The crew rolled into Idaho Falls early in the day. Stress was getting the better of a good part of the group, most notably Pisces and Chips, so a nice break from travel would do them all some good. Calico slipped Pixie a dose of the dopadrine and Bliss mixture before heading out with 9-2-5 to get some much needed alone time. Pisces bolted most likely to get her fix of BTLs to try to calm the insanity brewing in her mind. Ghost was itching for a good fight and Nuada and Spydr went along to keep him from doing anything too irrational. That left Chips and Pixie still at the RV with Harley.
“I need a drink. More than one, actually. I need lots of drinks. Fancy hitting up a bar?” Chips offered to Pixie as his paranoia was reaching a peak. Seeing how fidgety and nervous he was, and feeling a bit on edge herself Pixie agreed and set Harley to guard mode at the RV.
Within a few blocks from where they parked Pixie and Chips found a bar that had just opened. It was a pretty simple place, nothing like the clubs Pixie had gone to with Calico. Just a basic bar with some tables set up so groups of people didn’t have to smash together on bar stools at the bar.
“Excuse me, can I get two…” Chips paused as he looked over their selection of beers. “Ugh, um, I guess two of these.” He pointed at something on the AR menu Pixie didn’t recognize but that came as no surprise to her. They sat at a table in the corner and a waitress arrived with their drinks.
“Here you go. You want food?” It was clear English was not her first language. Deciding to try to help out the waitress Pixie asked her if she spoke Sperenthiel.
“Oh yes, I’m much better at Sperenthiel. Thank you! Would you care for some lunch with your drinks?” The waitress asked in Sperenthiel with a slight accent. Chips looked at them both in confusion before Pixie relayed what the waitress had said.
“Oh, um, food doesn’t sound half bad right now I suppose. I’ll just have a soy burger. You get what you like if you want something.” Chips told Pixie.
Pixie looked back at the waitress and ordered them both soy burgers. Turning back to Chips she addressed him. “You know, you don’t have to pay for my stuff. I still have a good amount of money left.”
“I insist. You and your team have really done a great deal for me. Not kicking me out of Cally’s shop, not throwing me out of the RV the first chance you got, getting us all through the border and dealing with anyone that tries to mess with us. I feel I owe you guys a bit for keeping my ass alive.”
“Well, when you put it that way,” Pixie chuckled and picked up the drink in front of her. It was dark and smelled almost like grain. She took a sip and grimaced slightly. It wasn’t nearly as strong as the scotch she and Cobol drank occasionally and the taste wasn’t quite to her liking.
“Not a fan? Guess I should’ve asked what you wanted before ordering you a beer. Next one, whatever you’d like.” Chips said before raising his own drink to his lips and guzzling down nearly half of it. “I’ll need something stronger myself next anyway.”
“I don’t know much about drinks. I’ve only ever had that scotch Cobol drinks, some fancy wine that I think is the same stuff Spydr got at our last stop, and some weird but tasty drinks at clubs.” Pixie said before forcing down another drink. It wasn’t awful, but it couldn’t compare to the flavor, or potency, of the night club cocktails she had grown used to.
A bit of silence came over the two until the waitress arrived with their soy burgers. Pixie thanked her and though the waitress wasn’t the best at English she recognized the thanks Chips gave her as well. That’s when he asked Pixie if she could ask the waitress to get him another drink he pointed out on the AR menu. The waitress nodded, understanding his meaning, and went to grab the drink he requested.
Both of them dug into their food, which although was a soy burger, it still tasted pretty damn good. Between mouthfuls Pixie spoke up, “God, I hope I get the chance to have a real steak someday.”
“Real steak? That’s quite a treat that is. Whenever I used to get paid for big jobs I’d reward myself with one. Worth every nuyen.” Chips said before taking another swig of his drink, finishing it off just in time for the waitress to come back with his next one.
“And would you like anything else?” The waitress turned and asked Pixie. Eyeing the drink she had in front of her and how much was left of it she decided to tell the waitress she would order one of what Chips had gotten after this drink was finished. The waitress nodded and smiled before leaving them alone again.
Pixie gulped down some more of her drink before digging back into the rest of her burger. Chips finished up as Pixie nibbled on the last bit of her meal, too full to finish the whole thing.
“Well, that was surprisingly good,” Chips said as he wiped his face with a napkin. Taking his drink in his hand he tried to strike up more conversation after setting out a small white noise generator. “So, other than this running for our lives business, what do you do in your spare time?”
Pixie downed more than half of what she left in her drink before answering. “Um, well, I like to tinker with things sometimes. I watch trideos with Cally. I went skydiving one time on my birthday last month. I learned to play chess yesterday!” Pixie said the last part with forced excitement before finishing the rest of her drink. When the waitress saw this she immediately brought Pixie the one she’d ordered earlier.
“Well, skydiving sounds exciting. You alright?” He asked before drinking a bit faster than normal.
“Oh, yeah. I’m just… I’m not the best in social situations. I’m awkward and because of my job, because of what I am, there’s not a lot I can usually talk about with people. I’ve always been kind of sheltered until I started running. That’s one of the reasons Cally likes taking me out. She’s been trying to help me get better at talking to people.” Pixie explained before taking a long drink herself. This one tasted a bit better and was most certainly a great deal stronger.
“What is this?” She asked Chips.
“What these? These are Long Island Ice Teas. Oddly enough they have nothing to do with islands and have absolutely no tea in them. Original recipe has them made with rum, gin, tequila, triple sec, and vodka with sweet and sour mix and soda splashed in. Though of course it’s mostly differently flavored synthohols here.”
“Huh, that sounds like a lot of alcohol. Which sounds perfectly good to me.” Pixie said before taking another large drink. Chips followed suit and soon they were racing to see who would finish theirs first. Chips won and the waitress brought them over two more drinks.
“You’re good at talking to people right? I mean, it was a pretty important part of your job. Maybe you could give me some tips.” Pixie said having already started sipping on her fresh drink. A flush was starting to appear on her cheeks.
“Tips? Well, the typical formula is trying to find out something you have in common with the person. Or ask them questions about things like ‘what do you do’ or ‘what music do you like’ just general stuff.” He took a gulp from his drink. “Also, this stuff tends to help. Liquid confidence.”
Pixie looked down at her drink and chuckled. “Liquid confidence, huh?” Then, against her better judgment she downed the rest of it. Chips laughed when he saw the look on her face when she finished and ended up following suit. Now they were both feeling a bit beyond buzzed.
“One thing I don’t get is that you’re an elf. Aren’t elves typically all charismatic and charming by nature?” Chips asked.
“Oh, and aren’t all British people polite and constantly drink tea and eat crumpets?” Pixie replied with a laugh.
“Good point. Really though, you’re cute and the shyness you have going is rather endearing. I’m really surprised to hear you have trouble meeting people.”
“I don’t know what to tell you.” Pixie said as she began idly tapping her fingers on the table.
“Getting a bit dull in here isn’t it.” Chips said as he pulled up his AR. “Hey, there’s a museum close to here! We should go. You know, help broaden your horizons and whatnot. And look, there’s another bar near it so we can drink more when we’re done there.”
“A museum? That sounds wiz. Let’s do it!” Pixie said as she stood up.
Chips gave her a grin as he grabbed for the white noise generator he had placed on the table. Fumbling a bit he knocked it off the table. “Bloody hell, damn thing.” He muttered as he picked it back up and stuffed it into his coat pocket.
Waving goodbye to the waitress, who Chips paid and tipped generously, the two of them set out to the museum.
“Soooo what’s this a museum of?” Pixie asked.
“It’s called ‘Collector’s Corner Museum’. Seems to have a bunch of old collectables and toys and trinkets that are all worth some money probably. It’s a pretty old place so who knows how old some of the stuff in there is.”
“Yeah. Did you know there are some crazy museums out there of all sorts of weird stuff? There’s even a museum just based around cock. A whole museum dedicated to men’s dangly bits.”
Pixie raised an eyebrow. “No way. I call shenanigans. How would there even be enough stuff for a whole museum on, well, THAT.”
Chips laughed. “You’d be surprised. Really, I swear it exists.”
“Whatever you say, Mr. Liar.” Pixie stuck her tongue out at him and he just laughed harder.
“You ever been told you look a lot like a girl from some old trideos about wizards and witches going to a magical school? Because, seriously, you could be her sister just by looking at you.”
“Nope. Never been told that. Also never seen those trids. Shocking, I know.”
“You really should. I mean, they get the magic thing all wrong but otherwise they’re pretty good. The books they’re based on are too.”
The random chit-chat continued as they walked, and occasionally stumbled, to the museum. Once they got there they got set up with a tour the place provides to show all their best exhibits off. There were ancient coins, old paper stamps, antique guns, old porcelain dolls, and all other sorts of toys and trinkets. Pixie stared longingly at a particularly old stuffed animal. It was a white Bengal tiger.
“It looks so soft and cuddly.” Pixie mumbled as she stared.
“That it does. Tell you what, we get out of this whole mess, I’ll buy you one. Hell, I’ll buy you ten.” Chips joked.
“Really?” Pixie turned to him with excitement. She was beaming at the thought of it.
Chips smiled back. “Really. Especially if you want one that much. We can even get real steaks too. What say we head over to that other bar that’s around the corner?”
Pixie nodded and the two of them left. The curator they hadn’t noticed, who had been keeping a wary eye on them ever since they got there breathed a sigh of relief as they left. He was glad the two hadn’t drunkenly touched anything.
The walk to the bar was quick and when they got inside Pixie saw a more familiar atmosphere. It wasn’t a full-blown night club, but there was a decently crowded dance floor and synthpop playing. They made their way to the bar as Chips looked to Pixie. “Shots?”
“Shots? Sounds dangerous. I’m in!”
Both laughed as Chips waved down the bartender. “Two shots of whiskey. Or at least synthohol that resembles whiskey.”
The bartender brought out two shot glasses and poured the whiskey-esque synthohol into them.
“Cheers!” Chips said as he raised his glass in the air. Following suit Pixie raised hers and they clinked them together before downing them.
“Oh yes, that felt good. Another round!” Chips shouted and Pixie echoed. With a hint of annoyance the bartender poured them two more shots and they repeated what they did the first time.
“Chips! Chips we should dance!” Before the man could answer Pixie grabbed him by the hand and pulled him over to the dance floor. “Cally taught me some moves.” She began dancing and soon Chips joined in. Even in her drunken state, Pixie managed to keep the beat pretty well and still dance just fine. Chips, however, wasn’t exactly as graceful. Seeing him try to dance caused Pixie to burst out in laughter.
“I’m sorry I just, hehe, I think you’re pretty funny.” She told him.
“Yeah, well you’re just pretty.” Chips responded with a slight slur in his words.
Pixie blushed and giggled. “Aw, thanks.”
“Don’t mean to alarm you, but there’s a guy looking at us. I thought he was checking you out at first but he seems more focused on me. And I know I didn’t impress anyone with that dancing.” Chips said to her.
Turning in a very conspicuous manner, Pixie looked at the man Chips was talking about. “Uh, what do we do? All I have is my knife.”
“Oh I brought this with me.” Chips said as he flashed the pistol he had. Pixie grabbed his hands to re-hide the gun.
“You can’t flash that around!” She tried to whisper but her volume control had left her when she did the shots.
“Um, let’s get one last drink and then head out. Go towards the museum and see if he follows? I could just be a bit paranoid what with the people out there who want us dead.”
“That sounds like a good plan. Let’s do that.” So the two of them went back to the bar and got another couple rounds of shots before stumbling out.
“Did he follow us?” Pixie again failed at whispering.
Chips looked back to see the man following them down the street. “Yes, yes he did. Okay, remain calm. I can handle this.”
They continued to walk until the man caught up with them. “Excuse me, you two. Can I talk to you?”
“Why?” Pixie asked with her hand on her knife, though in her state it’d be practically useless.
“Yeah, what do you want with us random drunkards?” Chips chimed in.
The man let out a heavy sigh. “Alright, Timmy. It’s me, Erik. I’m here because there are people after you and I have some information for you. But I can see you and your friend aren’t really in any condition to discuss anything serious or even retain the memory that you ran into me so here’s my number. Call me tomorrow so we can talk.”
“Erik? Erik..? Oh, bloody hell I thought you were dead! It’s good to see you. Phone you up tomorrow then?” Chips asked. Erik let out another sigh.
“In case you don’t remember whose number is in your AR tomorrow, here’s a physical copy with my name on it. Get ahold of me when you’re sober.” And with that Erik turned and left.
“Oh thank God he didn’t shoot us!” Pixie said as she turned to Chips.
“Right?! No shooting and no stabbing. I call that a win. But it’s getting pretty late. What do you think of grabbing a hotel room?” Chips asked with an anxious chuckle.
“Oh a real bed sounds great compared to the cramped RV.” She responded as she grabbed one of his hands with both of hers. Chips blushed again but Pixie didn’t notice as they began to walk towards the nearest decent hotel, Chips keeping ahold of one of her hands. She playfully swung them a bit as they walked.
Once they found what they were looking for, they walked into the lobby, stumbling quite a bit, and made their way to the counter. The clerk gave Chips a knowing look. “Room for the night?”
Chips glanced over at Pixie to see if she had any objections. She raised none so Chips replied. “Yes, king size please.” The clerk accepted the payment and gave them both key cards to Room 313.
Chips lead Pixie to the elevator and they went up to the third floor and the two of them made their way to Room 313. Pixie took the card and swiped it excitedly, as this was her first time in a hotel and the added effect of alcohol made the key slide seem very entertaining to her.
Pixie kicked off her shoes and tossed the jacket she had been wearing onto a nearby chair. Giggling she flopped down onto the bed. “This is so much nicer than the cramped RV.”
“Yeah, and doesn’t smell like sweaty troll either,” Chips replied with a nervous laugh as he took his own shoes and jacket off.
Pixie attempted to roll off the bed and back to her feet but instead landed on her butt with a soft thud. Mumbling ‘dammit’ in Sperenthiel she stood up and rubbed her tail bone.
“You alright?” Chips asked stumbling closer to her.
“I’m fine. I’ve taken worse hits than that,” Pixie said with a laugh. “These jeans are just kind of uncomfortable. Was gonna take them off so I could sleep better. If that’s too weird though I can deal.” As she said this she fiddle with the belt she had on and managed to slip it off.
Gulping Chips replied, “N-no that’s fine. Get comfortable while you can right?”
Pixie nodded and laughed again. With a bit more fiddling with the button on her jeans she managed to work her way out of them but not without tripping herself.
Chips managed to keep her from falling again by catching her. Now her face was mere inches from his. She smiled as she blushed and sputtered out a thank you before backing up a step. The black boy short cut panties with multicolored hearts drew Chips’ eye.
“What? I like cute things! And the bra matches. …That was probably TMI huh?” Chips walked back to the other side of the bed as he unbuttoned his dress shirt, leaving the under shirt on. He was mentally reevaluating how good of an idea this was. Internal arguments on how to proceed ensued as he also took off his belt but decided to leave his dress slacks on.
“Sorry I’m so awkward…” Pixie said as she took his silence as meaning she’d done something wrong.
“Oh, no, you’ve done nothing to apologize for. I’m just wondering if I have.” Chips said as he sat on the side of the bed closest to him.
Pixie crawled back onto the bed and over next to Chips. “What do you mean? Today’s been great! Honestly the most fun I’ve had in a while. It was really nice of you to take me to the museum and buy me drinks and pay for this comfy room.”
It was then a thought occurred to her. “Hey Chips, does this count as a date?”
The question threw Chips a bit not only as it was unexpected but also because of how genuinely curious Pixie sounded.
“I was wondering because I’ve never really gone on a date before. Unless you count the time Cally kind of tried to set up me and this bartender guy. But I told her it didn’t count because she was there too.”
Chips looked at Pixie, unsure of what to say. “Um, well, if you think about it technically I guess you could say it was yes…”
Leaning forward a bit further than she’d meant to Pixie pressed her forehead to Chips’. “I think it was a pretty good first date. So thank you.”
The side Chips had been fighting in himself won in that moment as before he could think about it he kissed her. For a moment she was frozen in shock, but much to both of their surprise she actually kissed back. Instinctually, Chips moved his hands onto her sides right above her hips, slipping them just under the fabric of her shirt. She leaned into him more, bringing her arms around his neck. One of his hands slid up her back.
That was when Pixie started thinking again. ‘What am I doing?’ She screamed in her head before pulling away. She bit her lip and refused to look Chips in the eye.
“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me,” Chips said before adding, “Ok, I do know. You’re pretty and sweet and here we are drunk in a hotel room but usually I have a better handle on things.”
“I-it’s ok. I just… I’m sorry I’ve never done any of this before. I mean that was my first kiss and everything and I-”
“What? There’s no way. Wait a minute… Does that mean..? Are you a..?”
“Yes, I’m a virgin,” Pixie scooted back over to the far side of the bed looking straight down at the comforter. “It may seem naive or cliché but I always wanted my first time to be, well, special. Something romantic with someone I love and who loves me you know?”
Putting an arm around her Chips responded, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just surprised a girl like you doesn’t have guys fighting over things like who gets to buy you soy-cafe while you’re out and about.”
“It’s awkward to talk about it but the only person who ever showed interest was Yuri. And no way that was happening.” At first she started laughing but soon a few tears followed. She felt a sob threaten to course through her but she fought it down.
“I’m a mess sorry. I can fix this,” With that she stood up and walked over to the chair with her jacket. Pulling out the dopadrine cocktail Cally had given her earlier she went to pop the cap off.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Chips stumbled up and walked over to her. “Is that the drek you took when this trip started?”
“Oh, yeah, it really mellows me out. I’ve been trying not to take it too much but it makes all the sad and angry just go away.” Pixie said as she brought the inhaler to her lips.
Chips reached out and grabbed the wrist of the hand she was holding the inhaler in. Slowly he brought it down back by her side. “You should not do that I think.”
“What? Why? It’ll calm me down.” Pixie looked at him confused, still fighting back sobs.
“Pix, I saw you on this. It doesn’t just make things go away it just numbs you. Like what makes you who you are retreats and just your body is left behind. I don’t like it.”
“Just because you don’t like it I should stop? Would you rather I keep crying?” Pixie replied as the tears came down faster. She was thinking of all the terrible things that had happened. Everything she’d worked to repress.
“Honestly? Yes. Because at least it’s still you here.” Chips said, giving her hand a squeeze.
The inhaler fell from her hand as she gave into sobbing. “I can’t believe he’s dead. I can’t believe I killed two men. I can’t believe everyone is putting themselves in danger by going to Joliet instead of somewhere safer. I can’t believe my dad may be dead or worse. I just… I want to go back to how things were. Things were risky, and there were close calls, but everyone always made it out alright. I don’t want any more of us to die.”
Chips wrapped his arms around her, letting her cry and let out all the worries she’d pent up inside of her. He rubbed her back with one hand while his other held her head to his chest. “Just let it all out. It’ll be alright. We’ll all get through this just fine, you’ll see. And remember, real steak when we get back home.”
After a few moments she quieted down. Backing away she rubbed her eyes and smiled again. “I’m holding you to that, you know? And the tiger too.”
“Of course, I wouldn’t expect anything less. How about we turn in for the night Pix?” He said, pulling the blankets back on the bed.
“Zoey. You can call me Zoey.” Pixie told him as she crawled into the bed.
“Zoey… That’s a pretty name. Fits well.” Chips said as he clambered into bed himself.
“Thanks.” Pixie said with a small giggle. “Can I ask you something?”
“Anything. Fire away.”
“This may sound weird, and if you don’t want to it’s ok, but would you hold me? I don’t know if I’ll ever get this opportunity again and I’ve always wanted someone to just hold me as I fell asleep.” Pixie was thankful she was lying on her side with her back to Chips because she was blushing more with every word.
Chips also blushed a bit and smiled. “That’s all you want? Well that’s easy enough.” He moved over onto his side and slide one arm under her head, wrapping the other around her waist.
“Thank you.” She replied softly as sleep was already whisking her away.
“Goodnight, Zoey.” Chips mumbled as he too quickly fell asleep.