Mark bowed his head respectfully, as Wu stood, nearly a century old, and left the room. Well, that was interesting. The head of the Boys, going to a night club meeting. He supposed stranger things had happened. "Of course, my friend,"
he whispered. It was more of thinking out loud than actually talking to anyone. The Manor was likely the safest place in the entire city, mainly because of its invisibility. If, and when, something happened which required a hiding spot, the Manor was the best place for it. It even had a four room suite underground for emergencies. He stood. There was something he wanted to do. Suki...he was less intrigued by Suki. She had been a Raven for far longer than this Ruellen girl had been. He stood, and after Suki had finished talking with Rue, walked over to the girl.
"Hey, Rue. It's Rue, right?"
Rue stood up, and pushed her chair back. She was going to leave now, after Wu had left the room, but Mark ambushed her. Or at least that's how she felt: cornered. She could feel her heartbeat quicken as Mark walked over to her.
"Hey Rue, It's Rue, right?"
He asked her. She licked her lips and balled her hands into fists. Her eyes didn't know where to look. What did he want with her, after all? Her muscles began to spasm as she fought herself internally to respond.
Respond, damn it!
Rue yelled mentally; her jaw had just become unhinged from the tenseness of the previous conversation she just had. Rue nodded- she had to reply somehow right? As her eyes shifted around, Rue settled on looking at the feather necklace that Mark wore about his neck. She stared intently at it, not realizing that her trembling had stopped.
"Yes...it is. And...Uh... your name is Mark, n-no? A pleasure to meet you."
Rue bowed her head to him, and then managed to look him in the eyes, "I-is there...um... something you needed of m-me?"
Mark blinked, and pulled back his hand. "Yeah, Mark. I'm the Incense Master for the triad."
He wasn't going to bite.
He noticed her looking at his necklace, then. She seemed calmed by it. "Nice necklace, isn't it?"
She slowly smiled as she learned that he was Incense Master. "I thought you were...it w-would only make sense for you to b-be here if you w-were..."
Damn! He caught her looking at his necklace... "Yes...any particular r-reason as to w-why you wear it?"
Rue asked him.
He chuckled. "Yeah. It's a Raven feather. It was my dad's. Bleached white, for whatever reason, but it's my symbol of the Ravenglass Boys. I didn't feel like getting a tattoo."
He thought for a moment. "I haven't seen you too much. Not since induction. And you didn't know it was me, then. What do you do?"
"Your s-symbol? I have something like that...it's a uh...tattoo...of a Raven's feather..."
Subconsciously, she reached up behind her ear and touched it gently. "Yeah, I've been uh...busy r-r-running my store in Chinatown. I don't do much of anything really...unless asked to."
Rue stopped speaking, realizing how bad she had just stuttered over that word. Ugh...I sound like a fool.
Mark noticed Rue's stutter, but he didn't make a big deal out of it. It was better than deal with Rick, or any of the tough-guy types that came into the gang so often. "I'm not big fan of permanent tattoos on my own body. I don't mind them on other people, but...it's hard to explain."
He looked at her with renewed curiosity. "You own a store? That sounds like it would be fun."
"Oh I understand...some...some people find them to be distasteful....but...I see it as art. I have several, but...they...they are all meaningful to me."
Rue said, with a smile. Mark expressed some interest in Rue's store, might as well elaborate. "Oh yes, that...It's a simple electronics store, called uh...Electronics+. I also sell my handmade jewelry in the store front."
Mark looked around, seeing everyone slowly leaving. "I'll cut to the chase. Would you like to come to my house for a little chat? Maybe some coffee, or tea?"
Rue took note of everyone leaving, as well- Mark got right to the point. "Ah...oh...Um, y-yes. That w-would be nice. I...uh...d-d-didn't have anything else planned for the evening, un-until 7:30 that is."
She licked her lips after stuttering terribly. That's right; she would have to go to Rick's bar for Wu.
Mark nodded. He would probably go to Rick's opening, too. "I think tattoos are an art, as well. Don't misunderstand."
He winced inwardly, as Rue's unfortunate stutter returned. She had seemed to be relaxing, but he wouldn't mention it. She had shown that she would relax. "I'm glad. Let's head to my car."
Mark took one last look at the door Wu had exited through, then turned, and headed through the door. As he approached the elevator, her pushed the button, stepped inside, and held open the door, waiting for Rue. It was how a gentleman would behave, after all.
Rue followed after Mark, staring at her feet as she walked. As they reached the elevator, the doors slid open, and he stepped in. Rue stared in shock as he held the door open for her. She stepped inside as her face turned rosy. Rue stood a comfortable distance away from Mark, and was impressed of his manners. "What...um...What kind of car do you drive?"
Rue closed her eyes as the doors slid shut.
Mark would have understood if Rue had wanted to silent, but she decided to make conversation. What a pleasant surprise. "Well, I inherited a Mercedes Benz of some kind from my dad, but it doesn't really mesh with the whole...'anonymous' thing, you know? Most of the time, I drive a Chevy Camaro. It's not a bad car, but it isn't crazy expensive. Why do you ask?"
Rue shrugged haphazardly, "No particular reason. I don't own a car. Just a bicycle."
She could feel the elevator drop, watching the numbers decrease. "I don't even know how to drive."
She said quietly.
Mark nodded, understandingly. "I didn't want to learn, myself, but my parents wanted me to be able to get to work and back quickly. This was before my dad's software company really took off, so...it was kind of important for me to be able to drive."
The elevator dinged, and the doors slid open. Mark looked at Rue. "I'd say...after you, but since you don't know where my car is...I think I'd better take the lead."
He headed out, waving at the receptionist, who he assumed had since been informed that he was a VIP to Wu's building. He was right, as she smiled brightly at him as he passed. The automatic doors slid open, and he slowed his paced a little bit, heading for the black Camaro. Upon arriving, he opened the shotgun side door for Rue.
Rue chuckled darkly. "You're rather lucky to have parents that were so insistent...my father..."
Her voice trailed off as she followed Mark. His car was nice....a black Camaro. She liked it, Rue wasn't normally a car gal, but she had to admit, the car was nice. "Oh..."
She was surprised as he opened the door for her. Rue looked to Mark, her heterochromatic eyes locking onto his before she slid into the car. "Thank you, Mark."
Mark smiled. "Of course."
He shut the door, walked around the back of the car, and hopped in the driver's seat. "All right. I know you were blindfolded the last time you came to the Manor, for security reasons. Heh, just wanted to apologize for that. Anyway, it's going to be a bit of a ride. Maybe ten minutes or so. In the meantime, if you want to ask me anything, I am your open book."
Tradition, for him. Each Ravenglass Boys he had back to his house he made of point of getting to know well, and the best way to start conversation was to have them ask questions.
Rue tilted her head to the side. "You're not going to blindfold me this time?"
She asked him in a ponderous tone, but no need to press the matter. At least she'd know where it was now, not that that mattered either. "Well...have you ever killed anyone?"
Rue asked, starting off the conversation with a strange question. At least her stuttering was gone...for now.
Mark had heard that one before, once or twice. "Not yet, although a year or so back I broke a guy's spine when he attacked Wu at my house. Nobody died, but the guy is still in intensive care. The police ruled it an accident. Wu is pretty influential, after all. Nice question."
Rue stayed long and silent after his response to her question, for a good minute or so. "I haven't either... unless you count the time where I..."
Rue stopped. She couldn't tell Markus that. "I don't want to, but if I have to, I will...Are your parents still alive?"
"Yeah...but they're retired. They moved back to China a while back. I think my dad might have even got reinstated as a Shaolin Monk. Those were his best days...and now they are again."
Mark fell silent, then, reminiscing. "Yeah, my folks are still going strong."
He wanted to ask her about hers, but her family was a touchy subject, so he sensed.
Rue smiled as she looked out the window. "That's good...that's how it ought to be, right? I would say the same of my family, but my mother left early on in my childhood."
Rue said as she propped her arm up on the sill of the window, resting her face against her hand. "I sometimes wonder if I'd be here if she hadn't left."
Rue said, speaking more to herself than Mark. "Maybe I would've graduated high school at the top of my class and gone on to college... Have you ever been to Thailand?"
Rue asked Mark.
Mark laughed outright, then. "Ha! A better question would be where I haven't been. I traveled a lot during college, and my dad took me all over the place for business meetings."
He nodded. "But yeah, I've been to Thailand, once."
She smiled wide at his response; Rue could feel herself coming to ease. "I stayed in Thailand for three years; there I learned Muay Thai. How was it, traveling with him?"
Rue asked him, turning in her seat to face him- more eager to talk to him more than she would with any other person.
Mark made a sort of an 'eh' face. "It wasn't terrible, but we didn't really spend too much time together, aside from the meetings. They were business trips, after all. I mostly just explored the cities and looked around when I wasn't sitting in on negotiations."
The Camaro pulled up to a park, then, one that was blocked off with a tall wrought iron fence, with spikes on the top. "One minute..." He said, fishing around in his pockets. He pulled out an iPhone, and hit a number on speed dial. A few seconds later..."Hey, Hal. I'm back."
Hal responded with "All right, boss. Give us a minute, please."
Mark nodded easily. "Of course."
Mark pulled away from the park, driving around the nearby houses for a little bit. "Sorry for this, but anonymity is important here."
Rue looked away from him to give him some privacy while he spoke to someone named 'Hal'. But of course, Rue listened on. She always listened. In the meantime, she admired the wrought iron fence. Tastefully designed. "Oh, that's quite okay..."
Her voice trailed off as she gazed at the nearby houses. "It would have to be in order to maintain your visage, no?"
It was more of a statement than a question.
Mark headed back toward the park as Hal finally spoke again.
"All clear, sir. Gate's opening."
True to the word, the gate slid sideways on magnetic tracks, and Mark drove into the large glade. As he did for everyone, he gradually slowed down, allowing them to relax in the peaceful place. "Almost there,"
Rue fell quiet as she looked out the window, watching the scenery pass by. She seemed to be lost in the surrounding forest. This place was beautiful- the woodsy road-drive seemed to just mesmerize her. There was one thing she noticed...her heart rate. It had slowed down considerably, and with each beat it echoed throughout her body. The beat itself drained her. What was this? Was it that she had finally relaxed?
." Rue said simply as she looked up through the tree branches, the sunlight breaking through the leaves.
"It's...this is beautiful, Mark."
Rue said quietly as she settled back into her seat, in a strange sense, Rue felt devoid of all emotions as she gazed out the window. She had felt like this only once before...that was in Thailand as she entered a temple. The beauty of the temple just stunned her, left her wordless and feeling breathless.
"I suppose many people who aren't blindfolded say the same thing when they first come here."
Rue asked Mark, not bothering to look at him. What was she doing? She was in a car with a strange man, very handsome at that, and he wanted to have tea with her. This was out of Rue's norm, she didn't do these kinds of things with men. Hell she didn't do anything with men, nor women at that. Rue had no friends, so this bothered her. Should she be on her guard around Markus? What if he was like Rick? Rue glanced at him through her peripherals. He didn't seem like the type...No, she didn't get that vibe from him.
Mark grinned. "Welcome to my humble abode."
He pulled the car into a small, well-disguised parking lot, about a quarter-mile into the forest. "Yeah...a lot of people like this place. Even Rick took a bit of a chill when he came here. Grandpa Wu enjoys his walks here. Everyone who's been here has been positive about it, really. Myself and my father before went to a lot of trouble to make this place extremely private. It doesn't even show up on Google Maps. I can't tell you how expensive that was."
He went silent for a second. "It was expensive."
He smiled again, and hopped out of the car, heading around the front, and opening Rue's door. "After you," he said kindly. A gentleman to a T.
He fell silent as he headed for the Manor. He loved simply enjoying the world around him. He felt as if all his mild stress from the meeting was draining away. He set a leisurely pace, relaxed and easy. He liked this woman, and wanted her to sort of feel how he lived. So many of the more recent inductions felt that the Ravenglass Boys were nothing but a gang- just drinking, betting, gambling, and being bastards to everyone. Oh, they had shown their allegiance, sure enough, but they didn't really grasp that the Boys were less a group, and more a way of life. Mark liked to bring newer recruits here, and see their reactions. This place brought out the true nature of a person.
"Ah. Here we are."
The Manor came into view through the trees, majestic and beautiful. A canopy of trees covered the entire thing, with huge oak and redwood trees covering the whole thing, casting dappled sunlight in stunning waves over the earth. "Don't ask me how, but these trees have been here since before Christopher Columbus came to America. The house's frame is made of the couple trees that the builder cut down from the forest. It's all from here."
they reached the door of the grandiose Mansion, and instead of knocking on the huge doors, he went slightly to the side, and opened a completely normal door, holding it open for Rue.
He raised his voice. "Lesley! I'm back! Got some company!"
He looked back at Rue. "Lesley is my secretary slash housekeeper. She's also a good friend of mine. Don't worry, she doesn't bite."
He stood there, as he stripped off his jacket, and hung it on the coat rack, all without letting go of the door.
What could Rue say? Mark was a gentleman. She wondered how his parents must have raised him. Then again, he did say that his father was a Shaolin Monk. She stepped out of the car and nodded her thanks. Following him up to the house, or rather grand mansion, Rue didn't know what to think. Money...and lots of it, that's for sure. The Manor seemed to be pulled right out of a Chinese dream. The forest canopy allowed enough light through, but it was rather nice, pleasant and cool from the sun; not that it was hot out in San Francisco at this time of year.
Rue said breathlessly as they approached the front door. The doors themselves were at least ten feet tall, but he made his way to a smaller, more normal looking door. Once again, Mark was a gentleman he opened the door for her as he began to remove his shoes and coat, as he still held the door open for her. Rue blushed as she took her shoes off first before stepping into the house.
"Are those doors nonfunctional?"
Rue asked him as she wiggled her toes in her socks. Her dirty Chuck's looked so out of place as they sat next to Mark's shoes. So he had a house keeper? Rue wondered if she was more than that...she doubted it, choosing to go with the vibes she was reading from Mark. He didn't seem to be that kind of man.
"No, they're functional, but they're more for official business meetings, and stuff like it. They're more to impress than to be used often, because they are REALLY heavy."
Mark closed the door softly, and headed into the house. Through the parlor, first, with magnificent banners of Chinese symbols, and a black marble fireplace.
Rue fell silent, as she was busy observing the interior of the house. To herself she thought, This must have cost a fortune...
The lights were dimmed in this room, and a stick of soothing incense was burning above the hearth. Then he passed into the kitchen, which, although still color with the more tranquil colors, was far more modern and angular. It was there that Mark found Lesley, sitting on a stool. She was playing some kind of game on her laptop, one that looked quite intense, so he waited for a few minutes, before finally tapping her on the shoulder. She jumped, and turned to face him. He tilted his head little, observing. "Les...we have a guest. Say hello to Rue."
He motioned behind him.
Lesley hopped off the stool, and stood in front of Rue. "Hey, there. Nice to meet you! I'd shake your hand, but, you know, lotion and all."
Mark rolled his eyes, in mock distress.
As they passed through the kitchen, Rue smelled the incense. She actually loved incense, and enjoyed burning it in her shop. That's where she saw Leslie. As Leslie got off her stool and explained her situation to Rue, about her lotioned hands, Rue suddenly felt her anxiety rise. Leslie was a person she didn't know. "Oh...ah...A p-p-pleasure to m-m-m-m-meet you, Lesley."
Rue bowed her head to Leslie, sharply, and could feel her limbs begin to tremble again.
Mark could see Rue was getting a bit nervous. "Les, think you could maybe throw on the tea kettle, maybe make us something to eat?"
Lesley tapped her chin. "Yes to the tea, no to the food...we don't really have too much here, right now. I have to run to the store tonight."
Mark shrugged. "Close enough. Come on, Rue. We're going to go to my studio."
Off he went, heading deeper and deeper into the Mansion. Most of the doors were closed, since Lesley didn't like having doors open while home alone, but that didn't matter. Mark headed up the quarter-spiral staircase that snaked up the corner of the back entry hall, moving for the second floor. The last door on the left. He flung it open, and walked inside the room, which, again, had a tranquil lighting and a few oriental furnishings, although not quite as much as the rest of the house. Floor-to-ceiling windows lined the back wall, and a large martial arts mat space took up the back of the room. The rest of the room had all the various past-times Mark entertained himself with: a canvas, a desk with a great many shelves, books and journals, a rack holding a violin, a guitar, and an Erhu, more commonly known as a Chinese Violin. A piano sat off to the side, one of the electric kinds, and a sturdy, mostly clear table sat against one wall. There were many other things, as well, but Mark moved for the table, pulled out a chair for Rue, and sat in another. "I feel a bit arrogant every time I show someone my home. There's so much to it, I feel like I'm just flaunting it all."
Before sitting down, Rue moved to the piano struck a key. The sound echoed aloud in the room. She bit her lip, and moved to join Mark at the table. As she took her seat Rue gave her thanks to Mark. "Thank you Mark...T-to be quite honest with you, n-no one... has ever treated me so...so...nicely. I've always... been... shunned from s-society."
Rue struggled to say as she tried to override her stuttering. Her jaw muscles began to tighten up. "But...to me...you are not a rooster...so...so there is n-n-no need to fuh-fuh-feel so arrogant."
Rue finished speaking, rubbing the side of her jaw tenderly, trying to loosen up the muscles. With that, Rue gazed about the room in wonder and admiration at Mark's study. She loved ascending the spiral staircase up here. Perhaps that was a personal fascination with her, stairs.
"Well, I'm glad to hear that you think so highly of me."
Then her words clicked. "Wait, why were you-"
He took a deep breath. Tactics. "Would you mind telling me? About why you were shunned?"
Rue's eyes shot to Mark's in surprise. He just asked a serious question. Then, a slow, sad smile spread across her face as she recalled her childhood. "It all started with my mother...she cheated on my father with our neighbor, Mr. Lee. He caught her in the act."
Rue stopped speaking as she stared at her hands, unclenching and clenching repeatedly. "My mother left my father, leaving him to raise me all alone." Rue turned her face away from her hands to gaze out the windows, "He....didn't...he couldn't handle me, and...We were poor."
Stopping mid-speech, Rue re-directed herself. "We were very poor. My father lost his job and became a drunkard."
"As he spent the last cent to our name, we were evicted from our apartment, making us homeless. My classmates teased me, tortured and beat me because I was poor."
Rue bit her lip as her eyes began to sting with tears. "All the way up through my junior year in high school I was bullied. I cut my hair short, dropped out and moved in with my Aunt. She was more traditional than my father, and couldn't handle me looking like a boy. But...she coped with it..."
A single tear rolled down Rue's face. She left it there as she struggled to keep the shame inside. "...I've never told anyone this before..."
Rue said as she looked up at Mark. Her violet and brown eyes looking at him with shock.
Mark was passive as her story poured out. He waited until he was sure she was finished, and then reached out, and took her hand in both of his. It was a friendly touch, like one a friend uses to comfort another. "I can't really say that I know how you feel. Sadly. I-"
He was interrupted a Lesley entered the room, bearing the tea. She deposited it on the table, glanced at the two of them holding hands, and moved to leave. Mark suddenly realized that she was wearing her "at-home outfit", a large T-shirt, without too much else. He sighed. "Les, come on we have company. Can you get some proper clothes on?"
She shrugged, and nodded to him, and left.
Mark continued, "As I was saying. Lesley is similar to you, in that she's had lot of hardship. She tried to rob me, once, on the street. She's younger than you, maybe eighteen or nineteen, and her college fund unexpectedly ran out, when her stepfather came into the picture. Her dad died a while ago, see. She got thrown out, even though her mother apparently 'loved' her. I was taught by my dad to be kind to all people, and I saw in her the same kind of hidden fortitude I- so then, I took her under my wing. She's just starting college, near here, but she's on break right now, so she lives here at the Manor, and helps with my day to day troubles."
He stopped. "Where do you live, now?"
Rue almost pulled her hand away from Mark's, but she realized that he meant nothing ill of it, so she let it be. As Leslie came in the room to deliver them their tea, Rue nodded at her, displaying her thanks. As Mark continued on, Rue was rather surprised to hear about Lesley. She didn't pick up anything like that when she had met her. "Now? I live in an apartment above my store. It's nothing special...why do you ask?"
Rue wondered why it was relevant.
"No reason in particular. I just have a habit of letting people stay here, when they're in need, especially if they're from the Ravenglass Boys. A lot of them stick around here for a while, after induction, because they don't have anywhere else to go."
He released her hand, and picked up the teapot. "I don't know how, but Les makes some of the best tea I've ever tasted."
Pouring two mugs, he handed one to Rue, and picked up his, and took a sip. Damn good stuff. [COLOR="#00FF00"]"I guess I invited you here because you are quite the intriguing individual. You seem quite nice, but I get a feeling of lethality from you, like you could break someone's back without even trying. I get interested in this kind of sense. Plus, you seemed a bit uncomfortable with everyone else."/COLOR]
Said Rue, as Mark explained his interest to her. She raised the mug to her mouth and took a cautionary sip. "Oh! What kind of tea is this?"
Rue asked Mark as she set her mug down, curling her hand around it. She did have to admit that she quite liked the tea. "Well, I guess you could say that I am lethal..."
With that Rue smiled, as she elaborated, "I own a gun...It's a .600 Nitro Express Magnum..."
Rue said as she took another sip of tea. "It goes off with a bang; I've only used it at the practice range. I also pratice Parkour, which is free-running...and asides from the Muay Thai...I'm not very deadly."
Here she chuckled to herself. "I don't know why people think I'm so dangerous...I've heard that before several times. Perhaps it's the sole fact that many are not sure if I'm a woman or a man."
She shrugged and then stared into her mug.
"Why is that? The whole gender mix-up, I mean. It seems like you're trying to hide something."
He smiled. "You don't have to tell me, if you're uncomfortable. Oh, and the tea...is..."
He took another sip. "Asian Pear, I think. White Tea. Good, good stuff."
Rue groaned and then laughed, "I...I hate...my chest..."
Rue said simply and then continued with, "I feel that I do not need to own up to any particular gender. I feel more masculine than I do feminine."
Her face colored darkly as she explained to Mark.
Mark laughed in return. "Well, I find you highly attractive. I can understand, though, if you don't like your looks. I could tell you so many stories about 'problems' like yours."
He took another sip. "I've heard of Parkour before, but I never really looked into it, too much. Didn't have the time. Is it fun?"
Her jaw fell open, as Mark told her that he found her very attractive. Immediately, her jaw muscles began to tighten, snapping closed her agape mouth. She fought vehemently with herself as she tried to open her mouth again to answer his question. This was always catching her off guard, every time someone said something that surprised her, made her embarrassed or hurt her, Rue's muscles, out of anxiety, would tighten.
She tried to take a sip of tea, but managed only to drool on herself. Grunting in annoyance, Rue stood up and wiped the back of her hand across her mouth. She couldn't do this. Walking across the room, she swung her arms, working out the stress. She made her way back across the floor, and sat back down. "Sorry about that...Parkour is very fun. I quite like it. I started practicing it when I went out for a jog and found out that I enjoyed jumping and climbing across things while maintaining a run."
Rue finally answered his question. "Perhaps I could show you, or teach you?"
She offered him.
Mark gave no reaction to Rue's bit of trouble. A lot of the members were similarly affected by his observations at one time or another. "I'd like that. It sounds like it would be useful, and entertaining. So what's first?"
He drained the rest of his tea.
Rue tilted her head to the side, "Oh? Do you mean you wish to do it now?"
She asked, making sure she understood him.
"Why not? I could show you the house, but that would take a while. I'd rather you show me a bit of the ropes. There's this close grove of trees nearby, out the back door. It probably would be perfect."
He stood, picked up the tray, and opened the door. As was his custom, he held it open for Rue, and then took the platter down to Lesley, now wearing appropriate clothes. He didn't really care what she wore, most of the time, since she was just reveling in finally have the ability to dress how she liked, rather than in rags, but he did insist when company was over.
"Think you could clean these, Les? If you don't want to, I'll clean it when I come back."
She waved an affirmative to him, so he thanked her, and led Rue to the grove. Just enough sunlight filtered through the leaves to make the place look magical, and the multi-tiered grass was cut short around the trunks. The branches all inter-weaved and tangled, perfect for climbing. "Think this'll work?"
As Rue stepped into the grove, she looked to him and smiled brightly. "Of course. Now then, keep pace with me. Try not to overthink things. Go with the flow. We'll go into a jog and get jumping under control."
Rue said as she touched her toes and did a bit more stretching, before suddenly bolting off into a jog. She was quick, weaving in and out of the trees. A tree limb came into view as she jogged. She reached out with one hand, grabbed it, and used it to launch herself forward. Her feet hit the ground with ease as she kept the pace, looking back over her shoulder to Mark.
Mark prided himself on being good at running, but Rue was a fantastic athlete. He set off at a steady pace, and leapt into the air, swinging himself high into the air with the branch. He had been classically trained as a gymnast, long ago, and his flexibility and skill still stuck with him to the day.
"There you go! Now keep up!"
She called out to Mark. Rue sprang over some tree roots that were gently raised up. She never missed a beat as she moved. Rue spotted a tree full of thick branches, thick enough to climb. She grasped one branch and hoisted herself up. She quickly skittered up the tree like some kind of squirrel. Rue ascended several branches, leaping and swinging from the branches. Her attire seemed almost strange for her to wear for exercise, but she did anyways.
Then, Rue dropped to the ground; when she hit, Rue let her body roll with ease before springing back up again. "How are you feeling?"
She called out to Mark as she looked back at him.
Mark managed to keep pace, but only just. He also managed to stay graceful, but again, only just. As he followed Rue, his mind began to present several different methods for following her. These trees were close enough, and old enough, that they could be traversed across. He'd simply never noticed. As she dropped, he leapt to another, fairly low branch, and swung down, lightly touching the ground a little bit behind Rue.
"Feel fantastic! It's been a while since I've done something like this."
Then he realized that he was breathing heavily. He did work out, and regularly, too, but this was working a brand new set of muscles. "Although...I'd love to keep going, but this is all new to me. I'm feeling pretty beat."
Sure, it had only been five minutes, but it had been five minutes of intensive climbing and running, through the trees. He wasn't used to it. "Let's go back to the house. I have a question, but I need some water."
He began the trek back toward the house, and getting back took longer than leaving, especially as Mark debated his next move. They were walking, now, of course- that slowed them as well. He opened the door for her, headed for the refrigerator, and pulled a glass from the adjacent cupboard. Filling it, he drained it in seconds, and then looked at Rue.
"Here's the deal. I've been asked to go to Rick's grand opening tonight, as well. Would you care to be my date for the night? Women tend to bother me about all sorts of things. Either I'm the strangely drawing Hippie guy or the poor man alone...it gets difficult to manage."
He filled his glass again when he finished.
Rue followed him back to the house. Once inside, he made a proposition- one that caused Rue to gaze at him in horror. Her jaw fell open again. She took a deep breath in, that sounded rather strained, as if she couldn't breathe. Rue gripped the edge counter and look on it at him. What was she to say? Continuing to stare on, Rue realized that she couldn't find any words to answer his question. She was indeed speechless. Finally finding her manners, Rue managed to close her mouth.
"I....I would...love to...Mark."
Her voice came out as a whisper.
A sympathetic smile touched Mark's face. "I'm happy to hear it. You know...I'm not going to bite you. But...I'm glad you'll give me a chance."
He drained the second glass, and looked at the clock on the stove. "Looks like we're out of time. I have to do a few things here, so how about I take you home now?"
Rue tilted her head to the side and then nodded, "Of course...but you don't have to drive me to my home. You could just take me back to Wu's building. I could always walk back...it would save you gas."
Rue suggested, suddenly wishing she hadn't said anything to him. Then she added, rather quietly, "I've never had a date to any sort of event..."
"I've had a few, but they've always been set up. I've never asked anyone before. And don't worry; it would be my pleasure to take you home. You'd just have to tell me where to go. Lesley! We're going now. I'll be back soon."
He headed to the front door, and this time, he pulled open on of the big doors, grunting with effort. "It definitely weighs a ton."
He stood there, and asked "Think you could grab my jacket? I'm kind of stuck here."
Rue looked to Mark and nodded meekly. She grabbed his jacket from where he had hung it. "I appreciate this, Mark...you didn't have to do any of this...Here's the jacket."
She looked to the doors in awe, her arms dropping to her sides as she looked out from the house to outside world...how...beautiful.
"I suppose I don't, but that wouldn't be very chivalrous of me, now would it?"
He took the jacket, slipped it on, and motioned for Rue to step out, released the door, and headed for the car. As he opened Rue's car door, he joked, "Just don't get a princess perspective."
Rue slipped into the car; a princess perspective huh? "I'll try not to...as long as you..."
She stopped and the shook her head, "If you want to take me home, I live downtown in Chinatown."
Rue said as she buckled herself in, feeling oddly happy and rather relaxed.
Mark smiled, and hopped into the car. He texted Hal, getting the 'ok' to leave, and then left the Grounds. Homeward bound.
Mark pulled up to Rue's store. "I'll stop by at, I don’t know, seven?"
He smiled, one last time, and went to get out of the car to open it for her.
The street was filled with noise from the neighboring stores: people shouting in Chinese, chickens clucking, children crying, noise, noise noise! Rue got out of the car and nodded at Mark, "I'll try to look decent..."
She said with a sheepish grin before running up to her store, the lights were off and a few delinquents were hanging around the store front, waiting for her to open the store. Rue turned and waved to Mark, "I'll see you at 7!"
With that she disappeared inside.
"See you at seven."
He repeated, and drove off, back to the Manor. What an interesting day. He hadn't expected things to go the way they did, but he was satisfied with the result. Tonight was going to be very interesting. Rue was quite the interesting individual.