Shh, shh, it’s okay, it’s okay.
I mean, you’ve got some things to work out with them first but it might be fine in the end.
I’m afraid I can’t stop. If I could…
Well, I still probably wouldn’t. Admittedly.
We’re gonna need a bigger wagon.
A… lot of things.
Hmm… I’m considering breaking my no-spoiler rule here to share a fun, albeit somewhat heartbreaking fact that isn’t explicitly stated in-text but will be (hopefully) fairly clearly implicitly stated.
I said I’d get back to these when I’d found some and found one for Ricky I have! (Though you put me inbetween a rock and a hard place- 'cause a few of the others have some of the most as-of-this-point spoilery romances due to how they’re tied into the plot. I’m copying them into here so that I don’t forget to keep searching and see if I can find one that doesn’t reveal something important later on.)
Also a note- since non-female MCs and female MCs romances with Ricky will diverge… fairly greatly later down the line this is an earlier scene- i.e. before any official “romance” has really begun between the two. That way it’s something MCs of all genders could end up obtaining.
Some fun times with a very grumpy politician.
There’s something very uncomfortable about the many company-owned skyscrapers in Nickelport’s center. The tourists and families and just… general amounts of people all die out by the time you pass City Hall. The few who do dart in and out of reflective, sliding glass doors are all dressed up for white collar jobs in cubicle offices. It’s almost unnerving, how nobody looks at each other- eyes glued to the floor, to contracts, to screens- and yet everything flows without a hitch. Nobody bumps into one another, and it almost seems as if each individual truly and wholeheartedly believes that they are alone on the street. Almost as if there glass casings surrounding each one of them.
It’s… weird. Especially when you take into consideration the raucous, jostling movement that permeates the rest of Nickelport. No- this is very much it’s own little sanctuary. While it might seem an oasis in a desert to the people that work here you’re more inclined to treat it like a heat-induced-hallucination.
It’s just never seemed real.
Even the sides of the buildings- with their rows and rows of windows so closely pressed together that they may as well be made of glass- seem to shift and shimmer and fade when their reflective sides change. The doors all open before their worker reaches the building- preemptive guesses at who’s entering and who’s exiting. Swallowing up these glass-encased people into a glass-encased building without a second thought.
This place is also strange. You don’t often end up here, so perhaps it’s the newness that begets strangeness. But not a lot of your work ends up drawing into the, frankly, less sketchy parts of town. It’s weird. And you wouldn’t be here today if you didn’t need something.
Well, you still wouldn’t be here today if you didn’t need something and Ricky wasn’t picking up his phone. Either one of those could’ve alleviated the situation but, sadly, you find yourself stuck in a situation in which you need something, need Ricky to do it, and for some reason the man isn’t picking up.
The logical assumption is that he’s in a business meeting- which normally you’d wait but there’s a certain urgency that nips at your heels, pushing you towards perhaps the one building with a somewhat interesting architectural design.
It is, like all others, made of mostly glass. But unlike others it doesn’t bother to hide it’s glass with little square sections, instead the sweeping structure has sides made only of bare glass planes that your Rust-trained mind can’t help but picture as shattering when one mask-clad body comes barrelling through its side.
You… should really take a vacation sometime.
The doors are the same as all others, though, opening soon as your feet hit the invisible line, tucking themselves away to let you in and be greeted by a blast of chilling AC. Your feet click against the smooth ceramic floor, long greyish-brown walls made to look like wood frame the opening room, with unused couches pushed up against the window and two receptionists sitting at one conjoined desk in front of a row of elevators, a black plaque with golden lettering pinned up behind them listing the names of those whose offices reside here. The door the far left of the hall swings open, and a woman with a messy auburn braid comes striding confidently through, clutching papers to her chest. She pauses briefly, eyes flickering your way, before sniffing and flashing a badge towards one of the receptionists, easily gliding past them- heels making not a sound against the floor.
It strikes you, with sudden realization and a bit of curiosity, that you’ve never actually been to Ricky’s office. No, he’s been very careful in meeting you as far from his workplace as is possible. No doubt it’s part of his eternal paranoia that your presence will bring unending doom upon him, but still… Though it had never made you curious before- the sheer lack of knowledge makes you want to know exactly what it is he’s so carefully tucked away from your view.
Still, it also means you have no idea where you go from here. So you make a beeline towards the black plaque located next to one such receptionist. Folding your hands casually behind your back as you examine name after name after name. Dempsey, Dempsey, Dempsey… Where oh where is Ricky Dempsey?
Someone clears their throat. Probably the air conditioning. Not Briar… Not DuVeaux… It would really be helpful if they alphabetized this thing…
Another clearing of the throat, a bit more forceful this time, and a bit closer to your ear. The receptionist appears to have moved as close to you as they possibly can with the circular desk in their way. A routine smile is flashed and practiced words recited, “May I be of some service?”
Well, they’ll probably be of more help than this useless thing, so… “Yes, I’m looking for Ricky Dempsey’s office?”
“Do you have an appointment?”
Well, they didn’t say he was in a meeting. That’s something. “He should be expecting me.” If the six repeated phone calls weren’t a hint that you needed to have a chat then you don’t know what else is.
The receptionist quirks an eyebrow, obviously waiting for a more… direct answer to their question. When you supply none they reach for the phone with some bit of hesitation, pressing it against their ear as they dial quickly. “Hello, Mister Dempsey? There’s someone here to-” They pause, glancing up at you, giving you a quick once over, “Yes… Very well then. Have a nice day!” Chirping, they place the phone down carefully, turning to you with a smile that seems just a tad bit brighter. “Top floor.”
Huh, you’d put stock in Dempsey throwing some money into an office but somehow you hadn’t put that much stock into it… Then again, maybe that’s just how everyone operates here- with their own personal floor.
You give a quick word of thanks to the receptionist and hop into the first elevator that reaches ground floor. The ride is long and… silent. With nobody else coming or going as you quietly roll upwards… At least it means the ride’s shorter as well… so that’s a plus?
As soon as the doors open you find that it’s… entirely empty. Sure, there’s a desk for some kinda assistant and a long hallway with glass-enclosed space for a conference room and one other non-see-through-space that you’d guess to be his personal office. Following your instinct, and with no other guide, you rap on the freshly-painted-black door and wait.
“Come in.” There’s no doubt that’s Dempsey’s voice being muffled by the door. You carefully swing open the door, not really sure what it is you’re expecting on the other side.
Whatever that was… you find yourself the slightest bit surprised as you walk inside to an office that feels surprisingly… homely.
Well, perhaps that’s not the best word for it. Ricky’s office is decorated like a home being put up for sale- artificially designed to specifically look like a home but lacking all the mess and memory of an actual home. There’s a large bookcase shoved to the side with books so tightly packed together you don’t believe you could grab one to read if you wanted, a globe tucked in the corner behind the door separating two plum plush chairs that are too pristine to have ever been sat in. A maroon woven rug covers the dark, polished oak flooring and Ricky sits at a cherry-wood desk in the back- the only thing that looks like it’s been put to any remote use with papers splayed and stacked, a computer placed between two precarious stacks and a plain white coffee mug sitting on a coaster in front of the man who doesn’t look all that pleased to see you.
“Of course you’re here now.” His nose wrinkles, lip curling upward in distaste as Ricky stands, pushing the computer closed and tucking the rolling high-backed chair into the desk.
“Nice place.” You comment, glancing around, “Could use a little… use, though.” You casually meander towards the bookshelf- not a speck of dust anywhere, all of them tucked neatly in with the spines facing you. “Have you ever even read any of these?”
Ricky folds his arms, “I don’t see how that concerns you.” You notice, quickly, that he looks a little rumpled- or about as rumpled as Ricky Dempsey could ever get. His grey jacket is slung over the back of the chair, tie hung a little loose and white shirt-sleeves pushed up to his elbows, even his hair seems to have taken the brunt of what you can only assume to be the result of his nervous tick of running his hand through it- with loose strands dangling over his forehead. There are dark rings under his eyes, too- all in all never a look you’d associate with your consistently-put-together companion. Though… that persistent irritation is normal. “What are you here for?” Even if he snaps with a bit more ferocity than before.
“Ricky…” You tentatively turn away from the bookcase, “Are you… okay?”
“I-” Ricky stops, he has to blink and shake his head a moment, he’d been preparing to bark a retort once more but seems more than a little caught off-guard by the comment. Instinctively, he unfolds one hand to run it through his hair- leading even more strands astray. “Just… tell me what you’re here for. It’s obviously not pleasantries.”
He’s stubborn. He’s always been stubborn. He’ll always be stubborn. “Is something wrong?” Doesn’t mean you can’t be stubborn too.
Ricky breathes out, slowly, heavily, and swings the chair out once more before slumping back in it, fingers rapping against the computer top, “What does it matter to you?” His fingers pause- half raised, head tilted to the side ever so slightly, “Never mind that. Rhetorical question but- a stupid one anyway. It doesn’t. It doesn’t matter to you.”
“You don’t know-”
“No, I do.” He shrugs, “It’s fairly obvious that you think of me as little more than a pawn- you wouldn’t flaunt your control over me so if it weren’t true.” You press your lips together- he’s not an easy one to crack, is he? Ricky shrugs, pulling his sleeves back down to his wrists and re-buttoning them, “Though, I suppose it’s all the same. No matter. You’re here for something, aren’t you? Get on with it then and tell me what task it is you require me to complete now.”
You tap your foot against the rug silently, frustration clenching at your jaw. With a huff, you drag one of the two considerably less comfy-looking chairs out from the other side of his desk and plop yourself in it, crossing your arms and leaning back. “What’s wrong, Ricky?”
He blinks, “You’re truly insist-”
“Yes.” You cut him off. “I’m being nice here, okay? I’m trying to ask you what it is that’s bothering you because it’s fairly obvious that something is… So what’s wrong?”
He leans back, staring at you, appraising the sincerity of your statement, eyes narrowed- suspicious. “Why?” He lowers his voice, confusion flashing across his face, “Why are you… worried?”
You throw your hands up, leaning forward with palms braced against your knees, “Have you ever considered the fact that maybe I do actually care? That, just perhaps, you’re wrong when you’re so quick to assume that I think of you as ‘little more than a pawn’?”
Ricky huffs, “Preposterous.”
“But true.” You frown, “Because, like it or not- Ricky Dempsey- I care about you.”
“Really? You ‘care’?”
“Yes. Now, please tell me what’s wrong.”