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An Unremarkable Dinner Date with Nightmare

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"so... what do you think is making the bartender so pissed off?" Dance asks without looking up from the menu. He's never eaten here before, and with Mr The-World-Is-My-Wallet footing the bill, he has every intention of indulging himself. There is something magical about a well-cooked meal and Dance never seems to have the opportunity to enjoy one.

Dance does feel a little guilty about thinking that, since Suave cooked for him nearly every day, but just because he appreciated the labor and intent didn't mean he appreciated the taste. Suave is not a chef, and his food isn't rave review worthy. Dance still loves him, and he'll eat his average tasting salad like always tomorrow.

Nightmare makes a soft noise of thought. His emotions are kept so close to the chest, it is hard for Dance to sense them in the crowded restaurant. He thinks it might be an anticipatory excitement, along with some neutral cousin of interest as he focuses on answering Dance's question. When Dance looks up, the shade of blue in Nightmare's eyelight gives him confidence in his observation.

Dance already knows the answer (or at least has a damn good guess), and when Nightmare meets his gaze over the laminated menu already splattered in his goopy fingerprints, the secret smile hidden there tells him he does too before he says a single word. "i do not know for certain, since my gift is the reading of hearts, not so much minds."

Given how the bartender is glaring in their direction, Dance has very little doubt he is furious at the mess Nightmare is making, his ichor staining the colorful floor and all of the booth seat in various hues of black. Dance sits cross-legged in his own seat to keep his feet up from the pooling ooze beneath, his shoes tucked safe in the seat between him and the wall.

He isn't particularly worried. Dance already knows that dinner dates with Nightmare go one of two ways: delightful passive aggressive inconvenience of some asshole humans, or mild inconvenience that ends with a well deserved super-tip which always changes their tune.

"i'd be more freaked out if you were a mind reader," Dance jokes.

"there is a limit to the scope and magnitude of the data i can find and take, since it can involve such invasive methods," Nightmare continues casually. "i try to avoid direct delving into code as well, unless absolutely necessary."

Dance lets most of that slick off him like water off a duck's back. Sometimes Nightmare just says things that are unsettling, or gives looks to him that feel unsettling. He even feels unsettling, like instead of emitting sound, he absorbs it. To Dance, Nightmare is unsettlingly quiet. If there had not been moments when that silence was broken, Dance might not believe Nightmare is real.

But Nightmare is real, and his song is-

Well, his song is, and Dance hasn't heard it enough.

The waiter finally arrives, and they give their orders. The human is obviously disgusted by the state of Nightmare's excessive slime. Nightmare just hands back his menu, pretending like he hasn't noticed. The waiter leaves with a brisk walk, and Nightmare lets out a soft, sombre laugh.

"this already fun?" Dance asks. Nightmare isn't a fluent social conversationalist. That isn't really his fault, from what Dance has heard. One can't practice talking to people without people to talk to.

"if fun is what i think it to be, then yes," Nightmare murmurs. He looks around the room with a distant casualness, which Dance thinks is his way of avoiding more eye contact. The faint echo of shyness he thinks he feels from Night never shows on the man's inscrutable face.

"what should we do after dinner?" Dance unrolls his napkin from his silverware. He isn't used to eating food that needs a fork, but he knows what to do with one.

Nightmare considers his own utensils, wiping his hands on each other futilely before unrolling his own. He examines them with only a little less awkwarness than the last time they went out for dinner. "the cinema, perhaps. i do find it fascinating how art can move the hearts of mortals."

"what you in the mood for?" A movie wasn't a bad idea. And with dinner freely eaten, they won't pig out on snacks so badly. "horror? action? mystery?"

"...if i must name a genre..." Nightmare peters out, offering that distant echo of muted embarrassment. "...romance..?"

Dance can't stop his smile from growing. He's really fucking proud. Nightmare rarely indicates his own preferences so explicitly, like he fears they'll be used against him. "yeah. we can look for one of those. you mind if it's a chick flick?"

"i have no concept of gendering artistic expression."

Dance takes that as a 'no.' "cool. plenty to pick from then, i bet."

It's a different waitress that brings their meal out. Kid looks haggard, feels overwhelmed and worn. Dance would bet money she's new. She spills a drink on Nightmare, clumsy, and her trembling, genuine apology is laced with panic.

Night looks down at himself. He cracks a smile. He laughs. His eyelight is still blue, but it's a laugh. "a new drink, then."

The waitress nods and scurries off, her anxiety soothed to something more manageable.

Dance quirks a brow at his date.

"...what, was i supposed to be incensed that my ichor was discolored by the blood of lemons?" Night starts in on his meal, slow and awkward yet with his fork and knife. Dance has never thought him more dignified.

"just thinking you're really not what your reputation makes you out to be," Dance finally replies.

"nor are you. you have yet to take me to a discotheque."

"not gonna neither." Dance has no interest doing that anymore. Not... how he is. "and way to sound old."

"i am old."

"not too old to keep up with me, i hope."

Nightmare pauses his eating to look Dance in the eye once more. Dance is met with a bottomless purple pip, one that draws him in deeper, makes him forget that little shard of self loathing that reared itself a moment ago. "i think not. it will be my sedentary lifestyle that keeps the difference between us."

"that's fixable. i'll just make you carry me everywhere."

"and frame me for kidnapping while you're at it?"

Dance flicks a piece of chicken at Night, who catches it and eats it. To Dance's delight, Night returns fire with a pea. Dance makes a mental note of this playfulness, both the muted echo in the air and the glint in Nightmare's eyelight. That expression makes Dance's soul flutter, and the way Nightmare focuses on him, hungry, knowing, and flattered, only exacerbates it.

It is convenient, having two empaths in a relationship. The embarrassment of publicly vocalizing certain four-letter words can be avoided completely, without losing the moment to make the sentiment known. Dance hears a faint echo of that song he still needs more of, floating softly under the din of the crowd and his own soul beating in his acoustic meatus.

He likes the guy.