Pretty Sure This Might Could Be A Date... Maybe (Attn: Ran)
The nights were getting warmer, Pak still found them a bit chilly but she was no longer having to bundle up until nothing showed by her eyes. She could actually go outside without a jacket, not a heavy jacket any way. So going down to the water front to meet Ran wasn't totally out of the question. Although, if she were being honest, she'd have met Ran at the water front even in the middle of winter, and with minimal grumbling.
Pak had grown very fond of her 'uncle'. Fond wasn't the right word. She liked him; liked liked him if you caught her drift. He was sexy in his own rather out there way, smart, funny and fun it was hard not to like Ran. She'd had no issues flirting with him and he'd flirted right back and since vampire blood lines, or family trees or whatever you wanted call creator to created weren't genetic families she'd not given a second thought to coming on to him.
In occasional moments of self-doubt, Pak would correct herself though, she thought she was coming on to him. She thought Ran was flirting back. She wasn't good at relationships. She'd had exactly... two in her whole life. Other than that she either immediately relegated men to platonic or jumped in bed with them immediately. This middle ground was rather odd unexplored territory for her and she wondered if she was doing it right or if maybe he just wasn't interested. But it seemed like he was. It was a conundrum that Pak had actually sought advice on, and she didn't often do girl talk. Aishe, however, had a few ideas that she might actually try.
For as outrageous a dresser as Ran could be, Pak was still dressed conservatively. It was probably a jarring contrast for anyone who looked at them. But she wore a pair of classic black trousers and a light weight red tunic with a pair of peep toe wedges that were, coincidentally enough, the same color as Ran's hair and a long necklace that alternated silver chain and irregularly shaped pieces of mother of pearl.
She was a bit early and just actually looking at some of the shops that were gearing up for tourist season. It was always rather fascinating what they would sell to people from out of town and more fascinating what those people would buy.
She was splendidly dressed as usual. A little bland for Ran's tastes, but he wasn't Pak and he figured Pak would dress however Pak liked. For his part, he was wearing an old grey pinstripe suit coat cut off midway down the torso and just above the elbows. He wore it over a royal blue tightly-fitted tee. Dark purple skinny jeans, a wide, metal-studded black belt, and bright yellow hightop sneakers completed the outfit. As usual his hair was two-toned blue, spiked up on top but brushed artfully down over one eye in front. His contacts tonight were electric blue; when the lights were dim they glowed gently. He loved them.
From the walkway approaching her, Ran waved. "Pak! Hey!"
He jogged the last couple steps toward her, swooped in with one arm around her waist, pulled her close, and kissed her on the mouth. He got the impression from her that she wanted this, but Ran was trying to be polite and restrained for a change (and Amir would kill him if he fucked with Pak). He was waiting for a definitive signal from Pak. He loved hanging out with her, though, and there was no denying the hotness factor.
"How are you tonight, Brighteyes?"
She still hadn't come up for a nickname for him. He wasn't going to tell her that Amir called him Kudzu, and that Shades regularly referred to him as Peacock. She'd have to find her own pet name. He didn't doubt her ability to do so.
"Looking gorgeous as always, I see. Ready for dinner? I found a great place you might not have been to before."
She tried out the new nickname. It didn't sound quite right, but it wasn't bad. she'd have to consider it. He was certainly a flashy dresser. Pak was a little envious of Ran's willingness to take risks as far as his personal style went. She usually had to look at him twice to take everything in. She was half tempted to ask him to take her shopping, but hadn't quite worked up the nerve to do so yet.
Her heart did jump just a little when she saw him, and she didn't think it was the surprise of the softly glowing contacts. It seemed way too soon for love, maybe lust though. Until she got him into bed she wouldn't know. For the moment though, the kiss was enough.
"Better now.â€ She said with an impish grin. " And you are looking quite dashing. Anything new and exciting?â€
Ran was distressingly easy to talk to, even just small talk, which was something Pak wasn't always the best at. She didn't always have the patience for it or the inclination to just jabber.
"Not willing to cook for me without Mara there to cover for you?â€
Pak teased. He was actually turning out to be a better cook than she was, although she had improved and was actually making edible meals now. It was fun, she was glad Mara had talked her into it and even more glad that she'd included Ran. Although, having him about made things a little more confusing than she'd like when it came to Blaise. Apparently when it rained it poured and all that.
"Where are we going then?â€
Pak wasn't exactly a foodie. There was one place in Nachton she went regularly on her own. She'd kept half an eye out for new Thai places but wasn't as diligent about checking them out as some people might have been and was even worse about other cuisines. Unless someone took her, eating was rather low priority for Pak.
He probably did. He should wear it, just for her. "Thank you," he said in response to her compliment. Ran always liked when his style was acknowledged, good, bad or ugly. Good was better, obviously.
"Oh so you want me to cook for you huh? Next time, your place. I'll do it."
Ran was perfectly willing to test out his newfound culinary skills on Pak, but it would have to be at her apartment at Liefde. He would be eviscerated for bringing a non-Anantya to the manor. He supposed he could invite her to Mina's townhouse, but that seemed - tacky. He was pretty sure Pak understood Mina was his familiar by now, and they were definitely not chaste. Ran didn't have it in him to deny the girl, nor was he entirely certain he was cut out to be the monogamous sort.
She asked where they were headed. Ran gently took her elbow and steered her away from the waterfront, back up the path leading into Nachton.
"I found a little Thai place. Authentic cuisine, run by a Thai family that moved here about two years ago," he said, his voice tinged with excitement. Ran loved to discover little gems in the city like this one, not food that claimed to be Thai and served the same ten boring curry and pineapple fried rice dishes but a restaurant that served authentic Thai with grandma's recipes.
"The ho mok pla was out of this fucking world," he said with a grin. "You're going to love it; if you've ever been homesick for real Thai, you're in for a treat."
The little restaurant was tucked back on a side street about a block or two from the waterfront in an area that was predominantly Vietnamese, with a decent number of Thai living there. Ran had been exploring the ins and outs of Nachton in his roller form whenever he could, and the shape of the small, acrobatic bird made it easy to find these little hole in the wall places.
"Exactly what kind of red spandex?"
She teased boldly eyeing him up and down. There was a lot to appreciate with Ran and the spandex wouldn't hurt a thing.
Hmmmm... she hadn't considered that. If he were going to cook, he'd have to have a place to do it. Thanks to Bao Pak had a fairly good idea that the manor Anantya held up in was more than slightly off limits. She would admit to being curious what it was like, what Ran's apartment would be like, but she was also rather relived not to have to go. The idea of being around too many Anantya bothered her. If more were like Ran or Mara it would be fine, fun even. But Pak's assumption was that Bao, and to a lesser extent Amir, were more typical.
"Alright, you're on. No one has used the oven since I moved in but I have it on good authority it works and is a good brand."
It was something she'd left up to Eiryk. If the rest of her apartment and the appliances in the kitchen were any indication the Viking knew his business and knew it well. So the oven would be just fine, as would the stove, etc.
Happily taking Ran's arm Pak let him lead as she listened. It sounded promising. Pak racked her brain for word of a new place in the last two years, her IT people would find them and report back. They seemed to think it was a fantastic game to find Thai food for the Thai boss lady. No matter how hard she thought nothing came to mind. Which meant she'd either forgotten or they'd missed it. She hoped it was the later, it would be nice to one up them for a change.
"You're taking a Siamese woman for Thai food? Isn't that racist?"
She said lightly, playfully stepping into his side. From some people... it could be considered racist, but Pak had gotten to know Ran well enough that she understood this was just sort of sweet and thoughtful. That and he really did like the food.
"We'll see how good it is though... I might just be a bit home sick. You never know."
As they began to walk, Pak seemed to go for the idea of being cooked for. Ran smiled. He'd make a meal at her place, no problem. And conveniently, they would already be someplace comfortable. If Pak showed any signs of wanting to go that direction, if she acted on it, Ran wouldn't pull the brakes by any means. He did, however, intend to leave the final decision up to her. In the meantime he was doing his best to make it plain that he found her desirable.
He laughed when she teasingly accused him of being racist. "Hardly," he said, "I thought it was charming and touching. If you don't want to, we can go somewhere more ethnically diverse. I hear the mall has a fantastic food court."
He didn't alter their course, knowing she was just poking fun at him. The walk wasn't long, and within a few minutes he was opening the door to a very tiny storefront and sweeping his arm in front of him to indicate Pak should go first.
The interior was dimly lit but clean and pleasant. Scents of herbs and spices wafted through the air, the flavors of Thailand. Ran loved them; he enjoyed eating, and sampling the various cuisines of any region they went to. Contrary to Amir, who didn't usually eat, when they had traveled together Amir had often passed food to the bottomless pit of Ran beneath the table so he wouldn't appear rude. Ran was glad he was incapable of gaining any weight or Amir would have turned him into a butterball within months.
He had a brief mental image of an obese Indian Roller flapping its tiny little wings as hard as it could to lift itself off the ground a few wobbly inches before collapsing back down, huffing and puffing and looking around for an eclair. Ran shuddered.
There were only five tables in the restaurant but fortunately one of them was free so Ran brought Pak over to it, greeting the waitress, Fon, in Thai. She brought them two glasses of cha manao and slid a couple of menus to them, then turned away with a promise to return in a minute.
"So any favorites of yours?" Ran asked. "We can always ask them to serve us whatever they want."
That was one of his favorite things to do. Often, if you asked the chef to prepare what he considered his best dishes, you would get items that sometimes weren't on the menu. Always pretty authentic, too. However in this case, the entire restaurant was authentic.
"Yeah... sure the mall. I'll bet the kids love you there."
Ran didn't look like a teenager, some vampires did, but with his outlandish fashion sense and easy going manner he'd probably be quickly accepted. Since he wasn't altering course or even slowing down it was fairly obvious he'd gotten the joke.
He guided her into the restaurant and Pak inhaled deeply. It smelled right. She didn't always notice smell in a restaurant but in a Thai place, she did. The food had changed some since her day, and there were variations by region but the aromas didn't change too much, not since she'd cooked, since her mother and grandmother had cooked. She grinned at Ran almost instantly at home.
She answered almost instantly as she sipped at the tea Fon had left. It was a comfort food for her and the beauty of being dead was that she could eat as much as she'd like and not gain a pound, so she didn't have to stop with one dish. Not that Pak would be gorging herself but she wouldn't have to be pushed too much to sample more than one thing.
"But I'd love to see what the chef wants to make, especially if the ho mok pla was as good as you say."
The place was very small. It was no wonder that she'd not heard of it and even less of a surprise that her staff had missed it. Of course, these were the best kind of places, in her opinion. Pak's favorite little hole in the wall, which she hadn't taken Ran too but she might at some point, wasn't much bigger maybe two more tables. If you took the time to become a regular you practically were family.
"Have you been here often?"
"Once. No, twice, actually," he answered when she asked how often he'd been here. "But once was enough. I was hooked. This is going to become a favorite of mine."
When Fon returned, Ran ordered from her, in Thai like usual. He asked her for the suki, and then told her the chef was welcome to add any additional dishes as he or she preferred, a variety of flavors and spice levels. Fon smiled; Ran had ordered similarly the first two times so she wasn't particularly surprised.
After the waitress had left again Ran turned to Pak. "This place reminds me a lot of some of the restaurants I ate at when I first went to Siam. I think I might have eaten everywhere. It's the best way to immerse yourself in a culture. You can learn a lot about them too, by the ways they describe their food. The words they use, things like that."
As usual Ran had to check himself before he geeked out and started blabbering on about language and culture yadda yadda yadda. Not everyone wanted to hear it. He sat back in his seat, stretched his legs out under the table, and propped them up next to Pak's hip, poking her gently with the toe of one yellow shoe.
"So how's the IT gig been treating you? Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
"I can see why and we haven't even eaten yet. I'm guessing it is a good thing neither of us is going to gain weight."
Pak was still rather fascinated with Ran's knack for languages. Fon looked like a nice traditional young woman, if she had to guess Pak would say her parents were the owners. Of course she didn't know for sure but that was her assumption. It had to be both disconcerting and rather comfortable at the same time.
Only speaking three languages herself, and being one of those people who'd always swore to learn another, Pak didn't really have any desire to stop Ran, she even encouraged him a bit.
"I wouldn't have thought about food and language. But it makes sense, everybody eats and all that. Is that where you usually start?"
She grinned when he poked her. She couldn't think of too many other people who could get away with that version of footsie. It was cute, and she was ninety percent certain it counted as flirting. Pak wished she had longer legs.
Nothing having seen The IT Crowed, although she'd heard of it and seen a clip or two, Pak didn't quite get the joke.
"MARI hates to be rebooted. "
She said quite seriously. Honestly Pak hated to reboot the AI too. It happened extremely rarely but it always made her nervous.
"The machines have been running pretty good. People have been the problem."
Pak rolled her eyes. She was going to lose that manager and she wasn't happy about it. She didn't have any great replacements or ideas for a replacement lined up.
"Yeah, always," he said. "I just like food, for one, but for another thing people are usually really willing to talk about their food when you aren't able to get to them any other way. I can't tell you how many times I've been able to get on someone's good side by complimenting their native cuisine."
Lots of times. Hundreds, maybe thousands. Ran was good at dealing with people, getting along with them, encouraging them to trust him. Their trust wasn't always misplaced. He didn't always have an ulterior motive.
When his IT Crowd comment passed over Pak's head he just nodded and smiled, reminding himself to bring over the DVD when he went to cook her a meal. It would be fun, and he was positive she would love the series. He arched his blue eyebrows at her when she said people were the trouble.
"Aren't they always," he said. "What in particular has you troubled at work, Brighteyes?"
He met her pretty blue eyes with his own neon ones, encouraging her to tell him her problems. Ran liked listening to people, and Pak often seemed reluctant to go into too much detail about her life. She seemed comfortable with him, though, so maybe she would chat a little more.
She complimented him, genuinely impressed with his people skills because it would not have occurred to her. Eating was something that had fallen by the wayside for Pak, fairly early on. Her first few years were very rough and very lean and once she'd figured out she didn't have to eat food, just blood, she'd cut it out, it was just an economy at first but it became habit.
Of all of Ran's distinct physical features, the blue eyebrows occasionally threw Pak. Not everyone with outlandishly colored hair bothered with the eyebrows. So she found them startling, but tonight they very much complimented his contacts and made his face even more expressive.
Absently Pak ran a hand through her hair considering his request. If it had been just her problem she would be more open, more forth coming, but it involved more than her. It was a personal type of personal problem. But after a second of thinking she reasoned that he didn't know any of these people and if she didn't name any names she wouldn't be violating any confidences.
"A manager in my department has gone a little crazy. He was just turned and it doesn't seem to be working out. It is to the point that as much as I want to keep normality for him and hold on to him, I can't keep him.â€
She felt very bad about the whole situation too. But it wasn't like Pak was throwing him to the wolves or cutting all ties. Not at all. Evenhet just didn't work that way. She'd been trying to help Juan as best she could, and Rachel who'd turned him and she wasn't the only one. Other people were involved, people better equipped and trained for this.
Everyone sounded decidedly optimistic about things, that Juan would adjust and be just fine but he needed some time and maybe some distance. There was talk about he and Rachel leaving Nachton for a bit, going somewhere more isolated until Juan found himself again. In the meantime, Pak still felt like crap, like she was firing a guy for something that was totally beyond his control.
He grinned; he didn't mind sharing some of the tricks of the trade with her. Surely it couldn't hurt to add another people skill (or, in Pak's case, A people skill) to her portfolio.
She did talk to him some, and he smiled, listening quietly while she briefly described the problem. He tilted his head sympathetically.
"Ahh, a tough time adjusting. That's rough," he said, sipping his tea, "but this is a time for him to focus on his personal life. Surely you have enough control over your situation that you can give him some reassurance that his job will be waiting for him when he's ready to take it over again?"
They were a long-lived people. It wasn't unreasonable to expect that at some point in their lives they would be coming and going, changing things around. And considering this guy would never have to take sick leave again, perhaps there was some mechanism in place to provide for other problems their kind might face that would keep them from working their usual graveyard shifts.
"Maybe that will help in the long run," Ran said, trying to console Pak. "It might be best for him to get away and work on learning how to be," he gestured to himself and to Pak, "but sometimes knowing that the safe and familiar will be waiting for you is the push you need to go and do that work. Yeah?"
Fon came back with two small bowls and placed them in front of them. Ran leaned forward, inhaled, and closed his eyes with a smile. The soup was kaeng phet, a spicy red curry and coconut broth with chili peppers, chicken, eggplant, and Thai basil. He personally loved the bold flavors of this particular dish, but then, subtle things were sometimes lost on Ran.
"So aside from the work thing, what else is going on in your life, Brighteyes? Any hot dates? I mean, aside from me."
He and Pak had no agreement to be exclusive, weren't even really dating, exactly. Ran certainly wasn't going to stop screwing around any time soon and he didn't expect Pak to be celibate either. He also wasn't the jealous type; it wasn't in his nature. So to ask her if she had any hot dates, well, he wasn't joking and he wasn't being sarcastic. If she'd had one, he'd love to hear about it. And he would probably compare notes with his own nights on the town, if she were inclined.
She trailed off. Juan had actually come terribly close to doing things that would get any one fired. They were all making allowances for a very sudden turning. It had been a life or death moment and Rachel had made the best decision she could, it just wasn't working out well.
"It isn't like we won't have something for him no matter how long it takes but I really hate to loose him at all even for a few months.â€
Ran's reassurances made her smile. It was good that someone looked on the bright side of things. She was very probably borrowing trouble. Who knew, maybe once Juan had settled in he wouldn't even -want- his job, he might decide to take his new life in a completely different direction. But it was all a ways off.
Hot dates? The question startled a laugh out of Pak. Although she was very out of practice at 'dating' she was reasonably certain people didn't just ask that question. Ran, however, seemed to have his own set of rules and she chose to play by them.
She was saved from answering just then by the soup. It smelled wonderful and she didn't hesitate or ask how spicy it was before digging in. It was creamy and spicy and crisp and cool all at the same time. She smiled as she ate it, her tongue darting out at one point to lick a small drop of coup off her lip.
"Haven't you figured out I'm a workaholic yet? I don't get out much.â€
Pak looked down at her soup as she answered rather self consciously. She wished that she was more interesting, more exciting. But she'd settled into a rut and was having a hard time getting out of it.
"I've gone out for coffee a couple of times but nothing really interesting. Why do you ask? Jealous or just interested in the competition?â€
She managed to tease him in all that. Sure she'd gone out with Blaise a few times but it was nothing serious. He'd been pretty clear that he wanted to go to bed, but Pak just wasn't that attracted to him, and more to the point she didn't quite trust him yet. Ran was different. Ran was family, although Pak didn't know him well yet Mara knew and trusted him and that was a wonderful endorsement. She assumed Amir must like him too or he wouldn't have turned Ran. It gave her 'uncle' a distinct advantage over Blaise.
Her own lack of self confidence when it came to going out with Ran, if indeed they were going out, kept her from asking the same question of him. She found him extremely attractive and had a bit of a crush on him and absolutely would love to screw around with him but she was also fairly certain he didn't have any trouble finding women, or men for that matter.
"This is delicious."
She said quietly changing the subject back to the food. Although she wasn't exactly running from the other topic. She wasn't a total prude, just cautious. Yeah, cautious seemed like the right word.
That sentiment was close to Ran's heart. For all his bluster and sarcasm and joking, he was well aware that his own people hadn't wanted him. Amir had claimed not to want him at first, either, but as time went on Ran had realized that Amir would never admit it, and when the chips were down and Ran was in over his head the people who'd saved him weren't any family of his, but Amir and Mara. There was every possibility that Ran could have become incredibly depressed, and he'd flirted with that edge on and off for quite some time. In the end, though, having Amir and Mara had brought him through every trial.
Pak's uncomfortable response to his teasing was obvious. Ran felt sorry that she should be awkward about it; he knew she wasn't exactly an extrovert but she could be. When she made an effort, she was friendly and fun. He chuckled and shook his head when she asked if he was jealous.
"Nope, not me, Brighteyes. I just wanted any juicy gossip you might have had." he sighed theatrically. "You disappoint me."
Taking a sip of his soup he shrugged. "Mind, business has been slow for me too. Just Mina. Although her cousin, Jacob, apparently has become a familiar too, to a Clanmate of mine, and is loving it."
Pak knew that Mina was his allured familiar now, and Ran hadn't ever tried to hide the fact that he slept with her from Pak. He refused to spurn her; it would just be cruel and Ran wasn't a cruel person. Nor was he the monogamous sort, and he wanted that out in the open between them. Ran was perfectly capable of splitting his affection between multiple partners. If Pak wanted to act on this flirting thing they had going, she had to understand that.
Of course, instead of continue with any innuendo, she pulled back and commented on the soup. Ran sighed internally. She was so shy, but he wasn't going to move on her if he wasn't entirely sure that was what she wanted. He certainly wouldn't mind. She was gorgeous. He could already picture those pretty blue eyes looking up at him from a soft pillow, her arms reaching for him.
"I told you it was good," Ran said, pushing the visuals aside for the moment. "These guys really know their stuff."
Pak said quietly but sincerely. Not only was Juan very good at what he did he was, or had been, very good with people, better than she was. He also had a great sense of humor and could make her laugh, which could be hard to do. Even though Pak was starting to open up a bit in her private life she was still very much closed off in her professional life. She was trying, she was making some progress here and there but it was slower, took more effort and it was far too easy to fall back into old routines.
For a second she considered if she should be upset that he wasn't jealous. It seemed like he should be, but by the same token it didn't seem wrong that he wasn't. It wasn't even clear if they were dating so why should ran be jealous? Should it bother her that he wasn't? For that matter should it bother her that it didn't really bother her? Dating, or not dating, was complicated Pak decided.
She giggled at his sigh.
"If you wanted juicy you needed to have known me back in Siam.â€
It was a surprise that she'd say that, even hint at her second career. Pak didn't share that was just anyone. In fact, she could probably count on one hand the number of people who knew and of them she had only told three. She assumed that Aishe and Amir knew but had learned about it from other sources and Pak didn't really mind that they knew.
Mina was cute, very attractive and Pak found she was rather pleased that Ran had made her a familiar. It meant that the girl was safe. Although she'd seemed rather free spirited and adventurous that was exactly the kind of human who could get into trouble hanging out at the HoP and Pak would have hated to see her or Jacob in over their heads. She was, however, still trying to sort out exactly what that meant to Ran. Pak wasn't exactly certain if he was in love with her or if she was just a familiar. If she was a familiar but he wasn't in love with her as far as Pak was concerned that meant she wasn't intruding or causing trouble if she jumped him. If they were in love, then perhaps she shouldn't even be out with Ran. See above note about dating and/or not dating being complicated. She was too chicken to ask though, she enjoyed flirting with and spending time with Ran too much.
"Oh good. I'm glad. He seemed so sweet. I've never had a familiar myself but I'm happy someone is looking out for him.â€
As good as the soup was, and she did nod agreement with Ran, Pak was distracted by her previous musings about Mina and Ran. She'd dropped enough broad hints to ran that he had to know she was interested. A card board box would know she was interested. And he'd responded to those hints but hadn't acted on them... Pak rather suddenly decided she was tired of being confused and that Aishe was right and she should just say something. Of course, Pak being Pak, she came at it from the side rather than head on.
"So... you and Mina... I mean how is she doing? Still in school I'd assume?â€
Nodding at her comments about Jacob, Ran thought he couldn't agree more. "I'd have taken him myself, but alas, one is my limit." Control over familiars got better with age; Ran was still too young to maintain the bond with more than one at a time.
He immediately read between the lines when Pak asked about Mina; her tone was sort of obvious, at least to Ran, who was used to reading hidden meanings. Pak was obliquely asking about their deeper relationship.
"Mina's great," he said. "Just about to graduate. A few more weeks, and she'll be free. I've promised to help find her a job, though I don't think she's going to need it. She's smart, she's cute. As for the rest, she's taken pretty well to being a familiar."
He sipped at his soup a little more, then continued bluntly on. "But I don't think you were asking about her academics. You want to know how things are between us, yeah?"
He smiled at Pak. "She's my familiar. I care about her because she's a nice girl. I sleep with her because she's pretty, and funny, and willing, and bound to want me and it would be mean to turn her away even if I wanted to, which I don't."
Ran lifted his shoulders unapologetically. "This doesn't keep me from pursuing other women though, which she understands. I'm not really a relationship kind of guy though. In my culture, men and women marry and divorce all the time. It's hugely common. I guess I never grew out of it."
He said these things easily, not minding the topic. If Pak had set her cap for him for a permanent sort of arrangement it was best to let her down now before things got too emotional. If she still wanted him after knowing how he felt, then he would be even better with dragging her back to a hotel after this and shagging her rotten. This was definitely an epic amount of foreplay for him.
"Rather. Let's just say... I was easy but not cheap."
She would elaborate if he asked but he might guess. Ran had been around for more than a few years. Pak had also been somewhat careful in her phrasing because she didn't necessarily want to cast Bao in a bad light. Certainly part of her was still mad at him for having unwittingly forced her into a less than desirable career path but he was trying to make it up to her, or at least start fresh and she respected that and was trying with him. They were actually succeeding, at least she thought they were.
There was no stab of jealousy or even regret when he extolled Mina's virtues. It was what it was and she was fine with that. In fact, it made her life a bit simpler. It just meant she had to get over a mild crush, no big deal.
Ran surprised her though when he cut to the chase. Slightly startled Pak could only nod. That had been exactly what she was working up to. He was as blunt as an As Seen On TV $19.95 knife about things, almost her polar opposite. Pak could be blunt, but not until she'd worked her way up to the topic, Ran's way had probably saved them thirty minutes.
Pak thoughtfully stirred her soup for a second considering what he'd said. It didn't bother her. That was kind of disappointing in a way. She was tired of being the only single while all her friends had coupled off. On the other hand, why couldn't, why shouldn't, they enjoy themselves a bit without any long term commitment. It might be another thousand years before she met Mr. Right and, if memory served, she liked sex. If nothing else, it got him ten points for honesty and she appreciated that.
"That's pretty open minded of both of you. Its good you worked that out."
For a second she wondered if familiars got jealous and if they did, what they did about it. She had no idea if they had any recourse if their vampire slept around and they didn't like it. Maybe they could get a divorce or something.
That, however, was not the biggest question on her mind right then. Borrowing a page out of Ran's play book Pak did her best to be blunt as well.
"Are you perusing me? Because I wouldn't mind if you were."
He couldn't argue that. Ran wasn't exactly a man-whore but there was no sense in denying himself pleasure, he didn't think, if no one else was getting hurt in the process. And judging by the reactions, it wasn't painful at all. That Pak might have gotten by as a prostitute herself didn't even matter to him. He'd seen all kinds of professions throughout the centuries and while that one might not be acceptable here and now, it was perfectly understandable back in her era, particularly for a woman with no other means of living. She couldn't be hurt, she would have easy access to blood; it was a sensible thing to do.
He wondered if she understood what sort of familiar Mina was, though, when she labeled them open-minded. He smiled at Pak, a much softer sort of smile that he didn't use very often, one that was a more accurate reflection of his tender heart but with a slightly bitter twist to it.
"She's a familiar, Brighteyes, she doesn't get much of a say in the matter. My will is her will, and all that. You know?"
He shrugged his shoulders but his smile remained a little bittersweet. Ran couldn't help who and what he was and he bore no guilt over compelling Mina. She had already desired him; he knew that. But if she had wanted to be an exclusive couple, well, he'd never know and she would never get the chance to say so. It wasn't what they were about. His bite had turned Mina into a walking 'I want Ran' hormone factory, and love on Ran's part had nothing to do with it. He slept with her because he liked her, and he wanted to be kind to her.
Pak asked if he was pursuing her and his old usual grin spread across his face. Leaning back in his seat he crossed his arms over his chest. "I had thought it was the other way around," he said.
Just then, Fon returned with a tray. This had two bowls on it, a dish called nuea phat bai yira. It was a stir fry of beef and African basil, garlic, chili, soy sauce, and fish sauce. The Arfican basil gave it a slightly licorice flavor. It was another delicious dish, one Ran had had before but not here, and he dug into it happily. Closing his eyes as the flavors flooded his mouth, he sighed and gave an 'mmm' of pleasure. Then he swallowed and looked at Pak again.
"Does it matter who does the chasing and who gets chased? You're fun to be with. You're gorgeous, intelligent, and compatible. We can pursue each other."
He couldn't have been any plainer with her; if she still wanted him after he'd explained that he wouldn't ever really be a 'one on one' kind of guy, then their after-dinner plans had just taken a turn for the way more exciting.
"At least you were having fun... with me it was nothing but work work work.â€
Pak teased him right back with a cheerful playful roll of the eyes.
His change in expression was a little unexpected. It was softer but not exactly happy. It was rather familiar too, it was similar to something she recognized in herself. It wasn't quite the same though. Pak couldn't quite place the difference but she understood some of the vulnerability and maybe some pain and thought perhaps still, or in Ran's case rather bubbly waters, might run deep.
It wouldn't do to hurt him.
That thought came out of left field, sudden and unbidden and not quite understood but she'd remember it.
"Actually... no. I don't. I haven't known too many and I've never had one. I'm lucky to keep my cat from eating my fish, I'm not sure that I'm up to taking care of anyone else.â€
The familiars that Pak had known were often allied with the vampire as well, they tended to be rather independent. She didn't judge though, it wasn't a bad thing, it wasn't wrong to have a familiar. It was something she'd considered once or twice but couldn't quite justify it to herself. That and she'd never found anyone she would want to share that kind of bond with. Undoubtedly it would be easy for a vampire to mistreat such a familiar and that made her uneasy. What she knew of Ran though made Pak confidant that wasn't the case here, but knowing it could be the case elsewhere... well she'd rather not consider it too much just now. It was something to talk to Kem about, maybe Bao, maybe even Mara or gramps. Shades had proven to be a very interesting person to talk to...
When the subject drifted back to other more interesting things Ran managed to get Pak to blush. She hadn't been expecting that at all. Apparently she'd been a bit obvious, which wasn't bad.
"I was starting to wonder if you'd noticed.â€
She admitted with a wry smile.
The food arrived and the aroma alone was rather over powering, but in a good way. She inhaled deeply and picked out a small bite and almost drooled. It was something that would have been a treat at home, but it tasted so very good. Maybe she should eat more often. Maybe.
Pak looked modestly down at her plate for a second at his compliment. Not long, just a second before looking back with a smile that bordered on a leer.
"You're not so bad yourself. I'm all for perusing each other until someone gets caught, or at least temporarily waylaid.â€
And it only had to be temporary. There was a happy medium between one night stand and committed monogamous relationship and that was Pak's go ahead for looking for that middle ground. It would be nice to have someone to spend time with that she enjoyed being with and talking to and that they could add the physical to.
"An extra dimension to a friendship doesn't hurt anything as long as everyone is going in with their eyes open...â€
"She's allured," Ran tried to explain. "Uh... she wants me. A lot. To do things for me, serve me, love me, you know. I'm a god among men and all that jazz."
It was a heady feeling to a young vampire, to have a familiar bond with them that way. Ran had had many familiars over the years, not a constant string of them, but he didn't usually go for long without one. They weren't always allured but his first one had been and Ran still remembered her well, the way it had felt to him, too, to be that overpowering to someone.
He shook his head at Pak. "She can't help how she feels, but at least I know she was attracted before we bonded and she wasn't opposed to it. I've known vampires who had allured familiars and didn't acknowledge it. It was cruel, and it was hard to watch them killing themselves for scraps of affection and approval. I won't do that to Mina."
Chewing thoughtfully for a second he continued. "Amir has had allured familiars before. And he doesn't sleep with them." He quirked a little smile up at Pak. "He doesn't do humans. Thinks it's like sleeping with the cow you're about to barbeque. But Amir isn't a cruel man. That particular woman, he rewarded in other ways. She never stopped trying to get him in bed, but she wasn't unhappy."
He shrugged. "So I suppose I don't have to sleep with Mina, but it's part of who I am, too. I care about her. It makes her happy, indulges her wild side, and she knows I'm pleased with her. Love doesn't enter into it on my side, but that doesn't mean I can't make her feel loved."
He tilted his head at Pakpao. "Does that explain it better? Do you think less of me?"
His neon blue eyes practically glowed with mischief - or, they might be glowing because they were glowing neon blue contacts. Either way, he didn't expect Pak to say she thought less of him and if she did, well, then he had the wrong impression of her. He was caring for Mina the best way he knew how, and he wouldn't compromise that care. He didn't love her, not romantically, but he did like her a lot.
When Pak said she'd thought Ran hadn't noticed, he grinned. "I know when I'm being chased. And, I'm also aware that sometimes it's good to be chaste." He indulged in a little wordplay for the fun of it.
Holding his hand over his heart as if wounded he said, "Not so bad? You're killing me. I dressed up especially for this." He gestured to his torn-off suit jacket.
Going in with eyes open, though, well, that was too much to resist. Pushing his bowl across the table he slid out of the booth and back into it on Pak's side, right up against her so his leg was brushing hers.
"Oh, I want you to keep your eyes open, Pak."
Ran kissed her then, reaching up to turn her head toward him with a gentle fingertip on her jaw. It was soft and sweet but he broke away with a little nip to her lower lip. "If I've been restrained it's only because you're still family," he said. "I don't want you to be uncomfortable. But make no mistake. I like to be with you. You tell me yes, and we'll go someplace appropriate where I can show you just how much I like you."
He offered her a far more wicked grin and settled beside her in the booth, his leg still touching hers, picking his fork back up and digging into his food once more.
"That has to be a bit of a heady sensation."
She couldn't even imagine one person thinking she was... and wanting to.... and not of their own free will. The point was that she wound up actually approving of Ran maintaining a physical relationship with Mina. It really was only fair. Still a bit odd and one sided but at least he was being considerate of the girl's feelings, even if they weren't all her own.
Amir she didn't even try and address. It was odd and awkward and she just couldn't understand not sleeping with humans. Humans were people too. That didn't come out quite right but, Pak was Evenhet she simply didn't think that way. Vampires and humans worked together, they were equal.
Although she could see that Ran was half teasing her. She answered his question.
"Does it sound odd or like I'm kinky if I say I might actually approve?"
Pak did,however, make a note to talk to someone older and more knowledgeable about familiars. She was obviously woefully under informed. Something Pak hated.
His little joke elicited a combination of a snicker and a giggle. It was cute. She wanted to groan and be irritated by it but it was funny.
"I noticed you dressed up!" She protested. "It is a bold and sophisticated look. I like it."
She watched curious as Ran moved to her side of the table. She was -very- aware of his leg up against hers. Pak had a crush, she was attracted to Ran and her stomach fluttered a bit feeling his finger on his jaw. The kiss and the little nip very much left Pak wanting more. Going slow wasn't exactly the first thing on her mind but she sighed happily.
Who didn't like to be told they were desirable? Even knowing that neither one of them was looking to the other for lasing love, it was sexy as hell to hear. His reasons for going slow, for wanting to be sure made sense. They were long lived and that meant grudged could be carried for decades, centuries. It didn't hurt to be sure. Still, she gave a mock groan when he mentioned family.
"You just -had- to mentioned Daddy Dearest... and Granddad... are you trying to kill my libido?"
She teased him. It was a good thing she did too given how he'd tucked into his food once more. If he wasn't still sitting so close Pak could have sworn he wasn't interested any more. She casually nibbled at a bite or two, the spicy heat didn't bother her at all.
"Did you want to finish dinner first? Because that will make a difference when I say yes."
The answer was assured, it was now just the timing they were working on.