A Short Break at The Long Bar
It was still blasted cold out. That didn't really bother Val, she rather liked the cold, at least she liked it more than the heat, but at least the damned Christmas decorations and madness seemed to have subsided. The nights were still long, and those long nights were one of her favorite things. It let her get more done and have a bit of fun.
She'd been having a lovely bit of fun with Julian. Having left her phone number they had run into each other several times since that first evening. Sometimes it was deliberate, sometimes it wasn't; he had taken to her pub (well it wasn't hers per say) with a singular enthusiasm much to the approval of the patrons. The regular musicians had proven they weren't intimidated by his professional status and had simply included them in their playing. Although, they weren't stupid or terribly vain and simply let him take center stage when it was appropriate. It seemed to be a win win for everyone.
Sauntering into the Long Bar tonight Val pulled off her knit hat, shook her hair out and looked for a place to sit. It was a bit more crowded than usual and a quick look up to the stage confirmed the reason. Julian was having a fine time of it tonight. Since she was alone Val didn't immediately head to a booth or table but slid up to the bar.
Kevin Flanagan, who looked every bit as Irish as she did, was the owner and primary bar tendered most nights. His hair was a bit closer to brown than hers, his eyes green and he looked ten to fifteen years older than she, but it wasn't a press to imagine he was of the old sod. Without a word he set a Highball down in front of her.
"Feeling generous Flanagan or do I just look like I need a drink?"
Val said with a grin, but took the offered cocktail without any real protest or concern.
"Just a little pay back for your friend there. He's gotten quite popular."
Kevin answered doing his best to look barley interested in the subject. He didn't fool Val though, she knew that business had picked up, especially on nights Julian was in. Kevin wasn't about to over look that and did spot she and Julian a drink or two when they were in.
"Well I'm glad I'm finally of some use to you then."
"Just a bit lass, a wee bit. Don't let it go to your head."
He said and walked off chuckling to himself to take care of another patron, leaving Val to her drink and the music. A situation she didn't find at all disagreeable.
They were all drinking, though, so he couldn't imagine there would be much complaint. In fact, quite frequently Kevin gave Julian (and Val) their drinks on the house. Julian considered it fair; it was less than he'd make as a paid performer but he wasn't a paid performer. He was a volunteer who came mostly for the open-mic type nights. This kept his fingers limber, and his knowledge of tunes fairly current.
It was fun doing this. Fiddling was enjoyable and challenging, and there was a lot of fun to be had in the round-robin sort of solo. It wasn't always him in the spotlight, but when it was he did his best, as the other performers did, to outdo the one who'd come before.
He saw Val enter the bar and gave her a little flourish on the strings, nodding his head at her while he played. She was a lot of fun to hang out with. They'd met mostly here in the last few weeks, and a few times had led to the same night of rigorous physical activity like the night they'd met. Beyond that, Julian found he really did enjoy her company. Some nights they didn't wind up in a hotel, they just talked and enjoyed the drinks and music. That was fine with Julian, and apparently fine with Val. Did they love each other? No. They were becoming friends, though, and Julian liked that idea.
Finishing the current song Julian thanked his fellow performers. Tonight it was the regular musicians but they'd asked him to join them a couple of times so he'd started bringing his violin every time he came here just on general principle. Now he joined Val at the bar and grinned at Kevin as he slid a whiskey on the rocks across the bar to Julian. He sipped it slowly, knowing it was likely the first of several. Oddly enough, he'd been drinking less since coming here. Free drinks were much more fun than the other kind, and he was content to stop at two or three rather than barrel on for a fifth or sixth and then stagger home to his studio. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was Val... either way he had no reason to drown out his preoccupations with alcohol.
"Hey Val," he said with a smile as he seated himself beside her. "How's it going?"
From the pocket of his violin case he pulled out a book and handed it to her. "I remembered it."
It was just something she'd expressed interest in and Julian happened to have. He'd promised to loan it to her and then forgotten it.
Val complained cheerfully. She'd done some research and realized most universities were on on a winter recess right now. That meant as an MBA student she'd have a bit of extra time on her hands. As much as she was enjoying Julian's company, she wasn't ready to tell him the truth just yet. The odds were very much that she would never tell him, it wouldn't add anything to their relationship.
"You look like you're having fun up there though."
She said with a bright smile. She didn't ever attempt to play at these things, she just couldn't compete. Once in a while she would sing though, Val had a surprisingly good voice. Good enough that she could do a solo and be pleased with the results. It wasn't a trick she'd shown Julian yet, better to surprise him some night. But even singing she tended to limit to going along with the crowd on a tune that everyone knew.
Her eyes brightened at the book. While not the sort to spend long winter mornings curled up in front of the fire leisurely perusing a book, she did read here and there. Some how she and Julian had gotten talking about something and one thing lead to another and he'd recommended a novel and it had sounded good.
Picking it up she casually flipped through it as if judging the text and the story as the pages flew by.
"Oh good, because I would have forgotten."
A quick look at the front cover and a scan of the back confirmed that it did sound interesting.
"Now you promise it is good? You're not trying to lull me into some depressing Russian thing that should be debated over coffee in the wee hours of the morning by grad students wearing berets or anything?"
She asked with an impish grin. Julian had proven fun to tease. He had a decent sense of humor and would play along with her.
He sipped his drink some more while Val perused the novel he'd brought. "Yeah, I thought so anyhow. I'm pretty sure you'll like it."
They were still getting to know each other but he suspected Val would enjoy this particular novel. It was a gangster thing, set in the early 1900's, with a good plot, good writing, and plenty of twists. Lots of violence too. Julian thought it was fairly realistic.
He laughed at the visual she presented. "I don't do berets," he said, with a hand gesture that could easily have been interpreted as slightly effeminate. "They mess up my hair."
Julian tossed his curls away from his face and they immediately fell forward again. He brushed them behind his ears and then caught a glimpse of his hands. He scowled at them. "I need a manicure. We could discuss it over that."
That was not a joke. Julian had his nails done regularly. Not only was it necessary when you played a stringed instrument, but he actually enjoyed the process. Whether Val would take him up on it or not didn't matter; she was welcome if she did, but if not he wouldn't be heartbroken.
"So how would you like you alleviate the boredom tonight? Or was this your only plan?"
It wasn't a foregone conclusion that they would have sex, although Julian sure enjoyed it and Val certainly seemed to as well. They hadn't done that since - he thought for a moment - last week. Well, not quite a week. Six days or something like that. Long enough that he was more than willing to go hotel hunting with her later on. She did that biting thing that seemed to drive him bat-shit crazy every now and then. He'd never thought he was into biting but he was revising his opinion.
Leaning on the bar, swirling his drink, he arched an eyebrow at her waiting for her to respond. They didn't always stay here when they got together and Julian wasn't opposed to finding another activity although he was perfectly happy to hang out and play some more.
She laughed at his take on the head gear and had to concede it wouldn't be a good look for him. Val took one of his hands and examined it when Julian claimed he needed a manicure. They were a little rough and could use a bit of attention.
"Gangster novels and a paraffin dip? You know how to show a girl a good time."
It wasn't a no and it wasn't a yes. She'd consider it. It rather fascinated her how Julian could say something like that and not play for the other team. He was quite definitely into women rather than men just very secure in who he was. It was something Val appreciated.
She grinned at Julian over her highball. He wouldn't have to ask twice if he felt like knocking boots. Val enjoyed their evenings out, to date Julian had been as good as his words, casual no commitment, he didn't press and neither did she.
"I thought we might do that too, as long as you're off tonight. Unless you let one of your groupies get a commitment out of you."
Again, she teased. Val had scoped out the symphony since meeting Julian, she liked to do a bit of a background check on people and knew that he was quite popular, especially with the female portion of the audience. It was her practiced opinion that he wouldn't establish a long term relationship with a groupie. He he wanted to hook up here and there, that was his call and she didn't care.
His grin softened into a much softer, knowing smile when she used a little emphasis on the word 'that'. It was nice to know she'd been thinking along the same lines. He wasn't terribly worried about her sleeping around; a girl as hot as Val didn't need a standing 'booty call' arrangement with a friend like him. The more they talked the more he thought it was just as she said; she had too much going on in her life to bother with a relationship. He loved the fact that it was open between them and neither of them would ever expect more. Someday Julian figured he'd meet the Right Girl and he'd know it... but Val wasn't that person.
She was, however, turning into a fun friend.
He shook his head and dismally continued inspecting his chipped nails. "Never sleep with groupies," he said, glancing up at her. "It never ends well."
He looked at his violin case, sitting on the bar next to them, and then back at Val. "You're not a groupie, are you? Tell me my fiddling sucks, please. It's the only way we'll be able to move on with our night."
He was teasing her in return for before; of course she wasn't a groupie. She hadn't even known he was a musician when they'd first started talking, although it had gotten them together here at the pub. He knew Val would get the humor, though.
Val said with an impish grin. Although, personally, she wouldn't mind having a few groupies. Having people throw themselves at you probably made hunting a bit easier. It might be a problem when you had the same ones coming back again and again, but who knew.
"Or is it that you don't like playing with cougars?"
That, she suspected, was Julian's problem. From what she understood it was an older crowd that followed the symphony. Certainly Julian had shifted the demographic a bit and he'd have the debs who were drug out on their maiden aunt's season tickets panting after him as well, but there was a cougar element as well. What a laugh that she was two or three times older than most of those biddies and she was getting to knock boots with the boy.
"You are -terrible- it is all I can do to set foot in the door when you're playing and I've had to pay Kevin to keep you on just so I don't hurt your feelings. Isn't that right Flanagan?"
She called down the bar.
He shouted back without looking up from what he was doing.
"Some day he's going to agree to something incriminating."
Val mused with a small smile. She was pleased that Julian had no issues playing right back with her. It probably helped that they weren't working on a relationship and neither of them was inclined to a more serious conversation and they were saved the time and trouble of the 'where is this going' aspect of being together. It made spending time with him light and fun.
She was actually somewhat surprised, pleased but surprised, that he was enjoyable to talk to. Val tended to be a rather social chatty person and to date Julian didn't qualify as brooding. So even when they didn't screw around she was inclined to have a nice time with him.
He wouldn't prefer either a stalker or a cougar, although he supposed an older woman had her appeal - it depended on how old and what her personality was like. "It's just a rule," he said. "No groupies. For any reason. It's unprofessional."
Maybe that was the crux of it for Julian. He did take his career very seriously. He could probably hook up with a fan if he wanted to but he would have a hard time respecting his own choices later and that meant something to him.
They returned to their comfortable teasing and Val verified that his playing did, indeed, suck with some vague affirmation from Kevin, who Julian was pretty sure had no idea what he'd just agreed to.
"That's so hot," he said. "Say it again. Tell me my fingering is awful and I'm attracting every in-heat feline on the block. I swear, it's really doing it for me."
Julian was chuckling even as the words left his lips. This was much more fun than his trip back to New York had been. Oh, he had enjoyed seeing his parents. He loved them and they were always supportive, but since his sister's death they had been very protective and it was good to be out from under their wings.
He really enjoyed this back-and-forth that he and Val did, and knowing they could go have a good time after leaving the pub and neither of them felt bad about it the next day was even better. They said friends with benefits never worked but Julian thought it was fine for them.
He took another drink of whiskey and was pleased when Kevin came back through with another for him. He usually left a pretty big tip to offset the free drinks and while Kevin didn't comment Julian was pretty sure he didn't have to do so. This was his third now, having finished one before Val arrived, and he figured he'd call it quits here. He had a great buzz, maybe slightly more than a buzz, and that was perfect.
Picking his violin back up he waved his bow at the performers on the stage. They waved him back up and, to a little cheer from his contingent of goth fans, Julian mounted the few shallow stairs to the platform and set his bow to the strings once more.
Val said it was a straight face and her tone perfectly sincere. She actually believe it, to some degree. Just because her own ethics were vague and subject to change as the situation or her mood warranted. That was probably a bad thing, but Val did have some basic principles she tried to stick to with reasonable success. Regardless she didn't press the issue and just toasted him vaguely.
Laughing as he claimed to be turned on by her 'compliment' Val played along letting her voice drop to a husky burr. A few men glanced over at them at the sound.
"You're a regular Tom Cat up there, the only reason people are staying is to look at your pretty face."
No matter how seductive her voice her wide smile, one that did nothing to hide her large canines, gave her away. There was no doubt it was a game.
"Knock 'em dead killer."
Val offered cheerfully as he made his way back up to the stage. She wondered if any woman would ever come first in his life. It seemed to be the music first and anything else after. Not that she was criticizing, that kind of dedication was good and hard to find.
She didn't bother to leave the bar and Kevin slid her another highball. Val glanced around casually just assessing the mood of the place and to see if there was any trouble or action to be had. Well the action was highly unlikely as Kevin put a stop to any brawl damned fast. About the only point of interest was one sullen half angry half jealous look from a girl in the goth crowd. Probably jealous that Val was hanging around with her fantasy man. She lighted a fangy smile on the girl and thought no more about it.
The songs went round and drifted into Finnegan's Wake which she was happy enough to sing along with, of course so was half the bar. Thanks to Flogging Molly even the goths in the corner knew that one.
When Val dropped her voice and spoke again he saw the glances of the men nearby and wiggled his eyebrows at her. She could always take one of them home, he supposed, but he was pretty sure he'd win over them. They were definitely compatible with each other in bed, and they had fun outside of it too.
"Man, they must be desperate," Julian said with a grimace as he took another drink. He wasn't a heartbreaker by any means. He looked well enough, halfway cute, halfway handsome, and he took care of himself of course. He wasn't muscular, really, since he didn't work out. But he did walk pretty much everywhere so he kept in shape. He wasn't soft at all. He thought his best feature was his hair. Women (and no few men) seemed to like his disheveled curls.
He shot a grin to Val over his shoulder as he went up on stage. He didn't stay long, maybe ten minutes. There were other musicians here tonight and he didn't want to steal the stage. He always loved a chance to play though, in any setting. Someday maybe people would come just to hear him at whatever venue he played. Now that was a good goal.
As he played, it was normal to survey the crowd. Any decent performer did. You had to meet peoples' eyes, look at them, play as if you were playing just for them. It was pretty easy in this crowd. Everyone, including Julian, was singing along to the songs they knew. There were two men, though, who were sitting in a booth near the door seemingly paying no attention whatsoever to what was happening on stage. Except that every now and then they glanced at Julian, like they were measuring him, and every now and then they looked at Val.
When he returned to Val she was working on another drink. "Catching up?" he asked, nodding his chin at her.
He didn't mention the guys. Lots of guys looked at Val. Lots of guys looked at him, too. It wasn't that unusual. What was odd was that they didn't seem to be there for the music on a night when music was definitely happening.
Before Julian came back down off stage she noticed two guys leaving. It flitted through her head that they looked familiar, but it flitted right back out. They were probably regulars or semi regulars, she'd just seen them here before. She didn't think a thing of it and wouldn't remember it five minutes later.
"I can't let you get too far ahead of me, you might compromise my virtue or something."
Val was careful to show that she was slightly tipsy or buzzed if she had more than two or three drinks in a short period of time. It was something she had to remember to do, Julian might believe she could drink him under the table, God love Irish stereotypes, but he'd not believe she was totally unaffected.
Julian, however, did get points for drinking his whiskey without doctoring it up as some people were want to do.
"James looked to be keeping you on your toes tonight."
James was one of the senior players and a regular participant in the sessions. He played the bodhran and was pushing seventy as attested to by his thick graying hair, although the rest of him looked about twenty years younger. Unofficially, she'd come to learn, he was the one who let people continue to play or politely suggested it wasn't working. Julian had, obviously, passed.
Not being much of a musician it had appeared to her that Julian had given as good as he'd gotten though. She'd have to ask Kevin to slid the man a drink some time. They'd not spoken much, what she knew about him she'd learned from listening to others.
And eventually they would leave together, find a decent hotel, and he would slip into something more comfortable... like Val. Yup, sometimes life was pleasant and tonight was definitely one of those nights.
"He did keep me on my toes, but that's where the practice comes in handy."
Julian liked the regulars here at the Long Bar. He didn't get to fiddle as much as he would like, so being here kept him in good practice. There was something fun in performing, no matter what he did. A sense of freedom, maybe. It was so easy to work emotion into music. He knew how to deliver an intense classical solo with high highs and low lows; he was particularly well known for his use of electric violin and even there he was able to achieve a good emotional range. But fiddling, that was a distinct sense of wild abandon. The kind of feeling he felt with Val, really, which was maybe why he'd probably remember her from this bar and from certain tunes even after they called off their fuck-buddy relationship.
They would eventually, he knew that. That was the rule for them both - no strings attached. It was a good rule, but all good things came to an end. For now though, they were just beginning and it was far too early to think of endings, unless it was ending this particular night in a comfortable bed.
Julian was surprised when one of the goth-type girls interrupted them and handed Julian a Nox Aeternus flyer while stammering something about an autograph. Julian blinked at her for a second and then laughed, smiled, and signed her flyer, noting that she had the signatures of the band members on it already. Julian was just an extra but at least she was thorough.
When the girl had gone Julian turned to Val. "So how long did you want to hang out tonight?"
If she had a yen to leave early Julian wouldn't be opposed to it. He was still young, and stamina was still his friend. The earlier they left, the more times they would manage to screw before passing out. Julian would admit the thought was crass, but his relationship with Val was based on convenient, amiable coupling. Friendship was only just now starting to happen.
That might have been said with something of a leer. Sure, tonight sex was pretty much a foregone conclusion, but it never hurt to flirt a little. It might not mean anything really, but in her opinion even in a casual relationship it didn't hurt to let the other person know that they were desirable rather than just convenient.
She watched the girl come up to them and gave the flier a passing glance. It wasn't for the symphony and had been signed by a number of other people. Waiting for the girl to go she raised a quiet eyebrow at Julian.
"Moonlighting more than just here? You do get a lot of practice.â€
It wasn't a 'How was your day?' kind of question but they were still getting to know each other. That wasn't bad either, nameless, faceless, one night partners got to be annoying, less than satisfying. Maybe that was why she had settled so neatly into her arrangement with Tai and it was probably part of the appeal of fooling around with Julian.
His question brought another easy laugh.
"Are you tired and need to get to bed or just anxious to see how much trouble we can cause?â€
Considering that she always left before sun up, Val had no issues getting right down to 'business'. She'd had a few naughty thoughts about what Julian could do with those fingers of his. It had also been long enough that she could actually bite without worrying about a familiar bond. While Val did see the advantage of having a familiar it also seemed like a huge hassle and responsibility. She didn't want that for Julian or herself.
"You call it tiger. The night is young but I know even if were retire for the night we won't waste it.â€
Of course if they didn't go get a room anything else they might do would boarder perilously close to being a 'date' and that was something Val wanted to avoid, it was better for both of them.
"But I am at least one behind though, don't forget. Why don't you tell me where you learned to fiddle, I don't think they taught that at Julliardâ€
Val asked impulsively as she downed the rest of her highball and waved for another. She'd looked up Julliard after Julian had mentioned it and and discovered it was quite an impressive arts school. But it had also sounded rather hoity toity and not inclined to teach something like fiddling, of course she could be wrong, she hadn't researched the school too thoroughly.
Val knew that, though. When they spent the night together Julian generally remained awake as long as possible until he was pretty much incapable of holding his eyes open any longer. He didn't sleep in much either; once he woke up he got right up. Val was usually gone by then, of course unless Julian woke up ridiculously early. He never asked questions and neither did she; that wasn't what they were about. He didn't see them hanging out at each other's houses or anything.
Val's next question put the ball in his court. He leaned on the bar, bringing his head closer to hers in an almost conspiratorial way, grinning when she leaned in to him.
"I'm not tired... but I may need to get to bed soon. All work and no play, you know."
Val was usually on the same wavelength as Julian. There hadn't yet been a time when they were in disagreement about hooking up after a night out, and they hadn't always done so. Some nights they really did part ways when they left the pub. Not tonight, though.
Julian wondered if he'd ever find it strange to be developing such an intimate knowledge of Nachton's hotels. He and Val didn't usually go to the same one, but instead chose from the wide selection the city had to offer, as long as it was a good one. They alternated paying for it as well. Tonight Julian preferred something a little more swank so that was where they headed after finishing their drinks. It was a little bit of a walk but as usual they started the festivities slightly early.
And Val did do that thing with her teeth. It had to be a pressure point or something, but when she hit it just right it was better than any high Julian could imagine. She would be welcome to play with his neck anytime.
((ooc: both out))