the same gold: part four

The Powerhouse looks, smells, and sounds as exactly as she expected. She's reminded of the once great, now shuttered Bar 107. Unpretentious crowd, bartenders who are surly with newcomers but chummy with regulars, and 90s-era bangers on the stereo. It'll do just fine.

She slides into the booth first; he closes in tight. And they're off. The lightning round comes first on this game show, and they skate from topic to topic back to topic, ticking boxes and laughing much more than anticipated. Five minutes into the conversation she realizes she has brutally underestimated his intelligence. He's making jokes that she barely catches. He's clever as fuck. Ten minutes into the conversation, she senses him realizing that's he's underestimated her, too. It's in his face and reactions when she references (the right) bands or songs or genres of music. When she asks probing questions about his work and his passions. When she gets it.

They don't drink. They just talk.

She loves the way he looks when he's listening to her. There's really no space between them already, and she has to twist sharply to face him directly--but his body language is serious all the same. Head slightly tipped down, eyes focused on the table, looking up at her quickly when some point trips his interest. If he interrupts her he immediately urges her back to her train of thought. He wants to understand. For her part, she feels one hundred percent relaxed and herself. There is nothing on the line her but a good time. This could never be a thing, right? There is no need to be nervous. This is not the usual two person audition. This is just some friends getting to know one another better. And it doesn't even matter that he has just casually pulled her legs across his lap. She's acutely aware of it but it's so natural and right that they don't miss a beat to acknowledge the step.

It happens fast. They're laughing too much, with too much chemistry to stop it. He calls it out, inhibitions peeled away by the chemicals flushing from his brain.

"Why am I so comfortable with you? Why is this so easy?"

She smiles. God that feels good. "Because. We've known each other for a long time, remember?" She shrugs, still smiling, and meets his eye. He wraps a hand gently around the back of her neck, kisses her, and then presses his forehead softly against hers.

This--all of this--is the exact opposite of what she was expecting. He is an entirely new and different person, a hundred times more faceted and complicated than the profile she had constructed of him.

He's sensitive: when she teases him about an old unsettled debt between them, his face darkens in shame. "Ohhh," she touches his chin. "You know I'm teasing." He won't look at her. "I'm sorry," she says, placing her palm against his chest. "That was a weird time in your life, wasn't it?" He nods. "It was a very weird time in my life."

He's quick-witted: for every wisecrack she gets in, he gets in two that are even better.

And most wonderful of all, he's vulnerable: every few minutes, as they move along this uncharted but strangely clear path, this adventure in shared surprise, he stops to marvel, aloud, at how great it is. "What's happening right now? Why are you so awesome?"

And it is, simply, great. They are having a blast. It is clearly on. God knows for how long, if it's the drugs alone, if it will even last the night--but right now, it is on.

After an hour of mutual delight, of talking and laughing and just enjoying one another's closeness, there's a pause in the action. They both feel it but it falls on him to say it.

"Do you want to go to your place?"

She does. She really does.