
Ardette tilts her head. She knows he loves swing. "...there's a surprising amount of swing in the Bandito community," she remarks, as though to test the temper and tone of that love in relation to his brethren.