RP: From Russia with Luck

There were so few nice neighborhoods in St Canard but this was one of them. Row upon row of pristine, elegant homes with manicured lawns. Nothing too showy mind you, just sophisticated. Showy and gaudy belonged elsewhere thank you very much, so when one Saturday in the late afternoon a bright green blur practically broke the sound barrier as it tore down the street... it was safe to say people noticed. Noticed, and disapproved.

The sports car screamed through the avenues as if running a time trial on a race track. Hair pin turns, drifting, and even controlled slides left skid marks on countless corners. People were getting upset, peering after the car trying to determine its destination so that they could put angry letters into their mailbox later.

They didn’t have to wait long as the vehicle pulled off a tight 180 degree turn and it’s driver side tires stopped a quarter of an inch away from the curb infront of one of the classier homes. The rumbling engine was silenced and the scissor door ascended like a vulgar salute, clearly a blatant assault to every nosey neighbor’s refined taste.

The goose that got out of the car was no better.

Gladstone, bouquet of flowers in hand, double checked the address Lilly had provided against the one on the mailbox. Welp, this was it and look, he could be helpful and bring the mail in with him too. He plucked the letters from the mailbox and completely ignored the walkway to stride across the lawn instead. From behind large mirrored sunglasses he looked the house over, nice place. Nice place for a nice girl, it made sense.

He reached the front door and with a smile of great anticipation he rang the doorbell. As the chime announced him he leaned slightly against the doorframe. He was practically a portrait of casual confidence. He had a really good feeling about this.

    • Lilly Teal
      Lilly Teal

      The door opened, though what lay beyond it was not Lilly's happy face, but rather a torso that, if torsos could show emotion, was less than pleased.

      The doorway was full of man.

      The large, well-dressed ibex looked down on the visitor, seeng himself doubly reflected in the massive mirrored sunglasses, and raised a carefully polite eyebrow.

      "Can I help you?" Potentially far, far away from my personal space? A glance took in what was beyond the glasses now. The self assured stance. The suit. The loud, gaudy car.

      The flowers.

      Matthew smiled, the picture of polite helpfulness, but his eyes had a distinct hardness to them. It was a complicated expression, not because it was annoyed in its soul over the noise of the car, which it was, but because it wasn't your usual 'I will write a stern letter about this' annoyance.

      That is to say, not the usual annoyance of the people that tended to live here.

      It was hard to read because it was out of its natural context, but if you tried hard, a rough translation of it might be 'Make an entrance like that again and you, your car, and a lot of concrete with be making a first-hand inspection of the bottom of Audobon Bay.'

      • Gladstone Gander
        Gladstone Gander

        Gladstone, well, he hadn't expected this.  The smile on his face remained, but it was just the same basic shape, the feeling had drained out of it.  He blinked and leaned back slightly, reading the house number again. A pale blue bubble sprouted from his bill and snapped loudly as it popped, leaving a waft of spearmint in it's wake before he returned his attention to the imposing figure. 

        "Uh, does Lilly live here?" It seemed unlikely that anyone else could fill this house, that's how massive this polite yet hostile presence was.  And was it just him or had the flowers wilted slightly under that scrutinizing gaze? His body seemed to revert to some kind of primal self preservation tactic and unbeknownst to his brain he stood up straight. 

        • Lilly Teal
          Lilly Teal

          "She does."

          The very rude 'what's it to you?' was swallowed down firmly in favour of a more polite and yet still very hostile, "I take it you're the friend she's expecting.

          Though l must say I wish it was otherwise.  Making you disappear would be so inconvenient.

          Bubble gum. Bubble gum.

          He forced down the urge to shake him by the scruff of the neck until he spit it out or swallowed it. Or ideally, choked on it.

          "Oh, but where are my manners. I am Mister Halden," we'll keep it at that. Wouldn't want you to get friendly. "Lilly's uncle. "Won't you come inside?"

          He'd give him space to come inside, being very sure to loom behind him as he shut the door with a terrifyingly final 'click'.

          • Gladstone Gander
            Gladstone Gander

            "Oh, oh. Sorry, she didn't mention-" Anything? At all? About herself?  Ever? He shook his head lightly and was about to push his sunglasses up on top of his head when he remembered he had a hand full of their mail. He offered it to Matthew. "Your uh... mailbox was..."  What had he thought about having a good feeling about this?  Where did that go?  He realized he'd been invited in without the hand off of the mail and as he squeezed around the ibex he  tried to rearrange the flowers and the letters to have a free hand. A few envelopes snowed to the ground in the process. He extended the hand seemingly oblivious to the fallen letters. "Gladstone Gander I'm, well yeah I'm Lilly's-" a pause, a very thoughtful probably unsettling pause. "-friend. Nice to meet you Mr. Holding."

            Wrong. So wrong.

            • Lilly Teal
              Lilly Teal

              Oh he did not like that pause. Even less did he like the wrong name, and the letters on his carpet.

              Matthew took his hand and gave it a shake. What was very important was that he didn't try to crush it. That was for amateurs. He gave the hand a very firm, polite shake, that made it clear that crushing could be easily done, should the recipient try to push things.

              "A pleasure, Mister Gander." The letters had suddenly disappeared from Gladstone's other hand, and Matthew flicked his eyes over them with only slight interest. "Lilly has spoken such a lot about you."

              Setting the letters down on a side table, he led, or rather herded, the gander into the sitting area.

              "Have a seat, she's just getting ready. Yes, it seems you have quite a knack for getting her into trouble. And out of it, but you can understand why that point isn't quite as concerning as the former."

              • Gladstone Gander
                Gladstone Gander

                It was a relief to have a free hand, and of course he returned the handshake. A power struggle of crushing grips hadn't even occurred to him. It was just a nice firm shake.  Once the "pleasantries" were done that free hand did take the glasses off his face and tuck them into his breast pocket. 

                "This is a beautiful hou-" he was cut off by the sudden admission of Lilly mentioning him.  Oh crap.  He was herded rather easily, feeling completely and totally off kilter.  He sat obediently and gripped the flowers as if they were a shield. He forced an extremely unconvincing grin. "I wouldn't call it a 'knack' exactly?  Things just... uh.  They-" he cleared his throat, trying to scrape together a modicum of the bravado he broadcasted not even five minutes ago. How much exactly did he know? Lilly, a heads up of ANY kind would have been fan-flipping-tastic. "I can't take responsibility for the circumstances that lead to the... messiness. However we do seem to keep getting each other out of trouble quite frequently." He admitted finally in an even tone. "It's never planned it just, seems to happen that way. I owe her a lot really, she's very brave our Lilly." 

                 

                Our Lilly. 

                • Lilly Teal
                  Lilly Teal

                  His eyebrows almost seemed to disappear into his hair, and it he was radiating disapproval before, it was nothing compared to what he was radiating now.

                  There was a very long, very uncomfortable, very awkward silence, as his gaze drilled holes into Gladstone's head. And then suddenly, Matthew allowed it to break, settling back in his own seat with a laugh. "I'm glad to hear it. And I appreciate your attempt to compliment the house before I cut you off."

                  Maybe it was the raw terror that he approved of, or maybe the fact that Gladstone seemed less obnoxious with all the wind knocked out of him than he had first looked, but Matthew softened. A little. At least he wasn't actively trying to terrorise him.

                  But don't call her our Lilly, if you want to keep your fingers.

                  • Gladstone Gander
                    Gladstone Gander

                    Gladstone very clearly had no idea what caused the skull piercing stare. But he refused to let that tiny little spark of panache get snuffed out this time. He held eye contact with the glare as long as he could but wound up folding out of the pure awkwardness of it all. He glanced around trying to distract himself until Matthew laughed. His eyebrows knotted at the sound and he looked at him suspiciously out of the corner of his eye.

                    He was expecting something menacing and vague after that glare, certainly not what actually issued from Matthew’s mouth. This just confused him more but he’d take it.

                    “Oh, no problem. So, you’re Lilly’s Uncle?” Obviously, he’d said as much. “Are her parents still in England?”

                     

                    • Lilly Teal
                      Lilly Teal

                      He was indeed her uncle. Though, not to be rude, there really wasn't any family resemblance at all? At all. Completely different species, to say the least.

                      "Ah."

                      I'm not sure if I should be the one to tell you?

                      "I'm afraid not. Her parents are... no longer with us. We lost them a few years ago, and it's been the two of us since then."

                      Luckily Matthew didn't feel inclined to make the situation any more awkward than Gladstone had already made it himself. His response was calm and measured, and he turned his head slightly, both to give Gladstone a moment's respite from the interrogatory atmosphere, and to look towards stairs where hurried 'oh my God I can hear people downstairs and I'm still not ready' sounds had started.

                      "So do excuse my... lack of enthusiasm for these adventures."

                      That's a nice way of saying he wanted to bury him in the woods.

                      "But I suppose that can't be helped in St. Canard in any case. We'r down here, princess!"

                      "I'm coming! I'm sorry!"

                      • Gladstone Gander
                        Gladstone Gander

                        Gladstone closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his bill with a careful, even breath. There was no external indication of any of the emotions that pummeled him at this information. It was as if he’d curated this calm demeanor for years, deploying it meticulously when needed. It was his turn to lapse into silence. After a long moment he returned his eyes to Matthew, it was a guarded look. Guarded like the crown jewels during peak tourist season.

                        “I’m very sorry for your loss.”

                        When Matthew further underlined his displeasure the goose just sat back in his chair. It was almost as if he’d checked out mentally. He absent mindedly picked dead petals off the flowers and they fell lazily to the floor. ‘Lack of enthusiasm’? The fires of indignation stoked in his stomach and he shifted his weight forward to lean closer to the ibex seriously.

                        “I will keep her safe.” He poked the arm of the chair with an angry finger. “You can bet on that.”

                        If I don’t I’ll help you dig the hole.

                        What was that sound? It took him a second to register Lilly’s voice through the tension. The sound of her voice caused a noticeable shift in the drake. The dial tabled :defensive, was cranked down, another marked: anxious excitement was slid up to the max.

                        Lilly, please come save me from your Uncle and my terrible conversation tactics! Another spearmint bubble bloomed and burst in anticipation.

                        • Lilly Teal
                          Lilly Teal

                          Fear not, citizen! The Tension Defuser is here!

                          Lilly appeared at the top of the stairs. It wasn't a very striking picture, she wasn't in a glittering dress like the gala, or a the club. Her hair wasn't anything elaborate, nor was there any elegant jewelry. In fact, she looked rather comfortable, if nice, something like their first encounter at the shop. Nothing too impressive.

                          Well, let's be fair. It was striking in its own way. Because she wasn't playing a part on stage, or being a polite shop owner to a customer, or worried about being pulled into a party she didn't belong.

                          She was happy, excited even. She shone with it, the entire map of her emotions open for the world to read. Matthew took one look, and closed his eyes for a moment.

                          Oh princess. What am I going to do with you?

                          He opened them again with a warm smile. The hard, hostile attitude was gone, as if it couldn't even exist when she was around.

                          "I'm here!" she hurried down the stairs, lighting up the whole house with her beam, and threw herself on her uncle to kiss his cheek. "I'm sorry to keep you both waiting. You haven't been mean to Gladstone, have you?"

                          "Me?" Perish the thought.

                          And then the smile was turned on Gladstone. "You're here!" Yay!

                          • Gladstone Gander
                            Gladstone Gander

                            The moment she came into view Gladstone got to his feet. All discomfort was forgotten the instant he laid eyes on her and unknowingly he grinned. As much as he admired fashion and fashionable people there was something incredibly alluring about a comfortably dressed woman. This was her, Lilly in her natural state and he’d almost forgotten how she looked outside of the glitz and glamour. Beautiful, and oh that smile. Whatever irritation he had felt with her with blindsiding him so throughly was evaporated by the rays of that smile. Had anyone ever looked so openly happy to see him before? He couldn’t think of any. And my goodness was he happy to see her.

                            So much so that he didn’t so much bat an eyelash when Matthew became the portrait of innocence. And then it was his turn.

                            “I am!” He felt a little giddy, like he was a kid again . “You look lovely as always,” he offered her the bouquet not taking his eyes off her since the moment she materialized. “For you.”

                             

                             

                            • Lilly Teal
                              Lilly Teal

                              "Aww, they're beautiful!"

                              If Donald picked out a bouquet, it might have had some wilting edges, or it would turn out that the filler plants were half dead, or that Daisy was allergic somehow to something he had chosen. Not so with Gladstone. The bouquet was just perfect for her tastes, not too large, not too small, not too plain, not to fancy.

                              Lucky pick, huh? Taking them, she excused herself for the briefest moment to find some water to put them in. She seemed subconsciously to be working fast so that the boys wouldn't have to be left alone together again, though she was sure they had gotten along, of course they would get along, Gladstone was so lovely and Uncle Matthew was of course the best person in the whole wide world.

                              "There now, oh don't you look smartly dressed?" Of course you do, you always do.

                              She didn't quite hug him, perhaps sensing Uncle Matthew wouldn't be quite comfortable to have it done in front of him, but held Gladstone's hand warmly.

                              "Shall we go? Don't skip dinner while I'm gone, Uncle."

                              "Of course not."

                              • Gladstone Gander
                                Gladstone Gander

                                Gladstone was very pleased although not surpised the flowers went over well. And well yes of course he was dressed well than you for noticing!  

                                 

                                “Yes, Let’s get this show on the road.”  He finally tore his eyes away from her to look at the ibex. “It was nice meeting you.” Nice and scary and intimidating.  Also don’t wait up. 

                                • Lilly Teal
                                  Lilly Teal

                                  "A pleasure, mister Gander." A complete lie told very politely. He shut the door behind them as they headed out.

                                  "Have fun." Not too much fun. Or beyond the limits of decency.

                                  I will find where you live, Gander.

                                  "He seems to like you."

                                  Lilly...

                                  That said, she finally gave him a hug when they got into... good grief was that a car or an illustration out of a science fiction magazine.

                                  "So what's the plan, mister Gander?"

                                  • Gladstone Gander
                                    Gladstone Gander

                                    Once the cardoors shut he attempted to halt her questions with one extended finger.  Once the silence was reached he gripped the steering wheel with both hands and gently bounced his forehead off it a few times.  Stupid stupid stupid.

                                     

                                    ”Lillypad, my dear... can you promise me something?” He slowly sat up straight and smiled at her.  “If I ever go missing and you notice your Uncle building a accent brick wall you’ll check to see if my corpse is behind it?”  Ha ha he’s probably joking right? Right. Now that they were alone, although he could swear he could feel the ibex’s gaze from here, he was starting to get excited.

                                     

                                    ”Right! The plan!  I actually have one! Aren’t you proud of me?  But I’m not going to tell you because it’s a surprise.” He made a “ta da” gesture. “But first things first.  Firstly, I drive fast. But I’ve got a clean record  and used to do it professionally so.. don’t be scared. Just trust me and you’ll be surprised at how much fun it is. Secondly,” he leaned his chin on his fist with a sappy little smile his eyes dancing with delight. “Hello beautiful. Did you miss me?”

                                    • Lilly Teal
                                      Lilly Teal

                                      Secondly. As if confirming that he'd been missed was such a priority over everything else.

                                      ... it might have been, actually.

                                      She giggled a little at his joke about the wall. Oh you, always with that witty sense of humour.

                                      "I'll try not to hold onto your sleeve too hard on the turns in terror, then. Thank you for the warning."

                                      Wait no. Hold on as much as you like.

                                      "And of course I missed you." Beaming, she put her arms around his neck again and gave him a happy squeeze. "Especially if you keep calling me beautiful like that."

                                      And looking at me like I'm something special.

                                      "This is all going to go to my head. You're going to make me so vain," she added. "But I'm mostly just excited to find out what's going to happen. And slightly worried in a good way."

                                      Worried because oh God what's about to happen I don't even know. But I know you'll take care of things, so I can relax a bit on that front.

                                      • Gladstone Gander
                                        Gladstone Gander

                                        This time he returned the hug.

                                        “Oh what a terrible fate for you my dear,” he lamented dramatically. “To not only be stunningly gorgeous but to also know it! The very mountains would crumble at your feet. And it would all be my fault you say? Its a crime I’d be proud to be guilty of.”

                                        Yeah, he missed her too.

                                        “And worried in a good way is a completely acceptable answer. Although I’m sure it will be upgraded to ‘my word Gladstone you handsome devil you’ve outdone yourself this is without a doubt the best date I’ve ever been on’ soon enough. But we’ll put a pin in that.” He stole a quick kiss before releasing her.

                                        “Now, seatbelts! And if you feel like it’s ever to much just let me know, I’ll try to slow down.” Because going slow is such a skill of his.

                                        • Lilly Teal
                                          Lilly Teal

                                          "You're going to try and slow down?" she said in a teasing tone, clicking her seatbelt securely. "I'd like to see that."

                                          When had he ever done anything slowly in the time that she'd known him. Certainly nothing she could rec-

                                          Well there was that time he'd gotten really, really close with that seductive expression and asked if she'd kiss him if he said to. That... felt like it went on for a long while. In a really good way.

                                          Wow okay we're not going to think about that shut up.

                                          "But I'm glad for the offer. I'll let you know!"

                                          I'll be FINE, how fast can it even be?

                                          She was going to grab onto his shoulder practically as soon as the car roared to life, is how fast.

                                          • Gladstone Gander
                                            Gladstone Gander

                                            He let out a little evil laugh under his breath as he slid his sunglasses back on.  And then yes, yes indeed that engine roared.  The car shot off without a second’s hesitation. 

                                            Once again the residents of the neighborhood would be antagonized by such arrogant seemingly wreckless driving.  But in the drivers seat Gladstone was calm, grinning madly, but calm. The car slingshotted around the first bend, leaving identical tire marks in the ones he’d left previously.

                                             

                                            The wheel would be cut hard or tapped slightly to sail around turns at highspeed. There was no time for thinking.  It was driving by pure instinct and if you could get past the absolute blurring speed of it, it was an adrenaline rush and thrill ride all in one. Sooner than should have been possible, they were out of the neighborhood and entering the gridlocked roadways of the city proper, he didn’t slow down an iota.

                                             

                                            “How’s Oz?  Get the club fixed back up yet?”

                                             

                                            Oh and small talk ontop of it all?

                                             

                                            • Lilly Teal
                                              Lilly Teal

                                              At first, all Lilly could manage was a series of squeaking noises as she gripped Gladstone's shoulder with both hands, eyes tightly closed.

                                              Are we dead? Did we die yet? How aren't we dead yet?

                                              Each turn prompted another squeak.

                                              "S-sorry what?" She cracked open an eye, only to shut it again as they seemed to just avoid a two massive trucks side by side. No. Nope. Not doing that. "The club. Oh, yes, it's almost all done nOW!"

                                              That was a very violent turn, actually. Colliding with his shoulder, she tried to right herself. Breathe. Lean back in the seat. Open up the eyes again.

                                              Maybe half.

                                              A third.

                                              Quarter?

                                              Oh. Oh that's actually not so bad. Still terrifying but... weirdly thrilling.

                                              Oh my God. This is sort of. Amazing?

                                              "Oz just thought this was the perfect excuse to give the whole place a fresh coat of paint. So we'll be better than new very soon. If you'd like to come."

                                              • Gladstone Gander
                                                Gladstone Gander

                                                With each squeak and tightened grip on him that nearly maniacal smile grew wider. By the time she was able to form a full sentence he was nearing the peak of Mount joyride. Yes, yes, it is thrilling and feel how fast your heart beats when the turn is made with such easy perfection. What a joy it was to be alive.

                                                “That’s great! Glad to hear it.” And he was. The car weaved in and out of the lanes somehow keeping up speed and blowing through bumper to bumper traffic. “I’d love to go back and hear you sing again. Just curious Squeaker, why don’t you do that all the time? You’re better than most professionals I’ve heard.” There was a beat of silence as if he figured out the answer while speaking. “Is it an Oz thing? He can be very-“ pushy? Nonnegotiable? “-persuasive. How’d you two meet anyway?”

                                                The car came to a stop, not a jolting one, just a nice careful deceleration. They idled at a red light and he tilted his head to inspect her. How was she doing? Hanging in there? Enjoying herself?

                                                It was worth noting that he wasn’t leaving a trail of chaos behind him. No pile ups or crashes for miles marked their route. Horns, yes, but it was St Canard, people honked at rain here. It just seemed that no matter what, there was a space for him to ease the car into to gain an advantage. It was easy to see why he didn’t last long on the professional racing circuit, he was playing with a loaded deck. Which was a shame, it was the only one of the very few jobs he’d ever had that he loved.

                                                “Having fun?”

                                                 

                                                • Lilly Teal
                                                  Lilly Teal

                                                  Just a moment. She needed to reacquaint herself with the air. She held up a hand slightly to put a pause in the conversation, and her chest heaved as she took in big breaths that she hadn't fully realised she needed. Oxygen. Yes. Good. She managed a shaky laugh.

                                                  "Yes. Still a bit terrified, but yes, I am."

                                                  Sorry, you had other questions?

                                                  "Oz and I have been friends since school. And he's been a rather bossy friend all since then. So it's nice to have an option to get away from him every now and again. And I do like the shop."

                                                  And the less I'm up there, the less people recognise me when I'm off the stage.

                                                  "Goodness, my heart." The hand that had been held up was put to her chest to inspect the hammering against her ribs. "This is. Wow. An experience! A good one!"

                                                  • Gladstone Gander
                                                    Gladstone Gander

                                                    “Well I, for the record, very much like your shop as well. And you and Oz go back pretty far then? That’s nice.” Long term friendships were always intriguing to him. He smiled at her as she tried to calm her racing heart. Poor little lamb, this light was going to change soon and then they’d be off again. “How’d you come to own the shop anyway? Your youthful exuberance charm an elderly store owner to pass the torch onto you?”

                                                    The crosswalk before them suddenly caught his attention. His face fell as three penguins hightailed it past the cars front bumper, carrying expensive looking camera equipment in their over burdened arms. His hand shot to the clutch as the predicted fourth member of the party trotted clearly out of breath after his cronies. With a single movement he dropped the car into neutral and revved the engine loudly. The walrus nearly jumped out of his skin and stumbled but righted himself to keep running as he made a rude gesture at them. A few police officers followed suit and because of Tuskernini’s vehicular distraction the officers were able to knock him down into a dog pile on the sidewalk. Gladstone grinned darkly and slammed the car back into drive just as the light blazed green and they zipped off.

                                                    “How’s that for karma huh?” He laughed.

                                                     

                                                    • Lilly Teal
                                                      Lilly Teal

                                                      "Celia knows us from school as well." You remember Celia, don't you? Tall, gorgeous, your eyes nearly popped out of you head when she switched outfits? But that was about all she managed before their attention was caught by the penguins.

                                                      There was a very brief silence as they started off, and then Lilly started giggling helplessly, unable to stop.

                                                      "Oh no," she gasped. "I'm terrible. Did you see his face? And the way they jumped on him?"

                                                      Oxygen was gone again, but only because she just really, really couldn't stop giggling.

                                                      Okay. Okay. Calm. Control.

                                                      Haaaaaa.

                                                      Sorry, what?

                                                      "You asked something about the shop?" she finally managed, touching her aching cheeks in amusement. "You've got it half right. For some reason nobody's been able to keep a shop open there for long and the man before me was trying to get rid of the place. It was mostly just second hand books before, but we added on the coffee and snacks and now we can afford to get new books too!"

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