(2016-09-17) The Prize for Stumping Serenity
The Prize for Stumping Serenity
Summary: Serenity is promoting her single and offers a prize to anyone who can stump her. Nathaniel wins the prize which turns out to be dinner with the singer.
Date: 2016-09-17
Related: None
NPCs: None
Scene Runner: NA
Social/Plot: Social

A small bandstand has been setup on the sidewalk near the Baxter building as a part of Serenity's publicity for her new single that will drop soon on itunes and Amazon music. The young singer stands on the bandstand playing a medley of covers that cross several genres.

Well, what do you know? Free entertainment. Nathaniel's walking and stumbles upon said free entertainment. Hands stuffed into his pockets, he ambles towards the source of the music, likely joining a growing crowd. He's wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and biker-type boots. Seems like a perfectly normal guy. Though that he's wearing sunglasses after sunset is a little weird. He stands near the fringes of the crowd, tapping his foot to the music.

When a large enough crowd has drawn, Serenity stops playing and calls out loudly, "Who wants to make a request? I'll give a prize to the person who can stump me." Her eyes twinkle as she looks out over the people assembled.

Now, Nathaniel is all ready and willing to see what other people come up with. He's generally not the type that draws attention to himself. But he waits to hear what people are going to name… and waits… and waits… and waits. Everyone seems willing to talk amongst themselves, but no one's actually naming anything. So eventually Nathaniel takes a step forward. "'Jumping At Shadows', by Umetora," he offers. He's… actually being kind of a horrible person here, for a couple of reasons. Firstly because that's a Japanese song, and 'Jumping At Shadows' is just its rather inaccurately-translated English name. And secondly, because that wasn't sung by Umetora. 'Umetora' is just the name of the person who wrote it— a civilian producer of electronic music. Oh it has vocals, Umetora just didn't sing them. No one did really. A vocal synthesizer did.

Serenity turns her gaze upon Nathaniel in curiosity when he names a song she actually doesn't know. She grins at the crowd then says, "What do you know. Someone managed it on the first try." She gestures toward Nathaniel, "Come on up here and tell us all the name of my winner?"

And there's where Nathaniel realizes that the price for being a bit of a snot is for EVERYONE to find out about it! But there's nothing for it but to take his lumps and be done with it. He ducks his head a little, but heads over to Serenity. "Nathaniel," he offers. He's not bothering with a last name. But he does admit, "Sorry about that, I cheated a little… it's a Japanese electronica song."

Serenity chuckles softly, "That's okay. I did ask to be stumped. I'll have to go look it up when I get the chance. I don't know Japanese but I know someone who can translate for me. It's nice to meet you Nathaniel. How would you like to have dinner with me? And do you have another request I might actually be able to play?"

Nathaniel goes a bit red in the face with a blush at the question of dinner. But smile lights his face, and he nods. "That sounds like fun." He is, however, not going to say the word 'date'. Because TABLOIDS! As for the request for a song that she can do? Nathaniel tilts his head to think. "Hm… how about 'Kick It Out' by Heart?" he suggests. He likes some pretty old music, doesn't he?

There's some laughter from the crowd at Nathaniel's blush, but Serenity just grins at him, "And you get to stay on stage while I perform it. Everyone make some noise for Nathaniel!" As the crowd begins to applaud, Serenity begins a good acoustic rendition of the requested song on her guitar.

On stage, perhaps, but Nathaniel is at least polite enough to give the lady some room. He doesn't dance to it, no— he doesn't have any booze in him, so he's not drunk enough to dance in public— but he does tap his foot and nod his head to the beat of the music. It's an upbeat song anyway, good to tap feet to.

When she finishes Serenity grins at the crowd and calls out, "And now, a tribute to my wonderful benefactor at Parker Industries." She does a little spin around then begins playing a certain popular Spider-man song as she sings out the quaint lyrics.

Nathaniel remains out of the way so that she can perform without him being in her way. But still, he can't help but chuckle at the quaint song. Something that might be noticed, is that he has kept his hands in his pockets the whole time. It's like he's hiding them for some reason.

Serenity declares when she is finished, "Okay folks. I'm going to take a walk with my prize winner now. Keep your eyes on itunes. The single will be dropping any day now." She turns to put her guitar in its case before turning to Nathaniel, "Shall we go somewhere and discuss where you want to go for dinner?"

Nathaniel nods to the question, and finally takes one hand out of his pocket. He keeps the fingers tucked into his palm, though, as he offers her that arm. It's a gentlemanly gesture. "Shall we?" he asks. He just hopes that doesn't go viral or something. That's the last thing he needs.

Serenity smiles and puts her hand on the offered arm. As they walk down the street someone in a suit trails behind them but stays back so as not to get in their way. "So do you have another name, Nathaniel?"

"Valentine," Nathaniel replies. "Nathaniel Valentine. You can call me 'Natt' if you want to," he offers, with a smile. "What about you? I've seen the news, but…" He pauses. "I understand if you're keeping it secret, so people don't bother you."

Serenity nods at that, "That's it exactly. Serenity is my stage name. Of course I have him to keep people from bothering me now." She nods to the guy in the suit following her. "So what kind of food do you like Natt?"

Nathaniel looks to the man in the suit— a chaperone! The thought amuses him— and offers a polite smile and a nod. "Makes sense," he says to Serenity. Her question gets a moment of thought. "I'm actually not too picky about food. Any particular leanings? If not, I know of a few places around the city."

Serenity smiles, "Your prize. You pick. Come on. What restaurant do you want to go to? I got an advance on my single's revenue. I'll buy whatever you want."

"You sure? I can go half," Nathaniel offers. As for where? There's a place near here that does a Texas steakhouse kind of thing. It's pretty new, but they're doing a really good job. Whoever they've got back there cooking the food really knows their stuff." Notably he didn't just automatically assume that someone cooking steaks was a man.

Serenity smiles, "Well that sounds great. I haven't had a good steak in a while. Is it easy walking distance or should I send for my car?"

Nathaniel seems to suddenly remember something. "Oh, that's right. The bus would be a problem, wouldn't it?" Who actually drives a car in New York City? He nods. "The car's probably a good idea," he agrees.

Serenity chuckles at the mention of the bus, "I have no problem with the bus really, but they gave me a car to get around and assigned me a driver so I use them." She pulls out her phone and calls to indicate, "We're all done. Me plus one at the corner." The phone is slipped into her pocket again before she says, "He's just at the other corner so it shouldn't take long for him to get back around."

Nathaniel nods. "That makes sense. If you got it, flaunt it, right?" He snickers. But yes. He nods and goes with Serenity to wait for the car to drive around. He's making sure to stand in a non-threatening way, so neither the bodyguard nor the approaching driver thinks he's going to try anything.

Serenity confides as she points at the classy black sedan pulling around the corner, "No doubt this is making the suit a little crazy. He does not like schedule changes, but he'll get over it." The car pulls over to the sidewalk and stops for Serenity and her guest to get in.

Nathaniel snickers. "Routine and all. I know how it is." He smiles. When the car stops, he makes to open the door for her. Though her bodyguard may want to do that. If he does, Nathaniel will offer a hand to help her in. It's worth mentioning that he seems to be keeping the tips of his fingers hidden, though. Natt himself gets in after Serenity does, and he settled himself a respectful distance from her.

The guy in the suit actually lets Nathaniel open the door for Serenity. Once she's in the car, he gets into the front with the driver. Serenity explains, "He actually isn't with me all the time. Just scheduled public appearances like this one. I'm not a big enough name for them to send someone with me everywhere. So what's the address of the restaurant you want to go to?"

Nathaniel offers the address of the restaurant. It's a relatively new place; if the driver knows his way around the city, he might be familiar with the address. "It's a new place. I think they just opened last week. I haven't had the chance to go there yet, so it'll be a new experience for me too."

Serenity nods, "Always fun checking out a new place right? Especially if the food turns out to be good." She relaxes as the driver makes his way over to the indicated address. "So do you listen to a lot of Japanese music or was that just the most obscure thing you could think of?"

Nathaniel nods to the words of checking out a new place. "And if the food turns out to be bad, I'm sorry." He chuckles. The question of Japanese music gets a nod. "I'm a big fan of electronica, and the Japanese embrace it like no other culture I know of. So I guess it's not just Japanese music, but Japanese electronica. I've branched out a little from there, so I listen to a bit of Japanese rock and pop music, though."

Serenity nods, "So you're not likely to be a fan at all then are you?" She chuckles then waves a hand to dismiss her own comment. "Doesn't matter." When the car stops at the indicated address, she gestures for Nathaniel to get out first. "Let's go see how the steaks are, shall we?"

"Oh, I didn't say that," Nathaniel replies. He assures her, "My parents listened to good old American rock and roll while I was growing up. And I'm one of those people who likes any music, as long as it can reasonably call itself 'music'. Electronica, rock, pop— I listen to classical and folk music even. It's easier today to be able to listen to a wide variety of music, thanks to the Internet." He nods to the mention of the steaks. "Here's hoping they're good." He chuckles, and then gets out of the car. He does offer her a hand out, and here he can't really keep his fingers hidden. But if Serenity happens to be paying attention? His nails are quite sharp-looking. This is easily missed though. Notably, he's also kept his sunglasses on, even in the car.

Thankfully the restaurant doesn't require reservations. It's a very laid-back affair, lots of Texas yahoo and giddyup. The place is made to look on the inside like it's a log cabin or some such, and the walls are decorated with cowboy hats and black-and-white pictures of rodeo events— roping, riding bulls, cutting (having one cowboy on horseback separate one calf from a herd), that sort of thing. It's pretty tacky, but the place smells incredible.

Serenity takes his hands and doesn't seem to notice the nails. She gets out behind him and points to the car to indicate the suit should stay with the car before she hurries into the restaurant. "So there some chance you'll buy my single then, eh?" She grins a little and just waits for them to be seated.

"A very good chance, in fact," Nathaniel replies, with a smile. The place isn't terribly busy— place needs time to build up a clientele, after all— so they're seated pretty quickly. The menus are brought out when a young fellow dressed as an old-timey western bartender comes out to take their drink orders.

Serenity orders a Coke then looks down at her menu. "You know, someone once told me that sunglasses were a good way to hide your identity, but you don't need to hide from me. You already gave me your name unless you were lying and I'm harmless, Promise."

Nathaniel orders the same, actually— a Coke, but he asks for no ice— and the waiter heads off the get their drinks. Her comment gets a blink. Though of course it's not seen, behind the sunglasses. "What? Oh. No, it's not that. My eyes are… weird." Especially in low light. And the restaurant, while not incredibly dark, has a rustic-type look, meaning the light level is a bit low.

Serenity nods, "I used to hide a lot when I was homeless. I'll try not to judge if you want to take them off but I won't ask you to again either. Your choice." She flashes him a smile. "It has been a really long time since I had a steak."

Nathaniel gives a sheepish look. Slowly he reaches up to pull the sunglasses off. Best time as any to see if he's weird enough to freak people out. His eyes? They look pretty normal actually. But when he looks up at her again, his pupils catch the light and glint back ever so slightly. It's not low enough that he'd need low-light vision, and pulling the glasses off actually makes MORE light get through to his eyes, so the pupils aren't huge. So the glint isn't too noticeable now. He nods to the words of not having had steak in a while. "Me either. These days there's not a lot of time for just sitting down and enjoying a meal, it seems." Not a complete lie, so there's that.

Serenity looks at his eyes for a moment then smiles, "They're lovely. I don't actually think I've ever seen eyes quite that color before." When the waiter returns with her drink, she gestures to one of the steaks. "This with fries would be perfect."

Nathaniel's eyes are amber-colored, which is a bit odd as far as normal human eyes, but not really that weird. The glint comes back in a greenish-gold color, like what happens with flash photography in animals. It is, mercifully, brief and not that pronounced. He seems a bit sheepish at the response, though. "Heh… thank you." His newly-arrived drink is suddenly fascinating! He orders as well, handing the menu to the waiter after their orders are taken down.

Once the waiter has gone, Serenity confesses, "I was actually homeless a month ago. A lot's changed for me since I met Peter Parker."

"Oh?" Nathaniel asks. "He must have helped you out." A smile. "I'm glad he did. There's a distinct lack of care for one's fellow man these days, so anytime I hear about someone helping someone else I'm glad to hear it." He smiles.

Serenity nods, "Yeah. He's the CEO of Parker Industries. He gave me a recording contract after hearing me sing. It was completely unexpected. So I hope my single does well or I'm going to get fired." This draws a chuckle from her, perhaps there's a bit of nervousness in the chuckle.

Nathaniel blinks, not having expected that. "Well, that's definitely a help," he notes, with a chuckle. As for her single? "I'm sure it'll do well," he assures her, an honest smile on his face. "You're a very talented singer."

Serenity leans forward and asks softly, "Want to be the first one to hear part of it outside of the studio?"

Nathaniel's brows raise a bit in surprise at the question. "Sure, I'd love to," he answers, with a smile.

Serenity glances around the room to see how many people might overhear then says, "I'll give you the chorus. That's the best part of any song anyway." She closes her eyes and sings softly but with feeling… "People around us… They stand up and fight… For the things at we all want… For the things that are right. In a world filled with heroes… With their capes and their tights… We're all blind to the brave ones… Who just stand up and fight… To the everyday heroes." As she sings her fingers tap out the accompanying drum beat on the table.

There's a lot of ambient noise, and a lot of yee'haw-ing in one corner. Most of the attention is over there. But Nathaniel's attention is on Serenity as she sings, and he stays quiet to listen, leaning forward a bit to hear her better. His smile widens at the chorus of the song, and once she's done, he nods. "That's beautiful," he remarks.

Serenity smiles at the comment, "You really think so? It's the first song I've written in a long time."

"It is," Nathaniel asserts. "You're right, too. A lot of people forget that when Doctor Evil McBastardface releases hordes of zombie robot minions, that there are normal police officers out there keeping them away from civilians while the capes and tights are punching Doctor McBastardface." He chuckles.

Serenity nods, "And not just that. When there aren't any cops around, sometimes someone just stands up and says no. You're not going to hurt her tonight. Not while I'm here. Or someone stops the guy from catcalling the girl who doesn't want to have to listen to that as she walks down the street. Those are acts of heroism just as much as fighting super bad guys."

Nathaniel nods. "That too," he agrees. "Sometimes I wonder if there's really a hero and a villain inside everybody, and the person becomes whichever wins inside them." He shakes his head, with a chuckle. "Silly, I know. But it seems that way sometimes."

Serenity nods slowly, "Maybe. I've experienced enough to believe it, but if you have something terrible lurking down inside, I humbly ask you keep him there for the time being." There's a little smile.

Nathaniel chuckles, though the sound is a bit nervous. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to suggest…" He pauses. "It's just that… well, the same people that do horrible things to others also stand up and help people, like you said. And it's a crapshoot to figure out which one anybody will do in any given situation."

Serenity nods, "I understand." She's quiet for a moment then the waiter comes to her rescue by showing up with dinner. "I didn't mean to suggest you have some terrible villain lurking. I don't think I do. I'm just a coward."

Again he chuckles. "No, I understand," he notes. "That's what you hear the murderer in those slasher movies say if he tries to pretend he's normal. I didn't even realize that when I said it, I'm sorry. Besides. Let me quote 'The Wizard of Oz'— 'As for you, my fine friend, you're a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger you have no courage. You're confusing courage with wisdom'." He grins.

Serenity laughs very softly at that, "Well that's very sweet of you to say, but I don't know if it's true. I've run from people who would have helped me in the past too."

"You're probably not the only one that has," Nathaniel replies. "People are sort of hardwired by nature to run away from scary things, even if those things aren't really harmful. Thinking about it from a nature point of view, a scary thing is likely to be dangerous, and sometimes you can't take the chance that it isn't."

Serenity nods slowly, "I suppose that's true. I've run across a lot of dangerous things…" That smile slips from her lips and she lifts one hand to press to her ear. Her breathing quickens and she begins to hum Everyday heroes under her breath in an attempt to fend any chance of a memory.

Nathaniel's ear twitches a bit, though it's not terribly noticeable. Her breathing's picked up, he can hear it. She's afraid, he can smell it. Something he wasn't aware of awakens in him, something that surprises him as much as her sudden state. He looks at her with surprise, his pupils beginning to dilate. Fear. She smells like fear. Prey is afraid. She smells like prey. He tears his gaze away, to his glass, and drains it. What's the matter with him?! Instead of trying to chase her, though, he asks, "…Are you all right?" His voice is a bit shaky, but he sounds otherwise fine.

When he speaks, Serenity's hand goes across the table to grasp his. She looks up at him with what is most certainly panic filling her eyes, "Talk to me. Anything at all so long as it's happy."

That surprises Nathaniel, the sudden grabbing of his hand. The urge to jump at the sudden touch is strong, but he controls it, barely. Otherwise he might have jumped across the dining room! Which would have raised all kinds of questions. His eyeshine is a little more prevalent now. Just a bit. He clears his throat, and then nods. Something happy. Think! "I went back to work yesterday after a three-week hiatus. And I closed a deal on a house the first day back." It's a bit lame, but it's happy to him! Think of the commission!

Serenity blinks several times then releases his hand, "You work in real estate then? You must get to see a lot of nice places."

Nathaniel nods. "I'm a broker." Nice places? He tilts his head first one way and then the other, indicating 'so-so'. "Some have been really nice. Some are complete dumps, though. Protip? If you ever see something marked as 'a unique fixer-upper opportunity'? Run away fast. Ever seen the movie 'The Money Pit'? That's a 'unique fixer-upper opportunity'." He chuckles.

Serenity shakes her head, "I don't think I'm going to be in the market for buying any property any time soon. And I never sign anything without having a lawyer look it over. That way if I don't know what I'm doing at least someone does." She still sounds nervous and he can still smell her fear.

"That's actually a good idea," Nathaniel replies. "You might need to buy a studio one day. I also know people who can remodel or flip a house. I don't do the actual flipping, though. I just sell them. Besides, there are tax auctions where you can get real estate for stupidly low prices. you just have to pay off the taxes owed to the bank. Which, granted, does end up being in the thousands. But it's not the hundreds of thousands that the houses normally cost."

Serenity blinks once, "So… buying someone's house from the government because they could not afford the taxes on it?" She wrinkles her nose at the thought.

Nathaniel nods. "Sort of. People get foreclosed on for a lot of reasons— admittedly not all of them right or fair. But that's all the bank's really concerned about is the taxes on it. I've seen people buy hundred thousand dollar houses for a few grand."

Serenity nods, "I suppose so. I don't think I could take advantage of someone's misfortune like that."

"It's not always misfortune," Nathaniel replies. "Sometimes it was a gang hideout, or a drug manufacturer. In that case, it's good those people aren't doing that horrible stuff anymore. You have any idea what meth manufacture does to the neighborhood? Not to mention what it does to the house. I've heard of people moving in after it, and getting horrible lung diseases, years after the meth production had been stopped. Horrible stuff."

Serenity lifts her hands to cover her ears as she shakes her head. She swallows hard and closes her eyes. She begins to shake her head back and forth and tremble. Her hands press a little more tightly over her ears.

Whoops! He's supposed to be telling her about happy things! Nathaniel winces. "I'm sorry. I forgot," he apologizes. He looks for something else to talk about. And tries really hard to ignore the desire to pounce across the table and chase her around. "So when is your single coming out again?" Her career should be a safe subject to talk about.

Apparently it's too late for the happy things to work any magic on her now. Serenity's locked into a flashback and just talking isn't going to bring her out. Tears begin to stream down her cheeks. Oh that's going to look really good when she comes out from dinner to her driver. Her lips move as if she's speaking to someone but no sound comes out.

Nathaniel acts quickly. He reaches in his wallet for enough to pay for the meal and then signals a waiter over. He stands, to block the waiter from seeing her state. "I'm sorry, we'll have to have to take our meal out. Something's come up and it has to be dealt with. Unavoidable, I'm sorry." He gives a description of the car, and once the waiter nods and heads into the kitchen again, Nathaniel puts his sunglasses back on and tries to help Serenity to her feet.

Serenity shrieks in surprise as she is tugged to her feet but apparently the jolt breaks her out of whatever had caught hold of her. At least maybe. She stares at him for a long second as if she doesn't see him then asks… "What are you… doing?"

Nathaniel looks sheepish. "I'm sorry. You were… I think I made you upset." He really isn't sure what was going on, but he didn't want her to freak out in public. "So I was going to help you out to your car so you could calm down." He offers her a napkin from the table. "Are you all right now?" he asks, his voice quiet and tone kind.

Serenity takes the offered napkin and wipes her face with it before confessing softly, "I have flashbacks of some pretty awful thing sometimes. They are very inconvenient." She glances around at the table then says, "I think I'm okay now." She takes a long shuddering breath. "Guess I should keep my public appearances shorter."

"I have nightmares that are pretty horrible. Though they're the vague sort of 'horrible things are happening in this dream' kind. So I understand, a little." Nathaniel smiles when Serenity seems to pull herself together again. "I've got them bringing the food out to the car, do you want to head back there?" he asks.

Serenity frowns a little, "Wait. I was supposed to pay for dinner. Where's the bill?"

"Do you still want to cover it?" Nathaniel inquires. "I've put enough on the table to cover it, I think." A chuckle. "I know, 'who pays in cash these days?'."

Serenity smiles faintly, "You can just tell me how much you left and I'll pay you back. You tipped well right?" She heads for the door as she calls to let the car know she's ready to go.

Nathaniel nods. He names the price of the bill altogether, with tax, and then the amount with a tip of twenty percent added. "Twenty percent on the dot." He's pretty good with sums, it seems. He'll escort her out to the car, though still maintaining respectful distance. No draping or hugging.

When the car stops, Serenity turns and brushes a brief kiss on Nathaniel's cheek. "Thanks for being a good sport about coming up on the bandstand with me." She pulls the money out of her purse plus a little more and presses it into his hand.

Nathaniel blushes a little at the kiss, but chuckles. "I thought it was fun," he says. "Including that." He sobers a bit. "I'm just sorry I upset you." He doesn't say anything else about it, no— he doesn't want to bring another episode on. Instead he offers a smile. Though he blinks at the money. "Are you sure? I don't mind either way."

Serenity smiles and nods, "Of course. I'll just say it was a prize promotion for the single. I'll probably get it back." Into the money is also slipped a card with her phone number on it. "You didn't. It just stirred up a bad memory that's all. Sorry to ruin dinner."

"It's all right, really," Nathaniel replies. "It was good to meet you, though." Pause. And then a huge chance. He reaches into a pocket and pulls out… and business card. It's got his name and number on it, but it's for his company. He offers this to her. "Here you go. For when you want to buy that studio." He offers a mischievous wink.

Serenity looks down at the card and asks softly, "You sure? Business cards are a terrible idea. The cops always come after the guy whose name is on the business card in her pocket." She winks then slips the card into her bag.

Nathaniel chuckles. "I'll take my chances," he replies. "Besides, there's totally an explanation— one day you're going to be super-famous, and you'll need a place to hang all hundred and fifty of the expensive hats."

That sets Serenity to laughing as she turns to open the door and get into her car. "Enjoy the rest of your evening, Natt."

Nathaniel nods, offering her a hand into the car. "You too. Thanks, I enjoyed myself this evening."

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