The eerie quiet of the hotel room and the shadows of unease that had jumped off his walls and into his mind melt away, falling from the front of his mind the way he’d hoped his marathon walk would’ve accomplish. Maria laughs, and he feels the self-satisfied pleasure of having been the cause of that. That, and it’s always nice to have people react to the off-colour things he says appropriately.
Soft pressure against his shoulder and Maria’s head occupies the space his own would need to turn, so instead he shifts it slightly, one eyebrow raised to get his eye to the very corner of his peripheral to see her. The reassurance is sweet, but not half as sweet as the prolonged connection between them, and he smiles warmly at it. Yet another for the tally in his books, and he tells himself that there’s enough evidence now – more than enough evidence – that any reciprocation would most likely be met with a positive reaction, and he should take a bold step or two.
And yet when her hand comes across and her finger curls into his coat sleeve…
“I’m not pouting,” he denies without any heat, teasing himself with the statement as he turns towards her, careful not to dislodge the finger hooked in his jacket. “I’m eliciting sympathy.” A fine difference. And maybe pouting a little bit to do that – “Is it working?”
It seems to, and he ‘arigato’’s the cab driver instead of offering to pay, since that’s already been done in the blink of an eye. “What’s it take to make a decent one?” he asks; and he’s met with another sign, another signal, soft and subliminal. Maria’s closer than she ought to be, closer than he ought to be comfortable with – than they both should be comfortable with. But he thinks he might have the right idea and he takes the chance. What’s the worst that can happen? ( Everything. )
Fingers reach out to brush by hers, sliding past the first slowly, then catching the second and third – at the same moment he registers that this just might be a popular sushi place for late-night citizens looking for a fish fix. The illusion of empty tables breaks the closer they get, and he curves his fingers against the cool ones he has, leaving enough give for them to slide out – and become an incidental collision of body parts, which happens all the time.
There’s a twinge of something like success that surges at the back of her mind, his fingers brushing past hers, and she shifts her hand enough to interlace them, to make for a more comfortable hold. The press of his palm ( warm ) against hers ( icy cold ) is reminiscent of their time trapped in the subway tunnel, but that time the action had been out of necessity, to calm him down, she’d convinced herself. And even then that memory was tainted, fogged by the application of pain medication several hours later, so she could only recall bits and pieces at a time.
“Eliciting sympathy,” Maria repeats, a quiet thrum to the tone of her voice, latent bemusement shining through along with a hefty helping of faux-disbelief. She hooks a thumb over the back of his hand, lightly resting against the radiating heat. There’s a part of her that doesn’t want to drawn any further attention to the action ( and thus cause him to move away, perhaps ), so she tilts her head, keeps regarding him with that carefully affixed expression ( a hinting smile ghosting around the edges of her mouth, gleaming humor in her gaze ). The restaurant may be crowded, and she’s starving, but for the moment a wait wouldn’t be the WORST thing in the world.
Maria moves forward, a rolling step that will inevitably bring him with her toward the hostess stand, where a flustered-looking young girl is standing, flipping through pages and pages of paperwork. She sees them approach and stammers something unintelligible in Japanese, but she flashes ten fingers at them three times, and Maria nods briskly- at least a several minute wait, that much was clear. The hostess points them toward a planter near the sidewalk where other people seem to have clustered near, and then goes back to flapping the paperwork around. Other than that, the atmosphere of the restaurant seems pretty tame ( it’s humorous to her that the young girl seems so stressed ).
“It’s something,” she circles back to the sympathy that she’s most definitely NOT feeling. He’s a big boy, and mucking up a few lines of Japanese is likely the least of his failures ( it’s clear, too, that he’s joking- so is she ). “A decent agent?” Once they’re settled out of the main crowded entrance, tucked off to the side, she presses her lips together, flicks a brow. “That’s classified.”