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Leon Kennedy It is so weird to be back in the 'real world.'

Leon has not gotten used to it yet. He may not get used to it ever again. On his way over, the rookie cop who saved the President's daughter single-handedly stopped to grab for the gun at his hip five times, only to find that it's not there. It's in the small of his back, as it were, concealed under his shirt.

It had taken him three tries to get into the restaurant. He'd walked up to the door, decided not to go in, changed his mind, walked up to the door, stared inside, decided not to go in, made it a block away before deciding he wasn't going to stand Ashley up and went back.

Opening the door, finally, the sounds of people chattering happily, music playing over the speakers, and the aroma of food all washed over him simultaneously, and after a solid ten seconds just standing there, he walked inside up to the host station.

"Uh, hi," he quietly greeted the hostess, with a nervous little smile. "I'm here to meet my friend Ashley? Pretty, blonde, kind of pale. Really pretty," he adds quickly as if that will help identify her.
Ashley Graham "Of course," the hostess says. "She mentioned she was waiting for someone." The hostess, a pretty young latina woman, smiles with all her prettiness at Leon and plucks up a menu, turning on her heel with a swish of her hair to walk him in the direction of a booth in the corner. Yep, she's going to show him the whole way there. "I can go ahead and put in a drink order for you right now if you know what you'd like," the hostess, whose nametag says ARCELY, says to Leon over her shoulder. She's swaying her hips slightly while she leads him. Because Leon is a looker, anyone can see that.

She eventually leads the man to the booth, where a woman sits with her back turned. It's Ashley Graham, but an Ashley he's never seen before. Well, not in person anyway. Her platinum hair has been cleaned, so no more tint of pink remains. She wears it down now, the lucious locks spilling like the palest of gold around her face and shoulders and down her back. She's got makeup on too. Not much, because really perfection doesn't need much help, but a bright red lip definitely helps her pop. She's got on a red fitted long-sleeved sweater that ends at her navel, almost exactly where the black-and-white plaid skirt starts. Her midrift doesn't show, but when she moves there is a flash of skin. On her feet are black and white 'wingtip' heels. She's got a club soda with lime sitting in front of her, and the cup seems almost bigger than her. She's petite as hell, and Chilis serves their soft drinks in huge glasses.

At the arrival of another patron and the hostess, Ashley turns her bright blue eyes up, peering through her lashes a moment and blinking at the sight of Leon, who also likely looks quite a bit different in these circumstances. Even though it was arranged that she would meet him, she still seems surprised to see him all the same.

"Oh," she finally says, like a soft whisper. "Oh," she repeats, this time a little louder. "Leon," she says in greeting, and slowly a bright, white smile crosses over her features.
Leon Kennedy Indeed, Leon does look quite a bit different. His hair is clean, finally, his face scrubbed free of the grime and blood and grim looks. Dark brown, it falls in two asymmetrical curtains around his face, a little product giving it some lift and keeping him from looking like an emo rocker. Even though that was totally in in 2005.

He's dressed smartly, a pair of dark jeans and a shawl collar pull-over sweater, a new watch peeking out from his left wrist, and he's bought the clothes in the right size and from the right store, so everything fits just off of his skin. Dark brown chukka boots tip his feet, quiet on the tile flooring as he follows the hostess over.

There's a moment when he sees Ashley sitting there that he considers asking the hostess to watch for her arrival, because this is not the girl he was talking about. It's just a moment, and it passes between the first 'oh' and the sound of his name, and a wide grin stretches his cheeks back, pulling them into shallow dimples. "Ashley."
Ashley Graham The hostess seems to know when she's beaten. Two stupidly hot people greeting each other in simple, yet apparently emotional ways? Yeah, she's out. She leaves the menu for Leon on the seat opposite Ashley and makes her exit with a pained sigh. Life is hard for a Chili's hostess.

And indeed it is an emotional, yet simple greeting. For while the hostess leaves Ashley just looks over Leon, not saying much of anything. Then she shakes her head, and her smile widens. "Jesus," she says, though this is not the pained or panicked whispered swear that he's known from her. This is a swear of ease and delight, and her voice sounds richer when she says it from a smiling mouth. "If I'd seen you on the street, I don't know that I'd have known you," she says, clearly delighted with the man's presence. She doesn't start babbling at him, but rather lets him take his seat in relative quiet, if that's what he intends to do.

"They told me that you'd cleared your medical," Ashley continues, still smiling with an endlessly pleased but slightly bewildered look to her. "After that they didn't have anything else to tell me." So if he has news, she doesn't know it. Her big blue eyes travel over him again. "Jesus," she says again in disbelief.
Leon Kennedy Poor hostess lady. Maybe she can try again when Leon isn't obviously on his way to a date, or something that looks just like one.

Leon takes his seat, smiling back at her and not even bothering to open the menu. "Just water," he notes belatedly as the hostess heads off, but it'll be the server that brings that, not the hostess. She's done with him.

Gray-green eyes study her face, beaming back at him, his smile fading into a thoughtful grin, noting all the little details that haven't changed, but are somehow better, just for the sake of being clean, happy, and safe. "What a difference a few days can make," he muses quietly, flipping the cover of the menu back but still not looking at it, not really. "I know even less than you, I'm afraid." The grin turns rueful, the middle of his lips pursing up while the corners stay curved. "I'm not related to the President, so they haven't bothered to tell me much. Just that I'm clean and not to leave town."
Ashley Graham Leon's old enough to drink if he wants to. Jerk. Ashley's not.

"A few days or ten years?" Ashley asks, her smile faltering just enough to make it more comfortable for conversation. "Sometimes it feels like both," she admits, keeping her voice down so it's for his ears only. She sets her hands in front of her, the knuckles of her thumbs touching. But she doesn't look away from his face and his eyes. No shyness or uncertainty here. "I've woken up both nights so far thinking we were still in there," she explains. "And yelling for you when I couldn't find you. Nearly gave my father a heart attack." Because no doubt they have ajoining rooms. "And then I'll sit back during the day and try to remember something; someone's face from the church, or what happened that made me end up upside down in a train station. And I can't." She pauses there, thinking for a moment. But the sight of Leon really does soften her, and she shakes her head. Too sad.

"They aren't letting you leave?" the blonde asks, switching tacks a bit. "I didn't know that. But then I don't really decide where I go, anyway." She has people to tell her where and when to go and be. And if she did, truly, want to leave? She probably could. Gotta love special treatment.
Leon Kennedy "It does feel that way," he agrees with a knowing smile, sharing in that sort of weird survivor's limbo with her. It was not /that/ long a period of time, after all, in the grand scheme of things, but it seemed so much longer than any other time in his life. And now that it's over, it seems both a heartbeat away and ages ago, at the same instant, a sort of temporal vertigo.

"That sounds hard," he comments, not wanting to tell her that he's barely slept the last two night, but it probably shows in the bit of gray hanging around his eye sockets, unless that's just built-up fatigue from watching over her so carefully. "I keep waking up on the floor by the door," he jokes instead, with a little wink and grin.

Just then the server arrives with a glass of water for him, or should we say a LARGE plastic mug that looks like it was intended for beer at the world's cheapest bar. "Do you two need a minute or are you ready to order? -I'm Ernesta, I'll be your server this evening," she tacks on, with a broad, embarrassed smile as she pulls her eyes off of Leon. "God, I always forget to say that." She blinks vacantly a few times, then asks again, "Do you two need a few more minutes, or do you know what you'd like?"
Ashley Graham Ashley smiles at his admission of some of his own sleep problems. "You should just sleep in my room," she teases. "Then you could be by the door and I'd know you were by the door." Before that conversation tack can continue, the waitress arrives. Ashley turns her head and looks up at the woman with that same warm smile. It's always warm, her smile. Perhaps it comes from being a politician's daughter, where every smile has to seem personal to whosoever is on the receiving end.

"I'm ready if he is," Ashley admits, and if Leon is ready she'll order a Cobb salad. If not, she'll wait and smile all the same. After she's placed her order, though, she turns and looks at the man, watching him interact with the waitress. That fondness is still there, and there's something else too. Interest. Great interest.
Leon Kennedy Taken by surprise, Leon grabs up the menu with deft fingers, tilting it up towards himself to get a better look at it. Curious eyes dart over the page, and he turns his attention towards the server, giving her a smile that's pleasant but that's all. It's a smile, and it's on him, so it's pleasant. "I'm gonna need a few, could you please just bring some chips and salsa for the table? And if you have guacamole that'd be great too."

"The guacomole's gonna be an extraaaa charrrrge," Ernesta draws out with ample upspeak. "Is that okay?" She fixes him with those wide, vacant eyes, batting her lashes inquisitively.

"Yes, that's fine, as long as it's worth it," he half-jokes back, and Ernesta nods, jotting it down, her curly hair bouncing in tight ringlets around her face.

"Okayyyy, I'll bring those right out for you and I'll bring you a refill for your club soda, ma'am," she announces, tucking her notepad away and hurrying off.

"Sorry," Leon apologizes, turning his attention back to Ashley, his brows drawing together a little. "I just- we got to talking and I didn't even bother to look."
Ashley Graham Ashley shakes her head. "It's fine," she admits with a small laugh. "I'm not famished by any means. I'm a little embarrassed to say that I've eaten enough to support a small country since we've been back. Which wasn't wise, because I made myself sick on it at first," she says, good-naturedly. It's funny! They were on the brink of starving to death, and now she's stuffing her face.

She looks back toward the waitress with a thoughtful glance. "I could get used to watching you like this," she tells him easily, turning back to face him. "I like seeing you in a normal setting. It's surreal, and it reminds me that I don't even really know you. But it's also so nice," she sits back a bit in her seat, taking the mostly-empty plastic mug between her hands and fiddling with it idly. Her nails are freshly painted with black-and-white french tips.

"Did you speak with your mom?" Ashley asks, knowing full well that the answer is yes, but that will encourage him to talk about the experience. "Is she here, or will you go and meet up with her, when you can?"
Leon Kennedy "I'm gonna need to see some evidence before I believe that," Leon replies easily, settling back into the booth a little, his eyes starting to wander around the room, looking at the low hanging lamps above each booth table and the decor on the walls. The people, the conversation around them, taking it all in. Civilization. Not being prey. "You ate like a bird back there," he clarifies, pulling his eyes back over to her.

His hand settles on the sleeve of his sweater for a moment, sliding the fabric just barely back and forth over his skin. "...I like being here with you too," he admits, in a bit quieter a tone, for her ears only. "I talked to her. She wants to see me, but she doesn't have the money to fly and I'm afraid she'll lose her job if she takes off to drive. I'm going to see her when they let me go."

A thought crosses his mind, and his head jerks back outward toward the dining area. "Is Secret Service here too? Am I gonna get taken out if I touch you?" It's a bit of a joke, but it's also a reminder of how different they are, even still.
Ashley Graham Ashley chuckles when he requests evidence of her gorging herself. "There's no pictures," she tells him. "I'd never allow that." Yeah, that's all she needs on the front page of the US World and News Report: First daughter eating french fries 15 at a time. "But I'll eat guac with you, if that'll sate your curiosity."

She lifts the bigass plastic mug to her face again and takes a slow sip of the seltzer, savoring that she can have as much as she want. Civilization is a strange thing indeed, when you suddenly find yourself without it. But something Leon says makes her look up at him, surprised and a bit astonished. "They won't let her take off for this?" she asks, incredulously. The working class life isn't really one she knows a whole lot about. "That's ridiculous. Nevermind then, just pick out some flights and send it over to me. I'll get it taken care of." Maybe it's rude to offer to pay for something like that. It does point out the distance between them and their lifestyles. But for Ashley, bless her heart, it's all about Leon getting to see his mother.

And then? Then she sits back and bites down on the lower right corner of her mouth. It's a much more subtle gesture here than it was in Raccoon City, when she damn near drew blood for all the fretting and worrying she did. Now it's just thoughtful and perhaps a little cute if you're in to that sort of thing. "Ah, no," she says when he asks about Secret Service. "They're not here. And even if they were, as long as I say you're allowed to touch me, you're allowed." That makes her beaming smile return.

She brings one hand up to push her beautiful platinum locks back from her face on one side. "You can't tell anyone," she begins. "But Father is resigning his office. He's stepping down." She looks at him and offers a shrug that says 'what are ya gonna do' but a smile that is both pleased for Leon's company but sad about this particular development. "By the end of the week, I'll be just another person. Certainly no one worth sending SEAL teams to die for. Or for you to babysit." Yeah, there's some weight in that statement. Ashley's not happy about this development, and it likely won't do much to help the heaping serving of survivor's guilt she's got coming to her.
Leon Kennedy "I'll settle for that," Leon replies, just as Ernesta returns with the chips, salsa, and guac.

"And here you are," she chirps brightly, setting it onto the table. "Can I take your orders?" Ashley, as we know, opts for a cobb salad because she's preppy as all get out, and Leon goes with the steak tex-mex bowl. You can't go wrong with steak, unless you're expecting, like, an actual good cut of steak from a place like Chili's.
"You don't have to do that," he tells her, chomping on a chip dipped in salsa shaking his head and crunching a few more times before he swallows. "Plane tickets are expensive with this short of notice." He doesn't seem to realize how much of a non-issue it is for her.

"He's stepping down?" He'd have to have the acuity of a rock to avoid knowing that Ashley has mixed feelings on the subject, most of them bad. "Well, what does that mean? What are you gonna do?" His brow furrows with unexpected concern. Is she going somewhere far away?
Ashley Graham "I'd like to do it," Ashley says, by way of ending the conversation about the plane ticket. "Lord above knows I owe you for your services rendered, at the very least." She puts her elbow on the tabletop and rests her cheek on her fist, her other hand plucking up a chip and daintily takes a bite. A naked chip, for now.

She watches him, listening to his questions, nodding in the affirmative when Leon asks for confirmation that the man is, in fact, stepping down. "Father says that he failed, and he doesn't think having failed so much that he can properly serve," Ashley admits with a little sigh. "We'll go back to DC at first to have all of our belongings moved out of the West Wing." She talks about it like any other move. Like it's not this big huge change. "After that, I don't know what we'll do. Do you know what you'll do?" She asks, lifting her eyes to him again. It might be too soon to try and figure those questions out, but since he asked, she's curious to know if he's given it any thought.
Leon Kennedy "If it's no trouble," Leon allows reluctantly, looking down at the basket of chips. He doesn't like feeling like he's taking advantage of her affection for him. Even so, an eyebrow raises as she nibbles on a plain tortilla chip. They're freaking salty too, Chili's goes all-out with the salt. "...don't make me eat all this guac myself," he teases, shoving the corner of a chip down in it to scoop some out and show her how it's done.

Crunching away, he mulls over the news of the President's resignation, and considers her question as well. "Well," he begins around the chip, swallowing it down before continuing, "It's not like there's an RPD to go back to. With Raccoon..." yeah. "-uh, you know. I guess I'll just find another police station or something? What's it like in DC? I've never been there."
Ashley Graham She grins, a fond yet mischevious grin at the man when he scolds her for eating a plain chip. At that, she lifts her head from her hand and undoes her bundled silverware, drawing out the knife. Now she'll show Leon how it's really done.

After plucking up a new chip, Ashley uses the knife to swipe some guac from the bowl and spread it onto the chip, only then taking a bite. She'll lift her hand to cover her mouth while she licks her lips to clear away any mess, and then eats the rest of the chip. That's how a lady does guac, Leon.

"Of course it's no trouble. And it would make me very happy to be able to do that one small thing for you and for her," the blonde explains, moving to set up another chip in the same way.

"Oh, DC's not so bad," she says, lifting her eyes to watch him now while she nibbles her way through the next chip. "It's strangely clean. You go to New York, or London, or some of these other huge cities and there's trash in the gutters, and the sidewalks are skuffed and grimy. Most of DC is designed for tourists and foreigners, I suppose, so we like to put on a good face." She looks a little forlorn then at some thought or the other. "But it's not generally a very fun city for young people, or so I'm told." She was still in high school before. Just a kid. "Not a lot of night life, though we do have a huge gay district that's supposed to be fun. But other than that, it's a lot of lawyers and federal buildings and museums." If Leon's in to that sort of thing. At least some tiny part of Ashley's opinion on the matter shows on her face. She's sad she can't give him a better endorsement.
Leon Kennedy Leon quietly stares as she starts unrolling the flatware and pulls out a knife to literally spread the guacamole like butter on a piece of bread, one bite at a time. This is in contrast to him shoving entire chips whole into his maw. "-Are you for real?" he teases with amused, affectionate, but skeptically narrowed eyes. "You gotta get in there and dig it out with the chip, that's the /authentic/ way." Because Chili's is super authentic. "Like this." Again, he scoops out a glob of guac with a chip and pops the entire thing into his mouth, crunching noisily and grinning broadly at her. The barbarian.

"DC doesn't sound all /that/ bad," he replies, around a mouthful of chip, forcing it down and taking a sip from his water. "Maybe the lawyers part, but you've got all the monuments and the history there. We don't have anything like that around here." If they wait long enough, though, they'll have weed vending machines, so there's that. Just ten-ish years away! "I'm not big into partying anyway, usually when I show up everyone runs out the back door." He grins at that. He's a cop! Or was.
Ashley Graham "I'd better be," Ashley retorts without missing a beat. "Otherwise that makes you very, very crazy." If he'd imagined her. What a vivid imagination that would be! She watches him chomp down on the chip, giving a faux look of disgust at his masculine way of doing things. "You've got guac," she tells him, gesturing to her own face. "Here and here. It looks good on you, but green's not really my color." Still, she doesn't use the knife again, instead sets it aside and staves off on the chips for the time being. Can't fill up on chips!

Instead, she sips her club soda, smiling at home once more. "I'm sure something about being a cop makes people nervous at a party. Not that I would know, Officer. I've certainly never been to one, and I've never known the taste of alcohol in my life." With that sweet smile she might almost be convincing. Because dayum, that's a smile on that girl. It's the sweetness that does it, but also that makes her seem just her slender 18 years.

"Maybe you'll come and visit, and see if you like it," Ashley says slowly, thoughtfully, looking down at the guac for a thoughtful moment, before lifting her eyes back to him. "Once Father and I go back."
Leon Kennedy "No I don't," Leon refutes immediately, but he unwraps his napkin and wipes around his mouth anyway. She's had maybe three chips, which means he's getting to business on them. The good news is, that with her around, at least, his appetite seems to have been restored. Given that he's been a bit picky about actually eating even after the rescue, he's realized he's quite hungry. It's not fifteen French fries like she'd done, but it's close.

And before long the meals arrive, with Ernesta doing her little song and dance about hoping everything is great and just ask if you need anything and batting her eyelashes at Leon, to which he merely smiles politely and takes up his silverware, glancing back over at Ashley as soon as they're left alone again.

"Maybe I will come visit. It's going to be very strange, after all that time together, not seeing you." A small frown troubles him, and his fork darts into the bowl for a first bite to hide it with.
Ashley Graham Ashley smirks playfully at the man when he declares that no, he doesn't have guac on his mouth. He didn't, but that's not the point. She's amused now. Taking the already unwrapped napkin, the young woman sits back to lay it across her lap. She takes up her fork and starts to stir all the ingredients together. She looks up at the man, watching him. And she catches his frown.

"I know," she says, sounding both sympathetic and understanding. "I don't like it," she says, perhaps a little too bluntly and honestly. Most of the time when she speaks it's very gentle. This she just comes out and says. "I've been nervous the last two days, when you're not around me. I imagine that'll fade, but even though we're no longer in danger, there's some sense of safety that's gone." She sighs and looks down at her meal, spearing some lettuce and a tomato to begin consuming the vegetables that made the ultimate sacrifice for her pleasure.
Leon Kennedy People don't understand that plants have just as much right to live as the rest of us. Plants have feelings, they live, they breathe, they respond to light and sound, it's all well-documented and very real. And yet there they both sit, eating plants in one form or another. Horrifying.

After that long and unnecessary bit of meta, Leon watches her carefully as she explains her feelings, for once not smiling or smirking or grinning or teasing her. He just waits and listens, prodding the beef in his bowl with the end of his fork. "It's not even that I miss protecting you," he explains when she leaves off, smearing a spot of dressing around in a little circle. "I just got used to you being there. And now that you're not, and I think about you not being there, and that you might never be there... I don't like it." Feelings are complicated things, but he's done an alright job simplifying his.
Ashley Graham Ashley listens, the cobb salad seemingly forgotten after one bite. Which is good, otherwise we might have to start contemplating the life that never was of the egg on the top of it, or, Lord above, the slaughtered cow laid low before Leon's hunger!

So she just watches him, her eyes and face soft at hearing his words. Feelings are hard things, and apparently Ashley's philosophy in dealing with them isn't to dance around them. It's to plow right through them.

"Come to DC," she tells him, matter of factly. "And see if you like it." In that blatent statement, she admits much of the same feelings. That she doesn't want him to not be around her, either. "If you really don't have anywhere else you'd rather go, or anyplace that you'd prefer more, come see it." Nevermind that they don't know squat about each other, or even much of their personalities outside life or death situations. "Please," she adds gently, as an afterthought.
Leon Kennedy They don't know that much else about each other, no, but trauma is a powerful bonding tool. The hand that comforted you through a near-death experience is one you trust, and when that hand has performed that task about thirty different times, you get a little attached, to say the least. Who knows what the future will bring, or whether they even like each other in the real world. "All I know is I don't like not seeing you. I've told myself it's just silly feelings and time will make it go away, but it doesn't make me feel any better."

Now that his cards are on the table, it would appear Leon feels at least a little more relaxed as he starts to sort of pick pieces out of the bowl to chew on. "DC it is, then. I'll load my car and-" his car was in Raccoon City. "-no I won't."
Ashley Graham "Maybe it is," Ashley confesses, softly. "Just a response to everything that happened. We were together every minute of every day and then suddenly weren't. Maybe it's just that, and it'll go away," she suggests, albiet weakly. Then she chuckles. "Father's secretary has been grilling every shrink in the area to try and get me an appointment somewhere. Background checks take forever though." Secretaries interviewing shrinks for background checks. What different lives they lead.

"But I would like you to come, even if it's a symptom of being crazy," she says with some levity, managing a smile for him again. She goes back to work on her salad. "Don't ask me why I know this, but at least with Capitol Police and DC police, they'll fly you out there and put you up to meet you. I imagine all you'd have to do is tell them a bit of your story and you might beat me there," she adds with a grin. "Especially after Friday. Then I become entirely unimportant, kicked to the back of the line." That amuses her, at least.
Leon Kennedy "Maybe," Leon allows, taking a bite of his meal and chewing thoughtfully, deciding that the bowl is fantastic soon after and taking another, bigger bite. "Do I have to pass one too before we spend more time together?" Or date, even, e-gad.

"I guess I'll have to take advantage of that if I can to get out there." He doesn't know yet that he's about to be shoved into some super special secret agent role and be allowed to go anywhere and do anything until he gets 'the call'. That's going to be a neat change. "I'll get out there somehow," he assures her, with a confident, if small, smile.
Ashley Graham Ashley laughs softly. "If we'd seen a lot of each other, generally yes," she admits, now eating at a comfortable pace. "But like I said, after Friday? I just become another person. Father will always have his secret service. That's a 'for life' deal. But there's just not enough threat to the children of former presidents to make it worth anyone's while. Plus the cost would be enormous. Where does it end, grandchildren?" She shakes her head again. "I'll have to take security briefings from time to time, but nothing extravagant." And then she smiles at him. Bright and amused. "So there's no reason to be afraid of being around me," she adds, with some cheek.

Indeed, both their lives are going to change again shortly in ways they can't imagine. But for now, one of the best ways to get a handle on things might be to just start making plans about them.

And then she just rather stares at him for a moment, thoughtful and playful. "What's your favorite color?" she asks, out of the blue. Best way to get to know someone is to ask, right?
Leon Kennedy "So you're saying if I'm going to ask you out, I should wait until Saturday?" Leon smirks at her, digging in the bowl with his fork, turning his eyes downward. "Duly noted."
He looks up suddenly again as she asks his favorite color, giving her a suspicious look. "Is this some kind of test?" he inquires playfully, stirring his bowl a little. "...it's blue. Like a darker blue with some gray and green in it."
Ashley Graham "I'm saying if you're going to ask me out, go ahead and do it, and I just won't tell my Father until Saturday." She grins, mischeviously. How salacious! Though perhaps there is some appeal in sneaking around on the President. Maybe. Or it's terrifying.

His suspicion causes the girl to laugh, glancing around to make sure the sound hasn't bothered other diners. Other than getting a few looks from people of the opposite sex for being just two freaking gorgeous people sitting in a corner booth, nobody cares.

"I just keep thinking that I don't know you. I don't necessarily know what that means, to know a person. I would think that after what we've been through we do know each other, don't you? But then I realize I can't answer some basic questions about you."
Leon Kennedy Leon laughs at the explanation, taking a sip from his cup of water without using the straw. It sits, neglected, wrapped in paper between them. "Well, it's blue. What's your favorite? I don't know either. I'm guessing red, though, for the record." If guessing is worth anything.
Ashley Graham It's not long before the salad is done. She doesn't quite eat it all, but she sets her fork and knife across the side of the bowl to indicate that she is, in fact, done. Not that Chili's wait staff would be aware of the message, and yet something about wait staff the country over: they can tell when you're done. The table is easily bussed.

"Yellow," she tells him, with a little smirk. "But it was a good try." She seems to be enjoying herself, her smile reaching her eyes in a way that had not happened in the time that Leon knew her. Even the smiles in Raccoon City were never true, honest, and thorough like these.

"Will you walk me back to the hotel, when we're done? I need to give you something."
Leon Kennedy Leon somehow managed to eat everything in that bowl while also carrying on a conversation, but considering the dearth of food they've been through the last few weeks, it's understandable. He's not as prim and proper as her, as we've seen, and he just shoves the bowl forward a little. "Yellow. That doesn't surprise me. And your favorite kind of music?" We already know it's not Guns and Roses.

He nods at her question though, looking a little curious at the statement following. "Of course. Did you want any dessert?"
Ashley Graham "Oooh, jazz," Ashley says easily, with a chuckle. She knows it's weird for an 18 year old to be into jazz, but if it's good enough for Lisa Simpson, it's good enough for her. Besides, her upbringing was a lot of private schools and the like, so it stands to reason she'd be a little weird.

"I have a dollar that says yours is Classic Rock," she challenges, grinning madly. She shrugs at the thought of desert. "I could never eat a whole one, but if you're hungry please pick something." Be warned, Leon. You're in trecherous waters. She swears she can't eat a whole one, but the moment it's in front of you? It'll be 'oh just one bite' over and over and over again.
Leon Kennedy "Weirdo," Leon replies easily, because liking jazz at 18 is like saying you enjoy sitting around knitting or something. "I was expecting you to say classical or something preppy like that," he admits, with a grin.

"Mine is rock in general. I like a lot of the newer alternative stuff but classics are classics for a reason."
Ashley Graham "So you owe me a dollar." Just because Ashley is rich doesn't mean she won't claim her prize! It's about pride, after all, more than anything else. "Wouldn't you have called me a weirdo if I had said Classical?" she asks. She's grinning, madly. She has sturdy self-esteem, enough that being called a weirdo doesn't phase her in the least.

"Did you want desert?" she reminds him. Not because she wants it, NO! But because Leon might. It's all for Leon. All the desert is for Leon. All except that little corner...
Leon Kennedy "I would have still called you a weirdo, yeah, but I didn't expect you to be normal." It doesn't sound like that's a bad thing either, based on the carefree smile and the way the skin wrinkles around his eyes, falling into familiar creases that she's usually only seen when he's stressed about keeping her safe.

After the reminder he flags down Ernesta as she walks past. "Could we have one of those chocolate lava cake things? Is that big enough to split?"

"Of course! Most people can't finish it alone, but uh," she hesitates, leaning in closer. "-I always eat the whole thing." And she gives him a suggestive wink too.

"We'll have one of those please," Leon requests politely, with an innocent smile. Pursing her lips to one side, Ernesta nods and heads for the kitchen. Just can't win with this guy.
Ashley Graham Ashley watches the entire interaction with endless amusement. Absolutely endless. When Leon does get back to looking at her, she's grinning from ear to ear. "I think, even with my Father, you're more popular than I am," she teases, happily.

While they wait for that chocolate lava cake that only the waitress herself can finish alone, Ashley looks over the man with great curiosity. She bites gently on the lower right corner of her mouth in thought. "Are you going to ask me out on a date?" she finally asks, perhaps a touch bluntly but ... well it's a question she wanted the answer to.
Leon Kennedy "What?" Leon blinks at her for a moment, confused. "I'm not popular, I just ordered some cake." Is he clueless? Does he just not notice the flirting? Is he so blind to it after all these years of being really really really ridiculously good looking?

The question makes him smile, though, and he actually looks down a little, considering his hands for a moment before he turns his eyes back up to her and with an almost sheepish grin, asks, "Would you like that?"
Ashley Graham She gives him a Look. Men know the one. It's the 'oh please' look. And he gets it in spades. But she's still smiling.

"Yes," she says, equally boldly. "I would. And I prefer being asked out to having to do the asking out myself, so it would make things much easier for me if you would." She sounds almost professional when she says it, but there's also an overlay of a giant joke. She's teasing him. Poking fun at him. Having fun with him.

Ashley folds her hands and leans slightly forward over the table to peer at him, as if trying to read his mind. All the while, grinning madly. She's not just having fun, she's happy. Something that, for Ashley at least, seemed impossible after everything that happend.
Leon Kennedy "Good," Leon replies simply, leaning forward to mesh his fingers together on the table, adopting a little of her board-room mannerisms in a teasing, over the top rendition. "I would like to request a date with the lady, at a location to be determined by the requesting party, hereafter referred to as 'me', on the day following today, hereafter referred to as 'tomorrow', without the presence of the lady's father, hereafter referred to as 'Mr. President'." Steepling his fingers, he gives her a mock-measuring stare, narrowing his eyes. "I shall await your answer diligently and then I will have my paralegals go over it and prepare a counteroffer."
Ashley Graham Ashley manages to hold a straight face through most of it, she really does. But by the end she's grinning again.

"Ah," she says slowly, leaning back in her little booth. It's a shame it's not a chair that tips backwards, which would do the job. "We are willing to pencil you in on the lady's behalf, sir," she manages, though her cheeks are touched red from the effort.

"There are only the particulars to be determined, which can always be discussed later. Particularly, a time and a location. But we leave that to your capable hands and discretion." But she's smiling. He's made her happy.
Leon Kennedy "Of course," Leon replies, with a dismissive wave of his hand. "We didn't want to waste precious resources sussing out those details until we were sure of a positive engagement from the lady." He can't push it any further though, and he snerks at his own joke, shaking his head. "Alright, I'm done. But I will pick a spot, I just have no idea what's around here yet." That's probably why they're at Chili's.

The good news is Ernesta is back with that chocolate lava cake, which probably comes out of a plastic wrap already made, if anything we know about Chili's is any indication. "Here you are. Enjoy!" She's had it with them, and she takes off immediately.
Ashley Graham "Good Lord Above, that's a lot," Ashley says when the lava cake is brought out. Shocker, she probably doesn't eat at Chili's very often so naturally she doesn't know about the lava cake and its size. It makes her grin.

And then that grin shifts to Leon, because as amused as the cake makes her, the man amuses her more. And really that smile was always for him. "That sounds fine," she decrees, grinning a bit more widely. "You know where I'm staying, so I won't be hard to find." Since they're all staying in the same hotel. And yet chances are Ashley's room(s) are a bit bigger and nicer than the standard survivor's fare.
Leon Kennedy Give that Leon's accommodations are basically a room with a bed in it and a smaller one with a shower/tub that's a decent bet. He didn't even get a microwave, but there is a mini-fridge. Luckily, Salty Ernesta brought out two fresh forks, and he snags one while pushing the other over toward Ashley. "I know you didn't really want anything," he tells her, although his tone suggests a sneaking suspicion to the contrary, "but I don't want to eat the whole thing myself either, so if you could just like, nibble on the corner or something that'd be a big help." Oh so innocent is the smile he gives her. "I think I'll be able to track you down." Cell phones. They need new ones, or at least she does.
Ashley Graham Housing thousands of refugees ain't cheap, Leon! Especially when there's a few important refugees thrown into the mix. "Well," Ashley says, thoughtfully, before plucking up the spoon and moving to take the tiniest sliver from one corner. "If you're sure you don't mind." She's already looking at that cake with pure lust in her eyes, even if her spoon doesn't go far enough to let free the lava within. No, she'll wait for him to do that and look like the pig, then she'll just sweep in and pick up the drippings.

She takes a small bite, sucking on the bit of cake and letting it roll over her tongue before she looks up at the man. And she grins back. "See that you do."
Leon Kennedy As if the government ever gave a flip about how much money they spent on something. "I'm sure I don't mind," Leon repeats, chuckling as she starts to finally take a little piece, and then blinking once or twice as she manages to eat it in a surprisingly alluring manner. He wasn't even quite sure you could do that with cake, and yet there she is. "Uh, yes. I will do that." It's not a lava cake without lava, and rather than pussy-foot around it wondering when it's going to start coming out, he just goes straight for the kill, prying it open deliberately with his fork before he even takes a bite. The barbarian.
Ashley Graham He is indeed that. But it's alright, because he's Ashley's barbarian for the moment, and his barbarity got her what she wanted. She slips in to take another bite, this time taking a slightly bigger bit of cake slathered in chocolate lava, and eating it in just the same way. If she's being seductive, she's certainly not trying to be. One simply must savor chocolate cake, after all! And she does, even humming slightly in delight.

"This is what surviving was for," she tells him playfully, not seeming to be entirely aware that he's been knocked a bit off his footing or, if he has, why. She savors it another moment, but then some shadow crosses her face, and her smile fades, and her eyes are suddenly far away. She glances away from him and down to the cake, taking another, slightly bigger, bite this time.
Leon Kennedy Leon, watching her as he is, can't help but notice the change in her demeanor even as he scoops another large bite of cake away, smashing the tines of his fork on a few crumbs to get them to stick. "What was that? What are you thinking of?" Get to know each other, right? He's pretty good at reading her, especially after needing to rely on that in some dicey situations. "Back 'there'?"
Ashley Graham Ashley looks at him apologetically, then gives him a sheepish nod as she swallows. "The woman," she says, her voice so low that even Leon will have to work to hear it. There's only one woman that Ashley could be speaking about.

"She pops up from time to time. It didn't have to be that way," she says, setting her spoon down on the plate and leaning back in her seat. When she does, she gives Leon a comfortable but sad smile. That's the sort of smile he's used to from her, sadly. At least thus far. "I'm sorry," she says honestly. "I shouldn't let it back in. I just thought about surviving, and then I thought about those who didn't, and from there it's an easy jump to other things." Like the one who died because of her.
Leon Kennedy "I'm sorry too." Leon's sincere there, not teasing her for one of the first times all night since they stopped talking about FEELings and that sort of thing. "It wasn't your fault, Ashe. She didn't give you a choice. If you hadn't done it, I would have." He shot her too, mind. "I know it hurts, but that was the way it had to be."
Ashley Graham Ashley nods, not entirely convincingly, but she nods all the same. "I know," she says, half-heartedly. And then she looks up at him and continues that sad smile for him. She moves one of her free hands on the table conveniently into easily-reachable distance, should Leon be looking for that sort of thing. "I suppose I'm going to make that shrink earn her money. We both will." Because it doesn't occur to Ashley that Leon may not have thought about that at all.

"Even with all that weighing over us," she admits, clearing away the sadness with a sigh. "I am happy, Leon. Happy to be here with you." Even if it is just a Chilis.
Leon Kennedy When she puts her hand out on the table, Leon's not vacant-minded enough to miss it, and he casually sets his fingers down over hers, his thumb automatically rubbing back and forth against the side of her hand in a vaguely soothing motion. "Oh, I don't need counseling," he remarks reflexively, half-shrugging the comment off. It hasn't occurred to him and it doesn't sound useful to him now. "I'm glad we're here. I'm glad I kept my promise, even if you thought you could get me to forget about it." There's a little smirk there on the last bit. As if he was ever going to let that promise go.
Ashley Graham Good job Leon! It's exactly what she wanted, to have his hand on hers. And while she does have the good sense enough to blush at this disgusting public display of affection, it seems to make her happy too. She watches their hands, her mouth wrinkling to one side in a little smile of contentment.

"I didn't want you to forget about it," she chides him happily. "But I didn't want you to die over it, either. I was worried. That's not so terrible, is it?"
Leon Kennedy It's not too disgustingly blatant, so Leon isn't that embarrassed. There have been way way way more disgusting displays, even in Chili's. Just trust the narrator on this one. Instead, he smiles back at comfortably, pleased to have fallen in with someone with such easy rapport. "It's not terrible, no. But I didn't die and neither did you, so I'm calling that one 'kept'." There may be more promises in the future, who knows.
Ashley Graham Disgusting Chili's. Still, it seems to do the job for today. Ashley smiles at him once more and withdraws her hand after a pleasant, warm moment, plucking up her spoon and taking what Leon might consider a human-sized serving. "Agreed. It was kept," she assures him. "And I don't think there will ever quite be words to express my gratitude for you, Leon. I can't have been an easy ward, to say the least. I quite literally owe you my life. I don't know how people ever repay something like that. If you have any ideas, do share them," she says.

Another bite taken in quite the same way. Maybe that's just how she eats cake. She is savoring it, though, treating the Chili's cake like molten gold in her mouth.
Leon Kennedy Ah, Chili's. Wonderful, terrible Chili's. "You don't have to thank me for that," Leon answers, shaking his head in a small, contradictory signal. "There's no debt. I wanted to help you and I'm glad that I was able to. That's all, really." He takes another bite of cake, sticking the confection in his mouth. The outside was a little stale but towards the middle it's pretty good. As he chews, a thought occurs to him and a slow grin spreads over his face. "...although, if you wanted to try to make it up to me someday I might have some ideas. Like a kiss if I'm not a total disappointment on our first date." Oh you scandalous bastard.
Leon Kennedy The cake is well nigh demolished. "I'm glad you didn't want dessert," Leon comments, letting his fork drop to the table and sitting back to realize he could have had the honey chipotle chicken crispers if he'd been a little more diligent when he was looking at that menu. Oh well, it's too late. "I'm probably done for if you have to /like me,/" he teases, with a little smile, gathering what's left on the table onto the plate so that the server doesn't have to. "But I think it's time we stop holding this table and get you back to your room."
Leon Kennedy "Sounds like a wise lady." Leon waits as well, and then he's getting up, straightening his sweater and checking his watch for the time. "I don't think so. It's almost ten already and to be perfectly honest with you," he begins, his eyes looking for hers, just for the sake of looking at them, "I haven't really slept that well since we got out." PTSD will do that to you. Counseling? What's that?

"How /is/ your dad anyway? Besides the uh, you know, the changes." The resignation. He holds his hand out to her, since they're walking back together.
Leon Kennedy Leon pulls her up without much difficulty. He's built like an athlete, after all. The man purses his lips a little as she explains what's going on with her dad, a little nod moving his hair slightly.

"He shouldn't blame himself for what happened. He can't stop what he doesn't know about, and who knows who knew what when all of that was just starting to happen." Obviously at some point the government became aware, but by then it was too late.

"But then again, I guess I understand. I still feel like I could have done more to help. Like I maybe I could have stopped it." Once she's got her coat on he puts his hand out to her again, ready to take her out into the street.
Leon Kennedy The two spend the short walk back conversing, talking about this and that, occasionally mentioning the traumatic events of Raccoon City, but for the most part just trying to get to know each other a little better and enjoying each other's company.

Soon enough, they're back at the hotel and Leon opens the door to the lobby for her. "Did you say you had something for me?" He gives her a small curious look, raising an eyebrow.
Leon Kennedy "No, of course not," Leon replies, following her into the elevator and noticing that they're going to the top floor. He's on floor, like, Scum Class. "The penthouse?" he jokes, pointing over at the lit-up button. What else do you do in an elevator?
Leon Kennedy Leon follows her down the hall, noting that the doors are bigger, and they're farther apart, and there's an ice machine, candy bar machine, /and/ a soda machine in one of the little alcoves they pass. "I don't have any ice," he murmurs to himself, probably not even so she'll hear it, and then before long they're inside her room and it's basically an apartment. "Alright," he murmurs again, looking around, eyes wide, and then she's leading him into the bedroom. "...so what's this about?"
Leon Kennedy "Oh," Leon announces quietly, staring down at the gun in her hand, quickly taking it away from her and her iffy muzzle control. Reflexively, his hand immediately settles into the grip and the other grips the top, the knurling on the slide digging into his skin enough that he slams it back quickly and easily, his thumb bumping the lock up just as easily as you might draw a breath, peering into the breech to be sure it's unloaded. After all that, he just blinks down at it, recognizing the significance it holds for her, as well as the fact that there's already a gun pressed into the small of his back. "...thank you."
Leon Kennedy Leon does like it when she smiles for him. He didn't really get much of it during Raccoon City going to hell, not real ones at least. Now that they're out of there and she's free of the threat of death and the burden of being First Daughter, she's much brighter in general and it's a nice change to see. Even with the gun talk coming out of her mouth. "Just be sure you're ready if you're going to do that," he agrees reluctantly, brow furrowing a little. But when she starts teasing him about the floor, he grins back. "I have a lot more floor in my room and a lot less furniture."
Leon Kennedy "It's not like I'm trying to end up there," Leon points out, spreading his hands a little before she leans forward and presses her lips to his cheek. The gesture is small, but it stops him dead, and then he spends a quiet moment absorbing her gratitude. "...it does," he finally decides, with a short nod. "I'm just- I'm most glad that you're around to give it." That he was able to help someone, even just one person, has had a profound psychological effect on him towards helping him cope with the reality of what just happened. If he hadn't saved her, this might be a very different Leon staying in that hotel.
Leon Kennedy "I wouldn't miss it," Leon assures her, with a confident nod. There's a sure smile to go along with it, eyes finding hers. They're not getting all hot and heavy, even if the tension is there. Even if they've had that chance before. Because honestly it'd be awkward as hell if the President of the United States caught you about to mack with his daughter, among other reasons. "I'll let you know when I figure out where. I need to see what's actually decent around here."
Leon Kennedy "Alright, I won't," he lets her know, not wanting her to think he's off to go like, browsing AOL or something to find the perfect spot for half the night. "...if you throw a pillow on the floor it might be enough," he notes, turning to go. "Sleep well, Ashe."