Date #24

May 31, 2018:

Rami and Simon are set up on a blind date by someone who doesn't know what either of them do for a living.

Coney Island, New York

The Coney Island Boardwalk and Aquarium.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Simon never does this. Okay, he sometimes does this, but not often. Not that often, at least. He's been eating at India Bistro for two years now, and the suggestion that one of the chefs had a cousin who was new in town and would be great to go out with only took two repetitions before he accepted.

Now he's waiting at the corner of Stillwell and Surf, right in front of Nathan's Original Hot Dogs, with the light grey scarf wound around his neck and an American flag pin at the collar of his dark grey tailored fatigue jacket, just as promised. There's a line around the block for the hot dog stand, but he stands hands in his pockets, away from the line itself. Pale sunshine beams through gaps in sparse cloud cover, with the ballpark just down the street and Luna Park another couple of blocks in the other direction.

When Yashminder passed along the information for her newest blind date, Rami felt a numbness of acceptance. This was starting to feel routine, expecting that one of her evenings would be occupied by a date with some poor man who was probably being just as harassed as she was. It took her reading through the details twice before she realized that this date would be at… Coney Island?

Crossing the street toward the Hot Dog stand, Rami braces her hand against the top of her bright red, wide-brimmed hat. Her long skirts sweep along her legs as she manages to get to the corner as the blinking orange hand completes its countdown. If Simon's scarf is his sign, the red hat is hers. She is looking around the corner, searching for her blind date — a man she assumed was going to be just as brown as her. She glances right over Simon as she searches.

It doesn't do to show up spy-level awareness, and a classy red hat is pretty easy to spot, but Simon just tracks Rami through his peripheral vision until she stops and looks around. And then he turns toward her, spreading a broad smile between beard and mustache and offering a little wave at his side, "Parambir Ghai?" Holy heck, he actually managed to pronounce her name right. "I'm Green, Simon Green." One hand tugs at the front of his scarf, "Should I have gone with a brighter color?"

Rami blinks in surprise as she hears her name, and then realizes the source of the precise pronunciation. The silence that comes after the introduction and the following question is deafening until she realizes herself, and she steps forward with an outstretched hand. "Yes, Parambir, but… you can call me Rami." Then she meets his smile with her own as her full red lips curl. "I'm sorry, Simon… no. Your scarf is quite lovely." She can spot a shoddy recovery from a mile away, and so she winces slightly. "You're not Indian. It threw me off."

Simon doesn't hesitate, reaching out to take Rami's hand. No overly-cheesy bowing or anything like that, just a brief clasp from a warm hand, "No, I'm really not. But I had ten meals at India Bistro, and the reward was being set up with Yashminder's beautiful cousin Rami." Gesturing to his right and his left, he adds, "I don't know if you like baseball, or amusement parks, but I figured that there would be plenty to do on the Boardwalk at the very least."

The lack of cheese actually relaxes the Sikh woman. She returns the clasp before she steps aside from a passing family of five, standing alongside Simon. She caught the 'beautiful' bit, but registers it solely with the smallest twitch to her smile. Then her brown eyes glance up and down the street as they regard the this way and that way of the options. With a gentle adjustment of her red hat, she gestures back toward Simon. "You're the American," she points out with another light smile. "I'll follow your lead. Isn't Coney Island the very essence of America?"

"I think that depends on who you ask, Rami." Simon does amused and enthusiastic quite well, all things considered. "If you ask someone from New York, they would agree with you one hundred percent." As he talks, he turns away from the ballpark, offering out his left hand to her right elbow to direct her to turn as well. "If you ask a Nebraskan, I'm thinking it might involve corn fields, steaks, and football." His smile spreads across his lips again, and he shrugs a little helplessly, "Personally, I think it's less pretentious than fine dining, easier to talk through than a movie, and not quite as deafening as a club. And the Boardwalk is pretty fun."

Still regaining her feet after finding a rather gingery American instead of one of the many Indians living in New York waiting for her at the corner, Rami turns at his urging. His comment on the absolute expanse of the American sprawl causes her to glance at him with an arched brow and curious smile. "I have unsurprisingly been in all of those dating scenarios. I'm willing to give yours a try." Then she falls into stride with him, her sandals peeking beneath the wide, long skirts. She does catch a little opening in the conversation as they walk. "Alright then… so New Yorker or Neb… Nebraskan? Is that right?"

"Connecticut, actually." It's easier to be 'from the Northeast' than to put on an entirely different accent, although Simon's accent is pretty neutral anyway. "And yeah, Nebraskan is just right. Also, for reasons beyond most sane people, 'Cornhusker' is generally accepted." He moves easily through the crowd, twisting his shoulders where necessary to give her room to move with him without crowding her. "If I'm particularly boring or you're particularly interested in sea creatures, the Aquarium is just past the amusement parks." Another few steps and he inquires, "How about you? London?" there's a hint of uncertainty in the query, "or just school there?"

"Cornhusker," Rami repeats dubiously. "Because of all the corn." The statement just has the smallest hint of questioning, but also a node of understanding. She has spent plenty of time engrossed in American TV shows and movies to understand the enormous corn hats, profuse amounts of body paint, and the tribal call of 'GO BIG RED.' Okay, perhaps not understand, but at least acknowledge the cultural feature. She continues along beside him, hands slipped into the pockets of her wonderfully voluminous skirts. "You are not boring," she prefaces with a slowly spreadings mile, "but the Aquarium sounds lovely." When he returns the inquiry with one of his own, she smiles broader still. "Yes, London. Southall. My parents immigrated there after my brother, Tash, was born. Both my sister and I are born Londoners." There was an additional inquiry there, just under the surface, so she smiles and continues, "I actually attended school in Zurich at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology."

Simon nods agreeably with her almost-question, "And the football team." While her hands go into her pockets, his own hang easily at his side, a loose-limbed feel to him that speaks of frequent exercise and a good deal of self-confidence. He chuckles at the response to his prompting, "I'm not boring yet. Just wait." But he quiets to hear her responses, his brows lifting slightly at the additional information. His smile matches hers as he chuckles, "Well that checks off boxes two, three, and four from the 'first date checklist,' doesn't it? I was going to skip box one: where do you work, but I've got to admit that I'm curious to know what you do after school at the Swiss Federal Institute of Tech." As they walk, they pass the steady flow going into the amusement parks on this pleasant spring Saturday afternoon, the intentionally-garish music of the rides drifting out toward the street they walk alongside.

Rami casts him an almost crooked smile at the warning that the boredom is just around the next corner; it warms her already warm brown eyes. Then she laughs, shaking her head as she follows alongside him. "So… where did you grow up, do you have any siblings, and… where did you go to school? For the so-called checklist?" She glances sidelong across the street in a casual look, but there's also purpose there. She wants to know where she is, where they are going, who is familiar, and who is becoming familiar. Michael has her paranoia overclocked. Her head tilts back his way as they pass the amusement park. "I'm on loan to an office here in New York from the home firm. I work for a communications company. We specialize in data-sharing." Woven close to the truth, as the best lies are. "If you would like the date to become dull, I'm happy to talk more about my work."

Simon matches her laughter readily enough, shrugging a little helplessly and nodding, "Pretty much." His own eyes flicker around as he walks, passing it off as looking around for activities. He points out the Wonder Wheel Ferris wheel, "Apparently, the view from up there is pretty spectacular." He, however, is studying the pair of burly men in loose button-down shirts just outside the park. At least the Wonder Wheel is just beyond them. "Communications?" Despite the enthusiasm in his voice, he hurries along to, "That could be either quite interesting or utterly boring, I'm afraid." He laughs and hefts up his S-Phone, "All I really know is how to use this, and I'm sure I'm not using it right." His smile flashes broad again, "So what are you looking forward to at the Aquarium then?"

If the two burly men catch Rami's eye when she follows Simon's gesture, it's impossible to tell; she holds her hat steadily on her head, looking up at the looming wheel. "You can probably get me on that monstrosity… after the Aquarium, and a hot dog." She flashes him another red-lipped smile before she catches sight of his phone. She laughs. "Few people use any communication device to its fullest capabilities. A good communications design for the public has a multitude of features so that it can guarantee at least most users take advantage of 25% of those features." There's a small, almost sheepish edge to her smile. "The problem is that sometimes you lose quality to quantity; I can be a bit old school. I'd rather have tech that does one thing exceptionally well than a multitasker than does everything at a base level." She feels the urge to push up nonexistent glasses in a rather nerdy gesture, and is thankful that all she can do is tuck a loose curl back behind her ear.

As for the Aquarium, "If it's like any other Aquarium, there should be sea otters. I love the little tossers."

Her 'offer' causes Simon to chuckle, "Then I'm assuming that the roller-coasters are off the table." He doesn't sound all that broken up about it. The nerding out gets even more laughter from the big man, although by the end, he points across to the woman, "Yes! Yes! That's what I'm always saying. Unitaskers are bad in the kitchen, but I want a phone that makes calls really well, not something that's a phone, email, a gaming console, a camera, and a toaster." Of course, he's still packing the latest S-Phone. The mention of the otters brings him back to a chuckle, "I've heard they're little hellions. But yeah, totally adorable."

Simon's excitement over her perspective of technology has her smiling broadly to him in a warm approval. His old school soul for technology is a touch endearing, and only makes her feel more comfortable in their date. Maybe Yashminder actually made a good call here, but she is still wondering just how much about Simon Green does her family know. For example, that he is a ginger American. "Oh, they are the arseholes of the animal kingdom, but yes… quite adorable." Rami finds herself falling into a comfortable silence for a few strides as they near the aquarium. They are stalled at the corner with that glaring red hand telling them not to cross, and so she turns toward him. "How do you know Yashminder?"

The response draws another bubble of laughter, nodding his agreement, and then Simon takes the silence as an opportunity to study the woman sidelong. His eyes pick out the set of her jaw, lines of her cheekbones and nose, the construction of her name, all clues to her identity. It's impossible for the spy not to profile someone he's spending time with, to file factoids and ideas away for future use. The question causes him to grin crookedly, glancing from the flashing red hand to Rami, "I was half-serious about the punch card. I eat there about twice a week. I think that Yashminder just likes having someone besides family to speak Punjabi with. He was talking about how the last perfect date he set up for you didn't go so well, despite him being a nice guy, and then he stopped and he stared at me for about a minute — I was getting rather confused for a second — and here I am."

Either ignored or not noticed, the assessing look from Simon goes uninterrupted as they near the aquarium. Others gather around them as they wait for the crossing sign to flash to the walking man, and it causes Rami to step closer to Simon to avoid being separated by an excited family of four. The grinning look from the man, and their accompanied words, opens her expression with surprise. "You speak Punjabi?" She combs through various professions that would have a man learning Punjabi, and she takes a shot in the dark. "Military, international business, or passing interest in other cultures?" Though passing interest would not equate an American knowing Punjabi enough to impress Yashminder.

Simon turns slightly to accept the closer stance of the Sikh woman, his left hand coming up to touch her shoulder-blade. "Well, I did serve," there's really no hiding a veteran, especially not one who has kept his hand in matters since leaving the military, "but I read a lot of reports for work, and it can be good to read them in their native language." He shrugs a little helplessly, "Consultant." The light turns, and he starts forward, fingers providing just a touch of guiding pressure at her shoulder and then falling away.

The gentle touch to her shoulder draws a comfortable smile, and the Sikh presses her hand back over her hat to hold it in place as she looks up at him. "So you're an analyst. Or were an analyst, as it sounds like you've gone private consulting." There's amusement in her words, and it isn't directed at Simon. The most favored spy cover is, of course, being an analyst. It's what her family thought she did when she first joined MI-6. The idea of actually being in the presence of a legitimate analyst has her amused. She walks along the street at his urging, staying in close stride with him. "Do you often let chefs at your frequent restaurants hook you up with their cousins?"

"Yes. It's a little boring, sitting at a desk and pouring over reports all day, but I watch plenty of spy movies and pretend that I'm one of those analysts." Simon's grin is positively cheeky, "It makes it a little more bearable. But I'm doing good work, and that helps a lot." As they move into the parking lot of the aquarium, he adds, "Weekend flag football games when the weather is good help too. And I have to say that this is a first for me. Usually it's just meeting someone in a bar, or getting referred by a friend," there's a considering pause, "Although I guess that's what this is, isn't it?"

"I admit, I've never been a fan of spy movies." The irony of those words will be undoubtedly lost on Simon, but Rami cannot help the light rolls of laughter that accompany them. She gathers her dark hair in one curve of her hand, pulling it over one shoulder as she looks at her date. "Depends on if you think of Yashminder as a friend, or not." Then she holds up her hand, smiling broadly. "You see, I get set up on dates about twice a week — sometimes more than twice. You should be warned on my family's relentless nature. If this date goes well, expect Yashminder to be needling you for a second." Her smile goes mirthless. "No pressure."

Simon gasps at her laughing admission, "I'm sorry, that's strike one," he jokes. The teasing at her hair draws his eyes, and he shrugs her claim off, "But even the best get one or two strikes. And I hadn't thought about it before, but yeah, I think Yashminder might be a friend." His brows climb up his freckled forehead at the description of her dating life, and he nods thoughtfully, "Well, let's see how many more strikes you get before we're done with the Aquarium." Spycraft 101, put the other person on the spot — now available in Blind Date Edition.

"Strike one?" Rami's bright laughter is audacious in the mere threat of being in the penalty box. "I like movies from the '80s and early '90s, with the occasional peppering of modern heist movies. Does that redeem me at all?" Then she reaches into her left pocket, tugging out her little wallet — a tiny thing that carries just her identification, credit cards, and folded bills. She casts him a dangerous look. "This is where we test your chauvinism." She steps up to the opened window, and her entire expression warms and opens with cheerfulness as she greets the teenager behind the glass. "Two adults, please."

"The heist movies redeem you a little." Simon smiles at the bright laughter, letting it wash over him and settle into the smile lines around his eyes. When she takes out her wallet, he opens his mouth and reaches for his pocket as well, only to be forestalled by her dangerous look. Lifting his hands to his sides in surrender, he adds, "I'll get dinner then. And the Wheel, if you decide you want to risk it."

The Sikh pays for their tickets with a bright smile for the teenager — who is having a hard time not smiling back in the sheer force of Rami's good nature. She takes the two tickets from the girl, and pockets her wallet back into her voluminous skirts. "I'm about ready to take a risk." Her brow arches just slightly as she starts toward the entrance to the aquarium only after lingering at his side long enough for him to fall into stride with her. She offers the tickets to the kid at the door. The gangly kid scans the ticket, welcomes them to the aquarium, and hands Rami a map.

"After the otters, of course." Simon falls into stride easily enough, offering the gangly kid a smile and starting to reach for a map as well. He stops, however, and tucks his hand into his pocket, "You buy the tickets, you get to navigate, unless you want me to do it." Shrugging a little helplessly, he gestures into the aquarium proper, "I may not be able to find a clear LZ in Tikrit, but I can find otters at an aquarium." Pause, "I think."

Tikrit. Iraq. Who exactly did Yashminder find her? Rami unfolds the map as they enter the Glover's Reef and Conservation Hall. The room is dim, allowing the vibrant blues and greens of the aquarium. The people who move through the room are more like silhouettes in the half-light. The noise is a bit louder, but voices are also pitched lower instinctively due to the aquatic enclosures. Rami pauses near the enormous wall of thick glass as an giant fish floats past, its fins and tail swaying like white silk in the clear waters. His words give her a moment's pause, and then she promptly folds up the map. She slips into Punjabi, her words warm and teasing in her native language, "How about we go without a map at all, and see how long it takes us to find the creatures?"

Simon shifts a little at the slow pause from Rami, a flicker of nerves tightening the corners of his lips, but the sight of the huge fish drifting past pulls his smile back onto his face. The shift to Punjabi takes a heartbeat, but then he nods, following her easily into that language, "A risk-taker. I think you would have to be to put up with two blind dates a week just to keep family off your back." Turning away from the big tank, he gestures out into the dim, cool lightning, "I think we will be looking for something brighter if you want to skip straight there, or would you rather just wander until we arrive?"

"That depends on how fast you want us to get out of the aquarium, and onto the ferris wheel." The woman disposes of their map boldly, and then curls her fingers lightly around his forearm, giving him a gentle tug to follow her. She slips back out of Punjabi, satisfied by his use of the dialect. "And why do you assume that I dislike getting constantly set-up with every single Indian man in New York City? Perhaps I enjoy the gut-wrenching awkwardness of the first date over, and over again." Her teasing is light, genuine, and only just the smallest hint of rueful. She leads him along the reef where the colors are vibrant and the lighting soft.

Simon takes a chance, teasing her with, "I don't know, I haven't noticed if you had garlic for lunch yet." Once more following the shift of language, he laughs easily at her commentary on her dating life, drawing along by the grip on his forearm, "I assume that because you seem too nice to take enjoyment from the pain and suffering of yourself and others." His arm crosses his body to touch the back of her hand, and he drifts to a slow meander a little closer alongside her as they step from the cool depths of the sea (tank) to the bright splashes of (faux) reef color. "They had a real problem here with Sandy, you know. Apparently a group of employees stayed on despite the storm to look after the animals and exhibits."

The suggestion in Simon's teasing draws Rami's smile wider, and one brow arches slightly. She adds no other commentary to his teasing, but just smiles a gently mysterious smile. The touch to her hand encourages her to step closer alongside him as the pair step deeper into the reef and its neighboring conservation hall. "I don't know… I've considered changing my mind on that." Then she looks up around the aquarium, taking more note of it as she had — until now — been more focused on Simon. The mention of Sandy draws a faint nod from her. "That is quite noble of them. Were you in New York then, for Sandy?"

"It seems that a lot of the people working here do it for love. I can understand that, even if analysis isn't exactly passion-inducing." Simon smiles his encouragement in response to her subtle shift nearer, "I can't imagine what the place would be like if they hadn't stayed." As they meander their way through the tropical exhibit, up the stairs, and toward the outside exhibits, Simon shakes his head, "I wasn't in town for Sandy though, no. I only moved to town a couple of years ago. You move around a lot, consulting. That's either the best thing or the worst about the job."

"Passion for your work is important, even if isn't exciting." She smiles wryly toward him before she pauses to let a family pass them. "World traveler, or have you stuck to just the States, then?" As they step outside, Rami clasps down on her hat again out of instinct as if expecting an upward breeze to come unseat it. She holds it steady until they are fully out under the sun once more, and the sounds of the outdoor exhibits mixes with the sounds of the attendees. She glances around, getting her bearings in the far brighter outside.

"Certainly passion for something," Simon jokes, shaking his head in amusement, "And I get around. Mostly the United States, but I learned Punjabi in the Punjab, for instance. Helping to set up a security conference." There actually was a security conference, and helping to set it up was his cover for some distinctly insecure actions. He raises his right hand to shade his eyes as they come out into the sun, the little gust of wind that Rami prepared for riffling the scarf wound around his neck. "I think we're getting warmer." There is a collection of squeaking from around the corner — humans and otters alike.

"I could tell. You have the right dialect of someone who learned it from immersion instead of a correspondence course." Rami's compliments include a wry little smile before she turns her head toward the squeaking. She starts to smile broader still, grasping lightly to Simon's wrist to tug him along toward the enclosure. There is a break in the glass between a mother and her toddler and two older school-aged girls. Rami sweeps her skirts in close to her legs as she tucks into that gap, tilting back her hair to watch as an otter's lean, silky body goes rocketing past in a gleeful, aquatic spin.

"You mean I don't sound like a robot?" Simon's grin flashes again, "Thank you, I've tried very hard to actually sound like a person." He chuckles, exaggerating the motion of getting pulled along by the grinning woman. She tucks up against the glass, and he isn't left with many options if he wants to look too. Then again, there's an invitation there, whether conscious or unconscious. Switching his hands, Simon snakes his right hand past Rami to rest it against the heavy glass, the motion drawing his frame into her personal space, although his arm is long enough to keep a small gap between them. "There one goes." His left hand points over her shoulder, then drops away again, "I suppose you hear a lot of accents, some learned as a first language and some as a second, don't you?"

The press of Simon's hand into the glass just off her shoulder draws her eyes briefly to him, and she smiles. Her attention is caught by another flying otter as it goes swimming past, turning its silver belly toward the glass. The toddler beside them squeals with excitement, but that barely registers as Rami cuts her focus between Simon and the otter. "Often, and not all in Punjabi. Americans are always impressed by the number of languages other people speak. We're surprised how few Americans speak." She points then, distracted as two otters go flying past each other in what looks like an intricate dance.

Simon shifts slightly under her gaze, a silent offer to back off. The squeals from the toddler draws a laugh from the ginger man, and he glances down, offering both the child and mother a smile. "What is it, a dozen or more in India alone?" 780, actually, with 23 major ones. "But yes, most Americans can't even speak English," Simon jokes, "It's more than a little embarrassing. I blame early childhood education. Or maybe sPads or video games. Something I don't use much."

Under the silent offer in his gaze, the Sikh just smiles again with a tilt of her head. "Quite a few more than a dozen." Something about how Simon said those words though suggests that she knows he knows it's far more than a dozen. She smiles to the mother and toddler, turning into Simon. "Blame whoever or whatever you like, but it is refreshing to see that some Americans are quite self-aware." She smiles ruefully before she gives him a nod, stepping back from the glass and releasing her skirts. "We've found the otters. What's our next mission?"

"You would certainly know better than me," Simon admits cheerfully. He watches the otters pinwheel by another time, "As long as I'm not blaming myself. It's the American way." When she glances up at him, he pushes back as well, giving her room to step away from the otter enclosure, "Well, the shark exhibit doesn't open until later this year, and they aren't nearly as cute as the otters, so I think it's the boardwalk, food, or one of the amusement parks. The game doesn't start for another hour if you're even interested."

"Is that the American way?" Rami arches her brows at that, though her smile doesn't falter. She glances behind her just once toward the otters before she turns her attention back to Simon, falling into stride beside him. "I'm starving." There's a wry humor that filters into her words as she continues, hand curling up around his upper arm just above his elbow. "So, choose a restaurant and we can get something to eat before you take me on the Wheel." With that, she gives him a tug so he can lead her along.

"Truth, justice, and…" the American Way. Simon glances down to her hand on his arm for a moment, then smiles across at her and curls his arm so that he is more escorting her than having her cling onto his arm. "Another test then. Which restaurant to choose." He sounds more amused than anything, leading the way toward the aquarium's exit, "I've heard good things about this little falafel place a block down the boardwalk…"

"Everything is a test on the first date," Rami points out with a slight quirk at her full lips. "I've been on plenty of them lately to know." She then gives one last look at the otters and the rest of the aquarium, and then she's committed to him leading her out. "Falafel sounds lovely. I was wondering if you were going to suggest hamburgers." She cannot suppress the way her smile curves her entire mouth into a broad grin. Then she squeezes his arm, letting him lead the way.

"A little too all-American, I think," Simon muses, "Plus, unless they're really great, burgers are really just… burgers. High floor, low ceiling." He apparently notices the look backwards, because he adds, "We can always go back and see the otters again later, Rami." As they depart the aquarium and go back out into the spring sunlight, he chuckles faintly, "If I make any major mistakes, you'll let me know, right?" There's a pause, and then his chuckle returns, "No, probably not. That would be cheating. I think you're a step up on me though. Experience and all that."

The promise that they could always go back and admire the little, adorable assholes of the sea draws a laugh from Rami, and she looks sidelong to Simon as he leads her out. "I'll send you a report you can analyze when we're done." The teasing is gentle, but unmistakable. She then shakes her head. "This is perhaps the best date I have had since I came to the States." Though, Dev Kaler was a close second even if Warhorse interrupted her. She presses her lips together lightly then. "But don't let that go to your head."

"Would you? A good debriefing does wonders." His lips peel back from his teeth in an answering grin. "Don't give me too much credit too soon, Rami. I might have to mess things up just so that I don't throw off the curve for all those nice Indian men." Simon watches the press of her full lips, and then shrugs slightly as they take a left out of the aquarium and head down to the boardwalk, "Two a week, by the way? Really?" There's a moment's pause and then he inquires quite openly, "Your family isn't bringing you the wrong sort, are they?"

Something of a blush blossoms across Rami's cheeks as she — perhaps mistakenly — detects an innuendo in Simon's use of debriefing. She shakes her head, tucking a bit of curl behind her ear. The mention of throwing the game causes the woman to laugh lightly once more, and she looks up at him through the fall of her forelock. "I'm nearing decrepit according to marriageability, Simon." Her smile turns rueful and apologetic. "Not to put undue pressure on anything that may transpire here." Her words break-up near the end when she realizes what he has suggested in his last question, and she's laughing blissfully bright. "No… no… they have chosen the correct sort, I just…" She slips into a thoughtful silence before she continues. "My work is not exactly the most conducive to dating, or settling down. I travel, often… and my nights can be spontaneous. My mother moved to two a week because I was cancelling so often, she was trying to create a larger chance of success."

Simon didn't mean for 'debriefing' to be innuendo, but when she blushes, he thinks about it a moment, and then color seeps into his cheeks as well. Before he can respond to clear that up, she's moved on, and he clears his throat, "Only according to marriageability, as far as I can tell." There's a moment's pause, and he adds a little levity, "But we'll see how you handle the Wheel and maybe a roller coaster or two." He knew he was treading on dangerous ground with the question of sexuality, but her response is pretty much exactly what he was hoping for, and he nods, "I know what you mean. Not that my mother is pressuring me or anything, but the job pressure. I wouldn't have thought communications would be so rough — do they move you from office to office that frequently? Or is it more like 'when something breaks, you need to fix it?'" From his tone and the open look on his bearded face, it's not suspicion behind the questions, just interested curiosity.

"A roller coaster?" Rami looks dubious. "You'll need to decide how you want this night to end, because I'm not sure a roller coaster is the right choice." The Sikh slips her other hand into her pocket while her fingers continue to rest, curled around Simon's upper arm. She glances at him when he expresses his curiosity, and she slips quickly to find the truth in the lies. "More the latter. We're a bit international, and so that requires me to also be a bit international. I get calls at all hours around the world, and I can be shipped around if needed." She smiles ruefully. "I'm sure my mother would prefer I retired, found myself somewhere else to work that stayed local. Of my family, I am still the only one of my siblings and cousins to not yet be married. It's… cultural."

Simon waves off the concern as to the end of the night, "I've got no expectations besides a fun time. And so far it's been nice." He glances up at the sun filtering through gaps in the clouds, and shades his eyes for a moment before he pulls out a pair of aviator glasses from inside his jacket and slips them on. "Ahhh, worldwide hours. Delightful." There's something knowing in the statement, "Oh, I understand the drive to marriage in most cultures in the subcontinent. It says a lot about your independence that you haven't given in yet."

"A lot of good things, I hope." When he brandishes his sunglasses, she finds herself smiling in some unspoken amusement — perhaps even admiring. She looks away before he can spot her staring. Her fingers slip through her hair once more, letting it slide between her fingers as she looks out across the boardwalk. "Do they have candy floss here, you think?" She hesitates. "No, not floss… cotton candy?"

"Absolutely. Independence is a good thing." Simon doesn't notice the look, instead turning his gaze up toward the Wheel as they pass it once more. "It's an attractive quality." The query about candy floss spreads confusion across his features for a moment, and then she clarifies and he laughs easily, "Yeah, I think they probably do. That and funnel cakes. Do they have funnel cakes in the UK?"

The tall Indian woman follows his gaze up toward the Wheel, watching it spin lazily with its little gondolas as they sway with the rotation. She glances toward him at his follow-up question, and she laughs. "Recent phenomenon. I think the U.S. fair craze hit London about ten years ago — candy floss, funnel cakes… though we eat ours in strips instead of the…" She pauses, swirling one hand over her open palm. "Nest that you favor." There's a hint of a familiar smell on the air as they near the falafel place, and she almost tugs him instinctively toward it.

Simon nods, chuckling, "Infecting the whole world, one pop culture bit at a time." But her description pauses him, "Strips? What kind of heresy is this?" Laughter bubbles up into his throat as he goes with the subtle draw, speeding their steps a little toward the little walk-up, "Funnel cakes should always be sold in a messy nest, just like everything else American." There's a line, but it's a brief one, just one person waiting to order and one waiting for food, and Simon digs out his wallet quickly this time, flashing Rami a grin as he does.

Parambir starts to laugh, sparked by his genuine humor and self-deprecation. She tilts a look his way with a slow-spreading smile, tilting back her hat a bit. "There appears to be two types of Americans: the impossibly prideful and the insultingly prideful." She just smiles as they near the window at the stand, and makes no attempt to slip out her wallet as Simon pulls out his. She did promise he could pay for their dinner, and whatever tickets or admission for the carnival rides. She is true to her word. She steps up to the window, and orders a traditional falafel — with fries, because everything in America comes with fries. She steps back to let Simon do the same, and to pay, and she looks out across the boardwalk as she waits. Once done, she turns slightly toward him.

"Haven't you heard the song 'Proud to be an American?'" Beat pause, "I think there are about thirty of them." Simon follows her order with his own, simple, straight-up, although he forgoes the fries for a garishly-colored snack bag of imported potato crisps. He pays quickly, exchanging a few words in Arabic with the vendor, and then pops open the bag of crisps as he drifts over to stand close at Rami's side while they wait, offering out the open bag of curls that are… pizza flavored? "And yes, we do tend to be proud. At least the ones that aren't trying to tear the place down themselves."

She catches the few words of Arabic, brows arched slightly. When he arrives back at her side with the garish bag, she instinctively plucks a curl from the mass within without even noticing the flavor. "Arabic?" She crunches into the curl, not at all deterred by the pizza flavoring. There are odder chip flavors in London. "You are quite surprising, Simon Green." She finishes up her curl, sucking a bit of powdered flavoring off the pad of her thumb. "Alright, where have we left off on the first date checklist?"

Simon shrugs a little helplessly, "I'm not fluent. But I like to be able to at least chat with the people I'm buying from. It helps make sure I'm not getting ripped off." There's a pause, and he grins, "Or getting a spitburger for being a loud, ugly American." He crunches a couple of crisps, watching her suck off her thumb with interest, and then adds, "You're the expert, but I think we've had entertainment, food…" the person ahead of them has their order called, and Simon glances over his shoulder between them a moment, and then looks back to his companion, "…which is the minimum requirement. No drink, no awkward goodnight kiss — or avoiding one — but that's pretty much the basic boxes checked."

"You're missing something very important." Rami pilfers another curl from the bag, waving it at him briefly before she crunches through it. She also glances toward the pick-up window before she finishes off her second crisp. "Dessert." She smiles to him. Then when their order is called, she steps up to take the two piping-hot cardboard boats which contain their meals. She hands the one without fries to Simon, cradling her own. She appears to be a plain fries person, foregoing the various condiments available in a bucket of ice beside the napkins — she does grab a handful of those, however.

The blatant theft of his crisp doesn't seem to phase Simon, although his eyebrows lift slightly at her warning. When she clues him in, it draws a laugh, "I wasn't going to take that for granted. In my oh-so-humble… and humbling… experiences, that only happens when the date is going well. I just think that you want to make sure you get some candy floss." The Englishism slips easily into his vocabulary even as he follows her back to pick up dinner, "So yes. Entertainment, discussion, food, dessert because it's going well, a death-defying trip on a really old Ferris wheel…" He nods over toward one of the little picnic tables across the boardwalk, "So you like otters, really good technology, and a good sense of humor. What is it you do for fun, Rami Ghai?" Dinner is, apparently, another 'getting to know you' phase of the afternoon-turning-evening.

As they settle onto the benches of the picnic table, Rami offers a rueful grin even while taking a bite into a french fry. "Yes, but now I am seriously considering the funnel cake proposal." She tucks in her skirts before draping a napkin across her lap. As they slide into comfortable conversation, Rami is surprised how easily she tells him truths instead of lies — as long as they don't edge around topics of work, she's honest with him about each little facet of her life. She talks about her favorite movies — all, as previously stated, pop culture icons from the 80s and early 90s. Along the way, she confesses that she has a real love for museums, particularly history museums, and no, she hasn't been to any in New York yet because she hasn't had time between work and her never-ending parade of suitors. "I imagine once I catch my breath, I'll make the time." Eating is slow-going as they talk, but Rami proves that she has mastered the art of the first date meal, working through her fries and falafel without either getting cold.

Simon finds himself laughing along and sharing readily enough. He is not quite the seasoned pro that she is at the first-date dance, and has to wipe a bit of tahini off his beard a couple of times. He's only able to meet her on blockbusters and sports movies from the 80s and 90s, plus heist movies in general. He's clearly more of the sporty type than the museum type, although he does provide that New York has some of the best museums in the world — or at least in the United States — and that he hasn't been to many of them himself. There might even be a little disappointment (in them) that none of her suitors has considered one of the museums as a date site. He stays away from work as well, as if by unspoken agreement not to go beyond the superficial there, but talks about skydiving and white-water rafting in his free time, as well as hunting trips into the backwoods. He even allows that he has two much-younger half-siblings who are still in school. Finally, the food is done, and Simon starts to gather up the little cardboard boats and the detritus of napkins and food remnants. "So are we sharing a funnel cake then, Rami? Or are you the type who needs to have her own?" There's a teasing lightness to the question, but she did say that everything on a first date is a test.

Parambir does not seem at all turned off by the idea of extreme sports, or hunting. She even admits she is familiar with skydiving procedures, but never got up the nerve to try herself. Rafting interests her more, and there's some keen familiarity with the sport despite not having rafted herself. She mentions, off-handedly, that her uncle liked rafting Brahmaputra — one of the most challenging rivers in India. Then she lets him clean up after their dinner, and leans back to stay out of his way. Her brown eyes watch him with interest, following the comfortable way his body moves and the way he expression opens when he smiles. "We can share," she replies, laughing lighting through her words. Her hands slip lightly down into her pockets, head tilted slightly with her hat tipped back a bit.

Simon looks impressed by rafting the Brahmaputra, grinning in return at her laughter. Before he notices that her hands are in her pockets, he offers out an arm or a hand, or something, "So independent, but not just to be independent. Got it." A chuckle lifts to his lips, and he nods, "I know that they have funnel cakes at… well… about half of the stands here, but I honestly don't know which ones are the best." There's a pause, and he shrugs, "Hell, I don't even know if there is a best funnel cake. Besides one that's in a messy nest shape."

The offered hand doesn't even give her pause; she slips a hand free from her voluminous skirts and takes his hand with her warm, brown fingers. She squeezes his hand gently before she falls into stride with him. She starts to laugh at his mention of the nest, and she muses at him with a tilt of her head. "Choose a stand close to the ferris wheel." She hasn't once looked at her phone, despite the weight in her pocket. It is a first for her, to not be drawn into the screen in hopes of a message from Tower Actual, or another easy-to-tap excuse.

The squeeze to his hand reassures Simon a touch — he had started to get nervous the moment he offered it. "You got it." The benefit of being deployed out of a home office is that you usually get a little warning before you have a job, so Simon isn't even worrying about his own phone. Gesturing back the way they came, he adds, "I think I saw a couple between here and there." There's a moment's pause, "So have you ever been to a baseball game?" Once more, the teasing lilt dances into his words, "Or are you one of those nerds who is completely against sports in all forms?"

Her fingers remain just loose enough around his while they walk toward the Wheel. She lets him lead the way, perhaps because this is more his town than hers. When he mentions the baseball game, she looks a bit circumspect. Then she shrugs a shoulder a bit. "I like football. And I did spend a period of my twenties a bit too in love with rugby." She presses her lips together as she smiles. "American sports elude me, though I did enjoy a Super Bowl party a few years back."

Simon brightens when she mentions football, but he pauses before he responds brightly, laughing suddenly, "You mean European football, don't you? I was about to get excited. I get soccer, but…. I don't know, I think I'd like rugby better if I knew anything about it. And yeah, the Super Bowl is kind of the best party there is in the sports world, isn't it?" He pulls up at a stand with funnel cake on top of its menu, "So… too in love with rugby… the players or playing yourself?"

"Yes. Soccer." The Sikh woman cannot help the smile that blossoms across her lips once more as he parses through her words, finding connections. As they near the stand, she glances over the other sugary sweets offered on the menu before she turns back toward him. "The players," she confesses without much shame. "They are a rowdy, lovable lot. But, romancing one is not an easy feat." Her amusement is hard to hide despite the crooked way her smile curves. Then she gestures for him to put in their order, trusting his experience with American funnel cakes. She releases his hand as he sees to it, looking up at the looming ferris wheel now that they are close.

"Really? I would've thought they were about the same as football players — American football," Simon is quick to add. "And football jocks are notoriously easy to romance for a pretty woman with a nice smile." He goes straightforward and simple with the order, passing over a bill a waving off minor change. "Unless he was one of the idiots who focused too hard on a dream of the pros, and not enough on the present." A wry twist joins his words on his lips, "I might know a good bit about that type. I wasn't anywhere near good enough, but I thought I was."

The compliment does not go ignored. Rami shakes her head, her smile turning rueful. "I would say that he just didn't have enough experience with a serious relationship to manage an eager-twenty-something that was just as busy with her job as he was with his. I also hated how many times I had to visit him in hospital." She then steps in close, watching as they make their funnel cake in the pool of oil, curling it into a nest of hot dough. She tilts her head in amusement at the cloud of powdered sugar that is dusted over the top, and she waits patiently as Simon collects the oily plate from the smiling girl. She edges in close so she can tear off her first bite. "The Wheel?"

Simon laughs easily, "Oh, I know the type. Too much testosterone and too little experience weighing it down." The mention of the hospital, however, has him grimacing slightly and nodding. As he gathers up the sugary treat, he offers it up to Rami first, "Careful, it comes out hot. That's when it's best though. Good?" The question causes him to nod again, and he leads the way into the amusement park and toward the Wonder Wheel, "The next question is how steady your stomach is, Rami. If you're interested in skydiving and rafting, I think you're probably fine with one of the moving cars. But there's always the outer ones if you're going to come up chicken on me."

Rami consumes her bite of funnel cake, smiling as she does. She breathes through the heat, wiping a bit of sugar off the edge of her lips as they walk toward the Wheel. The next question that follows draws her brows up slightly. She thinks of all the things she has had to stomach over the years, and when she looks at the Wheel, she finds it a simple child's ride compared to the other roller coasters of her life. She shakes her head. "I'll take a moving car, if only because you just called me a fowl." She narrows her eyes at him as she takes another bite of the hot treat.

"Foul," Simon misunderstands intentionally, "is not something I would ever call you, Rami." He plucks a twist of fried dough from the plate, popping it in his mouth and chewing as he wipes off his fingers on the bundle of napkins automatically handed over with the greasy treat. "But moving car it is. Really it's a lot more fun anyhow. If you're on the outside you're really just in it for the views from high up at the top, and for being in a cage with someone." Leading the way up to the ticket booth, he buys two and then heads to the line for the actual ride.

"Mmm, give it time… there are things about me that are most foul." She accepts the plate and napkins, focusing on the treat as Simon moves through the line to get their tickets. She looks up at the spinning wheel with a backward tilt of her head, bracing her hat with the heel of her palm. Only when he returns to her side does she smile toward him and falls into stride to join him in line. "You're a bit of a thrills-seeker, aren't you? Skydiving, rafting… the moving cars on the Wonder Wheel." She offers him out a bit of the funnel cake before she takes her own bite.

Simon chuckles at her warning, although he shakes his head with certain disbelief. His shoulders lift and fall in a helpless shrug at her question, "I also do paintball once a month or so. Yes, I like adrenaline." One hand spreads to expand the shrug, and then he peels off another bite of funnel cake, "But not too much. Too much makes you go gray early…" His hand adds a little powdered sugar to his gray-speckled hair as he brushes it lightly. "You like the quieter life though, I take it. Except when you're young and romancing rugby players."

The mere idea of a quieter life feels so foreign to Rami. She's still sitting on a tiny square of vital data, risking high-end consequences from home firm each day she avoids committing to to the drop. Yes, a quieter life would almost be a blessing. "Only in comparison," the Indian woman murmurs with a tilt of her head. She continues to eat through her half of the funnel cake, smiling at the dusting of sugar on his beard. She leaves it there for now, letting it accent his already paling beard. "You can start laying the groundwork to convince me to live a more exciting life… if this ferris wheel adventure goes well." She finally offers him a napkin, smiling as she gestures to his beard.

The line takes long enough for the two of them to polish off the funnel cake before they get to the line, and Simon tosses the grease-soaked and sugar-dusted plate, and is just about to throw out the napkins as well when she gestures to his beard. It takes him a heartbeat, and then he chuckles, brushing off the powdered sugar and then tossing the napkin. Stepping back a little as they reach the front of the line, he gestures for her to proceed him and then follows her into the barred car, "Oh, I was thinking of finally making the Natural History Museum. If the Ferris wheel adventure goes well. I'll save the rafting, climbing, sky-diving, and paintballing for much, much later. Assuming the Ferris wheel adventure goes well."

Parambir arches her brows at the mention of the Natural History Museum, and a little hint of appreciation passes her expression at his attention to details. Her details, specifically. When he steps back to let her into the car, she steps on in with a duck and then settles into a seat while gathering up her skirts. She starts to laugh lightly at his promise for later adventures… if the Ferris wheel adventure goes well. "Assuming so." She arches a brow playfully at him before she peeks out the bars toward the boardwalk.

Simon catches the arch of her brows, and grins, "Oh yes, that's right, I do listen." Sure, he's bragging a little, but there's laughter behind the words, which takes a good deal of the bravado out of them. Ducking into the car, he settles down onto the bench alongside her, close enough that their shoulders just touch, and waits for the attendant to close and latch the door. "Well, unless one of our works calls while we're high up in the air, or there's something bad about the falafel or funnel cake, I'm guessing we're gonna be fine up there." The wheel lurches into motion as it rotates to fill the next car along, and Simon braces himself with one hand on the bar in front of them and one across the back of the bench, just behind her shoulders.

"Ten points to Hufflepuff." Parambir draws off her hat now that they are under the conical roof of the gondola. She brushes her fingers back through her dark hair, drawing the mane of brown over one shoulder. She glances sidelong to him, and her smile has a lightly playful curve to it. "We're not hoping for any of those things," the woman points out before she tucks herself against him, reading the brace of his arm as an invitation. She looks out the gap out at the boardwalk as the wheel lurches them upwards.

Simon fakes a blank look very well, "Huffle-what?" There's a beat pause, and then he notes, "I'm totally a Ravenclaw." His cover identity is a Ravenclaw. He's a Gryffindor. "No, we're not hoping for any of those things. We're hoping for a nice quiet ride, and then maybe a walk down the boardwalk, look at the beach, talk a little more. If we can make it to dinner, there's a great place around here." Despite his big talk about walking in the sun, his nose is already starting to go a little pink. Or that could be from her tucking herself in close. The last gondola is filled two behind them, and then they begin to rise more smoothly. Once they pass the horizon, the car starts to swing slightly, nudging backwards toward the center, but not quite sliding yet.

"You are not," Rami protests with a wonderful laugh. "I'm a Ravenclaw." Then her expression softens into a gentle smile as he lays out the possible outcomes of the rest of their date. She looks back out at the stretch of boardwalk, leaning into him with a tilt of her head. Her hat gives her somewhere to rest her hands, fiddling with the brim. Then she looks up at the first creak of the sway, and then back to Simon. "I think I can be convinced for extend our date out for dinner." There's an unspoken acknowledgement that she, too, is having a good time.

"Yeah, you are a Ravenclaw, at least from what I've seen so far." Simon grins easily now, drawing in a slow, easy breath and nodding, "Excellent. Although if I'm planning lunch and dinner, I think you might have to plan the next one." Finally, they reach the literal tipping point, and the car begins to slide backwards. As it picks up speed, Simon's eyes brighten and he gives a little whoop just as it reaches the hub of the wheel and stops with a jolt, leaving them swinging in space.

Rami is about to protest to being in charge of planning a date — after all, until now, she has been dragged along from date to date without much say or direction. Then the whole gondola is sliding down its track, and all the woman can do is grasp onto Simon with her fingers curling into his thigh. She joins him in his whoop, almost giggling through it even as they jolt. She looks up at him, catching the boyish joy in his freckled face and it draws a brilliant smile on her red lips even as the cart sways.

Once the car has jolted to a stop and they're just left swinging and laughing as the car circles the top of the wheel, Simon glances down at where her hand grasps his jeans, and the dancing amusement in his eyes doubles as he looks back up to her smile, "This, of course, is the part of the ride with the best view." There's the cheesy line that he avoided earlier.

The cheesy line earns him a soft scoff, but her smile does not fade. She tilts her head just as a curl of brown hair slips past her ear, and she instinctively tucks it back. Only after the gondola sways a few more gentle meters does she lean in, driven solely by the quiet moment near the apogee of the wheel as the gondola sways. She doesn't let her nerves reverse her course, and then she presses her full lips gently against his own. It's a soft, brief kiss — the kind that is hallmark of a first date.

He earned that scoff. Simon glances aside at the touch to her hair, reading the good signal there. He almost misses the better signal entirely, but looks back in time to catch her lips on his own. His right arm stays braced on the side of the car, and his left comes up to touch her shoulder, then her cheek, letting the soft, gentle grace of lips linger just a moment longer than first-date standard. Then he clears his throat as he straightens up again, letting his left hand drop away again — just in time for his phone to buzz in his pocket.

When he meets her bold kiss, Rami relaxes into it. She curls her fingers into the brim of her hat while her other remains lightly pressed against his thigh. When he clears his throat, she clears hers. Whatever she means to say, though, is silenced by the familiar buzzing. She reaches for her own pocket, expecting it to be her phone. When it's his, her brows arch slightly. "I'll wait." Her words are soft, amused, and just slightly apprehensive.

Simon squeezes his eyes closed as the buzzing reverberates against his ribcage, letting out a little sighing breath that might have been distinctly unpleasant if they didn't both just eat garlic. "Of course." Digging out the phone, he glances at the completely innocuous text message from 'Work' that reads 'Time-sensitive project. Please come into the office.' Simon grimaces and flashes his phone to Rami, "The downsides of consulting. Although you get enough of that yourself, yeah?" After he's shown her the text, he turns the phone to the side, thumbing in his code, and then types a quick reply, "I'm telling them that I'm on top of the world…" and then they reach the far side of the circle and after two little twitches, the car goes sliding back down to the outside of the wheel. Simon isn't quite as ready for this one, and he tightens his legs and right arm, locking him in place. By the time they jolt to a swinging halt at the outer rim of the wheel, he's chuckling again, "…or at least close enough. But I'll have to head in after the ride. Sorry Rami."

Rami looks over the text message briefly, and then smiles a rueful smile up at the ginger. She gives his leg a squeeze and then she releases him, tucking her curl back behind her ear once more. "You don't have to sell me on the perils of a busy work life." Then she looks back out across the boardwalk from their vantage point. She sees the world start to slide backwards, and she relaxes into it until they bonk back. With an upward tilt of her chin, she smiles up at him. "It's alright," she reassures him.

As they circle down the bottom of the arc, Simon nods, "It's actually pretty nice not to have to explain that 'work called' really does mean I've got to go in." The phone is shut down and tucked away in his jacket again, and his arm slips down from the back of the bench to — perhaps a little boldly — give her shoulders a squeeze. "Speaking of which, I know your work is crazy too, and you've got a busy social calendar too," there might even be a hint of a teasing smile there, but it fades quickly, "So I'll tell you what. I'll give you my number. I'd love to see you again, and I'm pretty sure that you'd like that too. But just to make sure, I'll leave the ball in your court. You want to do a museum and dinner, or pretty much anything else, let me know when it works for you, and I'll shuffle my schedule around." There's a momentary pause, and then he flashes a grin, "I promise to only call once if I haven't heard from you in a week, and then piss off if I'm reading things totally wrong."

The Brit patiently listens to his offer, and her smile redoubles after a moment. She nods when he mentions her work, and her brow arches at the social calendar bit. But the promise to call only once if she hasn't reached out makes her chuckle softly. "Alright then, Simon." She waits to say more until their cart comes to a stop, and the attendant lets them out onto the loading ramp. She steps aside, giving him room to step out before she starts down the ramp to the boardwalk. Only once she's back on firm ground does she turn to him, offering out her phone so he can type in his number. "I'll let you know." She's teasing him with her noncommittal statements, and only after another heartbeat does she smile warmly. "I'd love to see you again, too."

Simon hesitates for a moment when the door is opened, but then climbs out and offers a hand to Rami so that she can follow more easily. When she hands over her phone, he types his phone number only, to allow her to set whatever name she would like to the contact — and after the first noncommittal statement, it might be 'Pasty Ginger.' As her warm smile returns, he chuckles and nods, "Good. I hate misreading a situation." The phone is given back, there's another brief moment of hesitation, and then he leans in, looking to claim a quick, brief kiss from the Sikh woman. "And on missing out on interesting people. Have a good rest of your weekend, Rami Ghai."

When Simon hands her back the phone, she types something quick in the contacts card and then saves it. Whatever name she's chosen for Simon is a mystery, and not one she shares as he leans in to claim a quick kiss. She meets it with a gentle forward step, and then she is stepping back. "You've not misread." Except for the fact that the two people on this date are spies. She settles her hat back into place, nodding as she does. "Same to you, Simon." Then she turns to start to cross the boardwalk, the two going their separate ways.

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